3 Surprising Truths about Family

I was born into the Burdine family. I am also a member of my mother’s family which are Sorrells. 33 years ago I became a member of two other families – Judy’s father is a Prichard and her mother was a Sears. Being a part of 4 separate families is a great blessing but it makes for some busy holidays. This Fall marks 39 years ago that I became part of another family. October 1975 I was born into the Family Of God.

We all have our physical (or biological) families. Then we who are born into the family of God are a part of a spiritual family. Jesus also had His earthly & spiritual families. In one situation, He taught about His physical family and His spiritual family.

There came then his brethren and his mother, and, standing without, sent unto him, calling him. And the multitude sat about him, and they said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren without seek for thee. And he answered them, saying, Who is my mother, or my brethren? And he looked round about on them which sat about him, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is my brother, and my sister, and mother. (Mark 3:31-35)

These would be startling words in any culture, but in Hebrew culture, where the family was so sacred, they were shocking! What did Jesus mean?

Let me share with you 3 surprising truths about family from Jesus’ statement.

1. Jesus’ true family is not bound by blood, but by a commitment to do God’s will.

Anyone can be part of God’s family. Though He was a Jew, any nationality or race can be a part of His forever family. Obedience does not begin a relationship with God (faith does that), but obedience is a sign of it.  Obedience is the key to experiencing ‘family’ with God. In addition, when we make our wills His will, we experience a dynamic relationship with others who are living in submission to Him. Obedience is the key to blessing in God’s family.

2. Jesus’ true family is superior to any human family.

Family ties end at death (unless you are part of Jesus’ spiritual family). Jesus’ family is eternal. It is also far more satisfying and far more rewarding than any earthly relationship. Those who are in His spiritual family are far more dear to Jesus than His human family.

The family today is in trouble. In a valiant effort to stem the tide, many have made the family everything. Every moment of every day, every involvement, every commitment, every engagement is measured and judged by the question, ‘How will this benefit my family?’ While this is commendable, it can degenerate into idolatry. Every earthly loyalty, if it is made central, becomes idolatry, and all idolatries eventually destroy their worshipers. What can we do to preserve and elevate our families? The answer begins with the family putting love and obedience to Christ above everything else. Rather than choosing church over family, why not choose both? Take your family to Church as often as you can.

3. Church is to be like a family and the family is to be like Church.

The two are interlinked. Both express the two greatest needs in our society. We have lost the family feeling in the church and family has lost the sense of being a spiritual headquarters for its members. The family is important for the church and the church is important for the family. As goes the family, so goes the church. The family that strays from church, will soon stray from one another.

I read a news story that reminds me that while many people hunger for family closeness, we often miss opportunities that stand immediately before us.

Tammy Harris of Roanoke, Virginia, began searching for her biological mother when she turned 21. A year of searching proved fruitless. Tammy did not realize, however, that her mother, Joyce Schultz, had been searching for her for 20 years–the same Joyce Schultz who worked alongside her at the same convenience store. When Joyce overheard Tammy speaking with another coworker about her search for her biological mother, Joyce’s ears perked. The two compared stories and birth certificates and realized they were, indeed, mother and daughter, “We held on for the longest time,” Tammy said. “It was the best day of my life.”

Christians often sit side by side in the church pews, week after week, and fail to realize the depth of relationship they share in Jesus Christ.

How has your church been a family to you?

Have Fun Today!

Have you ever had such a good time that you wished it would go on forever?  I have.  I’ve laughed so hard I’ve cried.  I’ve heard it said that Christians are the only ones who really have a legitimate right to have a good time.  Maybe so.  But I think it is a gift from God for us to have the capacity to have fun.

Many people never develop having fun.  Their enjoyment is always accompanied by a dissatisfaction because of its brevity, an overemphasis of its liability, or one of a thousand different complexes that immune people from having fun.  There are several things that we can do to enhance our chances for happiness in life.

1. Remember that everything is relative. 

What can be an enjoyment to one can be a drudgery to another depending on the plateau of life in which he lives.  Two people can eat the same meal. One can enjoy it; the other cannot because he is accustomed to a better standard of living than the other.  So, it is important for us to compare our present experiences with our darker days rather than our brighter ones.  If there were no darkness, there could be no light.  If there were no cold weather, we would never really enjoy the hot weather.  How high something is depends on the thing with which we compare it.  Since most everything is relative, one should compare an experience with lesser ones that he has had and find joy and happiness in what he is doing.

2. Learn to rejoice in sorrow.  

The Apostle Paul said that he gloried in his tribulations.  The Psalmist said, ‘They that sow in tears shall reap in joy.”  There is a way that a person can be happy in both joy and sorrow.  When we share a sorrowful experience, we can rejoice in that a tear today is an investment for a laugh tomorrow.  There are some reasons to rejoice in sorrow.  One draws closer to the Lord in such sorrowful times.  Friends who share life’s dark hours become better friends.  Your happiness will not be determined how happy you are on your happiest day, but how happy you are on your saddest day.  it is not the height of the mountains but the heights of the valleys that determines joy and happiness.

3. Remember from past experiences the recipe for fun.  

Many times after enjoying the cooking of someone else, my wife will ask for the recipe so we can enjoy the food later at our home.  The same can be applied to life.  When a person has a good time, its good to remember the ‘recipe.’  That will give a recipe for fun and enjoyment so you can do it again and again and even share it with others.  If at the close of a happy time, you sat down and listed the ingredients, maybe it would help the next time you were wanting to have a good time. Some good times don’t seem all that good until it’s nearly over.  And some bad times don’t seem all that bad until a little later.

4. The good time of others should always be considered.  

Humor is not something to be exhibited, demonstrated or applauded at the peril of others.  Rather it is to be used to make others happy.  Used properly and unselfishly, humor can be a great tool for others.  Used carelessly and unwisely, it could become a weapon against others and ourselves.

What makes you happy?

Who is Jesus? 5 Claims of Jesus

Jesus never wrote a book, held an office, had a family, owned a house, or went to college. He never did any of the things we usually associate with greatness. He had no credentials but Himself. But Jesus remains the central figure of the human race. Nothing in the world has ever affected humanity so much as Jesus. So who is He?

In Mark 3 we find two popular opinions of Jesus.

And the multitude cometh together again, so that they could not so much as eat bread. And when his friends heard of it, they went out to lay hold on him: for they said, He is beside himself. And the scribes which came down from Jerusalem said, He hath Beelzebub, and by the prince of the devils casteth he out devils. (Mark 3:20-22)

The first opinion people had of Jesus was a madman. The second is that he was a tool of Satan. This presents us with the Great Trilemma: either Jesus was a lunatic, or a demonic liar, or He was God.

In his famous book, Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis said, “I’m trying here to prevent anyone from saying the really silly thing that people often say about Him: “I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.” That’s the one thing we mustn’t say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said wouldn’t be a great moral teacher. He’d either be a lunatic – on a level with the man who says he’s a poached egg – or else he’d be the Devil of Hell. you must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. you can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord & God. But don’t let us come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He hasn’t left that open to us.”

What did Jesus claim for Himself? I found at least 5 claims:

1. Jesus claimed a sinless life.

John 8:28-29 “So Jesus said, ‘When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know who I am and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me. The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him.’”

2. Jesus claimed to be the ONLY way to God.

John 14:6 “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father but by me.”

3. Jesus claimed to forgive sins.

Luke 7:48-49 “Then Jesus said to her, ‘Your sins are forgiven.’ The other guests began to say among themselves, ‘Who is this who even forgives sins?’”

4. Jesus claimed to be a Heavenly King.

John 18:36-37 “Jesus said, ‘My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place.’ ‘You are a king, then!’ said Pilate. Jesus answered, ‘You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.’”

5. Jesus claimed to be able to give eternal life.

John 10:28-30 “I give [my followers] eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”

 

The Unforgivable Sin

A man came to me a few years ago and confessed that he had done something for which God won’t forgive him. As we talked, I’ll admit, it was a terrible sin. But I assured him that if he confessed it to God, God would completely and whole-heartedly forgive him. That’s why Jesus died on the cross – to forgive us our sins.

But this opens up a good question. Can a person do something that God won’t forgive?

The Bible verse below contains one of the most ominous warnings recorded in Scripture. Jesus’ ministry had grown to enormous proportions. The religious leaders were jealous. But they had no answers for the miracles He did and the effect it had on the people. In their frustration the leaders resorted to slander by accusing Jesus of being possessed and powered by Satan. This act brought about the solemn warning of the unpardonable sin.

Verily I say unto you, All sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and blasphemies wherewith soever they shall blaspheme: But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation. (Mark 3:28-29)

To help you understand this, I would like to ask and answer three questions.

1. Is it possible to commit a sin that is unforgivable?

Yes. This Bible passage is clear that there is a sin that can never be forgiven. However, it is often overlooked that Jesus also said that every other sin and blasphemy is forgivable. No matter what you’ve done against God or others, God will forgive you if you come to Him.

2. If it is possible what exactly would that sin be? 

Jesus defines this sin as ‘blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.’ Blasphemy is to speak reproachfully, rail at, or revile someone. In relation to God, it is attributing  evil to God or deny good we should attribute to Him. In the context of the people Jesus spoke this to, it is refusing to attribute the clear, supernatural works of the Holy Spirit in the life of Jesus to God, but assigning these miracles to Satan. They rejected the work of the Holy Spirit. This becomes more important when we consider the role played by the Holy Spirit in salvation.

3. Is it possible for someone to commit that sin today or was it something that could only happen during Jesus’ ministry? 

Few people have not wrestled with the thought that they have done something that cannot be forgiven. To those who are afraid they have committed the sin, I can say with absolute confidence that their being so troubled is testimony they have not committed it.

Historically, this was a sin that was specifically related to Jesus’ earthly ministry. In the face of clear evidence of the divinity of Jesus, the Jewish leaders persisted in attributing the miracles of Jesus to Satan. As such, it cannot be repeated today. Even these men were warned that they were in ‘danger’ of committing this sin.

However, there is a related sin that is committed today. It is to resist the Holy Spirit. Since it is the work of the Holy Spirit to convict people of sin, to resist the Holy Spirit’s conviction is to remove oneself away from a place of forgiveness. To resist the Holy Spirit is to resist the only means a person can come to Jesus for forgiveness. This is not a situation of God’s refusal to forgive but of a person’s refusal to accept. The only sin that cannot be forgiven is the sin that is not confessed.

What should a person do? I would suggest begging God to forgive you of your known sin. If you are not a Christian, He is willing to forgive your sin and save your soul if you will seek Him. If you are a Christian, you still have a struggle with sin. God will forgive and strengthen you to resist the temptations that hurt you. Confess your sin, and He is faithful and just to cleans and forgive you of all your sins.

For some, it does not really bother them that they are in disobedience to God. That’s a dangerous position. We can easily get used to our sin and not care what it does to us, our loved ones, or God. But sin will destroy everything that you have. Ask God to give you a tender heart and pull close to Him through prayer, Bible reading, and fellowship with other growing Christians.

Conversation Starters for Couples

My nephew, Joel, was married this past weekend. It was a beautiful wedding. It got me to thinking about how to make marriages better. One of the best things couples can do to help their marriage is have intimate conversations.

These are simple questions to start a conversation for couples. They range from very simple and fun to romantic and/or deep.  Have fun getting to know one another.

What is the silliest fight we’ve every had?

What do you think was the most romantic moment we have ever had?

What would you do if you won $5 million?

What is one of the reasons you said yes to our first date?

What is your favorite all-time cartoon character?

What’s the best movie you’ve seen lately?

If you could take one room in our home and do anything with it, what would you do?

What are four or five things which attracted you to me?

What is one of the most funny or embarrassing things that has happened to us – maybe we laughed later?

Tell me a time when you really felt close to me. What made you feel that way?

If walls could talk, what would ours say?

If you could keep just one memory of some past event or period of time, what would it be?

If we had two days alone together, what would be your idea of how we could best spend the time? Why?

What do I do that makes you feel really loved?

What friend has most influenced your life, and how?

If you had just six more months to live, how would you spend them? What would you do? Where would you want to go?

What place in the world would you most like to visit?

What were your favorite TV shows growing up?

Did your friends have any weird parents or family members?

You get to have one superpower. Which would pick and why?

Which decade would you time travel back to?

Have you ever lost touch with a good friend? How?

Describe your first job?

Who was your childhood best friend?

What did you spend most of your time doing as a little kid? A teenager?

How did you get your first car?

Show me one scar on your body and tell me how you got it.

What was your first girl/boy friend like?

Describe a time where you made your parent(s) REALLY mad at you.

What are you most proud of today?

What are you least proud of?

What did you want to be when you were little as far as a career?

What are your top favorite songs? Movies? Actors? Actresses? Artists? Authors? Why?

What crazy superstition or belief did you have when you were young?

Share one of your own.

Forgiveness God’s Way

God, the incomparable Creator, is far above His finite creatures and beyond our ability to describe Him or comprehend Him fully; though we may know Him truly, we cannot know Him thoroughly. Such knowledge is always partial and imperfect.

God’s thoughts are not your thoughts. They are as high above our thoughts as the heavens are above the earth. They are vastly superior to the expectations of human intuition.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8,9)

It is evident that this verse is connected with the subject of forgiveness (v. 7).

Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto theLord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. (Isaiah 55:7)

The plans and purposes of God in regard to forgiveness are as far above people as the heavens are higher than the earth.

How is it different? I discovered three ways God’s forgiveness is way above our forgiveness:

1- People find it difficult to forgive at all. Not so with God. He harbors no grudge, does not desire revenge, and has no reluctance to forgive.

2- People forgive once, maybe twice, seldom a third time, and if it is repeated refuse to forgive. Not so with God. No matter how often we violate His law, He multiplies our forgiveness in proportion to our repentance.

3- People forgive a slight hurt, but if it a big offense they are slow to forgive. Not so with God. No matter how horrible the sin, He is ready to forgive.

God’s plan of forgiveness is far above ours. We forgive by trying to forget the offense or not to hold it against them. God’s forgiveness involves the substitionary suffering and bitter death of Jesus on the cross. Mankind could never have thought of this plan to provide salvation from sin. In this way, God’s ways are not our ways, and His thoughts are not our thoughts.

Receive His forgiveness now. It’s unbelievable!

Crazy Commitment

Jesus’ friends and family thought He was crazy. Following the selection of His 12 disciples, the crowds returned. Jesus was so involved in the needs of people that His time was completely occupied with ministry needs. His closest friends, and likely His family ‘went to take charge of him.’ The Greek text uses a very strong expression which means ‘to arrest.’ It was an intervention.

And the multitude cometh together again, so that they could not so much as eat bread. And when his friends heard of it, they went out to lay hold on him: for they said, He is beside himself. (Mark 3:20-21)

Why did his family react this way? Jesus had left home and the carpenter’s business at Nazareth. He was obviously on the way to a head-on collision with the orthodox leaders of his day. And He had newly started a little society of disown – a very strange group of 12. They loved him and were afraid his religious fervor was going to ruin his health.  He was so busy he couldn’t eat. His religious zeal was simply too radical. They just did not understand Jesus.

Some people don’t understand a totally committed Christian. The more committed you are to Jesus Christ and His church, the more some people think you’re nuts. Most people are okay with a little religion. But God is looking for people who are 100% surrendered to Jesus Christ.

Dr. Robert Morehead tells the story a young man from Rwanda who was forced by his tribe in 1980 to renounce Christ or face death. He refused to renounce Christ, and he was murdered on the spot. The night before he had written the following commitment which was found in his room: Can you make this kind of commitment for the Gospel of Christ and become a member of the Fellowship of the Unashamed?

“I am a part of the fellowship of the Unashamed. I have the Holy Spirit Power. The die has been cast. I have stepped over the line. The decision has been made. I am a disciple of Jesus Christ. I won’t look back, let up, slow down, back away, or be still. My past is redeemed, my present makes sense, and my future is secure. I am finished and done with low living, sight walking, small planning, smooth knees, colorless dreams, tame visions, mundane talking, chintzy giving, and dwarfed goals.

“I no longer need preeminence, prosperity, position, promotions, plaudits, or popularity. I don’t have to be right, first, tops, recognized, praised, regarded, or rewarded. I now live by presence, learn by faith, love by patience, lift by prayer, and labor by power.

“My pace is set, my gait is fast, my goal is Heaven, my road is narrow, my way is rough, my companions few, my Guide is reliable, my mission is clear.

I cannot be bought, compromised, deterred, lured away, turned back, diluted, or delayed. I will not flinch in the face of sacrifice, hesitate in the presence of adversity, negotiate at the table of the enemy, ponder at the pool of popularity, or meander in the maze of mediocrity.

“I won’t give up, back up, let up, or shut up until I’ve preached up, prayed up, paid up, stored up, and stayed up for the cause of Christ. I am a disciple of Jesus Christ. I must go until He returns, give until I drop, preach until all know, and work until He comes.

“And when He comes to get His own, He will have no problem recognizing me. My colors will be clear for “I am not ashamed of the Gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes..” (Romans 1:16).

Who Controls Your World?

On 5th Avenue in New York City you can see two statues.

One is at Rockefeller Center. It is a gigantic statue of Atlas, straining to hold the world on his shoulders. He is the most powerfully built man in the world and can barely stand under this burden. You can live that way, trying to carry the world on your shoulders.

 

Across the street from Rockefeller Center is Saint Patrick’s Cathedral with a shrine of the boy Jesus, perhaps 8 or 9 years old, with no effort holding the world in one hand.

We can carry the world on our shoulders, or we can say, “I give up, Lord; here’s my life. I give you my world, the whole world.”

Louis Zamperini, American hero, dies at age 97

Last week, an American hero died – Louis Zamperini. You may not recognize the name. I didn’t until a couple of years ago.

For Father’s Day my daughter, Jennifer, got me an ebook for my Kindle -  Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption.  It is the story of Louis Zamperini, an Olympic runner and hero of WW2.

Zamperini was a bombadier on a B-24 airplane over the Pacific.  He was involved in several bombing missions in which his plane suffered from severe shelling.   His plane crashed into the Pacific and he drifted for 47 days among sharks until he was picked up by Japanese and held in various prison camps under extreme torture and abuse.  One statistic haunted me. Of the 132,000 POWs held by the Japanese in WW2, nearly 36,000 died, more than one in every four.  American POWs were treated worse – 37% died (compared to only 1% of Americans held by Nazis and Italians died).

Zamperini came home, but the war stayed in his heart. Anger and alcohol almost did what the war couldn’t do – kill him. But he turned to Christ at a Billy Graham Crusade and his life was changed. The love and forgiveness he received from God gave him the power to forgive his Japanese captors.

His story is soon to come out in a movie. But he has gone to his eternal reward. Take a minute and thank God for those who have sacrificed for our freedom. Especially Jesus Christ, who gave His life to pay for our sins and purchase an eternal home in Heaven.

The Day my Dad Died & the Day He Got Saved

scan0001On July 7, 1992, my dad went to Heaven.  A few years later, my mom found a note he wrote hidden in some of his stuff. It was a handwritten letter to his children (Dick, Joanie, Mike & me) about the day he became a Christian. He never gave it to us, but my mom gave us all a copy. Here’s part of it. I hope it encourages you…

What I’m going to tell you now is not what I did for you, but rather what God did for you.

When Greg & Dick were about 3 and 4 years old I began to think what a challenge me and your mother had before us raising a family. Then came a daughter and, Mike, when you came along I really got serious. Although I wasn’t a Christian at the time I began praying for each of you. That you would grow to believe in God and that you would become Christians. I didn’t know at the time that I was actually praying for myself.

Then one August in 1970 God began talking to me. So one Wednesday evening when your mother thought I had lost it (my mind) I decided to go to a Wednesday night Prayer Meeting. I had never been to church on Wednesday in my life, so I took Greg and Dick with me for support. I began going to church for the next 2 or 3 months pretty regular, thinking I would change a lot of my habits and clean myself up a little and be a better person and father for going to church.

After 3 months I couldn’t see much change so I decided to give up on God. I called your mother from work one Saturday night and told her of this and that if she wanted to go back to the Presbyterian Church and keep you children in church it was fine with me. I was through with God and the Baptists.

That Saturday night after I got home, God gave me what I believe today was a last chance. So that night while everyone was asleep but me I began to fight, pray, cuss, cry and everything else I could to to put off God. So after 3 or 4 hours of this I accepted Christ just like I was…. standing there looking out the window on Decker Road. No hymns being sung by a choir or a preacher standing up talking  or no one praying for me (maybe my mom in Kentucky)… just me and Jesus.

The next morning your mother got us up, unaware of my nighttime experience and asked if I was going to Sunday School. The last she had heard was I was through with God. Even after I had accepted Christ that night, I still wasn’t ready to tell anyone. But decided to go to Sunday School with every intention of leaving Sunday School, skipping church and pick you all up afterwards. But when Sunday School was over, for some reason, I walked into the chapel and there was one seat left, beside your mother and next to the aisle. No place to hide.

I don’t remember the sermon but on the first verse of the altar call, when I asked your mother if she was going with me, she thought I was going out the door. I made public then what happened to me earlier in the night.

The Lord has spoken to me twice pretty strong, where He really had to get my attention, and this was one of them.

One of the reasons I went into detail was to let you all know that God worked with me by using you four. Although I wasn’t blinded or seen a great light from the sky that night, my salvation was just as dramatic and meaningful to me as Paul’s was to him.

With that decision to accept Christ I was able to turn you children over to Him and enlist His help in rearing you. I think He has done a fine job.