Friday, November 30, 2012

How to Deal with Holiday Family Tensions

We tend to idealize holidays, but human depravity doesn’t go into hibernation between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. One thing that will hit most Christians, sooner or later, are tensions within extended families at holiday time. Some of you will be visiting family members who are contemptuous of the Christian faith and downright hostile to the whole thing.
Others are empty nest couples who now have sons- or daughters-in-law to get adjusted to, maybe even grandchildren who are being reared, well, not exactly the way the grandparents would do it. Still others are young couples who are figuring out how to keep from offending family members who are watching the calendar, to see which side of the family gets more time on the ledger. And others are new parents, trying to figure out how to parent their child when it’s Mammonpalooza at Aunt Judie’s house this year.
And, of course, there’s just always the kind of thing that happens when sinful people come into contact with one another. Somebody asks “When is the baby due?” to an unpregnant woman or somebody blasts your favorite political figure or…well, you know.
Here are a few quick thoughts on what followers of Jesus ought to remember, especially if you’ve got a difficult extended family situation.
1.) Peace. Yes, Jesus tells us that his gospel brings a sword of division, and that sometimes this splits up families (Matt. 10:34-37). But there’s a difference between gospel division and carnal division (see 1 Cor. 1, e.g.). The Spirit brings peace (Gal. 5:22), and the sons of God are peacemakers (Matt. 5:9). Since that’s so, we ought to “strive for peace with everyone” (Heb. 12:14).
Often, the divisiveness that happens at extended family dinner tables is not because an unbelieving family member decides to persecute a Christian. It’s instead because a Christian decides to go ahead and sort the wheat from the weeds right now, rather than waiting for Judgment Day (Matt. 13:29-30). Yes, the gospel exposes sin, but the gospel does so strategically, in order to point to Christ. Antagonizing unbelievers at a family dinner table because they think or feel like unbelievers isn’t the way of Christ.
Some Christians think their belligerence is actually a sign of holiness. They leave the Christmas table saying, “See, if you’re not being opposed, then you’re not with Christ!” Sometimes, of course, divisions must come. But think of the qualifications Jesus gives for his church’s pastors. They must not be “quarrelsome” and they must be “well thought of by outsiders” (1 Tim. 3:3,7). That’s in the same list as not being a heretic or a drunk.
Your presence should be one of peace and tranquility. The gospel you believe ought to be what disrupts. There’s a big difference.
2.) Honor. The Scripture tells us to fear God, to obey the king, and to honor (notice this) everyone (1 Pet. 2:17)If your parents are high-priests in the Church of Satan, they are still your parents. If cousin Betty V. does Jello shots in her car, just to take the edge off the cocaine, well, she still bears the imprint of the God you adore.
You cannot do the will of God by opposing the will of God. That is, you can’t evangelize by dishonoring father and mother, or by disrespecting the image-bearers of God. Pray for God to show you the ways those in your life are worthy of honor, and teach your children to follow you in showing respect and gratitude.
3.) Humility. Part of the reason some Christians have such difficulty with unbelieving or nominally believing extended family members is right at this point. They see differences over Jesus as being of the same kind (just of a different degree) as our differences over, say, the war in Afghanistan or the future of Sarah Palin or the Saints’ winning streak this year.
Often the frustration comes not because of how much Christians love their family members as much as how much these Christians want to be right. The professional Left and Right cable-TV and talk-radio pontificators may value the last word, but we can’t.
Jesus never, not once, seeks to prove he is right, and he was accused of being everything from a wino to a demoniac. He rejects Satan’s temptation to force a visible vindication, waiting instead for God to vindicate him at the empty tomb.
Often Christians veer toward Satanism at holiday time because we, deep down, pride ourselves on knowing the truth of the gospel. The rage you feel when Uncle Happy says why “many roads lead to God” might be more about the fact that you want to be right than that you want him to be resurrected.
Plus, we often forget just how it is that we came to be in Christ in the first place. This wasn’t some act of brilliance, like being accepted into Harvard or some exertion of the will, like learning to put a Rubik’s cube together in 20 seconds. “What do you have that you did not receive,” the Apostle Paul asks us, “And if you received it, then why do you boast as though you didn’t receive it?” (1 Cor. 4:6-7)
Satan wants to destroy you through his primal flaw, pride (1 Pet. 5:7-9; 1 Tim. 3:6). He doesn’t care if that pride comes through looking around the family table and figuring out how much more money you make than your second cousin-in-law or whether it comes by your looking around the table and saying, “Thank you Lord that I am not like these publicans.” The end result is the same (Prov. 29:23).
Unless you’re in an exceptionally sanctified family, you’re going to see failing marriages, parenting crises, and a thousand other shards of the curse. If your response is to puff up as you look at your own situation, there’s a Satanist at your family gathering, and you’re it.
4.) Maturity. The Scripture tells us that if we follow Jesus we’ll follow the path he took: that’s through temptation, to suffering, and ultimately to glory. Often we think these testings are big, monumental things, but they rarely are.
God will allow you to be tested. He’ll refine you, bring you to the fullness of maturity in Christ. He probably won’t do it by your fighting lions before the emperor or standing with a John 3:16 sign before a tank in the streets of Beijing. More likely, it will be through those seemingly little places of temptation—like whether you’ll love the belching brother-in-law at the other end of the table who wants to talk about how the Cubans killed JFK and how to make $100,000 a year selling herbal laxatives on the Internet.
Some of the tensions Christians face at holiday time have nothing to do with outside oppression as much as internal immaturity on the part of the Christians themselves.
I’ve had young men who tell me they feel treated like children when they go home to see their extended families. Their parents or parents-in-law are dictating to them where to go, when, and for how much time. Their parents or parent-in-law are hijacking the rearing of their children (”Oh, come on! He can watch Die Harder! Don’t be so strict!”). Some of these men just give in, and then seethe in frustration.
Sometimes that’s because the extended family is particularly obstinate. But sometimes the extended family treats the young man like a child because that’s how he acts the rest of the year. Don’t live financially and emotionally dependent on your parents or in-laws, passively dithering in your decisions about your family’s future, and then expect them to see you as the head of your house.
Be a man (if you are one). Make decisions (including decisions about where, and for how long, you’ll spend the holidays). Teach and discipline your children.Your extended family might not like it at first, but they’ll come to respect the fact that you’re leaving and cleaving, taking responsibility for that which has been entrusted to you.
5.) Perspective. Remember that you’ll give an account at the resurrection for every idle (that means seemingly tiny, insignificant, unmemorable) thought, word, and deed. At the Judgment Seat of the Lord Christ, you’ll be responsible for living out the gospel in every arena to which the Spirit has led you… including Aunt Flossie’s dining room table.

from Moore to the Point, by Russel D. Moore

Monday, November 26, 2012

Living in His Joy

There is no doubt that running away on a fresh blue morning can be exhilarating.
Jean Rhys

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Triumphant Living

Life is tough, really tough.  We sometimes do things just to fit in with others.  We desire something and so we compromise our friends, our family, our belief, our faith, our trust in the LORD God Almighty - just to be accepted by certain people.

At the time our choices may seem "okay," and we can surely justify much of what we do even though it is absolutely wrong.  Sometimes our wrong choices may seem justified because they are to keep our employment, our friends, our family, our children --- much less anything to do with money and prestige.

I love how the book of Psalms begins. It is a true testimony of who we are suppose to be in the LORD. When you read Psalm 1:1-3, if it does not sound like your very own testimony, you will need to run to God and even seek godly counsel from a person who can point you in the right direction of changing and coming closer to God in His truth. 

Psalm 1:1 begins with the example of not even listening to, or walking with bad, wicked people.  You are not to heed their counsel.  When they speak, they are not gauging their words to help you or anyone else draw closer to God.  The wicked are arrogant, prideful, and all about themselves.  You definitely do not want to be like them! 

Even to stand and hang around sinners may lead you to try to fit in with them, and soon enough you will begin to act like them.  On the other hand, if you are befriending them as a witness for the LORD, then you must continually evaluate your own desires and motives, as unto the LORD, so that you do not fall into the trap of fitting in and becoming like them.

Verse one ends with not sitting and spending time with people who mock, scoff, laugh, or ridicule others - especially God.   Even gossiping can lead you to slowly changing your heart values so as to become more like them, and all of this would be you trying to fit in with them. 

The progression of walking, standing, and sitting shows how we begin forming friendships and alliances with people.  We must be so very careful at the very beginning of all relationships so we do not eventually find ourselves standing with, sitting with
those who drag us away, willingly, from our first love - the gospel, and Jesus Christ. 

Our delight, our joy, should always be in the LORD: what He says, and what His truth is.  We can enjoy our lives in Him by remembering who He is, what He has done for us - everything, including all the way to giving us our blessed Savior!

When we live for Him, we will be like a tree that never lacks nutrients because it is by its source.  When we are by our source, the LORD God, we will be able to produce fruit no matter what is happening in our lives at any given time.  If we are connected to our Source, we will not wither even if we live in chaos.

Finally, verse 3 ends with prospering.  When we are connected to our wonderful Source, we will prosper.  Prosper may make many think of finances, but prospering is so much more than any funds could purchase.  When we rely on our Lord Jesus, we will be successful in Him.  The world may look at us not thinking we are prosperous, but our riches are in Heaven.  We will thrive and be triumphant in our lives for Him.  Our prosperity in HIm is more valuable to us than any earthly riches, and our lives in Him will shine brightly in this world which is not our home.

Our Delight

Blessed is the man
who does not walk
in the counsel of the wicked
or stand in the way of sinners
or sit in the seat of mockers.

                              But his delight is
in the law of the Lord,
and on His law
he meditates day and night.

He is like a tree
planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither.
Whatever he does prospers.
Psalm 1:1-3

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Behold, What Manner of Love

Behold, what manner of love the Father has given unto us,

Behold, what manner of love the Father has given unto us.

That we should be called the sons of God,

That we should be called the sons of God.

Patricia Van Tine


1 John 3:1-3

See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, 
that we would be called children of God; 
and such we are. 

For this reason the world does not know us, 
because it did not know Him. 

Beloved, now we are children of God, 
and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. 

We know that when He appears, 
we will be like Him, 
because we will see Him just as He is. 

And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him 
purifies himself, just as He is pure.


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

He Giveth More Grace

He giveth more grace when the burdens grow greater;

He sendeth more strength when the labors increase.

To added affliction He addeth His mercy;

To multiplied trials,

 His multiplied peace.

His love has no limit;

His grace has no measure.

His power has no boundary known unto men.

For out of His infinite riches in Jesus,

He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again!

When we have exhausted our store of endurance,

When our strength has failed ere the day is half done,

When we reach the end of our hoarded resources,

Our Father's full giving is only begun.

His love has no limit;

His grace has no measure.

His power has no boundary known unto men.

For out of His infinite riches in Jesus,

He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again!

Annie Johnson Flint

Who can we trust?

The LORD searches all hearts and understands all the intent of the thoughts.
1 Chronicles 28:9

Can I Trust You?

According to lie-detection experts, “Our natural tendency is to trust people.” 

However, not everyone is trustworthy all the time. Signs that someone may be lying include fidgeting, lack of eye contact, and noticeable pauses in speaking. Even with these clues, experts warn that it is still quite tough to tell deceivers from honest people.

Joshua needed to know if he could trust the Gibeonites. When they discovered that God wanted him to get rid of some neighboring nations (Joshua 9:24), they pretended to be from a faraway land. They arrived in worn out tunics and patched sandals, claiming, “Our garments and our sandals have become old because of the very long journey” (v.13). The Israelites were suspicious (v.7), but they “did not ask counsel of the LORD” (v.14); and Joshua unwisely made a peace treaty with the deceivers.

Many want to gain our trust: salespeople, financial advisors, or estranged family members. If we wonder: “Can I trust you?” we shouldn’t decide quickly, based only on what seems right to us. It’s better to seek counsel from God’s Word (Psalm 119:105), godly people (Proverbs 11:14), and God Himself (James 1:5). Wisdom from above will help us decide who to trust.

Jennifer Benson Schuldt, Our Daily Bread, March 1, 2012, Joshua 9:1-16

Protect us from deceivers, LORD,
Who lie and plot to take
Advantage of us and confuse
Decisions we must make. 

A desire for discernment is God’s call to prayer.


Monday, November 12, 2012

He gives me a song!

I just keep trusting my Lord as I walk along.

I just keep trusting my Lord, and He gives me a song.

Though the storm clouds darken the sky

O'er the heavenly trail,

I just keep trusting my Lord.

He will never fail.

He's a faithful friend, such a faithful friend.

I can count on Him to the very end.

Though the storm clouds darken the sky

O'er the heavenly trail,

I just keep trusting my Lord,

He will never fail.

another from a sweet friend

All I Have To Do Is Follow

My Lord knows the way through the wilderness.

All I have to do is follow.

My Lord knows the way through the wilderness.

All I have to do is follow.

Strength for today is mine all the way

And all I need for tomorrow.

My Lord knows the way through the wilderness.

All I have to do is follow.


Thank you, sweet friend.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The LORD is our help and our shield

Psalm 115

Not to us, O Lord, not to us,
But to Your name give glory
Because of Your lovingkindness, because of Your truth.

Why should the nations say,
Where, now, is their God?”

But our God is in the heavens;

He does whatever He pleases.

Their idols are silver and gold,

The work of man’s hands.
 They have mouths, but they cannot speak;
They have eyes, but they cannot see;
 They have ears, but they cannot hear;
They have noses, but they cannot smell;
They have hands, but they cannot feel;
They have feet, but they cannot walk;
They cannot make a sound with their throat.
 Those who make them will become like them,
Everyone who trusts in them.
 Israel, trust in the Lord;
He is their help and their shield.

O house of Aaron, trust in the Lord;
He is their help and their shield.

You who fear the Lord, trust in the Lord;

He is their help and their shield.

The Lord has been mindful of us; He will bless us;

He will bless the house of Israel;
He will bless the house of Aaron.
 He will bless those who fear the Lord,
The small together with the great.

May the Lord give you increase,

You and your children.
 May you be blessed of the Lord,
Maker of heaven and earth.
 The heavens are the heavens of the Lord,
But the earth He has given to the sons of men.
 The dead do not praise the Lord,
Nor do any who go down into silence;

But as for us, we will bless the Lord
From this time forth and forever.
Praise the Lord!

Rise up and Stand Firm in Him

My sisters in Christ…
After four years of this presidency,  here we are again in what we feared  -- only now we understand a bit more of what we actually do fear.
First and foremost, I want you all to remember that our God, the God of the Bible, the God of the universe, is still on the throne.  He is not surprised, He is not upset, He is not wringing His hands in panic.  Our God is working out His plans.  Because of the Bible we already know He wins in the end and so we can find great comfort in knowing that, ultimately, Jesus will return and victory will be His cry.
Rest assured that God’s victory is at hand!
Today may be a difficult day for you in sadness or fear of what has happened or what will come.  I completely understand and so I want to encourage you as this day, this week, this life continues.
First of all, we cannot trust Man.  Even though the worst case for president was voted in (and many other worst cases also), we must remember that Men cannot save us, and neither are they really in control. 
God is in control, and He sovereignly allows things to happen for His plans.  His plans are what we truly desire.   We can live for Him by continuing to do “next things” to glorify Him no matter what is happening in our country or the world.
Secondly, I want to share how God has met me right where I am in my agony.  He will do this for you also.
As I have contemplated the election and prayed, full of fear, I realized that we personally have already been through great, fearful traumas and God has been our strength at every moment. 
As I evaluated our country’s situation, I realized that for me, losing one’s children to deception and sin is far greater  than this sinful country and its leaders, or even what may come.  As for me,  I would rather know my children walk in God’s truth and that they truly love me.
We have dealt with this great trauma and enormous pain, which continues throughout each day, with God as our comfort and strength.  Although our personal situation has brought great fear and sadness into our lives,  God, full of His grace and mercy, has met us every single day for more than eleven years.  He has provided for us in so many ways, and  lifted our heads in our great sorrow so we can rise above this terrible storm and do “next things” for Him, which would be impossible without Him.
As our country and our people slip farther into hopelessness, we can be His light for a lost and discouraged world.  As you run to Him throughout your days, you will draw closer to Him and He will draw closer to you.  You will find your strength comes from Him no matter what is happening around you.  You will run to Him more naturally as time goes by  – and to be closer to Him is just what we truly desire.
May you be blessed today knowing God hears your cries and will comfort you where you are so that you will be able to rise up and stand firm in Him.  He hears you, He sees you.
Psalm 20:7-9