...the churches of Christ salute you! Rom 16:16

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Throughout the growing season, Elaine and I enjoyed a small garden (very small). The racoons enjoyed it too. I had a few cantaloupe vines in the garden, with a good number of melons. Anxious to try the produce, I pulled the first, finding it not as sweet as a couple more days on the vine would have made it. But the next morning I found that the coons thought they were just right. I had several less melons than the night before. I knew I needed to set some traps, and fully intended to, but got busy and forgot it until after nightfall. But, because it was night out, I decided to wait till morning after all, I had a number of melons left, and the coons might not be back. But that night, they brought in all the neighbors—I mean, they cleaned me out. We had eaten the only cantaloupe we would get. Well, I set the traps (of course), and in about 3 nights had "relocated" 4 coons and 3 skunks. But it was too late. My cantaloupes were gone. You know, at times that's about the way it is in the church and in the family.

Our church environment is good; we have a lot of young people, a lot of good people. Among these, we also have new converts and a number of other lovely folks, but who perhaps are not really grounded in the faith. Leadership is (or should be) very aware of the many "varmints" out there, just waiting to devour these innocents, just as the coons with the cantaloupes. In fact, this is what Peter said is the great intent of the Devil himself (1 Peter 5:8).

Likewise in most cases our home environments are pleasant and rich. We have children and grandchildren not only to enjoy, but to train and instruct. It is our pleasant duty and responsibility, and as parents on the one hand, and as elders and church leaders on the other, we certainly feel this responsibility, and should gladly accept it.

Further, in both cases, we intend to protect these young (and not so young) from the enemy. But we dally around here and there, and get tied up with this and that. Or, we hide our head in the sand and think, "We'll see the enemy coming, waving a flag, and we'll stop them then. All of them." But we may not see them coming. And they may not be waving a flag. In fact, they most often come subtly, quietly, doing their patient and destructive work. And with persuasive talk and noble gestures, steal the hearts of the undiscerning. About like Absalom did Israel.

Foolishly, parents and leadership too often do not take the time or go to the trouble to be as cautious or as vigilant with their charge as God and good sense require. Some parents and leaders find it very easy to just blame others for their own failures. "It's 'their' fault." Too many are like the young man in olden days, "as thy servant was busy here and there, he was gone." The false teacher, the persuasive personality comes along at just the right time to swallow up our boys and girls (or our weaker members) to his error ".. .and [they are] gone."

It doesn't avail much to be vigilant after the coon has visited the patch. What we foresaw, what we joyously anticipated, will never be. The enemy has visited. It is too late. They are all gone. And too often, we are to blame.



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