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Archive for June, 2014

The freedom born in Philadelphia on July 4, 1776 finds unique expression in a document we call the Declaration of Independence. Following the signing of this historic document there lay ahead a long, bloodstained journey that was marked by war, wounds, agony, prison, privation, difficulty, destitution, and death. The signers believed that every human being derives his (or her) inalienable rights from the owner and operator of the universe, Jehovah God, who revealed Himself and His love through His uniquely born Son, Jesus Christ.

In ancient history, Pericles built a civilization upon culture – it failed! Caesar built a civilization upon military might – it failed! Napoleon built his empire upon his own egotistical need for recognition and domination – it failed! Adolph Hitler sought to build his empire upon hate – it failed! Our forefathers founded a nation upon faith in God and a love for freedom.

The Declaration of Independence exalts primarily two things: faith in God and the dignity and worth of every individual. It contains only 1,321 words, and the average reader can read it in only eight minutes. God is mentioned twice at the beginning and twice toward the end. Thus, it begins and ends with an awareness of God. As Americans we must not forget our past – especially the sacrifices that have been made for our freedoms. The wise words of the Old Testament prophet, Isaiah, are instructive: “Look to the rock from which you were cut and to the quarry from which you were hewn” (Isaiah 51:1). Why is it vitally important that we hear Isaiah’s words? We are in danger of forgetting the importance of our founding principles.

The trends I see in America about which I am deeply concerned: (1) The growing effort to push God to the periphery of public life; (2) The dissolution of family life; (3) The widespread philosophy of hedonism (pleasure); (4) The steady growth of secularism in our culture, which has produced a growing acceptance of pornography, sexual promiscuity, easy abortion on demand, a re-definition of marriage; and (5) A growing belief that all of our problems can be solved by government.

The United States has tried many remedies: education, counseling, politics, and law – and all of these have a legitimate place in a secure society. But the root cause of our personal and national ills is spiritual in nature. A spiritual problem requires a spiritual solution. As a nation we need to renew our pledge of allegiance to the truth found in 2 Chronicles 7:14 – “If my people who are called by my name shall humble themselves and pray, and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” The United States is a free nation today, but whether our children and grandchildren will stand as free persons depends largely upon what you and I do today as Christian Americans.

Love for freedom and opposition to tyranny caused our forefathers to pledge their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor for the common cause. It was that indomitable spirit that prompted Nathan Hale to speak those immortal words, “I regret that I have only one life to give for my country.” It was not at a worship service that he spoke those words; it was when he was about to be hung as a spy for supporting the right of American citizens to be free.

The U.S. Mint printing presses continue to crank out dollar bills at a faster and faster pace while more and more people learn to pray, “Our Father, who art in Washington, Hallowed be thy name.” In the meantime our inner cities are becoming more and more economically depressed. Multitudes in a growing underclass are out of work and hungry – and spiritually lost! The future of our great nation lies not in might but in right, not in fun but in faith, not in gold but in God. The strength and glory of our nation is not found in the size of our armies, or in the vast tonnage of our weapons. Rather, it is found in our dependence upon God.

The Declaration of Independence was signed on July 4, 1776. The time has come for every citizen who genuinely loves our country to sign a new document — one called: “The Declaration of Dependence” – upon God!

 

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Having just passed Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, it is a good time to say how important it is for parents to keep the lines of communication open between themselves and their teenage sons and daughters. Not to do so can be, and often is, a huge mistake. Peer group pressure has the power to negatively influence today’s youth in every area of their lives –the way they think, where they go, what they do, and even the clothes they wear.

Our daughter, Gail, in her early teens requested that we purchase a high-priced item of clothing that was popular in her age group during the 1970’s. When I told her that since we were living on a Baptist minister’s salary we should buy something less expensive, she quickly replied, “Just write a check!” I should have known then that she would become a banker after she graduated from college. Today she has a management position with First Citizen’s Bank in Wilmington.

Watching sons and daughters grow up, become Christians, graduate from high school and college, get married, have children of their own, and succeed in their chosen profession is a reason to rejoice. The only thing that comes close to that is to have grandchildren. Grandparents are people who come to your house, spoil your children, and go home.

Let me encourage every parent who reads this article to work hard at the task of maintaining communication with your offspring. The gap between generations is real, but communication can be maintained by those who genuinely love one another, work at it, and seek God’s guidance.

When Gail became thirteen I went into her room one night, sat down on the side of her bed, and we had a “daddy and daughter conversation.” Her mother and I were aware of the pressures she would face in her teenage years. She and I talked honestly and openly about all of them.

I said to her, “Your mother and I want you to begin making as many of your own decisions as you can, for that is the way you can grow as a Christian. When you make good decisions, we will commend you and support you. When you make what we consider to be a wrong decision, we will countermand it, and we will tell you why. It was one of the best days of our lives when God gave you to us, and He requires us to guide you in the right way. We believe God has special things in store for you.” Having that “daddy and daughter conversation” was one of the best things I ever did.

God’s Word gives every parent this instruction: “Train your child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not turn from it” (Proverbs 22:6 NIV). Mothers and fathers who fail to do this have abdicated their most important responsibility. Parents who do not practice what they preach should not be surprised when their children disappoint them by getting into trouble.

Mothers in the past have provided most of the training for children in the home, and fathers have been the breadwinners. Spending most of their time outside the home in order to bring home the bacon does not excuse fathers from sharing with their wives the duty of providing guidance and training for their children. Unfortunately many fathers fail to do this.

Parents, if you will set the right kind of example for your children – in everything you do – seven days a week, twelve months of every year – you will never regret it. When you have done that, you will have fulfilled your most important God-given duty as a parent. When your children get married and have children of their own, your turn for spoiling grandchildren will have arrived. It is what all grandparents do. You can find it listed on page one of the grandparent job description.

If you happen to live long enough and are fortunate enough to have great-grandchildren, you can also participate in spoiling them. But, you will have to stand in line. Your son or daughter is now a grandparent. You must wait your turn.

So, be patient. Your time will come.

 

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On Father’s Day countless sermons will be preached in our nation’s pulpits which focus on the things a man must do in order to become a good father. Apostle Paul in the book of Ephesians lists four very important and practical responsibilities. If you are a father:

You should not provoke your children. Or, to use modern terminology, “Don’t be a pain in the neck.” To provoke your children to anger will only succeed in causing them to feel resentment and irritation. So, how might you provoke your children? Criticizing them is probably the most common way. Focusing constantly in a negative way on what they have done wrong (or on what they haven’t done right) can break their spirit. Criticism comes in many packages, including words, tone of voice, a silent stare, or bodily language. A Czech Proverb expresses it this way: “Don’t be a lion in your own house.”

Using words that contain tenderness will send a message of love not only to your children but also to their mother. However, if you are overly strict and controlling, you will cause your sons and daughters to rebel. No one enjoys being around a grouch – literally no one! After telling you as a father what not to do, the apostle Paul changes gears to mention three things you should do.

You should nurture your children. You should “nurture them in the discipline and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 5:29). It is not enough to nurture children physically by providing food, shelter, and clothing. You should also nurture them emotionally and spiritually. The development of Jesus in the home of Mary and Joseph is your example: “And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man” (Luke 2:52). Here is balanced growth: intellectual, physical, spiritual, and social. We have heard words like, “It takes a village to raise a child.” Don’t believe it! Nowhere in the Bible is the training of children assigned to agencies outside the home, though they may assist in many ways. God gives the primary responsibility to parents.

You should discipline your children. If left to themselves, children will become rebels, so it is necessary for both parents to train their children. The Duke of Windsor once said, “Everything in the American home is controlled by switches – except the children!” The Bible reminds us of what happens when parents neglect their children – either by setting bad examples for them or by failing to discipline them properly. Discipline should always be administered within the framework of love.

Some modern psychologists oppose the old-fashioned idea of discipline, and many educators follow that philosophy. “Let the children express themselves!” they tell us. “If you discipline them, you may warp their personality.” This is not true! Discipline is a basic principle of life and an evidence of love. “Whom the Lord loves, He disciplines” (Hebrews 12:6). Discipline, however, should always be done in the right manner. Discipline done harshly and without love is like using shotgun to kill a mosquito.

You should instruct and encourage your children. In today’s world, when many adverse influences outside the home are exerted on them, they may not always appreciate your fatherly counsel. But this does not eliminate your obligation to instruct and encourage them. As Jean Paul Richter has wisely said, “What a father says to his children is not heard by the world, but it will be heard by posterity.”

Dad, your children both listen to your words and watch your actions to see if they jibe with what you say. You teach them by word and by example. But you teach them best when you pray and worship with them. Remember: To be a father is not a chore – to be a good father is a challenge and a blessing.

 

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Elizabeth I, Queen of England (1533-1630), once said to the Countess of Nottingham, “God may forgive you, but I never can.” The former queen was not the first person, nor has she been the last, to refuse to extend forgiveness when it was needed.

For example, some years ago this sign appeared on a company bulletin board in Grand Rapids, Michigan: “To err is human; to forgive is not company policy.” I am glad that God doesn’t operate by this policy, or Jesus Christ would never have entered the world with the divinely assigned mission to redeem mankind.

There is an enthralling scene in the Gospel of Luke that illustrates this in a way that is easy to understand. The disciples of Jesus had been fishing all night and had caught nothing, so Jesus asked Peter to launch out into the deep and let down his nets. Peter may have thought to himself, “I’ve been a fisherman all my life, so why is He telling me where to catch fish?” He likely did what Jesus suggested only because it was a request from the Master.

He possibly did not expect to catch any fish, but so many fish were caught in his nets that he had to get help to bring them to shore. At this point Peter fell to his knees before Jesus, and said, “Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord” (Luke 5:8).

Peter learned two very important things that day: (1) he discovered the unsearchable riches of Christ, and (2) he was introduced to the spiritual poverty of his own soul. He realized that he was totally dependent upon the mercy of God and needed forgiveness.

Luke does not conceal Peter’s stumbling footsteps. He was impatient, crude, often egotistical, and made many blunders. But, when he came to the end of his life’s journey, there were flags of victory flying, and the bugles of triumph were blowing.

Later, after the crucifixion of Jesus, the mourning women came to the tomb early in the morning on the first day of the week. The angel guarding the tomb said to them, “Do not be amazed . . . . He has risen . . . go tell His disciples and Peter . . . . He is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see Him, just as He told you” (Mark 16:6, 7).

When the news reached Peter’s ears, it must have been like a drink of fresh water to a man crossing a desert whose throat was parched and whose lips were cracked. “Did he really call my name? That means He still wants me. After I, on the night of His trial, denied on three separate occasions that I even knew Him, and after I hid for my own safety on the following day when He was crucified. That means He has forgiven me. It means that He still believes in me, and that I will still have an opportunity to work for Him.”

Can’t you just see Peter as he moved swiftly toward Galilee with his head held high and a smile on his face? He probably walked ahead of the group, his heart beating with an exultant joy. His past was stained with ugly deeds, but his future was full of hope! He was on his way to see Jesus. That is the difference forgiveness makes.

It is only when we come face to face with ourselves, see the ugly deeds of our lives, and feel the hopelessness that Peter felt when he saw his deeds that we can come to appreciate the power of being forgiven by the Son of God. No matter how sinful our thoughts or dark our deeds, or how hopeless our outlook for the future, He gives to all who accept it a second chance. But remember this: He is in the cleansing business, not the whitewashing business.

We not only need God’s forgiveness, but we also need to forgive one another. Forgiveness is the key that unlocks the door of resentment and the handcuffs of hate. It is a power that breaks the chains of bitterness and the shackles of selfishness. Our love for one another, and our capacity to forgive one another, is how the world recognizes that we are Christians.

 

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