Preparing our children… for what?

What parent does not want to prepare their children for a bright and hopeful future? Sadly, there are those who are more consumed with meeting their own pleasures than preparing or even providing for their offspring, but I would tend to believe that most of my readers fall into the first category!

As I was reading Acts 21-22 this morning and then turning to my friend, Matthew Henry for his wonderful insights, several thoughts came to mind—one more than any:

“Every experience GOD gives us, every person HE puts in our lives, is the perfect preparation for the future that only He can see.” Corrie ten Boom

Acts is an exciting book of the Bible. It is a great book to study: learning where all the cities are which Paul visited, linking people and places together, understanding the related vicinities of towns and churches which were being established. All give a better understanding of Paul’s letters.

In Acts 21, he has returned to Jerusalem after his second missionary journey. (He made three such journeys before ending up in Rome.) There’s been some conflict with the Jewish believers concerning his teaching of the Gentiles, and he is now in Jerusalem to straighten things out. He has just been in the temple, completing a purification ritual with four other men, when some of the Jews from Asia spot him and stir up the crowd, to the point that Roman soldiers intervene and rescue Paul from probable death.

While extracting Paul from the mob and hauling him off to the garrison, Paul tells this centurion that he is a Roman. The soldier’s entire attitude changes. Instead of looking at Paul as a rabble rouser, he now looks at him as an equal; and when Paul tells him that he did not obtain Roman citizenship by purchasing it but is Roman born, the man’s respect is even greater.

Matthew Henry says this:

Some think he became entitled to this freedom by the place of his birth, as a native of Tarsus, a city privileged by the emperor with the same privileges that Rome itself enjoyed; others rather think it was by his father or grandfather having served in the war between Caesar and Antony, or some other of the civil wars of Rome, and being for some signal piece of service rewarded with a freedom of the city, and so Paul came to be free-born.

 

We don’t really know what Paul’s circumstances were which made him a Roman citizen, but could it be that a father or grandfather had forethought, knowing the great privileges of Roman citizenship, and made a point to serve in a war so that his children or grandchildren would have that privilege? Did Paul’s predecessor know that his son or grandson would be a great warrior for Jesus Christ and need that protection on more than one occasion? Probably not, but if the above scenario is true, that parent unknowingly was used by God to prepare His messenger!

It could also be that Paul’s patriarch was just doing the right thing1

“Every experience GOD gives us, Every person HE puts in our lives, is the perfect preparation for the future that only He can see.” Corrie ten Boom

How are you preparing your child to be successful? Where do you think he/she will need to be successful—in what area of his/her life?

Do you wonder what the benefit is for running a child to every sport practice, every dance lesson, and every social group?  All of these activities are fun and have developmental benefits, but will they prepare that child for a future that only God sees, especially when it interferes with biblical training?

The following is a quote from All the Gallant Men by Donald Stratton who was stationed on the battleship Arizona and is one of the few living survivors of the attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941. “We were ordinary men. What was extraordinary was the country we loved.”

That ‘Greatest Generation’ had something that we’ve lost in America: a strong spiritual foundation and direction. We have moved from a society where nearly everyone went to church to a generation which thinks that church doesn’t matter.  There’s a strange thing about church attendance. While it is true that attendance can be ritualistic and actually harmful when thought of as a merit for salvation, it seems impossible for a family to be truly on-fire for God while not attending church regularly. Why?

BECAUSE WHEN A FAMILY IS PLUGGED INTO GOD’S WORD AT HOME, THE SUPERNATURAL OUTCOME IS A DESIRE TO BE WITH GOD’S PEOPLE IN GOD’S HOUSE.

Only God knows the future our children will have to face, but the future doesn’t really matter. When we are consumed with giving our children all they can get concerning God and His Word, they will be prepared to face whatever their future holds!

For I know him, that he will command his children and hishousehold after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD, to do justice and judgment; that the LORD may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him. Genesis 18:19

20/20 Vision Faith

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And when Jesus departed thence, two blind men followed him, crying, and saying, Thou Son of David, have mercy on us. And when he was come into the house, the blind men came to him: and Jesus saith unto them, Believe ye that I am able to do this? They said unto him, Yea, Lord.Then touched he their eyes, saying, According to your faith be it unto you.

 And their eyes were opened …   Matthew 9:27

As I read this passage this morning, my writer’s mind went fast-forward to a possible scenario:

“Wow!  Joe, just look at that ship in the harbor.  Ain’t she a beauty?”

Joe looks down into the harbor and sees the blob which his friend is pointing at.  “Yea, nice.”

“Isn’t that Peter’s old captain?  I wonder if that ship belongs to Peter?”

Joe squints.  “I don’t see anyone.”

Mike looks at him questioningly.  “Right there, in the bow of the ship.”  He waves and the captain waves back.  “See, he’s waving at us.”

Joe looks harder.  “All I see is the ship,” he replies.

Mike looks at him and shakes his head.  “Too bad.”

According to your faith be it unto you.

These are the words which Jesus spoke to the two blind men who followed Him, crying for healing.  They both received sight, and I’m sure that “Joe” was just glad to be able to see anything, but I wonder if there was any difference in the quality of sight they received? And then, I wonder what quality of sight I would have received?  How strong is my faith?  How do we measure our faith?

 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.   Hebrews 11:1

Hebrews 11, the faith chapter, goes on to tell us of the mighty accomplishments of great-faith Bible heroes.  I wonder if they knew they had great faith, or were they just living their lives like we are, under the watchful eye of our Lord, endeavoring to finish the day with a backwards glance over the events and a sigh of spiritual satisfaction?

Here’s a list of those mentions in Hebrews 11 and their faithful accomplishments. Are these accomplishment which we can attain?

  1. Elders –obtained a good report
  2. Abel – more excellent sacrifice/righteous witness
  3. Enoch – translated (raptured)

But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. (6)

  1. Noah – built an ark, saved his house/heir of righteousness
  2. Abraham – obeyed when called/went/lived in a foreign land/ looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.
  3. Sarah – received strength to conceive

 But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city. (16) GOOD GOAL!

  1. Abraham – offered Isaac/received the promises
  2. Isaac – blessed his children
  3. Jacob – blessed Joseph’s sons/worshiped
  4. Joseph – remembered God’s promises, believed them so much that he commanded them to take his bones with them!
  5. Moses – rejected Egypt’s treasures and prominence, chose to suffer with his people esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt/endured/ kept the Passover/crossed the Red Sea
  6. Jericho fell/Rehab lived
  7. Bible heroes – subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched fire, escaped the sword, were made strong though weak, fought valiantly, women received their dead alive, were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection/mocked, scourged, imprisoned, stoned, sawn in two, tempted, slain, wandered, destitute, afflicted, tormented

And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise (39)

Once again, my dear friend Matthew Henry gives us great words of wisdom:

The world considers that the righteous are not worthy to live in the world, and God declares the world is not worthy of them. Though the righteous and the worldlings widely differ in their judgment, they agree in this, it is not fit that good men should have their rest in this world. Therefore God receives them out of it. The apostle tells the Hebrews, that God had provided some better things for them, therefore they might be sure that he expected as good things from them. As our advantages, with the better things God has provided for us, are so much beyond theirs, so should our

  • obedience of faith,
  • patience of hope, and
  • labor of love,

be greater…

 

So there you have it. They were just normal people like we are, and yet they had faith in their God and ours, to live with the glow of that faith shining their way. Can you “shine” for Jesus today, through sunshine or shadow, through drudgery or delight, sickness and sorrow or health and joy? Will you set 20/20 vision as your goal for this life?

Couch these thoughts in a quote from Corrie Ten Boom:

We don’t need a great faith, but faith in a great Savior!

Some people put their faith in a rock or the stars, but as born-again believers, we have the God of the Universe to focus our faith upon!

And the apostles said unto the Lord, Increase our faith.

Luke 17:5

 

Room for the Impossible

It never ceases to amaze me how words written a hundred years ago can be so timely for us today!  Oswald Chambers died in 1917, at the age of forty-three, yet his words ring true in 2015!

Here is an excerpt from his Devotional Bible:

Jesus is not in the sitting by the tomb; He is not in the bitter tears; He is not in the sad communings.  The place where we will find Jesus is just where common sense says it is impossible to find Him.  It was no use for the disciples to imagine they were going to have a recurrence of those three years; it was impossible to recall the thrilling yesterdays; it was impossible for the two on the way to Emmaus to have a return of the fellowship they yearned for; but there was something infinitely better for them.  “For He is risen, as He said.” Impossibility had wedded itself to what Jesus had said.  The proclamation of the impossible springs from the supernatural, not from common sense.  The supernatural figures largely all through the life of our Lord.  At His birth the angels proclaimed that He should be called Jesus “for He will save His people from their sins.”  We shall not think of our Lord as a savior if we look at Him in the light of our own minds, because no natural man imagines he needs to be saved.  Do we make room in our faith for the impossible along the line of the supernatural?  Or have we reduced our religion to such common sense platitudes that there is no need for Jesus to have lived at all?

It’s deep, but it’s worth reading several times to get it!  Beyond Common Sense–this was one of the devotionals that prompted the new name.  Can we really live this way?  Can we expect God to do the impossible?  Jesus reminds his disciples in John 14:12 that their works would exceed His works in greatness: Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.

And Matthew Henry has this to say about the passage.  Again, it may be deep, but it’s worth the digging.!

That they should do greater works than these. In the kingdom of nature they should work greater miracles. No miracle is little, but some to our apprehension seem greater than others. Christ had healed with the hem of his garment, but Peter with his shadow (Acts 5:15), Paul by the handkerchief that had touched him, Acts 19:12. Christ wrought miracles for two or three years in one country, but his followers wrought miracles in his name for many ages in divers countries. You shall do greater works, if there be occasion, for the glory of God. Theprayer of faith, if at any time it had been necessary, would have removed mountains. [2.] In the kingdom of grace. They should obtain greater victories by the gospel than had been obtained while Christ was upon earth. The truth is, the captivating of so great a part of the world to Christ, under such outward disadvantages, was the miracle of all. I think this refers especially to the gift of tongues;this was the immediate effect of the pouring out of the Spirit, which was a constant miracle upon the mind, in which words are framed, and which was made to serve so glorious an intention as that of spreading the gospel to all nations in their own language. This was a greater sign to them that believed not (1 Co. 14:22), and more powerful for their conviction, than any other miracle whatever.

Show this world the impossible: a life totally committed to Jesus Christ!  You will shine brightly in this dark, sin-cursed world which seems to deny its Maker more and more every year!  And remember: God is just  as faithful in 2015 as He was in the 1600s and 1900s!

Deadly Shortcut at the PA Grand Canyon

As we headed to the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon with our evangelist friends, I was once again reminded of another visit there.  Although our canyon is nothing compared to the “real” Grand Canyon, it is still quite a site.  The deep gorge carved by the Pine Creek over billions and billions of years (just wanted to see if you were really paying attention!), and the view from the top of the gorge is truly breathtaking.  A four-mile round trip path called the Turkey Path literally zigzags its way to the bottom and trails a lovely waterfall as well.

In my teen years, while hiking back up the canyon, my friend and I decided to cut straight up and spare ourselves from some of the zigs and zags.  This was not a problem for two of the shortcuts; however, the third shortcut missed the next bend in the path and instead led us out into uncharted territory!  We found ourselves rock-climbing instead of hiking and I was really scared!  Looking straight down into the yawning mouth of that canyon made my heart stop and my arms and legs shake! Obviously, I did not die, but that incident is forever etched into my memory!

Shortcuts – who wants to waste time in our day of counted seconds?  EVERYTHING takes time, so we find ourselves reviewing the times tables with the kids on the way to soccer practice; or making that much needed return call while driving.  We fold laundry while watching TV, and keep our minds humming while doing those mundane tasks throughout the day; and then, we wonder why it’s so hard to turn off our brains when our heads finally hit the pillow!

Artisans see this world in a totally different way because they KNOW that a masterpiece cannot be rushed!  It takes time to sculpt a figure or paint a landscape or write a book! 🙂  Patience has been learned and past shortcuts have resulted in now understood failures!

My hiking shortcut could have cost me my physical life; and when I cut short my time with the Lord, it will also cost me my spiritual life!  We will not grow in our spiritual walk without that quiet time!  Is that perhaps why Satan fights us so to keep are triste with God? Oh, how well he knows the destruction which little or no Bible reading will produce.  Here are just a few:  WARNING, the following statements may break your heart

  1. A destroyed marriage. Marriage is so hard.  How in the world anyone can accomplish a successful marriage without a lot of prayer and Bible is beyond me!  You may say, “Well, I see a lot of successful marriages and the couple aren’t even Christians.”  Duh!  They do not have YOUR enemy!
  2. Wayward children. Is there any greater heartache for a mom or dad?  I am truly convinced that our children CAN turn out loving the Lord if we set that example before them; but why would they love the Lord if our lives are reflecting our love for this world’s treasures and counterfeits?  Sadly, we are reaping what we are sowing.
  3. Lost loved ones. Our poor testimony is convincing our unsaved friends and families that they are doing just fine without salvation!
  4. Sadness and discontent. There is nothing sadder than a worldly Christian.  He can’t be happy in the world, because his conscience won’t let him alone; and he can’t be happy with Christians because he can’t relate to them.
  5. Depression, stress, sickness… Will we ever know all of the ramifications resulting from a lack of Bible time? Not until we see Jesus.

HOW TO STUDY THE BIBLE:

  • PRAY – Every time – EVERY TIME, I ask the Lord to show me what He wants me to see, He DOES! It is so awesome.  This morning, I could hardly contain myself, and I didn’t read much, but Oh, was it good!
  • Your best friend is a good study Bible: Life Application Bible, Scofield Study Bible, Thompson Chain – these are my favorites, but there are others
  • Matthew Henry Concise Commentary – you can get this for $1.99 on a kindle. Again, there are lots of commentaries. MH is my personal favorite! (Also a dictionary.  I have Matthew Henry, the Bible, and a dictionary on my kindle, so if I come to a difficult word and I’m not sure of its meaning, I just put the cursor in front of the word, and BINGO: the definition comes up! [Know that’s not much help for you less “techie” folk.  Sorry!])
  • PEN AND NOTE BOOK – write, write, write. You don’t have to be a writer to do this. 🙂  Start by just looking for one verse that really speaks to you and write it down.  You could also write your thoughts about it, or write a short prayer. I’m not sure why writing it down helps so much, it just does; I’m sure an educator could give you the reason.

Take a shortcut on your walk, or your other reading, or your facebook time, or your shopping.  Let the laundry go for a half hour.  It will still be there! Read your Bible.  Our kids and our world are dying for a lack of it in our lives, dear Christian!  And you are dying too.  It’s like cancer – so often, you don’t see the affects until it is too late.

 Neither have I gone back from the commandment of his lips;

I have esteemed the words of his mouth more than my necessary food. Job 23:12