The Promise of Rest

Sometimes you hear people talk about how hard they work and how tired they are.  But in 2018 in North America, I’m not sure that we have that completely in perspective.  And I understand that there are different types of work and different types of tired.

 

I was in a meeting with a group of ministers one day and one of them said that pastoring a church was really hard work.   And then, he said, and I quote “Pastoring a church is the hardest thing I’ve ever done.”

 

And I snickered, I didn’t mean to, it just came out.  And he turned and glared at me and demanded: “Don’t you think pastoring is really hard work?”  And I asked him, “Have you ever really worked for a living?”

 

I wasn’t trying to be funny.  The summer I was fourteen I worked for a farmer, haying.  Have you ever hayed?  I spent my days in the sun pitched 60 lb bales of hay unto to a moving wagon.

 

The year between high school and college I spent fishing on 132-foot herring seiner, have you ever seen 200 tons of fish at one time?  Have you ever spent a night getting 200 tons of herring from the Atlantic Ocean into your holds and then spent the next day getting the 200 tons of fish out of your holds into the fish plant, and then get a few hours’ sleep and start all over again?

 

Nope, pastoring is not the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

 

And maybe it’s because I love what I do, most of the time.    Years ago, I read the phrase, “Do what you’ll love, and you’ll never work another day in your life.”  And while it’s well-meaning, there are still days that I’m exhausted at the end of the day just from dealing with people and their problems and administrative stuff.

 

Thirty years ago, I was speaking to the students at Kingswood University in Sussex NB, which is one of the schools where Wesleyan pastors are trained.  And the day before I had performed a funeral at our church, not a particularly hard funeral but still it was for a man who I respected and liked, and his family was grieving.

 

And I told the students at Kingswood that day that in the ministry they would spend 15% of their time doing what they loved and 15% doing what they hated and the other 70% would be just doing stuff that needed to be done.  I’ve had pastors tell me that they were attending Kingswood at the time and how they’ve always remembered that.

 

I never have the heart to tell them that like most statistics, that one was made up.

 

But most of us will spend our lives working.  And it is a necessity, regardless of whether you are a subsistence farmer in West Africa or a Software Engineer in Nova Scotia, or a stay at home mom, work is work.

 

And it’s not always fun and it’s not always rewarding.  I remember telling someone once when they were complaining about their job, “That’s why they call it work and not play.”

 

There was a time, not that long ago in our country and in our culture that work wasn’t something that you needed to find fulfilment in, it was what you did to earn a living and it was what you did to take care of your family, it was work.

 

And there is a lot that has been said about work, Thomas A. Edison said: “There is no substitute for hard work.”  Or maybe it was Nikola Tesla who said that.

 

Stephen King wrote, “Talent is cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work.”

 

And it was Alex Rodriguez who observed: “Enjoy your sweat because hard work doesn’t guarantee success, but without it you don’t have a chance.”

 

But we don’t have to rely on motivational books for those sentiments, the bible talks about work in various places.

 

It goes clear back to creation when we are told that it was “work” for God to create everything.   Genesis 2:1-2  So the creation of the heavens and the earth and everything in them was completed.  On the seventh day God had finished his work of creation, so he rested from all his work.

 

The book of Proverbs speaks extensively about the benefits of hard work, here are some samples, Proverbs 12:24  Work hard and become a leader; be lazy and become a slave. , Proverbs 14:23  Work brings profit, but mere talk leads to poverty!  And Proverbs 21:25  Despite their desires, the lazy will come to ruin, for their hands refuse to work.

 

And the author of Ecclesiastes wrote  Ecclesiastes 2:18-23  I came to hate all my hard work here on earth, for I must leave to others everything I have earned.  And who can tell whether my successors will be wise or foolish? Yet they will control everything I have gained by my skill and hard work under the sun. How meaningless!  So I gave up in despair, questioning the value of all my hard work in this world.  Some people work wisely with knowledge and skill, then must leave the fruit of their efforts to someone who hasn’t worked for it. This, too, is meaningless, a great tragedy.  So what do people get in this life for all their hard work and anxiety?  Their days of labour are filled with pain and grief; even at night their minds cannot rest. It is all meaningless.

 

Have you ever felt like that?  Well, he goes on to finish his thoughts with these words, Ecclesiastes 2:24  So I decided there is nothing better than to enjoy food and drink and to find satisfaction in work. Then I realized that these pleasures are from the hand of God.   Even work is from the hand of God.

 

And in the New Testament that high work ethic continues to shine through with Paul’s words in  2 Thessalonians 3:10-12  Even while we were with you, we gave you this command: “Those unwilling to work will not get to eat.”  Yet we hear that some of you are living idle lives, refusing to work and meddling in other people’s business.  We command such people and urge them in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and work to earn their own living.

 

This is week one of our new spring series, “Pinky Swear, the Promises of Jesus” and over the next five weeks we will be looking at some of the promises that Jesus made in the Gospels, to those who followed him.  Because 2000 years later those promises are still valid for those who follow Jesus.

 

This week we are going into the book of Matthew, the passage was read for you earlier, where Jesus made this promise:  Matthew 11:28-30  Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”

 

 

So let’s begin with who Jesus was addressing this promise to, we read in  Matthew 11:28  Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”

 

So let’s begin with The Who of the Promise

 

I would suspect that everybody in the crowd that day thought he was talking directly to them, it was a hard life,  Because, 2000 years ago in Israel for most people life was a day to day existence.  If you didn’t grow it, catch it or prepare it today, you wouldn’t eat it tomorrow.

 

Add that to the constant strain of living in an occupied country where you could be called upon at any time to do the will of the empire and you begin to understand what Jesus was saying when he spoke of those who were weary and carried heavy burdens.

 

And many of you who heard those words today figured that Jesus was talking directly to you, with work and family and church and community, it seems like you never stop.  You know what it means to be weary and heavy burdened.

 

So, this is a promise that has universal appeal.  So let’s keep going, Matthew 11:28  Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”

 

So, more than simply an opportunity for people to identify themselves as needing rest, here is The What of the Promise

 

It is here that we have Jesus’ promise to his followers that they would have rest.  And if we take that as Jesus promising a rest from daily work, a rest from the labours of life, then we are probably going to be disappointed.

 

Because I would suspect that for those who originally heard these words, that the next morning the crops still needed to be tended, the goats still needed to be milked, the fishing nets still had to be cast and drawn back in, the babies still needed to be changed, the house still needed to be cleaned and meals still needed to be prepared.

 

And so, as I looked at this I realized that the rest that Jesus was promising wasn’t a rest from physical labour or from the general work of life.

 

Jesus was talking to those who carried a spiritual burden.  The people of Israel were desperately trying to be good, desperately trying to find and please God.

 

The law was laid down in the Old Testament and it governed every area of their lives, it told them what they could do and what they couldn’t do.  Their lives were made up of a constant barrage of “Do this” “Don’t do that”.

 

And added to that were all the interpretations that religion had added to the law.  It wasn’t enough to not work on the Sabbath, but work had to be defined.  You could carry this much, but to carry more was a sin, you could walk this far but to walk further was a sin.  And that carried across into every aspect of their lives.

 

Every action of their lives was defined and quantified by the law and by every minutia that defined the law.

 

And the people of the day never knew if they were being good enough to make it or not.  They were constantly striving, reaching, praying and giving, hoping that whatever cosmic scales were being used to measure their goodness would tilt in their favour.

 

Jesus was speaking to that very thing in  Matthew 23:1-4  Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples,  “The teachers of religious law and the Pharisees are the official interpreters of the law of Moses.  So practice and obey whatever they tell you, but don’t follow their example. For they don’t practice what they teach.  They crush people with impossible religious demands and never lift a finger to ease the burden.”

 

 

And along with the spiritual burden came an emotional burden.  The feeling that you were never good enough, the fear that you weren’t going to measure up and somehow you were going to miss the mark.

 

And those are burdens that people still carry today.  If you’ve been doing the devotional guide for praying for the Muslim World, you have discovered how many of their groups still rely on talismans and fear curses.

 

Luckily, we’re not like that, knock on wood.

 

Today, people might not be measuring themselves by the Old Testament law, but there is still a scale in most people’s lives that they are constantly weighing their behaviour on to see if they are good enough.

 

Good enough for God, good enough for their spouse, good enough for their children, good enough for their parents, good enough for their bosses.  And Jesus is saying “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens”

 

And we are constantly asking ourselves Do I pray enough? Read my bible enough? Earn enough? Spend enough time with my kids? Spend enough time with my spouse?  And still have the time I need for myself?   And Jesus is saying “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens”

 

And to you who are carrying those burdens, Jesus is offering rest. 2000 years ago Jesus was telling people, “I’m here to help, I’m here to ease your burden.”  And he’s telling us the same thing today.

 

But what does that mean?  Does it mean that he will eradicate all of the things that are burdening us?

 

The rest that Jesus promises isn’t based on the premise that the burdens will go away, there will always be a family commitment, work commitment, community commitments and church commitments.  The word that he uses for rest suggests renewal and refreshment.  It’s when he gives us a chance to breathe, a drink of cold water.  He didn’t promise that we would never be weary ever again, instead he is offering us a chance at renewal and refreshment on the journey.

 

Listen again to his promise,  Matthew 11:29-30  Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”

 

And it is here that we discover The How of the Promise

 

Last week we looked at the admonition to not be unequally yoked together with those who don’t believe as you believe.  And I mentioned that to be yoked was an agricultural concept, that unless you have been to a historic village like Sherbrooke village or Kings Landing you’ve probably never seen Oxen yoked together.

 

And yokes aren’t a whole lot different now than there were 2000 years ago.

 

In Jesus day, they were made out of wood, just as they are now.   And the very best yokes were custom made for individual animals and were adjusted so it wouldn’t hurt the animal and would spread the load to make it more efficient.  They were shaped just right to fit just right.  And we are told that when a yoke fit an animal well that it was an “easy fit”.

 

Do you ever think about what Jesus did for a living?   You say, “That’s easy Denn, he was a carpenter.”  And as a carpenter, we think of him making chairs and tables, crafting doors and maybe building houses.

 

But a big job for carpenters 2000 years ago was building farm equipment, making tools and shaping yokes.   I wonder if there was a carpenter shop in Nazareth that had a sign that read “Jesus’ Carpenter Shop:  My Yokes are Easy”?

 

And so, Jesus’ invitation is twofold, if you are burdened he invites you to come.   And then he says that he wants to help you with your burden.  He says, “I have a new custom-made yoke for you to help you with your life.”

 

It is a yoke of grace that he offers.  Remember Ephesians 2:8-9  God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God.  Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.

 

Someone once said that religion is spelt “Do” but Christianity is spelt “Done”.  And so, we can rest spiritually knowing the price was paid, that we don’t have to constantly be doing this or not doing that to assure our relationship with God.

 

There is the rest of knowing it has been done, the price has been paid.  The Apostle John was part of the group that heard Jesus’ words that day and he would later write.  1 John 5:13  I have written this to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know you have eternal life.

 

Not so you can “hope” that you have eternal life, but so that you may “know” you have eternal life.

 

We find rest in the assurance of our salvation.

 

But there is more because Jesus says Matthew 11:29-30  Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”

 

Not only does he offer us a yoke designed just for us to help us with the burdens of life but he says, “Let me teach you”.  And he teaches us about forgiveness, and trust and faith.  And he tells us that we aren’t alone.

 

He doesn’t say the burden will go away, but he does say he wants to help carry the burden.

 

Let’s have a volunteer come up.   Here, hold this bag, pretty light isn’t it.  Let’s add some stuff.  How about family responsibilities (Start adding rocks to the bag) that’s like your spouse and your kids, oh yeah don’t forget your aged parents and your weird Uncle on your mother’s side, and let’s not forget work, and church and your hobbies, and concerns for retirement, and your bills and any medical concerns you might have.

 

And Jesus doesn’t say that he will take those burdens away, but he does say he will share the load. (take the handle of the bag and take some of the strain)

 

And when you are part of God’s family there are others to share the load with you.  That’s why we are told in Galatians 6:2-3  Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ.  If you think you are too important to help someone, you are only fooling yourself. You are not that important.

 

You might remember the hit song the Hollys’ had in the late 60s entitled “He’s ain’t heavy, he’s my brother”.  Supposedly it originally came from a story told by a preacher in late 1800s about a man seeing a little girl struggling as she carried a little boy in her arms.

 

The man said, “you must be tired carrying that heavy load” to which she replied, “No, he’s not heavy; he’s my brother.”  Which reinforces the truth that a burden which is given in love and carried in love is always lighter than one carried out of obligation.

I don’t know where you are today or what burdens you may be carrying, but Jesus has a yoke that he has made just for you, he wants to help, and he wants his family to help.

 

If you aren’t a Christ follower then Jesus is saying “come” if you are a Christian but you are struggling with your walk, he says “come”.  If you are carrying a burden of guilt he says “come”, if you are carrying a burden of resentment he says “come”.  If you are carrying the burden of “doubt”, he says come.

 

Dreams not Nostalgia

From ski slaloms to swimming pools.   What had once been showpieces on the world stage are now ruins.  The victims of war, neglect and bankrupt nations.

I read an article the other day about Olympic venues from around the world that are no longer in use and have fallen into total disrepair.  And that wasn’t the way it was supposed to be. When the host nations poured obscene amounts of money into these facilities, the plan was that they would be used for years. Alas, that wasn’t the reality.

For a little while these countries had been front and centre on the world stage as they highlighted the best of the best from around the world, but now they serve no useful purpose.

There is a lesson to be learned, personally and as a church.  As wonderful as the past was,
yesterday ended last night.  As someone once said, the past makes a great classroom but a rotten living room.

Unless we have a plan for the future, our lives and our churches will end up the same as those faded relics of Olympics past.  If we are to be as relevant in our lives and in our churches, tomorrow as we were yesterday, dreams will need to take precedent over nostalgia.

Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible

When Only One Believes

“Love and Marriage, Love and Marriage, goes together like a horse and carriage”, at least that’s what the song says.  You know as well as I do that isn’t always the reality.  Sometimes the horse doesn’t want to pull the carriage, and sometimes the carriage doesn’t want to be pulled.

 

For the last seven weeks, we’ve been focusing on love and marriage.  We’ve looked at what makes a biblical marriage, sex God’s wedding gift, the language of love, leading your children to Christ, had some tips for loving our kids and last week we looked at honouring our parents.

 

We are tying up this week and going in a little different direction.

 

In the scripture that was read earlier, Paul is giving some direction to folks who were married to spouses who didn’t believe as they believed.   This appears to have been an issue for the past 2000 years.

 

An example is given in Acts sixteen, it is here that Timothy is introduced into the New Testament narrative.   Timothy was a protegee of Paul who would eventually go on to pastor the church in Ephesus and two of the New Testament books are letters that were written by Paul to Timothy.

 

And when Luke is introducing Timothy into the story he makes this observation.  Acts 16:1  Paul went first to Derbe and then to Lystra, where there was a young disciple named Timothy. His mother was a Jewish believer, but his father was a Greek.

 

Did you catch that?  His mother was a Jewish believer, but his father was a Greek.

 

It’s not that Luke had anything against Greeks, you see it wasn’t what Luke said about Timothy’s father it was what was left unsaid.

 

He was a Greek, not a Greek believer just a Greek.  And so, we have a household where one spouse is a Christ follower and one isn’t and the challenges that are posed in such situations can never be fully understood unless you are in that situation.

 

And ever since I stepped behind my first pulpit in January of 1981 there have been people in my congregations who have dealt with that issue on a daily basis.  It wasn’t some abstract reality it was life for them.   Sometimes it has been a believing husband and an unbelieving wife, but more often it is a believing wife and a husband who either doesn’t believe or isn’t as passionate about his personal faith.

 

So, what happens when one partner in a marriage believes and follows Christ and the other one doesn’t?  Or is it even an issue?

 

Let’s start with   2 Corinthians 6:14 Don’t team up with those who are unbelievers.  Or as it’s said in the NKJV  2 Corinthians 6:14 NKJV Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?

 

It’s here we have The Warning   This is the go-to verse when we are warning our kids about dating non-believers, which is sometimes called missionary dating or evangelistic dating.  You know the concept of “Maybe they don’t believe right now but if it’s really love they will come to believe”

 

But the prophet Amos kind of summed it up when he asked the question,   Amos 3:3  Can two people walk together without agreeing on the direction?   Which of course was a rhetorical question and the answer is obviously “no”.

 

Now to be fair, 2 Corinthians 6:14 isn’t specifically about marriage, although it’s often treated as if it is.

 

While “don’t team up with those who are unbelievers” might make more sense in 2018, “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers.”  Is a more accurate translation.

 

This is, of course, is an agricultural reference, which we don’t get, but 2000 years ago or even today, in an agricultural society those who yoked animals together would understand.

 

There’s even a reference in the Old Testament law that says Deuteronomy 22:10 NIV Do not plow with an ox and a donkey yoked together.

 

And it was a practical law, donkeys and oxen were different in strength and temperament and so it was a recipe for disaster to expect them to work as a team.

 

This scripture doesn’t specifically have to do with marriage as much as it does relationships, such as business partnerships or political alliances,  but really our marriages are probably the greatest relationship in our lives and this scripture warns about the conflicts that this will bring.

 

Later in the chapter, there are some guidelines for a woman to remarry if she is widowed and it says, 1 Corinthians 7:39 A wife is bound to her husband as long as he lives. If her husband dies, she is free to marry anyone she wishes, but only if he loves the Lord.

 

So, I would suspect that if Paul’s preference for those who were widowed to marry within the faith that probably crosses over to everyone.  And there are some very practical reasons for that.

 

Again, it’s easy to think that Paul is just meddling, but is he?  Is this just an area where the church is being a bit of a control freak or are there valid reasons for Christians to be married to Christians and not to be quote-unquote “Unequally Yoked” with unbelievers?

 

Which leads us back to,  2 Corinthians 6:14 Don’t team up with those who are unbelievers. How can righteousness be a partner with wickedness? How can light live with darkness?

And it’s here we see The Challenge

 

Like the donkey and the ox who are unequalled matched in strength and temperament, there are definitive differences in how believers and unbelievers view things and what their life priorities are.

 

For example, in every marriage it seems that there are financial challenges and considerations, where will money get spent?

 

But in a mixed faith marriage it gets messier, the unsaved partner sees money being given to the church as a waste and you don’t even want to get started on how the believer views money spent on vices such as smoking, drinking or gambling.

 

There are social considerations.  Who will their friends be and how will they spend their social time.  And there are moral decisions.  What should or shouldn’t be watched, listened to or read, what should they do or not do?  What happens on a nice weekend is it church or the beach?

 

If the non-believer comes to church it’s often with a pout if they don’t come to church the believer feels out of place with all the families and couples.

 

What was it the song said, “One is the loneliest number of all.”

 

2000 years ago, they probably weren’t fighting about whether the kids should be in church or hockey, baseball, soccer, scouts, sparks or band but I’m sure there were similar cultural concerns back then.

 

Would the kids be in church and youth group or will he be at the chariot races and practising for the Olympics?

 

I warn Christian teens about the challenges that they will face if they marry someone who doesn’t share their faith and I tell them “if you don’t believe me, I can give you the names of a hundred people who have been there.”

 

And then I tell them the easiest way to not marry a non-believer is to not date a non-believer.  And they tell me not to worry they have everything under control.  Sure.

 

By the way if you are in that situation, that as a believer you married someone who wasn’t then you were probably warned, and you probably thought “Oh they’ll change, and it will all work out.”

 

I can sympathize with your situation, but understand you put yourself in it.  Not wanting to sound unfeeling but. . . you got what you got.

 

I remember reading an article in our denominational magazine years ago and the woman writing was speaking about that very thing.  She had gone to church and left her husband home watching sports and on her way, she was grousing to God about how unfair it was.  And she wrote that God asked her “how has he (meaning her husband) changed since you got married?”  “And that is the problem” she responded, “he hasn’t.” And then she realized, that was the answer.  She hadn’t exactly bought a pig in a poke.

 

When I counsel couples getting married I remind them if they can’t live with that person the way they are for the rest of their life they have no right to marry them expecting them to change.

 

And up to this point, this probably hasn’t been super helpful.

 

A number of years ago we owned a speedboat that we kept at Beulah camp on the Saint John River.  And one summer as I was putting the boat into the river for the first time, I carefully backed the trailer down into the river, released the lock on the winch and pushed the boat off the trailer into the deep water.  Where it immediately began filling with water, because I had forgotten to put the plug back in place in the stern.

 

I immediately winched it back on the trailer ran around jumped into the Suzuki and pulled it up on the beach and watched as the water poured out of the stern.  At that point, a friend walked over, looked everything over and said: “You should have put the plug in first.”

 

Not helpful.  I already knew what the problem was,  now I was trying to remedy it.

 

With that being said, Acts 16:1 still reads this way Acts 16:1  Paul went first to Derbe and then to Lystra, where there was a young disciple named Timothy. His mother was a Jewish believer, but his father was a Greek.

 

And so here is The Reality

 

Even with the warnings, even understanding the challenges it still happens, there are still marriages where one partner believes, and one doesn’t.

 

It was a reality for Timothy’s parents and it’s been a reality with some people in every church I’ve pastored.  One person believes and walks with Christ and the other doesn’t.

 

Sometimes it because of a life transformation after the marriage happened.  Neither partner is serving the Lord and then either the husband or wife become a believer.  That’s probably how it happened with Timothy’s folks.

 

And that’s often awkward, because with that decision to follow Jesus, things change.  Priorities change, morals change, people change.  The nonbeliever finds themselves married to a very different person then they had stood at the altar with.  It’s tough.

 

Sometimes it happens when both partners were originally serving God and then one decided to walk away from God.  And with that decision, things change.  Priorities change, morals change, people change.  The believer finds themselves married to a very different person then they had stood at the altar with.  It’s tough.

 

And sometimes . . . a Christian marries a non-Christian.  They had the best of intentions.  They knew that through the power of prayer and their stellar witnessing that the one they loved would see the light and become a Christian.  And then they didn’t.

 

You see they didn’t take into account free will.  God won’t make your husband or wife a Christian just because you are praying he will.  God didn’t take away your free will and he’s not going to take away their free will.  That doesn’t mean you stop praying, but maybe your prayers need to change.  From “Make my Spouse a believer” to “Help make me the witness I need to be.”

 

You see that is the problem with missionary dating, it doesn’t always work out the way you anticipate and then you have to live with the consequences.

 

So, what is the answer?  Well, let’s start by saying that if you are a believer and your spouse isn’t don’t start thinking how much easier life would be if you were married to so and so who is a believer, cause you’re not.

 

Don’t go down the “Obviously I married the wrong person and God will understand if we get a divorce” road.  Don’t even go there, because there is never a good reason for doing the wrong thing.

 

Paul seemed fairly clear when he wrote 1 Corinthians 7:12-13  Now, I will speak to the rest of you, though I do not have a direct command from the Lord. If a Christian man has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to continue living with him, he must not leave her.  And if a Christian woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to continue living with her, she must not leave him.

 

But don’t give up, I know all kinds of couples where the believer was faithful in their relationship to Christ and in their marriage and their partner saw in them a faith they wanted as well.  It’s just not easy and it’s not always fast, or least not fast enough.  Let’s keep reading the scripture that we started with,

 

1 Corinthians 7:14-15  For the Christian wife brings holiness to her marriage, and the Christian husband brings holiness to his marriage. Otherwise, your children would not be holy, but now they are holy.  (But if the husband or wife who isn’t a believer insists on leaving, let them go. In such cases the Christian husband or wife is no longer bound to the other, for God has called you to live in peace.)

 

Here are Some Answers

 

There are a couple of thoughts here.  The first is that your marriage is better because you are a Christian.  Paul reminds his readers that they bring God’s holiness into the marriage.   He’s telling those whose spouse is at best apathetic toward the things of God and maybe even openly hostile that that darkness can never defeat light that the smallest flame will always chase away the darkness.

 

William Barclay writes this “He (Paul) has the lovely thought that the unbelieving partner is consecrated by the believer. They two have become one flesh and the wonder is that in such a case it is not the taint of heathenism but the grace of Christianity which wins the victory.”  Barclay goes on to say “A child born into a Christian home, even into a home where only one of the partners is a Christian, is born into the family of Christ. In a partnership between a believer and an unbeliever, it is not so much that the believer is brought into contact with the realm of sin, as that the unbeliever is brought into contact with the realm of grace.”

 

This in no way negates the concept of free will, your spouse and your children still ultimately need to make the decision for themselves, but you have given them a boost.

 

What if your spouse needed to live with a Christian for 12 years for it to make a difference in their life and you decided to call it quits at 11 years?

 

You are called to live your marriage vows out the same as you are called to live your life out.

 

That’s spelled out in Hebrews 12:14  Work at living in peace with everyone, and work at living a holy life, for those who are not holy will not see the Lord.   Work at living in peace with your spouse, and sometimes it takes work, and work at living a holy life.   And living at peace means that you aren’t nattering at them about not going to church.

 

And if the non-believer insists on leaving the marriage, Paul says you are no longer bound to them.

 

But don’t play games with that.  Paul Simon sang there are 50 ways to leave your lover and I would suspect there are 50 ways to make your lover leave you.  Don’t try to justify that type of behaviour, God knows.

 

King Solomon was reminded of that very thing when he was told in 1 Chronicles 28:9  “For the LORD sees every heart and knows every plan and thought.”   So don’t think that if you cause your unbelieving spouse to leave because of unreasonable or unChristlike behaviour that you will be the innocent party.

 

But Paul’s words don’t end there he goes on to write,  1 Corinthians 7:16  Don’t you wives realize that your husbands might be saved because of you? And don’t you husbands realize that your wives might be saved because of you?

 

And so, Paul leaves them with A hope 

 

 

I wish I could tell you that if you are faithful to God and your Christian convictions that your spouse and your children will become Christ followers.  But I can’t, but to echo the words of Paul don’t you know that your spouse might be saved because of you?

 

Her name was Eunice and she was a Jewish believer and her husband was a Greek.  We don’t know what happened to Eunice’s husband, but we do know that her son, Timothy, went on to become a pastor and is still remembered today.

 

There was another lady whose name was Monica, she was a devoted Christian who was married to a nonbeliever.  Her husband had a nasty temper and we are told that he cheated on her through their marriage, but she prayed for him and their children and lived her Christian faith in front of them.

 

And it was only on his deathbed that her husband Patricius gave his heart to God.  We are told that all three of her children became Christians, but you would only be familiar with one of them.

 

He broke his mother’s heart when he rejected her faith as a young man, but when he was 32 he embraced the claims of Christ.  You might recognize his name, it was Augustine.

 

You will never know the impact that your life will have on the life of your spouse and the lives of your children.

 

Don’t you know they might be saved because of you?  You can’t make them believe and you will never be held accountable for their behaviour, only yours.

 

Two things to remember.  Remember how much you loved them when you married them, and remember how you believed that one day they would believe.

 

Not sure how it works. . .

Apparently, it was new technology for her and she was really struggling.

I just happened to be there for her conversation with the support staff as she went through the process step by step. She wanted to make sure that she had done everything right and that the recipient would get her message.

I would have thought by now everyone would know how to send a message, but apparently not. At her age, maybe she had never used the technology before; who am I to judge?

Finally, she seemed to get it right, so she paid for her stamp, stuck it on the envelope and dropped her letter in the slot. It happened while I was mailing a letter at the post office.

It’s amazing how something that seems so simple can be complex if you’ve never done it before, and it seemed as if this young lady had never “mailed” a letter before.

Sometimes we are quick to tell someone, “Just pray about it.” But if they’ve never done it before – regardless of their age – the process can seem daunting. So instead of suggesting that they just pray about it, maybe we should offer to pray for them so they can see how it’s done.

Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible

Stop it. . .

A recent tweet from the Habs official account took a shot at Brad Marchand warning him about the dangers of licking golf balls.

Which of course was a reference to Brad’s recent habit of annoying his opponents by licking their face, and a 1997 news article from the UK that stated: “Some golf courses warn players not to lick their golf balls to clean them before taking a shot – they may be poisoning themselves with Agent Orange.“

Considering that Brad was 8 in 1997, he may have missed the original article.

But having to warn people not to lick their golf balls?  I guess it just goes to prove Billy Sunday’s point, “Sin can be forgiven, but stupid is forever!”  Lick their golf balls?

Now licking golf balls is dumb, right?  And now we know that medically it can affect your liver. But consider the fact that there are people who know and believe that the only way they can get to heaven is by accepting Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, and they still haven’t done it.

You gotta wonder whether or not they lick golf balls to clean them as well?

And Brad, licking is unbecoming for millionaires whether it’s a Leaf or a golf ball.

Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible

 

Love by Honouring

Do you remember TV families when you were a kid?  There seemed to be more extended ones then there are now at least when I was watching TV as a kid.

You know more families with several generations living under one roof.  The Waltons had their Grand Parents living with them, the Beverly Hillbillies had Granny, the Munsters had Grand Pa and the Adams family had Uncle Fester and Cousin It.  And if the grandparents weren’t living with the family they at least dropped in for a while like Endora in Bewitched.

My father grew up with his grandfather living with the family and as children, he would often tell us stories of what it was like with Grampy Guptill in the home.  My mother lived next door to her grandparents and spent as much time with them as she did in her own home.

And yet with the changes in society, we see less and less of that, and on television, we only see the parents of adults as seriously disturbed individuals who are the reason their children are the way they are.  Seriously next time you are watching television check out how the parents are portrayed.

On a more positive note I have commented different times on the number of multi-generational families we have attending Cornerstone, Parents, Grand Parents and Children.

This is week 6 of our “Love and Marriage” series.

So far, we looked at what makes a biblical marriage, and what a biblical marriage isn’t.  Week two’s message was “Sex God’s wedding Gift” and looked at the purposes of sex inside of marriage and the problems with sex outside of marriage. Then we spent a little time with the 5 Love Languages and then Stefan did a great job laying out how to lead your children into a relationship with Jesus.

Last week we spent some time with “Love and Parenting”, and spent the time looking at some ways that we can speak love into our children’s lives.

I’m sure that there have been some folks here over the past few weeks who might have felt there wasn’t anything there for them because they either weren’t married or weren’t parents.

I would suspect that this one has something for everyone.

This week my message is called “Love by Honouring” and it deals with the other side of the equation.   And I would suspect that it has a broader appeal because we are all someone’s child.

Anyone here who never had parents of some kind? Anyone found in a turnip patch?  That’s where my folks said they found me, as my sister was fond of reminding me.

The more astute amongst us will have clued into the fact that this week’s scripture reading is the same as last week’s.  Last week I focused on the last part of this scripture, the part about parents not provoking their children to anger, not exasperating them and I had a couple of parents ask me if their kids had been talking to me.

And I may have noticed a smirk or two on the faces of some of our younger folks.    But there has to be a balance here.  And that is the first part of Ephesians 6 where Paul writes Ephesians 6:1-2 Children, obey your parents because you belong to the Lord, for this is the right thing to do. “Honour your father and mother.”

And that is a direct reference to the fifth commandment of the “Ten Commandments” which of course are found in both Exodus and Deuteronomy.  In Exodus we are told, Exodus 20:12 “Honour your father and mother. Then you will live a long, full life in the land the LORD your God is giving you.”

It’s interesting that the child-parent relationship is the only relationship that makes it into the Ten Commandments.  We don’t see any reference on how to treat our spouse, other than the obvious “do not commit adultery” in the seventh command, or how to treat our siblings, other than the obvious “do not kill” in the sixth commandment, but we are told here that we must honour our parents.

But what does it mean to honour your parents?  Not sure in 2018 that is even on the radar and if it is if we give much thought to the concept of honour.  I was talking to someone last week and we spoke about being afraid of our folks.  And not a fear because of physical punishment but a fear never the less.  We were afraid of disappointing them, afraid of letting them down and certainly afraid of disobeying them.  That doesn’t mean we didn’t disappoint them, let them down or disobey them but we certainly thought twice about doing it.

Now I realize that there are probably some of you here who are all knotted up inside, the stomach acid is boiling and you’re thinking, “Like that’s ever going to happen, after the way they treated me.”  And unfortunately, that is the reality of today that whenever you speak about parents there is someone in the group who was abused, physically, emotionally or sexually while they were growing up. Some of you may have grown up in the homes of alcoholics or workaholics, abusive or neglectful parents.  Perhaps you had parents who were distant or cold and uncaring.  And you want to cry out “How can I honour people who are un-honourable?”  “How do I honour someone who never once honoured me?”

What is God asking of you this morning? Is God asking you to put on a mask and pretend it never happened?  Is God demanding that you push your feelings out of sight and go about the duty of honouring these people who have betrayed you and hurt you severely?  Will God settle for pretend honouring?

Nope, and he does not want make-believe honouring.  I don’t want to minimize the hurt that you’ve felt or negated it in any way and before I’m done this morning we are going to deal with that issue.  So please bear with me.

Obviously, the command to honour our parents means different things at different points in our lives.  We often think that our relationship as children and parents takes a parallel path through life.

But often times it looks more like this, when we are young we are dependent on our parents and it is their responsibility to take care of us, when we become adults that relationship changes and comes closer together as we are more like peers, never quite peers but more like peers and then many times as our parents age their children take more of a role in the caretaking department.  Assuming responsibilities and making decisions.  And that isn’t easy for that transition to happen.  For either party.

Sometimes children don’t want that responsibility and sometimes parents aren’t eager to give it up.  And as more couples are putting off their decision to have children until they are older the consequence is that often times they end up dealing with children on one end of the spectrum and aged parents on the other end.  Another one of those perks of having your kids in your twenties.

And so, to honour our parents means different things at different times in our lives.

As children, We Honour Our Parents by Obeying Them, just do what they say.  That’s what’s behind this commandment when we are young.  That’s why Paul wrote Ephesians 6:1 Children, obey your parents because you belong to the Lord, for this is the right thing to do.

Regardless of what the pop psychology of today says obedience is still something that we need to expect of our children.  God knows that there is a rebel streak inside the heart of every little kid, and God knows that parents are going to have to carefully and consistently confront that destructive force or they will eventually lose their children to spiritual shipwreck.  Throughout the scriptures, God gives guidelines for parents on how to establish boundaries for their children and how to discipline their children and how to nurture them and love them.

We have swung from the extremes of two or three generations ago when parents, (especially fathers) were unreasonable tyrants to the place today where parents, (especially fathers) have abdicated their place of authority in the home.  The pattern of authority is all one piece and you cannot expect to break it in one spot, i.e. the home and then expect it to work in the rest of society. So, if children don’t obey their parents then there’s a pretty good chance they won’t obey their teachers and ultimately will find it hard to obey the civil authorities.   And so God says to the children, Children at this point in your life you honour your parents by obeying them.

As children become teens and Young Adults they begin to exercise more independence and make more and more decisions on their own. As Teens, We Honour Our Parents by Respecting Them and cooperate with them.  During this phase in their lives, young adults don’t need constant supervision and long lists of do’s and don’ts in their lives.  Those teen years are the time when they begin to make some of their own decisions and well they should, it’s a part of growing up.  In saying that let me add this warning to the teens out there, some of the decisions that you make now, that seem right for today will have ramifications on your entire life.  And as much as we as parents wish we could make those choices for you we can’t.

And in this period of your life, the carrying out of the fifth commandment would be “Stay respectful, stay cooperative with your parents.”

Adolescence is the only time in your life when a person believes that they know it all.  It’s at that point that they become convinced that all adults have suffered irreparable brain damage, and at that particular point in life nobody knows as much as a teenager, and if you don’t believe that just ask one of them. They know all the answers.  When I was a teen I had answers to questions that weren’t even being asked.

When we were in Australia a friend put a sign on his son’s door that read: “TEENAGERS! Tired of being harassed by your parents? ACT NOW!! Move out, get a job, pay your own way while you still know everything!”

 

By the way, that isn’t anything new, listen to what Mark Twain wrote well over a hundred years ago “When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around.  But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned.”

And God says to adolescents, “Even during this troublesome turbulent time: Honour your parents.”  Yes, children during this time are supposed to begin to differ and disagree with their parents, that’s a part of the separation process, often times it is simply them saying “I am my own person with my own opinions.”

I was brought up by a Ford driving, Tory voting, Leaf’s cheering father.  By the time I was 18, I was voting liberal, driving a GM and cheering for the Habs.  And I still cheer for the Habs.

But all through this agonizing era teens are called to be respectful and cooperative toward their parents, so these changes can be negotiated within the context of the family community and not isolation.

But most of us aren’t children anymore, nor are we teens or even young adults.  We have moved on in life to being adults ourselves and with that comes a whole new series of challenges.  It’s at this point in our lives that we’ve established our own families and households and careers, but our parents are still alive and a part of our lives.

For most Boomers, our parents are at least in their early eighties and most are older than that,  and the Gen Xers parents are in their sixties and seventies.  So, what is our responsibilities to our parents in this stage of our lives?

 

And so, this commandment does not stop when we leave the home, the fifth commandment is binding on all us until both of our parents have passed away.  And As Adults, We Honour Our Aging Parents by Treasuring Them.    How do we Treasure our parents?

Once we have come through that turbulent period of our lives called adolescents, once we have got out on our own and had a family of our own, we start to realize that our parent’s brain death was only temporary, if it happened at all, and then we start raising kids of our own and we begin to realize how much service and sacrifice went into raising us.

How much love, time and energy went into raising you as a child.  And your heart begins to soften toward your parents you have those golden years to treasure your parents and to be there for them.

 

If I was to ask you to name the most important things in your life what would your list look like?  Children, Parents, Spouse, Friends, Career, Home, Hobbies, Sports.

So, what would happen if say you no longer had your career?  If your friends were dying, your parents were gone; you were unable to play your sports or enjoy your hobbies and had to move out of your own home and then they lose their spouse.

It would sure shorten the list up, wouldn’t it?  That’s why as parents get older their children become more important to them.  Often it is all they have left out of all that was important to them.

Because the older our parents get the less love and respect and esteem they receive from the world they live in.  For many of our parents the brightest spot, the flame that burns closest to their heart is their children, for many of them that is the most important part of their lives.  But their children are in the busy years of their lives, having children and raising them, climbing ladders and you know what I mean

And sometimes we need to just slow down and say “thank you” to our folks and give back to them some of what they’ve given to us.  And if we don’t show that we appreciated what they did for us how will they know? And that cuts, that’s why in King Lear that the Bard wrote How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is to have a thankless child

Many of you people have taken time to send cards, share holidays and include your parents in the special times in your life, call them and send gifts letting them know that they are treasured.  And every time you do that type of thing you are honouring your parents.

And all of this goes beyond the bumper sticker that said: “Honour your parents: they haven’t written their will yet”.  As our parents become older we may find them more and more reliant on us.  And society tells us to shuffle them off somewhere where they won’t be an inconvenience, where they won’t cause us undue hardship.  And there are times and circumstances where that is the only viable option, but not always.  And that is no excuse for children to ignore their parents during their time of need.

I don’t think we need to return to the concept of the extended family home with three or four generations living under one roof, but I do believe that as adults that we need to make sure that our parent do not lack for the necessities of life and that they aren’t left in need or loneliness.

And as the demands on us become greater we need to realize that if we are to honour our parents it will necessitate some sacrifices on our behalf.  In the New Testament the early believers were instructed to take care of the older widows in their fellowship and then Paul qualifies the instructions with these words:  1 Timothy 5:4 But if she has children or grandchildren, their first responsibility is to show godliness at home and repay their parents by taking care of them. This is something that pleases God.

 

And many of those sacrifices are the same ones that our parents made for us when we were growing up.  How many times did they put their plans on hold to drive us somewhere?  How often did they clean up after us, or run errands for us?  How often did their lives, their wants and their needs take second place to ours?  You say sure, but they are our parents. . . .exactly.

 

Christ himself gives the example.  When he hung on the cross, and those of you who know Christ personally can imagine what was on his mind as he hung on that cross between heaven and earth, he’s there paying the price for your sins and mine.

He’s taken on the totality of sin and he’s in agony, dying an excruciating death on the cross and there are only seven things recorded that Christ said on the cross and one of them was when he looked down and saw his mother and used a little bit of the strength he had left to ask His friend John to take care of his mother.  Is it any wonder the command to honour our parents ended up in the top five?

Giving up precious time to visit or serve or minister to our elderly, or ill or dying parents needs to be seen as a potential blessing and not an imposition.

A very practical part of this is the entire concept of reaping what you sow.  You realize of course that the example that you set in how you relate and deal with your parents will be the one followed by your children.  We cut a groove in our children by the way we treat our parents.  It was the philosopher John Locke who wrote: “Parents wonder why the streams are bitter when they themselves poisoned the fountain.”

Or what goes around comes around.  The Greek philosopher Euripides (er-rip-e-dees) observed “Unblessed is the son who does not honour his parents; but if reverent and obedient to them, he will receive the same from his own children”

If you’re wondering about how confused your parents can get, well maybe Sam Levenson had the answer when he said, “Insanity is hereditary.  You can get it from your children.”

And so God is saying if you honour your parents I will honour you.  How are you doing in honouring your parents today?  Is this something you need to pray silently about right now or make some amends?

Let me take a few moments right now to speak to those ones who are at a complete loss over how to honour parents who have dishonoured, abused and in some cases almost destroyed them as children.  What does God expect you to do?  And right off I want to assure you that God is not asking you to ignore the pain you feel, God is not asking anyone here to deny the pain their parents caused, and God is not asking anyone here to gloss it, to pass over it lightly or to forget it.

To one degree or another we have all been failed or hurt or disappointed by our parents, some very minimally, by God’s grace I fall in that category, very minimally disappointed by my parents, almost not at all.  I have really great parents, and I don’t have bad memories of them nor am I disappointed in how they raised me.  But others have been devastated by their parents and God is not asking you to block that out, he’s asking you to identify it and own it and grieve over it.  And if you are going to come out of the other end you are going to have to deal with it and ultimately you are going to have to discuss it with your parents. And that isn’t going to be easy.  But you do need to clear the air about your grief and your disappointments with them.

How long can we carry the anger and place the blame?  How long can we define ourselves as an “Adult child of a . . .whatever” It probably was wrong, and you probably were hurt, but some people are as angry as if yesterday was today.  You cannot continue to allow what they did to determine who you are, and if they can make you stoop to their level then they win.

Nowhere in the Bible are we specifically commanded to love our parents, we are told to love our spouse, to love our God, to love our neighbours but nowhere are we told to love our parents.  The interpersonal dynamics between children and parents are just too intense.  Some of us come out of it intact and some just barely escape.  Sometimes too much has transpired for the child to love the parent.  God, strangers and neighbours don’t put the same demands on us that our parents do, and so we aren’t commanded to necessarily love them but we are commanded to honour them.  And sometimes that means we need to forgive them and get on with making the life that God wants us to have.  You say, “Denn, I’ll never be able to forgive them.” Then they win!  Because the New Testament teaches us that we will be forgiven in the same way that we forgive.

My mother grew up with a very abusive mother. How mom raised the kids she did is a credit to her not to her mother.  Mom embraced the philosophy of “Don’t become the one who hurt you”.

And I did not know the extent of that abuse until I was an adult, my mother did not poison how I viewed my grandmother as a child.

In the early nineties, my grandmother began to suffer from Alzheimer’s and could no longer live alone.  My mom moved her to Saint John, not to our home but to a senior’s complex nearby.  And for the last three years of my Grandmother’s life, my mother honoured her by visiting and taking her out to lunch and bringing her home for special family times and attending to her personal needs.  Dr Laura Schlessinger made these comments “It is possible to maintain cordial contact, assist a bad parent with such basic needs as food or housing and medicine, and not spend a lot of time marinating in negativity in front of them or behind their back.  It may not be ideal, and it may not salve your feeling, but that small something you do ennobles your soul anyway.”

So, where are you at?

Thanks to Bill Hybels for many of the ideas in this message

Love and Parents

The song, of course, is “Love and Marriage”  written by Sammy Cahn and performed by Frank Sinatra in 1955, but the music has been used for a number of television commercials through the years including Ban brand roll-on antiperspirant, Duncan Hines Chocolate Chip cookies, Campbells Soup and Kellogg’s Fruit ‘n Fibre breakfast cereal.  Who would have thought?

My oldest niece has a philosophy, actually, she has many philosophies but I’m only going to share one with you today.  Her philosophy on parenting is this:  The government should put birth control in the water and people would have to pass a parenting test in order to get bottled water.

Makes sense to me, we make people take tests to drive a car, fly a plane and pilot a boat.  We even make people take a test to babysit but. . . any idiot can have a baby and many do.   400 years ago Samuel Butler wrote, “Parents are the last people on earth who ought to have children.”

This is week five our love and marriage series.  So far we looked at what makes a biblical marriage, and what a biblical marriage isn’t.  Week two’s message was “Sex God’s wedding Gift” and looked at the purposes of sex inside of marriage and the problems with sex outside of marriage. Then we spent a little time with the 5 Love Languages and last week Stefan did a great job laying out how to lead your children into a relationship with Jesus.

This week we are going to be looking at “Love and Parenting”,  because really those of us who have children want to be good parents, and now as a grandparent I hope my children will be good parents.

And it’s probably unfair, but from my view as a grandparent I probably expect my kids to be a better parent then I was.  And the reality is that I am probably harder on myself in regards to the type of parent I was then Stephen and Deborah are.

There isn’t a lot of advice on parenting in the scripture but there is some.  A lot of times what we have are stories, stories of good families and stories of bad families.  But the scripture that was read this morning has some helpful advice for those of us who have chosen parenthood or have had parenthood thrust upon us.

As parents we rather enjoy the first part of the scripture, the part about children obeying their parents and honouring their mothers and fathers.  We want that to be their life verse, and it is a good verse,  but it’s not what we are talking about this week, this week we are talking about the last part of that scripture, that part that says in Ephesians 6:4  Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord.

Interesting choice of words here; do not provoke your children to anger.  In the New King James Version it says Ephesians 6:4 NKJV And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.  

And the New International Version reads this way Ephesians 6:4 NIV Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.

And if you can remember being a child you can remember being exasperated with your parents and there were probably times that you were angry with your parents.  It was Bette Davis who said, “If you have never been hated by your child, you have never been a parent.”

And sometimes it’s not a bad thing for your kids to be angry with you; you did the parent thing and you put your foot down.

You were right, and you did it for the right reason and they were angry with you and they probably didn’t understand and if they did understand they would still be angry and that’s just the way it is.  I think the technical term for that is “tough” and sometimes the answer to “Why” is “Because I am your parent.”  End of discussion.

And sometimes it has nothing to do with being fair and it has nothing to do with being their friend because your first priority is not to be your child’s friend it is to be your child’s parent.  Because friends don’t always have your kid’s best interest at heart.  I bought my son a T-shirt years ago that sums it up and it says, “Actually friends let friends do lots of stupid things.”

But then there is the other side of the coin where we drive our kids nuts.  The side where we exasperate our kids by our behaviour.  And we have a responsibility to do right by our kids.  And that is an incredible responsibility.

Ultimately, we are called to love our kids, even if there are times we don’t like them, so how do we show our kids we love them?

We Show Our Kids Love by being Consistent

 

Our kids are an audience that is always there.  They hear what we say but more important they see what we do, and they may not mention the inconsistencies that they see, but you can be sure they are storing them away for future reference.

 

And so when we tell them to do something and then we don’t it, that is frustrating and when we tell them not to do something and then we do it, you got it.

 

There is nobody else in our lives who will see us at our best and our worst, the way our kids do.  And I know that it’s tough because they see us when we are tired, they see us when we are frustrated, and they see us when we aren’t wearing the masks that we wear in public.

 

But our kids are always watching, and they are always learning, Paul reminds Titus in Titus 2:7  And you yourself must be an example to them by doing good works of every kind. Let everything you do reflect the integrity and seriousness of your teaching.

 

And for kids, one of the biggest inconsistencies is when we tell them “Do as I say, not as I do.”

 

I’ve told you the story before about the most difficult one of all, one day a little boy’s mom caught him tell a fib.  “Do you know” she warned, “what happens to little boys who tell lies?” “No what, Mommy?” he asked.  “Well,” she said, “there is a man up in the moon, a little green man with just one eye, who sweeps down in the middle of the night and flies away to the moon with little boys who tell lies and makes them pick up sticks all the rest of their lives.  Now you won’t tell lies anymore will you for it’s awfully, awfully naughty.”

 

American author James Baldwin nailed it when he said: “Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.”  And then we punish them for doing what we modelled.

 

I wonder how many kids get punished for swearing by swearing parents?  And then the parents say “I don’t know where you learned those words.” And the kids thinking “sure you do.”  Or when kids are punished for drinking when their parents have booze in the house.

 

Nowhere is it truer than at home that more is caught then taught.  Now you may be able to rationalise to your satisfaction why you can do something, and they can’t by using the standard, “because I’m an adult” but that doesn’t always cut it with a child or a teen.  “Do as I say not as I do” is no longer a valid child raising technique.

 

There is no place that the consistency of your Christian walk will be examined more closely or more minutely then at home by your children.  How you model being a Christian, I have discovered through the years that parents who support the church financially and talk about it, that when their kids start working in High School they will tithe what they make.

 

Kids who watch their parents read the bible and pray, same thing.  For better or for worse your kids will probably grow up just like you and ain’t that a thrilling thought.

 

We need to be a pattern that our children can follow.  Every year I see more and more of Captain Burton Guptill creeping into me.  And some of those things I like and others I don’t like and some I’m not sure of.  And if I’m not real careful my kids will be a lot like Rev. Denn Guptill, the good, the bad and the indifferent.  I may not be responsible for everything that Stephen and Deborah do and are, but I will always be responsible for the areas where they followed my example.

 

We Show Our Kids Love by being Sincere

 

 Consistency deal with our behaviour, sincerity deals with our relationships.

 

Again, you are like a television that is always on.  So, when you tell your children that they need to respect those in authority and then you talk about what jerk your boss is, what is the lesson you are teaching?  What are we teaching our children about our elected officials, or their teachers or the police?

 

What are we teaching our children about how to treat their future spouse?  Probably one of the most serious repercussions of the do as I say not as I do mentality will be in the stability of the family unit as we see more and more children following the pattern that their parents set for them.   Do you want your child to speak to their spouse the way you speak to yours?

 

It must be traumatic for a child when they are told by their parents “We don’t love each other anymore but we will always love you.”  That’s reassuring, not! Because they had probably heard their parents profess their love for each other at some point as well.  And they know how that ended.

 

So, then we have children whose main model of marriage is one which ended in divorce and then people get upset when their kid’s marriages follow the same path as theirs.

We Show Our Kids Love by being Relevant

There is a great description of King David in the book of Acts it says: Acts 13:36  . . . for after David had done the will of God in his own generation, he died and was buried with his ancestors, and his body decayed. Very simply David did what he had to do when he had to do it and then he died.  He didn’t do the will of God in his father’s generation or in his grandfather’s generation but in his own generation.

This is 2018 it’s not 1988 or 1998 or even 2008 it’s 2018.  And our children are living their lives in their days not yours and not mine.  Like David, they will have to serve God in their own generation.

Now I know that things are different now than when you were a kid.  And that things weren’t as easy then as they were now.  Am I right?  The only thing I don’t know is the story that you string to your kids about what it was like when you were growing up.  But I can guess.  I’m sure that you tell them how you loved school, and always got straight A’s and never talked back to your parents or teachers and how you delivered all of the newspapers in your town no matter what the weather and never complained about anything.

Have you told them yet how you had to get up at four in the morning and break the ice out of the basin to wash and then before dawn, you had to milk the 200 cows and split 10 cord of wood before walking 17 miles to school mostly in snow storms, and back then we really had snow.  And then when you got home you had to do your chores all over again and study by candlelight and be in bed by six.  Am I close?

Hey, I understand I’m almost fifty-eight, I can smell sixty from here, and every year the winters get colder, the snow gets deeper, the walk to school gets longer, my grades get better, the herd of cows gets larger, and that pile of firewood gets higher and higher. Son when I was your age.

And the worst part is that I was never an A student, I caught a bus or drove 11 out of 12 of my years in school.  We had electric heat, so we only burned wood for a couple of years, and we never owned a cow.  In fact, I’m working on a new story to tell the kids.  “Son, when I was your age we didn’t have Play Station or X-box all we had, was electronic pong, remember that?

We didn’t have computers we only had calculators and they only added, subtracted, multiplied and divided.  And when I did get a computer it had 2 k of memory and I bought the expansion pack that added another 14 K.  And when I was your age we only got two channels on our black and white TV and you had to get up to change those channels.”  Doesn’t sound as good, does it?  Maybe I’ll go back to the cows.

Today is 2018, it’s been 45 years since I became a teenager and it’s a whole new world out there, and things are a lot different.  Our kids have been through a couple of recessions, they will inherit a monstrous national debt that will be our legacy to them.  They have to cope with wonderful travesties of nature like aids and HIV.

Beer is no longer the biggest thrill in town and neither is grass.  New designer drugs are freely available, and more is on its way.  These aren’t the simpler times that we grew up in, so let’s not try to convince our kids that they are.

Elinor Moraunt was a British writer who lived about a hundred years ago.  She tells how once she stopped her daughter from doing something by saying: “I was never allowed to do that when I was your age.” To which her daughter responded, “But you must remember, mother, that you were then, and I’m now.”

We Show Our Kids Love by not Over-Insulating Them

Part of our job is to protect our children.  And that is a serious responsibility.  Especially when they are little.  But we can’t wrap them in bubble wrap forever.

That’s a toughie isn’t’ it?  Most of us have spent the majority of our adult lives protecting our kids, maybe protecting them too much.  Some lesson will only be learned when we have to pay for them and if mommy and daddy are always there to pick up the pieces and pay the bill those lessons will never be learned.

 

If they didn’t get a good mark in school it could be that they didn’t deserve it.

 

One of our kids was forever putting their hand up on the stove when we lived in Truro.  And we warned them about it and confession time probably slapped their hand and told them no and explained about pain.  And it wasn’t until they were about two and a half and they reached up and laid their hand on a burner that had just been turned off that they learned their lesson.

 

And do you know they never put their hand on that stove again.  Because sometimes you have to touch a hot stove to discover how hot it really is.

 

I’ve mentioned before that when I was growing up Dad always told me “If you are going to dance you got to pay the fiddler.”  Maybe it’s time that we introduced our kids to the fiddler.

 

And this is nothing new, 2000 year ago Seneca warned parents,  “The one to whom nothing was refused, whose tears were always wiped away by an anxious mother, will not abide being offended.”

 

And a little more up to date Heather Choate Davis, writes, “The attempt to prevent our kids from struggling for fear it might scar their permanent records is, instead, scarring them for life.”

So if we aren’t supposed to provoke our children to anger or exasperate them what are we supposed to do?  Let’s go back to the scripture  Ephesians 6:4  Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord.

We Show Our Kids Love by Instructing Them

So instead of provoking them, we need to bring them up with the discipline of the Lord and instruct them but what does that mean?  For some folks it goes back to “Spare the rod and spoil the child” and that is using the discipline as a verb, but in this case, it is a noun and the word that is used in the original language literally meant calling attention to something or a mild rebuke or warning. Which goes along with the definition from dictionary.com where it is spelt out this way: dis·ci·pline [dis-uh-plin] 1. training to act in accordance with rules.

So, this means that parents are to be the first line of instruction into God’s word for their children.  That’s why Solomon reminds us in Proverbs 22:6  Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it.

And the only way you are going to be able to show them the right path is if you know it yourself.  So, commit yourself to doing the right things for your kid’s spiritual education.  Bring them early and consistently to church, they are going to take their cues from you about how important church attendance is.

And if you tell them that it is a priority but it takes third or fourth place on the list for things you do on Sunday, church is really, really, really important except when there are sports that get in the way or the weather is too nice or the weather is too not nice, or there is company coming, or company is here or the company just left or we are going somewhere to be company what is that really saying to them?

And thank you to the parents who bring their kids in stinky soccer and hockey gear, because you are teaching them that church is a priority for you and them

We have a great kids program here and we have a great youth program, but they will only be of benefit to your kids if they are in them.

And that means exposing your children to Christian books and Christian music and sending them to Christian camps and youth rallies.  Because if you want your child to be a good hockey player then you make the effort, and if you want your child to be a good musician you make the effort and if you want your child to be a good student you make the effort.  So if you want your child to be a good Christ follower then you have to make the . . . effort.

 

If you weren’t here last week to hear Pastor Stefan’s excellent message on leading your kids to Christ you can find it on our Facebook page and our website.

Two things to finish up I’ve said it before and it bears repeating again and again.  1) If you have children who are grown up and you have never had any real problems with them and they are serving God then I would suggest that instead of patting yourself on the back that you would be far better to get down on your knees and thank God, because as my daddy used to say “I would expect it is more good luck than good management.”  He also said, “There’s only 18 inches between a pat on the back and a kick in the pants.” But that’s a different story.   And 2) is just as important.  If your kids haven’t turned out the way you think they should have and if you feel a little disappointed and even a mite embarrassed sometimes then I have a deep and profound thought for you, write it down and carry it in your wallet, engrave it on your mind cause here it is, “Always remember that God has trouble with his kids too.”

 

#ugandafortheweekend

So, I spent the weekend in Uganda.  Now that’s something I never thought I’d say.

I was invited to be the guest speaker at the annual missionary retreat for Wesleyan Missionaries who serve in Africa.  Not a large group but they came from all over the continent to be together with others who had a common mission and shared a common vision.  A mission and vision to make a difference in the lives of people who don’t know Jesus.

There were doctors and nurses, teachers and administrators and their children.  Men and women, married couples and singles. All of them could have been working in their professions in North America for more money and been closer to their families. Instead, they chose to be obedient to a call from Jesus to serve the least and the lost and the lonely.

And for three days I had the opportunity to speak into their lives.  There could have been no greater honour for me to serve and no place I’d rather have been than being allowed to be a part of their mission and to share their vision, if only for 72 hours.

They made a difference in my life and I hope that I made a difference in theirs.

Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible