Means & Ends

Philosophy 101 taught us to think rationally and logically regarding the world around us.  For instance, if A=B and B=C, then A=C.  These little formulas became the grounds for our understanding of things perceived in nature, regarded in character, and encountered in literature.  Political Science courses taught us to use things understood rationally and logically in world history and governments to determine outcomes and create change.  We studied and argued concepts like, “Is it better to be feared than loved?” and “Does the end justify the means or do the means justify the end?” (Pause for Thought:  “And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.—Romans 8:30.  Notice the “where” and “when” in this verse.  Our justification and glorification is here and now.  What kind of freedom does this give you?  How will you use your freedom for others?)
 
Please allow me to refer back to last week’s article where it was proposed that Jesus made certain all of the big uncertainties in living a human life—“What happens when I die?” and “Who am I?”  Because Jesus was who he was—both God and human—and because he experienced every known “unknown” mankind could ever experience, he determined our place (justification) and our being (glorification).  He made the ending certain.  We can speak and live with certainty as to where we are going and who’s we are.  Therefore, in the case of Christ’s HIStory and government, the end justifies the means.  (Pause for Thought:  “Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen?  It is God who justifies.  Who is he that condemns?  Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God interceding for us.  Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?  Shall trouble or hardship, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness or danger or sword?—Romans 8:33-35.  How is Jesus Christ’s government different from worldly governments?  Why, do you suppose, we place such conviction and personal attention to maintaining shifting governments instead of following a King and Kingdom of such certainty?  What would the world look like if earthly governments pledged their allegiance to Jesus?  What would your family look like if they pledged their allegiance to Jesus?)
 

If Jesus’ end justifies our place and being, what does that mean for us?  What then should be our response to all of this?  If you are like most Christians I encounter, they are on a path of trying to earn this justification and glorification.  But if something has already been given to you, how can you earn it?  You can’t.  You are supposed to use it.  I figure, scripturally speaking, we use it in three ways—APPRECIATION=WORSHIP (Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker; for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care.—Psalm 95:6-7); DEVOTION=OBEDIENCE (Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than men!”—Acts 5:29); and IMITATION=SACRIFICE (Therefore, I urge you brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.—Romans 12:1).  (Pause for Thought:  How does knowing the end make it easier to live out your appreciation, devotion, and imitation of Jesus?  In what practical ways will you live up to your justification and glorification in front of others this week?)

 

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Living Up

I’m always fascinated when I meet someone who reads the last chapter of a book first.  I’ve been told knowing the outcome allows for a more fulfilling reading experience.  I suppose once the uncertainty of the ending is known, the means to the end is better understood and more appreciated.  Maybe that is why Jesus took care of humanity’s most uncertain aspects to living—“What happens when I die, and who am I?”—when He arrived, lived, died, rose, and ascended.  The last chapter is a foregone conclusion.  (Pause for Thought:  “Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope.  We believe that Jesus died and rose again, so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in Him.”—I Thessalonians 4:13-14.  What uncertainties are you and your family facing this year?  How does knowing death is nothing but a short sleep with Jesus help you face these uncertainties?  Remember, when you fall asleep at night, you don’t cease to be who you were when you awake.  Since this is so, what do you suppose we carry with us into Heaven?  What do you suppose is left behind?)
 
My wife, son, and I always pray before we part for work and school in the mornings.  The first school day of this year, I asked my son what he wanted to work on and perfect this semester.  I was thinking he would request prayer for an academic or intellectual pursuit, but instead, he said he wanted to know more about what a Christian does and who a Christian is.  His request exuded uncertainty.  He is currently living in an “earn it or lose it” state of being.  (Pause for Thought:  “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light.  Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God, once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”—I Peter 2:9-10.  How does a royal priesthood look and act?  Are you basing your response on Jesus’s example or the world’s?  What, if any, difference is there between Jesus’s example of royalty and priesthood and the world’s?  What “certainties” does Jesus’s example bring with it?)
 

I want my son to understand a Christian (Jesus Christ Follower) doesn’t try to earn the places, rights, and privileges given to him, but focuses on living up to these gifts given freely by his heavenly Father.  My son’s eventual physical death is just falling asleep and waking up with Jesus—again.  Nothing can stop that from happening.  My son is a king in the order of Jesus—no one can take that away.  I want these grace-filled certainties to be the basis for his living and wisdom.  His place, my place, is guaranteed always—now and forever—at our Father’s table.  Our earthly failures will not be a reason for our removal from our place at His table, but an opportunity for us to live up to the gracious gift and accompanying responsibilities from our Lord Jesus Christ.  (Pause for Thought:  “You are those who have stood by me in my trials.  And I confer on you a kingdom, just as my Father conferred one on me, so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”—Luke 22:28-30.  What is the basis for being a Christ follower?  How do you view trials when they appear?  Do you try to earn your way closer to the King?  Do you believe the trial has come as a punishment for something you did or didn’t do?  How do you view Jesus’ authority and yours when these trials arrive?  If you will allow me, I would like to speak more to the subject of “living up” in next week’s article.)


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Collections & Revelations

My son and I collect baseball cards.  I’ve been collecting since 1977, and he started seven years ago when he was five years of age.  It’s a great pastime for the two of us to be together, and it’s interesting to discuss why a player’s card means so much to us.  We have our sentiments, team preferences, player performances, and other reasons why we get excited to open a pack of cards and get who or what we get.  In fact, New Year’s Eve kicks-off our baseball card collecting for the year as tradition dictates we each open a box of unwrapped cards and compare who got the “best” for our endeavor. (Pause for Thought:  “In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers, to keep away from every brother who is idle and does not live according to the tradition (teaching) you received from us”—II Thessalonians 3:6.  Do you have any collections and/or traditions that become especially meaningful to you during the Holy Days?  How have you conveyed the reasons for your traditional interests to your family?  Have you been able to use these collections/traditions as a way of revealing Christ’s work in you and for you? )
 
There is a monetary value placed on these cards by collectors and appraisers.  Some cards are worth a lot of money right out of the pack, though they may depreciate in value over time, while others might actually increase in value.  Those cards with unique “flaws” may actually be worth more than if they were issued as intended.  What fascinates me about these cards is they are just that – cards.  They’re photos of a person on one side of cardboard or thick paper stock with a bunch of numbers on the other.  These cards are really only worth what someone is willing to pay for them.  (Pause for Thought:  “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field.  When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field”—Matthew 13:44.  Have you ever thought about how valuable you are or how much you’re worth?  Jesus has made us as valuable as He is.  By giving up his place at His Father’s side, and by giving up His life on earth to redeem—purchase—us back from the prince of the air, He has given us the value of Himself.  Where do you look to find your value?  How do you and your family “value” others?)
 
My son and I like to look on EBay or thumb through a card price guide to see just what people MIGHT be willing to pay for our pieces of cardboard.  We like to sort them out according to our preferences, and we actually have a “baseball room” where we store and display our cards.  To be honest, the cards we like to show off aren’t “worth” that much, because the cards aren’t of superstars, and most people would pass them by.  However, it’s not the monetary price for the cards that make them special to us; it’s the relational sentiment, memories, and stories that mean everything.  Isn’t that like the Kingdom of Heaven?  (Pause for Thought:  “Yet to all who received Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become Children of God—born not of natural decent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.—John 1:12-13.  How can you and your family value others at Christmas the way Christ values us?  What will you teach your children to be WORTHwhile over the Holy Days?)
 

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all God’s Children!


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Deceptive Distractions

If they were obvious, I wouldn’t fall for them.  If they produced immediate deadly consequences, I would resist.  However, due to their subtlety, I lose my focus on Christ and become ensnared.  I’m talking about the deceptive distractions used by the world’s false prophets and their teaching.  I often look for them within the church’s walls, but to be honest, I see them more in my home (via TV, computer, radio, etc.), place of employment (i.e. selfish business practitioners), schools (by providing untrue and irrational relational advice/expectations), etc.  Even family members have been used by the enemy to loosen my footing upon the Solid Rock.  No wonder Jesus likens false teachers and prophets to ravenous wolves.  (Pause for Thought:  “Watch out for false prophets.  They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly, they are ferocious wolves.”—Matthew 7:15.  How do the false teachers in your life “come to you”?  How quickly do you determine them to be false?  What do you use to determine the un-truths?  What measures do you take upon discovering the falsehoods?)
 
Contrary to popular belief, a wolf and its pack will pursue and kill about anything—not just the young, old, or weak.  If conditions are right, and the pack is in accord, wolves will kill a full grown, healthy bull moose—the largest animal in the deer family.  God has given the bull-moose razor sharp hooves and massive antlers, and these divine defensive weapons will more than cause a hurt for the wolf.  Wolves know this and understand, to successfully attack a moose, they must cause it to turn and run.  The alpha female wolf will feign (deceptive distraction) a frontal charge at the moose in hopes of getting it running out of fear.  The pack will pursue the beast nipping and biting its hind quarters to weaken it from exhaustion and loss of blood.  (Pause for Thought:  “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves.  Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.”—Matthew 10:16.  What does Jesus mean by being “shrewd as snakes” and “innocent as doves”?  Is something or someone pursuing you and your family right now?  Have you inquired of the Lord in regards to gaining wisdom on how to handle the deceptive and/or distractive situation?)
 
Once the moose is exhausted, the pack will wait a long time until it becomes convenient and free of harm to kill the moose.  Only when the moose has become completely distracted with fatigue and fear, will the pack kill it by attacking its head and throat.  (Pause for Thought:  “But each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed.  Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.”—James 1:14-15.  As a father, I’ve noted some of my own rationalizations and statements that tell me I’m being deceived, distracted, and pursued.  I’ve learned to listen and watch for these telling signs in my son and family:  “It’s not fair…”, “I don’t deserve to be…”, “When is it my time/opportunity to…”, “At least I’m better than…”, “But it’s Christmas {substitute any event, holiday, or happening when Christ isn’t the center focus of attention} time…”).
 
Our enemy, the Devil, is never distracted, however, our Savior and King is never distracted either.  God knew, before he made us, what it would take to turn us around and for us to stand our ground when the Enemy comes to us – Emmanuel – God With Us! “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?  Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!—Roman 7:24-25.  Your family and you are worth the Son of God.
 

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Perilous Presents

Many people have heard the story of Gideon and his victory over the 120,000 terrorists of his day utilizing only 300 men, torches, and trumpets.  Most people, I would venture to say, have never heard “the rest of the story.”  (Pause for Thought:  Read Judges 8:22-9:56)
 
Gideon was offered the opportunity to be a hereditary king over God’s people, but he declined the offer.  Instead he requested a portion of the plunder taken from the Midianites he and his army had defeated.  With the gold and various other items, Gideon made an ephod and presented it as a gift to his hometown of Ophrah.  An ephod existed in the town of Shiloh, as prescribed by the Lord, for the Levites to use in the inquiry of His will for the Israelites.  The ephod in Ophrah would become the center of false worship (Baal idolatry) and would lead to the downfall and death of many Israelites, including Gideon’s sons.  (Pause for Thought:  Why did Gideon refuse the offer to be king over Israel?  How did Gideon’s acceptance of the gold and his giving of the ephod contradict his refusal and rationale for being king?  How did Gideon’s gift lead to the estrangement and destruction of the people?)
 

Generosity is often displayed by refusing to give or receive a gift that would harm (spiritually, soulfully, physically) the receiver and/or giver.  We live in a society of instant gratification and have the means to fulfill every pleasure, so it is important to consider our gifts and the consequences of giving them—especially to our children. In kindergarten I received the gift of a comic book from a fellow classmate because he knew I enjoyed superheroes.  When I showed my parents the present, they requested I graciously return the comic with the explanation that the comic’s main hero was the son of Lucifer, and we, as a family believed Christ to be our hero over Satan.  Devastated, I did what they instructed me to do.

A few weeks later I was shopping with my mom at a department store only to hear about the pending arrival of my favorite superhero—Spiderman—over the loud speaker!  I received a free comic and photo with Spiderman, and my mom bought me the 45 record of the Spiderman TV show theme.  Needless to say, I was the hero at the class’ next show-and-tell when I revealed my new Spiderman gifts and listened to the theme song.  “Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish will give him a snake instead?  Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion?  If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in Heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!”—Luke 11:11-13   (Pause for Thought:  Have you ever received a gift that brought you closer to the Lord?  Have you ever been given a gift that distracted you in your relationship to Him?  If so, what did you do with it?  How are the gifts you are planning to give your children this Christmas going to help/hurt you and your children’s desires to follow Christ Jesus?)

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Make Room

Read the story of the Shunammite Woman in II Kings 4:8-37; 8:1-6

In a day and age when God’s people had rejected His directions and those who supplied them, a woman maintained the divine order of hospitality by inviting Elisha to eat and relax in her and her husband’s home.  Not only did the Shunammite woman provide meals and conversation, she also made a room within her household for Elisha’s learning and teaching of God’s eternal principles.  This resulted in the blessing of a son–by her increased faith, the loss of her hopes–in the death of her son, and a victory over death, corruption, and sin–by the resurrection of her son and the re-establishment of her faith-filled legacy.  Her faith became surrender as the Lord’s influence through Elisha invaded her home.  (Pause for Thought:  Why did Elisha appreciate the room the Shunammite woman gave him?  What made the Shunammite’s household different from other Israeli homes of the time?  In what ways was the Shunammite’s household blessed by the presence of God’s prophet)\
 
Israel had stopped hosting the Lord’s servants during Elisha’s time.  Prophets were considered outlaws who had become outdated and unwanted.  As a consequence, the people had become disconnected in their relationship with their Father to the point of killing His ministers and rejecting His decrees (In his pride the wicked does not seek Him; in all his thoughts there is NO ROOM for God–Psalm 10:4)
 
While growing up, my mom and dad would often host missionaries, gospel singers, and preachers and their families as they remained away from home to minister to our church family.  This provided my sister and me an opportunity to have extended or one-on-one conversations with these ministers of the faith resulting in great worship, testimony, and witnessing.  I asked my dad why our family hosted these people so often.  His simple reply has remained in my soul for my entire life—“We sometimes entertain angels without knowing it”.  (Hebrews 13:1-3).  I believe what my father said is true, and I have confirming results.  My marriage is a direct result of my aunt and uncle’s faithful hospitality to my then future wife and mother to my son.  Their generosity connected with my parents’ desire to see their family and family friends come to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ as Lord and savior resulting in Renee’s and my engagement to each other.  I’m a blessed man because of a legacy of hospitality and making room for Christ.  (Pause for Thought:  How has hospitality benefited you as a host?  How has it benefited those you’ve hosted?  How has your hospitality blessed others within your family?)
 
Faithful hospitality is what Mary and Joseph displayed when they made room for God’s only Son when He left home.  Like the Shunammite woman, Mary and her family would know first-hand the blessing, loss, and victory when providing room for the Lord.  “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered.  “May it be to me as you have said.”  Then the angel left her.—Luke 1:38  (Pause for Thought:  How will you and your family be demonstrating hospitality around Christmas this year?  What do you want your children to learn and know through your and their hospitality?  How can and will Christ be the influence as you make room for Him?)
 

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Thanks & Giving

Anna had been a witness to much in her 84 years of life.  A devoted follower of God, with a spirit to match, made her a beautiful wife (Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.—Proverbs 31:30) for seven of her early years, but the death of her husband and the loss of her nation’s independence would cause Anna to consider what she had and what to do with it.  (Pause for Thought:  What has the Lord given you and what has the Lord taken away?  When you have been given blessings, how have you responded to God?  When given difficulty, how have you responded to the Lord?  Who has witnessed your responses?)
 
In her lifetime, Anna witnessed, or would have heard about, king and high-priest Jannaeus’ contempt for Israel’s religious leaders, and his defilement of the sacrifice during the Feast of Tabernacles resulting in the slaughter of 6,000 Jews in the temple courtyard and a civil war that would last decades.
 

Anna saw the end of the civil war as Roman general, Pompey, would massacre 12,000 of her countryman and desecrate the Holy of Holies at the temple in Jerusalem, leading to Judea’s rule by Rome.  This was happening all the while Anna remained at the temple worshiping and praising God for the promised Messiah.  (Pause for Thought:  “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”—I Thessalonians 5:16-17.  What promises are you giving God thanks for this week?  How can the giving of your time, talent, resources—self, be a fulfillment of these promises?  How is your family helping God’s fulfillment of these promises in others?)

Anna’s proximity to tragedy never impaired her devotion to God or her faith in Him—“she never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying.  Coming up to them (Mary & Joseph), she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child (Jesus) to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Israel.”  Her thankfulness led to and was a service of instruction and realization for others in recognizing Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. (Pause for Thought:  Read the story of Simeon and Anna in Luke 2:21-38.  How well does your family live out their thankfulness?  How will you use this Thanksgiving to instruct your children about thankfulness and giving?)
 
Anna had been a witness to much in her 84 years of life.  A devoted follower of God, with a spirit to match, made her a beautiful wife (Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.—Proverbs 31:30) for seven of her early years, but the death of her husband and the loss of her nation’s independence would cause Anna to consider what she had and what to do with it.  (Pause for Thought:  What has the Lord given you and what has the Lord taken away?  When you have been given blessings, how have you responded to God?  When given difficulty, how have you responded to the Lord?  Who has witnessed your responses?)
 

In her lifetime, Anna witnessed, or would have heard about, king and high-priest Jannaeus’ contempt for Israel’s religious leaders, and his defilement of the sacrifice during the Feast of Tabernacles resulting in the slaughter of 6,000 Jews in the temple courtyard and a civil war that would last decades.

Anna saw the end of the civil war as Roman general, Pompey, would massacre 12,000 of her countryman and desecrate the Holy of Holies at the temple in Jerusalem, leading to Judea’s rule by Rome.  This was happening all the while Anna remained at the temple worshiping and praising God for the promised Messiah.  (Pause for Thought:  “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”—I Thessalonians 5:16-17.  What promises are you giving God thanks for this week?  How can the giving of your time, talent, resources—self, be a fulfillment of these promises?  How is your family helping God’s fulfillment of these promises in others?)
 

Anna’s proximity to tragedy never impaired her devotion to God or her faith in Him—“she never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying.  Coming up to them (Mary & Joseph), she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child (Jesus) to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Israel.”  Her thankfulness led to and was a service of instruction and realization for others in recognizing Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. (Pause for Thought:  Read the story of Simeon and Anna in Luke 2:21-38.  How well does your family live out their thankfulness?  How will you use this Thanksgiving to instruct your children about thankfulness and giving?)


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The Appeal of Joy

November 15 marks the opening day of firearms deer season in Michigan.  I used to celebrate this day by sitting for endless hours on a 5-gallon bucket while my toes froze or rain dripped from the brim of my hat.  I don’t have the chance to participate in this Michigan tradition any longer.  I miss the venison being in the freezer from my own natural inclinations, and I miss the black-capped chickadees.
 
Chickadees have the God-given ability to turn the most frigid, lifeless morning into a time of praise and worship.  They also have the ability to turn the end of a luckless day into a bright expectation for tomorrow.  The chickadee isn’t colorful.  In fact, its plumage is downright plain.  But what the bird lacks in visual pizazz, it makes up for in its joyful social interaction and song.  Many is the time a chickadee has perched on my knee or hat and looked into my face as if to say, “Isn’t this day great!”  The “chickadee-dee-dee” song of this bird inspires life in a leafless, still, woods.  As I would watch this bird and listen to its joyful notes, I remembered that those whose life of service is filled with joy often have their life’s appeals listened to and answered to their highest-good.  (Pause for Thought:  “Rejoice in the Lord always.  I will say it again: Rejoice!  Let your gentleness be evident to all.  The Lord is near.  Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”—Philippians 4:4-7.  How joyful has been your service to the Lord lately?  How joyful has your attitude been in the parenting of your children?  How joyful is the attitude of your children while they are serving the Lord?  Is it time for an attitude check in your family?)
 
While I don’t have chickadees, anymore, to remind me of my heart condition and attitude, God has given me a family to be a reflection of my very soul, and, at times, inspire and point my soul’s outlook to something much higher than our current circumstances.  (Pause for Thought:  “Children, obey your parents IN THE LORD, for this is right, ‘Honor your father and mother’—which is the first commandment with a promise—‘that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth’.  Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction OF THE LORD.”—Ephesians 6:1-4.  Who do you rely on to be a “reflection” of your attitude?  How often do your children approach you with a joyful spirit?  How often do they approach you with a complaining spirit?  Have you instructed them in and about God’s goodness and grace and their responsibilities in loving Him?)
 
If the black-capped chickadee is the opening day cheerleader, the red squirrel is the harbinger of gloom and doom.  I would always try and beat the awakenings of the red squirrels in getting to my deer blind in the morning.  Once I was set and still, the red squirrel’s complaining bark and guttural hiss would indicate the approach of anything moving near me.  It never seemed joyful in regards to another’s presence or its current circumstances.  The last deer I shot on opening day was due to the bitter oversight of a red squirrel in the tree under which I was sitting (sleeping).  If that squirrel were to have been gracious, like a chickadee, I wouldn’t have awoken, and the buck sneaking around me wouldn’t have died.  (Pause for Thought:  “Do not be misled:  ‘Bad company corrupts good character.’  Come back to your senses as you ought, and stop sinning; for there are some ignorant of God—I say this to your shame.”—I Corinthians 15:33-34.  How does the relationship you have with others influence your joy?  What relationships are affecting the attitude of your children today?)
 

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The Umbrella of Authority

Once there was a man who witnessed great injustice and found himself in a unique position to do something about it.  His miraculous birth and life during an awful time of persecution, not to mention his subsequent education and rise to authority, placed him in a special place and time to come along his earthly authority to fulfill his Heavenly Authority’s will to free an entire people.
 
Unfortunately for Moses, he placed himself outside of the umbrella of his authorities, took matters in his own hands, and started a precedent of death and destruction.  (Pause for Thought:  Read Exodus 2:11-15.  What precipitated Moses to think it was all right to kill the Egyptian?  How could have Moses appealed to his earthly (Pharaoh) and Heavenly (God) authority regarding the situation, so a person wouldn’t have to die?  How do you want your children to appeal to you in their time of distress?  When and where will you hear them out?  Will you explain your expectations and reasoning to them?)
 
Moses would once again, under God’s grace and authority, find himself in a position to free his people.  God’s timing and preparation of not only Moses, but also Pharaoh, would have to take place, so God’s ultimate authority and might could be on display for an entire people.  The Israelites, from day one, would never get over Moses’s original willfulness to place himself outside of God’s Heavenly authority and the earthly authority He established.  Even Moses’ own family questioned his ability to be an authority over them for a generation.  (Pause for Thought:  Read Exodus 14:10-12; Numbers 12:1-2; Deuteronomy 31:27-29.   What authority(ies) do you find yourself under?  How do your responses to their instruction influence the way your children view authority?  How well do you appeal to your earthly authority? Heavenly authority?  Do your responses to those you are “under” meet the expectations you have for your children’s responses to you?)
 
Ultimately, Moses found himself at the threshold of God’s promised land.  A generation of those who started to follow Moses authority would perish in the wilderness due to their inability to appeal to their earthly and Heavenly authorities and remain under God’s umbrella.  Even Moses was denied entrance into the Promise Land because he had withdrawn himself from under God’s authority throughout his life’s journey.  Joshua, filled by God’s spirit, would be the authority God used to build a nation.  (Pause for Thought:  Read Deuteronomy 33:51-52; 34:4,9)
 

I often wonder how this story might have ended for Moses and the Israelites who first left Egypt had Moses remained under his authorities’ umbrella, and not killed the Egyptian out of his own arrogance.  I often wonder about our children’s journey and ending in this life as they serve their authorities, including the Most-High Authority—God our Father.  (Pause for Thought:  Is there something or someone causing your children distress?  Have you given your children a time and place to appeal to you for advice, and if appropriate, your correction/solution to the matter?  What/Who will you pray about with your children this week?)


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The Endurance of the Like-Minded

One of the most fascinating displays in nature, to me, is the phenomenon of the bait-ball.  A bait-ball is a group of small, open-water roaming fish that will synchronize their movements around a center, so they appear to be a large single organism to predators.  I become mesmerized by each fish’s ability to move exactly in the same time and space the other fish are moving.  I often wonder how a species as simple as an alewife or sardine, can be so like-minded in their group, they can elude a complex predator, such as a salmon or shark.
 
God knew, for groups of small fish and Christ following families, it would be necessary to be of like-mind for endurance and prosperity. (Pause for Thought:  “Also in Judah the hand of God was on the people to give them unity of mind to carry out what the king and his officials had ordered, following the word of the Lord.”—II Chronicles 30:12.  How “in-sync” are the members of your family right now?  What do you want for your family’s center?  Is this the center your family members are moving and thinking around?  How able to withstand the stresses of life is your center?)
 
One thing alone can break up a bait-ball—fear.  If a predator fish causes stress from without the group, a fish or two may decide it would be better for their self-preservation to abandon the center and others for open water.  This fish is often pursued and eaten which causes the bait-ball to lose their like-mindedness for fear’s sake.  Chaos ensues and the group is whittled down in size by those wishing to harm it.  (Pause for Thought:  “I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may not be divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought.  Is Christ divided?  Was Paul crucified for you?  Were you baptized into the name of Paul?  For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.”  I Corinthians 1:10, 13, 17.  Have you witnessed a family and/or group of families moving around a center in harmony of thinking and behavior?  Do you suppose they experience little to no stress?  Have you asked them what, if any, stresses they encounter?  Will you ask them what the center of their like-mindedness is and if you can join their thinking?)
 
The church needs to be and is the place where individuals and families can look for the peace and endurance of the like-minded.  (Pause for Thought:  “Finally brothers, good-by.  Aim for perfection, listen to my appeal, be of one mind, live in peace.  And the God of love and peace will be with you.”   II Corinthians 13:11.  What dishonest or unreasonable thinking is keeping you and your family from moving in coordination with Christ and Christ-following families?  Will you address this fear this week?  How will you address it?  If left unaddressed what, do you think, will be the outcome for you and your family?) 
 

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