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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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.

Exposing the Enemy

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8).

I recently watched a disturbing video based on a true story about a pastor who was definitely on fire and effective in sharing the gospel—a prime target for the enemy. At one point he began questioning God’s character which balances both love and justice. In his words, “We need to re-think God.”

As believers we have no problem accepting God’s love. His justice shouldn’t be a conflict either when we think of it coupled to another of His attributes—mercy. Can you imagine a caring teacher or a loving parent who always demonstrated love without justice? Or justice without love and mercy? In each case the result would be a nightmare. In extremes, the result would be a child or adult who would be an emotionally dysfunctional mess with no direction, and not feeling loved either.

Through His mercy, the penalty for our sin was paid for by ultimate love—God sent His beloved Son, Jesus Christ as our substitute. Compared to the eternal consequences, our part is easy. If we confess with our mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in our heart that God raised Him from the dead, we are saved. And living according to His plan (laws/guidelines) is a benefit to us as individuals and a favor to the human race.

False teachers are not new. They began at the beginning of the first century church. Paul warned that people will turn away from truth and gather around teachers who say “what their itching ears want to hear.”

Today, Hollywood effectively does this all the time.

The above scripture from Peter cautions us to be vigilant. It is so easy to fall into a set of beliefs that seem loving and accepting, but in fact are destructive. And nothing pleases the enemy more than confusing and bringing down believers.

The life of faith in the truths of scripture may step on our toes rather than tickle our ears, but the truths of the scripture bring guidance and stability; grace and mercy; wisdom and comfort…and eternal life.

God is Good

You are good, and what You do is good (Ps 119:68a).

There are quite a few verses throughout scripture that woven together, describe God’s goodness and what our response to His goodness should be. In Romans we are taught that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, and who have been called according to His purpose. We sometimes experience a disconnect when we think, in our eyes, ______ (insert your own tragedy or challenge here)            can’t possibly result in anything good.

A buzz phrase today is “to be intentional” and that is a fitting way to define God’s goodness. It is purposeful, never meaningless nor random. God’s purpose, to conform us to the likeness of His Son, is a much greater good than our comfort at the moment. Our definition of good is both temporal and temporary rather than spiritual and eternal.

This brings us to another challenging verse about God’s goodness, Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. ______ (insert your own tragedy or challenge here too)     .  This verse certainly requires some prayer and study. But we can know–we can be absolutely sure–that God’s actions are motivated by love, and that the end result will be worth it, and good.

Going through tough times is tough. But God’s word gives us promise after promise of His faithfulness in walking us through trials, in giving us strength, in giving us endurance, in supplying everything we need.

His grace is more than enough.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow (pursue) me all the days of my life.

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.

Passion

I will praise You with my whole heart: before the gods will I sing praise unto You (Ps138:1).

Recently I was speaking with a woman whose country is 20% Christian and 80% Muslim. She said that in her country if you choose to follow Christ, you must be totally committed; everyone there is passionate about his/her faith or religion. No one is just lukewarm.

In our country it is relatively comfortable to be a Christ-following believer. We can openly worship, we have access to scripture at the tap of our thumb, and we certainly can pray. I’d like to think that I am totally committed, but I’ve never had to act on it by putting my children in a dangerous situation, nor like Rachel Scott, the young girl at Columbine who chose to be fatally shot rather than denouncing her faith.

But just because, thankfully here in the US, we’re not required to choose between torture or denying our faith, we can still heighten our passion and commitment.

How can we become even more committed? The answer is the same as how do we fall in love. The passion and commitment follow as we know more and more about that person. Although on this side of heaven, we can no way fully grasp the magnificence of the character if God, His mercies, His justice, His love…, we can learn more and more about Him through scriptures, conversing with Him, and the enlightenment of His Holy Spirit. And allowing ourselves to trust His word and His will as He reveals Himself to us.

Psalm 138 continues, On the day I called, You answered me and You made me bold and confident with renewed strength in my soul.

The Father’s Love

Although I rarely repost, this selection really touched me and I’d like to share it again during this special season:

For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16). 

A short time ago, the message at our church impacted me so much that even though I may not do it justice in these few words, I would be remiss for not sharing and will prayerfully try.

Although God’s word never goes out and returns void, I chose a verse that even non-believers can quote. John 3:16 is so commonly used, the depths of its meaning has been lost.

How many of us as loving parents would choose to suffer pain, emotional hurt, or even death rather than see our child experience it? The anguish suffered by that parent is often more excruciating than the physical pain.

Our loving Father gave us His most precious, precious gift. His only be-loved Son was sent from a heavenly paradise to live on earth for the sole purpose of assuming our sins on His perfect humanity in order to pay the penalty for what we did. As a parent, the depths of His pain would have to be immeasurably greater than if the Father could do it Himself.

And then, because God cannot be in the presence of sin, the already grieving Father had to turn away from the Son. Many parents cannot even leave a child’s hospital bed to eat or sleep, but the Father, who is the very definition of love, had to for a time abandon the Son. He could not complete His purpose if “the cup passed” from Him.

Can there be any greater love than to give His Son–His dearly loved child?

The depths of this love story can only be matched by the joyous ending. Sin and eternal death are defeated. We are redeemed by the most costly price imaginable—the Father’s love.