Experience Jesus and Pass It On

1“Now this is the commandment, and these are the statutes and judgments which the Lord your God has commanded to teach you, that you may observe them in the land which you are crossing over to possess, 2 that you may fear the Lord your God, to keep all His statutes and His commandments which I command you, you and your son and your grandson, all the days of your life, and that your days may be prolonged. 3 Therefore hear, O Israel, and [a]be careful to observe it, that it may be well with you, and that you may multiply greatly as the Lord God of your fathers has promised you—‘a land flowing with milk and honey.’  4 “Hear, O Israel: [b]The Lord our God, the Lord is one! 5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.  6 “And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.  (Deuteronomy 6:1-9; NKJV)

What do we teach our children with how we live, or what we say, or what we choose not to say or do?  It matters!  In the above verses, God is calling us to love Him with our whole being.  Jesus had similar words when he answered about which commandment was the greatest.  Jesus said…“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:36-40)

Jesus also said, if we were going to love Him, we needed to follow His commandments (John 14:15) which is not different than what is being taught in Deuteronomy.

So what do we teach our children and do we understand those lessons first come to us to learn and share?  We learn about and teach our children the Nature of God…that is He is True and Living.  We learn about and teach our children the Character of God…that He is Love.  We learn about and teach our children the Will of God…that He loves us so much that He sent His only Son to save us…that our God is concerned about our good.

We learn about our God by “knowing” Him.  That isn’t a word that describes being able to pick Him out of a line up, knowing some facts, or remembering some stories.  That word, “knowing”, means “to experience”.  That definition implies that it is an on-going, everyday activity with Jesus and our Heavenly Father.

To “know” Him is to love Him.

To love Him is to obey Him.

That is a lifelong endeavor and in our knowing God we share our experience of Him with our children and they can then also know Him.  What a great connection and what a great Person to ensure our children know.

Take some time today and really consider if you are “experiencing Jesus” today.  With that in mind, think of ways you might better teach your children about Him…to introduce Him into their experience.  I encourage you to find ways to help the children in your life to Know God, Love God, and Obey God.

Now that is an experience of a lifetime!

Household Idols

“So Michal let David down through the window, and he went out and fled and escaped.  Michal took the household idol and laid it on the bed, and put a quilt of goats’ hair at its head, and covered it with clothes.”  I Samuel 19:12-13

This is one of the many occasions when King Saul is trying to kill David.  Michal helps David escape and uses the “household idol” to deceive her father.  It must have been a fairly large object for it to pass as a full grown man.  This is one of those passages that is frustrating in its lack of detail and generates more questions than answers.

What is this thing?  Is it supposed to represent Yahweh or some false pagan deity?

Why does God’s anointed King have a household idol?

Why does godly David allow this thing to exist?

Is this household idol evidence of the extent of Saul’s departure from God?

I don’t have the answers but this passage got me thinking about my family.  Do we have any household idols?  Are there things that we prop up and put on a pedestal, knocking God out of His proper place in our home?  Entertainment, hobbies, a comfortable lifestyle are always a focus in my home.  These are things that might be harmless on the surface but can quickly start to suck up our time and resources and pull us away from God.

The scary thing is that even family its self can become a household idol.  We have all seen the destruction that a broken home causes and the culture around us bears witness that there is a great need for fathers to be more involved.  But what is the focus of our involvement?

I spend time with my wife and kids.  I’m involved in their lives and their interests.  I support their dreams and provide the foundation and skills so that they can be successful and become productive members of society.  But to what end?  Is all my time and attention and effort simply so they can be good citizens, secure a good living, and continue in the lifestyle that I have provided for them?  Is my goal to love them so that they are psychologically healthy and don’t have to spend a fortune on therapy in the future?

“Behold, children are a gift of the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward.  Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth.”  Psalm 127:3-4

When a warrior shoots an arrow, where does it go?  Exactly where the warrior wants it to!  What am I aiming at with children?  What are my goals for my family?

“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”  Ephesians 6:4

“Bring them up” means to nourish, to nurture, to “feed to the desired outcome”.  What am I feeding my kids?  What is my family growing up to become?

The solution is not to cut all the entertainment, recreational, educational, and sports related activities out of your family life and replace them with around the clock bible study.  The solution is to more fully understand our purpose.  We were created to bring glory to our God.  That purpose should be reflected in everything we do.  Every family activity can focus on who God is and what He has done for us.

The ride to baseball practice can be a discussion about the wisdom of God and how he designed such an amazing body.  The family vacation can involve the power of God reflected in creation and the importance of rest as we remember the story of creation.  Cleaning up and doing chores can focus on the blessing of being able to work and satisfaction of doing all our work for the Lord.  Struggling over school work can be combined with a short bible study to emphasize the education with eternal rewards.  Dealing with the heartbreak of boyfriends/girlfriends and broken relationships is an opportunity to show God’s comfort.  Waiting at the bus stop is the perfect opportunity to thank God for the goodnight of sleep and pray for a productive day.  And showing love to our wives and our children in so many different ways should be a reflection of the love the Father has shown to us.  In all things we can bring glory to God.

“You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.”  Deuteronomy 6:7

Out of all the gifts and blessings that God has bestowed on me, my family is one of the only things that I can take with me into eternity.

What Your Friends Say

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.

Whoever started that statement may have had good intentions, but he or she could not have been more wrong. That is such an untrue statement, and it will not help heal the wounds that words make.

Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits (Proverbs 18:21).

I am currently doing some studying on the book of Job. Job’s friends said a lot of things about him, and they made some pretty serious and damning accusations. And the more the discussions went on, the more they heaped on him and the more they created about him. According to their words, he was the worst kind of sinner, and he deserved every bit of the “punishment” he was receiving from God. Consider that “sticks and stones” quote with how Job felt about the words of his friends:

“How long will you torment me and break me in pieces with words?” 
(Job 19:2)

Job would rather have been beaten with sticks and stones than to have these words thrown his way by his “friends.”

The problem with the friends that is that they were dead wrong about Job, they were wrong about God, and they didn’t know a thing about comforting someone regardless of how sincere they thought their motives were. Listen to what God says about Job.

And the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?”
(Job 1:8)

And the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil? He still holds fast his integrity, although you incited me against him to destroy him without reason.”
(Job 2:3)

After the LORD had spoken these words to Job, the LORD said to Eliphaz the Temanite: “My anger burns against you and against your two friends, for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has. Now therefore take seven bulls and seven rams and go to my servant Job and offer up a burnt offering for yourselves. And my servant Job shall pray for you, for I will accept his prayer not to deal with you according to your folly. For you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.” So Eliphaz the Temanite and Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite went and did what the LORD had told them, and the LORD accepted Job’s prayer.
(Job 42:7-9)

Even later in the Bible, Job is considered by God as one of the most faithful and righteous men to ever live (Ezekiel 14:14,20; James 5:11).

One thing to remember from all of this is that what other’s say about you is hurtful, but what really matters is what God says about you. Job lived his life in such a way that he had the Lord’s approval, even if others were saying bad things about him.

I’ve heard the following quote from several sources, and I leave it for your consideration:

It’s not what people call you, it’s what you answer to that matters.

A final thought, notice that God required Job to pray for his three friends. Even after all the nasty things they said, God wanted Job to pray for them. This coincides with Matthew 5:44, when Jesus asks us to pray for those who mistreat us. While we are praying for our own healing, we must also pray for those who have hurt us.

The Company You Keep

Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.
(Proverbs 13:20)

Today’s article is one of caution, but also of encouragement: the company you keep will (not can) influence you in one direction or another. This is a discussion that I’m sure many of you as parents are having with your kids, but remember that it applies to big people, too.

The new Galatians Christians were “quickly deserting” the gospel of Jesus Christ. Why? Because a little leaven leavens the whole lump. Some among them were troubling them and perverting the gospel (Galatians 1:6-7; 2:4; 4:17; 5:7-10; 6:12-13). It is a reminder of how quickly someone can be turned away from God and led to believe lies.

The same thing was happening in the Corinthian congregation. Some were preaching that there is no resurrection of the dead, and Paul warned that bad company (and teaching) can corrupt good morals (1 Corinthians 15:12,33).

We see the same warnings by Paul as he wrote to the young evangelist Timothy. Certain conversations along with certain types of people can lead to the “ruin of the hearers,” and will “lead people into more ungodliness.” This teaching and influence will spread like gangrene, resulting in the “upsetting” of the faith of some (2 Timothy 2:14-18). These are powerful warnings from God, and as parents and children we should take heed.

There are verses aplenty about how many will follow the bad influences of others. It’s not just about false teaching, it may be that you are hanging around people with lousy attitudes and worldly passions, and that will take you down the wrong road as well (Hebrews 12:15; 2 Peter 2:2,18).

We are called by God to come out from among these evil influences and to chose holy friends and godly influences (2 Corinthians 6:14-18).

I am a companion of all who fear you, of those who keep your precepts.
(Psalm 119:63)

Think of what David just said. Who are his companions? Those who fear God and keep His commandments. Those are great friends!

Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you. We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death.
(1 John 3:13-14)

What is the sign that we have passed from death into life, according to John? Our relationships! When we love the brothers, we will abide in life. When we love the world, we will by definition hate the brothers, and we will abide in death.

Look at this passage from Malachi. In the midst of a lot of wickedness and religious hypocrisy, there was a righteous remnant that hung out with each other and encouraged each other. See how God took notice of this?

Then those who feared the LORD spoke with one another. The LORD paid attention and heard them, and a book of remembrance was written before him of those who feared the LORD and esteemed his name. “They shall be mine, says the LORD of hosts, in the day when I make up my treasured possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his son who serves him. Then once more you shall see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve him.
(Malachi 3:16-18)

And all who believed were together…
(Acts 2:44)

The believers were together. When we are together, powerful things happen for the kingdom of God. Our fellowship is not with this world, it is with Jesus Christ, His blood, and His body of believers!

that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.
(1 John 1:3)

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.
(1 John 1:7)

It really is pretty simple, if you want to move closer to God, look at your friends and relationships. Where are they leading you?

Lessons from 9 and 10 year olds

And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them.
(Mark 10:13-16)

Last week as I was part of a camp, I spent a lot of time with the 9 and 10 year old kids. One of my blessings last week was to teach their Bible class. I truly believe they taught me more than I taught them.

I just wanted to share a couple of things I learned from them last week.

  1. They had a hunger for the word of God. Our Bible class was at 3:10 in the afternoon and these kids had been going strong with activities all day long in the very hot summer weather. Yet, they came alert, ready and excited to study God’s word. They were engaged; they participated, they asked questions. It reminded me of the story of Jesus at 12 (see Luke 2).
  2. Their understanding, knowledge and ability to apply the word of God was a beauty to behold. For a majority of these kids that participated in class, the understanding of God’s word was in no way elementary or shallow. It showed in their comments and questions, they were very familiar with the Scriptures and the principles God wants us to learn from it.

As Jesus said in the passage above in Mark 10, the kingdom of God is made from hearts like these 9-10 year olds. If these young men and women can have such a hunger for God’s word, then those who are older can have it too. If these 9-10 year olds can understand the word of God and what it takes to please God, then God’s word can be understood by any age group.

Don’t ever get caught thinking that those young men and women can’t understand the word of God and the truths you are trying to teach them. They are super smart.

Mature Plants and Pillars

May our sons in their youth be like plants full grown, our daughters like corner pillars cut for the structure of a palace;
(Psalms 144:12)

In this Psalm we see a desire of the people of God to receive blessings from God. Psalm 144 ends with, “Blessed are the people to whom such blessings fall! Blessed are the people whose God is the LORD!” (Psalms 144:15). Some of those blessings are material in nature (cattle, grain, prosperity), while others have a spiritual focus. Verse 12 is one of those. Look at what blessings they desired of God when it came to their sons and daughters.

Sons in their youth to be like plants full grown. 

Daughters like corner pillars cut for the structure of a palace.

Think about that for a bit. What is that saying? What do these parents want for their kids? Maturity and stability! Plants full grown, not seedlings and saplings. Corner pillars cut for the structure of a palace brings to mind something strong and stable that supports other things.

May the Lord bless our children with these qualities. May they develop within them maturity and stability. May we as fathers and mothers have the wisdom, grace and patience to guide them and give them time to develop these qualities. May we as parents remember that God has given us quite a bit of grace, patience and time!

Smartphone Addiction

Here is a link to an article about Smartphone Addiction. Listen to what even the people in the world think about what is happening to both kids and adults because of the addiction to technology and social media.

It is certainly something to consider and talk about with your family if you are not already doing so.

“All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything (1 Corinthians 6:12).

What’s Your Custom?

Today, please look at the following four verses and look for customs, habits, and consistent patterns of behavior. Jesus and His parents had customs, things they always did. Certain Christians had made it a habit not to assemble with the brethren. Daniel had always prayed 3 times a day, so when he was commanded not to pray, he just kept doing what he had always been doing.

Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up according to custom.
(Luke 2:41-42)

And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read.
(Luke 4:16)

…not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
(Hebrews 10:25)

When Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he went to his house where he had windows in his upper chamber open toward Jerusalem. He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously.
(Daniel 6:10)

Customs. Ways of life. Habits. What’s yours? My wife Anna has a Lebanese heritage, and there are certain yummy foods that we always eat at Christmas time because that is our custom.  It may be that your family always goes to a certain place or cabin every year for vacation.

Is it “customary” for you to be found praying like Daniel? Has it become habitual for you not to meet with Christians to worship with them? Do your kids know for certain where you will be on Sunday or is it left up to chance, feelings, or what else may be going on? There was no doubt as to what Daniel would be doing 3 times a day, and he didn’t do it out of a ritualistic habit, it was because he truly loved his Lord and sought His favor. And the same goes for our meeting with our Christian brothers and sisters to worship and have studies. It is not out of tradition that we do it, it is out of a heart that really loves God and knows we truly need each other to help us walk closer to God.

What is your custom? What are your habits?

Getting the cake out of the oven

A little while back, I wrote about extroverts, and I forgot to follow up about the introverts. They are not off the hook! There are those who say too much, and there are others who do not say enough. The introverts need to remember that Solomon said there is “a time to speak…” (Ecclesiastes 3).

When Joseph and I met with a career counselor a couple of years back, he had Joseph go through a personality assessment. For kicks, I went through it too. No surprise, Joseph was slightly on the introvert side, and I was fully on the extrovert side with an “extra” vert on it.

Here is the quick word picture that the career coach shared with us. The extrovert gives you all the ingredients to the cake and expects you to make it, while the introvert presents you with a completed cake. We extroverts talk to think, so we spew out a lot of ideas that are all over the board as we are trying to think things through. This is a nightmare to the introvert.

On the other hand, the introvert is so silent sometimes that it drives the extrovert crazy because we are thriving on an exchange of ideas. And here is the point that the career coach made about introverts:

Sometimes you have to get the cake out of the oven! The introvert needs to be given time to get all those ingredients together for the cake, but there is a reasonable expectation in a relationship for that introvert to sit down and communicate those ideas. And the extrovert has to be committed to actually listen and absorb without butting in and answering every statement along the way.

I remember another example in Columbus, Ohio when we were working with the West Broad congregation. A brother there named John was the same age as me. He had the engineering mindset, and you could see him in a Bible class with his wheels just turning and thinking. Near the end of class, he would offer a comment (not 10 or 15 comments, just one). That comment would just blow us away, it was full of depth and understanding. One time were were driving together and I said something about it, and he responded kindly, “I’m not like you, Aaron, I don’t have to say everything to comes to mind.” Well, ouch, he was right, but that truly paints the difference between the extrovert and introvert. Sometimes the extrovert needs to be quiet and allow time for the introvert to get the opportunity and courage to speak. Those introverts have a lot of great ideas to share, and they need to share them!

This seems to be a pattern in my relationships, because it makes me remember another example of when I was at Purdue. A fellow college student, Phil, who went to church with me was an introvert as well. We were walking on campus one time, and I said to him, “Phil, I wish I could be more like you and not talk so much.” Phil responded, “I wish I could be like you and talk more!”

Amen. We all have different personalities, strengths, and blessings, and we help round each other out. We learn from each other. I may help you to talk more, and you may help me (with a lot of patience) to talk less.

So, introverts, get the cake out of the oven. We need you to speak.

 

Do Not Take to Heart

Sorry for no article yesterday, wasn’t feeling well.

Anna and I were reading Ecclesiastes 7 and came across this passage:

Do not take to heart all the things that people say, lest you hear your servant cursing you. Your heart knows that many times you yourself have cursed others.
(Ecclesiastes 7:21-22)

Is that wisdom or what? Don’t take to heart all the things people say. How easy is it to get caught up in everything that people say or think. I’m not sure if it is harder now, but it seems even harder with so many people freely and quickly posting their thoughts and judgments through internet, text, social media, etc.

Here are a few quick things that we observed when talking about this passage:

  1. “Lest you hear your servant cursing you.” It’s better not to know sometimes what people are saying. Do you really WANT to know what people are saying about you? Of course there are times you need to hear something so you can make the proper changes and address a situation. But sometimes people just get frustrated and say things they shouldn’t. Then they work through it and all is better. Do you really need to know that whole process? Your servant may have been temporarily upset, but he’s better now.
  2. Don’t be so quick to be offended. It just seems that so many folks are just waiting for the wrong word to be said so that they can be upset. That shouldn’t define us as Christians.
  3. Remember the things you’ve said about others. Before you get all self-righteous with indignation, look in the mirror. We’ve all gotten fast and loose with the tongue at times and said things about others that we later regretted. We want grace and mercy when we behave that way, so let’s extend it to others as well.
  4. Keep this in mind as a parent. Do you remember all the things you said either to your parents or about your parents when they weren’t around? Yeah, reflect on that for a bit. Don’t be so hasty to react and step on every thing your kids say, otherwise they won’t want to talk to you. Again, if you want grace as a parent, give grace to them. It is so easy to get caught up in reacting to the things our sons and daughters say. A simple conversation can turn into a nightmarish battle because we are all reacting instead of responding. I know this parent constantly needs this reminder. Don’t take to heart everything they say, and that is very easy to say. We can really get hurt in a hurry by taking to heart everything our kids say, but let’s calm down and put things in perspective. If God took to heart everything you said to Him or about Him, would you still be alive? God’s loving-kindness should be our model in how to handle all those words that get thrown around and spoken to us carelessly.