Archive for the 'Marriage and Family' Category

The Inescapable Subject

You would love Avery. Only three, she has the biggest smile, can chatter faster than a race car, and, of course, is cute as can be. Did I mention she is my youngest grandkid?

Avery’s parents do a fine job yet, as you know, things still happen. She recently had her first visit to the emergency room because—are you ready?—a blue bead became stuck in her nose. That ER visit and a follow-up to a specialist were unsuccessful in removing the blue invader from an unknown galaxy. Surgery was next. Thankfully, she wasn’t in pain; she just kept on smiling and playing and enjoying life.

On the day of surgery her mother posted pictures of Avery, still smiling from ear to ear and, again, cute as can be in her surgical gown. I have to say, Mom looked a little bleary-eyed from her four in the morning wake-up. Avery was fine with it all until…they started to separate her from Mom to go to surgery.

All ended well, and well, they still don’t know where the bead came from.

We are not in heaven yet, are we? Even if we hide in a cave, following Christ includes tests of faith that are purposed to shape us into the image of Christ (Romans 8:29). What are your tests today?

Psalm 91 can bring hope (certainty) while being loved by God in unexpected, unsought circumstances. Do you remember these much loved words from God, “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the LORD, ‘My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust’” (91:1)? They are such words of promise that plummet deep, deeper than the colossal Tennessee River!

Verse one has an inescapable subject: God. He is “the Most High…Almighty…the LORD…my fortress…my God.” We instantly see in His name (s) He is so powerful, so much above, so much wiser than the impotent idols we create to bring help, comfort, and meaning to our circumstances. And, He is “my” God. “Men,” an older commentator said, “generally seek out a great variety of hiding-places…according [to] the calamities…which threaten to overtake them; but here we are taught that the only safe and impregnable fortress to which we can flee is the protection of God.”

There is an astounding reality-joy in verse one. We are accustomed to the call to “abide” from John 15 (stay connected; to “sit down in the High God’s presence”), but the Psalmist shatters our small views of an impersonal, distant God by declaring when we trust in Him we travel—“abide”—in His presence.

What wrangles your nerves and sets you to wondering what God is up to? If you are in Christ, nothing can separate you from the “love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:29).

Not even the hunt for a blue bead in the lovely nose of Avery.

The Herald News

August 29, 2018

A Staggering Joy

Where the rubber meets the road the truth is: The calendar that matters the most isn’t the one that starts with January. It starts when school begins.

Grandkid update. All seven are in school now from pre-school to high school in six schools. One daughter has four kids and each is in a different school. If alarms don’t go off in the morning in their household the entire county school system goes on system-wide alert. Smile.

School days and calendars present us with staggering opportunities for joy and…worship. Surprised?

I have recently written about worship. It is the most important thing we do as gathered communities of faith in Christ (Colossians 3:15-17; Hebrews 10:23-25). Consider, also, the importance of personal worship in regular, secret offerings to God (Matthew 5:6). The former could be considered the ultimate joy; the latter our personal joy. Today, will you give thought to the staggering joy that is ours to go from our solitary place and gathered worship to a yet another arena of worship? The Apostle Paul wrote: “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship” (Romans 12:1).

Following the towering benediction at the end of eleven chapters on salvation, Romans 12 presses us to deeply consider what our salvation truly means to us (“Therefore”), and to put definite rubber on the road. Verse one continues the imagery and language of worship (11:33-36) and encourages us: What you do with your life in your actual body is an offering to God. Ouch.

There is no arena untouched. In an old timey way William Barclay offers, “A man may say, ‘I am going to church to worship God,’ but he should also be able to say, ‘I am going to the factory, the shop, the office, the school, the garage, the locomotive shed, the mine, the shipyard, the field, the byre [house or barn], the garden, to worship God.’”

The consistency of Scripture in this is stunning. 2 Corinthians 5:10 says, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.” Yes, rewards for faithful service. Yes, “Well done good and faithful servant.” Yes, beyond mere intentions, there is an evaluation for what we have actually done in and with our bodies as an act of worship. This is especially good news for those who live, love, and labor without fanfare.

Back to my grandkids. Three of my grands live nearby. I literally drive past their two schools often on the way to doctors and business. I am not perfect in this, but I usually pray for my kids, the administrators, and teachers—that right there and then they would offer to God their hearts, souls, minds, and strength.

When you drive by my house, would you do the same for me?

The Song

The world loves young love. You know…the innocence, endless glances, constant touches, mushy words, and how they can’t stand to be apart.

Not long ago my fourteen year old granddaughter caught Cheryl and me holding hands and, with an extended sweet voice, said “Ah.” I think she knew something was right about what she saw.

This is the season for weddings. Those of us who have been married for centuries like to sit back and snicker, “And they think they know something about love—wait until they’ve been married as long as we have.” In a strange bundle of cynicism, wisdom, and maybe envy we watch young love unfold and sometimes secretly wish we could start again. Start again and keep the passion; start again and avoid the mistakes; start again and keep love vigorous and glowing.

Our seniority has helped us weather the storms, we note. Maybe. If we’re honest, we still feel the battering against the rocks. Or, forgetting the troubled waters, we have difficulty admitting young lovers may have something we need to cling to again.

Time in service doesn’t guarantee wisdom. Avoiding the storms doesn’t ensure a safe passage. It’s not how long we’ve sailed the ocean that helps us find the shore. It’s the map that guides us.

Young lovers have a PR problem. They are like young Pastor Timothy in the New Testament. Churches then and now don’t easily accept a leader who is young; we look askance at young love. Do we rate experience too highly? “What could they know,” we say. The Apostle Paul had to encourage Timothy, “Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe”(1 Timothy 4:12, NAS).

Here is the map: the Scripture and its most well-known love story. It paints an inspired portrait of irrepressible young love in mushy, gushy words underscored by foundational colors—principles—that provide encouragement and guidance for love to continually flourish. I recommend frequent immersion in the Song of Songs. Young people, start here; those seasoned in love, discover its riches.

Some see The Song as an allegory about Christ and His love for the Church, blushing at the explicit imagery. Scripture does affirm the relationship followers of Christ have with Him in the language of marriage (Ephesians 5:32; Revelation 21:9). The Bridegroom’s (Christ’s) love for His bride (Church/believers) is an indescribable treasure chest filled to overflowing. Here there is the reward for those unattached to someone. I think, though, that the natural way a reader would receive the words of The Song is as a love story—love that is unstoppable, ardent, exhilarating, and overwhelming.

Why should our marriages drift from such an inspired beginning?

Young and old lovers, I invite you to take the plunge into The Song. Wade into its jewels and refresh your love through the words of compliment and principles of surrender, joy, respect, friendship, adoration, and pursuit.

And remember, my granddaughter is watching.

Wrestling With Tatoos

The five-hour return drive last week won’t soon be forgotten. No, it wasn’t because of an accident. In fact, it was no accident at all.

I slipped out-of-town for a couple days last week to see my oldest daughter and to surprise the grandkids. (Their husband/dad was out-of-town on business). Miracles do exist—I drove through Atlanta without having to stop and, for a change, I didn’t miss the ever-changing signs to stay on the highway I needed.

The visit was great, including a winning soccer game by my oldest grandson, the excitement of the grandkids when they got off the school bus and saw me, a discussion with the almost fourteen old granddaughter about boys she won’t date someday (smokers and tattooed), breakfast alone with my daughter (rare and delightful), and the school tour by our pre-school four-year old grandson. Smile, he was very excited and animated.

We seldom know when God will visit and I need to be watching and listening more attentively.

On the way home, I scanned the dial for one of the million Georgia radio preachers and was struck by one who asked: “Do you ever wrestle in prayer?” He read from Ephesians 6 about the armor of God and its strength in our real world of spiritual battles in and around us. Listen in:

11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. Ephesians 6:11-18, ESV

I often pray “for” many things. I don’t often wrestle in prayer “against the cosmic powers over this present darkness.” Do you?

Prematurely or intentionally secluded from the world, “the spiritual forces of evil” seem far, far away. But they aren’t, and sometimes they are active in us who struggle to be followers of Christ. I do not suggest bold demon possession of God’s family is normal; I do affirm Satan’s regular, subtle, and slow influence in and around us (2 Corinthians 11:14).

Being devoted to wrestling prayer (Colossians 4:2) has taken on a new urgency for me.

Especially about those possible boyfriends…

​John Fields
Rhea Herald News
April 25, 2018

Happy Birthday Haley

“We… receive adoption as sons” Galatians 4:5

It’s happened again. We have a new child.

All the family was supposed to be at our house for Christmas. God had a different idea. He sent our oldest daughter, Joy, and her family to Florida to adopt Haley. This is our second adopted grandchild and I’ve about decided adoption is my favorite doctrine from the Bible.

In this adoption God has reminded us He has a sense of humor. Her name is Haley Jane, she is six years old, and she is in first grade. Our youngest daughter, Robin, has a firstborn daughter…named Haley Jane, who is six years old, and who is in first grade. Yes, we are soliciting ideas on how to distinguish the girls apart when their families get together.

I’ve been thrust—again—into Scripture to consider the glorious doctrine of adoption. Though only mentioned in five New Testament passages, it is incredibly rich in implications. The main meal is salvation in Christ. Here are a few scrumptious adoption hors d’oeuvres (appetizers).

Galatians 4 notes several wonderful thoughts in context. Initially, adoption requires the perfect timing of God, “But when the fullness had come, God sent forth his Son…” (v.4). Ephesians 1:4-5 digs deeper to say, “…he chose us in him before the foundation of the world…in love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will.” Long before her earthly sequence of events Haley was on God’s mind for adoption. The innumerable, seemingly chaotic events in time did not surprise the Father. In fact, He orchestrated them toward December 21st when her new family took custody of her. May I urge you to a quiet place and time to pray through these astounding Scriptural realities about Haley and your salvation?

Second, our adoption and Haley’s was costly. Galatians 4:5 describes it as redemption. To redeem someone is to purchase them out of the marketplace of slavery. I have seen horrible pictures of slaves, shackled and naked, being auctioned to the highest bidder. Yes, it took significant amounts of emotional, spiritual, and legal struggle and commitment—and many actual dollars—before the joy of receiving Haley. Imagine what our rebellion and sin cost the Father when He released His only Son to die for us.

Third, the idea of sonship and inheritance in adoption passages intrigues me (ex. Galatians 4:7). Here we see Haley has all the rights and privileges of a biologically born child, including an inheritance equal to everyone in the family. And so it is for all in Christ!

Last, this caught my ear when we visited last weekend: Haley was already addressing her new parents affectionately and respectfully. No longer “Joy” and “Chad,” they were “Mom” and “Dad.” Galatians 4:6 notes we get to address the Father as “Abba, Father.” This term of endearment toward God was unimaginable in Paul’s day and no less so for Haley December 21st. Sweet.

Oh…it’s Haley’s birthday today. Happy Birthday Haley and welcome to your new family. Love, Popi

Another Merry Christmas

Christmas Mercy

“The tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” Luke 1:78-79

I have some questions for Gabriel about the first Christmas season in Luke 1. For instance, what was the look on Mary’s face when God sent him to recruit her? I wonder: Was he startled when God took away Zechariah’s voice when fear replaced his faith? Gabriel witnessed so many supernatural things that first Christmas.

Written over the season was “miracle.” Consider: In God’s timing, He aligned the solar system to provide the Christmas star; Kings worshipped a baby; travelers brought gifts to a feeding trough they didn’t know existed; Elizabeth, barren and beyond child-bearing years, became pregnant and became directly involved in God’s Christmas plan; and poor Zechariah, a whole lot like us, miraculously lost his voice when he didn’t believe angel Gabriel—and then had his voice revived by God when he saw baby Jesus. Father, don’t let these miracles be commonplace.

Of course, the ultimate miracle of Christmas was salvation’s offer: God became a man to offer Himself as the perfect sacrifice for our every sin. Those who trust only Jesus Christ His Son to rescue them are thus removed from God’s wrath, and transferred from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light. Have I heard this so many times it seems ordinary and the power of the gospel is not changing me this Christmas (Romans 1:16; 2:4)?

One other unnatural thing happened that particularly strikes me this Christmas: The socially awkward situation then of a miraculously pregnant teenager and her fiancé is incredibly used by God to bring salvation’s greatest gift. Note how Elizabeth took great interest in Mary; some even believe Joseph was adopted by Dr. Luke. God takes in some needy people, doesn’t He? He makes them not just guests. He adopts them—us—as His family. Adoption has again invaded our family.

Last week, I wrote about our firstborn daughter who was born on Christmas day. This season, our family has another fresh Christmas miracle story to tell. Her name is Haley Jane. As you read this, my oldest daughter and her family are in Florida taking custody of her for the purpose of adoption. She bears the same name of our third-in-line grandchild and—hold your breath—is also six years old and in first grade. Family gatherings are about to be very confusing…

For Haley, her perceived greatest need is for a permanent family. Having lost so much and so many she longs for a home instead of, so to speak, another manger. In the “tender mercy of God” He is adopting her into our family. How breathless we are to praise God for His sweet, life-shaping, affectionate salvation displayed when adopted us into His family, too.

This Christmas, I am astounded by the adopting, tender mercy of God.

Rhea Herald-News, December 23, 2015

P.S. The legal work is completed and Haley is in Georgia tonight with her new family. Aren’t you so glad we are part of the family of God!


Hand Over My Heart

“Giving thanks to the Father.” Colossians 1:12

This column is dedicated to Jim, who insists I mention my grandkids in every column. I try, Jim.

This past week I continued my universe-wide, world-class celebrity tour of elementary school Grandparents Day appearances. Having been to southern Georgia the week before, I ventured to Bradley County—twice—where two of their finest students color their world happy and brilliant. Frankly, Georgia’s celebration was far more humane, providing a mid-day lunch instead of a seven o’clock breakfast…In their favor, I did come home with a brightly colored, laminated poster with one grandkid’s hand over a heart. Very cool.

This column is the last of three on the super-charged prayer of the Apostle Paul in Colossians 1:9-14. We’ve seen the encouraging, uplifting, and challenging reality we can know and walk in the will of God and live a life that is pleasing to God. As we do, God will use us in good works, we grow in intimacy with Christ, and we are empowered with God’s strength in the tests of faith. The last inevitable result of a walk pleasing to God in His will is a lifestyle of thanksgiving. This is in stark opposition to a regular problem: complaining (Cf. 1 Corinthians 10). Ouch.

The Apostle focuses on three piercing features of what happened when we turned from trusting ourselves—rejecting Jesus Christ—to trusting in Him alone to give us everlasting life: “…who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”

First, God has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints. There is so much to say. We did not earn our inheritance in the presence of Christ but we have graciously been qualified. And, I get to spend eternity with saints like Clarence Grosscup, King David, Paul, and…Jesus.

Second, we are no longer enslaved in a kingdom of darkness. By contrast, we are now citizens of the kingdom of God—the kingdom given by the Father to His specially loved Son, King Jesus Christ. Soon to be fully realized, it’s a place and time engulfed in His pure light, where there is no darkness at all. I can’t wait.

The last highlight of our salvation is truly rich—and great cause for continual thanksgiving: we have been redeemed—purchased out of the marketplace of slavery to sin and its consequences. Redemption’s crowning jewel is forgiveness of our sins. May this never become ordinary.

Thanksgiving isn’t just sixty-four days away. It is every day.

In the world, hands can symbolize many things including confidence and arrogance. Of course, in worship raised hands can picture volumes of spiritual expression. For our daily walk, I like the picture of our hand over our heart in devotion and thanksgiving for the immeasurable gift of salvation through God’s Son, Jesus Christ.

The Rhea Herald-News, September 23, 2015

Gazed Amazed

New Day, July 2, 2015

“Your steadfast love, O Lord, extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds.”

Psalm 36:5

I’m told the pink moon two nights ago was an atmospheric special delivery from Canada. No matter, it was stunning. Cheryl and I stood in our driveway and gazed amazed.

And then, the next morning the sun strained to push through thick clouds with a well-defined, piercing focus. Though it was a twenty-four hour block of time where I couldn’t write it down, I can’t forget it.

The endless, ever-fresh voice of God (Psalm 19) keeps humming of glory, beauty, variety, and Yahweh’s steadfast, faithful, loyal love (hesed).

Silly me, I thought just Cheryl’s love was out of this world.

A New Song and an Old Love

“Oh sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth! Sing to the Lord, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day.” Psalm 96:1-2

God is writing new chapters in our lives all the time.

There is a daily-ness to following Christ. This is especially true in each new season or circumstance of our lives with Him, but it is often, “day to day.”

Getting in tune with the daily-ness of God’s work (s) in our lives seems strange at first until we hear the Psalmist sing it with clear, fresh melodies: “Sing to him a new song; play skillfully on the strings, with loud shouts…”I will sing a new song to you, O God; upon a ten-stringed harp I will play to you… Oh sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things!”

The idea of a new song intrigues me. The point in the Psalms is not a new composition (although surrounding verses do imply fresh, active worship with a variety of expressions). The idea is this: God’s involvement in our lives regularly, usually quietly, sometimes spectacularly, and always on a daily basis brings a “fresh outburst of praise to God.” For Israel this “salvation” was vivid in their compact world of enemies, wickedness, and attention-seeking false gods and idols. I wonder: Has anything changed?

While our circumstances may seem the same or boring or insurmountable, we sing “… it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13).

The hymn Day By Day expresses our hearts about our daily need and provision of God:

   Day by day, and with each passing moment,/Strength I find to meet my trials here;/

   Trusting in my Father’s wise bestowment,/I’ve no cause for worry or for fear./

   He, whose heart is kind beyond all measure,/Gives unto each day what He deems best,/

   Lovingly it’s part of pain and pleasure,/Mingling toil with peace and rest.

May I apply this “new song” to a special occasion? This weekend Cheryl and I will celebrate our forty-second wedding anniversary. Cheryl captured my heart in an unstoppable way (it was her smile), waved all common sense, and said, “I do,” Saint Patrick’s Day, 1973. As God has been gracious to offer a lifetime with Cheryl, so she has been generous to give and give as we grow together through the decades.

It is exhilarating to join God in writing new chapters in our marriage. New circumstances provide fresh opportunities to change and serve one another. Each day contributes to our building understanding of each other. Our delight in each other’s presence is increasingly simple and profound. I so enjoy watching young love develop, but—and Cheryl may cut my fingers off for saying this—old love is wonderfully different, creative, safer, and freer than young love.

Each day with Christ—and Cheryl—causes a new song to be written and sung. What double joy!

The Rhea Herald-News

March 11, 2015

Dear Kids

“Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward.” Psalm 127:3

My youngest daughter and family trusted us and loved us enough to make a major life transition and move in with us. Two toddlers greeted us every time we came into the house; a baby girl sang the lovely songs of a newborn the last two months. They just moved to their new home and I am thinking about some of the blessings and lessons from the last fifteen months. Robin and Samuel: Please read this to the girls when they can understand. Readers: Listen in.

Dear Hailie, Shawna, Avery,

I am both sad and glad you have moved. How glad I am you are now at “the farm;” how sad I am that you aren’t here to fill our house with laughter, songs, and dance. Here are some things I want to remember and say to you.

Your minds are amazing. I love watching you learn. You are practicing one of the most important ways we love God—with our minds. Please continue to fill your minds with good things, and never stop learning, creating things, coloring pictures, and reading books. The greatest book ever is the Bible, and it brings me joy that you love your Bibles and are memorizing it for AWANA each week.

I have been thinking: living here was often fun but it was temporary. Shawna, the story is already circulating that after a couple nights in your new place you asked when you were going home. God didn’t intend for us to permanently live together. Living on earth is like that, too. While we can and should really enjoy the life God gives us, our real and best home is where Jesus is.

Thank you for being patient with me because I wasn’t always patient with you. My excuse is I am not very good with toddlers. But Jesus loved children and was patient with them. He spoke strongly to those who were impatient with children. You taught me a lot about what matters to Jesus.

Hugs. Your affection was wonderful and you gave it freely. Families and friends do that, and Christians are known for their love for one another. Don’t stop being generous with hugs to those you love.

Hailie and Shawna, the greatest thing about living with us was you both trusted Jesus to give you everlasting life. Others had the privilege to guide you in this, but we watched as you became Jesus-centered and practiced your faith. I will never forget the many times you both said you would pray for me when I was sick. Avery, you are too young to understand, but I regularly pray you will never reject Jesus Christ, who died for you and wants you to live with Him forever.

So, I thank God He sent you to live with us. Just like the Lord, you always have a home here.

Love, Popi

The Rhea Herald-News

February 11, 2015

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