Thursday, January 26, 2006

The Faith of a Child

Little Norton grew up in the country. When he was about eight or nine years old, he and his father Jack, went to work in a field that was about an hour's walk away from home. Upon reaching the field, Norton's father exclaimed, "I can't find the main tool I intended to use, and I don't want to waste this day." "I'm going to have to go back home and get it from the tool shed." Realizing that the tool was indeed at home, Jack resolved to go quickly. He would not take Norton with him, as the distance was too great, and Norton would slow him down. Besides, Jack reasoned, " the field house is safe, there is nothing inside that could harm Norton, and he'll
be concealed from any curious onlooker." Explaining to Norton what he was about to do, Jack assured his son that he would be back within about one hour and forty-five minutes.

Upon returning home, Jack looked in the tool shed, but the tool was not there. Frustrated, he looked in the yard, in the garage and finally in the house. At last he found it, and set out to return to the field. Meanwhile, Norton wondered what happened to his dad, "it sure seems like a long time since my dad's been gone --I sure hope he comes back soon," he thought. But despite these thoughts, Norton did not become anxious, or worried. He just kept himself amused in the field house. Sometime later, about three hours or so, Norton finally saw his dad walking toward the field house, and calling his name, “Norton, Norton, I'm back." Norton ran to the door to meet his dad. Happy his son was all right, Jack apologized for being delayed, and asked, “were you OK while I was gone?” To which Norton calmly replied, “Yes, dad, why do you ask?” Jack answered, “I was concerned that you might have thought that I left you.” Looking up at his dad, Norton replied with a puzzled look, “Dad, you said you coming back and I believed you; why would I have worried?” Humbled by Norton’s implicit trust in him, Jack smiled to himself, and reaching out, tousled Norton's hair, and said, “Come on Norton, let’s get to work, we have a lot to do, and we're behind.” That night as Jack reflected on his son’s words, he thought to himself, “Norton believed I'd be right back this morning, simply because I said so -- what implicit trust; Lord, do I trust you as much as Norton trusts me?” "Is this what you mean when you say that we are to have the faith of a little child?” And so the question comes to us: Do we trust God implicitly, as the child -- Norton, trusted his dad?

Biblically speaking, what is the Faith of a child? It is implicit trust and belief in Jesus and His Word. And implicit means: having no doubts or reservations; unquestioning. This type of Faith is not a cold and calculating trust, which intellectually ascents that a set of facts is true. For Faith although it involves intellectual belief, is at best, a heart matter. The heart must first be softened to believe. You see, in our story, Norton implicitly believed his dad's words to him, precisely because his dad had always kept his word. Trust is therefore an important part of faith. Trust that the person who has promised you this or that means you well, and in the case of God, will do exceedingly, abundantly above all you could ask or think.

Unreserved trust and belief in Christ and His Word grows as it is used in the small decisions we make daily. Stimulated by hearing the Word, the mind is cleansed from the selfishness, and self-concern in which it is continually enshrouded. Thus stripped of it's impurities, the mind is enabled -- by the flowing power of the Holy Spirit through it, to discern right from wrong, and the narrow way from the broad way which leads to destruction. According to Hebrews chapter 11, Paul says that not only is Faith the means of seeing the unseen, it is also the means of experiencing the things one has hoped for. For if a man does not hope, then why does he wait? Obviously then, waiting and hoping are also part of the faith journey. Now the un-childlike mind -- the acquisitive, impatient mind -- is not content to wait, it wants the object of its desire immediately, and will do whatever is within its power to obtain the coveted thing.

Looking to Jesus is such a simple remedy, that we by-pass it in favor of more sophisticated means. After all, who of us wants to look up at the bronzed cross to see the brass serpent hanging there -- and yet if we implicitly trust Him, we'll look and live. Yes, Faith is needed to believe that the thing, which we human beings could not possibly do, God has already done. Implicitly trusting the Saviour not only for salvation from the curse of sin, but from Sin itself, awakens within the heart of the believer gratitude and joy. For such a believer, there is no carefully hidden reservation of the heart, no rationalizing away the Word, no conscious sin.

Jesus describes His kingdom as composed of such believers as this. Hear Him in Mark 10:13-15--

Mark 10: 13 And they brought young children to Him, that He should touch
them: and His disciples rebuked those that brought them.
Mark 10:14 But when Jesus saw it, He was much displeased, and said unto
them, Suffer the little children to come unto Me, and forbid them not:
for of such is the kingdom of God.
Mark 10:15 Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom
of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein.

In His sojourn here on earth, Jesus Himself trusted the Father implicitly. Early in the morning He submitted His will to the Father, and without doubting He set out to be guided by the Father’s will. Even on the Cross Christ trusted His Father implicitly. We can see in the scripture that although He saw His Father turn away from Him, although He felt abandoned and cried out, “… with a loud voice, ... Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:46), yet He still trusted His Father. For soon after that, “… Jesus cried with a loud voice, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, He gave up the ghost.” (Luke 23:46). How could it be that Jesus commended His spirit to the One who forsook Him? Sister White answers this question in Desire of Ages--

Amid the awful darkness, apparently forsaken of God, Christ had drained
the last dregs in the cup of human woe. In those dreadful hours He had
relied upon the evidence of His Father's acceptance heretofore given Him.
He was acquainted with the character of His Father; He understood His
justice, His mercy, and His great love. By faith He rested in Him whom it
had ever been His joy to obey. And as in submission He committed Himself
to God, the sense of the loss of His Father's favor was withdrawn. By
faith, Christ was victor. (Desire of Ages, page 756.)

The childlike faith, which enabled Christ to come through the trials of His 33 years, is to be ours for the asking. As we permit the Word to soften our hearts, cleanse our minds and renew our souls, the indwelling Holy Spirit is given free reign within us, and the faith of Jesus becomes our faith. United with the Godhead, our circumstances and particular trials are no longer our focus. How we feel, and what others think of us becomes secondary to the Word of God in which we become immersed. It was Christ's habit to rise early in the day, to submerge Himself in the Father's presence. In the early morning, our Father is calling our names to come into His presence. This was Christ's way of abiding. Will it be yours too?

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Tuesday, January 17, 2006

The Results of Maturity

To become a medical doctor you must go through many years of school. In the US you by the time you've finished medical school, you will have been a student for 16 years. Add to that the three to four years of residency, and perhaps a two-year fellowship and you will have been in school a grand total of 22 years. Sometimes a specialization is desired, and further schooling may take place. Added to this process are board tests that must be passed along the way, as the would-be physician gets ready to practice.

Becoming a Doctor is similar to life in general. We go through trials and tests enduring them, we grow, and are better prepared to move on to the next stage of life. Isn't it helpful that each stage towards maturity is a pre-requisite for the next stage we'll encounter? Unfortunately, we don't often think about maturity as something to be worked toward, so we become lax, and fail to pass those tests and trials that we could have, if only we would have allowed the Lord to prepare us. Failing a temptation at one level makes it easier to fail next temptation. But thank God that if we're willing to listen, hear and follow; He overcomes the temptation in us.

If we look at Christ's life to see how He handled temptation, test and trial, we'll see that each stage prepared Him for the next. The time in the wilderness, when He fasted for 40 days and later was tempted by the Devil, prepared Him for His ministry (Matthew 4:1-11). The three years and a half on ministry prepared Him for Gethsemane. Gethsemane prepared Him for the Cross (Matthew 26: 36-45). The Cross prepared Him for His epic death. Through out this whole process Jesus learned to yield to the Father’s will and to trust Him.

Sunday’s lesson states in the Hebrew language the word for man is “Ish.” In fact it means mature man. Israelites understood the maturation process. They had names for each stage in the masculine journey. (There are apparently six corresponding stages for women.) Many marriages do not work because those who have entered its gates, have not gone through the
pre-requisite stages or levels of maturity. Each stage involves a pinnacle or pivotal point in which there must be a sacrifice or yielding. If you have avoided the pinnacles in your maturing process, you are probably not adequately prepared to yield or submit to your partner. In other words, many marriage fail because one or more of the partners have become stagnant at a particular stage of maturity, (or immaturity). Thus that partner has not only thwarted their maturation process, but they've likely thwarted the joy that they should know in their marriage.

In a man, this is demonstrated as believing he is the superior (or sometimes inferior) one. Thus he entertains the 'I am the head,' syndrome, or the she's not better than me' syndrome. In either case, this man is unlikely to cherish his wife as the scripture enjoins him to -- as Christ cherishes the Church (Ephesians 5:29). Consequently, selfish and self- pleasing decisions and choices are likely to be made without the consultation of his partner. This man believes that as the head of the home he is entitled to make these decisions, and it is his wife's duty to submit, and be content with his choices. When a wife has not allowed the Lord to mature her through His designed processes, she demonstrates this through disrespecting her husband verbally as well as through emotional manipulation withdrawal, and secrecy.

When a man resists Paul admonition (Ephesians 5:25), “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it,” and a woman resists the scriptural command given to protect her marriage in Ephesians 5:22, “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord,” they both reject the only principle given couples whereby they might live a life of happiness together. That overarching principle is found in Ephesians 5:21, and states, “Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.” Had each learned earlier in life to forgo selfish pleasures, and whims to have his or her own way, the marriage would be smoother now. Yielding self-will is the way of the kingdom, for self-will is sin. Ultimately, the refusal to submit to one another has been predicated upon an earlier decision not to submit to God (whether during that week, day or moment).

The key to a successful marriage is whatever cures Sin, for sin lies at the door of a dissatisfying and unsuccessful marriage. Perhaps you or your spouse did not learn or choose to trust the Saviour, and instead you trust your own plans, and ideas. The life that Christ has yielded for us has made it so, that if you are reading this, it is not too late to learn to trust Him, and to submit your will to Him. It will make submission to those living with you -- namely your spouse, so much easier; after all, it's never too late to grow up. You'll be glad you did, and your spouse (or potential spouse) will too.

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Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Speaking The Five Languages of Love

A radio talk show host told this story: "One day while I was out, my wife called to tell me we needed milk. Stopping by the store, I thought of the many other items we out of, and bought them. Surprisingly, my wife was ecstatic when I returned home with the groceries. She was so complimentary, that I felt like a superhero. In view of that experience, I thought of other things that I could do to receive a similar response from her. After thinking a long time, a bright idea came to mind. I thought hey, I'll buy her a stereo -- she's always wanted one, so she'll be happy; I'll install it myself, so it won't cost us anything, and attach it to the wall shelf so it won't be in the way; she'll like that. Since it was Christmas, I decided to make this gift her Christmas present. I was really excited as I imagined how happy and loving she would be that I did this for her. With that picture in mind, I could hardly wait to surprise her. When Christmas Day finally arrived, I awoke early, and silently snuck downstairs to quickly install the system. It took me some time, but my wife likes to sleep in on Christmas morning. At last I was done! Calling my wife downstairs, I asked her to close her eyes, and come with me to the family room where her gift was waiting. I was excited as I anticipated her reaction. Opening her eyes at my request, she glanced at the stereo, looked at me and said, "What is this?" I was a little surprised at her question, and I replied that it was her Christmas gift. I told her that I had bought the shelf for her a while ago, along with the stereo, and had installed it myself. I asked her what she thought, and with a forced smile, she looked at me, and appropriately replied, 'Oh honey, that was so nice of you.' She kissed me on the cheek, walked into the kitchen and began to prepare breakfast. And there I stood, in the middle of the family room where she had left me, wondering where I had gone wrong. I'm not sure I ever found out, but I've never bought her anything like that since."

This poor radio host could have taken some lessons from Gary Chapman. Over the years, Dr. Chapman has counseled thousands of married couples who were seeking to restore the mutual and affirming love they once knew. From counseling these couples, Dr. Chapman states that truly connecting with a loved one comes down to one simple fact: you need to know and speak their love language. Love languages are the primary ways in which we experience being loved, and express that loving devotion and commitment in return. Although our primary and secondary Love Languages are acquired in early childhood, we can learn how to reach the heart of our partner (or others) by choice. It doesn't matter if you’re a spouse, a parent, a friend, coworker, or a church member; the five love languages are the same. Each one of us has both a primary and a secondary language, which we speak. If someone speaks to us in a language not natively ours, we may understand, but not experience his or her intent (e.g. feel loved). Following is a non-ordinal list of the five languages complete with a simple explanation.

1. Words of Affirmation – Receiving sincere compliments, endearments or thoughtful comments.
2. Gifts – Receiving presents, whether made, purchased or picked (e.g. flowers)
3. Quality Time – Spending time face to face; Spending time in a mutual activity where you focus on each other (a dialect).
4. Acts of Service – Receiving help with chores without being asked.
5. Physical Touch – Receiving Caresses, hugs or being touched on the hands, back or head (Which does not necessarily involve sexual intimacy.)

Have you ever spoken one or more of the above languages to a loved one, and not gotten the response you'd hoped for? Perplexed, puzzled, and hurt, you've wondered why that person didn't respond? Indeed some of you may have angrily thought that he or she was so ungrateful. Well, one possible explanation to your situation could be that you did not speak that person's love language. Perhaps if you express love in his or her own love language, you'll receive a loving and appreciative response. But, if you ask, "what's your love language?" you might not get the response you're looking for either. Most people don't know their love language. But here's a quick way to determine yours, it's the thing that angers you when you don't receive it from someone you love, who claims to love you.

Wednesday's Sabbath School lesson emphasizes the love between husband and wife as demonstrated by Solomon and Shulamite. While not initially apparent in the text itself, the author's charting of chapters 1 and 2, along with their respective verses, allows the reader to see the five languages of love present in the story. Furthermore, references to these five languages are not only evident, but also commonplace. Lest we forget, The Song of Solomon is not only a love story featuring Solomon and Shulamite, but is in fact an allegory of the love of Christ for us -- His beloved bride. So although God sees us collectively, as a whole, a corporate unit, He also sees us individually, and loves each of us in the primary language in which we feel loved. Folks, God speaks all Five-Love Languages - fluently.

The scripture says, “This is the message you heard from the beginning: That we should love one another” (1 John 3:11). This same message is repeated a total of 15 times in the New Testament. Jesus Himself has said, "By this all men would know you are My disciples, if you have Agape, one to another” (John 13:35). In and of ourselves, we tend to love others like we want to be loved. If you experience love through acts of service, you will tend to do acts of service for others as an expression of your love. In other words, whatever our primary love language is, we tend to love others out of it. Yet, Christ has called us to love Him supremely, and to love one another as He has loved us.

So, how do we go about loving one another? Perhaps one way is to find out the love language of the person you hope to reach, and then choose to love him or her in his or her own language. If the Holy Spirit leads you to do this, and you are willing, you will have His power to help you. And you'll need it too, for speaking (or expressing) love in a language that is not your primary or secondary language is not easy. It is simple, but not easily accomplished. For by nature, we are selfish and self-centered, yet with Christ indwelling us, we are enabled. Perhaps choosing to love in this way may shed new light on the scripture, "unconditionally love one another as I have unconditionally loved you" (John 13:34). I'm betting on it, how about you?

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Thursday, January 05, 2006

Old problems require old solutions

Some of the major causes of death in our world tend to be preventable diseases. But, not all preventable diseases cause death; some just make our life miserable. We could list a dozen of diseases that we have to deal with in our day, whether directly or indirectly, that had we taken care of ourselves we, or others we know, could avoid. Avoiding certain habits and cultivating good ones could give us an incredible quality of lifestyle. We hear about arthritis, diabetes, and inadequate levels of cholesterol, triglicerides, and fat in the liver. We hear about heart disease, strokes, and obesity. Many try to find solutions to these problems by trying anything new in the market: creams, ointments, pills, drugs, herbs, surgeries, etc. But, while many of these solutions seem to alleviate the problem the do not offer a complete and final remedy. Furthermore, some of these remedies produce other complications, to which we then try to find more new solutions.

Very few know that our diseases are not new, they have existed for most of sinful humanities history. Advanced and sophisticated studies done on Egyptian mummies reveal that they also suffered from the same ailments we do. In fact, those same studies reveal that there lifestyle was very similar to ours. Apparently, none of there solutions helped them either. Imagine, when alive, some of those persons that were mummified as they died, suffered from rheumatoid arthritis, back pains, headaches, and high cholesterol. Just like we do today. No wonder the wise man says, “there is nothing new under the sun.”

Another problem in our society is the state of our families. Consider that for years we have been quoting that nearly half of all marriages end up in divorce. However, other problems are arising: an increase number of cohabitating couples, single parent homes, and now gay and lesbian homes. Add to this, the ever-present problem of bigamy and polygamy. Our cry is, “What is our world coming to?” However, the words of Solomon are still true, “There is nothing new under the sun.” Just peruse the verses cited in Tuesday’s lesson: Genesis 27:1-28:5; Ruth 1:22; 2:23; Jeremiah 16:2; Hosea 1:2, 3, 6, 8; 3:1-3. You will find in Bible times a variety of family situations akin to our time. The author of the lesson comments that: Isaac and Rebekah lived with their adult son, Jacob, and his married twin brother, Esau. The grieving widows Naomi and Ruth, bound together as mother and daughter-in-law, found refuge together. Jeremiah was single. Hosea parented his three children alone before he was reconciled to Gomer. Still other Bible families include the siblings Lazarus, Martha, and Mary, who had a home in Bethany where Jesus visited (John 11:1-3, 20); Aquila and Priscilla, married but apparently never had children (Acts 18:2, 18; 1 Cor 16:19); and the family of grandmother Lois, her daughter Eunice, and grandson Timothy, in Lystra. Timothy's Greek father may have separated from the family as an unbeliever (Acts 16:1, 2 Tim. 1:5; compare 1 Cor 7:15). God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah partly because of rampant homosexuality. Even David suffered the consequences of taking wives and concubines when God’s law is clear about fornication and adultery. Indeed, “nothing is new under the sun.”

Many today offer solutions to the state of marriage and family in our society. They write books, host radio and TV shows, and offer seminars. But, what they offer does not seem to work. It does not matter how much new information is out, none of it seems adequate enough to solve the marital and familial crises in our world today. In fact, like the health solutions, some of the solutions to save marriages and families seem to produce other complications that then require other new solutions.

When Christ walked the earth he offered no new solution to the marital and familial problem of His day. Although, His delivery may have varied, in the end He offered to all suffering due to their marriage or family problem the same solution – Himself. He loved (Agape) and cared for all of them. You see all of our marital and familial problem come from one root problem, which is SIN. And, Christ is the only antidote for Sin. Can Christ use any of these new methods to save our families or heal us from the pain of our marital or family situation? Certainly! However, unless He prescribes them they will not work. (Tuesday lesson also offers a caveat worth mentioning. While God may work with household situation that are less than ideal, He will not approve of sinful situations like: cohabiting, extramarital, more than one spouse, and homosexual situations. It is His agape that drives Him to not accept these households.)

Christ cared for families. Indeed, He was a family member Himself. And, even as He faced death He remembered His earthly mother and provided for Her. As we go through our own situation we must remember that God has not forgotten us. Let us let Him heal our wounds and restore us ad our families to His ideal. And, as we experience the situation of others, let’s not forget what God has done for us. Let us share with them of His great mercies.

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