Preaching the Gospel, Preparing a People

A Lesson From the Elephants

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A Lesson From the Elephants

MP3 Audio (13.75 MB)


A Lesson From the Elephants

MP3 Audio (13.75 MB)

The family unit is extremely important to God. When the family unit is disrupted, or injured, the results can be far reaching, and affecting many people beyond just that small group.


Thank you and good afternoon. It's very nice to be here. It's been a great experience to be on the Ministerial Training programs - I really appreciate all the effort and work that's gone into the classes, the amount of subjects that we can cover. People ask me at home, "What else can they tell you? You've been there twice already for two weeks..." So while there's still more, I'm sure there's much more afterwards that Mr. Pinelli could add. I really appreciate seeing Mr. Pinelli - we have certain things in common, mainly our heritage. My mother's name was Rattonetti; my grandfather was born in the Alps of Northern Italy, very close to where you saw the Olympics on television a few years ago. And I was looking around trying to find some of my cousins when they were showing that on television.

But, it's really nice to be here, really nice to grandpa always said, you know, we Italians have to stick together! By the way, you might have heard of Frank Netti (that's short for Rattonetti), and my daughters have used that to their advantage a few times. They were in Chicago a couple years ago - my two daughters who are "fearless" - they've given their mother "fits" by the millions over the years - were down at Mike Ditka's, in downtown Chicago. And they were going down the street to another one of these little restaurant bar things, and a bunch of guys walked in with black suits (and whatever), so my daughters walked up and says, "Hi". The answer was, "Who are you?" She says, "My grandfather was a cousin of Frank Netti." And they looked at her, and she said, "Yes, he was born in Muraglio de Castellamonte, in Northern, Italy." And they went, "oooh". And they went to the bar, and they said, "These girls get whatever they want - free!" And they went all up and down the streets of Chicago, and every time my daughter Hollie and Bridgette turned around, there were guys in black suits - and they never paid for a drink or a sandwich all summer long! So, that was good; you could use your heritage sometimes, you know - the Italians have to stick together!

I didn't go up here to tell it - that's 100% true story! If you talk to my daughter, Hollie, or Bridgette, either one, they did that, and there's some advantages you have to use in life when you don't have as many as you'd like to have!

But, I bring you greetings from your brethren out on the West Coast. Most of you don't know me - you've seen my name a few times. I've written (I was going to say a few) 220 some articles that have been published over the years, in the Worldwide News, Good News, Plain Truth - other things. So people know me by name only - they've seen my name. I know Mr. Bennett very well; his father's in our church area, and I appreciate having him give the sermonette. When he comes out to visit, sometimes he lets us know, sometimes he doesn't, so I can put him on the speaking schedule. So I need to ask a favor, if you know he's coming out to visit his father, please e-mail me or call me so I can put him on the schedule, so he can't get there and say, "Well I didn't have time, I didn't know"... you know how these things go! So, but it's real nice to have him come out. We love his father dearly and we have Bible Study in his father's place where he lives once a month.

Also want to mention that if you come out to Bend for the Feast, we'll be happy to see you there. My wife and I moved to Washington State in 1977, and we've lived on the Northwest ever since. All my assignments have been in the Northwest, Washington, Oregon, or Alaska, so we know very few people back east here. I know Mr. Decompos from the Feast. We know a few others from the Feast days, or other visits, but it's been nice for me to be back here and get to know some of my brothers in the ministry that I've heard of, but now have got to know over the course of these three visits. Look forward to seeing and hearing from more of you - each and more of you.

Delia and Mark Owens came to the North Luangwa National Park, in Northern Zambia, in the early 1980's. They discovered through a ten year study of the local elephant populations an interesting change in family structure, in social behavior among the elephants in the park, as a result of the heavy poaching. From the late 1970's to the 1980's commercial poachers shot and killed 93% of all the African elephants in Zambia National Park, in Luangwa. The population declined from 17,000 to barely 1,500. When the Owenses arrived at the park, there were barely a few elephants in the park - poachers were shooting almost 1,000 a year. The Owenses assisted the Zambia National parks, the Wildlife Services providing housing, trucks, uniforms, training and food for the scouts involved in anti poaching efforts. The corruption in the African government made if far, far worse - a big challenge.

For as the poaching declined in early 1991-92, down to about 15 elephants per year. The Owenses then studied the effects of the heavy poaching on the elephant tribes, the elephant groups. Elephants generally live in tight social groups or family units. Females remain with the group throughout their lives, and each family unit is led by an old female called the Matriarch, which in the days before wide-spread poaching could live to be 60 years old. Grandmothers, mothers, aunts, sisters and female cousins feed together, romping the rivers and play on the plains. There's a lot of touching and bumping of body parts; the animals show very little aggression towards each other.

Young males stay in the group into which they were born until they reach puberty, at age nine to fourteen years. They then leave the unit in search of a suitable mate. Adult males spend much of their time alone. Young females learn about maternal behavior from their elders. If any infant in the family squeals, all the females run to its aid. The old matriarchs are the groups store-houses of knowledge. They know the water sources in times of drought, the ancient routes to the mountains for the best forage. They lead the older elephants across the Luangwa River in darkness to avoid the poachers. The matriarch's guidance holds the family unit of the elephants together, making it among the most social and cooperative groups in the world.

The Owenses fitted radio collars to some of the female elephants and estimated the age of each elephant by measuring their foot prints. One of the most striking affects of poaching which he documented, was that in the 1990's 38% of the NLMP elephants were tusk-less. And the elephant populations where poaching had not been a problem, only 2% of elephants were born without tusks. Because poachers had selected individuals for their tusks, the percentage of elephants remaining without tusks greatly increased.

But, it was not just the number of elephants where the presence of tusks that had changed with poaching; their social structure was transformed. The average size of the family unit had been cut almost in half, from eight individuals to only five. Furthermore, only 6% of the population was older than twenty. Before heavy poaching, more than half the elephants in a population had been older than twenty. Females between 20 and 45 years old had been the most reproductively active before poaching took place. Now very few females in that age group even were alive. No longer were large, wise old matriarchs, leading the family units. A third of the units included no adult female older than fifteen years. 8% of the groups were made up entirely of orphans.

Young males, which had underserved elephants society (would still be living in their mother's groups) formed groups on their own, like city gangs, chasing non-reproductive females, and fighting among themselves. The NLMP elephant population had essentially been reduced to groups of roaming teen-agers. But the makeup of the groups also posed a mystery; many of the family units had more infants than adult females. Elephants do not adopt orphans, so how was such a shift possible? One orphaned young female, about five years old, used to visit the Owenses camp. They called her "Gift". She had no family, no one to protect her, no older females to teach her how to behave. Instead Gift had taken to moving up around with a group of adolescent males. But as she was too young for breeding, they showed no interest in her, and ignored all her attempts at breeding and body contact.

In the Owenses experience, females do not ovulate before the age of eleven, and usually cannot become mothers until the age of fourteen; they never gave birth before the age of sixteen. Gift was only five. Three years later the Owenses were astounded to discover that Gift, now eight years old, had a baby; she was only half the age at which females should give birth. At 8 ½, Gift had become a single mother. Single moms were almost unheard of in normal elephant populations. Before the severe poaching in Luangwa, family units of two elephants made up only 3% of the populations. But now a quarter of the elephant families were made of just a single mother and her first calf. The infants born to these single moms were not surrounded by grandmothers, aunts, female cousins and sisters. In normal elephant populations, the other females of the group play a large part in helping to look after the young of their relatives.

Gift, at eight years old, was not a good mother. For one thing, she was very young; secondly she was an orphan. She had not been raised by a family unit. She had no experience with the frequent touching, the gentle care, one of the normal parts of elephant's social life. She rarely reached her trunk out to her little calf, and sometimes hardly seemed to notice it at all.

The Owenses soon discovered that the reason for the high number of infants in the family units made up mostly of adolescents, was that many of the young elephants were giving birth at a very young age. And the absence of adults, females, in North Luangwa, between 8 ½ and 14 years old, were counting for 48% of all births. On their own, or in small family units of only two or three, these teen-age mothers were slowly fostering the next generation. They had no one to assist them; no matriarchs to teach them, no aunts, no female cousins, no sisters to help them with squealing infants, were to help protect and train their offspring. By the time Gift was sixteen, an age when under normal circumstances she would have been giving birth to her first calf, she was a mother of three, and sadly, a grandmother.

Like a single mother in the disrupted human family, she was making the best of a bad situation without relatives, without culture, without much social support, but she was still making a go of it. The disruption seen in the elephant's social behavior in North Luangwa was mirrored in other populations of African elephants all over the continent. They too are facing decreased numbers of matriarchs. The family units are broken down, and the shift in sex ratio now favors heavily the females. But Gift's abilities as a family leader, which had approved us her family had grown, was her little herds foothold on the future, and perhaps there is hope to return to the great herds of yesterday. That, by the way, is taken from the book the Owenses wrote, called "The Eye of the Elephant". I read's an excellent book... I recommend it to all of you who like to read books on social issues.

The family, whether for people, or any other group on the earth, especially mammals, is a foundational unit that God uses to build with. The family unit is extremely important to God. When the family unit is disrupted, disrupted or injured, the results can be far reaching, and affecting many people beyond just that small group. Our God intended for families to remain intact, for each family member to act in such a way that the integrity of the unit is protected. We know that because God's laws are like a big wall of protection around the family unit. According to my Dake's commentary, there are sixty laws, specific laws in the Decalogue, first five books of the Bible, that protect the family unit from harm.

I want to go through a couple of these just so you'll get the idea that God is extremely concerned about the family unit that we are a part of. Let's go first to Exodus, Chapter 20. You're very familiar with this. I was discussing this with Mr. Suckling last night...he said, "Well, there are at least four commandments that protect the family", and of course, he's right, there are. God built this wall around this building block that He wants us to be a part of, and we have our responsibility to make sure we are protecting it as God wants us to. In Exodus, Chapter 20, beginning in Verse 12:

Exodus 20:12 Exodus 20:12Honor your father and your mother: that your days may be long on the land which the LORD your God gives you.
American King James Version×
"Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God gives you."

God knew that the family unit would protect those who were going to inherit that land. The commitment here is to God, not to men, or to the parents.

Now, I want you to go over to Deuteronomy, Chapter 5 and Verse 16. This is one of three commandments that has something added to it, in Deuteronomy, Chapter 5. Seven of the commandments are essentially identical the second time they are given; three have additions to them, and this is one of them. You see, one of the important things we must understand when God says to honor something, is that the covenant is between us and God doing it - our parents don't qualify because they've done good works and been perfect and been nice, and always provided a beautiful home and never hurt us. They qualify for honor because they are our parents.

One of the big problems we have sometimes in our marriages is that husbands and wives both don't realize that their promise to submit and to care for each other is not a promise they make to each other alone; it's a promise they make to God. A wife's covenant to submit to her husband, is her covenant with God - it's not with her husband. The husband's covenant to love his wife, and take care of her, honor her, is his covenant with God, not just his wife. And so when in marriage counseling, when they say, "Well, he's not qualified, he's not doing this...I don't have to..." And I say, "wait - hold on a minute...your covenant's with God - it's not with him. Don't forget that - you promised before the minister who stood up there - you promised before God, you covenanted with Him."

So the covenant is with God also in honoring our parents - we don't sit there and say, "Well, my parents haven't earned it"... no, God already told us to do it, - we promised Him we would, and so we do. In Deuteronomy, Chapter 5, and Verse 16, this is what is added:

Deuteronomy 5:16 Deuteronomy 5:16Honor your father and your mother, as the LORD your God has commanded you; that your days may be prolonged, and that it may go well with you, in the land which the LORD your God gives you.
American King James Version×
"Honor you father and your mother, as the Lord your God has commanded you, that your days may be long, - okay - that it may be well with you in the land which the Lord your God is giving you.

That last part of the sentence is different than it is over in Exodus, Chapter 20... that it may be well with you in the land"... It takes a family unit for things to go well, and that applies to all of us. Also, Verse 18 is a wall around the family:

Verse 18: "You shall not commit adultery."

Nothing destroys a marriage quite like violating that commandment, yet we are in a society where they're trying to influence us to do that all the time. Down in Verse 21:

Verse 21: "You shall not covet your neighbor's wife;" - the first thing you don't covet that belongs to your neighbor is his wife; and of course, conversely, the husband's.

So, these three are very plain that they are part of God's wall He built around the marriage and the family unit.

Verse 21: "Don't desire your neighbor's wife;

Violating the family unit often meant the death sentence. Let's go back to Exodus, Chapter 21. I think if we understood how deadly serious God is about these laws that are a big wall around the family unit, we might not be so cavalier with watching adultery as entertainment, or watching kids who are disrespectful to their parents, as they often are on television, as entertainment. We understand just how serious these violations are in God's eyes. In Exodus, Chapter 21 and Verse 15:

Exodus 21:15 Exodus 21:15And he that smites his father, or his mother, shall be surely put to death.
American King James Version×
"He who strikes his father or his mother shall surely be put to death."

In today's society we would probably take the father and mother to court to find out why their son would do that to them; what had they been doing to him. I've been to court a couple times with mothers and fathers who have been falsely accused by children, normally step-children, and it's a very difficult and trying thing. But God says if a man strikes his mother or father...that's it, he is to be put to death. It seems extreme to us, but there's a reason for it.

Verse 17: "He who curses his father or his mother shall be put to death."

That family unit is not to be violated even with words. Let's go over now to Leviticus, Chapter 18: Leviticus, Chapter 18, because here we have God warning us not to do what the Egyptians and the Canaanites did. The Canaanites perverted their land; they defiled it, and so God said they are now to be kicked off. You recall what God told Abraham, when God first told him...your descendants will come back into this land, but He said, not until the sin of the Amorites has come to the full. God does not kick someone off their land until their sin is so bad, and the land is defiled, and He has given them opportunities to repent and to change. And in Abraham's time that took quite a few years; in our time I think we are accelerating this direction much more quickly. But over here in Leviticus 18 we find God listing all of those sins that came to the full with these Amorites, and then God said, you are now to kick them off their land, because of what they've done.

Leviticus 18:1 Leviticus 18:1And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,
American King James Version×
The Lord spoke to Moses, saying,

Verse 2: "Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: 'I am the Lord your God.

Verse 3: 'According to the doings of the land of Egypt, where you dwelt, you shall not do; and according to the doings of the land of Canaan, where I am bringing you, you shall not do; nor shall you walk in their ordinances.

Now, what were those things they were doing? Well, read on and we'll find out. Let's drop down a little bit farther.

Verse 6: 'None of you shall approach anyone who is near of kin to him, to uncover his nakedness; I am the Lord.

We all know the concept, anyway, of incest. We all know about sexual molestation; we hear about it in the news. Most of you don't know my wife; she's worked with people with disabilities for about fifteen time had a very large employment agency; she's had over 1,000 clients. I think she's dealt with just over 200 paranoid, schizophrenics, and bi-polar affected people. And my wife likes to do her research, and she's a good ear; people talk to her, and they just tell her their whole life story and all that's happened to them. According to her research of over 200 paranoid, schizophrenics, and by-polar, 100% of them were sexually molested growing up; not 99.9 - 100%. She's never had a client with those two afflictions that was not sexually molested. She hates molesters worse than I do, and that is really off the scale, let me tell you.

These destroy your children, your grandparents, brothers - what ever it might be; when they violate this, it is a horrible thing; it's a life-long sentence. That's why God said it's not to be done and those who do it are to be stoned.

Verse 8: 'The nakedness of your father's wife...

You can go down through this chapter, and he will use every relative; there's no stone uncovered. You could not say, "Well, He didn't specifically say my first cousin, or my step-mother" - whatever. He said, "no, all of those things. You are not to have any improper sexual contact."

Verse 22: 'You shall not lie with a male as with a woman. It is an abomination.'

Of course, in our land now there's been about a four year effort to try to get everybody to accept that as normal. God simply says, it is an abomination, because it does destroy the family. Look at Verse 24:

Verse 24: 'Do not defile yourselves with any of these things; for by all these the nations are defiled, which I am casting out before you.

I think we could read that and say, the United States of America is defiling itself; Britain is defiling itself, by all these things. We've had these things forced upon us by the entertainment industry, by politicians. If it defiled the ancient Canaan, it is surely defiling us. You wonder why God is not giving us national leaders with wisdom - it's because we have become the modern-day Canaanites - we who should know better.

In this book, in fact in these first five books, there are ninety-six laws regarding sexual activity - ninety-six. You add that to the sixty-one that are protecting the family - and you have, what? Now I know, we do all add - it's about 157 laws in the Bible that specifically protect the family unit - like a big wall built around this mother, father, and children, extended family, that God wants us to protect. You know how many total laws there are in the Decalogue? Probably several commentaries differ...mine says 254. So now, if 160 of them protect the family, you've only got 90 that don't - 94. So 60% of God's law is designed as a big wall to protect the family unit. Did you ever think of that? I mean, that's how important it is to Him. These things defile the land when we violate them.

Now let's go over to Chapter 22 - I want to show you something else. Chapter 22, and Verse 22. You think about that...60% of God's laws, probably a little over that, are designed to protect the family unit, because God created a family, it is His building block - in fact, God is a family, so all these violations are directly an affront to Him.

Deuteronomy 22...(I'm sorry - did I say Leviticus? Should be in Deuteronomy 22 - I'm sorry, I'm in the wrong book - my apology, Deuteronomy 22, Verse 22). I got to kind of hurry, as Mr. Pinelli told me three times not to go overtime - not to go too long. I think he was talking to Denny Luker; Denny Luker is right above me in Seattle - we have Holy Days together. I go up to Seattle and speak, and he always told me at least three times, "Don't go over time - hold it low, hold it low", you know. "Don't go overtime"! Because I do sometimes get carried away and lose time. So Mr. Smith actually was done a half-hour early this morning, so that gives me an extra half-hour that I can go this afternoon. Mr. Welty's not nodding his head! So, I shouldn't do that!

Deuteronomy 22:22 Deuteronomy 22:22If a man be found lying with a woman married to an husband, then they shall both of them die, both the man that lay with the woman, and the woman: so shall you put away evil from Israel.
American King James Version×
"If a man is found lying with a woman married to a husband, then both of them shall die, that man that lay with a woman, and the woman; you shall put away evil from Israel."

God does not have any "oops" or any "out" - "well, unless it was"... no, adultery simply is not tolerable. Look at Verse 26 though:

Verse 26: "You shall do nothing to the woman"... if there is a young woman, no sin deserving of death - this is, of course, a rape.

Verse 25: "If a man finds a betrothed young woman in the countryside, and the man forces her and lies with her, then only the man who lay with her shall die.

But notice the last part of Verse 26:

"Just as when a man rises against his neighbor and kills him, so is this matter; - rape is a capital crime. God says it is as bad as murder. And yet in our law, in our land, we somehow make it like it's not all that important, like it's no big thing.

Once we understand how significant part of God's laws were designed to protect the family unit, it makes us think in deeper, more spiritual terms. Let's go to Romans, Chapter 8 and Verse 1. Here Paul, of course, is discussing the importance of the law, a lot of good basics about repentance and baptism, and how our life should be led by the Holy Spirit. We often read Romans, Chapter 8 to people who are in baptismal counseling, saying, "this is what your life ought to be like after you're baptized - you should be led by the Spirit of God in everything you do." Notice Verse 5, Romans, Chapter 8:

Romans 8:5 Romans 8:5For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit.
American King James Version×
Those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.

So, we should be led by God's Spirit - what does that mean? Verse 4, let's go back up one verse:

Verse 4: That the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

60% of the righteous requirement of the law is to protect your family - 60% of God's law. There's a wall around the family unit. The righteous requirement of the law is to be fulfilled in us - our life is to be an example of what the righteousness of God should be. The Spirit of God should help us to understand the spirit of the law, and we simply live it - we exude it. As Christ said, "Rivers of living water will come out of your belly". In other words, your entire life shows the affect of God's spirit, and the righteous requirement of that law becomes the essence of your life, 60% of which is to protect the family unit - to protect the family we've all been called to.

We should be a living demonstration of those laws in our life. It's not something God winks at, or says is okay if we violate it. But the great blessings we can have by keeping it are almost too many to innumerate.

We are all aware of Satan's attacks on our physical families - that goes without saying. Satan the devil hates the family unit. You know why? Satan's not a part of any family; Satan's lonely. He's a renegade; he doesn't have any father, no brothers. He has nothing to look forward to; no inheritance. There's been an all-out war against the family unit, really going on for a hundred years, but it sort of started in essence, in 1963. Some of you are old enough, you can recall that year. I was fairly young back then. In 1963 Betty Friedan published the most damaging book in the history of Western civilization to society. It was called, "The Feminine Mystique". It told women they should be men; they shouldn't be house-makers; they can't be happy by having children, staying home, by taking care of their families - they had to become what they called the "New Feminists".

It was a block-buster selling book. Betty Friedan and her helpers, Gloria Steinem and others in 1964, started the "NOW" gang: National Organization of Women. They formed abortion rights groups, and in 1973, ten years later, abortion was legalized; perhaps the most pivotal event in our history, historians will say, in 100 years. Because when you say the cold blooded murder of an innocent baby is okay, then everything is okay. If murdering a baby isn't wrong, nothing is wrong. And what's been happening in our nation ever since 1973 - nothing is wrong. You see, they preach tolerance: "Oh we want you to be tolerant" - oh, you've got to tolerate this, tolerate that - you've got to tolerate all sorts of perversions; all sorts of bad entertainment - tolerate, tolerate, tolerate. They don't want toleration; they want indifference. Please understand those two words. They don't want you to recognize something is wrong and say, "well I'm going to tolerate that" - they want you to look at it and say, "well, it really isn't wrong; I'm indifferent." That's what they have been forcing on our nation ever since 1973. And we in God's Church are called to come out of that society, not to be a part of it, and it is very, very difficult.

Let's go over now to Psalms, Chapter 68 and Verse 6. One of the most beautiful Psalms - I just love this. I'll tell you why I love it, and I'm not going to...this is not confessional time, but I come from a broken family. I could ask for hands; many of you have parents who got divorced. My father was an Air Force Colonel, the first high school graduate from his town. In World War II, he flew B-17's; B-26's. When I was a youngster he flew B-47's; he flew fighter jets. When I was two years old we moved to Columbus, Ohio; my dad took SR-71 Pilot training. He never flew one because they were going to build 80, only ended up building 13. He ended up going down to Savannah, Georgia, Hunter Air Force Base, where I spent four years. And at the end of that time, my parents got divorced. My dad wore this massive green flight suit. B-47's were always on the airport at Hunter. They were always flying over to TF towards Kiev - they would actually turn around two miles before the Russian border. And they were all loaded with the 13.5 megaton nuclear weapon. I used to joke with Victor Kubik - "you know, for ten years my dad was on an air flight to kill all your relatives in Kiev." It wasn't a joke - it was the truth. In fact, if we had time I would tell you my stories about the Cuban Missile crisis, and how we nailed up blankets to our windows because Hunter Air Force Base was targeted by those missiles there in Cuba by Fidel Castro. I won't tell you all those stories, but they were difficult times for my mom and dad.

But, when the divorce occurred, I lost my family. My father and my mother neither one had custody of us children; we went and lived with my Grandmother Rattonetti. The court awarded custody of us three children to her. I was eight; my brother was nine; my sister was five - no, actually she would have been six. So, I didn't have a family for a few years, and we never really got rebuilt. My mother married my step-father - he was a cold man; he was a very good man in many ways. I learned a lot from him; he was a bridge contractor, a good hard worker. But I wanted a family where there was no fighting - I wanted a family where nobody had all this discourse. And I could tell you a lot of stories; those who have grown up in broken homes - we have compared stories many times - it's not worth it. In Psalms, Chapter 68 and Verse 6 it says:

Psalms 68:6 Psalms 68:6God sets the solitary in families: he brings out those which are bound with chains: but the rebellious dwell in a dry land.
American King James Version×
God sets the solitary in families;

And I read this when I was a senior in High School...had been taking the Correspondence Course, and had been thinking about where to go to college. I had several options - my father would have gotten me into the Air Force Academy. Alexander Haig and my father were roommates at the University of Maryland - my dad made Colonel the same day Alexander Haig did. Alexander Haig got the appointment to be the...I might have already told you this - Alexander Haig got the appointment to be the White House Liaison for the Army; my dad got the appointment to be the White House Liaison for the Air Force. He came back to the Hunter Air Force Base where we lived, Mr. Haig and my father, but they came home early, and they came to the house, and there was another man in the house, and there was a big fight. And Alexander Haig left and went down to the Officer's Club, and from that time forward my parents were...there were legal papers going on. My brother and I were sister...were put away for about five months in hiding, because everybody thought we were going to get was a horrible time.

So, when I became aware of God's truth, I was trying to figure out, where do I want to go? The Air force Academy...I wanted to be a doctor. I'd applied to Indiana University's Medical School. I read an article in Tomorrow's World magazine, an old green magazine you might recall. There was an article there by Ron Kelly about Ambassador College at Big Sandy. And I read about it... I thought, you know, that's kind of a family atmosphere, but he also said nobody who'd gone to Big Sandy had gotten a divorce after being married. I read the Scripture that God sets the solitary in families, and I thought, he's writing to me. So, I'm going to leave what I've got here...I'm going to leave my other opportunities and I'm going to go to Big Sandy. God did set me in a family, and I very much enjoyed that and I've tried to protect that spiritual family ever since, although we all know Satan has been trying to attack it, just like the poachers attacked the elephants. Satan is the great poacher of God's spiritual family here on the earth.

Now let's go to Ephesians, Chapter 3 and Verse 14. God says very plainly there is a family that belongs to Him. Some have misunderstood this verse - they try to make it think like God really isn't a family, that God is a trinity, or that God is a morphed sort of being. No, very clearly God says He's a family, and the next place we'll go lists all those family members.

Ephesians 3:14 Ephesians 3:14For this cause I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
American King James Version×
For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,

Verse 15: from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named,

So, God the Father has named the family: the Father; our Lord Jesus Christ. Part of that family's in heaven; part of that family is here on the earth. Now where do we go to get a list of who's in the family? Hebrews 12, and Verse 22. So let's go over there now. Hebrews 12 and Verse 22 - we have a list of who makes up the heavenly family, and since it says that some of them are on the earth, maybe that includes us, and if that includes us, then we have a very big responsibility for the righteousness of the law of God to live in our life, and we need to protect that family. Our lives should be a wall of protection around the family that God has brought us into.

Hebrews 12:22 Hebrews 12:22But you are come to mount Sion, and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels,
American King James Version×
You have come to Mount Zion, the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels,

Verse 23: to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect,

Verse 24: to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant,

So, here we have listed the members of that heavenly family. Let's go backwards: Jesus Christ, as mentioned in Verse 24; God the Father, Verse 23; of the general assembly and church of the first born, which means will be in that generation where all the ones that Isaiah prophesied about, who are registered in heaven; and also there is a heavenly Jerusalem, the New Jerusalem that's supposed to be the Bride of Christ. I've read that a hundred times - I still cannot explain it to my own satisfaction. I wish I could. But we know the New Jerusalem is part of the heavenly family, and an innumerable company of angels is part of the heavenly family, then the general assembly, the church of the firstborn, God the Father, and Jesus Christ.

For the ones who are on the earth, is the general assembly and church of the firstborn. That's the part of that family of God that we all are - we are all a part of. Those who are a part of the firstborn have their names written in heaven; God has your name up there. He has the names of all who He's going to have in His family now, and want to be in the resurrection.

The next question is, how did we get to have our name in this family? Let's go to Romans, Chapter 8, and Verse 14. We haven't been born there yet - the time of our inheritance is coming. Right now, we've been adopted. We have been called into, by God the Father, His family. We've been given His name; we call ourselves the Church of God. We are listed as the family of God, or at least a part of it, that's here on the earth. Though we have not yet received our inheritance.

Romans 8:14 Romans 8:14For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.
American King James Version×
As many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.

Verse 15: You did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption, (so, we've been adopted), by whom we cry out, "Abba, Father."

We've been adopted as the sons of God. It says: if you are led by the Spirit of God, you are the sons of God. That means we are in His family. We've been adopted; we cry out, "Abba, Father." Which our only modern-day parallel would be the word "daddy", or "dad".

Verse 16: The Spirit Himself bears witness with us, with our spirit, that we are the children of God.

So, if we are the children of God, and 60% of God's laws are to protect the family unit, and we are part of the family of God, and the righteous requirements of the law says they should be a part of our life - our life should be a living out of those requirements to protect the family unit - then we have a responsibility, a tremendous responsibility to do all that we can to protect intact, and never harm the family unit. In God's eyes we are here to protect His family as much as we can, and as much as we protect our physical families. Satan the devil is a great poacher. He's the father of lies; he was a murderer from the beginning. He's the serpent, and the tempter, and the wicked one, and many more evil things.

You know, how does Satan the devil try to hurt our family? Let's go over to Revelation, Chapter 12, Verse 9.

Revelation 12:9 Revelation 12:9And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceives the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.
American King James Version×
The great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast out to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.

Verse 10: Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, "Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down."

It was Satan's job to accuse people in God's Church. Too often we cross the line from doing God's work and we start doing Satan's work; we accuse each other. We accuse not just of what we'd like to do, but we accuse in a personal way.

Did I mention to you that my mother's side of the family was Italian? They are Northern Italians, very noisy - my wife one time read a paper about the Italian personality...kept on yelling out loud, "that's you, that's you - I didn't know what I married. Why didn't I read this before we got married..." - she would have still married me; she says she would anyway! So, let me tell you something about Italians. Family means to Italians like no other people - simply like no other people. No one loves their kids, their parents, their cousins - everybody like Italians. I mean, there may be some others, but I've never seen them. Italians have also honed to a science the perfection of fighting, yelling, screaming, disagreeing, and then hugging, kissing these cheeks, loving each other and still being family. They can disagree, they can say things...I didn't learn those words growing up - I wish my grandfather would have taught us Italian, but he said, no, we're Americans now, so when the Tubays and others, my cousins, came over, most of their Italian was words I probably am glad I didn't learn!

But, they could fight and yell and scream and be very boisterous, but they carried no grudges to family - they make up, they kiss each other's cheek, they go on and they cry, say how much they love each other and the day is over! They have honed to a science how to disagree but not accuse each other. Sometimes we don't do that - we're not Italians. We can disagree and then we start accusing, and then we carry a grudge, and we damage the family that God has called us into.

Let's go over to I Peter, Chapter 5 and Verse 8. We went over to the Feast of Tabernacles in Italy three years ago, I guess it would be 2006 - 2005 / 2006 - it's been a little while; believe it's 2005. I'd never been to Muraglio, so I decided to go a week early over to Italy, with my wife - I had my grandfather's Ellis Island papers; I had his birth certificate from Italy; I had all of his social security - I had his death certificate. So we went over to...first we went to London, my wife and I, and my daughter had made my reservations for the airplane flights. And she said, "Oh dad, you just go to Heathrow and then you take a quick bus up to this Onsted airport, whatever it is, and you fly down to Milan"...and then they had my trip all planned out! We're going to go to Milan for the Day of Atonement; we're going to go over to Muraglio; I was going to go try to find some relatives, get back to Milan for the Day of Atonement, and Mr. Anastasi wanted me to speak there, and then we were going to go over to not Vienna, what's the town with all the water? Venice! That's it - Venice! So anyway, my Alzheimers' getting to me!

So, everything went wrong. The bus from Heathrow took 2 ½ hours to get to this Onsted airport - way out in the middle of nowhere, in Scotland, I think! So, I was just getting impatient; I'm mad, you know. Okay, now we can't get our flight. So the only flight we could get after sitting there for six hours was down to Venice. So I'm just fuming, you know. We can't go see my relatives now till Sunday, so since I'd never met them, I had no idea how to contact them - just walk around and say, "Who's a Rattonetti?" So we went to Venice, took the train over to Milan, and then we got to Milan and the hotel...we had Sabbath service. I met Mr. Anastasi - it was a great time!

Then on Sunday morning, I decided and told Patty, "Look, we will rent a car early at the Milan train station. We'll drive right over"... I look at the map; there was a nice Interstate right over to Torino; we'll turn North and we'll go up to Castellamonte. I found it all on Google - it was going to be great. I said, we'll get there at a certain time; we'll get this is Italy! So I walk over about 8:00 in the morning to the train station; well, the car rentals were all closed on Sunday. So, where can I get the car? Oh, it's out at the airport - 28 miles away! How do we get there? Oh, on a bus! So, now I'm fuming. So I get in this thing - we get in the bus - it's already like 10:30 in the morning; we're not there...we're not even started. We get in the car finally, the entire freeway was destroyed because they were going to rebuild it for the Olympics! They don't take down a piece of the freeway...they take the entire freeway down! So, I'm really getting mad - I mean, my wife...she knows when I get short tempered - whatever! So, this is the Italian part!

So we have all these little towns on this map...I just said, "Okay, what's the next town?" We drive all around this little town, and so we saw a little sign that said the next town...took us about two hours to get over to Torino - another hour and a half to go up this little one-lane road, way up high in the hills to get to Castellamonte, and then couldn't find anybody who we knew. We did find one couple spoke Italian. I was able to get in a little tiny Catholic church, a little tiny Catholic Priest, and he let me go through the birth records, of all things! And the latest ones were the 1800's - he must have had them back to about 800 A.D. And I was able to find...that's no kidding! My grandfather was 1899 and that was one of the more recent photos he had. I was able to take pictures of the baptism records of about six of my relatives all the way back, and then my mom said, "Well, look, go over to the cemetery and find Maria Villa Ron who was married to Antonio Pietro Rattonetti." And, you know, they died in about the 1920's. Unfortunately half the town is Villa Ron's - the other half of the village is Rattonetti's. And all the Villa Ron women are named Anna Maria, and all the Rattonetti men are named either Antonio or Pietro! So, I ran out of film taking all...there were so many head stones that were Anna Maria Villa Ron, married to Antonio Rattonetti...I ran out of film!

And it was getting late and Patty said, "We haven't contacted the relatives" - all the Rattonetti's we saw didn't know who we were talking about. So I had to go back to the car, which was in the town square, about the size of this room...I'm telling you this for a reason! I got my last roll of film, and I am just fuming now...I thought, you know, this whole trip was going to be a disaster, this whole thing has been a mess, and I haven't found any relatives...all we found is birth certificates, and you know, we missed our trip that we were going to take to Florence - so there I'm taking my last picture of a Rattonetti / Villa Ron tombstone; I hear a voice behind me, and she says, "Are you from America?" I turn around, and this girl looks like my daughter Bridgette - same height, same hair - her nose was different, but the eyes - I mean, I thought it's Bridgette with a bigger nose! And, I said, "Yes, I'm from Washington State." And she says, "Well, I have relatives in the states, but they're in Florida." I said, "Well, what's their name?" She says, "Well, my relative over there is Leo Tubay." I said, "Leo Tubay is my great uncle!"

And she had worked in Torino, and she normally came up to do flowers on her mother's grave, her grandmother's grave, on Saturday, but this time she got delayed and was up there on Sunday. Had I come on Friday, she would not have been there - had we not have gotten there late... cause she got up there right as I was leaving to go back to my car to go back to Milan. And so we had a nice visit; her name was Debra Bocchiardo, and we've kept in great contact. When she found out we were relatives, I told her, well Leo Tubay is least we started talking about all the relatives we knew - we hugged and she cried, and she took me down to meet her grandmother, Marguerite - she took me to meet her cousin, Pietro...he gave me wine out of the Rattonetti vineyard that they've owned for 500 years, and it was truly one of the most wonderful experiences I've ever had. And I've kept in contact - she came over to see us, because the Italians are not having children, and most of their relatives now, are frankly over here.

But you know, God was probably laughing the whole time, saying, "I'm going to play the biggest joke on this cad that I've played in many years." Because, God, you know... He makes up for all these dumb things I do, and I appreciate it many, many times!

Well, I want to look over now in I Peter, Chapter 5, and Verse 8. The second thing that Satan the devil does, is he tries to devour.

I Peter 5:8 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.

Do we do that? We wouldn't devour one another - we wouldn't hurt one another - we're the same family, right? We're in God's church. Let's go to Galatians, Chapter 5, Verse 13. If you take nothing else away from today, take these two things: It is Satan the devil's job to accuse and to devour, not yours - not mine. Not any other minister in this church, not anybody who attends, not any member of God's family, is allowed to devour or to accuse, because you're damaging the family God called you to. We could all be good Italians; we could all yell and scream and disagree, but at the end of the day we hug and we kiss and we make up, because we know our family is the most important thing in our lives. I learned that the hard way.

Galatians 5:13 Galatians 5:13For, brothers, you have been called to liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.
American King James Version×
For you, brethren have been called to liberty; do not use your liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.

Just because we are free; just because we have the opportunity to accuse, to devour, doesn't mean we should.

Verse 14: For the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: "You shall love your neighbor - should say your family member - as yourself."

Verse 15: If you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another!

He's talking about "cannibal Christians" - cannibal Christians, who devour one another; to accuse and do Satan's work. They don't understand that God's law protects the family, and if you are going to live according to God's law, you must protect that family of God that you are called to be a part of. As world conditions worsen, and wickedness becomes more rampant - we can't stop it - Satan is trying to dismember our world, but also God's family; he's trying to attack us as never before.

I want to go over to one of my favorite books of the Bible - Hebrews. Hebrews, Chapter 10. I will tell you what I have discerned from my study of the Book of Hebrews. I may be wrong - this is my conclusions - it may, or may not, be right. I think it fits, and I understand the Book this way; I'm not saying everybody else has to. I believe the Book of Hebrews was written between 66 and 69 A.D., from Paul who was in Rome. If you recall the history, Vespasian surrounded Jerusalem and attacked it after the rebellion began in 66 A.D. Later, 68, according to Josephus, the armies of Rome were completely surrounding Jerusalem. But what happened? Nero died. Vespasian wanted to be Emperor - Vespasian and three other guys; 69 A.D. is called the "Year of Four Emperors": Galba, Vespacian - I can't remember right now - Brutus - my life history has gone the way of my Alzheimers! They were probably in that town, Venice or Vienna, whatever it was (I'm just kidding)! So anyway, what happened was this, Vespasian took his army and went back to Rome; he wanted to be Emperor and he had to have his army. The Jews in Jerusalem said, "Aha, we're free - God's protecting us; He's honored our rebellion; we now have victory over the Romans." They celebrated; thought the Jewish nations had been supernaturally protected.

Paul is in Rome. Remember we said he was in Nero's household; some members of Nero's household became members of the church. After about eleven months of inter-army fighting, Vespasian became the Emperor in 69 A.D. What did he do? He told his son Titus, "I want you to be a famous General and succeed me - take my army back to Jerusalem and destroy it." My guess is that Paul found out about that. He had members of Caesar's household in the church, and they said, "Vespasian's sending Titus to destroy that city, and to destroy the temple." So Paul writes Hebrews back to them, and he says, "This city's going to be destroyed, but just like Abraham, you have another continuing city." There's several indications in here that say basically: flee. Said Jesus Christ was crucified without the city; therefore let us leave and go out.

So I believe this book was written to people who were about to lose everything, their houses, their homes, most of their physical families; certainly the temple, their city of Jerusalem. They were to go out with almost nothing. A lot of us thought we felt that way with the economic collapse last year - we ain't seen nothing yet. These people lost everything and had to flee. So he's writing to people, and he's telling them the most important things they should do. If you were going to lose everything except your life and had to flee with only your family members, what would you tell them in your last letter?

Hebrews 10: 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, - stayclose to the faith, do not deviate - for He who promised is faithful.

Verse 24: Let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, - be careful to love your family members, do good to them -

Verse 25: and don't forsake the assembling of yourselves together, as the manner of some is - Oh, Satan the devil loves people who are independent: don't need a church; don't need a family. What happened to the elephants that lost their family? They essentially lost everything; we don't know if they will ever recover their family structure.

The people who have left their spiritual family because Satan the great poacher has convinced them that's a good idea - we don't know how God is going to deal with them. But we know that we need to obey this; we need to consider one another and do good works; we need to keep assembling together; we cannot forsake that. Let's go over to Hebrews, Chapter 13. I really love this Chapter because this lists everything that we are supposed to do. If Paul were here to say, "you guys have only got a couple three years left, you don't know what's coming, this is the most important thing you could do in your life." What does he say?

Hebrews 13:1 Hebrews 13:1Let brotherly love continue.
American King James Version×
Let brotherly love continue.

In other words, don't do Satan's job; don't accuse, don't devour. If you disagree about what to do, or things that are to take place, you know - what to do? No big deal; disagree, come to an agreement, but continue to love one another.

Verse 2: Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by doing so some have unwittingly entertained angels.

Verse 3: Remember the prisoners as if chained with them, - we don't have many prisoners today, but there may be some in the future.

Verse 4: Keep your marriage honorable - several translations have, "by all means, keep your marriage inviolate - this is not just some comment that sex in marriage in fine. It's an affective word meaning, keep your marriage honorable above all. So one of the most important things we could all do is protect our physical families: love your wife; love your husband and children - keep that unit honorable.

Verse 5: Let your conduct be without covetousness, - don't covet something that belongs to somebody else. Down in Verse 7:

Verse 7: Remember those who have the guide over you, - in other words, remember your ministry - Jesus Christ said He would never leave us and forsake us. That was in the context when talking about the ministry He has provided for us. I'm very thankful He has provided a group of dedicated, converted, and humble ministers who still want to guide us - still want to teach us - still want to bring clods like me and tell me how to do my job. I appreciate that very much, because we can't do it on our own. Not one of us could be an elephant walking in the woods or the jungle by our self, and make it very many years. We can't make it into God's kingdom alone; we need those who have the rule over us, and guide us.

Verse 8: Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. - He's never left us alone, or His people without leaders.

Verse 9: Don't be carried about with various and strange doctrines. - Well, haven't we seen those multiply in recent years. Let's drop down a little bit farther - go down to Verse 16:

Verse 16: Don't forget to do good - so even though things were going to be falling apart for these people, he said do good to them; do good to those who are in your family.

Verse 17: Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. - Go to Verse 12 - he says:

Verse 12: Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered outside the gate.

Verse 13: Therefore let us go forth to Him, outside the camp, - I think that was the code word for, be ready to flee and leave all that you have. These people did; we have some record of that, that most of them went over to Pella - I'm sure some didn't; they may have stayed and then suffered in that raid of terrible destruction of Jerusalem, that Josephus says over one million people were murdered in. Down in Verse 18, he says:

Verse 18: Pray for us; - are we praying for others in our family like we should? One of the best walls we can help build around our spiritual family is to keep on our knees - we are confident that we have a good conscience, in all things desiring to live honorably.

Verse 19: But I especially urge you to do this, - Paul was specially urges during these times of the end of Jerusalem - time of great destruction; urged them to keep praying.

And Finally Verse 21 - Let's start in Verse 20:

Verse 20: Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead, the great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant,

Verse 21: Make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, - so Jesus Christ will keep working in everyone - well pleasing in His sight,

I want to leave you before I do with one more story. When we bite and devour one another, when we accuse, it hurts God. I'll tell you how I know that. My older brother and I fought quite a bit growing up; we also played together. We also fought others; we protected our family. My dad got so frustrated, bought us boxing gloves when I was about five or six; put up a boxing ring in our garage. Taught us how to lead with a left jab, come around with a right hook, upper-cuts, all those things. But, during the time of family falling apart, my brother and I learned to fight a lot. When I was fifteen I bought a '59 Chevrolet; cost me $20.00. I saved my money from my bus-boy job. It had big wings on the back, with four big holes where the rust had gone through the wheel-wells. I sat in that car from age 15 ½ to age 16, till the morning I got my license, and I would wax it every couple days. I would do all kinds of things to it, but I didn't know what I was doing, but I loved my car. But my brother bought an old beat up Ford that kept falling apart, so he wanted to borrow my car to take his girl friend on a date. I let him do it one time and he brought it back dirty, so I said "no more."

So, I was in the family room of our house in Illinois; my brother asked if he could take my car. No, he kind of walked in and said, "I'm taking your car tonight." I said, "No, your not." He said, "Yes, I am." So, true to form, we started slugging each other, started pushing, hitting, mother came down the stairs and we both stopped and looked at her, and her deep red hair, my Italian mother - tears were coming down her eyes; her cheeks. She said, "Your both my sons. I gave you both life. Do you realize how much it hurts me when you fight and hurt each other?"

God hurts when we hurt each other, don't you think? I think He does. And I think a lot of us have been guilty of that over the years. We haven't protected our family like we should. Well you know what? It can be rebuilt! My brother and I didn't talk much after High School, but for about ten or twelve years we almost didn't even see each other or talk - we went different directions. He wrote me a letter, the only letter he ever wrote me, about twenty years ago; he was over in England. Said, "I've been here two months - I've yet to see an attractive woman. Why are there no attractive girls in England?" I didn't know! Then he sent me a watch - now this is it. I'll show you - it's my gold Seiko watch. I always bought Timex's or something cheaper, cause I couldn't afford a nice watch. And I wrote him a letter, I said, "Chuck, that's the first thing you've ever give me except a black eye." And there was some truth in that. But, we mended our fences, we began to be in contact a lot. I came out to visit him a number of times - he's out to see me. We really are pretty good friends. I think the camaraderie we had in our Junior High and early High School years has returned.

My mother died last year; she died right after the Feast. But several times, when she was between 80 and 85, I came out to Kentucky where she lived with my brother, to visit with her, and she told me at least three or four times - she said, "It is so good to see you and Chuck getting along. It is so good that you guys are now brothers, and what I wanted you to be."

So, if you have accused, if you have devoured your brother, you know what? You can fix it; you can repair it. We can rebuild whatever we might have lost through those things. I know, because it made my mom happy before she died. And I think God's a little bit like my mom - I'm not saying God's Italian! But I'm saying God's a little bit like my mom!

Verse 22: I appeal to you, brethren, bear with the words of this exhortation, for I have written to you in a few words.

So, I'm going to end with the same words, I appeal to you brethren, just listen to the lessons I have tried to give today in a few words - and see if we can apply them in our lives, and be a wall of protection around the family of God.