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.

What Can a Mere Child Teach Us?


Acts 23:11-35; Mark 10:13-15

A conspiracy was formed. Forty Jews came together and developed a plot to finally rid Paul and his message of salvation through Jesus Christ. “They bound themselves under a curse: neither to eat or drink until they had killed Paul.”

Unbeknownst to them, Paul’s young nephew overheard their plot. With great courage, he came to his uncle and told him what he heard. Paul instructed the centurion to take him to the commander so he could give his report.

The commander took the boy by the hand and listened to what he had to say. Remarkably, this commander took seriously what this child reported. He did not underestimate the intervention of a child.

As a result, this commander put in motion a plan to protect Paul. He was able to securely and successfully escort Paul to Rome. While a prisoner, yes; but not just any prisoner, one who was in chains for the gospel and one who would boldly preach the good news of Jesus.

And who did God use to help Paul? A mere child! We assert that he was a child based on the language used in Acts 23:19, “Then the commander took him (Paul’s nephew) by the hand, led him aside, and inquired privately, “What is it you have to report to me?”

It’s not likely the commander took the hand of a grown man and led him to a place to hear his report. Either way, a child or one younger than ourselves, we can never dismiss the wisdom of those that God uses to instruct us.

One thing we can learn from children is how to have the kind of faith we need to get to heaven. Over and over, my children have taught me as much as I have taught them. God works through His people regardless of age. To be a learner like children means to set aside our pride, come humbly to the water and drink. It doesn’t matter if the pool is prestigious in form or simple. Does it have fresh water where we are spiritually nourished, is the question?

Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me. Don’t keep them away. God’s kingdom belongs to people like them. What I’m about to tell you is true. Anyone who will not receive God’s kingdom like a little child will never enter it.” (Mark 10:14-15).

Children are very receptive to truth. They want to know what is real and what is not. They have an inner desire to know God and worship Him.

Children have great faith! We would do well to learn from them as well as help them grow in this faith of theirs.

I came across an interesting illustration that Charles Spurgeon shares:

I heard the story of a man, a blasphemer…an atheist, who was converted singularly by a sinful action of his. He had written on a piece of paper, “God is nowhere,” and ordered his child to read it, for he would make him an atheist too. The child spelled it, “God is n-o-w h-e-r-e. God is now here.” It was a truth instead of a lie, and the arrow pierced the man’s, own heart.”

Because of their humility, children are able to see truth. Their innocence allows them to approach life with a deep desire to seek what is real. They can teach us much. Never underestimate the wisdom and intervention of a child or a disciple younger than you! God can teach you so much through them!

 

 

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.”

 

Step One In Disciplining Your Kids


A. W. Tozer explains the psychology of sin as a person who has no fear of God. When people no longer fear God, they sin against God’s laws without hesitation. Even the fear of consequences is no deterrent when the fear of God is gone.

Such is the reason we should teach our children to fear God before we teach them right behavior. It makes the process of discipline much smoother.

Fear is so much more than trembling with fright, it’s a devoted love that chooses to honor, obey and trust God and nothing else.

This fear is the beginning of all knowledge and wisdom in which a child needs to be successful and be a blessing in this life.

Choose step one in disciplining your kids: At an early age teach them to walk in the fear of God.

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and discipline” (Proverbs 1:7).

A Wisdom Byte On A Parent’s Words


A gentle answer turns away anger, but a harsh word stirs up wrath. Proverbs 15:1

When it comes to parenting, the stress of so much responsibility can make it hard to maintain a sense of control. Whether it’s the kids, the house, work, marriage and other duties that pull at us, it’s tempting to take it all out on the kids with a harsh word.

Our wisdom byte for today is that even in the midst of all the hustle and bustle of life, we can be intentional at responding to our kids with gentleness. There are consequences if we don’t.

If we choose to allow our stress to become a fountain of fury, we are tempted to take it out on the kids. The consequences of careless callousness are devastating.

A harsh word…

  1. Provokes rebellion.
  2. Breaks the spirit.
  3. Cultivates foolishness.
  4. Tears down relationship.

Those are pretty grave outcomes of a harsh word spoken. And if a child is under that day in and day out, they become just like this. They will speak this way to others. They learn how to be by the model in front of them.

On the other hand, when we choose to slow down, think first and then respond, we gain perspective. Yes, it may very well be your kids who are creating your stress, but it is highly unlikely that all your stress results from them alone.

You may be feeling overwhelmed with life, and the easy target to release the stress upon are your kids. When we gain perspective, we can deal with the situation we are facing as it is, not as it feels. The many great rewards a parent receives from being temperate is long-lasting; they reap beyond the child rearing years of their kids.

A gentle answer:

  1. Chooses words wisely.
  2. Speaks what is edifying.
  3. Intends to bring healing.
  4. Instructs with a purpose.

Those are just a few of the many blessings of a gentle answer. They each are worth taking a deep breath, praying to God for clarity on the situation; then moving forward in gentleness.

Your children will emulate what they experience. If they experience a harsh word, they will be harsh. If they experience a gentle word, they will be gentle. As parents, we do reap what we sow.

Sow well and you will reap well.

Getting Through The Empty Nest


My husband and I are experiencing the empty-nest stage of parenting. One by one, a child leaves our home.

This process reminds me of the time Abraham placed his son, Isaac, on the altar as God had commanded. We may not be putting our kids on an altar to be sacrificed, but we are placing them in God’s mighty hands.

As parents, we enjoy being needed by our kids. Being needed may not be all bad, but if we are not careful, we can make the mistake of allowing ourselves to be little gods to our children, trying to do all we can to manipulate and control their world. Naturally, we want them to be kept safe; but if we are honest, we also want them near for they provide us with great comfort and companionship. In our case God never intended for our children to be with us forever. Our role was never to keep them under our protection for a lifetime.

God called us to empower and equip them for His plan and His purposes. In this, we must never be a hindrance or roadblock to the divine path God sets before them. In all honesty, the safest place our children can be is on the altar of our God or a better illustration is they are most secure in His hands rather than ours.

After all, my hands have limits. They are too weak and frail to bless my kids truly in the way they need to succeed in this world. On the other hand, God’s hands have no limits. His blessings know no bounds. He gives immeasurably more than what I can even think up much less pray.  Where I am finite, He is infinite. Where I am only the runner, He is the reward. I equip for the here and now; He equips for now and eternity.

Just like throwing a rock in the pond, I am only the pebble that can make a splash of influence on my kids; but in God’s hands, He is the stone that makes ripples which exceed the borders of the shore.

Maybe you are in the same boat that I am in. Maybe your kids are venturing off. They will succeed and they will also make mistakes. I know I have done both as a young and older adult. However, no matter our kid’s ups and downs, letting them go does not mean to let them jump off a cliff into the unknown, it means to give them to the Lord and allow Him to refine and perfect them by His power and presence in their life.

When in the empty nest season, what is our job as parents?

First off, I believe it is to trust our God and His infinite wisdom to perfect what He has started in our child’s life. He is true to His word and His promises. For He promises that “He who began a good work in you (your kids included) will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6).

Secondly, we are to be there for our kids, for they will come home from time to time to seek our advice or to celebrate their victories. We counsel them as they need (no lectures, mind you), celebrate with them and remember to consecrate them daily to the Lord. Acknowledge that God IS their rear guard and their shield.

The good news is this parents; God is also faithful to you and me. He promises to be our comfort in this changing season!

“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13). 

 

 

Live Worthy


“No matter what happens, live in a way that brings honor to the good news about Christ.
(Ephesians 1:27)

I’ve seen it over and over in parents (me included) where they will say to their children God is faithful and good; He will provide what they need; then these parents go on to live their life in worry and fear.

As a parent, we teach our kids so much by our actions more than the words we speak. I’m not suggesting you stop talking to your kids, but your talk must match your actions. As the old saying goes, “more is caught than taught.” I’ve said this before, but I must reiterate, your kid’s first introduction to the Lord is you. You represent to them their Savior and the only way they will see the truth is by the way you represent Him.

When you and I fill our days with worry and fear, we reveal to others a God who is small. Without realizing it, our actions can often communicate that God “is powerless, far off, asleep, and insensitive.”

I have four children who are very mission minded. Three are travelers. They travel to far off lands and share the gospel. In some cases, they have traveled to places that had travel advisory warnings. They went regardless. The fear of losing them would often paralyze me and cause me to discourage their attempt to go where God was calling them. Then God would get a hold of my heart and teach me to trust Him. Staying in the Word of God has given Him the chance to convict me and correct me when I’m wrong. His truth has indeed cut apart the lies I believed from the truth I needed to rely on.

One of the worst ways we misrepresent Christ and His good news is to allow our fears and worries to get the better of us. Fears and worries are nothing more than transient feelings. Feelings deceive us. Some use the word “gut” instead of feelings. They decide their path on a “gut feeling.” Whether you call it gut or feeling, both are unreliable, because they both lie and depend on one’s momentary “happiness.” When the “good” feeling flees, then a change of course happens. Life becomes nothing more than the wind blowing from here to there with no assurance of a good outcome. This type of living only increases fear and anxiety.

When Paul writes about the armor of God in Ephesians 6:10-18, he intentionally starts with truth and righteousness. There is a good reason for this. For it is in truth and righteousness we can “live in a way that brings honor to the good news about Christ.” In other words, we can live our life worthy of the gospel of Christ.

Where fear depends on lies, confidence depends on truth.

Where anxiety makes decisions based on uncertainty, righteousness does what’s wise no matter what is faced.

Truth and righteousness are rocks unmoved by feeling, gut or circumstances. When God’s Word is our guide and when doing what is wise is the rudder for our direction, we can correctly represent our big powerful Almighty God.

I have been there and have seen others struggle in the same way when it comes to making wise decisions in life. I’ve seen and felt the turmoil when I have needed to do what’s right but wanted to do what’s wrong instead. These times remind me that “my battle is not against flesh and blood.”

It’s between evil and righteousness.

It’s between lies and truth.

It’s between worry and trust.

It’s between feelings and fact.

My fearful attempts to discourage my children from going on the missions they traveled were solely based on my wants and needs. They were self-focused. My fears and worries placed limits on my God instead of trusting in His eternal greatness. In this condition I became my kids’ greatest obstacle when I should have joined ranks with the cloud of witnesses, the author of Hebrews speaks about in chapter 12 verse 1.

One way I know that the struggle in my life is evil or righteous is by the weight of it in my heart and mind. Evil is heavy whereas righteousness is light.

Evil weighs us down; it leads us to a state of depression. Depression is more than painful, it is hopeless. Doing what’s right can be painful as we walk away from something that feeds our flesh. But righteousness is always lighter to carry, because doing what’s right takes our eyes off of our plans and trusts that God is a good father who has nothing but a better welfare and hope planned for our future.

If we make decisions based on our worry, fears, and anxiety, we will never know God’s plans for us. We will only continue in the heaviness of our wrong choices. Then the evil becomes burdensome; we end up digging our grave and creating more struggles. Afterward, we may look back and wished we had chosen truth instead of lies and righteousness vs. our “gut” feelings. This unwise path turns our fear into guilt and remorse. We add to the heaviness on our heart when we don’t obey God’s full word of truth.

When people take parts of the truth to justify their wrong actions, they end up living out their Christian life in lies. I’ve known Christians who use the word to enforce their sinful decisions. They acknowledge part of the truth but ignore the areas that convict them. In the end, they misrepresent God to others. They do the opposite of Philippians 1:27: Based on what happens in their life, they bring dishonor to the good news about Christ. They make the gospel of Jesus look bad instead of attractive, delightful and appealing.

As Rand Hummel says in his book, Fear Not, the only way to make the gospel look good is to “replace fear with confidence, worry with trust, and apprehension with faith.” It’s good to always put before us that “our fears affect not only the way others see us but also the way others see our God.”

So, today, choose the brave option in your life, choose truth and righteousness as your armor and take the kinks of fear and worry out of it. Be strong and courageous, do not let fear guide you; for who is with us is greater than the fear we face. If we do what is right, then God’s favor will be upon us. On the other hand, if we do what is wrong, sin knocks at our door waiting to devour us. When we sin, we exchange the right hand of the Lord’s help for the human hand of strength. In the end, our strength wears out, but His continues without fail.

Which do you choose today? Fear or truth? Your gut feeling or righteousness?