A Time to Die

A time to be born, and a time to die – Ecclesiastes 3:2

woman-grieving-loss

Death is inevitable yet when it comes, it’s a blow.  On Wednesday, I lost my father.  Although we were expecting him to pass away, it was still a shock.  We had hoped that he would hang on a little longer so that my son and I could visit him.  He’s never met his grandson.  He has photos of him and they have spoken but meeting face to face would have been wonderful.  I am thankful that they got to know each other, though.  My son is his first grandchild.  He was recently blessed with another–my brother’s daughter.  I don’t think he got to see her but he knew of her and was very pleased.

Death is our enemy.  It robs us of our loved ones.  It brings pain and sorrow.  It leaves an emptiness that was once filled with our loved ones.  It is like an intruder that breaks into our lives and takes away everything we hold dear.  It is that part of life we don’t want to experience.  It is a reality we don’t want to face.  Yet, it comes.

Death doesn’t have the final say, though.  It isn’t the end.  It will be swallowed up in victory.  And one day, we will ask, “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?”  And we have this assurance:“God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away” (2 Corinthians 15:55; Revelation 21:4, KJV).

There is a time to die.  My father lived a long life.  And it was his time to die on the day before Valentine’s Day.  I miss him terribly but I know that I will see him again when the Lord comes.  Until then, I will cherish the memories I have of him.

 

Dating

You may wonder if the Bible says anything about dating.  It doesn’t directly, but there are guidelines that can apply to your situation.

The first thing you do is pray about it.  God knows best and He knows people.  He will know right off the bat who would be a good match for you and whom you should avoid like the plague.

If you are a Christian, you should date one.  The Bible tells us not to team up with those who are unbelievers (2 Corinthians 6:14, TLB).  It is important to know that it is not enough that the person is a Christian.  Not everyone who says he or she is a Christian is one.  They may be in name only but not in practice.  Paul warns us about this, “you are not to associate with anyone who claims to be a Christian yet indulges in sexual sin, or is greedy, or worships idols, or is abusive, or a drunkard, or a swindler. Don’t even eat with such people” (1 Corinthians 5:11).  And that is why when you pray about a potential mate ask God for one who loves Him.  You want a godly mate.   Believe it or not, you want someone who would put God before you.  You want someone who loves God more than you.

Don’t let anyone pressure you into doing what you don’t want to do.  The Bible tells us to “run from anything that stimulates youthful lust.  Follow anything that makes you want to do right. Pursue faith and love and peace, and enjoy the companionship of those who call on the Lord with pure hearts” (2 Timothy 2:22).

Dating should not include a sexual relationship.  “But our bodies were not made for sexual immorality. They were made for the Lord, and the Lord cares about our bodies.  Run away from sexual sin! No other sin so clearly affects the body as this one does. For sexual immorality is a sin against your own body.  Or don’t you know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honour God with your body” (1 Corinthians 6:13, 18-20).  Don’t do something you will later regret.

Date someone who has a positive attitude, encourages you and is supportive.  Make sure you both want the same things.  I have heard of horror stories about couples who get married and never discussed having children.  The woman learns too late that her new husband does not want to be a father.  If your relationship is serious and you know that this is the person you want to marry, put everything out on the table.  You definitely don’t want any surprises after you are married.

Take things slowly—let the relationship progress slowly.  Get to know one another.  Take your time.  There is no rush.  Successful relationships take time and effort.  They need to be cultivated.  Don’t allow your relationship to consume so much of your time that you exclude others.  Don’t think only about your own affairs, but be interested in others, too, and what they are doing (Philippians 2:4).

Dating is fun if it is done responsibly and with God’s blessing.  God wants us to enjoy healthy and loving relationships.  God has someone for you.  Just as He matched Adam up with Eve who was suitable for him, He will do the same for you.  Just be patient and wait on Him.

Direction

A man’s heart plans his way, But the LORD directs his steps – Proverbs 16:9

Have you ever made plans without consulting God first? You decide that you are going to go into missionary work because you saw a program on TV or know someone who is in the mission field but have you asked yourself if that is what God wants you to do? He might want you to be a missionary where you work or where you live instead of you going off to another country.

You might be planning to quit your job and move to another city or country but is that what God wants? What if He wants you to stay put because He has plans for you? You may be planning to get married but what if God wants you to wait? What if the timing is not right? OR what if the person you want to marry is not the right person? How many people could have avoided heartache, unhappiness, failed marriages if they had only waited on the Lord.

Let the Lord direct your steps. If you have plans, share them with Him. You may or may not have His blessing but either way you will be much better off than if you were to go ahead and follow your own plans instead of waiting on Him to give you direction.

fork roads

Gifts From the East

“Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him” – Matthew 2:2

Wise Men from the East traveled all the way to Jerusalem to see the King of the Jews.  They didn’t know where exactly to find Him.  They had see His star and followed it.  It led them there in Jerusalem.  They visited King Herod, believing that he would know where the Christ was but the king didn’t.  He was greatly troubled by this and called the chief priests and scribes together to inquire where the Christ was to be born.  They told him what the prophecy said, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet:  ‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, Are not the least among the rulers of Judah; For out of you shall come a Ruler Who will shepherd My people Israel.’

King Herod met alone with the Wise Men and told them that the Child was in Bethlehem, tell them to, “Go and search carefully for the young Child, and when you have found Him, bring back word to me, that I may come and worship Him also.”  The visitors left and the star which they had seen in the East went before them and led them to where the Child was.  Seeing the star filled them with great joy and they rejoiced.

They went into the house and saw the young Child with His mother, Mary.  They fell down and worshipped Him.  They presented gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. What was the significance of each of these gifts?  Were they simply customary gifts from the regions or were they chosen specifically?  Gold is a precious and valuable metal.   It is rare and it doesn’t tarnish.  Precious things and ornaments are made of gold.  In this instance, gold represents Jesus’ kingship.  Frankincense is a perfume or incense.  It was used in religious and spiritual rituals all over the world..  It represents Jesus’ priesthood.  Myrrh is a bitter gum and costly perfume which comes from a certain tree or shrub in Arabia and Ethiopia.  It is also an antiseptic used for embalming.  The myrrh prefigures Jesus’ death and embalming.

These gifts were not arbitrary.  They were carefully chosen for the One whom they traveled far to behold and worship.  They brought their gifts to Him because they believed that He was the Messiah, the King of the Jews.  What a beautiful story of faith and the love of God who sent His Son to die for everyone.  It is a testimony that Jesus is Savior of Jews and Gentiles.  He came to save the world.

This Christmas season, reflect on the roles of Jesus–King, Priest and Savior.  Think of someone who needs to know that God loves them and offer them His most precious Gift to mankind–His Son.

wise-mens-gifts

Source: Natural Living Family

Stick With Your Own Water

Drink from your own well, my son—be faithful and true to your wife. Be happy, yes, rejoice in the wife of your youth.  Let her breasts and tender embrace satisfy you. Let her love alone fill you with delight. – Proverbs 5:15, 18, 19

man and womancuddling-600

It was a Sunday afternoon.  Sunlight streamed through the window.  I could hear the muffled sounds of the traffic below.  We were lying on the couch.  The television was on.  Angie was sleeping.  I stared at the screen but my thoughts were elsewhere.  I was thinking about Nikki.  She’s the woman I’m having an affair with.

I know this may sound lame but I never intended to cheat on Angie.   And definitely not with one of her co-workers.  I was blindsided.  It all began last year when Angie and I went to her company’s Christmas party.  It was the first time she actually succeeded in getting me to go.  She had tried in the past but I always turned her down, preferring to either hang out with my friends or go on a Football binge while enjoying spicy chicken wings.  This time, I decided to go because she laid a guilt trip on me and apparently there was a new guy who seemed a little too interested in her.  I wanted to sort him out.

As soon as we got there, I said to her, “So, where’s the new guy?”

Angie looked at me.  She looked amazing in the red ankle length strapless dress which flattered her figure.  Her hair was swept back in a French knot.  “Promise me you wouldn’t embarrass him or me,” she said.

“I promise.”

“He’s over there talking to Nikki.”

“Nikki?” My eyes followed hers and spotted a man and woman having an animated conversation across the room.  Nikki had her back to us.

“Yes, I’ve told you about her.  Come let me introduce you.”  She held my hand as we navigated our way through the group, past the dance floor to where the guy and Nikki were.  The guy said something to Nikki and she turned around.

I never imagined that I would react to her the way I did.  I felt as if my heart had stopped for a second before it began to pound.  She was stunning.  The faux fur trim knee length black dress showed off her lovely figure and her hair was pulled back with a clasp with a few curls escaping.  Her shapely legs looked long in the black high heeled shoes.  The room suddenly felt very warm.  I needed a drink.

“Dex.” Angie’s gentle nudge on my arm jolted me and I turned to her.  “This is Nikki.”

Nikki smiled up at me and held out her hand.  “Dex, it’s a pleasure to finally meet you,” she said as we shook hands.  “I’ve heard so much about you.”

I didn’t know what to say except, “It’s a pleasure to meet you too.”

“Honey, this is Erik.”

It was funny that I wasn’t bothered by Erik anymore.  I think it had something to do with the fact that I was distracted by Nikki.  I could feel her eyes on me as Erik and I shook hands.  I don’t remember what I said to him but from Angie’s expression, it wasn’t anything bad or insulting.

“How about Dex and I go and get you ladies drinks?” Erik suggested.

Angie smiled.  “That sounds good.  Nikki and I will wait here.”

I excused myself and followed Erik to the bar.  I ordered drinks for Angie and me while he ordered for Nikki and himself.  While we waited for them, he turned to me and said, “You’re a very lucky man.”

“I am?”

“Yes!  You’re married to an incredible woman.”

“Yes, you’re right.  I’m very lucky.  Angie’s terrific.  So, you recently joined the company.”

“Yes, I started in May.”

“So, how do you like it so far?”

“It’s great.  The people I work with are amazing, especially Angie and Nikki.”

I had to ask.  “So, is Nikki married?”  I couldn’t remember if Angie had mentioned if she was or not.  Until tonight, I hadn’t paid much attention to what she told me about her co-workers.

Erik shook his head.  “No, she’s single.  It’s hard to believe, isn’t it?  A lot of guys at the office are always asking her out but she turns them down.”

The drinks came and we rejoined the women.  I tried not to look at Nikki more than I needed to but it was really hard.  The four of us hung out together for most of the night.  After we had something to eat from the buffet, the dance floor was opened and people headed for it.  Angie wanted to dance and I reluctantly obliged her.  Then, Erik showed up and I honestly didn’t mind him dancing with her.  I joined Nikki at the bar.

“You’re not much of a dancer, are you?” she asked.

I laughed.  “Was it that obvious?”

“Well, you can dance but you’re just not into it.”

“You’re right.  It’s not my thing.  That’s one of the reasons why I haven’t been coming to the Christmas parties.”

“Well, I think it was sweet of you to dance with Angie even though it’s not your thing.”

“Thank you.  What about you?  I haven’t seen you on the dance floor.”

She shrugged.  “I guess I’m not in the mood for dancing.  Besides, these shoes are killing my feet.  They’re new.”

I didn’t dare look down at her feet.  I kept my eyes trained on her face.  “Erik told me that you’re single.  I find that hard to believe.”

She smiled.  “Really?  Why?”

“You’re a stunning woman, Nikki.  Most of the men here haven’t been able to take their eyes off you.”

“And what about you?” she asked, her expression serious now.

I swallowed hard.  “I’ve tried not to stare at you,” I admitted.  “It’s not easy, though, especially now when we’re alone like this.”

“I know what you mean.  I’ve tried not to stare at you too.  I’ve seen photos of you but none of them do you any justice.  Angie’s a very lucky woman.”

I found myself wondering what would have happened if I had met Nikki first.  Would Angie and I be married?  I felt guilty having such thoughts.  I glanced away, my heart racing.  I should walk away now.  I should go and find Angie.  Yet, I couldn’t seem to move.  I turned to face her.  She was staring at me.  “Nikki, can I come and see you tomorrow night?” I heard myself ask.

“Yes,” she said simply.  She told me where she lived.  Then, she slid off the stool.  “Let’s go back to the party.”

I followed her.  For the rest of the night, I stayed with Angie but I was thinking about tomorrow night.

Tomorrow night came and after telling Angie that I was hanging out with the guys, I left.  My fingers gripped the steering wheel.  I shouldn’t be doing this.  I should be home with Angie or really hanging out with the guys.  Instead, I’m heading over to Nikki’s place.  Nikki.  Every time I thought about her, my stomach would flip flop and my heart would somersault.  No woman, not even Angie, has ever had such an effect on me.  This is crazy.  I should turn this car around and head back home.  I could tell Angie that I changed my mind and that I wanted to spend the night at home with her instead.  She would love that.  I’m sure Nikki would understand if I didn’t show up.

Twenty minutes later, I was standing in front of her door and ringing the bell.  The door opened and she stood there.  “Come in,” she said, stepping aside.

I went in and she closed the door behind me.  I turned and faced her.  My heart is pounding and my face felt hot even though I had just come in from the cold.  I removed my coat and scarf.  She took them and carried them to the closet.  When she returned, she didn’t say anything but reached out, grabbed hold of my sweater and dragged it over my head.  My bare chest was heaving now as I fought for air.  I pulled her roughly against me and my head swooped down.  My mouth closed eagerly and hungrily over hers, groaning when she put her arms around my waist and kissed me back.  We didn’t make it to her room.  We ended up making love right there in the foyer.  Afterwards, we showered, had dinner and made plans to see each other again.  Then, I left.

We’ve been seeing each other for months now.  So far, Angie doesn’t suspect anything, not even when Nikki decided to leave the company.  As I lay here now on a quiet Sunday afternoon, I know in my heart that I can’t continue doing this.  I can’t continue lying to Angie.  I know what the Lord wants me to do but I can’t do it.  I can’t let go of Nikki.  I can’t.  I won’t…

Adultery isn’t something that is unplanned or unintended or an accident.  It occurs in the mind and heart long before it becomes an action.  You have a choice to say no and walk away but oftentimes, you say yes and walk right into it, not thinking about the heartache and the consequences that will affect you and the person to whom you promised to be faithful until death parted you.  Adultery is a selfish act.

Stolen Water

Stolen water is sweet, And bread eaten in secret is pleasant – Proverbs 9:17

couple-bar

We met at a bar one rainy Saturday evening.  It wasn’t the sort of night or place you would expect to meet someone like her.  I was in Chicago on business.  After having dinner at the hotel, I decided to go for a walk in spite of the rain.  I wanted to check out the Navy Pier but the rain was coming down hard now so I ducked into the first bar I spotted.  The atmosphere was cozy and intimate.  A great place to hang out for a while.  I went over to the bar and sat down.  It felt good to be out of the rain.  I looked around.  This place was ideal for a nightcap or a late night rendezvous.  It reminded me of one of my favorite bars in New York.  I smiled and ordered an El Presidente cocktail.

It was after I took my first sip of the cocktail when she walked in.  I froze.  My heart stopped and everything and everyone in the room faded into nothingness.  All I could see was her.  She was wearing a knee length magenta spandex dress which hugged her in all the right places.  Her thick chestnut hair fell in thick waves down her back.  She closed her umbrella and walked over to where I was.  There was an empty stool right beside me.  She sat there.  The bartender turned around and from the way he acted, I could tell that she had been here before.  After exchanging pleasantries, she ordered a Grasshopper.  When he turned away to fix it, she glanced at me.

Our eyes met and held what seemed like a very long time.  My heart was pounding.  I was nervous and excited at the same time.  It’s been a while since I’ve felt this way.  She smiled at me.  “Hello,” she said.

“Hello.”

“I’ve never noticed you here before.”

“This is my first time here.”

“Are you from out of town?”

I nodded.  “Yes.  I’m from New York.”

Her eyebrows arched.  “The Big Apple.  Hmmm.  What brought you here to the Windy City?”

“Business.”

“What sort of business do you do?”

“I’m a Construction Manager.”

“And what exactly does a Construction Manager do?”

“I oversee the process of new commercial and residential buildings, as well as bridges, tunnels and roads; supervise building deadlines, the progress of workers, and managing the budgets for each project.”

“Sounds interesting.”

“What about you? Are you a model?”

She laughed.  “No, but I’m flattered that you think so.  I work at Bluedog Design.”  The bartender placed her drink in front of her.  He glanced at me and then moved away to serve someone else.

“I’m impressed.”

“So, what do you do for fun?”

“I jog, swim, play Squash and do a lot of reading.”

Her cell rang.  “Excuse me,” she said as she fished it out of her handbag.

I turned my head because I didn’t want to seem as if I were eavesdropping.  I took a couple of sips of my cocktail.

“That was my husband,” she said.  “He’s in Vancouver.”

My head swung around sharply.  “You’re married?”

“Yes.”

I glanced pointedly down at her left hand.  There wasn’t any ring.

She followed my gaze.  “I took it to the jewelry store to have it resized.”

“Oh.”  She’s married.  What a bummer.

“What about you?  Girlfriend? Wife? Both?”

“Neither.”

“What’s your name?”

“Andrew.”

“Tina.” She held out her hand.  I grasped it.  It felt soft and warm.

Her being married put a damper on the evening and I could think of nothing else.  “Doesn’t your husband mind you going to bars alone?”

“This is the first time I’ve been in a bar alone.”

“I know if I were him, I would have a problem with you being here alone in a bar talking to another man.”

“He doesn’t know that I’m here talking to another man.”

“And what if he did, wouldn’t he be upset?”

“Let’s not worry or talk about Sam.  I’d rather talk about you.”

I finished my drink and slid off the stool.  “I have to go.”

Her eyes widened.  “But why?  We were just getting to know each other.”

“You’re married, Tina.”

“I know but you and I click.  The evening is still young.  Still a while longer.”

“I can’t.  We both know where this will lead if I don’t leave right now.  It was a pleasure meeting you, Tina.  My advice to you is that you go home and stop going to bars alone.  Goodnight.”  I turned and walked out of the bar.

It had stopped raining.  I could have gone to the Navy Pier but I decided that I had had enough excitement for one evening.  I headed back to the hotel.

Two years have passed since that night in a Chicago bar and I don’t regret my decision.  I was tempted but I was able to walk away and not look back.  Now, I’m happily married to an amazing woman I met right here in New York.  I believe it that it was my faith that saved me from doing something I would have regretted for the rest of my life.

When faced with temptation, you can either run towards it or away from it.  The more you resist it, however, the more fortified you become.

Sources:  Four Seasons Chicago;Yelp; Sparrow Chicago; Global Business Travel; Bluedog Design

Colton’s Problem

Woe to those who rise early in the morning, that they may run after strong drink, who tarry late into the evening as wine inflames them! – Isaiah 5:11

“What are you doing here?” His breath reeked of alcohol.  He was on the floor, his hair disheveled, the empty glass lying beside him.   “Go away,” he said, waving his hand.  He tried to sit up but his head was pounding.

“I’m not going anywhere,” she told him.  “I’m not going to leave you like this.”

“Don’t you have school or something?”

“It’s Saturday.”

“I don’t care what day it is.  I don’t want you here.”

“Why not?” she demanded.  “I’ve seen you drunk before.”

“You know why I don’t want you here.”

“Is it because of what happened the last time I was here?

“Yes!” the word was a hiss.  He raked his fingers through his hair in frustration.

“We kissed and…”

“And if I didn’t come to my senses, we would have ended up in bed.”

“I thought that was what you wanted.”

“It was—it still is but you’re too young for me.  You’re still going to school, for Pete’s sake.”

“I’m graduating next year June.”

“It doesn’t matter when you graduate.  You’re still too young.”

“I’m seventeen.”

“And I’m thirty-six.  Now, I really don’t want to continue this discussion.  I need to sober up.”

She tried to help him up but he pushed her hands irritably away.  “I’ll go and fix you something to eat while you take a shower.”

He got unsteadily to his feet.  For a moment he had to hold on to the back of the sofa to regain his composure.  “Which part of I don’t want you here that you don’t understand?”

“I hate when you’re like this,” she said. “It makes you rude and nasty. I’ve watched alcohol change my father into a moody, miserable person before it killed him. I don’t want to see the same thing happen to you. I love you, Colton.”

He closed his eyes.  “Please don’t say that.”

“It’s the truth.”

“Aniyah, you’re not making this easy for me.”

“I’m not trying to make anything easy for you.  You need help, Colton.  My church is offering an Addiction Treatment Program.  If my father had gone to it, he would probably still be alive today.”

“I don’t have an addiction.”

“What would you call your drinking?”

“A problem, not an addiction.”

“All right, this program will help you with your drinking problem.  I printed off information from their website.  I put it on the desk in your study.  Read it over as soon as you can.”

“Fine, I’ll read it.  Now, will you please go?”

“I’ll go after I’ve fixed something for you to eat,” she insisted.  “In the meantime, have these.”  She handed him a glass of water and an Advil.

He took them and watched as she disappeared into the kitchen.  He hoped she wouldn’t make a racket in there.  The slightest sound jarred his nerves.  It felt like someone was drilling a hole into his temples.  He sipped the water, swallowed the Advil and drained the glass.  He left the glass on the mantelpiece and headed for the bathroom.  He filled the tub with hot water and poured a few drops of eucalyptus oil.  After stripping, he stepped into the water and settled down.  He stretched out and rested his head against the back of the tub.  He was feeling better already.

The door opened and Aniyah walked in.  “I made you some Chicken Noodle Soup.  Make sure you drink it while it’s still hot.”

He stared at her in consternation.  His face was beet red and his heart was racing.  Underneath the suds, he could feel his reaction to her.  “You should know better than to walk into a man’s bathroom, especially when he’s in there having a bath,” he muttered tightly.

Aniyah couldn’t prevent her eyes from traveling over his wide shoulders and broad chest.  She felt her body react and she swallowed hard.  She wondered what he would do if she decided to join him.  No, she decided.  He wouldn’t be pleased.  I promised him that I would leave after I fixed him something to eat.  I have to keep my promise.  “I’m sorry.  I didn’t mean to barge in.  I’m leaving now and just wanted to say goodbye.”

“Goodbye and thanks for the soup.”

“I hope you enjoy it.  I’ll call you later.”  She turned and left the bathroom, pulling the door quietly in behind her.  She leaned against and closed her eyes.  Her chest was heaving.  Loving and wanting him were taking a toll on her.  She didn’t know how much more of this she could deal with.

Colton stared at the closed door.  The hangover was now the least of his problems.  His body was on fire and it had nothing to do with the water which was becoming tepid now.  He wanted her so much he could almost taste it.  It took supreme effort not to come out of the tub and walk over to her just now.  How was it possible that he could be in love with and attracted to a high school senior?  This was madness.

He spent a few more minutes soaking in the tub and then he drained it before taking a very cold shower.  After he had the Chicken Noodle soup which was very delicious, he went into the study to get the information she had printed for him.  He went into the living-room where he pored over it.

There was no point denying it any longer.  He had a drinking problem and desperately needed help.   He was tired of turning to alcohol when he couldn’t deal with his problems.  Instead of getting down on his knees and asking God for help, he reached for a drink.  Well, he was going to change that.  He went into the study, picked up the phone and dialed the number.

It had been several weeks since he started to program and had been making steady progress.  He had gotten rid of all the alcohol in his place and hadn’t had a drop since the day Aniyah found him.  And they were now dating.  He was convinced that she was the right one for him, regardless of the age difference.  He planned that as soon as she graduated from high school, he would propose.

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope – Jeremiah 29:11

Sources:  Faith in Recovery; GOOD; Food Network;

 

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