Friday

Reflecting God's Glory

Spouses Reflect God's Glory

Genesis 1:27 says, "God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them."

Where do we look to see God's glory today? Many look to nature: sunsets, snow-covered mountain peaks, the ocean, an expansive prairie. These all reveal God's glory.

Have you tried looking at home to find God's image and glory? In "Intimate Allies" Tremper Longman and Dan Allender write,

"Do we see our spouses as reflecting the face of God? Or are we captured more by their imperfections and our own disappointment? To view our spouses from the lens of glory is to be overwhelmed by the privilege of being face-to-face with a creature who mirrors God. Consequently, as partners, we will feel more overwhelmed with gratitude than disappointment; we will experience more joy than bitterness." (P.33)

I'll write more about this later. For now, think about how your spouse uniquely reflects some aspect of God's nature and glory. Marvel at that, and be thankful.

Warren Baldwin

Finally the Snow!

FINALLY THE SNOW!

Southwest Kansas where I live has been in a drought for years. People are beginning to compare it to the dust bowls of the 1930s and 50s. I left my truck window open about 3 inches earlier this week. A wind came in that night and covered the inside of my truck dusty debris. We need moisture!!

(Note: You can see our church building in the distant background behind the suburban)

As of this morning prayers are answered. Of course, it waited until the opening of softball season (my daughter Kristin was scheduled to pitch JV tonight), but we don’t mind the cancellation of the games at all. We are glad for snow.

These pictures and videos were taken about 7:40 this morning (3/27/09). When I opened the garage doors the dogs started running out and then stopped. Cowards.

video


video

The snow is supposed to continue until tomorrow morning leaving us 15 or more inches. We hope so! Check back tomorrow and I'll have some update pictures.

Have a good day! - Warren Baldwin

Family Time #2

CONVERSATION

"What do I say?" "Just spend time with him. Hang out together. Talk about little things. And let the opportunity develop for you to talk about this together."

This was a real conversation between two friends about one of their sons. One man’s son had fallen into moral behavior that embarrassed the boy and the whole family. It was the kind of behavior that caused people to ask, "Could you believe he would do that?"

The dad wanted to help his son but didn’t know where to start. Scolding him wouldn’t help at this point because the son had already committed the offense. Asking, "Why" didn’t help because the son gave the standard answer all of us give after we have sinned big: "I don’t know." He also felt that lecturing him wouldn’t help because the boy already knew what he did was wrong.

The real reason underlying the dad’s uncertainty about how to approach his son is that he didn’t engage him very much before this incident occurred, so how could he jump into the boy’s life with both feet now? There wasn’t bad blood between the dad and his son; there just wasn’t much of anything. They shared a house, they rode to church together, they watched some of the same TV shows, but they rarely talked to each other. Understandably, the dad now feared his boy would resent the intrusion into his life if he pushed for heavy conversation.

That is the friend counseled the dad to start out lightly. "What do you know about your son? Does he like baseball? Fishing? Hockey? Playing the guitar? Engage him in areas that excite him and generate enthusiasm. Join him in a game of catch, sit together on the bank of a river, ask him to show you how to play chords on the guitar. Let him see that you are interested in him as a person and that you are not just concerned about him acting a certain way because it saves you embarrassment."

Conversation with our children is about much more than just passing information back and forth. It is about sharing hearts. It is about bonding. It is about being welcomed into another person’s life and staying there for many years. Regular conversation keeps that relationship fresh.

Conversation with our children gives us the opportunity to impart our values to them. While growing up our children will observe what is important to us, such as keeping the house clean, worshiping, being faithful, and showing love. But what they observe through the years can be reinforced through by purposeful conversation by mom and dad.

My dad likes to recall the times we would cut firewood together. We’d start up the mountain about five or six in the morning. We’d be in place with saws ready at first light. Two of us would cut and two would load logs on the back of the truck. After a couple of hours dad would yell, "Break," and three teenage boys were eager for the rest. We’d sit on logs and talk about politics, church, morals, the baseball game, girlfriends, and having our own families one day. Looking back, I sometimes wonder if we cut firewood to heat the house or if we cut firewood because it gave dad an opportunity to just spend time with his three sons and prepare them for when they would be husbands and fathers. Those conversations had an effect. It’s been over thirty years now but I can still hear the saws, smell the fresh cut wood, and remember those talks.

Proverbs 12:18 says "the tongue of the wise brings healing." Proverbs 16:21 adds that "pleasant words promote instruction." Conversation does more than burn up the clock. It is a wise use of time to build relationships, promote learning, and shape character. My dad’s friend was starting late, but he started, and he built a relationship with his son. We don’t have to wait for a tragic event to prompt us to begin reaching out to our children. This afternoon might be the time to get our ball gloves out and invite our son and daughter for a time of catch and conversation.

Warren Baldwin

Wednesday

Reflection

REFLECTION


"Why are these people in my life!?!?"

People sometimes ask that of coworkers, neighbors, (former) friends, and even family members. There are people that rub us wrong and that we rub wrong. That’s particularly bad when those other people are in our close family!

There is value to every person in your life, even those with whom you have a difficult time relating. I’m writing a paper for a class on Biblical Wisdom for Harding Graduate School. My text is Proverbs 27:14-19. Verse 19 reads, "As water reflects a face, so a man’s heart reflects the man."

What does this mean? Dave Bland explains, "When one engages in rigorous interaction with another who reflects with him or her, who offers counter ideas, who expresses alternatives, or who just listens, such a person discovers new insights. Thoughts are clarified ... Until individuals can explain or express their thoughts to others, they do not understand them as well as they think. When thoughts and ideas are clarified to others, we come to better understand them ourselves." ("Iron Sharpens Iron" in Leaven, Spring 2000, p.72)

Those other people are in our lives to reflect our own thoughts, feelings and behavior back to us. This is true not only of those with whom we relate well, but perhaps more so of those with whom we must wrestle, humble ourselves to, forgive, and start over. It isn’t easy, but it is part of the process God builds into our lives to mold us and shape us more into his image.

The tough-to-get-along with person in the house next to yours, the cubicle next to yours, or even in the same house as yours might be God’s blessing to your life to hone you into something better. It is not so much through introspection, but through interaction, that we develop a Godly wisdom and personality.

Anyone shaping you today?

Warren Baldwin

Jenny & Tandi's First Half-Marathon

JENNY & TANDI’S FIRST HALF-MARATHON

A half-marathon may sound easy compared to a MARATHON, but it is still 13.1 miles. On Sunday, Jenny Baldwin and Tandi Morgan, both sophomores at Harding University in Searcy, Arkansas, ran their first half-marathon in Little Rock.

Jenny, Cheryl and me, all of Kansas, and Tandi, of Texas, met at a friend's house in Edmond, OK. From there we left on Saturday morning for Little Rock, arriving at 4 p.m. to register at the convention center on Markum St. Greeting us was a group of protesters ... not protesting the race, but protesting V.P. Joe Biden speaking next door. They were chanting, "No more bailouts!" and holding up signs reading, "States Rights" and "No taxation with Misrepresentation" (it was a bit off from the original).

The race was to begin the next morning at 8 a.m. Jenny and Tandi stayed with a cousin of Tandi and Cheryl and I grabbed a motel. They were excited when we met them at 7:30 the next morning (Jenny and Tandi below, with my wife, Cheryl).






Our kids (and their friends) never outgrow the joy of being cheered at sporting events! And we parents don't outgrow the joy of doing it!

I had never been to a marathon. A good friend, Harvey Copeland, told me they were exciting. I found that out. About 5,000 runners were packed into several blocks of downtown Little Rock to begin the race (pic below).
















There were young teenagers, 70+ year old grandmas and grandpas, a man that had a heart transplant, several wheelchair participants, a man with a prosthetic leg all lining up to run the half-marathon, and some of them the full marathon of 26.3 miles.

The runners were pumped. Jenny and Tandi were pumped and excited! And the race was on!

Cheryl and I stood at the 6 mile point. I had my camera and Cheryl and Tandi’s for pictures. Ahhh, my camera was on video and Cheryl couldn’t get Tandi’s to work. Soooo, I got this video, not realizing it was on video, or I would held the camera on them. At least it is something!


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After that we went to the finish line. Below is a picture of the girls approaching the finish line in 2nd and 3rd place!! (Actually, just in this picture). They finished in 2 hours and 17 minutes. Here are some exciting faces at the end!

































Tandi, Jenny, Cheryl and me.


In addition to being excited they were also very hungry! So, Cheryl and I took them to Ruby Tuesdays. They literally danced their way in. They were still high from adrenaline. Of course, by then my camera was on "camera" and not "video," so I didn’t get any footage! Once they began eating, though, adrenaline gave way to fatigue. The picture below was not posed, it was real!

















I asked Jenny and Tandi to share some of their thoughts about the preparation for the race and their emotions of the race. Here are their words:

What was it like training for the half-marathon? Tandi- It was time consuming and hard work. Jenny- It was one of the hardest things I've ever done, I felt like I had to plan my life around training.

What was the hardest thing about the race? Tandi- Miles 10 and 11, I thought they never would end. Jenny- the 11th mile. It was the only time in the race that I didn't think I was going to make it.

How did you feel afterwards? Tandi- It was the most incredible feeling ever. I don't know how to explain it. Jenny- very accomplished, excited, I felt like all of the hard work had paid off.

What did you like most of all about the experience? Tandi- getting to spend so much time with Jenny and the environment of the race. Jenny- the feeling that all the hard work I put in actually paid off. I also enjoyed the excitement of the race with all the people cheering us on and spending so much time with Tandi

Will you do it again? Tandi and Jenny - Absolutely!

Cheryl and I were proud of both girls and thrilled to have spent the weekend with these special young ladies. As we drove back to West Kansas I asked Cheryl, "What do you think, should we run with them next year?" Cheryl said, "Maybe walk it." So, there may be more to report next year!

Warren Baldwin

The Heart of a Godly Man Toward His Wife Pt.1

THE HEART OF A GODLY MAN TOWARD HIS WIFE Pt.1
 
A godly man searches diligently for a good wife. He knows that having a good wife is not a matter of luck or good fortune. The role of a good wife is too dignified to relegate it to just "luck." A husband’s relationship with a good wife is too spiritual to relegate it to just "good fortune." Having a good wife in one’s life is such a wonderful blessing that the Lord himself takes credit for presence!

"He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the Lord." (Proverbs 18:22)
 
A godly man prepares himself to be ready for when a godly woman comes into his life. He seeks God through prayer. He practices discipline and self-control in all areas of his life, especially in his dating relationships. He may date many women before he finally decides on one to be his wife, but in each of those relationships he practices sexual restraint. He is saving his romantic and sexual energy for the woman he marries.

Yet even with all of his preparation and self-control a godly man knows he cannot boast of himself for "finding" a good woman to marry him. God says, "No, I’ll take credit for her."

What Does it Mean to "Find" a Wife?

"Finding" a wife almost sounds trite, but it is not. "Find" means to "pursue diligently." (Waltke 2:95). It means to give our all to the task. We can see what is involved in "finding" something of value when we look at the pursuit of wisdom.

Fools look for wisdom but do not find it. "They will call to me but I will not answer; they will look for me but will not find me." (Prov. 1:28) Why will fools be disappointed in their search for wisdom? "They hated knowledge and did not choose to fear the Lord." (1:29). They do not find wisdom because they do not have the heart for it. Likely, they will not find a good wife, either.

There is an intensity to the search of a good man to find what is good.

My son, if you accept my words
and store up my commands within you,
turning your ear to wisdom
and applying your heart to understanding,
and if you call out for insight
and cry aloud for understanding,
and if you look for it as for silver
and search for it as for hidden treasure,
then you will understand the fear of the Lord
and find the knowledge of God. (Proverbs 2:1-5)

Notice the verbs that characterize the search for wisdom: turn (your ear), apply (your heart), call out, cry aloud, look for, search. Every body part is on this quest for wisdom: ear, heart, voice, eyes, hands. I think a paraphrase of this verse could read, "If you pursue wisdom, integrity and
righteousness with every ounce of energy you can muster in your body, heart, mind and soul, God will not disappoint you. He will bless you with a relationship with him."

Remember, the word for "finding" wisdom is the same for "finding" a wife. So let’s apply the above paraphrase to the search for a wife. I think we could say, "If you pursue a good wife with every ounce of energy you can muster in your body, heart, mind and soul, God will not disappoint you. He will bless you with a relationship with her."

This intense search to find wisdom is implied in the effort to find a wife. It is not by chance that a good woman comes into our lives and will be our wife and helpmeet. It is by diligent preparation in character building, by patience and self-control, and by the grace of God that we receive a good woman as our wife.

Let’s look at the word "good" for a moment, too. The assumption of this Proverb 18:22 is that God is good and he rewards good men with good things. Notice a few other proverbs on this theme:
"A good man obtains favor from the Lord ..." (12:2)
"Blessed is the man who listens to me, watching daily at my doors, waiting at my doorway. For whoever finds me finds life and receives favor from the Lord." (8:34,35)

The good man receives blessing from God. God blesses the good man with wisdom, with live, and with a good wife.

Remember Genesis 2:18? "The Lord said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.’" Proverbs 18:22 states the positive side of Genesis 2:18 - it is good for a man to have a good wife.

Proverbs 19:14 drives this idea home:
"Houses and wealth are inherited from parents, but a prudent wife is from the Lord."

Think of all the ways your parents bless you. It might not be with houses today, but in ancient Israel, property was passed on from generation to generation. You might actually receive the very house your parents lived in, the orchards they harvested fruit from, and the fields they ploughed. Circumstances have changed. Today, families are far more mobile. Parents often do not have the same house for more than ten years. Children move away and wouldn’t want to inherit the plot of ground their parents spent their last few years on. So, the house may be sold and the proceeds divided among the kids. But this proverb still rings true even today: "... wealth (is) inherited from parents." Parents pass on their accumulated wealth to their offspring.


Photos compliments of Amy Free Photography

But the same can not be said of a wife. Even if a father is involved in the process of finding a wife for his son (as Abraham was with Isaac, Genesis 24), God still claims credit for the blessing of a good wife in a man’s life. "A prudent (wise) wife is from the Lord." God is the one who blesses us with a helpmeet.

How does the term "find a wife" in Proverbs actually enhance the value of her godly status?

Warren Baldwin

To read the full article, click here

Monday

Parenting

PARENTING

Parenting isn’t easy. My dad often told me that the toughest job I would ever have would be to be a parent. It is a task we will be studying and re-evaluating the rest of our lives. Just when we think we have mastered a certain aspect of parenting, our kids throw us a curve. In fact, children have a way of throwing us curves on a daily basis!

It is freeing to me to think that there is not a list of "Seventeen Things You Must do to be a Perfect Parent and Have Your Children Turn Out Well." Even if someone were to write such a book, our children won’t read it! So, they won’t know how they are supposed to respond when their father or mother does point number seven or point number fourteen! Of course, there are principles of parenting that God revealed thousands of years ago in his Word and we can read and apply today. Good parenting involves familiarizing ourselves with these principles and applying them as best we can in our family context. Principles of parenting offers freedom for the parent to respond to the need of each child within the framework of God’s will. A list of seventeen or any other number of rules for perfect parenting is not really parenting; it is manipulation. Parenting is a relationship built on trust; manipulation undermines that trust and foils relationship.

TWO EXTREMES

Moms and dads generally approach parenting from two different extremes. One extreme is freedom or liberty for the child to speak and behave. Generally, this approach believes that a child’s personality and creative bent can be hindered if restraints are placed upon him. A child needs to think, explore and experience all different kinds of things, and from these experiences he learns what is right and wrong and what he likes and doesn’t like. He is also forming the building blocks of his personality, character and future career choice. Any limiting of the child’s desires or actions could interfere with this development.

I understand the concern of these parents. But I am also concerned about what such liberty will do to a child in a negative way. I knew a college professor who taught psychology and who held to this freedom-approach to parenting. He believed it was wrong to restrain children through any means other than reasoning with them and, when that failed, pleading with them. "Ok kids, please clean your rooms. Please. Please?!" Or, "Kids, don’t yell at your mother, and don’t call her stupid. Your mother has a right to her opinions, too. Please kids, be nice to her. Stop that." This man allowed his kids freedom of speech and behavior. One day, one of their sons who was about eight years old at the time got very belligerent toward the mother. When he stepped out onto the front porch she locked the door to keep him out. When found he was locked out, he became extremely angry, yelling at his mother and demanding to be allowed back in! When his mother didn’t allow him entry, the boy literally kicked the front door in. No parental action was taken against the boy.

In my opinion, this approach to parenting produces monsters. Children raised with too much liberty in decision making and behavior begin to think that everyone and everything else exists for their enjoyment. They become abusive verbally and physically. They do not learn internal discipline. Later on, as older children, teenagers, and even adults, they will act out against anyone who tries to restrict them. They never learn to respect parental authority, so they never respect any other authority, either teachers, policeman or God. Furthermore, these children never learn the principle of behavior having consequences. If they are allowed to hit their little brother or sister and never get in trouble for it, then why should they get in trouble if they hit another child at school a few years later? Or, when they are adults, if they speak harshly toward a co-worker on the job, why should they get reprimanded for that? Or, if they steal candy bars or cars, why should they get in trouble with the law? The permissive style of parenting never prepared them to understand the principle of actions having consequences.

One of the worst examples of this I personally witnessed was a teenage boy who was driving recklessly. He passed me on a country road going at a high speed. A few miles further along I came upon a horrible wreckage: this boy had struck a van being driven by an older man. The collision projected the boy out of his jeep onto the grass. He was relatively unhurt. The man was killed. A few weeks later I was talking to a friend of this boy, and asked how he was doing. The friend told me he was doing ok. In fact, his parents bought him a brand new vehicle so he wouldn’t feel so badly about the "accident." "Do you think that is teaching the boy a good lesson?" I asked. The friend became very defensive of his high school classmate, and said there was nothing wrong with what the parents did for their son. "But what about learning about consequences for his criminal behavior?" I followed up. The thought didn’t seem to register with this friend or with the parents of the reckless driver. So, I doubt it had much opportunity to register with the driver. Drive too fast, pass recklessly, kill someone, get a new car. This young man was being trained with a permissive approach that was preparing him to view life as his playground where everyone else existed to satisfy him.

There are parents who have seen this liberal approach to parenting and have naturally recoiled from it. They have seen the monsters and don’t want to raise any themselves. So they run to the opposite extreme, and in the attempt to avoid permissiveness they can become too authoritarian. Their approach is to so dominate their children that they will not have bad desires or behavior. They will not rebel because they won’t be allowed to! They deny them any opportunity to make decisions and explore their little domains.

This approach works for a while, but it too has its pitfalls. For one, people will submit to that level of control for only so long. When children are little they must be thoroughly controlled for their own safety and health. But as they get older they want to question, examine and explore. Under the watchful eye of concerned parents they can pursue their curiosity in safety and within limits. As they grow older and more mature, the limits on their behavior can be expanded to allow even more freedom, still under the control of the parents.

But if a child is denied any liberty to question and make decisions on his or her own, he or she will eventually rebel against that. It may not happen until they are eighteen and leave home. At that point they have total freedom to choose! And often times they make very destructive decisions. Even though they may never have engaged in destructive behavior while they were younger, they did not abstain because they were taught to or were mentored to develop character or the ability to show restraint. In an authoritarian home they simply were not allowed to participate in destructive behavior. But, they likely were not given the insight into why they should not participate and were not given the discipline to refuse participation. So, went they got out on their own they were not prepared for the freedom and they abused it.

BALANCING THE EXTREMES

The two extreme styles of parenting moms and dad can gravitate toward are permissiveness and over-control. Neither extreme is helpful to the children. A better approach to navigating these extremes is to find a balance between them. James Dobson says
"Healthy parenting can be boiled down to these two essential ingredients: love and control ... Any concentration on love to the exclusion of control usually breeds disrespect and contempt. Conversely, an authoritarian and oppressive home atmosphere is deeply resented by the child who feels unloved or even hatred." [James Dobson, The New Strong-Willed Child (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale, 2004), p.103.]


Neither permissiveness, which is sometimes misconstrued as love, nor authoritarianism, which is sometimes misconstrued as legitimate parental oversight, are healthy for a family. Neither extreme fosters respect for the leadership role of the mother and father. The leadership role is one of authority, not to be confused with authoritarianism. Authority means you are in control, yet respect the rights and dignity of those you lead. Authoritarianism means you rule with an iron-fist, and do not respect the rights and dignity of those you lead. An authoritarian spirit crushes those it rules over. This may be something of the spirit Paul warned against in Colossians 3:21 when he wrote, "Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged."

You might think also of an umpire in a baseball game. He is in charge of the game. He makes decisions that you can argue, to point!, but not change. The umpire alone has the authority to change his mind about a call and alter it. An umpire may call a runner out, and even though everyone else saw the play differently, the umpire’s call is the one that stands. You can argue with him as vehemently as you choose, but when the argument is over, the umpire will still be in the game while you may be removed from it!

How does an umpire establish his authority? From the very beginning the umpire’s authority is established by his equipment: he wears a uniform that sets him apart from everyone else, he has protective gear, such as a face mask, a brush for the plate and a counter to record statistics by each inning. An umpire’s authority is further established by his demeanor on the field. He does not have to walk out onto the field barking orders. He can walk out straight and confident, and everyone picks up on the fact that this man is in charge of the game.

I have seen umpires behave beneath the dignity of their position. I’ve seen umpires lose control, erupt in anger and get in arguments with fans and yell at coaches, "Shut your mouth!" Such umpires are trying to impose an authoritarian flavor on their role, but they are not winning the respect or confidence of the players, coaches or fans.

In the same way, parents can act in anger and assert an authoritarian posture. They can threaten, holler, and, when they totally lose self-control, beat their kids (as distinguished from spanking). These parent may force certain behavior at a specific time, but they are not securing the confidence and respect of their children. A consequence of this is that they are not planting their values and ethics in the child. Only when their values and ethics become a part of the fabric of the child will those values and ethics guide the child in his or her life.

As parents, we want our children to respect us and to obey our voice. When they are young that means we want them to clean their rooms, not jump on the sofa, pet the dog gently, not throw temper tantrums, stay out of the road. When they are older, respecting our authority means they will not engage in dangerous behavior (e.g., drinking), will date someone who reflects the family’s ethics, will go to college and eventually get a job. We can’t force those behaviors over the long haul. All we can do is train and discipline consistently over time, with authority, and allow this kind of character and ethic to be planted, take root, and grow within them. It is the action of a secure parent that produces this kind of long term goal, not the anger of a parent who is insecure in his or her position, or is too permissive, and whose temper erupts when the child has disobeyed.

"Anger does not influence behavior unless it implies that something irritating is about to happen. By contrast, disciplinary action does cause behavior to change. ... How much better is it to use action to achieve the desired behavior and avoid the emotional outburst." ( The New Strong-Willed Child, pp.78&80).

It is a constant, ongoing challenge of parenting to balance love and control, to discipline with consistency, and to act out of commitment to firm action and not anger.

ROOTS AND WINGS

Ultimately, I think the goal of good parenting is to provide our kids with roots and wings. Roots are the orientation we give our children to the family values and ethics. Roots are the family traditions that we incorporate our children into, traditions of Thanksgiving and Christmas at grandma and grandpa’s, visits with the "Cookie Lady" (one of my great-grandmothers, who always brought cookies with her when she came to visit us), church, work and other important family activities that function generation after generation.

Roots are what give our children identity when they are away from us. When our son or daughter is in a new environment, and they are free to create the identity that they want with their new group of peers, roots are what direct them to uphold the values and traditions they were raised with. Even in a new environment, without any external constraint to behave a certain way, roots will direct them to be honest and moral. Roots will take them to worship, work, and back home for the holidays. Roots are the voice that whispers in their ear: "Remember who you are. Remember how you were raised. Live right, don’t break your parents’ heart."

We need to give our children roots, so that when they are raised and have left our home and formed their own, they will continue to pass on to their children the same values they received from us. But giving them roots is only part of what they need from us. We also need to give them the freedom to leave us. The freedom to leave us means they might experiment with a lifestyle we don’t approve of, or they may even leave our lifestyle altogether. But the freedom to leave us means they are also free to choose to live as they were raised. The freedom to leave means they have wings, and we give them those wings. The roots we have given them means they will always be oriented to the values of their upbringing, and the wings we give them means they are free to go off and use those wings to form their own lives and families.

After his prom, a high school graduate was invited with a group of his friends to another student’s house for a party. He’d never been to one of the groups "parties," and decided to go for a little while. This evening was a celebration of his graduation. His parents gave him permission to be out later than usual. He was about thirty miles from home. This new graduate had a lot of "freedom" to fly on his own that night.

At his friends house all the students gathered in one room, many of them sitting on the floor around the room. Soon, several guys began carrying in the coolers filled with beer. In just a moment he was the only one sitting there without a drink. "Come on, don’t you want one?" "No, I don’t think so. Not yet anyway." Several times he was invited to participate in the party rather than just watching it. Each time he said, "No thanks, not yet." Then, he suddenly stood up, thank his friends for the invitation and said, "I really must be going," and before anyone could object to his departure, he promptly left the house.

The ride home took half an hour. All the way home he wondered what it would have been like to join in what looked like so much fun. "Would I have gotten drunk off only one or two beers? Would it really matter, just this once? Would it really kill my Christian witness? Would it permanently mar my "record" of trying to make good choices?"

At the same time, the student was glad he didn’t compromise at that house. There was another time or two when he caved in and had a drink, but not this time. He said, "No," and he left when it kept getting harder to stand by his conviction to not drink.

His thirty-minute ride home that night was a long one. He was home by 11:30 on the night of his prom and banquet. Every one else in his family was already in bed asleep, and soon he was, too. The next day was, well, just another day. A day without regret, without worries, without any negative ramifications. But in another way, it was a day of victory.

He didn’t realize it at the time, but years later he realized that the roots his parents had given him kept him secure that night in his family values. At the same time, the wings his parents had given him that night to choose his own course were directed by his roots. The young man did make his choice that night, without his parents or anyone breathing down his neck. There was no authoritarian, "You better do what I say!" bearing down on him. There was no angry threatening from a parent that he better choose well! Instead, there was the confidence of the mother and father in this young man that their years of training and nurturing him would pay off. His parents trusted that when he took his flight that night, he would fly well. That thirty-minute drive was one of the most important of his life.

No child will choose well every time, either when they are but small children in our home or when they are older and venturing out on their own. But what we work and pray for is the proper direction. If their course is in the direction of heaven, their flight will go well.

Principles of Parenting: (Use Proverbs)
1) Balancing love and control
2) Using action instead of anger in disciplining.
3) Disciplining with consistency, firmness and love.
4) Patience
5) Kindness
6) Teach-Discipline
7) Family bonding (Prov. 4)
8) Teaching responsibility

Warren Baldwin July 2006

Blessing of Marriage: Harmony

BLESSING OF MARRIAGE: HARMONY


"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep .." (Genesis 1:1-2a).

In that very, very early state of existence, what was the earth like? It was formless, empty, and dark. It was wild and uninhabited. It was uninhabitable. No life could survive in that environment.

A word frequently used to describe the earth at that time is chaos. There was no order or structure. There was no peace or tranquility. There was no HARMONY. The environment, such as it was, was formless, empty and dark. It sounds like a spooky place. It was not a place to sustain human existence.

God stepped into this existence and made his presence known: "The Spirit of God was hovering over the waters." (Genesis 1:2b). God didn’t just step into this dangerous, lifeless existence to observe it, he stepped into it to change it. He "hovered." I think of his "hovering" over the formless, empty darkness as the stirring of his creative energy. God was about to do something. As a bird hovers over its nest it stirs the air beneath it. As God hovered over the existence he stirred it.

God stepped into the lifeless existence and began to disturb it. He stirred it to life. God disturbed the existence by speaking to it.
- "Let there be light!" There was.
- "Let the sky appear!" It did.
- "I want to see land!" He did.
- "Animals, come forth!" They obeyed.

Finally, God said, "Let there be man." Sometime later he said, "Let there be woman." Here are the words of scripture: "God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it ..." (Genesis 1:27-28a).

Into the formless, empty, dark, uninhabitable realm stepped God. And he subdued the chaos and established order and structure. God created light and oxygen and he created every kind of life that there is - vegetable, animal and human. Then God looked at everything he made and saw that, "It was very good." (Genesis 1:31).

Why is everything good? Because God made it. Everything God makes in someway is the living and positive contrast to chaos. Everything God made in someway contributes to life, peace, unity and community. So, everything God created is good because it contributes in some way to God’s harmony for his creation.


Harmony

God created two realms for man to dwell in.

One, God created a physical environment that was inhabitable. The Garden of Eden produced fresh fruit and vegetables. The temperature was perfect. There was never too much moisture or not enough. The sun would provide light for plants to grow but would never burn them up. The air was clean. This was the perfect physical environment.

Two, God created a family environment for man that was inhabitable. When God created man he didn’t leave man alone. Man didn’t do well alone. Most men don’t do well alone now! We need someone, a companion, a helpmeet, a wife. God knew that. He said, "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him." Genesis 2:18. The helper God made for Adam was Eve, a woman. His wife.

One word that would describe both of these early realms as God created them is harmony. The earth was at peace with itself and with man. We didn’t fear the weather or the animals. The sounds of rattles in the garden didn’t make us jump. We said, "Oh look honey, isn’t he cute! Look at how fast those little rattles shake!" The earth was in harmony with itself and with us.

Also, the family was at peace with itself. The glimpse we have of the early family is that Adam and Eve were totally delighted with each other. Adam’s ecstatic, "Oh wow! Finally, someone for me! Bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh!" never wore thin. Adam delighted in Eve and Eve delighted in Adam’s attention toward her. This family lived in harmony.

God’s creation of the Garden of Eden and of the family was his triumph over the chaos of the earlier realm. Man can not live in chaos. But he can live in God’s creation and in family. God created the world and family for man to live in, and as long as man obeyed God, the world and family would continue to be good and harmonious.

But that is the problem: the earth and family would have harmony as long as man obeyed. If man ever ceased to obey, if he ceased to promote harmony, he would have chaos again.

We’ll come back to the idea of chaos in a moment. First, I want to say something more about the family as God created it. What is it about family that draws us to it? Why does almost everyone grow up and create a family of his own?

In this newly formed community God gave Adam and Eve the privilege of adding to the community: they were allowed to form their own family. Marriage is a form of community, people living together in relationship.

God is part of a loving triad that includes God the Father, God the Son and God the Spirit. The very nature of God is community. In creation and the family, God extends the community to the created order: man. God made man in his image, male and female he made us. God made man to be "procreative." Just as God is part of a loving community that produces life, so He made man to be part of a loving community to produce new life; babies: "God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth ..." (Genesis 2:28a).

In other words, God gave man the charge to continue the work of God: produce life. Producing life is part of the larger picture of a man and woman being drawn to each other in a permanent, loving relationship. We are drawn together because we are created with the need for connection.
Our need for connection is complex.
- Part of our need is for social and emotional companionship. "The Lord God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him." (Genesis 2:18). The helper God made man was woman, to be his wife.

- Part of our need is for sexual companionship. "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame." (Genesis 2:24-25). The same woman who would provide man his social and emotional companionship would also provide his sexual companionship, his wife.

In both our social/emotional and sexual needs God provides the same resource, the same blessing: he provides us with a mate. To satisfy our needs God puts us in a family. It is also incredibly important to understand that the sexual function as designed by God is supposed to contribute to community. For there to be community there must be peace, order and harmony.


Marriage meets needs

In marriage several needs of men and women are met. Social needs are met and physical or sexual needs are met. Adam must have sensed that the moment he first saw Eve. When Adam saw his wife he exclaimed, "This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called woman for she was taken out of man." (Genesis 2:23).

One interpreter says that what Adam meant was, "Wow! Finally!" Adam knew instantly that here, standing before him, was God’s answer to his loneliness and sexual frustration. Eve was God’s blessing to Adam.

For both man and woman social and physical needs would be met through marriage. As long as man would follow this plan of God, things would work smoothly in people’s lives. There are two important implications in God’s plan for us.

1) Sexual relations are to be confined to marriage. Before marriage, a man and woman waits. After marriage, man and woman engage in physical relations only with each other. In Hebrews 13:4 God says, "Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure ..."

As we honor this command, we affirm each other’s value. We also affirm the value of the family relationship God put us in. Sexual purity and faithfulness to our partner maintains harmony. Trust can grow.

When we don’t maintain sexual purity, we work against the family unit. Trust breaks down. Harmony breaks down.

2) Husbands and wives are to be considerate of each other. They should treat each other with respect and dignity. "Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord .... Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church ... each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband." Ephesians 5:22, 25, 33.

As husbands and wives treat each other with this kind of care, they reaffirm the value God instilled within them. Both wives and husbands need respect and love. Part of this respect and love is to be gentle, caring and forgiving. Forgiveness is especially important. In pre-marital counseling sessions I tell young couples one of the most important things to practice to make their marriage work is forgiveness. Marriage is about learning how to forgive and accept forgiveness. Without love, care, respect and forgiveness, harmony breaks down.

When people forget this plan of God, things cease to work smoothly and chaos reigns again. God stepped into the chaos and produced peace and harmony, order and structure. But man holds it within his power to overturn the peace of creation and return to chaos. Look at Adam and Eve.


Chaos

With every blessing of God at their disposal, including the very presence of God, to meet every need, what did Adam and Eve do? They acted selfishly. "When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it." (Genesis 3:6)

Sounds like a simple thing, doesn’t it? What is the big deal? Just that God said, "Do not eat of that tree!" (Genesis 2:17). The results of their sin were catastrophic. Enmity entered the animal kingdom: God put the fear of man into the animals. Those great big furry critters were no longer teddy bears; they were now grizzly bears, ready to chomp on a man’s head. Those cute slithering things no longer played sweet rattling music for a husband and wife to listen to; they injected poison. God also put the fear of animals into man.

But there is more. The beautiful earth itself will at times be our enemy. Instead of producing just beautiful fruit trees and tomato plants, it also produces thistles now (3:18). And it gets very, very dry, sometimes producing nothing.

But there is still more. Bearing children would become a more demanding and painful task (3:16). Some women even decide not to have children. Further, the natural, peaceful relationship between a husband and wife would be replaced with a spirit of competition (3:16). Man and woman now have to work HARD to maintain a long-term relationship. We must serve each other, forgive, overlook, try again, start over, get help, forgive some more, accept forgiveness, cry.

It is spiritually exhausting for me to go back and read Genesis 3. It is exhausting to think about the spiritual slide we have been on since the Garden of Eden. God made everything to be harmonious, beautiful, peaceful, angelic and utopian. We turn all that beauty back into the chaos of the earliest age.

How do we do it? The same way Adam and Eve did - by disobeying God and disrupting harmony. We do that when we exploit our selfish natures. A prime example of that is David. David looked out the window once ... and life was never the same again. He lost his good sense to Bathsheba. Where there had been some measure of peace in his family after that there was chaos. David’s sin turned his Garden of Eden back into disorder. His family environment became formless, empty, and dark. It became uninhabitable. It was hard for life to survive in that environment. The prophet of God said that would happen.

"The sword will never depart from your house ... This is what the Lord says: ‘Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity upon you." (2 Samuel 12:10,11).

Do you remember the chaos that came upon David? One son abused his half-sister, David’s daughter. Another son killed that son. That same son drove David out of the kingdom and threatened to kill him. That son was killed. The son born to Bathsheba died. After Solomon became king he killed one of his own brothers, a son of David, to prevent a hostile take-over of the kingdom. David lost a daughter and four sons, and three of those sons were buried in his own lifetime.

That is chaos. That is turning the beautiful creation back into the hostile environment at the very beginning. It happened because of selfish behavior. But that is not the way it is supposed to be. That is not how God wants things!

Adam and Eve acted selfishly and they created disorder. David acted selfishly and he created disorder. And guess what? When we act selfishly we create disorder.

This series of lessons is about the blessings of marriage. One of the blessings of marriage is to live together in peace and harmony. It is a blessing to be peaceful and happy. In marriage we feel that way when we love our spouses, treat them with care, and live faithfully together.

I’m doing these lessons because of a some things I’ve read recently. I read an article written by a woman who talked about the blessings she enjoyed being married. Her emotional and physical needs were met in long term marital commitment to her husband.

I’ve also read recently about the disillusionment many young people experience about sex and marriage. So many kids today never see a long term marital relationship. Many today never get to know their mother or father. Many see their parents break up over big issues or little issues. The real problem isn’t that their parents make mistakes; it is that one partner will not forgive the other. They will hold resentments and break up. These kids often hear their parents yell and fight. They don’t see respect, love and companionship modeled. They see chaos, the very thing God has tried to rescue them from.

Also, many youngsters become sexually active before they get married. They develop many false ideas about sex. They learn that sex is fun, but they do not learn that sex is the most serious relationship they will ever enter into. Sex outside the marriage destroys harmony. Before they ever get the chance to marry and enjoy harmony, these kids are destroying the harmony before they ever get to experience it. These kids are creating their own chaos. Unless they learn to control their behavior and save themselves, they are creating chaos, the very thing God has tried to rescue them from.


Important Role for Christians

We in the church have an enormous task ahead of us: to model for our children what godly, Christian living is all about. We need to let our own children and children in the community see what harmony in a family is. We need to learn to honor the covenant in every way, including learning to forgive, to let go of resentments, to cherish our spouses, and to treat them with respect and love.

As we establish Christian families, we are functioning like God. We are beating back the chaos. We are stepping into the formless, empty, and dark world known as modern America. As we practice harmony at home we are acting like God. No, we are not taking his place, but we are creating an environment that will sustain life.

Work for harmony in your home. Go home and say a kind word to everyone in your family. In your heart recommit yourself to that imperfect, but beautiful, person you are married to. Forgive him or her if you must. Smile. Get on your knees and thank God for these special people in your life.

Does that sound like hard work? It is. This is how we establish harmony out of chaos. That is the work God does. He wants to do that right now in your family! May God bless us as we work to create our own Garden of Eden at home!

Warren Baldwin

Blessing of Marriage: Spiritual Growth

BLESSINGS OF MARRIAGE: SHARED SPIRITUAL GROWTH
Ephesians 5:22-33

Ephesians 5 is one of the most loved chapters discussing marital relations, and it is also one of the most controversial. One of the loved verses reads, "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her ..." (V.25).

One of the controversial verses reads, "Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord." (V.22)

I understand why this is controversial! Today, women have proven that they are as capable as men in building businesses, running companies, and making political decisions that affect the nation. They function in the market place with great affect. They can translate from the Greek and Hebrew texts and exegete scripture as capably as any male scholar. Even though they may not receive the respect and recognition they deserve, women have certainly proven their ability.

Wives Respect Husbands

But then they go home. In the home setting, which Paul is addressing in Ephesians 5, there is an appropriate posture for the wife to take toward her husband, one of respect. Two verses address this. Verse 21 says the wife is to be submissive to her husband. Verse 33 says she should respect her husband. The wife’s posture toward her husband is not that of slavish fear, but of respect for authority structures and roles in the home (Andrew T. Lincoln, WBC, p.385).

Paul is concerned that peace and order prevail at home. As the Gospel of Christ spread people enjoyed the new freedom they had in Christ. They were no longer slave or free, Jew or Greek, male or female, but Christians in God’s sight. But they still had roles to fulfill in their family and cultural settings. If they reveled too much in their freedom, their freedom could actually become detrimental to the healthy communities God wanted to build, such as the family and the church. A wife with the new found freedom in Christ could press the limits of that freedom and disrupt the family and cultural communities she lived in.

Imagine an unbelieving husband in Ephesus or even a modern American town. He is comfortable with his relationship with his unbelieving wife. But then she comes home one day and announces she is a Christian. "The Bible says we are no longer male or female, but are all Christians," she tells her husband. "And since I am the Christian here now, and not you, I’m not going to be listening to much of your ideas about this family since you don’t have a spiritual perspective." How much chance is there for peace in this home? How much chance do you think she has of converting her pagan husband? Paul is concerned about the soul of that man. I don’t believe Paul wants to limit in anyway the gifts or talents a Christian woman has, but he doesn’t want her to exercise those gifts or talents in any way that is going to be disruptive of the home environment. Even though she is the Christian, she is still called upon to respect her husband.

That is not always easy to do. Remember one element of the curse to the woman back in the Garden of Eden? "Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you." (Genesis 3:16). Some people interpret that to mean that a woman would naturally love her husband. But this announcement is a curse, followed by the statement, "he will rule over you." I think this verse means there is going to be competition between the husband and wife now. The natural peace in the relationship before the Fall is now disrupted; man and woman will be competing, even in the home, for advantage over the other.

Paul says in Ephesians, "Give it up. Voluntarily. Respect your husband." It takes the Spirit of God to be able to do that. Not all husbands are worthy of respect. Even good husbands sometimes do things that are not respectable. Paul didn’t say respect them when they deserve it. Paul said, "Respect your husbands."

A Christian woman who submits to and respects her husband is not weak. Instead, she is very strong. Her inner spiritual strength and conviction allow her to function beside her husband as a helpmeet, and not to compete with him.


Husbands Love Wives

A Christian husband will make it as easy as possible for his wife to respect him. One of the main things he will do is love his wife deeply. "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her ..." (V.25)

It is important to understand that love in the Bible is more than a feeling. We think of love as a warm feeling toward someone or something. If someone makes us feel good because of their good looks or pleasant company, we might think of that as love. For many of us, love is the good feeling someone else produces in us. That idea for love is selfish. We call it love because of how we feel inside. It has to do with "US."

Biblical love means to commit, to act, to give. To love someone means we give of our selves. The emphasis is on giving, not receiving. Isn’t this what Jesus did on the cross? "For God so love the world that he gave his only begotten (unique) son ..." (John 3:16). God gave his son, Jesus gave his life. That is love.

Jesus loved and died to himself and for us. To love someone means we die for them. We may not literally give up our bodies. But we will give up our self-will. We won’t push our agenda. We die to our selfish wants and live for the benefit of the one we love. We serve, help, and promote the growth of the one we love.

Ephesians 5:25 teaches that there is a redemptive element to marriage and a husband’s love that transcends all the issues of sex and happiness. If husbands and wives could understand this very, very important component of marriage, it would go a long way to alleviating the selfish and competitive spirit that sometimes enters the relationship.

Marriage at the highest level is not about having physical needs met (although God is for this! 1 Cor. 7:5). It is not about being happy or fulfilled (although God is for his, too! Prov. 5:18). These are important aspects of marriage!! But, they are not the most important. The most important element of marriage is that the husband and wife partner together for the journey of eternity. Sure, we partner together to journey together through this life, but the journey leads us to eternity.

"Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In the same way, husband ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church ..." Eph. 5:25-29

Nature of Love

Paul says three things about the nature of love. One, Christ died for us to present us to God as pure and holy. He cleanses us, purifies us and prepares us to stand before God. That is redemption. Jesus lives his life for us and he dies for us. He is totally unselfish. His ministry is for our redemption.

Secondly, Christian men understand this redemptive role of Jesus and they accept it for their lives. They feed their bodies food for their physical health, but they also seek the spiritual food of Christ. Christian men feed and care for their bodies as Christ does the church. Since Christ provides the church its spiritual nutrition, this is part of the care Christian men provide for their lives.

Finally, Christian husbands share in the redemptive role toward their wives. As Christ feeds, cleanses, purifies and makes the church holy, "In the same way, husbands ought to love their wives ..." (V.28)

Our ultimate obligation to our wives is to prepare them for heaven. We love them in a redemptive way. Our love for them transcends physical attraction, physical fulfillment and other met needs. We love them with an eternal perspective. God places within our hands a responsibility to embrace our wives with a love that commits our lives to their spiritual care and nurture.

In short, because our wives are married to us, it should be easier for them to be purified for heaven. We encourage them, pray for them, and nurture them along the path of holiness and purity. When we stand before the Lord, one of our great boasts will be that our wives and family is there with us. We shepherded them there!

Significance of Love and Respect

There are two significant aspects of the love husbands share with their wives and the respect the wives returns.

One, this love and respect relationship reflects the union of God and Christ. Husbands love as Christ loved the church; wives respect their husbands as the church submits to Christ. The love-respect/submit dynamic between Christ and the church is played out in the living rooms of our homes. When Christian husbands and wives function in a biblical and spiritual manner, they reflect the redemptive dynamic of Christ’s relationship to the church.

Do you see any power in this? You can buy marriage manuals and how-to-books for your marriage. Some of them are very good. But there is no dynamic that you can bring into your home that can compare to the dynamic of having Christ as the model for your marriage.

Husbands, this redemptive role we play in the lives of our wives is to be a great blessing to them. But is that a blessing to the husband? It is certainly a great responsibility! But is it a blessing for the husband? Yes. Because as we assume the spiritual leadership of the home to lead our wives to heaven, it necessitates our own growth as well. Here’s how.

One of my character flaws through life has been an enjoyment of crude humor. At some point I must have known it was wrong, but I still allowed myself to enjoy it for too long. I had read Ephesians 4:29 and 5:4 before, but somehow they never made their imprint on my heart. These verses read as follows:
"Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen." (Eph. 4:29)

"Nor should there be any obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving." (Eph. 5:4)

Sometimes we need other people to drive the truth into our hearts and minds. I did. I still do. When Cheryl and I were first married I would sometimes tell her some of the crude humor I thought was hilarious. She didn’t like it and asked me to stop. Finally one day she asked me, "Would you tell that joke to a sister from church?" I said, "Of course not!" She said, "Well, I’m a sister from church and I don’t want to hear jokes like that anymore." Then it hit me ... I needed to be an example and encourager to my wife. I wasn’t. Crude humor was a function of a flawed character, and my wife lovingly pointed that out to me. Her rebuke led me to grow so that I could be more of an example and an encourager to her. I was and am better equipped to play a redemptive role in her life now because of that.

A Christian husband loves his wife redemptively. He loves her with a commitment to her spiritual growth. And that commitment means he will give attention to his own growth. The redemptive role of marriage is the greatest blessing of all, to both the husband and the wife.

Secondly, this love and respect relationship contributes to a successful marriage.

Love and respect has important implications for how a marriage works out. A wife needs the love of her husband and a husband needs the respect of his wife. Both of these needs are deeply ingrained in the psyche of a man and woman.

One way a man communicates love to his wife is to communicate with her. He needs to communicate with her verbally, eventually moving to deeper emotional connection with his wife when he talks about personal things, like his feelings. When a man does not engage verbally and emotionally with his wife she may feel unloved. This hurts her, so she becomes critical, often accusing her husband of not listening to her or communicating with her. This criticism make him feel disrespected, so he withdraws from his wife, becoming even less communicative. This husband and wife may love each other deeply, but deep hurt can set in their hearts as well. When a woman thinks she is unloved by her husband and a man thinks he is disrespected by his wife, both feel devalued and can become vicious in their treatment of each other. A vicious cycle may ensue, with the wife nagging her husband for communication, and a husband further disconnecting from his wife by making harsh comments or shutting down completely.

Breaking the Vicious Cycle

How can such a cycle be broken? By obeying Ephesians 5:33. It starts first with a husband. He is to love his wife redemptively. Loving his wife redemptively means he will do whatever is called for in showing love and honor to her. He is patient with her, kind and gentle. His duty to his wife is not this-worldly only, but has implications for all eternity. If he leads and loves in the Spirit of Christ, he becomes a major influence for his wife and children to go to heaven.

Guys, loving our wives redemptively means we will swallow our pride and be the first to go into counseling if it is necessary. We will learn to communicate, sharing the facts and feelings of our lives. We will learn to be tender to our wife’s feelings. We will learn to be grateful for her. We will remember that this woman is God’s great gift to us. In this woman, our wife, our emotional, physical, and even some spiritual needs are met. There is no other relationship in this life that we have that can so complete us. So we learn to look at our wives with a deep, deep appreciation that transcends understanding. We thank God for her. With that kind of gratitude to God and our wives, we can grow spiritually to love our wives redemptively. We love her, serve her, and pray for her with no strings attached. It doesn’t matter if she loves us back or respects us. We will love our wives anyway.

When a wife sees her husband making efforts like this to reach her and serve her, it makes it easier for her to begin to respect her husband. If she respects him, she will be more understanding of his difficulty to connect verbally and emotionally. What comes naturally for her takes great effort for him! But with respect she can be patient with him. She appreciates his effort to show her love, to lead the family to worship, and to be a positive Christian influence in the home. Her husband notices her respect toward him. He appreciates her kindness, and in turn feels an even deepened love and respect for her. The crazy cycle of being unkind and harsh with each other is replaced with the healthy cycle of love and respect. But, even if her husband does not begin this healthy cycle by loving his wife, she can begin the cycle by respecting her husband.

God commands a man to love his wife and a wife to respect her husband. When they do, they reflect the very nature of Christ’s relationship with the church. Additionally, God knew a man needed respect and a woman needed love. When a man and woman love and respect each other, they fulfill each other’s deepest emotional needs. (Some of the ideas for this discussion on love and respect came from Love and Respect by Emerson Eggerichs).

If a husband and wife will love and respect each other, they invite God’s blessing onto their marriage and into their home. They create an environment where they can share in each other’s spiritual growth. Together they can overcome spiritual lethargy by encouraging their partner to open the Bible and worship. A major threat to spiritual growth in an affluent culture is greed and selfishness. A husband and wife working together can help each other raise their priorities above that of greed and selfishness. Finally, a couple who works together for spiritual growth can encourage openness and honesty with each other in prayer. An inability to pray together may indicate sin and shame lurking in shadows of one of their lives. A caring spouse can encourage honest confession. (See Joe Beam, Becoming One, pp.181-202)

Solomon said, "He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the Lord." (Proverbs 18:22). I think all of us husbands will say, "Amen." And if we can remember that , "Amen" with joy, our wives will be able to echo this voice by saying, "She who finds a husband finds what is good."

God wants both parties in your marriage to go to heaven. He wants your children there, too! A husband who loves his wife and a wife who respects her husband are taking a big step toward that home ... together.

Warren Baldwin

God Made Grandparents

GOD MADE GRANDPARENTS BECAUSE ...
2 Timothy 1:3-7

I was blessed to know both sets of my grandparents and even three of my great parents. As I little kid I remember hunting for frogs at my maternal grandmother’s. Grandpa (we called him "Pop") even bought little cages for us to keep the little critters for the time we were at his house. He and Grandma always had bags of M&Ms for us when we visited.

My paternal grandparents lived in a trailer on our farm. We worked on the land and construction sites with Grandpa. When he retired, he became a chef and baker (much to Grandma’s chagrin at times, I think!) and us kids were frequent visitors in their home for pies and candy.

Grandparents provide an "escape" from the rules of home. Grandparents will give their grandchildren all kinds of treats that the rules of home might not allow for! Treats like snacks, coffee (with lots of milk, of course), and staying up later. Grandparents have a way of making their grandchildren feel special.

Children have two common perceptions about their grandparents:
- Grandparents are nice old people with white hair! They are people who always have time (since they are retired).
- Grandparents give you special attention and let you get away with stuff. Grandparents are nice to have around!

These are great! But grand parents are more than just buddies to their grandchildren. Grandparents have the opportunity to instill eternal principles in their grandchildren. They can have a dramatic affect upon their lives.

Many years ago an old grandpa, with not much time left in this world, began to prepare his many sons and grandsons for his departure. He had lived long and had seen the hand of God work in bold and mysterious ways within in own family. God had shaken the foundations of this old man’s life more than once. He had moved numerous times. He had cheated men and been cheated himself. He bargained with God, thinking to strike a deal beneficial to himself. He made deals on impulse, especially when the deal involved a beautiful woman. He had many sons whom he loved greatly, though one more than all the others. He had his heart crushed beyond repair at the disappearance of one of his boys. He had his heart revive after finding out this son was alive and well. He led his family, as best his character would allow, in the ways of Almighty God. Through all these events of the man’s life the hand of God was upon him, pressing, shaping, molding and developing his character. And now, advanced in years and soon to bid this world good-bye, he wanted to ready his boys for the day when they would have to shoulder the family leadership.

In one act near the final scene of his life this grandfather called two of his grandsons. Their father set the boys in the grandfather’s lap. Grandpa kissed the boys and hugged them. To his son he said, "I never expected to see your face again, and now God has allowed me to see your children, too." Grandpa blessed both boys. He said one would be great but the other even greater. He even said that one day people will say, "In your name will Israel pronounce this blessing: May God make you like Ephraim and Manasseh." (Genesis 48).

This was more than the sentiment of an old grandpa who knew he might not see his boys and grandchildren again. This was Jacob, the all-for-self younger brother who deceived his father and cheated his brother but went on to become the sustainer of the Promise to the children of Abraham. This was Jacob, the Patriarch of Israel, who, in his old age had the vision and presence of God so much in his heart that he wanted to pass that on to his offspring. This was Jacob, grandpa to two little boys.

I wonder what Ephraim and Manasseh thought in later life as they looked back on that time in their grandfather’s lap? I remember my grandfather bouncing me on his knee and singing, "Pony Boy." I remember thinking, "Grandpa is fun!" I knew he loved me. Ephraim and Manasseh would have to know grandpa loved them. At some point they would even know that a great and momentous thing had happened that day - grandpa was passing on the family legacy of devotion to God.

There were a lot of ups and downs in the Jacob family. Abraham had his wife lie and say she was his sister. He was impatient with the promise of God that he would be a father. He had a baby with a handmaiden. His son Isaac made a common parenting mistake of having a favorite child. He also seems to not have a healthy relationship with his wife. Isaac’s son Jacob also openly favored one son to the detriment of the family. But, one thing all these ancestors did right was they faithfully followed God. They grew in character. All of these family-tree stories eventually got passed on to Ephraim and Mannaseh. They would carry on the family tradition of faithfulness to God. That’s what they were doing on their grandpa’s lap that day. Grandpa is passing on faith.

Faithfulness to God is not passed on primarily through Bible classes or sermons. I’m for both avenues of imparting Bible knowledge and faith!! But, truth this, the value of public teaching is that it reinforces what children learn in their relationship with their parents and grandparents. Faith is primarily passed on through relationships with those who have faith. That is the great value of friendship.

I asked Cheryl what she remembered about her Grandparents. She told me stories about helping grandmothers bake in the kitchen and going fishing. She learned from her grandmothers what it was to be nice and kind. With one grandmother she and Patricia would bake bread. The left over dough the Grandma made into a special design just for the girls. Both grandmothers went to church and read their Bibles. Both grandmothers were Believers. Through their caring relationships with their granddaughters, they were passing on faith.

Grandparents teach and correct. They pass on family traditions. From Jacob of old to my own grandfather, grandparents sit their grandchildren on their knees and tell them family stories and create a vision of faithfulness for the future. Grandparents pass on faith.

I know of two preachers who credit grandparents with encouraging their faith and even their preaching ministry. One is Timothy. Timothy’s sincere faith lived first in his mother and grandmother. 2 Tim. 1:5. Timothy is faithful and proclaiming the Word partly because of his grandmother.

A second one is me. My grandfather starting doing fill-in preaching in our congregation when he was in his 50s or 60s. When I was a teenager he used to talk to me about his love for God and the Bible. He said he wished he could have his whole life to do over so he could preach. I remember thinking, "Wow, preaching and the Bible must be pretty important." When Cheryl and I married my grandmother and grandfather drove from Tenn. to Florida to visit with us. My parents were my primary teachers all through life, but it also helped having grandparents encouraging me along the way, too.

Grandparents, you have a mission. It is to pass on faith. It is to pass on the family traditions at Thanksgiving and Christmas. It is to pass on the family tradition of faithfulness and worship. Your mission is to give your grandchildren a vision of their future life in church, worship and ministry. You give them a vision as Christian husbands and wives, mothers and fathers. Your grandchildren may teach Bible classes in 20 years because you encourage them to do so today.

In college I had a friend "Steve" who was several years older than me in our freshman year.
"Why are you starting college so late?" I asked him.
"In high school I got into drugs and other bad behavior. I got in trouble and got behind."
"What straightened you out?" I asked.
"I had a grandmother who never gave up on me," he said.

I wonder how many people in heaven will say, "We are here because we had grandparents who never gave up on us."

Grandpas and grandmas ... thanks for the role you play in the lives of your grandchildren.

Warren Baldwin Sept. 9, 2007

Straying From Home

STRAYING FROM HOME

"Like a bird that strays from its nest is a man who strays from his home." Proverbs 27:8


I grew up on a farm in the country. We had trees all around our house with birds nests in them. Occasionally we would find a baby bird on the ground below the nest. I wondered if the bird was sick and the mother had to push it out. The bird may have been rambunctious and tried taking off from home before it was capable of flying. Perhaps it tried walking along one of the branches before its legs were strong enough to support it and it fell.

I have a sense of what this verse is saying: for a bird, especially a baby bird, security and safety are found at home. When a baby bird strays off from its home danger awaits. That danger could be a predator, falling off a high limb, or simply not finding its way back to the nest. That part of the verse I understand. What does the rest of the verse mean when it says that "a man who strays from his home" is like a bird that strays from its nest?

Home means more than house. We all grow up (or should) and leave our house. In a sense we leave home, too - we leave mom and dad and younger brothers and sisters to go make our way in the big world. But there is another sense in which we take home with us when we leave.

We take our identity with us. There are some things we can never outgrow - and we shouldn’t. Identity is one of those things. I am the son of Warren & Elaine Baldwin of Henderson, TN. No matter how far geographically I may be removed from them, I will forever owe my life and my sense of who I am to them.

We take our past with us. Connected with our sense of our identity is all of the memories, both good and bad, that shaped our lives when we lived at home. These memories form the mental and emotional grid that filter the world for us. From these memories we form opinions about people, about problems in life, about who we will marry. Like it or not, these memories and this grid are with us for good. If we can accept these memories and learn from them, we can use them for much good.

We take our future with us. Actually, we shape our future. That’s right, the home life we experienced growing up gives us our identity, it gives us the memories that shape the way we view the world, and with this identity and grid, our homes give us our future. We will grow up, leave the house, take our identity and memories with us, and go build a future that in many ways will mirror the home from which we came.

That scares some people, but it doesn’t need to. Remember, stray too far from your home and you become like a little bird falling from its nest. The home from which you sprang is still your security base.

Was your home a healthy and secure place? Good, because then you will feel comfortable with this security base. Are you uncomfortable with the thought your home will always be with you because it was not what you wish it had been? Well, here is some good news - this is where we are different from a bird. We can change. We can study our lives, look at our grids, and say, "I want to change this picture. I want to create happier, more positive memories for my children. I want a brighter future. I want to include Jesus Christ in the upbringing my children experience."

Even though you can’t change where you come from you can change where you are going. That is what Jesus Christ is all about. "Like a bird that strays from its nest is a man who strays from his home." God gave us families because they provide the shape and contours of our lives. Even with all of its faults and flaws, be thankful for that family! It is one of God’s great blessings for your life.

Warren Baldwin

Friday

Heritage

HERITAGE

"Do not move an ancient boundary stone set up by your fathers." Proverbs 22:28

I have a vague memory of boundary stones on our farm in Vermont and my two acres in Wyoming. Those markers set the limits of my property. They also set the limits of the property bordering mine. We knew where Our property and rights extended and ended. No questions. Like fences, boundary markers make good friends. They establish borders, determine rights and provide order. If both sides of the boundary stones respect the markers, there is peace and order.

So, Solomon says, respect those markers! Don’t move them. You threaten a person’s livelihood if you move a marker and deprive a landowner of his property! In ancient Israel, and even for some in modern America, the land provides the food and the income for a family to survive. Deprive that family of income potential from the land and you may bankrupt that family.

Those ancient boundary markers did more than guarantee property lines and rights; they provided a sense of continuity. In ancient Israel the property that God blessed each household with was passed on to succeeding generations. Fathers passed the land on to sons who then passed it on to their sons. Generations of a family would be raised on the same property, harvesting the same fields, wading the same creeks, and plucking fruit from the same trees. Those boundary markers provided a very important sense of stability for families, and that stability became an important element of the family’s, and society’s, heritage.

So, if you moved an ancient boundary stone, you actually did more than disrupt the livelihood of that family, as important as that was. If you moved that stone you "destroyed the social order and well being of individuals in the community." (Bland, p.206-07). You upset the order and tore at the heritage.

There is great importance to this verse. Is there anything in our lives that provides a sense of heritage for us, a sense of continuity with our ancestors, a connection with our past? Is there something we can hold on to as a connection to grandma and grandpa, even great grandma and grandpa? Fortunate are those who grow up on a farm and can say, "My dad and his mom were both born and raised on this farm. I’m the fourth generation in my family to farm this land." That is happening less and less.

In my own family it was the construction business that helped provide some of that heritage for me. I remember seeing tools of my dad’s marked, "Baldwin and Baldwin." "Are these tools from the business you owned with grandpa," I asked dad. "No," he said. "These are tools from the business your grandpa owned with your great grandpa." At age 13 I was assembling some of the equipment my great grandfather used back in 1930. That is heritage, a connection with my past, a boundary marker that establishes order, permanence and stability.

My own children did not have the benefit of being raised on a farm or in a business that had been worked by four generations of my family. But I have found something that does serve as such a boundary marker for them, something that promotes heritage and stability. It is worship. My kids worship with their mother and me. At the same time and in other places, both sets of grandparents are worshiping. When a certain song is sung, I can lean over and whisper to one of my kids, "That was one of great grandpa’s favorite songs. When I was your age, I remember him leading this song all the time. He would sing it with his eyes closed he knew it so well." And with that I plant a boundary marker that will remain in place throughout the lifetime of my kids. It is a marker that connects them with grandparents, great grandparents, and even great, great grandparents, a marker that will weekly remind them of who they are, who they belong to, and how they are to live. Worship is an "ancient boundary stone set up by our fathers," so let’s plant those markers deep into the hearts of our children and grandchildren.

Warren Baldwin

From: Roaring Lions, Cracking Rocks and Other Gems From Proverbs