Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Working for Jesus

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:17, NIV

Young Harry worked for a shoemaker named Dan Mackay. He would take a piece of cowhide sole and soak it in water. Next he would pound it with a hammer until the leather was hard and dry. Then, he would nail the sole to the shoe. It was a very tiring and boring task.

One day Harry visited another shoemaker whose business seemed to be making more money than Dan's. He noticed that the shoemaker did not pound the leather at all. After soaking he would nail it directly to the shoe. He asked the shoemaker, “Are the soles as good as the ones pounded dry?” With a wicked wink, the shoemaker answered, “No. But the shoes come back quicker this way.” Harry rushed to Dan and shared what he thought was a clever business idea. Dan said,
I am making shoes for the glory of God. On judgment day, I don’t want Jesus to show me a pair of my shoes and say, ‘This is not your best, Dan.’ I want the Lord to commend me, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.’” (Adapted from the illustration database of the Biblical Studies Foundation)

Tha reply made such an impression on Harry. He wrote about Dan: “Often when I have been tempted to carelessness, I thought of Dan. His example has stirred me up to seek to do all as for Him who died to redeem me. Harry grew up to become a famous Bible expositor. Harry or Henry Allan Ironside wrote more than 60 books as well as many pamphlets and articles on Bible subjects. For 18 years, he was pastor of the Moody Memorial Church in Chicago. He faithfully served the Lord for 50 years.

What about you? Does the way you conduct your business draw people closer or farther from God? It is our mandate to make a positive impact in the workplace. It is interesting that Paul, after commanding, “whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Colossians 3:17), a few verses later wrote: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men” (v. 23). We are essentially working for the Lord Jesus. Even as business owners, we are really just His stewards. One day we will face Him and account for the way we took care of His business.

Brethren, keep in mind we are Jesus’ employees and managers.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Leaving a Living and Lasting Legacy

More than two weeks ago, Taipan John Gokongwei marked his 80th birthday by giving away a whopping P10.25 billion to charity, donating his entire personal shareholdings in JG Summit Holdings. When asked why, he answered, “Life has been good to me. I want to give back the blessings that I have received.”

You don’t have to be a billionaire to leave a living and lasting legacy. Life may not be that good to us. But God is. He has blessed us to be a blessing to others.
In his birthday speech, Gokongwei shared a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson. A portion goes like this: “to leave the world a little better... to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is the meaning of success.”

In his Ordering Your Private World, Gordon MacDonald wrote about a very successful man who was actually crumbling inside. He had accumulated a lot; a house in an upper-class neighborhood, a sports car and a boat. But his marriage and family life were in life-support. And his wife was about to pull to plug by filing for a divorce. During counseling, MacDonald discovered why this person was driving himself, his wife and kids crazy. When he was child, his father subjected him to sarcasm and ridicule. He would hear his father say, “You’re a failure. You will always be a failure.” So he pushed himself hard to prove his father wrong, to make him eat his cruel words and to gain his acceptance. Even with great success in midlife, he still drove himself to gain that approval. But he will never get it. His father died a long time ago. What a sad legacy.

Surely, one of the best investments of our lives is in the life of your children.
Deuteronomy 6:5-7 spells it out for us: “So love the LORD your God with all your heart, soul, and strength. Memorize his laws and tell them to your children over and over again. Talk about them all the time, whether you're at home or walking along the road or going to bed at night, or getting up in the morning.” (Contemporary English Version) We are to bless our kids by imparting our love for God to them through our words and works.

Brethren, what legacy are you leaving behind?

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Be the Parent of Your Child's Dreams

There was a pastor who gave a talk about parenting even before he had a child. His title was, “How to Raise Your Children.” Then he had his first child. It took him some time before he gave that talk again. When he gave it, he changed the title into “Suggestions for Struggling Parents.” Then he had two more children. Again he changed it into “Hints for Helpless Parents.” Finally, when they became teenagers, he ended up with this: “Anyone here got a few words of wisdom?”[1]

Parenting is really tough! It can bring out the best or the worst from us. But it is God’s will that we experience meaningful relationships. The book of Ephesians teaches us how to live a significant life, “a life that measures up to the standard God set when he called [us].” (Ephesians 4:1b, Good News Bible)[2] A significant life leads to significant relationships. We already discussed the husband and wife relationship in Ephesians 5:22-33. Two weeks ago, we talked about the responsibility of the children to obey their parents in Ephesians 6:1-3. Now, parents, it’s our turn. Let’s look at verse 4: “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.”

Note that the apostle Paul focused on the fathers. We tend to think that because we are good providers we automatically become good fathers. We assume that because the mother stays at home she can take care of parenting our kids. Fathers, don’t think that we can raise our family by remote control. God holds us personally responsible.

Of course, wives partners with their husbands in raising their children. But I believe that God directly commanded the fathers as the head of the family. Dr. James Dobson wrote, “A Christian man is obligated to lead his family to the best of his ability… If his family has purchased too many items on credit, then the financial crunch is ultimately his fault. If the family never reads the Bible or seldom goes to church on Sunday, God holds the man to blame. If the children are disrespectful and disobedient, the primary responsibility lies with the father… not his wife. [Our] greatest need is for husbands to begin guiding their families, rather than pouring every physical and emotional resource into the mere acquisition of money.”[3] Fathers, God wants us to be directly involved in the lives of our children. We cannot delegate it to our wives.

We have two commands in Ephesians 6:4, the first is negative, the second is positive. We need to obey both commands. We cannot obey one without the other.

Let’s look at the first command: “Fathers, do not exasperate your children...” In the New American Standard Bible, “do not provoke your children to anger.” When we exasperate them, we provoke them to anger. How? I summarized it in the acronym
P-R-O-V-O-K-E.

We come down hard on our children when we Pressure them to achieve. Of course, we are to challenge our kids to excel. But there are times we end up pushing them unreasonably. I read about a child who cried when she got 95 out of 100 in an exam. When the teacher asked why, she said, “Because my father will spank me for every point away from 100.” Why push our kids to be perfect when we ourselves are not perfect? The Message goes like this: “don’t exasperate your children by coming down hard on them.” There are times we come down hard on our kids because we want THEM to fulfill OUR dreams, the very goals we failed to achieve ourselves. Dr. John MacArthur in his The Fulfilled Family warns us, “You can push so much that the child will have absolutely no sense of fulfillment; nothing is ever enough. ...it causes them to become bitter.” One time one of my sons asked my wife, “What if my exam is not perfect? What if I didn’t make it to the Directress’ List?” She answered, “I will still love you.” My son smiled and said, “Thanks, Mom. That feels good.” Well, he made it to the List anyway. God is good!

We exasperate our kids when we Reject them or refuse to give them our approval. When we always point out what’s wrong, when we fail to highlight what’s right, we discourage them. Of course, we only credit them when it’s due them. It will not make an impact if we overdo it. But the problem is we are too quick to correct and too slow to compliment. Some of us think that if we praise them, they would become proud. Or, to sound spiritual, we say, “They might lose their reward in heaven.” But we parents will actually lose our rewards if we fail to give them our approval.

We provoke our children when we are Overprotective. We control them obsessively. We decide every aspect of their lives. We should teach our kids to stand on their own feet. Teach your kids to take risks because they will face a world full of risks. Allow them to make mistakes. Now I am not talking about sin. I’m talking about teaching them to decide on things that matters, like the college course to take or the choice of friends. Yes, they are accountable for their decisions. Of course, they will have to face the consequences of their actions. Yet, we teach them to make their own decisions because we will not always be there to decide for them. We just have to provide the guidelines or the boundaries and then coach them.

We hurt our children when we subject them to Verbal and physical abuses. Proverbs 13:24 says, “He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him.” We are to use the rod carefully. We should not spank our kids when we are angry. Most of the child abuse cases started with good intentions. But rage blinded them. We should not always spank our kids every time we need to correct them. The older they get, the less we spank them. We should also be careful with what we say. We can batter our kids even with our words.

We also anger our kids when we give them Obligatory love, that is, when we make our love conditional rather than unconditional. We should not give love as a reward or withdraw it as punishment. We make our kids insecure when they need to perform or roll over to be loved. We make them feel like they are in an American Idol audition and you are Simon. Don’t wait for them to sing, “You’ve got to love me for what I am, for simply being me. Don’t love me for what you intend or hope that I would be.” If we love conditionally, we might be using our kids to feed our fantasy. We are not really in love Biblically speaking. We don’t even have to say it to show it. We just neglect them. Someone said, “When we say we have no time, we are actually saying ‘It’s not my priority.’” Our kids spell “love” as “T-I-M-E.”

We also irritate them when we Keep favorites, when we prefer one kid over the other. We show favoritism when we compare or say, “Why don’t you act like your sister?” Or, “Why can’t you be as bright as your brother?” We may even be exercising favoritism without us knowing it. According to The Fulfilled Family by MacArthur, “If you want to destroy your child, just make him feel inferior to everyone else in the family. You can test for this problem easily: ask your children how they feel about each other, and find out if they have preferences toward each other. If they do, they’ve probably picked them up from you.”

Lastly, we disappoint them through Extreme expectations. We frustrate our kids when we expect too much or too little from them, when we expect them to act like adults or when we don’t allow them to act like kids. Of course, kids must learn how to behave. But at times we demand that they behave not because it is the right thing to do but because we are afraid of what people would say. We fear that people will say we are not good Christians if our kids are rowdy. That’s why there are some pastor’s kids who ended up denying the Lord their father served. People demanded so much from them. Let us keep in mind that kids will be kids, even if they are pastor’s kids.

So we provoke our kids through...
Pressure
Rejection
Overprotection

Verbal and physical abuses
Obligatory "love"
Keeping favorites
Extreme expectations.

Now, let us look at the second command: “instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” The word “instead” in the Greek gives a sense of a strong contrast. We may be “cool” parents. But if we fail to bring up our kids in the Lord, we are not “cool” before God. As I have said, we cannot obey one without the other.

To bring up our children in the Lord’s way is a command, not an option. Parenting is our CALLING. Fathers, we cannot delegate this task to our wives. We cannot turn it over to the school. The church is not a substitute also. The Sunday school complements you but it cannot replace you. We are disobedient if we fail to parent our children. We must take responsibility for them.

It is also in the present tense. So, parenting needs our COMMITMENT. We teach them through our words and works. We cannot say “Do what I tell you. Don’t do what I do.” We have to walk the talk. Teaching our kids God’s standards has to be daily. We have to be consistent. Then we are to “tell them to your children over and over again. Talk about them all the time, whether you’re at home or walking along the road or going to bed at night, or getting up in the morning.” (Deuteronomy 6:7, Contemporary English Version)

Parenting requires COMPASSION. The word “bring them up” has the idea of “nourish tenderly.” It is the same word used for “nourishes” in Ephesians 5:29, “for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church.” It means to provide what they need to grow. We care enough to confront, if needed. Let me talk to the children. It’s tough enough to be parents. I know that you like it when your parents trust you. Please make it easy for us to raise you. I agree that love should be unconditional. But that doesn’t mean you abuse it. If you want your parent’s trust, be trustworthy.

The words “in the training and instruction” involve being both corrective and preventive. We give not only the “don’ts” but also the “do’s.” But our goal is not merely to impose rules. Our ultimate goal is to help them develop a personal relationship with the Lord. Charles Swindoll in his Becoming A People of Grace wrote, “To discipline is to correct the child who is going the wrong way. To instruct is to show the child the right way. Christ is the center of the relationship. The nearer parents and children draw to Christ, the nearer they draw to each other.”

Let us remember we raise our children not to control them but to release them. The Bible describes them as “arrows in a soldier’s hand.” (Psalm 127:4b, Good News Bible) Like arrows, we must free our kids to be the persons God meant them to become, to realize their full potential. Note how the father is described in 1 Thessalonians 2:11-12, “With each of you we were like a father with his child, holding your hand, whispering encouragement, showing you step-by-step how to live well before God, who called us into his own kingdom, into this delightful life.” (The Message) We have the responsibility to make sure our kids would live worthy before God. Fathers, you may feel like, “That’s too tough for me.” But when God calls, He enables. Take heart. God will empower us to be better parents, the parents of our child’s dreams.

Let us pray...

[1]Adapted from Charles Swindoll’s Growing Wise in Family Life study guide.
[2]All Bible verses are from the New International Version, unless otherwise specified.
[3]From “Straight Talk to the Men and Their Wives.”

Thursday, August 17, 2006

A Father’s Influence

One time, a Jewish boy was confused when his family started attending a Lutheran church in Germany. He asked his father, “Why are we giving up our Jewish faith?” His father’s reply shocked him: “If we want people to frequent our business, we must abandon our faith!” He never got over his disappointment. His faith in God crumbled.

When he grew up, he wrote a book that became a scourge of the world. One third of the world swallowed his philosophy. For 70 years, billions suffered because of this ideology.
Such was the tragic result of a father’s hypocrisy.

The book was “The Communist Manifesto.” The boy was Karl Marx.
[1]

The Bible instructs us: “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:4, New Int’l Version) Ever wondered why God focused on the fathers? One study showed that if both parents regularly go to church with their kids, there’s an 80% chance that those kids will worship God on a regular basis when they become adults. But if only the mother does so, the probability goes down to only 30%. Yet, if only the father does so, it will go up to 70%! Just imagine, a father is almost as influential as both parents combined. I like how The Message translated that verse: “Take them [your children] by the hand and lead them in the way of the Master.” Someone wrote, “Fathers, one of your most important ministries is worshipping with your kids!”

That doesn’t mean of course that the mother is insignificant. Two parents are still better than one. But what I am driving at is that fathers should realize the potent force they have in the lives of their children. According to another study, “More than any other factor, a father’s presence in the family determines a child’s success and happiness. Dad is destiny.” Such is our power as fathers!

Fathers, let us live up to our calling as fathers.

[1]Adapted from the illustration database of the Biblical Studies Foundation (http://www.bible.org/).

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Be the Child of Your Parent's Dreams

Allow me to share a “wish list” of what parents wants to hear from their kids.[1]

“Who cares if I don’t have a cell phone?”

“You can just forget about my allowance for this week. I will use my savings.”

“No thanks. It’s too expensive.”

“OK lang. I understand.”

“Bored? How could I be bored? I really enjoy chores.”

“I really like homework!”

Parents, you can stop pinching your kids.

Now, we have dreams for our children. There are times when we even end up pressuring them to fulfill our dreams. Proverbs 22:6 goes like this: “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.”
[2] The question is who determines the way our child should go? J. Vernon McGee wrote, “What [Proverbs] is saying is that God has a way He wants him to go, and parents are to find out that way. They are not to bring up a child in the way they think he should go, but in the way God wants him to go.”[3] I think the best dreams for them are the ones God dreams for them. And I pray that our children will pursue those dreams.

As we go through our series on Ephesians, we looked into the Dream Relationships. First, we discussed “Be the Woman of Your Husband’s Dreams.” Ephesians 5:22 says, “Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord.” Then we looked into “Be the Man of Your Husband’s Dreams” in verse 25: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her”. This morning, we will talk about “Be the Child of Your Parent’s Dreams” in Ephesians 6:1-3.

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ‘Honor your father and mother’—which is the first commandment with a promise—‘that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.’

In the Greek, the word ‘children’ does not refer to a specific age group but “refers to any child still living in the home and under parental guidance.”
[4] But that doesn’t mean you’re off the hook once you get married. Yes, the Bible says, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife...” (Genesis 2:25a) The way we relate to our parents has changed when we got married. But, the relationship did not end at our wedding. To a certain extent, it still applies to us.

To make it easy for us to remember, I came up with the acronym O-B-E-Y.
First, OBEY your parents. “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.” (v. 1) Note that it is a command. It is not optional. It is not a “take it or leave it” thing. James 4:7 says, “If you don’t do what you know is right, you have sinned.”
[5] What does it mean to obey? “Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching.” (Proverbs 1:8) In other words, we are to obey what our parents would tell us to do. The Lord Jesus himself was submissive to Mary and Joseph. “Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them.” (Luke 2:51)

And we are commanded not just the act of obeying but also the attitude of obeying. The apostle Paul quoted the fifth of the Ten Commandments: “Honor your father and mother...” (v. 2) “Honor” means “to prize highly or to show respect for.”
[6] When we obey our parents, we show our respect for them. When we obey our parents, we show that we value them. Charles Swindoll wrote, “Have you ever obeyed on the outside but on the inside called your mom or dad ugly names? Honoring goes deeper than grudgingly obeying; it means doing what you’re told—even if you don’t agree—with respect and love.”[7] Note that Paul did not say respect your parents only when they are respectable. You respect them, period. No ifs, no buts. You hold them in the highest regard possible because “you do the right thing when you obey your parents.”[8]

To honor also means “to care for.” We are to take care of our elders. The Bible says that “if a widow has children or grandchildren, they should learn to serve God by taking care of her, as she once took care of them. This is what God wants them to do.” (1 Timothy 5:4)
[9] In fact, what we do to our elders we do unto God. “People who don’t take care of their relatives, and especially their own families, have given up their faith. They are worse than someone who doesn’t have faith in the Lord.” (v. 8)[10] Brethren, let us take care of our elders.

Now the Bible gives the reason behind the command: “obey your parents in the Lord...” We BLESS the Lord through our parents. The Amplified Bible goes like this: “Children, obey your parents in the Lord [as His representatives], for this is just and right.” We honor God when we honor our parents. How can we say we respect God Whom we can’t see when we do not respect our parents whom we can see? Notice that a few verses below Paul wrote, “Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ.” (v. 5) Let us ask ourselves, “If I obey the Lord the way I obey my parents, would He be happy with my obedience?”

God takes parenting seriously. Paul said to follow your parents “is the first commandment with a promise”. What he meant was that this is a very important commandment or “one of foremost significance.”
[11] In the Old Testament it says, “If someone hits father or mother, the penalty is death.” (Exodus 21:15) In verse 17, it says, “If someone curses father or mother, the penalty is death.” Just imagine if we apply this law today, the church would have to have a morgue. This is also one of the signs of the last days. “But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be... disobedient to their parents...” (2 Timothy 3:1-2) Honoring your parents is important to God. It pleases Him when we obey them.

Thus, when we honor our parents, we ENJOY God’s promise. Verse 3 says: “that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.” This is a rule with a reward. In the Contemporary English Version it says that “you will have a long and happy life.” You will have a quality life when you obey your parents. Dr. John MacArthur, Jr. wrote, “The original promise was to Israel and involved many tangible, physical, earthly blessings. But Paul’s reference to it here shows that it also extends to believers today. Though its blessings may not always be tangible, a family where children and parents live in mutual love and submission will have rich, God-given harmony and satisfaction that other families can never know.”
[12] You will also have quantity life—“the believer who honors his parents can know that his lifetime will be the full measure God intends, rather than cut short”[13] by disobedience. This morning we remember the Lord’s last supper. We are warned in 1 Corinthians 11:28-30, “A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep.” Now if you are disobedient and disrespectful, I encourage you to ask forgiveness from God and from your parents before you join us in the communion, or else, you may bring judgment to yourself. Maybe some of us here are struggling in business or it seems the Lord’s hand is heavy upon us. Probably today is a good time to think through the way we relate to our parents.

So, we must YIELD in everything. In Colossians 3:20, Paul wrote, “Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.” Note that it says “in everything.” Of course, there are exceptions. But before we jump into it, do you agree with the rule? We are not entitled to the exceptions if we don’t abide by the rule. We are to obey our parents unless they command us to do something God prohibited or unless they prohibit us from doing something God commanded. Other than that, we are to obey “in everything.” Now, parents, let me remind you that this is not a license to lord it over your children. After telling the children to obey their parents, Paul cautioned the parents: “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” (Ephesians 5:4) We will talk more about that on the third Sunday of August.

So, God commanded us to O-B-E-Y. O - OBEY your parents. B - BLESS God through them. E - ENJOY God’s promise and Y - YIELD in everything.

It is my prayer that all of us become the child of our parent’s dreams. Let us pray...

[1]Adapted from the illustration database of the Biblical Studies Foundation (http://www.bible.org/)
[2]All Bible references are from the New International Version, unless otherwise specified.
[3]As quoted by Charles Swindoll in Becoming a People of Grace: An Exposition of Ephesians (Anaheim, California: Insight for Living, 2001), 176.
[4]John MacArthur, Jr., The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Colossians and Philemon (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), 170.
[5]Contemporary English Version (CEV).
[6]Based on the NIV Study Bible notes on Exodus 20:12.
[7]Swindoll, 178.
[8]CEV.
[9]Ibid.
[10]Ibid.
[11]Kenneth L. Barker and John R. Kohlenberger III, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary—Abridged Edition: New Testament (Grand Rapids Michigan: Zondervan, 1994), 781.
[12]John MacArthur, Jr., The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Ephesians (Philippines: Christ for Greater Manila, 1989), 315.
[13]Ibid.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Dream God’s Dreams For Your Children

A student who went up to the next grade level met his teacher for the first time. The teacher looked at him with mean eyes and said, “I heard you were the number one troublemaker in your previous class. I am watching you!” The student thought, “Wow! I have a reputation to keep! I better make sure I don’t go down to number two.”

Such is the power of expectations. To paraphrase J. Grant Howard, Jr., “We have a picture of the perfect child, but we get an imperfect one. Then we have two options. Tear up the picture and accept the person, or tear up the person and accept the picture.” That is, our expectations from our child can either be encouraging or devastating.

That’s why we have to be realistic and responsible. Realistic because setting our expectations too high or too low can cause frustration on both the parent and the child. Responsible because we have to model what we expect from our kids. We can’t say, “Do what I say. Don’t do what I do.”

I encourage you to base your expectations on the Bible. This is what God expects from your children: “Children, you belong to the Lord, and you do the right thing when you obey your parents. The first commandment with a promise says, ‘Obey your father and your mother, and you will have a long and happy life.’” (Ephesians 6:1-3, Contemporary English Version) Align your dreams for your kids with God’s dreams for them. I believe you will not be disappointed because God will empower your children to fulfill His will for them. Philippians 2:13 assures us: “God is working in you to make you willing and able to obey him.”

Remember the student? He met a loving Sunday school teacher who believed in him. That ‘troublemaker’ is now Dr. Howard “Mr. Christian Education” Hendricks. Through his teaching ministry, he mentored people like Dr. Charles Swindoll and Dr. Bruce Wilkinson. He is already ninety-plus. But he is still teaching in Dallas Theological Seminary impacting Christian leaders who impact the world. All because somebody expected he could be the best. We could do the same to our kids.

Brethren, dream God’s dreams for your children.