Tuesday, December 18, 2012

For the Love of Money...how stupid!- Ecclesiastes 5:10

I loved Kevin's cartoon in the bulletin last week. If you didn't see it, it was a picture of a little boy on Santa's lap. Santa looked a little confused as the boy was saying, "All I want for Christmas is more than my brother."

That's a cute cartoon and we can chuckle at the thought of the truth of that scenario on Christmas morning. It's also an incredibly sad reminder though, that unfortunately many of us never grow out of that line of thinking. We may not verbalize the words exactly like that, and most of us aren't still crawling into Santa's lap with our selfish requests, but deep down the desire to continually just have more keeps us constantly begging life for more...occasionally we even pretend to be sitting in God's lap as a faithful child when we make our self-centered pleas.

How blessed would we all be if we could let Solomon's advice really sink in!?  How tragic for Solomon that it took most of his life before he came back to the truth that he knew when we started out as a man of God.

I'd like to leave the conversation on this one open because it's an incredibly easy to understand principle...and yet so hard to live and to teach. Tie this statement to Jesus' teaching about a rich man getting into the kingdom of heaven and laying up treasures in heaven as opposed to earth because "where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" and we realize that this is a BIG deal!
 "For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs." (1 Timothy 6:10)

Solomon puts it just as bluntly as it can be put. Chasing after riches is absolutely meaningless. We can make every excuse and come up with umpteen million justifications for why we need more money or more stuff, but deep down we know the truth. Those desire are meaningless.

Here's what I'd like to do. I want to open the comments below to suggestions and questions on how to teach ourselves and our children to trust in God instead of in riches. To end the meaningless pursuit of more that begins on Santa's lap and usually doesn't end until the death bed. How do you combat this in yourself? How are you training your children in this? What areas are especially hard that you would like advice about? I won't know many if any of those answers, but there are some incredibly Godly men and women who read this that will. Start that conversation below by clicking the comment button and let's VOW to pursue things that will never be described as "meaningless" !!!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

How to avoid the whole "bad company" talk with my kids- Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

"Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. If either of them falls down one can help the other 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."

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

Oh, how we as parents love this verse! If I had to guess what the most thought about and talked about spiritual subject that crosses parents minds and gets communicated to kids, it would be the importance of choosing friends wisely. I feel quite confident that this subject has been the staple of youth ministry diet since the first century. To be honest, I'm slightly surprised that we don't have a record of Lois and Eunice asking Paul to talk to Timothy about the kind of people he was hanging around as a teenager!

But this isn't the only verse that we think of when approaching the topic. We also quote 1 Corinthians 15:33 tirelessly. "Bad company corrupts good morals." In fact, I'd say that this side of the coin is what gets emphasized the most because the truth of relational influence is rarely emphasized until a child is making poor choices relationally and therefore making poor choices behaviorally and morally.

Don't get me wrong, we minimize the truth contained in these verses to our own detriment. Parents are right to repeat them over and over and over again. They are justified in keeping a close eye on friendships and acquaintances that their children have because we are all incredibly influenced by those we want to spend our time with.

However, I would like to suggest a couple of principles based on these verses that perhaps we don't think about quite as often:
  1. I need good deep, Godly relationships just as much and maybe even more so than my child does. I know that point might be argued based on the fact that children are typically more easily influenced than adults. So let's go with that line of thought. If kids are more easily influenced and you are trying to influence them to be proactive in gaining beneficial relationships instead of falling into harmful ones, will your influence over their choice of friends be more effective simply in words or would they be able to see and hear the message more clearly if they witnessed it in your life while you were saying the words? Without even considering our influence of example over our children, let's just think about us. At what point in your life have you faced the most temptations, pressures, and obstacles to faith-- as a child growing up in a Christian home or when you are out on your own and responsible for yourself? I think we would all agree that while we may not be particularly interested in revisiting the teenage years for one reason or another, in hindsight, the pressures of life as a mid-life parent are probably greater than that of a 16 yr old.
  2. Lectures upon lectures and classes upon classes have been delivered about the negative influence of bad friends...and usually to little or no avail. Maybe we need to spend more time helping our children pursue a life based on Ecclesiastes 4 which encourages actively seeking out Godly helpful relationships. In so doing, perhaps we will be able to avoid at least some of the worry and stress that comes when we see godly morals being corrupted by bad company because our children will already belong to a Godly group of friends who can lift them when they fall instead of contributing to the fall! In other words, we shouldn't be surprised when our children choose ungodly friends and begin to imitate those friends despite our teachings and pleadings at home if we have not and are not actively helping them pursue Godly friendships in the body of Christ.
So how can we give our kids the security and strength of a "cord of three strands?" Here are just a few suggestions:
  • Make meetings with the saints a priority for your family. How can we expect a child to be closer to friends they see once a week than to the guys they hang out with in the locker room and after school every day? Relationships require investment, and the only investment that will give a return is the investment of time.
  • Invest in relationships for yourself and your children at the same time by inviting Godly families of similar ages into your home. Just have someone over for dinner who has kids the same age. After the evening...invite them again later. If there is one thing I've realized, it is that for the most part, teens will be about as involved in the life of the church and about as invested in the family of God as their parents are. If a parent is not actively seeking and prioritizing friendships with brothers and sisters in Christ, then neither will/can the child. Someone will fill that relational void. And too often, that someone is the same someone whom parents ask me down the road to teach a class on 1 Corinthians 15:33  about!
  • Join a life group. Maybe you're not quite ready to invite others into your home. That's ok. Go to theirs. The life groups are an incredible way to share intimate fellowship with like-minded brothers and sisters who, for the most part, are in the same stage of life.
 These are just a few suggestions. If you have others, leave them in the comments below. However it happens, let's VOW to live the truth of this wisdom that we have known and taught for so long.

Oh, and one more thing..."pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up." Maybe the relational investment that we need to make most right now is not for us, but for someone else. In a culture that is so consumed by crowded schedules, more and more Christians are trying to walk through life with no one close enough to help them when they fall. Let's keep an eye out for those folks and be ready to catch them...or better yet. Let's take pity on them before they get to the fall and help keep them from falling by coming alongside them whether they invite us or not!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The Flip-Side of Discipline: Proverbs 23:13-14

My twin daughters are 2. I've never been a dad before in my life. I can't remember how I was disciplined when I was two. All of these factors add up to one word....


My wife and I often look to Suzanne Bobo for advice in parenting. Both of her children are grown Godly adults. She also works as the director of a local Mother's Day Out. In light of my serious lack of expertise and her years of work as a mom and  child-care provider, and all of the different parenting styles she has seen over the years, I thought the wisdom of this Proverb would shine infinitely brighter with her highlighting it than me. Enjoy her great advice below and may we all VOW to raise not just our own children, but also those that we have influence over to know, love, and obey the God who is the only perfect parent.

Thoughts on Discipline by Suzanne Bobo
Who can resist the sweet smile of a child?  Children bring such immense joy to our lives with their innocent nature, bright eyes, and unconditional love.  But as children grow, Proverbs 23: 13 tells us, "Do not not withhold discipline from a child."  Although we often think of discipline as punishment, I feel the following Webster Dictionary definition is more fitting.

Discipline is training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character. 

Parents are responsible for shaping their children's wills and directing them in the way God would have them live.  Proverbs 22:6 states, "Train a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not turn from it."

Through the years, I have come to believe that disciplining a child is more about my character and behavior than the child's.  What better way to mold a child's behavior than to provide the child an example of the behavior I would like him to achieve.  Proverbs 17: 6 says parents are the pride of their children.  Our children watch us like hawks, and they usually mimic our behavior.

 How can I expect my child or the children I work with to be happy, productive children if I am cranky and making poor choices myself?  

If I expect a child to be obedient to my instruction and respect my authority, I must exert a strong positive, consistent influence.

Due to the everyday distractions, it is often so difficult to be consistent and to follow through when we discipline our child, but it is essential.  If we tell our child to come to us when he is running off but chase him down instead, did he mind our authority?  Did he have a consequence for not minding?  If we just run after the child, grab him up, and go because we are in a hurry, what have we taught him?  The next time, he may be in a dangerous situation where he runs toward the street.  When the instruction we give our child is important enough to say, we must take the time to follow through, otherwise it should have been left unsaid.

Children are so very bright, and they learn quickly how we handle authority.
Exodus 20: 12 was the first commandment with a promise:  Honor your father and mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.  What a promise!!  If we have taught our children as they grow to be obedient and disciplined, they will follow this commandment.....and what a blessing will come to their lives.