Verse 19, “Restore us, O LORD God of hosts; cause Your face to shine, and we shall be saved!”
As I read that verse, my first thought was, even though they constantly wandered away from God, they knew where their salvation could be found.
Many of us have done our best to raise our children “in the discipline and admonition of the Lord,” only to have them wander from the faith or fail to make a personal commitment to the Lord. We are often confused and discouraged, because we saw parenting as something of a formula. If I do “A + B” (take my children to church, teach them biblical truth, send them to church camp, etc.), then God will give me “C” (believing, obedient children).
We back up our belief with verses like Proverbs 22.6:
Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.
But this is not an iron clad guarantee that our children will serve God or that they will never rebel. Remember, God’s children rebel, too, and He’s the perfect parent.
What it means is they will not be able “to depart” from the truth. They won’t be able to escape what they know. They can choose to walk away, but the truth will follow them like their shadow and be there when they come to their senses as the prodigal son did (Lk. 15.11-31) and as the Israelites did on many occasions.
Notice verse 12.14 about Rehoboam, “… he did evil, because he did not prepare his heart to seek the Lord.” The NASB says, “he did not set his heart to seek the Lord.” Other translations of that word include “to direct” or “to stand upright” or at attention.
Rehoboam was a mediocre king because he had a mediocre relationship with God. He never completely forsook God, he just never sought Him wholeheartedly. He didn’t pray as his father did for the wisdom he needed to rule the kingdom. He didn’t search the Scriptures to know the heart of God and get His wisdom. Matthew Henry in his commentary on the Bible says, “… he engaged not, his heart to seek the Lord …”
So how do we prepare our hearts to seek the Lord?
Our hearts, as the old hymn says, are prone to wander, we don’t automatically seek the Lord. We must purpose to do so. We first need to ask God for His help, then we need to read and study “at attention” and, finally, we need to set our minds, be determined, to obey those things He shows us. Continue reading →
Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, The people He has chosen as His own inheritance. Psalm 33.12
Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions,and giving of thanks be made for all men,for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence.For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior. 1 Timothy 2.1-3
Are you inside God’s circle of blessings or have you put yourself on the outside? When we put ourselves outside of God’s circle of blessings, we risk shortening our lives and opening ourselves to God’s discipline.
What about your children? Are you teaching them how to stay inside that circle of blessings?
Verse 16, “He who keeps the commandment keeps his soul, but he who is careless of his ways will die.”
The Puritan Pastor Matthew Henry said about this verse, those who make it a lifestyle to keep God’s commandments, “secure their present peace and future bliss, and provide every way well for themselves.”
It made me think of a very simple illustration we use when counseling children. We call it the “Circle of Blessings” based on Ephesians 6.1-3:
¹ Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 “Honor your father and mother,” which is the first commandment with promise: 3 “that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.
When children obey and honor their parents, things tend to go well with them and God promises a long life, but the opposite is also true. When they put themselves outside of God’s circle of blessings, things, generally, don’t go well with them and they risk shortening their lives.
You can quickly draw this out on a piece of paper or a white board as you talk about Ephesians 6.1-3. This is a simple illustration that helps children understand the passage, but the same principle is at work in our lives. When we keep our Heavenly Father’s commandments and honor Him, things tend to go well with us. When we reject the commandments and wisdom of God, we put ourselves outside of God’s circle of blessings. We, too, risk shortening our lives and opening ourselves to His discipline.
If you think of the Bible as being written chronologically, today’s reading and much of what follows may seem confusing. But the Bible is not put together chronologically, as far as the various books go. And at times, as in Chronicles, it repeats things that were previously recorded with a slightly different perspective.
It may help to remember that Chronicles was probably written by Ezra. He was a priest who came back to Jerusalem after they had been in Babylonian captivity for 70 years. So he was writing from the perspective of the return and how life was so dramatically different from how it was during the reigns of David and Solomon. This portion covers the genealogy of the people who were returning and emphasizes the reign of David.
The last two verses of chapter 10 are worth meditating on:
13 So Saul died for his unfaithfulness which he had committed against the LORD, because he did not keep the word of the LORD, and also because he consulted a medium for guidance. 14 But he did not inquire of the LORD; therefore He killed him, and turned the kingdom over to David the son of Jesse.
Even though Saul committed suicide, God had allowed the situation in which he found himself (about to be captured and probably tortured) as a consequence of his sin. Notice the sins delineated all involved his lack of trust in the sovereignty of God. He refused to believe that doing things God’s way was best and sought to know the future apart from waiting on God to reveal it at the proper time.
“I Will Remember”
The psalmist starts out “This is my anguish …,” but turns his thoughts to God and begins to remind himself of God’s faithfulness in the past, “I will remember,” “I will also meditate,” and “I will talk of Your deeds.” Then he recounts the great things God has done.
Have you ever tried writing your own psalm? This would be a great way to spend some of your devotional time if you’re struggling with discouragement of any kind.
Importance of the Ministry of Helps
This passage points to the importance of the ministry of helps. When others use their gifts, it frees those who are called to the five-fold ministry, such as pastors and teachers, to do what God has called them to do—that is pray and study God’s Word.
Facing Religious Persecution
But there are other great truths contained in this portion of Scripture. Let’s look at verse 15:
“And all who sat in the council, looking steadfastly at him, saw his face as the face of an angel.”
Stephen faced the anger and persecution of an angry religious mob, with a peace and calm that demonstrated his complete trust and reliance on God.
Jesus said in Matthew 10.18-20:
18 You will be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles. 19 But when they deliver you up, do not worry about how or what you should speak. For it will be given to you in that hour what you should speak; 20 for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you.
What a great promise!
What about You? Questions to Ponder or Journal:
Have you ever faced religious persecution? How did you respond? How would you like to respond in the future? I hope you will share your story with us.
Read several of the Psalms, then try writing your own. After you’ve shared your honest emotions with God, turn your attention to other times when God has shown Himself faithful. Use a concordance or go to Bible Gateway and look for verses that speak to your situation. Share your experiences and insights in the comments section at the end of the blog.
Where are you in regard to the “Circle of Blessings”? Are you inside that circle or have you put yourself outside?
Special Offer for the month of June only: If you sign up for “Christian Living” posts and “Bible in a Year” posts here and here (you must click both links and add your email address), I’ll send you a Kindle version of “Help, I”m Depressed” by Life Line Mini-Books.
Does this sound like you? “Troubling thoughts flood my mind. I lie in bed alone, beseeching God on behalf of my three children. The tears come as I wonder why the Lord seems so far away and why prayers remain unanswered. Life seems so unfair. Why is it so hard? In the “depths of despair” I know I have a choice to make. Am I going to allow these feelings to destroy me?”
Nothing breaks a parent’s heart more than to see our children make foolish choices which can result in consequences for years to come. But there are some things we can do early on so God doesn’t have to allow more serious consequences later.
Verse 25, “A foolish son is a grief to his father, and bitterness to her who bore him.”
Nothing breaks a parent’s heart more than to see our children make foolish choices which can result in consequences for years to come. Nothing we do can guarantee that our children will not make those choices, but our responsibility is to faithfully teach them while they are young. At times, that includes allowing them to suffer the consequences of their actions instead of constantly intervening.
The child who repeatedly forgets her lunch, may need to miss lunch a few times.
The child who gets in trouble with a teacher needs to know that Mom and Dad will not run to his rescue.
The teen who gets caught drinking and driving may need to spend a night in jail, instead of being immediately bailed out.
The son or daughter who brings drugs into the house needs to know that his or her parents will call the police and have them arrested!
By allowing those less serious consequences, we may save our children from progressively more serious ones. But as they get older, if God needs to allow more serious ones, we need to be careful not to get in God’s way. The Prodigal Son’s father, a type of our Heavenly Father, did not run after his son, he didn’t bail him out of the mess he was in or try to find him a job. He patiently waited. It was in the pig sty that his son, finally, came to his senses (Lk. 15.11-32).
God loves our children more than we do. He knows what each of them (and each of us) needs to come to the end of ourselves. He knows our hearts and He disciplines us when it’s appropriate and for our good (Heb. 12.5-11).
In the course of counseling, I’ve seen too many instances where parents had protected their children over and over from the natural results of their sin and rebellion, only to have God take matters out of their hands, by allowing something that the parents could not fix. Continue reading →
I counsel a lot of people who struggle because of words that were spoken to them as children. Certainly, God can use it for good as He helps them find their identity in Him, but how sad when our kids have to overcome our parenting, rather than remember it with gratitude. You kids will be grown before you know it. How will they remember you? They may know you love them, but do they know you like them?
2 Samuel 3 & 4
Do Your Kids Know You LIKE Them?
In the Light of the King’s (& Queen’s) Face
Verse 15, “In the light of the king’s face is life, and his favor is like a cloud of the latter rain.”
Leaders have a great opportunity to be a blessing by encouraging those under them. My husband recently picked up a book about the top 10 mistakes leaders make. One of the big 10 was failing to encourage!
No where do we have a greater opportunity to encourage (or discourage!) than in our homes with our spouses and with our children.
That’s one reason why husbands are commanded to live with their wives in a understanding way (1 Pet. 3.7) and wives are commanded to show respect for their husbands (Eph. 5.33) and to have a gentle spirit (1 Pet. 3.2). Even when we must reprove one another we are to do it with gentleness (Gal. 6.1).
As parents, Colossians 3.21 instructs us to “not provoke [our] children, lest they become discouraged.” Parenting is not about giving our children everything they want (far from it!) or allowing them to do what pleases them, but we can and should parent in a way that encourages them and not in a way that discourages them.
Megan Scheibner and her husband Steve have a website called “Character Health.” In her blog she wrote:
There are many things that my children know. They know how to read, they know how to pray, they know how to do their chores, etc. But, there are just as many things that I assume my children know without ever making sure that my assumption is correct … The first is this: don’t assume your children know you like them. Yes, my children know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I love them, however, do they know that I like them?
How are your relationships with your children? Is it all about what they do wrong? Is it all about getting their homework and chores done? Is it all about the next scheduled activity? Do you ever take the time to just let your kids know you like them and enjoy spending time with them? Continue reading →
Are you playing around with some sinful thought or thinking about something from your past?
Sin is not something to be played with. In our pride we think we can handle it and it won’t get a hold on us. But sin has invisible hooks that can drag us down and take us places we never intended to go.
Sin will take you farther than you want to go, keep you longer than you want to stay, and cost you more than you want to pay. – unknown
We see an example of this in today’s Old Testament reading. Eli’s two sons, both priests, were stealing the sacrifices and sleeping with women in the doorway of the tabernacle. How could that happen? And, more importantly, could it happen to us?
1 Samuel 1-3
Sin’s Invisible Hooks
1 Samuel 1-3:
Multiple Wives: Provocation & Ridicule
There’s so much in these 3 chapters! First once again, there’s the multiple wives issue. I’ve said it before, but it’s worth repeating, God never presents it as a good thing. He always shows the conflicts and problems that resulted.
¹ Now there was a certain man of Ramathaim Zophim, of the mountains of Ephraim, and his name was Elkanah the son of Jeroham, the son of Elihu, the son of Tohu, the son of Zuph, an Ephraimite. 2 And he had two wives: the name of one was Hannah, and the name of the other Peninnah. Peninnah had children, but Hannah had no children.
4 And whenever the time came for Elkanah to make an offering, he would give portions to Peninnah his wife and to all her sons and daughters. 5 But to Hannah he would give a double portion, for he loved Hannah, although the Lord had closed her womb. 6 And her rival also provoked her severely, to make her miserable, because the Lord had closed her womb. 7 So it was, year by year, when she went up to the house of the Lord, that she provoked her; therefore she wept and did not eat.
It appears Hannah was Elhanah’s favorite. That may have provoked Peninnah to jealousy (not an excuse, by the way). In any case, she ridiculed Hannah because of her barrenness. Elhanah may have been a little provoked and frustrated himself. And he, certainly, doesn’t seem to understand Hannah’s longing for a son.
“Then Elkanah her husband said to her, “Hannah, why do you weep? Why do you not eat? And why is your heart grieved? Am I not better to you than ten sons?” (1.8).
This was never the way God intended marriage to be.
11 Then she made a vow and said, “O Lord of hosts, if You will indeed look on the affliction of Your maidservant and remember me, and not forget Your maidservant, but will give Your maidservant a male child, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life, and no razor shall come upon his head.”
In the midst of it all, God heard the prayer of His humble servant, Hannah, and gave her a son. Notice how this faithful woman kept her vow to the Lord:
“Now when she had weaned him, she took him up with her … and brought him to the house of the LORD in Shiloh.. And the child was young … For this child I prayed, and the LORD has granted me my petition which I asked of Him. Therefore I also have lent him to the LORD; as long as he lives he shall be lent to the LORD.” So they worshiped the LORD there” (vv.24-28).
Her son, by the way, was Samuel. He would become the first Prophet mentioned more than just in passing and would greatly influence the nation and God’s people. We will read more of his story as we continue through the Old Testament.
God’s Judgment on Willful, Unrepentant Sin
Next there’s the sad story of Eli and his two ungodly sons in chapters 2 & 3. All three were priests. Eli knew that his sons were stealing the part of the sacrifices that belonged to God and sleeping with women who came to the tabernacle, yet he failed to deal decisively with them. The boys themselves had so hardened their hearts through their sin and disobedience that “the Lord desired to kill them” (1 Sam 2.25) and God added His judicial hardening to their willful hardening by removing His restraining grace.
Romans 1 explains it this way:
18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, 21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. (emphasis added)
There is enough of God’s truth revealed through creation to make us all responsible for our actions. It’s not that we don’t know the truth, rather we choose to suppress it.
22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.
24 Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, 25 who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.
This is sometimes called the downward spiral of sin. These two priests, not only had the truth revealed through general revelation (creation, including our consciences), but they knew God’s law. Yet their hearts were darkened by their own sin and then “God gave them up” (removed some of His restraining grace).
26 For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. 27 Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.
If we continue down that path of disobedience, God will remove even more of His restraining grace.
28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; 29 being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, 30 backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31 undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; 32 who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them (emphasis added).
Finally, He will give us over to our own sinful cravings as He did with Eli’s sons.
Sin’s Invisible Hooks
How did these two priests end up where they did? How did it start? What compromises did they make in their thoughts and attitudes along the way? How did they end up sleeping with women in the tabernacle? And can that kind of thing happen to us? Continue reading →
Children who grow to expect whatever makes them happy, often approach the throne room of God like spoiled children and grow to be selfish adults. How does your parenting help or hinder your children’s understanding of God? Could you be setting them up for failure in their relationships with a future spouse or others without even realizing it?
Here we begin the story of Sampson. We’ll talk more about Samson’s calling and how God used him tomorrow, but today I’d like to comment on a few things about his relationship with his parents.
Obviously, these were loving people who desired a child very much. They believed in God and reverenced Him as we see from their responses when they realized they had been visited by the Lord.
But I have to wonder how they parented Samson. The first interaction we see between them and their son is in 14.1-2:
“Now Samson went down to Timnah, and saw a woman in Timnah of the daughters of the Philistines. So he went up and told his father and mother, saying, ‘I have seen a woman in Timnah of the daughters of the Philistines; now therefore, get her for me as a wife.'”
His parents wanted him to do what was right:
“Then his father and mother said to him, ‘Is there no woman among the daughters of your brethren, or among all my people, that you must go and get a wife from the uncircumcised Philistines?'” (v. 3).
““Get her for me, for she pleases me well” (v. 3).
“Get her for me!” And, of course, they did. Sometimes in our love and desire to see our children “happy,” we can easily become indulgent with them, giving them the idea that the world revolves around them.
Our children learn much about the nature of God from us. If we allow them to expect
whatever makes them happy, how will they approach the throne room of God? Many believers seem to think that God is there to give them whatever they want without regard to His will or His knowledge of what’s best.
This “get-me-what-I-want” attitude will also hinder their relationships with others. Paul said: Continue reading →
Have you ever said, “I don’t want to force my religion on my children. I’m just going to let them grow up and decide for themselves”? Today’s reading in Judges gives us a clear picture of the result of that kind of parenting.
But on the other side of the equation, some have made Christianity merely about keeping rules. Though often well-intended, this can drive children far from God.
If you set out to read through the Bible this year, you may be tempted to quit because you’ve gotten behind or started out late. I want to encourage you to keep going whether you just keep reading where you are or start with today’s reading. Either way you will probably read more than you have in the past. Even when it’s challenging or we do things less than perfectly, it’s still worth the effort.
Even if this is your first day visiting this blog or you just visit occasionally, we have lots of wonderful things to read and understand from God’s Word in the days and weeks ahead. So jump in and join us!
On “Forcing” Religion on Your Children
Judges 1 & 2:
A Generation Who Did Not Know the Lord
As we’ve talked about in the last few days, the nation of Israel was now in the Promised Land, but even though God had promised them complete victory, they failed to follow through and completely drive out the idol worshipers who had polluted the land and caused God to declare judgment against them. They thought they had things under control and did not need to completely obey God.
In addition, the older generation had failed to adequately teach their children about God. One of the saddest verses in the Bible is 2.10:
“When all that generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation arose after them who did not know the LORD nor the work which He had done for Israel.”
More times than I care to think about, I’ve heard well-meaning parents say, “I don’t want to force my religion on my children. I’m just going to let them grow up and decide for themselves.” That sounds good in some ways and, to be sure, we can’t “force” our children to believe.
On the other side of the equation, we need to be careful that we don’t present Christianity as merely religion by making it all about rules. Many a parent has learned the hard way that you can’t insist on some legalistic standard that drives your children away from God.
Many people consider parenting to be the mother’s job and, even if they believe both parents need to be involved, mom often ends up with most of the responsibility. But parenting isn’t a one-person job. God intended for moms and dads to parent as a team.
Welcome to Mondays @ Soul Survival.
Marriage: Made in Heaven? Part 14 “Parenting as a Team”
We’re in a series on God’s design for marriage. If you haven’t read the previous posts in this series, you can read them here. In today’s post we’ll talk about how important parenting as a team is to our marriages and to our children.
Ephesians 6 says:
¹ Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 “Honor your father and mother,” which is the first commandment with promise: 3 “that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.”
4 And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.
There is so much packed into those four short verses. More than I could ever address completely in a single post. So, if you’re a new believer, new to parenting, or have a desire to grow in this area, I have provided an extensive list of resources in another post, “Parenting from the Foot of the Cross.” I hope you’ll check it out.
But, for today, I want to focus on the team aspect of parenting.
Many people consider parenting largely the mother’s job and, even if they believe both parents need to be involved, mom often ends up with most of the responsibility. But notice, Paul addressed verse 4 directly to fathers.
Of course, he’s speaking to mothers, as well. But the father, as the head of the home, has the responsibility to see that children are brought up “in the training and admonition of the Lord” (Eph. 5.22-24; 6.4). He is the one who will ultimately answer to God (1 Tim. 3.4-5).
But parenting isn’t a one-person job. God intends for moms and dads to parent as a team.
I understand there are many godly single parents out there. Some are single, not by their own choice. Others came to Christ after becoming parents or are single for a variety of other reasons. But I think we would agree that God’s design has always been for children to be raised in a home with a mother and a father. Continue reading →
The Bible has so much to say about parenting, and we have many great resources today to help us understand and apply its teachings. It’s also an area where we need to apply the gospel, both to ourselves and in the grace we give our children. Check out this great list of resources for parenting kids from toddlers to teens.
Joshua 9 & 10
Parenting from the Foot of the Cross
The Bible on Parenting
Verse 24, “He who spares his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him promptly.”
There is so much advice about parenting out there, much of which contradicts this truth. But we have to decide who we are going to believe—God or man!
The Heart of Anger is written to parents and includes journals and other helps to work with your children. But it first helps parents better understand what they may be doing to contribute to their children’s anger.
As parents we are warned in Ephesians 6.4:
… do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.
So before Lou delves into the child’s behavior, he helps parents evaluate their own heart attitudes and behavior. His list of 25 ways parents provoke their children to anger is worth the price of the book.