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Conflict between the weak and strong – Romans 14


A major theme of the New Testament is that of sin’s power to destroy the spiritual and moral health of the church as well as of the individuals who commit the sins. The epistles are filled with commands and injunctions regarding the need to continually eradicate sin in the church. That is the purpose of both church discipline and self-discipline.

But outright sin is not the only danger to a church’s spiritual health and unity. Although they are not sin in
themselves, certain attitudes and behavior can destroy fellowship and fruitfulness and have crippled the work, the witness, and the unity of countless congregations throughout church history. These problems are caused by differences between Christians over matters that are neither commanded nor forbidden in Scripture. They are matters of personal preference and historic tradition, which, when imposed on others, inevitably cause confusion, strife, ill will, abused consciences, and disharmony.

Even in small churches, there often are considerable differences in age, education, maturity, personalities, and cultural and religious backgrounds. Some members may come from a long line of evangelicals. Some of those families may have a heritage of strict legalism, while others have one of considerable openness and freedom. Some members may have been accustomed to highly liturgical worship, others to worship that is largely unstructured and spontaneous.

Such diversity can strengthen a local congregation, reminding the church itself and witnessing to the world around them of the power of Jesus Christ to bind together dissimilar people in a fellowship of genuine and profound unity. The Lord did not plan for his church to be divided into a hundred varieties, based on distinctives of personal preference and traditions that have no ground in Scripture.

The particular danger to unity that Paul addresses in Romans 14:1-15:13 is the conflict that easily arises between those to whom he refers as strong and weak believers, those who are mature in the faith and those who are immature,  those who understand and enjoy freedom in Christ and those who still feel either shackled or threatened by certain religious and cultural taboos and practices that were deeply ingrained parts of their lives before coming to Christ.

In the early church, many Jews who came to faith in Christ could not bring themselves to discard the ceremonial laws and practices in which they had been steeped since early childhood, especially the rites and prohibitions the Lord Himself had instituted under the Old Covenant. They still felt compelled, for example, to comply with Mosaic dietary laws, to strictly observe the Sabbath, and even to offer sacrifices in the Temple because they were given by the true God.

Other believers, both Jewish and Gentile, understood and exercised their freedom in Christ. Mature Jewish believers realized that, under the New Covenant in Christ, the ceremonial requirements of the Mosaic law were no longer valid. Mature believing Gentiles understood that idolatry was a spiritual evil and had no effect on anything physical, such as meat, that may have been used in idolatrous worship.

Those who were still strongly influenced, favorably or unfavorably, by their former religious beliefs and practices were weak in the faith because they did not understand their freedom in Christ.

On the other hand, those who are strong are often faced with the temptation to push their freedom in Christ to the limits, to live on the outer edge of moral propriety, to see how far they can go without actually committing a sin. Those who are weak are tempted in the opposite way. They are so afraid of committing some religious offense that they surround themselves with self-imposed restrictions.

Christian convictions do not define what is “right” and “wrong.” God’s Word defines what is right and what is wrong. Biblical revelation is not a matter of personal discretion.It is not a conviction to believe that murder is evil or that loving our enemy is good. Convictions take up where biblical revelation and human law leave off. Convictions determine what my conduct should be in those areas not specifically prescribed by Scripture. My convictions draw the line between what I will do and what I will not do as an exercise of Christian liberty.

Convictions reach the conclusions of “should” and “should not.” The question is not so much, “Can I do this or that?” but “Should I do this or that?” Paul writes: (1 Corinthians 6:12 NIV)  “Everything is permissible for me”–but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible for me”–but I will not be mastered by anything.

Christian convictions are matters of conscience. Convictions are the result of the interaction of several factors. One factor is knowledge—a grasp of biblical teaching and doctrine. Another is that of conscience, our “inner umpire” which causes us to feel either guilt or moral affirmation. However not all men have this knowledge; but some, being accustomed to the idol until now, eat food as if it were sacrificed to an idol; and their conscience being weak is defiled (1 Corinthians 8:7).

Christian convictions are matters of faith. Knowledge and conscience are factors which determine our convictions. Faith also plays a vital role in our convictions. We should only practice those liberties we can do in faith. If we doubt (the opposite of faith), we are condemned by doing what our conscience does not approve.

The faith which you have, have as your own conviction before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves. But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and whatever is not from faith is sin (Romans 14:22-23).

In the Church at Rome there were apparently two lines of thought. There were some who believed that in Christian liberty the old tabus were gone; they believed that the old food laws were now irrelevant; they believed that Christianity did not consist in the special observance of any one day or days. Paul makes it clear that this in fact is the standpoint of real Christian faith.

On the other hand, there were those who were full of scruples; they believed that it was wrong to eat meat; they believed in the rigid observance of the Sabbath tyranny. Paul calls the ultra-scrupulous man the man who is weak in the faith. What does he mean by that?

Paul’s sympathies are all with the broader point of view; but, at the same time, he says that when one of these weaker brethren comes into the Church he must be received with brotherly sympathy. When we are confronted with someone who holds the narrower view there are three attitudes we must avoid.

(i) We must avoid irritation. An impatient annoyance with such a person gets us nowhere. However much we may disagree, we must try to see the other person’s point of view and to understand it.

(ii) We must avoid ridicule. No man remains unwounded when that which he thinks precious is laughed at. It is no small sin to laugh at another man’s beliefs. They may seem prejudices rather than beliefs; but no man has a right to laugh at what some other holds sacred. In any event, laughter will never woo the other man to a wider view; it will only make him withdraw still more determined into his rigidity.

(iii) We must avoid contempt. It is very wrong to regard the narrower person as an old-fashioned fool whose views may be treated with contempt. A man’s view are his own and must be treated with respect. It is not even possible to win a man over to our position unless we have a genuine respect for his. Of all attitudes towards our fellow man the most unchristian is contempt.

There are some people whose faith is so strong that no amount of debate and questioning will ready shake it. But there are others who have a simple faith which is only needlessly disturbed by clever discussion.

This passage deals with the principles which are to guide the believer as he faces these issues.

1. Receive the weak brother (v.1-2).

2. Do not despise and judge (criticize) others (v.3-4).

3. Be fully persuaded of right and wrong behavior (v.5-6).

4. Watch out—watch what you do (v.7-9).

5. Leave the judgment up to God (v.10-12).

6. Judge only one thing: stumbling blocks (v.13-15).

7. Give no occasion for criticism (v.16-18).

8. Pursue things that bring peace and edification (v.19).

9. Do not destroy or ruin the work of God in another person’s life: it is sin to do so (v.20).

10. Do nothing to cause a brother to stumble (v.21).

11. Watch and do not condemn yourself (v.22-23).

The ‘weak’ and the ‘strong’ have several distinct characteristics.

(1) They are weak in faith. Literally, they are weak ‘in the faith’ or ‘in their faith. I suspect that both elements are true. That is, the weak are those who have not yet come to the full realization of the freedom and the liberty which is a part of the faith.

 (2)  The weak are prone to condemn the actions of the strong. As they have not yet come to understand Christian liberty, they do not accept it in others. The weak can be immediately recognized by the frown of contempt on their faces, and the “Oh, no!” look in their eyes.

 (3) The strong are those who are more fully aware of the nature of grace and of the teachings of the word of God. They have a greater grasp of the faith (objective-doctrine) and so their faith (subjective-personal) is stronger.

 (4) The strong are susceptible to the sin of smugness and arrogance. They can easily find contempt and disdain for those who cannot fully grasp grace. On their face can be seen the lofty, yet condescending, smile of contempt. Their eyes betray an expression of “Oh, really.”

 “Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions” (Romans 14:1).

He who observes the day, observes it for the Lord, and he who eats, does so for the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who eats not, for the Lord he does not eat, and gives thanks to God. … for if we live, we live for the Lord, or if we die, we die for the Lord; therefore whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s (Romans 14:6, 8).

If we wish to busy ourselves with the work of passing judgment, let us concentrate upon ourselves, rather than upon our neighbor, for at the judgment seat of God we will be judged for our own actions: “But you, why do you judge your brother? Or you again, why do you regard your brother with contempt? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of God” (Romans 14:10).

The force of Paul’s argumentation is irresistible. The Christian has no business trying to conform his brother to his own personal convictions, since convictions are private property, since God has accepted him as he is, and since every servant is accountable only to his own master.

 Our Christian liberty is vertical, before the Lord. But the exercise of that liberty is horizontal, because it is seen by and affects others. To rightly understand and use our freedom in Christ brings great satisfaction. But that satisfaction is multiplied when we willingly surrender the exercise of a liberty for the sake of other believers. More importantly, it greatly pleases our Lord and promotes harmony in His church.

Marks of a Strong Fellowship Within the Church, 15:1-13

Paul shared the two sources of spiritual power from which we must draw if we are to live to please others: the Word of God (Rom. 15:4) and prayer (Rom. 15:5-6). We must confess that we sometimes get impatient with younger Christians, just as parents become impatient with their children. But the Word of God can give us the “patience and encouragement” that we need.

This suggests to us that the local church must major in the Word of God and prayer. The first real danger to the unity of the church came because the Apostles were too busy to minister God’s Word and pray (Acts 6:1-7). When they found others to share their burdens, they returned to their proper ministry, and the church experienced harmony and growth.

 This passage is a continuation of the former chapter. It clearly pinpoints the marks of a strong church. Once studying this passage, a believer can never claim he did not know his duty within the church. Every believer’s part in building and making the church strong is clearly spelled out.

Mark 1: the strong bear the weaknesses of the weak (v.1-3).

Mark 2: everyone studies the Scriptures (v.4).

Mark 3: everyone works for harmony (v.5-6).

Mark 4: everyone accepts one another without discrimination (v.7-12).

Mark 5: everyone is filled by the God of hope (v.13).

 

 
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Posted by on August 22, 2019 in Church

 

Follow after things which make for peace – Romans 14:19


Division in religion is rampant in the world! Religious division has been called “The Scandal of Christendom.”

There was a time when men attempted to justify the existence of conflicting religious parties, calling the situation “good,” “healthy,” or “desirable.” Men have even been heard to pray, “Lord, we thank Thee for the many denominations in our country.” But consider the Lord’s prayer for unity: John 17:20-21 (NIV) “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.

Today, men seldom defend religious division. If they know the Bible, they know that division is sinful. Our plea should be for men to seek unity!

Religious division is most harmful when it exists among those who claim to be the people of God. It has confused more minds, divided more homes, caused more hard feelings among friends, wasted more money, voided more sincere work, and probably caused more souls to be lost than any other single weapon in the devil’s arsenal.

Division is the work of Satan! It cannot be the work of God, for “God is not a God of confusion, but of peace” (1 Corinthians 14:33 (NIV) For God is not a God of disorder but of peace. As in all the congregations of the saints..”).

But someone says, “Read Christ’s statement in Matthew 10:34-36 (NIV) “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn “‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law– a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’

This text simply teaches that the people of Christ’s kingdom will, at times, be at variance with the people of the world. It does not endorse or encourage division within His kingdom!

NOTICE SEVERAL PLAIN PASSAGES FROM GOD’S WORD.

“So then let us follow after things which make for peace, and things whereby we may edify one another” (Romans 14:19).

“Let him seek peace, and pursue it” (1 Peter 3:11).

“Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9).

“It is an honor for a man to keep aloof from strife; but every fool will be quarreling” (Proverbs 20:3).

“For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you jealousy and strife, are ye not carnal, and do ye not walk after the manner of men?” (1 Corinthians 3:3).

“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” (Psalm 133:1).

WHAT DESTROYS PEACE?

Contention kills peace.

“As coals are to hot embers, and wood to fire, so is a contentious man to inflame strife” (Proverbs 26:21). As wood is to fire a contentious person is to strife. Vengeance destroys peace.

We live in an imperfect world and are part of an imperfect church (from the human side). Sooner or later someone will wrong us, or we will feel as though they have. When such happens, leave retribution to God. Romans 12:19 (NIV) Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.

A self-willed spirit can bring division. Trouble is bound to come when a person is set on having his way. Many have the philosophy “I will have it my way or else.” This is especially dangerous among the leaders of the church.

Elders must not be self-willed Titus 1:7 (NIV) Since an overseer is entrusted with God’s work, he must be blameless–not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain.

Elders are not to lord it over God’s people 1 Peter 5:3 (NIV) not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.

An unholy ambition for power and preeminence destroys peace. This has led to conflicts of both minor and major proportions, from fisticuffs to world wars. It has led to struggle and strife in the church.

“I wrote somewhat unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not” (3 John 9). A church with a modem Diotrephes is sure, in time, to have discord. Bitterness, wrath, and anger rob us of peace.

“Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and railing, be put away from you, with all malice” (Ephesians 4:31). These evil traits tend to break the peace of a family, church or community; for they will break forth in word and deed and do injury.

Here are two important verses to consider: Proverbs 29:22 (NIV) An angry man stirs up dissension, and a hot-tempered one commits many sins. 

Proverbs 16:32 (NIV) Better a patient man than a warrior, a man who controls his temper than one who takes a city.

He who is incapable of controlling himself is unable to handle critical situations because he is incapable of sane decisions.

“Be ye angry, and sin not; let not the sun go down upon your wrath” (Ephesians 4:26).

Foolish and ignorant questions cause strife. “But foolish and ignorant questionings refuse, knowing that they gender strifes” (2 Timothy 2:23).

2 Timothy 2:24 tells us the kind of servants we are to be. Corrupt speech destroys peace. “Let no corrupt speech proceed out of your mouth” (Ephesians 4:29).

What constitutes corrupt speech? Hasty words create strife (James 1:19).

Gossip and talebearing excite strife. “A whisperer separateth chief friends” (Proverbs 16:28).

“For lack of wood the fire goeth out; and where there is no whisperer, contention ceaseth” (Proverbs 26:20).

Clamor is to be put away (Ephesians 4:31). This is outcry or a violent expression of discontent. It not only characterizes a mob, but occasionally describes church meetings. The wrong word can be spoken at a delicate time and the whole assembly becomes inflamed.

Railing is forbidden (1 Timothy 6:4,5). This means to insult, revile, and scoff. It is not Christian.

 WHAT MAKES FOR PEACE?

A recognition of a standard of authority makes for peace. This is true in the realm of times, weights, and measures. This is also true in religion, which has the Scriptures for its standard (2 Timothy 3:16, 17).

A woman once told a preacher that she knew a certain thing was so no matter what the Bible said. If each is his own standard of authority, we will be hopelessly divided.

An unselfish spirit creates peace. Consider Abraham and Lot (Genesis 13:7–11).

“Not looking each of you to his own things, but each of you also to the things of others” (Philippians 2:4).

The practice of the Golden Rule brings peace (Matthew 7:12).

Returning good for evil is one sure way to promote peace. Read Romans 12:20. This is overcoming evil with good. It will bring remorse to a guilty person who has any manhood. A spirit which is easy to be entreated produces peace.

“But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, easy o be entreated” (James 3:17).

Each Christian should have a yielding disposition, easy to be entreated, in all matters of opinion. In matters of faith we must be uncompromising. A forgiving spirit makes for peace. “If any man have a complaint against any; even as the Lord forgave you, so also do ye” (Colossians 3:13).

Read Matthew 6:12. Some people are so hardened that they will not forgive. This makes it hard on both the offender and the offended.

A longsuffering spirit makes for peace. This means that we are patient when offended. This spirit permits time to mediate. Time is a healing ointment for wounded feelings.

CONCLUSION

“If it be possible, as much as in you lieth, be at peace with all men” (Romans 12:18). This passage teaches that it is not always possible to be at peace with all men. Peace at any price is a dangerous principle and should not be practiced by Christians. As Christians, we should be willing to sacrifice opinions to be at peace with all men, but we should never compromise truth and duty.

 
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Posted by on August 15, 2019 in counsel

 

God as Father is our model parent


Why does God give parents to children?

With family troubles intensifying, discipline problems increasing, and a growing corps of psychologi­cally handicapped people coming through the ranks of the traditional family circle, we wonder why God doesn’t come up with a different way of bringing children to maturity than using parents in a home environment.

And he keeps them there so long, nearly eigh­teen years on the average. Most birds and animals mature and move out on their own in a matter of weeks or months. But the frequent failures of teen‑age marriages dramatically illustrate that fif­teen, sixteen, or even seventeen years may not be enough to prepare humans to establish successful homes of their own. Why?

Because, among other things, life for an animal is a matter of instincts which are basically inborn. Life for humans goes far beyond that. It involves intellectual and emotional character, volitional choices, moral and aesthetic values. These things are not instinctive; they are developed, and that takes time. God gives parents to children to help build the qualities into them that will prepare them for a most useful and satisfying life.

Other organizations and agencies also contribute to molding the character and personality of children, but none has the same degree of influence as their parents. This is due not only to the uniqueness and intensity of the parent‑child relation­ship, but also to the sheer volume of time logged in the home.

Before entering school, nearly all of our children’s time is spent at home. Even during their school years, as many as 60 wak­ing hours per week are spent in or around the home, far exceed­ing the hours spent in any other single place. What transpires during those hours will largely determine the kind of adults our children become, and the mark of those years will be indel­ibly imprinted on their personalities.

God says a person’s ways later in life will be determined by his early experiences and training (Prov. 22:6). Modern psychologists, sociologists, and educators agree. Our children are what we make them. They are the sum total of what we contribute to their lives. The training we pro­vide will affect their ability to get along with other people, the genuineness of their Christian testimony and service, the caliber of work they do, the quality of home they establish, and almost every other area of their lives.

That’s a staggering thought. Raising a child successfully sounds like a superhuman task. As a matter of fact, it is. It demands more than human resources have to offer. It requires supernatural wisdom and strength. “But I’m not God,” you say. Right! Your children probably know that already. But God does promise to supply all your need (Phil. 4:19). And he knows exactly what you do need to be a good parent, because he himself is the Model Parent.

Isn’t it interesting that when Jesus prayed he addressed God as “our Father, who art in heaven.” God is a father. And the Psalmist exclaimed, “What a God he is! How perfect in every way!” (Psa. 18:30, TLB). The obvious conclusion is that God is a perfect father. By examining his Word and learning how he functions as a parent, we can learn what kind of parents we should be. Then when we commit ourselves completely to him and let him con­trol our lives, he is free to express through us his wisdom and strength as the Model Parent. He provides both the example and the encouragement, both the direction and the dynamic for us to be successful parents.

There are a number of Scripture passages that compare God’s parenthood to ours. For example, the Psalmist wrote, “He is like a father to us, tender and sympathetic to those who rever­ence him” (Psa. 103:13, TLB).

Solomon made this wise observation which the writer to the Hebrews borrowed: “For whom the Lord loves He reproves, even as a father the son in whom he delights” (Prov. 3:12, NASB; cf. Hebrews 12:6).

Jesus added his inspired testimony: “And if you hard‑hearted, sinful men know how to give good gifts to your children, won’t your Father in heaven even more certainly give good gifts to those who ask him for them?” (Matt. 7:11, TLB).

The point is well established in the Bible. God’s parenthood and our parenthood are a great deal alike–at least they should be. But did you notice that in all these verses the direction is from the human to the divine. Each verse uses human parents and the way they treat their children to teach us what God is like.

Christian counselors have discovered that it does indeed work that way. A person’s image of God is often patterned after his image of his own parents, especially his father.

  • If his par­ents were happy, loving, accepting, and forgiving, he finds it easier to experience a positive and satisfying relationship with God. But if his parents were cold and indifferent, he may feel that God is far away and disinterested in him personally.
  • If his parents were angry, hostile, and rejecting, he often feels that God can never accept him.
  • If his parents were hard to please, he usually has the nagging notion that God is not very happy with him either.

We need to meditate on that, Christian parent. What kind of God‑concept is our child cultivating by his relationship with us? Is he learning that God is loving, kind, patient, and forgiv­ing? Or are we unintentionally building a false image of God into his life, implying by our actions that God is harsh, short-­tempered, and critical, that he nags us, yells at us, or knocks us around when we get out of line?

Our children’s entire spiritual life is at stake here. It is imperative that we learn what kind of a parent God is, then follow his example in order that our chil­dren may see a living object lesson of the kind of God we have.

There is at least one passage in the Bible, however, that does move from the divine to the human, exhorting us to follow God’s example in raising our children: “And, fathers, do not provoke your children to anger; but bring them up in the dis­cipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4, NASB).

Those three little words at the conclusion of this verse will set our course through the remainder of this book. The training we give our children must be the training “of the Lord.” The Lord must be the guiding principle of that training. It belongs to him and is to be ad­ministered by him. It is the same training he gives us, and we are to give it to our children by his direction, through his pow­er, under his authority, and answerable to him.

It is “of the Lord” in every sense of that phrase. When we get right down to specific principles of child‑training, the Bible does not have a great deal to say directly. But when we understand the great principle established in this verse, the Bible becomes an in­exhaustible source-book for successful child training.

It boils down simply to this–we deal with our children as the Lord deals with us. He is our model. And our understand­ing of how he deals with us does not necessarily come from our parents, for that understanding may be faulty, as we have seen. It must come from his Word. We need to search the Scriptures to find out how God deals with his children, then do the same with our children.

Paul uses two words in Ephesians 6:4 to sum up God’s method of rearing children–discipline and instruction. The first of these is a very general word for child‑training. It in­volves setting goals for our children, teaching them the goals, then patiently but persistently guiding them toward those goals. While the word did not originally mean correction, it came through usage to include that idea and is translated “chas­tening” in Hebrews 12:5‑7 (KJV). But discipline, contrary to popular opinion, is far more than correction. It is charting a course for our children, guiding them along that course, and firmly but lovingly bring them back to that course when they stray.

Think about charting the course for a moment. Have you ever prayerfully established goals for the training of your children? This might be a good time to do it. We cannot expect our children to turn out right if we’re not sure what “right” is. As one of my seminary profs used to say, “If you aim at nothing, that’s exactly what you’ll hit.” Since we can’t hit a target we don’t have, let’s build one right now. Your aims may be much more extensive than mine, but this may at least be a good place to begin. Here is a God The Fatherbasic list of biblical goals we want to ac­complish with our children.

1. To lead them to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. It must be in his own perfect time, but we cannot really expect them to be all that God wants them to be until they have a new nature imparted from above.

2. To lead them to a total commitment of their lives to Christ. We want them to make their decisions in accord with his will, share every detail of life with him in prayer, and learn to trust him in every experience they face. Asking first what God wants us to do is a habit pattern that must be cultivated. The time to begin is very early in a child’s life.

3. To build the Word of God into their lives. We will en­deavor to teach it to them faithfully, relate it to the cir­cumstances of life, and set an example of conformity to it.

4. To teach them prompt and cheerful obedience, and re­spect for authority. By developing their willing submission to our authority, we seek to instill a respect for all duly consti­tuted authority, such as public school, Sunday school, gov­ernment, and ultimately, the authority of God himself. Submis­sion to authority is the basis for a happy and peaceful life in our society.

5. To teach them self‑discipline. The happiest life is the con­trolled life, particularly in areas such as eating, sleeping, sex, care of the body, use of time and money, and desire for material things.

6. To teach them to accept responsibility–responsibility for happily and efficiently accomplishing the tasks assigned to them, responsibility for the proper care of their belongings, and responsibility for the consequences of their actions.

7. To teach them the basic traits of Christian character, such as honesty, diligence, truthfulness, righteousness, unselfish­ness, kindness, courtesy, consideration, friendliness, generosi­ty, justice, patience, and gratitude.

Now we know where we’re going. But remember, our pur­pose is not just to insist on these things while our children are under our care. It is to make this whole package such a part of their lives that when they leave our care it will continue to guide them.

That seems to be what Solomon had in mind when he wrote, “Young man, obey your father and your mother. Tie their instructions around your finger so you won’t forget. Take to heart all of their advice. Every day and all night long their counsel will lead you and save you from harm; when you wake up in the morning, let their instructions guide you into the new day. For their advice is a beam of light directed into the dark corners of your mind to warn you of danger and to give you a good life” (Prov. 6:20‑23, TLB).

Internalizing these standards, that is, making them an inte­gral part of the child’s life, seems to be indicated in the second word Paul used in Ephesians 6:4 to describe the training God gives which we are to emulate, the word instruction. This word means literally, “to place in the mind.” The emphasis is on verbal training–warning, admonishing, encouraging, instruct­ing, or reproving.

But it goes far beyond the famous parental lecture. It pictures the faithful parent tenderly planting the principles of God’s Word deep down in the very soul of the child so that they become a vital part of his being. The standard is no longer the parent’s alone. It now belongs to the child as well. He is ready to move out into the world, independent of his parent’s control, with the principles of God’s Word so woven into the fiber of his life that he finds delight and success in doing the will of God, even when nobody is watching him.

Maybe this explains why some parents are reluctant to let go of their children when they should. If parents suspect they have not successfully instilled God’s way of life into their children, they may hesitate to break their emotional ties with them, but seek to influence and manipulate them in various ways long after they have married and left home. God wants us to begin building toward independence from the time our children are born.

Parental rules, regulations, and restrictions are only tempo­rary. Their purpose is to prepare the child for freedom, the only kind of freedom that can bring him real satisfaction, the free­dom to live in harmony and happiness with his Maker and Lord. As he learns and matures, the restraints are decreased and the independence increased until he leaves our care to establish a home of his own, a self‑disciplined, Spirit‑directed adult, capable of assuming his God‑given responsibilities in life.

This whole process is beautifully illustrated by the way God has dealt with the human race through the ages of history. In the time of man’s spiritual childhood, God gave him the law– 613 commandments, ordinances, and judgments regulating nearly every detail of life. It isn’t the way most people would choose to live, but it certainly did the job.

Paul said, “The law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster” (Gal. 3:24, 25, KJV, cf. Gal. 4:1‑7). He goes on to describe the fullness of faith, the freedom of life in Christ, and the joy of adult sonship. Who needs the bondage of all those external laws when we have the internal motivation of the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:14)?

That’s exactly what human parents should be doing. During the childhood years we regulate behavior while we inculcate biblical standards. As the child develops an inner discipline and control, more and more of the outward restrictions are removed until he has achieved the independence God intended him to have when he said, “Therefore shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave unto his wife . . .” (Gen. 2:24, KJV).

There are few joys in this world that excel the thrill of watch­ing our children live in fellowship with God of their own will­ing desire. The Apostle John said, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth” (3 John 4, KJV). He was probably speaking of his spiritual children, but the idea is equally applicable to our physical children.

Old Jacob must have had that joy when he heard the story of his son’s encounter with Potiphar’s wife. She offered Joseph her body and nobody would have been the wiser. Dad was several hundred miles away and it was doubtful at that point whether Joseph would ever see him again. But the godly principles built into his soul through his early years kept him from sin (Gen. 39:7‑20).

Daniel’s parents experienced that same joy if they ever heard of their son’s steadfast devotion to God in Babylon. He was nearly six hundred miles from home. And all the other boys were gorging themselves with the sumptuous foods of the Babylonian king which had been dedicated to pagan idols. “Everybody else is doing it” and “Nobody will ever know” have been good enough excuses to send countless other kids into a spiritual tailspin. “But Daniel made up his mind not to eat the food and wine given to them by the king” (Dan. 1:8, TLB).

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to know the joy of our children walking with God when they’re gone from our nest? With the example of the Model Parent to guide us and the power of his indwelling Spirit to strengthen us, we can help our children through their formative years and mold them into men and women of God, equipped to do his will. (Material comes from many sources).

 
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Posted by on August 8, 2019 in Family, God

 

Choosing character…the ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy


His words were intentionally piercing, wanting them to find their mark in the hearts of the Pharisees. They needed what was being offered. Their souls were in trouble.

“For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.”

Their problem was pronounced: they coveted the attention given to those in places of spiritual authority, wanting the acclaim and fanfare. They liked to be noticed when performing ‘acts of righteousness.’ They looked down on people, and had replaced praying to God for praying about themselves to God.

They received the praise of men, but God had other words when referring to them, even in public. Hypocrites! Brood of vipers! They noticed specks of sawdust in other’s eyes and missed the plank in their own!

Forty-eight percent of American workers admit to taking unethical or illegal actions in the past year. USA Today listed the five most common types of unethical/illegal behavior that workers say they have engaged in because of pressure:
–Cut corners on quality control
–Covered up incidents
–Abused or lied about sick days
–Lied to or deceived customers
–Put inappropriate pressure on others.

D. L. Moody was certainly seeking our attention when he said that “character is what a man is in the dark.”

Honest Abraham Lincoln understood this principle: “Character is like a tree and reputation like its shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.”

Bryant Kirkland has character—a minister of his church for 25 years. But now Dr. Kirkland’s beloved wife has Alzheimer’s and is unable to respond. I mean, you talk about suffering. Some of you know what that’s like when love is one way, don’t you, when you love and the person cannot love you back. But Dr. Kirkland doesn’t complain about it. He loves his beloved wife one way. He loves her and loves her and loves her.

And you know what’s happened as he’s hung in there? His suffering has produced endurance, and his endurance has produced character. He is a man of integrity. He is one of the great religious leaders of this time in history at the age of 80 because he has character. His sermons ring true with authenticity and fire because we know he’s been there, and he’s been steadfast. But that doesn’t come in a week.

The supreme test of goodness is not in the greater but in the smaller incidents of our character and practice; not what we are when standing in the searchlight of public scrutiny, but when we reach the firelight flicker of our homes; not what we are when some clarion-call rings through the air, summoning us to fight for life and liberty, but our attitude when we are called to sentry-duty in the grey morning, when the watch-fire is burning low. It is impossible to be our best at the supreme moment if character is corroded and eaten into by daily inconsistency, unfaithfulness, and besetting sin.

Mark Twain’s advise? Always do right; it will gratify some people and astonish the rest.

God is more concerned about our character than our comfort. His goal is not to pamper us physically but to perfect us spiritually. It is right to be contented with what we have, never with what we are.

The story is told of an Irishman who was being tried in a Kansas town. His was a petty offense. The judge asked if there was anyone present who would vouch for his character. “To be sure, your Honor,” he declared, “there’s the sheriff.” The sheriff looked amazed. “Your Honor,” he said, “I do not even know the man.” “Your Honor,” came back the Irishman as quick as a flash, “I’ve lived in this county for more than twelve years, and the sheriff does not know me yet. Isn’t that a character for you?”

How we live makes a difference. And our character lives on even after the dirt is pushed onto the casket. In the old cemetery at Winchester, Virginia, that starlit abbey of the Confederacy, there is a monument to the unknown Confederate dead. On it are cut these two lines: Who they were, none knows, What they were, all know.

In all our journey as a believer, we will have two categories of spiritual experiences. One is tender, delightful, and loving. The other can be quite obscure, dry, dark, and desolate. God gives us the first one to gain us; he gives us the second to purify us.

No professional football team that plays its home games in a domed stadium with artificial turf has ever won the Super Bowl. A climate-controlled stadium protects players and fans from the misery of sleet, snow, mud, heat, and wind. Everyone is comfortable. But athletes who brave the elements are disciplined to handle hardship. Apparently such rigors have something to do with the ability to win the Super Bowl.

Long before there was football, the Christian’s playbook declared the purpose of hardship. It builds Christlike character.

For several summers during the mid-1990s, Dave Wolter, head women’s basketball coach for Concordia University in Irvine, California, flew to Asia and put on basketball clinics for both players and coaches.

On one flight, his plane experienced mechanical trouble at 30,000 feet. Panic broke out. People were screaming, crying and standing up in the aisles. Wolter, on the other hand, sat calmly and prayed. When a woman sitting next to him saw how different his demeanor was to the rest of the passengers, she shouted in Wolter’s face, “Why aren’t you hysterical?”

Fortunately, the crew was able to correct the problem, and nervous tranquility was restored in the cabin. For the rest of the flight, Dave answered the woman’s question as she and several others listened intently to how his faith in Christ Jesus enables him to face death with confidence.

Our Christian influence has an effect not only through our words, but also through our actions. Stated another way, the fish symbol on the rear bumper of our car definitely makes a statement, but people will probably pay more attention to how we drive.

Our task as laymen is to live our personal communion with Christ with such intensity as to make it contagious.

What other people think of me becomes less and less important; what they think of Jesus because of me is critical.

Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired, and success achieved.

Billy Graham often says, “Mountaintops are for views and inspiration, but fruit is grown in the valleys.” It is our choices . . . that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.

Character is not made in a crisis. It is only exhibited in a crisis! A flaw in one’s character will show up under pressure.

The Christian character is simply a life in which all Christian virtues and graces have become fixed and solidified into permanence as established habits. It costs no struggle to do right, because what has been done so long, under the influence of grace in the heart, has become part of the regenerated nature.

The bird sings not to be heard, but because the song is in its heart, and must be expressed. It sings just as sweetly in the depths of the wood with no ear to listen, as by the crowded thoroughfare.

Beethoven did not sing for fame, but to give utterance to the glorious music that filled its soul.

The face of Moses did not shine to convince the people of his holiness, but because he had dwelt so long in the presence of God that it could not but shine.

Truest, ripest Christian life flows out of a full heart –a heart so filled with Christ that it requires no effort to live well, and to scatter the sweetness of grace and love.

It must be remembered, however, that all goodness in living begins first obeying rules, in keeping commandments. Mozart and Mendelssohn began with running scales and striking chords, and with painful finger-exercises.

The noblest Christian began with the simplest obedience. The way to become skillful is to do things over and over, until we can do them perfectly, and without thought or effort. The way to become able to do great things, is to do our little things with endless repetition, and with increasing dexterity and carefulness.

The way to grow into Christ likeness of character, is to watch ourselves in the minutest things of thought and word and act, until our powers are trained to go almost without watching in the lines of moral right and holy beauty. To become prayerful, we must learn to pray by the clock, at fixed times.

It is fine ideal talk to say that our devotions should be like the bird’s song, warbling out anywhere and at any time with sweet unrestraint; but in plain truth, to depend upon such impulses as guides to praying, would soon lead to no praying at all.

This may do for heavenly life; but we have not gotten into heaven yet, and until we do we need to pray by habit.

So of all religious life. We only grow into patience by being as patient as we can, daily and hourly, and in smallest matters, ever learning to be more and more patient until we reach the highest possible culture in that line.

We can only become unselfish wherever we have an opportunity, until our life grows into the permanent beauty of unselfishness.

We can only grow better by striving ever to be better than we already are. and by climbing step by step toward the radiant heights of excellence.

Character is like the foundation of a house. Most of it is below the surface.

In Acts 27, the angel appears to Paul and says that he will reach Rome safely and that everyone aboard the ship will be saved. As Paul says later, “Not one of you will lose a single hair from his head.” Absolute blanket, unequivocal authority.

But Paul doesn’t settle down in his bunk and go to sleep. He goes out on deck, and seeing the sailors escaping, he says to the soldiers, “Unless these men stay with the ship, you cannot be saved.”
Paul says that depending on what human beings do — two sets of them: the pagan soldiers and sailors–in the next 30 seconds the Word of God will be true or false.

It’s as if the Word of God dangles over the side of the ship alongside the lifeboats. The lifeboat is about to be cut off; a knife’s cut can do it. The Word of God could be falsified in a second by the soldier saying, “Who are you?” Or the sailors saying, “We don’t care; we’re off on our own.”

For Paul, God’s sovereignty is the springboard on which he bounces in faith to obediently do what he must do so they do what they must do so that what God says will be done is done.

John Wooden remains today as one of the great coaches of our generation. He rose to prominence not just as a winning basketball coach but as mentor to literally thousands of individuals at UCLA and the world through his books and speeches.

One of his principles was that we are to be concerned more with our character than with our reputation, because our character is what we really are, while our reputation is merely what others think we are.

Tom Landry, the legendary football coach of the Dallas Cowboys, said “I’ve seen the difference character makes in individual football players. Give me a choice between an outstanding athlete with poor character and a lesser athlete of good character; and I’ll choose the latter every time. The athlete with good character will often perform to his fullest potential and be a successful football player; while the outstanding athlete with poor character will usually fail to play up to his potential and often won’t even achieve average performance.”

If you cheat in practice, you’ll cheat in the game. If you cheat in your head, you’ll cheat on the test. You’ll cheat on the girl. You’ll cheat in business. You’ll cheat on your mate. Sow a thought, reap an act. Sow an act, reap a habit. Sow a habit, reap a character. Sow a character, reap a destiny.

In a speech delivered in New Haven, Conn., on March 6, 1860 — just two months before the Republican Convention that nominated him, Abraham Lincoln said this: “What we want, and all we want, is to have with us the men who think slavery wrong. But those who say they hate slavery, and are opposed to it, but yet act with the Democratic party — where are they?

Let us apply a few tests. You say that you think slavery is wrong, but you denounce all attempts to restrain it. Is there anything else that you think wrong, that you are not willing to deal with as a wrong?
Why are you so careful, so tender of this one wrong and no other? You will not let us do a single thing as if it was wrong; there is no place where you will allow [slavery] even to be called wrong!

We must not call it wrong in the Free States, because it is not there, and we must not call it wrong in the Slave States because it is there; we must not call it wrong in politics because that is bringing morality into politics, and we must not call it wrong in the pulpit because that is bringing politics into religion; we must not bring it into the Tract Society or the other societies because those are such unsuitable places, and there is no single place, according to you, where this wrong thing can properly be called wrong!

When wealth is lost, nothing is lost; when health is lost, something is lost; when character is lost, all is lost.

Every man has three characters — that which he exhibits, that which he has, and that which he thinks he has.

The expression of Christian character is not good doing, but God-likeness. If the Spirit of God has transformed you within, you will exhibit divine characteristics in your life, not good human characteristics. God’s life in us expresses itself as God’s life, not as human life trying to be godly. The secret of a Christian is that the supernatural is made natural in him by the grace of God, and the experience of this works out in the practical details of life, not in times of communion with God.

What we stand up for proves what our character is like. If we stand up for our reputation, it is a sign it needs standing up for! God never stands up for his saints, they do not need it. The devil tells lies about men, but no slander on earth can alter a man’s character.

God alters our disposition, but he does not make our character. When God alters my disposition, the first thing the new disposition will do is to stir up my brain to think along God’s line. As I begin to think, begin to work out what God has worked in, it will become character. Character is consolidated thought. God makes me pure in heart; I must make myself pure in conduct.

Carl Sandburg, describing Abraham Lincoln, calling him a man of steel and velvet. On February 12, 1959, Sandburg referred to him in these terms: Not often in the story of mankind does a man arrive on earth who is both steel and velvet, who is as hard as rock and soft as drifting fog, who holds in his heart and mind the paradox of terrible storm and peace unspeakable and perfect. . . .While the war winds howled, he insisted that the Mississippi was one river meant to belong to one country. . . .While the luck of war wavered and broke and came again, as generals failed and campaigns were lost, he held enough forces . . . together to raise new armies and supply them, until generals were found who made war as victorious war has always been made, with terror, frightfulness, destruction . . . valor and sacrifice past words of man to tell.

In the mixed shame and blame of the immense wrongs of two crashing civilizations, often with nothing to say, he said nothing, slept not at all, and on occasions he was seen to weep in a way that made weeping appropriate, decent, majestic.

Today our culture is far less likely to raise up heroes than it is to exalt victims, individuals who are overcome by the sting of oppression, injustice, adversity, neglect or misfortune. … Success, as well as failure, is the result of one’s own talent, decisions and actions. Accepting personal responsibility for victory, as well as for defeat, is as liberating and empowering as it is unpopular today.

Have you ever watched the icicle as it is formed? Have you noticed how it froze, one drop at a time, until it was a foot long, or more? If the water was clean, the icicle remained clear, and sparkled brightly in the sun; but if the water was slightly muddy, the icicle looked foul, and its beauty was spoiled.

Just so our characters are formed. One little thought or feeling at a time adds its influence. If each thought be pure and right, the soul will be lovely, and will sparkle with happiness; but if impure and wrong, there will be deformity and wretchedness.

During his time as a rancher, Theodore Roosevelt and one of his cowpunchers lassoed a maverick steer, lit a fire, and prepared the branding irons. The part of the range they were on was claimed by Gregor Lang, one of Roosevelt’s neighbors. According to the cattleman’s rule, the steer therefore belonged to Lang. As his cowboy applied the brand, Roosevelt said, “Wait, it should be Lang’s brand.”

“That’s all right boss,” said the cowboy.

“But you’re putting on my brand,” Roosevelt said.

“That’s right,” said the man.

“Drop that iron,” Roosevelt demanded, “and get back to the ranch and get out. I don’t need you anymore. A man who will steal for me will steal from me.”

The late C.S. Lewis said that people can ask only three basic ethical or philosophical questions. To describe them, he used the metaphor of ships at sea. When sailing ships leave port to embark on a journey, sailors must determine three things, according to Lewis. First, they must know how to keep from bumping into one another. This is a question of “social ethics.” In other words, how do we get along with one another on this journey called life?

Second, they must know how the individual ships remain seaworthy. This is “personal ethics,” and it deals with the individual’s vices and virtues – with character. Finally, sailors must decide where the ships are going. What is their mission and their destination? This last question is the ultimate one for us. What is the purpose of human life? Why are we here?

Charles Spurgeon wrote, “A good character is the best tombstone. Those who loved you, and were helped by you, will remember you when forget-me-nots are withered. Carve your name on hearts, and not on marble. Integrity is “a better long-term investment than the best Certificate of Deposit known to man!”

Bob Hope once said, “If you haven’t got any charity in your heart, you have the worst kind of heart trouble.”

When someone mentions the word “charity,” we usually think about giving material things, such as food, clothing or money, to needy people. However, the book “Hope Again” contains a true story about Tom Landry, the great coach of the Dallas Cowboys, and the late Woody Hayes. The story illustrates a different kind of charity, but real charity nevertheless.

Years ago, Woody Hayes was fired from his job as coach of the Ohio State football team. The reason Hayes was fired was that he struck an opposing player on the sidelines during a football game. The press had a field day with the firing, and piled criticism and shame on the former Buckeye coach.

Few people could have felt lower than Hayes felt. Not only did he publicly lose control of himself and do a foolish thing, but he also lost his job and much of the respect others had for him.

At the end of that season, a large, prestigious banquet was held for professional athletes. Tom Landry was invited, and he could bring a guest. Who did Landry take with him as his guest? Woody Hayes, the disgraced man everyone was being encouraged to criticize and scorn.

The game of football has rules against piling on someone who has been tackled. The reason for those rules is simple: prevent needless injury to the player who is down. The world would be much better if we actually lived by such rules. But when someone makes a mistake or is going through difficult times, one of the first responses of many people is criticism and gossip. Another response is to shun someone who is down. Either response piles on more pain–needless pain.

Tom Landry did not pile needless pain on Woody Hayes. Landry had charity in his heart. Charity, in the form of mercy. So Landry reached out with mercy to help a fallen man get up and begin climbing the hill back to a mended life.

So remember two things. First, instead of piling on the pain when someone is down, be merciful. Apply the principle in the Good Samaritan story that Jesus taught– to be the one to come to the aid of one who’s fallen, not one who passes by on the other side of the road– and help fallen people up the hill they have to climb.

The second point is that there is an interesting thing about hills. When you help a person up a hill, you find yourself closer to the top, and the better it will be when you need mercy. Yes, we all need mercy. Romans 3:23 tell us that “…all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

“Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.”

 
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Posted by on August 1, 2019 in Family

 

Words to ventilate our hope: it takes courage to believe, and in order to have that courage, we must believe


If there are two words that should be said in the same breath and said regularly to ventilate our hope, that should be flamed together, branded as a signature of our faith, they are the words “faith” and “courage.”  It takes courage to believe, and in order to have that courage, we must believe.

From time to time, lobsters have to leave their shells in order to grow. They need the shell to protect them from being torn apart, yet when they grow, the old shell must be abandoned. If they did not abandon it, the old shell would soon become their prison–and finally their casket.

The tricky part for the lobster is the brief period of time between when the old shell is discarded and the new one is formed. During that terribly vulnerable period, the transition must be scary to the lobster. Currents gleefully cartwheel them from coral to kelp. Hungry schools of fish are ready to make them a part of the food chain. For awhile at least, that old shell must look pretty good.

Joshua 1:9 (62 kb)We are not so different from lobsters. To change and grow, we must sometimes shed our shells–a structure, a framework–we’ve depended on. Discipleship means being so committed to Christ that when he bids us to follow, we will change, risk, grow, and leave our “shells” behind. [1]

In A Pretty Good Person, Lewis Smedes writes: A federal judge had ordered New Orleans to open its public schools to African-American children, and the white parents decided that if they had to let black children in, they would keep their children out. They let it be known that any black children who came to school would be in for trouble. So the black children stayed home too.

“Except Ruby Bridges. Her parents sent her to school all by herself, six years old.

“Every morning she walked alone through a heckling crowd to an empty school. White people lined up on both sides of the way and shook their fists at her. They threatened to do terrible things to her if she kept coming to their school. But every morning at ten minutes to eight Ruby walked, head up, eyes ahead, straight through the mob; two U.S. marshals walked ahead of her and two walked behind her. Then she spent the day alone with her teachers inside that big silent school building.

“Harvard professor Robert Coles was curious about what went into the making of courageous children like Ruby Bridges. He talked to Ruby’s mother and, in his book The Moral Life of Children, tells what she said: “There’s a lot of people who talk about doing good, and a lot of people who argue about what’s good and what’s not good,” but there are other folks who “just put their lives on the line for what’s right.” [2]

Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in the gray twilight that knows not victory or defeat.

The only fight which is lost is that which we give up.

In June 1955, Winston Churchill, who was then near the end of his life, was asked to give a commencement address at a British University.  At this time he was physically infirm; he had to be helped to the podium.  Then he held on to the podium for what seemed an interminable amount of time.  He stood with his head down but then finally raised that great leonine head of his, and the voice that years before had called Britain back from the brink of destruction sounded publicly for the last time in history.

“Never give up.  Never give up.  Never give up.”  With that, Churchill turned and went back to his seat.  I’m told there was silence, and then, as if one person, the whole audience rose to applaud him, because he was a man whose life and words were together. Again and again throughout Churchill’s political career, he had known setbacks.  Three times, his career apparently was over, he was sent off to oblivion, and yet somehow he had a sense that there was still something left after the worst. [3]

Fear doesn’t want you to make the journey to the mountain. If he can rattle you enough, fear will persuade you to take your eyes off the peaks and settle for a dull existence in the flatlands. [4]

Henry Ward Beecher is credit as saying that “God planted fear in the soul as truly as he planted hope or courage. It is a kind of bell or gong which rings the mind into quick life on the approach of danger. It is the soul’s signal for rallying.“

Once you’ve faced the very thing you fear the most, it is no longer quite so fearful.

Words can never adequately convey the incredible impact of our attitude toward life. The longer I live the more convinced I become that life is 10 percent what happens to us and 90 percent how we respond to it.

Being positive is part of being a hero–maybe the hardest part, because if you are a hero you’re smart enough to know all the reasons why you should be discouraged.

The best decision-makers are those who are willing to suffer the most over their decisions but still retain their ability to be decisive.

Maybe we need the confidence of Alexander McClaren, who courageously replied, “Only he who can say, “The Lord is the strength of my life,” can say, “Of whom shall I be afraid?”

During World War I, a British commander was preparing to lead his soldiers back to battle. They’d been on furlough, and it was a cold, rainy, muddy day. Their shoulders sagged because they knew what lay ahead of them: mud, blood, possible death. Nobody talked, nobody sang. It was a heavy time.

As they marched along, the commander looked into a bombed-out church. Back in the church he saw the figure of Christ on the cross. At that moment, something happened to the commander. He remembered the One who suffered, died, and rose again. There was victory, and there was triumph.

As the troops marched along, he shouted out, “Eyes right, march!” Every eye turned to the right, and as the soldiers marched by, they saw Christ on the cross. Something happened to that company of men. Suddenly they saw triumph after suffering, and they took courage. With shoulders straightened, they began to smile as they went. You see, anything worthwhile in life will be a risk that demands courage.

We certainly want to avoid the charge being leveled toward us that we were neutral at a crucial point of our life. Dante said in the 13th century that “the hottest places in hell are reserved for those who, in a period of moral crisis, maintain their neutrality. “

Today our culture is far less likely to raise up heroes than it is to exalt victims, individuals who are overcome by the sting of oppression, injustice, adversity, neglect or misfortune. … Success, as well as failure, is the result of one’s own talent, decisions and actions. Accepting personal responsibility for victory, as well as for defeat, is as liberating and empowering as it is unpopular today.

I have always appreciated the ‘dry bones’ message of Ezekiel 36-37, when God revealed His plans for the deliverance of Israel and the restoration of His name among the nations. His motives were clear: “It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am going to do these things, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you have gone….’For I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land….I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.”

“You will live in the land I gave your forefathers; you will be my people, and I will be your God.  I will save you from all your uncleanness. I will call for the grain and make it plentiful and will not bring famine upon you. I will increase the fruit of the trees and the crops of the field, so that you will no longer suffer disgrace among the nations because of famine. Then you will remember your evil ways and wicked deeds, and you will loathe yourselves for your sins and detestable practices.”

(Ezekiel 37:1-14)  “The hand of the LORD was upon me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the LORD and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. {2} He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. {3} He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” I said, “O Sovereign LORD, you alone know.” {4} Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the LORD! {5} This is what the Sovereign LORD says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. {6} I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the LORD.'” {7} So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone. {8} I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them. {9} Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe into these slain, that they may live.'” {10} So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet–a vast army. {11} Then he said to me: “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.’ {12} Therefore prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: O my people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel. {13} Then you, my people, will know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. {14} I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the LORD have spoken, and I have done it, declares the LORD.'””

God revealed His power and might, and the reality that literally nothing is outside of His control; He can do what He wills when He wants! He needs us to realize this and be willing participants! He who loves God with all his heart dreads neither death, torment, judgment, nor hell, for perfect love opens a sure passage to God.

In the midst of a storm, a little bird was clinging to the limb of a tree, seemingly calm and unafraid. As the wind tore at the limbs of the tree, the bird continued to look the storm in the face, as if to say, “Shake me off; I still have wings.”

Hope prevents us from clinging to what we have and frees us to move away from the safe place and enter unknown and fearful territory. The only fight which is lost is that which we give up. We must be careful for nothing, prayerful for everything, thankful for anything.

We must have plenty of courage. God is stronger than the devil. We are on the winning side. Success is never final; failure is never fatal; it is courage that counts. The great need for anyone in authority is courage. Courage is almost a contradiction in terms:  it means a strong desire to live taking the form of readiness to die.

Courage is not limited to the battlefield or the Indianapolis 500 or bravely catching a thief in your house. The real tests of courage are much deeper and much quieter. They are the inner tests, like remaining faithful when nobody’s looking, like enduring pain when the room is empty, like standing alone when you’re misunderstood

A sailor was given liberty to go ashore when his ship docked at a large southwestern American city.  He visited a park famous for its trees and tropical flowers. As he walked across an open grassy sunlit area, he noticed bees flying all around him.  Suddenly, all the bees began to settle upon him. They were all over his clothes, his hands, and his face. Panic gripped him, and though he wanted to run in fear, he forced himself to stand stock still. There were hundreds, maybe thousands, of bees all over him.  He hardly dared to breathe. “Look at that sailor,” he heard a woman’s voice say. After what seemed an eternity to the sailor, slowly the bees departed one by one until they were all gone.  His uniform was soaked with perspiration, but he had not been stung once. Sometimes it is better to stand stock still in the midst of danger than to run in panic and fear and possibly to bring about the very end one wishes to avoid. Scripture says,  “”Whoever flees from the terror will fall into a pit, whoever climbs out of the pit will be caught in a snare; for I will bring upon Moab the year of her punishment,” declares the LORD.” (Jeremiah 48:44)


[1] Brent Mitchell in Fresh Illustrations for Preaching & Teaching (Baker) from the editors of Leadership.

[2] Bob Campbell in Fresh Illustrations for Preaching & Teaching (Baker), from the editors of Leadership.

[3] John Claypool, Birmingham, Alabama, Leadership, Vol. 12, no. 2.

[4] Max Lucado, Christian Reader, Vol. 32, no. 3.

 
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Posted by on July 31, 2019 in Encouragement

 

Adult self-esteem


 1. Accept personal responsibility for your own low self-esteem.

Galatians 6:5: “…for each one should carry his own load.” Our past and the present influence you, but you are a creative factor in the formation of your own thoughts, actions, and feelings. If you do not take such responsibility, you will never change. You can choose to perceive the past differently!

2. Restructure your thinking.

Philippians 4:8-9: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things. {9} Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me–put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”

People who are down on themselves tend to make many thinking mistakes:

  1. They overgeneralize. From one mistake, they conclude that they can’t      do anything right.
  2. They eternalize. From one failure, they conclude that they will      never do anything right.
  3. They personalize. They are too absorbed with themselves. They      inappropriately apply comments and criticism from others to themselves:      “They are all talking about me.” They blame themselves too much:      “Others had nothing to do with it, circumstances had nothing to do      with it, I caused it all. I am completely to blame.”
  4. They catastrophize. What they do is the worst thing that has ever      been done: Íf you only knew what I did, you would not want me in your      church or to be your friend.”
  5. They filter. Many positive things may have happened to them, yet they do not      see them. They filter them out. Their whole world is thus negative.
  6. They neutralize. If they see positive things in their lives, they      negate them: “He doesn’t really like me. He just needed a date.”      “My husband doesn’t really like me, he just wants a woman. Any woman.”      We can make anyone look bad by filtering out his/her good points or by      concentrating on his/her bad points.
  7. They absolutize. Everything becomes a must. “People must like      me, life must be easy, and I must be competent. If not, I am      worthless and life is not worth living.” We must make a distinction      between desire and demand: It would be nice if everyone liked me,      but it is not necessary. Persons with low self-esteem often jump to      conclusions without adequate evidence.
  8. They dictomize. Everything is either black or white: there is no gray. Such      persons are often very perfectionistic. Their way is always the right      way about everything. Their opinions are always the truth.
  9. They self destruct. They set up negative self-fulfilling prophecies:      “No one likes me.” So when a person does like them, they are      suspicious and uncomfortable, which causes them to send out negative signals,      which causes the other person to “back off.” When they back off,      the person says to himself or herself: “I was right. No one likes      me.” It seems impossible for a person with low self-esteem to feel      loved.

Check Your Self-Esteem: Barksdale Self-Esteem Evaluation No. 69

This Self-Esteem Evaluation measures your current level of self-esteem, your Self-Esteem Index (SEI), and serves as a gauge of your progress in achieving sound self-esteem. It is important to clearly understand all statements and be completely honest in your scoring if you are to obtain a valid SEI. It is essential that you answer these statements according to how you actually feel or behave, instead of how you think you “should” feel or behave.

Score as follows (each score shows how true or the amount of time you believe that statement is true for you):

0 = not at all true for me
1 = somewhat true or true only part of the time
2 = fairly true or true about half the time
3 = mainly true or true most of the time
4 = true all the time

Score = 0 1 2 3 4
Not True …… True

Self-Esteem   Statements

0   1 2 3 4

1. I don’t feel anyone else is better than I am.

0   1 2 3 4

2. I am free of shame, blame, and guilt.

0   1 2 3 4

3. I am a happy, carefree person.

0   1 2 3 4

4. I have no need to prove I am as good as or better than others.

0   1 2 3 4

5. I do not have a strong need for people to pay attention to me or   like what I do.

0   1 2 3 4

6. Losing does not upset me or make me feel “less than”   others.

0   1 2 3 4

7. I feel warm and loving toward myself.

0   1 2 3 4

8. I do not feel others are better than I am because they can do things   better, have more money, or are more popular.

0   1 2 3 4

9. I am at ease with strangers and make friends easily.

0   1 2 3 4

10. I speak up for my own ideas, likes, and dislikes.

0   1 2 3 4

11. I am not hurt by others’ opinions or attitudes.

0   1 2 3 4

12. I do not need praise to feel good about myself.

0   1 2 3 4

13. I feel good about others’ good luck and winning.

0   1 2 3 4

14. I do not find fault with my family, friends, or others.

0   1 2 3 4

15. I do not feel I must always please others.

0   1 2 3 4

16. I am open and honest, and not afraid of letting people see my real   self.

0   1 2 3 4

17. I am friendly, thoughtful, and generous toward others.

0   1 2 3 4

18. I do not blame others for my problems and mistakes.

0   1 2 3 4

19. I enjoy being alone with myself.

0   1 2 3 4

20. I accept compliments and gifts without feeling uncomfortable or   needing to give something in return.

0   1 2 3 4

21. I admit my mistakes and defeats without feeling ashamed or   “less than.”

0   1 2 3 4

22. I feel no need to defend what I think, say, or do.

0   1 2 3 4

23. I do not need others to agree with me or tell me I’m right.

0   1 2 3 4

24. I do not brag about myself, what I have done, or what my family has   or does.

0   1 2 3 4

25. I do not feel “put down” when criticized by my friends or   others.

The possible range of your Self-Esteem Index is from 0 to 100. Sound self-esteem is indicated by an SEI of 95 or more. Good self-esteem is indicated by a score of 90 to 94. Experience shows that any score under 90 is a disadvantage, a score of 75 or less is a serious handicap, and an SEI of 50 or less indicates crippling lack of self-esteem.

Charlie Brown, of “Peanuts” comic strip fame, is known as the classic loser. He pitches for the baseball team that never wins. When he represents his school in the spelling competition everyone knows how it will turn out, because Charlie Brown is a loser. It is no better socially. Charlie Brown keeps trying to earn the admiration and respect of others, but every attempt to be an achiever ends in disaster.

Yet we like Charlie Brown. I suspect his popularity comes from the fact that we see a bit of ourselves in this perennial loser. From our earliest days we are conditioned to believe the only way to be happy is to excel.

Recognition is reserved for the achievers. So, like Charlie Brown, we fantasize about rising to the top. But most of us remain in the category labeled “average.” What happens to all the Charlie Browns who face defeat after defeat? They grow up suffering with feelings of inferiority and insignificance. What they feel about themselves is largely determined by what others feel about them. If others consider them losers they grow up believing they are worthless.

Psychologists tell us one of our deepest needs is the need for self-esteem. How do we gain self-esteem?

It Hurts to Be a “Nobody”

Children can be incredibly cruel to each other. Do you remember the playground days when we chose sides to play ball? There were always some children who were chosen first. They were winners. Having them on the team gave a decided edge. And there were others who were always chosen last. They weren’t wanted. They were a liability.

The same thing happened in the classroom. Some were winners; others were losers. And it continues all through life. There is the housewife who spends her days tending to important family needs and perhaps fantasizing about the glamorous roles of others. Ask her who she is, and she will likely tell you she is “just” a housewife. A society of distorted values has led her to believe she is “nobody.” There is the man who reaches middle age locked into a job that is going nowhere. To be “somebody” is to be climbing. But he stopped climbing long ago.

We measure people by their physical attractiveness, their athletic skills, their productivity, or their intelligence. Those who do not measure up are left to a life of frustration.

Guilt can also saddle us with feelings of inferiority. Charles Dickens’s Tale of Two Cities has a character named Sydney Carton, whose life had been misspent. He’d had opportunities for achievement, but never had the self-discipline to do anything about them. He spent his life in London taverns, returning home each day in a drunken stupor.

The one thing which made Sydney Carton a man of destiny was his amazing resemblance to the hero of the story, Charles Damay. At the climax of the book Charles Damay was in prison in Paris awaiting execution. Sydney Carton arranged to visit Charles Damay-and took his place in the prison cell. Carton, realizing his life had been wasted, seized this opportunity to make his life count for something. On the way to execution he said, “It is a far, far better thing I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to, than I have ever known.” In his final act he wanted to make his wasted life useful.

 
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Posted by on July 29, 2019 in Encouragement

 

Dealing With The Problem of a Low Self-Esteem


Don’t Give the Children’s Bread to Dogs:  The Gospels of Matthew and Mark (Matt. 15:21-28; Mark 7:24-30) tell about a woman who came to Jesus seeking help for her afflicted daughter. On the surface it sounds similar to many other Gospel stories, for most of them record the pleas of people who were hurting-the sick, the blind, and the crippled. But there is something especially poignant about this story. You see, this woman was a Syrophoenician She was not born to the chosen people. This is the first recorded instance of a foreigner coming to Jesus for help.

 The Key to Self- Esteem

This story is a miniature of the whole gospel. It offers the only real remedy for low self-esteem. The first step in achieving a sense of self-esteem is to recognize, as this woman did, that we are unworthy. We become somebody precisely at the point where we recognize that God makes us somebody.

God does not love us because we are valuable; we are valuable because God loves us. We are valuable because he created us in his own image. We are valuable because he died for us. “While we were yet sinners Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8).

self-esteemThere is no “in” group arid “out” group. He sees past our misspent years and our failures. He sees us for what we were meant to be. We are valuable to him.

Near the beginning of Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians he makes this powerful and encouraging observation: “Not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth” (I Cor. 1:26). .

Paul was a good example of this. He was burdened with his past as a persecutor of Christians and he had a debilitating health problem. Tradition tells us his physical appearance was unimpressive. It’s interesting that when God wanted his work done, he did not choose a great Athenian orator or athlete. He chose one who had reason to feel inferior. But God could use Paul’s weakness to his glory. So Paul wrote, “I will all the more gladly boast of my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. . . . for when I am weak, then 1 am strong” (II Cor. 12:9-10)..

Psychologists tell us unfulfilled desires for self-esteem lead to bitterness and frustration. Imagine the problems which are created in the child who constantly sits in front of a television set, absorbing the medium’s standards for being somebody. To the girl it means beauty; to the boy it means being athletically gifted. Accepting these standards leads to frustration, because most people are rather ordinary.

Definitions and Key Thoughts

Self-esteem refers to an inner sense of worthiness that gives a person resilience and resistance to discouragement or criticism. Generally speaking, each person has a concept about his self-worth (which may or may not be accurate), and self-esteem is how he feels about (or evaluates) that concept.

Having good self-esteem does not mean being proud or having an over-blown view of our own importance. Paul encourages us to “think soberly” when it comes to evaluating ourselves (Romans 12:3). This means to assess ourselves with honesty and fairness.

Low self-esteem can manifest itself in many ways:

  • feelings of self-hate, believing that we are unworthy or incompetent
  • refusal to get close to people, believing we don’t deserve strong or supportive relationships
  • refusal to trust others
  • inability to accept ourselves as special and unique
  • rejection of what God intended the person to be in Him
  • depression
  • a need for large amounts of attention
  • a competitive or argumentative spirit
  • poor decisions made that are based on fears and not reality

An individual’s self-esteem is in trouble when he allows others to determine his value or significance instead of the One who created him. Poor self-esteem is often the result of prolonged periods of negative feedback in a person’s life, resulting in deep wounds and pain. As a counselor, you need to apply active listening skills in order to determine how far back the negative influence has gone.

Society is constantly assessing our value. At work, we have performance evaluations, we are graded in schools, and we are evaluated for loans. Assessment of our value begins early in life and continues even after we die.

Often, another person’s value judgment of us is a means to an end. An example of this is the young lady who finds herself in the back seat of a car with a boy who says, in effect, “If you want me to value you, you will have sex with me.”

God has determined our value based on His love and purpose for creating us in the first place and on the price He has paid to redeem us for all eternity.

Most who struggle with low self-esteem believe lies about their significance to God. The goals of interacting should be to:

  • Correct false or erroneous beliefs about the individual’s worth and significance
  • Make an accurate, genuine assessment of that person’s strengths, gifts, significance, and potential
  • Bring a healing from deep relationship wounds
  • Help the person get over the distortions and be able to honestly admit his strengths as well as his weaknesses
  • Help the person on the journey to adopt God’s perspective of his worth.

WISE COUNSEL

Helping a person with low self-esteem does not mean telling him untruths. Instead, help the person develop a realistic assessment of his unique set of skills, abilities, and character traits. And, help this individual develop a strong sense of God’s love and forgiveness. Give the person hope. Encourage him to see that he is on a journey. Encourage patience and prayer along the way.

Remind the person of the story in John chapter 5 where Jesus healed the crippled man who had lived for 38 years with brokenness and pain. Jesus asked him if he wanted to be healed. Why would Jesus ask? It seems that a person can live for so long with brokenness that he may not want to do the work that it takes to receive healing. Is the person willing to do the work to receive healing?

1. Recognize Your Value

There is a difference between having an inflated ego and simply understanding your significance based on your God-given gifts and value to Him. Make a list of talents, character traits, physical traits, abilities, accomplishments, etc., that set you apart.

2. Stop Harmful Thought Patterns

Consider some of the thought patterns and other factors that are leading you to believe lies about your worth. Think back on things you’ve done-taught a Sunday school class, helped with Boy Scouts, gave a perfect gift to a relative, taught a child to shoot a basketball, took a bag of groceries to a food pantry, invited a new coworker to lunch. List all of those big and little things done for others. Then consider the impact they had on those people.

3. Begin New Thought Patterns

Each negative thought can be countered with God’s assessment of your value. For example: If you feel your self-worth fizzle when a coworker with less experience is promoted over you, stop the negative thoughts before they take hold of you. Ask yourself if there might be any good reason this person received the promotion over you. If not, remind yourself that life isn’t always fair.

4. Be Patient

It has taken years of bad habits to get to shape your self-esteem. Healing will not happen overnight and will require replacing the bad habits with good ones. It may take awhile until your reflex action is quick to respond in a proactive way to negative thinking.

5. Read God’s Word

Study what the Bible says about your worth to God. Explore what God says about His love for you and His purpose for your life. (Give him the verses from Biblical Insights.) Keep a journal to record significant breakthroughs.

But Moses said to God, “Who am 1 that 1 should go to Pharaoh, and that 1 should bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” -Exodus 3:11 Moses was certain God was making a mistake by choosing him to lead the Israelites. His five excuses indicated a lack of confidence in his ability to get the job done. He had a crisis of identity (“who am” 3:11), a crisis of authority (“what is His name?” 3:13), a crisis of faith (“they will not believe me;’ 4:1), a crisis of ability (“I am not eloquent;’ 4:10), and a crisis of obedience (“send. . .whomever else;’ 4:13). But God was with him, and Moses led the nation to freedom. With God’s help and guidance, great things are possible.

Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. -Matthew 10:29-30

Jesus described God’s loving concern for every person, explaining that “the very hairs of your head are all numbered:’ God cares even for small birds- “not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will” -so imagine how much more He cares for His people. What a boost of encouragement! We are important to God-created in His image and loved. He loves us so much, in fact, that He “gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! -1 John 3:1

A healthy self-image is seeing yourself as God sees you—no more and no less. — Josh McDowell

He who is able to love himself is able to love others also; he who has learned to overcome self-contempt has overcome his contempt for others. — Paul Johannes Oskar Tillich (1886–1965)

I am as my Creator made me, and since he is satisfied, so am I. — Minnie Smith

Self-acceptance is basically a spiritual issue. What it boils down to is this: are we able to thank the Creator for the way he made us? If not, we are casting doubt on his wisdom. If we can thank him, we display our belief that he knows what is best for us. And that will help us accept ourselves—limitations, failures, and all. — Erwin W. Lutzer (1941– )

A person with good self-esteem has a sense of self-worth, yet recognizes his/her limitations. Such a person is not conceited but rather is glad to be himself. They accept themselves and others but are desirous of correcting their own shortcomings.

They are problem-centered, not self-centered: they appreciate the simple things of life, are ethical, able to discriminate between means and ends; they get along in their culture yet resist enculturation and have a genuine desire to help the human race.

Healthy self-esteem in MEN is thought to be derived to some extent from vocations, intelligence, wealth, achievements, education, positions of power, and competition.  FEMALE self-esteem results more from the achievement of goals, self and body image, education, money, everyday concerns, and family relationships. Both sexes are usually affected by their view of how they are evaluated by significant others in their lives.

 

 

 
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Posted by on July 25, 2019 in Encouragement

 
 
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