REFLECTIONS

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written by Elder Mike Hosey.
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How To Discipline Your Children

Here at Fellowship, we’ve often taught that love is being committed to the well being of another person. Of course the term, “well being,” can mean many different things.  It can mean extending grace to another for whom favor is not deserved. It can mean honoring a promise even when it hurts. It can mean practicing patience for people in a world where time and money are fleeting. It can mean staying in a relationship even when every fiber of your being wants to leave. But for parents, that commitment is colored greatly by the word discipline.

 

Normally, we think of “discipline” as a punishment that we mete out as a means of making someone behave. That is the wrong way to think of it! By definition, discipline is simply training people to obey rules or a code of behavior. It is a practice, and usually a daily one. Instead of being something that we do to another, it is something we do for another. It is also something that we do out of love — which means, in regards to our children, it is something we do out of a commitment to their well being.  This just happens also to be the example set by God.  He disciplines us because he loves us — because he is committed to our well being — knowing that the end result of it will be holiness (Hebrews 12:5-11). If we do not discipline our children, they will become a trouble for us, as well as a trouble for those around us. But even more importantly, they could miss out in some way on the blessings promised by God.

 

Here are some quick pointers to help you as parents discipline your child.

 

Be Consistent: Stick to your guns. Do not discipline one way on one day, and another way on another day. Keep your expectations clear and uniform. Inconsistency is confusing, and will make your children unsure of the rules. It might also encourage them to take chances with your expectations.

 

Be Unified: If you are in two parent home, have a plan for how you will handle infractions. Never undercut your spouse. It is best for a child to see the two of you as a unified front. Children are little people, and like many people, they will vie for any advantage. Plus, disunity naturally creates inconsistency. If you are a single parent, stress unity with those who help you. Be unified with biblical ideals.


Do Not Discipline in Anger: Your judgement will likely be poor, and you will end up doing something to your child rather than for your child.

Connecting With Your Children

If we are to model for our children the kind of person God wants them to be, then we must learn to connect with them. This is an extremely important concept.  Connection means that a link or a conduit must be built in which love, information, blessing and communication can flow. Without that link, any modeling you present will be less effective than you want it to be. When you establish that link, then your modeling can be maximized. There are a number of ways that this link can be established, but consider these three as highly effective:

 

TOUCH: Appropriate, nonsexual, loving touch builds bonds. In fact, if we are to follow the model of Jesus, we might want to consider it (Mark 10:13-14Mark 6:56John 13:25). Touch has a way of communicating acceptance.  Just think of what it must have felt like, as well as what was communicated to the prodigal son when his father embraced him after his life of poor choices (Luke 15:20). When sincere, touch affirms and validates love. It establishes a link.

 

TIME: Connections cannot be realized without spending time. In fact, review the scripture from last week’s Reflections (Deuteronomy 6:4-9). In that passage we’re told that we are to teach our children about God in almost every domain of life.  To be able to do that requires spending time with them in all of those domains. If you plant a garden, but don’t spend time in it, you can expect that weeds will grow.  You can also expect that your connection to that garden, and your dedication to seeing it grow will diminish. Spending time also communicates value, and thereby builds a link.

 

ENCOURAGEMENT: Connections are also built through words of encouragement. The bible expressly teaches this (1 Thessalonians 5:11Ephesians 4:29Hebrews 10:25). There is clearly good in a good word.  Consider the truth of Proverbs 12:25, and how anxiety burdens a man,but a good word makes him glad.  All of these verses apply to children just as easily as they do to adults. Encouragement builds a link.  And when we model them for our children, they’ll model them for theirs. They’ll also model them for others, and by so doing, we will be advancing the Kingdom of God!

Modeling God

One of the most influential minds in the field of psychology belongs to a man named Albert Bandura. His greatest contribution to the science of psychology lies in the concept  that people learn from observing and imitating the modeling of others. His theory is powerful, useful, and predictive. His most famous experiments, the Bobo Doll experiments, were conducted in the 1960s, and involved children learning aggressive behavior after observing adults do so with a punching bag doll. Bandura found that boys were likely to engage in aggressive behavior when they had observed a male adult doing so. Girls were less likely to do so after observing male adult models, but more likely to do so after observing female adult models. One conclusion we can draw from his experiments is that our children learn how to react to life by watching how we react to life. The more they are like us, for instance, in their gender, the more powerful the effect.

 

This element of human learning may be one reason God gives the Hebrews a command in Deuteronomy 6:1-3 to teach their children to observe his laws and to fear him.  The payoff, he instructed, would be that things would go well for them in the land, and that they would have long life and prosperity. But it wasn’t just a simple command that he gave them. Instead, he instructed them to carry out the command in a particular way. In Deuteronomy 6:4-9 he tells them to talk to their children about those commands when they are sitting at home, when they walk along the road, when they lie down and when they get up, to tie them as symbols on their hands and foreheads, and to write them on their door frames and gates. In other words, God is telling them that observance of his commands, as well as their relationship with him, should be evident to their children in every interaction they have with their parents.

 

God knows that modeling is powerful.  In fact, this is evident from Peter’s claim that Christ is our example (1  Peter 2:21-25). Christ is the model that we are to follow in our lives. God became human so that we could identify with him as human, and model our lives after his.

 

So make an intentional effort to model for your children the kind of person you want them to be when they have fully matured.

Three Ways Satan and his Demons Influence You

Influence is the ability to have an effect on the character, development, or behavior of someone or something. If you’ve ever played with magnets, you know how this works.  If you bring a magnet close to ferrous metals, those metals will move wherever the magnet influences them to move. They are attracted to the magnets.Satan and his demons are highly interested in the power to influence you. Just like a magnet, they want to effect your character, your development, or your behavior.  They want you to be attracted to them, and to those things which they can use to corrupt you, and drive you away from God.  Consider these three ways in which demons try to corrupt you.

 

1) They use the world against you:  When Adam and Eve became corrupted and fell because of their sin in chapter 3 of Genesis, they (and we) became part and parcel of a world now ruled by sin. Because of this, men are attracted to the world instead of to God (John 3:19).  Satan is the god of this world (2 Corinthians 4:4) and he will use this world to keep us from the will of God.  He and his demons will use entertainment, money, music, images, pleasures, relationships, and everything that your fallen flesh desires to lure you from the light (James 1:14). Sometimes this is very subtle — like putting what appear to be harmless distractions in front of you. For instance, you can’t stop looking at your smartphone, so you don’t read your bible. Or you watch the football game instead playing football with your child.  Others are not so subtle, but often very difficult to resist, like lust, pride, greed, or envy.

 

2)They will get a foothold in your life through sin: In Ephesians 4:25-28, Paul names several sinful behaviors. They range from lying, to stealing, to being angry with someone without resolution before the end of the day. All of these, Paul says, give the devil a foothold. Meaning that he gets his foot between the edge of your door and the jamb of the doorway making it very difficult to close. When you sin, it desensitizes you to the devil’s efforts.  And when you don’t forgive or resolve an anger issue, it gives the devil a playground of bitterness in your life.

3)They will get you to depend on them instead of GodProverbs 3:5-6 tells us to trust in the lord and not our own understanding. And Proverbs 14:12 warns that there is a way that seems right to a person, but instead leads to death. Satan and his demons will trick you with a way that seems right to you if you lean on your own understanding, the understanding of other men, or to the persuasive voices of demons instead of to what God has already said.  Just ask Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:1-6).

Are You Letting Satan’s Nose in your Stuff?

There is a well known ancient Arabic parable about a man, his camel, and a tent.  In the story the man and his camel are traveling in the desert.   The man stops for the night and sets up his tent, then gets in and beds down because the temperature is cold. Shortly, the camel asks to put his snout in the tent because it is so cold outside. The man allows it, but tells the camel he must put just his nose in as the tent is only big enough for one. Soon the camel asks to put his front hooves in. The man, being considerate, reluctantly allows that as well. Finally, the camel asks to put his hind hooves in, arguing that he will freeze and not be able to continue the journey in the morning. As ridiculous as it sounds, the  man allows the camel’s third move. Upon putting his hind hooves into the tent, the camel pulls his whole body in and the man is pushed out of his tent completely. The devil works this way as well. In fact, you probably intuitively understand this.  If you give in to one temptation, then it is easier to give into another. Then, sooner than you’d care to admit, a chain of events has occurred, and you are beholden to sins you never thought you’d agree to.

This is particularly troublesome for someone who doesn’t truly follow Jesus. Consider the boy in Mark 9:14-29. An evil spirit possesses his body, taking such control over it that it prevents him from speaking or hearing. It also throws his body to the ground and into fire trying to harm or kill him.  Thankfully, Jesus casts the demon out and the boy is restored. Why are these stories so troublesome for a non-Christian?  Because of Jesus’ warning in Matthew 12:43-45.  Jesus describes how if demons are cast out of one home, they can return to it.  In that passage he talks about how a single demon is cast from a home.  The home is then cleaned, but when the demon returns and finds the house in order, yet unoccupied, he brings 7 more demons with him and they re-invade the house so that it’s new possession is worse than its first. But if Jesus occupies that house, those demons won’t be able to get in. They may bang on the house, they may sit on the lawn and shout at the windows, but they won’t be able to live in it.

So let the one person live in your house that won’t allow Satan to put his nose in.And if you are already a Christian don’t even let Satan on your lawn unless you want him banging on your door.

Angels and Demons and You

You may not realize it, but if you call yourself Christian, you are in a very real battle. If you do not yet call yourself Christian, then you are the cannon fodder for dark forces engaged in that same battle.  The apostle tells us that the war we are in is not against people. Battles against people are much easier.  Instead, it is against supernatural forces (Ephesians 6:12). Most of the time, you can’t see them, but just like the invisible radiation that rains down on us from space every moment of every day, those forces are very real, and have a measurable impact on the world around us.

 

This battle began long ago. In fact, it began even before Adam and Eve first walked in the Garden of Eden. Satan was God’s highest angel. He wanted to make himself like God (Isaiah 14:13-14), and in his pride and arrogance attempted to do that very thing. So God cast him from Heaven.  When Adam and Eve were placed in the Garden, Satan wasted no time seducing the first two humans to commit the same sin he did.  “Here, eat this fruit,” he told them, “and you’ll be like God (Genesis 3:4).” This, of course, ruined the human race, but thankfully, God has been redeeming it since then.  This redemption has come at great cost, and in the midst of a great war.

 

God’s desire is to save every willing human being (2 Peter 3:9). It is Satan’s desire to prevent that willingness (1 Peter 5:8, Luke 22:31).  This war is so real that we are instructed to be like soldiers (2 Timothy 2:3, Philemon 2, Philippians 2:25). We are also taught to put on the full armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-18).

 

Putting on this armor is vital to your effectiveness as that Christian soldier. Without it, Demonic forces will launch attacks against you in the dark, and in the light.  They will tempt you, they will oppress you, and if you are not saved, they can possess you. The battle is so fierce, and so serious, that Satan shapes and moves the very social structures of the world and the environments around you to conspire against your faith, and to put the full brunt of his powers against any Godly desires you may have.

 

But take heart. Christ has overcome that world (John 16:33). And he has already won the war (Colossians 2:15). So be wary of the dangers of war, but know that in the end those who belong to Christ have victory!

Profanity on a Dark Night

Many years ago, when I was still a very young man, I stomped through a lightless night as a soldier doing soldier things. Sometimes soldiers get a little salty with their language. In those days, I was no exception. Apparently, my friends and I did not consider a sentence to be grammatically correct unless it contained a subject, a verb, and at least one profanity. In fact, profanities often replaced subjects, verbs, adjectives, and other more traditional parts of speech.

 

At the time I considered myself a Christian, but had not given a great deal of thought to how I saw the world around me. On this particular night, my mood was not the best and my colorful grammar was reflecting it. As soldiers are often wont to do, I was complaining.  Someone came up to me in the darkness and started a conversation. The dimness of the night prevented visual recognition, and I responded to the man’s cheerful attempt at engagement with a string of words I would be ashamed to use today. Although I did not recognize his face in the obsidian night, I did, after a few moments, recognize his voice. I had heard it before.

 

In the chapel.

 

On Sunday mornings.

 

From the pulpit.

 

The point of that story is that we sometimes miss important things because we are not looking for them. In this instance, I was not looking for a world that might be influenced or unduly offended by my use of language, or my Christian representation.  The disciples have a different, but very similar problem in Mark 6:41-52.  They had just witnessed Jesus perform a miracle by feeding thousands of people with just a couple of fish and a few loaves of bread. They were having difficulty wrapping their head around that, and never really understood it (Mark 6:52). Later, when they were in a boat on stormy waters, Jesus walked right past them on the water (Mark 6:49), but they thought he was a ghost.  They didn’t recognize him!  There are probably many reasons for this, but one of them may be that they weren’t looking for him! Thankfully, he got in their boat and calmed their storm.

 

Is Jesus walking anywhere in your life? Have you looked for him? Are you missing what he’s doing? Are you going to let him in your boat?

The Strongest Motivator

 

One thing that I’ve learned over the years is that properly placed belief is one of the most powerful motivating forces in all of the world.  Belief, or faith, is far more powerful than fear, or money, or lust, or fame, or pride, or any other common human motivator. For instance, people who truly believe in a cause will go to very great lengths to further that cause.  Often, they will risk or give their lives for the furtherance of the cause they believe in. The vast majority of the world’s people would never even think of giving their lives for those things, but they will act on what they believe in.

Whenever I train or teach someone something new, I notice that those who believe in what I’m teaching will follow my instructions to a T. Those that are unsure about what I’m teaching, will usually attempt what I am instructing with only half-hearted fervor.  This is true even of myself.  Whenever I find myself doing a lackluster job at work, or anywhere else, I almost always notice that I have questioned the worth of what I’m doing. In those moments, I either don’t believe in the job, or I don’t believe in the benefits of the expected outcome, or I don’t believe that what I’m engaged in will be successful. My lack of motivation is rooted in unbelief.  Sometimes that unbelief is characterized by an unhealthy dependence on what the rest of the world has influenced me to believe.

This phenomenon is illustrated well in Mark 6:41-52.  In that passage the disciples see Jesus miraculously feed 5000 men with only 5 loaves of bread and two fish. By the way, since ancient societies only counted men, the crowd was probably much, much larger – perhaps greater than 20,000.  After the miracle, Jesus sent the disciples to a town on the other side of the Sea of Galilee while he goes to pray.  Later in the evening, the men are struggling against the wind in their boat.  Jesus takes note and approaches them by walking on the water. They all saw him, but they didn’t recognize him.  Instead, they saw him as a ghost, even though they’d just seen him perform an amazing miracle.  They were terrified, but Jesus tells them to take heart as he identifies himself, and steps into their boat. The wind ceased.

Take heart, he told them. To do this, believe that God is in control, that he works miracles, and that he wastes no event to further his good purposes. If you are able to do this, your struggle will not be as difficult because you will recognize Jesus when you see him! However, if you don’t take heart and believe, then you will be like those disciples in the last verse (Mark 6:52). Their hearts were hardened even though they had just seen a multitude miraculously fed, and a man walking on water.

Why Do an Angel and a Demon Argue Over a Dead Body?

The Bible has a few stories for which we aren’t given much information.  We are left to our own speculations about what they mean.  Unfortunately, this can be dangerous if we miss the larger point of the story.  One of those stories is found in Jude 1:9 where Michael, the only named Archangel in scripture, disputes with Satan over the body of Moses.  Jude doesn’t tell us what the two were disputing about, and we simply have no good ideas from established scripture. Jude appears to be referencing an apocryphal book called the Assumption of Moses, or the Testament of Moses. That book is no longer extant, and our only strong knowledge of it’s similarity to Jude’s claim is from an early church theologian named Origen. He lived in the second century AD, and commented on Jude’s possible use of that book.

 

The best explanation of the reason for the argument is pure speculation, but does have some credible weight. Moses was buried by God himself outside of the promised land, and the location of that burial was kept secret (Deuteronomy 34:5-6). People who think about such things contend that God wanted it kept secret so that the Hebrews would not worship Moses by paying undue homage to his burial site. People have a tendency to focus their worship on things that don’t deserve it, and Moses had been an extremely important figure in the development of Hebrew culture. This would have made him a prime object for reverence. Satan would have wanted the burial location information known so that he could further corrupt the devotion of the Hebrew people toward the only true God. Perhaps Michael disputed with Satan over that location. In yet another possible explanation, Satan the accuser, wanted the body of Moses because Moses had been a sinner and a murderer. In essence, Satan believed he had right to it since the redemptive work of Christ had not yet happened. Michael then debates with Satan in order to nullify that claim.  

 

But Jude’s purpose wasn’t to give us details about that event.  His purpose was to show how false teachers were walking on shaky ground when they defied proper authority and scoffed at supernatural beings  He was pointing out how the chief of the angels, Michael, did not directly accuse Satan, but instead deferred to the authority of Jesus. The false teachers were less than Michael and were rushing in to places where Angels did not tread!

 

Jude’s point is that you don’t have the authority or power to address demons directly, but that God does.  In such instances we are better off relying on God’s word, and on the name and authority of Jesus.

A Good Word Is Mighty

A good word is mighty. It brightens despair, powers through difficulties, and inspires action.  But at its most powerful, a good word changes things.  In fact, it does more than just change things, it transforms things.  We sometimes conflate those two terms, thinking they mean the same thing.  They don’t.  My wife has an old, tan colored Toyota van.  I’ve never liked the color, and frankly, don’t really like the van.  I could repaint it a different color.  Perhaps a deep metallic blue with a wide stripe down the right hood and roof would make it more palatable. Of course, if I do that, I’ll change the van, but only in a very small way. It won’t be as ugly to look at, but it’ll still be the same less than desirable, unmanly, bland, Toyota Hoseymobile. However, if I paint it that fabulous blue, put in a V8 engine with twin turbos, give it new tires, tint the windows, give it a new steering and suspension system, make it a 4 wheel drive, and deck it out with exterior lighting, I will have transformed it into a new and different van!

Words are transformational like that.  Last year, I met a man who was very distraught.  He had some goals for his life, and he wasn’t meeting those goals.  Ultimately, he wanted to move from a rural community to a larger city where he would have access to many services, as well as be exposed to many opportunities. Somehow, he developed the idea that if he didn’t complete a piece of paperwork within the next couple of week’s he’d lose his opportunity to move. In his head, he had to solve a problem with an apparent two week deadline on the day he was talking to me.  His body was tense, his mood was tense, his brain was tense, and he was unable to make decisions appropriately for anything he was doing.  I simply looked at him and said, “you know you don’t have to figure this out today.” I said it quietly, and kindly, then walked away. All his tension melted. His entire behavior and demeanor transformed in a matter of moments. He approached me few days later, and thanked me for giving him that good news. He’d never thought about it before.

Paul tells us about this dynamic clearly in Romans 1:16.  It is there that he tells us that the gospel – that is, the good news – has the power of God to transform us, and save us from our sins.  God’s amazing word has unmatched power for those who believe it! It doesn’t just change us, it transforms us.

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