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Speakers to seniors: Find joy in relationships, God’s kingdom

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–Senior adults are designed for relationships with God and others, the author of two books on emotional health told more than 5,000 senior adults attending a national convention in Fort Worth, Texas, April 15-17.

“You were designed to have rich intimate relationships with God and with each other,” said Paul Carlisle, a professor at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Mo. “Loving God with all your heart, soul and strength and loving your neighbor as yourself is central to the Word of God.”

Joy in the Journey was the theme of the fourth national Senior Adult Convention sponsored by LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.

In addition to Carlisle, keynote addresses were given by Esther Burroughs, women’s leader and motivational speaker; Bruce Wilkinson, author of the “Prayer of Jabez”; Gene Mims, president of the LifeWay Church Resources division at LifeWay; and T.W. Hunt, author of “The Mind of Christ” and the “Doctrine of Prayer.”

If God did not want people to have relationships, why else would he give Adam a wife? asked Carlisle, who spoke on joy in relationships.

“God is good at providing for you. God gave Adam exactly what he needed.”

The Bible says when Adam and Eve met, they were naked and unashamed, but something went wrong, Carlisle said. “Before sin, there was no hiding. There were no barriers in relationships. But now we have barriers all over our bodies. Some of us are nice, some of us are loud. We all have different ways of protecting ourselves from getting hurt in relationships.”

Among senior adults, Carlisle said he believes loneliness is one of the greatest emotional distress factors.

“Senior adults are not designed to be alone; it’s very despairing to be alone,” he said. “Emotional health grows out of relationship soil.”

What happened in the garden, he said, was mistrust of God.

“Adam and Eve didn’t believe God was adequate, and they decided there was another way of life,” he said. “And the loss of relationships is the result of mistrust.”

Carlisle told senior adults that mistrust is just a failure to believe in God.

“We can be close to God every day if we just let him have control of our lives,” he said.

Carlisle wrote “Strength for the Journey” after experiencing clinical depression in the mid-1990s. He also wrote “With All My Heart–God’s Design for Emotional Wellness,” a resource accompanying Fit 4, a Christian wellness program. Both books are published by LifeWay Christian Resources.

Meanwhile, Gene Mims, speaking on joy in the discovery of the kingdom of God, told seniors “the ultimate experience in life is when we are willing to lay everything aside and pursue the life God has given us.”

What God wants from Christians, Mims said, is to have a relationship with them.

“When you seek the kingdom of God, you find it,” he said. “And what you find is something startling. You can find that what God has for you is an intimate and personal relationship with him forever.”

Mims said when seniors find the kingdom of God or a relationship with God, they are like the parable in which the man found a treasure chest in a field.

“When you have a personal relationship with God, you find he releases us from the curse and pain of sins. He put all that on Jesus Christ,” Mims said. “You find you can have the life you were supposed to have. How many of us have wasted years living lives God never designed for us?”

Mims told the seniors they can begin to make a difference in the world immediately.

“Don’t say, ‘My time is up, let the young people do it.’

“Let my life and your life begin. It’s all yours if you want it,” Mims said. “He wants to give it to you. Pick up your life, and begin to live it today.”

During the final session, “Joy for the Journey,” a musical drama for seniors to perform, was premiered. Published by Genevox Music Group of LifeWay, the musical was written by Esther and Bob Burroughs.

The first national senior adult convention sponsored by LifeWay was also held in Fort Worth in 1987, followed by similar conventions in Atlanta in 1992 and Nashville, Tenn., in 1997. A fifth national senior adult convention is being planned by LifeWay for 2005, with a location to be announced.

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  • Terri Lackey