WHAT YOU CAN LEARN AT DISNEYWORLD! PART TWO

Lesson Two – We have to watch our hearts!

Disneyworld is a great place to observe people. One of the things you see are families on vacation together. As I mentioned in my first blog, it is a joy to see the smiles on children’s faces as they look around at all the attractions there. The characters walking down the street, shaking hands, and stopping to greet these children brings light to their eyes. There are a few who cry, but most do not. These families are on vacation which means they are wanting to enjoy every single moment they have. However, life is not always smooth even on vacation. Our hearts get in the way. The desire for what we want can overrule the enjoyment mode of those with us. We can decide “this is what I want” which will definitely put a damper on vacation.

If you have ever traveled with children, you know the obstacles well. They experience hunger, tiredness, and missed expectations. Each of these can affect the mood of the child, one minute smiling, the next crying, and the next screaming. Parents need to handle these obstacles in a loving way but, more often, their hearts and what they want take over. I heard parents saying the following:

“We’re here for you. Do you think I want to be here?”

“You’re being very bad. I’m just going to take you home.”

“You ruin everything we do.”

“You don’t appreciate my sacrifice to bring you here. Do you know what I had to give up?”

Parents also struggle with heart issues especially unfulfilled expectations. They expect their children are going to be so grateful and love them at a greater level because they spent so much money to take them to Disneyworld. This is unrealistic and actually, selfish. The whole vacation should be a gift freely given to their families with love. When life gets messy, however, then desires take over and the result is a loss. So those smiling families are not always as they seem.

As Followers of Christ, we are family. We have brothers and sisters within the body who we are to love well. However, we don’t always do that because we look at the outward smiles and family units thinking they have it all together. We become jealous of what it appears they have and begin to think things we shouldn’t. The problem is we think we know because of what we see but we can’t see hearts or homes. Jesus told us in John 16:33, “…In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” We all have trouble in this world. It is not right to compare our troubles or to think in terms of, “I wish I was her.” Jesus tells us he has overcome the world so we can take heart and have peace in that. He doesn’t tell us we’re unappreciative or throw his death in our faces. He loves us with a love we can’t even fathom. Things are not always as they seem. There are things hidden in the hearts of men we wouldn’t be able to handle. Remember there are things hidden in your heart and mine we can’t understand! What we can understand is that God has given us a Savior who has overcome this world and all its problems! Let’s pray for one another! We never know what’s going on in another’s life!

“Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” 1 John 4:4

WE ARE FAMILY!

Sunday marks another Mother’s Day! It’s a special day to honor mothers. Some women will not be honored on this special day. There are those who have passed away and are no longer with us. Single women will wonder where they fit. Those women who haven’t been able to have children feel a weight on this day. Other women who do have children but have no contact with them will grieve their absence. This day will remind others of the children they’ve lost by miscarriage, still birth, or death. Mother’s Day is very tricky. We want to honor mothers and yet there are so many who suffer. The answer lies in the instructions Paul gave Timothy concerning the church.

“Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, in all purity.” 1 Timothy 5:1-2

In these verses, Paul makes it clear to Timothy that the church is family. We are to relate to one another as members of the same family. It’s interesting to read his instruction concerning our conduct toward one another, it is to be pure. Let’s think about purity for a moment. This is an attitude of our heart. It doesn’t really have to do with outward appearance but with what flows out of our heart.

  • Our interactions with other member of our church family should be characterized by the fruit of the Spirit. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is not law.” Galatians 5:22-23
  • We should be free from selfish motives. Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.”       Philippians 2:3
  • Respect should be our heart’s desire for others in our church family. “Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood.” 1 Peter 2:17a
  • The older men and women are fathers and mothers. The younger men and women are brothers and sisters. “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.”           1 John 3:1a

Here’s the challenge! When was the last time you reached out to an older member of the family? Mother’s Day is a great day to adopt a mother. Just an encouraging word, a card, or a hug would mean so much. The older women in our family have poured into the younger members. We need to recognize that and celebrate them.

How about another challenge! When was the last time you reached out to a younger member of the family to encourage her or him? Mother’s Day is a great day to adopt a sister. We have many sisters who are grieving losses of children and others who are single and feel left out completely. Recognize the struggles and be the one to invite them into your day. You can pray for them and with them.

Family is support for one another. We hold one another up in the hard times. We celebrate together in the good times. Our Father is perfect. Our lives can be meshed together in service to him. We are family, but do we really believe it? Let’s do something different this year and begin to adopt mothers and sisters. Don’t forget in June you can continue something different by adopting fathers and brothers.

“Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” Romans 12:12

FAMILY…WHO KNEW?

Families can be messy!  Aunt Susie doesn’t speak to cousin Mary because, truth is, no one knows why.  Time goes by and they don’t know either.  There was a time when there was a funeral dinner in my basement and I had to make sure to put the two great aunts who were coming at different tables.  They didn’t speak to one another or associate with one another.  However, at dinner there were words exchanged of sarcasm and hostility between the two of them.  Keeping them at separate tables didn’t do anything to change their hearts.  How can we process this behavior in our families?  Where do we turn?  It’s important to understand how God has used the terminology of family to refer to his followers.  What does he mean? 

  1.  Christ died so that we could be united in him as sons.

“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.” Galatians 4:4-5

When we trust in Christ as our Lord and Savior accepting his payment for our sins, then we are adopted by God.  He becomes our Father.

2. God becomes our Father.

“And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’.  So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.” Galatians 4:6-7

If we have a father, then we are part of a family. Notice how God gives us what we need to be close to him, His Spirit.  This family we are a part of is the body of believers.  All who believe in Christ are related to us through Christ’s blood.

3. The family of God should want what is best for each other.

“Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part if working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” Ephesians 4:15-16

As part of the family of God we should strive to be a conduit to Christ to every member.  We do this by following the Word of the Lord.  If we follow it, then we put it into practice.  We are to be loving and kind to one another in order to build each other up in Christ.

God’s family can be messy!  It becomes that way when we choose to follow our own desires and not his.  There are so many verses in the Scriptures which use the words, “one another”.  These words follow an instruction to us in order that we may follow it in order to be a benefit to our brother or sister.  We are family and we need to remember that we are to grow together.  Spiritual maturity happens when we look more like Christ.  Here are a few examples of how the family of God displays unity, love, and kindness.  The results are always growth for everyone involved.

Someone is coming to church for the first time after the death of someone very close to her.  She feels alone and misses her friend.  As she is standing in the pew, she feels someone on one side of her and then there is someone on the other side of her.  She knows she is not alone as her friends are there to comfort her in her time of grief.  GROWTH!

Life is so hard in the face of on-going health issues.  The everyday things of life still need to be taken care of like meals, laundry, work, and school.  Life doesn’t pause because of the health issues.  In fact, there is so much more that is added to the plate of responsibility with doctor’s visits, pharmacy pick-ups, treatments, and rehab.  Help comes from individuals in the family of God.  There are rides, pick-ups, meals, grocery shopping, and so much more that people come along side and do.  GROWTH!

The greatest contribution we can make to our family is prayer.  There are people who say, “I guess all I can do is pray.”  That is not an accurate reflection of what prayer accomplishes.  Prayer is the best we can do because we are connecting with our Father about a member of his family.  “You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many.” 2 Corinthians 1:11 Paul is encouraging prayer for each other.  The result of these prayers is praise to God for his work in each situation.  Praying for others equals GROWTH!

Yes, families are messy but God can make every mess we face beneficial for ourselves and others.  We need to look to our own hearts and seek to grow to be more like our elder brother, Jesus.

CHRISTMAS…A DIFFERENT FEEL

This Christmas will be a first without a parent for me.  I won’t be sitting next to Dad cutting his meat, or keeping Mom from eating all the chocolates on the table.  My brother will not be offering Dad another glass of tea or giving him another sea salt caramel.  These tasks will be missed this year.  These acts, that sometimes felt like too much, is now a missing part of my heart.  I know that it’s the first Christmas without loved ones for many.  There are also those who are ill or in the hospital and will be missed at the dinner table.  Another difference may be family members, who are bitter for whatever reason, and will not be a part of family gatherings this year.  We are all facing a COVID Christmas which brings with it limitations on how many with whom we can celebrate. So how do we look at the lights, the tree, the gifts, the dinner, and the movies this year?  There are many different responses we can have to Christmas this year. We can cancel it all together, stay home and cry, or we can honor God in our celebration.

Isn’t it tempting to run away from hard situations?  It certainly seems like it would be easier to do that, but is it really?  When we run, it doesn’t change the situation.  In fact, if we run from this Christmas, there will always be next Christmas with the same situation.  It’s better to face it now and know that God will help us through it.

            “Behold, God is my helper; the Lord is the upholder of my life.” Psalm 54:4

God is our helper this Christmas, when life is different and hard.  He upholds my life.  Wow!  That’s quite a statement.  When I feel like falling, he will hold me up.  When I feel like running, he’ll gently pull me back.  God is always faithful to us and walks with us each step of the way.  How can we not honor God when he’s already sent his son for us?  How can we not honor God when he’s upholding us in our time of grief and confusion?  The way to honor him is to move through each day remembering that he is moving with us.  We are never alone.

I think one of the best quotes I’ve heard concerning Christmas, suffering, and loss is from Paul Tripp in the Surviving the Holidays video from GriefShare.

“If there weren’t pain, suffering, sin, destruction, discouragement and death, there would be no need for Christmas.  This holiday is about suffering.  This holiday is about pain.  Now what we’ve done, and it’s right do that, we’ve made this a holiday of celebrations.  Because we celebrate the coming of the Messiah.  But in so doing we forget why he came.  He came to end suffering.  He came to end death.  He came to end sin and brokenness and pain and destruction and discouragement.  And so this is the sufferers holiday.  Rather than the holiday to be evaded, I ought to run to Christmas.”

See, the focus here is not on what I feel this season, but on what God has done for us.  We don’t need to run from our feelings.  Instead we need to take them to the God who has provided open arms for sufferers.  He is waiting with open arms to embrace us with his love and understanding.  We need Christmas to remind us of how great a Messiah we have.  This year may be different, but God never changes so Christmas hasn’t really changed, only our circumstances.  The true meaning of Christmas and what was accomplished because of it never changes.

My place at the table may have changed, but God knows and I can rest in his upholding my life in his hands.  Life continues on and I know that one day someone will cut my meat, serve my tea, and keep my hands out of the candy.  For that I’m grateful because, even then, the baby born on Christmas day to be the Savior of the world will still be upholding and loving me with steadfast love.

“…Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”  Luke 2:10-11

PARENTING: THE VALUE OF FAMILY

Originally Published:  1-16-2018

Family is designed by God.  Before the world began God was a family within Himself as the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  God was the perfect family all by himself.  After man was created and sin entered the world, families came into existence among men, but they were sinful.  We are all born with our own personal sin into a sinful family.  So how do we parent in such a way that our children learn to value family in the midst of sin.

Make family about God

“Hear, O Israel:  The Lord our God, the Lord is one.  You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.  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.”  Deuteronomy 6:4-7

God needs to be made known to your family.  He is made known when we begin to love him with our whole being as we are commanded.  Children will notice if we love God and put him first in our lives.  Children will watch but they will also listen.  We need to be talking about God during our day so that it is evident he is the center of our family.  When we talk about him, we should be giving him credit for the blessings in our family or for the comfort he gives in times of need.  Are you hesitant to bring up God in a conversation?  Do you seek to give him credit for your family?  Are you aware of the blessings God is providing to you?  The warning is that sometimes we get so focused on correcting our children, we forget they belong to God.  Our family is about God.

Make family about others

“Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another,”  1 Thessalonians 4:9

God calls us to love one another.   That includes sister, brother, father, mother, grandpa, grandma, etc.  The people in our families are not the ones we always choose to love.  We take them for granted or argue over silly things.  We buy into the idea that it’s all right for children to fight in a family.  We need to take the time to teach our children to love their family well.  It’s beneficial to take the time to talk about how love shows itself in kindness. We should be training our children to be kind.  One example of how to do that is to have love surprises. Make something for someone else or let them go first in a game or watch their favorite television shows.  In other words, we teach our children to prefer another member of the family over themselves.

“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people,” 1 Timothy 2:1

God also calls us to pray for one another.  We need to teach our children about prayer but it needs to go beyond food, God bless, and please give me.  We need to teach children to pray for others especially within their family.  Children can make their prayer list which should include thanks to God, concerns for others, and then a need for themselves. When we begin to pray for others we will begin to value them more.

Make family a unit

“And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.” Luke 2:52

Jesus willingly came to earth to be born as a baby into an earthly family.  He was submissive to his parents as he grew from a baby to a man.  Jesus was part of his family as he ate, drank, and worked with them.  This was before the internet and electronics, which can bring about many distractions from a family as a unit.  Children disperse into different rooms with a different game system or computer having their meals alone.  They spend time typing texts to friends they never met when their family is in the same house with them.  We need to begin to be serious about our family unit.  If we, as parents, don’t value the family enough to be together then how do we expect our children to value family?  The family has to engage with one another in order to love one another, learn from one another, pray for one another, and speak to one another about God.  Too many families today are divided except when they pass in the hallway on the way to the bathroom or kitchen.  Are you encouraging your family to be a unit?  Do you seek to spend time with your children?

Family is God’s idea!  We’re called to cultivate our family into a unit that values God and each other.