Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Burden of our Families

I have lately been burdened by families who are doing their best...yes, you did read that correctly.

Many families struggle and eventually throw up their hands in defeat as their preteens and teens begin pursuing attitudes and interests of this world that dishonors God.

There are many Biblical principles that deserve meditation by parents, but I would like to share simply two:

1.  Parents who "Really" love God.

By "Really", I mean "Real".  Real love for God is not only on Sundays or Wednesdays at church.  There are many well intentioned believers that have two standards for their home:  A Church standard and a Home standard.  They live in the dichotomy of conservative, holy Christianity for their church choice and attendance, but the lifestyle of pursuing a world without God's holiness and presence at their home.

Children need to see their parents loving God with their heart, soul, mind, and strength.

I was thinking this morning about the hundred's of Christian families that I have come into contact with in our years of ministry and how their children turned out.  I believe the single most important factor other than the calling Grace of God is having Parents that "really" loved God.  Their home life was like their church life.  Their children saw them seeking God in the Word and prayer.  Their media, talk, discipline, etc. was based on following the Bible, it wasn't only "church stuff".  "Real Godly parents" mostly reared "Real Godly children" in the long run.

I notice in many of these "real" families that sometimes there was a stint of rebellion where an older teen would seemingly pursue the world, but then would return to living for God later.  Of course, this isn't always true and their are many "real families" that lose one or two of their children totally to the world to return no more.  "Train up a child" is a directional promise, not an "every time" promise.

2.  Friendships that are allowed

Many of the hearts of our children are stolen by the Evil One through what seems to be a "nice friend".  I will never forget the nice church friend who showed me a condom when visiting his house one day.  His Dad was a deacon and good friends of my family, but it was clearly obvious that this son was very worldly minded.  My parents could have seen that.  I knew that.

We need to be kindly discerning and discriminatory about who we allow our children to spend their time with.  This can get embarrassing and a struggle when you have to explain this to other parents.....however, we are talking about our very precious children - we must over come fear of other parents when we say "no".  We must talk to our children about their friendships and know who children at school are.  What happened to the old time "have the friends over for supper" routine? 

I would also recommend you to be careful when allowing your children to spend the night somewhere.  We cannot keep our children in a bubble, but we must know all the possible dangers of allowing them to go somewhere.  Sometimes, just asking the questions can reveal some issue.  Scripture says: 1Co 15:33 Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners.  We must not allow evil communications in the form of friendships to corrupt the good manners we are instilling in our children.

A childhood of righteousness can be corrupted by one bad friend.  It is heart breaking when a teen will side with the counsel and direction of an evil friend and forsake the Bible counsel of their parents.  Be strong to control who your preteen or teen "hangs with".  Insist on helping them choose their friends.  If you have built a relationship with your child, after some resistance, you will greatly influence their choices.

We cannot afford simply to do our best in parenting - we need to parent God's way.


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Seasonal Discouragement

There are many Believers that struggle with seasonal discouragement or depressions.  There are many reasons why you may battle with discouragement at certain times of the year.  Your body may react to the changes of weather, you may have bad memories associated with some crisis or negative event that happens in the Winter or Spring.  Whatever the cause, there have been quite a few people especially in Fall-Winter or Winter-Spring over the years that have confided that they struggle every year near the same time. 

I do not have a "magic wand" solution for you, but you will do well to take heed to the progression of the Psalmist Asaph as he works through his own thoughts of depression to praise to the Lord in Psalm 77.  Please join me for a short little study of this:

Psa 77:1-20 To the chief Musician, to Jeduthun, A Psalm of Asaph. I cried unto God with my voice, even unto God with my voice; and he gave ear unto me. (2) In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord: my sore ran in the night, and ceased not: my soul refused to be comforted. (3) I remembered God, and was troubled: I complained, and my spirit was overwhelmed. Selah. (4) Thou holdest mine eyes waking: I am so troubled that I cannot speak.

Asaph came to a point where he was very discouraged.  "In the day of his trouble" he was praying, trying to seek the Lord, crying out to the Lord, but his heart would not be comforted.  In fact, when he remembered God, it caused him to be more troubled.  You can hear his frustration and complaint in these first four verses as he became overwhelmed within himself with trouble.  He could not sleep at night.  He became so troubled, he did not even want to speak.  His thoughts became all "inward".  He had no interest in others, in reaching out to others, in talking things through - he only thought about his own trouble.

This is tempting isn't it when we get overwhelmed inside?  We just replay our own troubled thoughts over and over and over in our mind.  We may clam up and not even want to converse with others.

(5) I have considered the days of old, the years of ancient times. (6) I call to remembrance my song in the night: I commune with mine own heart: and my spirit made diligent search. (7) Will the Lord cast off for ever? and will he be favourable no more? (8) Is his mercy clean gone for ever? doth his promise fail for evermore? (9) Hath God forgotten to be gracious? hath he in anger shut up his tender mercies? Selah.

Asaph considered the ancient times and how God had been gracious to those before him.  He remembered his own "song in the night" when he went to bed joyfully and perhaps literally sang a song of joy to the Lord on his bed before sleeping.  He begins to question himself about his depression.  He does something he should not do.  He begins to accuse the Lord in ways that disagree with the promises God had clearly made to him in the Scripture.

Here is a revelation of our own minds in depressions and discouragements.  We begin to play "negative" questions or accusations over and over.  Asaph asks "will the Lord cast off for ever? ... Is his mercy clean gone for ever? ... doth his promise fail? etc.  These are poisounous accusatory thoughts that bring the Believer very low and take the hope right out of you.  Proverbs 13:12 says -  Hope deferred maketh the heart sick: but when the desire cometh, it is a tree of life.  When we allow negative thoughts to brew and brew within us, we are taking away the "hopes" of God that He has clearly told us in the Bible.  We are allowing lies of the Evil One to poison us against God and the joy of living in Him.

(10) And I said, This is my infirmity: but I will remember the years of the right hand of the most High. (11) I will remember the works of the LORD: surely I will remember thy wonders of old. (12) I will meditate also of all thy work, and talk of thy doings.

Asaph says "This kind of bad thinking is my problem (infirmity)"  God is not the problem in my discouragement.  He has not left or forgotten to be merciful to me.  His promise has not failed me - the poison is my own thinking!

Asaph then changes his thinking.  Three times he uses the word "remember" and once the word "meditate".  The begins practicing good thinking and that leads to the victory seen in the end of the chapter.

Notice He remembers the "years" that the Lord has been faithful.  He rememebers all the LORDS works in the past chronicled for us in Scripture.  He remembers all the miracles told us in Scripture as "wonders of old".  Then, he begins to replace the poison thoughts with meditations of God's working and doings.  This is thought replacement that brings hope back again.

Notice also in v. 12b, he takes another step at replacement and begins "talking" of God's doings.  So often when we are overcome with discouragments, our trouble is all we can talk about.  Asaph controlled and changed his thoughts and then he changed his talk.  I'm sure at first it was hard for him to intentionally "talk" of the Lord's doings.  He probably had to make himself forceably - but this is the nature of taking steps out of depressions.  You must take the baby steps of changing your thoughts, then changing your talk.  You cannot allow yourself to remain in the place that you are all "inward" and "cannot speak" v. 4

For the rest of the chapter you see Asaph recovering from his discouragement and praising the Lord again.  There is a startling change in his spirit from the beginning of the chapter compared to the end.  May the Lord use the his thoughts to move you to the end of your chapter where you are saying "who is so great a God as our God?" v.13

 (13) Thy way, O God, is in the sanctuary: who is so great a God as our God? (14) Thou art the God that doest wonders: thou hast declared thy strength among the people. (15) Thou hast with thine arm redeemed thy people, the sons of Jacob and Joseph. Selah. (16) The waters saw thee, O God, the waters saw thee; they were afraid: the depths also were troubled. (17) The clouds poured out water: the skies sent out a sound: thine arrows also went abroad. (18) The voice of thy thunder was in the heaven: the lightnings lightened the world: the earth trembled and shook. (19) Thy way is in the sea, and thy path in the great waters, and thy footsteps are not known. (20) Thou leddest thy people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron.