This Sunday at Church: Encourage a Single Parent in the Congregation

I often like to share these posts which come out on a Sunday, so hope you enjoy them.

It can be extremely difficult to be a parent, and this is made even more tough when you face it alone. Stand with single parents today, and support them in whatever way you are able.

Have a great Sunday!

This Sunday at Church I want to encourage you to do the following: Pray any pastoral counseling today would be used by God. I have been working all …

This Sunday at Church: Encourage a Single Parent in the Congregation

Teach Them

The Great Commission #5

Jesus came to them and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I commanded you. Behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.

Matthew 28:18-20 (WEB)

The substance of our Christian lives ought to be different from that of the world. If we talk the same, act the same, think the same, and do all the same things that the world does, then we must question whether we are truly born anew. Disciples are not meant to be the “same” as those who follow their own fleshy or sinful desires.

If that is a shock to you, then perhaps the Great Commission has yet to be fulfilled in your life. Maybe you have believed in Christ, accepting Him as Lord and Saviour, yet no one has taken the time to teach you to obey.

And so, we come to the third part of the Great Commission which Jesus gave to us. To teach disciples all that He commanded.

Obedience may not seem like a very exciting topic to you, yet it is crucial we learn to observe what Jesus told us to do. It will lead us to God’s kind of success, blessing and most importantly, the glory of God.

Having made disciples, and baptising them in the name of the Father, Son and Spirit, we must then teach them. This task will take a lifetime, and most people (myself definitely included) are slow learners!

Where do we begin? I suspect there is no right or wrong answer to this, and it might be different for everyone.

Firstly, we are to teach people to obey all that Jesus commanded. We might strictly interpret this to mean following only the red letters in our Bible, and thus dismissing most of the epistles and the entirety of the Old Testament… I do not think this is so however!

Every Scripture is God-breathed and[a] profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness,

2 Timothy 3:16 (WEB)

The entirety of Scripture, the totality of God’s Word in both the Old and New Testaments, the letters, the history and the prophecy are all inspired by the Spirit of Christ. In my opinion, it is all to be taught and learned.

Now can you see why it might take a lifetime?

How can we teach the entirety of the Bible ourselves? Again, I believe it is a team effort. If you are a pastor, or are called to teach, then it might be more obvious how you can fulfil this part of the Great Commission. Use your pulpit, wherever it is, and teach the people to obey Christ. You may lead a church or be privileged to speak at one, you may write a blog or books, or you may be recording and sharing videos on YouTube or other media platforms. All of that contributes to the teaching of God’s people.

For the rest though, who do not have such platforms, or who do not feel called to teach, how can they comply with Christ’s instruction to teach?

Parents can and should teach their children. Older members of the church family may instruct the younger. The members of a small group will encourage and challenge one another, whether they are leading the discussion or just participating. As we do life together, the church ought to be helping each other to grow in faith and obedience.

Even if you personally have little opportunity to teach someone with your words, let your actions be the lesson.

If you have little opportunity to #teach someone with your words, let your actions be the lesson. #Bible #Jesus #Christianity

Be imitators of me, even as I also am of Christ.

1 Corinthians 11:1 (WEB)

Here, the apostle Paul, urges the Corinthian church to follow him, as he follows Jesus. Imitate me, he cries, as I imitate Christ. This is not easy, and if we take a hard look at ourselves, we may not feel like the best examples of Jesus’ lifestyle. But each of us should be striving forward to observe what Christ has taught us, and as we do, let us bring others along for the ride.

Sometimes we think of the Great Commission as only relating to evangelism. I hope these words have shown you that it is not so. Fulfilling this Commission does, of course, involve telling others about our faith, but it also encapsulates our journey into maturity as believers. I do not think there is one Christian who can claim to observe all that Jesus commanded us, and so we are all to keep walking with Him, bearing fruit and growing in faith.

What will you do?

I want to ask you:

  • How well do you feel you obeying Jesus at the moment?
  • What is your “pulpit”? i.e. in what ways can you be a teacher and encourage others to obey Christ?
  • What one thing can you do to be a better example for Jesus?

Joseph’s Beginnings (Joseph #1)

Jacob lived in the land of his father’s travels, in the land of Canaan. 2 This is the history of the generations of Jacob. Joseph, being seventeen years old, was feeding the flock with his brothers. He was a boy with the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah, his father’s wives. Joseph brought an evil report of them to their father. 3 Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his children, because he was the son of his old age, and he made him a tunic of many colors. 4 His brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, and they hated him, and couldn’t speak peaceably to him.

Genesis 37:1-4 (WEB)

There has been much written about Joseph, whose life is described in the book of Genesis starting at chapter 37. You may know him as the young man who dreamed dreams and wore a rather colourful coat. For some time, I have wanted to write about him, and see what we can learn from his life. We may be familiar with the Hollywood or Broadway version of events, but what does the Bible actually say about him and what happened?

Let’s take a look at the life of this remarkable young man and learn what we can.

The story begins in the land of Canaan, where we find Jacob (Joseph’s father) living in the land of his forefathers – namely, Isaac and Abraham.

The story opens with Joseph being seventeen. Although it does not say so in the text above, Joseph was the first son of Jacob’s wife Rachel. Rachel was Jacob’s favourite wife, for he had two (Leah being the first) but also, as above, two concubines named Bilhah and Zilpah. Most of Jacob’s twelve sons were born to him via Leah, with Rachel bearing Joseph and Benjamin. Knowing these details will be important later!

The passage above says that Joseph was boy with the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah – who were they? As mentioned, these were the sons of Jacob and the two concubines. They were Dan and Naphtali (of Bilhah) and Gad and Asher (of Zilpah).

An evil report

The first thing we learn about Joseph is the almost throw away remarks of these first few verses of chapter 37. We learn of his age (seventeen) but also that he grew up with these other boys. We are told that Joseph brought an evil report about them to his father. We do not know the nature of this, and so it is difficult to draw too many conclusions here.

Several scenarios are possible. It could have been a complete lie, for example, and Joseph just telling tales on his illegitimate brothers… but this seems very inconsistent with Joseph’s character elsewhere described in Genesis. Most likely, they were up to no good and Joseph told on them. The Bible does not record Jacob’s response.

Was this a good idea on Joseph’s part? It is hard to say without knowing more details. If one of my children were playing with matches, I would want one of the others to tell me about it. We can surmise that Dan, Naphtali, Gad and Asher weren’t best pleased with Joseph for this.

Some would accuse Joseph of naivety, particularly later when we read about his dreams and what he tells his family about them. This is likely true, but I think it also shows a great humility in Joseph which we will explore another time.

Having favourites

Verse three tells us that Jacob favoured Joseph over his brothers. It gives reasons for this; that Joseph was born to Jacob in his old age, but also that he was born of Rachel, Jacob’s favoured wife.

Jacob gave Joseph a tunic of many colours. This was quite a gift for a number of reasons. Brightly coloured clothing meant expensive dyes, and such a garment would not have been an everyday item. Such colours would have been reserved for the wealthy or people of some high importance. Kings, for instance, would have worn such items.

In addition, it would have signalled two major things to those who saw him wearing it. Firstly, it would have simply stood out from the rest. In a crowd of twelve brothers, Joseph would have been clear to see and marked out as special in some way. Secondly, colours of this nature would have meant leadership and superiority. Jacob was perhaps prophetically signalling Joseph’s rank above the rest.

Having favourites in a family is not a good idea. In a big family, there will always be those characters we get on well with and those we find it more difficult. Even our children can have a wide variety of personalities, and so, it can be easier to connect with some than others. The problem comes when we do not put an equal amount of effort into the relationships which are naturally more difficult. When we compare one child against another, it creates animosity. When we bestow expensive or special gifts on one, and not the other, the rest feel less valued and somehow less adequate.

This favouritism will lead to the major events of Joseph’s life. As we will see, Joseph will go through no small amount of suffering, and although it all turns out for God’s glory, what might have been different had Jacob been less obvious about who he favoured.

Hated

What is the result of Jacob’s favouritism? He brothers saw and knew it, and as a consequence, they hated Joseph. Each one was a son of Jacob, each one lived and served the family, and yet each one felt somehow less than Joseph was. Joseph’s actions of giving a bd report would have only added to this hatred (even if he had the best of intentions).

Hate is a powerful word. When my children use it in anger or in vain, I pull them up on it. Hatred should be reserved for evil and sin, and not tossed around lightly. Joseph’s brothers hated him, wishing him ill and later bringing it upon him.

Their hatred for him was so powerful that they could not even speak civilly to him. Imagine living in a household like this? The strife and tension would have been evident for all to see. To live in such an atmosphere would have been intolerable. We must also never underestimate the dangers of living in strife.

For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work.

James 3:16 (KJV)

Where there is strife, there is “every evil work!” Strife opens the door for the enemy to work in our lives, and we must shut that door at all costs.

Jacob’s actions led to the brothers of Joseph hating him. You may find yourself in a place where someone else’s actions have led you to feel hatred for someone else. Perhaps your parents did to you what Jacob did to Joseph’s brothers. I cannot imagine the pain you must feel for this. If you are able, pray about the situation and tell God how you feel. Ask Him to help you forgive and let go of the hatred. If you simply cannot right now, just bring your pain to the Father and let Him minister to you.

One of the things I love about the Bible is that it does not sugar coat anything. Jacob, Joseph and his brothers were a real family with real problems leading to real pain. Many of us can relate! As we study Joseph’s life, I pray that God will help us learn their lessons and not repeat their errors. In Jesus’ Name, Amen!

Say What You Mean (PoW)

Pearls of Wisdom

Say what you mean, and mean what you say

Some say talk is cheap, but actually it can be very costly. How many relationships were ruined after someone said something in anger that they really did not mean. Words can leave deep wounds, yet we seem to respect them so little in our society. A single misplaced tweet can be enough to cause outrage the world over.

Say what you mean. Be clear with your words and make sure everything you say is what you mean. Don’t be hasty and don’t let your temper get the better of you. Better to remain silent that unleash words which cannot be taken back.

Similarly, mean what you say. Don’t be a person without integrity. Do not say one thing and do another. If you make an appointment for 7pm, make sure you are there on time and be a person of your word. If you hit something unexpected that makes you late, call ahead.

Your children remember what you say, and they remember when you don’t keep your word. If you promise to take them out on Saturday, you had better make sure you do. Trust is more easily destroyed than built. One broken promise can devastate trust for a lifetime.

God is the perfect example of this to us. He says precisely what He means, and means every single word He says. There are no broken promises in God; if He has said it, you can consider it done whether you see it yet or not.

My words fall far short at times, but I strive to be a man of my word and to never say a thing I do not mean. I am challenged today, and hope you are too. Let us all come up higher and be people who keep our word.

You Are What They Need (PoW)

Pearls of Wisdom

You may not feel like the one they need, but you’re the one they’ve got. And it’s not an accident!

As a parent, I rarely feel like i’m doing a good job of it. Sometimes I see myself reflected in the behaviour or words of my children, and it isn’t always pretty! Being a parent is the best but toughest job there is. I often feel like I do not know what I am doing myself, let alone helping to shape another life and ready them for the world.

The same is true at work sometimes. People come to me asking for help and advice, or looking for a solution to a serious problem. I feel a tremendous pressure to come up with the right answer, even if I haven’t a clue what it is!

Bottom line – I’m only human, and I’m just doing my best. The same is true for you I’m sure!

You may not feel like the right person for the job, whether that is a form of employment, caring responsibility or anything else. Even if you do not feel like the one that is needed right now, you are the only one that is there, and that is no coincidence.

Whatever situation you find yourself in, whatever job, whatever family commitments, you are there for a reason. God has specifically placed you there and you can deal with what is in front of you.

That does not make it easy of course, but draw strength from God to do what you need to do. Take heart in the fact that there are no accidents, and God has chosen you and placed you in your situation to bring Him glory in whatever way you can.

You might believe others are more qualified or better suited, but God chose you. Trust Him to have made the right decision, and do your very best with His help.

Honour Your Parents

We resume our series on the Ten Commandments today, and as the title suggests, we are thinking about the command to honour our father and mother. I feel I should point out that in the UK, we spell “honour” with a “u” so apologies to anyone who doesn’t!

Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.

Exodus 20:12 (ISV)

When thinking about the Ten Commandments, one thing we must ask ourselves is “Why these commands?” Not committing murder makes sense, as does the command to worship only God alone. But what about the others?

There are many ways we could answer that, but for now let’s at least assume that God was very intentional about the ones He chose to give to the people of Israel. If God thought them important enough to be included in the “top ten” then we should take them seriously indeed!

Dishonouring ones parents may not seem equivalent to murder or theft, but it is clearly important to God. Part of the reason, I believe, is because God sees His people as a family and our earthly families should model our spiritual one. If we are not willing to honour our earthly parents, then how could we be willing to honour our Heavenly Father?

What does it mean to honour one’s parents? In this case, to “honour,” means to “respect,” or “revere.” Essentially God wants us to treat our parents well. They brought us into the world, raised us and so, in return, we ought to treat them with proper respect and kindness.

If our parents are elderly, then they may need care and support, and it is our responsibility to provide that. Now that may not mean we provide that care ourselves in person, but it may mean organising support in various ways.

Paul offers some instruction for children, and quotes this very commandment. His advice, of course, is likely aimed at non-adult children in this case.

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is the right thing to do. 2 “Honor your father and mother…” (This is a very important commandment with a promise.) 3 “…so that it may go well for you, and that you may have a long life on the earth.”

Ephesians 6:1-2 (ISV)

At least one way then, to honour our parents, is to obey them. While we are young enough to live under their authority, we should do what they ask of us.

Paul points out in Ephesians that this commandment comes complete with a promise attached. Those who do this, will live long in the land. Are we to take it that if we do honour our mothers and fathers that God will bless us with a long life? The words speak for themselves. I read recently that Japan has one of the highest life expectancy in the world. In that culture, parents are very much revered so perhaps that’s why.

What about bad parents?

A natural objection might be, “My parents did not treat me right, so why should I treat them with any respect or honour?” That may be true, and perhaps your parents were even abusive or neglectful. The commandment does not specify “good” fathers or “responsible” mothers, only the ones that we have.

I am not suggesting you just ignore abuse or neglect, and go and try to have a wonderful relationship with your parents. Such parents are still to be honoured but of course that may look very different in cases without such a difficult past.

The key is to do the best you can, even if they don’t deserve it.

Spiritual Parents

For those reading this who are without earthly parents, for whatever reason, how might you go about fulfilling this commandment?

Now I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon so that I can be encouraged when I learn of your condition. 20 I do not have anyone else like him who takes a genuine interest in your welfare. 21 For all the others look after their own interests, not after those of Jesus the Messiah.[a] 22 But you know his proven worth—how like a son with his father he served with me in the gospel.

Philippians 2:19-22 (ISV)

Not all of our parents are earthly, and some in fact are spiritual.

Paul considered Timothy to be a “son in the faith” or “spiritual son,” and I do not think it a stretch to believe Timothy felt that Paul was a father to him as well.

We can fulfil this commandment by honouring our spiritual fathers and mothers also. Those who have taught us or encouraged us, those who have raised us in our faith, and those who loved and cared for us as part of the family of believers – all are spiritual parents.

If you think back over your journey of faith with Jesus, I imagine there will be those who have made a real mark in encouraging you in some way. These people should be celebrated and honoured. If they are still a part of your life now, then reach out to them today and tell them what they mean to you.

Honouring our parents, whether earthly or spiritual, is not always easy, but it pleases God. How can you fulfil this commandment today?