Lessons from an Eight Year Old

I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth (3 John1:4).

 A few days ago our eight-year-old grandson, with wonder and excitement, relayed this story to us on the phone. He and his dad and little brother were mountain biking through some wooded trails. He was in the front, got far ahead of the other two and took a few wrong turns. He found himself lost and alone.

He told us that he immediately prayed…twice! This story has more than a happy ending. The next day, as they were reading a daily children’s devotional, the topic was… you guessed it—Fear Not! It described different fears such as being alone, rejection, and failure. And it talked of the assurance of God’s promise—“I will never leave you.”

We always have someone who loves us, accepts us, and helps us. God wants to be part of our here and now.

He was so excited about the timeliness of this lesson that he read the whole devotion to us with the excitement and passion that we have when we realize that a special passage from God’s word was written just for me, at the exact time I needed to hear it.

Don’t you love how God works!?

It warms my heart to know that this little guy knows that he can face his fears with God “who will never leave him.” And here is the verse from his devotional that we can all claim, which was written just for us, for the exact time we need it:

 I asked the Lord for help and He answered me. He saved me from all that I feared (Ps 34:4).

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Good and Perfect

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, Who does not change like shifting shadows (James 1:17).

 I don’t know where today’s entry is going to go. I had an idea and wanted to meditate on the first part of this verse, but when I looked it up to correctly quote it, the second part jumped off the page— the Father of the heavenly lights, Who does not change like shifting shadows.

Many people had an unstable parent whose behavior was so unpredictable that the same behavior would be praised one day and cruelly punished the next. They lived in a constant state of caution, apprehension and insecurity, never knowing what to expect. And many had (or are) a parent who tries to be consistent and follow biblical principles, but very often falls short.

But God IS consistent, consistently good. Consistent in kindness, mercy, grace, patience, justice…and love. We can be comfortable in knowing that what is pleasing to Him today won’t bring about a chastisement tomorrow. We can be assured in knowing that when He disciplines us, that it is 100% out of love to mold and teach, not to punish.

Well, I guess I never got to discuss those “good and perfect gifts.” Our focus shouldn’t be there anyway, but rather on the One who does not change like shifting shadows, the Good and Perfect Giver.

Implementing God’s Word

Knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation (2 Peter 1:20).

 I am presently working with a group of students who are frustrated with the standards (guidelines) with which they must comply. Often times it isn’t the guideline itself, but the way that it is implemented. Don’t we sometimes do the same things as believers? We take a verse, principle or even a commandment and interpret it to our liking. This is nothing new. Paul addressed the Colossians about this a few centuries ago.

Take the verse “Husbands love your wives” as an example—part B of a very volatile principle in today’s world. Love is defined in Corinthians, and we hear it at 99% of the weddings we attend. But to put it in 21st century terms: Love is patient and kind, not arrogant or rude, or selfish, or demanding its own way, not easily angered, doesn’t keep score (I like that one), always protects, never gives up, is always hopeful and is trusting. God’s definition is sooo much better than Hollywood’s version.

Time to look at part A of this verse, “Wives submit to your husbands.” I addressed this before so I’ll just make a few comments that go along with this title. Like my education example, through the years and across many cultures and religions, this has been interpreted in ways that are in opposition to the intent. This verse does not suggest spiritual inferiority; in fact, the one submitting is actually in control of choosing the course of action. Valuing others above ourselves requires confidence in order to willingly yield to another, in order to lift that person up, with only one motive—love.

As the above verse states, scripture did not come from man, but it is the inspired word from the Holy Spirit. Although the most trusted theologians can give us insight, they are still men. God speaks directly to all believers, not just teaching by human wisdom, but teaching by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.

The Test of Truth

Greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world (1 John 4:4).

 It always astounds me when I hear of people with astronomical IQs questioning or even denying the existence of God. But then again, the enemy is the ruler of this world, and he is very adept at “confounding the wise.” In John 4:6 it is called having the spirit of error, deception or deceit.

I recently read a book that took the reader back centuries concerning man’s search for wisdom and knowledge. Scripture was often quoted out of context to “prove” a false point in order to achieve an understanding of our purpose.

But the answer isn’t in the vast amounts of knowledge, nor the brilliance of the human mind. It isn’t in good works, or service, or generous amounts of philanthropy. And it certainly isn’t in recognizing that some random “higher power” has given us a higher purpose. It’s not even in quoting scripture unless those words are enlightening us because of…here it comes…our relationship with Jesus Christ.

Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.

This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.

You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us.

This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood (1 John 4:1-4).

Enlarging Our Heart

I have chosen the way of truth (Psalm 119:30a).

Have you ever heard the story of the three blind men describing an elephant? One touched its side and said that it was like a wall. The next touched its trunk and said that it was more like a snake. The third felt its ear and thought it like a fan.

We might find this story amusing, but we do it all the time. Our perception of reality IS our reality. We can’t really trust our minds or hearts because they are often clouded by past experiences, hurts, desires, and our sinful nature. True reality can only be found in one place—God’s word. He knows the big picture, what the whole elephant looks like.

And I love verse 32 which says that as I pursue His truth, He will “enlarge my heart.” How much hope is in that verse! This is God’s desire because as we develop more understand we also find delight (v35), and turn away from selfishness (v36), and turn away from worthless things (v37).

God wants to enlarge our hearts, our capacity for the delight in knowing Him, loving Him, and enjoying His fullness. He expresses this clearly through prayers in Scripture, meant for not only the early church, but for us today.

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight…filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.

And He richly rewards those who seek Him.

 

Against the Flow

Turn my eyes from worthless things and give me life in your ways (Ps 119:37).

We believers are described as living in the world, not of it. Scripture calls us “aliens.” Just passin’ through. In today’s world, with today’s values, sometimes we seem more like space aliens. I really desire to be true to God’s word without appearing like one of Jim Jones’s mindless sister-wives.

That’s exactly what the cross wasn’t about. We are freed from the bondage of legalism, and given a free will to seek and choose His will. We can live in the world, yet make our decisions based on the guidelines of scripture.

Any inventor is the expert in knowing how his creation works best—max efficiency. This is something that we need to constantly remind ourselves when we’re going against the flow. The above scripture asks God to strengthen us in living life the way He designed it—worthwhile, valuable, influencing others, and impacting eternity.

Good vs Best

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding (Prov. 3:5).

I recently read a devotional by Oswald Chambers and, with one word, he really challenged my thinking and fine-tuned my understanding concerning this familiar scripture. He said, “…lean not on your own ‘righteous’ understanding.” Well, we know that worldly thinking is sometimes unscriptural, and we know this applies to carnal perceptions for sure. But have you ever considered that our understanding could be upright and scriptural, but still not be what God had planned at that moment?

This may be a simplistic example, but it helped me to grasp the concept. Once, while preparing for company (you know what that’s like), I asked one of my children to empty the dishwasher. When I came home, the dishwasher was still full, but the house was picked-up. Well, that was a very good and much appreciated help, but my immediate need required full use of the kitchen. Likewise, our service, even if it is righteous and scriptural, may not further God’s plan.

And sometimes the good gets in the way of the best. We may choose a direction to go or a service to do that may be really worthwhile. We may even pray for God to bless our efforts, when in fact, He may have an even better plan. That’s why we’re told to seek His righteousness, and in all our ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct our paths.