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.

 

Overcoming Fear

For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
(Rom 10:11-13)

And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us, and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith.
(Act 15:8-9)

The people of the New Testament churches had a very difficult time grasping the concept that Jesus was Lord of all. He was the Lord of the Jews but He was the same Lord to the Gentiles. They all were saved the same way, by faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. There is no distinction. Jesus cleansed my heart through faith and He cleansed your heart through faith.

I want to take this and apply it to how I see my kids. Is there a distinction between my kids and me when it comes to salvation? No. We are saved the same way. Because I believed in Jesus and obeyed the gospel, I am a Christian. The same is true for my kids.

This also implies that we are all in need of salvation. Our kids will need the saving grace of Jesus Christ. They will sin and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23), because that is the direction of all mankind. I don’t mean to say that we take all hands off as parents because we know they are going to fail anyway. But you can’t keep them from sinning. You are not strong enough nor smart enough. What our kids need from us is the wisdom to give them instruction, the freedom to make their own choices, and the grace to accept and receive them during those times when they fall.

My Lord is their Lord. Jesus loves me and works in my life, and He loves them and He works in their life, too! He has begun a good work in them and He will keep working on them until the final day (Philippians 1:6). What Jesus has done, is doing, and will do for our kids far exceeds anything we could ever do for them. Jesus’ love for our kids is beyond our comprehension. He is no less committed to their salvation as He is committed to mine.

Pray for Jesus to give us as parents the power of faith to overcome our fears. May we always remember the presence and power of Jesus in their lives. We still teach, correct and even at times rebuke, but our faith is not in our power as parents. Nor should our comfort lie in how perfectly our kids turn out. Grace is amazing, because we all are wretched sinners who need the blood of a risen Savior.

A Spirit of Fear

2 Timothy 1:7 – For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

How much of our parenting is done through fear? I don’t mean causing our children to fear, but I mean our own fears as parents? I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, and I don’t have a lot of advice on the matter, but I know that this is a problem for a lot of parents, this one included.

We are afraid that our kids are going to make the same mistakes we did, so we go overboard on trying to KEEP them from repeating those mistakes. Our fear of where something may lead influences us to such a level that we make such strict guidelines and boundaries that are are not only unscriptural, they are smothering. We’re so afraid of the wrong, that they are not allowed to do what is clearly right. This can happen in our approach to sex, to dating, to technology, to finances, etc.

I’ve seen this as a preacher for a long time. Folks are so afraid of being too excited and outwardly emotional because they don’t want to appear like those “other churches,” but the result is stiff and stoic people that don’t express the joy of the Lord. We can be so determined to keep ourselves from making a wrong Biblical decision that we don’t make the right ones. Just as in parenting, this approach to religion is unscriptural and smothering.

Being afraid of doing wrong, by itself, will not guide you into wise decisions and godly living. Mere fear of our kids going down the wrong pathway will not give us the wisdom to help them navigate the pathways of life.

Being afraid of doing wrong, by itself, is not the spirit God gave us. Yes, we are to be warned of dangers and we are to warn others, especially our children. The Proverbs are full of such warnings. But we must remember the words of 2 Timothy 1:7 that God did not give us a spirit of fear that overwhelms us and immobilizes us. He gave us power, love and “self-control.” If He is working in us to produce self-control, is He not also working in our kids to do the same?

Hopefully this helps a little. There will probably be more on this later.

Receiving Correction

And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?

“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.”

It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Hebrews 12:5-11

So, how do we receive correction when we need it? Whether it is from a spouse, or a parent, or the government, or a boss, or from God the Father, how do I receive correction?

Here are some quick observations on the above text about receiving correction, specifically God’s discipline.

  1. God trains us because He loves us, not because He despises us (Heb. 12:6).
  2. He disciplines us because He receives us as children, not because we are rejected as outcasts (Heb. 12:6).
  3. The chastening, though painful, is temporary, but the rewards / benefits are eternal (Heb. 12:9,11).
  4. His goal is for us to share in His holiness, and to yield the peaceable fruit of righteousness (Heb. 12:10-11). It is “for our good.”
  5. Our attitude toward that training should be out of thankfulness, submission and respect toward God. Don’t grow weary during those times, and do not regard lightly what God is working within your life (Heb. 12:5,9).

 

When Your Kids Fail

“You are those who have stayed with me in my trials, and I assign to you, as my Father assigned to me, a kingdom, that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel. “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” Peter said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death.” Jesus said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow this day, until you deny three times that you know me.”
(Luke 22:28-34)

How do you and I respond as fathers when our children disappoint us or more importantly fall prey to temptation? Just think about it…honestly.

This is not about whether we should correct our kids, or that we should never show disappointment and disapproval of their actions. It’s not about whether we administer consequences for our children’s disobedience. This is about our attitude. It’s about how you and I see our kids. Do we see others, especially our wife and kids, with God’s eyes?

Look at the above text from Luke. What did Jesus think about when he thought of Peter, even when He knew what Peter was about to do? Peter was going to deny Jesus three times that night, cursing and swearing all the way through it! But again, how did Jesus see Peter and talk to him through it?

Past“You are those who have stayed with me in my trials.” Jesus recognized what Peter (and the others) were doing that was good. You can look over the past three plus years of Jesus’ ministry and see plenty of times that Jesus had to correct and even rebuke Peter (and the rest). But what did Jesus see? That Peter stayed with Jesus! Peter had plenty of mistakes and misunderstandings, and a thousand put-your-foot-in your mouth experiences, but remember that Peter left all to follow Jesus (Matthew 19:27). Jesus was not unjust to forget the good of Peter, and He does the same for us (Hebrews 6:10).

Present“I have prayed for you.” Do you see the acceptance, grace and love in this? This, “I’m praying for you” is not out of a condescending, self-righteous air of supremacy, it was out of genuine love for Peter’s spiritual condition. Jesus was able to see the real enemy, the devil, and that Peter was at war with the devil. This brought compassion, not condemnation. Jesus, knowing what Peter was going to do, pulled Peter closer instead of pushing him away and withholding affection.

Future“When you have returned.” Jesus looked ahead and realized that this was a moment of weakness in Peter’s life, and that he would learn from it. Peter would become stronger for it, and that strength and renewed thinking would be a blessing to many others who would go through the same struggles. Look also at the text and see that Jesus promised Peter a place at his side at the table in the kingdom. In Jesus’ mind, Peter was at the table in the kingdom. Yes, Peter had to go through the valleys and fall flat on his face, but when he looked up, Jesus was there to hold his hand. Jesus was there with love and acceptance when Peter returned (Mark 16:6-7).

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
(Ephesians 5:1-2)

Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord

But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD. These are the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation. Noah walked with God.
(Genesis 6:8-9)

The world was a pretty nasty place in the days of Noah, wasn’t it. The verses in Genesis 6 before and after verses 8-9 tell us of violence, corruption, and continually wicked thoughts in the hearts of all mankind. Noah was surrounded on every side with perversion and wickedness.

Here is the encouragement for me from this text and I hope you will be encouraged as well. Noah was able to live in a way that was pleasing to God even when everyone around him was doing the wrong things.

He was righteous when everyone else was unrighteous. Noah lived as a “blameless” man when all around him was corruption. Noah walked with God when all his friends and neighbors where walking the other direction.

So, can you do the same at work? At school? In your community? Absolutely. We are called by God to live the same way Noah did in his “generation.”

First we must be “saved from this crooked generation”:

And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.
(Acts 2:40-41)

We then walk daily with God’s power working in us to transform our minds from worldly thinking to Christ-like thinking.

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
(Romans 12:2)

As transformed people, we are called to live as blameless and shining lights in this “perverse generation” just like Noah did.

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.
(Philippians 2:12-16)

We can live like Noah. With God’s power and help, we can live a righteous life in this wicked world.

Leave your simple ways, and live, and walk in the way of insight.”
(Proverbs 9:6)

Father, Help Us Raise Our Children

Here is a beautiful song that is in our new hymnals at our congregation. I wanted to share the lyrics with you today for your meditation and prayer.

Father, Help Us Raise Our Children

Little children, from above, Sent to us with joy and love,

Bring a hope so clear and bright; Father help us raise them right.

O how tender is the sight; Little ones in bed at night,

Parents praying at their feet, “Father keep them pure and sweet.”

Little children soon are grown; Can they face the world alone?

As they strive and struggle through, Father, let them turn to You.

When our time to go draws near, We may leave our children here;

To the new land, far away, Father bring them home some day.

Hymn and Tune by C.A. Roberts, Copyright 1995 David and Nelline Watts

The Generation of the Upright

This was shared with me by one of our elders at our congregation. His great-granddaughter was recently baptized into Jesus Christ. Our elder’s son wrote this email (I took out the personal names).

At 10 o’clock last night as I was about to go to bed, we get a call from our daughter saying that their oldest child wants to obey the gospel.  She is young in our estimation almost 10, but when I consider her experiences in life she is quite mature. 

When I think about what actually brought about this decision to be baptized into Christ, it is amazing. 

My father, about a 100 years ago (exaggeration!) was searching for the truth and after many failed attempts found it.

He then obeyed his Lord as well, those many years ago.  That was the beginning of my granddaughter’s ultimate decision. 

My dad, brought up his children in the “nurture and admonition of the Lord” as instructed by God.  He did this not only by bringing us to services when the doors were opened, but also and more importantly by living each day as God would have us too.  His children (myself) noticed that every day.  That constant reminder to do those things that pleased God, rubbed off on me.  It brought me to adulthood and has carried on to this day. 

This behavior was also learned by our children as they grew up in our household.  They saw the importance of putting God first in their lives as we put him first in our lives as I learned from my father.  Our daughter’s behavior influenced her boyfriend to obey the gospel as well.

Our daughter then married and had children.  Those children have witnessed their parents’ behavior putting God’s word first in their life.   All of this started with God, to my father, to me, to my daughter, to her husband, and then to their daughter.

Never underestimate the impact of your actions, good or bad.

 Thank you dad for starting this all.  I love you!

Here is a passage for your meditation today, men, about God blessing the family of the righteous person.

Praise the LORD! Blessed is the man who fears the LORD, who greatly delights in his commandments! His offspring will be mighty in the land; the generation of the upright will be blessed.
(Psalms 112:1-2)

Holy Ground – Your Kids

In Monday’s article, we looked at the event in Joshua’s life when he was asked to remove his sandals from his feet because he stood on holy ground. Here are three observations we made Monday:

  1. God is holy.
  2. Wherever God’s presence dwells is to be regarded as holy.
  3. Changes must be made to recognize and honor the holiness of God.

Today we are going to take those concepts and apply it to how we view our kids and parenting. Please read and meditate today upon Psalm 127 and 128.

A Song of Ascents. Of Solomon. Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep. Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.
(Psalms 127:1-5)

A Song of Ascents. Blessed is everyone who fears the LORD, who walks in his ways! You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands; you shall be blessed, and it shall be well with you. Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house; your children will be like olive shoots around your table. Behold, thus shall the man be blessed who fears the LORD. The LORD bless you from Zion! May you see the prosperity of Jerusalem all the days of your life! May you see your children’s children! Peace be upon Israel!
(Psalms 128:1-6)

There are three ways our children are described here:

  1. A heritage (inheritance) and a reward. The Psalmist leads our minds to see that children are not an inconvenience or a curse; they are not in the way of what we want to accomplish. They are a blessing and a divine gift and we should always cherish them in our minds that way.
  2. Arrows in the quiver of a warrior. God seeks “godly offspring” (Malachi 2:15). Righteous children are going to be used in God’s service to confront the Devil and the darkness that is in this world.
  3. Olive shoots around your table. The fruit or result of walking with the Lord and fearing Him along with your wife is that the children grow and are nourished on that vine.

Understanding these three things helps us to see clearly our mission as parents. We take these cherished gifts, protect their innocence and purity with all the vigilance we can muster, and show them every day the way of Jesus. Our focus is not upon having them hit a home-run or make CEO, but to get to heaven. The blessing and reward that comes to parents when all those “olive shoots” are around the table, is just beyond comprehension. Seeing those faces of God’s children growing into becoming God’s servants has to be one of the greatest blessings in life.

Fathers Teach not Provoke

And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.

This verse comes on the heels of Paul’s teaching to children to obey their parents in everything. The standard is clearly set for children in our homes just as the standard is clearly set for each of in the family of God…obey! Guess what…just like us…our children don’t always get it right and disobey and sin. The result…grief. With this in mind, what is Paul teaching us fathers?

Notice first that “fathers” are directed in this command. Paul knows how to say parents because he did so in verse 1. Why are fathers singled out? Ephesians 5:23 tells us that husbands are declared by God to be the head of the family and therefore responsible and accountable for what happens in the family. Fathers are to have an active role in the family, particularly in raising the children. Additionally, fathers are going to be challenged to not act in anger toward the children. There is a reason God says this to the men. The intention seems clear that this is an issue that we must be aware of. Fathers are going to have the temptation to provoke the children to anger.

Children test our patience, our will, and our authority as fathers. They grieve us, however, the command rules out excessively severe discipline/consequences, unreasonably harsh demands, abuse of authority, being unfair, nagging, being humiliating, etc. Children are persons in their own right and are not be manipulated, exploited, or crushed. Our Father is loving, graceful, merciful and long suffering…we must be the same with our children. With that said, this does not mean we allow our children to run the household. Children are not the head of the family.

The answer to the challenge of parenting…to fathering…is not to let the children do what they want. Verse 4 tells us fathers to raise our children and to not provoke them…both are required. So how might we do this? We might start with saying “no” with a reason. It is easy to just say “no”. But think about the frustration, confusion, and disappointment our child might experience if we do not explain the reason or make the “no” inconsistent with how we live. This is especially important with our children who are old enough to reason with and to make every effort with each “teachable” moment. Our Father teaches us with “no” and His consistent and Holy will gives us confidence “no” is right and best.

Please don’t misunderstand me…there are times as Godly fathers when our rule or word must simply be enforced. What I emphasizing here is we cannot let our attitude always be “my way or the highway”. The word “discipline” speaks to the activity of the education. Some translations rightly read, “training.” This is active and it is a partnership with our children. “Our way or the highway” all the time is not “parenting” or “teaching” or “leading”…that is simply “bossing”…and our God does not love us or raise us that way.

I know we all want our children to safe and in the loving care of our Heavenly Father because that is what they choose to be. I know we want our children to have the life skills to be independent of us when they leave our home. Fathers, we have a job to raise our children so that when they turn 18 they can live life independent of us but are especially dependent on our Heavenly Father! We must show them that we desire God and find our joy in God. What we are doing is not an activity as if God is something to do. We desire these things because this is the whole life and joy.

(NOTE: These thoughts were amplified by a sermon by Brent Kercheville from West Palm Beach CoC; 2014.)