Proverbs 22:6 – “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”
I don’t know what you hear when you read this verse (or hear someone using it to tell you how to raise your child), but this is what I hear: “Raise your kid right. Teach him all the rules about how to live a Godly life and how to treat other people and when he is old, he will live that way. Train him to be a Godly man, and he won’t go down the wrong path. Whatever you teach him or forget to teach him, will determine how he will live and if he will be a productive member of society.”
Well..I hear something like that anyway. However, this is NOT what the Scripture says. I’m not going to debate all the ins and outs of what I hear, but I do want to point out what the verse actually says. Charles F Boyd says:
“The phrase ‘in the way he should go’ does not refer to some prescribed path that every person should follow. In the Hebrew language, the phrase is better rendered, ‘according to his way.’ And the Hebrew word for ‘way’ is derek, which literally means ‘bent’ and refers to a unique inner design or direction.”
This verse is not about rules and a path, but about a relationship with my children. It means I’ve got to learn how God made them – their spiritual gifts, their skills/abilities, their passions/heart. I need to work at God’s side. God designed my children a certain way for His specific purposes and my role is to watch them closely, to recognize God’s handiwork, and then to join Him to strengthen and grow those gifts within them. I need to pay attention to the people in their lives and the opportunities that God presents to them. All of these things can be pieces to discovering God’s will for their lives. In order to “train them up in the way they should go,” I’m going to have to know something about the way they should go. Building close relationships is my best chance at getting that part right.
In the world we live in, it’s clear that people are able to accomplish more when they operate in the their strengths. That’s what this verse is about: finding our kids “strengths” (spiritual gifts) and then training them to develop those gifts to their full potential.
Kesleigh told me I was her “Worst Dad.” She went on to explain that her other dad was God. I guess that means I’m OK with being her “worst dad.” Maybe that should even be my goal? Keep propping up God and showing her how great He is so that I sort of fade into the background of her life. Wow….it’s hard to say that, but that’s truly what I want. I want her to be so in love with Him that I’m secondary. I want her to know that in Him, life goes on and she can find everything she needs with or without me.
The word “love” has been hijacked by our culture. It’s misused all the time. We “love” certain foods and as culture defines it, “love” changes with our emotions. This is why divorce is accepted and rampant. Even with all the talk about it and obsession with it, we don’t know what “love” is.
When Jesus left the earth, it was his “presence” that He expressed to us, not his love. I wonder, “Is presence the full expression of love? Jesus presence on the cross in our place – His presence in our sin.” The people who have the strongest marriages our our world are those who have been “present” with each other the longest. When my own marriage is at it’s best, it’s when we are fully “present” with each other. The closest relationships I have in this world are those people who I have been with the most – That includes both family and friends. Maybe “presence” is more important than love? (Probably not, but considering the way our culture has defined love, maybe this is a better way to think about it?)
I wonder what our world would be like if we started valuing “presence?” Would our marriages last longer? Would we put down our cell phones more and be with the ones we’re with?
In times of grief, Jewish people “sit shiva.” They just make themselves present with those who are mourning. They aren’t expected to say anything or do anything – simply “be” with each other. This is an example of valuing “presence.”
In his story “The Places Outside the Maps,” Doug McKelvey speaks of a man who has gone through many struggles and says of him, “It had never been answers he had sought in his sufferings, but presence, and that presence was here and was itself the thing that had always stood – from the foundations of the world and even before and even after – in the place that answers could not. Before the questions had been asked, the presence had already been given.”
I’m really just asking questions today. This idea was thought provoking for me.
Quiet – The internet doesn’t do quiet. It’s good for a lot of things, but quiet is not one of them. The internet overflows with information. It is loud and noisy. It’s a million voices. It’s full of people. (Many who would never be so obnoxious in person.) This can be a great thing. Sometimes, we need sensory overload and we need to fill our brains. Only then, can we sort through it all and make sense of the world around us.
Unfortunately, we need quiet for that part to happen. We can’t live our lives fully online, ’cause the internet doesn’t do quiet. When we’re online, we don’t see the long, quiet, thoughtful moments where people wrestled with themselves or with God or with other people. No one communicates the deep unsure quiet space where they work through things…..where they pray or where they seek guidance, but we need these times to sort through all the noise and settle in on the quiet where we find the “still small voice.”
I studied underMike Ayers in college and he used to say, “A leader needs time to sit and stare out the window.” We’ve all got to have time to stare and imagine what life “could” be like and maybe more importantly, how it “should” be. Staring out the window gives us a chance to imagine and create a way to get to these new places, how build something new, to develop a new strategy. It allows us space to dream. Maybe daydreaming should be a bit of a discipline? When we need to make big/important decisions we need space and margin. We need quiet. Internet can’t do this.
Confession: Quiet is what I need. Soccer games, and football practices, and dance classes, and church responsibilities, and work, and family, and lifegroup, and, and, and. It all just overwhelms me. My life seems like a lot of noise. Then I come home to the internet……and it’s just more noise, more information, more, more, more. The stress builds and just piles on. I feel like screaming. I just want it to stop. I need quiet. I need margin and space so I am working on it. As a family, we are taking January off from sports – no soccer games or practices. We didn’t sign up for basketball. We’re planning to go camping. I’m also refraining from tv and much of the internet – planning to read more and write (on this blog) – to contemplate and sit and “stare out the window.” Pray for me.
I’d also encourage you to do the same – take a break from the internet. Disconnect and I believe you’ll find real connections – deep connections which the internet cannot provide. Get quiet. Listen to God. He is so much better than the internet. He has real answers without the booming voice – without all the sensory overload and confusion. He is the “still small voice.” (1 Kings 19:12)
“God won’t give me anything I can’t handle.” – Ugh! I hate it when I hear this statement. I don’t think Noah could have handled the flood without God’s intervention and instruction. Moses wouldn’t have gotten Israel out of Egypt without the plagues that God provided. The walls of Jericho didn’t fall ’cause Joshua could handle it. They fell ’cause God handled it and Joshua obeyed. Would David have said, “God won’t give me anything I can’t handle?” He cries out to God regularly in the Psalms. He understood that he couldn’t handle it. We can’t “handle it” either.
The phrase is not a horrible thing to say. It’s not that it’s completely wrong. It just strikes something in me strangely. When people say this, they are trying to say that they trust God. They recognize that He is in control. However, it also makes me think that they might be confused about something. I mean – Do they think they can handle the situation? Do they think that God knows how awesome they are and that He is trusting them to handle it? Do they think God is acting as some sort of self-esteem booster giving them a vote of confidence in their own strength? ‘Cause I think that’s what our culture hears when we say it. Listen to it again – “God won’t give me anything ‘I’ can’t handle.” – It sort of implies ’cause “I am strong.”
I think God allows us into all kinds of situations that we can’t handle on our own.Sometimes I even wonder if He puts us into situations that we can’t handle? The key is – we can’t handle them “on our own.” We need His intervention. We aren’t relying on our own strength. We rely on Him. He is the provider. He is our strength. Yes – we can handle it, but only when we’ve got Him. The phrase we use leaves Him out of it in some ways. It places the power to overcome in the hands of “I.”
You see, when people use this phrase, some believe they are quoting Scripture. 1 Corinthians 10:13 says,
“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide a way of escape, that you will be able to endure it.”
This passage in context is talking about the temptation of idolatry – not every life situation that you find yourself in. Temptation, not circumstances. Yes – of course almost every circumstance can be reduced to some sort of idolatry so it sort of applies, but the critical part of the verse is not the part about our own “ability.” It’s the part about God’s provision and intervention on our behalf. We are to watch for His action – his “way of escape”, trusting that it will come, and then walk in faith into the “way of escape” that He provides. The power in this verse is in God’s hands, not our own. We are in need and He intervenes – providing a “way of escape.”
I’ve been through some things that I couldn’t handle. God allowed those things to happen to me. I couldn’t handle it when my dad died of leukemia. I couldn’t handle it when I lost my job and couldn’t provide for my family. I can’t even handle it when the lady in front of me at the grocery store has a bunch of coupons. The point is – I need God’s intervention. I need the “way of escape.” God gives me lots of things I can’t handle and I can choose to either let those things drive me closer to Him or drive a wedge between us. If I believe that the power to handle the situation is in my own hands, then I’m more likely to abandon God and go it alone. On the other hand, with a right understanding of this verse, I will look for His actions and be drawn closer to Him.
Friends, this is just sort of a pet peeve of mine. Instead of saying “God won’t give me anything I can’t handle,” please just say “God will help me through this one.” This way, my mind won’t launch into some ill-conceived idea that you don’t understand the Scriptures and that it’s my job to make you see it my way. I’m pathetic.
OK – My rant is over now. What do you guys think? Am I crazy? Am I reading too much into what people are saying or do you think there might be some misunderstanding as well? Are we communicating something unintentionally when we use this phrase?
Surrounded by strangers, my mind raced. . . .she’s not here? My heart sank. I went into denial. She has to be here. There’s nowhere else she can be. My heart sank deeper.No. It can’t be. No! No. No. No. My baby is missing. The tears started rolling down my face as I slammed my face into my hands.
My extended family (brother, sister, in-laws, nephews, nieces) was skiing in Angelfire, New Mexico and Kesleigh (6yrs old) was a brand new skier. We all started at the top of the mountain together and headed down a run we had done together multiple times that day. My son Kasen had a little spill and so I stopped to help him and allowed my daughter, Kesleigh to continue down the slope with our group. After getting Kasen settled, we raced toward the rest of our group and caught up with my brother about 1/3rd of the way down. He pointed Kesleigh out to me quite a ways down so I sped up and headed in her direction flying past lots of other skiers. I could see her with my sister as she turned a corner. When I made it to the turn, I saw my sister helping her son get up but didn’t see Kesleigh anywhere. She told me that she must have followed the others on down to the ski lift. There was only one ski lift at the bottom of that hill and she had been skiing with our group all morning long so I felt pretty good about meeting her at the bottom, but raced down to catch her anyway.
That’s when my mind started racing and my heart sank. She wasn’t there. Where could she have gone? What could have happened?Maybe it’s irrational, but I imagined some crazy abduction case or that maybe she had not made it down the mountain and was stuck hanging over the edge of some cliff. Why did I leave her? How could I have let her go on without me? Why? OK…….OK….Calm down. What should I do? OK – be smart. Alright. I asked my family to head up the lift looking for her and then to make another run down sweeping the area in search while I waited at the bottom in case she came down in the meantime. Waiting. . . . Oh, this can’t be. What kind of father are you? Is she alone? Please God. Keep her safe. Bring her back to us. Time moved so slowly. Please God. If I can’t be with her, please put someone else with her to help. My phone started ringing. My sister. She said they had seen Kesleigh from the lift and that she would come over the hill at any moment where would be able to see her. Thank you God. Thank you God. Thank you God.Oh. . . . there she is. As she approached, I could see her whole body quivering from her cry. She skied right into my arms and held her quivering dad who couldn’t control his own crying.
Evidently, she had crashed near my sister in between some trees where no one could see her. By God’s grace, and as an answer to prayer, another skier just “happened” to stop a few feet away from her and heard her crying. She helped Kesleigh out of the trees and got her back on her skis. After waiting a few minutes for someone to come looking for her, they decided that we must be waiting at the bottom. She told me that she knew she’d find some very worried parent at the lift. She was right. I couldn’t thank her enough and have prayed for God to bless she and her family many times since that day. She was an answer to prayer.
After the whole incident, Kesleigh and I talked about it and she forgave me for not being there. She also learned that God is watching over us and helping us even when no one else is.God never leaves us or forsakes us.Even when we are alone, we are NOT alone.
I was inspired by a friend (Denice Lambert) who posted this on facebook:
J: What do you want these boys to wear?
Me: They already dressed themselves. They sort of match and their clothes don’t have any holes or stains.
J: So those are the standards now?
Lowering the bar might be the most Godly thing you can do. (as long as it’s the right bar/standard) Lowering one bar is sometimes essential in order to raise another.
One simple example: Our house doesn’t always have to be spotless. When visitors drop in, it’s highly unlikely that they will find an OCD dream. Most of the time, we have shoes piled in one corner of the room and there might be clothes folded on the couch or backpacks opened with school supplies falling out onto the floor. It’s “lived in.” When I come home from work, I could focus my attention on cleaning up the place, or I could go outside and play with my kids. Some of you may disagree, but my calculations say that time with my children is more important. By lowering the “clean house” bar, I can raise the bar for my relationships. (Let me also say, that this one with my personality is easy for me to lower. My beautiful bride, who is usually correct, would like for me to pick this bar up off the floor a bit more.)
By choosing a specific bar to lower, we can focus on those things which are more important. By lowering one bar we might also grant permission to others to do the same. Using my previous example….maybe my wife only feels like the house has to be clean because her other friends have raised this bar…because our culture has said this is the “norm.”
By continuing to follow our cultural standards to always raise the bar, we perpetuate the myth that we can have it ALL together. It’s simply not true. We can play this game and mask the fact that we are not perfect, but that doesn’t make us perfect. In reality this game, forces us to neglect some other area in our life – quite possibly an area which is ultimately more important. Also, by continuing to raise all the bars, we overload ourselves with unreal expectations. When we fail and these expectations aren’t met, we feel an unnecessary sense of guilt.
When I attended CBS (College of Biblical Studies) they used a system called “Contract Grading.” They set a standard of a specific grouping of assignments and explained that if the student did each assignment successfully, he would receive an “A.” A smaller subset of those assignments would receive a “B” and an even smaller set would receive a “C.” They did not put pressure on students to work for the “A” all the time, and even explained that they understood that each of us had a life outside of school. They said that it might even be “sinful” to get an “A” in the class if it took us away from something that might be more important. I LOVED this approach and was set free emotionally to put as much or as little into each class as I felt like God would want me to do. These teachers communicated a trust in our own judgement and yet still held us to a standard that would stretch each of us. They gave us the option to “lower the bar.”
What bars/standards consume your time and drain your energy? Are they getting in the way of more important bars? Is someone else’s high bar making you feel inadequate? If so, evaluate the bar, is it important or will you choose to keep it low and focus elsewhere?
Prayer: LORD, Help me to see which bars I need to lower and which ones I should raise. Give me discernment. Lead me to a schedule that will allow me to focus on the standards which you think are important and whittle away those which are not. AMEN.
Here’s some interesting stuff I’ve learned about them:
Three distinctive actions of the Wise Men: (From an old message by Greg Matte.)
1. They left home to worship Jesus.
Willing to get out of their comfort zones and travel long distances. (Matthew 2:1) The journey from Persia to Jerusalem would have been very dangerous and preparations might have taken quite a while after the first appearance of the star.
2. They focused on eternal heavenly things rather than temporary earthly things.
Gave gifts to Jesus which reflected deeper meaning (Matthew 2:11) and hinted at Jesus’ yet-to-be-revealed identity.
Gold represented royalty.
Frankincense represented the priesthood. (Smoke represented prayers rising to God.)
Myrrh represented death. (Myrrh was used for embalming.)
3. They listened to God and God alone.
They ignored the wishes of Herod and obeyed those of God which were given to them in a dream. (Matthew 2:12)
1. There were 3 Wise Men
We read in Matthew 2:11 that there were 3 different types of gifts, however, that does not mean there were only 3 Wise Men. Most scholars believe there was a much larger group of them.
2. The Wise Men were there the night Jesus was born.
Considering the fact that Herod wanted to kill all Jewish children ages 2 and under, (Matthew 2:16) it is likely that they arrived at a much later date. The Scriptures are also clear that they arrived at a house (Matthew 2:11) rather than the “manger” scene which occurred the night of his birth.
3. The Wise Men were Kings from the East.
They were not Kings, but astronomers. They were most likely from Persia. The three types of gifts described were all in abundant supply in Persia and would have been highly valuable in both cultures.
Other Interesting Facts:
The Wise Men had probably known about the coming Messiah through studies of the prophecies of Daniel. Jewish legends even say that Daniel himself (as an official in the Persian government) founded the order of the Magi and had instructed them to be watching for the Messiah. (Guzik Commentary)
In Matthew 2:2 the Wise Men seem to believe that the Jewish leaders would have been well aware of the Messiah’s birth and would be excited too. They’re about to discover otherwise. Some believe they must have been aware of Balaam’s prophecy in Numbers 24:17 which describes a “star” which will “come out of Jacob.”
Matthew 2:3 says that Herod and all of Jerusalem was disturbed to hear the news of Jesus’ birth. Herod was not the rightful king and so he had a clear reason for being worried. There are, however, two possibilities for the people’s concern: 1) They knew Herod was going to freak out. or 2) The group of Wise Men was large enough and distinguished enough to scare them a bit.
Herod asks the Jewish scholars where the Christ would be born. Their answer “Bethlehem,” comes from Micah 5:2 quoted in Matthew 2:6.
It is probable that Joseph and his family lived off of the gold gifts which were given to Jesus while they were in Egypt.
Matthew 2:9 says the star “went ahead” of them. This is most likely a supernatural event and cannot be explained by any alignment of planets or the like.
It must have been an interesting site as this large group of dignified foreigners bowed down to a young child. (Matthew 2:11)
3 Different Responses to Jesus in this passage: Today, Jesus gets the same reactions.
1. Herod hated him and wanted to kill him.
2. The chief priests and scribes were indifferent to Jesus. They didn’t bother to do anything different once they heard about him.
3. The Wise Men looked for him and made great sacrifices to be with Him.
Summary and Prayer:
I hope this has been helpful to you all.
Prayer: Lord, Help me to be willing to move out of my comfort zones. Help me choose to follow You – one step at a time. Like the star that “went ahead” of the Wise Men, lead me. Give me the courage to continue this journey focused on You, Give me wisdom to discern Your still small voice among all those which shout at me constantly and give me courage to follow like the Wise Men. Lord, even if it means looking strange or not fitting in, let me trust You. Like these wise men, allow me to lead others (mostly my own family) to recognize Jesus as well. Let me respond appropriately to Jesus. Let me worship with my life and lead me to the specific ways you’d like that expressed with my time, my money, my relationships, and my passions. (Or should I say, Your time, Your money, Your relationships, and Your passions?) Anyway, I love being Your kid. Thanks for making that possible through the blood of Your own son, Jesus. Without Him, without You, I am hopeless. You are all. AMEN.
OK – What are shepherds? Well, they’re the guys who watched the sheep. Many times in ancient Jewish culture they were young boys, but sometimes older guys did it too. They were responsible for moving the sheep from one field to the next so they could get plenty to eat and safe water to drink. They also protected the sheep from predators and would leave the group in order to search for a lost sheep. The sheep knew the shepherd’s voice. With a few shepherds and their sheep all intermingled, the shepherd could call his sheep and only those who were his would follow. Shepherds led a humble life – probably a bit of a lonely life too out in the fields with nothing but sheep (and God) to talk to all day. This sets the scene for what we’re about to read. A group of shepherds were out in a field near Bethlehem one night when according the Message paraphrase of Luke 2:8-20:
They had set night watches over their sheep. Suddenly, God’s angel stood among them and God’s glory blazed around them. They were terrified. The angel said, “Don’t be afraid. I’m here to announce a great and joyful event that is meant for everybody, worldwide: A Savior has just been born in David’s town, a Savior who is Messiah and Master. This is what you’re to look for: a baby wrapped in a blanket and lying in a manger.”
At once the angel was joined by a huge angelic choir singing God’s praises:
Glory to God in the heavenly heights, Peace to all men and women on earth who please him.
As the angel choir withdrew into heaven, the sheepherders talked it over. “Let’s get over to Bethlehem as fast as we can and see for ourselves what God has revealed to us.”
They left, running, and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger. Seeing was believing. They told everyone they met what the angels had said about this child. All who heard the sheepherders were impressed. Mary kept all these things to herself, holding them dear, deep within herself. The sheepherders returned and let loose, glorifying and praising God for everything they had heard and seen. It turned out exactly the way they’d been told!
Now consider this: These particular shepherds are famous. Think about it: Shepherds were humble nobodys and social outcasts in their own culture, but here we are talking about them 2000 years later. What did they do that made them different?
1. They listened to God. (vs 15)
When the angel appeared that night in the field, there were lots of voices competing for their attention: 1) The voice of Doubt saying “You must be hallucinating. It was something you ate.” 2) The voice of Duty “You can’t go into Bethlehem. You’re responsible for these sheep.” 3) The voice of Laziness “You’re tired. It’s been a long day. Just stay here and rest.”
2. They ran to Jesus. (vs 16)
Once they decided they were going to listen to God, they had a sense of urgency. They didn’t waste time. They allowed their own Godly curiosity to dictate their pace. (When I’ve preached this message, I use the scene from “When Harry Met Sally” where Harry runs to the Christmas Party to talk to Sally. At one point he uses the line ” When you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.” I think that quote is appropriate for the shepherds too.)
3. They told everyone about Jesus. (vs 17-18)
When they had seen Jesus, they didn’t keep it to themselves. News spread quickly ’cause they were so excited. Matthew 12:34 says “out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.” The shepherds couldn’t contain themselves. Much like the news of a woman’s engagement. Sometimes she doesn’t even get to tell everyone, ’cause the news spreads so fast that people hear before she can get to them. Also, Remember, the angel had told them that this news was for “all people,” and so they were just doing their part.
4. They worshiped Jesus. (vs 20)
The shepherds worshiped with their mouths, but also with their lives as they told others and spread the news of Jesus.
I don’t know if it’s important to have people talking about us 2000 years later, but these shepherds stand out among all the other shepherds of the world because they reacted to Jesus in these ways. How would our lives be different if we did too? Would we stand out from the rest of the world if we truly listened to God, felt an urgency to be with Him, told others about Him, and worshiped Him? I think so and I pray that my life will reflect the attitudes and actions of these shepherd nobodys.
Other interesting Stuff:
It is very possible that these Bethlehem shepherds were watching over the temple flock – taking care of the sacrificial lambs. I think it’s cool that some of the first to see the true Lamb of God were the humble folks who took care of the sacrificial lambs from the temple.
Note that when angels appear, they aren’t greeted as if they are cute little flying cupids. They are feared. The first thing out of an angel’s mouth is almost always, “Do not be afraid.”
The fact that God chose to send the angel to the shepherds spoke volumes. Shepherds were regarded as unreliable and were not allowed to give testimony in courts (Morris), and so God chose to use them in spite of that reputation. Notice in verse 18 that when the people heard what they had to say, they were amazed. I think it’s interesting that they believed these unreliable shepherds enough to be amazed!
Notice the angelic glory in comparison the the humble Jesus who created the angels.
In ancient Jewish culture, when a boy was born, local musicians congregated at his home to greet him with music. (Daily Study Bible) Since Jesus was born in a stable, the angelic choir had to take the place of the local musicians.
The swaddling clothes was normal, but if the angel hadn’t told them to look for Jesus in a manger (feeding trough) they would never have believed it. Calvin said, “This was a revolting sight, and was sufficient of itself to produce an aversion to Christ. For what could be more improbable than to believe that he was the King of the whole people, who was deemed unworthy to be ranked with the lowest of the multitude?”
Check out what Calvin says about the shepherds “glorifying and praising God” in verse 20. “If the cradle of Christ had such an effect upon them, as to make them rise from the stable and the manger to heaven, how much more powerful ought the death and resurrection of Christ to be in raising us to God?”
Most scholars agree that the time of Jesus’ birth was probably not Dec 25th. In his commentary, Adam Clarke suggests a fall time frame due to the fact that the sheep were in the fields at night.
My pastor said this in a sermon a while back. He was referring to coming to Christ for the first time, but I heard it differently. It stuck. It’s been rolling around in my head for months now. If I could “believe now,” then I could make a Godly choice in every moment. You see, my failures and bad decisions are usually based upon some sort of unbelief.
I don’t believe He will provide for us, so I choose to worry about our financial situation.
I don’t believe that my body is a “temple for the Holy Spirit” (I Cor 6:19-20) or that God really cares about my health. I tell myself, “It’s not that big of a deal”, so I eat more than I should.
I don’t really believe sin kills, so I speak rudely to my family and my wife.
I could go on and on. . . . but you get the point. If I could “Believe Now!” I’d probably make better choices. I’d probably represent Jesus better and become more like Him. If I could “believe now,” I’d probably say “Yes” to different things and I’d be involved in new things. I’d probably say “No” to some other things as well.
Prayer:LORD, help me to “Believe now.” Keep this phrase in my mind. Train me to remember it in the moments that I struggle. Guide my heart to believe constantly, moment by moment. LORD I believe, but I want to believe more often, more consistently. “LORD I believe. Help my unbelief!” – Mk 9:24 AMEN.