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Trials with a Tea

Published January 18, 2018 by Dawn

“Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet, not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42).

Hot cup of tea in hand, I retreated to my bedroom this morning, set a fifteen-minute timer and sat down with the Lord for what was left of my morning before I had to leave for work. There’s not usually anything left of my morning, so this was a rare treasure I gave myself by getting up just a smidge earlier. I should really do this every day…

I’ve been quiet before Him for two days like this, purposefully. I cleaned “the chair” and took care of the laundry-in-limbo so I would have a special place for my time with the Lord. I just needed a newness because things have been stale and I’d become complacent. So I cleaned “the chair”, rearranged my room a little and now I have a quaint sitting area where I can have tea with Jesus.

Ok, now that you can visualize  … teatime this morning, the Lord shared something with me that really lifted a burden. I’ve been a victim to bad theology, and although I easily recognized it was false, some of it got into my heart. It’s that junk about God only having good plans for us, based on Jeremiah 29:11. We’ve created an entire doctrine based on this one scripture and I’m afraid it’s hurting people in the church. You see, the church is in a dangerous rut of delivering inspirational/motivational, me-centered sermons that convince people that God only wants them to be happy. Such a misguided notion tends to make people think, when things get uncomfortable in life, that it’s just an attack of Satan or a punishment for wrongdoing.

According to scripture, sometimes, hard things that break us are the will of God. I mean, it was in Jesus’ life. Also in Paul’s. And John. James. Peter. The list, people, is long. Many men and women in the bible endured hardship as the will of God. And do you know what’s missing in this scripture in Luke where Jesus, weeping droplets of blood, asks his Father to remove the cup because it’s a hard one to swallow? God’s reply. I checked all four Gospels and there isn’t one. God didn’t respond to him. Luke 22:43 tells us an angel came and strengthened Jesus, but he was strengthened to endure the road ahead. Golgotha. Betrayal. Torment. Death. All the will of God.

God did not even utter a word. I wonder if He was weeping just then. He knew what was to come. He purposed it. And Jesus didn’t deserve it. It wasn’t punishment. It was for a greater good. God’s greater purpose.

I desperately want people to understand that, while God desires our ultimate good, He is more concerned about working things out in conformity to His will than He is about rescuing us when things don’t feel good. Sometimes, He requires hard services and acts of obedience that take us beyond our own abilities and make us cling to Him as He teaches us how to walk the hard road. We cannot say that because something feels right, it must be what God wants because I have found that sometimes, things don’t feel right or good, but when I pray, God says to me (like he said to Paul), “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9).

God sometimes brings us to places we don’t want to be. Asks us to be obedient in things we don’t want to do. I believe He does this to humble us, so we see our weaknesses. So we reach out for His strength. So we learn to depend on Him. One of Satan’s many lies is that God never gives us more than we can handle. Sure does make us feel strong, doesn’t it? But it’s a lie. God often gives us more than we can handle because He wants us to turn to Him and usually, this is the only way to get us to do that.

I share this from my heart, friend. I pray this word brings relief and leads to healing. God really does love us, and while He has good things in store, He also works mightily through trials and tribulations. The Bible says that “he comforts us in all our sufferings so we can comfort others with the comfort we received” (2 Cor. 1:4). Such trials are precious when they cause us to run to God. Those tender moments of being comforted eclipse even the most harrowing circumstances and remind us just how good our God is. I hope you run to Him, friend, and climb into His daddy-lap. He longs for you and is patiently waiting, even now, to tenderly gather you under His wings where you can find refuge. Be at peace!

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My Defender

Published January 11, 2018 by Dawn

I was standing outside my office chatting with a coworker today when a loud, angry voice cut into our conversation.

“Who do you think you are?”

We both froze. Her eyes got wide and she looked anxiously over my shoulder. I turned slowly to see what she was looking at, afraid to see what was going on behind me. The voice continued to loudly, sternly explain itself to an unknown offender we neither could see. Neither of us recognized the voice, but we stood there, shamefully listening, trying to figure out who was behind the tirade less than twenty feet from us but hidden behind a wall. Finally, we identified the speaker by what he was protesting. He angrily continued, “You may talk bad about myself or my wife behind our backs and we would never know, but you will not sit in my class and talk bad about anyone in my family.”

Right after I recognized his voice, the reality of what was happening hit me so powerfully: the quietest man I know, the calmest and most level-headed man I know suddenly became one of the fiercest. He was defending his wife against an attack she most likely knew nothing about in that moment, and he had put the accusing student in his place in such a powerful way, it sent shockwaves down the hallway that affected anyone within hearing distance. It was startling and wild and beautiful.

When I got off work today, I checked the mail on my way in the house and found something there that shook me. I am susceptible to emotional tsunamis when crises hit, and my initial reaction was to run into my room, cry and call my mom for a freak-out session. I reacted like I normally do, but when I got off the phone, I immediately remembered listening to my coworker defend his wife and I realized that I, too, have a defender. I have a heavenly Husband who loves me and the Bible tells me that He confronts my enemies. He vindicates me. He destroys the work of the enemy and scatters them in all directions. I finally understand what it means for God to be our defender. You see, God is not just love. Love is an attribute of God. So is merciful, graceful, and many other wonderful things. But the Bible also says that God is just. He is jealous and He defends those who love Him.

I qualify.

The turbulent waters became immediately placid inside me. The tsunami didn’t happen this time. For the first time in forever. I finally know what it feels like to know that God is going to take what Satan purposes for evil and turn it around for my good. I know what the face of a defender looks like. I know what the voice of a defender sounds like. And I know that the enemy trembles when a Husband stands up for His bride. For the first time in my life, I feel secure leaving all of life’s triviality in God’s hands. I pray the Holy Spirit reveals this wisdom to you in such a powerful way, you come to truly understand what it means to be defended by our heavenly King.  He loves us fiercely, and defends us even more so.

 

Paul, A Prisoner of Christ

Published January 7, 2018 by Dawn

I sat down with the Word of God this morning, specifically praying that God would transform my heart and mind (Romans 12:2) and make me holy by cleansing me with the Word (Ephesians 5:26). I’ve needed it, as I have felt overwhelmed by the battle lately, abandoned in acts of obedience, and left alone to bear the burden of life.

My last long study session, I read most of Acts so I pulled the satin strip of a bookmark out as I flipped open my Bible and began where I left off at Acts 25. Paul was imprisoned and had been handed down from Felix to Festus. It seemed the will of God kept Paul captive to a succession of administrators who needed to hear the gospel. When Festus questioned him and thought to send Paul back to Jerusalem so he could finally put an end to Paul’s trial, Paul appealed to Caesar. This appeal guaranteed his continued imprisonment, and we later find, after Paul witnesses to King Agrippa, that if he hadn’t made his appeal to Caesar, he could have been set free. The men who had accused him years before had lost their fervency and forgotten their accusations.

I wonder, if Paul had known how close he was to freedom, if he would have went back. This man, whom God continually gave wisdom to and great discernment, did not have this one piece of information that could have been his get-out-of-jail-free card. The truth is, God had kept this information from him because it was God’s will that Paul go to Rome. Paul never questioned God in this because he knew that the fulfillment of his vision for ministry, the vision God gave him, was that he should minister in Rome.

I find this truth slightly discomforting: God’s will for Paul was a purposed captivity. We find through the next few chapters that God provided a relative amount of freedom and comfort, and even safety, in Paul’s service, but at the end of the day, Paul spent years in captivity – years as a prisoner – because it served God’s purpose.

In Acts 27, Paul’s captors defy logic and reason, ignore Paul’s discernment, and set out on a ship with 227 men during the worse time of the year for sailing. Their zeal to finish their assignment swept them headlong into a massive shipwreck. Fourteen days on a harrowing, turbulent sea. Days without food, living in constant fear for their lives, these men could have avoided all of this if they would have just listened to Paul’s Spirit-led advice. Because God, was gracious, though, the storm eventually drove them to Malta where all survived, although they lost their ship and all their supplies.

Almost as soon as they had reached the beach, Paul began to build a fire and a viper latched onto his hand. He should have died, but instead, he just shook it off and kept going. This part of the story has awed me for years. I marvel at Paul’s faith, but to him it was a simple thing: God had said he was going to Rome, so he was going to Rome. There was nothing that could keep him from God’s plan for his life, no matter how scary and deadly. Paul was settled in this knowledge and it carried him through every attack of the enemy to make him fear otherwise.

Not one to waste a moment of His minister’s life, God used the shipwreck on the island of Malta to bring healing to the nation there, spread the Gospel of Christ, and replenish His missionary-in-chains. He used every bit of the shipwreck – used Paul in that place – and prepared him to go on in God’s ultimate plan.

Chapter 28, verse16, tells us that Paul arrived in Rome, in fulfillment to the vision God had given him. This fulfillment came through captivity. Clearly, it wasn’t Paul’s plan; who plans to live his life in captivity? It was God’s plan which Paul submitted to because he saw himself as an obedient servant, not a master of his own life. This plan was good, even if it didn’t feel good.

The end of Acts, the end of 28, tells us that Paul was a captive in Rome, preaching the gospel unhindered in his own rented house. I just can’t get over this. He was fulfilling God’s ultimate plan for his life as a captive, but living as a free man in his own rented house and preaching the gospel without hindrance. That blows my mind! God fulfilled Paul’s vision and used everything Paul endured. He encouraged Paul through others and kept him safe by posting guards outside his house. Otherwise, Paul was “free” to minister to the Romans.

As I read all of this today, I was astonished. Never did Paul waver in his faith. Never did God waste a moment of suffering. And never did God allow Paul to be harmed as he fulfilled God’s plan for his life. Paul was obedient. He didn’t complain. He took everything that happened with such a deep conviction that God could use it and all he had to do was yield in all ways to God’s will. Everything that happened was an opportunity for Paul to minister and he did. He never worried about himself. He endured discomfort for the sake of the lost, and was led in chains everywhere God wanted him to go. Satan had no power in any of this. Anything that might have been the work of the devil was thwarted and repurposed by God.

Father, I want that kind of faith. I desire an obedient heart like Paul’s. Give me ears to hear and a strong, steadfast belief in your love and ability. Increase my faith, increase my love and give me a heart that desires your will above all things. If your will for my life requires me to be uncomfortable, I pray for a love for you that surpasses my own self-love, so that I can do your work unhindered by my selfishness. Thank you for your Word, that brings healing and comfort, that renews us and helps us to continue. I love you.

For the Hopeless

Published December 20, 2017 by Dawn

“Jesus wept.”

His dusty feet were following the mournful cries of Lazarus’ family and friends along a winding path to the outskirts of town. He heard their accusing whispers. “Couldn’t he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?” His heart broke. For them, not for himself, because he knew what was to come. His heart broke for them, who saw every sign of ending and loss and watched every bit of hope be wrapped up in grave clothes and laid to rest days ago.

Mary and Martha had sent word, “Lord, the one you love is sick.” Jesus had seemed passive about it then. “This sickness will not end in death. It is for God’s glory, so that God may be glorified through it.” Yet here they stood, next to their crying Friend, overcome with grief that death had once again triumphed. Lazarus was gone.

I want you to understand something, friend. It wasn’t that God had failed them in that moment. Their perspective was limited to what they knew. They knew sickness led to death. They knew death was a finale, not an interim. They knew Lazarus had breathed his last, was in the grave and experience told them his body would stay there. They had never experienced an act of God so great, so logic-defying, that they could hope in something more in that moment.

Jesus cried because he saw their despair. Their utter hopelessness. Their devastation. They knew what he was capable of and in that moment, they were disappointed in him. Lazarus’ friends and families had all the faith in the world that Jesus could have saved him from death. In their hearts, Jesus had disappointed them.

Jesus knew death was not the final curtain. He knew Lazarus had an encore. He restrained his power so that God could bring Himself a greater glory out of the situation. He allowed his best friend to die. He understood their grief as they poured it out at his feet. He understood their unasked pleas: “Why weren’t you here, Lord? Why did you allow this? You are able to change this situation. We do not doubt your ability.”

But then death came, and like a massive earthquake, it shattered hope and toppled their faith. It shook everything that could be shaken and exposed the weaknesses of every structure that wasn’t built on the solid foundation of God. In the wake of such agony and inner destruction, Lazarus’ friends looked at Jesus and wondered that he could stand by without uttering a word, without panic or fear, with seeming indifference, while their hearts were torn from the loss.

“This sickness will not end in death.” But it had.

Until Jesus prayed.

He wept while he climbed the hill to the sepulcher. Then he stood there at the stone-covered entrance, gave one last look at the hopeless faces around him and raised his eyes Heavenward. He prayed, not for his own benefit, but so that those around him would know and understand the connection Jesus had to God. The immediate, powerful, life-changing connection of the Son talking to his Abba Daddy. “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.”

The sickness, the death and decay, the days of mourning, it all happened so that they might truly believe. Which means one thing: they didn’t yet.

Mary and Martha spoke to Jesus about their faith. They knew he could have healed Lazarus and they affirmed their belief in his ability to do so, but then death came and their faith seemed useless. They did not believe that Jesus’ ability to heal Lazarus transcended the grave. Not because their faith was weak, but because it was only so big. Their faith had grown naturally to include all that made sense based on their experience. But this new experience was beyond their ability to believe. No one had ever been raised from the dead, so how were they to know it could ever happen? It was a preposterous thought!

Until He spoke.

“Lazarus, come forth!”

When Lazarus walked out of the tomb, still wrapped in grave clothes but very much alive, those standing around watching in despair were raised to a new level in faith. As they walked home with Lazarus, laughing and rejoicing to have him back, they knew Jesus differently. They had hoped in him before, but now they KNEW him. There was nothing in life, not even death, that would cause them to distrust Christ again. Their faith was solidified. Rock solid on a foundation that cannot ever be destroyed. A little while later, as they watched him on the cross, this was the group that knew he could rise up. Knew that he would rise up. They had seen his power manifest in the impossible. Nothing could stop what God had ordained. Nothing.

There’s probably something in your life that is dead or dying. A hope that is dim and fading fast. A hope that has been dead a while, or even a hope you intentionally buried to keep it from hurting you. You don’t know how to believe because you have cried out to God and it seems like He is indifferent. He’s quiet. He hasn’t shown up in your time of despair. It’s tempting to give in to it. I get it. I’m there too. I sat down to read my Bible and this story wouldn’t let go of me. Jesus disappointed his friends the same way God seems to be disappointing you and I right now. We’re crying out, “God, why?”

His glory.

If we hold on long enough, God will do something. It might be after all our natural understanding lies broken all around us. It might be well after we have abandoned all hope. It might be when absolutely nothing makes sense. That might just be the place God is taking us to. Our faith can’t grow if we are still only experiencing things we’ve experienced before. But it can grow. It just might hurt a little. Something might die. It might feel like its us. When you’re there, friend, crying out with what little strength you have left, and it sounds like you are screaming in an echo chamber because your prayers are coming back to you unanswered, I want you to hold on to two things: Jesus wept and Jesus prayed.

He understands our pain and suffering. He understands our despair and the inner turmoil we feel. He sees the restraint of God and he feels for us. He is our advocate and as he sits on the right hand of God, he looks down with love and weeps. We are His. He loves us. He didn’t die for nothing. He died for us. He prevailed over death, hell and the grave to have us. He loves us tremendously and we matter to him. So in our pain, he weeps with us.

If that isn’t comfort enough, know this: He’s speaking to the Father on our behalf. He sits at the right hand of God and intercedes for us (Romans 8:34). Our cries reach his ears and he turns to the Creator of All Things and mentions them with a trembling voice and tears in his eyes. When God restrains himself, He is growing our faith. He is taking us to a new level, spiritually speaking. Our fleshly hope will be turned into a knowing that we know, because God will do something supernatural and beyond comprehension.

We have this hope and an anchor for the soul, firm and steadfast” (Heb. 6:19).

 

Blessings that Feel Like Curses

Published November 27, 2017 by Dawn

“Greetings, you who are highly favored. The Lord is with you.”

Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God.”

It was one of the most pivotal moments in Mary’s life. How many dreams did she have about her future? She was betrothed already, and would soon be married to a highly esteemed man. She had a flawless reputation. Her character was such that she was not just a child of God, she was a favorite. While she dreamed of the white picket fence and a yard full of kids, all two years apart, her Father had big plans for her.

I wonder what kind of disposition Mary had when remembering this moment as God’s plans unfolded in her life. From that moment on, nothing looked quite like she thought it would. She was pregnant with no alibi. The man she was engaged to wanted to leave her. While the Bible does say Gabriel explained everything to Joseph so he wouldn’t leave, it doesn’t say anything about a town hall meeting so everyone else knew that Mary was still pure and virtuous. Her reputation took a fall. No wonder she immediately left town to go to Elizabeth’s!

I’ve been thinking about this for days now. Mary’s “blessing” probably felt like a curse sometimes. First the pregnancy, then the long journey on a donkey in her last trimester. Giving birth in a stable. Fleeing to Egypt not long after becoming a new mom. Raising a son whose thoughts were often otherworldly and strange. When Jesus was twelve, he told his mom he stayed behind in Jerusalem so he could “be about my Father’s business.” He wasn’t talking about Joseph.

Gabriel had warned Mary about Jesus’ mission. That he would be despised, rejected and crucified. I wonder how often she thought about that, and how gracious she was when her emotions overwhelmed her. Gabriel had told her a sword would pierce her own heart too. God’s favor and blessings in Mary’s life felt like pain and agony from the start. I imagine she lost perspective sometimes. I wonder if she ever knelt in prayer and poured out bitterness instead of praise.

More than anything, I wonder if perhaps we have gotten it all wrong. Have we decided that blessings in our lives are curses and vice versa? When trouble comes because of things we know are the will of God, how often do we lose perspective and struggle to hold on to promises? Likewise, how often do we look at the things of this world that distract us and keep us complacent and decide in our hearts that they must be blessings simply because of how they make us feel? We get comfortable and love it that way, but what would God be doing in our lives if allowed to have His way? Would it be any less His will just because it causes us turmoil?

As I thought about Mary, I realized that God didn’t call her blessed because He had a life of ease planned out for her. I think He called her blessed because He had chosen her to bring glory to Him. In spite of all the pain, God trusted Mary to raise Jesus. She was His faithful servant and God was pleased with her. His gift just didn’t always feel like a blessing. I wonder, though, if her response was always just as kind and gracious as it was that first day when Gabriel broke the news to her. She said, “I am the Lord’s servant. Let your word to me be fulfilled” (Luke 1:38).

I’m not always that gracious. Actually, I’m not sure I’m ever that gracious. I want to be, and it’s been my prayer for a while, but when God allows things that hurt – things that break me – I don’t respond like Mary. I weigh the things God allows against the pain they cause and decide from there whether they are a blessing or a curse. But I think I’m doing it all wrong. The Bible makes it clear that oftentimes, walking in the will of God hurts something fierce. The pain doesn’t make it any less the will of God, or any less a blessing. The blessing, after all, isn’t in how much we benefit. The blessing is solely about the glory of God being revealed through our lives. It exists in the way our trials make us less worldly and more like Christ. If being broken was the will of God for Mary, and the will of God for Jesus, how can we expect it to be any less His will for us?

I believe we can take comfort in the fact that in all of the brokenness and despair, every person that endured the will of God in the Bible and was obedient, brought glory to God. Their stories have stood the test of time and remain to remind us that God’s will is ultimately for our good, even when it doesn’t feel good. May God continue to bless us, and give us strength to bear it.

 

Godly Parenting

Published November 13, 2017 by Dawn

My fifteen-year-old daughter is a parent’s dream. Yes, I’m bragging. I’m super proud of her in so many ways, not the least of which is the fact that she is a naturally responsible, obedient young woman. But this week, it happened. She finally found herself up against a rule I set for her many years ago. She is not allowed to date until she is sixteen.

Here’s the short of it: She’s fifteen and has a few crushes. She’s really nervous because she’s afraid that this one guy might ask her out before she’s sixteen and when she tells him she can’t date yet, he’ll move on! In utter turmoil, she came to me and asked me to modify the rules so she doesn’t miss this opportunity, should it arise. She was kind of frantic about it, insisting that I explain to her once again why we even have this rule, in hopes that she might be able to poke holes in my logic (she was born to be a lawyer).

I went through it all:

  • Dating is something you do to find someone to marry. Are you ready for marriage?
  • Do you know if he’s a Christian? Why waste time on something that God will not purpose in your life?
  • In the heat of emotion, it’s easy to make decisions based on feelings instead of obedience to God and even more so for people just starting out in their walk with the Lord.
  • Any good relationship is built on a friendship and you can’t even talk to him like a normal person!

These are just a few of the many things we discussed and even though she argued like a pro, there was no poking holes because I, too, was born to argue.

I got the cold shoulder for two days.

I went to my room early the second night to pray and seek God’s wisdom in the matter, because I felt very strongly that this was a good boundary for my kids, and as such, was not budging in it. In my prayer time, the Lord reminded me that the parent’s role in a child’s life is to mirror the relationship of God’s role in all of our lives. Parents love their children unconditionally, care for them, protect them, guide them, discipline them and all of this prepares kids for that day when they become accountable to God alone.

At some point in a person’s younger years, he or she realizes that rules can either be followed or broken. Before that pivotal moment, if his or her authority figure spoke, it was gospel and followed no matter what. Then, an awakening happens. The natural, rebellious self awakens to the temptation of self-will, and that kiddo will struggle against the obedience that is good in favor of whatever their young heart truly desires. So, in my daughter’s case, as in every person’s case at some point, it was bound to happen. Temptation entered the picture in the form of self-will, clouded with emotion and child-like (shortsighted) reasoning.

The Lord also reminded me of the two aspects of God’s will – the permissive will and the perfect will. God understands rebellion. It’s been breaking his heart for thousands of years. Thankfully, though, he knows how we were formed and remembers that we are just dust (Ps. 103:14). His perfect will is the life he envisioned for us when he lovingly crafted us in the secret place. All the wonderful gifts he planned for our enjoyment, the path he desired us to walk in life. The Eden we ruin with our self-will, more often than not. In that moment, we enter into the permissive will of God, in which he permits us to wallow in the mud we so desire, then works all things in conformity to his will. We make choices despite his wishes and our lives are marred and broken thereafter, but God lovingly picks up all the pieces and makes a new masterpiece, if we will let him.

One thing God never does, though, is move the boundary stones to appease our soulful desires. He has set standards before us and guides us through them if we let him, but when we disobey him, it is with an understanding that we have chosen something lesser to gratify our human nature and exchanged his perfect will for his permissive will. Beg as we might, God has already chosen what is good in his sight and he knows that, while we might not see it for the good that it is right now, if we persist in obedience to him, we will one day understand why he set those boundaries.

I explained all of this to her, knowing that in her heart, she has accepted God as her father. I explained that obedience and disobedience are acts of our will, but that God doesn’t allow us to be tempted beyond what we can bear, but provides a way out from under it so that we won’t fall (1 Cor. 10:13). That if we truly want his perfect will, there’s a cost we will pay and that cost includes instant gratification, ridicule, and losing opportunities that look good to us. But, I also reminded her, that “eyes have not seen, ears have not heard, nor has it entered into the heart of man, the things God has prepared for those who love him and are called according to his purpose” (1 Cor. 2:9). Her father has crafted something precious, a treasure for her, that if she walks in obedience to him, she will experience in this life.

These two things, I firmly believe:

  1. We teach our kids how to obey God by teaching them how to obey us. When we move boundaries in response to their duress over them, we teach our children that they can haggle with God. But God doesn’t work like that. He doesn’t lower standards just because we find them impossible to accept or live with. He strengthens us in our weakness, but he doesn’t change in response to our angst.
  2. Our children will obey God the same way they obey us. Just as our relationship with them is an example of God’s love and devotion to them, their relationship with us is a reflection of their relationship with God. How they obey us is how they will obey him.

It is important for parents to make standards for their children, express them and be unmoving in their authority. It’s very counter-culture but that is what we Christians were called to be anyway. “Come out from among them and be separate” (2 Cor. 6:17). Our homes should not be governed according to the latest Psychology trend, they should be governed by the Word of God. Our kids should know our standards and we, as parents, should be aware that at any given moment, our kids’ self-wills might dictate their decisions. But we don’t have to move boundary stones to appease them, because when we do, we subjugate our authority and our kids suddenly feel they are the rulers of the household. I work in a high school and I hear students laughing at their parents all the time because they have caved to tyranny.

Let your kids know that when they act in disobedience, they do so in defiance. Don’t change the rules just so they play nice. Remember the saying, “Give them an inch and they’ll take a mile”? Your kids will not respect you for caving to their demands. They’ll just be more persistent in future demands.

I took my daughter to the Bible and read her two scriptures in Proverbs. Chapter 22, verse 28, says, “Do not move an ancient boundary stone set up by your ancestors.” Why is this wisdom for parental discipline? Because we make rules based on our understanding of their age, the trouble they might get into, the trouble we got into and our knowledge of their childish tendencies. We also base our rules on the presumed actions and reactions of others. We use wisdom they don’t have yet because people do not become fully rational, reasoning human beings until they are 25, according to modern scientific research. I also read her Proverbs 23:10, which says, “Do not move an ancient boundary stone or encroach on the fields of the fatherless.”  I pointed out that sometimes, our disobedience to the will of God has consequences that encroach on the field of those around us. Consequences are far-reaching, like the ripples after a stone is thrown into a lake. You can’t stop the ripples. They die out on their own and you can never tell how far they might travel across the surface. If we walk in obedience to God, we are comforted knowing that he is working on something so complex that involves everyone around us, without hurting anyone. The pain comes because we disobey and hurt ourselves, and sometimes, people we dearly love.

In concluding, I would like to add one thought: if we are going to discipline our children in such a way as to prepare them for God’s boundaries and discipline, we must also show them love like God does. We must continuously forgive – graciously, and not with gritted teeth. We must discuss our actions and reactions with them – the why – so they will not be disheartened when obedience is a sacrifice. We must pray with and for them. Our kids have to feel secure enough in our love and affection for them, to fail our expectations and still be willing to climb up into our laps for comfort. This is perhaps one of the greatest aspects of God’s love and forbearance and as parents, we must guide them into that confidence. The hand that hurts is also the hand that heals, in our walks with the Lord. Let it also be true in our relationships with our kiddos.

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

 

 

Honoring God Through Unhappy Halloweens

Published November 1, 2017 by Dawn

For all the years growing up that I can remember, we didn’t celebrate Halloween. Somewhere in the Bible, something convinced my parents it was not honoring to God, so we never dressed up, never went trick-or-treating and never fit in on October 31st. Probably, there are a ton of Christian parents today who can relate to this. They have a similar story. Or, they did get to dress up, but were firmly convinced by mom and dad that “there is a good Halloween and bad Halloween … we are celebrating the good one.” They got to go knock on doors, smile cheesy and go to bed high on sugar.

Three weeks after becoming a mother, I dressed my daughter in the cutest bear costume and trudged through snow to the neighbor’s door for a kit-kat just so we could say she had a “first Halloween.” For several years afterward, we celebrated just like everyone else and my kids, for sure, were the cutest kids on the block. Then it happened: I began to study various literatures about the pagan ties to the holiday, the occult’s worship of this holiday in particular, and all the while 1 Thessalonians 5:22 resounded, “Abstain from all appearances of evil.”

You might have just rolled your eyes, but bear with me. I’ve read most everything that’s been written about Halloween. I’ve read the mommy blogs, where a well-meaning and genuine mother gives a heart-felt dissertation on why Halloween can be a fun outreach for the family, a moment to “be the light” in the darkness. I’ve read the Satanist’s giddy, mocking quip: “I’m so happy Christians let their children worship Satan one day a year.” I’ve read them both and I was ready to let this day go by without saying a word. As for me and my house, we call in Chinese and Netflix with the porch-light off. No big deal.

This year, I wanted to test the theory: Christians can use this holiday to reach the masses of unchurched people and people will come to Christ through our efforts.

Now, because handing out tracks is unscientific, in that I cannot accurately measure the amount of people who come to Christ through my efforts, I chose not to go that route. Likewise, how can I measure one’s acceptance of Christ by merely smiling and passing out candy? If we don’t talk about Jesus while they are with me, how will I ever know if my efforts to “share Christ” in such a way actually brought them to the foot of the cross? Lacking any other avenue of measurable means, I put a sign up on my front gate with the facts: No candy, but we have Jesus! Want Jesus? Knock! The door will be opened.

Yes, I did this. In the town my kids go to school in.

No one knocked.

No one chose to come to Christ when it was all I offered.

If I would have had a huge bowl of candy, I would have entertained the masses of strangers all over town but would any of them come to know Jesus … genuinely know Jesus, through my “evangelism outreach”? Would they dig any deeper than the bottom of their pillow case after a long walk home, to get to know my King? And all the while, I might have been showing my kids the opposite of what I preach:

  • That we don’t have to come out from among them and be separate.
  • That fear can be fun and exhilarating as long as they know that mommy is near.
  • That Satan is just a Halloween ghoul and witches are just people with green make-up on; the occult is nothing but a sham and Halloween fun.
  • That there is a good side to evil and everyone can partake because Jesus would never want us to feel left out.

Maybe this is just me rambling, but let me do so for a sec. The scripture clearly tells us that no one can even come to God unless the Spirit of God compels them to (John 6:44). Do I believe that all of these efforts to reach people are fruitless? No, not exactly. I believe God reaches people through any means necessary, and He works all things in conformity to His will. He can use even our sins and foolishness to draw people to Him because His purpose is unwavering even if we do things we shouldn’t. But are we honoring Him?

Does this matter to you like it matters to me? My heart broke the first time I had to explain to my kids that we would no longer be celebrating Halloween. No more huge buckets of candy, no parties, no costumes. This holiday fell off our calendar, so to speak. Yes, they have endured the pain of not partaking in something that brings a lot of joy to a ton of other kiddos. But isn’t this the reality of Christianity and sin in general? Don’t we want our kids to abstain from the things that dishonor God, even if the whole world is doing them? Then why do we make exceptions for this one holiday? Satan mocks God every year because of the millions of Christians who have chosen to justify their involvement in a holiday that glorifies darkness.

“I just want to honor God to the best of my ability,” I told them, through tears.

Here’s the truth, church: people will come to Christ as God compels them. That’s scriptural. God can use any means necessary, but He doesn’t need us in any way to do so. Be His hands and feet, but you don’t have to be so desperate to reach people that you worship at pagan altars next to the lost. Jesus didn’t do that. Did he eat with “sinners?” Sure. Did he engage in their sin so they didn’t shun him? Never. He was wholly set apart and different, and that’s probably why they were so drawn to him. He was weird and different, but full of love at the same time. Weren’t we called to be Christ-like?

Be Christ-like.

And, know that when you choose to be Christ-like, you will be treated as he was. Persecuted. Hated. The world will not accept you because it did not accept him (john 15:18). Even the church will mock and disdain you, my friend. Still, I encourage you to be Christ-like. The world will notice that you have been with Jesus (Acts 4:13). Not only, but your actions will please your Heavenly Father, which is worth more than the accolades any man can give. Be at peace!