“You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good.” – Genesis 50:20
I prefer to avoid affliction and pain of every kind. Yet, I type this with one hand due to a physical affliction I’m enduring as a result of a recent bicycle mishap. Pain and suffering are part of this fallen world.
Jesus said there is an enemy, a thief, who “comes only to steal and kill and destroy.” (John 10:10) Therefore, we know there will always be affliction meant to harm us. But children of God must always look expectantly for our good and sovereign Father to reveal his good in trouble. In my current distress, the Psalmist has reminded me how affliction draws me closer to God’s word:
“Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey your word.” – Psalm 119:67
“It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees.” – Psalm 119:71
“I know, Lord, that your laws are righteous, and that in faithfulness you have afflicted me.” – Psalm 119:75
“Trouble and distress have come upon me, but your commands give me delight.” – Psalm 119:143
Anything that causes me to obey, learn, know and delight more in God’s word, no matter my foe’s harmful intent, God has certainly “meant it for good.”
Children are generally pretty bold when it comes to asking their parents for things they want or need. We should teach them to have that same boldness in bringing their requests to God. Jesus taught us that we should not only ask but ask persistently–never giving up. (Luke 18:1-8)
God has given us an open invitation to ask him for anything that is good. In his sermon on the mount, Jesus said,
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:7-11)
God is good and holy; therefore, he cannot give us something that is evil or will lead us to sin. But he’s more than happy to give us ANYTHING that honors his name or is according to his will.
“Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.” (John 14:12-14)
How do we know what honors his name or is according to his will? His word tells us. Anything God’s word instructs us to do or be, we can ask for with boldness based on his authority and will. What about fear and anxiety? God’s word says, don’t be anxious or afraid. What about the troublesome classmate, neighbor or friend? God says to love our neighbor and our enemies. What about rest, peace and joy? God is in favor of those. Ask and keep asking. Asking is faith. God likes faith. Teach you children to keep asking for more.
“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change.” (James 1:17)
“In all things God works for the good of those who love him…. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son.” (Romans 8:28-29)
Teaching children what is good and good for them is a formidable task. Every lesson about what is good should begin and end with God. He alone is good. He does and gives only good things, because his character is infinitely and absolutely good, impeccable and unchangeable. If good is found in anyone or anything, that’s God. In fact, in order to see good at all we must first see and know God.
It’s a tough task because sin has distorted our vision of God and what is truly good. As a result, God’s goodness is questioned and challenged. Actually, questioning God’s goodness is what ushered sin into the world to begin with (“Did God really say…?” Genesis 3:1-4).
In our sin-impaired view of God and good, we’re easily convinced that what is good for us is a life free from hardship and discomfort.
But what’s genuinely good in life comes from knowing and trusting the One who is good. God sent his Son as the ultimate good gift and to show us what is good for us–that we be “conformed” to be just like Jesus.
That’s what’s truly best for every child.
Every child must learn that life isn’t always fair. Someone wins the award while another doesn’t. Some are born with remarkable natural gifts. Others, like me, not so much. Some of these things are out of our control.
But we can control our attitude and response when life doesn’t seem fair. A great example for us and our children is John the Baptist. For a while, he had a very successful ministry calling people to turn to God in preparation for the arrival of Jesus. Then, when Jesus arrived and began his work, all the people began shifting their focus from John’s ministry to Jesus. When John’s own followers alerted him to this he could have said, “That’s just not fair. I’ve worked so hard and have done all the right things.” But instead, John told his friends: “A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven.”
John not only trusted God when things were going well for him, but when they seemed to be going much better for someone else. That’s because he knew that God’s love and best for him are always found in Jesus and not from the recognition or success in this world.
That’s a lesson every child of God can learn from.
“See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no ‘root of bitterness’ springs up and causes trouble…” (Hebrews 12:15)
I love to receive grace and forgiveness. I need it. In the past year, I’ve been pulled over twice by police officers for speeding (both when driving Sue’s little red Mazda, which I rarely drive!). Both times, I found myself hoping for grace AND forgiveness from the officer. Thankfully, both officers gave me just a warning to slow down and be safe. Grace and forgiveness received! Yet, I sometimes find myself secretly hoping for a police speed gun around the corner when someone zooms past me.
I always want my share of grace, but I’m not always ready for others to have it.
Grace and forgiveness are like inseparable twins. The more I comprehend how much of them I need and have been given, the more love I show to others, especially my family.
“Her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.” – Luke 7:47
Though God’s grace and forgiveness are freely offered through faith in Christ, we can fail to truly obtain or accept it. That’s a problem because our capacity to love is regulated by the grace and forgiveness we have obtained. So, if we find ourselves loving little we need to examine if we’re missing out on the full reality of God’s grace and forgiveness for us.
Lord, help me not to miss your grace and forgiveness. Let me fully obtain and embrace your grace so freely offered in Christ, that my love for you and others might be great.
God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. – Genesis 1:27
A recent Barna poll found that people find their identity in family more than their faith, nationality, race or profession. God intentionally created family as the basic and essential unit of society. In our ministry to children, we constantly remind ourselves that the home has the greatest potential to develop faith, values and character.
The same poll shows that while 70 percent of parents have a specific set of values for their families, only 30 percent have written them out. Establishing and continually reinforcing your family’s core values and beliefs will help guide you and your children in a world of shifting and confusing values.
At Cottonwood Creek Kids we consider ourselves God’s family, loving and serving one another. That is who we are. We highlight four core values that guide what we do and how we serve. These values will also benefit every family in the home.
Love: This is the Christian’s greatest value (Matthew 22:36-40) because it sums up the entire law. And Jesus is our great example (John 13:34-35). With love, we treat (serve) each other as we would want to be treated (Luke 6:31).
Relationships: Love requires investment in one another. Strong relationships make strong families and an opportunity to reach people with the good news about Jesus.
Unity: A house divided against itself is doomed (Mark 3:25). This doesn’t mean everyone always agrees. It means that we know who we are and that we share the same purpose, goal and values. Just like the church’s unity elevates Jesus to the world (John 17:22-23), unity within the home elevates God’s purpose for the family.
Leadership: Everyone has a leadership role in life. We all have the capacity to influence others, for good or bad. Among other things, this means we’re responsible for our actions and must consider how our actions impact others. We understand that God has shaped each of us with specific gifts and we must use them to serve one another (1 Peter 4:10).
What are your family’s core values? Have you identified them and discussed them together? It’s good to revisit them regularly in good and tough times.
Most parents feel like they have too many things to do. Family things, work things, school things, church things, relationship things, recreation things, financial things, medical things, and many more things.
Things can overwhelm us without a good priority checklist (another thing!). Thankfully, God gives us this simple priority to-do list for all the things of life:
1. Things that last forever
2. Things that don’t
“Our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.” – 2 Corinthians 4:17-18
Adhering to this priority checklist requires us to put temporary things (we can see) and eternal things (we cannot see) in proper perspective. That perspective is what God calls faith:
“Faith is confidence in what [things] we hope for and assurance about what [things] we do not see.” – Hebrews 11:1
It’s not easy to put first things first when all the other things are breathing down our necks. That’s why we need to regularly remind ourselves what truly will last and what will not. So by faith, keep knocking out that to-do list!