Ephesians 1.3 says, “In Christ, God has given us every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.” What does that mean? We hear “spiritual blessings” and might gloss over it as another Christianese phrase. Here’s a short list of what those spiritual blessings are.
1.4 — God chose us before Christ made the world.
1.4 — He chose us out of love to be his special people.
1.5 — He chose us to be his own children through Jesus Christ.
1.6 — God gives grace liberally.
1.7 — We are free because of Jesus’s sacrifice.
1.7 — We have forgiveness because of God’s grace.
1.8-9 — God told us how we can get that grace. He didn’t set up a system that we would have to look super hard for, he made sure to preserve the information needed to find him.
1.10 — He is bringing the heavens and the earth together through Jesus.
1.12-13 — He made grace available to every country on earth, not just one group.
1.13-14 — He gave us his spirit as a downpayment on our reward.
While we won’t fully appreciate these spiritual blessings until later (Paul says these riches are “too great to fully understand” in 3.8), we’re still extremely grateful that God has done so much to give us hope for eternal life.
Caitlin Flanagan wrote an article in TIME magazine entitled, “Why Marriage Matters.” She begins by saying, “Buffeted by affairs and ennui, the intact, two-parent family is under assault. What America needs to get over its commitment issues. (Hint: it isn’t love)” (7/13/09, p. 45). What was so fascinating about the article was that, whether sociologists, feminists, domestic policy-makers, or other experts, they all came to the groundbreaking conclusion that children are healthier, more successful, and more productive who come from intact, two-parent homes. Flanagan kept returning to that conclusion, even as high profile cases of infidelity were offered to show how the guilty were selfishly putting their own ideals and needs about what their families truly needed.
While I believe that it is possible for a marriage to grow more romantic, satisfying, and enjoyable each and every day of one’s married life, such is a tangible benefit of the hard work and effort invested in marriage. It is neither automatic nor an entitlement. It is not to be “persevered” or patronized only so long as I am having a good time, get my way, or reap the “rewards” of it as I, subjectively, decide I should. No doubt, God created marriage to provide companionship and suitable help (Gen. 2:18ff) and a legitimate sexual outlet (1 Cor. 7:1ff). It is enriching and even thrilling to look back over years of partnership and see in one’s spouse the depth of intimacy built by shared time and experience. God certainly depicts a loving, close relationship in marriage as the ideal toward which to be striven (Song of Solomon, Eph. 5:22-33; 1 Pet. 3:1-7). However, first and last, marriage is a lifelong commitment, an ongoing fulfillment of a vow made to and before God Himself, and a relationship that can be severed with God’s approval only under extreme circumstances.
Flanagan had so much good to say about marital partners considering how vital their staying married means to raising well-adjusted, optimally-functioning children. She hits the nail on the head regarding the deep-seated, lasting negative effects of divorce upon families and, ultimately, society. Yet, while it may only be a matter of semantics, I disagree with her premise. Staying married is about love. It is about knowing how to love, God’s way, and intentionally, intensely, and indefinitely, nurturing and growing that love in the marriage. Love involves duty, but it is so much more than that. It is an act of the will more than a flutter of the heart. Yet, its payoff for marriage gives a man and a woman a lifelong glimmer of light that burns brighter even as the lights of our own lives gradually dim. Let us love our spouses with biblical love and watch the seismic effects for good upon the home, the church, and the culture!
It was a great Sunday night crowd. Why not? Between the monthly Q&A sermon, the monthly singing night, and the ice cream fellowship, there were several additional drawing forces. It was so enticing for one grade-school boy that he made the unusual decision to sit on the front row, dead center. If you were there, you probably saw him. If you weren’t, you can see him on YouTube.
This young man had an unobstructed, undistracted view to some significant events. First, he was literally a couple of feet from Hiram as he preached. On multiple occasions, when he posed a question to the audience in his sermon, this young man nodded in silent answer. He was “locked in.” If he moved or squirmed, I didn’t see it.
Second, he witnessed the love, care, and support of the church family during the invitation song. One of our new Christians responded, asking for prayers and expressing a desire to live a more faithful life. Joe not only had the preacher on one side and an elder on the other, but the little boy had to move down to make room for several men who came down front to show their love and support for Joe. This great young man watched the emotion, joy, and concern of a church obeying the command, “confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed” (Jas. 5:16).
Third, he sat there and sang several songs after the response. Each time I looked, he was enthusiastically trying to sing even songs he probably did not know. He has an expressive face, and the prevailing emotions I could see–including when I led–appeared to be all positive and interested.
After services, he was in the multipurpose room (MPR) indulging in some ice cream and having as much fun as a little boy could hope to. He was visiting and playing, and he was eating. Then, he went home.
I did not get the chance to ask him if he enjoyed being at church last night, but I think I know the answer. Children don’t do the best job of pretending, if they do or don’t like something. He appeared to have enjoyed himself. But he did more than that. He served as a great example to me. Not only did he come to the worship, but he came to worship. As he gave, he also received. I’d like to think his experience last night will be something he never forgets, something that serves as a foundation for his spiritual future. His mom brought him last night. Pray for him, that as he grows up, he will develop a faith that brings him to worship and carries him through life (cf. 2 Tim. 1:5).
“At that time the disciples came to Jesus and said, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And He called a child to Himself and set him before them, and said, “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me…” (Mat. 18:1-5).
There are plenty of great examples of godly parenting in the Bible, but there are just as many (if not more) examples of poor parenting. Tompkinsville, where I preach, is blessed to have several parents who are taking Proverbs 22.6 seriously and that’s something we shouldn’t take for granted. Perhaps no other Christian responsibility has the potential to build His kingdom and make the kind of impact like our responsibility to train and teach the next generation to love Jesus.
“How can a young person stay on the path of purity? By living according to your word.”
There’s an unlimited amount of opinions and advice out there on the subject of parenting, but there’s something more meaningful about receiving it from faithful parents who have been successful.
Here Are 3 Pieces of Advice From Godly Parents
1. Children Need To Know That Marriage Isn’t Your Number One Goal In Life
“Our goal in life is to praise the God of glory. Too many young people become so enamored with the thought of getting married that they neglect to devote themselves to the service of God. They miss out on the joys of mission work and service because they are too concerned with finding their next date. Focus on God and (to utilize Jesus’ words) “all these things will be added to you,” because you will be surrounded by the kind of people who are worth marrying.”
2. Our Commitment To Christ Isn’t A Part Time Job
“An excuse is a skin of a reason stuffed with a lie. While under the Old Law Moses allowed a year off from marriage (Deut. 24.5) Jesus made it clear that all Christian parents can’t make Him their part time Lord (Lk. 9.57-62). Replace any excuse with an exertion of effort to glorify God, because excuses ring hollow in the ears of the divine.”
3. Model The Kind Of Person You Want Your Children To Be
“Being a parent should make you think about your every move. Your immature inclinations should take a backseat when the what you model before your children can have eternal ramifications. Just be godly.
Stand up for God.
Talk about God.
Have the courage you’d like your children to have.
Show them how it’s done.”
A sincere thanks to,
– Brett Petrillo – Hiram Kemp & – Ben Shafer
For their continual example of faithfulness, work in His kingdom, and their helpful insights on godly parenting.
There is a story about a father building his daughter a wheelchair from the ground up after she got paralyzed in a car crash. Her father was willing to do all the research and put all the time in to building a wheelchair for his daughter who he loved so much. I don’t think I would trust my dad to make me a wheelchair, but this father demonstrates the love he has for his daughter and the lengths he would go to to keep her safe. We are told in multiple different ways how deep the Father’s love is. As the song goes, “Why should I gain from His reward I cannot give an answer.” I want to share just three points with you tonight why we gained from his reward.
The first one is that His love is so deep that He created us. Genesis 1:27 says that God created man in His image. Since we are made in God’s image, we are His special creation. In return for Him to love us so much we need to love Him and obey Him.
Then when we messed up God loved us so much that He gave His only Son for our sins (John 3:16). He was willing to do anything for us as His children. I know this is a point that is used a lot. Would you give your son? Not just your son, but your only son. Now I don’t have children but I’m sure that if I did that I would not be willing to do that. If you go on to verse 17 it says that He did it so that we might be saved. If we do what is commanded here on earth we will have an eternal home.
The third point we gained from his reward was because he loved us so much that He wanted us to have an eternal home with Him. Go back to John 3:16. It says that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life. Now going back to the example I gave just a moment ago. I don’t think I will ever love anyone enough to give my son. Now let’s back up for a minute and ask ourselves why do we not love each other that much? We are all God’s creation so we should love others like God tells us.
Thinking back to my childhood when my dad would get mad at me I failed to realize that he loved me enough to help me do right. God loves me enough to give me the opportunity to stand up here and give this devo. And God loves everyone of us enough to give His only Son for our foolishness. And now our job is to love Him so much to obey his laws.
Have you seen the Progressive commercials with Dr. Rick? In these commercials, he tries to teach parents how to “un-become” their parents? For instance, he helps them say the right tech terms, like “hashtag,” or helps them to have airline tickets on their phone, and not paper tickets. They are really funny. Do your parents have certain sayings that they say all of the time to you? Like, “If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a thousand times,” or how about “money doesn’t grow on trees?” Or even better, “don’t make me stop this car?” Our parents tell us things like this to help us. The truth is, we need to be like our Christian parents, not unlike them. They have been where we are or where we are heading. Their advice can prevent us from making serious mistakes.
According to many surveys, about 70% of Christian students leave the church during college. According to a recent study, the reasons are because they had no strong Biblical foundation, lack of social opportunities outside of worship service, the anti-Christian views present at universities, and the lack of other Christian friends on campus. Because of these potential problems, our parents play an important role in our Christian faith and our future walk with God.
How do You stay faithful to God and obey your parents through your teen years? According to Ephesians 6:1-3, honoring your father and mother is very important. These verses say, “Children obey your parents in the Lord for this is right. Honor your father and mother, which is the first commandment, that it may be well with you and you may live long on the Earth.” According to Exodus 20:12, it states, “Honor your father and your mother that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you.” Proverbs 22:6 also has some information about children obeying their parents. It says, “Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from.” Proverbs 29:15 also says, “The rod and rebuke give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother.” This verse means that children and teens need guidance. If they don’t have guidance, they will turn away from Christ.
If we honor our father and mother and do all that we are told by them, we will live long on this Earth. We could be going through a stage where we are defiant and not wanting to do what our parents tell us. We’ve got to learn to listen to them even though we might not like what they decide all the time. We finally understand, maybe even in later years, that our parents have rules in place to protect us as well as help us. In order to follow God and live long on this Earth, we have to do all that is expected by them and do it as best as we can. We are never going to be perfect, but we have to give it our best. We know that our parents want what is best for us and they want us to go to Heaven. We need to do more than just obey our parents and honor them. We also have to continue trying to follow God’s Commandments, read the Bible, and tell others about Jesus.
Some people’s sin struggles are evident. If they wrestle with foul language or lying, you can hear it. If they wrestle with immodesty or drunkenness, you can see it. Some spiritual weaknesses, though, are insidiously difficult to see–especially in ourselves. In Luke 9:46-56, in events that follow each other in very short order, the disciples’ struggle with pride is exposed by Jesus. We can understand why they struggled with pride. They were walking with the Messiah! He was training them for a special mission. Now, the only matter for them to settle was how they ranked among each other. Jesus exposes that very mindset in these verses.
PRIDE SEEKS PREEMINENCE (46-48). The disciples argue among themselves about who might be the greatest. Not only is this childish, but it reflects their short memory. They just displayed a deficiency of faith that prevented them from casting out the unclean spirit. Perhaps Peter, James, and John, given privy to the transfiguration, might have felt that if they had been among these other disciples they would have been able to cast it out. We don’t know. All we know is that Jesus rebukes the very idea of the arguing by placing a child in their midst. Children were barely noticed among first-century adults, but Jesus makes paying attention to and ministering to the least of people the mark of greatness. Discipleship is not about glory and visibility. It’s about having our eyes open to the humble and our hearts open to serving them.
PRIDE SHOWS PREJUDICE (49-50). While some have tried to use these verses to say that there are saved Christians in religious groups outside of the New Testament church, they totally misunderstand Jesus’ point (not to mention, miss the teaching of a great many passages). What was John’s bone of contention? There was a disciple of Jesus who was doing works in His name (acting by His authority; recognizing His identity). They tried to prevent him “because he does not follow along with us” (49). They concluded this person couldn’t be acceptable because he wasn’t accompanying them. Jesus knows this man is on His side, but the disciples’ needed to hear this: “Do not hinder him; for he who is not against you is for you” (50). This territorial mentality can creep into our thinking. We should hold hands with all those who are on the Lord’s side, doing the Lord’s work. This is true if it regards the good works of others in the local congregation or if it is area congregations.
PRIDE SEEKS PUNISHMENT (51-56). Pride shows itself in a very different way shortly after this. Jesus sends some followers on a mission, but they were rejected. James and John’s solution was to exact vengeance on them. They were anxious to call down fire from heaven and consume them. Whatever they expected as Jesus’ reaction, they had to be surprised at His rebuke. He corrects their thinking, saying that He came to this earth to save rather than destroy men’s lives. Jesus’ solution was simply to move on to more receptive hearts (56). Sometimes our impatience with others or disappointment in their displays of unbelief can make us trigger happy. Whether we are indignant on the Lord’s behalf or we feel personally slighted, we need to remember the patient, charitable response Jesus makes to those who, in the moment, refused to receive Him. That patience and kindness may or may not ultimately reach their hearts, but it is the best route to success in trying to both be a disciple and win disciples for Jesus.
Do a Bible search and see what God says about pride. It’s at the top of the list in those deadly sins of Proverbs 6:16-19, things God says He hates! Both Testaments say that it leads to our downfall (Prov. 3:34; Jas. 4:6; 1 Pet. 5:5). So often, we see it as a struggle for those who are already in the body of Christ. I must constantly watch for this self-centered behavior, keeping my focus on other disciples, the lost, the less fortunate and weak, and especially the Lord. Let me remember that it’s all about Him and them, and say with John the Baptist, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30).
Two parables and an incident in Luke 18:1-17 reveal three attributes Jesus is looking for in His disciples. As you read through these verses, ask yourself if you struggle with one or more of these. The examples Jesus holds up are all lowly characters–a defenseless widow, a sinful tax collector, and babies and little children. They were all either financially, spiritually, or physically dependent on others, yet these are the ones Jesus tells us to imitate. What are the qualities?
PERSISTENCE (1-8). The parable of the widow and the unjust judge is delivered to his listeners for a specific reason, “that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart” (1). A widow pleaded for legal protection from a judge who neither feared God or respected men (2). She wouldn’t stop coming to him and pleading her case until finally he relented and granted her request out of frustration and annoyance at her continual coming (3-5). Jesus’ point is that the perfect God will bring justice to His elect who faithfully pray to Him (7). He ties this persistence to faith (8). Jesus is giving us insight into God’s heart and desires. He wants to hear from us in prayer, and He is influenced by our prayers. Do we have faith in that?
HUMILITY (9-14). Jesus launches into a second parable about prayer, to highlight another necessity in the practice of it. He focuses on an unlikely duo, a prominent religious leader and a contemptible tax collector. Both enter the temple, both for the purpose of prayer. Both prayers are recorded. Jesus evaluates them. The first prayer, uttered by the Pharisee, is self-directed (he prayed to himself), self-righteous (God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector), and self-promoting (I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get). He shows no recognition of or need for God. He’s pretty self-satisfied. The second prayer, uttered by the tax collector, is selfless, self-indicting, and self-emptying. Jesus notes his hesitance (standing some distance away), abjection (even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven), emotion (beating his breast), and honesty (his entire prayer is, “God be merciful to me, the sinner”). Jesus’ analysis? The second man was the one who went home justified, not the first. Jesus’ point is explicit: “everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted” (14). I may know more sophisticated ways to exhibit my pride and self-righteousness, but the response and result will be the same in heaven. Faithful followers humbly recognize their need of God’s favor.
RECEPTIVITY (15-17). Parents were bringing their children to Jesus at this time so that He could touch them. We aren’t told why the disciples rebuke them for this, though it could be they were wrestled with pride of position or self-importance. Jesus corrects their course, telling them to let the children come to Him. In fact, He says, “Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all” (17). He tells them that the kingdom of God belongs to those like these little children. How so? They were dependent on others (15). They were apparently willing (16). They were open (17). Certainly, this is a great exhortation to us as parents, to bring our children to Jesus in the impressionable years of life. But beyond that, there is an admonition to each of us to keep child-like faith and recognize our need to come to Jesus in order to have a place in God’s kingdom.
Often, we think that being in the kingdom is about us daring and doing great things for God. But, doesn’t it begin with our having the lowliness of heart to come to Him, persistent, humble, and receptive? These three qualities put the focus on His attractiveness, ability, and power. If we allow ourselves to be tools in His hand and recognize that it’s about Him and because of Him, then we’ll be faithful followers.
Those who lived on earth while Christ was here in the flesh would have described Him differently, depending on their experiences with Him.
Many of the wealthy people would have called Him a “demanding person” (Matt. 19.22).
The Pharisees, Sadducees, and most Roman officials would have labeled Him a “trouble maker.”
All of the folks who were healed by Jesus would say that He was a powerful man, but I believe that a great many would say that He truly cared for children.
He calls the peacemakers “children of God” at the beginning of His first recorded sermon (Matt. 5.9). He heals a boy with a particularly vicious demon inside him (Matt. 17). But in the next two chapters He will show this love toward innocent children in a way that can touch the heart.
In chapter eighteen, the disciples of Jesus ask an ignorant question, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”
It’s after this question that Jesus places a child in front of them. This must have been a little confusing for the disciples, but a powerful point is made. Jesus says, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.”
In chapter nineteen, Jesus is teaching on the subject of divorce. It’s a lesson that didn’t sit very well with His listeners then, and it still doesn’t sit well with many people today. At some point in His lesson, women begin to bring their infants to Jesus so that He can bless them. This was a tradition done by Jewish people but the disciples started to rebuke the parents because they thought this was a job below their great leader. Again, Jesus shows us His love for children by saying, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” He then goes on to lay His hands on them and then leaves. Did He have more to say to the crowd that had gathered to listen to Him? Was He finished with His lesson? Apparently this visual illustration was a great way for our Lord to end.
The point is, Jesus loves children. Not just little children, but adult children, too. He compares the innocent nature of children to how we can be in the sight of God once we are added to the kingdom. It’s a beautiful picture and something we should all crave. Innocence. When Jesus lays “His hands on us” when we follow the plan of salvation, He has the power to change our sinful ways into something pure and holy. Jesus loves the little children, and the big children, of the world.
Quite possibly one of the most difficult passages to read is 1 Samuel 15:3. In this verse God commands the Israelites to kill the Amalekites and He specifically says, “kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.” This verse is used by many to discredit the Bible and mock those that believe in a “God that murders babies.”
At first glance, this verse appears to be morally wrong. Did God really command the Israelites to commit infanticide? If He did, why would we serve a God like that? Why take the time to pursue a relationship with God knowing that He shed innocent blood? Doesn’t Proverbs 6:17 say that God “hates hands that shed innocent blood?” Maybe God’s a hypocrite and there’s a double standard. Maybe God doesn’t really love His creation. Maybe we serve a God that isn’t as pure and holy as He claims to be. Or maybe there’s a reason why God gave this command.
1 Samuel 15:3 can be better understood if we recognize several important facts.
The Context. In order to properly handle God’s Word, we can’t just pick a verse and read it at face value. So it is important that we read the context. Verse two shows us that the Amalekites attacked Israel on their journey out of Egypt. In return God promised to one day utterly destroy the nation (Deut. 25:17-19). From the moment the Amalekites chose to fight the nation of Israel, their fate was sealed…but not immediately. Exodus 17:8-16 records the events that took place and God says, “the Lord will have war with Amalek from generation to generation.” 1 Samuel 15:3 is God keeping His word.
Biblical and secular history. The Amalekites were recorded as being ruthless and cruel. They would actively search for pregnant women and kill their babies before killing the mother. In raids they would kill women, children, and everything else. They killed for sport and they raided places for fun. They didn’t fight other nations trying to protect themselves or their land, they just enjoyed slaughtering people and taking their stuff. The Amalekites were known for their cruelty, but also their hate for the Israelites. History also reveals that the Amalekites required that any and every living offspring was to avenge any nation or people that attacked them. This is seen with the Israelites in scripture. For 300 years the people of Israel fought with them. “Generation after generation” experienced war with the Amalekites. 300 years God let the murdering of His own chosen people to happen.
Why did God let them do this for so long? Well, why did God save Rahab? Or tell Noah to warn the sinful people about the flood? Why did God promise not to destroy a city if there were just ten righteous people in it? Why did God send prophet after prophet to warn the Israelites of their sin? Why did God allow His own creation to spit on, mock and crucify His only Son? Because God is a God of mercy and second chances. The Amalekites were given 300 years to repent, but 1 Samuel 15:3 is the result of their lack of repentance. God warned them what would happen, and there had to be punishment for sin.
But what about the innocent children and babies? Do you think God knew their future and what they would eventually become? God would never destroy a person that wanted to be saved. God wants everyone to come to repentance. 300 years of children and not a single one came to God and asked for repentance. God knows a whole lot more than we do. He has a perfect knowledge of the past, present and future. Since the culture of the Amalekites demanded that their offspring continue to murder and raid, the killing of the Israelites never ceased. If only a select group were killed, the problem would persist in the future as it had in the past.
God cannot sin, and in His infinite knowledge He gave a command that was without sin. A sinful nation that refused to acknowledge God had to face the consequences. On the judgement day there will be many people who are punished because of their sin. God in His mercy has given us a way to be saved, but it is up to each individual to make the decision that will ultimately lead to either torment or salvation. God is patient and loving, but He is also holy and righteous in His judgment.