3 Ways to Stop Looking Over Your Shoulder


It seems we are always looking over our shoulder at the other guy and wanting to know what their life is going to be like. We focus a great deal on the other guy’s destiny instead of focusing on what God had called us to in our life. In doing this we often block or slow down the progress of God’s purposes for us. It is true; we all have a bit of Peter in us:

The third time Jesus said to Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. I tell you the truth, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.”  Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!”

 Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them…When Peter saw him, he asked, “Lord, what about him?”

Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.” (John 21:17-23).

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Jesus laid out for Peter his life purpose and destiny. He would lead the flock of God by teaching them the gospel and making disciples. He also revealed that Peter’s calling came with a great price, death. Indeed, Peter did die for his faith. But he will always be remembered as a great leader who preached boldly the word of God and God honored His calling by having many come to a saving knowledge and faith in Jesus Christ.

John, however, had a different calling. He wrote five books of the New Testament. He was a church leader in Jerusalem and eventually Ephesus. Later in his life he was sent in exile to the Island of Patmos where he wrote the book of Revelation. Unlike the martyred Peter, his life ended of natural causes. However, his life did not end in comfort. His mission also came with a very high price tag.

Both Peter and John had very specific missions and definitive ways to live them out. Both cost them greatly, but their mission to spread the gospel of Christ was one. While different in destiny, they both pressed on toward the goal for which God had called them heavenward in Jesus.

This is such a good lesson for those of us who are always looking over our shoulder and either wanting to be someone else or judging the destiny of another. Jesus’s stout words to Peter are also clearly commanded of us, “Follow Me!”

Paraphrasing Jesus’s words, He says, “Focus on Me, My friends. Your mission is important to Me and if you Follow Me as I have commanded you, then the fruit of your labors will be great and I will be glorified!”

Three ways to stop looking over your shoulder:

1. Discover God’s unique calling for your  life by searching the scriptures.

2. Ask the Holy Spirit to show you the gifts and passions He has given you.

3. Focus on those gifts and passions by learning  more about them and then putting them into daily practice.

Concerning others, the only thing we are to do is to pray for them, love, serve, and encourage them. All else is of the devil. Remember, love does not envy, and coveting is a sin.

Who do you need to stop comparing yourself to? What unique calling has God called you to fulfill? How can you only follow Jesus?

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Are You a Hope Giver or a Shame Slayer in Your Child’s Life?


“It’s been discovered that people can live forty days without food, three days without water, eight minutes without air and not even one minute without hope” (Chuck Swindoll). Hope is the greatest essential we need to live life well.

A test to decide if an opportunity, a comment, a sermon, or teaching is flowing from the Hope of Glory is what results: does it shame or build up. The outcome of hope does not put to shame as Romans 5:5 tells us. Shame disgraces, embarrasses, dishonors and humiliates.  Hope on the other hand produces joy, satisfaction, self-respect, and pleasure. It gives vision for the future and a hope for a better life. Jeremiah 29:11 tells us the plans that God has for his people, “…plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Shame imprisons while hope promises.

Are you a hope giver or a shame slayer in your child’s life? ID-10093868

I see too many parents who are in the business of tearing their children down instead of fulfilling the call of “encouraging them and building them up” (1 Thessalonians 5:11). Building up is big business to God. I mean, after all, He sent His Son to the cross to lift us up out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire of sin so our feet could stand UP on a rock and give us a firm place of justification before God. Again, God is in the building up business. And as parents we need to join Him in this business as we BRING UP our children.

Paul instructs fathers to “…not provoke your children to anger; but BRING THEM UP in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). This verse is speaking to fathers specifically, but the truth also applies to mothers. As the wise saying is clear: “The wise woman builds (UP) her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down” (Proverbs 14:1 emphasis added). This proverb is not talking about her house; it’s talking about her family. So, in both situations (father and mother), we see that building up brings parenting to its full completion.

Does this mean we don’t discipline our children? Not at all. However, all discipline should have the aim to pull our children out of the miry pit of offense and place them up on the rock of forgiveness and a fresh new start.

Some examples where a parent can give discipline and hope at the same time are:

  1. In public. Never discipline openly in public. Take your child aside and quietly point out their sin. Once sin is pointed out, give them a new behavior to strive for instead of the one they are engaged in. Take note of this: an open public rebuke humiliates your child, and humiliation is a form of shame. This does not build up; it actually encourages anger to take root in the child’s heart.  Likewise, giving your child a new behavior to have points them onward giving them direction for a better way. Too many parents stop at “no” and forget that children need new direction.
  2. In the family. Again, never discipline in front of the family. Remove the child from the family circle and discuss and discipline the issue in private. Just as a public rebuke humiliates, making your child’s offense at home public dishonors them and their place of dignity in the family. Not to mention, rebuking your children in the family circle inadvertently gives siblings permission to also point fingers to the offender. This encourages family brawling!
  3. In the child. When a child has wronged, remember that consequence is the not the end of the process. Restoration is the end. Whether in public or in the family, once the matter has been discussed, disciplined and corrected, embrace the child with open arms of love and forgiveness. This step in the process is the most important. Without it a child is condemned forever to shame and never feels they can recover. Not enough of restoration in a child’s life can result in despair and even depression.

Hopelessness is a life killer. Discipline, correction and punishment alone are not enough to offer hope. If Jesus had just shed his blood and died on the cross for our sin, it would have produced payment for our sin, and even given us justification before God, but it would have never given us the hope of life. It was the raising UP of Jesus that gives us the hope of life everlasting and total reconciliation with our Heavenly Father.

We can give our children many things in this world. We can feed them, give them a home, a superb education, amazing opportunities, and many material possessions, but if we don’t give them hope, we have destroyed their future of promise. Remember your primary goal as parent is more about who you are building up in your children than the sin you are tearing away from them.

 

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Tough Love Destroys, Learn a Better Way


Tough love is often defined where a child receives negative emotions from the parent as a result of their own choices. Some parents express tough love through unorthodox boundaries, authoritative styles, abusive, belittling or physical violence to control the child. The aim is to change the child. Well, it does change the child, but not in the way a parent originally desires. The problem with tough love is it lacks grace. It only humiliates and pushes children toward anger and permanent separation from family.

Grace love walks with a child from where they are to where they should be; it uses positive emotions that embrace them into a world of biblical boundaries filled with empowerment. It seeks to change the heart not destroy the spirit. With careful and loving guidance, the child chooses to change not the parent for them. No abuse, belittling or physical violence is even considered. Instead prayer, bearing and hoping all things coupled with tenacious perseverance is the backbone of parenting with grace. Hope draws the prodigal back. 

I must make one point for the sake of clarity. Grace love does not deny discipline; nor does it remove the withholding of rewards; instead these are seamlessly used with the keys of mercy, evenhanded boundaries and hope to turn a child around.

ID-100224879 Never fight the fire of a wayward child with the fire of tough love. It only ends in a forest fire of damaged relationships. But when grace meets this    fire, sacrifice brings mercy, reconciliation and life to the child. To love our children with grace is to meet their bad behavior with good will; this often means we lay down our own rights of anger for the sake of bringing our children to repentance.

         Let us never forget the grace love our Father in Heaven has lavished  upon us…

“But God shows his great love (good will) for us in this way: Christ died for us while we were still sinners. So through Christ we will surely be saved from God’s anger, because we have been made right with God by the blood of Christ’s death. While we were God’s enemies, he made friends with us through the death of his Son. Surely, now that we are his friends, he will save us through his Son’s life” (Romans 5:8-10).

Take note of the positives in this passage:

  1. God shows great love.
  2. Christ died while we were sinners.
  3. We are saved from God’s anger.
  4. We have been made right with God by the blood of Christ’s death.
  5. We have been made friends through the death of His Son.
  6. We are saved through the Son’s life (resurrection).

I see nothing negative in this parenting style. We don’t see that…

  1. God withheld His love
  2. Death was demanded of sinners.
  3. God’s anger was poured upon us.
  4. We’ve been isolated from God.
  5. We’ve been denied relationship with God.
  6. Salvation is conditional upon our changed life first.

I see no tough love dished out to us. All sacrifice was placed upon our Father in Heaven through His Son.  Jesus (the embodiment of grace love) is the Way, the Truth and the Life. He is our positive example when it comes to loving our wayward children. Praise you, Jesus! 

 

God’s response to the cry of a suffering parent and child…


Dear one, My ear has turned to your cry. I am here. You have called to Me and now watch me show you the treasures of My great love for you. My mission is to save you with My right hand and rescue you from Your foes. Your foes are often not tangible human beings; they are your own thoughts. You hold onto thoughts that shame you, condemn you and harm you. You allow these to define you. These are of the evil one. They are not mine. My thoughts are of love, courage, and purpose.

You can’t see the light through the mud now, but I can! The shadow of My wings are able to hide you from those thoughts that want to destroy you. And My wings are strong enough to lift you up from the pit and give you new life. All is not lost; all is incubating for that right time where a new birth will be revealed.

For a little while suffering will have its way in you, but it will not define you. Know that the pathway to hope starts with the first step of suffering. Out of this suffering, My strength will teach you perseverance and create a new character of courage in you. Once you have moved through this journey of testing, hope will be your victory and victory will be your friend. 

Soon, my dear one, you will march on the heights of triumph. And this season will be over. When I arise, it means I am ready to do something great and wonderful in your life! I have arisen! I am coming on the rays of hope just for you! Stand with Me and let’s move together into the sunlight. We will do this! We will win!

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“I call on you, O God, for you will answer me, give ear to me and hear my prayer. Show the wonder of your great love, you who save by your right hand those who take refuge in you from their foes. Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings from the wicked who assail me, from my mortal enemies who surround me” (Psalm 17:6-9). 

“…we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us”                                                                                                                                                                               (Romans 5: 3-5). 

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5 Ways to Turn Sibling Rivalry into Sibling Teamwork


Warren Weirsbe tells of a converted Indian’s story that illustrates the battle between our sinful nature and the Spirit of God in our souls. I couldn’t help but think of the sinful nature rearing its ugly head in sibling rivalry.

“I have two dogs living in me – a mean dog and a good dog. They are always fighting. The mean dog wants me to do bad things, and the good dog wants me to do good things. Do you want to know which dog wins? The one I feed the most!”

Children fight with each other. It is common and even expected. But it should never be accepted! Their little sinful natures are at work and they want to serve self, but they must learn to serve others. Sibling rivalry can continue when a parent takes sides with one child instead of giving both children opportunities to love each another. In this instance and only speaking to the sinful nature of a child, a parent can often feed the mean dog and not feed the good one. We  must remember as parents, our role is not to take sides; our job is to unite sides to a healthy godly solution where both children learn to do what Christ’s prayed for, “…be brought to complete unity” (John 17:23). If a parent takes sides and pits one child against the other, they have aborted the very plan Jesus prayed concerning His followers. And it just gets uglier when their children become adults!

When my children were young I had a conversation with my children on unity. I said to them, “I want all of you to be very close. I want you to love each other, support each other, and never forget one another. One day when you are grown, you may move miles apart, but never forget the bond you have in this family and the union you have in Christ.”

Thankfully, God has blessed Dan and me with children who deeply love one another, but this did not happen with ease and never without intention.

We taught our children to …

  1. Love each other in prayer. When one was hurting or in need, we had them lay hands on the one and pray for God to provide. When one did well, they learned to praise God for His provision for each other.
  2. Love each other by talking with each other. When differences arose, they were to talk it out and come up with resolutions that served the other not just themselves. I remember one time when two of my children were at total odds with each other and there seemed to be no resolving it. I put them in a room together and told them if they did not figure a way to calmly work this out and come to me with how, they would stay in that room until they did – no playing and no dinner; they only way out was resolution. This happened one time and one time only!
  3. Love each other in participation. Our children were required to attend each other’s extra-curricular activities: piano recitals, ball games, dance recitals, etc. They were there to cheer not complain; complaining was corrected and cheering was rewarded. This taught them to think outside their own life and look out to another’s.
  4. Love each other with God’s word. They were taught to use God’s word to correct, rebuke and encourage each other with patience and careful instruction. The word of God was their course of counsel. When one sinned, they learned to confront the one in love not condemnation.
  5. Love each other in play and sharing. They learned to enjoy each other’s company as they played together in activities they shared: the sandbox, the playground, biking, swimming, building Legos, coloring, drawing, and their all-time favorite – playing with flour and water creating a grand mess! Sharing and respecting what each other owned was a must.

Our children have grown from being siblings to becoming friends to now being life-time partners in the gospel. They show the love of Christ instead of the discord of siblings.

Did my children fight when they were young? Oh yes, indeed they did! Did they always agree? Absolutely not! In these, we took the time to insist on resolution between arguments and a quick remedy to their little conflicts.

Patience did not come easy to some. Two in particular had constant battles, but we never gave up on helping them resolve them. These two are now very close and have discovered that their differences are actually blessings to each other’s weaknesses. My oldest son is the introverted factual deep thinker; he gives strength and self-control to my second son who is the extroverted, spirited and relevant one. The younger provides enthusiasm, feeling and application to the older one’s depth. They partner together teaching a small group of believers. Watching them use their differences that at one point would have killed each other to now furthering the gospel of Christ is dear to this mom’s heart! The goal for parents is not to prevent sibling rivalry, but instead to turn it into sibling teamwork!

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It all boils down to feeding the good dog not the mean one. However, many a time parents don’t take the time to feed the good dog. And siblings grow up hating one another for their differences instead of seeing the gift each has to offer to their friendship.

John gives us an introspective challenge, whether we are dealing with sibling rivalry or just conflict among our brothers and sisters in Christ. He focuses us to look in, and check our place when it comes to which dog we are feeding:

“Here’s how you tell the difference between God’s children and the Devil’s children: The one who won’t practice righteous ways isn’t from God, nor is the one who won’t love brother or sister. A simple test” (1 John 3:10 MSG). Ouch! Let it sting, but only so it will rectify.

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Seven Reasons to Give Your Child a Sabbath


God is a good Father to us all! His rules are rules of love not condemnation. He has no desire to deprive us. His aim is to always revive us. In one way that He revives families is He instructs them to take a Sabbath – a day of physical and mental rest – a day to remember His blessings, to reflect on His goodness and return to His love.

God, in His timeless power took His creation of the Sabbath seriously. Not because He was tired, but because He modeled for us a behavior that would refuel us and reconnect us with His heart. He, God the Father, Jesus Christ, the Son of God gave us, His children a day of rest. What a loving Father!

Parents, we need to love as our Father in Heaven does and give our own children the same gift of rest – a day off from work, school, chores, and even the plethora of activities they are involved in. Let them play – be free of worries. Teach them to lay aside the long to –do lists they have. Give your children one day a week where they play in the sandbox, run free at the park, go swimming, cook and make a mess with flour…in other words give them a day of unadulterated play.

You will also benefit from such a day as this!

Besides being a command from God, there are seven reasons we give our children a Sabbath…

  1. It increases a strong desire to do well in school.
  2. It empowers excellence in their activities.
  3. It gives focus to their goals.
  4. It makes their sleep satisfying at night.
  5. It gives hope to their future dreams.
  6. It makes possible innovative creativity.
  7. It strengthens relationships with their family and friends.

I knew a home school mom who taught her children seven days a week! Fear of having gaps in her children’s education, she used three curricula to teach each subject. For example, annually each child had three English curricula, three Math, three History, three Science, etc. These children never played. Their play was swimming lessons, ballet recitals, co-ops – structure, structure, structure. On occasion when I would visit this woman, I saw tired worn out children doing chores. Grant it, their house was immaculate, but the bags under the eyes of her children were disheartening.

Parents, be careful to not give into the lie that if we work more, do more, and strive harder we will be more successful. This lifestyle in the end has the adverse effect. A regular Sabbath increases cognitive attention, creates strong family relationships; it gives peace to a weary soul, multiplies successful achievements in our child’s work and makes for more obedient children.

Often the whine and arguing coming from a child does not indicate he needs a time out in discipline, instead he just may very well need a time out to rest and play!

Play time often communicates Sabbath time to children!

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The Sabbath is not on our to-do list, it’s a gift to be given.  A present to be opened.  An endowment of love.

Jesus said to the over-achievers – workaholics (Pharisees) of His day, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27-28). Let us submit to the Lord of the Sabbath not the many lords of workaholicism.

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3 Actions that Keep You from Pushing Your Child Over the Edge


Sitting at a gymnastic school waiting for my two children (ages 8 and 6 at the time) to finish their class, I met a mom who shared with me all the accomplishments her child of four was making. Many of the moms were engaged as this mom told us of the apparent genius her son was as he was already doing Algebra! Wow! She went on to share how every night her husband spent his evenings teaching this young one how to solve algebraic equations. I was impressed! After all my four-year old was counting to 20 at best using blocks, rocks and cookies! I felt far behind the ball of success…then I began to wonder, “Is this genius child enjoying his childhood or is he being pushed too soon into adulthood?” I don’t know the answer for this specific child as I only had the one conversation with the mom, but it did spur some pondering on my part.

Every age that our children are at is the age they should be allowed to enjoy. I have noticed in my years of parenting that parents (including myself) want so much for their children that often they make the mistake in giving them more than they are ready for. Even Jesus said about his disciples, “I have much more to say to you, more than you can bear…” (John 16:12). While Jesus is speaking to truth being revealed to his followers, He was also very sensitive to what His followers could bear at this point and time in their life.

The thought occurred to me as I listened to this mom, “Teaching Algebra at such a young age could very well mean that there are many mathematical steps being skipped along the way; steps that are essential to the success of child’s understanding of mathematics.” Likewise, every age is a stepping stone to learning how to live life with maturity, success and confidence. When we rush our children through their childhood, we don’t mature them or make them smarter, we push them over the edge. We stress them and create expectations that are not obtainable. We run the risk of raising children into anxious adults.

Babies should enjoy the sweet time of cuddles, love and tender care. Toddlers should be allowed to explore, taste, see, smell and wonder at God’s great creation. Preschool children should excitedly learn to play, take nature walks and grow in skills of attention. Young elementary children should gain confidence as they strengthen their cognitive skills. Older elementary children eagerly begin the rigorous schedule of school’s demands and a world of possibilities. Teens start to make plans and mature into life’s expectations. All ages, with love, play, discovery and suitable time schedules, produce lives that view the world with a jovial perspective. Children that are allowed to grow naturally within their own boundaries are often children who exhibit confidence and success in all they do.

In our attempt to give our children everything before their time, we end up giving them stress instead. If we are not careful, we could be robbing them of their childhood. And a person robbed of childhood acts on it in adulthood – this produces a disastrous result! It’s so important to let your children be kids. Let them grow at their own pace. Introduce to them what is appropriate to their age.

What are three actions you can do that keep you from pushing your children over the edge?

  1. Be patient. Don’t rush their growth. Each child has their own God-ordained time schedule. 
  2. Enjoy them. Play with them; learn with them. For a time is coming where their tender young age will be over.
  3. Eagerly look forward to new adventures with your children. Each age is special and each age brings new experiences where you both bond closer. Don’t miss these moments! Don’t jump too soon into them! Look forward to each one!

Life is a journey; don’t skip the journey just to get to the destination. As we all know so well, the demands of adulthood come too soon; it’s nice to look back at the carefree, untroubled childhood we once had and smile at our memories. Let your children make these same memories; it makes being an adult all the sweeter.  ID-10075285

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