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GPS – Our Children’s Children

GPS – Our Children’s Children

by Rick Shrader

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Our eleventh, and last, grandchild came to Christ last month. This completes that specific prayer I have always had for each grandchild. But my prayers have only just begun, of course, as now there are eleven lives ahead that will take many twists and turns. In thinking of these eleven lives brought into the world by the four children my wife and I brought into the world, I want to remind young parents of five important truths about children.

Children are born with parents. “Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us” (Heb 12:9). It is a sad day in which grown people with brains think that children can come from two men or two women. Genesis says, “He created him; male and female He created them. Then God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply” (Gen 1:27-28). Children are offspring of a man and woman and are the specific responsibility of a husband and wife.

Children are born with God’s image. “So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created them; male and female He created them” (Gen 1:27). Human beings are the only part of God’s creation that are made in His image and after His likeness. We are not animals nor are we angels. That little one in the crib is an image bearer in this sinful world of a holy God, the imago dei in an untoward generation.

Children are born with gender. Even Jesus was saddened by the ignorance regarding gender and said, “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning made them male and female?” (Matt 19:4). I believe that the worst blasphemy toward God today is the self-denial of one’s gender, as if God made a mistake, or as if we know better than God, or as if our will matters more than God’s will for us. We still identify so-called transgender people as “biological males” or “biological females.” That is because neither their DNA nor their chromosomes, XY or XX, can change or be changed by mutilation. Gender is a gift from God specially designed for a purposeful life.

Children are born with sin. David admitted, “I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me” (Psa 51:5). We may laugh when we look at a new-born baby and say, “He’s a cute little sinner,” but that is more serious than we think. As Christians, we are realizing that this human being has an eternal soul that is lost. Without salvation from God this little one will spend eternity in hell. There cannot be a more serious prayer for a soul than a parent’s prayer. Not only that, but this little cherub can become a little demon if that sinful nature is not taken seriously. Children must be taught to “abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul” (1 Pet 2:11).

Children are born with responsibility. A child cannot be left to himself and be expected to grow into a proper adult. He needs discipline and love and instruction in God’s Word. I believe there are two areas in which a child must grow if he or she will be a godly adult. One is love and respect for parents. “Disobedience to parents” is mentioned among the worst of sins in the Bible (see Rom 1:30; 2 Tim 3:2). It is given in the 5th commandment as the key to long and healthy life. The second area is the love for God’s church. How can a person love God but not His family? Or how can a person love a Savior but not His bride? John said, “We know we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren” (1 Jn 3:14).

These and more make those little ones we bring into the world our joy and crown.

Book Review

God, Marriage, and Family. By Andreas Köstenberger with David Jones.

This rather large book is done almost entirely by Köstenberger with Jones contributing. Köstenberger is a Southern Baptist author and has been writing on the family for many years (In another volume, Equipping for Life, 2019, he co-authors with his wife Margaret). This large volume (2010) is a great help in areas of life such as God’s image, abortion, marriage as a covenant, divorce, adoption as an alternative, the biblical view of sex in marriage, singleness as a calling, and many related subjects for parents, old and new. He writes concerning God’s creation of male and female, “Thus equality and distinctness, complementarity and submission/authority must be held in fine balance. The man and the woman are jointly charged with ruling the earth representatively for God, yet they are not to do so androgynously or as ‘unisex’ creatures, but each as fulfilling their God-ordained gender-specific roles” (p. 26). This is a message badly needed in our mixed up generation.

“Conscious Co-Parents?”

Broadcast journalist Van Jones recently announced the birth of his third child by his recent girlfriend. He said that he wanted a child and so did she, so they “decided to join forces and become conscious co-parents.” This is a growing trend among celebrities as the article reports (WHAS11, ABC). Jones used a term (“co-parents”) that is usually reserved for divorced couples and applied it to any two people or group of people who want to have or raise children together. Ken Ham, in commenting on this arrangement, wrote, “Our culture says the makeup of a family doesn’t matter. Children can be raised by one parent, two parents (two moms, two dads, or a mom and a dad), three or more parents—it doesn’t matter as long as the parents love (however they decide what love means) the kids.  Science confirms that God’s design is what is best for kids! Children don’t thrive under just any family structure, as long as they are ’loved.’ Study after study confirms that there’s nothing better for children than living in the home of their biological father and mother, who are married to each other. That’s the very best family design.” (AiG, 2/28/22)

Statistics

The Barna Group posted a 2019 survey of Christian teenagers, asking them who influenced them the most during their teenage years. Of those who influenced them (mother, father, sibling, grandparent, friend, other relative, non-relative), when asked about going to church, setting an example, God’s forgiveness, and the Bible, in every category the most influential person was the mother and the next was a grandparent followed closely by the father. In only one category was the grandparent not second, teaching them about important Christian traditions. In that the grandparents were first.  Barna Group: What will it take to disciple the next generation?” Accessed 3/28/22.

Lessons on Prayer

“Likewise you husbands, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered” (1 Pet 3:7).  It is a sobering thought to realize that our prayers can be hindered! My wife and I are heirs together of the grace of life. We have a posterity of grace given to us and a progeny to whom grace must be given. As one writer put it, “We have a rich composted family history.” Rather than looking at one another critically, we must see how God has brought us together through generations of faith that we might serve Him together in our own time. We pray as husband, head, protector, provider, and wife, a “helper comparable to him,” that our prayers are not hindered.

The Last Paper Towel

From an entry on Facebook: The last paper towel on the roll. The one nobody wants. Some say it serves no purpose with all that glue on it. It was the foundation for all the other paper towels on that roll and now it has no purpose. Now think of a family member. A grandparent perhaps. For some they’re like the last paper towel on the roll. We think they have no purpose yet they have been the glue that’s held the family together for many years. They were the foundation for who we are. Hold on to those grandparents and make sure they know their importance. Without the last paper towel of glue……we’d all be napkins.

 

GPS – A Generational Ministry

GPS – A Generational Ministry

by Rick Shrader

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As we approach the month of March 2022, we are watching the invasion of Ukraine by the Russian army. It was a hundred years ago when Ukraine was being persecuted and starved by Joseph Stalin and the USSR. That persecution would last for another half-century until, by God’s judgment and the resolve of strong leadership, the USSR dissolved and Ukraine was again free. My father-in-law, Peter Slobodian, was born and lived in Ukraine during those days before WWII. His family had to flee to South America and it was there that they found the Lord. There he married Mary whose family had fled from Belarus. They met at a Russian/Ukrainian Bible Institute in Argentina, were married, and were blessed with two children there, Ann (now my wife) and Sam. They came to the US and were blessed with a third child, Debbie. Peter, along with Sam, began preaching over short-wave radio to their people under the Soviet Union. It was partly because of faithful men of God of that generation that Ukraine, Russia, and other nations were opened to the gospel. Most of those men are now with the Lord and their works follow them.

As I write, though the future of Ukraine and all other countries is unknown but to God, it is the grandfathers’ grandchildren and great-grandchildren who will minister to their own generation in their own countries. My generation of baby boomers stands in between, with one foot in an older, more moral, and civil world, and the other foot in a newer, more immoral, and immodest world.  We will soon be gone and their generation will be left holding the reins of ministry for years to come. Their job is no more difficult than their godly ancestors, but it is a God-appointed job for them and their children.

There are a number of reasons why their spiritual war will not be easy. The first is that we are seeing a dramatic shortage of Christian workers. As the world becomes more populous, the churches, schools, and mission agencies are turning out fewer and fewer God-called ministers. This isn’t their fault, it is ours. I was in Bible college and seminary in the day of large churches and college attendance. Now, fifty years later, my generation has enjoyed the success but has failed to challenge the next generation for service.

Secondly, the churches seem to be less serious about Christian dedication and holiness, and therefore less serious about God’s call to ministry. Don’t get me wrong, many local churches, large or small, continue to serve and worship God. However, there is a generation coming (that proverbial third generation, Judges 2:7-10) that has not seen or experienced the power of God in individual lives. This is the generation to which they will minister, into which their children will marry, and on whom their churches will exist.

Thirdly, the growing apostasy in the world and the drawing near of the end of the age will make the ministry much harder. Satan knows his time is short and his ministers will work overtime to deceive and corrupt both the people of God and the people of the world. The blessed hope of the rapture is our privilege and blessing, but it also brings the darkest times the church has ever known, setting up the tribulation period, a time of trouble, the likes of which the world has never seen (Matt. 24:21).

At a time like this, we are reminded that God is still in control. His purposes will continue into eternity. It is our job to be faithful and hear His “well-done.”

Book Review:

You Never Stop Being a Parent, Jim Newheiser & Elyse Fitzpatrick
I found this 2010 book by Jim Newheiser (Fitzpatrick only has minimal contribution) helpful and interesting when considering today’s problem of adult children who never leave home or parents who never let go of their adult children. The “empty nest” can be torture to controlling parents and Newheiser advises a “passport” system. “We gain passport with our adult children by treating him or her with love and respect. . . We lose passports when we nag, manipulate, and demand control.” Most of the book deals with adult children who cannot or do not leave home. Several areas of advice are given including finances, sharing the work, dealing with grandchildren, and having a time frame. One chapter deals with the common term “twixters,” children who postpone
adulthood into their thirties. They are variously called, “kidults,” or (Newheiser’s term)
“adultolescence.” In Britain, they are called “kippers—Kids In Parents’ Pockets Eroding Retirement Savings.” In Australia they are called “boomerang kids—you throw them out and they keep coming back.” There are numerous reasons why this time happens, some good and most not so good. In the end, I found this book an unusual look at today’s real problems.

GPS Groups

We started a GPS group at our church in February. This was simply an introduction meeting to explain how it works. I brought a biblical message on the responsibilities of grandparents. We had testimonies from two people, a handout on the phases of parenting, and memory verse assignments. We gathered concerns (more informally than planned) with which we want to deal in the future: unwanted divorce in children’s marriages, helping children through the “wandering years,” when children won’t or can’t leave
home, and older age ministry in the local church. Trying to reformulate a seniors’ ministry into an active group of parents and grandparents is on-the-job training! I’m learning as I go, but the process of working with godly grandparents, parents, and seniors is a huge blessing.

Statistics

Pew Research says, “The number of U.S. adults cohabiting with a partner is on the rise. In addition to the half of U.S. adults who were married, 7% were cohabiting in 2016. The number of Americans living with an unmarried partner reached about 18 million in 2016, up 29% since 2007. Roughly half of cohabiters are younger than 35 – but cohabitation is rising most quickly among Americans ages 50 and older. “Large majorities of Generation Zers, Millennials, Generation Xers and Baby Boomers say couples living together without being married doesn’t make a difference for our society, according to a 2019 Pew Research Center report. While 54% of those in the Silent Generation say cohabitation doesn’t make a difference in society, about four-in-ten (41%) say it is a bad thing, compared with much  smaller shares among younger generations.”

https://www.pewresearch.org. 8-facts-about-love-and-marriage
(accessed 2/23/22).

Lessons on Prayer

Does God really hear my prayer as I simply think silently, talking to Him? Of course. “Now Hannah spoke in her heart; only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard” (1 Sam 1:13). God rewarded her with a son, Samuel, the great man of God. God knows the number of hairs on every person’s head (Matt 10:30) and He also knows every person’s thoughts (Amos 4:13). My small, quiet prayers make a huge difference in the world. I’m praying for open doors to Shepherd’s Camp ministry in Ontario this summer, so God may have sent thousands of truckers to Ottawa to convince the government to open the borders! Who knows?

Legacy

(in Patrick Henry’s will)
“I have now disposed of all my property to my family: there is one thing more I wish I could give them, and that is the Christian religion. If they had that and I had not given them one shilling, they would be rich; and if they had not that, and I had given them all the world, they would be poor.”

 

GPS – A Generation of Seniors

GPS – A Generation of Seniors

by Rick Shrader

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Thank you for reading Aletheia. I am beginning the year with a new format, building on Senior Saints and Sensibility from last year. Ministering to the current generation of older saints is a necessary and biblical mandate. It is also biblical for the current generation of seniors to minister to their world in various ways including family, church, and evangelism.

We have too readily accepted the generational categories (sometimes called “cohorts”) such as baby boomers, gen-xers, millennials, gen-zers, and now gen-alphas. There are a number of organizations, such as the CGK (Center for Generational Kinetics), that lecture and instruct groups and companies on how to best advertise or cater to these “generations.” These categories place a person in a particular “cohort” permanently because of one’s birth date. In this view, you are never anything else and you are always assigned the characteristics of your generation. The most common use of these categories is the determination of age which, I confess, I use frequently (I’m a baby boomer, my kids are millennials, and my grandkids are gen-zers—generally).

The Scriptures don’t categorize individuals in such a way. The Bible talks of age, of course, but individuals move through life from one age or generation to another. Children are children regardless of when they are born, and seniors are seniors regardless of when they grew older. In spiritual perspective, the Scripture sees only two kinds of people, lost and saved, and basically assigns spiritual characteristics to each. By God’s grace any individual can change from lost to saved but will never move the other way. When the Bible speaks of the saved, i.e., God’s children, there are responsibilities as one grows. Children are to come to faith, to obey their parents in the Lord, to grow in wisdom and understanding, to choose a life’s mate carefully, to serve God faithfully, and then to minister these truths to the younger generation because of the experience one has gained. In this way we all experience every “generation” of life and have unique responsibilities at each stage.

I may call myself a baby boomer, sometimes acquiescing to the culture, yet I have experienced every age of life, from birth to my 70s, and am now a “senior” and also a “grandparent.” Regardless of the year in which I now live, I have biblical responsibilities that every Christian senior has had in every age. If you are a teenager, you have biblical responsibilities that every teenager has had in every age. Cultures have changed but the Bible has not, and God is asking the same thing of us that He has asked of every believer: righteousness, obedience, faithfulness, brotherly kindness and love, compassion, and service.

Since I am a senior, a parent, and a grandparent, I am searching the Scriptures for those mandates incumbent upon me at this time in my life. I find I have many responsibilities. Some of these come easily and naturally at this time, and some of these are difficult and exhausting. I face new challenges that I could not know at any other age (perspective, bodily aches and pains, nearness of death). God also asks things of me that I could have known earlier (spirituality, maturity, wisdom) but that I must know now if I am going to be faithful.

I hope that as this year progresses I can grow as a senior and encourage other seniors to do the same. That will be the thrust of this paper from my perspective. I trust that is your desire as well.


Book Review

“Grandparenting” by Josh Mulvihill

If you want a good place to start reading about your biblical responsibilities as a grandparent, I would recommend this book. Mulvihill wrote his PhD dissertation on grandparenting for Southern Baptist Seminary and turned that into his first book titled Biblical Grandparenting in 2018. That was a more detailed book that read like a dissertation but very profitable if you like to dig more. He then wrote a more readable version titled Grandparenting also in 2018 which still has the basic material and conclusions of his first volume. He writes, “Your grandchildren know what is most important to you and recognize if something other than Christ is the object of your greatest affections. The best thing you can do as a grandparent to pass on faith to future generations is love God with all your heart.” (Both editions are printed by Bethany House)

Click here for all Aletheia Book Reviews >>>


“GPS” Groups

We are looking to start a new fellowship of grandparents and seniors at our church. I think a good name for that group will be the same as this paper, “GPS” which stands for “Grandparents, Parents, and Seniors.” The name gives it a sense of purpose and direction. Our churches have done monthly meetings for senior saints for a long time with good success (called “Jolly Sixties” and various names). However, our society and culture have progressed to the point where we need to update and be more specific in our purpose. We need to learn how to communicate more effectively with our children and grandchildren and to minister in our local church as seniors. We must continue to pray as parents and to give wise counsel to our kid and grandkids. There are dozens of topics that need to be addressed to help us be wise seniors. We’re looking forward to putting feet to our thoughts and seeing what God will do.


Statistics

A 2019 Barna report, “Who is Responsible for Children’s Faith Formation?” shows that “spiritual formation begins in the home and continues in the church,” though the influence of schools is usually negative. 99% of pastors rank parents with the most influence, followed by the church (96%), followed by the Christian community at large (70%). It also shows that many parents are at a loss in communicating with the current generation of children—a great need for grandparents and parents to address. (Barna.com site accessed 1/9/22)


Lessons on Prayer

A.W. Tozer wrote of “Three Ways to Get What We Want.” One is to work for it, another is to pray for it, and a third is to work and pray for it. 1) Some things come by “the simple expedient of work.” “God will not contribute to our delinquency by supplying us with gifts which we could get for ourselves but have done nothing to obtain.” 2) Other things are out of our ability to obtain but are “altogether within God’s gracious will for us.” Prayer is the immediate thing for us to do. 3) “But there is a third category consisting of desired objects that work alone can never secure. . . This adds up to work and prayer, and it will probably be found that the greatest majority of desired objects and objectives fall within this category. And this situation brings us close to God and makes us His co-laborers.” (in Prayer:  collected insights from A.W. Tozer, compiled by W.L. Weaver. This is an excerpt from Tozer’s book, The Next Chapter After the Last.)


Ideas

In a book, Long-Distance Grandparenting, by Wayne Rice, I read of a man who had a burden to pray every day for his seven grandchildren. This man sent a Christmas present request to all seven grandchildren and their parents (spread out from Atlanta to Vancouver). The request was for each grandchild to send grandpa a coffee mug with his or her picture on it. He included a web-site for making the mug. When he received the seven mugs for Christmas, he named each day of the week after a grandchild’s name and used that cup on that day of the week to drink his morning coffee. He would pray for that grandchild on that day. Necessity is the mother of invention!

 

 

The Times and the Seasons

The Times and the Seasons

by Rick Shrader

When Daniel interpreted Nebuchadnezzar’s first dream he warned the king that it is the God of heaven Who “changes the times and the seasons; He removes kings and raises up kings” (Dan 2:21). That is an amazing statement! It should remind us that God sovereignly controls everything that happens in our world (His creation). As soon as the flood subsided God said to Noah, “While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and winter and summer, and day and night shall not cease” (Gen 8:22). I watched the beautiful sunrise this morning and thought about those statements and contemplated that the beautiful picture on the sky is painted by God’s almighty hand. I was thankful.

On our yearly American calendar, we have many “secular” holidays and two “religious” holidays. Though we should thank God for all of our freedoms and blessings, a growing secularism is eliminating God’s hand from all of these opportunities to give Him glory. On July 4 we should remember that God has given us freedom to live according to our conscience and religious convictions. Yet, that “secular” holiday passed this year as many were rioting, looting, and burning someone else’s private property. Many were tearing down statues, monuments, and anything that might remind us of God’s hand of blessing over the years of our history.

On November 25, Thanksgiving day, we should be giving God thanks for daily bread and continued provision just as He providentially protected and blessed those first Pilgrims in the midst of a devastating winter and growing season. Though many believing Americans still bow their heads reverently before partaking of God’s abundant blessing, our leaders were too embarrassed to acknowledge God’s hand and advertisers were too busy planning for black Friday and cyber Monday and the profits that can only be made during this special week.

Christmas is upon us. Paul wrote that Jesus came “in the fullness of time” (Gal 4:4), another one of those amazing statements regarding God’s sovereign control over times and seasons. It was not Caesar Augustus who decreed that Joseph and Mary must return to Bethlehem for the taxing but God Himself. Caesar was merely the pen in God’s hand. “The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us,” John wrote (John 1:14), because this would be the fullness of time for the first of two providential, sovereign events that would fulfill the purpose for God’s creation, the incarnation of God into flesh. We should be praising and thanking God for His great love wherewith He loved us in planning and performing the redemption of a lost world. But don’t look for governmental officials to lead the way, nor for commercial enterprises to advertise the sacredness of the season, nor for the media to picture anything other than trees, presents, and human emotion.

Imagine the Sovereign of all times and seasons planning the coming of the Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world, and that world ignoring it as something that must not be mentioned in public because it might offend. But God knew this also from the beginning. “He was in the world, and the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not” (John 1:10). “He was despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him” (Isa 53:3).

Easter is also coming on April 17th. It is doubtful that our attitude regarding these things will change before then. We should be praising God for finished redemption brought about by the death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of God in the flesh. “I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hell and of Death” (Rev 1:18). Will we only see bunnies and eggs and other pitifully secular celebrating? Probably.

For me, since I’m reminded that God made times and seasons as well as days and nights, I will thank God tonight for the sunset as I did this morning for the sunrise. I will thank God for the miraculous coming of the Son into the world, which we celebrate this winter, and also for the miraculous departing of the Son from this world, which we celebrate later next Spring. “When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You ordained . . . O LORD, our Lord, how excellent is your name in all the earth!” (Psa 8:3).

 

SS&S – The Times & Seasons

SS&S – The Times & Seasons

SS&S – The Times & Seasons

by Rick Shrader

When Daniel interpreted Nebuchadnezzar’s first dream he warned the king that it is the God of heaven Who “changes the times and the seasons; He removes kings and raises up kings” (Dan 2:21). That is an amazing statement! It should remind us that God sovereignly controls everything that happens in our world (His creation). As soon as the flood subsided God said to Noah, “While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and winter and summer, and day and night shall not cease” (Gen 8:22). I watched the beautiful sunrise this morning and thought about those statements and contemplated that the beautiful picture on the sky is painted by God’s almighty hand. I was thankful.

On our yearly American calendar, we have many “secular” holidays and two “religious” holidays. Though we should thank God for all of our freedoms and blessings, a growing secularism is eliminating God’s hand from all of these opportunities to give Him glory. On July 4 we should remember that God has given us freedom to live according to our conscience and religious convictions. Yet, that “secular” holiday passed this year as many were rioting, looting, and burning someone else’s private property. Many were tearing down statues, monuments, and anything that might remind us of God’s hand of blessing over the years of our history.

On November 25, Thanksgiving day, we should be giving God thanks for daily bread and continued provision just as He providentially protected and blessed those first Pilgrims in the midst of a devastating winter and growing season. Though many believing Americans still bow their heads reverently before partaking of God’s abundant blessing, our leaders were too embarrassed to acknowledge God’s hand and advertisers were too busy planning for black Friday and cyber Monday and the profits that can only be made during this special week.

Christmas is upon us. Paul wrote that Jesus came “in the fullness of time” (Gal 4:4), another one of those amazing statements regarding God’s sovereign control over times and seasons. It was not Caesar Augustus who decreed that Joseph and Mary must return to Bethlehem for the taxing but God Himself. Caesar was merely the pen in God’s hand. “The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us,” John wrote (John 1:14), because this would be the fullness of time for the first of two providential, sovereign events that would fulfill the purpose for God’s creation, the incarnation of God into flesh. We should be praising and thanking God for His great love wherewith He loved us in planning and performing the redemption of a lost world. But don’t look for governmental officials to lead the way, nor for commercial enterprises to advertise the sacredness of the season, nor for the media to picture anything other than trees, presents, and human emotion.

Imagine the Sovereign of all times and seasons planning the coming of the Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world, and that world ignoring it as something that must not be mentioned in public because it might offend. But God knew this also from the beginning. “He was in the world, and the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not” (John 1:10). “He was despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him” (Isa 53:3).

Easter is also coming on April 17th. It is doubtful that our attitude regarding these things will change before then. We should be praising God for finished redemption brought about by the death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of God in the flesh. “I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hell and of Death” (Rev 1:18). Will we only see bunnies and eggs and other pitifully secular celebrating? Probably.

For me, since I’m reminded that God made times and seasons as well as days and nights, I will thank God tonight for the sunset as I did this morning for the sunrise. I will thank God for the miraculous coming of the Son into the world, which we celebrate this winter, and also for the miraculous departing of the Son from this world, which we celebrate later next Spring. “When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You ordained . . . O LORD, our Lord, how excellent is your name in all the earth!” (Psa 8:3).

 

 

SS&S – Thankful for Older Age

SS&S – Thankful for Older Age

SS&S – Thankful for Older Age

by Rick Shrader

Can we really be thankful for growing older? It may not be part of our nature to think so, but it is part of our biblical responsibility. In fact, the Bible extols old age and makes it an example for others to follow. “The silver-haired head is a crown of glory, if it is found in the way of righteousness” (Prov 16:31). Like many of you, I have come to this time in life and I have found new challenges but I also have found that God’s Word is filled with admonitions, blessings, and opportunities. Old age is God’s will too, and I want to use it for His glory and finish my course with joy and the ministry which I have received of the Lord to testify of the grace of God (Acts 20:24). Here are seven reasons I believe we can be thankful for older age.

  1. We have earned the title of elder. I use the term in the general sense of an older person. “You shall rise before the gray headed and honor the presence of an old man, and fear your God: I am the LORD” (Lev 19:32). We have “earned” this title only because we have put in the years it takes to receive it. The Bible emphasizes elders in society, in the family, and in the church. An older person has simply seen more of life than younger people.
  2. We are learning humility. We have to! Old age forces it upon us and for this we are thankful. In my youth I thought I could conquer anything, do anything, be good at anything I did. In my older age I know I can’t. Age has natural limitations to it and we learn that these limitations are good for us. We don’t brag about things as we used to; we don’t see ourselves as God’s gift to the world; we don’t pretend to know things that we don’t know; and we don’t spend a lot of time worrying about our physical appearance.
  3. We have changed many priorities. Old age makes you downsize your living space, tighten your budget, stretch the use of many things you once threw away, and practice safety measures that you used to ignore. Better priorities have advanced in importance: prayer, church, children, friends, gospel, introspection. In his epistle, John addressed fathers as those who “have known Him Who is from the beginning” (1 John 2:12). I want to be a man of whom that would be true.
  4. We are longing for a different kind of wisdom. James wrote about “the meekness of wisdom” (Jas 3:13). This wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, then gentle, then easy to be entreated (vs 17). When was the last time someone sought out your wisdom? “Oh, that you had heeded My commandments! Then your peace would have been like a river, and your righteousness like the waves of the sea” (Isa 48:18). The meekness of wisdom should be a kind that can be sought, not a kind that needs promotion.
  5. We are learning to be servants. Servanthood and humility are much alike. A servant doesn’t choose which service he would like to do, it is handed to him, especially criticism, and that is something difficult for the younger person. But an older person knows he makes mistakes and he sees them in ways he never saw before. He also sees the impatience with his mistakes of those around him. If he can accept that and do his service anyway, he is learning true servanthood.
  6. We are praying more. One reason is because we have more time. I’m not retired yet but I don’t waste time as I used to either. Quiet time is easier now, especially early morning time. Another reason is that we know we can’t do as much as we used to do so we rely more on God to do it. I find a greater satisfaction to answered prayer than I ever had before.
  7. We’re closer to heaven than we’ve ever been before. Mortality doesn’t bring fear but hope. “The righteous has a refuge in his death” (Prov 14:32). It is not that the older saint wants to die, but knowing that death is inevitable, he is prepared for it and has learned with Paul that the next life is “far better” than this one. Who does not want “an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away” (1 Pet 1:4)?

So I choose to be thankful for my older age. The Bible commends it for many reasons and I find those reasons comforting. Life is often pictured as a race and we should press toward the finish line as a runner wanting to win. I know it can be difficult. The last leg of a race is always exhausting but ours is an incorruptible crown.

 

SS&S – Time to Pray

SS&S – Time to Pray

SS&S – Time to Pray

by Rick Shrader

Jonathan Edwards said, “Prayer is as natural an expression of faith as breathing is of life.” I would like to believe that is true in me but I fear it is often not. I feel more like Martyn Lloyd-Jones when he said, “Everything we do in the Christian life is easier than prayer.” Prayer seems to be one of those subjects that is easiest to talk about, even teach about, yet is hardest to do. I think if we were honest we would admit that our prayer sheet from prayer meeting is merely an ornament for the refrigerator door, and our agreement to pray for something is a good intention with little actual follow-through.

As I grow older I become more convinced than ever that prayer is the most important thing I do although it is still a demanding and difficult spiritual exercise. C.S. Lewis once called prayer the dignity of causality. That is, we can try to do everything ourselves or we can ask God to do it. Which do you think is more effective? But which one do you choose most often? Truly, one of the great blessings of life is that, if we live long enough, we grow out of the ability to do it ourselves and of necessity must ask God instead. I think long life is God’s way of forcing us to our knees.

Jesus instructed the disciples on prayer in the sermon on the mount and began by saying “When you pray” (Matt. 6:5). Not “if” or “perhaps” but “when!” Then He set the example of prayer in His own life, often retreating to a solitary place and sometimes praying all night! The apostle Paul so often instructed us in prayer with words such as, “Always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy” (Phil. 1:4). I believe he meant that word “always” and practiced it and I’m sure his list was not short.

Having my own list, and having children and grandchildren at the top of that list, I was struck and convicted by Job’s prayer and subsequent action, “And it was so, when the days of their feasting were gone about, that Job sent and sanctified them, and rose up early in the morning, and offered burnt offerings according to the number of them all: for Job said, It may be that my sons have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts. Thus did Job continually” (1:5).

I’m thankful that I don’t have to prepare four burnt offerings for my children and eleven more for my grandchildren every morning! But I can do this: “By Him let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name. But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased” (Heb. 13:15-16).  Being thankful, praising God for His blessing upon them, trying to do the good thing and communicating with them, and then there is that word again, “continually.” Now I find myself with more time and interest to do just that.

James said, “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much” (5:16). Do we really believe that our prayers avail to the point of changing things? First there is that word “righteous.” “For the eyes of the Lord over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers” (1 Pet. 3:12). But can they also “avail much?” Paul was a Roman prisoner when he wrote to Philemon and said, “Prepare me also a lodging, for I trust that through your prayers I shall be given unto you” (Phile. 22). Think about the natural way that the apostle makes this request to a little known man such as Philemon. As Edwards said, for Paul it was as natural as breathing. But think also of what confidence he had in Philemon’s prayer! “Your prayer will shake the power of the Roman Empire and cause them to release me!”

After Job’s long ordeal, he hadn’t lost his confidence in prayer. The last chapter records, “And the LORD turned the captivity of Job, when he prayed for his friends” (42:10). These weren’t necessarily his best friends either, but he prayed for them, not for his own sake but for the sake of truth in the world, and then God turned his captivity. I have close friends and distant friends and I must pray for them all. John admonished Gaius, “Greet the friends by name” (vs. 14). There was no one better at this than Paul, as the end of his letters show (see especially Romans 16). We need to hold one another up in prayer for the cause of Christ in the world.

If these things are true, then it is time to pray. Cast your cares upon Him because He cares for you. Spend time with Him outside the camp and commit your soul to Him as a faithful Creator.

 

Those Who Serve

Those Who Serve

by Rick Shrader

All believers would agree that serving is a biblical characteristic of a Christian. “Not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart” (Eph 6:6). There are about a half dozen Greek words for servant, the most common being the bond-servant (as here) harking back to the Old Testament bond-slave. Other words can mean a house-servant, a child-servant, a minister, a deacon, or even an under-rower in a sailing vessel. All of them picture one who is surrendered to a master but ultimately to the Lord Jesus Christ.

We often speak of serving one another as believers and church members, or even serving our fellow man. All of these are good but they are all done as part of our service to the Lord. “You are bought with a price; do not become the slaves of men” (1 Cor 7:23). Since serving is a common subject and properly pictured as a part of humility and self-sacrifice, we must be careful that our service does not become a mere show. Paul warned of a “false humility” of those who worship angels, being “vainly puffed up” in that act of serving (Col 2:18). Christians can fall into the same trap.

There are those who only want to be served. They look for a church that meets all of their needs and lavishes them with praise. They enjoy the ministries and facilities that others have provided but seldom if ever consider what they themselves can do to serve or minister to others. This may be a new believer who doesn’t know what he should be doing as a Christian, and this is often the picture of an unbeliever who only thinks the church is there as a service agency.

There are those who only want to be seen as serving. Jesus said, “Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them” (Matt 6:1). Jesus also used these same words about those who pray and those who fast merely to be seen by others. Sometimes we make a list of things that can be done to serve others and we check off those things that make us appear as humble servants. Perhaps it is necessary at first to be motivated by our selfishness to serve others but that false humility should quickly be put aside as we learn that serving is not for the purpose of being seen.

There are those who only want to be sitting after having served a long time themselves. Some good people feel it is time for them to sit and be served because they have earned it. This is where we older saints have to be careful. We truly have served the Lord and others for years and we are tired or perhaps we are physically unable to do what we once could. Yes, there are some great servants whose body is so worn out from a life of service that the simple tasks of life are difficult. Praise God for them! And yet, wouldn’t you love to have that servant praying for you? There is always a service to be done.

There are those, and we should all aspire to be, who just want to be stewards of God and faithful servants. There is a price to be paid for it. True servanthood does not seek to be seen or praised and seldom is; it gives itself to requests from others when it has as many needs for itself; it accepts constant correction and reproof from those who need correction themselves; it makes itself available to everyone except itself; its light is always on and its door open 24/7 and its phone is never on silent; its life is not its own. Paul summarized it as, “love never fails” (1 Cor 13:8).

I think there are three stages in life that match this description. The first is the toddler stage. A toddler is the one at home with the least say-so. He must sleep, eat, play, bathe, dress, and all the rest at someone else’s command. The second is the mother stage. Though she is the toddler’s boss, she is also his servant. She has given up hours of sleep; has fulfilled years of being the house servant; has been the cook, the launderer, the educator, the referee; and has sacrificed her youthful self for a household of others.

The third is the senior saint stage. Paul (“the aged”) said, “I will very gladly spend and be spent for your souls; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I am loved” (2 Cor 12:15). The senior stage is not pretty. It has few of those desirable earthly qualities and so is often ignored. Ah, then this is the time for true service! This is the time to spend and be spent, to love and not be loved, to pray, to work, to worship, to give, with no time for reward. Why? Because true service never fails, not in this life nor in the life to come.

 

SS&S – Those Who Serve

SS&S – Those Who Serve

SS&S – Those Who Serve

by Rick Shrader

All believers would agree that serving is a biblical characteristic of a Christian. “Not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart” (Eph 6:6). There are about a half dozen Greek words for servant, the most common being the bond-servant (as here) harking back to the Old Testament bond-slave. Other words can mean a house-servant, a child-servant, a minister, a deacon, or even an under-rower in a sailing vessel. All of them picture one who is surrendered to a master but ultimately to the Lord Jesus Christ.

We often speak of serving one another as believers and church members, or even serving our fellow man. All of these are good but they are all done as part of our service to the Lord. “You are bought with a price; do not become the slaves of men” (1 Cor 7:23). Since serving is a common subject and properly pictured as a part of humility and self-sacrifice, we must be careful that our service does not become a mere show. Paul warned of a “false humility” of those who worship angels, being “vainly puffed up” in that act of serving (Col 2:18). Christians can fall into the same trap.

There are those who only want to be served. They look for a church that meets all of their needs and lavishes them with praise. They enjoy the ministries and facilities that others have provided but seldom if ever consider what they themselves can do to serve or minister to others. This may be a new believer who doesn’t know what he should be doing as a Christian, and this is often the picture of an unbeliever who only thinks the church is there as a service agency.

There are those who only want to be seen as serving. Jesus said, “Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them” (Matt 6:1). Jesus also used these same words about those who pray and those who fast merely to be seen by others. Sometimes we make a list of things that can be done to serve others and we check off those things that make us appear as humble servants. Perhaps it is necessary at first to be motivated by our selfishness to serve others but that false humility should quickly be put aside as we learn that serving is not for the purpose of being seen.

There are those who only want to be sitting after having served a long time themselves. Some good people feel it is time for them to sit and be served because they have earned it. This is where we older saints have to be careful. We truly have served the Lord and others for years and we are tired or perhaps we are physically unable to do what we once could. Yes, there are some great servants whose body is so worn out from a life of service that the simple tasks of life are difficult. Praise God for them! And yet, wouldn’t you love to have that servant praying for you? There is always a service to be done.

There are those, and we should all aspire to be, who just want to be stewards of God and faithful servants. There is a price to be paid for it. True servanthood does not seek to be seen or praised and seldom is; it gives itself to requests from others when it has as many needs for itself; it accepts constant correction and reproof from those who need correction themselves; it makes itself available to everyone except itself; its light is always on and its door open 24/7 and its phone is never on silent; its life is not its own. Paul summarized it as, “love never fails” (1 Cor 13:8).

I think there are three stages in life that match this description. The first is the toddler stage. A toddler is the one at home with the least say-so. He must sleep, eat, play, bathe, dress, and all the rest at someone else’s command. The second is the mother stage. Though she is the toddler’s boss, she is also his servant. She has given up hours of sleep; has fulfilled years of being the house servant; has been the cook, the launderer, the educator, the referee; and has sacrificed her youthful self for a household of others.

The third is the senior saint stage. Paul (“the aged”) said, “I will very gladly spend and be spent for your souls; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I am loved” (2 Cor 12:15). The senior stage is not pretty. It has few of those desirable earthly qualities and so is often ignored. Ah, then this is the time for true service! This is the time to spend and be spent, to love and not be loved, to pray, to work, to worship, to give, with no time for reward. Why? Because true service never fails, not in this life nor in the life to come.

 

Respecting Ourselves as Elders

Respecting Ourselves as Elders

by Rick Shrader

The writer of Proverbs said, “The silver-haired head is a crown of glory, if it is found in the way of righteousness” (Prov. 16:31). Also, “The glory of young men is their strength, and the splendor of old men is their gray head” (Prov. 20:29). The Bible is clear about respecting our elders, i.e., the older men and women among us. “Honor your father and mother, which is the first commandment with promise” (Eph. 6:2); “You shall rise before the gray headed and honor the presence of an old man, and fear your God: I am the LORD” (Lev. 19:32).

We have heard all our lives, and correctly so, that we should treat our older people with respect. The Bible is plain. We also have preached to and scolded the young people when they fail to do this. Obviously, every generation has to work at respecting its elders, or else why would we have these admonitions from thousands of years ago? Paul lists disobedience to parents” among the worst sins (2 Tim. 3:2; Rom. 1:30). We have also read dozens or hundreds of examples of disrespect in our own generation and there is no doubt we live in an unprecedented time of disdain for authority.

I am asking in this article, however, if elders today don’t display their own level of disrespect toward old age, and if we aren’t as guilty of those biblical admonitions as anyone else. I don’t mean that we can’t laugh at ourselves. In fact, I enjoy those “oldies” jokes as much as the next person. I believe that older people are much better off with a sense of humor about their age rather than taking offense, because it isn’t going to change and you can’t fight it. So it is not that seniors laugh at themselves or truly struggle with the pains of older age, but that we sometimes fight against God Himself over the experience of old age. We just don’t like it and wish it were different. Here are a few thoughts.

Old age is a time appointed, we shouldn’t fight it. Death is appointed to all people because of sin (Heb. 9:27). Moses wrote that God returns us to dust after 70 or 80 years because of our sin and it is only afterwards that we can “fly way” (Psa. 90:10). The marks of age are the pointers in that direction and it is God’s will that we go that way. If we think correctly, we should honor it.

Old age brings burdens and these are our stewardship. Again Moses said, “Their boast is labor and sorrow” (Psa. 90:10); Solomon said, “I have no pleasure in them” (Ecc. 12:1). David said, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for You are with me” (Psa. 23:4). I know this is a tough assignment but this is the greatest time of testimony in your life. It witnesses to your faith in Christ’s resurrection and your confidence in eternal life.

Old age is ridiculed by youth but this is the time of teaching and discipleship. We live with those aging maladies: we can’t see as clearly anymore, we can’t always hear what some are saying, we can’t recall details as sharply as we once did. This is the whole subject of Ecclesiastes 12. Sure, we feel the sympathetic response of some as if they are sorry for us. Shouldn’t we rather say with Solomon, remember your own Creator while you are young because these days are coming on you as well? (Ecc. 12:1). The conclusion of that chapter is that the whole duty of man is to fear God and keep His commandments (vs. 13). Let’s show that our older age has increased our ability to do that!

Old age brings good and bad and we should accentuate the good. Besides all of those negative things that come with aging, there are many more positive things that we didn’t pay attention to before. This is hard, but don’t wallow in the difficulties as if “nobody knows the trouble I see.” Everyone knows them, or will. Be the exception to that rule. You are wiser and godly; you have strength to overcome these hardships; you have perspective on life that the younger ones can’t have; you even have time to devote to God that a busy life didn’t afford you. Say with Moses, “So teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Psa. 90:12).

I noticed that when Moses and Aaron were leading the nation out of Egypt that they constantly consulted the elders (Exod. 3:16, 18; 4:29; 12:21; et al). Rehoboam failed to do this (1 Kings 12) and Jeremiah lamented that destruction had come to Jerusalem because the “elders were not respected,” nor “shown favor” (Lam. 4:16; 5:12). Generations before may be guilty of this but let’s not encourage it ourselves.