Archive for May, 2010

Do You Know How to Give “Good Gifts” to Your Children?

“If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?” (Luke 11:13)

          Certainly none of us ever want to give gifts to our children that are harmful. This scripture assures us that our heavenly Father only gives good gifts to us, by means of His Holy Spirit. His gifts are meant to help us as we journey through this life to live it more abundantly and to have a life that is marked by joy and peace in the midst of whatever mess we may be facing. His gifts have a purpose and direction behind them and empower us to be the person He created us to be.

          With that in mind shouldn’t we as parents think wisely about the gifts we give our children? While not excluding the material gifts I wish us to consider the more intangible things that we are likely to pass on, things that develop character. I am struck today by the enormous disregard for truth that is so prevalent in our society. The victim mentality has all but taken over many who live in and around us. The victim mentality says that the world owes me and even when I find myself in an unfortunate situation I can feel free to put a spin on it so that I am not ultimately responsible. Many of the leaders of our country as well as popular sports figures, movie stars, singers and actors fail to own their own mess. We have become a society that enables bad behavior by constantly calling it something other than what it is followed by worldly solutions such as a week in rehab or the latest pill (which by the way has more side effects than the original problem).  So one “good gift” among many that I can think of is a respect for the “truth” and the character to own your own mess.

          If you want to view a blatant example of deception in place of the truth, go to the following link for an explanation of the GM payback. (I forgot to include some of our corporate leaders in the above list.) This is “smoke and mirrors” at its zenith. There’s a popular mindset floating around our culture today that truth is whatever one perceives it to be. The corporate leaders as well as their political counterparts would like us to believe that GM paid back the multi-billion dollar bailout when in fact they received additional taxpayer dollars, TARP money, to use for the payback. Take it from one pocket and put in another. Is this really a payback? See if that will work for your mortgage or your car payment. Is this integrity and what does it say about their opinion of the American public?

          Our culture is in dire need of leadership with moral fiber. Our children are the next generation to lead and we must pass on some standard of character and honesty for them to operate by. We must guard against allowing the culture of our times to mold our thinking and our behavior.  Good gifts include a legacy of values, respect, standards and priorities. Look around and ask, are we better off with than were a decade or two ago or have these precious commodities eroded? The proof is all around of us.

A Godly Response in a Time of National Judgment?

          Perhaps the largest personal clue for discovering our spiritual temperature is evidenced by the content of our prayers. Biblically we are to search the motivations of our hearts.  “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves.” (2Cor.13:5) Often we come before the Father and ask for things. Other times we ask for Him to change our circumstances or to bestow peace upon us or happiness or kindness or self control or any number of identifiable desires we feel in need of. It seems natural to ask of Him in this way and it becomes easy to develop routines of this kind in our prayer life.  I have met people who don’t feel that they should bother God with the trivial things in life and others who revel in the fact that they do. So what should our prayers consist of? What does God desire them to be like? After all, we are told that He knows our needs before we even ask (Matt.6:8). So perhaps one question is, “should we ask” and if so, why?

          These are valid questions and we all tend to wrestle with them from time to time. Let’s begin by examining how Jesus modeled prayer for the disciples. I believe that the Lord’s prayer is a starting point for us to consider and our prayer life can grow from there. He began with worship as the focal point of the prayer as well as reverence for the person of God. His named is to be “hallowed”, that is respected. Then He called for the fulfillment of God’s covenant asking that “His kingdom come” including a request that His will be done in heaven and on earth. Notice that the focus up to now has been on God, not ourselves, but after worship, reverence and His desire, Jesus teaches us to bring our concerns. These concerns are brought forth based upon our immediate needs, “daily needs”, such as forgiveness, protection from evil and the basic essentials for life. 

          What about the request for non-essential items? How about the things we just plain want, not need? Let’s turn to Jeremiah 45:5. In this section of scripture Jeremiah is dictating prophecies to Baruch. The prophetic word comes as a judgment against God’s people because of idol worship and Baruch is greatly troubled. In verse 5 God asks Baruch. “Should you then seek great things for yourself? Seek them not. For I will bring disaster on all people, declares the Lord, but wherever you go I will let you escape with your life.” God was looking for a response of faith from Baruch. Instead of focusing on his aspirations of greatness which caused his distress Baruch should have praised the Lord for his life and offered up a faithful attitude. The question that should be considered in our prayer life is; are we seeking God for Himself? In the midst of national crisis are we more concerned about losing our lifestyle than serving God’s purpose? Whether or not we achieve anything remotely close to greatness is in His hands, not ours. It is also He that defines true greatness. Our lives were given by Him and belong to Him to direct as He pleases. The danger lies in having a pre-conceived notion of how life is going to unfold. Seldom does life follow that kind of script.

          Our relationship with God should not be based upon the things we think He can dispense to us upon request. Rather it should be based upon His person. I believe it is inappropriate to ask God for patience or self-control or kindness or any of the items individually that are listed among the fruits of the spirit. When we seek His presence and are filled with His spirit then the entire list becomes immediately available to us. It’s sort of an all or nothing deal. Walk in the spirit and have the fruit of His blessing. You cannot expect to walk in the flesh and have God dispense patience for you while you do so. Maybe we are fearful to ask for our wants because He might say no. Our faith should assure us that His “no” is the best answer for us at the time.

          These are the things I believe are elementary in having a productive prayer life. First, I was taught at any early age that prayer is a “heart to heart” talk with God. He wants to have an intimate relationship with each of us. We should always begin by honoring the person of God, praising Him for His nature and His creation. We should seek His presence and His desire for our lives. I do believe we can approach Him for little things and big things and things we just want but always having faith that He will answer and His answer should be acceptable to us. The scripture states that man makes plans but God directs steps. Submit your plans to Him with thanksgiving for your life and a faithful attitude that He will preserve it for His great purpose as long as you remain available to Him.