Articles

  • Mother's Day Lessons from Mary and Martha

    As Mother’s Day approaches I am intrigued by the story of Mary and Martha entertaining Jesus for a meal.  While Martha is slaving away in the kitchen, Mary is sitting at Jesus’ feet.  Martha tells Jesus to tell her to help serve the meal. Jesus responds to Martha forthrightly but tenderly: "Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things."  Martha was worrying about something that was quite important to her, providing a meal for Jesus and His disciples.

    But how important was this compared with other priorities? What was it that Martha was missing? Could it be that Martha was missing time in the Word of God? Jesus said, ”Seek ye first the kingdom of God and all these things will be added unto you.”

    People make choices. They are a part of life. In Deuteronomy 30:19, the prophet Moses declared, "I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live."

    I am sure that there are many Marys out there saying that there should be more time spent socializing. I am also sure that there are an equal number of Martha’s out there saying that there should be more work done. There isn’t time to socialize when we can be getting more done.

    Maybe a just balance between the two is in order. While Mary could be more motivated to work, Martha could be more motivated to socialize. To be healthy we need to be balanced in other areas as well. According to Gerhard William Helter, III, one of the founders of the National Wellness Conference, he defines wellness as an active process through which people become more aware of, and make choices toward, a more successful existence. Areas here include having a healthy balance of the mind, body and spirit.

    Christian wellness could be defined as having a healthy appreciation for the forgiveness, salvation and eternal life that have been given to believers by God, through Jesus Christ. Well-being in each dimension of a believer’s life is important. Willingly making choices toward improving one’s health and well-being in each area is important so that one may more fully worship God with one’s entire being, become a more effective servant to one’s neighbor, and be a better steward of what God has given him.

    Using this definition I would encourage the Marthas to take time to be more aware of what they are missing in Jesus. I would encourage them to take the time to find a closer walk with Him. Also, what if they are not making healthy choices in other areas of life like getting enough rest and sleep? How can they be effective relationally if they are too exhausted from this deficit? It is also important that they get enough exercise. Marthas are capable of making sure others get the necessary exercise, rest, and sleep, but are not willing to do that for themselves. It is important that they find a way to get this balance in their own lives or else they will be heading toward “burnout.”  One way to look at burnout is to think about all of us having emotional bank accounts. If we continually make withdrawal after withdrawal and never make a deposit, eventually our emotional bank account will look more like some peoples’ real bank accounts, overdrawn.

    It is when we are emotionally overdrawn, or burned out, that the enemy has a chance to attack us, because we are most vulnerable in this state. Let us not forget that he comes to steal and kill and destroy. We must not give him any stronghold in our life, because we are unwilling to work on our own wellness.

    I think an important gift to mothers this Mother’s Day, would be to help them gain wellness in all areas of their lives.  By considering the story of Mary and Martha, they might learn to not only love and care for their families and themselves, but to also be more empowered to love Jesus with their entire being.  

     

  • More TV Decency

    Article for the News Journal - Submitted by Tom Russell, Feb. 12, 2004

    It has been estimated that 90 million people viewed the Super Bowl this year. I am sure that many of the 90 million viewers experienced varying degrees of disgust and shock, just as I did, by the half time show put on by Janet Jackson, Justin Timberlake and the supporting cast.  

    I would like to raise some questions about this.  What if Janet Jackson's top hadn't come off?  Would there still be an outcry against CBS and MTV?  Would people have let the rest of the sexually oriented half-time performance, as well as many of the inappropriate commercials, go by unnoticed?  Michael Powell, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, and responsible for policing the decency of the show, stated he was offended by the "classless" act.  He also stated that the stunt by Justin Timberlake wasn't the worst part of the half-time show.  He felt the entire half time show, that clearly had sexual messages and dance, was worse.  He has a point, when millions of families with their children are hearing, "I'll have you naked by the end of the song!" 

    Unfortunately (and please don't misunderstand this as an argument for the breast  baring stunt), it could be argued that the half-time show was no worse than the adult content of shows like NYPD Blue or the pornographic content of the Howard Stern Show or the MTV programming in general?  Should we pretend it doesn't exist until blatant nudity becomes commonplace on prime time television?  
    MTV started out a fledgling network that had very little revenue more than twenty years ago.  It is now reported by PBS On- Line (2001) that MTV reaches 350 million households and according to the Nielson Media Research (2000), 39% of the viewers are under the age of 18.  It also has been  reported by the American Academy of Pediatrics that in the absence of effective comprehensive sex education at home or in the schools,  television and other media are the leading sex educators of children and adolescents today.  

    If you are outraged by the inappropriate programming being forced on Americans, you can make a difference. Recently thousands of parents called Abercrombie and Fitch's corporate office and complained of the blatant nudity in their Christmas catalog, causing them to discontinue sales of it, and to remove all nudity from their spring catalog.  In the same way you can let your voice be heard by calling Tom Freston, Chairman of MTV, at 212-258-8000, and Leslie Moonves, President of CBS, at 323-575-2345.

    You can take a stand by valuing what Paul wrote in Col. 2:8, "See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and basic principles of this world rather than on Christ."   The theme of Eph. 5: 1 -13 is to be imitators of God, without a hint of sexual immorality, and to live as children of the light which is goodness, righteousness and truth.  

    It is possible that if we, as a people, rally behind the cause for decency in our  television programming, in much the same way that people did with Abercrombie and Fitch's catalog, then Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake may have done us a favor. They may have brought us to a point of seeing the need to stop this growing sexual agenda that is trying to infiltrate our country through our television programs.   

  • Self-Esteem

    Scripture calls us to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.” But what if you didn’t love yourself? If you didn’t love yourself what would that look like? Would you have a close and active relationship with your neighbor? If you don’t like yourself what would that do to the relationship with your neighbor? Would they want to put up a privacy fence or a for sale sign in the front yard? How often do you think you will be invited over to dinner?

    I think that it is important that before we can love our neighbor we must first love ourselves. After all, we were created in God’s image. One important part of being created in God’s image is that we should take on the characteristics of our God. We should show the fruit of the Spirit to our neighbor but there are many reasons that happen to prevent that from occurring. Psychologist Eugene Sagan coined the term “The pathological critic.” This term describes the negative inner voice that attacks and judges you. The critic blames you for things that go wrong. The critic compares you to others---to their achievement and abilities. The critic sets so high of a standard that you can’t achieve them (nor could anyone else) and criticizes you when you can’t. The critic calls you names, usually, the names that an authority figure (like a parent or teacher) may have used growing up. Words that are perceived and burnt into the mind much like a photo is burnt onto photo paper and then grows through out life. The critic speaks often times in a short phrase like “you idiot” or “you are stupid,” “lazy”!! The critic is capable of causing you to second-guess yourself. “Did I do it right?” “Did I make the right decision?” The critic also appears to have a louder voice in your mind than the healthy you. His comments and hurtful thoughts far out weigh the positive thoughts in your mind.

    All of these things happen early in your emotional developmental years. Not feeling safe will cause you to perceive things that can develop emotional liabilities like shame, guilt, doubt and inferiority. In a very unhealthy way we some how feel better if we call ourselves a name or criticize ourselves. As this pattern continues it begins to impact our view of ourselves to a point were we grow anger against ourselves and believe that we aren’t good enough or don’t deserve a compliment.

    The impact emotions also have on us also has an impact on our intellectual selves as we don’t have confidence or believe that we are capable of high academic performance. Not only are our intellectual selves impacted but so is our physical selves impacted. When people don’t like themselves they tend to not respect their eating habits. They eat for comfort and without hope they have no will power to stop overeating. Their eating habits put on weight, which only creates more emotional issues like depression and the snowball affect continues. It’s not done yet. The emotional self also impacts our spiritual selves. We are deceived into believing that we aren’t worthy of love. The enemy lies to us with thoughts like “I’m not worthy of God loving me.” If God is there why won’t He help me?” Feeling abandoned we continue to spiral down into a deeper depression.

    If our emotional, intellectual, physical and spiritual selves are impacted when we spiral downward into a poor relationship with ourselves, then they are also impacted in our recovery. First, we want to recognize our inner feelings. We should allow ourselves to feel those emotions and then through journaling talk to God about them. Writing them down will help us bring them to the Light and begin to facilitate healing. Second, we should develop a support team who will listen and pray for you and with you concerning the negative things that you think or do that enable your poor self esteem. This is important to do because our own stubborn self-will is much deeper and insidious than we give credit to. Third, it is important that we begin to respect ourselves by exercising. As Paul said, “Do you not know that your bodies are the temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own.” As we feel the success of exercising we begin to feel better and see ourselves in a healthier way. Fourth, it is important that we embrace what scripture says about us. Paul stated in Romans 8:16&17 “That the Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs, heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ. How does it feel to receive and embrace that you are “Joint heirs with Jesus?” It is also true that we can embrace how God felt about Jesus in Matthew 3:17. “This is my son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased.” This is true because we are “joint” heirs with Jesus. Paul also said in Ephesians:(1-7) For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he[a] predestined us for adoption to sonship [b] through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.”

    If we take aim at how the enemy attacks us on the battlefield of our minds than we can embrace the truth about who we are and what we are to God. If we do then we can “Love our neighbor as our selves.”

     

     

  • Return God to School and the Public Square

    In the weeks following our most recent election, I have given much thought to how profoundly our country has changed in the last few years, and considered why this has happened.   I believe it has much to do with the removal of God from  Mainstream America. 

    The first amendment to the United States Constitution says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”  Having just gained their freedom from England where the King had much control over the church, the Founding Fathers wanted to make it clear that the federal government should not be involved in the religion of the people. 

    Any talk of “separation of church and state” was meant to keep the government out of the church.  The Founders never intended to keep the church out of the government.  They were Godly men who prayed and attended church on a regular basis. 

    In 1774, forty of America’s leading statesmen met in Philadelphia to prepare for the approaching conflict with Great Britain.  They opened their meeting with prayer, but not the superficial type of prayer one might expect.  It was a profound time of prayer led by the Rev. Jacob Duche of nearby Christ Church.   A painting showing this First Prayer of Congress in Carpenter’s Hall shows many of the men actually down on their knees.  We have numerous historical documents from the years that followed, proving that the Founders were sincere men of God who intended this to be a country founded on Christian principles. 

    As the country grew and people moved west, the one book they always brought with them was the family Bible.  For many families, this was the only book they owned, and they read it daily and used it to teach their children how to read.  As schools were opened across the country, the Bible and moral values were an expected part of the instruction.  

    For nearly 200 years this was the case.  Many schools opened their day with a morning prayer and Bible classes were encouraged if not required. 

    Unfortunately, in 1962, and 1963, the United States Supreme Court drastically altered the way the Constitution was interpreted when they handed down three separate decisions that struck down the practice of prayer and Bible reading in public schools.  This has led to the removal of God from not only schools, but all public places.

    Many cities no longer allow Nativity scenes on public land, and the Ten Commandments have been removed from most courtrooms.  It is no longer appropriate to say “Merry Christmas,” as many people prefer “Happy Holidays.”   There are numerous stories of students who have tried to include God in graduation speeches or other school projects, but have been told by their schools that they cannot do this.   It seems these rules only apply to Christian expressions of faith, however, as people of other faiths have no problem bringing their religious beliefs into the public square.

    A prayer commonly said in public schools before 1962, went like this: "Almighty God we acknowledge our dependence upon Thee, and we beg Thy blessings upon us, our parents, our teachers, and our Country."  Sadly, every group mentioned in this prayer has suffered dearly since 1962.

    According to David Barton, author of numerous books about America and her Godly heritage, there has been a 400% increase in teenage pregnancies, and two-thirds of teenage boys have had sex, with an average of five partners by the time they are 18.  There has been a dramatic increase in school violence, and student suicides have increased by 253%.

    Divorce rates have increased 120%, and single parent families have increased 140%.

    The country has seen a 660% increase in violent crime.  Alcoholism and drug abuse have risen dramatically, and we have over 72 million adults who are functionally illiterate.  Movies and television shows are filled with sex, violence, and inappropriate language, which have led people to believe these things are normal.  Contrast that with the television shows of the early 1960’s in which husbands and wives had separate beds. 

    W. Cleon Skousen, author of The 5000 Year Leap, identifies 28 Principles of Liberty that the Founding Fathers said, “must be understood and perpetuated by every people who desire peace, prosperity, and freedom.”  While all 28 are extremely important, I want to share just a few of them that apply to this article.          

    1) The only reliable basis for sound government and just human relations is Natural Law.  (In other words, God’s Law.)

    2) A free people cannot survive under a republican constitution unless they remain virtuous and morally strong.

    3) The most promising method of securing a virtuous and morally stable people is to elect virtuous people.

    4) Without religion the government of a free people cannot be maintained.

    George Washington once said, “Reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.” 

    Benjamin Franklin supported this idea when he said, “ …nothing is of more importance for the public weal, than to form and train up youth in wisdom and virtue. Wise and good men are, in my opinion, the strength of the state; more so than riches and arms…”

    I sincerely believe that if we want to remain a free people, we must return God to our schools and the public square.  We must return to being a virtuous and morally strong people, who choose to elect virtuous people to our government.

  • Thoughts on Father's Day

    With Fathers Day a little more than a week away I would like to share some of my thoughts about the responsibility of being a father. Other than loving Jesus and my wife (in that order) it is the most important responsibility I have. It is more important than leading Heritage Christian Counseling Ministries and being an elder at Grace Fellowship Church.  I am very aware of the importance of my presence in my children’s lives.

    For my three sons, I am aware of the impact of blessing them in what Dr. John Trent identifies as five key areas that are critical for their development and being launched into life.

    Dr. Trent first talks about meaningful and appropriate touch. This was valuable in my relationship with them. Jesus showed the power of touch in Mark 10:16 as He picked up the little children and held them.  Also, research supports that meaningful touch facilitates a loving and warm relationship.  It made me, as their dad, more approachable, which paid important dividends during their adolescence. It was easier for them to come to me with problems, and I was more able to speak into their lives with some optimism that they would listen. It also made it easier to celebrate their successes, as they were more willing to receive my praise.

    Dr. Trent then speaks of the importance of attaching high value to our sons. Since sons are more likely to perceive God in a similar way to how they perceive male authority, it is critical for me to communicate their high value.  As David writes in Psalms, “How precious are your thoughts to me,” communicating value to my sons is to let them know how important their thoughts are to me. Another important way to communicate value to them is through my decision-making concerning them. As I navigate life on a daily basis I choose to make decisions that show how much I care. 

    How I greet them is yet another important aspect of Dr. Trent’s blessing.  In James 3:10 it says that out of the mouth comes blessings or curses.  I think it is crucial to bless them by carefully choosing the words that come out of my mouth.

    The fourth area Dr. Trent discusses is the importance of encouragement. My responsibilities with my sons include believing in them and expressing how God has a plan for them. It is to encourage them, help build their confidence, and again, celebrate their successes.  For one of my sons it meant supporting him in his desire to be a Marine. For another it meant supporting his desire to go to school on the east coast. For yet another son it meant being supportive as he figured out what God’s plan was for his life, and today he is a leader and manager in the business world. In all three cases these decisions to give encouragement and support greatly impacted who they are today.

    The final strong component of Dr. Trent’s blessing in being a father to my sons was showing a high degree of commitment in their lives. I was fully aware of statistics that showed how a father’s commitment and presence was important in reducing possible “at risk” behavior like drugs, alcohol and crime.  Because of this it was a high priority for me to attend all of their ball games. In fact at one point I remember one of the boys joking, “Enough already Dad, you don’t have to come to all the practices too!”  

    Another area of commitment was to lead them spiritually.  I clearly remember as a dad the tremendous responsibility of being a spiritual role model. That role model included honoring their mother and modeling a healthy marriage.

    This article would not be complete if I didn’t include the importance of my presence in my daughter’s life as well. I will always be thankful for the “Daddy-Daughter Dates,” and the appropriate hugs that helped her develop a healthy sense of who she is. I even remember a Daddy-Daughter Date where we walked arm in arm down the mall, shopping.  What a special memory!  I have even recovered from the trauma of “shopping.”  I remember how important the messages of kind and loving words were to her. Because she found love in our relationship it helped her to seek healthy and appropriate relationships in her life. I think it helped facilitate who she is as a person. It laid a foundation for how she relates to her husband today.

    My belief in her and presence in her life also facilitated celebrating her successes.  I am amazed at how she succeeds at whatever she puts her mind to. That included taking a full high school load and college load at the same time. We would regularly celebrate her academic success as well as her athletic success. She, too, believed that she had a bright future because of the confidence she gained from these experiences.

    She learned the importance of commitment when she experienced a very difficult season in her life after giving birth. Her daughter was born with a serious health problem and was given no chance to live. It was her commitment to Christ through prayer and faith that saved her daughter’s life. Her ability to commit was a huge help in the months to come, as her daughter was in the neonatal intensive care unit for several months. 

    Having received the blessings of appropriate touch, high value, spoken messages, encouragement, and strong commitment, it is now a blessing to me to see my children passing these things on to their own children.  The returns on my investment have been worth every bit of the effort.

     

  • My Thoughts On Lent

    Lent is the season that leads up to Easter and lasts forty days. In its origin, Lent was a time in the early church where people prepared for Easter with a time of self-examination and teaching the converts about Jesus and His Word. It was a time of rededication, repentance, and focusing on the life of Jesus.

    John Piper writes: “All exultation in anything else should be exultation in the cross. If you exult in the hope of glory, you should be exulting in the cross of Christ. If you exult in tribulation, because tribulation works hope, you should be exulting in the cross of Christ. If you exult in your weaknesses, or in the people of God, you should be exulting in the cross of Christ.” If we embrace what John Piper says, I think that, while it is important to have a season of reflection, repentance, and preparation for Easter, it is also important that we have “Lent” daily, 365 days a year. In our relationship with Jesus, isn’t it important we remain in Him every moment of the day? I am thankful that we can confess our sin at any time and immediately restore our relationship with Jesus. I John 1:9 states that “if we confess our sin, He is faithful and just to  forgive us our sin and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Focusing on the cross also allows us to live in the victory of the cross.

    Jacquelyn Heasley writes, “Jesus lived His life for you. Now He wants to live His life through  you!” If we allow Jesus to live through us, then we have power over the evil one daily. If we live in the power of the cross, then we will experience Lent year round, and we will defeat the “roaring lion” who wants to devour us daily.

     

    MARCH 2012

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  • Parenting & Cell Phones

    According to a 2010 survey conducted by the Pew Research Center one in three teens send more than one hundred texts a day. In a 2008 editorial, the American Psychiatric Association included texting as a part of a disorder known as “Internet addiction.” A disorder that is characterized by excessive text messaging and often times causes a person to be at a loss for time and possibly loss of basic duties. It’s been said people that have cell phone addiction are just as addicted to their phones as much as a drug abuser is to their narcotics.

     Even more concerning than the anxiety or lack of sleep is the growing concern about sending indecent and explicit pictures of themselves through their cell phones. No one knows this better than the family of Hope Witsell. As reported by Michael Inbar, a Today.com contributor, after her inability to get back together with her boyfriend Hope decided to try and get his attention by sending him an inappropriate and explicit picture of herself. The picture landed in the wrong hands. Word spread around the school. Hope was called very degrading and hurtful things suggesting that she was into inappropriate behavior. The student body was relentless in the name calling and sexual slurs to a point where Hope could no longer take it. A short time later she committed suicide.

     Parents everywhere are very concerned about such a tragedy happening to one of their children. Although some children will still act on their freewill, the best strategy is to “Train up our children in the way they should go and when they are old they won’t turn from it” (Proverbs 22:6). We find in the book of Deuteronomy (6;6-9)”These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.” In the eleventh chapter verses 18&19 the book of Deuteronomy repeats this instruction almost verbatim. Paul encourages fathers to “not” exasperate your children; instead bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.

     

     

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  • Our Children's Worldview

    According to The Online Dictionary the definition of a worldview is the overall perspective from which one sees and interprets the world. It includes a collection of beliefs about life and the universe held by an individual or a group. I wonder what will happen to our world as we know it since our children develop their worldviews based on those things that influence their lives.

    What do our children learn about marriage and family life from watching their parents? Do they believe the worldview of marriage that is promoted from various media sources? Will young men grow up to treat their wives like they see men treat their wives in a television sitcom? Will they believe that it is acceptable to talk to their wives the way they see it in the show? Will our daughters grow up with an understanding about how they should treat their husbands that it is based on a television sitcom?

    What are children learning in their own homes about marriage and parenting from their own parents? That is assuming both parents are even in the home. Are they learning that it is okay to argue in ways that are violent? What will the future hold if the “Sins of the Father” from Exodus 20:8 are passed onto our children? Will it only be a matter of time before they pass it onto their children?

    If the questions raised in this article aren’t very important to you, you might want to reconsider. Our children’s worldview is truly influenced by these things. And it pertains to more than just relationships. What does a violent movie do to our children’s worldview about violence and killing? Research shows that participants who watched a violent movie clip as part of an experiment wrote down more aggressive thoughts than did those who watched a nonviolent movie clip. Research further reports that violent movies increase feelings of anger and hostility as well as increased aggression.

    Our children’s worldview is even more “colored” by violent movies when they face circumstances that maybe ambiguous in another person’s intent. Violent movie watchers tend to judge the circumstance as more likely to be aggressive and respond based on that. Rather than being taught what Paul said in Philippians (4:8), which is, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think on these things, Instead, they are focused on violent movies and are learning an entirely more aggressive and angrier worldview.

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  • God's Divine Timing in my Life

    Sunday, August 16 th , was a day that changed my life forever. At the time, my wife and I were in San Marcos , Texas , visiting our daughter and her family. The crisis that took place that day could only have turned out the way it did with God's divine intervention.

    A serious medical condition suddenly awakened me at 4:30 that morning, and because of my pain and semi-conscious state, my wife immediately called 911. Shortly after I was taken to the hospital she also called our church, Grace Fellowship, and asked that I be put on the prayer chain.

    At the hospital I was put through a series of tests after which the surgeon gave me a very grim and serious diagnosis. Tests at that point determined I had a problem with my pancreas, colon, or spleen, and that it could be cancer. He wouldn't know for sure until he operated. I had never heard those words before and was obviously upset by them.

    The surgeon informed me that he had forty-two years of experience and was currently putting together a surgical team to help me, but if I wanted to have the surgery done in Austin , approximately 45 minutes away, he would arrange it. At that point my wife spoke up and asked the doctor if he was comfortable with performing this surgery, and when he said he was she immediately made the decision to keep me there. We later found out that there would not have been enough time to go to Austin , as I would have bled to death on the way. I am so thankful God kept me in San Marcos .

    I was later informed that even during surgery it was far more serious than I thought. Status reports ranged from "touch and go" to "intense and emotional". When the doctor finally came out of surgery he said he felt like he had just walked through a herd of alligators and survived. I found out that it was so difficult because I was bleeding at a rate faster than the surgical team could replace my blood. Seven of my eight units of blood had to be replaced, and it was only through the heroic efforts of my surgeon and the prayers of many people, that they were able to save me.

    I realized more evidence of God's intervention when the surgeon informed us that if I had gotten onto the plane I was scheduled to fly home on that morning, and my spleen had ruptured four hours later, I would not have made it home. He said they would not have landed the plane, because my symptoms were similar to those of the flu, and not life-threatening internal bleeding.

    My wife also realized that if it had ruptured five days sooner I would have been home alone, as she had flown to Texas several days ahead of me. This was more evidence of God's divine intervention.

    I found out later that not only did my friends at Grace Fellowship Church put me on the prayer chain; they also interrupted the Sunday morning service to have corporate prayer for me and continued to pray for me throughout the day. When I looked back on that afternoon it occurred to me that while I was literally walking through the "Valley of the Shadow of Death," Grace Fellowship was standing in the gap interceding for me in prayer. Praise the Lord!

    It was in recovery in the ICU that I began to reflect on what had happened. It raised in me some important questions like, "Why did God spare me and not others who have lost their battles to cancer or heart disease? If this had been the end of my life, what would I have wanted to say to loved ones that I hadn't yet said? What relationships would I have wanted to restore? What things were left undone?"

    As I think of how God spared me, fully realizing it does not always happen that way, I am reminded of a quote from Dr. James Dobson, "It is an incorrect view of Scripture to say that we will always comprehend what God is doing and how our suffering and disappointment fit into His plan."

    Proverbs 25:2 says, "It is God's privilege to conceal things and the king's privilege to discover them."

    In Isaiah 45:15 he wrote, "Truly Oh God of Israel, our Savior, you work in strange and wonderful ways," and in Isaiah 55:8 and 9 he wrote, " 'My thoughts are completely different than yours,' says the Lord, 'and my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.' "

    Solomon wrote that God's ways are as hard to discern as the pathways of the wind, and as mysterious as a tiny baby being formed in a mother's womb.

    As I think about and try to comprehend going to heaven, I believe Paul may have said it best in I Corinthians 13:12. "Now we see things imperfectly as in a poor mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity."

    Many people are in favor of going to heaven, but are concerned about the process, the actual leaving of this life and entering heaven. Compare that to Paul's message in Philippians 1:21. "As for me, living is for Christ, but to die is gain." What a perspective on heaven! It is gain! This experience put dying in a new light for me.

    Trying to understand why God spared me is a bit like looking into Paul's mirror and seeing things dimly, but I am comforted by the words from Jeremiah 29:11, " 'I know the plans I have for you,' says the Lord. 'They are for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.' " Thankfully it appears as though God's plans for me are not yet finished, and I look forward to "a future and a hope."

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  • Benefits of Christian Marriage

    With Valentines Day just past, I thought it would be good to focus on some benefits of Christian Marriage. How many people celebrated their marriage this week? How many thought that a card and a box of candy would do? How many took their children out with them instead of going alone? How many husbands may have changed the oil more recently than they have taken their wives out on a date? How many wives may have painted a room more recently than fixing a romantic dinner for their husbands? 

    Valentine's Day can certainly be a special time of the year to celebrate your marriage. Valentine's Day can be to your marriage what Christmas is to your family. What would it look like if you did this? How would it be different? If you put as much effort into preparing for the celebration of your marriage as you do Christmas, think what it would be like? Of course we say that there is importance in celebrating Jesus' birth at Christmas, but we should celebrate him in our marriages as well. 

    Making Jesus the center of our marriage has been the most important decision my wife and I have made outside of, first and foremost, accepting Him as our Lord and Savior. We have benefited in so many ways. One is that in the same way that we examine ourselves to make sure we are prepared for Communion; we also examine ourselves to prepare for marriage on a daily basis. This helps us make sure that the fruits of the spirit such as, love, joy, peace, patience, and kindness are present daily. We wouldn't want to be distant in our marriage anymore than we would want to be distant in our relationship with Jesus. We help each other stay close to the Lord by encouraging each other and supporting each other's efforts to grow in Christ. 

    Other important benefits involve our physical and emotional health. Research by Dr. Dolores Krieger, professor of nursing at New York University, found that touch increased hemoglobin which is responsible for carrying oxygen throughout our bodies. This means that the more we touch, the more the oxygen goes out to organs and helps facilitate physical health. Through something as simple as hugs or holding hands our health naturally improves. A study at UCLA found that eight to ten meaningful touches a day are required to maintain emotional health. 

    Another benefit of Christian marriage is that we can pray for each other. To illustrate this I want to share a story with you. In December, my wife and I flew to Dallas, Texas to participate in the celebration of my mother's life. It was during this celebration that I was supposed to deliver the eulogy. The morning of the celebration I woke up with significant evidence that I had the flu. I was so sick that I could not get out of bed to pick up our son at the airport. I was so sick that when I saw my son around noon, and only five hours before the start of the celebration, I asked him if he would give the eulogy for me. At around one o'clock my wife came into the room and prayed for my healing. Although I wasn't totally awake, I knew that she was praying and the scripture that came to mind was from Paul's writings in II Corinthians where he says, "that in my weakness, Father, you be made strong and glorified." I began to pray this as my wife was praying for my healing. At that very moment I felt my stomach feeling warm and I fell back asleep. By two o'clock I was awake, sitting up in bed and smiling when my wife came in. She asked me what I was smiling about and I said, "I know that you came in and prayed for me, and God is healing me before our very eyes." My health continued to improve and I was able to go and give my mother's eulogy and glorify God for the healing. This would not have happened if my wife had not been praying for me. 

    Maybe if the oil has been changed more recently than your last date, or if the kitchen has been painted more recently than you last celebrated your marriage with a romantic dinner, today would be a good day to make some changes and do something about it. By putting Jesus at the center of your marriage, and purposely showing love and honor to your spouse, you will find that marriage can be a wonderful blessing from God.