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

Summer Brain Drain

Today is an article by NetNanny about tips to reduce “Summer Brain Drain” now that the kids are out of school for roughly 3 months.

I thought it would be helpful. In addition to their tips and advice, here are some additional thoughts:

  1. Have your kids read the Bible out loud with you. Maybe they can write down some of the verses to practice their writing and spelling skills.
  2. Take them to Bible-based camps where they can be encouraged. This will fight “soul drain” as well as “brain drain”!
  3. Visit members of your congregation and get involved in doing works of service to help those in need.
  4. If you have kids who are artistic, have them draw pictures of the places they visit and the things they do during the summer. Encourage them to think of a Bible verse that connects to it.
  5. Get them involved in the gardening or any building/remodeling projects you are working. They will develop all kinds of practical skills as you develop a closer relationship with them. We just had a shed delivered by the Amish a few days ago, and it was amazing to see these young boys with their father going right to the work knowing exactly what to do. I think those boys were around 8-10 years old.
  6. Take a walk with them and identify all the creatures you see along the way (butterfly, hawk, ant, etc.). You can talk about how special each of these creatures is and how beautifully and wonderfully designed it is.

“And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. 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. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” (Deuteronomy 6:6-9)

Gideon’s Influence Upon His Father

On Monday, we asked the question, “Can you be courageous and afraid at the same time?” We looked at an event in the life of Gideon when God called him to confront the idolatry of his father and to destroy his father’s idols (Baal and Asherah).

For today, please read the same excerpt from Judges 6, but this time, read it from the perspective of Gideon’s father. But then go back and re-read it and think about it as if YOU were the father. How would you respond if your son directly confronted your religion/worship and destroyed your idols?

Then Gideon built an altar there to the LORD and called it, The LORD Is Peace. To this day it still stands at Ophrah, which belongs to the Abiezrites. That night the LORD said to him, “Take your father’s bull, and the second bull seven years old, and pull down the altar of Baal that your father has, and cut down the Asherah that is beside it and build an altar to the LORD your God on the top of the stronghold here, with stones laid in due order. Then take the second bull and offer it as a burnt offering with the wood of the Asherah that you shall cut down.” So Gideon took ten men of his servants and did as the LORD had told him. But because he was too afraid of his family and the men of the town to do it by day, he did it by night. When the men of the town rose early in the morning, behold, the altar of Baal was broken down, and the Asherah beside it was cut down, and the second bull was offered on the altar that had been built. And they said to one another, “Who has done this thing?” And after they had searched and inquired, they said, “Gideon the son of Joash has done this thing.” Then the men of the town said to Joash, “Bring out your son, that he may die, for he has broken down the altar of Baal and cut down the Asherah beside it.” But Joash said to all who stood against him, “Will you contend for Baal? Or will you save him? Whoever contends for him shall be put to death by morning. If he is a god, let him contend for himself, because his altar has been broken down.” Therefore on that day Gideon was called Jerubbaal, that is to say, “Let Baal contend against him,” because he broke down his altar.
(Judges 6:24-32)

We can look at Gideon’s father and stay in the shallow water thinking of him merely as an idolater. But there is something deeper here to consider, Gideon’s father was awakened and led to truth by the faith, courage and conviction of his son.

I know for me that there have been times that whether it was the brilliant, inspired comments of my four-year old or the courage and faith shown by one of my teenagers, that I have been humbled, taught, convicted and encouraged.

Don’t assume as a father that teaching only goes one way. It certainly did not for Gideon’s dad. His father showed amazing humility, did he not? Instead of trying to save face among his neighbors and fellow Israelites, he stood up for his son who “showed him up.”

Today, take a lesson from Gideon’s dad, and put it in your toolbox as a father. Be ready to accept that your children have wisdom, insight, faith and courage that just may expose an area in your life where you need to grow. Praise God and thank Him that He gave us these young evangelists to show us how to draw closer to God.

Salmon was the father of Boaz by Rahab

Salmon was the father of Boaz by Rahab, Boaz was the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse. Jesse was the father of David the king. David was the father of Solomon by Bathsheba who had been the wife of Uriah (Matthew 1:5-6).

In the book of Ruth, the Jews are instructed as to where David came from (Ruth 4:17-22), but for the Christian, we see where Jesus came from. Matthew 1 is the family line of Jesus Christ. When you read through that list and see all those names, don’t get lost thinking it is just a boring list of dead people. There are stories behind those names. Many of those people are written about in the Old Testament.

Matthew 1:1-17 is an amazing picture of God’s grace that culminates in Jesus Christ. Murder, adultery, arrogance, materialism, lying, betrayal, idolatry, harlotry, etc., are all found in that list of names. That’s Jesus’ family. That’s our family. That’s us. Just like those men and women, we need the grace and mercy of God.

Look at the above verse in Matthew 1:5-6. We have been looking at lot lately into the book of Ruth. Boaz was a godly man, a kindhearted man, a generous man, and a man who clearly understood the grace of God. He knew God would bless Ruth because she had come “under the wings of God for refuge” (Ruth 2:12).

Who was Boaz’ mother? Rahab the harlot! Rahab was another outsider, a Gentile, a prostitute from Jericho (a city condemned by God for destruction). She and her relatives were rescued from destruction and saved by God because she believed, repented and came under the wings of God for refuge. The New Testament refers to her more than once because of her obedient faith (Hebrews 11:31; James 2:25).

It is interesting to me that in the book of Ruth, it only says that Salmon was the father of Boaz. But in Matthew 1, the Holy Spirit tells us who Salmon married. Who was the mother who nurtured and raised this little boy Boaz? A former harlot in a wicked Gentile city.

I don’t believe we need a greater testimony to the grace of God than that, and this is what I want to leave you with today. Fathers, let us be nurtured like Boaz was in the grace of God and come under the shelter of His wings for refuge. Let us always be grateful for the grace, longsuffering and mercy of God which He poured out upon us abundantly in Jesus Christ. Jesus was the great, great, great, great…..grandson of a harlot. May we like Boaz and Jesus show this grace to others, especially to our children.

What Will Be Said of You?

Someone sent me a bulletin article they found online, and the title was “What will be said of us when we die?” In that article the author listed several very good things that can be said of the person who walks with God and dies in Christ.

I thought this would be appropriate to consider for today. You could even consider using these thoughts to talk with your kids about what really matters. People in life will say all kinds of things about you, some true some not true, but what matters is what God says about you.

Will this be said of you and me when we pass from this life?

  • “He walked with God (Genesis 5:24; Genesis 6:9; cf. 2 Kings 20:3 ).
  • “He was the Lord‘s friend” (John 15:14).
  • “He fought a good fight, he finished his course, he kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7).
  • “He declared the whole counsel of God to others” (Acts 20:27).
  • “He went about doing good” (Acts 10:38).
  • “His death is gain” (Philippians 1:21,23).
  • “His death is precious” (Psalm 116:15).
  • “His death is a blessing, because he died in the Lord” (Revelation 14:13)
  • “He died in a good old age, full of days and riches and honor” (1 Chronicles 29:28).
  • “He has gone to be with the Lord” (Philippians 1:23).
  • “He is in a better place now” (Luke 16:22; John 14:1-3; Hebrews 11:16).
  • “He left us a godly example” (1 Timothy 4:12; cf. Titus 2:7-8).
  • “He was faithful unto death” (Revelation 2:10).
  • “By his righteous life, he still speaks (Hebrews 11:4).
  • “He is now among the heroes of faith” (Hebrews 11).
  • “He is now gathered to his people” (Genesis 25:8; 35:29; 49:33).

Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ (Colossians 3:23-24).

Some principles for making a wise decision

Today we will consider some principles for making wise decisions. We make decisions (tons) of them on a daily basis. Some are pretty insignificant, like which coffee mug to use this morning. Others have generational impact, in other words, this decision will affect your great-grandchildren. The Bible is full of teaching and advice on how to make good decisions, we cannot even scratch the scratch of the surface in today’s post. Hopefully, however, we can consider just a few basic principles to keep our feet on solid ground and our heads out of the clouds when making decisions.

Some principles for making a wise decision

Did I come to God first and ask Him for wisdom (James 1:5)? There are many examples of people in Scripture who did not consult God first, and it really turned out poorly (Joshua 9:14; Isaiah 30:1-2). Those examples are given to us so that we can keep from repeating history! God promised, and He does not ever break a promise, that He would liberally pour out wisdom upon us if we ask!

Have I consulted His word? His word is designed to give us prudence, the discernment to make sound decisions (Proverbs 1:1-4). Are there clear commands from God on this matter? What consistent Biblical principles can I draw from to help shed light on this matter? Can I find examples of people in Scripture who were in a similar situation? Is this conclusion / choice I am making consistent with Biblical wisdom?

What is the advice of the godly, wise people around me who love me (Proverbs 1:5)? There are many times when the godly, wise men and women around you will speak with one voice on a matter. Take those words seriously.

If you feel like you have to hide your decisions/course of action from the wise godly people around you, then ask yourself “Why is that?” We had better have a really good Biblical reason for not taking the advice of several godly people who surround us.

There are other times when you will get a wide array of advice, sometimes very different advice, and it will all come from very wise and godly people. So we have to go back to #1 and pray for wisdom to discern. Sometimes well-meaning Christians will all say “this is what God wants you to do,” but the problem with that is they may all have several different answers. In this specific instance, I’m not talking about matters of doctrine and sin, I’m talking about things like career choices, education choices, purchasing decisions, relationship advice, etc. Folks have lots of advice, that is why we must do a LOT of praying and searching Scripture for discernment.

Is this a decision I should be making right now (Genesis 25:29-34)? When we are really stressed, tired, and highly emotional, it is not a time to make huge life-changing decisions. Take some time to sleep and recover before you make those big choices. For example, you are really stressed and tired, and you are driving home from work. The tire goes flat. So, in your frustration, you decide to have it towed to the dealership and get a loan for a new car. A simple tire repair turned into a 5 year loan. This is just a made up example, but I hope you can see the point.

How will this decision affect others (1 Corinthians 8:12; 10:32-33)? We do not live in a vacuum; our decisions have direct impact on those around us. Esau’s wives were a grief of mind to his parents. Simeon and Levi’s anger and thirst for vengeance brought shame to their father Jacob. The 1st century Christians also faced this when it came to eating of certain meats and keeping of certain holy days. Their decisions had the power to cause another to stumble and sin. What they decided to do could either draw someone closer to God or make it far more challenging for another to obey God. How will this decision affect my influence upon others for Christ? What will this decision do to my loved ones? Who is looking up to me…how will this influence them?

Does this decision glorify God (1 Corinthians 10:31)? Am I making a choice that will bring glory to God or more attention and glory to me? Am I seeking the praise of God or the praise and attention of men?

Hopefully these principles help. It is not all-inclusive, and many of you will have much better ideas. Please share them with me. Thanks!

You have had pity on the plant

Then God said to Jonah…”You have had pity on the plant…”  (Jonah 4:10).

I encourage you today to read Jonah 4 today. Jonah was angry, really angry. He was angry because he knew God was gracious and merciful. God showed mercy on the city of Nineveh and forgave them because they repented at the preaching of Jonah. Even though Jonah preached to them, he really didn’t care about the salvation of the souls of Nineveh. He preached in anticipation that this effort would fail. Nineveh would reject God and God would toast them.

Read the last verse of chapter 3 and the first verse of chapter 4. God relented because Nineveh repented and Jonah vented. Jonah went outside of the city in verse 4 and waited in eager anticipation of God raining down judgment and destruction upon Nineveh (Jonah 4:5).

Notice the mercy that God had upon Jonah, while at the same time teaching a critical lesson. God prepared a plant to grow up and shade Jonah “to deliver him from his misery” (Jonah 4:6). Jonah was very grateful. Next, God sent a worm to destroy the plant. Then God brings a “vehement east wind” and the sun “beat on Jonah’s head” (Jonah 4:8).

All Jonah wants to do now is die. Now Jonah is really ticked off. This provides one of those “teachable moments.”

Then God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry about the plant?” And he said, “It is right for me to be angry, even to death!” But the LORD said, “You have had pity on the plant for which you have not labored, nor made it grow, which came up in a night and perished in a night. And should I not pity Nineveh, that great city, in which are more than one hundred and twenty thousand persons who cannot discern between their right hand and their left–and much livestock? (Jonah 4:9-11).

You have had pity on the plant

This being Wednesday, our focus is on parenting. I want to take this concept and apply it to parenting. As a Father, God was parenting Jonah. There are some valuable lessons to learn here in parenting.

Our children sometimes will care more about the plant, which creates teachable moments. They will get really upset about something, like a sibling borrowed a shirt without asking. Justice must be administered! It is times like that that we can help direct them to areas where they really should focus their passion. We are there to help them gain some “perspective.” Jonah cared more for a stupid plant than he did for 120,000 souls. Andy Harrison wrote an article recently about “Misplaced Compassion,” and today’s article connects well with it.

We must show mercy to our kids at those times, like God showed Jonah. I mentioned in Monday’s article about a sermon that Mike Sullivan preached recently. He made a point that Jesus was not self-righteous about the self-righteous. Jesus ate with the Pharisees, too. He loved them and wanted desperately for them to understand His grace and mercy. As we see the hypocrisy and double-standard in our kids, we must remember God and Jonah. God kept teaching Jonah and showing mercy to Jonah, too.