What does it mean to come to Christ as a child? To consider this question, we need to have a glimpse of what a child is like.
A child is inquisitive. Always wanting to learn what is going on in the world around him.
A child is daring, within limits of course. Playing with a bubble car is fun and challenging as you catch the bubbles and watch them rise into the sky.
A child loves challenges, like mastering the fear to go down the slide alone.
A child likes to be active. Just follow a 3-year-old around one day and you will realize how much territory that child can cover.
A child is trusting. They don’t second-guess the reason people are telling him to do something. They trust that they will be cared for, unless and until they are hurt in so doing; then the ability to trust someone is difficult to retrieve.
A child has faith in the one who is caring for him. Although they don’t know the word or its meaning, a child demonstrates devotion and loyalty, and the child seeks and returns love.
“And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, ‘Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.’ And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them.”
Matthew Henry says of this text:
That there must be something of the temper and disposition of little children found in all that Christ will own and bless. We must receive the kingdom of God as little children; that is, we must stand affected to Christ and his grace as little children do to their parents, nurses, and teachers. We must be inquisitive, as children, must learn as children (that is the learning age), and in learning must believe. (Oportet discentemcredere – A learner must believe.) The mind of a child is white paper (tabula rose – a mere blank), you may write upon it what you will; such must our minds be to the pen of the blessed Spirit. Children are under government; so must we be. Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? We must receive the kingdom of God as the child Samuel did, Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth. Little children depend upon their parents’ wisdom and care, are carried in their arms, go where they send them, and take what they provide for them; and thus must we receive the kingdom of God, with a humble resignation of ourselves to Jesus Christ, and an easy dependence upon him, both for strength and righteousness, for tuition, provision, and a portion.
Matthew Henry Commentary on Mark 10.
So, have you come to Christ as a child?
Do you lean on Christ as a child leans on his parent, nurse or teacher?
Are you inquisitive as you learn and believe Him?
Is your mind open to the pen of the Holy Spirit as He writes on your mind and will?
Have you humbly accepted and resigned yourself to Jesus Christ and His authority over you?
Do you depend on Him for strength and righteousness?
Do you depend upon Him for your provision and care, here and forevermore?
May we not be childish in our belief, but may we be childlike as we look to our Savior and give thanks for our Almighty Father. While we begin as newborn babes in the faith, may we not remain children but, through the grace of our God and the work of the Holy Spirit, may we grow into mature Christians giving glory and honor to our Savior, Jesus Christ and to His Father, the Almighty God.
Lord, thank You for letting me come to You as a child. When I start to puff up into arrogant adulthood, let me see the error of my ways and return to my childlike dependence upon You and the guidance of Your Spirit. May I grow up spiritually into a mature Christian who loves You and who is devoted to Your Son, my Savior and Lord, and may I know the sound of His voice through the Spirit as He guides and leads me along life’s treacherous ways.
There are some things in this life that are just too beautiful, too incredible, too wonderful that we say: “it takes my breath away”. What are some of those things for you?
For me, here are a few things that take my breath away.
The first look at my son and daughter.
The incredible reality that all their “pieces” were present and in the right place. The reality that these little babies were born from me, that their lives were, at least in the beginning, in my hands.
“Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward.”
These two little babies took my breath away, and I cried out to the Lord God in thanksgiving for their little lives, and in prayer for their future. They took my breath away.
Now, when I see them as adults with families of their own, I am so blessed. This, too, takes my breath away.
The beauty of the sunset.
The day has been spent in doing many tasks, things that took time and energy, things that were encouraging and sometimes things that were incredibly hard. But at the end of the day, I can look at the sunset and know that God is in control.
The Levites were commanded to recognize that God alone was responsible for providing the day to them. David’s instructions included the following:
“And they were to stand every morning, thanking and praising the LORD, and likewise at evening,”
1 Chronicles 23:30
God’s watchful care results in praise to Him. This, too, takes my breath away!
Places of worship, such as Canterbury Cathedral in Canterbury, England.
When we visited Canterbury Cathedral, the sign in the entrance way to the church and grounds advised that worship services were held in the Cathedral every day for over 1,400 years. St. Augustine came to England in 597 A.D. as a missionary and he ultimately became the first Archbishop of Canterbury. The building was magnificent; the stained-glass windows were beautiful; the soaring vaulted ceiling dwarfed the people inside. While all that is true, what I found most humbling was the reality that God had met with the people worshiping in this place for more than 1,400 years.
“For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.“
I was overwhelmed. This took my breath away!
When reading God’s Word, often there are passages that speak to me and bring joy to my heart. His word brings a warmth to my soul, and its truths take my breath away.
Recently, we were studying Psalm 32 where David speaks of his relationship with God and of the damaging effect of his sin toward God.
“A Maskil of David. Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.”
Blessed, happy, is the one who, after coming to God in confession and repentance, is forgiven.
“For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. Selah”
David understood the heavy weight of unconfessed sin. His description is not only poetic, it is personal and profound.
“I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,’ and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah”
David confessed his sin. He did not try to hide it from God; he understood that God already knew of his sin and what he had to do was to confess and seek forgiveness. David also expressed that God’s forgiveness meant that his sin was covered and would not be counted against him by God any longer.
“By steadfast love and faithfulness iniquity is atoned for, and by the fear of the LORD one turns away from evil.”
In our age, that of the New Testament covenant, we understand that through Jesus Christ’s atoning work on the cross, our sin is not only covered but that sin debt is erased, and our account is clean. Across our ledger page is written the words “Paid in full and covered by Christ’s righteousness.”
“You are a hiding place for me; you preserve me from trouble; you surround me with shouts of deliverance. Selah”
After David confessed and received forgiveness from his sin, he was secure in God and described this security in verse 7. The forgiven person is surrounded “with shouts of deliverance.” When we see pictures of people who were delivered from prison camps or from dangerous situations, such as a mine cave in, the rescued person is not shouting. They are too stunned, and sometimes too weak from the ordeal, to do much of anything. The rescuers are the ones who are shouting of deliverance and joy.
Have you ever thought about heaven surrounding you with shouts of deliverance when you have come to God seeking forgiveness from your sin?
“Many are the sorrows of the wicked, but steadfast love surrounds the one who trusts in the LORD. Be glad in the LORD, and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!”
The conclusion of the psalm is resounding joy, gladness, shouting for joy.
This, too, takes my breath away!
God’s love, His provision of the plan of salvation for you, His Son dying on the cross for our sin, not His. These are all truths that take my breath away. Why would God, the Almighty Creator, the Holy God who cannot look upon sin, the Righteous Judge of all, why would this God call me to Himself and adopt me as a child of His, clothing me with His Son’s righteousness and taking my filthy rags away.
Nothing that I have done or ever could do would merit such grace and mercy. I am a sinner saved by grace. This reality is overwhelming. This takes my breath away!
What about you?
What takes your breath away?
Father, I pray that these words would resonate with their readers and that You would be glorified. I pray that I would praise You for Your wonderous love and kindness, Your grace and mercy, Your goodness and righteousness that has covered my sin and canceled my debt, restoring my relationship with You through Your Son, my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
A newborn baby is a gift from God. See Genesis 33:5 and Hebrews 2:12. They are to be loved, cared for, protected, nurtured, and taught of God and His Word. This is not the future that many of our young ones have, however.
A while ago, the Knoxville News Sentinel, ran an article under the headline “East Tennessee Children’s Hospital treats drug-dependent babies”. Most of these precious babies became dependent on drugs due to abuse of painkillers or anti-anxiety medications used by their mothers during pregnancy. The article spoke of a two-week-old child that exhibited the “telltale signs of a baby agitated and in pain”. The little boy had an open sore on his face from rubbing the skin raw; a scratch on his left cheek; tremors so severe that he was placed in a special area where nurses can watch him 24/7 in case he has seizures or stops breathing.
This little guy is experiencing untold horrors placed upon him by the actions of his mother prior to birth. The article states that the pain for these infants is excruciating. The medical personnel who treat them say the infants suffer from nausea, vomiting, severe stomach cramps and diarrhea that is so severe the skin can blister like a severe burn. And the babies are inconsolable.
I cannot judge this child’s mother for what she did or did not do. I don’t know what circumstances she found herself in other than that she was going to have a baby. I can only pray for this woman, her little baby and his recovery from an addiction that he did not cause but which will likely continue to plague him for the rest of his life.
It would be bad enough if this little tyke was the only child so afflicted. But the numbers show that the club into which he was born is not exclusive to him. Tennessee statistics show that in 1999, drug dependent babies were hospitalized 55 times. In 2011 that had figure skyrocketed to 672 infant hospitalizations due to addiction. In 2015, the Tennessean newspaper blog advised that in 2014 there were 921 drug dependent babies born in Tennessee.
And, these numbers have not gone down. In an April, 2016 news article about the end of a Tennessee law related to incarceration of mothers of drug-dependent babies, USA Today discussed the status of Tennessee’s fight for these helpless babies and stated:
“Roughly 1,000 babies suffering from drug dependence have been born every year since 2013, when the state began requiring all hospitals to report them to the health department.”
According to the New England Journal of Medicine, as cited in a USA Today article entitled Born into suffering, the number of drug dependent babies admitted to intensive care units nearly quadrupled from 2004 through 2013, from 7 to 27 per 1,000 hospital admissions. Vanderbilt University researchers said in the Journal of Perinatology that one affected baby was born every 25 minutes in 2012. That figure is likely higher now.
We cannot continue to harm the unborn generation by killing babies through abortion or by rendering infants incapacitated because of drugs ingested by their mothers. This must stop; but we must recognize that both actions are merely symptoms of the underlying spiritual war raging in our world.
I don’t have any pill, plan or panacea that would stop this travesty.
But I do believe in God and that His Son, Jesus Christ, is the Savior of our souls. I do believe that He came to earth and died on the cross for my sins and for the sins of all who would repent and claim Him as their Savior.
I do believe that the power of sin and evil was defeated when Jesus rose from the dead, the event we celebrate as Easter. I do believe that He will come again and that He has already won the cosmic struggle which is evidenced by the depravity that we see in our world today.
And, I do believe that He can reverse this tide if we repent, seek His strength to withstand the pull of addiction and utilize all the tools He has provided for support, withdrawal assistance and reintroduction of mothers and families into a drug-free existence.
Jesus used little children as living examples when he taught His disciples:
He took a little child and had him stand among them. Taking him in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.”
Mark 9:36-37. (NIV)
He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them.
Mark 10:14-16. (NIV)
I look at my own grandchildren and praise the Lord that they are healthy, growing strong and in loving, supportive families. They remind me that I must come to the Lord with the same open, trusting and loving heart that they exhibit when they come to me.
They also remind me that there is a dramatic contrast between their lives and so many children for whom a loving and supportive family is a mere dream, and for those children my heart weeps.
In humble obedience, I believe that we all must pray for these little children. I believe that we must take part in caring for these little ones, trying to give them as much of a life as we can. We need to work with the mothers during pregnancy to stop abortions and the use of drugs. And I believe we must work toward addressing the situations that create the desire to abort children and abuse drugs in the first place.
Above all, we need to point the mothers to the Savior who loves them and their unborn child more than they could ever know.
Father, this horror is too big for me. I feel helpless against its magnitude. But You are all powerful and all wise, and I believe that You are the answer to the problem of addiction of any type. Guide me and give me strength to follow Your lead in doing what I can to help these precious infants who are suffering so upon their birth and to help their mothers understand that drugs are not the solution to any problem.
The tear – it can be shed because we are sorrowful, in pain, frightened, or angry. Or, it can be shed because we are joyful, relieved, empathizing, or celebrating. (I will always cry when the Bridal March begins, whether or not the bride has even begun walking the aisle!) Crying is therapeutic – it gets pent up emotions out and relieves tension. You could say that tears are suitable for a host of purposes!
What tugs at my heartstrings the most, though, is a tear from my grandchildren. Now, I know that children shed tears in the process of growing up, it just happens. I also know tears can be shed when children encounter something that is unfamiliar to them even if there is no discomfort or danger. I know that tears come as a result of, often very well-needed, discipline. And, I know that children are not above shedding some tears in an effort to get what they want, even if it is abject posturing to get something from their Grandparents!
As parents, we want our children to be healthy and happy. Who has not looked at their sick child and at least thought, if not said aloud, “I wish it was me instead of my baby!” Sometimes we simply cannot kiss it and make it better, and our tears will flow out of frustration, concern, helplessness ‐‐ love.
Jesus knew our feelings because He experienced them. He wept when his close friend Lazarus died.[John 11:35] He wept when he looked out over the city of Jerusalem [Luke 19:41 ] knowing that, because they had rejected him, tribulation would come and the city would be devastated. Our Savior experienced physical, psychological, emotional and spiritual pain, during his time here with His creation.
And, deep down inside, I believe that His heart hurts when He hears our cry and sees our tears. However, unlike us, He was not “helpless” in the face of sorrow or disappointment. He was, at all time, the God‐man – fully God and fully man. Through His act of obedience to the Father’s plan, He went to the cross so that we would have an escape from the pain inflicted upon us by sin.
Further, because of His triumph over sin and death, He knows that our troubles will last only for a short while, that there is a lesson we need to learn from the events that sparked the tears, and that He is with us through the dark times. We simply need to trust Him and hold His Hand as He sees our path while we cannot.
I have not been immune from those dark times. I have experienced nights on end with tears as my only companion. I worked to keep the family on an even keel when its support suddenly disintegrated before my eyes. There were times that the tears flowed so hard that I could not breathe, and I relied on the Holy Spirit to pray for that which was best because I could not.
I also know that no one can take your tears away; no one stands in your shoes; no one understands the disappointment you have encountered; and no one has endured the dark night that you are in or that you have experienced. It is yours and yours alone. David was well acquainted with the loneliness and pain that difficulties, fearful events, strife, and sin can create. He refers to it as the “valley of the shadow of death.”
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
But notice the rest of this sentence, even though he was in the valley, he was not bound by fear. David knew that the Lord was with him and was providing comfort to him, even in the darkness of that valley.
I certainly am not David, but I can affirm that I have experienced release from the tears and dark times through the grace of God, the love of His Son Jesus, the solace of the Comforter, and the soothing hands of His Church. Beloved, rest assured that you are not alone as you go through your difficult times.
The Good Shepherd has given His life for you and He will guard and protect you as His own. [John 10:11]
Lift up your eyes and look for Jesus and He will give you strength. As incongruous as it sounds, while you are crying tears of grief, sorrow, fear or pain, you can experience peace and even joy because He has you in His arms and there really is nothing to fear. Martin Luther says it well in the Hymn “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God”:
The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still, His kingdom is forever.
One day you will be able to look in the rear view mirror of your life and see the valley that you climbed out of, and you will be able to praise His Name as you thank Him for His kindness and grace, even in those dark times.
Joy is possible even as tears linger on your cheek!
Father, I thank You for being with me through your Son, my Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ and His Spirit, my Comforter. Thank You for the truth that You are sovereign and that nothing will frustrate your plans for me or for your church. Thank You for bringing me through the valley and for holding me even when my tears flowed. Thank You for your love.
It is spring and we see signs of growth all around us.
The crepe myrtle in the backyard is just now beginning to open with a promise of beautiful flowers in the near future.
Outside the bedroom window is the rosebush with the first rose of summer.
The azalea bush in the backyard astonishes us each year as it blooms with a plethora of gorgeous flowers in a glorious display of color.
There are other signs of growth, however, that are not part of the natural ebb and flow of nature. I am referring to cranes.
I’m not talking about birds — rather, I am referring to construction cranes.
Construction cranes seem to be ubiquitous in some communities. Everywhere you look, you can see a crane hovering over a building site.
While there are folks who will be inconvenienced by the construction indicated by the crane’s presence, a realistic view of the crane is that there is growth in the area. Someone is building something because of their confidence in the community that the investment will be rewarded based on the community’s growth, population, revenue, … all sorts of indicators that go into the decision for new construction.
In short, the presence of construction cranes are an indication of a healthy, growing community.
Growth is observable not just in plants and communities but also in human kind. It is easy to see the changes when the baby grows into the toddler, the toddler into the young child, the child into the teenager, the teenager into the adult, the adult into the senior citizen.
Changes in our physical growth are fairly easy to see. There should also be growth in our spiritual life as Christians, but sometimes that is harder to see!.
Paul made the distinction between infants and mature Christians when writing to the church at Corinth:
But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way?
1 Corinthians 3:1-3 [ESV]
While not the only harbinger of immaturity, according to Paul, jealousy and strife between Christians are an indications of immaturity, and such actions reveal that the individual is still acting through the flesh and not following Christ. This type of behavior is allowing our human character to control – it is not an indication of control by the Holy Spirit.
The writer of Hebrews also talks about Christian maturity.
For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.
Hebrews 5:12-14 [ESV]
According to these verses, the Christian who is mature in the Lord is one who has discernment that has been trained by the word of righteousness, that is Scripture or the Word of God. Further, the writer says that this discernment is trained by constant practice. While the Holy Spirit indwells the Christian and is available for illumination of the Scripture, the Christian must read and study the Word and must pay attention to the instruction of the Spirit. In other words, the Christian must work and practice to train their power of discernment. When this is done, the resulting discernment enables the Christian to distinguish between good and evil.
So, what are the indicators of growth in our Christian life? How do I know if I am growing from an infant into a mature Christian?
There are many indications of growth in our Lord, including obeying His commands and loving each other.
If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.
Perhaps the best identification of virtues indicative of growth in our Christian life is the listing is found in Galatians 5:21-22 [ESV].
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
This is no ordinary fruit. While the words sound like things we talk about every day, the imprint of the Holy Spirit on the words takes them to an entirely different realm than that of our world. For example, the fruit of the Spirit of love is way more than casseroles and cards!
On Friday we will begin consideration of the fruit of the Spirit in a separate series on The Ruminant Scribe. In order for us to grow in Christ, we need to understand the work of the Spirit, and praise the Lord and our Almighty Father for the Spirit’s presence in our lives.
I pray that you will follow the Fruit of the Spirit Series and that it will be enlightening and encouraging to you in your Christian walk. Please leave your comments and thoughts about how the Spirit is speaking to you through His Word on this topic. I look forward to hearing your thoughts.
We are called to grow in Christ – we are not to remain infants, we are to mature. May I not be satisfied with milk, but may I seek to obtain the meat of the Word.
Praise the Lord, oh my soul!
Father, Thank you for giving us your Spirit Who encourages, teaches and empowers us to grow toward the likeness of your Son. Thank you for loving us so much that you provide the Spirit to do that which we cannot do for ourselves, and thank you for sending the Lord Jesus Christ to take our sin upon Himself so that we could become children of God. Enable me to show forth your Spirit as I interact with people who you bring into my life.
Drive down neighborhood roads early in the morning and you are well aware that school has begun. The school zone speed limit signs are blinking and, on many streets, the police cars are waiting to pull speeders over when they disregard the sign and blast past the school while children are present.
The backpacks have been purchased and innumerable school supplies have been obtained to fill them as the children march toward their destiny in their new classrooms. The younger children are, by and large, excited about the new grade level and the excitement that awaits. [First day of kindergarten with backpack and smiles – a strong face concealing a bit of trepidation!]
The older youths are a bit more jaded and it is not quite as “cool” to be excited about the change as are their younger siblings.
Parents also go through a “school transition” of sorts … just watch a mother standing at the bus stop with her kindergarten child. As the bus pulls up, the child ascends the steps and, if you look closely, often the mother is daubing her eyes. Her little chick has left the nest for, possibly, the first time and it is a transition because there is the awesome awareness that a new chapter in the child’s life is about to begin. [First born getting on the bus for first day at kindergarten, while Mom is holding back the tears of pride and fear all at the same time!]
There are times that we tend to think that all education is to be handled by the school … or perhaps by the church. But nothing could be farther from the truth.
The primary teacher for the child is the parent then grandparents, aunts and uncles, and other family members.
While this seems to run counter to our culture, Scripture is clear that teaching the children is the paramount role of the parents. Solomon, who was known as the wisest man on earth, penned the book of Proverbs as a record of his teaching to his son. The book begins:
The proverbs of Solomon, son of David, king of Israel: To know wisdom and instruction, to understand words of insight, to receive instruction in wise dealing, in righteousness, justice and equity; to give prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the youth – … The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction. Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching, for they are a graceful garland for your head and pendants for your neck. (Emphasis not found in text of Scripture)
Long before Solomon wrote the proverbs contained in the Scripture, God directed the Israelites to instruct their children in the commands of God. In Deuteronomy 6:1-7, the children or Israel were commanded to keep the commandments that the Lord gave to them, and further they were to “teach them diligently to your children…”
In Exodus chapter 13, God instituted the annual feast of unleavened bread to commemorate the people’s leaving Egypt by the mighty hand of God. At verse 8, the people are instructed to tell the children that the reason for the feast was “because of what the LORD did for me when I came out of Egypt.”
After the Israelites went through the Jordan on dry land, Joshua took 12 stones, one for each tribe, and set up a pillar. Then he told the people:
“When your children ask their fathers in time to come, ‘What do these stones mean?’, then you shall let your children know, ‘Israel passed over this Jordan on dry ground.’”
Clearly, teaching occur during a wide multitude of activities.
Time spent with children can teach various skills, but mostly will teach about relationships, enjoying being with each other, and the value of sharing time together in God’s marvelous creation.
Sometimes our “teaching” will result in the discovery of a new hobby that could last a lifetime. Or, it might confirm the fact that “I don’t want to touch that!” But no matter what, learning will come through the experience.
Sometimes teaching a skill, such as swimming, will result in nothing more than having fun … but that is all too important in a world full of strife, pressure and challenges. Knowing how to have fun while parents, grandparents or other adults are watching is, in itself, something worth learning.
Most importantly, however, through prayer and attention, we teach them to love the Lord, to live a life that is full in Christ, to pray when facing difficulty or just to commune with the Living God, to learn and develop their own personalities while, at the same time, becoming responsible for their own actions and understanding that God is Sovereign. This kind of teaching occurs during the act of living. Just watch the preschooler mimic you.
One example that stands out in my mind was the child we were babysitting for who stood in our porch, holding a Golden Book with the pages facing us, as if she were the teacher reading us the story. However, she was too young to read; rather, she was saying, and I quote: “Blah, blah, blah, … [slight pause] I don’t wanna hear about it!” Then she would turn the page, look at it as if reading the words, turn the book around so the new page faced us, and then repeat the same statement with the same cadence, rhythm and sing-song form each time she said it. It was clear that she had heard this phrase often in her home. She may not have known what it meant, but she knew how to say it!
Or consider the parent who was shocked when the 3 year old let out an expletive only to hear himself say the same thing when he hit his finger with a hammer. If we say it, they will, in all probability, say it as well. The phrase “your actions speak louder than words” is much more than a catchy phrase!
If you don’t want them to curse – you should not curse.
If church is important to you – you should go with your child to church, not just drop the child off at the door.
If prayer is important to you – you should pray in front of and with your child, not just direct the child to pray at bedtime.
If God’s Word (the Holy Bible) is important to you – you should read it in front of, and also along with, your child.
It behooves us to be sure that our actions are consistent with the words that we speak, especially when children are listening or observing what we are doing.
In Proverbs 22:6 we read: “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” See also Proverbs 22:15.
Teaching or training our children means much more than just providing a computer or iPad and letting them look around, play games or watch movies. Teaching our children includes information from school, certainly; but the more important lessons relate to our teaching of Jesus Christ, teaching of God’s sovereignty and majesty, teaching of sin and salvation, teaching of God’s love and mercy combined with His holiness and justice. And, teaching our children includes teaching that actions have consequences and that discipline is an important part of growth, training and living.
God disciplines each of those He loves and we should discipline our children. The writer of Hebrews says the following about discipline in chapter 12:6-10:
For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives. … Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness.
I am surely not advocating for child abuse, or even for spanking or other form of physical punishment, necessarily; but I am advocating for loving discipline that trains the child and brings wisdom. Ephesians 6:4. Discipline includes development of self-discipline which affects virtually the entire life, including things like diet, alcohol use, actions while partying, sexual purity, fidelity in marriage, money usage and savings, etc.
Leaving the yard vegetation without pruning or guidelines results in weeds growing wild and choking out the good plants and shrubs growing spindly and weak. Likewise, leaving children to raise themselves results in children who do not know God or follow His commands, who do not understand boundaries, who do not respect authority, who do not have the discipline to live productive lives.
We must not waste our opportunity to teach, discipline, and train our children. Our time with children is important, and it is limited!
Father, forgive me when I have focused on the mundane and have ignored the weightier matters when speaking with my own children and grandchildren. Holy Spirit, please guide me as I teach by example and let my words be consistent with my actions. May the children I come in contact with see Jesus and His love put into action as I interact with them. Thank you, Holy Spirit, for your guidance and presence.
This week, we had some beautiful weather and, on one such evening, we were eating dinner on the porch. I gazed over the backyard and noticed that some of the trees in the woods already have the characteristic red hue that precedes the brilliant color of autumn. I pointed out these harbingers to my husband and received the traditional “Ugh!” and I was reminded of our differing perspective.
We each have our own perspective whether it be on monumental topics such as our spiritual life or whether the topic is insignificant such as leaf color.
I see the beautiful pallet of color that the Lord provides in the wide variety of trees in our yard and down the street. The spring blooms excite me with joy like a child seeing a Christmas tree.
When it comes to fall colors, I am just as excited about the forthcoming color bonanza that highlights our street; however, my beloved husband will usually respond with “Ugh!” Rest assured, he is not anti-color and he is not diminishing the glory of God’s creation.
Indeed, he loves the color in the trees, if only the leaves would stay on the trees! What he [fore]sees is the pile of dried leaves that translates into work when he has to rake or somehow remove them from the yard so the grass beneath the pile does not die through the winter.
You see, it is all our perspective. Often we speak with people and the response we get is not what we expect. We say something that is fairly mild and, to our surprise, we get an animated fervent response opposing our comment. We may be inclined to respond with equal fervor, but before we do, we should stop and think of the perspective of the other person. There may be something of which we are totally unaware and which, if it had been known, would explain the reaction. For example, another approach to the fall leaves on the ground would be the fun that a child has in being buried under the leaves!
People much more trained than I will have to answer how to change the perspective of another, or even if that is possible; but I can say that Scripture tells us about how we should respond in that situation.
“A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouths of fools pour out folly.” Proverbs 15:1-2
Again, in Proverbs 29:11 we read:
“A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back.”
“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” Philippians 2:3.
And James, the half-brother of our Lord, said:
“Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” James 1:19-20.
When my husband responds “Ugh” to my glee at the colorful leaves, I need to remember the difference in perspective. I remind him of the glory of God’s creation and, while I physically can’t do much in the yard, at least I offer to help him.
When it is clear that differing perspectives are at issue, how can you defuse the situation and respond with a soft answer, thinking about the perspective of both you and your fellow Christian? Pray for guidance, and He will give you wisdom.
Praise Him for the difference in perspective. Sometimes, a different perspective enables us to see more of the whole picture!
Did you ever play “peep-eye” with a young child? You know the game – the adult puts their hands over their eyes or perhaps covers the baby’s eyes and then says “Where are you?” After an appropriate pause, the adult quickly allows the child to see again and says “Peep-eye, I see you!” Almost always the young child laughs in glee and sometimes they laugh so hard they get hiccups!
Actually, watching the adults playing this with the children raises the question about who is having more fun!
The childhood game is fun and grandparents love to play it with their infant grandchildren and it is a harmless way to bond together. (Usually the parents are too busy to do it, but that’s why God created grandparents!)
I was reminded of the “I see you” game when we were on our camping trip recently when we were joined by some dear friends and their two German Shepherd dogs, Quincy and Dixie. I was trying to get a picture of Dixie whose canine face is beautiful, and I was using my Kindle camera rather than my little red electronic camera. All this to say, I could “snap” multiple pictures rapidly in an attempt to catch her face just right.
Ultimately, I believe that I did get a good representation of her face, when we were at the campfire later in the evening. It was not until I was looking at the pictures to see if any of them “caught” the character of Dixie that I saw the following series of pictures.
It was as if Dixie was playing “I see you” with the camera while it actually was my inability to get her face inside the lens parameters.
But, I wondered if the Lord was speaking through this series of pictures.
We often act as if no one is watching when the reality is that the world is, indeed, watching how we live our life if we proclaim Christ as our Savior. What difference does He make in how we conduct our business, how we interact with our neighbors? Does Christ make any difference in how we train our children? Is our marriage a testament to the vow that we took, to love and honor our spouse?
Does Jesus have any connection to our day to day life or is He relegated to Sunday morning services?
I see you! Children see their parents talk about how important church is while they lay in bed and let the church bus pick the kids up. Children see us as we ignore the stop sign, ignore the extra change mistakenly provided by the fast food server, and ignore the call to help in our community or church while at the same time telling the children that they should always be helpful on the school playground. They see when we lie about something or when we say something cutting about our spouse, only to tell the children that we were just kidding!
Inconsistencies between actions and words – guess which the children will remember!
I see you! Even for those who have no children, the world is watching. Our co-workers see when extra pens and paper are taken from the office, under guise that “I do work from home sometimes!” Or they see when the hours on the clock indicate 8.5 but we forget to deduct for the extra time we took at lunch. Our neighbors will resent our preaching that they should go to church when they see us doing yard work when the worship service is beginning. A visitor at church will wonder about our loving fellowship if we start to belittle a fellow worshipper in our post-service visit with them.
Inconsistencies between actions and words – guess which the children/ neighbor/ world will remember!
The Psalmist in Psalm 139 recites the numerous ways in which God knows each of us. In verses 2 and 4 David says that God even knows our thoughts and words:
“You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. … Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O LORD, you know it altogether”
I see you! It is more than a game to play with a baby – it is something to remember every day of our life. Even if no one is around to see what we are doing, the omnipotent, omnipresent God sees us.
Let Psalm 139 be in our minds and hearts as we go through the week … let us remember that God sees what we are doing, He knows our path, and He desires that we live for Him.