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.

Jesus’ Message to the Wounded Wife


Being in ministry to families, I have often had the privilege to counsel couples in their marriage. It is not an easy privilege mind you, but it’s been a blessing to help couples heal and move past their past and find hope for their marriage in their present and for their future.

What qualifies me to counsel others? It’s not a counseling degree. It’s not a professional license. It’s marriage. It is 30 years of marriage. It is understanding the ups, the downs, the hardships and the blessings of two people becoming one in the Lord. This process of oneness is a difficult one. Yet, when a marriage between two people can cross over to that place of unity, the blessings are more than words can describe. The best word I can come up with is – harmony.

In most of my counseling experience, I have seen marriages find this harmony, but in some cases there are those where scars run too deep; they have a hard time getting past them, therefore, they continue to destroy the marriage leaving gaping wounds. While one may want to heal and move toward restoration and reconciliation, the other would rather continue in the darkness of despair. It’s almost as if they have lived in that state so long they are afraid to come out. It has become strangely comfortable for them. The sadness in all is the one partner who wants healing is forced to endure the hardship of the other’s inability to move past their past to a place of peace.

It’s for the one partner left in the darkness and wanting to come out into the light that I write this blog. In some cases, this one left in the darkness is the husband and in other cases, it’s the wife. It is for the woman, the wife, that I write this blog. Yet, husbands, if you are the one in this place of holding, please just change the gender and find hope.

There are many things in this world that leave me speechless and overwhelmed with great heartache. One of those is seeing a wife who has been wounded in spirit by her husband.

At one point her husband had promised her protection, guidance, safety, forever love and faithfulness. So, she opened the most sensitive part of herself to him – her heart of trust. But then, as time went on all of this changed. His promises break, and he chooses to replace them with condemnation, attacks, oppression, and aggression.

He hurts her with his words. His eyes are filled with hatred for the woman he once called “His love.” He rejects what is most valuable only to embrace what is wicked and filthy. He is a man who once enjoyed the favor and strength of the Lord, yet now, he only knows God’s wrath, discipline, and judgment.

It’s as if he changed into a completely different person.

“Who is this man,” the woman asks.

Instead of facing his sin and dealing with his part in the brokenness, like a frenzied animal, he chooses to blame her for his failings. Accepting no responsibility because of the painful reality of it all, he chooses to ignore it by heaping more coal on his wife’s spirit. Creating more wounds, more gaping offenses and putting a wedge so large between them, the marriage seems impossible to repair.

How blind and corrupt he has become!

Jesus sits beside the woman who’s disgraced, rejected, and abandoned. He puts His arm around her; He comforts her with his warmth; He refreshes her with His love. He says,

Woman, Your husband is your Maker – His name is Yahweh of Hosts – the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer. He is called the God of all the earth.

For the Lord has called you, dear woman; you are a wife deserted, wounded in spirit and rejected. While deserted for a brief moment, I will take you back with great compassion. I will have compassion on you with an everlasting love. I have sworn I will not be angry with you or rebuke you.

Though the mountains move and hills shake; though all in your life seems to be crumbling down; My love will not be removed from You and My covenant of peace will not be shaken.

Though you fear for your children, know this, all of them will be taught by Me, your Lord, and their prosperity will be great.

If anyone attacks you, understand that it is not from Me. No weapon formed against you will succeed; you will refute any accusation raised against you in court.

You are my beloved; your heritage is founded upon my promises to you. You are the Lord’s servant and your righteousness is from Me.” (A rendition of Isaiah 54).

To the woman who is in the holding cell of your current marriage state, I urge you to focus on who you are in Christ. It’s the safest most peaceful place you can plant yourself.

Jesus is our horn of salvation. He is our strength. Our very good and great Lover!

It’s tempting to fear while in this holding place. It’s also just a tempting to react in anger. Neither brings about the righteousness of God in our own hearts or in our marriage.

The presence of fear is the absence of faith.

The presence of unrighteous anger is the absence of godly love.

God’s pleasure is found in our faith and in our love. For these never pass away in His kingdom. And it is His kingdom and heaven’s atmosphere that we want to bring down to earth.

So what do you do when your husband seems unattractive to you and you seem unattractive to him? Seek to attract the Lord instead. He is your Maker. He is your Husband. He is your ultimate pleasure in life. Attract Him with your faith in Him and your love for Him. For these two give off a sweet aroma of hope and courage. Not only will you attract the Lord, others will find great strength from that which you emit from your presence. Don’t let the voice of fear and the emotion of anger rob you of God’s pleasure in you.

Praying for Kids and Teens, Tonight


I hurt for the children and teens who have no hope. Our kids and teens face so much today. Stress, high expectations, bullies, and sin; sin is at its all-time high. Now that’s not to say that sin wasn’t rampant years ago, it was. It’s just that sin and evil is so much louder these days.

Evil is reaping havoc on our kids and teens. They have no idea how to handle what they are seeing and hearing. They are trying to cope, join in, accept and be tolerant. But it’s not working. It’s hurting them.

I believe that most children and teens would rather have stability, peace, hope, love and joy. I think they even want faith! I think most are sick of the evil they see day in and day out. They don’t want their hearts to be cold, or indifferent to love. They want to feel good inside and be good on the outside. Sadly, it’s just not popular to be that way.

The truth is, they won’t find this goodness in what this world has to offer; they will only find it in a genuine relationship with Jesus Christ. He is the only way. One of the greatest gifts we can give our kids is a strong faith in God. He doesn’t change, but the world does. It shifts and disappoints, but God is a rock of hope and love.

Jesus said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” After he said these things, He placed his hands on the children and He blessed them. He touched them. He filled them with the stability, peace, hope, love and joy that they desperately needed. Kids haven’t changed since Jesus walked on the earth. They need Him today, just as much as they did then.

Let your children come to Jesus. They need refreshing! Let them drink deeply the peace of Christ. Healing for whatever they might be going through is in His touch.

Pray with me for our children and our teens tonight. “God draw each child and each teen to your heart. Touch them with abundant life. Restore hope in their hearts. Replace the gloom of culture with the light of Your love. Help them see their value in Your eyes. In Jesus name, Amen.”

troubled teen

Stirring Up the People, Healthy? or Destructive?


There is nothing like that first cup of coffee. It’s the first thing I go for in the morning, that and my Bible. I am seeking to wake up and wake up. The coffee stirs some energy in my system, prying my eyes open physically, but then the word of God does it’s fair share of stirring my spirit and waking it up to God’s Spirit and His mission. And today, He laid this word, stirring on my heart. As I stirred my coffee, the thought came to me as I was reading Acts 6 that some stirring is healthy but then some is destructive.

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So they stirred up the people and the elders of the teachers of the law” (Acts 6:12). In hostility, the elders and the teachers of God’s law stirred up the people to discord, dissension and eventually to persecution of one of God’s faithful servants, Stephen.

We learn from Acts 6 that Stephen, a deacon who waited on tables and served the widows had a great impact on the people. Why? He was filled with the power of the Spirit and it was oozing from him into every person he served. He performed great wonders and signs among the people and because of the impact he was having, opposition arose. The religious people of his day were jealous; their competitive nature caused them to try with all their might to pummel the impact Steven was making.  Self-glory usually does this!  

When believers submit to their competitive and jealous nature, they act much like these religious people of Stephen’s day. They hate or dislike someone who is serving Christ with impact; they end up being a stirrer of conflict. Jealousy is a dangerous trait in human nature. It feeds resentment; it makes partners rivals; it creates dissatisfaction in another’s success and works tirelessly at destroying the progress of them. Often times we don’t even know this horrible trait has hit us until we see the effect it has had on the community we live in.

A wise saying from Proverbs tells us of the six things the Lord hates, but seven He detests. 1.) haughty eyes, 2.) a lying tongue, 3.) hands that shed innocent blood, 4.) a heart that devises wicked schemes, 5.) feet that are quick to rush into evil, 6.) a false witness who pours out lies, and 7.) a person who stirs up conflict in the community. (Proverbs 6:16-19). Notice the seventh, “a person who stirs up conflict in the community.” This one culminates all that the Lord hates and brings it to a total detestation.

Have you known a person like this? Have you been this person? What causes a person to go here? I think we would all agree we have known a person like this, we have been this person, and sinful desires with lustful eyes for ambition and personal admiration get us here.

But is all stirring wrong?

To stir means to do many things, but one is to “to set in tremulous, fluttering, or irregular motion.” To stir sets in motion a different pattern. When prompted by evil, this stirring has negative effects as mentioned earlier. When we stir up people to discord, we work against the Holy Spirit, but when we stir people up to good works and encouragement, we work in step with the Spirit of God. This kind of stirring produces unity among believers.

Consider another definition of stir: “to rouse from inactivity and complacency.” Many occasions, we as believers need some stirring when we find ourselves in this state, amen? For Titus 3:8 tells us so, “…I want you to speak confidently, so that those who have believed God may be careful to engage in good deeds. These things are good and profitable for me.” Therefore let us, as Hebrews 10:24-25 says, “stimulate one another to love and good deeds…encouraging one another…” A stirring of this sort brings us closer to each other and causes greater impact on the people we serve.  What is the motive of this positive stirring? It is the goal to please our Father in heaven and to make the other person successful. The aim is always glory to God and the betterment of the other person, “not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interest of the others” (Philippians 2:4). This is so contrary to our culture, but take note, Jesus did not come to teach us how to blend in culture, He taught us to be holy – set a part from culture.

We live in an age of success measured by popularity, achievements, and being great. But greatness is not found in our own renown, it’s found in making God famous. And to do this successfully, Jesus tells us to be servants, to die to ourselves, to love the brotherhood and to become less as He becomes more. This leads to choosing a life that is only seen hidden behind the cross. For in this manner of stirring, we become like Stephen – stoned yet “with a face of an angel” (Acts 6:15).

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

3 Ways to Motivate Your Child to Good Behavior and Right Decisions


“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds…”

(Hebrews 10:24).

Whiplash parenting usually is counterproductive to the result parents are looking for. This kind of parenting typically tries to shape good behavior and right decisions in children by striking down the character and confidence of the child; but when a child is beat up, torn down and demeaned they usually respond in rebellion, more disobedience and distance from the parent. This kind of upbringing lessons a parent’s influence. However, when parents choose to encourage their children toward good behavior, they soon realize that positive words and affirmations produce positive outcomes.

Yes, accountability is a necessity, but it can be accomplished better with three types of actions:

  1. Note the bad behavior last. Intentionally look for and point out the good you see in your child first; if you do, you’ll find they are more ready to listen to what needs to be corrected. It’s so much easier to please a hopeful parent vs. a pessimistic one.
  2. Praise good decisions every chance you get. This breeds a desire in your child to continue down a constructive and righteous path of living. All people strive for praise; it gives us the courage to carry on.
  3. Communicate love and acceptance often. Separate all behavior and decisions apart from the love and acceptance you have for your child. You never want your child to feel they must earn your love and acceptance by what they do or don’t do. God is love and His love is never-ending regardless of our actions. After all, God’s love for us is not based on our actions, but instead upon His grace.

Good behavior and right decisions are good things we teach our children; but the lasting lesson in these is faith, love and hope. For all our work and our labor should be produced by faith and prompted by love. And endurance to press on is only possible if hope inspires it. This is a note to the work and labor of parenting as much as it is for our children’s behavior and decisions.

 ID-10040748    “We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ”  (1 Thessalonians 1:3).

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! 

 

Day Thirty-Nine of 40 Days of Prayer for FRC


Love is Patient. Love is not driven by emotion, but by decision.

However, its opposite is impatience.

Impatience is hateful,

Impatience envies,

It boasts, is self-seeking, is intolerant,

It angers easily, keeps records of wrongs, and refuses to sacrifice,

Impatience delights in the evil of selfishness and exasperates the truth,

Impatience neglects, always despairs, always panics

Impatience is a sign of dangerous emotional love.

This kind of love destroys and is never satisfied.

However, God is love: Agape Love.

Without God’s agape love, we are nothing.

Without God’s love, we gain nothing.

 His love is righteousness compelled to succeed.

God’s beginning is patience and His end is perseverance,

for His timing is our success.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud, it does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails…

Father, help us with agape love. We are emotional beings that feed our impatient monster. Help us to die to this fiend and live in your righteousness not our selfishness. In Jesus Name, Amen. 

1 Corinthians 13:1-8