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Watchnight Services

During my early teenage years our family attended an Independent Baptist Church. It was very fundamental in its approach and “straight lace” with rules like: No dancing, movies, “mixed bathing” in swimming pools, or dating without another couple. I’m not sure if it was just part of the era I lived in or a tradition of this type of church, but we always had “Watch Night Services” on New Year’s Eve. We gathered for three to four hours of sermons, lessons, etc., while we waited to see if Jesus was going to return before midnight. (I always wondered why he would choose East Coast time.) The meeting was designed to be a time of fellowship but it caused me great stress and consternation. The majority of it was because I knew I had a propensity to be a rascal if no one was watching.

Every year I would go through the same stress of wondering if I would be left behind and found “not worthy” upon Christ’s return. Those hours of worry, when I questioned my salvation, were almost more than I could bear. That kind of anxiety was part of the reason I walked away from my family’s faith after graduating from High School. I just couldn’t have both and be happy. I wanted to do what I wanted to do and not be held accountable. Life just seemed to be too much about rules and not enough about freedom. I took my lead from the remainder of the youth during the 1960s. Never made it to “hippie” status but tried in my own way. So for 18 years I relished my freedom of choice — until it hurt and hurt bad. Too much freedom corrupts our thoughts and brings about pain. Proverbs 14:12 and 16:25 says it simply: There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.

As I look back and forward, I know those events made me who I am; however, I would not wish the pain and disappointment they brought on me for anyone — especially a friend. God grants us freedom. In 1 Corinthians 6:12 and 10:23 the words jump off the page: Everything is permissible — but not everything is beneficial. Everything is permissible — but not everything is constructive. Everything is permissible for me — but I will not be mastered by anything. The context of the passages revolves around pleasures like food and sex, which can be overwhelming to the best of us at times. Who hasn’t been drawn into one of those two traps with either excess or being proud of having deprived themselves the piousness brought about by deprivation? Let’s face it, they and so many other things we can see, may become our idols and gods. God will allow their worship, but the time away from him will cost you the joy and richness of Kingdom life.

It took so long for me to “get it.” The Ten Commandments were written with love, not anger. They were written to make your life full, not empty. They were written to save you pain, not deprive you of joy. They were written to make your burden light, not heavy. A man who is faithful to his wife does not worry when the phone rings. A woman who makes the most of what she has does not want what her neighbor has. And a child who loves his or her parents does not let his or her friends run their lives. In Matthew 11:30 Jesus said this: For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. Reverence of our creator allows you to live a life free of stress. Christianity is NOT just for when you die. Respect for Him brings about the freedom that according to Proverbs 19:23: Leads to life: Then one rests [my emphasis] content, untouched by trouble. My wish is that your life would be full of joy and you will rest tonight. ILY.

Love, Dad


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