Sunday, September 29, 2013

Proverbs 24:11-12 I didn't know . . .

I think I shared this summer that I was reading The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, which details Hitler’s climb to power. What struck me from the beginning was the willingness of the majority of the German people to roll over as one by one their rights were taken away, and how they turned a blind eye to what was happening to their Jewish neighbors as they hoped to stay under the radar themselves. They needed to make a concerted effort “not to know.” So when I read these verses, I was struck by it’s blunt warning to those who would prefer not to know:

Rescue those who are being taken away to death;

    hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter.  
If you say, “Behold, we did not know this,”

    does not he who weighs the heart perceive it?

Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it,

    and will he not repay man according to his work? (Proverbs 24:11-12)

The persecution of Jews has been going on throughout history. As God’s chosen people, they have been under attack since the beginning, as Satan tried and continues to try to prevent prophecies about the Messiah from being fulfilled - in particular the prophecy of his own doom. And other groups around them have either assented to the attacks or turned a blind eye. But this kind of selective blindness happens every day throughout our world. Whether we ignore the trafficking of young girls, or sit quietly as one population oppresses and murders another, we, too, are sometimes guilty of preferring not to know - or if we know, not getting involved. These verses say we will be held accountable for not rescuing people who are “stumbling to the slaughter.”

Once we know, we can’t undo the knowing. I’m wondering if this is why the millennial generation and many of their parents never read a paper or watch television news. I hear parents say all of the time, I don’t want to listen to bad news all day. Well, neither do I, and certainly, when you have small children in a home, you need to guard what images they see and what news they hear. However, how do we stop the evil tide if we pretend it isn’t there.

I grew up in a home in which the news was a big deal. My parents started the day with the LA Times and ended it with the 11 o’clock news. Had there been a CNN or Fox News in their day, I’m certain the TV would have been tuned to the news 24/7. My parents were actively involved in politics (our home was always a polling center on election days), and our dinner table topics were frequently current events.

These verses seem to challenge the desire to ignore the rest of the world. It sounds to me like we will be without excuse for failing to act. I know America can’t be the police of the world. We can’t rescue every child out of poverty. In fact Jesus told us there would always be poor among us. But it seems like we have been given a voice and financial blessing as a nation for a reason. Because we know we can’t do it all, there is a tendency to shrug our shoulders and not even try.

However, even though we cannot rescue ALL the children, we can save a few. We can sponsor a few through organizations like World Vision or Samaritan’s Purse. My daughter Emmy is a major proponent of rescuing through adoption. She had a T-shirt designed to help raise funds for adopting another Blakely which reads “145 Million ... minus one,” which refers to the number of orphans in the world, which can be reduced by one each time a family decides to make room for one more.

And we can be rescuing people from death every day as we share the LORD with them. People all around us are “stumbling to the slaughter,” as they march toward the end without Jesus. What are we doing to stop this? We certainly can’t claim we did not know. LORD, give us boldness and a sense of urgency about being rescuers. Open our eyes to what You see every day. Give us your heart of compassion and your will to do whatever we can do - little or big - to be light to a world in darkness.


Thursday, September 26, 2013

Proverbs 24:3-6 Lay a good foundation

Yesterday I ran into an acquaintance, and asked him to give my love to his wife, whom I adore. He said, “You know we’re getting a divorce, right?” I’m sure my reaction was evident as I felt my shoulders droop. Another marriage with two sweet children bites the dust! I was just so sad! As far as I know, this man and his wife are not professing Christians, but there are enough divorces among believers that end in defeat. So, this morning’s verses were a good reminder:

By wisdom a house is built,

    and by understanding it is established;  
by knowledge the rooms are filled

    with all precious and pleasant riches.  
A wise man is full of strength,

    and a man of knowledge enhances his might, 
for by wise guidance you can wage your war,

    and in abundance of counselors there is victory. (Proverbs 24:3-6)

If we want our houses to stand, they need to be built on a firm foundation. They need to be grounded in God’s Word, Jesus Christ. How in the world do people make marriages work without the wisdom of God? We face giant obstacles on a daily basis as Satan and his minions work overtime to destroy our families. Their army looks strong, but our God is stronger!

As Jon Courson points out in his Application Commentary, this was the situation David faced when he stood across the battlefield from Goliath. David was the “runt of the litter” in his family - the youngest and least likely to be a warrior. His brothers were enlisted in Saul’s army and were out on the battlefield while David was tending sheep. When his father sent him out to deliver food to his brothers, David saw this giant, Goliath, taunting God’s people. This is the description of the behemoth who stood in front of David:

And there came out from the camp of the Philistines a champion named Goliath of Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span.  He had a helmet of bronze on his head, and he was armed with a coat of mail, and the weight of the coat was five thousand shekels of bronze.  And he had bronze armor on his legs, and a javelin of bronze slung between his shoulders.  The shaft of his spear was like a weaver's beam, and his spear's head weighed six hundred shekels of iron. (1 Samuel 17:4-7)

Now that would be a formidable foe! No wonder Saul’s army was “dismayed and greatly afraid.” However, David was astonished that any man, including this lout of a Philistine should dare defy “the armies of the living God.” He offered his services to Saul, who scorned the puny youth. But David told Saul of the times he had killed lions and bears who came against the sheep in his care. So David boldly declared, with confidence in his God, not himself, “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” (1 Samuel 17:37)

David is the perfect example of the wise man who is “full of strength” and who “enhances his might” by his knowledge. Not the knowledge of military strategy nor the strength of physical might and weaponry. David knew it was God’s strength that would defeat the giant. Indeed, he said as much to Goliath:

“You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.  This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head. And I will give the dead bodies of the host of the Philistines this day to the birds of the air and to the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel,  and that all this assembly may know that the Lord saves not with sword and spear. For the battle is the Lord's, and he will give you into our hand.” (I Samuel 17:45-47)

If your household is currently under attack or being threatened by giant opponents, remember that the battle is the LORD’s! We are not strong enough in our own puny power to defeat enemies like marital strife, financial disaster, health crises, problems with teens or adult children, etc. If we attempt to use our own wisdom and knowledge, we will be defeated. But we have ALMIGHTY GOD and His host of angels battling on our behalf! Quit trying to manipulate an outcome. Give it over to God and His wisdom and strength! Remember your own “lion and bear” stories - when God has been faithful to preserve you and your marriage against attack. Like David, we need to claim, “The battle is the Lord’s!” 

I’m praying for this couple, that the LORD would speak to this man’s heart, and that God would open his eyes to the true battle that is raging around him and his family. May God draw this family to Himself and preserve this marriage!  

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Proverbs 23:29-35 Watch out for the sting!

Who are the people who are always crying the blues?

    Who do you know who reeks of self-pity?

Who keeps getting beat up for no reason at all?

    Whose eyes are bleary and bloodshot?

It’s those who spend the night with a bottle,

    for whom drinking is serious business.

Don’t judge wine by its label,

    or its bouquet, or its full-bodied flavor.

Judge it rather by the hangover it leaves you with—

    the splitting headache, the queasy stomach.

Do you really prefer seeing double,

    with your speech all slurred,

Reeling and seasick,

    drunk as a sailor?

“They hit me,” you’ll say, “but it didn’t hurt;

    they beat on me, but I didn’t feel a thing.

When I’m sober enough to manage it,

    bring me another drink!” (Proverbs 23:29-35 The Message)

There really is nothing funny about a drunk! In the 1960’s there were many comedians who made a good living hilariously portraying drunks in their acts. But if you have ever lived with or been a drunk, you know that there is nothing funny about the consequences. What looks like fun in these verses? Would it be the tendency to morose self-pity? The bloodshot eyes? The splitting headache? The “queasy stomach” that leads to vomiting? The slurred speech? Sounds like a blast! This is the kind of “fun” some of us “enjoyed” in college. Fortunately, I got it all out of my system in college! But many keep up the “partying” throughout their adult lives. Like all sinful pleasures, it starts out feeling good, then it turns on you and holds you in its power.

In the English Standard Version, verses 32-33 give an added picture:

In the end it bites like a serpent

    and stings like an adder. 
Your eyes will see strange things,

    and your heart utter perverse things. 

For me, the danger was in my mouth! I actually would utter perverse things! [NOTE: I was NOT a Christian in college!!! ] But I also saw the effects of alcohol on my parents and what horrid words they would hurl at each other after a night of drinking. In the end it bites - big time! Alcohol destroys your brain and it ruins a family! While an occasional glass of wine with dinner can be fine, too many among us can’t stop there. It goes down smoothly, but it can lead to ruin!

I’m not going to march up and down the street carrying a sign proposing a ban on alcohol. However, there are so many friends I dearly love who really just need to stop! You can’t stop without divine intervention, so my prayer is that the LORD would speak to those among us who need to stop, and give us the desire to turn from alcohol to true freedom in Christ.

If you are a parent and your child has witnessed you drunk, you need to stop. If you have gotten into an argument with your spouse while drinking, you need to stop. If you have missed work or church because you partied too heartily, you need to stop. If you have the drinker’s belly, you need to stop. If your drinking is stumbling someone else - even if you don’t get drunk - you need to stop.

I know I sound like a “Temperance League” biddy, but there really is a freshness to the pain I’ve felt because someone I love has been harmed by drinking. I’m sure you know someone, too. LORD, thank you for the help and strength you give us to turn from ANYTHING that harms us. Help us to seek our pleasure in worshiping you alone!  

Monday, September 23, 2013

Proverbs 23:17-18 Why do they get away with it?

Today’s verses are a timely reminder that our vision here is limited and so influenced by the world:

Let not your heart envy sinners,

    but continue in the fear of the Lord all the day. 
Surely there is a future,

    and your hope will not be cut off. (Proverbs 23:17-18)

Last night was the broadcast of the Emmy Awards, when the world tunes in to see the parade of beautiful people gather their rewards. The next People magazine cover will display the best and worst of the red carpet fashions, and many of us will have our envy meters jump off the charts! How our culture celebrates the rich and famous among us! Surely we are tempted to covet their grand homes, fancy cars, exquisite clothes, and their V.I.P. lifestyles that come with the fame. Yet, the majority of these folks scoff at the mention of Jesus’ name. They regularly mock Christians and their values through their work and with their platforms. So why do we hold them up to be envied?

David struggled with the idea that so often it seems that the mockers and evildoers prosper:

Truly God is good to Israel,

    to those who are pure in heart. 
But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled,

    my steps had nearly slipped. 
For I was envious of the arrogant

    when I saw the prosperity of the wicked... 
...They set their mouths against the heavens,

    and their tongue struts through the earth. 
Therefore his people turn back to them,

    and find no fault in them. 
And they say, “How can God know?

    Is there knowledge in the Most High?”
Behold, these are the wicked;

    always at ease, they increase in riches. (Psalm 73:1-3,9-12)

David found himself wondering why he bothered to keep himself pure before God, when apparently it wasn’t gaining him anything - at least not the “blessings” that he perceived to be with the wicked around him. They appeared to be getting away with their evil deeds - in fact they were prospering! David was filled with envy - until he went into the sanctuary of God and gained some godly perspective:

But when I thought how to understand this,

    it seemed to me a wearisome task, 
until I went into the sanctuary of God;

    then I discerned their end.  
Truly you set them in slippery places;

    you make them fall to ruin. 
How they are destroyed in a moment,

    swept away utterly by terrors! (Psalm 73:16-19)

Seeing things from God’s point of view, David realized that their is justice in the end. God deals with the wicked and He holds onto His own. He was able to praise God with confidence in his own future: 

Nevertheless, I am continually with you;

    you hold my right hand. 
You guide me with your counsel,

    and afterward you will receive me to glory. 
Whom have I in heaven but you?

    And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. 
My flesh and my heart may fail,

    but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. (Psalm 73:23-26)

Thank you, LORD, that our hope is secure in You. You have blessed us beyond measure with your love, your grace, your mercy, your joy, and your presence. Rewards like an Emmy statue, which tarnish and are quickly forgotten, are nothing compared the the rewards and crowns that await those who love you. Keep our eyes on You and on the prize you have waiting for us! 

Update on the twins: Cole and Ramona are both breathing on their own and appear to be thriving! Thank you, LORD!

Friday, September 20, 2013

Proverbs 23:15-16 My cup runneth over!

Before I get started, I’m going to solicit your prayers for the latest additions to our extended family. Late last night, my niece, Amanda, delivered twins, Cole Samuel Royer (2 lb. 14 oz), and Ramona Grace Royer (2+ lbs). They were about a month early! Both babies are doing well in NICU and Mom is resting. I think Dad, Chris, is exhausted! Please pray for these teeny ones, that God would keep His hand on them as they grow quickly. Pray for rest and peace for Amanda and Chris and for my sister, Susie, Amanda’s mother, who is across the country wanting with all her heart to be there! Thank you, LORD, for these sweet babies!

Today’s verses are timely as they express a parent’s deepest desire:

My son, if your heart is wise,

    my heart too will be glad.  
My inmost being will exult

    when your lips speak what is right. (Proverbs 23:15-16)

This verse reminds me of the Apostle John’s exultation upon hearing news of one of his “children” in Christ:

For I rejoiced greatly when the brothers came and testified to your truth, as indeed you are walking in the truth.  I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth. (3 John:3-4)

Even before our children are born, as soon as we know a baby is on the way, we begin to pray for them, and we begin to dream of all we want them to become. I was not a Christian before Molly was born, but she was the one who lead me to the LORD, because my deepest desire was that I raise her in the Truth. It was that thought that compelled me to search for God in truth. I knew that there could only be one Truth, and that, logically, not all religions could be true. So, I have always called Molly my “angel child” because she lead me to find, not a religion, but Jesus!

So it was my constant prayer as the girls were growing, that they would love the Truth, and that they would walk with the LORD all of their days. They loved Jesus from the time they were little, but I knew their biggest test would be when they actually left home for college. I knew they would have to make their faith their own. I still remember visiting Molly during her first year of college and seeing her so grounded in the Word, having committed herself to a great church, to wonderful Christian fellowship and Bible study. As we Don and I drove home from that visit I “exulted,” praising God the whole way home for Molly’s love for Christ.

And, as I watched Emmy, over and over in college, seek the LORD and His wisdom in her choices, I stood amazed at God’s faithfulness! When both girls married men who loved Jesus, too, I knew “no greater joy!”

So, today, my prayers are for little Cole and Ramona. May they grow in their knowledge of Christ, may they walk in His truth, and may they dedicate their lives to loving and serving our LORD. Thank you, LORD, for your faithfulness to Amanda and Chris as they welcome them into their family!  

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

To spank or not to spank...

Here are some verses that have, only in recent years, been considered controversial:

Do not withhold discipline from a child;

    if you strike him with a rod, he will not die. 
If you strike him with the rod,

    you will save his soul from Sheol. (Proverbs 23:13-14)

In my father’s generation, this would have been phrased as “give him a whippin’ !” When I was growing up, this would have been phrased as The Message puts it:

Don’t be afraid to correct your young ones;

    a spanking won’t kill them.

A good spanking, in fact, might save them

    from something worse than death. 

First off, let’s note that these verses presume that the father, like our Father in Heaven, LOVES his child and wants the best for him. The Bible does not advocate here the beating or abuse of a child. The goal in mind of the father is to help his child to become more Christ-like.

And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? 

“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.” 
It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 
 ...For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. (Hebrews 12:5-7,11)

I rarely spanked my girls [although I had to wash Emmy’s mouth out with soap a couple of times - she was a sassy little thing]. But when I did, it was just a quick swat on the bottom and always followed by much hugging and kissing and talking about consequences and forgiveness. The key for any kind of discipline is a cooling off period. Giving a child a time out allows her to save face and both of you time to calm down. Often the need for further discipline can be completely avoided this way.

Whatever discipline system parents choose, it needs to be consistent. The main idea of discipline is to build Christ-like character in our children and to demonstrate to children that all actions have consequences, both good and bad. Children need to understand the cause and effect relationship of their choices, so vain threats of punishment, or outrageous punishments that you have no desire to actually enforce, only confuse kids and undermine all authority in their lives. Therefore, choosing consequences must be carefully thought out and agreed upon by parents BEFORE discipline is needed, and follow-through is essential.

Years ago I had a parent of a student who emailed me the week before school got out wondering if his son could have some extra credit in spelling to avoid the “D” he had earned, because there was “a lot riding on it.” Really? I called the father and told him that we do not do extra credit in spelling, and that, even if we did, I would not want to allow his son to do it. His son had admitted to me all year long that he never studied for a spelling test, so why would I reward that? I was curious about what exactly was “riding on this.” Apparently, this father had told his son that if he didn’t make up that grade, he would not be allowed any video games the entire summer! Dad did NOT want to follow through on this one, because he did not want to entertain his son (the father worked out of his home).

I had to tell the father that he had, unfortunately chosen a rather unrealistic punishment, but he would nevertheless need to follow up on the threat in order to maintain credibility with his son. I suggested that, instead of watching video games, his son might take spelling tests all summer! :) I reminded him of the importance of selecting discipline, and that maybe he should have dealt with the poor spelling grades earlier in the year...

The goal of a parent is to raise a child who can successfully make his way in the world. You want your child to be able to socialize well, to be the one that other parents love to invite into their homes, and to one day sustain relationships and hold a job. I always tell parents, “Your job is to get rid of your child. If they cannot successfully move out by at least 22, we have a problem.” Ignoring obnoxious behaviors may be the “easy” way out in the short term, but in the long run it will ruin a kid and create much bigger problems later. Sometimes the “rod” of discipline is necessary and less painful for everyone involved!

If you are the parent or grandparent of a toddler, click here to listen to a great radio broadcast from Focus on the Family. After you get the page up, click on “Real-World Advice on Parenting Toddlers” and then for some exrta tips click on “Structure and Sharing.”   Happy disciplining!

Friday, September 13, 2013

Proverbs 23:1-3, 6-8 Sometimes a table for one is preferable!

I decided to go to The Message Bible for today’s verses, which offer some very practical advice when dining with others:

When you go out to dinner with an influential person,

    mind your manners:

Don’t gobble your food,

    don’t talk with your mouth full.

And don’t stuff yourself;

    bridle your appetite. 
 ...Don’t accept a meal from a tightwad;

    don’t expect anything special.

He’ll be as stingy with you as he is with himself;

    he’ll say, “Eat! Drink!” but won’t mean a word of it.

His miserly serving will turn your stomach

    when you realize the meal’s a sham. (Proverbs 23:1-3,6-8)

Both of these verses have to do with accepting invitations to dine with two kinds of people. The first is the wealthy, influential person. An invitation from this person probably turns your head a bit, because it seems a privilege, especially in our era of celebrity worship. How exciting to be considered a “friend” of the influential. Hey, that’s nothing! As Christians, we are children of the King of Kings!

In the English Standard Version you see a bit more about the influential person in verse 3: "Do not crave his delicacies, for that food is deceptive."  I’m thinking this adds a nuance to the character of the influential person - he’s probably manipulative. His motivation for inviting you to dine may not be just to enjoy your company! So the warning is to be careful when dining with him. Watch your manners, but be wary of your own desire to impress him and your own tendency to be impressed BY him!

The second person identified in these verses is the tightwad, who extends a generous invitation, but in reality is counting the cost of every bite you take. Have you ever noticed that sometimes the stingiest people are the ones with the most money? Maybe that’s how they have amassed their money - by holding onto it with both fists. This person invites you to feast while adding up in his head the cost of each bite you take!

These people may make dining alone look like the better option! Certainly you would want to think twice before accepting an invitation from either of them. However, the more important lesson here may be to determine not to be one of them! When we offer invitations, do we seek out those who can do something for us? Do we have a motivation other than just enjoying the company of friends?

How are we with our money? Are we generous with others, or do we also fret inwardly when we are paying the way for others? When splitting up a check at a restaurant do we get out our calculators to be sure we don’t pay one cent more than our “fair share?” Do we hold onto our money so tightly that we have forgotten how to give generously what is God’s anyway? What kind of hosts are we?

I love how the Proverbs are so real!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Proverbs 22:28 Know your boundaries

Do not move the ancient landmark

    that your fathers have set. (Proverbs 22:28)

The Message says it this way:

Don’t stealthily move back the boundary lines

    staked out long ago by your ancestors.

Boundary lines establish limits. They tell us how far we can go before we have left one piece of land and entered another. They protect property and are set up to prevent us from unwittingly crossing into the territory of another. Some people see them in a negative light - as restrictive and denying freedom. Others see them as a good thing - a way to get our bearings.

Psychologists tell us that little children actually like boundaries, because they make them feel secure. Even though children will push the limits, they want to know that the boundaries are secure. Dr. James Dobson, in his wonderful book, The Strong-Willed Child, used the example of the security guard at a shopping center. He is going to test all of the doorknobs as he makes his rounds, but he wants to find them securely locked.

God has given us His boundary lines in His Word. He has established His plan for our lives and has clearly marked His Way. Because we belong to Him, we know we are safest when we stay within His boundaries. The good news is that His boundaries are unchanging, because He Himself never changes. And as long as we remain in Him, we will be secure.

Today’s proverb tells us not to move those boundaries. Don’t mess with God’s Word! The whole of it is inspired by God - not just the parts we like.

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (2Timothy 3:16-17)

The world has continually tried to chip away at God’s Word. Even Thomas Jefferson actually physically cut out passages of scripture from his Bible that he didn’t like - thus there is a Jeffersonian Bible in the Library of Congress with holes in it! Our culture is ever-changing, and our values fluctuate. Those things which were once considered appalling are now completely accepted and celebrated. But God’s Word remains.

All flesh is like grass

    and all its glory like the flower of grass.

The grass withers,

    and the flower falls, 
but the word of the Lord remains forever. (I Peter 1:24-25)

Don’t mess with the boundaries. They are not there to restrict our freedom, but to mark God’s ownership of us. They are there for our protection and will lead us to an abundant, joy-filled life. Jesus is the living Word of God. We need to remain in Him!  

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Proverbs 22:13 Lazy or fearful?

The sluggard says, “There is a lion outside! I shall be killed in the streets!” (Proverbs 22:13)

If ever there was a random verse, this one seems to be it! It certainly caught my eye this morning! What in the world? How is this meaningful to my life? Well, knowing that there is every single word in this book was God-breathed, I decided this one needed some thinking.

A sluggard is someone who is truly lazy - barely able to get his butt off the couch. He is a passive person, content to let the rest of the world go by outside, while he will just watch from the window, safely inside his home. This is someone who is never gung ho about anything. When asked if he wants to join in an activity, he’s likely to shrug his shoulders and say, “Whatever...” In this instance, the sluggard excuses his slothful attitude by claiming there is grave danger in going out. In fact, there is a lion in the streets! Did the lion escape from a traveling circus or the zoo?

The reality is that in our world, there is indeed a lion in the streets. In fact, Peter warns us that Satan is that lion.

Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8)

Is this sluggard merely being prudent? I don’t think so. While Satan, our adversary, poses real danger, we know that our God is greater.

Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. (1 John 4:4)

Our God is the Sovereign King of the Universe. He is the God of angel armies. If He is for us, who can be against us? Paul asks this question in Romans 8:

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?  As it is written, 
         “For your sake we are being killed all the day long;

               we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” 

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:35-39)

No, because this verse in Proverbs tells us that the man in question is a sluggard, we know that he is full of excuses - maybe a little fear mixed in with laziness. Maybe he is someone who has a fear of failure, so would rather play it safe by never venturing out.

So what does that have to do with me? Whenever I am presented with an opportunity to serve God or whenever He is asking me to step out of my comfort zone, maybe to share the gospel directly with someone, or to tackle a project that seems too hard for me, do I waiver because of fear of failure or laziness? Do I look for convenient excuses or roadblocks? What am I afraid of? Hard work, or failure, or maybe both?

Fall is usually the time when churches and other organizations gear up for the year ahead. Opportunities to serve or to step out are abundant. Maybe your church needs more adults to serve in children’s ministries. Maybe a friend has invited you to join the new Bible study starting up, and you are looking for excuses to say, “No.” Is it fear that is stopping you? Remember the One who is on your side! Is it laziness? Remember the One who is on your side. He is not only able to strengthen you for the task, He is willing. Step out and watch the lion run away!  

Monday, September 9, 2013

Proverbs 22:6 Let the training begin!

Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it. (Proverbs 22:6)

Well, it’s the first day of school, and parents everywhere are doing their happy dances! In our district, due to the furlough cuts last year, this was the longest summer we will ever see. So, I’m actually doing a happy dance myself! I’m ready! The room is clean, pencils are sharpened, books are ready to be distributed, name plates are made, and for the last time in the school year, my desk is cleared and I can actually see the wood veneer.

Next to being a parent, I believe teaching is the most important job in the world. I’ve been given the privilege to teach and to train children. So, today’s verse is meaningful to me. I’ve always seen this verse as a wonderful promise from God that, if we are diligent to train our children, they will stay on the right path. And, yet, I know many parents who seemed to do everything right, and their children are not walking with the LORD - yet! I say, “yet,” because I don’t believe that God is finished with us until He is finished with us.

My father-in-law was an example of someone whose parents loved and served God (his father was a Baptist minister who prayed faithfully for his children and unborn grandchildren). Yet, Frank spent most of his life ignoring the God of his father. I believe God kept him alive until he finally surrendered.

So, what is it with this verse? I like what Jon Courson has to say about it. “There’s a difference between training and teaching. A teacher tells you what to do. A trainer shows you how to do it.”  (Jon Couson's Application Commentary: Old Testament, Vol. 2; P. 249)  Now, while I could argue that a good teacher DOES actually show a student how to do it, I get his point. While a teacher may disseminate information, a personal trainer will get on the mat with you and show you all of the moves you need. They have been where you are and have disciplined themselves to reach their peak, so they can model for you how you can best get fit. They will lead and you will follow.

As a parent, it is not enough that we disseminate information about Jesus Christ to our children. It’s not enough that we read Bible stories, pray, take the kids to Sunday School, and even serve in a ministry at church, although ALL of that is part of the training we need to do. But if that’s all they get from us, and they aren’t actually seeing how to put it into practice in the trenches by our example, we haven’t gone far enough.

Our children need to see us exercising our faith daily. They need to see us in the day-to-day struggles acting out our faith and trusting God. They need to see us responding in love when we encounter needs, trusting when we’ve been disappointed, forgiving when we’ve been hurt, humbling ourselves and repenting when we’ve been wrong, and completely surrendering to God’s will in the big and the little things of life. They need to see authenticity. They also need to see us trusting God with our finances. They need to see us modeling contentment in a very materialistic world. They need to see us generously giving back to God what He has given to us.

Even parents who do all of this see their children walk away. But I want to offer the encouragement to those of you who are hurting over a wayward child (even adult child). I have seen, over and over, adult children, who seemed beyond reach, return to the LORD of their childhood. I became a Christian in my late twenties, and when I went to one of my high school reunions after that, I saw that several people in my class had written in their biographies that they, too, had become Christians. I sought each one of them out to hear their stories. Every single person, without fail, had the same basic story. When they came to a point of need in their lives, they remembered the stories or hymns they had learned in Sunday School as children, and they knew where to turn.

This was a major impact on my view of children’s ministries. Seeds planted when children are little do take hold. Children need lots of training when it comes to their faith. How are we getting on the mat with them?

Off to meet my new group!