Nurture your children

Ephesians 6:4 KJV

We keep being shocked by stories of children killing teachers and other children in school, and then turning the gun on themselves. Two boys, aged twelve and thirteen, beat a man to death outside a convenience store just for the pleasure of watching him die. Another boy shot a man sitting in a car at a stop sign. When asked why, he replied, “Because he looked at me.” What is causing this? Easy access to guns? Hours spent watching violent videos? Those may be factors. But after extensive research, scientists are concluding that violent behaviour is often related to early childhood abuse and neglect. When a baby spends three days or more in dirty diapers, or when children are burned, beaten, or ignored, their blood is filled with stress hormones – cortisol and adrenaline among others. These hormones bombard and damage the brains of those children. So for the rest of their lives they will not think and feel what others do. They actually lose the capacity to empathize with those who suffer. The same research has concluded that babies and young children are incredibly vulnerable between birth and three years of age. If their families don’t protect them, love and care for them, society will pay a terrible price for it in years to come. The Bible uses the word “nurture.” It means to love, protect, encourage, compliment, and try to bring out the best in your child.

Soul food: Rom 15-16; John 9:24-41; Ps 50; Prov 30:7-10

At home in God’s love

John 15:9 MSG

When someone says, ‘Make yourself at home,’ it means you’re welcome and accepted. And that’s what the Message version of the Bible is getting at when Jesus says, ‘Make yourselves at home in my love.’ You never have been and never will be loved by anyone as much as God loves you. The reason you have such a hard time grasping that concept is that you have nothing to compare His love to. Nothing could make God love you more than He does right now, and nothing could make Him love you less. The great irony is that we spend our lives trying to earn His love, when it can only be received by faith. John says: ‘What marvellous love the Father has extended to us! Just look at it – we’re called children of God! That’s who we really are. But that’s also why the world doesn’t recognize us or take us seriously, because it has no idea who he is or what he’s up to’ (1 John 3:1-2 MSG). You may have grown up with parents who withheld their love, or weren’t capable of expressing it. God doesn’t do that. Throughout Scripture He keeps saying, ‘I love you. I love you. I love you!’ In Jeremiah 3:13, God says to His people, ‘I have loved you, my people, with an everlasting love. With unfailing love I have drawn you to myself’ (NLT). And Jesus said to His disciples, ‘My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you’ (John 15:12 NIV). These are just a couple of examples, but the message of God’s love for us is living and breathing all through the Bible. And His love is available to all of us, all the time.

Josh 1-4; Mark 9:1-13; Ps 103:1-12; Prov 22:27-29

Patience, love, and encouragement

Psalm 73:2 TLB

If you’d met Asaph, who wrote some of the psalms, you’d probably have thought he hadn’t a care in the world. But you’d have been wrong: “I came so close to the edge of the cliff! My feet were slipping and I was almost gone.” Then at the end of the psalm he does a one-eighty, and writes, “My health may fail, and my spirit grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; he is mine forever” (v. 26 NLT). Despite his problems, he chose to speak words of courage. When you have an opportunity to encourage someone, do it. You never know what a person is going through – that’s true whether they live in a mansion or a mud hut. Here’s an important principle to keep in mind: People tend to become what the most important people in their lives think of them! So think the best, believe the best, and express the best toward them. You say, “But they need to stop making the same stupid mistakes!” Change happens by inches, not miles. Even when it seems simple, it’s rarely easy. The only way we can break old habits is to form new ones, and that takes time and practice – lots of it. You can’t tell people something once and expect them to get it; they need to hear it over and over before they can make the adjustment. And how you tell them can determine whether they freeze in fear or soar above the obstacles. Be persistent. Never give up trying to help them improve. Acknowledge every step of progress they make. The way to get lasting results is through patience, love, and encouragement.

Soul food: 2 Chr 22-24; Mark 7:1-13; Ps 119:129-136; Prov 22:8-10

Responding to shame (1)

Jeremiah 31:4 NIV

When we have been hurt, abused or lied to, we can find our self-worth becomes undermined. We begin to think: ‘If someone did that to me, there must be something wrong with me.’ We can feel like we’re damaged goods, like we’re not good enough and that we’re the sort of person who just gets used by others. But this is not the truth. What happens to us doesn’t determine our identity. Our identity determines how we respond to what happens to us. When we are secure in who God says we are, we will refuse to let negative things like shame and guilt become our go-to responses. Bad experiences don’t have to change the way we think about ourselves or change the way we live. The Bible says: ‘Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the LORD your God’ (Isaiah 43:1-3 NIV). God promises to be with us, whatever we go through. And He promises that the things we go through will not defeat us. When we feel knocked down, God says: ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness. I will build you up again and you… will be rebuilt’ (Jeremiah 31:3-4 NIV). So, whatever we have experienced, let’s rise up, let go of shame and live knowing our true identity as loved, accepted children of God.

1 John 3:11-5:21; Mark 1:21-34; Ps 78:56-64; Prov 20:7-10

Choose gratitude

Psalm 103:2 NLT

He sat on the park bench so depressed-looking that a policeman tried to console him. “Something the matter?” “Yeah,” he replied. “A few months ago my grandfather left me $500,000 and some oil wells.” The policeman responded, “That doesn’t sound like something to be upset over.” “Yeah, but you haven’t heard the whole story. Last month my uncle left me $1,000,000.” The policeman shook his head. “I don’t get it. Why are you so unhappy?” He replied, “So far this month, nobody’s left me anything.” Seriously, he’s part of a group of people who are unhappy no matter what they have. The Psalmist shows us how to overcome an ungrateful attitude by cultivating a spirit of thanksgiving. “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits.” Thinking and thanking go hand-in-hand. Memory is a catalyst for worship. An old hymn declares, “Count your blessings, name them one by one…see what God has done.” The Psalmist encourages us to do three things: First, think about what God has given us – His forgiveness, healing, protection, redemption, love, and compassion (See vv. 1-5). Second, think about what God has not given us – the punishment our sins deserve (See vv. 8-12). Third, think about what God is yet going to give us. “From everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear him” (v. 17 NIV). God accepts you when you trust in Christ’s performance, not your own. So each morning look in the mirror and say, “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits.”

Soul food: 2 Sam 22:31-24:25; Mat 26:47-56; Ps 146 Prov 18:23-24