You Have Authority Over Them, But…

I was having a conversation recently with an elder/shepherd near Dayton, Ohio. We were talking about our approach to people, and how we may try to command people (our kids, people at church), but are we allowing God to work? Are we praying about it?

He referenced a couple of passages that an older man pointed out to him decades ago. Here are those two passages, take a moment to ponder them.

And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach and have authority to cast out demons.
(Mark 3:14-15)

The apostles were clearly given “authority” over the demons. Authority and power was not the problem. The apostles were able to cast out demons, and they had done so before the events of Mark 9. But in Mark 9, the disciples were not able to cast out a demon from a young boy. They did not understand why they couldn’t do it.

Jesus’ answer to them was simple:

And when he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?” And he said to them, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.”
(Mark 9:28-29)

They had the power and authority to command the demons, but what had they not done, according to Jesus? They had not prayed about it. Good grief, this is so simple to understand, but how many times do we as fathers and leaders forget this concept? We have power and authority over others, maybe at church and at home, but are we trying to command people, or are we praying about it? Are we giving these things up to the throne of God and seeking His counsel and wisdom? Are we giving God time and space to work in someone else’s life?

A basic truth, but a powerful one to me. I really appreciated what this shepherd shared with me the other day, and also it was neat to think that an older wise godly man shared these concepts with him decades ago. The wisdom is getting passed on.

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!

Corban

You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.” And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition! For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ But you say, ‘If a man tells his father or his mother, “Whatever you would have gained from me is Corban”‘ (that is, given to God)– then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother, thus making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And many such things you do.”
(Mark 7:8-13)

Here in Mark 7, Jesus is having one of many run-ins with the Jewish leadership, and during this encounter He exposes their hypocrisy in how they are using their religion as a convenient excuse to mistreat their parents.

Here are a just a few quick thoughts for today.

One command of God does not offset another. They were to honor God and to give to God, but they were also to honor their parents and give to them. God does not give us contradictory commands. He does not put us in a dilemma where keeping one command would cause us to violate another.

Man’s tradition does not go before God’s commands. The Jewish leadership, not God, came up with the “corban” concept that if something was dedicated to God they could not afterward use that money or property to help mom and dad.

Honoring mom and dad involves our finances, not just our words of support. Maybe these Jews would tell mom and dad they loved them, and maybe these Jews convinced themselves they were doing God’s will, but Jesus said they were dishonoring their parents by not supporting them financially in their time of need.

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).

The Father and the Son

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. And he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. And he was with the wild animals, and the angels were ministering to him. Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:9-15)

The Father was well pleased with His Son. The next verse says the “Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness.” He was there for 40 days. No food. Wild animals. Oh, and He went face to face with Satan. It was certainly a hard 40 days. Don’t minimize that. God drove His son into the wilderness to face the worst Satan could throw at Him. God was well pleased with Son, and He led Jesus down a very hard road. His love includes training and adversity.

The Father sent angels to minister to His Son. While Jesus was in the wilderness with wild beasts and Satan, He was not alone, was He? The angels ministered to Him. That same thing is said of all Christians – Angels are ministering spirits sent to help us (Hebrews 1:14). During our times in the wilderness facing wild beasts and the Devil, we are not alone. We are never alone when we walk with God. He sends us help, sometimes visible, sometimes invisible, but He is helping us.

The Father’s message was proclaimed by the Son. At the end of this passage, we see Jesus proclaiming the gospel of God. There is a reason God allows us to be refined through trials and temptations – through that process He is glorified and His message is preached.

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.

 

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).