Archive for category family

Of Separation and Sacrifice

Thanksgiving was a bit different for our family this year. We traveled north to meet Justin “halfway” in North Carolina – partly to save him some travel mileage and partly to find a bit cooler November weather. As we enjoyed our time together in the Smoky Mountain region for a few days, we still felt a sense of absence. Our daughter Sarah is teaching music at International Christian School in Lima, Peru. We are extremely proud of her and glad for the wealth of experiences she is afforded there. But I still felt a bit melancholy saying “Table for 4.” thanksgiving-table1

All of this turned my mind to our missionaries that have committed their lives and families to a foreign field. For many, this Thanksgiving was like so many before – marked by a great distance between them and loved ones. Many of them mingled their American holiday traditions with local customs the best they could, but still noticed far-away family missing from their table. Christmas will follow close behind with perhaps an even keener sense of separation. Sure, technology allows for “face-to-face” time on a computer monitor, but we all know that it can never replace a hug, a long walk around the block, or even quiet time spent side by side on the sofa.

The Lord addressed a similar situation for His disciples. Peter acknowledged that when they followed the Savior’s call to become fishers of men, they left it all behind. Family, friends, careers, homes…

Jesus did not scold him for any selfishness, instead giving a promise:

…Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel’s, but he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life. Mark 10:29–30

Honestly, the missionaries that I know are not hoarding up real estate, with vacation homes on multiple continents. Those who must maintain residences both stateside and abroad, do so of necessity and at great financial expense. Clearly, we understand the blessing of eternal life and rewards, but what about the here-and-now. Where are the multiplied properties, homes, and families?

Christ’s disciples would meet, fellowship, and serve alongside innumerable brothers and sisters in Christ throughout their ministry. They would discover a spiritual family larger than they first imagined. While many individuals and communities would reject their ministry and presence, they would also discover open doors to hospitable homes wherever the Lord sent them. As God sent and led them, He would also be faithful to provide communities of support. I imagine the same is true for missionaries in our age as well.

It may not count for much, but I would like to personally thank those choice servants of our Savior who have left all to follow His call to a foreign field. Those who faithfully present the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ, often in less-than-ideal circumstances. Those who overlook or overcome the innate hindrances of language and culture for the sake of lost souls. Those who view empty seats at holiday tables and count them worth the cost. I consider it a providential blessing to call you my family and friends. May God richly reward you in this life and eternity.

Of Marriage and Golf Balls

This morning I heard yet another news reporter introduce his segment with the provocative question, “Has marriage become obsolete?”  In the last few days, the media has repeatedly referred to a recent study by the Pew Research Center that asked people what they believed constituted a family.  The vast majority of respondents agreed that a married couple with or without children fits that description.  However, 80% also pointed to an unmarried, opposite sex couple with children or a single parent.  About 60% recognized a same-sex couple with children as a family.  Finally, 39% replied that marriage was becoming obsolete.  We see this attitude manifested in many ways.  About 29% of children under 18 currently live with parents who are unwed or no longer married (a fivefold increase from 1960).

Of course, as I heard these results I thought of golf balls.  (I’m never quite sure how my mind works.)  When I was a kid, it was fun to cut through the cover of a golf ball to reveal what was hidden inside.  The rumor back then was that the center was filled either with compressed air that would explode or a liquid center that was deadly poison.  Although the truth was less dangerous, it was still entertaining.  The small rubber core was actually wrapped with layers of tightly wound rubber thread.   Freed from the restraint of the hard cover, these thin bands would start to loosen and unravel with a life all their own.  After an initial “explosion” of the outer layer of rubber bands things would slow down as other layers vainly clung together.  If the ball was left alone, a layer or two would spring to life at random intervals.  When things slowed down, all that was necessary to energize the process was to pick at the ball with a fingernail.  Even more dramatic was to throw the exposed core down on the driveway.  It would bounce unpredictably while inch after inch of rubber bands would come undone in all directions.

The recent statistics about marriage and family are troubling, yet not surprising to anyone who has considered society for any length of time.  The biblical truth is that we live in a damaged world.  Slowly but surely, the world is coming undone because of the consequences of original sin. The environment, human relationships, and society at large – all bear the marks of this process of decay.

Before you count me among the pessimists proclaiming only gloom and doom, let me affirm that I believe the Lord “is before all things, and by him all things consist.” (Col. 1:17)  I am grateful that He holds all things together.

What is most troubling is that humanity seems intent on speeding up the process of deterioration like a child picking away at the layers of rubber bands wrapped around a golf ball’s core.  Abandoning the revelation of an inspired Bible.  Resisting the truth of a Creator God.  Living for the temporal with no thought of eternity.  Developing philosophies that place man at their center.  With every step away from God it seems society speeds up the process of decay.

Lest we merely wag the finger at the world, let’s acknowledge that believers are often willing accomplices, if not active participants.  “You can’t wink at sin.  Don’t live like the world.”  We’ve heard the admonition from the pulpit for years.  Yet, there is little statistical evidence that today’s Christians live any differently from the rest of society.

– Why wait for marriage to be intimate with each other?

– If I’m not happy, can’t I look for satisfaction outside my marriage?

– If things don’t work out like we planned, we can always get a divorce.

Unfortunately, these thoughts are expressed increasingly by Christians.  We must remember that popular consensus differs greatly from biblical instruction.  When speaking about the prevalence of divorce, Jesus reminded the religious leaders of His day that “from the beginning it was not so.” (Matthew 19:8)  While society seems intent on changing the definitions and applications of marriage and family, God’s standards remain unmoved.

For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife; [8] And they twain shall be one flesh: so then they are no more twain, but one flesh. Mark 10:7-8

What is our response?  Build our values and our families on solid foundations of biblical truth.  Maintain firm standards, yet deal with Christlike compassion to those around us.  Lead by presenting a godly example.

May we stand on God’s Word no matter what society supports or surveys reveal.