40 Days of Parenting – Day 10 Let Your Yes, Be Yes and Your No Be Less


My third child was always into trouble when he was young. He exasperated me every day! I would instruct him to do one thing and he would deliberately do the opposite. It was if this was a game he played and he won when I was extremely frustrated! Do you have one of these strong-willed children?

Frustrated and angry and hopeless, I did not know what to do with this child. In the midst of this, I also know that he had a sweet spirit, curious mind and a no-fear personality. Nothing bothered him except when I said, “No.” Thankful to God, I came across an article that transformed his behavior – and mine, too!

Unfortunately, I don’t have the article, but I do remember the lesson. A mom writes about a similar problem with her child that I was having with mine, and she discovered that she was saying “No” to her child more than she ever said, “Yes.” She challenged parents to count their “nos” in a typical day and compared them to their “yeses.” I found that my “nos” outweighed my “yeses.” As a matter of fact, I hardly ever said yes to this child. Being the third child and middle child, he was getting the left overs of mom’s stress and not getting a fair dealing.ID-100104421

At every chance I had to say no or yes to this child, I considered a couple of things:

Will it matter if I say yes to this one request?

Is saying no to this request about him or about me and my selfishness?

I needed to consider his needs above my own. I often needed to stop whatever I was doing and simply spend time with him. More often than not, my nos had more to do with my selfishness and what I wanted to do at that moment than what my child needed and wanted. Once my yeses started to outweigh my nos, my son’s behavior radically changed to obedience. What is really remarkable is that over time, when I had to say no, it was okay with him. He felt satisfied by the many times I said yes that obeying a few of my nos was okay.

When my son’s and my behavior changed toward one another, we also discovered that we bonded closer. We got to know one another and I got to know his friends, too. You see, one of his many requests was to play next door with his friend. One of the many times I said no to this request he sneakily climbed the fence and went over there anyway! You can only imagine how upset I was when I couldn’t find him! Once I did, I realized that I was missing an opportunity to get to know my neighbor. Sometimes we are just so busy to stop and do what is really important! Amen?

As my son has grown, every neighborhood we have lived in, he has been our greatest evangelist. He has always gotten to know the neighbors long before the rest of us. He has been instrumental in creating opportunities for us to share the gospel with those that need the Lord. Our son’s insistence on having more yeses did transform his behavior and mine, but it has also opened the door for the Lord to work through us in other people.

Lesson  learned: Let your yes be yes, and your no be less.

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Overlook – Restrain – Mature


Such clarity has been brought to my understanding of Matthew 5:38-39 when Jesus taught, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth. But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.” Often the understanding of this is if you are physically abused, you are to endure it. But this teaching has nothing to do with physical abuse as I have just learned. It deals with verbal abuse – a verbal offense. This truly opens up a very different response to those who verbally hurt us.

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To turn the other cheek is to follow what the wise saying of Proverbs says, “A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense (Proverbs 19:11). Additionally, we see that it is better to be a person of knowledge who uses words with restraint, and being a person of understanding reveals that we have an even-tempered maturity. (Proverbs 17:27).

We learn that when we are offended by another person, to overlook it, use few words in response and keep an even temper about yourself. If anything, it is best when hurt verbally to use no words at all! Be quiet, do not charge forward to make your point or get back at the person. Turn the other cheek – look beyond the offense. True love for another is one who seeks to understand the perpetrator. Often our choice to understand can turn the tide of the disagreement to a place of reconciliation and unity.

This takes maturity. It is not easy. When everything in our life is peaceful and no conflict is facing us, we can say a hearty “Amen!” to this truth. But when the offense comes, this truth is hard to follow. This is only fully learned when practiced. Often we fail at first. But the good news is, this new response of love can be learned. After a while, it actually feels good to overlook an offense, seek to understand, because this opens our hearts to love the unlovely and give grace to the offender. We are then able to carry out what Peter writes, “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8).

Now that you have read this and been enlightened (hopefully), expect a practice test. It’s coming!

Image courtesy of anankkml / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

40 Days of Parenting – Day 9 Be Permanent Intercessors


Life can be so busy for a parent; the more children you have the busier it gets. No matter the many demands on your life as a parent, one of the best gifts you can give your child is interceding for them. To be quite frank, to give up on interceding for our children is to literally hand them over to ruin. On the other hand, to pray for our children is an act of love. It’s hope for a better life for them. Praying for them demonstrates patience; it perseveres; it never gives up. There are many specific prayers we can pray for our children that are unique to them; however, it is imperative to pray the following for all of them:

  1. Salvation. Lord, give my child a soft heart to receive your saving grace found only in Jesus.
  2. Holy Spirit Power. Lord, fill them with your Spirit’s power so that all they do and decide will be led by your understanding, not their own.
  3. Fresh insight of the Scriptures. Lord, open their eyes to understand your scriptures; give them fresh insight and application as they make your truth their own.
  4. Godly Character. Lord, give my child character that gives, understands, and loves; give my child a desire to work hard, be honest, dependable and faithful. Lord, infuse your Character into my child’s, so that they will shine your Light to the world around them.
  5. Influence. Lord, make my child an influence on society and protect them from the influence of this world. Keep them from evil; place Your shield of glory around them.
  6. Perseverance. Lord, teach my child to be faithful at long-suffering and waiting on You. Give them the self-control of your Holy Spirit, so they are well-trained in the school of perseverance.

Prayer brings the heart of God into your heart as a parent. This heart fills you with a love that has eyes of humility, understanding and grace for your child. Prayer helps you see them with God’s eyes not your flesh’s eyes. Did you know that if you pray for your children daily, you will improve your parenting skills? Intercession is not just for the other person, it’s also for you. It changes you and your reaction to your child’s mishaps. You end up responding to them with wisdom instead of folly. Prayer has calmed me the most when my children have exasperated me to the brink.

Not giving up on prayer is not only an act of extreme love, it is a practice of endurance. Did you know that Jesus lives to pray for us? Day and night He sits at the right hand of God “always interceding for us” (Romans 7:34).

That’s a lot of praying for me!  

Beside the cross, prayer is one of the greatest ways Christ continues to love us. It’s on-going and I’m sure quite laboring. Praying for our kids is imitating Jesus. It’s hard work and even frustrating as we often will pray over and over for the same thing; but faithfulness begets fruit.

Something to consider: the minute you want to give up on praying, is most likely the moment before the valve of answers is about to burst. ID-10038648 (1)

Don’t give up, keep praying. For it is our life calling to be permanent intercessors for our children.

 

Photo by dan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Leaving Our Post Crashes the Whole Operation


Each Pastor, minister, and member has their very specific roles and area of ministry in the church. God has formed a three-way relationship within the body of Christ in which purposely accomplishes God’s divine will. When all three parts work according to God’s design, great victory is experienced in the church and in the community. God gives us a clear picture of what that three-way relationship looks like in Exodus 17:8-16:

The Amalekites attacked the Israelites. The Amalekites were a people who lifted up their hands against the throne of the Lord. Therefore, Moses told Joshua to choose some men from the Israelites and go out to fight them. Moses said that he would stand on top of the hill with the staff of God in his hands. Joshua did this, and as long as Moses held the staff up high, Joshua had victory, but once Moses’s hands became tired and he let the staff down, the Amalekites had victory. This was a serious problem! Seeing this dilemma, Aaron and Hur helped Moses by going on top of the hill with him; they placed a stone under Moses so he could sit down, and when his hands became weary, Aaron and Hur helped him by supporting his hands holding the staff up high. Their support made it possible for Joshua and his men to have total victory over the Amalekites.  

What stands out in this true story is where the key characters are in relationship to each other. Joshua and his men were down in the trenches fighting the Amalekites. Moses was up on top of the hill overseeing the battle holding up the staff of God with his hands. Aaron and Hur were by Moses side supporting his leadership. This is a perfect picture of the church as we see each person in ministry.

Down in the Trenches

The trenches are where the entire body of Christ is in battle. These people do not necessarily have a “leadership” role, but they do have a very important work! It is here that leadership is developed. Let me ask you, what would have happened if Joshua deviated from the plan of Moses? What if he wanted to be on top of the hill instead of at his post in the trenches?

Joshua was gifted in battle, faithful to God’s honor, and decisive when it came to battle strategy. He was placed in the suitable place of ministry. However, alone he would never have been successful. He needed other men and Moses leading the campaign.

Likewise, it takes the entire church body working together in their gifting to reach the community for Christ. This is not left to the leaders, nor is it left to one person in the body. It takes a team of gifted, faithful, and strategic people to carry out this great work.

Up on Top of the Hill

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Without Moses taking his post above the battle, holding the staff of God up, this battle would have been lost and the victory would have gone to an atrocious dishonoring group of people. Two things we see Moses doing on top of the mountain: leading with his eye on the whole and upholding God’s will.

The Pastor of the church is much like Moses in this respect. He has the unique position that has a top down eye view of all the church’s ministries and how each is impacting the community. He has the awesome responsibility to deliver the will of God via the word of God; after all, the staff of God is the word of God for the church. When the Pastor moves the word of God to the side, we all LOSE THE BATTLE – the battle to save the lost will be lost and the team in the trenches will tirelessly work in the trenches with no fruit to show for it – only burnout.

A real danger I see today is that too many Pastors are in the trenches instead of being at their leadership post. They see the people not involved; they see the people having no success, and what do they do? They leave the hill and jump into battle. Their top down eye’s view becomes clouded with the dirt and dust of the side by side ministry. Getting involved in the battle instead of leading the campaign causes the Pastor to lose sight of the mission God has for the church. This is another way that churches fail.

Sometimes Pastor’s get tired, and being human they get off track, too. They need the support of faithful leaders that stand beside them.  These faithful leaders are placed to keep him out of the trenches and keep him faithful to overseeing the mission, directing its path by holding high the word of God.

Side by Side

The way I see it, Aaron and Hur represent two groups of people in the church setting: ministers (Hur) and elders (Aaron).

Our ministry leaders can represent the administrative, worship, youth, and children’s ministers. Hur represents the support of the ministry. We can make this parallel as we take note that from Hur’s line came faithful men with artistic gifts that worked specifically on the tabernacle. The elders are a continuation of the Pastor’s role in overseeing the church and keeping the word of God at the forefront of ministry. Notice that Aaron was Moses’ right hand man – God placed him by Moses’s side to support him in freeing the Israelites from Egypt and leading them through the desert.  These two groups of people are instrumental in supporting the Pastor’s leadership so that God is victorious through the church they lead.

Without the triangular approach to ministry: Pastor, Elders and Ministers, and the People, we stand to lose at the very mission God has placed on us. Furthermore, each needs to fulfill their own ministry area according to the plan God has laid out for them. Leaving our post crashes the whole operation.

Over and over God instructed Moses that the tabernacle and all its furnishings should be made according to the pattern which He had shown him on the mountain. Equally so, we must run our churches according to the plan that God has instructed. We serve a communal God; He wants His entire body involved in His mission. He does not work as a solo God; He Himself worked together with the Holy Spirit and His Son to create the heavens and the earth; He also works together to teach us to do the same.  However, He wants us to work where He has placed us. We all differ in relationship to each other, but that does not mean we do not have a role and an area to serve that meets the whole.

Paul encourages all of us in God’s mission:”Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly…” (Romans 12:6). Take this seriously, my friends, for when we let our guard down, we are lose the battle! Suit up with your competitive efforts and let’s beat the pants of the Amalekites of our day!

picture the courtesy of dan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

40 Days of Parenting Day 8 – Blessed By Limited Resources


“Better a dry crust with peace and quiet than a house full of feasting, with strife” (Proverbs 17:1).

The more toys children have the happier they will be – so this world teaches. Nothing could be farther from the truth! The simple life is the best life to offer them. As they grow up and have more to contend with, the less they appreciate life. While they do have needs, their needs should never be driven by the greed of things. If not careful, our children will serve these things like slaves. It will create a dissatisfied soul. No longer will their life be theirs, it will belong to the master of materialism. And because you have believed the lie that much is better, you will find yourself in the same game of angst.

Too many children, teens and adults are suffering from anxiety and stress these days. In many cases, stress is killing our society – literally! While I do believe that there are some cases where anxiety is a chemical imbalance and cannot be helped but by medication, the majority is self-induced. More of our society is living at an unhealthy pace, as each drives themselves to having more and more things.

I can remember one morning sitting in my living room feeling like a failure as a parent, because I could not give my children all they wanted; I could not afford to purchase all that their friends were able to have. You see, I chose to be a stay-at-home mom; therefore, I gave up a second income that would have afforded us more. And that morning, God showed me this very Proverb, “Better a dry crust with peace and quiet than a house full of feasting, with strife.” Comforted by my heavenly Father, I was re-directed to the simple life – one without strife.

What seemed like our lack was our gain! I have often thought that God deliberately limited our income, so we could be home more, live simply and develop the most important qualities in our children’s lives: relationship, wisdom, and character. I spent most of my days playing with my kids in the backyard, reading to them, homeschooling, teaching them life skills, and wonderful walks to the park. I loved those walks! Oh, I was tired at night, but not because of strife; instead because of my dry crust – my simple yet fruitful days. This doesn’t mean that the temptation to have more did not rear its ugly head, because it did! But thankfully God helped us along with His limitations on our finances and His direction through His word. I realized that I was blessed by my limited resources.

Working with families in Children’s Ministry for many years, I have seen so many stressed. They are running here and there; their children are lonely. Many children grow up in homes feasting off the land, but they are often home alone. Too many do not know their parents as mom and dad; both parents are always working maintaining their lifestyle.  Their children know them more as the one who gives the hand out instead of the arm embrace. Loss time and relationship is the cost paid.

The pain in these families causes me great pain. I just want to do what Jesus wanted to do for Israel, “gather them with their children, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but many are not willing.” I can encourage, instruct and direct; I can share my own failures and temptations. But the reality is this: parents need to want the simple life more than the stressed life. It will take giving up the idols of this land to do so. It will take sacrifice; cutting back; but the lack as I said earlier is truly our gain.

I praise you, Jesus, for your limitations and for your clear direction. You are our portion; let nothing take its place!

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nuttakit / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Out of the Angel’s Hand


Prayerlessness produces a life that lacks peace and fabricates a power ride of control that finds itself wanting; it bows to bad decisions and every temptation that comes into our life wins. Our flesh becomes weaker and our spirit (though willing) is quenched.

If you are experiencing defeat, despair and doubt – pray.

Specifically bring your requests to the Lord and the angels will have an offering of power to light before the throne of God.

“Another angel came and stood at the altar, holding a golden censer; and much incense was given to him, so that he might add it to the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar which was before the throne. And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, went up before God out of the angel’s hand. Then the angel took the censer and filled it with the fire of the altar, and threw it to the earth; and there followed peals of thunder and sounds and flashes of lightning and an earthquake”(Revelation 8:3-5).

What was mixed with the smoke of incense?ID-100105405

What came out of the angel’s hand?

When the prayers of the saints mixed with incense was filled with the fire from the altar, what happened on the earth?

 

antpkr / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Incense with the prayers of saints goes before our God from the angel’s hand; when thrown to the earth, thunder, lightning and an earthquake are experienced! Now that is moving mountains, my friends! Do not take lightly your prayer life! “…The prayer of a righteous man is (indeed) powerful…” (James 5:16).

Are You Frustrating God?


Do you frustrate God?

Is your sin greater than evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander?

Is your sin silent, unnoticed by others, but loud to God?

Are you limiting His power in your life?

At one point or another we all commit this sin that triggers frustration in God from heaven. We commit this individually, and we commit this as a whole body of Christ in our churches. This very sin not only tries God’s patience, it creates a barrier to miracles in our life. It causes us to live in the shadow of mediocrity instead of the shadow of God’s wings.

Asaph, the Psalmist, laments the lyrics about God’s people, “Oh, how often they rebelled against Him in the desert and grieved His heart in the wilderness. Again and again they tested God’s patience and frustrated the Holy One of Israel. They forgot about His power and how He rescued them from their enemies” (Psalm 78:40-42).

It is incredible to me that we (so small) can test the patience of God, whose patience is mammoth in size compared to ours; for God’s patience exceeds ours by galaxies. We are but a spec on earth, minuscule compared to the greatness of our God, yet we can upset the Holy One of Israel with this one sin that exceeds all sin:

our lack of faith.

The smallness of our faith may move a few pebbles, but never mountains. We may see buds on a vine, but never fruit. Jesus did many miracles in many places on earth, too many to write in a book for there were not enough books to hold all the many wonders He performed. But there was one place that He did very little marvels – His hometown!

Jesus came to His hometown and began teaching the people in their synagogues; they were amazed! But their amazement did not produce praise, honor and faith; it produced questions, doubt and jealousy. They began to ask with indignation, “Where did this man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers? Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother’s name Mary and aren’t’ his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas? Aren’t all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?’ And they took offense at Him” (Matthew 13:53-57). My, my, my how the fruit does not fall far from the tree! These people are just like the ones in the wilderness; they focused on what they knew and what they could understand; they grumbled, complained, and questioned God’s power and His Holy One. It is as if they thought they knew better than God!

Jesus responded, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town and in his own house.”  Jesus was pointing out that God’s own people rejected Him. They rejected God, His Father in the wilderness even after being rescued from their enemies; and they rejected the Holy One of Israel in the day that Jesus, God’s Son was sent to redeem them from their sin. Their response awarded them with very few miracles performed by our Lord as Matthew reports “…Jesus did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith” (Matthew 13:58).

Our lack of faith frustrates God; it tries His patience with us; it limits His power in our life; and then the very worst of all, we live a second-rate unexceptional life in Christ. Not because Jesus is unexceptional or second-rate, but because we have chosen to travel our Christian life on the low road vs. the high.  For trivia purposes, the low road is an instinctive approach that promises a quick fix, but the high road is an intellectual approach that promises longevity. Mediocre faith is instinctive while an exceptional faith is intellectual.

We all have walked this trail of mediocrity. However, we must remember that this path leads to a dead-end in the great things of God. It’s time for a U-turn!  Take another route – one that pleases our God.

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pat138241 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Faith is a lot more than just believing that God can do great things – it is expecting Him to do great things. It’s thanking Him for the miracle before the miracle comes. The writer of Hebrews puts it clearly, “What is faith? It is the confident assurance that what we hope for is going to happen…” (Hebrews 11:1). Notice that little word is; the word used here is not the word “might” or “could.” Is states a powerful proclamation; it speaks promise, vow, pledge…a guarantee. My friends, choose to live in the is of God’s power not the could be, hope to, or might happen. Never go there! Do not shrink in your faith and God won’t shrink in His power. The immeasurably more never comes from a measurable faith.