Wednesday, December 19, 2018

A Nightmare OFF Elm Street

It was only a dream; well, more like a nightmare!

I awoke with a start on that Sunday morning as a result of the dream. While not reality, the dream did contain foreboding images and sounds which would not depart from my brain. Sensing something amiss, my wife asked me what was wrong. I told her I was in a bad mood because of the dream.

For the remainder of that day, I could not clear my head of the horrible events I witnessed in my sleep. Some of my family interpreted my quietness and the absence of interest in variable events of the day to mean I was angry. But, that was not the case. It was not anger that troubled me; it was fear. This fear arose out of what I envisioned in my dream and the possibility it may foretell the future.

I’ve never been one to put much credence in the interpretation of dreams. Usually, I simply dismiss any which I recall once awake. God once revealed Himself to our ancestors in dreams, but I’m not convinced He does so today. If He would give us a dream for some purpose, that vision must align with the words of Scripture. God’s revelation has been sealed for centuries; no new revelation is being given, only illumination of His revealed Word. Therefore, I lay no claim that this horrific dream was God-sent.

Nevertheless, it remains with me days later. I’ve struggled with whether to share the content of the dream or to keep it to myself. Furthermore, I’ve struggled with what, if anything, I can do about it.

I’m writing this article to explain what I dreamt and attempt to do something positive from it.

First, the reader must have some background on our family. My wife and I have nine, grown children. All eleven of us, at one time or another, have professed Jesus as our Lord and been immersed. Furthermore, we have eighteen grandchildren ranging in age from one to twenty-five. Some of them have also made professions of faith in Christ.

I must also confess I have developed a ridiculous fear of crowds (ochlophobia) over the past decade. On occasion, if I am in a large group of people, I become extremely nervous and have an urgent need to extricate myself from the situation. At times, I have successfully managed to control the fear. But, I never know beforehand if I can do so.

With that knowledge, I begin my recollection of my dream. It came to me in two distinct parts.

First, my entire family were visiting Disney World. We were walking around when my ochlophobia began. After attempting to control it for a brief time, I told my family I must leave them and return to the hotel room. To my dismay and surprise, some of them laughed at me, some mocked me, and others yelled at me for not seeing a doctor about my condition. None of this mattered to me, and I departed for the solitude of the hotel room.

Second, while relaxing in my room and recovering from my panic, I began to hear voices. I sat up in my bed and distinctly heard the voices of some of my family. Someone was shouting, “Dad, please help me.” Another screamed, “Grandpa, help!” The voices became louder in volume and more in number.

Concerned for my family’s well-being, I leapt from my bed, threw on my shoes, and bolted for the door. Meanwhile, the voices were growing louder than before, repeatedly pleading for my help. I was quivering from fear, wondering what might be happening to them.

Then, I flung open the door to the room.

On the other side of the door was a massive chasm, the bottom completely out of sight. Far down in that hole, orange flames and smoke were clearly visible. The sound of steam was now added to the crying voices of my family.

Across the chasm on the far ledge stood some of my family, both children and grandchildren. Not all were there, and I could not make out any of their faces. Yet, I knew they were the source of the pleas for help.

Standing in the doorway of my room, I watched as my family members, one by one, were pushed into this pit. Even as they fell, they were screaming for my aid, begging me to rescue them.

I could do nothing.

Then, I awoke.

I trust the reader now understands why this dream has dramatically affected me. I suspect such a dream would haunt any parent. The larger and more important question is what can I do with it? Simply forgetting the dream is not an option, at least, not one for me.

Now that all our children have left our home, they must live their own lives. I have no authority over them and cannot demand their obedience to my religion. I do my best not to offer advice to any of them unless asked. Some of them remain active in local churches, hopefully a sign of their true faith. Others, however, appear to have abandoned the faith, or, at least, no longer consider it of importance. The only help I can offer my child is, first, that I will pray for you, and, second, to exhort you either to return to the Lord you once professed or to truly seek Him for the first time. For when the judgment comes, and we stand on opposite sides of God’s throne, there is nothing I can do to help you. Screaming for my assistance will prove useless. Jesus is your only hope.

My grandchildren prove a special burden. I have exercised extreme caution over the years with meddling in their lives. Their parents, not me, are responsible for their upbringing. Even in the realm of religion, I have reluctantly refrained from saying very much about Christ and salvation so not to override their parents’ views. Yet, I fear some may not be learning about the danger that awaits them and their need for Christ. What might I do to respect their parents but assist my grandchildren? Well, as with your parents, I will pray for you, grandchild. The Lord often moves in mysterious ways and He can reach you even if your parents attempt to block His influence. Second, I will pray for your parents. I will pray that, perhaps, they will have a similar dream in which they are standing in the door and watching you being pushed into eternal punishment. I will pray they come to their senses in the matter of God, sin, Jesus, salvation, and eternal judgment. They have the responsibility to share those things with you.

Lastly, I will pray that, when judgment day comes, all my family, each one, stand on the same side of God’s throne, believers in Jesus, prepared for eternity.

Oh, and yes, we do live just off Elm Street!

Love and Marriage

I have known couples who claim they no longer love their partner and want out of their marriage. I have known men and women who have lost the love of their spouse and seek to find love with another while still in a marriage with the former. Among the unbelievers of the world, such actions are expected. When God is not the true foundation of one’s marriage, anything might result in a divorce.

Unfortunately, I have seen professing Christian couples in the same situations. Christians who claim to love Jesus and are married to a spouse who also professes love for Christ claim they have lost the love of their partner. They seek ways out of their marriage. Sometimes the marriage is ended by an adulterous act.

I believe one of the key problems in such relationships is that the two individuals do not fully understand what love truly is in marriage. This article is addressed primarily to married couples who profess to be Christians. So, if you are not a follower of my Lord, you will likely dismiss what I have to say as the thoughts of some old, bigoted, man. So be it.

Marital love is a diverse subject. I do not profess to be an expert, but my wife and I are approaching our forty-sixth anniversary. Therefore, I believe I have some experience in this matter. The characteristic of this invisible fixture of marriage takes many different forms. Love begins as an attraction then transforms into a friendship, a companionship. Subsequent to marriage (in accordance with God’s counsel), marital love becomes primarily sexual love. It continues to metamorphose as the marriage endures the passing years and as children are born. But, there is one aspect of marital love that must never change or replaced. It is that attribute which permits for a long, happy, loving marriage: forgiveness.

True marital love is a forgiving love.

Be honest, Christian reader. Each spouse sins in their marriage. In fact, we sin every day if not every hour. And, some of those sins are against our spouse. From a human perspective, our sins range in seriousness from telling a little white lie (perhaps to conceal a surprise party) to adultery. From God’s perspective, every sinful act, no matter how important it may seem to us, will be judged, found guilty, and punished by our Creator. God does not like liars any more than He likes adulterers. Scripture abundantly and clearly teaches we are sinners and stand condemned.

But Christian husband or wife, remember why you are a believer. First, it is because God the Father chose you to be given to God the Son. Second, His Son willingly came to earth, lived, then died in your place on the cross to pay the penalty of your sin. Third, God the Spirit changed your heart and mind, enabling you to repent of your sin, believe in Christ, and receive full forgiveness for all your sins. As Scripture teaches, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just, to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

Now, if God can forgive you of your sins, Christian, how can you fail to follow the example of your Master and not forgive the sin of your spouse? What type of Christian are you? Does your moral standard exceed that of Jesus? Are you somehow more perfect than He who forgave you? I suggest you carefully read Luke 7:41-50 and Matthew 18:23-35.

Let me answer some anticipated questions.

1. “What if I forgive my spouse and they commit the same sin against me?”

Have you never repeated your forgiven sin? Did God forgive your sin only the first time you committed it, or did He do so every time you commit it? Are you superior to God? Jesus said we are to forgive “seventy times seven” (Matthew 18:21-22) and He didn’t mean only 490 times.

2. “Didn’t Jesus permit divorce in the case of adultery? Well, my spouse committed adultery, humiliated me, and I want a divorce.”

We can debate the alleged passage on the certificate of divorce. However, let us save that argument for another day and accept the idea that Christ does permit divorce in the event of adultery. Then I have three thoughts to share. First, He permits it; He does NOT command it. Second, He has called on us to grant forgiveness “seventy times seven”. Third, most likely your wedding vows (made to each other AND to God) included the words “until death do we part”. Nothing was said about divorce. To obtain a divorce is to abandon the vow you made before God. The Bible does not speak well of one who breaks his vow (Deuteronomy 23:21).

3. “What is one spouse is physically abusing the other?”

Certainly, no one should permit their partner to physically harm them. Flee from them. Seek a restraining order. More importantly, pray for them because anyone who behaves in such a manner is likely not a true believer in Christ. They need salvation.

In today’s world, it appears commonplace for marriage partners to tire of one another and find reasons to divorce. But, when Christians divorce, they bring harm not only to themselves and their families, but also to their testimony of faith. Ephesians chapter five teaches our marriage is a visible illustration of Christ and His bride, the church. Christ forgives His bride every minute of every day. Praise God, He never divorces us! Foremost in the loving relationship between Christ and His church is forgiveness. The same should be true of our relationship.

Christian readers: if you have sinned in your marriage, seek God’s forgiveness, seek your partner’s forgiveness, and turn from that sin. If you are the partner sinned against, forgive your partner when asked and pray with them, for them, and for your marriage. Begin rebuilding your marriage on the basis of that forgiveness. Ultimately, doing so is best for you, your family, and your witness for Jesus.

True marital love is a forgiving love.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Christmas Truly Means - Christmas 2018

Thanksgiving is past, December is here.
 The weather is cold, and Christmas is near.
Excitement will grow as the days roll by,
 Energetic kids from a sugar high!

The shoppers racing from that store to this,
 Seeking perfect gifts; no bargains they miss.
The music blares out, all hours of the day,
 Holiday singing is what they do play.

Decorations up, snow adds to the fun.
 The cards are all sent, thank goodness that’s done!
But, what have we learned, from all of this stuff?
 How to become mad and get in a huff?

Why do we permit, these yearly routines,
 To obscure Christmas, what it truly means?
Instead of presents, dwell upon God’s gift
 Our depressed spirits only He can lift.

Our judgment coming, He alone can free
 Providing ransom upon Calvary.
And, for that alone, each of us can say,
 We are so grateful, to have such a day.

Christmas truly means, our Savior is born
 And, so, when we rise, on that blessed morn,
Look past the gifts and tree and all the fun
 To see Lord Jesus, God’s begotten Son.