Parents

Benjie Correos, an artist and carpenter, was on an outing with his family on the Millennium Trail that runs alongside the Yukon River. He was fishing when his seven-year-old son Myles, playing nearby, slipped and fell into the river’s swollen, fast-moving water. He and his wife went in after him, and Benjie was able to grab on to Myles and hold his head up. However, the father could not get free of the undertow. Two other men jumped into the river and were able to pull Myles to safety but Mr. Correos disappeared (The Globe and Mail)

Parents live a sacrificial life for their children. The role of parents with their children is found in the powerful love that God has shown us in sending Jesus to give His life so that through faith in Christ we might live. Our children learn more from our conduct than from our words. It is not enough merely to say the right things. We must live out loud the life of a transformed heart.

“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:4, ESV)

God’s plan is for parents to help their children know Him and live according to His plan so that they experience the best in life.

1. Don’t provoke your children.

Paul called mothers and fathers in the church to protect the uniqueness of their children. He said, “Don’t provoke your children to wrath.” This wrath is the emotional and psychological disruption in their lives that can give the devil opportunity to make hay with our children. We need to understand our children and the uniqueness that God has given to them. We must avoid attitudes, words, and actions which drive our children to resentment and bitterness.

2. Direct their steps.

God has given parents the responsibility to direct their children in wisdom with warning and correction. We must lead our children along the path of Jesus Christ. We set their path by training them each day in the school of wisdom. We correct them and help them adjust their steps so that they become more like Jesus Christ. The content of this training and admonition is Jesus Christ Himself.

As parents, we want to lead our children to “fear of the Lord” (Proverbs 1:7-9). We teach them to learn and follow God’s will. If we don’t follow God’s will as parents while teaching our children to fear God, then we really are teaching them that fearing God is a good religious lesson but not important in living life. Parents, we direct the steps of our children toward fullness of life in Jesus when we show them a full life in Jesus by how we live each day, not merely by what we say.

So stop, take a breath, and pray:

“God, by Your Spirit, help me to nourish my children, showing them and teaching them the fullness of life in following Your will each day.”

 

Children

One of the greatest struggles when you move to a new city is finding your way. I’ve noticed that some cities have an “easy-read.” Take Oklahoma City. The city’s laid out on a grid with most of the main roads numbered and directional – like NW 23rd street. It doesn’t take long to figure out your direction in that city. But some cities are more difficult. For instance, if you live in a city that began as a river town, the direction of the streets is not always constant. Sometimes the road will go east, and sometimes west. It can be difficult to navigate in a city like that.

Children need clarity to experience life in all of its fullness. Parents have that role.

“And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” (Deuteronomy 6:6–9, ESV)

“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ‘Honor your father and mother,’ which is the first commandment with promise: ‘that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.’” (Ephesians 6:1-3, NKJV)

Parents pass on God’s wisdom and instruction to their children, and children obey. Paul called the children to be ready to listen and to carry out the instruction and commands of their parents.

1. Obey your parents.

When we hear someone knocking at the door of our home, we have the choice to open the door to them or to ignore it. Obedience is hearing the knock (instruction from parents) and opening the door (obeying the instruction).

“The obedience of Christian children to their parents is all of a piece with their submission to Christ: the additional motivating phrase, ‘in the Lord,’ is virtually synonymous with ‘as to the Lord’ or ‘as to Christ’ (cf. 5:22, 6:5) and indicates that their obedience is part of their Christian discipleship.” (P. T. O’Brien, The Letter to the Ephesians, p. 441)

Obedience to our parents is the right and proper thing to do. Obedience is what God commands in His word. We obey our parents because it is what God has demanded, and we live to honor Him.

2. Honor your parents.

Children are also called to honor their parents (Exodus 20:12). Now obedience is the act, but honor is the attitude that children should possess behind their act of obedience. When we enter adulthood, obedience to our parents is replaced by honor for our parents.

In Grimm’s fairy tales an elderly man was taken into his only son’s care. Living in his son’s home, however, had its challenges. The elderly man’s shaking hands and poor eyesight caused problems for the woman of the house. She and the elderly man’s son decided to put the elderly man in a corner, at his own table. Everything was fine until the elderly man broke one of the woman’s bowls. So, the elderly man’s son made a wooden bowl for him to eat out of in the corner of the small home. A few days later, the elderly man’s son and his wife entered the home to find their 4 year old trying to make something out of wooden blocks. They asked him what it was, and he said: “I’m making a wooden bowl so that when you are old, you’ll have something to eat out of too.”

God told His people then and tells us today that we must honor our parents. It is not perfection that demands honor, for we have already seen that no one is perfect. God has deemed it important to honor those whom He has placed in a specific position. For God, it is supremely important to honor those whom He has placed as our parents. They are imperfect, but they deserve our honor. How can we accomplish this command today?

To honor means to value them as preeminently important in our lives. We must show our parents that they are preeminently important to us. For those who are under the direct authority of their parents, this command means that we submit to their direction.  Sometimes I am amazed at how well parents submit to their children, but that is not the model that God established. God expects us to spend time with our parents and to take care of them, to bless them, to love them. Again this is not dependent upon their perfection or imperfection. It is dependent upon their position as parents.

The promise God gives children when they honor and obey their parents is divine blessing. As God evaluates the heart of the children for their parents, He rewards those who have honored them with a life immersed in His touch.

So stop, take a breath, and pray:

“God, by Your Spirit, help me to obey and honor my parents so that You may lead me to health in my relationships.”

 

Marriage

As the Master-Craftsman, God weaves the fabric of the life of the woman to be a masterpiece of His grace in relationship with Jesus (Ephesians 2:10). In the same way, God fashions the man in Jesus as a work of His creative and beautiful grace. Marriage is where He takes the two individual works of His artistic power and weaves them together as one. The wife doesn’t lose her uniqueness, and neither does the husband. God in His sovereignty unites them together, each with masterpiece status.

“Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” (Ephesians 5:31, ESV)

So, when we examine the roles of husband and wife in marriage, we begin with this glorious work of God’s grace in their lives through Jesus. We begin with an understanding that God has made them “one-flesh.” As “one-flesh” God divinely designs specific roles to be fulfilled.

1. Be like Jesus in submission.

The roles between husbands and wives flow from unselfish, sacrificial devotion to one another in reverence to God. Paul calls wives to model this submission to their own husband.

“Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.” (Ephesians 5:22-24, NKJV)

Paul makes this earnest appeal for wives to “to place themselves under” the husband’s leadership. This is an attitude and act among equals. It is a voluntary act of love, for husbands belong to their wives, and she submits to him. Submission means that we are focused on “giving” to others more than “getting” from others. Even Jesus submitted Himself to others (Luke 2:51). Jesus is not inferior to God, but they are one and equal in all things. Yet, Jesus submitted Himself to God as leader (1 Corinthians 11:3). In the same manner, husbands and wives have become one flesh, equal in all things. Yet, God designed marriage so that the husband takes leadership initiative.

Submission is to give myself up to someone. Love is to give my life to someone, even as Christ gave Himself for the church. Through an extravagant act of love, the wife should submit to her husband. The principle of loving submission leads to blessing from God. It leads to blessing for the wife and for the family.

2. Be like Jesus in love.

Paul describes the relationship between husband and wife in terms of their relationship with Jesus Christ. The wife is to submit based upon her relationship to Christ. The husband is to love based upon his relationship to Christ. Everything in the marriage centers on Jesus.

“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her.” (Ephesians 5:25, NKJV)

The foundation for love in the home is Christ’s love for the church. The example that we find is Christ’s love for the church. This love is unselfish and absolutely devoted to bless the one loved. Jesus loved the church so much that He gave Himself for her.

So often, husbands can get their notion of leadership in terms of their “rights.” We want to lead our family, but sometimes all we want to lead them to do is to change the channel to what we want to watch on television. Husbands surrendered to the Spirit however take the lead, not as a childish bully, demeaning and domineering over his wife. Husbands surrendered to the Spirit take the lead on his knees in prayer, at the bedside with his children opening God’s Word, in service to Christ through the church, and in quietness before God seeking His will and vision for the family.

So stop, take a breath, and pray:

“God, by Your Spirit, help me to embrace my role in marriage so that You may lead me to health in my relationships.”

 

Respect and Responsibility

Taking a journey into the backcountry with a team of people is exciting. It can also be challenging. The longer we spend time together with others, the more we have to accept responsibilities as well as deal with each other’s personalities. If the circumstances become difficult on the journey, then each team member fulfilling his or her role in responsibility and respect becomes ever more essential.

The same is true in all of our relationships. The longer we spend time together with others, the more we have to fulfill our role in respecting others and accepting our responsibilities. This is clearly taught in Paul’s letters to believers in the first century.

1. Show respect for one another.

In Harper Lee’s classic novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus Finch is a lawyer in Macon, Georgia during the 1940’s. He defends a Tom Robinson, a black man accused of abusing a young white lady. In the portrayal of the trial, it becomes apparent that Tom is innocent of the crime, but the battle within the community becomes heated as Atticus is threatened along with his family. In the end, the jury convicts Tom of the crime. Atticus, devastated by the lack of justice, quietly gathers his papers and begins to leave the courtroom. In the balcony of the room the black community stands as one person as Atticus leaves the courtroom. A black minister, who is next to Atticus’ two children, tells the lawyer’s little girl: “Miss Jean Louise. Miss Jean Louise. Stand up. Your father’s passing by.” As a sign of respect and honor, the community in the balcony stands as the embattled attorney walks dejectedly out of the room. The scene is stirring!

In relationship with others, the Spirit inspires us to our specific role of respect. In fact, as followers of Jesus, we should excel in showing honor to others.

“Outdo one another in showing honor.” (Romans 12:10, ESV)

Regardless a person’s background or belief structure, we give them the respect they are due (Romans 13:7). We show respect for others because they are made in the image of God. We show respect for others because of their position or place of honor. We show respect for others for the responsibility they have been given.

2. Embrace our responsibility.

As Paul describes relationships in the church, he talks about how each member of the church has been given gifts to fulfill specific responsibilities. We have different gifts, but the same Spirit. We have differences of responsibility, but the same Lord. We have differences of work, but the same God. Each gift, service, and work is for the good of the entire church (1 Corinthians 12:7).

In a similar way, God puts us in relationship with others, and He places us in those relationships for His purposes. He has gifted us for that relationship, and that gifting helps us fulfill our responsibility. In relationships, each person is dependent upon the other, and that makes them partners. If one stops doing his job, then the other’s job suffers. As followers of Jesus, we honor Him by how well we accept and excel in our responsibilities.

So stop, take a breath, and pray:

“God, by Your Spirit, help me show respect for others and embrace my responsibilities so that You might lead me to health in my relationships.”

The Spirit’s Role

One of the most significant ingredients before going into the backcountry with a group is to understand the place each team member has on the team. Some of the group may be more skilled in certain aspects (orienteering), while others may have a different skill set (first aid). There will be different levels of endurance and experience. Personalities also play a part in the group dynamic. In order to have the most successful, enjoyable backcountry trip, the team members need to understand their roles.

The same is true in all of our relationships. Everyone agrees that understanding roles are essential to healthy relationships. Not everyone agrees what those roles are. Establishing roles in relationships, however, is not an emotionally driven journey. It is a supernatural journey.

“Be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another in the fear of God.” (Ephesians 5:18b-21, NKJV)

Our life with Jesus influences every relationship that we have. The Holy Spirit has a specific role in our relationships. When we understand His role, we will begin to understand our role.

1. The Spirit gives wisdom for our relationships.

When we try to figure out our roles in our various relationships, we need more than a gut feeling. We need God to lead us on this journey so that we faithfully fulfill our role. At the beginning of this letter to believers in Ephesus, Paul prayed for that kind of wisdom.

“[I pray] that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him.” (Ephesians 1:17, NKJV)

Paul’s prayer was for God to give us the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him. He prayed that the Spirit would unveil the will of God and the ways of God so that we might know God more and more each day. The more the Spirit helps us to know God more fully, the more we gain wisdom in our relationships. Gaining wisdom through the Spirit’s gracious work in us, we see God’s design for us in our relationships. He helps us understand our role.

2. We need to surrender to the Spirit.

It’s not enough to know what God wants. We need to surrender to the direction the Spirit gives. That’s why Paul commands us to be filled with the Spirit. To be filled with the Spirit means that we are completely consumed and controlled by the Spirit. The Spirit illuminates the Word of God and the Way of God for our relationships. The Spirit’s role is to invade our lives with wisdom for our relationships; our role is to surrender to the Spirit’s leadership.

3. The Result.

When we yield our lives to the Spirit of God, then our relationships will be marked with joy and thanksgiving. Paul described it as singing “to one another” with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. The “one another” is significant. When we are surrendered to the Spirit, we will have hearts filled with joyful songs of praise to God in relationship with others. We will have hearts filled with gratitude for God’s glorious blessings each day. The Spirit leads us to embrace our role toward life and health in our relationships with others.

Another result of surrendering to the Spirit is submission. Submission is one of God’s foundational principles to unlock victorious relationships. Submission means that we are focused on “giving” to others more than “getting” from others. It means that we see every relationship as an opportunity to bless another. When we live our lives yielded to the Spirit, then we will submit our will to serve others.

So stop, take a breath, and pray:

“God, by Your Spirit, give me the wisdom and courage to surrender to You so that You might lead me toward health in my relationships.”

 

 

Jesus and Boundaries

Boundaries are all about relationships. Because we live in relationship with others, we need to define where we begin and end. Boundaries define who we are in connection with our other relationships.

We may feel hateful, selfish, or unloving, however, to set these limits in our relationships. Setting a boundary means that we say “yes” to some things, but it also means we say “no” to some things. We may fear that the “no” is contrary to faithfulness to God. Maybe we feel this way because we don’t appreciate the “no” that others give in relationship to us.

“We judge the boundary decisions of others, thinking that we know best how they ‘ought’ to give, and usually that means ‘they ought to give to me the way I want them to!” (Henry Cloud and John Townsend, Boundaries, p. 89)

Jesus lived perfectly in relationship with God and others. Taking time to see how He set boundaries in His relationships gives us courage to establish boundaries as well.

1. Time alone with God.

Jesus spent time alone with God, even at the expense of satisfying the desires of those around Him. He often said “no” to the crowds in order to say “yes” to His greater need of spending time with His Father.

“And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus departed and went out to a desolate place, and there He prayed. And Simon and those who were with him searched for Jesus, and they found Him and said to Him, ‘Everyone is looking for You.’” (Mark 1:35–37, ESV)

Simon and the others with him were literally hunting for Jesus. Their reason for such an intense search was that “everyone was looking for Him.” Jesus established a boundary. He was saying “yes” to His need to spend time with God, but that meant He was saying “no” to the crowds who wanted to see Him. In the same way, we need to establish boundaries to fulfill our need to be alone in rest and prayer with God, even when it means that we say “no” to the desires of others.

2. Purpose for life.

Another clear example of Jesus setting boundaries in relationship with others is when He said “no” to others in order to say “yes” to His purpose.

“From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, ‘Far be it from You, Lord! This shall never happen to You.’ But He turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind Me, Satan! You are a hindrance to Me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.’” (Matthew 16:21–23, ESV)

Even though Peter (and the rest of His friends) saw the purpose of Jesus differently than Jesus did, Jesus didn’t give in to their expectations. He said “no” to their expectations and “yes” to His purpose.

3. Demands from family.

Jesus also set boundaries with His family. The brothers of Jesus approached Him to let Him know what He needed to do. They were telling Him that if He is going to be known, then He needed to move to Judea and make Himself known to the world. Jesus could turn things around if He went to the most popular festival in the land. So His brothers urged Him to go to the festival. Jesus, however, said “no” to the motivation of His brothers and “yes” to what God wanted Him (John 7:3-8).

Just as Jesus set boundaries in His relationships, we also must do the same. As we say “yes” to who God has made us to be and who He wants us to be, we must also say “no.” Through boundaries, we define clearly who we are in relationship with others.

So stop, take a breath, and pray:

“God, by Your Spirit, give me the wisdom and courage to submit to the boundaries that You set in my life and my relationships.”