Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Family Nights

In the recent series we did on Peace in Our Homes, I mentioned that I kept my day off on Tuesday and Family Night on Friday nights sacred, so that they were hardly ever interfered with.  I worked hard the rest of the week.  But those times were sacred.  It wasn't easy.  There were many things we had to say "no" to in order to say "yes" to our time as a family.  But isn't that what priorities are all about?  With so many options and opportunities facing families today, we must fight for God's best.

Some people have asked me what kind of things we did as a family on those nights?  Here are just a few ideas that I hope could be helpful.  There is nothing earth shattering or super creative.

1.  Movie and pop corn at home in pajamas.  Standard activity.  But we tried to make it special by it being a movie we all wanted to see or watching an annual favorite (White Christmas; Home Alone; etc)

2.  Games.  We were big on them.  Trivial pursuit; cards; Scrabble.  Whatever the kids wanted to play, we did it.

3.  We did a four location activity night.  This was one of the most memorable for the kids.  We did different games or activities in four different locations in the house.  They didn't know where we were headed next.  But they received clues along the way.  They asked for it again and again.

4.  Hide and seek outside in the dark.  What fun.  In a dark shirt and pants you can hide in a shadow and they walk right past you.  Learn patience while having fun.

5.  Picture night.  Sometimes we would pull out old family slides (for you younger ones they are a type of media that showed pictures) or videos and tell stories about them or remember some of the vacations we took.  It was good to learn about family history or share fond memories.

While we did the activities we always tried to talk about life, what was happening, what was going on at school or with their friends, what we were doing at church, and other conversations that kept us up to date with each other.  Communication was, is and always will be the most important tool between parents and children.

Again, this list is not earth shattering.  But I hope it can stir some thoughts for you and your family in making time together a priority.  It means time doing things that don't involve a smart phone or tablet or computer but do require conversation, listening and thinking.  Families that pray and play together are stronger than those who don't.  I encourage you to find your time and make the most of it.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Because of Covenant

I was reading through 2 Kings 13 this morning.  So many things drew my attention.  The kings of Israel are leading the people in sinful patterns and because of that God puts them under the hand of the king of Aram and his son.  Elisha is dying of an illness.  Yet on his death bed, he is consulted by King Jehoash and gives his final prophetic directive.  He is such a powerful man of God that after he dies a dead man is thrown into his tomb by some raiders and when his body touches Elisha's bones the man comes back to life.  What a shock that would be!

But there is one phrase that struck me the most since it explains so much in our current day.  If you understand Israel's modern history at all, you know that it should not exist today.  They have faced wars on multiple fronts several times; been outmanned by the armies surrounding them; and have withstood political pressure to give in each time they are attacked and they defend themselves.  Yet they are still there.  A recent news article clearly outlines the goals of radical Islam against them and America.  Please read the full article here:

Here is the statement in 2 Kings that struck me:  22 Hazael king of Aram oppressed Israel throughout the reign of Jehoahaz. 23 But the Lord was gracious to them and had compassion and showed concern for them because of his covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. To this day he has been unwilling to destroy them or banish them from his presence.

Because of the covenant God made, He showed concern for Israel. It was not because Israel had done all things right or were following faithfully. He did it because He made a promise, a covenant, with Abraham and was and is carrying through with it. We talk today and preach that when we love or respect our spouse, we do so even when they are not lovable or respectable because of the vow we took before the Lord. The point here is parallel.  In fact, just as the Lord's heart is expressed in 2 Kings toward Israel, so it is toward all believers in 2 Timothy 2:

If we died with him, we will also live with him;
12 if we endure,
we will also reign with him.
If we disown him,
he will also disown us;
13 if we are faithless,
he remains faithful,
for he cannot disown himself

Why does He remain faithful to us when we are faithless?  Because He has made promises that He will not break.  He will fulfill the covenant He made with Abraham and his seed just as He will the new covenant He made through the blood of Jesus.  And those two covenants are interlinked through the faithfulness of Him who made them.

We as a people of the covenant have a heart to see all people reached, including those who oppose Israel.  At the same time, we also stand side by side with Israel against all people who seek to cause her destruction.  We stand with her, not because Israel does everything right always.  We stand with her because the God of the Covenant stands with her and is unwilling to destroy her or to banish her from His presence.

The forces that seek to destroy Israel are also seeking the death of Christians as well.  So we must understand that the covenant people are under attack by those who serve false gods.  That is why we are Israel and Israel is us (see Romans 9-11). We are both people of the covenant.  And our hope, as well as their hope, is in the God that made a covenant with us.  Pray for the peace of Jerusalem and pray for the soon coming of Christ.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The End of All Things

Peter tells us in 1 Peter 4:7:  The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray.

The end. What will it be like at "the end?"  Matthew 24 gives us a glimpse.  Wars, rumors of wars, increase of wickedness, earthquakes, famines, many false prophets doing miracles, many people turning away from the faith. Jesus said that the love of most will grow cold.  It will be bad, really bad.  

Do we see things like that today?  Absolutely.  I was in a conversation with a man this week who was not aware of what I do for a living.  He told me he winters in Florida and I asked him where.  He said in the Villages.  He then goes on to describe in detail the sexual exploits of some of the residents there. And to quote him, he said, "and we are proud of it."  It reminds me of the Scripture we are studying in Ephesians that says it is even shameful to mention what the disobedient do in secret.  I felt dirty listening, and then I felt very sad.  The increase of wickedness is certainly happening and the end is near for them.

I see the wars in Ukraine, Israel, Iraq, Nigeria, and rumors of war in Korea, Sudan, and other places.  Earthquakes in Oklahoma, Nicaragua, California and Japan, and famine in Africa.  The plethora of false teachers who are tickling peoples ears with their messages and doing "miracles" that seem to validate them.  Remember Peter said to be sober minded and alert so we can pray and know what is real and what is not.

Is "the end" near?  Jesus said to watch and pray so as not to be led astray by all these things.  Obviously we are nearer than we were.  I believe the key is that we will see the "increase" of all these things.  He also said that we would be taken before officials because of our faith.  That was true for the apostles and it will be true for us as believers toward the end.  Because the darkness will grow, so will its repugnance to light.  But that also means that the light will shine brighter.

In Jesus' day, it was clear that the religious leaders had made decisions about important issues such as marriage and divorce based on popular opinion rather than the Scriptures.  Those opinions were followed by many as if God has given them as commands.  (See Matthew 19)  Jesus, in addressing a question about marriage and divorce, took them back to the beginning and the Scriptures.  

As we live in increasing darkness, and it is evident that many are living compromised lives because they are following religious opinions rather than truth, I encourage us to always follow the path of Jesus in seeking what God intended all along.  Look at what the Scriptures have clearly taught from the beginning and don't waver from it.  Following Christ is not easy but the grace and power to do so will always be available to the saint who does.  And a sad and tragic end will meet the religious person who follows popular opinion rather than Him.