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Scripture:  But if a widow has children or grandchildren, these should learn first of all to put their religion into practice by caring for their own family and so repaying their parents and grandparents, for this is pleasing to God. 1 Tim 5:4 NIV

 

Observation:  Early Christians cared for widows in their midst, but administering this aid proved challenging (see Acts 6:1–7). Timothy is to encourage family members to care for relatives who are widows (1 Tim. 5:4, 8, 16) and to ensure that aid is given to women who are really widows (v. 5). Those who are to be placed on the list of widows approved for aid (taken into the number, v. 9) are to meet certain qualifications. Paul advises against including women less than 60 years of age and prefers that younger women remarry (vv. 9, 14). [Dybdahl, J. L. (Ed.). (2010). Andrews Study Bible Notes (p. 1584). Berrien Springs, MI: Andrews University Press.]

 

Application:  Single parents face a number of challenges.  In some cases, single parents need to deal with their own finances and the added financial responsibility of their children in another household.  Single parents have to care for their own household entirely on their own.  This could include fixing meals, all the household chores, helping with homework, attending parent-teacher meetings, taking their children to the doctor or staying home with a sick child even when that may mean losing income for the day, and so much more.

Today’s text underscores the important role that churches should play in supporting widows with children and grandchildren.  That is God’s plan and ideal.  But we know that in today’s world it probably rarely happens that way.  When single parents consider all these heavy responsibilities, they may like to have a life partner to share in all they have to do.  And yet, much research shows that one of the most difficult dynamics is that of blended families or step-parenting homes.  Not long ago a lady spoke to us to tell us of the difficult relationship between her husband and her son, who is his step-son.  In a blunt way he told her, “I didn’t marry you to become a dad.”  How sad that is!

Many single parents, wanting the support of a partner and a parent figure for their children, enter into relationships that end up being more damaging to their children.  Children are often exposed to a revolving door of step-parents, toward whom they may develop positive feelings, only to feel abandoned again when those relationships end.  Often, many children experience emotional and physical abuse at the hands of their step-parents.

I think even Paul hints that what widows (or single parents) should devote their life to raising their children first, at least until they are adults.  He urges single parents to provide for their children the type of atmosphere where they will help them in their spiritual growth, and to put their religious principles into practical use.  While it is a difficult road, remaining single is a better arrangement for single parents than bringing other people into their children’s lives, particularly if doing so disrupts the parents’ relationship with their children, and with God.

 

A Prayer You May Say:  Father God, I pray you help and encourage single parents, and may they find in You their Companion and Helper so they may devote their life to helping their children come to know You and serve You.

Scripture:  Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins. 1 Peter 4:8 (NLT)

 

Observation:  charity shall cover the multitude, &c.—The oldest manuscripts have “covereth.” Quoted from Pr 10:12; compare Pr 17:9. “Covereth” so as not harshly to condemn or expose faults; but forbearingly to bear the other’s burdens, forgiving and forgetting past offenses. Perhaps the additional idea is included, By prayer for them, love tries to have them covered by God; and so being the instrument of converting the sinner from his error, “covereth a (not ‘the,’ as English Version) multitude of sins”; but the former idea from Proverbs is the prominent one. It is not, as Rome teaches, “covereth” his own sins; for then the Greek middle voice would be used; and Pr 10:12; 17:9 support the Protestant view. “As God with His love covers my sins if I believe, so must I also cover the sins of my neighbor” [Luther]. Compare the conduct of Shem and Japheth to Noah (Ge 9:23), in contrast to Ham’s exposure of his father’s shame. We ought to cover others’ sins only where love itself does not require the contrary. [Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., & Brown, D. (1997). Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (1 Pe 4:8). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.]

 

Application:  Shaunti Feldhahn, in her book The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages” writes about the power of a positive, loving attitude toward their relationship and toward their spouse: “Highly happy spouses choose to believe their mate cares for them—no matter what they’re seeing from their spouse or feeling at the time—and they act accordingly.”  She adds: “It turns out that positive changes in a marriage rarely depend on one difficult spouse suddenly becoming an altogether different person. Usually, the opposite is true. Change—even in challenging marriages—most often starts with one immediate, practical, and surprising choice. A choice made by just one partner. And you can make it. The day you put one surprising secret to work in your relationship—and then another—may go unnoticed by your partner. But you have launched an insurrection against mediocrity and unhappiness.”

What Mrs. Feldhahn’s research shows (which is supported by other extensive support, particularly in the area of Cognitive Behavioral Psychology), is that when we choose to love our spouse, and we show it through word and action, our thinking toward them changes, and eventually our feelings will change as well.  A very interesting TED lecture presented by Amy Cuddy, form Harvard University (http://www.ted.com/talks/amy_cuddy_your_body_language_shapes_who_you_are) also confirms that it is in our power to change our behavior and the resulting thinking and feeling.

God is not asking us to “feel” loving, but rather to “act” lovingly.  Sometimes in marriage we wait until our spouse changes and becomes more loving so before we respond to them in a loving manner, but what God says is that we are the ones that should take that first step, and when we act lovingly that love can cover all things, even those that have harmed our relationship in the past.

 

A Prayer You May Say:  Father God, help us to act lovingly even when we don’t “feel” it.  May your love permeate our lives and our relationships so that it will cover us and our past so that we may have a better future.

Scripture:  So finish what you began to do. Then your willingness will be matched by what you accomplish 2 Corinthians 8:11 (GW)

 

Observation:  Readiness to will. A willing mind makes even a little acceptable, but to do less than one is able to do is a denial of willingness. A generous will is good in itself, but alone it is not enough. The will must be embodied in deeds, if our best desires and energies are to give solidity and strength to the character. It is good to cherish the ideal of charity, but the ideal must find practical expression. Faith and love, as ideals, never feed the hungry or clothe the naked (James 2:14–20). “Readiness,” then, is a spontaneous disposition and attitude of mind to serve God and one’s fellow men. It has no need of being urged or driven forward by the importunity of others. [The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Volume 6. 1980 (F. D. Nichol, Ed.) (890). Review and Herald Publishing Association.]

 

Application:  The Formula 1 Grand Prix has very specific rules that must be adhered to beginning 30 minutes before the race can start.  For instance, drivers are free to complete a reconnaissance lap of the circuit before taking up their grid positions. If a driver wishes to complete additional reconnaissance laps he must pass through the pit lane each time in order to bypass the grid.  The pit lane closes 15 minutes prior to the formation lap. Any drivers still in the pit lane at this time will have to start the race from there.

Ten minutes before the start the grid must be cleared except for team technical staff, race officials and drivers. With three minutes to go all cars must have their wheels fitted (any car not complying will receive a 10-second time penalty).  With a minute to go all cars must have their engines running. All personnel must then leave the grid at least 15 seconds before the green lights come on to signal the start of the formation lap.

All these rules, and several more, are there to ensure the safety of the drivers and their team, but also to ensure that the race will start correctly and fairly for all the participants.  Of course, even when everything goes just right, every race is different depending on the weather conditions, the pilots driving those powerful machines, the condition of each car, the team that changes the tires and fills the gas tank at every pit stop, and many other variables.  At the end, the team that works best will prove to be the winner.  The champion is not just the driver who crosses the line in first place, it is the entire team that helped him/her get there.

Marriage and family life is a team sport.  It is what we do together to ensure we are all winners which helps all to achieve the goals that we as a family set for ourselves.  Much research shows the advantages that married people have.  For instance, they tend to have a stronger economic status because they tend to save more and invest more toward the common goals they have.  Married people tend to enjoy better health because they are always looking after each other’s well-being.  It is not only how we begin this race we call family life that’s importance, but that we stay the course and go together to the finish line.  Keeping the end in mind will help us reach those goals together.  That’s why the Apostle Paul encourages us: So finish what you began to do. Then your willingness will be matched by what you accomplish 2 Corinthians 8:11 (GW)

 

A Prayer You May Say:  Father God, thank you for allowing us to have a family around us so that together we may reach the goals which will be best for all of us.  Help us to finish the race together, and receive the trophy of eternal life from Your hand.

ScriptureHear my prayer, O LORD, And let my cry come to You. 2Do not hide Your face from me in the day of my trouble; Incline Your ear to me; In the day that I call, answer me speedily. 3For my days are consumed like smoke, And my bones are burned like a hearth. . .   This will be written for the generation to come, That a people yet to be created may praise the LORD. Psalm 102:11-3, 8 (NKJV)

 

Observation: Some think that David penned this psalm at the time of Absalom’s rebellion; others that Daniel, Nehemiah, or some other prophet, penned it for the use of the church, when it was in captivity in Babylon, because it seems to speak of the ruin of Zion and of a time set for the rebuilding of it, which Daniel understood by books, Dan. 9:2. Or perhaps the psalmist was himself in great affliction, which he complains of in the beginning of the psalm, but (as in Ps. 77 and elsewhere) he comforts himself under it with the consideration of God’s eternity, and the church’s prosperity and perpetuity, how much soever it was now distressed and threatened. But it is clear, from the application of v. 25, 26, to Christ (Heb. 1:10–12), that the psalm has reference to the days of the Messiah, and speaks either of his affliction or of the afflictions of his church for his sake. In the psalm we have, I. A sorrowful complaint which the psalmist makes, either for himself or in the name of the church, of great afflictions, which were very pressing (v. 1–11). II. Seasonable comfort fetched in against these grievances, 1. From the eternity of God (v. 12, 24, 27). 2. From a believing prospect of the deliverance which God would, in due time, work for his afflicted church (v. 13–22) and the continuance of it in the world (v. 28). In singing this psalm, if we have not occasion to make the same complaints, yet we may take occasion to sympathize with those that have, and then the comfortable part of this psalm will be the more comfortable to us in the singing of it. [Henry, M. (1994). Matthew Henry’s commentary on the whole Bible: Complete and unabridged in one volume (888). Peabody: Hendrickson.]

 

Application: A mud slide destroyed many homes and killed many people, in fact, it wiped out an entire community.  A airliner crashed killing all its occupants and leaving many families grieving their loss.  A child was diagnosed with terminal cancer and her life was cut short at the tender age of three.  Three firefighters were killed fighting an apartment fire in a large city.  A building collapsed killing many of its residents.  Five soldiers were killed with a road-side bomb.

We read, hear, or see stories like these almost every day in the news or online.  We hear them so often that they lose their impact the more often they happen.  It is as if we become immunized to the bad news a little at a time…until it happens to us or to someone we know personally.  It’s one thing to hear of a plane crash, but it’s another to know one of the passengers.  It’s one thing to hear of a police officer that was killed, but it’s another thing to have known him personally and attend his funeral.  It’s one thing to hear of the young cancer victim, but it’s another thing to be her pastor, her parent, or her grandparent.

For any one of us experiencing deep pain and sorrow David’s words become ours.  While we’re going through the darkest moments in our lives it is as if God were not there.  We cry out, “God, please, don’t hide from me in my pain!”  But the psalmist words are also very encouraging.  God is not hiding His face from us in our pain and sorrow.  On the contrary, His face shines in our darkness, His warmth surrounds us when we feel alone, and at the end we will sing His praises.

 

A Prayer You May Say:  Father God, thank You for always being next to us in our pain and sorrow.  We trust You and that one day we will be able to praise Your name and tell others of your love and encouragement during our darkest hours.

Scripture: “Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity. Till I come, give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you…” (1 Timothy 4:12-14 NKJV)

Observation: Thy youth. Timothy was probably not 40 years old, and yet would have numerous elders under his charge (see ch. 5:1, 17, 19). From ch. 4:12–16 some have concluded that Timothy was timid and reticent by nature, more given to obey than to command, and that Paul’s counsel here was intended to correct this supposed defect. Youth is no barrier to a rich spiritual fellowship with God, and old age is not a guarantee of sound thinking or complete dedication. Men, according to Paul, are to be judged by their sanctified abilities and not by arbitrary standards such as age. [The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Volume 7. 1980 (F. D. Nichol, Ed.) (305–306). Review and Herald Publishing Association.]

Application: How many times have you told your child, “You are too young.”  Yes, there are things that may not be “age appropriate” for our child. But, the scriptural focus today is a strong reminder for us as parents. We are raising ministers! We cannot underestimate how God can use our little ones to bring others to Him. That child like innocence, honesty, and true love for Jesus can impact others in ways that adults cannot. This is one thing that they are not too young to do. Regardless of their age, they can use their gifts to witness to others.

From a very young age, our little ones can be taught they can be a minister. Ministry should not be seen to be reserved for the pastor of the church or the deacons or elders only. Let them know that they can serve others too. Engage them in simple acts of kindness and service to others.

Toddlers can make cheerful cards to give to a neighbor who is ill or to take to a nursing care facility. They can call or skype someone who may not be having a good day and sing an uplifting song. Older children can rake a neighbor’s fallen leaves or shovel the snow from a driveway. Helping to make and deliver homemade cookies or bread can also be a ministry.

Too small? Too young? Never! “Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity… Do not neglect the gift that is in you…” (I Timothy 4:12-14 NKJV)

A Prayer You May Say: Lord, help me to lead my child to be Your disciple. Use the gifts that You have given him/her to bring others to You. Help me to not overlook the gifts and potential that You have blessed my child with. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Scripture: “Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever” (1 Chronicles 16:34 NKJV)

Observation: 16:34 Oh give thanks to Yahweh This verse is most likely adapted from Psa 106:1, although both refrains are common throughout the Psalms (Pss 107:1; 118:1; 136:1). See Psa 106:1 and note.

his loyal love is everlasting This refrain acts as a repeated chorus in some Psalms (Pss 118:1–4; 136:1–26). [Barry, J. D., Grigoni, M. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Mangum, D., & Whitehead, M. M. (2012). Faithlife Study Bible (1 Ch 16:34). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.]

Application: Have you stopped to listen to your prayers lately? Are they characterized by long “to do” lists for God?  As parents, it is easy to fall into this trap. We can quickly recite a long list of things for God to “fix” in our children.

Don’t allow the negative to overshadow the good. There is more good than bad but focusing on the bad prevents you from seeing the blessings that are right in front of you. That strong willed chichitchat gives you so much trouble now will be able to stand up to his/her peers later. So, give thanks! That child who talks non-stop may grow up to be a preacher. So, give thanks! That child who seems to have an argument for everything may stand before courts to argue for religious liberty one day. So, give thanks!  What may seem like a negative trait today may be used by God for His purposes tomorrow. So, give thanks!

When you are tempted to complain, think again. Give thanks instead. You will feel better and your family will also benefit from a more positive you. “Oh, give thanks to the Lord. For His mercy endures forever!”

A Prayer You May Say: Dear Lord, thank you for the special gift you gave me in my child. Thank you for… ( make a list of all of the positive traits you see in your child. Be specific. Take this time to focus on what’s right in them and give thanks to God).

Scripture: “Casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7 NKJV)

Observation: care—“anxiety? The advantage flowing from humbling ourselves under God’s hand (1 Pe 5:6) is confident reliance on His goodness. Exemption from care goes along with humble submission to God.

careth for you—literally “respecting you.” Care is a burden which faith casts off the man on his God. Compare Ps 22:10; 37:5; 55:22, to which Peter alludes; Lu 12:22, 37; Php 4:6.

careth—not so strong a Greek word as the previous Greek “anxiety.” [Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., & Brown, D. (1997). Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (1 Pe 5:7). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.]

Application: Do you have those days when the challenges of parenting seem too big to bear?  Every day is not filled with hugs, teddy bears, and cuddles. There are days that are not how we envisioned- screaming, sibling rivalry, grumbling, spilled milk, dirty diapers, doctor appointments and sick kids. And, all of this must somehow fit into an already packed calendar.

Even on those days when you feel that you are dealing with all of the parenting challenges alone, the good news is that you are not alone. Your Heavenly Father walks beside you. He sees the messes made. He hears the crying toddler. He knows the exact number of times that you have had to wipe runny noses, change diapers, and pick up toys left on the stairs. And, through it all, He promises to be with you. Yes, He is with you as you sit in the darkened nursery and try to rock a crying baby to sleep. He waits with you in the emergency room at the hospital while your child is burning with fever.

You do not walk alone. No matter how dark the night or strong the storm, you have a forever companion. As you go throughout the day today, remember the words of our scriptural focus, “He cares for you.” Cast those burdens and cares upon Him. He is willing and able to bear them for you.

A Prayer You May Say: Dear Lord, thank you for co-parenting with me. It is a joy to know that I will not face this day alone. I go forward knowing that You will walk beside me. Thank you for caring for me! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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