Understanding your child

Psalm 139:15 TM

The Psalmist wrote: “You know me inside and out…you know exactly how I was made, bit by bit…Like an open book…all the stages of my life were spread out before you, the days of my life all prepared before I’d even lived one day” (vv. 14-16 TM). God has already determined your child’s potential; now it’s up to you to help him or her discover and develop it. You’ll see it in their temperament, their gifts, and their interests. Resist the temptation to treat all your children the same way; they’re different! Cain was a farmer and his brother Abel was a shepherd. Jacob and Esau were twins, yet they couldn’t have been more different. And how about the Prodigal Son who left home and became a “party animal,” while his older brother stayed home and became self-righteous and judgmental? You must love each of your children unconditionally, but develop them individually. Who are they? What do they like? What do they succeed at? How do they handle change? How do they behave when they’re alone? Start listening to what your children value, what they fear, and what they need. Make sure they’re anchored spiritually in God’s Word. Don’t force them to go the way you wish you’d gone. Help them discover their own identity, and become their biggest backer. If that means putting your own dreams on hold for a while, do it. You’ll never regret it. Your children are your future; your very essence will live on in them. And one more thing: The trees we grow today produce the fruit we eat tomorrow. So pray and ask God to help you understand your child.

Soul food: Rom 7:1-9:16; John 10:11-21; Ps 83:1-8; Prov 29:19-22

Your pattern sins (9)

1 Thessalonians 2:7 NIV

Commanders: Commanders were created to understand power and leadership, to know how it works, and feel a natural pull toward it. If this describes you, an image of strength is important to you. You have a need to lead. Opposition actually energizes you. Winston Churchill was a commander easily bored by agreement, and whose greatest moments were inspired by opposition. He had a running battle with Lady Nancy Astor, who once said to him, “Winston, if you were my husband, I’d poison your tea.” To which Churchill famously replied, “Nancy, if I were your husband, I’d drink it!” When Adolph Hitler came to power in Germany, Churchill found the formidable enemy he’d been waiting for his whole life. And he rose to the challenge. Without good leadership nothing gets accomplished. But power can become an end in itself, and you can become frustrated when you’re not getting your own way. Indeed, other people may feel intimidated about speaking up when they don’t agree with you. And when that happens you may have compliance, but you don’t have love, loyalty, or respect. God help a leader who has no leader, and those who follow him or her! Responsibility without accountability produces instability. Only when you surround yourself with people who have 20/20 vision to compensate for your blind spots, can you see your tendency to use people and employ fear and intimidation to get your own way. Paul, a great leader, wrote, “We were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her children.” When it comes to great leadership, there are two words that go hand in hand – “gentleness” and “greatness.”

Soul food: Isa 22-25; John 6:52-71; Ps 127; Prov 27:25-27

Who am I? (4)

Philippians 2:5 NIV

Achievers: Achievers love to overcome challenges and perform for others. They’re motivated to grow, stretch, and learn. Giving a talk energises them. They inspire and move people to action and enjoy being in front of crowds. They always want to reach the next level and aim high. This all sounds great. But without a chance to develop and shine they can often lose their motivation. When John the Baptist said about Jesus, ‘He must increase, but I must decrease’ (John 3:30 NKJV), he demonstrated the kind of surrender that can be difficult if we’re an achiever. We have the ability and the ambition to accomplish great things and improve other people’s lives, but we can also become preoccupied with ourselves. We think about our own image and our own success. We can become proud of our achievements and enjoy the admiration of others when we succeed. Sometimes we can turn what looks like serving God into serving ourselves. For many of us ‘the sin that so easily trips us up’ (Hebrews 12:1 NLT) is pride. And when we don’t get the human recognition that we feel we deserve, we become resentful. But Jesus says: ‘the last will be first, and the first will be last’ (Matthew 20:16 NIV). We shouldn’t be trying to achieve for recognition, or even to earn God’s approval. We already have it. God’s kingdom isn’t about who the best is, or who’s done the most – it’s about our hearts and our love for God and others. Paul says: ‘Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves…look not only to your own interests, but…the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus’ (Philippians 2:3-5 NIV).

Isa 4-7; John 5:31-47; Ps 5; Prov 27:13-16

Who am I? (2)

Ephesians 4:32 NLT

The first group of people we’re going to focus on are Reformers. Reformers are drawn to perfection. They have a high standard of excellence and their greatest fear is being flawed. Perfectionism is a pretty big problem in today’s society. We want to do everything well and not make mistakes. We want others to see us in a good light, and dislike doing anything that could ruin our reputation. We even filter all our photos and select only the best parts of our life to appear on social media. But reformers take this a step further. Their perfectionistic tendencies don’t only apply to their own lives but also to society as a whole. Reformers are great at being advocates, regulators, and prophets. They want society to match up to their standards, which is useful for campaigning for justice and change. But because they wrestle with perfectionism and self-righteousness, they tend to judge others whose standards aren’t quite so high. The prophet Amos is a good example. He writes about ‘a plumb line’ that shows how short people fall of God’s standards (have a read of Amos 7:7-8). It can be easy to judge others, and point out their flaws. But judging others isn’t what God wants us to be doing. Paul said, ‘Be kind to each other, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.’ We should be encouraging and building each other up, not criticising and trying to change things about others. There’s the right time for gentle and kind words of advice, but we need to learn to see people as God sees them – with love. If we’re a reformer our greatest challenge will be to demonstrate love, patience, and grace in our relationships. But with God’s help we can do it.

Exo 39-40; John 5:1-15; Ps 41; Prov 27:7-9

A father’s blessing (1)

Hebrews 11:20 KJV

Every child needs their father’s blessing, and every father should speak words of blessing to them. When Isaac blessed his sons he was speaking with divinely given authority, not out of sentiment or favoritism. By Hebrew custom a father’s blessing had these ingredients: (1) A meaningful touch. “Jacob went close to his father…who touched him…Then his father Isaac said to him, ‘Come here, my son, and kiss me'” (Genesis 27:22, 26 NIV). A father’s blessing included the laying on of hands, a kiss, and an embrace of love and acceptance. Jesus also knew the importance of this: “He took [the children] up in his arms, put his hands upon them, and blessed them” (Mark 10:16). And such expressions of love still bless your children’s hearts when they get them from you, Dad. (2) Words of affection. Before blessing Jacob his father Isaac said to him, “Ah, the smell of my son is like the smell of a field that the Lord has blessed” (Genesis 27:27 NIV). To a city dweller these words might bring a puzzled look, but not to Isaac’s boys. Isaac, who loved nature, was saying, “That’s my boy – a country boy, a hunter, a man’s man like his dad!” He couldn’t have spoken more affirming words to his sons. Dad, make sure your words aren’t demeaning or insensitive; speak words that say, “I love you, I believe in you, I’m proud of you, and I’ll always be here for you.”

Soul food: Exo 1-3; Luke 24:45-53; Ps 51; Prov 25:23-25