The Key to Godly Discipline . . . .

This is the fifth in a series of posts featuring ways God
used my family and the Scriptures to draw me closer to Himself.
I share some of those insights to testify to His faithfulness. ❤️

WORDS TO GROW BY:

“Whoever would love life
and see good days
must keep their tongue from evil
and their lips from deceitful speech.”
I Peter 3:10

“To love life and see good days“–isn’t that what most of us yearn for?  Yet when our goals are skewed by unrealistic, worldly ideals such as–living a perfect, happily-ever-after kind of life–we are more prone to depression than true joy.  The problem none of us can escape is that life can be messy–exceedingly so–and when it is, SIN is often at the center of it.  There are times when, no matter how well organized or disciplined the effort, even our best laid plans can be thwarted.

In my last post I wrote about the connection between discipline and discipleship, using II Timothy 3:16, 17 as the framework for Godly discipline:

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful
for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,
so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped
for every good work.”

In that post I shared seven insights about Godly discipline:

Insight #1: Godly discipline has to be learned before it can be applied.  (Hence, there is no place for the foolish maxim: “Do as I say, not as I do.”)
Insight #2: Godly discipline is meant to be a lifestyle, not a series of events. (Teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness should be an on-going part of family relating.)
Insight #3: God does not have grandchildren; He only has children. (Only those who enter into a personal relationship with Christ has the assurance of being a child of God–John 1:12, 13)
Insight #4: Make regular worship at a Bible-teaching church and fellowship with other Believers a priority. (The strength of those relationships, will likely be invaluable as you support each other through the tougher seasons.)
Insight #5: Help your children think biblically by reading to them–A LOT! We especially enjoyed learning about the lives of Christian heroes, various series of books as well as reading the Bible itself.
Insight #6: When disciplining your children–draw them close to you–rather than isolate them.  (Such times can provide special opportunities to minister the mind and heart.)
Insight #7: Along the way, look for opportunities to bring laughter, adventure, and ways to serve others into your family routine.

In this post I will share additional insights into Godly discipline as it connects to love and truth using Hebrews 12:10 & 12 as our basis,

“Our fathers disciplined us for a short time as they thought best,
but God disciplines us for our good, so that we may share in His holiness.
No discipline seems enjoyable at the time, but painful.
Later on, however, it yields a peaceful harvest of righteousness
to those who have been trained by it.…”  

The passage speaks:

  • Assurance to all with this declaration of LOVEGod disciplines us for our good, so that we may share in His holiness. 
  •  TRUTH with its promise of ultimate blessing (a peaceful harvest of righteousness) to those who choose to trust God.

I share the following story to help you appreciate my five remaining insights:

Prayer . . . the Key to Godly Discipline

We had one preteen and two teenagers in our home.  At times, the pressure was immense–especially in making last minute decisions.  In fact, looking back I can see that I was starting to shut-down–saying “no” to almost every request.  Feeling convicted, I turned to God.  I confessed my bad attitude and asked for His help. Nothing remarkable occurred when I prayed, except that I felt slightly more hopeful.  However, several days later, after another request was made, I was startled when these words came out of my mouth:

“I”m not sure.  If you have to have an answer NOW,
then the answer has to be NO.

But if you’ll let me pray about it . . . we’ll see.”

I was shocked by my inward calmness, and their response was amazing–they backed off completely!  In fact, they very wisely would approach me almost warily saying, “I’m not demanding an answer, Mom, but . . . have you prayed yet?”

That was the day I learned the importance of setting an example as a praying mom before my kids.  Where before, every request made was a burden, I learned the importance of setting an example of prayer.  With that new parameter in place, my kids approached me with greater respect as they asked, “Mom, have you prayed yet?”  The results?  The majority of the time I was able to answer, “Yes but . . . “–adding some qualifiers to assure their safety.  When I had to say no, they never argued; I suspect they already knew it was wasn’t a good idea.

By far the best part was that my kids saw me
as a praying mom (rather than a roadblock mom)
who honestly cared about them.

Insight #8:  The key to effective Godly discipline is PRAYER.

God is all about relationships–our relationship with Him as well as with one another.  When we keep Him at the center of how we relate to others through reading the Scriptures and prayer, we are blessed with the wisdom and perspective we otherwise lack.  Ecclesiastes affirms this in 4:9-12,

Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their work:
If either of them falls down,
the other can help him up.
But pity anyone who falls
and has no one to help them up.
Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
But how can one keep warm alone?
Though one may be overpowered,
two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

When we keep God and the Scriptures as our third strand to guide us, humble thanksgiving becomes a friend and our prayers are more effective.

Insight #9: Speak truth in love–relying on the Scriptures for the best means of ministering to the mind and heart. 

There are many passages in Scripture that provide what is needed to speak truth in love.   Ephesians 4:17-32 is one of my favorites, especially verse 29:

Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth,
but only such a word as is good for edification
according to the need of the moment,
so that it will give grace to those who hear.

Insight #10:  When dealing with sin, resist the temptation to minimize it.

SIN is not “a mistake”, nor is it merely “a phase” that kids go through.  Sin is a contemptuous act that is offensive to God.  Much of the messiness of life is the result of sinful attitudes and actions.  II Peter speaks powerfully about the plight of Christians who take sin lightly:

If they have escaped the corruption of the world
by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ
and are again entangled in it and are overcome,
they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning.
It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness,
than to have known it and then to turn their backs
on the sacred command that was passed on to them.
Of them the proverbs are true: “A dog returns to its vomit,”
and, “A sow that is washed returns to her wallowing in the mud.
II Peter 2: 20-22

Referring to sin as, PUKE ON GOD’S THRONE–your own included–serves as a good reminder of the grossness of sin.

Insight #11: With older children/teens, resist using long-term restriction as a weapon.  

While temporarily taking away certain privileges may be necessary to keep them safe, I recommend using what I call, prayerful regrouping, as you lean on God to help you minister to their hearts rather than to simply isolate them.  (See Insight #6 in my previous post for the reasoning behind this.  I will expand on this in my next post.)

Insight #12: Problems seldom occur at convenient times.  Check your attitude by giving thanks that God’s timing is always perfect. 

I cannot tell you how many times I have prayed, “Lord, I didn’t know it was going to be so hard!” Life IS hard, but God is EXCEEDINGLY GOOD to those who seek Him for the wisdom and perspective they lack.  James 4:7 declares:

“Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”

Satan uses doubt to separate us from God.
By refusing to doubt God’s Sovereign Goodness,
He will provide the courage and strength you lack.  

All to His Glory~

 

 

The Lost Art of Godly Discipline . . . .

This is the fourth post in a series featuring ways God
used my family and the Scriptures to draw me closer to Himself.
I share them to encourage you to trust in God, no matter what life brings. ❤️

As a child of the 50’s, I grew up thinking discipline was synonymous with punishment.  When I became a parent, I accepted the necessity of spanking as part of the arsenal of weapons parents used to communicate the seriousness of their children’s “crimes”.   As time passed, however, I became personally convicted about spanking my children, because too often, my anger took control and I spanked them harder than was necessary.

The Fruit of Godly Discipline~😊

In my last post, I wrote about how God brought order to my home after I surrendered my heart to Christ.  It was at that time that He replaced my penchant for perfectionism with Himself.  It was also then, that I became convicted that my efforts in parenting were too often motivated by:

  1. My anger at my children, and/or
  2. My fear of losing control, thinking–If I can’t control them when they’re small, what on earth will I do when they get into their teens?

The problem was, I didn’t know what to replace it with. Initially, I recognized my children still needed discipline so, I replaced spanking with yelling–A LOT!  (It was amazing how quickly they were able to tune me out!)  I struggled with feeling helpless and foolish most of the time in my efforts to parent.

 It was not until I learned:

  1. Discipline and punishment are NOT synonymous.
  2. “Disciple” is the root word of discipline.
  3. God shepherds the hearts of His own by leading (not beating) them! 

that “the lost art of Godly discipline” came into view.

So what is the difference between discipline and punishment?  The simple wisdom of Christian motivational speaker, Zig Ziglar, is full of insight:

We need to understand the difference
between discipline and punishment.
Punishment is what you do TO someone;
discipline is what you do FOR someone.

The difference between the dictionary definitions of the two is stark:

  1. Merriam-Webster Dictionary affirms Ziglar’s assertion with this definition of discipline:“Training that corrects, molds or perfects the mental faculties or moral character.”
  2. Punishment is defined as, “suffering, pain, or loss that serves as retribution.”

Between the two choices, discipline is certainly preferable to punishment when it comes, not only to raising children but also in how we want to be treated by our Creator.

Yet, as I look at culture today (even Christian culture), it is very apparent that many children are not receiving the benefits of discipline.  Sadly, as culture has embraced the notion of developing high self-esteem, parents have been remiss in teaching the difference between right and wrong, as well as God’s mandate that we love Him and our neighbor.  The results?  Just listening to the nightly news says it all.

So how was I to proceed as a Christian parent?  The wisdom and truth of II Timothy 3:16, 17 drew me in:

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful
for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,
so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped
for every good work.”

It was then that I committed to depending on the Scriptures, prayer, and the leading of God’s Spirit to teach this servant of God, how to discipline/disciple my children.  Along the way, I received the assurance that God did not expect perfection from me as a parent.  All He wanted from me was a teachable heart:

“He tends His flock like a shepherd:
He gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them close to His heart;
He gently leads those that have young.”
Isaiah 40:11

The following are insights that guided me through the process of discovering the art of  Godly discipline. with the hope that you might also be blessed:

Insight #1: Godly discipline has to be learned before it can be applied. 

God convicted me early-on with this thought:

If you want your children (or your grandchildren) to take you seriously,
make YOUR own bed before requiring them to make theirs.*
 

Insight #2: Godly discipline is meant to be a lifestyle, not a series of events.

 I found great encouragement in this beautiful word picture given the Israelites as they prepared to enter the Promised Land:

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart
and with all your soul and with all your strength.
These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts.
Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home
and when you walk along the road,
when you lie down and when you get up.”

Deuteronomy 6:5-7

Insight #3: God does not have grandchildren; He only has children.

This piece of wisdom came from Corrie Ten Boom, author of one of my favorite books, The Hiding Place.  I had read her book to my children, so they had great respect for its author.  I reminded our children of this at various stages in their lives, pointing out that being raised in a Christian home did not make them followers of Jesus Christ.

Insight #4: Make regular worship at a Bible-teaching church and fellowship with other Believers a priority.

Early in my walk with Jesus, I learned: “There is no such thing as a ‘Lone Ranger’ Christian.”  Worship of God with other Believers became our priority. I remain grateful for how our church family has loved us through good and tough times.  Having relationships with other adult Believers benefited our family greatly through the “teen years”–when Mom and Dad were “uncool”.

Insight #5: Help your children think biblically by reading to them–A LOT!

Early on I discovered God uses reading to shepherd our hearts.  I especially loved summers when we had larger blocks of time to read all kinds of books.  As my children grew (early elementary age and above) we enjoyed reading true stories about the lives of other Christians–Corrie Ten Boom’s, The Hiding Place, Joni Ericksen Tada’s story as well as Hudson Taylor, Eric Liddell, Gladys Aylward, David Livingston, and George Muller are but a few of those we enjoyed.  We also read the Narnia, Little House and Lord of the Rings series as well as delving into the wisdom of the Bible.  (Reading The Hiding Place and Joni’s Story in the shelter of our home, gave opportunity to talk about sin, the human heart and how God blesses His children through adversity.)

Insight #6: When disciplining your child–draw them in–rather than isolate them.

I’ve never understood the practice of sending children to their room when they get into trouble.  When my children needed discipline, I saw that time as an opportunity to minister to their hearts.  Keeping them close to me, helped me not to forget and miss that window.)  This is the pattern that developed when they were small:

  1. They stood in the corner of the room where I was working (usually the kitchen) with the timer set and their hands behind their back to help them think about what they had done.  (If they fidgeted more time was added, so they soon learned to settle into their corner as I continued to work!)
  2. When the timer dinged, I sat on the chair and they either sat on my lap or stood in front of me.  (The main intent here was to make good eye contact.)
  3.   I then asked, “Why did you have to stand in the corner?”  I soon found this to be a critical piece of the discipline process–especially when they were a bit fuzzy about what they had done wrong.
  4. We then talked about what had happened, the sin that was involved, and then, how to make things right again.  (Often it was to apologize to one of their siblings.)
  5. Before we went on with our day I prayed for them–about what they had done but always with thanksgiving to God for their lives and His plan for their future.

As they grew the pattern adjusted.  Rather than stand in the corner, I assigned appropriate passages of Scripture for them to read and apply in a short essay. (The intent was to help them take sin seriously by going to God in confession and faith.)

Insight #7: Along the way, watch for ways to bring laughter, adventure, and opportunities to serve others into your family routine. 

I Timothy 6:17-19 pictures this beautifully:

“Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant
nor to put their hope in wealth . . .but to put their hope in God,
who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.
Command them . . . to be rich in good deeds . . . to be generous and willing to share.
In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves . . . for the coming age,
so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.”

Through the years God proved Himself faithful to our family, even when we were not entirely faithful to Him.  What our middle-child, Amy wrote in her early twenties sums our family up quite well: “I come from a family of five sinners . . . . “  Over time we have grown to be a family of fifteen, still delving into the lost art of Godly discipline . . . .

All to His Glory!

*Underscoring the warning against saying, “Do as I say, not as I do!”  (Such an attitude breeds disrespect and contempt.)

The Tyranny of Perfectionism vs The Joy of Godly Discipline . . . .

God uses what He will to shepherd our hearts.
This is the third in a series of posts featuring some of the ways God
used my family and the Scriptures to draw me closer to Himself.
I share them to encourage you to trust in God no matter what “life” brings. 
 ❤️

A WORD TO THE WISE:

“Do not deceive yourselves.
If any of you think you are wise by the standards of this age,
you should become “fools” so that you may become wise.
For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight.”

I Corinthians 3:18, 19a

For many years, feeling as if “failure” was my middle name, I struggled with depression. After surrendering my heart to Christ, the first Bible study I participated in was a six-week study of Philippians. Written by the Apostle Paul from a of filthy Roman prison cell, Paul none-the-less urged his friends toward JOY:

Battered by winter, yet signs of spring prevail!

“REJOICE in the Lord ALWAYS, 
again I say, REJOICE!”
Philippians 4:4

What did I learn from Paul’s letter?

  • That for Christians, the basis for JOY runs deeper than mere happiness.
  • JOY is a choice.
  • No matter how my circumstances change or what others do, JOY is always to be had through Christ who strengthens me.

From then on, that was all I wanted . . .
pure, unadulterated JOY in the One who saved me
for Himself.

Yet I continued to struggle in two areas:

  1. I was disorganized.  I felt as if I constantly let God down, as I struggled to care for home and family.
  2. Going deeper, I knew my children needed discipline as they grew but, I didn’t how to discipline my children as a Christian mother.

At times, feeling closer to despair than joy, I prayed and dug into the Scriptures for the perspective I needed.  Finally, this verse pricked my mind and heart:

“The LORD does not look at the things people look at.
People look at the outward appearance,
but the LORD looks at the heart.”
I Samuel 16:7

As I contemplated the wisdom of Samuel, it struck me that my problem was rooted in my ideal–PERFECTIONISM (or what I jokingly referred to as, “Better Homes and Gardens perfect”.)  I realized that I was confusing Scripture’s call to holiness** with perfectionism.  Until then, I would have laughed at the suggestion that I was a perfectionist–assuming that true perfectionists DID have their lives together!

However, the one thing I knew for sure,
was that God as my Shepherd would be far gentler
than the tyranny of perfectionism that had ruled me for so long.

Soon after, help that would answer my struggle with organization arrived.  A church friend invited me to join her and several others looking for help in organizing their homes.  Using an organizational card-system for “Side-tracked Home Executives” (referred to as, SHE), we found encouragement.  For several weeks we laughed as we listened to tapes featuring the stories of sisters, Pam Young and Peggy Jones, who sounded as if they had been more disorganized than we were.  It was their humor as well as their insights shared, not only about organizing our homes, but also a fresh perspective on husbands and children–that ministered to my heart.  In the end, their system did help me bring order to our home, but it also brought fun ways to encourage and discipline my children toward organization through:

  • “The Maid’s Box”–a cardboard box where favorite toys cluttering our home were placed until redeemed for 25 cents; and
  • “The Room Fairy”–who left occasional treats when their bedrooms were picked up.

Looking back, that season not only brought order (a healthier goal) to our home but also encouraged my heart in many other ways.

One memory that still causes me to smile occurred while we lived in England.  After my daughters found special treats on their beds from the Room Fairy, a neighbor girl said, “Aw, there’s no such thing as a Room Fairy, your mum bought those things.”  For a moment fearing that I had been found out, my oldest promptly responded, “Yes there is a Room Fairy, there’s no way my mum would buy such great stuff!” 😊

I continue to be grateful for how God freed me to trust Him with managing my home and family.

While getting organized outwardly, there was still a long way to go in tending to God’s primary concern: the inward condition of our hearts.  In my next post I will write about lessons learned as God replaced perfectionism with His perspective on discipline.  Here’s a hint to encourage you until then:

“He tends His flock like a shepherd:
He gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them close to His heart;
He gently leads those that have young.”

Isaiah 40:11

All to His Glory!

*But just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do.” I Peter 1:15

The Beauty and Blessing of Christian Discipline

 
“Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith who for the joy set before Him, endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” 
Hebrews 12:1b-3

It was such a small thing . . . I am not even sure why it so strongly got my attention . . . it just DID.  I was watching the television “reality” program, Nineteen Kids and Counting– documenting the daily activities of a Christian family of nineteen children.  In the clip the youngest Duggar, four-year-old Josie, had refused to share a ball with her siblings.  When her mother (Michelle Duggar) realized what was happening, she stooped down to look Josie in the eye as she gently but firmly said, “Josie . . .the world does not revolve around Josie!”  Appearing slightly embarrassed, little Josie handed the ball over to her mother as the timer was set to mark when it would be her turn to play with the ball again.  I was awestruck by the beauty and blessing of Christian discipline played out so sweetly!

I wonder if that little exchange between parent and child has stayed with me because it was such a sharp contrast to what I see around me–children who are out-of-control, who disrespect their parents and all other authority.  Sadly, we live in an increasingly godless culture where children are taught that the world DOES revolve around them.  Many parents, having abdicated their responsibility of teaching “right from wrong,” prefer instead to be “friends” with their kids.  The outcome?  With Christ out of the picture and no responsible adult in charge: such things as discipline, respect for authority, love for God and love for neighbor have become foreign concepts.  The fruit of raising such overindulged, undisciplined children?  All too often they become joyless, angry and unproductive adults.

I thought about this two days ago when the latest school shooting was being reported on the news.  We continue to be stunned by such events as they take place in just about any setting across the US.  Looking for reasons as to why they happen “experts” point to such things as abuse in childhood, parental divorce, mental illnessthe influence of violent movies and video gamesease of access to guns as reasons for our cultural toxicity.  Although such factors may indeed have some merit, I wonder if the problem goes far deeper . . . if perhaps it is a reflection of the spiritual darkness that has become so pervasive in the minds and hearts of people?  Thinking back to little Josie and her mom, it would seem that in separating ourselves from God and rejecting Christ, the wisdom needed to raise secure, healthy children through loving discipline has been lost.

After much training, ready to run the race!

After much training, ready to run the race!

The Bible likens discipline to preparing to run a race.  Several months ago our grandson Jack agreed to start running with his mom–our oldest daughter Kara.  For months they trained. Knowing not to push too hard, Kara sought to help Jack build his endurance.  There were discouraging times, but they kept to a disciplined plan and finally were ready to enter Jack’s first 5-K run.  The morning of the run, a large crowd showed up to compete.  Kara and Jack ran the course and it ended up with Jack taking second place in his category of runners.  He was one proud, happy guy and his mama was quite pleased also!

As I think about the blessing of loving discipline being worked out in Josie’s and Jack’s lives–two very different examples–I have come to value Christian discipline as truly unique.  Remembering that the root word in discipline is disciple,  we can learn much about meaningful discipline by studying Christ, the Author and Perfecter of our faith as He disciplined His disciples–preparing them for what was ahead.

  1. Although Jesus got frustrated with His disciples spiritual denseness, it was love that motivated how He taught and challenged their minds and hearts.
  2. Jesus knew His time to prepare them for what was coming was limited–there was no time to waste.  
  3. Jesus’ focus was never solely on changing the outward behavior of His disciples; His words penetrated their minds and hearts to bless them with an eternal perspective.
The reward for finishing well . . . confidence to face the next challenge!

The reward for staying the course? Confidence to face the next challenge!

Having walked with Christ for over half of my life, I have come to appreciate the connection between love and discipline as the two essential parts of Christian discipline.  When we talk about this in the Counseling Room I demonstrate the unique strength of Christian discipline by bringing my fingers together (representing love on one hand and discipline on the other) to form a uniform mesh of strength.  It is the resulting strength of combining love with discipline that builds solid character in the heart of the receiver. 

No matter where you are in life–young or old, married or single, rich or struggling financially–if you are a Christian then it is important to appreciate and apply the beauty and blessings of Christian discipline in your relationships.  True Christian discipline seeks to honor Christ as it is:

  1. Motivated by love, Christian discipline seeks to challenge (and in the long-run strengthen) the mind and heart of the receiver.
  2. It does not waste time but uses it wisely and prayerfully because it is precious.
  3. Its focus is never just about changing behavior, true Christian discipline seeks to penetrate the mind and heart of the receiver for eternity with the love of Jesus.
“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
    nor be weary when reproved by Him.
 For the Lord disciplines the one He loves,
    and chastises every son whom He receives . . .
He disciplines us for our good, that we may share His holiness.”
Hebrews 12:5, 6 & 10 

All to His Glory!

 

 

What Not To Say To Kids . . . .

I never cease to be amazed at the way God can use just about anything to get my attention.  It happened again this week while watching an excellent DVD series, The Reason for God with Tim Keller.  In the six session series, Keller (senior pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City) meets with a group of people to address their doubts and objections to Christianity.  The conversations are interesting, thought-provoking and instructive as Keller and the group talk about the Bible, the exclusive claims of Christianity and about God in relation to rules, homosexuality, suffering, the church and the world at large.   Especially impressive is the way each participant is afforded the opportunity to express their views, ask pointed questions and are treated with respect as Keller moderates the discussion. It was actually one of the discussion participants God used to get my attention–a young man of about 25.   The discussion question was, “What gives you the right to tell me how to live my life?”  The young man talked about his rebellion growing up and how irked he became when he asked “Why?” he had to clean his room, and his parents responded with, “Because I said so.”

 I  later thought about the young man’s struggle, wondering how many times I may have said “Because I said so” to my kids when they were still at home?  Even though it was not a major part of my “parenting arsenal”, I felt convicted at the thought of having said it at all.   I realized how self-centered such a response is!   It occurred me that a much better response to “Why?” might be something like:

“Because God loves you and has a plan for your life . . .
because you need to be able to take care of yourself when you leave home . . .
because I love you and want you to succeed at whatever God has for you!”
I began to wonder:
Be we parent, grandparent, teacher, friend, neighbor or stranger . . .
if the love of God is our motivation in how we respond to kids,
would the world be any different?

I think it would.  Rather than responding in frustration, anger or with the knee-jerk response of protecting our “turf” (isn’t “Because I said so” truly a reflection of our own selfishness?) what a difference is made in any relationship when God’s love is our motivation!

Consider the example given us by God in how He dealt with rebellious Israel after they were taken into captivity in Babylon.  Their rebellion resulted in their loss of every provision God had given them except for one . . . God Himself.  I invite you to consider and learn from God’s loving assurance to Israel in their brokenness:

“When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill My good promise to bring you back to this place.   For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.   Then you will call on Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you.   You will seek Me and find me when you seek Me with all your heart.   I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity.” ( Jeremiah 29:10b-14)

Although our “nest” has been empty for over a decade, I still remember the tension of trying to get it right as a parent and feeling like a failure much of the time.  (In fact, I still feel that tension as a parent, grandparent, neighbor and counselor at times.)  As I reflected on this fresh approach of saying, “Because I love you and God does too” to the age-old question of “Why?” I was struck by how taking the focus off of “I” and interjecting the love of God softens the whole picture.

Sometimes there are unavoidable consequences that must come into play when rebellion is at the heart of the matter, but even so . . . responding with “Because I said so” is never going to accomplish anything good in the angry heart.   Having the courage to respond wisely with the love of Christ however has all sorts of possibilities!

All to His Glory! 

Connecting Your Story With His~

Everyone has a story to tell:

you . . .

me . . .

everyone.

While in my role as a Counselor I count it a privilege to listen to the stories of every person I serve, it is my goal to help every Client connect their story to the larger story of God’s Plan being worked out in their lives.  That is why I do not place a huge emphasis on going through every single nuance of what contributed to why a new Client seeks help.   Instead, my priority in each Session is to help each Client connect their story to Scripture early and often.  Why?

Because the wisdom and perspective of the Bible combined with the mysterious working of the Holy Spirit in the human heart, provides the best source of healing there is.

In my weekly Bible study we just finished studying Job, which is actually a story within a story.  It begins with a straightforward introduction:

“In the land of Uz there lived a man whose name was Job. This man was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil.”  

Job was a godly man who was wealthy, respected and loved his kids.  Life was sweet, but things were about to change.  Six verses into the first chapter, a conversation takes place between God (who loves and esteems Job) and Satan.  Job is never privy to the conversation that will result in the loss of his wealth, his children and his health.   I won’t go into the details of the story except to say that it is full of drama as Job suffers the pain of loss in every area of his life.  What compounds Job’s suffering are the accusations of his so-called “friends” who insist that Job or his children committed some hidden sin.  Job insists that he has nothing to repent of.  In 19:25-27 he makes this declaration in his painful anguish:

I know that my Redeemer lives,
    and that in the end He will stand on the earth.
And after my skin has been destroyed,
    yet in my flesh I will see God;
I myself will see Him
    with my own eyes—I, and not another.
How my heart yearns within me!

In the end, Job had to repent of doubting God’s goodness in his sufferings.  In doing that, God’s purposes for Job were accomplished as he comes out of the experience with a deeper appreciation and confidence in his Creator.

“I know that You can do all things;
     no purpose of Yours can be thwarted.
My ears had heard of You
    but now my eyes have seen You.
Therefore I despise myself
    and repent in dust and ashes.”

 Job’s story connected with God’s larger story as Job learned to trust God no matter what.  And do you know what?  That is exactly what God wants for you and me.  

In this season of remembrance of the death and resurrection of our Savior Redeemer, it is my prayer that we will look at suffering differently.  My prayer is that as we remember the sufferings of Christ on our behalf we will look at whatever trial we face as an opportunity to connect our stories with His.  The Apostle John wrote in his first letter (2:1,2),

My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.  He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.

All to His Glory!

The Problem With “Normal”

No matter how old I get, I never cease to be amazed by how God uses the ordinary things in life to teach extraordinary truths.   Many years ago, God used a conversation with a 15-year old French teenager named Florain to challenge my thinking.  Florian lived with us for a month one summer as part of a student exchange program.   During that time, I remember struggling to keep our family afloat by avoiding confrontation with our two very “normal” teenaged daughters and preteen son.  Why I said “yes” to having one more teenager live in our home remains a mystery to me, but I’m so glad I did!

When Florian joined our family,  he was appreciative of our hospitality and set about fitting in right away.  There were a lot of activities with our church youth group Florian enthusiastically attended with our daughters.   I suppose that is why, after living with us for about two weeks, a conversation I had with him so powerfully captured my attention.  He began our conversation with a question:

“Why are American teens so rude to their parents?”

(Bear in mind, the only American teens Florian got to know that summer were our teens and their youth group friends!)   I don’t remember how I responded except that I probably made the excuse that they were just “normal” teenagers.  It was Florian’s response that rattled and challenged me to check the basis of my beliefs with the wisdom and perspective of Scripture.  This is a paraphrase of what he said as he carefully chose English words to express what was on his troubled French heart:

 “Me and my friends, we don’t treat our parents that way.  We are taught to be respectful of our parents and elders.  We would never display such rudeness to our parents the way American teens do.  I do not understand why they are allowed to do that!”

I was stunned!  Here was a young man who came from a culture that was notoriously perceived as rude and arrogant by my culture, expressing shock and amazement at the arrogance of teens in our culture!  Huh?!!  It took me a while to realize how my acceptance of the cultural view of teens as rebellious and rude actually encouraged such behavior!   This revelation took me back to the basics of what I believe to help me figure out how to love my teens better.  It was through the Scriptures and the Holy Spirit working in my heart that freed us to:

  1. Talk about sin as being rebellion against God- “sin is lawlessness.”  (1 John 3:4)
  2. We talked about our need for redemption and God’s faithful provision- “There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”  (Romans 3:22b-24)
  3. From that point on we called sin what God says it is- Sin!  What we maybe tempted to excuse as “normal” does not diminish the consequences of sin before a Holy God.
  4.  We also took more seriously His commandment to love- “Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart.”  (I Peter 1:22)

This brings me to the problem Christians must face today:  When we blindly accept what is deemed culturally “normal,” we set aside the blessing and protection given us by God in the Bible.  Sadly, by doing this we are every bit as vulnerable to the problems that plague the rest of culture!   In addition, there is no place for faith in this secular normalcy.  As time passes and “the separation of church and state” dictate the unacceptability of prayer in the public realm, can there really be any question as to the direction secular standardization is taking us?

This morning I was struck by Jesus warning to not be lulled into the seemingly “normal” routine of life.  Jesus knew His arrest was about to occur as He challenged His disciples to watch for His second coming.   What was chilling to me was in how He tied what was “normal” in the days before Noah completed construction of the ark to what would occur at His second coming:

As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.  For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark;  and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.”  (Matthew 24:37-39)

When we lose sight of the spiritual truths given us in the Bible (or remain ignorant of them) it becomes very easy to slide into eating, drinking and marrying with no thought of what is to come.   God gave us His Living Word to bless and keep us on His path of righteousness.   If you recognize that you too have been serving the lie of normalcy (whatever that may be) I urge you to go to God in repentance and faith in His Only Son.  Give thanks for His forgiveness as you stay close to Him through His Spirit and the Scriptures and as He blesses you with an extraordinary life!

All to His Glory!