On Approaching 75

Next year, Lord willing, I’ll be 75.

I’ve always known it was coming if the Lord let me live that long. It’s just that it struck me the other day that next year, I’ll be 75.

This is the latest in a series of what I suppose you might call epiphanies about growing up or growing old.

I have a vivid memory of my mother telling me I was getting too big for her to hold.  I don’t remember how old I was or what my reaction might have been, just that it happened.

When I was 8, for some reason I was thinking about being 21.  I have no idea why.  I was probably too young to be excited that I would be legally old enough to get drunk.  That idea has never appealed to me. It’s something I’ve never experienced. Can’t say I’ve missed it.  I’ve never understood how the morning after justified the night before.  Anyway, that was 13 years away – forever!

Several years later, I was thinking about when I was eight, and I literally and actually had to sit down at the realization that in 13 years, I would be 60!  I was 47 at the time.  That 13 years didn’t seem nearly as long as the first 13 years had seemed!

Now, next year, I’ll be 75.

Granted, that’s actually two birthdays from now, but still, it’s just next year I’ll be 75.  No big deal.  I suppose it is a landmark of sorts.  Still, it’s not nearly as “traumatic” as the idea of turning 60 had been.

A lot of time, a lot of memories.

55 years since high school.

48 years since Bible college.

43 years since I said, “I do.”

5 kids, 9 grandkids.

A lot of time, a lot of memories.

Still, in a way, it’s seems like no time at all.

James asked the question, For what is your life?  It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away, James 4:14.  For all the years I’ve lived, in the light of eternity, they’re nothing at all.

Eternity.

Eternal life.

A magazine I get recently had the article, “So You Want to Live Forever”.

I suppose a lot of people do.  They go to great trouble and expense to have their bodies frozen and preserved in the hope that down the road someone will figure out a cure for whatever ails them, and they can be revived and cured and live happily ever after.

I don’t think I’d like to live forever in this old body.  Too many kinks and creaks…. Glasses,  hearing aids, more face to wash….  I’m not complaining,  it’s just the way it is.

Even if they could “cure” all that, there’s still what’s on the inside – not organically, but spiritually.  No pill can cure that.  I wouldn’t want to live forever with the struggle between what I’d like to be and what I am.

Though I don’t put myself on his level, Paul struggled with this.  Romans 7 bears eloquent testimony to the war that raged in his soul.  I know there are some who believe that once you’re saved, you become sinless.  For them, Romans 7 describes Paul’s pre-conversion life.  But no unsaved person can say, …I delight in the law of God according to the inward man, Romans 7:22, or, So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God. but with the flesh the law of sin, v. 25b

But there is still triumph in this melancholy chapter:  I thank God  – through Jesus  Christ our Lord, v. 25a.

And he had thoughts about this elsewhere.  In 2 Corinthians 4:16, Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.  For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen.  Then in 5:2, 7, he wrote, For in this [body] we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven….  For we walk by faith….

“Faith.”

Faith isn’t just about the “now,” that is, what we can get out of God.  He might be pleased to make us healthy or wealthy, but that’s not the primary purpose of faith.  Just in passing, on this “wealth” thing – in America, even a poor person is “wealthy” in comparison to most of the rest of the world.  There are a lot of statistics on this, but I remember reading a post from a college student who makes about $5,000 a year.  She said this put her in the top 20% as far as the world is concerned.

$5,000.

And now there is agitation in this country [the US] for a minimum income of $30,000+ a year  [figuring the minimum wage at full-time].  *sigh*

Faith isn’t so much about the the present, though it is that, as well.  It’s about the future and when we stand before God to give an account of the years He’s given us on this earth.

And Paul wasn’t alone in this.  Peter wrote in 1 Peter 1:3, Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,… 

“The resurrection of Jesus Christ.”

This is the basis, the only basis, for that “living hope” Peter referred to.  That and the death which preceded it.

You see, that spiritual struggle I wrote about earlier?  Only the Lord Jesus Christ can do anything about it.  We might be able to turn over some sort of a new leaf, but we’ll mess that one up, too.

It is faith in His death, in His payment for sin, in who He was and what He did that gives poor sinners like me any hope at all for when these 75 years, or whatever God gives me, are over.  He took a place on the Cross that I might be able to take a place in Heaven.

How I long for that day when, in the words of the old hymn, “Nothing between my soul and the Savior.”

“Nothing between” and I will be able to worship and serve Him as He deserves.

Will you join me?  Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved,.., Acts 16:31.

Has God Forgotten Our Children?

“What kind of a question is that?  Of course He hasn’t.  Jesus called little children to Himself.  ‘God loves the little children, all the children of the world’.”  It’s certainly true that the Lord Jesus loved children and children seem to have loved Him.

At the same time, it’s a shame that so much of what we believe comes from Sunday School and sentiment instead of from the Scripture.

Certainly, God can’t and doesn’t “forget” in the sense that there become “gaps” in His memory.  There is a verse, however, in which He Himself say He will “forget your children.”

“Because you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children,” Hosea 4:6.

This came as a result of God rebuking the people of Israel for their wickedness:  “There is no truth or mercy or knowledge of God in the land.  By swearing and lying, killing and stealing and committing adultery, they break all restraint, with bloodshed upon bloodshed,” Hosea 4:1a-2 (emphasis added).

When God talks about “forgetting” their children, does that mean that there will be a gap in His knowledge, that He actually forgets them and has no memory or knowledge of them?

Of course not.

But read the first part of the verse to get the context of the second part:  Because you have forgotten the law of your God….  Don’t get upset about the second part without understanding the first part.

This verse may be one of those “hard sayings” that skeptics and unbelievers rail against, but, you see,  that’s because, it says actions have consequences.  Every action has a consequence.  Israel, God’s favored, chosen nation found that out the hard way.  We don’t like that; we want things our way, as if God just ran some sort of cosmic Burger King where “you get it your way,” instead of being the King of Eternity.

When God brought the people of Israel out of Egyptian slavery and made them into a nation, what was one of the main things He told them to do?

In Deuteronomy 6:6, 7, God said, …these words that I command you this day shall be in your heart; you shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down and when you rise up” (emphasis added)

“Teach them….”

He had already warned them about this earlier in chapter 4.  In v. 9, after reminding them of the great blessing and privilege they had, things not given to other nations, vs. 6-8, he said, “Only take heed to yourself, and diligently keep yourself, lest you forget the things your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life, and teach them to your children and your grandchildren (emphasis added).

“Teach them….”  

Talking to the generation that was about enter the land, Moses reminded them of all the things God had done for them, bringing them out of Egypt and sustaining them through forty years in the wilderness, where there was neither grocery story nor Walmart.  “Your garments did not wear out on you, nor did your foot swell these forty years,”  Deuteronomy 8:4.  In Deuteronomy 29:5, he repeated this thought:  “Your clothes have not worn out on you, and your sandals have not worn out on your feet.”  In fact, they were still wearing those same clothes and sandals.

When Moses warned them against forgetting the Lord, forgetting what He had done for them in the land of Egypt, and how He had provided for them in their wilderness travels, was he just warning them against a mental lapse of some sort?

No, no.  It was so much more than that.  In 8:11, he said, “Beware that you do not FORGET the Lord your God BY NOT KEEPING HIS COMMANDMENTS, HIS JUDGMENTS, AND HIS STATUTES,which I command you this day” (emphasis added).

Israel never “forgot” God in the sense that she lost the memory of Him.  She just, for the most part, did her own thing and went her own way.  This is what Hosea was complaining about.

The sad thing is, there is never a single time when Moses ever expressed any hope that Israel would actually “remember” the Lord like she was supposed to.  It was always from the standpoint of warning her what would happen if she went astray.  She had already done that before he ever came down from Sinai the first time!

“Because you have forgotten the law of your God, I will also forget your children.”

He “forgot” them by leaving them to the consequences of their actions.

Is there a lesson here for us?  I write of the US, though it’s applicable to other nations and people as well.

There’s a university that does a lot of advertising in various magazines and through the mail.  One time they sent me a sample CD, with lessons which covered the settling of our country by the Pilgrims.  The thing I found striking was that there wasn’t a single mention of the Mayflower Compact.  This was actually the first document of American history, in which some of the passengers on the Mayflower put into writing for the first time in history the idea of self-governance, an idea later formalized by our Constitution.

The interesting thing in this document is found in it’s opening sentences.  After the obligatory reference to King James, of whom they were “loyal subjects,” they referred to the reason for their own coming to the new world:  “….having undertaken [it] for the glory of God and the advancement of the Christian faith….”

Not a word of any of this in this CD.  And this has pretty much become the norm: ignoring the idea that Christianity had any part of the founding of this nation.  Granted, it was never the “established religion,” as it was in England or Germany or other countries.  Some of the founding fathers had suffered under such regimes, a thing which always happens when religion has civil power.  Witness the Inquisition under Rome and the slaughter of tens of thousands, if not millions, of Anabaptists and other nonconformists under the Reformed churches.  The same thing is true in Islam.  So the Constitution was written to prevent the establishment of any religion as “official.” However, the founding fathers did not, by this, intend the founding of atheism as the official viewpoint, nor the preventing of religious observances, as it has developed.

In fact, the first universities in this countries were founded as “seminaries.”  One of the important founders of Yale University was a man named Asahel Nettleton, whom probably not 1 of a 1000 Americans has ever heard of.  He was, however, a successful evangelist and preacher, much used of God in the early 1800s, who opposed Charles G. Finney, his preaching and his popularization of the “New Measures,” which Finney used, methods which were the beginnings of the altar call and modern fundamentalist forms of “soul-winning.”

McGuffey’s Reader, which was widely used until men like Horace Mann and John Dewey urged the secularization of public education, started off teaching the alphabet with “A:  In Adam’s fall, we sinned all.”  You can imagine what would happen today if a teacher tried to teach that to her little students.

There has, until the last two or three generations, been a strong Biblical influence in this country.  As time has passed, though, this influence has been challenged and today it is even illegal in schools and government.

And parents have to a large degree fallen by the wayside in the teaching of spiritual truths to their children.  I speak from my own experiences in “church,” but parents tended to drop their kids off for Sunday School and expected the church to give them the teaching they needed.  There was little if any corresponding teaching at home. Any such teaching at school, of course, was, and is, out of the question.

And look at our kids today – generally speaking.  There are still good kids out there, but I fear they are in a growing minority – a minority that will never have government approval. You see kids shuffling down the middle of the street, underwear hanging out, a look of arrogance on their faces.  Drive-by shootings.  Bombings. Schools being shot up.  Drugs. Violence.  Sexual degeneracy.  Gangs.  Nurseries for babies in high schools. Teenage abortion.  Rap “music.”

For the most part, our kids are a mess.

They haven’t been taught the Word of God.  In fact, they have been taught against it. They suffer the consequences of these actions every day.

Though it isn’t just the kids.

There’s a lot of concern in the community about “stopping the violence.”  There’s a lot of church leaders in the lead here, along with the police and other concerned citizens. They want the young people to turn in their guns.  Go to counseling.  Hold vigils.  Light candles.  “Stop the violence.”

But “guns” aren’t the problem.  No, they’re not.  The high school I graduated from was the “tough” school in town.  It’s in what is now probably a hotbed of violence and youthful troubles.  Though I’m sure it’s not still there, in the basement of this school, there was a rifle range (*gasp*) with rifles, locked up, of course, and ammunition.  They were common back then.  I, myself, qualified as a marksman on this range.  But there was never, ever, any trouble with these guns.

Furthermore, most of the fellows carried pocket knives.  No stabbings.  I carried one myself for years, even after I graduated, until the day I tried to make a delivery at the local courthouse and had to go through a metal detector.  Oops.  Why, I was carrying a dangerous weapon!  *sigh*  I had to take it back to my truck and leave it there.

“You’ve come a long way, baby.”

I blame these pastors and church leaders for much of our youth’s troubles.  Instead of preaching the Gospel and requiring repentance, faith, and holy living, they want “social justice.”  “Diversity.”  $15 an hour to fry hamburgers.

They want to take folks out of the slums, without stopping to consider the “slum” that is in folks.  We’re all sinners by nature, preference and habit.

Now, social justice is important.  Even our Lord taught that we’re to treat others as we would like to be treated.  And there’s a great deal more about that in the Old Testament.  However, that’s not the emphasis in these modern times. It’s not at all about how we treat others.  It’s about how they are supposed to treat us.  At the same time, we can treat them pretty much as we like.

But isn’t our God a God of love?  Surely, He wouldn’t do as He might have done in the Old Testament.  Praise His holy name, He is a God of love, but He’s still a God where actions have consequences.  America, and most of the rest of the world, has largely forgotten God by neglecting or denying His Word.  We’ve thrown His Word out and told Him He’s not welcome.

As a result of our actions, He’s “forgotten” us by leaving us to their consequences.

I think we can imagine Him asking, “How’s that working out for you?”

[I’m sorry for the “negative” tone of this post.  It’s just that there’s not much to be “positive” about in this year of our Lord 2014.]

Should Christians Vote?

This is an election year, although it seems anymore that every year is an election year.  We scarcely get the signs out of the yard before it’s time for the next batch.

I know that people from all over the world might stop by and read this post.  I’m grateful for their visit and interest.  This post, however, is different from most of the ones I write, which are usually about Biblical topics, though this one will get there.  This post is addressed to issues in this country.  As Americans, we have the freedom to vote, to get involved locally and have our voice heard.

If you ever visit Arlington National Cemetery, or see pictures of it,  those rows and rows and rows and rows of white markers bear silent, eloquent testimony to the thousands who have died in order that we might have that freedom.

I know of Christians who don’t vote, haven’t ever voted.  They’re “not of this world,” so don’t think it important enough to get involved even to vote.  “Politics is dirty,” is one of their views, and, to a large degree, they’re right.  But why is that?  It’s because good men refuse to get involved, leaving it by default to the bad guys.

Should Christians get involved?  I don’t mean necessarily run for office, but at least register and vote.  Would such a thing be “worldy”?  Is it really all that important?

The Apostle Paul took advantage of his Roman citizenship more than once.  He saw nothing wrong with it, didn’t seem to think it was “worldly” or beneath him.  In Acts 16, he and some of his companions were thrown into jail for disturbing the peace, to put it mildly.  They were beaten, thrown into an inner dungeon overnight and put into stocks.  These weren’t the kind of stocks we see in pictures, with head and hands placed between boards.  These were devices which contorted the body and made it impossible to get comfortable.  They were basically torture devices.  The next day, the magistrates told the jailer to release the men and let them go.  How did Paul respond?  Was he just grateful “it was over?”  What did he say?

But Paul said to them, ‘They have beaten us openly, uncondemned Romans, and have thrown us into prison.  And now do they put us out secretly.  No indeed!  Let them come themselves and get us out’,”  v. 27.  You see, what these magistrates did was illegal.  Even though they didn’t know Paul was a Roman citizen, they were guilty of breaking the law.  And they had made no effort to find out, but had simply followed the crowd.  And when they found this out, they were concerned:  …they were afraid when they heard that they were Romans, v. 38.

At least two other times, Paul used his Roman citizenship, once to get out of being whipped, Acts 22:25-29, and once to get away from men who wanted to kill him, Acts 25:10, 11.

Furthermore, in his writings, he addressed this issue of citizenship.  In Romans 13:1, he wrote, Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities.  For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God (NKJV).  The issue of “God’s appointment” is beyond the scope of this post, except to say that God has instituted the idea of government among humans.  He may or may not agree with what they do, but the idea came from Him.  And Paul certainly didn’t have “voting” in mind when he wrote Romans 13.  Such a thing had never yet been heard of.   The point is, we should live with the government the providence of God has put us in.  But that’s another post, as well.  The government we live under gives us the right to vote.  Though we obviously can’t know for sure, I believe Paul would have taken full advantage of it if he would have had it.  (Could we say that not voting is being disobedient to God?)

If someone should say, “Well, yes, but that’s just Paul,” hear what our Lord said.  For some reason, a lot of people downplay what Paul wrote, and some even say that he took the simple teachings of Jesus and turned them into something the Lord never meant.  That’s another post.  For now, hear our Lord.

In one of their incessant arguments with the Lord, the Pharisees asked Him about paying taxes, another issue Paul addresses in Romans 13.  These religious leaders came to the Lord and asked what they thought was a surefire question to trip Him up.  In Matthew 22:17, they asked, Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” They really thought they had Him!  As usual, they soon found out they were wrong!

But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, “Why do you test Me, you hypocrites.  Show Me the tax money.”  So they brought Him a denarius.  And He said to them, “Whose image and inscription is this?”  And they said to Him, “Caesar’s.”  And He said to them, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” 

Once again, our Lord probably wasn’t thinking about “voting,” but I think the argument could be made that it is a “thing of Caesar’s” and as such is to be observed.

Let me close by saying that I’m very concerned about the direction this country – and the world – is heading.  I’m very concerned about this election.  This isn’t to say that I don’t trust God, or any such thing.  He generally works through means, and in this case, voting is a means.  I have to say that I think we’ve pretty much gotten what we’ve deserved the last few years.

What I’m afraid of is that candidates won’t be “conservative” enough for some Americans, and so they will sit this election out, as they did in 2012 because they didn’t like Mitt Romney’s religion, and as they have done in other elections because the candidates didn’t say the right “Shibboleth” on certain issues.  (See Judges 6:1-12 for the reference.)  Doing this, they will concede the election before it’s even run.

If that happens this year, well, we’ll deserve what we get.

If Jesus Is The Answer…. What is the Question?

It’s been a while since I’ve seen or heard the saying that “Jesus is the answer,” but I got to thinking about it the other day.  Though I understood what was being said, I always wondered about it.  I posted this on fb a while back and the answers indicated that Jesus is the answer to any question we could ask.  Without wishing to be difficult or disrespectful in any way either to Him or to those who answered my question, I can think of several questions to which He isn’t the answer, questions which by their very nature deny Him as the answer.

However, I’m thinking of a particular question, a question to which Jesus, and He alone, is the answer, a question asked very early in human history, a question which is basic to human existence.  It’s found in Job 9:2, “how can a man be righteous before God?” (NKJV)

“How can a man [or a woman] be righteous before God?”

If, as some believe, this life is all there is, and death is the end of everything, then this question is of no importance at all.  If though, in contrast to this view, the Bible is true, then what it says is of paramount importance.  It’s not my purpose here to defend the accuracy and/or authority of Scripture, but simply to record what it says: …it is appointed for man to die once, but after this…. 

“After this.”

What?

…the judgment.

There’s an almost universal undercurrent in the back of our minds that there has to be something “out there” to make up for or take care of all the things in this world that aren’t right.  If there isn’t, there should be.  After all, how can human justice really take care of the Stalins, the Hitlers, the kidnappers of little girls from their school, regardless of how this latter situation is resolved?  It just seems like “death” isn’t enough for such people.

Well, it turns out that “death” isn’t all there is.  There is something “out there” –

…the judgment.

It’s not the purpose of this post to deal with what this judgment might entail.  It’s purpose is to point out that all of us, even if we’re not Stalins or Hitlers, are going to be in that judgment.  Nor is it the purpose of this post to get into the discussion about the different “kinds” of judgment there may be, that is, is there just one “general judgment” in which all will participate, or are there judgments based on whether one is a Christian, a Jew at the time of Christ’s return, or an unbeliever?

It’s enough for this post that the Scripture teaches that we all, every single one of us, will stand before God and give an account of our lives.

Job asked, “How can a man be righteous before God?”

Isn’t it enough, as many think, that we just do our best?

Is “our best” good enough?

The short answer is, “no.”

There’s a strange Scripture in Proverbs which says that “even the plowing of the wicked is sin,” Proverbs 21:4 (NKJV).  Some of the newer versions translate it as “the lamp of the wicked.”   The Hebrew words are very similar, if not identical.  Nevertheless, the idea is, that even when the wicked do those things which are basic to life, they are sinning.

How can this be?

Romans 3:23 says. “All have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God.”  There are a lot of good, valid definitions of sin in Scripture, showing the varied aspects of it.  Yet, perhaps Romans 3:23 aims at one of the basic thoughts of sin, it doesn’t glorify God.  This means that when a wicked person, and that is all of us apart from faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, even when a wicked person plows his field to prepare for planting or lights a lamp so he can see in the dark, he is sinning because he has no thought for the glory of God.  Indeed, his thought, even if unconsciously, is, “Why should I do that?”

There’s an Old Testament verse which bears on this.  In Daniel 5:23, after telling what Belshazzar had done with the Temple vessels captured by his grandfather Nebuchadnezzar, using them in idolatrous revelry to praise his own gods, Daniel said, “and the God who holds your breath in His hand and owns all your ways, YOU HAVE NOT GLORIFIED,” (emphasis added).

So, among other things, sin is a failure to glorify God.

But, how can we know what glorifies God?

There’s another verse from Paul: “There is none righteous, no, not one,” Romans 3:10.  This brings in the Moral Law, put in capsule form in the Old Testament, though there is more to it than a few verses in Exodus 20.  It is mentioned throughout the Bible.  Paul wrote that none of us is righteous, that it, has ever kept that Law.

We may think we live by the Ten Commandments or the Sermon on the Mount or some other portion of Scripture, but if we’re honest with ourselves and with God, we know better.

There’s only been one Person Who could ever truthfully say, “I do always those things which please Him, that is, God, John 8:26.  That is why John calls Him “Jesus Christ the righteous, in 1 John 2:1. No one could ever be called that in and of himself, like the Lord.

This brings us back to Job’s question, “How can a man be righteous before God?”

Paul answers in 2 Corinthians 5:21, God made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. “In Him,” not in ourselves.

What does this mean?

On the Cross, there was an exchange.  The Lord Jesus exchanged places with sinners. Though sinless Himself – “righteous” – He took their sins as His own.  Doing so, He placed Himself under the wrath and judgment of God against sin.

On the other hand, those who believe on the Lord Jesus are counted as “righteous.” The righteousness of Christ, gained through His obedience to the Law and ability to say that He pleased God in all things, is credited to believers as if it were their own.  Believe me, it is not.

The Psalmist rejoiced in this grace of God when he said, “He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor punished us according to our iniquities, Psalm 103:10.  He dealt with the Lord Jesus according to them.

People sometimes say that they want what they deserve.  That may be true in this world, but it’s not a good thought for the next.  One of the Puritans used to say that anything outside of hell is more than we deserve.

The question:  “How can a man [or a woman] be righteous before God?”

What is YOUR answer?

The Heartbeat of a Mother.

Since I’m only a son, grandson, great-grandson, father and grandfather [no “greats” there yet, though our grandkids are great], I don’t know that I’m particularly qualified to write about being a mother.  But I’ll do my best.

A young woman once apologetically told me that she didn’t work outside the home, that she was “just a mother.”  At once, I told her that no woman was “just” a mother.

A mother is the first, and the most important, part of a baby’s life.  One of the very first things the little one must be conscious of is the nearby heartbeat of that one whose very body is involved in nurturing and protecting this new life within it.  Lub-dub, lub-dub, lub-dub. The rhythm of life.  For nine months, that sound is the background of existence, the assurance that all is well.

Then comes the trauma of birth – for both the mother and the child.

For Mom, “Whew, I’m glad that’s over!” – though it’s really only a new beginning.  For the child….

I had a good friend in college whose home in another state I would sometimes go with him to visit.  One time in particular I remember.  I slept in a room where the air-conditioner perched in a window.  This visit my friend’s folks turned it on.  Summer can be hot in Tennessee.  The conditioner was noisy, and I didn’t sleep very well.  Then morning came, and they turned it off.  That’s what really woke me – that deafening silence.

I wonder if that’s what it’s like for a newborn.  All kinds of new stimuli to be sure, new environment, lights, sounds, and yet…

Silence.

Where’s the heartbeat?

I wonder what the newborn feels?  Loss?  Confusion?  Panic?  The one constant of the old life is gone.  There’s no connection with this new life.  There’s nothing for the baby to hold on, so to speak.  How does he or she feel at this turn of events?

Then…

the baby is given to the mother and she cuddles him close.

Ah!  The baby relaxes; there’s the heartbeat.  There’s the connection.

Do you know why mothers are so special?  It’s their heartbeat….

Their love, their care, their concern.  Their “thereness”.

If things go as they should, there will be other “connections” made in life: dad, perhaps brothers and sisters, aunts, uncles, grandma and grandpa, friends, a special “other” down the line, children of their own….

But it all starts with a mother’s heartbeat.

Thanks, Mom.

NOTE:  I’ve published this post before.  It’s slightly edited from having been done before, but it’s still relevant.  My own mom would have been 100.

Happy Mother’s Day, all you moms out there.  We’ll never know how much we owe you.

A Wish for Couples Marrying This Spring….

…Or Anytime.

It will soon be the season for weddings.  I’d like to give these couples some thoughts and wishes as they begin life together.

I’ve been blessed to participate in the weddings of our three married children and privileged to officiate in one of them.  Our unmarried daughter finally got tired of my asking if she had found someone and ever so politely and lovingly and in so many words told me to buzz off.  And no, she wasn’t crude about it, just firm.  She’s quite content being single.

I was just going through my files looking for something else when I came across the notes I used in those weddings.  Reading them again brought tears to my eyes as I recalled those happy occasions and am able to reflect on what has happened since then in all of them.  I sometimes joke that I’m where we now live because of my wife, and she’s here because of the grandchildren.  We have others in different states now, but these were the only ones for quite a while.  It’s been a blessing to watch them grow and mature, and to see our children happy and settled.

In the beginning of all things earthly, God created the heavens and the earth, with all the creatures that are in them.  On one level, it was for occasions like weddings that all these wonderful things were made.  We read in Genesis that God made a man and gave everything into his hand, except one tree.  God brought all the animals to Adam, and Adam named them.  There was, however, something missing.  Every animal, every bird, had its own corresponding mate – there were two of them.  Only Adam stood by himself.  God said, “It is not good that man should be alone,” and He set about at once to finish His creation.  When He was done, He brought the first woman to the first man. Now God hadn’t been caught off-guard or surprised and so made Eve as some sort of after-thought.  I think He did it this way to show the special relationship that one man and one woman are to sustain toward each other for life.

For the man: –

There’s an interesting verse in the Old Testament that’s very applicable here.  Most people think of the Old Testament as all stern and unyielding and there are some things in it which do sound strange to us.  And it’s true that we don’t live under its requirements any more. but there’s still a lot of wisdom in its pages.  This verse has some of it:

When a man has taken a new wife, he shall not go out to war or be charged with any business; he shall be free at home one year, and bring happiness to the wife whom he has taken, Deuteronomy 24:5 (NKJV).

“Bring happiness to the wife whom he has taken.”

“Bring happiness to your wife.”

When was the last time you heard that in marital counseling?

And, yes, I understand that there are sometimes complex issues involved.  After all, we are human beings.

But this is a good place to start.

We men are pretty good, or bad, about what we expect from our wives:  “She’d better” do this or that.  We don’t give much thought to what they might expect from us. However, God said to the man, “Bring happiness to your wife.”  It’s your responsibility to make her happy, not hers to make you happy.

The world has a saying, “When the queen is happy, there’s peace in the realm.” There’s a lot of truth in that.  If you treat your wife like a dog, don’t be surprised if she barks at you.  Of course, that’s the trouble with a lot of men, they would treat a dog better than they do their wife.

It might be objected that that’s Old Testament, and even I have recognized that we don’t live under its rules any more.  However, the same God Who wrote the Old Testament wrote the New Testament as well.  In 1 Corinthians 7:33, Paul wrote, …he that is married cares about the things of the world – how he may please his wife. 

Many consider Paul to have a negative view of marriage and of women in general.  Not so.  In this verse, he explicitly says that it’s the man’s responsibility to please his wife, although he does also say that the wife is to make her husband happy. Being well-versed in the Old Testament, since that’s pretty much all they had in the beginnings of the New Testament, not forgetting the teachings of the Lord Jesus, he likely was thinking of Deuteronomy 24:5.

I suppose there might be some who look at the phrase “the things of the world,” and figure that they don’t have to worry about it.  Marriage is “of the world,” and Christians are “not of this world.”  However, God ordained and instituted marriage, and laid out the guidelines under which it was to be entered and lived.  That those guidelines have been ignored or rejected has a lot to do with the mess society is in right now.

And we can’t overlook Ephesians 5:25, which says, Husbands, love your wives as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for it. I don’t know of any man, no matter how much he thinks of himself, who would say that he’s done that!  Also, Colossians 3:19.

He shall bring happiness to the wife whom he has taken. 

For the woman: –

Genesis 2:18 gives us the fundamental reason why God created Eve, as we’ve already noted.  It wasn’t good for man to be alone.  Malachi 2:14, …she is your companion… These two verses bookmark the Old Testament view of marriage.  It is a companionship.  There may or may not be legitimate reasons for “girls’ night out” or “boys’ night out,” but blessed indeed is that couple which finds its greatest joy in each other.

Marriage isn’t a competition.  One is not “better” than the other.  We’re all fallen, fallible creatures and it wouldn’t be until heaven, if marriage were to endure til then, that a wife would have a perfect husband, and the husband a perfect wife.

And there is no condescension in marriage.  Those who disagree with the Biblical view of marriage accuse it of making women second-class citizens.  That’s not true.  We each have different roles and responsibilities in marriage, but one is no less important than the other.  There are physical differences to be sure; I don’t know that my wife could pick up a 40 lb bag of salt to put into the water softener, but then she has mothered five children and birthed four of them.  One went ahead of us, whom we never got to meet, hold or love.  She wins, hands down!  And it has taken a woman of great grace, courage and mercy to put up with me for 43 years!

Eve was to be a completion, a complement, to Adam.  She was the finishing touch to creation.  It wasn’t until after her appearance that God pronounced everything, very good, Genesis 1:31.

A lot of the trouble in marriage is caused because people overlook this basic dictum: He created them male and female. Men are men and women are women.  Men are not from Mars and women are not from Venus.  We are both from the hand of God.

A lot of women want their husbands to be more like themselves.  I suppose that has to do with feelings and emotions.  And men want their wives to be more like them.  Or they want to “get in touch with their feminine side.”  If you want to see my feminine side, I’ll introduce you to my wife!

God “made them male and female.”  In every area and in every difference, God has made them that way.

To a young woman standing before me, I would say, “you are about to enter into uncharted territory, so far as you are concerned.”  [I admit that this is an old-fashioned view, that couples don’t move in together without the benefit of marriage “to see if it’ll work out.”  Where’s the fun – and the challenge – of discovering a new country, so to speak, if you’ve already explored all of it?  And this doesn’t consider what God says about such an arrangement, that it is sin.] (continuing – ) “No longer will you be a single young woman answerable and responsible only to God and yourself.  From now on, the young man standing by your side must have great consideration in your plans and in your life.  You are required by Holy Scripture to have respect for him, to obey him.  This does not mean that you are to become a door-mat or a non-person in any way; it simply recognizes that his is the main responsibility before God in your marriage.”

It’s very interesting that there’s no Scripture which tells the wife directly to love her husband, only to respect him.  [Fellows, listen up.  Are you worthy of respect?]  Indeed, there is a verse which counsels older women to admonish the younger women to love their husbands…., Titus 2:4.  It must be tough on you ladies when your Prince Charming turns out to be a frog.  I don’t see how you do it.  The older ladies are supposed to have some experience in this and are to pass it along to the younger ladies.

To both of them: –

Marriage is a “they” proposition:  A man shall leave his father and his mother and cleave to his wife, and they shall be one flesh. “They” speaks of a mutual endeavor. “Shall become” speaks of a mutual effort.  “One flesh” speaks of a mutual experience.  This is very brief.  So much more could be said about it.

To any young couples contemplating marriage who are reading this, I wish for you two that you will become like an ornamental Benjamin fig tree I once saw.  Someone had taken three slender trees and planted and braided them together.  The tree had grown over these three individual shoots and they had become united as one tree. I know it loses a lot in the telling, but the tree was beautiful.  May you two as you plant and entwine your lives grow together as one and become beautiful in the hand of God.

1%

With this 1%, I’m not writing about the supposed 1% who have all the wealth, as those who are trying to incite class envy and warfare allege, but in the “difference” in the DNA of humans and chimpanzees.  Just in passing, thinking about “wealth” and way off the mark, earlier today I read an article which pointed out, in the current agitation to increase the minimum wage, that the minimum wage was first imposed in 1938.  Guess how much it was….

 

 

25 cents.

 

 

An hour.

 

 

But I digress.  As I wrote, “way off the mark.”

I’ve been watching an interesting series on Netflix which attempts to explain the inexplicable mysteries of the universe.  The narrator, Dr. Neil deGrass Tyson, does an excellent job of explaining science in a way that people like me who don’t have that kind of background can understand it.

According to Dr. Tyson, chimpanzees have 99% of the same DNA that humans have. I’ve heard other figures, but they are all in the high 90s.  Young chimps are able to figure out simple things, like stacking boxes to get to, say, a banana.  Perhaps they can be taught very simple sign language.  But they stop “developing,” if you will, and never advance beyond a very elementary point.  Dr. Tyson didn’t dwell on this, but wondered if there were aliens out there who were 1% smarter than we are and if they thought no more of us than we do of chimpanzees.  Just in passing, again, bananas are said to share 50% of the same DNA as humans.

What I wonder is, if chimps and humans are so close in their “programming,” which is basically what DNA is, why is there such a gulf between them?  If they’re only 1% dumber than we are, why isn’t that really evident?  There’s more to it than just the fact that chimps never learn anything more than very, very basic things – at least from our perspective.  They do very well as chimps.

The truth is, there is a vast difference between us and them, which begs the question, “Why?”

The answer is found in Scripture.  Now, Dr. deGrass is an evolutionist and casually dismisses the fact that early scientists like Newton believed in God, so he wouldn’t agree with this post.  He would also probably dismiss Genesis as any kind of a reliable account of origins.  It was interesting, though, that he does use the term “genesis” is referring to those origins.

Among other things, the early chapters of Genesis describe the creation of animate life, including mankind.  Genesis 1:21 and 25 record the creation of aquatic life, flying creatures and animals.  When Genesis gets to the creation of man, however, it says something quite different.  In the creation of all other life, there is nothing said about what God planned to do with it.  In the case of man, however, He said, “Let us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness;…,” Genesis 1:26.

Now this doesn’t mean, as some teach, that we’re “little gods.”  There’s no “divine spark” just waiting to fanned into a blaze by the right kind of education or environment or economic status.

What it means is that we’re not just advanced animals.  There is something about humans that isn’t true of animals.  This something is creativity, ingenuity, even spirituality.  So far as we can tell, no animal conceives of a “higher power.”  No animal has ever started a civilization or invented some new wonder of industry or technology.  Of course, they don’t destroy each other in the same wholesale way as humans do, either, but that’s another post.

There’s more to mankind that just the material.  We’re more than animated bodies.  We think and hope and dream and plan.  That “1%” involves so much more than just genetic differences.  It involves that which, no matter how corrupted and ruined by the Fall of Adam and Eve it has become and how far we try to get away from Him, that which God meant when He said, “Let us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness.”

One day, through the Lord Jesus Christ, that purpose will come to complete and final fruition.

“Even so, come, Lord Jesus.”