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GPS – Headship in the Human Family

GPS – Headship in the Human Family

by Rick Shrader

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From the beginning God created men and women to be in a marriage relationship with the man as the head of the woman. This was never a master/slave arrangement but rather a complementarity of assigned roles among equals. The Bible gives examples of what this relationship looks like.

In the Godhead.  “The head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God” (1 Cor 11:3). The Father and the Son, though equal in essence, are complement in function or person. “Priority is not necessarily superiority.” Two can be equal with one as the head. Jesus said, “I always do those things that please Him” (John 8:29).

In the Garden. Adam and Eve were both created in the image of God and thus of equal worth as human beings (Gen 1:27; Gal 3:28). Yet the man is the head as the spiritual priest of the new family, having been created first and from the ground; having named the woman as Eve and mother (Gen 2:23; 3:20), being responsible for the tree and for Eve’s first disobedience (1 Tim 2:14). We sinned in Adam, not in Eve.

In the First Marriage. “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him  . . . Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife” (Gen 2:18, 24). Now Adam had a helper in his dominion mandate. “Then God blessed them, and God said to them . . . Have dominion’ (Gen 1:28). It is not the woman who leaves father and mother but the man. He will begin a new family with her as his partner. He will be the tiller of the ground (from which he came) and she will be the filler of the earth (responsible for the body out of which she came). Complementarity is not a result of the fall but of the sinless creation of man and woman.

In the Fall. Paul makes it clear that though Eve was first deceived (1 Tim 2:14; 2 Cor 11:3) we sinned in Adam not in Eve (Rom 5:12). The human race was in Adam (Heb. adam, “man,” Gen 2:7; “mankind,” Gen 5:2; “sons of men,” Prov 8:31) and therefore the sin is truly ours as a member of the race of “man.” In the punishment meted out by God, Adam would still till the ground but in sweat and Eve would still bear the race but in pain. Both would do their part in the dominion mandate and the complementary responsibilities would remain the same.

In the Family. Now when we are told that “the head of woman is man” (1 Cor 11:3) we understand the nature of that headship. Submission is not inferiority and headship is not superiority. Headship is leadership and submission is followership. This arrangement was ordained by God in humanity’s innocence in the garden. Husband and wife find their God-given purpose in the family relationship. Children also find their purpose in their submission to parents (Eph 6:1-3).

In the Church. “There is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3:28). All Christians are equal as children of God. Yet in the preaching of the gospel and the pastoring of the church, only men are found in the New Testament (1 Tim 3:1-7, Tit 1:5-9). Women find their fulfillment in a complementary role (1 Tim 2:12; Rom 16:1-3) as has always been the case in God’s world.

And so. We will come back to the subject of grandparents in this arrangement. Children grow up and start their own home. A grandparent’s role changes but never loses a spiritual influence. “Wisdom is with aged men, and with length of days, understanding” (Job 12:12).

Book Review

Men and Women in the Church  By Kevin DeYoung

I have read Kevin DeYoung on a variety of topics and have always found him helpful. This paperback book (of about 150 pages) is one of the best things I have read recently on the family and which closely aligns with the article in this paper. He writes, “So what is this book about? In simplest terms, this book is about divinely designed complementarity of men and women as it applies to life in general and especially to ministry in the church.”  Of creation DeYoung writes, “The man’s primary vocation is ‘naming, taming, dividing, and ruling.’ The woman’s primary vocation involves ‘filling, glorifying, generating, establishing communion, and bringing forth new life.’” Of the effects of the fall he writes, “The marriage relationship, which was supposed to be marked by mutually beneficial headship and helping, becomes a fight over sinful rebellion and ruling. God designed sexual difference for one another; sin takes sexual difference and makes it opposed to one another.”

DeYoung wrote this book in 2021 so it is up to date on marriage and church issues. In this volume he will also cover the headship issues in 1 Corinthians chapter 11, the marriage of Christ and the church in Ephesians chapter 5, and the preaching/teaching order in 1 Timothy chapter 3. For solid biblical information on these issues as well as gender and complementarity, this book will be a great read.

Statistics

The multi-generational household (where more than one generation of families live together) has been fluctuating back and forth for a century. The Pew Research Center points out that in 1900, 57% of adults 65 and older in the US lived in multi-generational households, whereas by 1990 only 17% did. That dramatic drop was due to the mobility of seniors created by retirements, Social Security and Medicare, and post-war prosperity. This created what is called “the social contract,” the so-called agreement between generations, “you leave me alone, and I’ll leave you alone.”

Pew Research is reporting that recently, beginning in about 2008, the multi-generational household is making a comeback with over 6.6 million seniors living with children and grandchildren. This is due to the down-turn in the economy but also to the fact that Boomers have a whole generation of children who are now able to provide for them in their senior years. A real question becomes, who is the “head” of the multi-generational household? 58% of the time it is the grandfather, in 42% of the time it is the son (depending on who moved in with whom!). Pew Research Center, “The Return of the Multi-Generational Family Household,” accessed 8/29/22.

A Short Word Study

Most people are afraid of dying. They kid themselves about what’s on the other side of death. The believer has assurance that death is just the door to a far better existence, that to be “absent from the body” is to be “present with the Lord” (2 Cor 5:8). The Psalmist said, “You will guide me with your counsel, and afterward receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but you?” (Psa 73:24; see also 49:15). The word “receive” (laqach) is used of Enoch in Gen 5:24, “And Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took (received) him.” It is also used in 2 Kings 2:10 of Elijah, “If you see me when I am taken (received) from you, it shall be so for you.” Paul knew that to die and be separated from our body is to be immediately taken into God’s presence. One day, however, the trumpet will sound for the whole church and living believers will be “caught up” (received)together to meet the Lord in the air (1 Thes 4:17), body and soul together! In either case, as the Psalmist expressed, “Whom have I in heaven but You?”

On the Light-Hearted Side

Jacob was 92 and Rebecca was 89 and they were engaged. As they were walking they passed a drug store and went in. “Do you have heart medication?” they asked. “Yes, of course” was the answer. How about for rheumatism?” “Yes, of course.” “Arthritis, jaundice?” “That too.” “What about wheelchairs and walkers?” “All speeds and sizes” was the answer. “Great,” Jacob said, “We’d like to use this store as our bridal registry.”

 

The Shrinking Ministry

The Shrinking Ministry

by Rick Shrader

There have been a number of articles, books, and statistics shared recently that have highlighted the fact that the number of pastors, missionaries, and full-time Christian workers is declining in the 21st century. Churches find it difficult to locate or call new ministers. Mission agencies report that their numbers are shrinking every year. Schools at all levels are smaller with fewer students in each one. George Barna published an article titled, “The Aging of America’s Pastors” in which he showed that there are more pastors over the age of 65 than under the age of 40. In 1968 55% of pastors were under 45 years old, but by 2017 only 22% were under 45.

In the Spring ’22 edition of The Baptist Bulletin, Mel & Kristi Walker gave 6 reasons for the decline including the price of theological education, Covid burnout, inward-focused churches, a lack of motivation, family opposition to ministry, and the difficulty of ministry. In the Summer issue, Brandon Crawford also gave 6 reasons adding the demographic challenge of waning veterans and veteran benefits, and the ecclesiastical challenge of smaller churches with smaller salaries and opportunities. Each of these articles referenced Woodrow Kroll’s 2002 book, The Vanishing Ministry in the 21st Century (the 1991 edition was about the 20th century). After reading the book, I was impressed by Kroll’s insight and predictions of a vanishing ministry from so many years ago. During these years Kroll was president and teacher of Back to the Bible Radio Program and former president of Practical Bible College (now Davis College, Binghamton, NY). Kroll lays much of the blame on the increasing secularization of Bible colleges, the lack of emphasis for commitment at Christian schools, and the “upward mobility” of Christian families which discourages youth from ministry.

I found these and other concerns about the shrinking ministry very helpful, insightful, and concerning. I am 72 years old and have been in ministry for about 50 years. When I entered Bible college in 1968, all Bible colleges were full with not enough housing and classroom space to meet the need. When I entered seminary in 1972, there were 100 male students (plus 2 girls, one of whom I was fortunate to marry) of which the great majority entered full-time ministry. As a seminary student there were many opportunities to serve in local churches and I served as a youth pastor and interim pastor during those early years. Throughout my years of ministry I have been privileged to teach in Bible colleges and serve on Bible college and seminary boards. I have been pastoring since 1985. I’m simply saying that my generation has seen a lot come and go. I want to add a few of my own observations about the problem of shrinking ministry and then join these men and others with some possible solutions.

What are some reasons? 1) The cost of college or seminary education is an obvious deterrent to ministry but it also is unavoidable in the 21st century. Nevertheless, if a student leaves his education years with huge debt, it is very difficult or impossible to live on a minister’s salary, especially as a new or young pastor. Associate positions are even more difficult to afford. 2) The rise of para-church (and related) ministries has pulled many of our potential ministers away from local church work to greener grass in other places. We seldom get these workers back into our local church ministries. 3) I also think that the dissolving of our denominational names and the weakening of our fellowship and associational ties causes many of our men to be pulled away from our churches. As a young man myself I bristled at the feeling of being a cog in a fellowship machine. Then I realized that Sunday schools, youth groups, youth camps, Bible colleges, seminaries, mission agencies, church planters, all complete a necessary cycle for keeping like-minded ministry going. As these connections became looser, schools, churches, and mission agencies have suffered. 4) I agree that the Covid years have hurt churches and schools. The necessity of live-streaming and zooming has resulted in less in-church attendance in-class enrollment. Our services and schools may be available to people and students all over the world (and praise the Lord for it!) but those good men are not available to our churches or mission boards. 5) Kroll has a chapter called “WAGAPS School Teachers.” That stands for “We’re As Good As Public Schools.” He even says, “In his effort to provide a superior education, the WAGAPS Christian school teacher drives his students as far from life-time ministry as possible.” Kroll’s point is that many times our schools (and I would add our churches) have tried so hard to keep up with the cultural Joneses that we have unwittingly pushed our young people away from ministry which appears less acceptable. 6) Lastly, I will combine a few concerns. Pastors, teachers, and church parents have not raised up a generation for ministry. Our own children may be discouraged from ministry; our associates and assistants do not follow through into further ministry; we have often cursed our own cause to the point that young men do not want our conservative churches; and we have pushed an “upward mobility” mindset to the point that young people either cannot or will not “consider the cost” of ministry. I only add these few possible reasons for a shrinking ministry to the observations of others.

Are there solutions? Taking the four sources I’ve mentioned, there are some 19-20 “reasons” (many overlapped) given for the decline. Also, from these sources there are some 17-18 “solutions” offered. Space does not allow me to list them but they are easily accessible. I will add a few of my own. 1) I concur with the need often mentioned for better mentoring of young men and more intentional presenting of the “call” of God to ministry and the “surrender” of a man to God’s call. Kroll added the “burning of the bridge” behind a man who answers God’s call. This is a proper emphasis for youth camps and mission trips, but why not for our pulpits and classrooms as well? 2) With so many churches on the verge of closing or giving up, I believe we need to be more open to accepting men of varying educational backgrounds for varying levels of ministry opportunities, even godly and intelligent laymen. There are many churches and ministries where a seminary education is necessary, but there are many ministries where college level or institute level preparation would be welcomed. After all, most of our theological schools started as Bible institutes (including Spurgeon’s and Moody’s) when other schools could not supply the need and then they grew into their current status. Today, a young man accepting a position in a needy church can easily further his education online while gaining valuable experience. 3) We have many good and qualified men serving in associate roles who could and should move on to leadership roles. I realize there are many obstacles for such a man and his family including finances and location, but the churches have needs and these men are able to fill those needs. I know of single men and women who have moved to far-off locations just to find a church to which they could be of some help—and they are warmly welcomed. 4) There are many small rural churches that are being ignored by young men due to various reasons. Perhaps it would require a by-vocational situation for a while (not always) and would bring little or no personal recognition. Perhaps a man would have to be more traditional than he would like. I believe these churches afford a great place to learn to preach, administrate, love people, marry them and bury them. Isn’t that ministry? In addition, these situations allow a man to study, grow, even continue his education and these churches would love to have them. 5) All of our fundamental and conservative churches and ministries need to re-evaluate where we came from and why we are here. The church at Ephesus was scolded by Jesus for leaving her first love. The solution was to remember, repent, redo, or else be removed (Rev 2:5). There was no more strategic church in the first century than Ephesus. However, in 30 years, with such leadership as Paul, Timothy, and John, it had lost its way and needed to go back to the basics. The pull from culture today is worse than it was then. Churches and movements often lose their way in a generation or two. Perhaps it is time for us to remember where we came from, repent of where we are headed, and redo our purpose before we are removed due to ineffectiveness. Our ministry may be shrinking and the laborers few, yet the fields are still white unto harvest. Ministry is not a career opportunity nor a path to success. It is service. Our rewards come in the next life. There are still plenty of places for service for the one with the servant’s heart.

 

GPS – The Junctions in the Road

GPS – The Junctions in the Road

by Rick Shrader

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Life is a series of intersections which demand a choice of one direction over another. Paul found this true on the beginning of his second missionary journey in Acts 16. He wanted to turn left to Asia but was “forbidden by the Holy Spirit” (vs 6). Then he wanted to turn right toward Bithynia but “the Spirit did not permit them” (vs 7). He ended up in Troas until God called him to Macedonia (vs 10). God knew that the right turn at the right time would make a world of difference in Paul’s ministry. It would be nice if we all had the advantage the apostles had of direct revelation from God for even the smallest decisions. But we don’t.

The greatest junction in any person’s life is the decision to accept Jesus Christ as Savior. This, of course, will change everything in a life. The second greatest choice is the choice of whom we marry. Young people cannot see all the changes and directions that being married to this person will bring. Your children will be the life-long image of you and this person. The relatives with whom you spend the rest of your life will be determined by this person. Where you live, the occupation you have, the life-style you choose, even the way you worship, will be determined by this choice of a marital partner. Choose wisely!

Robert Frost began his famous poem by writing, “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and sorry I could not travel both and be one traveler, long I stood and looked down one as far as I could to where it bent in the undergrowth.” We can stand at the junction in the road and look a little ways down that road but we cannot see past the first turn. Beyond that is the unknown. Fortunately for the believer, God sees it all and knows which way is best. But we must be in proper fellowship with Him if we are going to know His will for this choice. God can work things out for good wherever we go, but there is still that “good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God” (Rom 12:2). The job of parents and grandparents is to advise and counsel our children through these turns in the road. Even if we made mistakes ourselves (and who hasn’t?), we have learned and become wiser. We cannot make the decisions for our adult children, but by keeping the communication lines open we can be the help that makes  the difference.

Once we start off down the chosen path, there is a point where we cannot go back. This can be a blessing or have difficult consequences. Choosing the right partner in marriage, answering God’s call to ministry, going to the right school for education, are examples of blessings in our choices. A deserting partner in marriage, an offer of a drug or drink, a conviction of a crime, are choices that carry life-long consequences or an un-reversable change of direction.

But I also believe there is a point where the decision of a certain direction can be reversed. In the Bible it is called repentance. God can bring immediate conviction and discomfort to your heart that warns you of a wrong direction. He may bring someone into your path with good advice that warns you and changes your mind. Jesus told the church at Ephesus that they should remember where they took the wrong turn and then repent and go back to that point and start again (Rev 2:5). Part of our job as parents is to catch the child in a wrong direction while there is still time to turn around. This can require tender or tough love because our child cannot see very far ahead. You can. You’ve been there. If any of us lack wisdom, let us ask of God, Who gives it to all of us liberally.

 

Book Review

The Vanishing Ministry in the 21st Century.  By Woodrow Kroll

I have been following a series of articles on the shortage of ministers needed to fill ministry positions. These articles referenced this book by Woodrow Kroll, the former president of Back to the Bible Radio Program and former president of Practical Bible College (now Davis College). Kroll wrote a first edition in 1991 on the 20th century need, and followed that by this second edition in 2002. Kroll, being a college man himself, spends a lot of time in the book relating the history of college trends that have hurt ministry rather than helped. The foremost of these is the watering down of “vocational” ministry majors with non-ministry majors. This has been primarily due to the need of tuition income but it has also caused the percentage of ministry majors to decline. Kroll devotes chapters to his reasons for a decline in ministry-minded men: Secular self-interest; upwardly mobile parents; misguided Christian school teachers; social mission work rather than gospel work; false calls to the ministry as well as call to ministry without follow-through. Among his few solutions is the return to preaching the call of God on a young man’s life and the challenge of ministry as a vocation to our young people. At the end of the book (in 2002) he presents the new millennial generation as a bright hope for the future. Sadly, Kroll’s optimism at this point has failed to materialize. In fact, Barna points out (in 2017, see below), “The lack of leadership development among millennials and Gen-Xers and the lack of succession planning among Boomers” have contributed to the lack of ministers today.

Statistics

George Barna’s article “The Aging of America’s Pastors” (March 1, 2017) gave some interesting statistics on the diminishing ministry. There are currently more pastors over the age of 65 than under the age of 40. In 1968 55% of pastors were under 45 years of age, and in 2017 only 22% are under 45. When Barna did his first study on this in 1992, only 6% of pastors were 65 or older but 25 years later 17% are over 65. Barna attributes the rising number of senior-aged pastors to longer life span, economic need, and to “second-career clergy,” i.e., men entering the ministry later in life, and also to the lack of younger men taking their place. In addition to these declining numbers, Brandon Crawford (Baptist Bulletin, Su ‘22) relates that 80% of college and seminary ministry graduates will quit within 10 years.

Kroll cited a number of statistics in his book concerning the “vanishing ministry.” In giving a history of the problem he quotes Higher Education in Transition, “While the majority of college graduates of the 17th century entered the ministry (as preachers or missionaries), this percentage dropped to 50% in 1750, 22% in 1801, and 6.5% in 1900. This trend continued throughout the 20th century. Among freshmen who entered college in the fall of 1980, for example, less than half of 1% indicated ‘clergy’ as their probable career occupation.”

What Can Seniors Do?

Most solutions for the reduction in ministers available to churches have to do with schools, finances, and mentoring young men. These are all important. We have a growing percentage of seniors in our churches as well, so some of the responsibility falls on us. 1) We can encourage our older pastors to remain longer or be more proactive in guiding the church through the transition period. 2) We can welcome the ministry offered to us by younger men in the church. Younger men might see the call of God on their lives if they had opportunity to minister in various ways within the church. 3) We can also rely more on ourselves for lay leadership from within the church, even in the area of pulpit supply, visitation, and teaching. The immediate future may demand that the older, godly saints do many of the things paid staff once did. 4) Finally, we can encourage our own children to encourage their children to listen for God’s call on their lives. This will take living as examples in ministry, believing that a life in ministry is greater than an upwardly mobile secular life, and praying specifically and diligently.

Give of thy sons to bear the message glorious; Give of thy wealth to speed them on their way; Pour out thy soul for them in prayer victorious; And all thou spendest Jesus will repay.

 

GPS – Two Deadly Inheritances

GPS – Two Deadly Inheritances

by Rick Shrader

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One of the blessings of our lives is the inheritance we received from our parents. “The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places; yes, I have a good inheritance” (Psa 16:6). “A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children” (Prov 13:22). Sometimes there are family heirlooms and other material treasures that we pass from generation to generation. Sometimes there is monetary inheritance left from parents or grandparents. The best kind of inheritance is a godly inheritance. “Our fathers have told us. We will not hide them from our children, telling to the generation to come the praises of the LORD, and His strength and His wonderful works that He has done” (Psa 78:3-4). Every Christian parent and grandparent should store up such treasure to leave for the generations to come.

Sometimes the good things we leave behind can be used in wrong ways. Obviously riches or fame can spoil a child and even lead to ruin The lists of the kings of Israel and Judah are filled with fathers and sons (and sometimes mothers) who passed on the throne only to see it ruin the next son in line. Good king Hezekiah’s son was the evil Manasseh. Josiah’s son was the evil Jehoahaz. Samuel’s sons did not serve the Lord, nor all of David’s sons, nor Solomon’s.

One sad story is the son of David named Adonijah in 1 Kings chapter 1. As David was dying, Adonijah (from David’s wife Haggith) proclaimed himself the new king of Judah. We know, however, that Solomon (the son of Bathsheba) was David’s pick to be  king. Adonijah’s usurpation didn’t last long as David and Bathsheba quickly anointed Solomon the rightful king. Adonijah had to flee for his life and was eventually killed by Solomon for his rebellion.

I Kings 1:6, in a parenthesis, lists two characteristics about Adonijah, the son of David. “(And his father had not rebuked him at any time by saying, ‘why have you done so?’ He was also a very good-looking man. His mother had borne him after Absalom).” David succeeded and failed in raising his many children, but here is one in which he failed by giving him two deadly inheritances.

The first was a lack of discipline. David must have been an absentee father to many of his children. It’s obvious that he had too many wives and too many children and there was no way he could bring them all up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. He did better with Solomon who would later write that to spare the rod is to spoil the child (Prov 13:24; 22:15; 29:15). Adonijah received no such instruction.

The second deadly inheritance was that he was a handsome man, and who wouldn’t like to be! Yet the Bible writer lists this as one of his downfalls. Many young people find popularity due to their good looks that eventually leads them to trouble. Did you notice that Adonijah’s brother was Absalom who also rebelled against David? 2 Sam 14:25 says, “Now in all Israel there was no one who was praised as much as Absalom for his good looks.”

Too many children love to have a lack of discipline coupled with beauty or good looks (neither of which are their fault). But to these two sons of David they were a deadly inheritance. A handsome son or a beautiful daughter needs special care to not let that lead to sin. Every child needs discipline and should not be left with absentee parents when it comes to godly training. Let them also say, “Yes, I have a good inheritance.”

Book Review

Post-Christian: a contemporary guide to thought and culture. By Gene Edward Veith, Jr.

I have been reading Gene Veith since the 1990s when I first found his book, Postmodern Times, a topic that was almost unheard-of. This 2020 book expresses the sad truth about our culture—that it is basically “post-Christian” and beyond. Though we still live in a country with a Christian heritage and are surrounded with many Christian symbols and traditions, the general life and actions of Americans (and often Christian Americans) is anything but Christian. Part 1 is on Reality, covering topics of science and technology. Part 2 is on The Body. In this section Veith deals with sexual sins and also with gender, transgender, and transhuman issues. Part 3 is on Society, dealing with education and politics. Part 4 is on Religion. The chapter titles and headings tell the story. Chapter 11: “Spiritual but Not Religious: the religion of the nones.” “Nones” means no religion at all. Chapter 12: “Religious but Not Spiritual.” New religions today are not spiritual at all. Chapter 13: “Post-Christian Christianity.” While secular institutions seek to be “religious,” religious institutions are seeking to be more secular. This is especially true, Veith contends, “when evangelical Christians seek to emulate the world as a technique for evangelism and for growing the church.” The Conclusion: “Toward the Postsecular.” There is a “global religious explosion” because secular people world-wide increasingly have their own “private spiritualities and religious worldviews of their own.” Veith is saying that “secularism” as a descriptive is fading away and is being replaced by anyone’s personal religion. He says, “This has given rise to a new term that is gaining currency among scholars in multiple fields. It is another post– word. Not postmodernism. Not post-Christian. But postsecular. What is emerging or is already upon us is a postsecular culture.” Later in the conclusion he writes, “We need to realize that a postsecular society may still be post-Christian. We may be seeing a reversion to the religiosity that is natural to fallen human beings, that is, to a new pagan order.” Veith’s example of today’s postsecularism is transgenderism. “Rather, it is the gnostic view of the soul, the creation-denying, body-repudiating heresy that teaches the ‘transmigration of souls,’ which is similar to Hindu reincarnation.”

Statistics

A new poll shows something that has been common for generations. It reminds us that our responsibility to our parents never ends but also that this responsibility is not easy. “Americans in their 40s are the most likely to be sandwiched between their children and an aging parent. More than half in this age group (54%) have a living parent age 65 or older and are either raising a child younger than 18 or have an adult child they helped financially in the past year. By comparison, 36% of those in their 50s, 27% of those in their 30s, and fewer than one-in-ten of those younger than 30 (6%) or 60 and older (7%) are in this situation.”  Pew Research Center, 4/8/22, “More than half of Americans in their 40s are ‘sandwiched’ between an aging parent and their own children.” Accessed 6/18/22

A second poll shows that the discipline of our children is changing from one generation to the next. “Parents employ many methods to discipline their children. The most popular is explaining why a child’s behavior is inappropriate: three-quarters say they do this often. About four-in-ten (43%) say they frequently take away privileges, such as time with friends or use of TV or other electronic devices, and a roughly equal share say they give a “timeout” (41% of parents with children younger than 6) as a form of discipline, while about one-in-five (22%) say they often resort to raising their voice or yelling.  Spanking is the least commonly used method of discipline – just 4% of parents say they do it often.” Pew Research Center. “Parenting in America.” Accessed 6/30/22.

And Finally, Something I Read

My wife and I took a day to go downtown and wander through some of the local shops. When we came out of the last shop, there was a policeman standing in front of the car writing a ticket for illegal parking. I immediately started to question the officer, and he started filling out another ticket. While he was writing  that ticket for harassing a law officer, my wife said she thought it was a stupid law. He flipped his book to another page and wrote out a third ticket. Just as he was attaching all three tickets to the car’s windshield, our bus came and we got on.

 

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.