As I look forward to the children of our school, TriCity Junior Academy (TCJA) presenting our worship service this week, I think of the role we play in the lives of our children. One text comes to mind more than any other… “Train up a child in the way he (or she) should go; even when he (or she) is old he (or she) will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6)
This is a Scripture I have heard quoted by parents as assurance their children have their names written in the Book of Life and have received salvation. And yet we know salvation is a personal choice. Such a choice cannot be predetermined. I can’t give my children knowledge of God and be assured of their salvation. So what is the meaning of Proverbs 22:6? I would suggest that this Sabbath we will witness the proper understanding of this passage. That is because we will see children putting their spiritual gifts into action.
Consider the word “train.” For training to be successful, the person being trained needs to have an aptitude for it. I could enroll in a training course on plumbing. And I have no doubt that I could learn how to be a plumber. But I have no interest in doing such a job. Such training would be laborious to me and if forced to be a plumber I imagine a life of drudgery. Could it be that the role of a parent, a school, a church, & even society in general is to help our children find their strengths? Training children in this way is a life-changing experience. Imagine if we focused our energy as adults in “training” our children to know and use their special God-given gifts and talents! I imagine if we trained our children in this way, they would never depart from it!
As we worship this Sabbath with our TCJA students, how can we be a part of their training? Are their any children in your life today God is calling you to train?
When Pam & I began dating in college, we would spend at least 30 minutes together in the Student Center reading the Bible or a spiritually centered book. We prayed together, planned together, & ultimately grew together. We loved to go to worships on campus together, the weekly church service, & a variety of other spiritual events & programs on campus. Of course, we had other activities we enjoyed such as intramural sports, concerts off campus, camping trips, hiking, and canoeing. By the time we got married on September 14, 1975, we were true soul mates.
Through the years, we have continued to connect spiritually through service activities for others, church worship services, and occasional mission trips. We have our private devotions with God, but we have not had a consistent devotional time together as we did in college before we were married. I’m not sure why that has been the case other than “life just happens!” You know how it is… We get busy and have so many other things to discuss when we are together. Things like finances, that next trip, the kids, our parents, our jobs, and our weekend plans are pressing issues that consume our time together. And when we do discuss “spiritual” things, we find ourselves talking about church events, church board meetings, and church plans. In other words, we talk about church!
And so we have realized that to connect our souls, we need to connect to God… together! There’s nothing wrong with talking about church, but we first need to connect with one another as we pray together and attend to the spiritual needs that we have as a couple. This is so vital because there is nothing in the world that compares to a soul connected to God connected to a soul connected to God. It is the second “connected” that we too often overlook! What are ways that you connect with your spouse spiritually?
Communication is vital to human development & growth. Even before birth, we try to communicate! While the baby is still in the womb, consider the return kick to a tummy rub, or a punch to a loud sound. The unborn baby knows the voice of his/her mother or father. By reading, singing, or just talking to the unborn baby, language skills are enhanced.
After birth, a baby immediately begins to communicate. He cries when he’s hungry. She is fussy when her diaper needs changed. And who knows what else a baby is communicating to us! By the time babies reach 4-6 months of age, they begin cooing & babbling. They make rythmic intonations that mimic our language. Then comes their first words sometime around 14-20 months. And finally two-word phrases come sometime around the age of 2 years. Through such observations, it seems clear that we are born with the desire to be heard & to be understood. But what about the need to hear? Can we truly communicate with others without listening first?
How we answer this question quite possibly has more to do with how our success or failure in relationships with others than any other single factor. Maybe this is what Jesus was talking about in Matthew 13:13 when He said:
This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.
I wonder how many relationships are fractured because the involved parties did not see or hear their partner? We are born with the need to communicate! May we begin by listening!
Some of us like to be alone more often than others. But does anyone who is healthy like to be in permanent isolation from the world around them and from people? This is called “solitary confinement” in prison. It’s actually a punishment that some people argue is “cruel & unusual” and should therefore be banned from use in US prisons. Why is it so cruel? And what does this topic have to do with marriage?
Social isolation is so cruel because there is no one to affirm or deny the validity of our thoughts. We only have our own thoughts, and it can be very difficult to sort them out. Interaction with other people give us fresh perspectives, new insights, and a broader vision of life. This is true to the point that science has confirmed that social isolation is emotionally, mentally, and physically destructive to the person. So we need people in our lives – we need their touch, their perspectives, and their love. We were created to be loved!
In light of this fact, the Genesis 2 account of the creation of man makes a lot of sense. We find that God created Eve to be a “companion” for Adam. In fact, God had declared that it was not good for Adam to be alone – he needed a companion, a helper. This is simply stating what science has confirmed today: We need social interaction and love. So God gave marriage to His us so that we would have an ongoing living example of the love that can be shared between two people. But as is often true with things of great beauty, they are also fragile. There are myths of marriage that can destroy the love – but only if we allow it. I will talk about some myths of marriage in the sermon June 5, 2010 as we study God’s ideal for marriage in Genesis 2 and how the problems in marriage began as outlined in Genesis 3.
What myths of marriage have you discovered? What myths of marriage do you feel are most harmful?
Pam & I had been married for 25 years. We had made it through college together, medical & nursing schools together, an OBGYN residency together, the birth of 3 children together, and a US Navy assignment to the Philippines together. We found ourselves living “back home” in the midwest after resigning my commission in the Navy. I loved being in private practice & Pam loved being a stay-at-home mother. We had moved to a home that we believed would be our last home on earth. This home, which had been built in 1923, had plenty of charm. And with the remodel completed, it had all of the amenities of a modern home.
But for some reason, I began developing resentment at a time when it would appear I had everything a person could want. I looked at the house & saw all the things that needed to be done to make the house more appealing rather than be thankful for the beautiful home it was. I looked at my cars & saw the need for German ingenuity. And I looked at my wife & felt like she could be doing more around the house that could save us money so I could afford these other “necessities” of life! I found myself becoming more & more discontent. Until one day, the Spirit spoke to me about MY attitude. I had previously not considered my attitude to be inappropriate. But I realized that I was unhappy because I had CHOSEN to by unhappy by my focus on the wrong things. I had not attended any marriage encounter seminars or read any books on the subject. I just knew that I was unhappy & the Spirit revealed to me that it was MY attitude that was causing the problem.
As always, God’s Spirit was right! I began asking myself this question every day, “What can I do today to make my wife happy?” Sometimes the answer to that question was to dust the furniture. Other days it was to take her out for lunch. And still other days is was helping her prepare a meal or clean-up the kitchen after dinner while I insisted she rest in on the couch. That simple question changed my focus. That question brought happiness back into my life as I experienced a richer & more fulfilling relationship with Pam.
I have discovered that attitude is everything in life. And I have discovered that I have the power to choose my attitude, no matter what is happening around me. What lessons have you learned in life that has enhanced your relationships with others? I would love to read your story as I prepare for our next sermon series on marriage & relationships that begins May 29… “Investing in Families.”
One of the most challenging aspects of being a Christian in the 21st century is balancing family obligations with church life. What role does the church have in your family? What role should it have? At what point are you spending too much time at church and with church activities?
Luke writes this about the 1st century church: And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. (Acts 2:46-47) They spent a lot of time together! It does not appear that church was just an event they went to once a week, but a lifestyle that involved their entire family. They invested in their family by investing their time together in the church. Is this even feasible in the 21st century? Is it possible to invest in your family by investing in the church in the way described in Acts? Can we put 1st century church and family life into the 21st century church?