Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Nothing new under the sun. We hear that all the time, but I am sure there must be some new things popping up all the time. If there isn't wouldn't the world be a terribly dull place to exist?

In our sphere, we might find new things occurring all the time, perhaps a new twist on an old theme. We might see many new faces wander passed us on the path to wherever they are going. I sometimes wonder if the sun doesn't actually make sure we see the new things that pass us. If so, the statement above is wrong.

To be fair, there re very few new things. There are things are are new to us. We see them for the first time and, to us, they are something new and refreshing. Remember the first time you saw color television? Yes, it was new to you, but it might have been a movie that was shown in theaters in color many times before. New to you, old to movie goers.

In a freaky way, I have a new concept. Not new to the world, only new to me. What if the United States suddenly began to make marriage arrangements similar to the New Testament times, where the family arranged for children's marriages. There would many problems already solved before they started.

Today, we are struck by the number of people out of work, a sea of new mortgages being foreclosed on, and a the economy suffering from poor planning by a generation too used to the good life to wait for their share when they could afford it.

In the first century, AD, parents arranged a marriage for their children. They knew the children better than anyone and could make better judgment decisions that the kids themselves. Parents knew enough not to let the kids start out life unprepared.

For a guy to claim his bride, he had to have learned a trade. His father was responsible to make sure he could earn a good living before the son could be married.

Next, he had to have built a house for his family to live in. He had to acquire land and build a structure to shelter and protect his new bride and the coming children.

Lastly, he had to prove to the bride's family that he was capable of heading up the household and providing for their daughter in the manner proscribed in the marriage contract.

This brings us to an interesting point. The marriage contract spelled out what was to happen to each party during the good times, the bad times, and what was to happen if the marriage failed. Knowing in advance the cost of getting out of a marriage is a handy thing to know before you begin breaking off a relationship.

For the bride's family, they were responsible to make sure the wife was pure and wholesome. She was to learn to be faithful even before the two young people married. Next, the bride would learn to cook, clean and run a household's daily functions. Gardening, shopping, and raising her children were responsibilities she had to master before she was allowed to marry.

In the end, when a couple got married, the family had eliminated much of the hardships of marriage before the couple wed, making it easier for them to begin their life together. I personally believe these lessons were the key to successful marriages.

In the past few decades, we have experienced the loss of these skills in marriage. This loss has made our divorce rate soar. If parents today begin to make sure they no longer shirk this responsibility, the divorce rate will return to normal and our children's lives will be much happier.

For those still waiting for information on the upcoming Relationship weekend, plan for the first weekend before Valentine's Day. I have not finalized all the details yet, but I am pretty sure this will be the date. We will begin the weekend on a Friday afternoon. If you are going to attend, please plan on taking the day off on Friday and joining us for some great fun. I will let everyone know when we have registration open for the weekend and all the details worked out.

Thanks again for listening. Till next time....

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Most of our lives, we trust God for heavenly things, and trust ourselves for everything else. The world of believing in God rest mainly in the areas of life we feel we don't have any control over. Faith healing, finding miracles, and saving the planet from utter destruction are the territories given over to God. We like to think we can handle the common cold, the poor, and all those pesky habits we hide from the light and allow the world to think we have fixed.

From a personal standpoint, I fit this category nicely. The things I believed I could handle without God's help was enormous. Even when I had come to the point where I decided it was only God's love that could handle this, I run back over and pick up the problem again.

It is a matter of trust. Do we trust God completely? Or do we trust ourselves more than we trust God?

The answers are more telling of our faith than our own abilities. If we don't have the faith enough to believe God can handle any problem we have, how can we say we believe that God is all powerful, all knowing, and all loving?

The truth is all of us lack the faith for some things.

I have seen a church where their members have the faith to pick up snakes and not be hurt. They certainly have more faith in God's control over snakes than I do.

The good news is that God is willing to help us even in our lack of faith. If we look back at the man who Jesus promised to do healings, we see that the man cried out, "Give me faith to have faith." This man had enough faith in God to ask for the faith he needed.

Our Christian world needs this kind of faith.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The Civil War and Decisions.

In the great War of Northern Aggression (the Civil War for those above the Mason-Dixon line), people spent much of their lives trying to survive the tragedy and heartbreak of wartime existence. There was the constant fear of your wife\husband\child\parent dying from some disease or malnutrition, the daily routine of finding enough food to supply your family something to cure the hunger pains, and the overall lack of human kindness. This country was a third world country surviving on sheer belief that God would prevail.

You might ask yourself, "What does this have to do with a good old naked walk with Christ?" and you would be hard pressed to find an answer.

Simply, there are struggles we survive that tell us we are in God's path. We come through the other side and see the fruits of our labor. We hear the calling of our Lord and have traversed the terrain to find His special love waiting on the other side.

In Job, we read about such a struggle and find that Job finally lived in the luxury God can provide for those who persevere.

But often, we find we are heading in the wrong direction and we need to stop and take stock of what we are doing. Balaam and his donkey are prime examples of how God works to stop us from hurting ourselves and realize we are not persevering in God's path, but are heading directly in the path of death.

For those not familiar with Balaam, he was a prophet of God, but not of Israel. He was sent to curse the Israelites and to stop them from continuing their taking of the promise land.

His donkey stopped before and refused to move forward. Balaam tried to force his way forward, but an Angel, unseen by Balaam, kept the donkey from moving forward. When the angel was revealed to Balaam, he learned just how close he had come to death. (The account of Balaam is told mostly in Numbers. It's a good read.)

All of us have a donkey that keeps us from trouble from time to time. God places people of objects in our path to help us stop and look at the situation. Learning to see these signs is important. Balaam was slow to see it. He almost died.

Today, just like with the Civil War, God places these objects, sometimes a person, others a series of events, to keep us from harming ourselves or others. Our lives are influenced often by what we consider coincidences and happenstances, but are no less than the hand of God protecting us. Whether it be an angel protecting others at a cost of our life, such as with Balaam, or a small child who begs us to stay home and play a game with him, there might be a reason for this behavior.

One thing for us to watch is how these events occur. I am sure there are donkeys who refuse to go further, but with Balaam, he had been riding this donkey for some distance and the donkey stopping was something strange and out of character. When we encounter something out of the ordinary in our path, it is an indication we need to stop and look at what is ahead. Is it of God, or are we being warned away from harm?

Secondly, we need to see where the smart people are heading. If you are on a ship and everyone suddenly jumps overboard, you might want to follow and ask why later. The crowd probably has a better understanding of the situation and is acting upon what they know. With Balaam, the countries around him had already abandoned their towns once the Israelites began destroying everyone who remained behind.

Third, a good solid prayer in the heat of the moment is not a bad idea. Some people call the flare-prayers, flares sent to God to ask for directions. He is faithful to guide us. If He has sent an angel to stop your progress and you stop before the angel cuts your head off, certainly God will help you wander your way back to His will.

A little common sense goes a long way with this type of work. If it looks like a Devil trap, it just might be. If God seems to be holding you back, He just might be. If you have to manipulate a situation to make it work, perhaps you are manipulating God out of your plan. Think before your beat your donkey into submission. Balaam almost lost his head over that silly little animal.

Until the next stroke of... well, common sense hits...