Not a Sermon only a Thought

Wounded Parents, Wounded Children

So often when we deal with difficult people, it’s easy to form judgments about them based on their behavior or attitudes. But have you ever stopped to wonder what has made that person so disagreeable or foolish? When the Bible says God “repays the iniquity of fathers into the bosom of their children” (Jer. 32:18), it is speaking about generational cycles of sin. Unless someone in the family line makes a deliberate choice to change, sinful and dysfunctional behavior can be passed from parent to child for many generations.

This is really just a confirmation of the principle of sowing and reaping. We pass down standards for conduct and character traits that we received from our parents. If we are unwilling to change our sinful habits and attitudes, they will very likely find their way into our children’s lives.

What is true for sin is also true for wounds. When a child is emotionally bruised in the home, his behavior and character may be negatively affected. With this in mind, think about a difficult person you know. What hurts do you think shaped his or her life? A heart of compassion originates from a willingness to empathize with those who have been wounded. This doesn’t excuse someone’s sin, but it does aid in opening our heart toward the individual.

What about you? Have childhood wounds contributed to who you are today? How have they affected your life? If you haven’t dealt with them, you’ll probably pass similar hurts down to your children. But with God’s help, you can break this cycle and begin one that will benefit future generations.

How can you know God?

It all starts with accepting Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. Jesus Christ provides a relationship with the Father and eternal life through His death on the cross and resurrection, see Romans. 5:10.

Romans. 10:9 promises, "If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved." If you have not yet begun your personal relationship with God, understand that the One who created you loves you no matter who you are or what you’ve done. He wants you to experience the profound depth of His care.

Therefore, tell God that you are willing to trust Him for salvation. You can tell Him in your own words or use this simple prayer:

Lord Jesus, I ask You to forgive my sins and save me from eternal separation from God. By faith, I accept Your work and death on the cross as sufficient payment for my sins. Thank You for providing the way for me to know You and to have a relationship with my heavenly Father. Through faith in You, I have eternal life. Thank You also for hearing my prayers and loving me unconditionally. Please give me the strength, wisdom, and determination to walk in the center of Your will. In Jesus’ name, amen.

If you have just prayed this prayer, congratulations!

You have received Christ as your Savior and have made the best decision you will ever make—one that will change your life forever!

A Father’s Influence

Have you ever wondered why a priority of Elijah’s ministry in the last days involves restoring the relationship between fathers and children (Mal. 4:6)? Perhaps it’s because the father has a powerful role, both in the development of emotional health in his offspring and in the shaping of their perceptions about God. By his example, a dad can either draw his children to God or push them away. Sometimes the easiest way to understand this is to look at negative paternal examples:

The angry, unpredictable father instills fear in his children and conveys to them that God is a tyrant who lashes out unexpectedly.
A critical, demanding dad makes his kids feel inadequate. They see God as a taskmaster who’s never pleased.
The uninvolved or absent father sends the message that his children are unimportant, and both he and God are too busy for them.
An arrogant dad’s tough, uncaring nature leads his children to feel unloved and conclude that the Lord doesn’t love them either.
A fault-finding or abusive father communicates that his child is worthless and God is full of condemnation.

But a man with Christlike character provides children with a healthy connection, not only to their earthly dad but also to their heavenly Father.

Think about how your earthly father helped to shape your perception of God. The Bible will reveal whether your understanding of the Lord is rooted in truth or error. If your own father distorted your view of God, know that God is the perfect Father—and ask Him to help you see that truth.

Biblical Meditation

If you’re facing a challenging situation, it may be tempting to immediately consult friends, professionals, or the latest book or article relating to the subject. Although none of these choices are bad in themselves, there is a greater source for guidance and assurance than any of these, and that’s God’s Word.

When Joshua took over the leadership of Israel after Moses’ death, he didn’t form a committee or read up on current leadership strategies. Instead, he relied on the instructions and assurances God gave him: “Be careful to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left” (Josh. 1:7).

Implicit in this command is the obvious truth that we must read the Bible if we want to know what God would have us do. Then we must be careful to obey whatever it says without trying to alter it, soften it, or make excuses for partial obedience.

The Lord also told Joshua not to let God’s Word depart from his mouth but to “meditate on it day and night” (Josh. 1:8). Since our minds are easily distracted and often forgetful, we need more than a quick and perfunctory reading of Scripture. The best approach is to ask God to help us understand what He’s saying in His Word and then take time to think about it.

Biblical meditation isn’t an emptying of our mind but rather a filling of it with God’s Word. As we reflect upon scriptural truths, we gain a greater understanding of our Father’s ways and desires so we’ll know how to proceed according to His will.

The Fruitfulness of Meditation

Do you delight in the Bible? That’s a challenging question because the answer is revealed by our actions. To delight is to take great pleasure in something or someone and to spend time in that activity or relationship. Christians want to delight in God and His Word, but our schedules often indicate a different reality.

Time spent alone with the Lord in His Word and prayer is crucial to the Christian life. If we neglect it, the delights of the world will quickly fill our mind and capture our heart, drowning out the desire for God. Then instead of time with Him being a priority, it will become an afterthought. At first this may not seem like a big deal, but eventually we’ll wither spiritually and bear no fruit.

Meditation is a means by which we make ourselves available to be instructed by the Lord through the Scriptures. It requires time, submission, and commitment, all of which are difficult for people who are busy running from one activity to the next. Yet if we want to grow in Christ, we must become like a tree firmly rooted by the river of God’s Word. That’s where we are nurtured and refreshed, and it is what’s required in order to have a spiritually fruitful life.

Over time we’ll learn to find peace in God’s presence even in stormy situations. And as we get to know the Lord, our love for Him will increase. Many people wish they loved God more, and time alone with Him in His Word is the key. Furthermore, as our love for God increases, both He and His Word will become our delight.

The Protection of Meditation

If there was a seminar on overcoming sin, many Christians would sign up, hoping to discover the secret to victory over their temptations. But the answer isn’t elusive; it’s right under our nose. All we need to do is open our Bible. Every answer the psalmist gives to his initial question of how to keep our ways pure involves Scripture.

Live according to God’s Word (Psalm 119:9-10). This means we must spend time reading and meditating on Scripture in order to know what it says and means. But that alone isn’t enough to guard us from sin; we must obey it.

Treasure God’s Word in your heart (Psalm 119:11). Since temptation usually comes unexpectedly, we must be prepared for it even when we can’t grab a Bible. That’s why having Scripture stored in our mind and heart is so important.

Rejoice in God’s Word (Psalm 119:14). There is great joy and peace that comes with knowing Scripture. In fact, it should be worth more to us than all the wealth and possessions this world offers.

Meditate on God’s Word (Psalm 119:15). We must take time to attune our heart and mind to the Lord, ponder His words, and receive the Spirit’s help translating His instructions for our particular situation. This isn’t a rushed process; it’s a slow yielding of ourselves to the truths we read as we discover how to apply them. And consistency may require a deliberate commitment.

When we faithfully practice biblical meditation, we will discover that the Holy Spirit has been busy transforming our thoughts, emotions, and actions so we’ll be more pleasing to God and less attracted to sinful pleasures. That is good news!

When God Says No

We’ve all made foolish requests of God, which we’re now glad He didn’t answer. But this is easily forgotten when He’s presently withholding something we think is good. With so many scriptural promises to answer prayer, why is God saying no? According to His Word, there are several possible reasons.

God has forbidden it. God won’t contradict His Word or will, so praying for something prohibited in Scripture is futile. Because of Moses’ disobedience, God had decreed the leader wouldn’t enter the Promised Land. Moses asked Him to reconsider but was told not to speak of it again (Deut. 1:37; Deut. 3:23-28).

It’s for our protection. Because of the divine revelations Paul received, God allowed a “thorn in the flesh” to remain in order to keep him from exalting himself. The Lord prioritizes our spiritual protection over physical comfort.

God has a higher goal for us. Christ’s power was displayed in the weakness caused by Paul’s thorn. Knowing the higher goal for his suffering allowed Paul to be content and even appreciative of his weakness for Christ’s sake.

The Lord has something better for us. Jesus didn’t immediately heal Lazarus. Mary and Martha couldn’t yet understand that He was going to do something even greater—raising Lazarus, which would glorify God (John 11:1-44).

Our motives are wrong. James says one of the reasons we don’t receive our request is because we’re asking for selfish reasons and not according to God’s will (John 4:3).

Many times we won’t understand the good that God is doing by withholding what we desire. But these examples let us know we can trust Him.

The Holy Spirit: Giver of Gifts

Do you feel ill-equipped to serve the Lord? A sense of inadequacy is one of many excuses people use to avoid ministry and service, but it’s not a valid one. Evading the Father’s call can affect His work on earth, prevent the blessings that come from obedience, and keep us from eternal rewards in heaven.

Jesus Christ knew all about the human tendency to feel inadequate. That is why He assured His followers they would receive a Helper—the Holy Spirit—who would come to abide in them forever (John 14:16). The Spirit enables, energizes, and equips believers to serve the Lord. One of the ways He aids us is by providing spiritual gifts, which are capabilities given to believers.

Our heavenly Father has a ministry in mind for each of His followers. Therefore, necessary spiritual “equipment” has been selected to help us carry out His work, and these gifts were planned by our Creator before we were born. It is His purpose that we embrace our gift and combine it with other believers’ gifts in order to serve Him wholeheartedly as the body of Christ. Even the smallest job contributes to the Great Commission and the strengthening of Jesus Christ’s body, the church.

The Lord has a plan for every believer. To ensure that we can meet His expectations, He first builds natural talents into us. At salvation, He adds a spiritual gift. Then the heavenly Father opens doors of opportunity and the Holy Spirit manifests His power so that we can carry out the work set before us.

A Gift for Every Believer

1 Peter 4:10-11

Even though the Bible clearly states that every believer receives a spiritual gift, some people nevertheless think they were overlooked. So these men and women meander through life refusing opportunities to serve. Other folks are so busy wishing they had a different ability that they do not use the one bestowed by the Holy Spirit. Both of these attitudes hinder the body of Christ.

God has a specific purpose and ministry for every Christian. Our spiritual gifts help us to fulfill His plan. We learn which one (or ones) we possess by getting involved in the life of the church. In other words, a believer will know his divinely appointed abilities when he begins to exercise them.

Moreover, the Lord has a purpose in mind when He bestows spiritual gifts on His children. Christians are to exercise their special skills for the common good (1 Corinthians 12:7), and everyone profits when believers do God’s work though the power of the Holy Spirit. These gifts are used in a variety of ways, including to equip, edify, and encourage one another (Eph. 4:11-13).

To appreciate how various gifts work to build up the body of Christ, we may have to broaden our understanding of words like evangelist, prophet, and teacher. Biblically, these terms describe co-laborers who share Christ, spiritual mentors who explain biblical truths to new believers, friends who uplift the discouraged, and others doing similar work.

Every member of the Christian fellowship is important, and each one has a task to do. Where God has gifted us and opened doors of opportunity for ministry, He also provides the strength and courage to exercise our abilities.

Created to Love God

Jealousy is an undesirable, negative emotion, which is fueled by anger or selfishness. According to James 3:16, “Where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing.” From today’s passage, however, we see that there is a different perspective on the word when it’s applied to God: “For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God” (Deut. 5:9).

This seems like a contradiction, but jealousy has a second, more positive meaning, which has almost been lost in our modern culture. It describes God’s vigilance in guarding our love for Him. Since we were created to love and worship Him, anything that competes for our devotion is a just cause for His jealousy.

The most important commandment is to love God with all our heart, soul, strength, and mind (Luke 10:27). Without this complete devotion to Him, we will pursue our own interests and neglect godly principles and goals. No idol—whether a person, dream, pursuit, or possession—is worthy of worship. But a holy and just God, whose deep love for mankind moved Him to send His Son Jesus Christ to die in our place, deserves and demands our total love and loyalty.

God hates idols of every kind because He knows anything that draws our attention away from Him is dangerous. In fact, focusing only partially on the Lord is a sure way to stumble, get wrapped up in sin, and miss His blessings. For both our protection and His glory, the heavenly Father calls us to be true to Him by living in an obedient, loving, and worshipful manner.

When Fear Comes Calling

Fear is an emotion that can be helpful or harmful. For instance, it’s helpful to have the fear—or reverence—of the Lord, which keeps us from sin. And it’s also beneficial to have a healthy fear that warns of dangers. But oftentimes we are plagued by a different kind of fear, which keeps us from obeying God; this kind is usually rooted in self-focus rather than faith. As Paul wrote to Timothy, we may have “a spirit of timidity,” which originates in faulty thinking (2 Timothy 1:7).

Adequate vs. Inadequate. When adverse circumstances arise, we may become anxious because we are convinced we’re inadequate for the situation. However, it’s not the situation but an error in our thinking that is causing the fear. Our adequacy is never in ourselves but in God, who makes us adequate for whatever He brings into our life (2 Corinthians 3:4-5).

God’s Standards vs. Our Standards. Many of us set goals for ourselves that are unrealistic. Such standards impose undue pressure and generate anxiety when we fail. Although we may believe these goals are what God expects, they could be our own expectations. We must let the Lord direct our steps so His plans are accomplished, not ours (Prov. 16:9).

Grace vs. Guilt. Some of us are afraid of making a mistake, because we live with guilt over something we’ve done in the past and assume God is still displeased about it. However, Scripture assures us that in Christ, all our sins are forgiven and our guilt has been removed (Rom. 8:1).

The next time fear comes calling, take your eyes off yourself, answer it with the truth of God’s Word, and let faith take its place.

Prayer-Based Planning

In Luke 14, Jesus’ example of building a tower shows the importance of planning and using resources wisely. Otherwise, money may run out before the work is done. As with any plans we make, those involving finances should be covered with prayer. First, ask God for the wisdom to understand His teachings about money and how they apply to your situation. Next, pray for clarity about how much is spent versus how much is earned, as well as all the other details.

One final step is to seek the Lord’s guidance in assessing whether your spending habits are in line with His priorities. In evaluating this, it is helpful to divide expenses into categories, including:

• Giving to the local church, missionaries, and other organizations.
Basic needs—food, clothing, and housing.
Insurance, retirement plan, savings.
• Debt, such as mortgages, loans, and credit cards.
Spending on extras—phones, internet, TV, eating out, vacations, etc.

Some of us will discover that our finances are not in line with scriptural principles, which may be discouraging. If this is true of you, turn to the Lord, confess what has happened, and pray for the strength to handle your God-given resources His way.

Financial discipline is a learned skill. It requires a commitment to live according to Scripture, persistent effort to change bad habits, concentration to develop new ones, and faith that we can learn to live according to God’s priorities. We’re blessed when we practice prayer-based planning.

Who Owns It All?

A serious error has made its way into the church. Some Christians think that their beliefs and their wallet belong in separate spheres. The truth is, obedience to God includes how we handle our finances. He owns everything (Hag. 2:8; Psalm 24:1). Cash, possessions, and ways to earn more are gifts from the Lord; we are simply stewards.

A steward oversees the use and care of someone else’s riches. A wise steward bases financial decisions upon the owner’s rules for using and multiplying material goods. In our case, God has woven financial principles into the fabric of Scripture. Since money touches nearly every aspect of life, it is mentioned hundreds of times in different contexts. For example, God urged the Israelites to stay faithful to His teachings and to avoid the trap of self-reliance. He reminded them that the power to make wealth resides with Him rather than in their own hands (Deut. 8:17-18).

The minute a steward presumes that he owns the money he manages, trouble is at hand. He stops consulting the Owner and spends as he sees fit. Even in trying to do good, the wayward steward is ruled by his shortsighted perspective rather than by God’s omniscient view and gentle guidance. He will suffer the consequences of choosing his own way over the Lord’s.

Faith and finances are intertwined. The bottom line is that we cannot keep our money out of God’s hand, because He holds it all—we simply manage it. And we are to do so in the way He directs us. A maturing believer trusts the Lord’s principles for using and growing wealth.

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