Looking to Jesus’ example in discipling our children

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(Photo courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

Some folks think of Christ only as “a good example.” We know better, of course. We know He is the Son of God, the “brightness of His glory and express image of His Person,” our Lord and Savior. But sometimes we forget that He is also our example in all things, that He was tempted in all points like as we are, yet without sin.

One day when my kids were much younger I was reading about Jesus’ disciples bickering and was amused to think how like my own children they were. Then I began to think through that concept a little further. Of course, Jesus relationship to His disciples was not exactly that of a parent and child, but there are ways ways Jesus interacted with His disciples that I could apply to my interactions with my own children, who were also my disciples.

We’re told that we’re changed to be more like Him by beholding Him, so let’s look at, mediate on, and glean from His example.

1) Do your children ever bicker?

Are there any children who don’t bicker? Mine used to fuss about everything from who got the front seat to who got the most meatballs. The disciples certainly argued, fussed, and jockeyed for position as well. Jesus dealt patiently with them, correcting whatever it was they were arguing over, pointing them to truth.

2) Do your children ever interrupt your devotions?

Jesus made provision for a quiet time alone with His Father, rising up a great while before day, going out alone, staying up at night. When the disciples would seek Him out and interrupt Him, He did not seem to get frustrated or angry; He didn’t rebuke them: He just dealt with the matter at hand.

Finding time, solitude, and quietness to spend time with the Lord is one of the hardest things for mothers, especially when children are young. Rosalind Goforth, wife of Jonathan Goforth of China, wrote in her book, Climbing, that if she tried to get up early to have devotions, it only started “the circus” that much earlier as the children would hear her and get up.

Though it is frustrating to be interrupted, we need to look at the situation through our children’s eyes, and picture them looking for Mommy and being met with scowlings and scoldings when they find her with her Bible. What is their reaction going to be toward their mother and toward the Bible she is reading?

A friend of mine once told me of a childhood memory in which she was looking for her mother and walked into her mother’s bedroom. She found her on her knees, weeping, at her bedside. She felt she had walked into something sacred, and the memory never left her. That incident got me to thinking that perhaps I could look on my children’s interruptions of my devotional time as beneficial to them, that perhaps they needed to see their mother reading her Bible and praying in the ordinary course of the day. So, instead of getting frustrated at the pitter-patter of little feet when I got up early to have devotions, I began to include my children, either reading out loud to them or praying with them, or just allowing them to cuddle up beside me quietly. If I really needed to be alone, I could give them quiet instructions or get them involved with a different activity. I don’t know if they will have specific memories of those times, but I trust their own attitudes toward having devotions were influenced favorably, and I hope that seeing their mother in the Word was and will be a blessing to them.

3) Do your children ever misunderstand you?

Jesus’ disciples did not understand why He “must needs go through Samaria,” why He was talking to the woman at the well, what He was talking about when He said He had bread to eat they knew not of, etc. Just so, our children do not always understand why they can’t have more candy, why they can’t go to that party or watch that movie, why they have to move away from their school and friends, why Grandpa died. Sometimes our Lord explained the situation further; sometimes He just went on with what He had to do. Sometimes we can explain things to our children: sometimes hours of repeated explaining still won’t satisfy them. All we can do is try to teach them to trust us and trust the Lord, to trust and obey.

Those lessons of faith provide building blocks for their future experiences with the Lord, as Romans 5:3-4 remind us: “tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope.” Once when we had to move due to my husband’s job, which was, of course, a trying situation for the whole family, we tried to keep the focus on what the Lord had for us around the bend. Our children found that they liked their new church and school situation much better and made good friends. Some years later we faced the possibility of another move, and once again they faced that possibility gloomily. Yet we could remind them of the outcome of their previous experience with moving, and, though they weren’t excited about the prospect, they could face it in faith.

4) Do your children ever try to distract you from God’s purposes for you?

One time Jesus had healed people all day. When His disciples sought Him out the next morning to tell Him that people were seeking Him, He told them He needed to go to other towns and preach: His primary purpose was to preach, not heal everyone at that time (Mark 1: 32-39). This kind of distraction seems to be an outgrowth of misunderstanding, and a simple explanation set things straight.

We, too, are faced with myriads of opportunities these days, both as individuals and as families, in the spiritual realm as well as the secular. Sometimes a family has to look at the bigger picture and eliminate things that are not wrong in themselves, but would be a drain of time and energy and a distraction from our main purposes. For instance, one of my teen-agers had an opportunity one summer to go on a mission trip, attend two different camps, and work at another camp for six weeks. He couldn’t possibly do all of that. In addition, we needed to paint his room and wanted him to be a part of that experience as training for when he became the head of a household with those responsibilities. Plus there were youth group activities scattered throughout the summer. And he really needed to get a part-time job and start saving for college. It isn’t easy to sort through all of the good opportunities, and there may be differences of opinion as to which ones to take advantage of and which to eliminate. But we trusted that as we sought the Lord’s wisdom and discussed all the possibilities, the best ones were chosen.

Sometimes, however, distraction from God’s purposes is a matter of unyieldedness. Peter went so far as to rebuke Jesus when He spoke of His coming death. He got a strong rebuke from Jesus in return.

5) Do your children ever not “get” what you are trying to teach them?

This happened so often with the disciples! Jesus just kept laying line upon line, precept upon precept, and went on with what He had to do, knowing they would understand in time. And we have to do that, too, as parents.

Sometimes He did question them (for example, when they were on the boat during the storm while Jesus was asleep. They woke Him up, saying, “Carest Thou not that we perish?” After He stilled the storm, He asked, “Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith?”) Sometimes He rebuked them (Mark 16:14: “Afterward he appeared unto the eleven as they sat at meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen him after he was risen.”) Sometimes we need to be patient with our children’s immaturity (just as our Lord is patient with ours), but sometimes they, too, need a stern rebuke when they should “know better.”

6) Do you love your children, knowing full well they will fail you and disappoint you?

Jesus certainly does, with the disciples and also with us. The most poignant example, to me, was before His crucifixion, knowing the disciples would forsake Him and that Peter would deny Him. “But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not.” We cherish the best expectations for our children: “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (I Cor, 13:7). But just as “he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust,” so we know that our children are only human and will fail from time to time. Though there may be consequences to deal with, by God’s grace we always love them and offer to them the same forgiveness He offers us. “Like as a father pitieth his children, so the LORD pitieth them that fear him” (Ps 103:13).

I am sure that there are many more examples than this of our Lord’s example to us on earth that we could apply to parenting: His love for them, His instructing, illustrated by stories they could comprehend; His teaching them the work of the ministry by example and then by sending them out on their own, etc. How good to know that He knows exactly what we go through as parents and that He will give us the wisdom, compassion, and grace we need!

 And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. John 1:14

(Postscript: This is revised from an article I wrote years ago that was published in a magazine which I cannot find now but which I think is no longer published. It would take too long and probably not be very interesting to relate the details, but something I read yesterday touched off a series of thoughts which eventually reminded me of this article, led to an unsuccessful search for my copy of the magazine, and then a successful find of a draft of it in an old computer file. I hope it is an encouragement to you.)

(Sharing with Wise Woman, Faith on Fire)

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Dealing With Disappointment and Discouragement

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Most parents thoroughly enjoy pleasing their children. There’s nothing like causing a child to smile or laugh in delight. But even the best and most well-meaning parents have to say no to their children sometimes.

We can’t have candy now because dinner is almost ready. If you eat candy now, you won’t want your dinner.

In a few minutes we need to put away toys and get ready for bed.

I’m sorry, we can’t go to the splashpad today. It’s too cold.

No matter how kindly these things are said, the disappointment still stings sometimes, and for the very young, diversion sometimes helps. But as children mature, parents expect them to handle some level of everyday disappointment with some maturity. Of course, the disappointments can escalate (a broken heart, not making the team or the cast, feeling left out of a group) and will need more counsel and comfort.

Like our pint-sized counterparts, we all have to face disappointments and the accompanying discouragement. A lot of it boils down to not getting what we want: The promotion went to someone else, the loan was denied, our love interest loves someone else. For me recently, I had gone to an appointment quite discouraged because it was six weeks post-op, and I thought everything was supposed to be healed and functioning well at that point, and it wasn’t. I thought I would have to face another procedure, which I had really wanted to avoid. But the doctor said everything was progressing like it should. Even so, I felt down for several days and couldn’t figure out what the problem was until I realized it was just the disappointment not being “done” with this issue by now as I had thought I would be.

Sometimes the disappointment is due to misinformation, as in my case. Sometimes it’s a mistaken impression of what we need. Like a child who needs to get ready for bed because his parents know he needs rest and can see he is dangerously close to a meltdown, our heavenly Father knows that the thing we want, while not wrong in itself, is not what we need right now. Sometimes disappointment comes when other people don’t live up to our expectations or want something different from what we want. Sometimes other people are blissfully unaware or downright cruel. Sometimes it’s getting something we don’t want – an illness or an annoying neighbor.

Whatever the cause of disappointment, we need to put it in perspective. We had the wrong information: ok, we factor in the new information and adjust. We didn’t get something we wanted: then that was not meant for us, and something else is. Perhaps God withheld it for that exact reason, because He has something better waiting for the right time. In a book I am reading, the author was disappointed at not being asked to minister in her new church in a particular way (music), but then an opportunity opened up to minister in a different way (teaching) that she found she loved and thrived in. If it involves an opportunity, job, or person, then we continue to grow and develop and seek out new opportunities while praying for guidance. If it involves a failure, we examine it to see where things broke down so we can learn and grow from it. Christina Rossetti said, “A fall is not a signal to lie wallowing, but to rise.” Conflict resolution could take a whole different post, but if our disappointment involves disagreement with another person, we seek to resolve it in the best way possible. We’re not doormats, never having an opinion or a will of our own, but we also realize the universe does not revolve around us, that there has to be some give and take in a relationship. If another has failed us, we seek God’s help to be gracious, remembering the times that we have failed as well, forgive as we have been forgiven. Sometimes we’re disappointed in what we did receive: When I got transverse myelitis, I sometimes lamented to the Lord that surely I could serve Him better without it. But he showed me that limitations don’t hinder ministry: they just define it. Some disappointments come just because we live in a fallen world: this isn’t heaven.

It might take a while for our feelings to catch up with the perspective we’re trying to gain and maintain. It’s not wrong to grieve over a disappointment, but we can “feed” it and hang onto it longer than necessary. As we take our thoughts captive and remind ourselves of truth, eventually the feelings will lessen. Maybe someday we’ll see why we were denied what we wanted; maybe we’ll even rejoice at the direction that disappointment led us, like the author we mentioned. Maybe we’ll never know this side of heaven.

But we can trust our kind, loving, and wise Father and bring all our concerns to Him.

One more thought: I’ve read a number of articles that seem to indicate that whatever we have a problem with, it’s due to our making an idol out of it. If I am disappointed that my children aren’t obeying, I have made an idol out of being a perfect parent; I am disappointed at not getting that item or opportunity because I had set it up as an idol in my heart. Now, that may be the case. We’re all too prone to idol-making of some kind. But disappointment does not necessarily indicate a lurking tendency to idolatry. Consider David’s words in Psalm 142, written when he was hiding in cave and dealing with disappointments on several fronts:

1 I cried unto the Lord with my voice; with my voice unto the Lord did I make my supplication.

I poured out my complaint before him; I shewed before him my trouble.

When my spirit was overwhelmed within me, then thou knewest my path. In the way wherein I walked have they privily laid a snare for me.

I looked on my right hand, and beheld, but there was no man that would know me: refuge failed me; no man cared for my soul.

I cried unto thee, O Lord: I said, Thou art my refuge and my portion in the land of the living.

Attend unto my cry; for I am brought very low: deliver me from my persecutors; for they are stronger than I.

Bring my soul out of prison, that I may praise thy name: the righteous shall compass me about; for thou shalt deal bountifully with me.

As with so many of the psalms, David poured out his heart to God, reminded himself of the truth he knew, encouraged himself in the Lord, and renewed his hope in Him. Asaph and others did as well. And by God’s grace we can do the same.

(Sharing with Inspire Me Monday, Literary Musing Monday, Glimpses, Soul Survival, Wise Woman, Tell His Story, Faith on Fire)

***Please note, I am not talking in this post about clinical depression. Though the principles discussed will help, depression is a bigger issue needing more than encouragement and perspective. If you feel you may be suffering from depression, please see your doctor. Likewise, deep grief, like the loss of a loved one, is a bigger issue than disappointment and discouragement, and though many of the truths here still apply, dealing with grief is more involved.

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Nice, but still a rebel

You can hardly read Facebook, especially during election season or any kind of controversy, or just about any comments on anything online, without wishing people would be nicer to each other. We’re all so prone to forget the admonition to treat others with the same respect and grace with which we would want to be treated, especially when we deem them wrong in some way..

But is it possible to be thoroughly nice and still not right with God? Some years ago while reading Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis, I came across a passage where he discusses that. It’s from the chapter “Beyond Personality” in a section concerning the truth that you can sometimes have an unsaved person who is actually nicer than some Christians. Lewis goes into many reasons for that which I won’t reproduce here, but one reason has to do with general disposition. Person A may be a quieter, calmer person and generally nice and personable, yet unsaved. Person B may have a more excitable personality and a fiery temper which the Lord has been giving him grace to overcome, and he may be a lot better than he was, yet compared with Person A he doesn’t seem as nice. Lewis then goes on to say (emphasis mine):

If you have sound nerves and intelligence and health and popularity and a good upbringing, you are likely to be quite satisfied with your character as it is. “Why drag God into it?” you may ask. A certain level of good conduct comes fairly easily to you. You are not one of those wretched creatures who are always being tripped up by sex, or dipsomania, or nervousness, or bad temper. Everyone says you are a nice chap and (between ourselves) you agree with them. You are quite likely to believe that all this niceness is your own doing: and you may easily not feel the need for any better kind of goodness. Often people who have all these natural kinds of goodness cannot be brought to recognize their need for Christ at all until, one day, the natural goodness lets them down and their self-satisfaction is shattered….

If you are a nice person — if virtue comes easily to you — beware! Much is expected from those to whom much is given. If you mistake for your own merits what are really God’s gifts to you through nature, and if you are contented with simply being nice, you are still a rebel: and all those gifts will only make your fall more terrible, your corruption more complicated, your bad example more disastrous. The Devil was an archangel once; his natural gifts were as far above yours as yours are above those of a chimpanzee.

….We must not suppose that even if we succeeded in making everyone nice we should have saved their souls. A world of nice people, content in their own niceness, looking no further, turned away from God, would be just as desperately in need of salvation as a miserable world — and might even be more difficult to save.

For mere improvement is no redemption, though redemption always improves people even here and now and will, in the end, improve them to a degree we cannot yet imagine. God became man to turn creatures into sons: not simply to produce better men of the old kind but to produce a new kind of man

If what you want is an argument against Christianity (and I well remember how eagerly I looked for such arguments when I began to be afraid it was true) you can easily find some stupid and unsatisfactory Christian and say, “So there’s your boasted new man! Give me the old kind.” But if you once have begun to see that Christianity is on other grounds probable, you will know in your heart that this is only evading the issue. What can you ever really know of other people’s souls — of their temptations, their opportunities, their struggles? One soul in the whole creation you do know: and it is the only one whose fate is placed in your hands. If there is a God, you are, in a sense, alone with Him. You cannot put Him off with speculations about your next door neighbors or memories of what you have read in books. What will all that chatter and hearsay count (will you even be able to remember it?) when the anesthetic fog which we call “nature” or “the real world” fades away and the Presence in which you have always stood becomes palpable, immediate, and unavoidable?

Jim Berg quotes Lewis in Changed Into His Image and then goes on to say:

Surprising as it may seem, there are many of us who really try to be good, not because we are allowing God to work in our lives to produce His fruit, but because it seems that life has fewer snags when we stay out of trouble. We often achieve the accolades and image we want. We can become smug around others who aren’t doing right and can become easily embittered during the times when we are being good and don’t get what we want.

We sometimes think we are pretty good people who “mess up” once in a while. The biblical picture is just the opposite: we are pretty bad people who do right only by the grace of God.

The true strength of my sinful heart…was not fully known to me until I resisted it.

“Being good” can be just our own way of making life work without God.

One of my friends had a hard time coming to the Lord for that very reason — she felt she was every bit as good as the people witnessing to her and therefore didn’t “need” to be saved. Thankfully the light finally broke through.

 The Bible tells us that “we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away” (Isaiah 64:6, KJV). Next to God’s blazing holiness, our righteousness is like filthy rags.

But how can that be, you might ask. You’re not promiscuous or hateful, you return the money when the cashier gives you too much back, you give to good causes, you drive the speed limit.

Think of it this way. Jesus said the greatest command is to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. So it follows that the greatest sin is breaking this commandment…and we all fail in that way several times a day. Plus the Bible tells our our heart is deceitful, so there are likely ways we sin that we don’t realize.

This is a paltry comparison, but imagine you have a favorite white shirt that still looks pretty good to you. But one day in the store you find another white shirt and decide to get it, and, when you bring it home and hang it up next to your old one, you’re horrified to see that your old one, which looked perfectly fine to you the day before, now looks grey and worn next to the bright new one.

The only righteousness that meets all the qualifications for heaven are His.

For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes (Romans 10:2-4, ESV).

And be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith (Philippians 3:9, ESV).

Christ took our unrighteousness on Himself on the cross, and when we repent of our own way and believe on Him, He credits His righteousness to our account. As Chris Anderson’s hymn, “His Robes For Mine,” says:

His robes for mine: O wonderful exchange!
Clothed in my sin, Christ suffered ‘neath God’s rage.
Draped in His righteousness, I’m justified.
In Christ I live, for in my place He died.

So, I am all for being nice and wish the world contained more niceness. But before God, being nice is not enough. Instead of trying to make our own righteousness come up to Him, an impossible task, we need the righteousness that comes from Him. If, like me, you’ve made that exchange, rejoice with me in His grace. If not, I invite you to come to Him today.

(Revised from the archives. Sharing with Inspire Me Monday, Literary Musing Monday, Glimpses, Soul Survival, Tell His Story, Woman to Woman Word-filled Wednesday, Wise Woman)

No Pat Answers

If you’ve ever read one of those “Things not to say when someone’s loved one has died” articles, one of the phrases we’re advised not to use is, “They’re in a better place.” Though in the long run that is a comfort, at first it just rubs salt in the wound of their not being here. Another that bothers me is, “They’ll always be with you.” There is a sense in which that is true, and I know what the person is trying to communicate, but inwardly I want to scream, “No, they’re not with me – that’s why I miss them so much!

When someone expresses loneliness, especially a single person, he or she is likely to be admonished that our relationship with God is sufficient, that we should treasure Him to the point where we are content in Him alone and don’t really need anyone else. But we forget that God Himself said, “It is not good that the man should be alone” and designed us for interaction with others. Yes, sometimes He brings us to a place of loneliness to teach us something or develop something in us, and sometimes the purpose is to draw us closer to Himself. But just as we would acknowledge Joni Eareckson Tada’s 50 years in a wheelchair as a hard thing, even though God has brought immense good out of it, so we should acknowledge the hard places God sometimes brings our loved ones to without being flippant about it.

And, of course, social media abounds with pat answers and knee-jerk reactions, often reflecting a lack of understanding of the bigger scope of the issue.

When someone says they are having a particular problem, our minds tend to race through the applicable spiritual principles or Bible verses we know so we can whip one out and slap it on like a spiritual band-aid. There. Fixed! All better now.

Besides making the person feel worse instead of better, we make them feel like they haven’t been truly heard and like it’s not safe to share what’s really on their hearts.

But aren’t we supposed to help our friends spiritually and turn their focus back to the Lord? Sure. But first we’re to listen. “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger” (James 1:19). And we’re to empathize. “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15). I’ve heard it said that Job’s three friends did more for him when they sat with him in silence for a week than when they misadvised and misapplied spiritual truth to him for the next several chapters.

Sometimes it’s best in the moment just to say, “That’s hard. I don’t understand it. But I am praying for you.” Or just squeeze the person’s hand or give them a hug. Then, relying on the Holy Spirit’s leading and discerning whether the person would be open to it, we can try to minister to them in other ways. And, true, sometimes we do need to share truth even when the other person isn’t quite ready to hear it, in the hopes that God will use that truth to speak to them. But we need to give careful, prayerful, thoughtful responses and not pat answers.

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2.

A man hath joy by the answer of his mouth: and a word spoken in due season, how good is it! Proverbs 15:23.

Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. Ephesians 4:29.

(Sharing with Inspire Me Monday, Literary Musing Monday, Glimpses, Soul Survival, Tell His Story)

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It’s not for nothing

Joni Eareckson Tada recently passed the 50 year mark in her wheelchair as a result of a diving accident in her teens. I just cannot imagine – it would definitely take the grace of God to do that. I read a number of articles about this milestone, especially her testimony here, but this one had me thinking for a long while afterward, not just about Joni, but about her helpers.

The article mentions a wake-up crew who helps Joni get out of bed and ready for the day every morning. I can empathize with how hard that would be, even with joyful and willing helpers. We so easily take for granted the ability to use the bathroom on our own or brush our own teeth and hair.

But I thought of these helpers from this angle: many of us aren’t comfortable or don’t feel qualified to be the out-front people. We prefer to be behind the scenes, enabling someone else in their ministry. We can’t have the unique ministry Joni does, but we’d be overjoyed to have a minuscule part in helping her.

But what about those who need that kind of care and don’t have any kind of public ministry? Who don’t speak and seem less and less present every day? Like the thousands of contracted, shriveled, seemingly vacant forms in nursing homes. Like my own mother-in-law.

I’ve written before that I am not a “natural” caregiver like many people I know. I don’t think I could ever have been a nurse. But every angle we have looked at it over the years comes back to the conviction that this is the best place for her at this time (I’ve shared before our journey with my mother-in-law through assisted living, nursing home, and then to our home.) And, like Moses, Gideon, Jeremiah, and others who didn’t feel qualified to do what God was calling them to do, we trust Him for His grace to do it. And He provides, not in one fell swoop of “feeling” qualified, but in the day-by-day ministrations from Him through us.

Sometimes it seems like it’s all for nothing, this trying to encourage food into someone, cleaning up the results of eating, changing position, showering, keeping comfortable, watching out for skin breakage, etc., when there is less and less response or even recognition from the person who sleeps maybe 20-22 hours day for years now, only to do it all again the next day and the next. My aunt called it “the long good-bye.” My husband describes it as watching someone die one brain cell at a time. Sometimes we can’t help but wonder why God still has her here and when He’ll release her from this crumpled, silent body to her new glorious one in heaven.

I’ve shared before what one friend who cared for a mother-in-law with Alzheimer’s said, that sometimes God leaves them here not so much for what He is doing in their lives, but what He is doing through them in ours, showing us our innate selfishness, teaching us to love unconditionally. And I have found that to be true in my own life as well.

As I remind myself of the truths I know, I thought I’d share them with others who are caregivers now or will be someday, who labor behind the scenes, doing the same thing day after day during a long decline. The care you provide is not for nothing, because:

God has made everyone in His image and that imbues them with value.

Jesus said when we minister to others, we minister to Him.

We should treat others as we want to be treated.

God wants us to honor our parents and care for them. They cared for us and deserve our care in return.

“Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.” James 1:27

“God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shewed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister. Hebrews 6:10

Godly love is about giving and isn’t dependent on what the other can do for us.

“To do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.” Hebrews. 13:16

“With good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men.” Ephesians 6:7

When our children were little, my husband and I often lamented that they wouldn’t remember the youngest stage of their lives and the fun things we did with them, but those years were the foundation of and a major part of the overall relationship. A baby can’t articulate what he needs or thank you for responding to him (at least until he can smile. 🙂 ) But how you care for him matters. He can tell a difference between loving touch and care or harsh treatment. I believe the same is true of the elderly. They may not be able to understand, acknowledge, or define it, but loving care contributes to their overall well-being.

There may be little to no response from the person in our care: some of my friends have even experienced a negative response. There may not be any obvious results from your ministry. But it’s not for nothing. Your loved one or patient would probably tell you how much he or she appreciates your care if they could think right about it and express it. And God knows right where He has you for now and sees your loving care.

(Sharing with Inspire Me Monday, Literary Musing Monday, Glimpses, Mondays @ Soul Survival, Wise Woman, Tell His Story, Faith on Fire)

 

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The Holy Spirit’s Activities

Some time ago I came across a post with a question something like, “Do you believe in the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit or do you believe He is inactive today?” I can’t remember exactly how it was worded, but I do remember it was presented as an either/or proposition: either you believe in what we call the “sign gifts” – speaking in tongues, miraculous healings, etc. – or you believe the Holy Spirit has been basically sitting on the sidelines since the first century.

But that’s an unfair proposition. The Bible presents a number of activities or ministries of the Holy Spirit.

He helps believers.

“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth” (John 14:16-17a, ESV. KJV says “Comforter”).

“Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.” John 16:7.

He assures believers of their relationship with God.

For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. Romans 8:15-17.

By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 1 John 4:13.

He helps us in prayer.

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. Romans 8:26-27.

He helps us to hope.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.  Romans 15:13.

He pours God’s love into our hearts.

And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. Romans 5:5.

He teaches us.

But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. John 14:26 (KJV says Comforter rather than Helper).

He guides us.

When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. John 16:13.

He glorifies Christ.

He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. John 16:14.

He convicts.

Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged. John 16:7-11.

He is involved in our salvation.

Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” John 3:5-6.

For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. Titus 3:3-5.

You know that when you were pagans you were led astray to mute idols, however you were led. Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus is accursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit. 1 Corinthians 12:2-3.

He baptizes us into the body of Christ.

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit. 1 Corinthians 12:12-13.

He gifts us for service.

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills. 1 Corinthians 12:4-11.

He dwells within us.

On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’”  Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. John 7:37-39.

And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee. 2 Corinthians 1:21-22.

You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. Romans 8:9-11.

He seals us.

In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. Ephesians 1:13-14.

And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Ephesians 4:30.

He fills us.

And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit. Ephesians 5:18.

He produces fruit in us.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23.

And this isn’t even an exhaustive study! Some of these things take place once at salvation, some are continuing ministries until we get to heaven (I probably should have separated them into those categories, but this has already gotten much more involved than I planned. Perhaps I’ll come back and do that another time. I’ve come across several things I need to study more just in this brief study.)

My purpose here is not to go into which ministries or gifts of the Holy Spirit are still active today. The great majority of these are still active. The ones that are disputed (tongues, interpretations, healings, miracles. God does still heal and work miracles; the question is whether He uses healers or miracle-workers to do so) have been better handled by others elsewhere, and there is not time and space to deal with them right now anyway. I personally know dear people who love God with all their hearts on both sides of the issue.

My point, rather, is to call attention to all the other things the Holy Spirit does. He is quite active in our day. Why do we get so fixated on those few gifts? Are we just as happy to have the Holy Spirit guide us, teach us, work in us love and gentleness and self-control, glorify Christ in and through us? Or do we prefer the “flashier,” seemingly more exciting and unusual gifts?

Whatever you believe about the “sign gifts” of the Holy Spirit, don’t neglect to study and appreciate all of these other things He does in God’s children.

(Sharing with Inspire Me Monday, Literary Musing Monday, Wise Woman, Woman to Woman Word-filled Wednesday, Faith on Fire)

Lord of the Small Things

I have listened to the CD this song is on before, but heard it this morning for the first time in a long time, and it spoke to my heart:

Praise to the Lord of the small broken things,
who sees the poor sparrow that cannot take wing.
who loves the lame child and the wretch in the street
who comforts their sorrows and washes their feet.

Praise to the Lord of the faint and afraid
who girds them with courage and lends them His aid,
He pours out his spirit on vessels so weak,
that the timid can serve and the silent can speak.

Praise to the Lord of the frail and the ill
who heals their afflictions or carries them till,
they leave this tired frame and to paradise fly.
to never be sick and never to die.

Praise him, O praise Him all ye who live
who’ve been given so much and can so little give
our frail lisping praise God will never despise-
He sees His dear children through mercy-filled eyes.

Words: Johanna Anderson

Music: Dan Forrest

(Sharing with Literary Musing Monday)