While driving back from Framingham, MA God gave me this article.  There is a critical need in our family (between me and my brothers and sisters) for reconciliation. I have seen it and felt it for years, which each lie they perpetrate against us and with each upset this gulf and division widens.  It seems every time we all come together Karen, our kids, and I are pitted against the rest of the family. At first I did not understand, but as my brothers and sisters started falling away from the Lord I began to see what was going on in our family.  Our mother was the spiritual glue that held our family together, but as time and age began to weigh heavy in her life and as her mind began to slip so did the importance of a Godly life-style and the things of God. I finally realized this one night after we all (minus our brother John) went out to a bar to karaoke.  I was told John was there last week and really enjoyed himself so I agreed to go and take Karen, Connie, and Joshua. When we got there the place was packed and we sat down and ordered drinks. Karen and I got water, but everyone else got either a beer or a mixed drink.  A young man took the stage (with a beer in hand) and tried to sing a song, but he was so drunk he could not remember the words. He ends his show by exposing himself.  I could not believe it. The manager quickly came over and apologized for his lewd behavior and told us we all would get free drinks. Right then the Holy Spirit spoke to me and said, “what are you doing sitting here with your family? Just last week you were sharing the Gospel message to 100s of 1000s of people in India and now you are sitting in bar.”  I had nothing to say, but I am sorry. I collected up my family and as we were heading to the door my brother and sisters started ridiculing Karen and I. No problem, we value the presence of God more than a few drinks and lewd behavior. Another nail was added to the coffin of separation.

We must stand for righteousness and for what is right in the eyes of God and His words, and most of all we must never compromise, even when dealing with family unity, the truth of the word of God.  Righteousness does not bend to unrighteousness; it is not our place to make peace with my family.  God knows our heart, God knows we love our family, but God also knows we love Him more than our family. We have been advised by a family member to come back to the family, quote “some day we will have to come back to the family,” well it is not we who have left the family the truth is our family has left God.  The truth is when our family comes back to God and makes peace with Him then and only then can we have fellowship with them.  Until then we must come out from among them.  Paul knew this truth and lived it every day of his life when he said. “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? 15And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? 16And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said,  I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 17Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, 18And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.”  (2 Corinthians 6:14-18) Paul was taking about his family too.  If we want to be received by God we must meet the condition of coming out from among them who do not follow God and His ways, this too means our family. Yes, there must if need be a physical separation from our family for us to be able to come into the things of God.  We then continue to pray for them, but give them over to the mercy and grace of God.  Our family does not want to talk with us and why, because our lives and what we believe is a stumbling block for them.  It is important to know us being a stumbling block before our family is not our intention, but because of our love for God, His words, and His ways we automatically become a rock of offense to those who do not love God, His words, and His ways.  Peter shares this painful truth with us, “Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded. 7Unto you therefore which believe he is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner,  8And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed.”  (1 Peter 2:6-8)  Karen and I know we are not righteous and holy, but we desire to be (that is the difference) we try to be the very best to our ability (and according to the revelation we have received) to what God and His word has commanded us to do. We know we have a long way to go, but it is important to us to know we are on His road and walking the narrow way God as told those who desire eternal life to go.

Please do not make the mistake to confuse forgiveness with reconciliation.  Many people are looking for apologies (forgiveness), but if the people who they have offended or those who have been offended do not have the ability to apologize then they cannot give it. A man cannot give what they do not have.  We are not looking for an apology for the heinous things done and spoken against our family, we desire reconciliation between them and God.  Did you know, one can forgive another’s transgressions against them but does not need to pal around or even associate with them.  In Psalms we read, Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.  2But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.” (Psalms 1:1-2)  Why is the man blessed?  Because he “standeth not in the way of sinners nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.”  He gets out of the way of the sinner and scornful and let them have their way. They then are able to, Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord:” (Hebrew 12:14).  Now it means what it says. Jesus said, “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.”  (Matthew 10:16).  We need to learn when to speak and when to shut our mouths, and when to separate our selves from those who do not see things God’s way.  Peace happens when few words are passed between people. Jesus also told us, “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. 35For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. 36And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household. 37He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me. 39He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.”  (Matthew 10:34)  Make no mistake my friend if you desire to serve God He will see to it that you are cut out of the world and your family.  He will stick His sword (His words) into your life and every relationship to cut your heart out of the love for this world and those who love this world. At the end of the day in all of our lives we must allow God to work in us so that we can get over the stumbling block in our lives, so that we all can come into the eternal life God has for us, but like all things in God this too is our choice.

One of the joys of our trip to Framingham, MA when we took Connie up to be with Jeff during his two weeks on R&R from Iraq and to be with Martin and Dinah (Jeff’s wonderful parents) was when we went to Beth Israel Temple (where Dinah attends services) and met Mr. Morris Hollender. Now Mr. Hollinder (83 years young) and a survivor of Auschwitz was standing behind the Bema reading the Torah when we arrived. During the service when he came by to shake our hands and especially after the service during the Kiddush we just hit it off.  I really enjoyed talking with him.  You could see he is a man that had much to say, but knew when and how to say it.  Many people think just because they are educated or know much they need to let everybody know how much they know and just how important their opinion or position is, but not so with people with wisdom.  People with wisdom can hold their tongue, thoughts, and experiences and share them with impact and meaning at the right time. There were two things that Mr. Hollender said that really rattled my spirit. The first was when he said he does not know why God saved his life in the concentration camp because his parents (and I think other family members perished) were better people than he. I asked him if he had any hatred for those at Auschwitz, those who killed his family and forced him into slave labor and he said no, “honestly before God I have no hatred in my heart.”  I thought what a place, to endure a concentration camp and loss of family members, yet in his heart able to stand before God and man to profess he had no anger for those who abused him and put his family to death.  And you know what I believed him.  You could see it in his eyes and hear it in his voice. You could see it in his daily desires to serve God and in the way God has for him to go.  Men such as Mr. Hollender are rare and precious in God, they have experienced great loss and now God can give him of the riches of God’s glory, the loss he has experienced has made room in his heart to receive from God. Mr. Hollender does not need forgiveness he has already found that in God, but his need is to share the reconciliation story that he has experienced in his heart and life. Reconciliation comes to us as we agree with what God is saying about us is true; “we all have sinned an short of the glory of God” and as we embrace a holy God first, then and only then can we deal with our need for forgiveness with God first, then with each others. Restoration is not the issue, only God can restore, the issue is our need for reconciliation. Forgiveness with others can only happen after reconciliation is found between God and man, this is a spiritual principle and if violated then there can be no “true” relationship between God and man or man with man. This is the point Paul was talking about in 2 Corinthians when he said, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.  18And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation;” (2 Corinthians 5:17-18) Paul was telling us of our great need to be reconciled back to God though Christ Jesus. This is our (Karen and I) ministry to tell people (our family) about their need to be reconciled back to God, even if that means we become a stumbling block.  Until then Karen, our kids, and I wait.