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Archive for June, 2015

One of the challenges we face in today’s world is how to deal with noise. Driving to and from work we listen to music and conversation coming from our car’s radio. We may also be hearing the conversation of fellow passengers, the blaring of police and emergency vehicle sirens flying by, and the constant honking of car horns. At work we are pelted with the endless chatter of fellow workers. Many people have music piped into the offices and elevators where they work. When we order some kind of service by phone, we are often placed on hold where we must wait for what can be thirty minutes or more to talk to the next available representative. We wait as patiently as we can while music we would not have chosen rattles our ear wax.

We are so accustomed to noise that we grow restless without it. William Dean Howells, in Pordenone, IV, reminds us of this fact by saying, “He who sleeps in continual noise is wakened by silence.” I once read the story of a man who lived in close proximity to railroad tracks. A speeding freight train passed very close to his home at 2 a.m. every night without waking him. One night the train didn’t pass, and the silence woke him up.

In the twenty-first century we are surrounded by so much noise that we can forget how to productively use the gift of silence. Unaccustomed silence can make it difficult to be alone. Even so, the human spirit cries out for times of rhythmic withdrawal. We need times when we escape from regular routines, from other relationships, and from the demands and noise of our busy world in order to meet God. Meeting God is best achieved when we are alone rather than having to deal with a schedule that drains our energy.

Mother Teresa of Calcutta once said, “God is not found in noise and restlessness. He is a friend of silence. See how nature works – trees, flowers, grass – grow in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence . . . the more we receive in silent prayer, the more we can give in our active life.”

Henri Nouwen reminds us that many of the early church fathers understood the importance of a silent environment for the cultivation of the spirit when they called out to one another, fuge, terche, et quieset” – which means “silence, solitude, and inner peace.”

Having been a Baptist minister since 1951, I have thoroughly enjoyed attending the monthly pastor’s conferences in the towns and cities where I have served. We have tried to share our dreams and learn from one another. We have also tried to pray for and support one another – especially the pastors who were facing difficulties. I remember one pastor in particular several years ago who had allowed the problems he was encountering to literally overwhelm him. His response to those problems only made them worse.

He needed to schedule regular times to pray in a quiet place away from the hurricane swirling around him. He had taken his eyes off God and needed to gain a fresh awareness of His presence and power. He also needed to look in the mirror, for he was emotionally drained and spiritually empty. He possessed anger toward some of the members of his congregation. As a result, he had lost the three things Henri Nouwen said are vitally important to living life joyfully and with a sense of purpose – silence, solitude, and inner peace.

Nowhere in the Bible does it say that God has to shout in order to be heard. The prophet Elijah ran from his problems to hide in a quiet cave. He discovered that God speaks with “a still small voice” – yes, even in a whisper. Have you ever been defeated by the heavy demands and distracting noises swirling around you? Is that your experience at the current time? If so, why not set aside some regular quiet times in your daily schedule to be alone with God? God says, “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).

Shhhhh!

 

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Dr. Carlyle Marney, pastor of the Myers Park Baptist Church in Charlotte, North Carolina several years ago, with tongue in cheek, said in a sermon: “At the time of a child’s birth fathers are considered biologically incidental. In their early childhood fathers are economically necessary. It is only when children reach adolescence, and the mother doesn’t know what to do with them, that fathers becomes the responsible party for the whole affair.” Marney’s statement, of course, was meant in jest and only as a caricature.

Children need fathers. A son needs a model for his life. A daughter needs a pattern for evaluating men. Billy Sunday, the famous evangelist, once said: “Give a child a good mother and any old stick will do for a dad.” Mothers who are trying to raise children without a father living in the home will not agree with that statement. If you are a father, here are five important things your children need from you:

First of all, they need your love and affection. Your love should be both articulated and demonstrated. The most obvious way of showing love is with words, though words alone are not enough. Every father should develop the habit of regularly telling and showing his children how much they are loved. In addition to words, your children need for you to touch them. Everyone knows how vital it is for a baby to be held, to be touched, to feel love. This is a need children will never outgrow. It is why hugs are so important.

Second, your children need boundaries. Children need limits. Boundaries need to be arrived at with wisdom. Then they need to be communicated with firmness and love. It is human nature for children to test boundaries that are set for them. Once boundaries are established and children understand them, they will feel more secure. Firmness is not the same thing as unbending rigidity. Unreasonable restrictive boundaries can create as many difficulties for children as having no boundaries at all.

Third, your children need for you to be available and accessible. Children need time with their father. Fathers who are too busy to deliberately set aside special time to be with their children, to share both their high and low moments, make a serious mistake. Providing material things – money, gadgets, clothes, and other things – is not nearly as important in the lives of your children as giving them your time. Hopefully you will never hear your son or daughter who is in trouble say, “Dad, I didn’t need things – I needed you.”

Fourth, your children need you to be a leader. This begins with you being committed to God. God’s Word asks fathers to be the spiritual leader in their home – in other words, to set the pace. Millions of fathers in America are failing to do this. They leave the responsibility for spiritual instruction of children entirely up to the mother. They see their job solely as “bringing home the bacon.” If regular attendance in worship is not a priority for dad, it will very likely be way down on the list of priorities for his sons and daughters.

Fifth, your children need to know that you are human. You make mistakes, and you should not be afraid to admit that you do. You need to be willing to be finite and mortal in your children’s eyes. You don’t know everything. You are neither omniscient nor omnipotent, and it will not lessen the love your children have for you if you admit that fact. There will possibly be times when you need the forgiveness of your children.

If you are a father, know this: You will never have a more important responsibility or greater opportunity than to influence and shape the lives of your children. As Jean Paul Richter, in Levana, said, “What a father says to his children is not heard by the world, but it will be heard by posterity.”

 

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Several years ago an elementary school class was assigned the responsibility of writing a theme about Benjamin Franklin. One boy completed the assignment in this way: “Benjamin Franklin was born in Boston. As soon as he was old enough to have any sense he moved to Philadelphia. He was hungry, so he bought a loaf of bread and walked down the street with the loaf of bread under his arm. A young lady he passed laughed at him, so he married her and discovered electricity.”

That, of course, is not how Franklin discovered electricity, but it is an interesting story. Brides and grooms enter marriage with the dream of discovering one kind of electricity. It doesn’t always happen! Far too many marriages encounter storms that have plenty of thunder and lightning, but never experience the electricity that is present in homes where love continues to grow and Christ is Lord. A Christ-centered home does not automatically happen. Commitments have to be sincerely made and consistently kept.

Apostle Paul in I Corinthians 13 describes the kind of marriage that possesses electricity: “Love is very patient, very kind, knows no jealousy, makes no parade, gives itself no airs, is never rude, never selfish, never irritated, never resentful; love is never glad when others go wrong, love is gladdened by goodness, always slow to expose, always eager to believe the best, always hopeful, always patient” (Moffatt).

Christian love is sacred and clean. Both husband and wife realize they share a relationship that is infused with the divine. Though their love has a physical basis, it possesses mental ties, emotional qualities, and spiritual commitments that give it a genuine dynamic and power – the power to see marriage through, whatever the cost, or however many problems may be encountered.

Husbands and wives in a dedicated Christian home face life’s temptations and problems with the help of Jesus Christ. It is what gives them the power to be true to the marriage vows they made in their wedding service “to forsake all others and cleave to each other” throughout life. They have become one, not only physically, legally and financially – but spiritually also. They are aware that if Christ is daily honored in their personal lives, and if their marriage vows are kept, joy and power can be their possession throughout life.

Kenneth I. Brown, in his book entitled Margie, tells the story of a girl who wrote to the young man she planned to marry, “I love you not only for what you are but for what I am when I am with you. I love you not only for what you have made of yourself but for what you are making of me. You have done it without a touch, without a word, without a sign; you have done it by being yourself. I guess that is what being a sweetheart really means.” That is Christian love.

In Win, Sand, and Stars Antoine de Exupery wrote the beautiful words, “Life has taught us that love does not consist in gazing at each other, but in looking outward together in the same direction. There is no comradeship except from union in the same high effort. That is the building of a Christian home.” It couldn’t be said any better than that.

If you are married, what is the situation in your home? Is Jesus Christ the Lord of what happens there? Is mutual self-giving a daily reality? Is an honest effort being made to put your mate and his or her happiness first? Can your love stand the test of facing the difficulties and challenges that inevitably come to every marriage? If your answer to these questions is “yes,” you have discovered electricity.

 

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More weddings are scheduled during the month of June than in any other month. Unfortunately many of the couples getting married this month will sooner or later move from wedlock to deadlock, from altar to altercation, from bliss to bombast, from contentment to conflict, from being a duet to becoming a duel.

I read some time ago the story of a minister who, while conducting a funeral in a cemetery noticed a man in the distance kneeling before a grave who was weeping almost uncontrollably. When the minister finished with the interment in which he was involved, he walked over behind the man in distress. Pausing before he spoke, he heard him saying over and over, “If only you had not died . . . . If only you had not died . . . . If only you had not died.”

He said to the distraught man, “Sir, I am a minister. Is there anything I can do to help? The person buried in this grave was obviously someone very close to you. Was he your father, or your brother?” The man replied, “No he was my wife’s first husband.” What had begun for him as holy wedlock had become unholy deadlock.

God saw that Adam in the Garden of Eden was lonely, and said, “It is not good for man to be alone; I will create for him someone who will be his helper” (Genesis 2:18). Our Creator designed life to be shared and given in the most intimate of all relationships, marriage. He designed marriage to be a duet instead of a solo, as a partnership rather than as a tug-of-war, as a bond to be severed only by death.

In Colossians 3:18 wives are encouraged to “submit themselves to their husband, as it is fit in the Lord.” “Submit” does not mean to bow and scrape before, to serve as a slave serves a master. It means to give the husband a place of honor. No woman should marry a man who cannot be respected, and to whom tribute cannot be paid. Encouraging wives to honor their husbands does not imply dictatorship or tyranny, but rather to respect and recognize his spiritual leadership. Every father should be the spiritual leader in his home. Many fathers fail to do this by a country mile.

A husband is challenged “to love his wife even as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it.” Do you think Christ would take unfair advantage of His church? Or be unfaithful to it? Do you think Christ would do anything to hurt His church? Not on your life! No wife need fear submitting (give honor) to a husband who loves her in the same way and to the same extent that Christ loves the church. The husband who does that has already submitted to her.

To understand marriage we must recognize that God gave to each of us a threefold nature: we are body, mind, and spirit. Normal life physically leads to health; normal life psychologically leads to happiness; normal life spiritually leads to holiness. If husbands and wives understand this threefold nature they will have a healthy and happy marriage.

A healthy marriage involves the physical, in which sex becomes the highest expression of love and oneness of which two humans are capable. The reason so many marriages fail is that they have only one-third of a marriage: a home based only on the physical, on sex – which is mere lust, not love. There are also homes that have two-thirds of a marriage in that they have physical relationships and psychological unity. To have a one-third marriage or a two-thirds marriage is to have less than a whole marriage, which includes spiritual wholeness.

Many marriages end up in divorce courts because those involved initially viewed marriage as a “short term option,” not as a lifetime contract which involves the words, “until death parts us.” Lack of planning prior to the wedding can leave couples totally unprepared when “moonlight and roses” turns into “daylight and diapers.” The same God who requires premarital chastity demands total post-marital fidelity – physically, psychologically, and spiritually.

If you do not have that kind of marriage, it is not too late to start anew. God will guide you every step of the way.

 

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