A True Jew

“For you are not a true Jew just because you were born of Jewish parents or because you have gone through the ceremony of circumcision. No, a true Jew is one whose heart is right with God. And true circumcision is not merely obeying the letter of the law; rather, it is a change of heart produced by the Spirit. And a person with a changed heart seeks praise from God, not from people.”
‭‭Romans‬ ‭2‬:‭28‬-‭29‬ ‭NLT

What is our children’s position before God? Does there come a point when they emerge from the covering of their parents (assuming they are Christians of course) and stand on their own two feet, responsible to God for their own relationship with Him. There is such a time, of course. But before that, Christian parents must bring up their children to have a knowledge of God, teaching them to pray, telling them Bible stories. Taking them to church and Sunday School. We used to have a great time on long car journeys singing the songs and choruses our children had learned in their Sunday School services. As a family we became closer to each other somehow, as we all became closer to God.

But I have heard about some Christian parents who don’t believe that they should teach their children about their faith, preferring instead to allow them to make up their own minds when they are old enough. But such a view is flawed. It would be like saying to a 17-year old that it’s his or her decision about whether or not they obey driving laws. We, of course, teach them road sense from an early age for their own safety. 

The Bible says that we should teach our children about God and His ways. Back in Deuteronomy 6:1-2 we read, “These are the commands, decrees, and regulations that the Lord your God commanded me to teach you. You must obey them in the land you are about to enter and occupy, and you and your children and grandchildren must fear the Lord your God as long as you live. If you obey all his decrees and commands, you will enjoy a long life”. Later in the same chapter we read, “And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up” (Deuteronomy 6:6-7). 

There was a special place in Jesus’ ministry for children. We read in Matthew 19:14-15, “But Jesus said, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these children.” And he placed his hands on their heads and blessed them before he left“. And there are several Proverbs like this one, “Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it” (Proverbs 22:6). 

Paul pointed out to his hearers that their standing before God has nothing to do with their birth credentials or whether or not they were circumcised. It was all about getting their hearts right with God. It’s all about “a change of heart produced by the Spirit”, he said. And he also pointed out that there had to be a time when the umbilical cord to their parents was cut, to allow the children to make their own decision for Christ. There has to be a radical cutting off from our past and instead a commitment to a new way in God’s presence. Paul himself made such a decision. We read in Galatians 2:20, “My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me“. And it’s the same for us pilgrims. Like Paul, we too must trust alone in our wonderful Saviour, Jesus Christ.

Dear Father God. Thank You for reminding us that You are in the heart-changing business. We pray for the heart surgery we need to truly be Your followers. In Jesus’ name. Amen. 

Fatherly Instructions

“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord.”
Ephesians‬ ‭6:4‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Now here’s a novel idea. Bringing up children by applying Biblical principles? Whatever next! But humour aside, here in the UK we live in a society that has lost its way, when it comes to bringing up children. The state is increasingly interfering with the rights of parents to bring up their children in the way they believe best. Social workers, teachers and the NHS, all have their own agendas, which often sacrifice Biblical principles, that have stood the test of time, on the altar of progressive and unproven thinking and theories. For example, in schools children are taught about sexual matters far removed from Biblical principles. Child gender issues abound with so-called experts agonising over the best way forward. If only they opened a Bible, they would find the answers to their dilemmas.

The Bible has a lot to say about bringing up children, both directly but also in an implied way. Way back in Deuteronomy, we read this, “And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up”. (Deuteronomy 6:5-7). The way that we bring up children starts with us. With our own adult relationship with God, with the way we live our Christian lives. Our children look on. They see whether or not we are faking it. They can smell hypocrisy from afar. Parents living a life devoted to God and each other will set our children role models that will shape their own lives. And by so doing, we instruct our children in the ways of the Lord. 

My own children were fortunate enough to have been brought up in a Christian home. That is not to say that my wife and I always got things right. But they were able to watch us resolve our difficulties and move on in the Lord. The church teaching also helped them. I can remember that my daughter, in her High School biology class, challenged her teacher’s evolutionary beliefs, getting her in the end to agree that there was also a case for the creation model. Evolution is taught as fact in UK schools in spite of the difficulties with evolutionary theory that are conveniently glossed over. But that’s a subject for another day.

God is the Father over a large and growing family of children. He sets out the family rules, rules based on His love for His children, rules designed for our good and the good of His family as a whole. The Bible is our Source of discipline and instruction. We do well to read it, distilling out every Divine thought, every loving hint, always praying that our Father will help us in aligning our ways to His ways, our thoughts to His thoughts, our life to His life. And in the process teaching our children to do the same.

Children

“Children are a gift from the Lord;
    they are a reward from him.”
Psalm 127:3

Solomon continues with his thoughts in Psalm 127. He now muses over the blessings of having children, calling them a reward from the Lord. At first glance, we might take this as read, not digging too deeply into what it actually means. I suppose in those days with no welfare state, a house full of sons and daughters would be a blessing. As well as supporting the family, sons were useful for protection and security, particularly in their parent’s older years. But can they fall into the category of being a “gift” and a “reward” from the Lord? And what about in society today, in an overpopulated world?

There can never be a negative answer to that question. My own two children have been a source of many blessings. Those early years were a constant stream of good experiences as we grew up together as a family, ever closer, always learning. And as the years have rolled by, we have laughed together but also on occasion cried together, united as a family in the way God intended. 

But sadly, in recent years, Western nations have increasingly become engaged in the practice of infanticide. Call it abortion if you prefer. To me, the Biblical position is clear – life starts at the moment of conception. But we must never get caught up in a judgemental way; God loves each and every person caught up in their individual tragedies, and it is our duty to dispense His love and grace whenever we can. Bringing light and love into traumatised people’s lives.

We also need to pray for those desperately sad people who want to bring children into this world, but are unable to do so for some physiological reason. Good parents, devastated that they cannot fulfil their potential. And we also need to pray for the parents who lack the skills to bring up children, perhaps because they were badly parented themselves. And we have another societal problem with single parent families, where one of the parents has moved on, leaving a torn family and traumatised partner. We pray. O Lord, how we must pray.

Father God, today we thank You for the gift of children to those of us who are parents. And we pray for those of us who one day will be parents, or want to be parents, that you will reward them also. Help those people, Father, who are struggling in their parenting. We pray for those people who are single or unable to be parents, Father. We ask that You become their parent, enfolding them with Your presence and love, leading them to families as it says in Your Word. We pray this in the Name of Jesus. Amen.