Growing In Godliness Blog
Reflections On Rearing Godly Children
By David Norfleet
This weekend my family gathered to celebrate the 16th birthday of our 2nd daughter, and while doing so I reflected on how fast time has passed. It seemed just like yesterday that our kids were crawling and needing naps, and we had all the time in the world ahead of us. But, now, in almost a blink of an eye, they are grown and no longer need mom and dad.
I think one of the most terrifying and yet rewarding experiences that we face is attempting to rear godly, spiritually minded children. It is terrifying because all of us at one point are amateurs, and armed with God’s word we attempt to navigate life and the thousands of decisions it throws at us. But, it is also satisfying and rewarding to see their faith grow as they mature and appreciate the Lord’s hand in it all along.
There is no magic formula which will guarantee spiritually minded children, and ultimately the decision to “walk in the Spirit” is one each individual must make for themselves – parents cannot make it for their children. That is not to say, however, we are without influence. So, with that I mind I would like to offer a few suggestions (I offer these not as an expert or one who is a perfect parent, but one who is still very much in the trenches and wants his children to grow into godly individuals.).
- If we want our children to be spiritually minded, we must be spiritually minded. Children are much more likely to become what their parents are than what they claim to be. Children, maybe even more so than any other people, see our real motivations, affections, attitudes, and goals. We will not model for them spiritual perfection, but they need to see sincerity in our pursuit of it.
- We must understand our true and greatest purpose as parents, and that is rearing spiritually-minded children. That is the only truly essential goal to be achieved in this life (It is not whether they gross over $100,000 per annum, have an advanced degree, or are the most accomplished socially.). That must be foremost in our parenting as God’s purpose in creating them was that they might “be conformed to the image of His Son” (Romans 8:29). That alone will determine their success or failure in this life, and in the life hereafter. This must be our goal! It has to be more than a plaque on the wall, but rather the shaping-force of our decisions in how to raise our children.
- After the goal is set, we must train our children toward that goal. It is important from a very young age that the goals parents have for their children are communicated. They must know that they are to be consecrated – set apart for service to God. They learn this, not simply by being told, but by seeing this purpose in their parent’s decisions and seeing how parents react to their conduct.
- As part of this training we must control the influences we allow to shape their minds. The Proverb writer stated, “as he thinks within himself, so is he” (Proverbs 23:7). So as parents we must exercise great care in what we allow to shape their minds. This will both involve influences we must protect them from, but just as importantly things that are good, wholesome, and spiritual that we expose them to regularly.
- Finally, if our children are to be spiritual, prayer must be offered for the help which God alone can give. Prayer is the means by which you can obtain the help God has promised. “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5). It is amazing what God can accomplish in our children!
This list is not meant to be exhaustive, but simply offered in reflection of the awesome privilege it is to shape these young souls in the image of God. But, also to remind all of you parents to have fun along the way, enjoying the time you have with them!
Serving One Another
By Paul Earnhart
Marriage has fallen on hard times in America and its agonies have filled many with a desperate longing for the healing of the home. The appetite for books on this subject seems insatiable. Unfortunately, much of this concern is for a quick and easy method— “15 Minutes a Day to a Happy Marriage.” There is no such magic formula. But there are answers, real answers, to marital anguish. They have been there all along.
The Bible is the grandest marriage manual ever written; not because it was written for that purpose, but because it is a book about relationships. It deals primarily with a man’s relationship to God and, out of that, his relationship to himself and others.
Marriage, as a union between a man and a woman, has about it some unique qualities of companionship and intimacy, but it is, at its heart, a relationship and the fundamental principle which rules it and moves it to a profound closeness is the same one which nurtures human relationships of every kind. A powerful statement and practical application of that principle is found in Ephesians.
Ephesians 5:1 is a bridge. It is the concluding thought of one exhortation which leads to another. Paul is in the midst of a practical application of the great principles of God’s redemptive work in Christ. He has been speaking of walking worthily of our calling (Ephesians 4:1), walking in love as God’s beloved children (Ephesians 5:2), walking as children of light, carefully, wisely (Ephesians 5:8, 15). He urges the Ephesians to be filled with the sobering influence of the Spirit rather than the wild indiscipline of wine. Such a Spirit-filled life, he says, will reveal itself in concrete ways— in the heartfelt worship together of God, and in mutual subjection to each other (Ephesians 5:18-21).
It is on the last phrase fo the paragraph, “subjecting yourselves to one another in the fear of Christ,” that Paul fixes his attention on the succeeding verses (Ephesians 5:22-6:9). Here he finds the principle upon which all relationships in Christ must be grounded. It is an idea which occurs frequently in Paul, and he always derives it from what God has done in Christ and the cross. This calling, with which we must live harmoniously, is out of the rich mercy and goodness of God who, by His grace, has elevated us, sinful and undeserving, to sit in heavenly places in Christ (Ephesians 2:1-10). This calling demands that those who receive it live with all others in a humble, long-suffering, forgiving love (Ephesians 4:2, 32) and find the greatest delight in serving the needs of others rather than their own. Such was the self emptying mind of Christ (Philippians 2:1-5). So He taught, lived, and died (Matthew 20:26-28; 23:11-12).
It is for this reason that in the succeeding discussion of the responsibilities of husbands and wives, parents and children, masters and servants, that the one whose role it is to submit is dealt with ahead of one whose task it is to lead and guide (Ephesians 5:22-6:9). There is no role in life which so suits the mind of Christ as the role of submission. No disciple of Jesus should find it demeaning to submit— whether a wife to a husband, a child to a parent, or a servant to a master— when he follows the One who “emptied himself, taking the form of a servant…” (Philippians 2:7); who came “not to be served, but to serve and to give his life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28). The reason for the submission of the wife, child, or servant, is to bless the husband, parent, or master— and to honor Christ.
More difficult perhaps is the role of the leader. He, too, must subject himself. The husband must subject himself to his wife, the parent to his child, the master to his servant. This does not remove him from his responsibility of headship and leadership, but it means that his guidance must always be ruled by the best interest of those who must follow and not his own. The husband is not to rule his wife for his own selfish ends, but in order to bring blessing and fulfillment to her. The parent is not to rule his children arbitrarily, as if he owned them to do with as he pleased, but, as a steward of God’s gift, to nurture them after God’s purposes and for their own eternal good. The master (employer, manager) too, must in his guidance of the affairs of his servants (employees) seek their good and not merely his own.
This spirit of sacrificial love will revolutionize any relationship, especially marriage. The root problem of our modern marital trauma is not technique, but sin. Selfishness and pride have destroyed our ability to live humbly for the sake of another. We come to marriage, as to other relationships, not to give, but to get, not to forbear, but to demand, not to bless, but to use. How is this problem to be solved? In the same way every sin problem must be solved— by a heartfelt repentance which seeks God’s forgiveness and turns to serve Him humbly again. It is only as we come to know and emulate the servant-mind of God’s Son that we will find peace and blessing in our relationships with others. And in that most intimate of all human relationships, especially.
Ready To Listen
By David Norfleet
For anyone that has been in a relationship for very long, you know it is easier to stick your foot in your mouth than to take it out. We often or frequently need help with how to communicate with others effectively. James does so by providing inspired instruction that will help in those situations. He wrote in James 1:19, “This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger.” If we would heed this instruction it would help in all our inter-personal relationships, but especially our relationship with God. And that seems to be James’ primary application as he points to the word of God in James 1:21, “…in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls.”
So, what does it means to be “quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger” with respect to God’s word?
To be quick to hear points to an eagerness to learn and a willingness to accept the things God has to say to us. We want instruction. We want counsel. We want wisdom from heaven. We need help. This idea is more of a disposition than an action, and it begins with humility – a recognition that we don’t have all the answers, but God does. Peter wrote in I Peter 2:2, “like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation.” Jesus knew of the importance of this quality in His followers so He wrote in Mark 4:24, “Take heed what you hear.”
How does being slow to speak relate to a reception of God’s word? It is generally true when you're talking or even thinking about what to say you are not listening. There is proven value in speaking less and listening more (Proverbs 10:19; 17:28), but it is critical when attending to God. In this text being slow to speak may actually mean “slowness to start speaking,” and have specific reference to ill-considered reactions to what God has said. How will we ever receive God’s instruction if we do all the talking or if we thoughtlessly react to justify ourselves, negate Scripture’s demands, or explain the Bible away? Our attitude needs to reflect the words of Samuel, “Speak, for Your servant is listening.” (I Samuel 3:9-10)
What do you do when God’s word steps on your toes? Maybe you’re reading it, or hearing it preached. It says something that you don’t like, because it confronts the way you think or live. Do you get angry and defensive, thinking, “What right does that preacher have to say that? How dare he tell me how to live!” Do you have these “flash-reactions” when your conscience is pricked? That is why it is so important to be slow to anger, as an angry spirit is not a teachable spirit. As James would write, “…the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.” (James 1:20)
Popular author Francis Chan stated, “Whenever I read the Bible and come across something that I disagree with, I have to assume I am wrong.” He understands that the word of God and our reception of it is vital as it reveals, reproves, corrects, trains, revives us, directs us, keeps us from sin, and reveals God to us (Ephesians 3:1-4; II Timothy 3:16; Psalm 119:50, 105; Psalm 19). It is no wonder the psalmist would write, “I opened my mouth wide and panted, for I longed for your commandments.” (Psalm 119:131) If we could only get out of our own way God wants to transform us through His word, James tries to help us with that by reminding us to be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger.
Journeying With Jesus
By Matt Hennecke
Have you ever noticed the number of journeys spoken of in Scripture? We have Abraham’s journey from Ur to Haran to Canaan and on to Egypt and back. We have the exodus story as Israel journeyed from Egypt to the promised land. We have the many evangelistic journeys of Paul. In fact, the more I think about it the more I see the entire Bible as a travelogue – a book of journeys. In some cases, the journeys are physical as people travel, sometimes as captives – as when God’s people went into Assyrian and Babylonian captivity – but, perhaps in more cases, they are journeys of discovery as people learn about their sinful selves and a loving God seeking their redemption. It’s not surprising, then, that God’s people are often referred to as wayfarers, weary travelers, or pilgrims inroute to a heavenly City.
Amidst all of the stories of journeys described in the Bible, there is one that surpasses them all. It is the longest, the most arduous, and difficult journey ever undertaken. It is a journey without maps or mileage that lasted for 33 years. Of what journey do I speak? It is Jesus’ journey of humility from heaven to earth and back again. It is a journey that reveals his heart of humility. The story of his journey is told in Philippians 2:3-11. There Paul writes. “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped….” Then Paul tells us the stages of Jesus’s journey of humility when he says Jesus 1) emptied himself, 2) took the form of a servant, 3) humbled himself, and 4) then died on a cross.
Has there ever been a longer more challenging journey? Jesus was (and is) God, but he travelled to earth and went from the very highest place to a tomb. Thankfully his journey wasn’t over, for then “God highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
Here's the thing. The journey Jesus took is similar to the journey faithful Christians should be taking. We are to empty ourselves, become servants, be humble, and die to sin so we might be servants of God and exalted by Him. How’s your journey going? When the path ahead seems unclear, be sure to consult the road-map frequently (your Bible) and always consider the Pathfinder (Jesus) who showed us how to find our way Home.
Humbled For Service
By Matt Hennecke
The Word of God is an amazing, life-changing tool. Consider, for a moment, the apostle Paul. When we are first introduced to him, he is described as “young” (Acts 7:58). His youth may have contributed to what seems to be a certain cockiness. He seems to have been a self-assured young man who seemingly “knew it all.” It is not unusual for young men (and women, too, I guess) to see everything as black and white, right and wrong. Paul (or Saul as he was then called) was certain that Christianity—like Christ—had to be eliminated. Acts 9:1-2 reveals Saul was obsessed with threats and murder: Self-assured. Cocky. A know-it-all. And flat out wrong.
As he journeyed to Damascus, he had his first dose of humility. A light and a voice cast doubt where before there had been none. For three days he ate and drank nothing. His journey of humility had begun. He was baptized into the very Body which he had sought to destroy. Talk about eating crow. Imagine the shame and the dawning realization of just how wrong he had been.
But Paul’s journey of humility had only begun. His own writings reveal the transformative power of the Word. The Word is amazing, for it first convicts us and then lifts us. Paul’s transformation—indeed, his journey of humility—is seen in his writings. Note the progression:
• In 1 Corinthians 15:9, written about 56 AD, he calls himself the “least of the apostles.” This was still an elite group of men. The least of twelve is still pretty good company. It would almost be like saying, I’m the least of the Super Bowl champion team.”
• Then note what he writes five years later in Ephesians 3:8. He says he is “the very least of all saints.” The circle of comparison has gotten larger—much larger—but is still comprised of a minority.
• Then two years later he writes, “Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all” (1 Timothy 1:15). In his own words, we learn Paul has been completely humbled. By the time he wrote 1 Timothy he says is was the foremost of ALL sinners.
How did this journey of humility come to be? By constant contact with the inspired Word and by contemplation of the gold standard Himself – Jesus Christ. Paul was changed. If we will let it, such is the transforming power of the Word in us. Paul was transformed by the Word and the Word will transform us so we will have our high self-opinion replaced with total gratitude for Jesus Christ; and thus humbled we will become, as Paul did, vessels of service to our Lord.