can you do to promote world peace? Go home and love your family" Mother
Six-year-old Katie" tried hard to control her emotions. "My mommy
says Daddy doesnt love her or any of us anymore. I heard her crying all night last
night. And I dont think my Dad loves me either."
"Why dont you think your Daddy loves you?" we asked.
"I tell him I love you. He doesnt say I love you
I knew Katies feelings all too well. Id broken into
uncontrollable sobbing as my first wife and four older children drove away from our El
Cajon, California home for the last time. My first marriage had just ended, and it felt as
if my life had ended with it. Our four children were staying with their mother, and she
was moving a thousand miles away.
Losing my family struck at the very core of my being. Deep, wracking
sobs tore me. It felt as if every atom in my body was being ripped apart from itself.
Emotionally, I felt as if Id jumped off a skyscraper and broken every bone in my
body, but somehow lived.
Id seen no hope for saving the marriage. My wife and I saw
everything in opposite ways. I could do nothing right. Stress mounted. My health was
rapidly failing. Deep pains wracked my chest. Finally there was no avoiding the hard
Afterwards, I hesitated going back to my church, because it strongly
disapproved of divorce. But those Christians "loved their neighbor" (me) more
than they hated divorce. They hugged, reassured, loved unreservedly, and never condemned.
On my first Sunday back, the choir sang "through it all." The pastors text
was "thou art the lifter of my head" (Ps. 3:3, KJV). So appropriate!
My emotions swung uncontrollably. At work I operated on autopilot.
Im still amazed I wasnt fired. My pastor told me "dont feel as if
youre any less worthwhile a person." Excellent advice, but my emotions
wouldnt listen! It took another persons love (my present wife, Yvonne, who I
met three years later) to finally begin healing me.
Through it all, I learned that, even when we fail, God loves us and can
pick us up again. He is a God of love, forgiveness, and second chances.
Our families are our closest "neighbors!" And love does begin
at home! (1 Tim. 5:4).
"What can you do to promote world peace? Go home and love your
family" Mother Teresa.
What are Gods reasons for marriage and families?
"The Lord God said, It isnt good for man to be
alone; I will make a companion for him, a helper suited to his needs. Then the Lord
God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep, and took one of his ribs ... and made the
rib into a woman, and brought her to the man.
"This is it! Adam exclaimed. She is part of my
own bone and flesh! ... This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is
joined to his wife in such a way that the two become one person" (Gen. 2:18-24).
A pastor told us that Genesis phrase for "helper,"
"ezer kenegdo," means "a strong partner." Literally translated, it
means "the help that opposes." In Hebrew, that compares a husband and wife to
two equally heavy, strong posts which stand by leaning against each other.
1 Peter 3:7 agrees: husbands and wives are partners. "Remember
that you and your wife are partners in receiving Gods blessings, and if you
dont treat her as you should, your prayers will not get ready answers."
When Eve persuaded Adam to sin, part of her punishment was that
Adam was no longer called her "husband" but her "master"
(Gen. 3:16). Hos. 2:16 raises a tantalizing question about that event. There,
God says that when Israel turns back to him, "She will call me my
husband instead of my master. A coincidence? Or might a similar
transformation take place in God-centered marriages?
Marriage means far more than having someone to help pay the
bills, or to cook, clean, and mend. More than sex or even children. It includes
companionship, love, laughter, warmth, vision, and partnership: meeting life as a team.
More Scriptures: Prov. 18:22; Eccl. 4:9-11; Mal. 2:15; Eph. 5:31-32.
Does God Love Our Families?
"Your wife shall be contented in your home. And look at all those
children! There they sit around the dinner table as vigorous and healthy as young olive
trees. That is Gods reward to those who reverence and trust him" (Ps. 128:1-4).
God has shown his love for my new family in many ways. But in our
hardest trials he often did it through what St. Paul called the "gifts of the Holy
Spirit" (1 Corinthians 12:4-11). Sometimes that simply meant apt words
of encouragement or guidance from Christians who didnt even know us. But often they
were quiet, loving messages spoken through Yvonne with the help of Holy Spirit.
Those messages began during an especially difficult time, during which
shed cried for Gods help at the altar of our small San Diego church. Later, at
home, she began experiencing Gods presence in a new way. Often, shed feel
warmth and a feeling of being lifted up. Then, out of her spirit, shed begin
speaking quiet words shed sense were from God, but which she seldom remembered
later. Those "messages" contained only love, reassurance, comfort, and
direction. Many went like this: "My children, I love you. Im pleased with what
youre doing. Keep on. Dont get discouraged. Ill be with you."
God used those special "words" to assure my family of his
presence and love in many difficult times when we might have given up.
Later we learned Paul called Yvonnes "gift" the
"gift of prophecy," which simply means "speaking forth." Predicting
the future may be its best known form, but isnt one we ever experienced. Usually
its given to Christians in church, where it follows much the same pattern God
granted us at home.
Those "prophecies" always encouraged us. But my human mind
sometimes wondered if they were just a little-understood part of Yvonnes
subconscious. Then one unusually detailed message came while we were building furniture.
It told us to go to a specific hardware store near our home in Titusville, Florida, and
buy one particular brand of orbital sander: no other!
We went. Yes, the store had the sanders in the back room! They
were just getting ready to sell them for the first time. Their initial order wasnt
even unpacked. Nor had advertising begun.
The clerk got one for us.
I asked: could Yvonne have known that? To me, the answer was clear. No,
she couldnt. But God had.
Do these Biblical "snapshots" remind us of modern families?
"Jacobs son Joseph was now seventeen years old. His
job, along with his half-brothers ... was to shepherd his fathers flocks. But Joseph
reported to his father some of the bad things they were doing" (Gen. 37:2).
"But when Davids oldest brother, Eliab, heard David
talking like that, he was angry. What are you doing around here, anyway? he
demanded. What about the sheep youre supposed to be taking care of? I know
what a cocky brat you are; you just want to see the battle!
"What have I done now? David replied. I was only
asking a question!" (1 Sam. 17:28-29).
Jesus brothers first reacted to him with skepticism and disbelief.
"Go where more people can see your miracles! they scoffed.
You cant be famous when you hide like this! If youre so great, prove it
to the world! For even his brothers didnt believe in him" (John 7:2-5;
compare with Gen. 37:1-11).
(Also read Gen. 26:34-35; 45:24; NLT.)
What does the Bible teach about loving our wives?
"And you husbands, show the same kind of love to your wives as
Christ showed to the Church when he died for her ... That is how husbands should treat
their wives, loving them as parts of themselves. For since a man and his wife are now one,
a man is really ... loving himself when he loves his wife! No one hates his own body but
lovingly cares for it" (Eph. 5:25-30).
More Scriptures: Eccl. 9:9; Eph. 5:33; Col. 3:19; 1 Peter 3:7.
For a touching example of love, read Gen. 24:67. For a
poignant picture of the pain of not receiving it, see Gen. 29:31-35.
What does the Bible teach about loving our husbands?
Surprise! The NIV Exhaustive Concordance only lists one passage
that tells wives to love their husbands! "Older women must train the younger women
to live quietly, to love their husbands and their children ... being kind and obedient to
their husbands" (Titus 2:4-5; also read Eph. 5:33; Col. 3:18; 1 Pet. 3:1-6; and Ps.
Why only one? Perhaps because in Bible times many wives were
purchased, not courted, or marriages were arranged.
For instance, Deut. 25:5-10 tells how, if a womans husband
dies without a son, the husbands brother is to marry her, and their first son will
be counted as the first husbands son. (The brother could refuse. Verses 7-10 describe
what happened if he did.)
In Ruth 3:1-2, Ruths widowed mother-in-law, Naomi, told
her "My dear, isnt it time that I try to find a husband for you and get you
happily married again? The man Im thinking of is Boaz! He has been so kind to
us..." The rest of chapters 3 and 4 describe the social and civil practices that
had to be followed before the marriage took place. (Another example: Gen. 21:20-21.)
Such marriages are still common in some parts of the world. One of
my library board members once brought back a Port Moresby, New Guinea newspaper from a
Pacific tour. It reported on a village council meeting that had set standard prices for
Under the new law, when a villager wanted a virgin bride, he had to pay
her father a set sum in cash and livestock, such as cows, goats and pigs. That amount was
always the same.
But there were two "bargain" clauses.
First, if the woman had been married once before, the price was about
one-third as high.
Second, "if she has been married twice before, she shall have no
commercial value at all."
One of my department heads responded "The price should be higher.
What does the Bible teach about faithfulness?
"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 ... For God is closely
watching you, and he weighs carefully everything you do" (Prov. 5:15-21; also 27:8;
Mal. 2:13-16; Matt. 5:31-32; Heb. 13:4).
Living by the Bibles sexual standards today may seem
out-of-date, but it can pay remarkable dividends.
After my divorce, I moved from San Diegos suburbs to the Pacific
Beach area. There I met a lady who became a good (though never romantic) friend. Two years
later, when I accepted a job in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, she told me "My grandfather
lives there. You could room with him!" She arranged it, and I did.
Her former boyfriend also lived in Fort Lauderdale. A few months later
they made up. She came back to Florida, and they shared an apartment. It didnt last.
They had a fight, and he moved out.
Then she asked if Id move in. "It wouldnt mean any
sex," she said, "Wed just be roommates."
"Just friends" or not, it didnt seem right. So I told
She took my decision well. But her grandfather didnt! Angered, he
tripled my rent! I couldnt afford that, so I found a young man who needed a
roommate, and moved.
Charles attended Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, and often invited
members of its young adult group over for weekend dinners. I didnt know any of them,
so I usually went for walks while they visited. But one April night I had to finish my
income tax. So I stayed, and met his guests, including my present wife, Yvonne!
As we dated, we discovered shed grown up in the same
Chicago neighborhood I would have if my mother had lived. Shed worked in two Chicago
banks, several miles apart, yet my father had had accounts in both. Shed opened his
account at one, and, after his death, closed it at the other. Wed probably seen each
other once when he and I stopped at her bank, though we hadnt been introduced.
Hed been her cab driver once.
And, shortly before we met, wed each prayed "God, would you
send me someone I can love?"
Were those simply coincidences? Or Providence? Is there a
"right" mate for each of us? And is it possible we may only meet if we live the
way God teaches?
What does the Bible teach about divorce?
In Matthew 5: 31-32, Jesus taught that anyone "who divorces his
wife, except for fornication, causes her to commit adultery if she marries again, and he
who marries her commits adultery."
Many Old Testament passages on divorce deal with slaves, virginity at marriage, or
intermarriage with idol-worshipping nations. For examples, see Ex. 21.8; Lev. 21:7;
21:10-15; 22:12-13; Deut. 22:13-29; 24:1-4; 1 Chron. 8:8-10; Ezra 10:3; 10:16-19; Mal.
2:14-16.) These are harsh passages. Jesus was different. He opposed divorce, but he
consistently taught love and forgiveness (for two examples, see Mat. 5: 38-48 and
The original Greek texts of 1 Tim. 3:2 and 5:9-10 tell us that
prospective church leaders had to be "a man of one woman," and widows who
wanted to work in the church must have been "a woman of one man."
Yet the Bible makes compassionate exceptions.
Paul wrote, "If a Christian has a wife who is not a Christian,
but she wants to stay with him anyway, he must not leave her or divorce her. And if a
Christian woman has a husband who isnt a Christian, and he wants her to stay with
him, she must not leave him. ... a united family may, in Gods plan, result in the
"But if the husband or wife who isnt a Christian is eager to
leave ... the Christian husband or wife should not insist that the other stay, for God
wants his children to live in peace and harmony ... be sure ... you are ... marrying or
not marrying in accordance with Gods direction and help" (1 Cor. 7:12-17).
Would Paul also allow divorce for abuse? I certainly believe
so. If he allowed a couple to divorce because they differed over Christianity, can we
seriously doubt hed do so if the man beat her?
After drinking with his buddies one night, one of our neighbors came
home and began yelling, punching his wife, and throwing her against the walls. Fearing for
her, we called the police. After they took him away, we helped her pack and leave with her
young daughters before the judge could release him. Finally she got a divorce.
God does wrap us in his arms of love, even after divorce. For me,
by far the most painful part of that experience had been not seeing my older kids grow up.
More than ten years later, while Yvonne and I lived in Orlando with our
two young children, Bill Gaithers Vocal Band came to our church. In mid-concert Bill
set a chair on the stage, pointed directly at our daughter Yvette in the midst of the
crowd of 2,000, and asked "would you please come up here?" He sat her on his
knee, and sang her a song about a father watching his baby girl being born, growing up,
going to school, graduating, and getting married. After each verse, Bill sang
"Ill be there."
Bill didnt know me, or my past hurts. But God did. And through
Bill he seemed to say, "I love you. And this time itll be different."
More Scriptures: Deut. 22:28-29; Job 31:1-12; Prov. 6:24-35;
7:4-27; 12:4; 23:26-28; 27:8; Eccl. 7:26; Matt. 19:3-9; Mark 10:2-9; Rom. 7:2-3; 1
Cor. 6:13-20; 7:1-5; 7:10-11; 7:32-34; 7:39; 2 Cor. 12:21; 1 Thess. 4:3-5; 1 Tim. 3:12;
Heb. 12:16; 13:4.
What does the Bible teach about loving our children?
Children are easy to love.
My youngest son was fascinated with model rockets. But the biggest
rocket engine available in our town only burned for one second and powered the rocket up a
mere 300 feet. Not enough! Solution? The Internet! Order one that burned 13 seconds and
climbed 1,500 feet! Attach the engine to a 3-foot mailing tube. Much better!
Except that the parachute didnt open! And the unchecked plunge
back down from that height meant a major rebuilding job.
He persisted. Finally the new rocket was ready. But he decided that
this time hed do a "ground test" to be sure the chute would pop out. So he
made a "test stand" out of several large rocks, which he placed in our apartment
parking lot to hold the rocket firmly in place. Then he lit the engine.
It worked beautifully - for a few seconds. Then the rocket nimbly
climbed over the rocks and skittered under our car, where it lodged below the gas tank.
Our son raced for shelter around the corner of the building, fervently praying "No
... No ... No ... No!"
His prayer was answered partly. The rocket freed itself from
beneath the car and continued across the parking lot. This time it lodged under the engine
of our neighbors pickup truck.
Back around the buildings corner! Now his prayers included
counting: "9 ... 10 ... 11 ..."
The count reached 13. The engine stopped. The gas tank, the pickup, and
the building were all intact. A final prayer: "Thank you, God!!!"
Once wed been driving across Colorado all day. My four older
kids, still small, were competing to spot white horses. The prize was a wish. Near sunset,
as we crossed a petroleum-drilling area near the Kansas border, my middle daughter spoke
up: "Im not going to wish on white horses anymore. Im going to wish on
Our kids insights can amaze us. Yvonne once decided to decorate a
home-made dresser with ceramic tile. We lived 15 miles from Mexico, so we went to Tijuana
expecting itd have the best selection and prices. As we drove back up the freeway
away from the border, my middle son spoke up: "Dad, do you know what we just
did?" My mind blanked completely. So he explained: "Were an American
family, right? Well, we just drove a Japanese car to Mexico, bought Italian tile, and a
We even love our children when they make us look for holes in the
floor. Yvonne once discovered my "height/weight ratio" was wrong. That evening
Yvette, Bill, and I entered our neighborhood grocery store. Always-friendly Bill spotted a
cashier he knew. In a voice that positively echoed back from the rear of the building, he
shouted "Hey! My Dads 20 pounds overweight! He has to go on a diet!
"Children are a gift from God; they are his reward ... Happy is
the man who has his quiver full of them" (Ps. 127:3-5).
Also see: Ex. 1:15-22; 2:1-9; Ps. 113:9; 128:1-4; Isa. 49:15;
66:13; Mal. 3:17; Luke 9:47-48; 11:11; 15:20-32; Acts 7:9-14; 1 Thess. 2:7.
Involving children in family activities shows love.
When my wife and I began looking for agates, jaspers, and
quartz crystals, we took our young children. When we Iearned to pan for gold and gems,
they did too. When we saw pronghorn antelope, deer, elk, moose, wild horses, beaver,
eagles, red-tailed hawks, and horned toads, so did they.
Bill and I once waited while several dozen elk trotted across the road
ahead of us. Another time, we all gently eased the car through a pack of wild horses
standing directly on our track. They edged aside, but so little we could easily have
touched their bite-scarred sides out both windows!
While Bill and I worked 400 feet above one desert valley, a band of
wild horses eyed us, then trotted away out of sight. As we stood to leave, I glanced up at
a small hill just above us. All along its crest were the horses eyes, ears, and
foreheads, just peeking over the hill, watching us, clearly wondering who we were, why we
were there, and whether we meant to hurt them.
Those experiences helped the kids mature into the thoughtful, caring,
adults theyve become.
"Live so that when your children think of fairness, caring and
integrity, they think of you." - H. Jackson Brown, Jr.
Discipline is part of loving our children, but harshness isnt!
When my father left home for college, he never returned. He
didnt see any of his family for over 20 years, nor his mother for more than 40!
His reasons? Hed felt he was raised with harshness instead of
love, both in his family and church.
A depressed, suicidal young woman once told me, "In all the years
I attended church, I never once saw any love! The only thing my church ever did for me was
to make me feel as if I could never be good enough!"
What a shame! Discipline is needed at times, but love is always
necessary! Discipline may deter us from becoming what we shouldnt, but love helps us
become what we should. Radiant love plays a great role in helping our children grow into
mature, balanced, fulfilled adults. If our home and church arent filled with love,
we should ask why and seek it!
Scripture teaches parents to balance love and discipline:
"Discipline your son and he will give you happiness and
peace of mind" (Prov. 29:17; also read 13:24; 23:13-14).
"Fathers, dont scold your children so much that they
become discouraged and quit trying" (Col. 3:21; also see Prov. 11:29; Eph. 6:4).
One neighborhood where we lived was full of dysfunctional families. Several had one
mother, three children, three different fathers, and a still-different boyfriend. One
mother, whose children our son Bill often babysat, worked at a strip club, was an
alcoholic, and a drug user. When she came home, the first two questions her five-year-old
would always ask were "Mommy, are you drunk?" and "How many drinks have you
We took him and his brothers to church with us. But when he told his mother hed
asked his Sunday School class to pray for her, she was furious. She never let him come
again. And soon they moved away.
Wild animals train their young but it can take time.
My family loves to see one of Americas most beautiful
animals, the pronghorn antelope. Pronghorns are strikingly colored, can run 60 mph, and
are unexpectedly fun-loving. They often "pace" our car, running though the
sagebrush beside us. Then theyll accelerate, angle across the road ahead of us, and
"leave us in the dust," as if laughing at the slowpokes.
And once we saw a pair do something truly incredible which their fawn
tried unsuccessfully to copy.
That day, along a back-country road, a pronghorn father, mother, and
child appeared. As usual, they raced us. But this time, instead of angling across our
road, they turned and headed at full speed towards a nearby barbed-wire fence. I watched,
expecting them to jump. They didnt even try! One after the other, both deer-sized
parents simply ran directly through the fence, right between two wires, never appearing to
touch either one, never slowing. I was incredulous. They couldnt have done that!
The fawn seemed to think "They did it. I can too." And it
tried. But it hit the fence so hard it bounced straight back, landing flat on its side in
the sage. Apparently unhurt, it jumped up and ran along the fence looking for a way to
follow its parents.
Even today, I tell myself "No. They absolutely couldnt
have!" Yet I saw it. And I wonder if the baby finally learned its parents
More Scriptures: Gen. 37:3-4; Prov. 29:15; Jer. 31:20; Lam.
3:27; 1 Tim. 3:4-5; Heb. 12:5-11.
What does the Bible teach about loving our parents?
There are many more Scriptures about how to treat our
parents than our husbands, wives, or children! They tell us to act in love toward our
fathers and mothers; respect them, honor them, listen to their advice, and support them
For example: At the height of the time Saul was trying to kill
David, David worried about his parents safety. So he "went to Mizpeh in Moab to
ask permission of the king for his father and mother to live there under royal protection
until David knew what Godwas going to do for him. They stayed in Moab during the entire
period when David was living in the cave [of Adullam]" (1 Sam.22:3-4).
More Scriptures: Ex. 21:15; Deut. 27:16; Prov. 15:5; 19:26; 20:20;
28:24; 30:11-14; 30:17; Ezek. 22:7; Matt. 15:1-9; Mark 7:10-13; Rom. 1:30; 1 Tim. 1:8-9;
5:8; 2 Tim. 3:1-2.
"His preaching will bring fathers and children together
again, to be of one mind and heart" (Mal. 4:6; also read Luke 1:13).
What does the Bible teach about loving brothers, sisters, grandparents,
Various forms of the word "brother" occur
almost 800 times in the Bible. "Sister" is found more than 100. But most of
these verses refer to fellow Israelis, Christians, or human beings; few to siblings.
"How wonderful it is, how pleasant, when brothers live in
harmony!" (Ps. 133:1; see also Gen. 50:15; 50:18-21; Lev. 19:17a; Ps. 50:20-21).
"So Boaz married Ruth, and ... the Lord gave her a son.
"And the women of the city said to Naomi, Bless the Lord who
has given you this little grandson; may he be famous in Israel. May he restore your youth
and take care of you in your old age; for he is the son of your daughter-in-law who loves
you so much, and who has been kinder to you than seven sons!
"Naomi took care of the baby, and the neighbor women said,
Now at last Naomi has a son again!
"And they named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse and
grandfather of King David" (Ruth 4:13-17; also read Ps. 128:6; Prov.17:6).