3 Ways to Encourage Sibling Love


During the Valentine’s Day season we often relate this time to the love a man and woman share. But I would like to speak to the loving bond of siblings.

I have to admit, one of the joys (and frustrations) of parenting is cultivating that bond between brothers and sisters. While on the one hand my children certainly did their fair share of fighting and bickering (the frustrating part), they also engaged in total loyalty and love for one another. However, the latter didn’t come without some intention on our part.

There were many ways that my husband and I encouraged our kids to love each other, but there were three that I’d like to share with you. I hope these three ways will benefit you in doing the same with your kids.

1. Teach them to cheer. As with any parent we had our kids in sports, music lessons, dance and other activities. The temptation was to allow our child’s siblings to do other things while we attended these events. We certainly heard the complaints from our kids: “Do I have to go?  It’s boring!” To not deal with their complaints, it would have been easy just to let them do something else so we could enjoy the game, dance, or recital. But we made a resolute decision; we were going to teach our kids how to cheer for their sibling. We wanted our kids to look beyond themselves and see the need their sibling had for encouragement.

Teaching our kids how to cheer for their siblings and be present during their accomplishments has not only taught them that others are important, it has given them a voice in their sibling’s need for support. Instead of saying to your kids, “You have to go see your brother play baseball”; say, “Your brother will play so much better because you are there encouraging him. He values what you think of him.”

Give your children a purpose in being at their sibling’s events.

As adult children now, our kids value each other’s opinions and support. For example, when our oldest son went on his first mission trip to Bangladesh, each of his siblings wrote him a letter to read while he was on the plane. Often throughout his trip, he read those letters over and over. When the mission trip was hard, his sister’s words lifted him up and gave him the courage to carry on. His youngest brother made him laugh, while the other reminded him of why he was on this trip. I don’t think our kids would have even thought to encourage him in this way if this was not the norm growing up.

Teach your kids to cheer their siblings; it keeps the bond of love going long after the growing years are over.

2.) Teach them to share. Sharing doesn’t mean to allow your kids to run wild in their sibling’s room taking what they want. But instead, sharing is learning to join in each other’s happiness. On each child’s birthday, we did not insist the birthday child share his or her new gift; instead, we taught their siblings to be excited about their joy; they would watch their brother or sister open and play with their new toy. In time, as they were excited for their sibling, it was a natural consequence for the birthday child to share the gift with the other.

Of course, there were lessons of respect for other’s things taught and waiting their turn to play with each other’s toys. There were even those times when a child just needed time to enjoy their new gift alone. But we found over time, that because we taught our children to be happy for someone else’s happiness, they wanted to share what they had.

Teach your kids to care about other’s happiness; it seems that caring begets sharing.

3.) Teach them to sacrifice. Teaching our children how to sacrifice for their siblings first comes by watching us sacrifice for them. When our children see us giving up what we want for their sake, they learn the love of sacrifice. Over time they see this as normal.

It’s a beautiful thing to see one sibling have much and notice that their brother or sister has nothing, and then split what they have so their sibling can have something.

Besides a parent modeling sacrifice, teach your kids to notice what their brother or sister has or doesn’t have. Ask questions like, “How do you think they feel right now?” Teach them to look at their sibling’s eyes and pay attention to how they change when they are happy or sad. Sacrifice teaches children to notice others when they are hurting. When a child sympathizes with the feelings of another child, it’s a lot easier for them to sacrifice for them.

This simple act of sacrifice raises children into adults who choose to be there to help their siblings when they are going through tough times. They find that the difficult times in life are smoother when they tarry together through them. They learn that sacrifice means to care. They learn to put their differences aside and put the other first above their needs. They find joy in this type of giving.

Teaching our kids to love through cheering for one another, sharing with each other, and sacrificing their wants for the need of others is not an easy task. But the hard work produces adults who choose to be a blessing in their world and not a drain. It also teaches them to lead like Jesus, love like Jesus and reflect Him to others. They cause others to question, “What makes that person different from what I see in this selfish world?” What a great platform to work from so that others can know Christ!

“Don’t do anything for selfish purposes, but with humility think of others as better than yourselves. Instead of each person watching out for their own good, watch out for what is better for others. Adopt the attitude that was in Christ Jesus” Philippians 2:3-5.

When Misery is Hard to Bear


Did you know that God pays very close attention to us? He takes a specific interest in our misery, especially when we cry out to Him in prayer.

The good news is He doesn’t just listen to us; He acts on our prayers. Just like He acted on behalf of the Israelites, who were enslaved to Pharaoh of Egypt, He will act on your behalf, too!

For years the Jews suffered under Pharaoh’s rule and then finally when the people probably thought there was no hope, God came to their rescue.

As with these people, when no hope seems to be in sight, He will stand up and make His greatest, most powerful move in your life.

“The LORD said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey…” Exodus 3:7-8

Notice what we learn about our Merciful and Gracious God:

  • He sees our misery.
  • He hears our cries.
  • He’s concerned about our suffering.
  • He comes down to rescue us.
  • He brings us up out of our demise into a good and spacious place of peace.

God is faithful. Faithfulness defines Him. We may not be consistently faithful. We may not always do the right thing. But if we confess our sins and trust in Him, He reveals to us who He is – faithful – no matter where we have been or what we have done. He forgives. He brings new life. His patience with us carries on and on; for even “if we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot disown himself” (2 Timothy 2:13).

Don’t give up. Don’t relegate yourself to the failures. Cry out to your God! Cry out to Jesus! His arms are open; is your heart open to Him?

God’s words to you:

“I have paid close attention to you and to what has been done to you. I see your misery. I hear your cry for help. I’m here for you, my child. I’m here for you, did you hear that? Open up your heart and trust My ways; for they are good and perfect. I will come to you, rescue you, and give you a new strength so you overcome your slavery. You will be whole and free. Just do this one thing, will you? Trust Me. Meditate on My Word and believe that I AM who I say that I AM. I’ll take care of the rest for you.”

 

Instead of Pay to Play…


I, Wisdom, share a home with shrewdness and have knowledge and discretion” quotes Solomon who wrote Proverbs 8:12.  Shrewdness is defined as showing sharp powers of judgment; to be astute and perceptive. It’s the ability to read behind the motives of behavior and actions and not be swindled by them.

All the words of Wisdom’s mouth are righteous; none of them are deceptive and perverted. All of them are clear to the sensible; and right to those who discover the truth.

We are called to accept Wisdom’s instruction instead of silver and knowledge rather than pure gold.

Those who “pay to play” are foolish. They lack wisdom. They trade righteousness for silver and gold; they are corrupt at heart; they deceive others with twisted knowledge. They are sons and daughters of the devil. Their only aim is to serve their stomachs and it will be by their stomach they will be ruined. For all who serve self-will one day come to an end. They glory now, but they will glory no more.

Instead of “pay to play,” let’s pray for perception. Let’s seek Wisdom; wisdom that encompasses holy knowledge and astute discretion. Wisdom is better than jewels. Those who pray for wisdom; who seek righteous insight; who fear the Lord above obtaining popularity with man – these followers are bold; they hate evil, they hate arrogant pride, evil conduct and twisted speech.

People of wisdom seek GOOD advice from trustworthy ADVISORS. They become competent as wisdom teaches them and directs their paths. They have strength and understanding that far reaches anything this world has to offer.

It is by Wisdom that kings reign and rulers enact just law. By Wisdom, princes lead as do nobles and all righteous JUDGES. I, Wisdom, love those who search for Me and find Me.

The Lord God released His very essence of Wisdom and made it available for all His creation, before His words of long ago. There is ample supply of His wisdom, and He generously gives it to those who seek it.

Choose today to #votewisdom #prayforperception

Take A Moment


“Is anyone going to heaven because of you” is the question that was asked of me this morning.

My answer, “Yes!”

I was encouraged as I began to think of the people who know Jesus because God used me. Then, as quickly the encouragement came, discouragement moved in.

I immediately thought, “But who have I not reached? Who did I miss? Who is not hearing about Jesus today? What more can I do for you, Lord?”

My soul depleted of all rest. Robbed was my hope in what God has done through me. Back to the grind. Keep working. I have no time to stop. No time to rest in God’s goodness today.

And then the Lord quickened me with, “Take a moment, my child.”

There are times we need to stop and meditate on the good we are doing for Jesus. We need to be happy about it. We need to feel the joy of just serving our Lord. We need to embrace this moment long enough to be encouraged along the way.

But we don’t take this moment in life, do we?

It’s so easy to add a tag line to the good we are doing with, “but you need to do more or you can do better.” It’s true, we do need to do more, we can improve, but we can also rest in God’s pleasure that we have done well.

Life is hard. It beats us down.

Busyness keeps us from being still.

Media berates us with anxiety, fear, and despair.

Troubles and trials make us weary.

Demands and expectations never take a vacation.

We end most of our days deflated as we reflect on what we have not accomplished.

The tension is this, we need to evaluate, we need to learn how we can do better, but we need to rest our soul from the incessant assessments, too. The cost to not resting is too great. Rest does more than just give us the time to sleep and gear up for the next big job we need to do.

Look at what we put aside when we choose not to glory in God’s work through us:

We don’t embrace God’s pleasure.

We don’t allow ourselves to feel His love.

We don’t take the time to hear how much He is proud of us.

Not feeling His pleasure, His love and His pride in us is a sure way to serve God without passion one day. We will lose our vision, joy, and purpose. We will forget why we do what we do. We will do out of duty not love. As the church of Ephesus was so acutely scolded, “I know your works, your labor, and your endurance…but I have this against you: You have abandoned the love you had at first” (Revelation 2:2-4).

You are His. I am His. Being a good Father, God wants you and me to come to Him and tell Him the good we have done. He wants to celebrate with us. Just as Jesus did when the seventy disciples returned with joy after being sent out to heal the sick and share the power of the Kingdom of God with those in need. (Luke 10:1-20). Jesus took a moment with them.

And we need to take the moment, too. We need to take a minute to reflect on the goodness God is doing through us.

Make a list of those people who are now children of the Most High God because you helped them get there. Reflect where they would be if you didn’t take the time to share Jesus with them.

Be pleased that the last church event you organized went well, or the sermon or worship set moved people to action; take a moment, experience the thrill of that one conversation you had that changed a life. Delight in the fact that God gifted you and you used that gift to bring Him glory!

Take a moment!

Be encouraged. Stay there a while. Praise Jesus! Thank God! Worship Him!

Don’t bring out that evaluation yet.

Do what the Psalmist said; “Return to your rest, my soul, for the Lord has been good to you” (Psalm 116:7).

The time we take to rest our soul is so much more than just giving ourselves a pat on the back. It’s called taking a Sabbath. The Sabbath is a time to rejoice in all the Lord is doing in our life. It’s time to rest the soul from the “to do” list and the “evaluations” that are necessary, but not for today! Take a moment.

Run to your Father in Heaven; allow Him to refresh your weariness and encourage your soul.

Tomorrow you can bring out the evaluation. Tomorrow you can get on that ‘to do’ list.

For now, just take a moment!

 

 

 

 

Finding God’s Wisdom in the Dark


God generously gives us His wisdom if we ask for it. But only if we ask in total faith will it be given to us. Presented with a very difficult decision to make, we don’t know what to choose.  So we ask God, “Give us wisdom? Help us, Lord, to choose wisely.”

What does the Lord say to us? “Give me your faith, and I will give you My wisdom.” Puzzled by this response, we follow our usual pattern and simply seek to understand before we believe. This pattern proves to create doubt. Can God really give me what I need? Can He really provide for this impossible situation?

So we choose to be wise in our own eyes and question if God is real; can He do what He says He can do; we dig our stubborn heels in our disbelief and proclaim, “If He proves Himself, then, I will believe.

But as Tozer says it so well, “The unbelieving heart would not be convinced by any proof, yet, it is the worshiping heart that needs none.” It’s the heart of faith that understands. It’s the one who chooses to believe God first, and then, with precision, suddenly this person has the wisdom to make a wise choice. A doubter on the other hand will never see wisdom’s providence.

“An infinitely wise God cannot be improved upon by finite creatures” such as man, Tozer assesses correctly. We have got to be kidding if we little mortals think that we can tell God how to be wise. It cannot be done. It should not be tried. It’s ridiculous to think we can do better than God. But let’s be honest, we do try, don’t we?

Our persistence to know what’s ahead is certainly natural, but this natural inclination to know the future is a barrier to our spiritual growth; it gives us just enough control that we end up relinquishing God’s power and activity in our life.

Isn’t it like God to insist we trust Him while walking in the dark? His light provides a pathway for our steps, but not always a map for the journey. He desires to be the destination, while His wisdom is our guide. It is He who will go before us and make the crooked roads straight. He opens the gates of brass and cuts the bars of iron. He is the lantern in our darkness and the treasures in our chest. We find our way because it is the Good Shepherd’s role to lead us, not necessarily tell us everything He knows.

We must trust that “it is the goodness of God to desire our highest welfare, the wisdom of God to plan it, and the power of God to achieve it…Surely we are the most favored of all creatures.” A. W. Tozer.

Yes, we must trust God with our mind, our life, our journey, but we need give Him so much more, we must trust Him with our worshiping heart.

“If any of you needs the wisdom to know what you should do, you should ask God, and he will give it to you. God is generous to everyone and doesn’t find fault with them. When you ask for something, don’t have any doubts. A person who has doubts is like a wave that is blown by the wind and tossed by the sea” James 1:5-6

 

Why God Makes Us Wait for Answers to Our Prayers?


When we go through various trials, we find ourselves on our knees more. We pray and pray for God to get us through or out of the current difficulty. These trails can also present themselves in the form of longing for something that we don’t have yet.

I knew a couple who prayed for sixteen years for a child and then they finally became pregnant.

I know of a woman who prayed for a husband for well over twelve years. Finally, God graced her with a wonderful man.

I prayed for my uncle to find salvation for nine years and finally he received Jesus as His Lord.

In all of these situations, God was doing a work of spiritual maturity in the lives of those who prayed and waited.

Whether it is a child, a spouse, freedom from debt, salvation for a loved one, or an illness that needs healing, praying for these over a long period can be a trial in itself. Waiting on God to answer can create doubt as we second guess whether what we are asking for is His will; it can even cause us to lose faith if we are not careful.  Waiting for our prayers to be answered can be exhausting and can cause great anxiety. I believe the reason for our exhaustion and anxiety is due to our lack of focus on the right thing.

James tells us, “Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing” (James 1:2-4).

Sometimes when God does not immediately answer our prayers, He is maturing our faith. He is making our belief in Him stronger; so that we do not lack the ability to lean on His understanding fully. But I’m not convinced that maturity in our faith is the only reason.

The tension is this, if we receive what we ask for too soon, we may forget the Lord and ruin our life. On the other hand, if we have to wait too long for what we are asking God for, we may lose faith, forget the Lord and ruin our life. Being the good Father that He is, God is well aware of this tension. Because He knows the pitfalls we can fall into that we don’t always see, He knows the timing that works best for His children.  The answers to the prayers we ask are more about God developing us than about pleasing us.

Notice what James says, “the testing of your faith produces endurance…endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.” What is this maturity that God is doing in our life? What is it that He wants to complete? While faith is one of the things He works on in us, He also develops us in practical ways that equip us for that next stage in our life. Like marriage.

When a man longs for a wife, it can be all that is on his mind. It is like he has tunnel vision and he cannot think of anything else. The problem is when the longing for her supersedes his wish to love God with his all; he unintentionally places a burden on the woman he is seeking. He thinks of her as the one who will meet his need for total satisfaction and happiness. Sadly, she cannot carry this burden. But God can and wants it.

Until this man can fully rely on God for his satisfaction and happiness, he will wait for that woman in his life; especially if he is praying to God for her. God wants more for this man. He wants to equip him to love a woman with a proper devotion, one that serves her not one that serves himself. Only God can be this man’s all in all. Until this maturity is complete, I believe that God will delay the answer to his prayer.

In the meantime, the man endures. This endurance perfects him for God’s answer. Is it easy to wait? No. However, if this man understands the purpose behind the waiting, he will seek maturity more than a wife.

Whatever the scenario is in our life, the maturity process is the priority on God’s agenda. When we can get on board with God’s purpose to complete and perfect us, then and only then will we see answers to our prayers.

How do we know when we have reached that maturity? It’s not the answer to the prayer that tells us this. It’s when our wish for what we are praying for dims in comparison to our desire to please God.  Jesus needs to be more to us and not what we are longing for in our life.

 

 

No Longer Bound To Sin


Adam, the created son of God, sinned. His sin was bound by time, punishment, and death; for the created is not limitless. Each sin created through the line of Adam requires a mechanical aid for the assent to God’s forgiveness. This forgiveness requires effort to understand and labor to overcome. The way is difficult. God provided grace from the uncreated One – The Son of God.

Jesus comes from the measureless and infinite nature of God, Himself. It is through Him we find grace on top of grace.

Paul shows us this in Romans 5:15, “God’s free gift is not like Adam’s sin. Many people died because of the sin of that one man. But the grace from God was much greater; many people received God’s gift of life by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ.”

The word “greater” in this passage is not bigger but infinite. Bigger would indicate there is still limits to His grace. However, God’s grace is measureless.

For example, when sin abounds within you, God’s grace abounds all the more for you. Not because you sin, but because His mercy is superior to your sin. What makes is superior? It knows no bounds! God is not full of mercy; He is infinitely overflowing with it.

To be full is to still have limits. But not with God; in Him, there are no limits. God works outside of the created. His treasures are far beyond what our finite minds can comprehend. But the lack of comprehension does not mean we are unable to experience the wealth of heaven.

When I think of His grace, I am overcome by what I do not deserve. Why, I may ask, do I get to receive this measureless mercy that He brings? Since I do not deserve His mercy, where does His motivation come? It’s His love that prompts His grace.

As A. W. Tozer puts it, “God’s love is measureless. It is more: it is boundless. It has no bounds because it is not a thing but a facet of the essential nature of God. His love is something He is, and because He is infinite, that love can enfold the whole created world in itself and have room for ten thousand times ten thousand worlds besides.”

Are you caught in a sin? Are you struggling with temptation? Is your guilt getting you down?

God’s endless love is reaching out to you. Your failings do not bind his grace. If you want God bad enough, He will come to you and heal you.

Come now; cast aside the sin that so easily entangles you. Stop looking to your sin, and look to your Savior. No worries that you have committed this sin over and over. No need to fret with guilt about what you deserve. It is no longer about what you deserve;
it’s about God’s measureless love encircling you with His grace. No longer do you need to be frustrated by your human limitations. When you receive God’s much much more, you enter the limitless nature of our loving God. Allow His grace to wipe out your incessant sinning. Freedom is just around the bend.