January 9 – Obedience is Life and Death (Jenny)

pais

One of the sorest subjects around our house in our entire marriage involved an animal. Let me be more specific: a 120 pound black lab puppy. (He was not the first pet to be a part of this story, but I won’t go back that far!)

I completely dropped the ball when it came to helping this active and enthusiastic dog. Of all the obedience training I attempted to put in place while Lorenzo was at work, nothing seemed to stick! Several places on our home’s light beige carpet stuck around to prove my ineptness. In spite of all the success of my sisters and other friends and family with their pets, I just couldn’t get it to sink in.

Truthfully, I was too inconsistent to see any real progress! We do live in a society that values obedience training in our pets. And I know lots of animal lovers that do an amazing job. But the stakes really get high when we start talking about the pursuit of obedient children.

My husband has always said that whatever we see in our 2 year-old that goes uncorrected, “multiply that particular behavior” by a 16 year-old. It usually doesn’t give a pretty picture. Research has shown that the foundation to our children’s character is formed by the time they turn five.

What may look like cute antics right now in our toddlers won’t be so cute when they are ten, or older. In much the same way as our dog, (and even more so), our children are begging us for boundaries! They not only need to know “yes, no, who’s in charge, and I love you,” but they need to be trained how to respond in certain situations.

All of us have moments we need our children to stay close to us and not run off. So when our first three children were four and under, I would take them to the mall (a big, safe space) on a morning that wasn’t busy, and I would tell our older two that “our job today is to stay by mommy.”

Then we would walk around the mall, as I reminded them of the goal as I pushed the baby in the stroller. If one of them ran off, I would bring them back and give them a gentle reminder. After fifteen minutes of this kind of training, we’d all be ready for a reward.

Moments like that can really pay off in the long run. We can practice situations at home that will come up later, such as eating in a restaurant, sitting quietly through a wedding, etc.

Obedience doesn’t come just because we demand it, or even from using discipline, it comes from building a relationship. And it is life and death, because we can all face a time when a child tries to run towards a busy street. Then, obedience can save their life.

God loves an obedient heart. He’s certainly not into condemnation, nor does He hold our wrongs against us.

Mistakes will be made. But just as Jesus willingly went through the last moments of his life as God revealed His will to him, so should we cultivate the riches of obedience in our children. And their response to us will always reflect the level of our obedience to the Father as well. Spend time training your heritage towards obedience.

And these words which I am commanding you this day shall be [first] in your [own] minds and hearts; [then] you shall whet and sharpen them so as to make them penetrate, and teach and impress them diligently upon the [minds and] hearts of your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down and when you rise up. Deuteronomy 6:6,7 AMP

 Biblical Meditation: James 1:25

Favorite Source: Hints on Child Training by H. Clay Trumbull

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January 5 – Coming Through!

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I read a quote one day. “Remember: God sends children through you, not to you.” I remember thinking out loud, “Wow, that’s good!” It wasn’t until years later, when I was holding my own precious babies, that the quote really jarred me. All of a sudden, I felt out of control and powerless. Their destinies are in the hands of the One who sent them.

Dr. Luke’s historical account of the child who would one day be known as John the Baptist is quite insightful. What an entrance he made into the world! An angel pronounced his birth, a woman past the age of childbearing carried him, and a daddy who couldn’t speak declared his unexpected name.

So, you knew this baby was on his way to the top of his class and would surely be the next High Priest of Israel. On the contrary! The Bible says he lived in the desert. This great man was hidden from mainstream society most of his days. For all practical purposes, he was a social misfit; I mean the guy had a diet of grasshoppers and wild honey!

But, at the proper time, God brought his purpose to light. Everyone then and now can see and receive the precious Gift of God because he followed God’s plan for his life. Maybe you wonder if your “spirited child” will ever get it together. Be encouraged.

Our children are in His grasp. To Him, they are time capsules set to go off at the proper time. Indeed, they have landed on this planet through you, but always remember to Whom they ultimately belong!

 And the child grew and became strong in spirit, and he lived in the desert until he appeared publicly to Israel. Luke 1:80 NIV

 Biblical Meditation: Psalm 127

December 2- Unannounced Answers

Luke 1:8-11 The Message

It so happened that as Zechariah was carrying out his priestly duties before God, working the shift assigned to his regiment, it came his one turn in life to enter the sanctuary of God and burn incense. The congregation was gathered and praying outside the Temple at the hour of the incense offering. Unannounced, an angel of God appeared just to the right of the altar of incense. Zechariah was paralyzed in fear.

 We have a standard joke around the Dunford house when it comes to Daddy’s keys. There have been times (many times) when I didn’t place my keys on the little designated hooks by the door and of course temporarily misplaced them. I then did the next thing and asked everybody in the house if they’ve seen my keys. The majority of the people in my house are all under 15 so they don’t have a clue where the missing keys might be. But since it is considered a common occurrence, their momma has trained them with the right response to my question. I say, “Has anyone seen my keys?” And they say, “They are probably with your wallet!” Isn’t that cruel? I do believe, contrary to the overall consensus of the clan, I am getting better!

Maybe you can relate to misplacing something and looking for it frantically. When do you normally find it? That’s right, when you quit looking for it! Out of the blue, it shows up. Take this angle on prayer and God’s plan for a moment. He knows our needs before we ever voice them, but most importantly, He knows His plan and where we fit in it. Often, when we lay our cares in His lap (I Peter 5:7), He gives us a little glimpse of what’s coming, but He knows if we see too much, we’ll get to messing with it. (And worrying about it!)

Hang on to His Word today as a source of confidence that He will make all things beautiful concerning you and yours. Think on Luke’s account of how He worked in the lives of Zechariah and Elisabeth. Nothing’s changed, especially God!

Suggested Biblical Meditation: Luke 1 and I Peter 5

 

 

November 18- God Breathed

All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work. II Timothy 3:16-17

Just came home from a long trip with my family. We had a great time, a truly relaxing time. And as is the case with long trips in a fifteen passenger van, one tends to grow weary of whirling wind and winding roads. But nothing peeks the agitation meter like finger swirls on the rear glass windows. I must admit, when I was a child, I too loved to huff on the car glass when the air was crisp and leave creative finger impressions in the dew. But as a dad desperately striving to deliver his family to their destination in one piece, the artful inspirations fail to inspire.

Interestingly enough, it is the thought of breath that captures my attention just now. Often, the simplest of things are missed or mashed under the weight of intellectual exercise. This is the case with the Word of God housed in the book known as the Bible. Though human hands and mortal hearts were used to translate them for our benefit, it is the supernatural breath of God that separates them from all other words floating about in the great expanse of all that exist. And just like childish finger doodle on a huffed on car window, God’s Word bares His finger prints. But if you and I are too busy trying to get from point A to point B, the thought of His Breath, His Word, and His Fingerprints might be more annoying than awe inspiring. And if we fail to pay attention, we will find ourselves pulling over just as fast as we can to wipe the evidence of His presence from our view.

Heaven help us!

November 16- It’s All About the Table

James 5:16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.

We’ve been talking about getting tripped up. I thought I would make something really clear. Just publishing a devotional or being associated with the word “ministry” doesn’t make you immune to falling. The steps we laid out yesterday are familiar to us because we use them. We need them. Thankfully, God doesn’t give us a timetable to show when His grace runs out; however, we need to fall less as time goes on because that’s growth.

You might remember that there was a step towards the end that involved another person. Empower someone else to help you stay true to your plan. You might have thought, “No way is there anyone I can tell about this area in my life. They’ll hate me! They’ll give up on me.” I think this is where couples, especially, can get really messed up. One can have something they are battling and the other doesn’t know anything about it. And the one who isn’t battling at the time (because everyone will be battling at some point) isn’t sensitive to what the other is going through. I know that wives, especially, can be very over-reactive when a husband tries to share something, so that maybe he eventually won’t want to share anything at all. (I can say that because I’m a wife!)

There is a lot of power and strength that God gives us when we are willing to share our struggle with someone else. Pray for your spouse to be that person, if you have one. Be that person for your spouse. “Little foxes” can steal the foundation of a marriage when a spouse is not entirely truthful. And if you’re not married, pray for a trustworthy friend who can “stand in the gap” for you when you’re not batting a thousand. Respond to your confidante the way you would want them to respond to you.

Any battle in this life is half won already with a partner covering your back. Be ready to share and ready to care. God can do the healing part.

Jennifer

Biblical Meditation: 1 John 1:9

November 13- Daddy to the Rescue

For He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son He loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. Colossians 1:13-14

My wife told me about a little boy who struggled when it came to paying attention. Although his parents would go over and over their expectations for his room, his toys, and his clothes, he had a hard time getting it. They tried everything to help him, and finally came to the realization their very smart and loving son just had difficulty with instructions. He required extra attention in this area.  As frustrating as this matter was for them, nothing would ever change their love for their son. Right around the same time, there was a neighborhood bully who liked to pick on the boy. One day the torment got so bad, the little guy screamed out, “DAD!” Well, before he could call again, his daddy was “Johnny-on-the-spot!“ The dad looked the bully square in the face and let him know he’d better never bother his son again. You can imagine what this did for the son’s confidence. It is interesting to me how the father didn’t bring up his son’s most recent struggle when the call for help came. No, because the struggle wasn’t a factor; love was! No matter what character flaws the son might have, he was still daddy’s boy! How true this is for each of us. Daddy-God loves us, bottom line. And He knows our flaws better than we do. But when we cry out for Him, He comes running to the rescue. He doesn’t look at our mistakes; He looks at His Fatherly Love.

Choose today to focus on the reality of the rescue. You are not alone in this world. Your Daddy is watching and waiting to hear from you!

Lorenzo

 

November 12- You Was Ward!

1 Corinthians 13:4 Love is patient, love is kind.

 Awhile back, while living in a very large city, we had an interesting experience. We had 2-3 trash carts that had to be emptied on the trash truck, and there were very specific rules as to how we could put them against the curb. Three feet away, 2 feet apart, you get the picture. I was striving to be very accurate in these rules. No one wants their trash to be left until the next week! Well, I guess I wasn’t getting the specifics “to the tee,” so the next week, the young man helping with the carts just left ours there! I couldn’t figure out why, so I attempted the next week to line them up ever so carefully. After running an errand, I drive up and see, amazingly, the trash carts were left again!!! UGH! I walked up to the carts, and there was a note on one of them. It was a “warning ticket” from the city. It simply read, “YOU WAS WARD!” I couldn’t even decide what this guy wanted me to do, much less, imagine trying to talk to him to find out!

After I figured out that the cart man surely meant “you were warned,” I got a few laughs out of the deal. In fact, our whole family has laughed about that incident many times now. But today, I got another kind of reminder. We are new to the rural trash system here, but they’ve seemed really nice. This morning I heard two very long, loud honks outside. We ran to the window and realized, “Oh no, we forgot the trash!” Caleb ran outside and said, “I’m so sorry, we forgot, we’ll have it right out,” while Nathaniel ran out with the cart. The young man just gave us thumbs up and smiled, took our cart, and went on his way. Wow, that was nice!

I’m not comparing rural and city trash systems here, but I am comparing something much more important. Patience and kindness go a long way with anyone you meet. Any relationship you have can benefit from your determination to be patient and kind. I always thought that I’d memorize 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, and I’m not quite there. But the “patient and kind” part at the first almost could take care of everything else. Your family, and all the other people around you, will bloom when you love them in this way. In fact, many problems we face in our relationships could be avoided by each of us paying attention to how we sound and how we act. Are we treating others like we would want to be treated? Really think about that. Sow some patience and kindness seeds, and see what you grow. Then maybe you won’t be tempted to give anyone in your life a rude and impatient warning ticket!

Jennifer

Biblical Meditation: Luke 7:12 Message Here is a simple, rule-of-thumb guide for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you, then grab the initiative and do it for them.