Arguments go back and forth on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms. The internet is a virtual town square where opinions can be expressed and issues debated. Sadly, this often turns to rage and ranting generously seasoned with foul language and personal attacks.
If you’re a Christian, you can still enter the fray to offer opinions and debate issues, but let us do so as we are guided by God’s Word –
“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” (Colossians 4:6)
“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” (James 1:19-20)
“But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.” (1 Peter 3:15-16)
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35)
Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. (1 John 4:20)
It’s okay to debate issues. I’d argue that believers need to enter the public debate on important issues such as sex trafficking, abortion, euthanasia, poverty, immigration, racism, sexual harassment, pornography… the list seems endless. But when we enter the virtual word of Tweets and Facebook posts, let’s enter this world full of “grace and truth.” Let us not use the same sensible discretion when posting that we do when having face to face conversations. Let us remember that rage does not enhance our argument, nor does the use of harsh and abusive language. Why do good judgment and civility seem to disappear when voicing opinions on social media?
Let us be people who reflect the Christ we claim to worship. Yes, there were times when Jesus got angry. Anger itself is not a bad thing. But Jesus’ reputation was not of an angry prophet whose breath smelled of brimstone. We can become angry over issues and injustices. We can state our opinions in person or online. But we must always remember that we are not Jesus. We do not have His insight and understanding. We too often react based on emotions putting both our hearts and minds in suspending animation while we give full vent to our rage.
I leave you with these wise words from James, the brother of Jesus – “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.” (James 3:9-10)
I finally got to try all three of the summer fruit doughnuts from Krispy Kreme. So… here’s how it turned out.
The pineapple was my least favorite of the three. If you’ve ever had the pineapple topping that goes on ice cream, this was what the filling reminded me of. On a scale of 1-10, I’d give this a 3.
The strawberry was better. The insides tasted like strawberry jam. Like the pineapple, the frosting on top didn’t do much to enhance the flavor. If I’m going to go with strawberry, I think I’d rather than a tastier frosting or the flavor in the dough itself. I give it a 5.
The key lime was BY FAR my favorite, though I must confess I like key lime almost anything! The filling was good. Again the frosting on top didn’t add much to the flavor, but it didn’t mess it up. I’d buy this one again… and again… and again. My grade on this one is a 9. (The hot glazed gets a 10 every time!)
Maybe next time I should do a video taste testing. That would give me an excuse to go back to Krispy Kreme … like I need one. 🙂
A person’s worth is not determined by their race, their ethnicity, their sexuality, their occupation, their income, their behavior, or their religion. Each person is made in the image of God, and, therefore, each person has incredible value to Him.
When we disagree with others, even over important matters, we must never fail to recognize the inherent dignity and worth of our “opponent.” When we belittle or dehumanize someone or a group of people, we are not honoring the Creator.
This does not mean we have to water down God’s truth or compromise our values. It does mean that we live each day with the awareness that our battle is not against flesh and blood. We need to recognize our true enemy and be willing to fight our battles in the spiritual realm first.We are not called to agree with everyone.
We are not called to go along with every new cultural wave that comes along. We are called to love everybody always.
John’s gospel tells us that Jesus came full of grace and truth. Let that be our starting point today.
Children need discipline. They need guardrails and direction. They will disobey. They will rebel. They will be disagreeable, irritable, irritating, and sometime make you want to lock yourself away in a bedroom closet for a couple of hours. Children are children, and they need parents or guardians in their lives to set appropriate boundaries and teach acceptable behavior.
Will they push against those boundaries? Yes, but their pushing is part of their growing process. The challenge for you who love those children is to create a safe, loving environment that also teaches responsibility and obedience without being overbearing and crushing the child’s spirit and creativity.
There is no one-size-fits-all solution to every challenge, because every child is different. If you have more than one child, you already know that! What worked like a charm with one child blows up in your face with the next. But there are some principles that seem to work across the spectrum. Here are four common sense necessities for disciplining children.
1. Discipline with the End in Mind
Discipline is never fun for the one giving it or the one receiving it. We’d rather not have to discipline a child, but we know its necessary for their future and our sanity. We don’t discipline just for the sake of doing it; we discipline with an end in mind. There is something that we are trying to achieve that is worth the effort.
Our desire is to nurture and develop our children so they can grow in maturity and wisdom. What kind of child do you want to unleash on the world as an adult? Some parents spend a lot of time and energy on the physical development of a child, hoping she or he will become a first rate athlete. Some parents invest their energies on insuring their child is a straight A student with the opportunity to go to a great college and land a high-paying job. But do we stop and ask what kind of character we want our child turned adult to have?
What is your vision for that future person? If you want your child to grow up to be honest, responsible, kind, generous, and faithful, then your task is to create an environment where he or she is exposed to those characteristics and learns why those are important values in your home. These conversations need to start as early as a child can begin to process that information. As they grow older, you can begin to ask them what type of person do they want to be. It’s interesting that a child is often asked what they want to be when they grow up, but rarely who they want to be. Maybe that should change!
2. Communicate Clearly, Consistently, and Persistently
Communication is a necessity for any relationship to be healthy. Without communication, there is misunderstanding, disappointment, and often chaos. It is one of the leading issues that comes up in both marriage and pre-marriage counseling sessions.
There are three areas where clear communication is needed. First, you need to set easily understandable boundaries. Your child needs to know exactly where the lines are and what will happen if they cross those lines. Be clear about your expectations and about the consequences, but make sure you’re willing to back up your “threats.” The only thing worse that not have clear expectations and consequences is having them and not following through.
Second, be clear about why a particular behavior or attitude is important for them now and later in life. Discipline may involve punishment, but it is more than that. It is not an angry outburst followed by a punishment. Discipline is the loving, careful, thoughtful, intentional correction of a behavior for the purpose of correcting a child and pointing them to a better choice.
Third, be clear about your motivation. You are acting out of love. You want the very best for your child’s future, and discipline is part of that process. To be totally truthful, they may not get it at the moment, but as they grow older, they will begin to grasp why you had to set limits in their lives. Most mature adults appreciate the loving guidance that parents offered.
3. Discipline in Proportion to the Offense
Too often discipline or punishment is a spur of the moment event that happens in a fit of anger or hurt. Discipline, as we said, needs to be more purposeful. Sometimes that means waiting to dole out the correction. The reason for a delay may be to consider what is appropriate given the reason for the discipline. The punishment or correction should be in proportion to the level of the infraction. This may require parents to come together and discuss what is appropriate. This becomes more important as the child gets older, and it can be appropriate to ask an older child was she or he thinks is just given the circumstances.
Is there ever a time when an offense is overlooked? Yes. Sometimes an act by a child comes with its own consequences. You may determine that those consequences are enough. You should practice compassion, grace, forgiveness, and restoration. This requires wisdom on your part. To never discipline a child is not wise. To discipline without mercy can be just as bad. Just make sure your child knows why you are doing what you are doing, and at the center of that “why” should be love.
4. Stay the Course
Discipline is not easy. That’s why many parents choose not to do it consistently. Don’t be one of those parents!
Children need boundaries. Children need accountability. Children need discipline, and they need it to be applied consistently and reasonably. It is not something that can or should be done off the cuff. It requires thought, discussion among the parents, wisdom, sometimes outside counsel, and consistency.
Children are smart. They see when you are taking the easy way out, and they’ll be more than happy to take advantage of the opportunity. Children are sensitive. They know when you are loving and careful in your discipline, and when you are haphazard. Children are vulnerable. They need a protector, a guardian, who keeps them safe, sets boundaries, and loves them on their best days and their worst days.
I would also encourage all parents and guardians to be actively involved in a local church. The church will reinforce the values that you are teaching, but it can also provide a support group for you. A church family can be a safe environment to ask questions, share your struggles, and seek wisdom. The church can point you to truths contained in God’s Word and encourage you as you bring godly principles into your discipline at home. The church does not take the place of what happens in your home, but it can be a resource and source of strength for parents.
[Grace Fellowship has developed at Grace@Home Resource Center located near their front entrance. Please come by to check out the resources available for individuals and families.]
These Scriptures can help you and your family stay focused as we move from Palm Sunday to Easter. Please note that some Bible scholars may have a different specific timeline, but the events of that week leading to the resurrection are consistent.
Palm Sunday –
Matthew 21:1–11, Mark 11:1–11, Luke 19:28–44, John 12:9–19
Matthew 21:12–22, Mark 11:12–19, Luke 19:45–48
Matthew 21:23–26:5, Mark 11:27–14:2, Luke 20:1–22:2, John 12:37–50
Matthew 26:6–16, Mark 14:3–11, Luke 22:3–6
Matthew 26:17–75, Mark 14:12–72, Luke 22:7–71, John 13:1–18:27
Matthew 27:1–61, Mark 15:1–47, Luke 23:1–56, John 18:28–19:42
Easter Sunday –
Matthew 28:1–20, Mark 16:1–8, Luke 24:1–53, John 20:1–21:25
Daylight Savings Time won’t be a problem today. I don’t have to worry about over-sleeping in the morning, because I am already up at 4:52am (formerly 3:52am pre-DST). In fact, I’ve been awake since around 3:00am. It wasn’t the plan, but it is the reality.
After rearranging myself and the covers and the pillow a few times, I finally resolved that I was awake. Then came the inner griping – after all, griping out loud would only wake Nancy up. There was no need for both us to be awake. After my little pity party, my mind drifted northward – to my sister and her husband.
My brother-in-law Keith is in critical condition after he suffered head trauma in an accident on Friday night. His skull is fractured and he has bleeding on his brain. My sister Susan is by his side, weeping, praying, and hoping that he’ll pull through this. I can’t imagine the heartache she is experiencing now, but I put my little gripe session on hold to join her in her prayers. I invite you to do the same.
Events like this are not-so-gentle reminders that the things that bother us so much one moment become infinitely insignificant in light of life and death situations. As I continued to pray for Keith, Susan, and the family, the Lord brought to mind others who are hurting. I took the time to lift up prayers for them, as well.
Here’s the bottom line – Life is filled with little annoyances and major heartaches… AND life is filled with moments of pure joy and times of incredible peace. Through both, God is faithful, He is near, He cares, and He joins us in both our joys and sorrows. He has also given us people to bring a loving physical touch to us.
I hated waking up way too early on Sunday morning, but it’s a small thing… and it became an opportunity to pray for God to intervene in the lives of the hurting, the grieving, the hopeless, the struggling, and the lost.
We would be wise to spend some time each day reflecting on those things that are most important, telling the people in our lives how much we love them, and confessing how self-centered we can too often become. Life is precious, death is certain, grief hurts, and eternity is a long time. Let’s live as if we actually believe those things are true.
I am grateful for the comfort that Scripture brings – especially on those days I feel especially broken or when life seems to have gone off the rails. In those times, I can remind myself of what it true and solid. Verses like…
“When I am afraid, I will trust in You.” (Psalm 56:3)
“Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and staff, they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:4)
“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in time of trouble.” (Psalm 46:1)
“The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe.” (Proverbs 18:10)
And, of course, this verse is one that I frequently repeat to myself in times of confusion or when facing conflict – “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)
All of these verses are true. All bring comfort. Each one is worthy of being committed to memory so that it will be present the next time we have “one of those days.”
Sometimes a verse from God’s Word is exactly what we need to pull us out of the ditch and put our feet back on the path, but we’d do well to consider the context in which these verses were written. In other words, the Scripture may speak to us in our moment of need, but it also spoke to a person or a group of people in the time which it was written. Knowing that context may help us understand God and His ways better.
For instance, consider Jeremiah 29:11. If we take time to read the chapter, we’ll see that those words are part of a letter that the prophet Jeremiah wrote from Jerusalem to his fellow Jews exiled in Babylon. The exile followed the conquest of Judah and the destruction of Jerusalem by the world’s super-power at that time. And that super power had carted off many of Judah’s citizens to its own land. A great number of Jews were now living in enemy territory.
Jeremiah gives his exiled countrymen words of hope. God had not forgotten them. All was not lost. They would come home. But these words are nestled within a stark reality – they would be in exile for 70 years before returning. This meant that nearly every Jew then living in Babylon would die in Babylon, never seeing their home country again. It wasn’t exactly the word they were hoping God would give them.
Jeremiah goes so far as to tell them to settle in for the long haul. Build your houses. Plant your gardens. Let your children marry. Get a job or start a business. Pray for the place where you’re living and work for its betterment. You’re going to be there a while. And Jeremiah warned them not to listen to those who were saying that their stay was only temporary, that any day they’d pack their bags and go back home – that just wasn’t reality.
This is not what the people would have wanted to hear. They had been led off to foreign soil, to a different culture, among a people who spoke an unknown language. They had abandoned their home and many of their possessions, and they longed to return and get back to life as usual.
Jeremiah’s message would not have been welcomed, but in the midst of the gloom and doom, he speaks hope – “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Despite how it may feel, God has not forgotten you. God has a plan. You have a future.
We tend to want a quick fix – just like those Jewish men and women in exile. We become impatient with God. We want to escape the desert. We want to get out of our storm. We shout, “If God’s got a plan, then let Him get on with it. Doesn’t he see I’m struggling here? Doesn’t He care?” Yes, He does see. Yes, He does care. He has a purpose. He has a plan. It’s true that His thoughts and our thoughts don’t always mesh. His ways are sometimes so much higher than ours that there is no way we can understand what’s happening.
But in the midst of the struggles and pain and confusion, God speaks to remind us – “I am here. I do care. I have a plan to bring good from bad, the best from the worst.” And He invites us to trust Him…
“Great weather today, huh?” “Did you catch that game last night?” “Have a good weekend?
Small talk usually starts with small questions. It’s not that we should never converse about the weather, sports, or weekend plans, but too often that’s as far as we go. Sometimes it’s necessary to keep the conversation light. We don’t want to seem like we’re prying. Sometimes we don’t have the time for a lengthy conversation. And there are times when it’s just out of place to probe into issues that are too personal. But if our conversations always stay surface level, especially with those to whom we are closest, we lose out.
When time permits (or when you make the time) consider asking questions like these –
What has the Lord been teaching you lately? What burdens are you taking to God in prayer? What’s really challenging your patience lately? How are you seeing God at work in your family? What book are you reading right now? What podcasts are you listening to lately? What has you excited about life? Is there something going on in your life that I can pray about? How has your life changed in the past year? What brings the the biggest joy in life? What is one thing you’d really like to do in the next five years? How have you seen God work in your family? What is your greatest challenge at work/school? If you could have dinner with three people (living or dead), who would they be? Why? What individual has had the greatest impact on your life? What book (other that the Bible) has been most impactful in your life? What is your favorite movie? Why? What social cause are you most passionate about?
I’m not suggesting that these are questions to ask when you’ve just met someone, but if you truly want to get to know people then at some point you’ll need to ask deeper questions – and be willing to answer questions like these. I wouldn’t suggest asking them all at one sitting, but as you spend time with an older child, a parent or grandparent, a spouse, a good friend, a prayer partner, a mature believer, etc., make sure you’re asking questions that lead to deeper conversations. You’ll very likely be amazed at what you learn about the person sitting across from you. You may even gain some wisdom and insight that makes you better.
Admittedly, these are only a few options. Questions need to be tailored to the relationship and situation. As you get to know someone better, you may find that you’re asking questions about their life decisions and what consequences they have faced. An answered question may lead to a follow-up question that reveals even more truth. The reality is – if you want a deeper connection eventually you’ll have to ask deeper questions.
Before you begin, however, take time to ask yourself these same questions. If you’re unwilling to open up with yourself, then you’ll find it very hard to get someone else to open up to you – or to even be concerned at that other person at all.
“As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.” (Proverbs 27:17)
I got my driver’s license on July 3, 1978. If you check my driving record, you’ll find it to be squeaky clean. I’ve received one parking ticket at the University of North Carolina, but I challenged it and won – I must admit, it was on a technicality, but it saved me $150! In over 40 years, I’ve never gotten a ticket for a moving violation – I will confess, however, that I have been pulled over three times for speeding (twice in high school and once a few years ago while traveling to a funeral in Savannah). In other words, I could have been cited, but the officers were merciful to me and just told me to slow down.
I’ll admit that my biggest challenge is slowing down – perhaps I have a bit of NASCAR in me. I’ve been pretty good about the new hands-free law, so far, though it appears I may be in the minority. There are certain traffic laws, however, that I obey to the letter.
When it comes to school zone speed limits and stopped school buses, kids are way to precious to take any chances. When it comes to handicapped spaces, I’d walk a mile in the rain before parking my car in one of those spaces. I started buckling up in college before that even became a law. At stop signs I come to a complete stop. If I ever get ticketed for a rolling stop, you’ll know it was a set up!
“Rolling stop” is the official term for slowing way down at a stop sign but not fully stopping before continuing on your way. You kinda stop but not really. It seems safe enough. I saves you maybe half a second in your day, but a rolling stop isn’t consistent with the sign’s intent.
For some strange reasons, I woke up thinking about rolling stops this morning, but not the ones that can occur while driving. I was thinking about our spiritual rolling stops. God reminds us to “be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). Too often, it seems we are in too much of a hurry to stop. We may slow down a bit from time to time. We may even come close to stopping, but our lives are so hurried and our schedules so filled that stopping seems like an impossibility.
The phrase “be still” is translated in the NASB as “cease striving.” The Hebrew phrase means to “relax” or “to let your hands drop.” In a rolling stop, we keep our hands on the wheel, strain left and right to see if there is oncoming traffic, and have our foot ready to shift instantly to the gas. That’s often what we do with our devotional or quiet times. We’re so eager to get going, the we don’t stop, relax, drop our hands, and focus for a few moments on the One who truly holds the steering wheel to our lives.
If you get caught failing to come to a complete stop at a stop sign, it can cost you a little. When you fail to come to a complete stop before the Lord and neglect spending some time focusing on Him, the cost to your life, your peace, and your joy is much higher.
Security – we all want it. We are told that building walls will bring more security, that government programs will give us more security, that finding the perfect man or woman will make us feel more secure; yet that sense of feeling secure and being at peace still eludes us. Perhaps we seeking our security in the wrong place.
Fear – we all seem to have it. Fear pounces on us when we feel insecure. Fear robs us of peace. Fear causes us to make decisions based on desperation. We desperately want to feel secure but things like finances, relationships, or circumstances beyond our control rob us of that sense of security. When faced with fear, we often resort to a fight or flight response.
When we go the “fight” route, we assume we have to take some drastic action to immediately fix our situation. If you do not have that special someone in your life and everyone else seems to have found their “soul mate,” you may rush into a relationship just to have someone there for you. I have seen women and men make incredibly bad relationship decisions – some do it over and over again. Their fear is being alone, so they are willing to do nearly anything to have the “security” of a special person in their lives.
When we default to the “flight” mode, we try to hide from the circumstances that make us insecure. If you are struggling with finances, you may simply choose to ignore that the bills piling up and the bank account that is running precariously low, and make decisions to make yourself feel more secure in the moment. I have seen people whose finances are a real mess choosing to go on online shopping sprees or head to the nearest Target for some retail therapy. It’s a band-aid approach that only hides the problem for the moment- and, in the long term, makes it worse.
I find it interesting how many times God reminds people to not be afraid. I have heard it said that the Bible contains 365 “do not fear” verses, one for every day of the year. Well… I’m not sure who came up with that number. It sounds wonderful and encouraging, but the problem is that it isn’t true. If you search or “fear not” or “do not be afraid” on an online Bible, you’ll probably get around 30 results, more or less depending on the translation. If you counted up all the verses in the Bible that could be see as God encouraging people not be afraid, you may get a little over 100. In other words, you’d have to do some major rewriting of Scripture to get anywhere close to 365.
That being said, there is no doubt that God speaks directly and forcefully to the issue of fear in our lives. Fear is incompatible with faith in an Almighty, all-loving God. We fear because of our insecurity, but God has made some precious declarations that can defuse our fears and bring real security to our hearts and minds. Here is just a taste –
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. (Psalm 23:4)
…fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10)
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. (Joshua 1:9)
The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold[a] of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? (Psalm 27:1)
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. (John 14:27)
There is no fear in love, but perfectlove casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. (1 John 4:18)
Are you insecure? Are you afraid? There is a God who promises to be your source of security. He is a rock, a fortress, a stronghold, an ever present help in time of trouble. He is not far off; He is near. Call on Him. Cast your cares on Him knowing that He cares for you. Here’s one more verse that we’d all do well to memorize and repeat to ourselves over and over…
When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. (Psalm 56:3)