Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Developing Spiritual Character in our Children - I

When Jesus talked with his disciples about prayer, he could not help but talk about the generosity and goodness of God: 11 What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; 12 or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him! (Luke 11.11-13) Of course God could give us anything He wants because He owns all things - He is the Creator! However, the gift of choice is the Holy Spirit. Among other things, this tells us God is intimately concerned with the development of our spiritual character. God did not promise to give us nice houses and healthy bodies - His great gift was the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit.

This past Sunday was Father's Day and a good time to reflect on whether or not we as fathers are striving to develope spiritual maturity in our children. Are we focused and intentional in the devlopment of our children's spiritual character? Often the answer is - I would like to be but how? How do I as a father spiritually lead my children?

2 Timothy 1.2 reads: To Timothy, my dear son. 2 Timothy is not only a book for young pastors; it is a book where a spiritual father passes on spiritual lessons to his spiritual son. How do I as a father spiritually lead my children? Look to 2 Timothy as a father gently instructs his son to faithfully serve the Lord. What lessons can we learn from 2 Timothy on how to nurture our children in the Lord?

1. Pray for your children 1.3 I thank God whom I serve, as did my ancestors, with a clear conscience, as I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day.

Paul begins quietly on his knees. Ephesians 5 bears witness to the fact that men can be extremely selfish. How can we argue when God says in Ephesians 5.28: In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. If we carried out this command, our wives would be the most loved women in the world! And so also our prayer lives can be so focused on our needs and our careers and our issues that we forget to pray for our children. Or, even worse, our hearts can be so filled with this world that we pray this world for our children and forget to pray for their spiritual needs.

Ask yourself how often do you pray for their salvation? When is the last time you prayed that your children would not only be saved but live lives that would be radically pleasing to God - alone. Even if your children are grown, do you pray for them as the world desires to take them into her arms?

How do I begin? Paul says - Timothy, I pray constantly for you. We begin on our knees, bowing before a gracious and sovereign God, pleading for the sake of our children.

2. Spend time with your children 1.4: As I remember your tears, I long to see you, that I may be filled with joy. It is amazing to read the relationship between Paul and Timothy and how they delighted in one another's presence. It almost appears to be the David and Jonathan of the New Testament. Paul is longing to see his son so that he might be an encouragement to him and that he might know that Timothy is doing well.

Fathers - invest time into your children. Do not leave it to someone else to make sure they know their Bible and develope Godly character. In Deut 6.4-6 we are told we are to speak to our children about the ways of God and we are also told to tie them (God's commands or ways) as symbols to your hands and bind them on your foreheads. What does that mean? I think it means that when we invest time in our children, we not only talk to them about God but we "live God" in front of them. We mentor them with our actions. So as we spend time with them they watch a Godly man living for the Lord - how he loves his wife, fixes his house and relates to his neighbours.

Spend time with your children to reflect the glory of Christ and to show them the great joy of knowing the Lord.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Counsel Aimed At the Heart

David Powlison in an article entitled Idols of the Heart and "Vanity Fair" (Journal of Biblical Counseling, Vol 13, Nu 2, Winter 1995). It is interesting to read how much of secular counseling replaces one "heart idol" with another "heart idol" - they simply switch idols on the "heart" shelf. At the heart of counseling is this question: Who will our hearts worship - idols or desires of the heart or God? Hence the importance and relevance of Powlison's words.

It is obvious that if idolatry is the problem of the “co-dependent,”then repentant faith in Christ is the solution. This stands in marked contrast to the solutions proffered in the co-dependency literature, whether secular or glossed with Christian phrases. That literature often perceptively describes the patterns of dysfunctional idols—addictions and dependencies— which curse and enslave people. The idols which enslave the rescuer or the compulsive drinker do not work very well for them.

The literature may even use “idolatry” as a metaphor, without meaning “idolatry against God, therefore repentance.” The solution, without exception, is to offer different and presumably more workable idols, rather than repentance unto the Bible’s Christ! Secularistic therapies teach people eufunctional idols, idols which do “work” for people and “bless” them with temporarily happy lives (Psalm 73).

So, for example, self-esteem is nurtured as the replacement for trying to please unpleasable others, rather than esteem for the Lamb who was slain for me, a sinner. Acceptance and love
from new significant others, starting with the therapist, create successful versions of the fear of man and trust in man rather than teaching essential trust in God. Self-trust and self-confidence
are boosted as I am taught to set expectations for myself to which I can attain. The fruit looks good but is fundamentally counterfeit. Believers in false gospels are sometimes allowed to flourish temporarily.

Therapy systems without repentance at their core leave the idol system intact. They simply rehabilitate and rebuild fundamental godlessness to function more successfully. The Bible’s idolatry motif diagnoses the ultimately selfdestructive basis on which happy, healthy, and confident people build their lives (eufunctional idols), just as perceptively as it diagnoses unhappy people, who are more obviously and immediately self-destructive (dysfunctional idols). (p. 37)

Friday, June 02, 2006

True Friendship

In 1 Samuel 23 we read while David is on the run from Saul he inquired of the Lord whether or not he should attack the Philistines at Keilah. The Lord told them to attack. Obviously David's men were not impressed because this would give away their location to Saul.

After the victory, the very people whom David delivered ratted him out and David and his men were forced to leave and live on the run once again. It is during this time we read of another incident of David and Jonathan meeting. In verse 18 we read: And Saul's son Jonathan went to David at Horeb and helped him find strength in the Lord.

Jonathan shows us how a true friend acts. David is tired, on the run, and discouraged - after all Saul wants to kill him. So what does his friend do? He helps him find strength. Where? In the Lord. Jonathan points to the Lord's faithful promises: My father Saul will not lay a hand on you. You will be king over Israel .... God made a promise and he will deliver.

We ought to thank God for friends who build us up in the Lord during difficult times. We also ought to seek to be a friend, not with vain words or false encouragements, but rather by pointing to the Lord's faithful promises, especially as found in Jesus Christ.