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.

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).

 

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

Saying Goodbye to Gramma

This is a letter a good friend, Abe, wrote to his mother about the passing of his Gramma Bettye. She passed from this life over the weekend, and Abe’s thoughts are very helpful for us all. With permission I am sharing this letter with you.

I typed this this morning before I went to work. Wasn’t sure if I would ever share it. But maybe knowing Gramma (really GOD through Gramma) did one more great thing in my life will be comforting.

Saying goodbye to Gramma was hard as I left the nursing home Sunday afternoon. For some reason I thought it would be much easier since her eternity was settled, and she had already lost so much in this life in the last couple of years or so (None of those losses matter now:-)

But I am so glad that I got to whisper in her ear: “I love you. I am glad GOD gave me you. You have done your job. You gave us your faith. You have run the race. Now go rest. It’s okay to go. Go get the prize! Bye Gramma. See you soon.”

Goodbye is hard.

It feels like such a long goodbye. But it really won’t be too long!

There was such value in sitting by her bedside (Ecc 7:2). That value was not in comforting HER (which I believe was my original intent). Instead, in one final 7 day period she gave back once again and refocused my life on things not of this world. What a remarkable woman. What an Amazing GOD.

For 7 days, in her toughness while she lay in a room lacking all possessions, to me she demonstrated how fleeting even a 91 year life is (James 4:14). We entered this world with nothing and we will exit with nothing (I Timothy 6:7). And that truth was there for my eyes to see.

In our last moments all that matters is our rock solid faith (Matt 7:24-25) in a Loving, merciful GOD who causes all things to work together for good…for HIS purposes (Romans 8:28)…..Who desires us to be with HIM, worshipping in HIS presence for eternity (Rev 5:9-14). WHAT A GREAT TIME THAT WILL BE!

Indeed, there is great value in experiencing death while on this earth. I thank GOD for Gramma and this week of watching her enter into HIS rest. She finally gets to rest. She made it!

I love you Mom. Your….what was it….25 years of service to her were amazing. What an awesome example you and dad have been (Philippians 2:3-7, 2:17, Romans 12:1)

Abe

 

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.)

Video by Simon Sinek about Success in the Workplace

This is a video by Simon Sinek that a friend, Andy, sent me awhile back. He addresses the millennial generation, and covers some topics that are worth considering. These things he discusses do not apply only to the millennial generation, they apply to all of us, especially when he talks about addiction to cell phones, technology and social media.

This is something that parents should consider and keep in mind when raising their sons and daughters who are surrounding with social media and technology.

Remember that just like anything, including these articles I send out, check them with the Word of God.

WOE – Watch Out Everybody

I was reading Isaiah this morning and came to chapter 5. In chapter 5 I see 7 times God through Isaiah said, “Woe” (vs. 8,11,18,20,21,22,23). God is bringing attention to the sins of Judah and their leaders, such as: oppressing the poor, praising evil and punishing good, drinking alcohol, etc. They were pulling carts of sin with cords of lies.

This word “Woe” is calling attention to something. I’ve heard several preachers use it as an acronym – Watch Out Everybody.

As parents, just like God our Father, we have to teach our children to be vigilant about sin. The things that God called out in this passage are the things we need to call out as well.

We live in an age where people are just like those in Isaiah’s day.

  • They are calling evil good and good evil (vs. 20). Those who stand for righteous principles are mocked and silenced, sometimes even by fellow Christians. But God says, “Watch out everybody.”
  • Having a mixed drink is not a new thing, but even Christians today don’t see a problem with it, sadly. The bartender at the restaurant can make that drink look beautiful and appealing, but God says, “Woe!” Watch out everybody.”
  • It is easy and even promoted in the world to go for money instead of doing what is right. It was happening then, and it happens today. But God says, “Watch out everybody.”

Dads, if God says pay attention to this, then we are obligated to pay attention to it. We also must sound the warning as well to our children. Show them the good way where God is, and at the same time, make clear the pathway of the wicked that descends to hell and heartache (Proverbs 4).

We cannot assume that they will just get it. Passiveness is not a good way of parenting. They have to be told. We have to at times sound a warning about sin. When I read the prophets, it is very clear that the people got very tired of hearing the same things over and over again. It seems that at times even the prophet got tired of saying the same things over and over again. It is the same for dads, but we must not grow weary in well doing. Stand in the gap and declare to your sons and daughters the ways of God, including the blessings and curses that go along with obedience and disobedience.

Give ear, O my people, to my teaching; incline your ears to the words of my mouth! I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings from of old, things that we have heard and known, that our fathers have told us. We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the LORD, and his might, and the wonders that he has done. He established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers to teach to their children, that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children, so that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments; and that they should not be like their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation, a generation whose heart was not steadfast, whose spirit was not faithful to God.
Psalm 78:1-8