Monday, July 17, 2017

Grandchildren are the crown of the aged


One of my favorite passages of Scripture to read at baby dedications is Psalm 128. “Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine within your house; your children will be like olive shoots around your table.” Maybe there’s a woman reading right now who bristles at the thought of being compared to vegetation, but believe me that the Psalmist meant it as a compliment.

There was no greater blessing to a Jewish home than children, and there was no greater sadness to a Jewish couple than to be unable to conceive. Children were considered a gift from the Lord, a divine inheritance.

Today in many places, even in many churches, children are considered a burden. The couple who dares to have more than the obligatory 1.2 children is met with sarcasm at best, derision at worst. I heard about one man whose wife had triplets and he decided to name them “Any,” “Minnie,” and “Miney.” When the man was asked why, he responded, “Because there won’t be no Mo.”

The last verse in Psalm 128 proclaims blessing upon blessing, as the psalmist says, “May you see your children’s children.”

I know from studying Scripture that it was the dream of every Jewish man to hold his grandchildren and help teach them about God. I had read in Proverbs many times, “Grandchildren are the crown of the aged, and the glory of children is their fathers.”

Each time I read it, I thought about how vital godly grandparents are to the family, and what an important job they have in preparing the next generation for life and service to the Lord.

Until eight years ago, though, my head was only covered with graying hair. I was still crownless.

Cindy and I are thankful to be eight years and five grandchildren into that stage of life known as grandparenthood. We join hands gladly with all of the rest of you “old people” who have held your sons’ and daughters’ children in your arms and bragged that they are just about the best looking baby you have ever seen.

We also empathize with all of you out there who have gone through the trying time of having your grandchildren decide what you will be called from now until the day you die.

I agree with Brad Stine that the one year-old who eats out of the flower pot should not be allowed to name the family patriarch. Will it be PeePaw and MeeMaw? Or Gramps and Grannie?

I put my request in 8 years ago for “O Captain, my Captain,” but it fell on deaf ears. Micah and Kari wanted to wait until Blake was old enough to talk, to see what he came up with as he attempted to say, “Nana and Grandad.”

It seems to be official, now. We are “Nana and Gan-Gan.”

I told Blake, who turned 8 this week, that he is plenty able now to say “Grandad.” He grinned and said, “Sure thing, Gan-Gan!” Of course, his two-year-old sister is way confused; Liza calls me “Dan-Dan.”

Nonetheless, Cindy and I welcome the honor we have been given to love and nurture 5 grandchildren, and all the others who will follow, as the Lord gives His precious gift of children to our children.

OK, grandma and grandpa, what are you going to do with your grandkids? Teach them how to catch a fish? Throw a ball? Drive a car? Work hard and enjoy it? Be polite? Respect other people? Obey their parents? Those are excellent lessons.

While you’re at it, teach them one thing more. Teach them to love the Lord. Better yet, show them how you do it. They will never forget it.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Go ahead and move to Humility

I remember those early Saturday mornings in the summertime when the kids were little and we were all loaded up in the car and headed to Holden for a week of vacation. You couldn’t do much more to increase my joy at that moment. But if the kids wanted to just send me over the top in ecstatic utterances of praise, all they had to do was get along with each other on the trip. They would have the same mind, to paraphrase Paul’s letter to the Philippians, the same love, and be in one accord. Even though we were really in one Odyssey. Paul is pointing to a place we all should move to as soon as possible. Humility. It’s not a geographical location but a way of life. What does that look like in our relationships?

It means that we have the same love. Let’s face it, some Christians are like porcupines; they have a lot of good points but they’re hard to get close to. Notice that Paul surrounds having the same love with two phrases about being of the same mind. Every fight between church members starts in the mind. A church split in Dallas started when one of the church elders was served a smaller slice of ham than the child sitting next to him. I’m not making this up. Instead of keeping his big mouth shut, stuffing it with a big slab of apple pie, the church elder expressed his displeasure, and the pork problem led to a church-wide divorce. The whole thing started in his mind, and revealed a lack of love for his fellow church members.

Humility means also that we do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit. John Wooden, famed UCLA basketball coach said, “Talent is God-given; be humble. Fame is man-given; be thankful. Conceit is self-given; be careful.” Paul had just written to the Philippians about the preachers who were proclaiming Christ out of selfish ambition. But Paul didn’t gloat and exalt himself above them. He praised God that Christ was being preached. How could Paul be so lacking in selfish ambition and conceit? Here’s how, and he concludes the verse with it: “In humility count others more significant than yourselves.” This command pierces our hearts, doesn’t it? This runs so counter to everything in our culture, where self-promotion seems to be the key to success, and ambition and conceit the normal fare. Instead, let’s pull up stakes and move our heart and our life to Humility. John Stott wrote, “At every stage of our Christian development and in every sphere of our Christian discipleship, pride is the greatest enemy and humility our greatest friend.”
Finally, humility means that you “Look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” If our whole life is a series of selfies, interrupted by the occasional detour into serving people at a food pantry or sending a check to a missionary, then we have missed the point, haven’t we? I was in Wal-Mart with my wife recently, and my goal in that store (and any other store) is simple: get in, get it, get out. I had that look on my face, I guess, and Cindy said, “You know, if you look around at the people, it changes your perspective. I see people in here who are hurting, and it causes me to pray for them as we pass by.” Ouch. Suddenly my goals for shopping at Wal-Mart changed, as I moved my heart to Humility for the rest of that trip.

Go to the beach or the mountains, sure! But by all means, move to Humility. Life is better there.

Monday, July 3, 2017

You’re not in this alone

“I want to hear that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the sake of the gospel.” This encouragement from Paul is a great word picture of the church of Jesus Christ. We stand firm, and we stand together in one spirit. There are no people more unified than those who stand together in the Spirit of the living God. This is not external unity engendered by denominations or by ecumenical councils. No, it comes about by the Spirit of God. That’s why when we meet someone in another state or another country who is a brother or sister in Christ, we may wonder how we can feel such kinship with him so quickly: it is because the Spirit of God has made us one.

Notice also that we are to fight together, “striving side by side,” for the gospel. Remember that old game called Red Rover? Do kids still play that, or has it gone the way of dodge ball, because it’s too rough, and kids are too fragile? Anyway, in this game there are two groups of people, opposite one another, standing in a line with linked arms. One side calls out to the other, “Red Rover, Red Rover, send Billy on over!” Billy runs as fast as he can and tries to break through the other side, hitting with all his might between two people he thinks might offer the weakest link. If he can’t break through, he becomes part of that team. If he can break through, he gets to take one of the people he broke through back to his team. This is a picture of the battle we are in, saints. We will have opponents our whole lives who will run at us with all their might, headstrong in their opinions that run counter to the truth of Scripture. We have to stand firm and catch them with the truth; we cannot give in or give over. That’s our job, to know what we believe, and Whom, and to stand firm. God’s job is to open the hearts of those who try to “break through” our faith, should He so choose, so they might believe the good news of the gospel. We can’t open their hearts, but we must be assured in our own.

They stand best who stand together. This is why the local church is so important. We stand side-by-side, arms linked in the faith, standing firm in one spirit on the truth, helping each other stand up and prevail. The picture in Scripture, again, is of a group, not a single individual. You can’t be side-by-side by yourself. We don’t run or ride this race alone. This was illustrated in the Tour of Italy race in May by the actions of a Slovenian cyclist, Luka Pibernik. During stage five of the race, Pibernik was riding alone, 50 meters ahead of the main pack when he approached what he thought was the finish line. It actually was the finish line, but Pibernik had miscounted; he had another lap to go to finish the stage. As he approached the line, he raised his hands in victory and coasted. As the pack of riders thundered past, Pibernik realized his error, but it was too late. His efforts to catch the pack and finish well did not succeed. Instead of first, he finished 148th. What would have happened if this man had been riding with one of his teammates?

Don’t walk alone. Find others with whom you are already united by the Spirit of God, and walk with them.