Against the Wind

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puppy in windThe nickname given to Corpus Christi, TX is “The Sparkling City by the Sea”. As anyone living in a coastal city knows, there is usually a prevailing wind that constantly blows from off the water. Ours isn’t too bad, generally about 12-15 mph on most days. Many days the wind picks up quite considerably. In fact, the wind can become so fierce here that a rather expensive separate wind storm insurance policy is required for all homes under contract.

Yesterday was one of those extremely windy days. Anything not nailed down in the yard was fair game for becoming a kite. The 7 ft. privacy fence in my back yard was waving back and forth like the old, historic Narrows Bridge. I was forced to clutch the steering wheel with both hands and take extra precautions as my SUV was pushed around on the highway while on my way to church. The doors were either hard to open or were whipped open, depending on which one we were opening. It was a very windy day to be sure, but not one uncharacteristic for this part of south Texas.

Of all the events I could list here regarding that windy day, the one that stands out the most in my mind is the visual lesson God painted for me through a solitary bird.

My routine on Sunday morning is to unlock doors, turn on lights, get coffee started, set out donuts and set out the signs before heading out to pick people up in the van. When I went to set out the signs, God directed my attention to a small bird trying his best to fly against the wind and make it to one particular tree. I watched him briefly and thought to myself, “Why don’t you just let the wind take you to another tree and stop fighting and wearing yourself out trying to get to that particular tree?” I was captivated as he seemed to tuck his little beak down and flap his little wings for all they were worth. I watched and noticed that from my Bird in windvantage point he seemed to be making some progress. By now, I was cheering for the bird. I wanted him to beat the odds. The winds were whipping at least 35 to 40 mph and this tiny bird, which couldn’t have weighed more than 1 lb. at the very most, was pushing forward, straining against the wall of wind around him. I continued to watch for what seemed like minutes as the bird went up then down, then flapping its wings but not moving at all, simply hovering against the wind. But, finally, the wind changed direction, or died down for just a moment, and the bird reached its destination. I was jubilant inside as I pictured in my mind’s eye a mother bird hushing and comforting her frightened little babies.

I don’t know why that bird felt such a need to find refuge from the wind in that particular tree, but God sure spoke to my heart as I thought of how often I have the tendency to allow the storms of this life blow me away from the very one in whom I can find refuge and comfort. How often God has allowed the winds of adversity to blow so that I can mount up with wings and persevere against all the wickedness and corruption and godlessness of this world by flying to Him. Being a Christian isn’t always easy and many times we must fight against what seem like unbeatable odds, but we are encouraged by God’s Word to stand strong in the power of His might. We are told to put on the armor of God that we might be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. We are told to stand. Then, when we can’t do any more than stand, stand! Eventually, the wind will die down and God will reach out and pull us in close to his heart and allow his peace and comfort to come over us like a flood.

The next time the winds pick up and I feel tempted to give in and simply ride a convenient gust to some easy place and wait out the storm, I pray that God will allow a little bird to come into view and remind me to not be weary in well doing. For in due season I will reap if I faint not.

Long Live the King’s Brother!

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The Frightening Consequences of Fragmentary Knowledge and Partial Understanding

This is a bit of flash fiction I wrote a few weeks back as an introduction to a sermon. The message was that our level of personal sanctification will be in direct proportion to our view of Jesus Christ. When we don’t take the time to know and understand the fullness of who Jesus Christ is, we cheat ourselves.

giphyOne day an old gentleman of means and reputation was traveling through the forest on horseback to visit with his daughter, son-in-law, and their strikingly-handsome, newborn son when a terrible storm began to arise. Thick, ominous clouds moved in, enveloping the dense forest in a shroud of darkness. Thunder began to roll across the sky in dreadful moans. With a blinding flash, lightning reached down through the night-like sky and violently struck a tree directly in the path of the already skittish and leery horse. A deafening clap of thunder immediately following the lightning frightened the horse and sent him high upon his hind legs, spilling the old man to the ground. As the steed ran away at a full gallop, the old gentleman’s yells could not be heard above the noise of the storm.

Realizing he could not sit there in the rain, the old gentleman gathered himself and continued through the forest. He pulled at his cloak as the fierce winds threatened to rip it from his grasp. Several times he lost his footing and slipped, falling to the rain soaked floor of the forest. Once, the wind ripped a branch from a tree overhead, sending it careening through the air, missing the old man’s head by just a few inches, snagging and ripping his cloak before it continued down the path behind him. The skies grew darker, but finally, ahead in the distance, he saw a faint light beckoning from inside some sort of edifice. With hopes of shelter from the storm, the old gentleman increased his gait. As he drew nearer to the light, he realized it was coming from inside a cottage. His spirit brightened at the thought of sipping a warm mug of cider next to a cozy fireside.

By now, the driving rain was coming down in sheets and pelting the old man in the face, blinding him so that he did not even see the slough before him. In he tumbled. Choking, gagging and fighting against the thick, murky liquid, he flailed and kicked, struggling to keep his chin above the watery grave.

“I am on my way to see my first grandchild” the old man thought. “To die here, in a stranger’s yard and to be swallowed into the abyss by a slough will not do.”

In a final, desperate struggle for life, he reached the edge of the precipice and with all the strength he could muster, he pulled himself out of the sloppy, muddy, murky, pit and made a quick dash to the shelter of the front porch of the cottage.

Anxious to be relieved of his misfortune, he frantically beat upon the door, knowing that inside were the promises of a roof, warmth and hospitality.

The door slowly opened as those within could not imagine why anyone would be out tonight or why they would be calling upon them. As soon as the lady of the house saw the wet, filthy, bedraggled, shriveled up, old man she let out a shriek that brought her husband running to the door with a quirt. Without even giving the old man the opportunity to speak, the young man shoved him off his porch and sent him flying back into the mud. “Get out of here you filthy beggar. Times are hard everywhere. We don’t have anything for you.”

The old man feebly cried out, “I only seek shelter and warmth. Can I not come in and get warm and dry?”old_homeless_man_by_smythe01-d3j19dy

“What? And have you bring your filth into my home? I think not.”

“I can pay you” the old man cried.

The young man sneered at him. “What will you pay me with, old man, your stink and your dirt? Get out of my yard. You don’t have anything to offer me. Hurry up and scat before some of my neighbors and friends see you on my property and think I actually invited you.”

When the old man didn’t make an effort to move, the young man stepped forward with his quirt and gave the old man a contemptuous whack across his back. The old man cried out in pain, but crawled away and finally stood erect in the rain. He eyed the young man, lifted his jaw, turned and headed back to the forest.

 

The sun rose upon that little cottage the following day bringing prisms to life as glistening rain drops rested upon blades of grass. Spiders were busy rebuilding while birds chirped and checked on their young. Butterflies danced at their newness of life, and the day was full of promise.

From inside, the young man’s wife heard the sound of hoof beats upon the earth and roused her slumbering husband. “Husband, husband,” she said sleepily, “someone comes to call.”

The young man rolled over to meet the day and welcome his company when suddenly pieces of the front door went flying through the cottage as royal soldiers of the king burst through. Without a word, iron clad hands seized the young man and his wife and led them outside.

A soldier still sitting astride his mount gave the order, “Burn it!”

“Wait! No!” The young man pleaded while his wife looked on in mute horror. “This is all a mistake! I promise! You have the wrong man. You have the wrong house. You have the wrong family. We are nobody! Why are you doing this? What have we done?”

“Sir”, asked the royal guard, “last night, did you not beat a man with a quirt, refuse him shelter from the storm and send him back into the forest?”

The young man began to tremble, “Yes, but it was just a beggar, a dirty, filthy old man who wanted to bring his filth into my home. He was nobody. He was just a beggar.”

“Sir, did he not offer to pay you?”

The young man was beginning to regret his rash behavior, his condemning spirit and his condescending attitude. “Yes,” he said, a little quieter this time. “But he didn’t scared_man_by_lozzastiltskin96-d4cpaxrlook like he could pay. I told him I didn’t want what he had.”

“That man, sir”, explained the sentry, “is the brother of your King. He lives on the other side of the forest beyond the palace, and was on his way to visit his daughter and grandson.”

As the soldier unfolded the events which led up to the royal brother’s arrival at the cottage, the young man began to quake in fear, “Please, I didn’t know. I didn’t know. How could I have known?”

“Silence!” commanded the Royal Soldier. “You and your wife will henceforth be brought to the judgment hall of the King to be tried. But before you go, you should know that the King delegates all the business and authority of the courts in to the hands of his brother.”

A Response to a Dissilusioned, Independent, Fundamental Baptist

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This was written as a response to a blog in which a disillusioned, Independent, fundamental Baptist was giving his reasons why being a fundamental Baptist was no longer “exciting”. While he made some valid points, I felt he was throwing the baby out with the bath water and swinging the pendulum to the extreme other side. However, this response to his blog was excellent (In my humble opinion).

“Having been raised in a “true” denomination (Baptist General Conference) I was drawn to IFB because of its independence, passion, strong stand for “thus saith the Lord”, and it’s courage to pick up discarded doctrines (separation, true Biblical authority, the crystal clear Gospel, personal evangelism). Once “in” I was disillusioned by the lack of true independence it really had. While the pastor’s didn’t have a denominational director, per se, the pressure to fit in and appear conforming was the invisible ex officio denominational director in every flavor (aka camp) of IFB church.

When super structures are created and are as revered as Scripture then a group or movement is doomed to the “crabs in a barrel” phenomenon.

Having said that, we need to be thoughtful to not allow our current culture of fast-paced neuro stimulation addiction to revise the truth of the Early Church (or the Early IFB Church). I do not believe these times were “exciting”. I believe we read that they were quite the opposite: they were riddled with hard work, persecution, suffering, fear, discouragement, heart-break, physical injury and death (or the threat of both), financial challenge, etc. The NT epistles are basically correction for carnal believers, encouragement for persecuted believers, and sound doctrine for growing believers full of commands, exhortation, rebuke, edification, example, and evangelism.

To over-sensualize these “movements” is to create a false sense of hope that Christian work is somehow exciting and fun if we’d just make some changes. Paul needed to exhort them (and us) to “be not weary in well doing.” Serving God in a wicked, cursed world is hard…not exciting. Are there moments of excitement during the battle? Yes! But the routine of daily warfare is hard (2 Tim 2:3).

Remember, this is a war and our time is short. There is a devil. He and his host do not sleep. This is not the child of God’s time to build a comfortable life for themselves in Babylon…but to war and fight and rescue for our King and His Kingdom.

At the same time there is never any room for pride, envy, strife, self-righteousness, selfishness, politics (within the church), etc. MOST of the New Testament repeats this ad nauseam…this is not a new problem and this is not an IFB problem…it’s a sin problem. Sin always hinders the work of God and our effectiveness in the field. Sin taints our love for others, our ability to care and have compassion, our desire to “go” when “staying” is more fun (Netflix, Facebook, Video Games, Sports, etc). IFB is simply a reflection of you and me and the choices we’ve made and, like a real mirror, we don’t like what we see when we stop and stare. The solution? Others, Lord, yes others; let this my motto be: help me to live for others, Lord, that I might live for thee.

Note: Samuel grew up under the pastorate of Eli, Phinehas, and Hophni. Not once do we find recorded in Scripture Samuel’s dissertation of the problems with the EHP movement….but, rather, we see an individual who surrendered himself to the Lord and served the Lord all the days of his life.

Your church is only as strong as the individual members that make it up. Your duty is to be and to stay surrendered to God and encourage others in your church to do the same….firstly, by example, and secondly, with words.

Herein is true humility, righteousness, and leadership practically lived out. Herein is where Bible-based and Spirit-led improvement to the IFB exercised.

May God bless your submission to His Will and your Obedience to His Word and Spirit as you passionately serve Him!”

Our Walk Before God

Zch 8:8 (KJV)
And I will bring them, and they shall dwell in the midst of Jerusalem: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God, in truth and in righteousness.

If God is truth and righteousness to us, then how can we be any less to Him? When we come before God, we are to come in truth…

According to John 4:24, God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth. Therefore, before we can effectively worship Him, we must be sure that our lives are governed by truth. All truth is of God. There is no secondary source for truth. The plum line is God’s Word. John 17:17 tells us Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth”. As we read and meditate upon His word, His Spirit illuminates our mind and gives us understanding. He guides us into all truth, for He is the Spirit of Truth. John 16:13 tell us, “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.”

 We are to come before Him in righteousness. We are clothed in the righteousness of Christ by faith, but is our walk righteous? Are our words righteous? Are our works righteous? How do we know? We will know we are approaching God in righteousness when we are walking in his Truth. Walk in His truth and His truth will work in us. When our walk, our works and our words are governed by His truth, it will produce worship that is in truth.

Stonghold in the day of Trouble

Nahum 1:7
The Lord is good, a strong hold in the day of trouble; and he knoweth them that trust in him.

Notice that verse 7 is sandwiched between verses which speak of God’s wrath, condemnation, and destruction. In the midst of all this vengeance, God stops for a moment and placepassover bloods a parenthetical to let us know that He knows them who are His own.

This reminded me of Israel in the days of their Egyptian captivity. Pharaoh was trying to match wits and magic against the miracles and judgments of God. Finally, after nine other horrendous plagues, God said the first born of each house would die. During this entire time of God’s dealings with Egypt, Israel was protected simply because they were His people. This time, when God was to pass over Egypt, he told the Hebrews to place the blood of the sacrifice over their door and he would pass over them. True to His word, the judgment of God crept through the land of Egypt and every home realized the justice of God except those where the blood had been applied. Those where the blood was applied experienced mercy and grace.

Brethren, we are assured in the word of God that we are not appointed unto wrath. God knows those who trust in him, and in that day of trouble, rather than being a wrathful God to be feared, He will see the blood of Christ applied to our hearts by faith, and will be our stronghold of mercy and grace.

Jesus Preached a Prosperity Gospel

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jesus preachingMat 11:1-5
1 And it came to pass, when Jesus had made an end of commanding his twelve disciples, he departed thence to teach and to preach in their cities.
2 Now when John had heard in the prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples,
3 And said unto him, Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another?
4 Jesus answered and said unto them, Go and shew John again those things which ye do hear and see:
5 The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them.

 This passage of scripture has always intrigued me.  As soon as I read it, I am immediately reminded of the old Sesame Street song, “One of these things is not like the other. One of these things just does not belong.”

John’s disciples are sent to ask Jesus if he is truly the Sent One or are they to look for another. Jesus responds by telling them to tell John the of works and words which they have witnessed. The list included the blind receiving their sight, the lame walking, the lepers are being cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have the gospel preached to them.  Jesus is on a roll. He is telling of all the physical healings that are taking place and then throws in at the end, “and the poor have the gospel preached to them.” It appears that Jesus is meeting all the felt needs of the crowd until he gets to the poor. Then, rather than meeting their felt need, which would be riches or monetary gain, instead, he preaches the gospel to them. Why?

 The fact is, the gospel, when received, makes one richer than he ever could have imagined. When received, a person who has experienced the soul saving, life changing effect of the gospel wouldn’t trade it for all the riches in the world. I know I wouldn’t. I’d rather be a poor saved man than a rich lost man. Ask any truly born again believer which he would rather be. Just so I could be clear on this point, I asked Christians the question, “If you could receive any material good in this world, be it wealth or fame, in exchange for your salvation, what would you choose?” Did you know what the consistent, unequivocal answer was? Well, of course you do. Not one person said they would trade anything for their salvation. That’s rich!

 The gospel is inestimable. One cannot place a value on that which turns a house into a home? What amount of money can change the heart of a drunkard or dope addicted spouse and cause them to become a loving and caring husband or wife? What price would one put on a message that has the power to turn a rebellious teen into an obedient and respectful son or daughter who has a heart for God and his Word?  And the list goes on.

 Jesus knew exactly what he was doing when he preached the gospel to the poor rather than give them monetary gain. He knew the value of the gospel and the wealth it contained, and by giving these poor people that message, they became the richest in the crowd.

 Oh, praise God for His immeasurable riches in Christ!

Save Me From Myself!

 

Peters visionAs I was reading from Acts chapter ten regarding Peter’s vision about the clean and unclean animals, God spoke to my heart regarding the fact that we all have a tendency to become a little prejudiced in our religion. If we aren’t careful, we can come to the haughty place in our lives where we think others are unworthy of the privilege of the gospel while we ourselves are worthy. Certain classes of people or certain ethnic groups might leave a bitter taste in our mouth and, instead of stopping to remember that we were once aliens to and enemies of the cross, we begin to believe God is seeing through our eyes or judging according to our own standards of righteousness. May God take us up on the roof top as He did Peter and give us a vision of humanity, us included, lost in sin, hopeless and helpless without the glorious gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. May God rescue us from our own destructive pride and self-righteousness and allow us to see the world through his eyes of compassion and feel its plight as he does, with a broken and compassionate heart.

Like Christ

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Matthew 20:26-28

26 But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister;
27 And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant:
28 Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.

 Washing feetWhat a tremendous example the Lord Jesus sets before us in the passage above. He not only said this of himself, but he demonstrated it repeatedly as he walked among the people throughout his brief three and a half year ministry, and then ultimately upon the cross.

 Can the disciples of Christ do less than their Master? Can we truly call ourselves Christians (little Christs) when we live to be served rather than to serve? It was Christ who said in Luke 6:40 ~ “The disciple is not above his master: but every one that is perfect shall be as his master.” The word, “perfect”, as we understand it, is to mean “mature.” So then, as we mature in Christ, we are to emulate his nature and character. It’s understandable that a new Christian, in the formative stages of his Christian life, would want to soak up as much of the Word of God from the pew as he possibly can, but at some point that new Christian will desire to be ‘wrung out’, so-to-speak, by God, in service to Him.

 May God help us, as we strive to be the salt in this decaying world, to follow in his steps by praying and looking for opportunities to serve. Let us not only seek to serve at the church among believers, but also in the world, that men may see our good works and glorify our Father who is in heaven.

 A final thought for us pastors along these lines as well. Let it not be said of us that we simply desired to have a large enough congregation so that our needs could be met. Let us lead in faithful dependence upon God to meet our needs as we busy ourselves serving those he has put in our charge. Walk humbly among those saints whose God is forever watching as the under-shepherd cares for, feeds, sacrifices, and loves his flock.

Foul Fowl Flop

      We’ve all seen it, the car covered withbird-poop-on-car an enormous amount of bird droppings (henceforth called ‘flop’).  In an effort to escape the direct sunlight, some unwitting soul parks their car under a tree, not seeing the evidence of a bird sanctuary on the ground before they pulled in. Perhaps we should give those poor unfortunates the benefit of the doubt and consider the idea that quite possibly their assigned parking spot is a haven for roosting birds. Whatever the case, we’ve all looked on with either disgust or pity for the poor souls driving the vehicle.

 I saw that car yesterday. It really was an elegant car with a rather sophisticated woman at the wheel. We were at an intersection across from one another waiting for our light to turn green. She got the arrow first and began her turn. She seemed oblivious to the excessive amount of flop that assaulted her otherwise elegant carriage. I found myself judging her. I asked myself, “Doesn’t she realize how much flop is on her car?” Surely she did. How could she not? I couldn’t help but to stare as she turned right in front of me. I figured there was way too much flop on her car to be the product of just a single day. That had to be a week’s worth at the very least. I wondered why she didn’t wash the car. How careless she must be! How completely complacent and apathetic this made her appear!

 Just as I was about to pat myself on the back for having a somewhat clean vehicle, God gave me the proverbial smack upside the head. In an instant, I was reminded of how I must look to God as I go through the day being assaulted by the world. What makes matters worse is that sometimes I am as oblivious to the world’s flop as that lady seemed to be. That ‘harmless’ worldly song I listened to or sang along with at the store implanted a mental image of its message into my mind and on my heart causing me to have thoughts I shouldn’t have. I thought about that little bird of lust that defiles my soul, heart and mind as I watch television. The scantily clad women who parade around in front of me at half time or during the commercials, or the vile language that is used in the movies I watch. I imagine my ‘vehicle’ must get awfully filthy in a day’s time. And then there are days when I don’t even make it to the ‘wash’ to clean it up and the flop just compounds exponentially.

 After the Lord spanked me really good for being so judgmental and condemning, I tried to learn from this event. So, what did I learn? Well, for starters, why didn’t I even entertain the idea that maybe she was borrowing the car? It might not have even been hers. I jumped to conclusions without even knowing the facts.

 Lesson number one – don’t be quick to judge.

Conversation based upon fragmentary knowledge and partial understanding, accomplish nothing but rumors.

 Second – Avoid the flop.

As I mentioned before, there are tell-tale signs of potential danger zones regarding those shameless birds. Just look on the ground before resigning to a shady spot under a nice big tree. The evidence is sure to be there. The best looking parking spot might be the only one available for a reason. The same is true with my spiritual life. If I am to avoid the foul flop of sin, I must heed the instruction of 1 Peter 5:8 which says, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.” And Ephesians 5:18, which says, “See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise.” And again in Proverbs 4:14 & 15, which give these instructions: “Enter not into the path of the wicked, and go not in the way of evil men. Avoid it, pass not by it, turn from it, and pass away.”

 Third – If I can’t avoid the flop, then make sure I wash it off every day.

Car washes aren’t very expensive and will prolong the life of the car. Not only that, but I find that when my car is clean, I feel better about driving it around. As to my spiritual life, I find that I am in need of a daily cleansing. Ps. 119:9 says, “Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed thereto according to thy word.” It is true that if we do not take a spiritual bath in the morning before heading out to meet the day, many times we not only are susceptible to sin, but we actually pursue it. I need the daily cleansing that comes from a steady intake of the Water of the Word of God.

 The next time you happen to see one of those foul fowl flop covered vehicles, I hope you remember this little testimony and ask God to help you step back and take a look at your own “vehicle” through his eyes.

 As one of my seminary professors used to say, “Keep a bended knee, a sharp sword, and an eye on the sky.” God bless you.

Were His Parents to Blame?

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thiefA couple sit weeping in disbelief as their child is sentenced in a court of law for a crime they never would have guessed their boy or girl was capable of committing.

 A father, suspicious that his son might be using drugs because of a sudden change of friends and behavior, finds a bag of marijuana and some Ecstasy hidden in his bedroom.

 Parents, searching within themselves for the proper response to the gut wrenching announcement from their 15 year old daughter that she is pregnant, can only think of the shattered dreams they had for their little girl.

 A mother weeps at her bedside begging God to set her son back on the right path. She raised him in church but now he is eighteen years old and determined to do things his way.

 Many parents hope and pray they will never find themselves in any of the situations played out above. New moms and dads reading this will undoubtedly determine within themselves to never let these things happen to them and their children. They will do whatever it takes, make whatever sacrifices need to be made, and pay whatever price needs to be paid to make sure their children succeed in life.

 But just as sure as I am sitting here typing this article, I am positive there are parents reading this who did determine to protect their children from the steely knives of the world. They did make sacrifices, and they did pay dearly to make sure their son or daughter turned out right only to have them rip their heart out, toss it to the ground, step all over it, pick it back up and hand it back to them. Some parents reading this are all too familiar with the plethora of emotions the parents in the above situations are feeling because the same thing or something similar has happened to them.

 Parents of those children who have train wrecked their own lives by making really bad choices in spite of a good childhood and proper upbringing have something in common. They blame themselves. They wonder where they went wrong as a parent. They spend countless sleepless nights trying to figure out what they could have done differently to keep their child from ending up on this path of self-destruction. I wonder if there are any parents out there who have raised their children to adulthood who, at one time or another, haven’t felt like a failure.

 As I was reading in the Gospel of Luke the other day, I came across the story of a man who evidently was raised by God-fearing parents, but somewhere down the line this man, in adulthood, decided to forsake the instruction of his parents and follow a path that led him to death row where he was ultimately executed for his crimes. I’m sure that many who witnessed the execution from a distance wrongly judged his parents for his wretched circumstance, placing the blame on an ungodly dad or unrighteous mom. But had they been standing at the foot of the cross, they might have heard the entire conversation between Jesus Christ and the thieves on either side of him. If they could have heard the exchange, they would have realized that his parents weren’t to blame. Listen to that conversation.

 Luke 23:39-40 records, “And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us. But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation?” This second thief did not wind up on a cross because he feared God. The reverential fear of God in a person will cause him to do the right thing. I can’t prove it because this is the only record we have of this thief, but it’s very likely this man was taught from the time he was a child to revere and respect the things of God. Somewhere, sometime, he callused his heart toward God and lost that healthy and holy fear for him.

 We further read in verse 41, “And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss.” Here is a man who knew what he had done was wrong and wasn’t trying to blame everyone else for his demise. He was willing to accept responsibility for his actions and believed his punishment suited the crime. This kind of character doesn’t come from growing up in gangs and running the streets all hours of the night without parental supervision or accountability. Character of this nature doesn’t spring out of nowhere. Although it appears to have surfaced a little too late, it is nevertheless character that was ingrained in him as a child through a lifetime of teaching and modeling. We don’t know what caused him to subdue that kind of character, but one thing is obvious; knowing what was right and wrong, he chose wrong.

 And then finally, we read in verse 42, “And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.” This was not a simple Bible story that he had learned and remembered from his youth. This was Messianic prophecy! This man knew the Scriptures! Where and when did he learn that? We have no indication of his age, but whether he learned this in the synagogues as an adult or at his father’s knee as a child, this is all the proof we need to conclude that his parents weren’t to blame for his being executed on a cross. They steered him in the right direction and placed him on a path toward success. I’m sure it took them awhile, but I hope that in time they were able to lay their heads down at night knowing they did everything they could to ensure a happy and healthy adulthood for him. I hope they didn’t beat themselves up over his poor decisions. I hope they realized that in the end, the choice was ultimately his to make.

 The lesson that God taught me through this passage of Scripture, and the message I hope to convey to every parent reading this is to simply do our best in raising our children. Make time for them. Teach them to reverence God. Help them to know right from wrong. Instill in them godly character which guides them to accept personal responsibility for their actions. Teach them the Scriptures. There is no such thing as a perfect family unit and there is a measure of dysfunction in every home. But when we as parents follow the recipe that God laid out for us in regard to raising our children, then, if they choose to forsake our life long guidance and instruction, we will naturally be broken hearted, yes, but we can lay our head down with the comfort and assurance of knowing that we as parents were not to blame.

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