A Right View of Others

I want to spend some more time considering qualities to instill in our children. So far, we have discussed quite a few and I hope that you are finding this helpful. It is crucial for us as parents to notice when teachable moments arise and seize upon them to instill valuable life lessons in our children. It is so easy to get into auto pilot and let these opportunities pass by unnoticed. So, I hope these simple thought provoking reminders are helpful.
With all the violence, bullying, and road rage in the world today, we need to help our children learn to see the value in everyone and treat them with respect and dignity. This quality was one of the cornerstones of Jesus’ life. In fact, it was this quality that landed Him in conflict with the religious leaders of His day. So, if we are going to be Christlike and pass that on to our children, this must be a big part of our lives as well.
Jesus, being the very Son of God, understood that every human is of great value in the eyes of God. It is here on Earth that people become de-valued by other people for a variety of reasons.

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The Importance of Forgiveness

This week, I want to focus on one of the most important aspects of life which happens to be one of the biggest challenges we face … forgiveness.
Forgiveness is a vital element to holding a family together. A refusal to resolve conflicts with apologies and forgiveness can destroy any family. When we forgive, we are demonstrating the nature of God. Forgiveness is a beautiful thing. Forgiveness is an expression of love and commitment. Forgiveness says that we value and choose the other person all over again. Forgiveness frees a person from guilt and shame. Forgiveness says that I am in touch with the reality that I am not perfect and am in need of forgiveness myself. Forgiveness is a trademark of strength and greatness. On the other hand, a refusal to forgive demonstrates a hard heart that is bent on retaliation and revenge. This attitude leads to a downward spiral of hurt and division in families. This week, I want to discuss some of the reasons why we should learn to be good at forgiveness and some key elements of practicing forgiveness.
The first question is “why should I forgive?”. In the logic of fallen mankind, when someone does something to hurt, offend, or disrespect us we owe it to ourselves to retaliate and hold a grudge. The truth is that this opens the door for lots of terrible things to happen… hurtful words, violence, destruction of property to name a few. In marriage, a refusal to forgive plays out in a painful downward cycle that looks something like this: one person does something that hurts the other – the hurt one retaliates – the first one gets upset and retaliates in some way – this cycle continues its ugly descent – the relationship is sustaining deep scars. Unless something happens, this descent will lead to a broken family. I have seen this over and over. The solution to stopping this cycle and saving the family is simple – forgive.
Why is it so hard to forgive those who hurt us? After all, every one of us know that we have hurt others and have needed their forgiveness. So, we are all familiar with the merits of forgiveness and it’s power to transform the most hopeless situation. Forgiving is hard because we are afraid… fear is gripping us and we are terrified to forgive. What are we afraid of?

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King of the Mountain?

Most of the time, I try to stick to a topic that is either about marriage OR about parenting. However, this week, I want to talk about a topic that is crucial for marital harmony AND crucial for us to instill in our children. Let’s think about how to deal with self. In our culture today we seem to be obsessed with self. We have appointed self help gurus who instruct us on how to handle self. They instruct us in the ways of self esteem, self love, self promotion, self exaltation, and challenge us to feel free to express ourselves in any way that might make us feel happy. With the abundance of self love going on, you would think we would live in a pain free society. Sadly, it seems that the more we try to make self happy, the more miserable we become.
If you think about it, this is not a new problem at all. We have simply found a way to put it in a slick package and enrich those who sell it. A quick reading of the Bible will let you know that putting self first has been a source of pain and trouble all the way back to the early days of man in Genesis. In fact, the root of sin is the desire to get something for self in a way that is forbidden or that hurts someone else.
This is the root of most marital conflict. In marriage, we have needs, wants, and expectations. We all have needs… the need for emotional support, the need for companionship, the need for intimacy, the need to be understood and appreciated to name a few. Upon entering marriage, we all have wants … to have a certain relational dynamic, live in a certain type of home or neighborhood, drive a certain type of car, have a certain type of social life, have a certain number of children, and so forth. we all enter marriage with a set of expectations … our mate will have a certain temperament, our mate will do certain things for us, our mate will do certain things with us, and so on. In itself, none of this is wrong … in fact, this is quite normal and universal.
The problem begins to sprout in how we handle these desires. Soon after marriage, both begin to realize that their utopic ideals are not being fulfilled exactly as they anticipated. This happens because reality can never imitate fantasy.

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God’s weapon to help marriage!

Let’s think about God’s plan for marriage, what went wrong, and His powerful weapon that can fix it! We have all seen and heard the jokes about how challenging marriage can be. Anyone who has been married longer than a few hours can tell you that it is not only a wonderful experience, but also a very challenging experience. A great way to learn how to repair and restore something that is broken or damaged is to look at the original state of it.
Genesis 2:18 tells us that God noticed Adam’s all alone condition and declared it to be “not good”. It was not good for Adam to be alone. He needed a companion. He needed someone to share life with. He needed someone to care for and someone to care for him. He needed a helper. This word helper is not a term that belittles the woman. In fact, the Hebrew term is used over and over to refer to God as our helper. The woman was to be one who would experience life along side the man sharing his responsibilities in a co-operative relationship as they carried out God’s plan for them. Marriage was intended to be a relationship that benefitted them both bringing great satisfaction to them.
Genesis 2:18-24 states several times that God created the woman as a suitable helper for the man. This also implies that the man was a suitable partner for the woman. This means that the man and woman had many things in common, but they were also very different. Their bodies had similarities, yet they were very different physically. They were very similar in their emotional responses, but they were very different also. They were very similar in their thought processes, but they were very different also. They were very similar in the way they related to others, but they were very different also. The similarities were intended to bring unity and a sense of co-operation. The differences were intended to create a sense of individual value and mutual respect and dependence on each other. Something happened that transformed these differences into a battlefield.
Genesis 2:24 states that this relationship was to be the highest, most important relationship humans could experience. In fact, they would become one flesh. While this refers to a physical closeness that brings forth children, it also refers to an overall closeness that is so intense that the man and woman are part of each other in every way. This oneness includes shared responsibilities, shared experiences, shared victories, and shared memories. God’s plan was that the man and woman would help and lift each other up as they journeyed through life together. Sadly, too many couples live in a state of misunderstanding and disconnect that leads to marital misery.

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Instilling Generosity in our Children

 
Generosity is one of the greatest attributes we can pursue. Generosity is admired and appreciated by people all over the world. It touches our hearts. In fact,the plot of most Christmas movies somehow involves a moral lesson that extols the greatness of generosity. Our hearts are warmed to see greedy Mr. Scrooge choose to become a generous, helpful friend to Bob Cratchet. We agree and think, “of course”, when his demeanor turns from sour to joyful. When we watch the life struggles of George Bailey in, “It’s a wonderful life”, we relate to his struggle with putting off his dreams in order to help his family and neighbors in need. George dreams of doing important things with his life, but feels that he never gets there and begins to sink into despair as he convinces himself that he has become a failure. When the angel begins to reveal the impact of George’s lifelong generous sacrifices for others our hearts soar to realize that generosity is not just for those with lots of money. Being generous with our love, time, and talents can have a huge impact as well. This appreciation of generosity springs from somewhere deep within us known as “the image or imprint of God”.

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Teaching our children to be quick to forgive

Life is filled with bumps and bruises and opportunities to harbor grudges against those who hurt us. The headlines today seem to be more and more peppered with stories about people who choose to harm others rather than forgive. Marriages are torn apart because couples hold onto hurts and disappointments reviewing them over and over in their minds until love is replaced with hatred. Grudges cause attraction to be replaced with repulsion. Grudges held by couples slowly eat away at the relationship. The fact is that life is filled with opportunities to be offended, hold grudges, and seek revenge. However, this is a miserable way to live that leads to more trouble than one can imagine. These choices create the kind of trouble that reaches into eternity and down to generations yet to come (Heard of the Hatfields and Mccoys?). Jesus made it plain over and over again that as His followers, we must always choose forgiveness over vengeance and grudge holding (Matt.6:12-15; Matt 18:15-35; Luke 23:34). As Christians, we are not allowed to hate, hold offences, hold grudges, and seek vengeance. We are commanded to forgive those who wrong us just as we want God to forgive us. This is a cornerstone of our faith. Sadly, this important element of forgiveness is being ignored by many. It is time for us to insure that our children have a deep understanding of this important practice of forgiving.

            First of all, let’s identify the components of real forgiveness:

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Transform your family with a thankful heart!

 

 

            I have discovered that a thankful heart is one of the most transformative things in the human experience and therefore one of the most difficult to grasp. It is so easy to allow our minds to constantly focus on what we want or need and don’t have or to become consumed with our responsibilities. It has been my experience that this focus leads to a heart filled with worry, fear, doubt, anxiety, frustration, and anger. Focusing on what we don’t have causes us to burn with jealousy toward those who appear to have it all. In our marriage relationships, focusing on what we are not getting from our mate instead of being thankful for what we are getting leads to anger, self-pity, and withholding from our mate to “pay him/her back which establishes a downward cycle of hurt in our marriages. In raising children, focusing too much on what we want without teaching and role-modeling a thankful heart establishes a pattern of thinking in them which can lead to materialism, entitlement thinking, and an ungrateful self-centered attitude that will affect them negatively in life and love.

            Being thankful for what we have been blessed with is a powerful tool in our pursuit of happiness and contentment.

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Teach your children to know the difference between right and wrong

 

 

            We live in a time foretold by the Bible in which there is a great spread of deception inviting us to applaud evil and condemn good. I believe it is crucial for us to know what is truly good and evil and root ourselves in those values. In fact, Hebrews 5:13 tells us that the characteristic that divides the spiritually mature from the spiritual immature (infants) is the ability to recognize good and evil. This passage tells us that this ability grows through study of the Bible, God’s Word. Failure to do this will lead to complete confusion that will slowly lead us into justifying evil and forsaking good which will open the door for all types of Earthly and Eternal calamities. A few of the many Bible passages that address this condition are: Romans 1:16-32, Matt.24:4-14, 1 Timothy 4:1, 2 Timothy 4:3-5, and 2 Peter 2:1-3.

            The absolute truth is that when anyone chooses to include evil or sinful actions in their life, the result is trouble and pain. Sometimes the results occur right away like when a person gets drunk and gets behind the wheel of their car and either gets arrested or causes a tragic wreck and then gets arrested. Other times the result comes over time like when a person chooses to be sexually active outside of marriage. This often leads to disease, unexpected pregnancy, emotional pain, and a multitude of other harmful results. However, the result of choosing evil over good is always trouble and pain, sometimes it reaches several generations. I want to make several points here:

  1. There is a definite right and wrong/ good and evil that is clearly defined in the Bible. It is not a matter of one’s circumstances or beliefs as in “I believe it is ok for me to lie, cheat, steal, etc. in certain situations.” Or “ I am unhappy in my marriage so it is ok for me to turn to another in my pursuit of happiness.”
  2. We can seek and find forgiveness from God and a fresh start for the poor choices we have made in the past.
  3. We can learn how to choose good and forsake evil in the future.
  4. We can pass this wonderful gift to our children.
  5. This impartation will take intentional, consistent effort.
To help you get started, I thought it might be helpful to make a partial list of values that the Bible declares as good, so here goes:

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Things to teach your children

 

 

            Life is a busy whirlwind of chores and responsibilities. It is so easy to get caught in a daily routine that gets the chores done, but does not accomplish the real valuable things of life. In particular, I am thinking about how challenging it can be to engage our children in meaningful conversations about substantive matters. It is tempting to convince ourselves that our children are being properly educated in school and taught about God and life at church. Sadly, however, we are finding that much of what goes on at school falls far short of educating our children as Christian parents would like. The world has seized large sections of the education system and has begun to insert an anti – God agenda. The cornerstone of absolute truth, the premise that moral values come from God the righteous judge and therefore are right for all cultures, in all times, and in all situations, i.e. the 10 commandments, the Golden Rule, and the teachings of Jesus, has been undermined and replaced with relative ethics. Relative ethics is the line of thinking that asserts that I have the right to determine my own basis for right and wrong depending on my background, desires, and current circumstances. Many schools teach ideas and values about human sexuality that are the polar opposite of Biblical teaching. Our children are currently bombarded with pressure to applaud those who are gender confused. Our children are often taught a version of history that paints those with Biblical values in a incorrect, bad light while celebrating people like Mao Tse Tung and Karl Marx. Our children are often trained in the ever-changing propaganda of political correctness while taught to ridicule anyone who dares pledge allegiance to Jesus. A couple of hours of church involvement per week is very important, but is simply not enough to build a solid spiritual foundation to counter balance all of this in the lives of our children.

            It is time for us as parents to embrace the responsibility God gave us to prepare our children for life and eternity. This can be a daunting task, but very much within the realm of possibility. The question then becomes, “What should I teach my children?” and “how?”.

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Emotions: Make you or Break you!

Emotions: Make you or Break you

            We all have emotional responses to the situations we encounter in life. Emotions are part of the “image of God” characteristic that makes humans unique. Can you imagine how dull and boring life would be if we didn’t have the ability to connect with life and others in an emotional way? Emotions create a wide spectrum of responses from the lowest depths of depression and hopelessness to the highest euphoria of joy. The Bible makes it plain that God has emotions ranging from joy to anger to sadness and disappointment. These are found both in the Old Testament and are vividly illustrated in the life of Jesus, who is the exact representation of God (Colossians 1:15& 2:9). The point is that while God experiences emotions brought on by what He sees and hears and experiences, He keeps them under the control of His wisdom, mercy, grace, righteousness, and character. In other words, He does not allow Himself to have knee-jerk reactions that express the emotions. Can you imagine this world if He did? Imagine that if every time we committed a sin He caused it to rain or snow on us for a couple of days? Not everyone…just the guilty one… or maybe get hit by fire or struck by lightning. Suppose God screamed terrible things from Heaven at us every time we messed up; a scream that shook the world and terrified everyone around. It is God’s choice to experience emotions while staying true to His nature and character that makes Him holy, awesome, wonderful, lovable, predictable, and approachable. We are commanded as His children to become more like Him as we go through life.

            Out of control emotions are responsible for so much pain that it is truly unbelievable.

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