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Archive for September, 2013

Practice What You Preach

Scripture: Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified. (1 Corinthians 9:26, 27 NKJV)

 

Observation: Not as uncertainly. Paul knew exactly where he was going and what he was doing. He aimed to advance as rapidly as possible in the race of life. There was no haziness in his mind about the direction he must take. He ran with a clear and positive assurance of reaching the goal. He exerted himself to the utmost, lest he should fail to secure the crown, a crown, not of fading leaves, but of immortal life, peace, joy, and happiness in the kingdom of glory. The runner in the Greek games had no such certainty of reaching the goal and obtaining the prize. But Paul knew that he, and everyone who complied with the conditions, could be sure of success. When he was nearing the end of his course he gave expression to his absolute assurance that he would receive the crown along with all other victorious Christians (see 2 Tim. 4:7, 8). [The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Volume 6. 1980 (F. D. Nichol, Ed.) (737). Review and Herald Publishing Association.]

 

Application: Have you ever seen your child imitate you?  Your children are depending on you to set the standard by your actions. Yes, your words are important; however, if your words do not align with your actions then they are wasted. My mother was correct when she said, “Actions speak louder than words.” This includes everything we do and every choice we make.

Do you show your child by your actions that Jesus is your best friend? Do your children see you with your Bible open?  Do they hear you in prayer?  Is family worship practiced on a regular basis in your home?

When it comes to media, are we practicing the same principles that we want them to emulate?  They are watching as you flip through the channels on the television and make decisions as to what to watch. They listen to the same music that you do.

Are Sabbath mornings a delight in our homes or a time to dread?  They witness your eagerness, or lack thereof on Sabbath as you awaken and prepare to go to Sabbath School and church. Is it a day filled with “don’ts” or, is it a family day that our little ones eagerly anticipate?

In essence, are you, as a parent, making the same choices that you are teaching your child to make?  Are your words the same that we want them to repeat?

What sermons are your children watching you preach?  Do your actions match your words? If not, your actions really are speaking louder than your words. Yes, parents make mistakes too. But perhaps one of the best things we can model to our children is a willingness to admit when we have failed and to see forgiveness from them and from God.

 

A Prayer You May Say: Lord, help me reflect You to my child. May my actions match my words. And, when I fail please help me to acknowledge that to you and to my children. You have entrusted me to show You to my children and that is an awesome responsibility.

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Scripture:  God is the one who began this good work in you, and I am certain that he won’t stop before it is complete on the day that Christ Jesus returns. Philippians 1:6 (CEV)

 

Observation:  a good work—Any work that God begins, He will surely finish (1Sa 3:12). Not even men begin a work at random. Much more the fact of His beginning the work is a pledge of its completion (Is 26:12). So as to the particular work here meant, the perfecting of their fellowship in the Gospel (Php 1:5; Ps 37:24; 89:33; 138:8; Jn 10:28, 29; Jn 10:28, 29, Ro 8:29, 35–39 Heb 6:17–19; Jam 1:17; Jud 1:24). As God cast not off Israel for ever, though chastening them for a time, so He will not cast off the spiritual Israel (De 33:3; Is 27:3; 1Pe 1:5). [Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., & Brown, D. (1997). Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (Php 1:6). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.]

 

Application:  Sometime in the history of the church, some people began to believe and teach that salvation is, at least in part, our work to accomplish.  I remember hearing early in my Christian walk that “I do my best, and God will do the rest.”  By these words I was being taught that I have to do everything in my power to earn salvation, and when I fall short of God’s goal He then makes up the difference.  While it sounds like an attractive proposition, it stops being interesting when I realize even my best efforts are simply not good enough.  What the Bible teaches is totally different.  It is not my effort plus God’s grace which guarantees that I will have salvation; God’s grace, which results in salvation is totally, completely, and uniquely God’s gift to us, regardless of anything we do or try to do.

 

In what other areas in our life have we tried to do our best only to fail repeatedly?  Have we tried to live as husband and wife depending on our own best effort and hoping that God will make up for our deficiencies?  Would we be better off giving our life and marriage completely over to God and allow Him to do His great work in us and submit ourselves to His guiding power?  Paul’s promise tells us that God began the good work in us – obviously, the first question is, do we truly believe that God brought us together?  If so, the promise ends with Paul’s words “What God began. . . He will finish.”  In other words, if God began by bringing you two together, He can bring you two through the challenges in marriage until a happy, healthy end.

 

Commit yourself and your marriage daily to God that He may use you individually and as a couple to accomplish His great purpose in You.

 

A Prayer You May Say:  Father God, Bless us as individuals and as a couple, and finish the good work You began in us until your ultimate purpose is accomplished in our lives and marriage.

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Like Minded

Scripture: Now may the God of patience and comfort grant you to be like-minded toward one another, according to Christ Jesus, that you may with one mind  and  one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 15:5, 6 NKJV)

 

Observation: To be likeminded. Literally, “to think the same thing” (see on ch. 12:16). Paul is not praying for identity of opinion on inconsequential matters, but for a spirit of unity and harmony, in spite of differences of opinion.

According to Christ Jesus. Mere unity or unanimity is not what Paul desires for his fellow Christians, but a spirit of unity patterned after the perfect model of Him whose whole purpose was to do, not His own will, but the will of Him who sent Him (John 6:38). This same mind that was in Christ Jesus must be in each of His followers (Phil. 2:5). [The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Volume 6. 1980 (F. D. Nichol, Ed.) (643–644). Review and Herald Publishing Association.]

 

Application:  We all bring certain “baggage” with us on our wedding day.  Our baggage is made up of our upbringing in our families of origin as well as in our life experiences, both good and bad.  Our bags contain our likes, dislikes, hurts, joys, pain, and sorrow. Some of the baggage may be light while some may be heavy and weigh us down. Regardless, we all bring our uniqueness into our newly formed marriage.

The differences can become pronounced as we enter the realm of parenting. How we were raised affects the parenting style that we adopt. Therefore, we each have different sets of values and expectations.

Children are very keen to pick up on the differences that exist and use them to their benefit. It is amazing how quickly they realize which parent will agree to their requests and which one is more apt to deny them. If allowed, they will play one parent against the other.

Scripture tells us that we need to be “like-minded”. Talk about your expectations before you have children. Discuss important issues such as church attendance, school choice, worship in the home, media choices etc. Discussing and making decisions on some key things before baby arrives will help you as parents be united in child rearing.

However, even if you already find yourself with children and grappling with some key differences in parenting styles, it is not too late to have important conversations now. Just make sure that you have them in private, out of earshot of your children. Make a list of key parenting issues and have your spouse do the same. Compare the lists and then take one item at a time and discuss it until agreement occurs.

If  you think this is hard now- imagine the difficulty that may arise if you wait until the issue becomes a reality. It is far better to discuss issues now, pray for resolution, and come to a decision you both can support so that you have a united front before your children. And, if confronted with a situation that you had not anticipated- stop, tell your child you must talk to your spouse, and that you will get back to them as soon as you both agree on a course of action. It is better to have your child wait. And, consider the message this sends to your children. You have made it clear that mom and dad will both agree on the decision.

 

A Prayer You May Say: Lord, where there are two or more, there are differences. Help us to be united as One with you. Lead us to be like-minded according to Your will.

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Scripture: “Always keep on praying” 1 Thessalonians 5:17 (TLB)

Observation:  Pray without ceasing. Literally, “incessantly pray,” with emphasis in the Greek on the idea of continuity (cf. on v. 16). There should be a constant spirit of prayer breathing through the Christian’s life. Never must the connection with Heaven be broken (see on Luke 18:1). Paul labored “night and day” (1 Thess. 2:9); he also prayed “night and day” (ch. 3:10). His many activities did not crowd out his prayers. Active connection with his heavenly Father was always maintained. So it should be with us. Compare the prayer life of Jesus (see on Mark 3:13). [e Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Volume 7. 1980 (F. D. Nichol, Ed.) (255). Review and Herald Publishing Association.]

Application: Perhaps you have heard the expression, “A family that prays together stays together”.  These words have been proven true over and over again. Praying is an outlet for our burdens and concerns and serves to strengthen our spirits. Praying with a partner has additional benefits because we can be united in our voices as they are lifted toward heaven. Just to know that someone else is joining you in prayer over an issue seems to lighten burdens.

If married, we invite you to pray for and with your spouse on a daily basis. Together lift your voices towards heaven. There is no sound so sweet as hearing your spouse praying for you. Bring to Jesus your joys as well as your sorrows, your blessings as well as your challenges, and allow His Spirit to soften any bitterness towards each other that you may be harboring.

It seems as if my personal prayer life received a big boost on the day that I became a parent. I found myself constantly praying and interceding for my child. If you are married, the best person to partner with you in prayer over a parenting concern is your spouse. However, even single parents can ask another to be their prayer partner. Do you have a prayer partner?  Do you pray on a regular daily basis that God will give you wisdom as you make parenting decisions?  If ever parents needed to pray for guidance it is in today’s world. If a grandparent, pray for your children as they raise your grandchildren. Mediate on their behalf.

As a family do you have a daily devotional time? If not, today is a great time to start.  Consider it a sacred commitment in your calendar. Do not allow other activities to rob you of family devotional time. Pray together as a family unit. If you have little ones, make sure that your devotional activities are appropriate for the ages of your children. And, remember to let the little ones pray aloud as soon as they are able to talk. Their sweet innocent prayers are from their hearts and minister to oldest members of the family.

Regardless of your family make-up: single parent, grandparent, married couple, young single adult etc., make prayer a priority today. You have a friend in Jesus with is waiting for you to talk to Him.  He’s listening!

A Prayer You May Say: Lord, thank You for the privilege of coming to You in prayer. Thank you for always being there to listen to our expressions of thanksgiving as well as our pleadings for help.

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Earthly Treasures

Scripture: “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” (1 John 2:15 NKJV)

 

Observation:  World. Gr. kosmos, the “world,” considered as an orderly arrangement of things or people (see on Matt. 4:8; John 1:9). In the NT kosmos often represents the ungodly multitude, alien and hostile to God, or worldly affairs that lead away from God. John uses kosmos more than 100 times in his writings, and more than any other NT author. In most instances he conveys a picture of the world as being alien and hostile to God and in opposition to His kingdom. This usage may reflect concern for false teachings that later developed into Gnosticism, with its dualism, its belief in the struggle between darkness and light, between matter and spirit, between the Demiurge and the true God (see Vol. VI, pp. 54-57).

Accordingly, when John bids his readers, “Love not the world,” he is not thinking of the earth as it came from the hand of the Creator, but of earthly elements, animate and inanimate, that Satan has marshaled in rebellion against God. John knows how attractive these can appear, and bids Christians to beware of them and to resist their seductive power. Hatred for the world of sin will not prevent the Christian from trying to help the sinner; rather it will enable him the more effectively to love the victim of sin. God Himself is our example in this respect (John 3:16). [The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Volume 7. 1980 (F. D. Nichol, Ed.) (641). Review and Herald Publishing Association.]

 

Application:  Look in the typical child’s room and you will see a toy box or a closet filled with “stuff”. And, yet, that same child will tell you that they have nothing to do.  We have flooded our children with material possessions. There is little need for imagination and creativity these days with children spending the majority of time in a day “plugged” into some electronic gadget.  The more we buy, the more they want as the newness seems to wear off in a short time. Children tire easily and as they grow and change, so do their likes and dislikes. That toy that they begged and pleaded you for a couple of weeks ago is now thrown into the back of their closets and forgotten. That electronic gadget that they had to have last month has now been replaced by a newer up to date model that has now been added to their ever growing list of “wants”.

Why not give your child gifts that can be renewed over and over again by their use  For example, art sets, wooden building blocks, scraps of cloth, containers of buttons, marbles, etc.  Or, what about encouraging your child to start a collection of rocks, bark, dried flowers, or leafs.  A nature collection is one that can last a lifetime and who knows, you may end up also starting a new hobby or encouraging a budding naturalist.

Take an inventory of your child’s possessions.  What unintended lesson might you be teaching?  Is there an adjustment that you need to make?  Is there a new direction that you can encourage your child to go in?

And, as parents are we guilty of being bad role models?  Do we also rush out to buy the latest version of the iPhone or the big screen television set?  Do we buy a new car when the old one still runs great?  Are our own priorities in material goods?  If so, it is no wonder that our children display the same behavior. So, as we take inventory of our children’s possessions let’s first inventory our own. After all, our little ones will see value in the same things that we treasure. Does our treasure chest as a family contain more things of this earth than it does heavenly treasures?  Look in the mirror before looking at them.

 

A Prayer You May Say: Lord, help me as a parent to model behavior that I want my children to emulate. Help me to show them that the greatest wealth is in knowing and loving You!

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Glory in Tribulation?

Scripture: “And not only  that,  but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Romans 5:3-5 NKJV)

 

Observation: we glory in tribulation also; knowing that tribulation worketh patience—Patience is the quiet endurance of what we cannot but wish removed, whether it be the withholding of promised good (Ro 8:25), or the continued experience of positive ill (as here). There is indeed a patience of unrenewed nature, which has something noble in it, though in many cases the offspring of pride, if not of something lower. Men have been known to endure every form of privation, torture, and death, without a murmur and without even visible emotion, merely because they deemed it unworthy of them to sink under unavoidable ill. But this proud, stoical hardihood has nothing in common with the grace of patience—which is either the meek endurance of ill because it is of God (Job 1:21, 22; 2:10), or the calm waiting for promised good till His time to dispense it come (Heb 10:36); in the full persuasion that such trials are divinely appointed, are the needed discipline of God’s children, are but for a definite period, and are not sent without abundant promises of “songs in the night.” [Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., & Brown, D. (1997). Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (Ro 5:3–4). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.]

 

Application:  I don’t know about you, but I find it hard to be happy about troubles that come my way. It is often hard to see the blessings amid the trials. And yet, scripture reminds us that tribulations produce perseverance. In other words, good can come from what we see as bad. It is hard enough when we, as adults go through tough times. But, it is really hard when we see that our children are suffering.

When our children suffer, whether from their own bad choices or those of someone else, we want so badly to rescue them from the situation. We want to “fix it”.  In fact, if possible, we would gladly take the pain upon our own shoulders.  But, God has another plan — to perfect them through their trials. Character-building lessons are rarely learned from the triumphs or successes in life. Rather, it is the disappointments and trials in our lives that teach us how to persevere despite the pain. Taking trials away from our kids deprives them of the chance to grow, build character, and trust in God. The best character-building lessons are learned when our children get up after they have fallen. Don’t inhibit your child’s growth by rescuing them from or taking over difficult situations.  Instead, give them the tools to pick themselves up.

Another challenge is when our child looks at us with teary eyes and asks, “W hy?”  We need to admit that even parents do not always have the answers. It is not as important that we answer all the questions as it is that we teach them to trust Jesus. Even when we do not understand we need to trust Him. We need to trust Jesus to open the next door and show us the way out.

As parents, do you feel the need to always rescue your child?  How do you help your child deal with disappointments? Perhaps the best thing we can do as parents is to kneel down beside our children and teach them to take it to The Lord  in prayer.

 

A Prayer You May Say: Lord, help me to see the blessings among the trials. Help me to teach my child that good things can come out of the bad. Even when we do not understand all of the reasons or have all of the answers, help us as a family to trust you.

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Each Child Is Unique

Scripture: “God has given each of us the ability to do certain things well” Romans 12:6 (TLB)

Observation:  Differing. According to the grace given to him, Paul was appointed to be an apostle (see on v. 3). According to the grace given to them, other believers were appointed to be prophets, teachers, workers of miracles, healers of the sick, etc. (1 Cor. 12:28). By the grace of God the members of the Christians church were endowed with a wide variety of spiritual powers in order to meet the many different needs of their fellow believers and to spread the gospel to every nation, tongue, and people. Paul develops this subject in much more detail in 1 Cor. 12 (see comment there). [The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Volume 6. 1980 (F. D. Nichol, Ed.) (618). Review and Herald Publishing Association.]

Application:. If you have more than one child then you already know that they are different. It is amazing how children can grow up in the same home, go to the same school, and be exposed to the same environment, and yet, be so very different.

We are often tempted to compare our children. “Why can’t you get good grades like your brother?” “Your sister plays the piano and so will you.” The scripture for today reminds us that God made each of us with different abilities and gifts. If we all had the exact same gifts we would miss out on so much beauty in this life.

As parents, we need to recognize the uniqueness in each of our children. What unique gifts and talents do we see in them?  How can we encourage and equip them to maximize those gifts and talents?  Do not compare your children but instead, celebrate their differences!  For example, if you see your child with an aptitude towards and interest in astronomy, take them to the library and check out books on the planets, stars, and space program. You can also purchase or rent DVDs on the same. Just be certain that all materials agree with the Bible. We have an awesome God-given responsibility as parents to nurture the gifts in each child. We can partner with the Divine and then watch how God opens the doors for each of our children by giving them opportunities to use those gifts to serve Him.

Consider a beautifully woven tapestry. It is they  various colors and threads woven together that make it a masterpiece to behold. The same applies to our families. Each family member brings a different character trait and gift. Let that uniqueness shine through.  Celebrate the differences of each individual as well as the beauty of the whole that is created as we come together as a family.

Reflect on the gifts and talents that God has given your child.  What are they and what activities can you do to foster growth in that area?

 

A Prayer You May Say: Dear Lord,women my eyes and help me to recognize each of my children for their uniqueness. Help me to encourage them to use their individual gifts and talents for Your service.

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