29 August 2013


I often grow weary over the labels we place on one another in the church of Jesus Christ.  Brethren refer to one another as belonging to either the ‘grace oriented’ or the ‘work oriented’ groups.  Could I not belong to both at the same time?  Do I have to join only one group?   After all, I truly desire to associate with all my brethren, if possible.  I sincerely long for and pray for faithfulness and peace among my brethren.  It seems that we are people of extremes.  It is either one way or the other.  It just could not be both at the same time.  Where is the balance that is sorely needed in a time of doubt, disbelief and disunity?  I have no problem in understanding that we are saved by the grace of God for the Word of God clearly teaches such as is found in Ephesians 2:5.  Yet, in verse 8 of the same chapter, we learn that we are saved by grace through faith.  There is a sense in which I do not contribute anything to my salvation since it is a gift from God; nevertheless, if I do not manifest my faith by doing what God wants me to do, I will not benefit from the unmerited favor of the Lord in the matter of salvation from sin.   No, the works of the law or the meritorious works of man’s devising cannot and will not save.  However, all those works ordained of God must be done by His children (Ephesians 2:10).

Consider also the very nature of God.  He is not self-contradicting.  Yes, His infinite grace saves us but we are also saved by His infinite love (Hebrews 2:9; John 3:16).  God would not disapprove of something on one hand and demand and commend the same on the other hand.  Jesus plainly taught that true love requires actions on the part of mankind in order to prove that love for Him.  He told his disciples, “If you love Me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15).  Jesus stated it very plainly that we show our Love for Him when we do what he requires of us.  In John 14:21, He said, “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me.  And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.”  As you can clearly see, even the Father loves the person who loves His Son and keeps His commandments.  Even Jesus obeyed His Father’s will and was loved by His Father, even as He loves those who keep His commandments (John 15:10).  When you think about it, keeping commandments is not so bad after all.  Even the Son of God complied with the directives of His Father.  The Lord said in John 14:31, “But that the world may know that I love the Father, and as the Father gave me commandments, so I do.  Arise let us go from here.”  Jesus proved beyond a shadow of doubt that He loved His Father by keeping all the commands that He received from Him.  To be like Jesus, we must also obey the commands our Lord has given to us.  Otherwise, we show that we do not love Him as we should.  Jesus expressed it in this fashion as recorded in John 14:24, “He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine but the Father’s who sent Me.    The apostle of love, John, wrote in I John 5:3, “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments.  And His commandments are not burdensome.”  God does not require anything of us except it be for our ultimate good.  We should respond to His commandments out of a heart of love.  When love is the motive, His commandments are not grievous or overbearing.  We obey because we are heirs and not slaves.  The precious words of our Savior bring joy to the heart of a Christian as is found in John 15:14, “You are My friends if you do whatever I command you.”  When we sing the hymn, “I’ll Be a Friend to Jesus”, it means that we will be submissive to His will for us to do.

Yet, my response to God’s grace and love by the works I do will not save me.  I cannot merit salvation on my goodness.  The words of Jesus as found in Luke 17:10 remind me of this truth, “So likewise you, when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants.  We have done what was our duty to do.”  No, grace does not disapprove what love demands; rather, it is “faith working through love” (Galatians 5:6).

23 May 2013


            Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth, Before the difficult days come, And the years draw near when you say, “I have no pleasure in time.”
 This passage of scripture is ordinarily used in encouraging young people to remember God and to give their lives to the Lord; however, I believe there are several lessons contained in this text that would be applicable for parents.
First of all, parents should remember that children are not ours to rear as we choose to do so. The Psalmist declared,” Behold children are a heritage from the Lord…” (Psalm 127:3). We should have the same attitude of Hannah when she made this vow to God, “O Lord of hosts, if You will indeed look on the affliction of Your maidservant and remember me, and not forget Your maidservant, but will give Your maidservant a male child, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life, and no razor shall come upon his head” (I Samuel 1:11). Our attitude should be same, that is, when God gives us children, we should give them back to Him by rearing them in the “training and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).
Second, youth is the time to teach our children of God and Jesus Christ. Their hearts are receptive and not filled with prejudice. Children trust their parents and they can be impressed with the teaching they receive from the Word of God. Jochebed, the mother of Moses, must have greatly influenced him while he was in her care. It was in his adulthood that this man of God made an important decision as is recorded in Hebrews 11:24-25, “By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin.” Then there is the case of Timothy who was greatly influenced in his youth to give his life to Christ. The apostle wrote concerning who taught Timothy the Word of God as found in the book of 2 Timothy: “When I call to remembrance the genuine faith that is in you, which dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am persuaded in you also’ (2 Timothy 1:5). “And that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:15).
Third, parents should realize that soon the difficult (evil) days will come. Parents will not always be around to help their children in making the decision as to what is right or wrong. It is when the child is at home that parents must prepare them to be able to face the “difficult days” when they are away from home. There is the example of a young soldier in the Far East when the time came for him and his buddies to have a period of ‘rest and relaxation’. The decision was made by the majority of the soldiers to go to a town and commit sins of immorality and drunkenness. The young Christian soldier refused to follow the crowd because he remembered that his parents were praying for him and his safety. He also remembered the lessons from the Word of God relative to keeping his body pure (I Timothy 4:12).
Fourth, parents know their children are growing older and will soon leave home in a matter of a few years. It is during the age of innocence that children should be influenced to give their lives to the Lord. Youth is not the only time to “remember God” but it is the best time. The case is, the older a child becomes, the more difficult it is to make the decision to obey the gospel. The reason being, Satan can harden the heart through the deceitfulness of sin (Hebrews 3:12, 13).
In conclusion, the inspired writer states in this text that there is a point of no return. There are many influences such as higher education that can destroy the young person’s belief in God as being the Creator of the universe and can cause one to become an agnostic or even an atheist. The practice of sin can hardened the heart of an individual that he will have no desire to repent and return to God. Because of the influence of evil companions, a son or a daughter can be led astray (I Corinthians 15:33). Many a young adult no longer has any pleasure in the former years when he was at home and associating with friends who were Christians and all were attending the various assemblies of the church. It is sad to say that not all stories about ‘prodigal’ children end well as did the one in Luke chapter fifteen. 

I took a piece of plastic clay
And idly fashioned it one day,
And as my fingers pressed it still,
It moved and yielded at my will.
I came again when days were past;
The bit of clay was hard at last,
The form I gave it still it bore,
But I could change that form no more.
I took a piece of living clay,
And gently formed it day by day,
And molded with my power and art
A young child’s soft and yielding heart.
I came again when days were gone;
It was a man I looked upon;
That early impress still he wore,
And I could change it never more.

- Author Unknown  

30 January 2013

A Father's Failure

“O my son Absalom—my son, my son Absalom—if only I had died in your place! O Absalom my son, my son!” (2 Samuel 18:33)  Here is an exceeding bitter cry. It is one of the saddest passages in the entire Bible. One would think that such was the cry of a mother who had lost the dearest thing on earth to her, a child. But no, it is the bitter cry of a man weeping for his son who had been killed. Absalom, the son of David had been slain while leading his forces against his father, the King of Israel. David had instructed Joab and his men to deal gently with his son (2 Samuel 18:5). But they slew the young man anyway (2 Samuel 18:14, 15). In the rearing of his son Absalom David was indeed a failure.

But wherein had David failed? We must be fair and note that in other ventures in life, David was not a failure. In fact in many things he was very successful. We observe that David rose rapidly in rank. We saw him first as a shepherd boy. He possessed a brilliant mind and fortitude. As a courageous lad he went out to meet and defeat the great giant Goliath in battle. David was a many sided man. He was not only a shepherd but a poet, a singer and later to become the King of Israel. A man like this will usually make good in any situation. While as king much wealth was accumulated in the treasury. The enemies had been defeated. The time was called the ‘Golden Age of Israel.’ David provided the proper foundation upon which his son Solomon eventually erected the temple. But in what did this successful man fail? 

He failed as a father. David paid a great price for his success. When David looked over his life he saw it too. It cost him many hours of sorrow. Our text in 2 Samuel 18:31-33 reveals only one time of his weeping. His son was killed while rebelling against him. Many fathers are like David today. They too will pay the price. Some men are successful at building fortunes but completely unsuccessful at building men.

One might ask, why did David take this failure so hard? Because of his tender love for his son he had lost. Fathers are not supposed to do much weeping it is often thought by misinformed individuals. We should understand however that often fathers are just as devoted to their children as mothers. David also takes his failure hard because his loss is without remedy. We may blunder in some things and correct them next time but there is no next time in the rearing of children. David could have said, “I would make Absalom a different boy if I could only have my time over with him.” No wonder he cried. David took failure hard because he knew he lost his son hopelessly. Absalom was gone for good. He could not be brought back again. Death always produces this feeling when we loose loved ones. David lost his son needlessly. If he had been the right kind of a father, perhaps he could have saved his son. Many a father carries this accusation in his bosom.

The story is told about a father who took his little child into the field one afternoon and it being a hot day he laid down in the shade of a beautiful tree. The little child ran about gathering wild flowers and little bits of grass and coming to his father and would cry, “Look how pretty!” At last the father fell asleep and while he was sleeping the child wandered away. When the father awoke his first thought was, “Where is my child?” He looked around but he could not see him. He shouted at the top of his voice but all he heard was an echo. Running to a little hill he looked around and shouted again. There was no response. Then going to a steep cliff at some distance he looked down and there, far below on the rocks and briars he saw the mangled form of his precious child. He rushed to the spot and took up the lifeless corpse and hugged it to his bosom and accused himself of being the murderer of his child. While he was sleeping and neglecting for a just a short time his child had wandered over the precipice.

Such depicts so many fathers and mothers today. While their children are wandering closer and closer to the edge of the cliff and to certain destruction, parents are asleep regarding the moral and spiritual welfare of their off-springs. Often parents contribute to the downfall of their children because of their own way of life. Some fathers drink, gamble and are unfaithful to their marriage vows; and then they wonder what went wrong in the rearing of their children. King David was crushed beneath the burden of thought that he had lost his son Absalom for all eternity. It should be noted that providing the daily necessities for one’s family is not enough. More important is the rearing of children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4). Money may provide for the body but not for the soul. Money may buy groceries but not character.

Another question to ponder is why was David a failure as a father? When John was born, the question was raised, “What then shall this child be” (Luke 1:66)? It is required of parents to train children in the way of the Lord (Proverbs 22:6). David undoubtedly shifted his responsibilities to someone else. He had many obligations, cares, troubles and political problems but he should not have neglected his son. Perhaps Absalom never thought about going to David with his broken toy and he never thought about going to him with his broken heart. David gave him everything but himself. Many fathers are like that today. David in his sins concerning Bathsheba could have influenced his son, adversely so. David repented and returned from the far country of sin but Absalom never came back from that land of sorrow.

Fathers, you should consider your responsibilities toward your children before it is eternally too late. Lead your loved ones in the way of the Savior Jesus Christ. Make every effort to save your family from sin and an everlasting separation from the God of heaven. You cannot afford to lose your sons and daughters.

08 January 2013


It was over the Christmas holidays that our oldest son approached me about what arrangements his mother and I had made in case one of us needed ‘long term care’ due to a stroke or some other sickness that possibly could cripple us. Now that question caused some serious thinking on my part. It is something that you really don’t like to consider since we are still in relatively good health. But our age is showing. After all, my wife and I will be seventy-eight years old our next birthday anniversary. I think sometimes I am a twenty-five year old man locked in this seventy-seven year old body. I don’t feel this old but I am. Aging parents can really be a major problem for caring children. And ‘long term care’ is so expensive. People have lost their homes, property and savings when in need of ‘long time care’. I knew of this Christian couple who was in the same nursing home and a relative of theirs stated the cost was $12,000 per month!!! I couldn't believe what I was hearing. Oh, I know that Medicare will pay some but you still have to give up practically all your earthly possessions in the process of covering the expenses for ‘long term care’.

There are ‘long term care’ policies that can be purchased from various insurance companies for a price and if you can afford it, that can be a wise choice.  While my wife and I do not have one of those policies, we do have another ‘long term care’ policy that we have had for most of our lives. While in our youth we confessed our faith in Jesus Christ as being the son of God and were baptized. The cost for our salvation and ‘lone time care’ was paid by our Savior who shed His blood on Calvary. We could not afford the cost ourselves so He paid it for us. And we know for a fact that the Owner of this policy has cared for us over the years, including fifty-seven years of marriage. Oh, the road has not been an easy one to travel but it was during the times of trials, burdens and difficulties that His policy really ‘kicked in’.  I am speaking of the care of our Heavenly Father that has seen us through the valleys of this life. The apostle Peter wrote in I Peter 5:6, 7: “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you(Emphasis, mine, R.E.) The providential care of God is greatly emphasized by Jesus Christ in the Sermon on the Mount as recorded in Matthew chapter 6, verses 25-34. He provides for “the birds of the air” and He clothes “the lilies of the field”.  He then asked his disciples “Are you not of more value than they?” Regarding the material blessings of life the Lord said if we “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteous” He promised that “all these things shall be added to you.” God has also given His children this promise as found in Hebrews 13:5, 6: “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” So we may boldly say: “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear: What can man do to me?” I have often quoted Psalm 37:25 to express my trust in the providential care of our Heaven Father: “I have been young and now I am old; Yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken, Nor His descendants begging bread.”  In 1904, Walter S. Martin wrote the lyrics to this beautiful song that mentions the promise that “God Will Take Care of You.” “Be not dismayed whate’er betide, God will take care of you; Beneath His wings of love abide, God will take care of you. Thro’ days of toil when heart doth fail God will take of you; When dangers fierce your path assail, God will take care of you. No matter what may be the test, God will take care of you. God will take care of you, Thro’ every day, O’er all the way; He will take care of you, God will take care of you.”

But the care of God does not end when this life is over for His children. His ‘long term care’ policy is extended into eternity. Our bodies are daily growing older. The days of our lives are numbered “For the living know that they will die” (Psalm 90:10; Ecclesiastes 9:5). The fear of death does not overwhelm the faithful followers of Jesus Christ, knowing that they will be in the care of their Heavenly Father (Psalm 23:4). In fact, the apostle Paul wrote in Philippians 1:23 that to die and be with the Lord “is far better”.  John was instructed to write in Revelation 14:13 the following: “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’” “Yes,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, and their works follow them.” Isaiah, a prophet of God penned these words of encouragement: “Good people pass away; the godly often die before their time. But no one seems to care or wonder why. No one seems to understand that God is protecting them from the evil to come. For those who follow godly paths will rest in peace when they die” (Emphasis mine, R.E., Isaiah 57:1, 2; NIV). Eternity cannot be comprehended by our finite minds but we have the promise that God will take care of us. The sentiments expressed in the following song fills the believer’s heart with full assurance of that great truth. “Safe in the arms of Jesus, Safe on His gentle breast, There by His love o’er shaded, Sweetly my soul shall rest. Hark! Tis the voice of angels, Borne in a song to me, Over the fields of glory, Over the jasper sea. Safe in the arms of Jesus, Safe from corroding care, Safe from the world’s temptations, Sin cannot harm me there. Free from the blight of sorrow, Free from my doubts and fears; Only a few more trials, Only a few more tears. Jesus, my heart’s dear refuge, Jesus has died for me, Firm on the Rock of Ages, Ever my trust shall be. Here let me wait with patience, Wait til the night is o’er; Wait till I see the morning Break on the golden shore: Safe in the arms of Jesus, Safe on His gentle breast, There by His love o’er shaded, Sweetly my soul shall rest”. – William H. Doane, 1870