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Archive for the ‘Acts’ Category

Then they laid hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit. Acts 8:17 (NKJV)

We continue with the five ways you can help your children grow and mature in the faith as suggested by Karen Huber[i] Yesterday we talked about the importance of worshipping and serving together as a family.

Encourage questions.  One way to learn to ask questions is by using a board game called “The Ungame.”  The Ungame is a wonderful game to teach us to communicate better by practicing both talking and active listening.  The game includes several cards with questions which can serve as icebreakers in general or for couples.  One set in particular has questions for spiritual understanding.  For instance, “What does baptism mean to you?”  “Who is Jesus?”  A question like, “A time when it helps me to remember God’s promises is … ” can encourage your child to place God’s word in his or her everyday life. These types of questions and conversation starters may lead your child to reflect on their understanding of God and their faith.  We don’t want children to simply memorize and respond like robots or computers; we want them to live and experience faith in God.   You can also make these conversation starters a habit at the breakfast table or at bedtime and allow the conversation to go where God leads.

Consider commissioning your children as they start the school year. Huber writes, “Help them to understand their spiritual gifts or love languages and how to practice them at school. A child who’s love language is service can be a wonderful helper for new students. Praise and affirm the godly gifts you recognize in your child. Pray for them before that first day, that they would feel God’s presence during their days and that He would show them ways to be a light, loving and serving their classmates and teachers. This can help them understand their place in God’s story and the world.”

We close with these challenge: “In order to be teachers, parents must be learners, gathering light constantly from the oracles of God and by precept and example bringing this precious light into the education of their children.”[ii]

Father God, help me to be a good learner and a good teacher.

[i] https://vitalmagazine.com/Home/Article/Five-Ways-to-Help-Your-Kids-Grow-in-the-Faith/

[ii] White, E.G.  The Adventist Home. p.184

SEPTEMBER

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Why so many single adults?

Now this man had four virgin daughters who prophesied. Acts 21:9 (NKJV)

According to Kris Swiatocho,[i] a single pastor, half of all adults in the Unites States are single – those 18 years old and older, who have never-married, are widowed, or are divorced.  This may lead us to ask, why the recent explosion in the number of singles?  He proposes several possibilities, among which are:

  1. Young single adults (18-33) are postponing marriage as social values change. They are either choosing to live together or not get married at all.
  2. An increasing number of people have chosen to remain single permanently. Some see all the marriages around them fail, including their parents’, and they are afraid of failure and choose not to pursue marriage at all.
  3. Selfishness at an all-time high. As a society, he explains, we are extremely self-focused and simply lack the skills to handle differences with the opposite sex. We have no idea what real commitment is or how to handle conflict.
  4. Many more singles are simply having kids without having to commit to a marriage, creating an epidemic of single-parent households. For some reason, singles feel that choosing to have kids without the other parent present is going to be easy when the reality is that it is very difficult both for them and to their children.
  5. People are living longer, so when a spouse dies the remaining spouse is living longer, alone, than they use to be.

Swiatocho suggests that God’s enemy seeks to destroy the single adult before they get married, before they have even grown up by destroying their parents’ home, by attacking their self-esteem and value system from their childhood into their teens, and by attacking any opportunity to learn life skills such as how to have a healthy relationship.  As a church we need to reach out to millions of young and single adults in our home, our community, and our church. We need to surround them with our love, support, and encouragement so they may not feel alone in the midst of the church family.

Father God, may you be the companion of those who are alone.

[i] http://pastors.com/single-adults/

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Children with self-control

But Felix was frightened when Paul started talking to them about doing right, about self-control, and about the coming judgment. So he said to Paul, “That’s enough for now. You may go. But when I have time I will send for you.” Acts 24:25 (CEV)

British researchers used two studies of more than 15,000 children to ascertain the link between self-control and adult unemployment.  They measured self-control at ages as young as 7 and the analyses was adjusted for intelligence, social class, and family background as well as health factors.  According to Michael Daly,[i] lead researcher of the University of Stirling in Scotland, “the study highlights the importance of early life self-control as a powerful predictor of job prospects in adulthood.”

The researchers found that children with high self-control, that is those who are typically better able to pay attention, persist with difficult tasks, and suppress inappropriate or impulsive behaviors, are much more likely to find and retain employment as adults, and spend 40% less time unemployed than those who had a lower capacity for self-control as children.

What this means, according to Daly, is that “less self-controlled children may be particularly vulnerable to unemployment during times of economic downturn in later life.”  He added, “Developing greater self-control in childhood, when the capacity for self-control is particularly malleable, could help buffer against unemployment during recessions and bring long-term benefits to society, through increased employment rates and productivity.”

Many years before this research was conducted, a prominent religious leader wrote these words: “Few parents begin early enough to teach their children obedience. The child is usually allowed to get two or three years the start of its parents, who forbear to discipline it, thinking it is too young to learn to obey. But all this time self is growing strong in the little being, and every day makes it a harder task for the parent to gain control of the child.”[ii]

Father God, help us to teach our children to obey, and to be disciplined, and patient.  It will help them in their future career, but most importantly it will help them as they prepare for eternity.

[i] http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-3038807/Self-control-important-thing-parent-teach-children-Study-says-major-influence-child-s-life.html

[ii] White, E.G. Child Guidance, p.82.

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Dad, stay home

At this time Moses was born; and he was beautiful in God’s sight. And he was brought up for three months in his father’s house.  Acts 7:20 (ESV)

 

An article in The New York Times[i] highlighted the changing role of some fathers in America.  As the writer, Alex Williams stated, until recently, stay-at-home fathers were just a very small number among American families and were not always seen in the most positive of lights.

In the first decade of this century, the number of men who have left full-time employment outside the home has more than doubled, to 176,000, according to recent United States census data.  If we add all the men who maintain freelance or part-time jobs but who serve as the primary caretaker of children under de age of 15 while their wife works, the estimated number is around 626,000, according to Williams.

The identity of the at-home dad is also changing, both on the playground and in the culture in general. The decision to stay home with the children is not seen as a failure of their responsibilities as men, but rather as a lifestyle choice, a choice, in fact, that makes sense at a time when women may make as much or more money than their husbands do.

The new arrangement has created a new set of questions and situations men have never had to face before.  One of them has to do with the division of labor, which can be a challenge even when couples enter the arrangement willingly.  The modern at-home father is also experiencing what many women have had to live with for many years: the isolation and tedium familiar to housewives throughout the ages.  And one situation has to be dealt with carefully when taking his children to the park:  How does a lone man approach a lone woman at the teeter-totter without giving her the wrong impression?

A changing society presents new challenges and situations.  But the important role of fathers does not change and will never go out of fashion.

 

Father God, help us, as fathers, to contribute to the health and well-being of our homes and of our children daily.

[i] http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/12/fashion/dads-are-taking-over-as-full-time-parents.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0 (accessed 1-10-15)

 

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He is so Close!

Scripture: So that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; 28 for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.’  Acts 17:27-28 (NKJV)

 

Observation: Not far. The whole clause is very emphatic, and literally reads: “And yet He is not far from each one of us.” There is no doubt expressed in Paul’s words; he is rather making a positive statement of fact. The Lord is near to men, even when they do not acknowledge Him. This makes it a comparatively simple matter for men to find God, for He is by their side, awaiting their awakening and aiding their efforts to discover Him. God can and does reveal Himself according to the measure of zeal and earnestness shown by those who seek Him. At this point the Stoics would see parallels between their own teaching and Paul’s thinking, but the Epicureans would be repelled, for the apostle’s words constituted an attack on the basic atheism of their system.

28. In him we live. The whole clause literally reads: “In [or “by”] Him we are living, and are being moved, and are existing.” The words of the apostle express the thought that not merely our initial dependence is on the Creator, but that all our activities—physical, mental, and spiritual—are derived from Him. In the teaching of Paul the personality of the omnipotent, omniscient God is not merged, as is the God of the pantheist, in the impersonal Soul of the world, but stands forth with awful distinctness in the character of Creator and Sustainer of all life. “Through the agencies of nature, God is working, day by day, hour by hour, moment by moment, to keep us alive, to build up and restore us … The power working through these agencies is the power of God” (MH 112, 113). [The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Volume 6. 1980 (F. D. Nichol, Ed.) (353). Review and Herald Publishing Association.]

 

Application:  Sometimes God feels so far away, it is as if He were nowhere near us, just when we need Him most.  If it’s any consolation, even Jesus felt that way once while hanging from the cross at Calvary.  With the weight of the sins of the world on His shoulders, it seemed to Jesus as if He had been abandoned by His own Father with Whom He had shared eternity.  And maybe that scene gives us an indication why we feel so far away from God; sin makes us feel far from Him who is so close to us!

That’s why these words from the Apostle Paul, declared to the Greek philosophers, are so encouraging.  He wasn’t reminding some Christians that God us near to us; He was telling those who didn’t even know or believe in God.  What that tells me is that God is near each of us even when we reject Him, deny Him, or even rebel against Him.  He reminds of His presence with words such as, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Heb. 13:5), or “I am with you always, even unto the end of the world” (Mat. 28:20 ASV).

On those days when we feel alone, abandoned by God, remind yourself of these words and be encouraged by knowing that God is very close to you and your family, that He will never leave us, that He will be with us every step of the way until the end of this race.

 

A Prayer You May Say:  Father God, thank You for being with us, very near to us, even when we don’t feel close to You.  And thank You because You never abandon us in spite of ourselves.

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 Scripture: Then the twelve summoned the multitude of the disciples and said, It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables. Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of  good  reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business; 4 but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” (Acts 6:2-4)

 

Observation:  Give ourselves continually. Or, “persevere.” The same word is used several times in describing earnest conduct on the part of the early Christians (cf. ch. 1:14; 2:42, 46).

To prayer. These godly men, with the memory of Christ’s prayer life still fresh in their minds, placed the need for prayer first on their list. But it should be remembered that prayer includes the public worship of the church, as well as private devotion.

Ministry. Gr. diakonia, the same word as used in v. 1. The seven were to minister material blessings while the Twelve were to be left free to minister the spiritual benefits derived from the Word of God. This they would do through preaching and various forms of teaching. This clearly explains what is meant by “leave the word of God” (v. 2). [The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Volume 6. 1980 (F. D. Nichol, Ed.) (190). Review and Herald Publishing Association.]

 

 

Application:  In the early church, it became evident that the apostles could not to do everything that was expected of them. They were overwhelmed by the many demands for their service. Recognizing they were being stretched beyond the limit, they delegated some of their responsibilities to Godly men able to handle those demands. They chose Stephen and others to perform day-to-day service, so they could have time they needed in their lives to devote “to prayer and to the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:4).

 

Perhaps we are just as guilty as the disciples were. And, just as changes needed to occur for them, the same may be true for us today.   How often do you allow all the busyness of the day to push aside your time for personal devotions?   How often do you have worship together as a family?  Are there better ways of managing our schedule so that every member of the family has time with Jesus?  Forsaking time with God, even when you spend that time with the family, can leave you empty and ineffective. Are we so busy running here and there that there is no time left in the day?

 

The only way to nurture relationships is in time spent together. The same is true of our relationship with Jesus. Our spiritual life grows as we spend time in the study of His word and in talking to Him.  And, another advantage is that as we grow closer to God, our hearts are also drawn closer to our family members.

 

Take care of your spiritual health so you will be strong when difficult times come. And, don’t forget that you, as a parent, are the model to your children when it comes to setting priorities and time management. If you are not spending time with Jesus in your own life, your little ones will not either.  As a family take an inventory to see if perhaps there are things that you need to reorder?

 

A Prayer You May Say: Dear Lord, I want to develop a closer relationship with You. Show me areas of my life where change is needed in order to make this time with You a priority.

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Healing a Broken Relationship

Scripture: Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord. Acts 3:19 (NKJV)

Observation: Today’s text comes from Peter’s sermon on the day of Pentecost. The people gathered there from many nations around the world heard the disciples speak in the languages of these nations, but instead of attributing this miracle to God they said the disciples were drunk. Peter defended or explained what was happening and went on to preach the Good News of salvation to those gathered there.

Application: When mistakes, hurts, or sins enter a marital relationship, the spouses can allow them to fester and infect the entire relationship until an amputation – divorce – seems to be the only way to save them individually. They see no way out, no way to fix it, no way to restore intimacy to their relationship.
Peter’s message is that as much as our relationship with God can be restored when there is repentance, in the same way when there is genuine repentance in our marital relationship there can be forgiveness and full restoration to the intimacy God desires for us to enjoy. This repentance must include full confession and a true recognition that what was done was wrong. There should be no excusing the event, rationalization, or blaming of the other party, but a sincere recognition of what happened and of the pain it caused the other.
The promise from Peter, to those that repent, is that “the times of refreshing” will come. Often I am asked if it is possible to restore a relationship where adultery has taken place. Peter’s words offer encouragement that it is indeed possible. If God can restore our broken relationship with Him, though we fail Him sometimes on a daily basis, He surely can restore our relationship with our spouse. And while the hurt feelings may take a long time to heal, if there is genuine repentance, it will take place and the relationship can be as good, maybe even better than it was before. It was not the adultery which causes the relationship to be better but rather the recognition of wrongdoing and a new appreciation of the spouse and of the relationship they have before God which will turn what could have been a disastrous end into a new beginning with God at the center of the relationship.

Prayer: Father, thank You for restoring our relationship with You and making it even better than before. May that experience be the same in our relationship as spouses and as parents so that when we hurt or fail each other You will restore us and bring us back to the “times of refreshing” You promise.

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