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17 December 2010 - lesson 16 - The tripple X

Raising children is no easy task.  Guiding children towards a life of self-denial and living extraordinary lives in Christ is however not optional.  This week we look at the duty of displaying to our children HOW  we believe and not only WHY and WHAT we believe.

 

We have already contemplated the following lessons from the X-files of Scripture.

  • 20 August 2010 – Lesson 1 - eX perience - (to establish a point of reference)
  • 27 August 2010 – lesson 2 - eX posure - (to create memories)
  • 3 September 2010 – Lesson 3 -  eX pectations (to establish purpose and vision)
  • 10 September 2010 – Lesson 4 -  eX pansion (to enlarge horizons)
  • 17 September 2010 - Lesson 5 - eXpense (to count the cost)
  • 24 September 2010 – Lesson 6 - eXtra (to refuse an ordinary life )
  • 1 October 2010 – Lesson 7 - eXaltation (choosing to worship)
  • 8 October 2010 – Lesson 8 - eXamination (to open a mind)
  • 15 October 2010 – Lesson 9 - eXcuses (crushing opinions and creating convictions)
  • 29 October 2010 – Lesson 10 - eX its (to open doors in the barriers of  comfort)
  • 5 November 2010 – Lesson 11 - eX ecution (putting feet to our faith)
  • 12 November 2010 – lesson 12 - eX igency  (the time is now)
  • 19 November 2010 – Lesson 13 - eX purgate (to embrace holiness)
  • 3 December 2010 – Lesson 14 – eX pressions (A time to weep)
  • 10 December – Lesson 15 - eX traordinary (to accepting spiritual opposites)
  • 17 December 2010 – Lesson 16 - The triple X - eX tatic, eX itement and eX hiliration
  •  (to establish a passion for life)

 

Matthew 21:10  When Jesus came into Jerusalem, the whole city was trembling with excitement. The people were asking, “Who is this?”

2 Corinthians 9:1   I don’t need to write to you any further about the ministry to the saints. I know how willing you are, and I boast about you to the people of Macedonia, saying that Achaia has been ready since last year, and your enthusiasm has stimulated most of them.

Dancing for joy

In his book  “Preparing for the underground Church”, Richard Wurmbrand gives an account of his time in prison:

 

Once while I lay on the few planks, which were my bed, I read from memory the Sermon on the Mount, according to Luke.  I arrived at the part where it is said, "When you are persecuted ... for the Son of man's sake, rejoice you, in that day and leap for joy . . ." You will remember that it is written like this.

 

I said, "How could I commit such a sin of neglect? Christ has said that we have to do two different things. One, to rejoice, I have done. The second, to 'leap for joy', this I have not done."  So I jumped.  I came down from my bed and I began to jump around.

 

In prison, the door of a cell has a peep hole through which the warden looks into the cell. He happened to look in while I jumped around. So he believed that I had become mad. They had an order to behave very well with madmen so that their shouting and banging on the wall should not disturb the order of the prison. The guard immediately entered, quietened me down and said,  "You will be released; you can see everything will be all right. Just remain quiet. I will bring you something." 

 

He brought me a big loaf of bread. Our portion was one slice of bread a week and now I had a whole loaf, plus cheese. It was white. Never just eat cheese, first of all admire its whiteness. It is beautiful to look upon. He brought me also sugar. He spoke a few nice words again and locked the door and left. 

 

I said, "I will eat these things after having finished my chapter from St Luke." I lay down again and tried to remember where I had left off. "Yes, at 'when you are persecuted for My Name's sake, rejoice ... and leap for joy because great is your reward." I looked at the loaf of bread and the cheese. Really, the reward was great.

 

The triple X is the unexplainable lesson of life. No language can teach enthusiasm and yet no culture can resist it.  It is the character quality of HOW we believe what we confess.  It is indeed the passion of life that we express and convey to our children.  Not why we believe, but HOW we believe

 

Enthusiasm, The BIG “E”,  is the simple command of rejoicing in the Lord, regardless of the circumstances.  So often our joy depends on our surroundings and unintentionally we convey this to our children.  Godly joy is happiness regardless of happenings. 

 

As parents we need to set an example in our excitement about the things of God.  We need to radiate an enthusiasm about all things that are wholesome and good – especially the things of God. 

Excitement in God’s purposes, even if it involves sickness, sadness or suffering

Excitement in God’s lessons, even if it involves sacrifice

Excitement in God’s plans, even if it entails self-denial and giving up pleasures

 

This lesson that will determine HOW our children execute the lessons, which we believe.

 

Baptism in a fishpond

Isaiah 60:1  Arise my people!  Let your light shine for all the nations to see!  For the glory of the Lord is streaming from you

 

An underground church in Russia intended to baptise a number of Christians. This was forbidden and could result in imprisonment. After much deliberation, the Christians decided to perform the baptism at a fish nursery at the edge of town. They had been told that there was only one caretaker, and that he went to bed early.

 

The morning after the baptism, the caretaker went to the president of the local soviet: “Comrade, give me a new job. I am not going back to the fish nursery. It is haunted.” 

“What is this foolish talk?  Communists are not superstitious. There is no such thing as haunted places.” 

“I have to believe my eyes. Last night I saw some thirty beings dressed in white. They looked like men and women, but surely they did not belong to this earth. In the moonlight you could see an unusual goodness and meekness on their faces. They sang unearthly songs.  You and I sing in the pub when we are drunk. But I assure you that these songs were quite different. I don't know what they had been drinking.  One of them spoke aloud. It was in our language, but I could not understand it.  Then they were all immersed in the water one by one.  When they emerged from the water, their faces shone.  I am sure that they were beings from another planet.  I am frightened.  So I will not go back to the fish nursery

10 December 2010 - lesson 15 - eXtraordinary

Raising children is no easy task.  Guiding children towards a life of self-denial and living extraordinary lives in Christ is however not optional.  This week we look at the duty of living eXtraordinay lives and rejecting worldly values, especialy in the Church

 

We have already contemplated the following lessons from the X-files of Scripture.

 

  • 20 August 2010 – Lesson 1 - eX perience - (to establish a point of reference)
  • 27 August 2010 – lesson 2 - eX posure - (to create memories)
  • 3 September 2010 – Lesson 3 -  eX pectations (to establish purpose and vision)
  • 10 September 2010 – Lesson 4 -  eX pansion (to enlarge horizons)
  • 17 September 2010 - Lesson 5 - eXpense (to count the cost)
  • 24 September 2010 – Lesson 6 - eXtra (to refuse an ordinary life )
  • 1 October 2010 – Lesson 7 - eXaltation (choosing to worship)
  • 8 October 2010 – Lesson 8 - eXamination (to open a mind)
  • 15 October 2010 – Lesson 9 - eXcuses (crushing opinions and creating convictions)
  • 29 October 2010 – Lesson 10 - eX its (to open doors in the barriers of  comfort)
  • 5 November 2010 – Lesson 11 - eX ecution (putting feet to our faith)
  • 12 November 2010 – lesson 12 - eX igency  (the time is now)
  • 19 November 2010 – Lesson 13 - eX purgate (to embrace holiness)
  • 3 December 2010 – Lesson 14 – eX pressions (A time to weep)
  • 10 December – Lesson 15 - eX traordinary (to accepting spiritual opposites)

 

John12:25 The one who loves his life will destroy it, and the one who hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life.

John 14:27 I am leaving peace with you. I am giving you my own peace. I am not giving it to you as the world gives. So do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.

Romans 12:2 Stop being conformed to this world, but continue to be transformed by the renewing of your minds so that you may be able to determine what is God’s will—what is proper, pleasing, and perfect.

 

The world, and the Church in general, is bombarding us today with a new value system that can only be described as a “theology of self”.  Self-interest, Self-value, Self-restoration, Self-fulfilment, self-belief and eventually a total self-indulgence.  These are the key words in most motivational conferences, sermons and programmes. 

 

Unfortunately this “theology of self ” has infiltrated the Church in a major way and manifests itself in a doctrine that explains the ultimate goal of God  being for the “better good of man”. 

 

The scripture is quite clear about the “self”.  Deny it, or else you cannot be a disciple of Christ.  Our only mandate as parents is to teach our children this simple but difficult truth.

 

This will directly oppose a worldly value that teaches us to “utilise the Kingdom of God for the better good of man.”.  We have to reject a value system that teaches us this compromising, worldly perspective.  Once our children accept and live the spiritual truth of self-denial, all value systems will automatically fall into place as we live a life of opposites.

 

Consider the consequences if everybody in the world would simply make this one Biblical concept a way of life.  There will be no wars, no greed, no crime, no selfishness and all the sadness that accompanies lives of “self indulgement”. 

 

Three Ships

There is a legend told of King Solomon and the queen of Sheba.   Standing on the shore and observing his kingdom the Queen asked King Solomon a question to test his widely acclaimed wisdom.

“How many ships roam the ocean King Solomon?”

King Solomon turned around and answered:  “Only Three ships”

“You cannot be serious” came the reply.  “I can see more ships as we stand here!”

“Let me explain”  Solomon continued   “In the ocean of life there are only three ships sailing.  The ship of fortune, the ship of fame and the ship of entertainment.  All of life’s oceans are sailed by these three ships and they shall conquer the world.  All of mans desires will be motivated by these three desires”

“But…” King Solomon concluded “.. another ship will come that will conquer all.  It will be the ship of servanthood and at the helm will be a saviour named Jesus”

 

Indeed.  Self-interest will never be satisfied.  Not spiritually nor materially.   Servanthood will always quench the thirst of selfishness

 

In living a life of opposites it is also of the utmost essence to understand that Christ is not “a good alternative”.  He is the only Way and the only Truth to obtain Life eternally.  When we train our children in the ways of the Lord it should never be as a better alternative than the things of the world.  It should be with an absolute conviction that there is no other way

 

In our activities and in our actions we need to understand this spiritual truth.

 

In our activities we can never encourage our children to participate in worldly practices, cover it with a cross, and call it “alternative Christianity”.  If the root is not Jesus, then the fruit will not be Jesus. 

 

Christian music and Christian entertainment can never be worldly inspired with Biblical words.  Christian raves, Christian heavy metal, Christian discos etc. have their roots in the world and cannot bear eternal fruit.  It might be an alternative to the world, but it will never be original to the Lord.  

 

In our actions we are also called to train our children with a different set of rules.  Nowhere in scripture are we encouraged to be “successful” but Jesus encourages us to be “faithful”.  Nowhere are we called to train great men and women of God for the future but rather to be the least by serving and loving “our neighbours” as we would ourselves

 

One major problem in the church and Christian schools today is the fact that we are training young people to become the leaders of tomorrow… instead of the servants of today.  Major courses and projects are launched but few involve the Biblical “opposites” that Jesus taught his disciples.  We should use every effort to install into the lives of our children the “Matthew Principles and Moral Codes”.

 

  • We are taught to desire obedience more than power (Matthew 7:21,22)
  • We are taught to “deny ourselves”, not to “believe in ourselves” (Matthew 16:24)
  • We are taught to strive towards a heavenly kingdom and not an earthly kingdom. (Matthew 6:33)
  • We are taught to sell everything and not gather anything. (Matthew 19:21)
  • We are taught to be servants and not leaders. (Matthew 20:26)
  • We are taught to be pioneers and not settlers. (Matthew 28:19)
  • We are taught to enter war zones and not building comfort zones. (Matthew 10:16)
  • We are taught to give without expecting back instead of loaning to gain interest (Matthew 5:42)
  • We are taught to bless instead of curse. (Matthew 5:44)
  • We are taught to love instead of hate. (Matthew 5:44)
  • We are taught to seek humility instead of greatness (Matthew 18:4)
  • We are taught to serve God rather than serving fortune and riches (Matthew 6:24)

 

William Barclay said the following “He must dearly love the cross, who desires of his child to be a servant of God.”   

 

Beautiful to God

Ruth sat down on the dirt floor.  Her senses were revolted by the terrible stench of the cell.  She could not remember anything that smelled as bad as this room.  There was no toilet here, not even a hole in the corner.  Nor was there any water supply.  China, especially during the brutal Cultural Revolution, did not show much concern for prisoners. 

 

Ruth could feel the lice, spiders and cockroaches crawling on her.  Bloodthirsty mosquitoes were seemingly everywhere.  And it was so dark she could not even see the faces of the other cellmates.  She slapped something crawling on her arm as she thought of her three children.  With her husband Michael now in a labour camp, the children were home all alone.  Daniel was 10, Joseph eight and little Mary, only five.

 

Through the heavy darkness came a friendly voice.  “Do you have any children?”  It was as though someone were reading her mind.

 

“Yes, three,” she quietly replied.

“Actually, I have given birth to four, but one is dead now.”

“What happened?”

Ruth could not speak for a moment.  Unseen tears slowly trickled down her round cheeks.  “Lord, help me glorify you in everything I say,” she prayed.  Finally, she began in a halting, wavering voice. 

 

“Peter was my eldest.  Three years ago, when he was 11, the Red Guards came to search our home.  There must have been a hundred of them in the search party.  They already knew that my husband and I were the leaders of a large number of house churches in this area.”

“They kicked down the front door, tied up my husband and shaved both our heads bald. They pointed their rifles at our heads and demanded, “Where are your Bibles?  Where are your co-workers?  Where do you hold your meetings?”  “We refused to answer, so they began destroying our furniture and household belongings.  For three days and nights we were not permitted to eat, drink or sleep.

 

Then they took our four children and lined them up on a bench.  When they fell off from exhaustion, the Red Guards would beat them and stand them up on the bench again.”

 

 “Since my husband and I would not answer their questions, they began to interrogate the children but they also refused to co-operate, knowing that whether you live or die, you must confess the name of the Lord Jesus – but you must never reveal the name of a co-worker.”

 

“Enraged, they beat the children again.  Peter was dragged outside the house.  His teeth were knocked out and he was beaten until he was bloody.  Then they threw his limp body in a pile on the floor.  My husband was hauled off to the regional hard labour camp.  I took Peter to the hospital.  The doctor said there was no hope since he was now vomiting blood.  I was told to prepare for his funeral and given the necessary certificate.”

 

“The authorities allowed my husband a short leave from the labour camp to be there when Peter died.  When he saw his father, he was very happy.  “Mom and Dad,” he said, “most people are dressed in black when they die, but I want to be dressed in white so that I will be beautiful when I see God!”

 

“We tearfully agreed with him and knelt down and prayed with him that God’s name would receive glory.  Since it was wintertime, the windows were all shut.  But after we prayed, the windows opened and a gust of wind blew into the room.  The spirit of comfort came into our hearts.

 

Peter whispered,  “Jesus has come to take me home to heaven.  Good-bye!”

“His face was filled with joy.  Even the doctor was moved, commenting,  “I have never seen anyone die so peacefully.”  

When we arrived home, the three younger children rushed to us with excitement.  “We haven’t slept yet because we saw a whole bunch of angels over our house.  They had musical instruments and they sang to us.  They said they were going to take Peter to heaven with them.”  I replied, “Your brother has already gone to be with Jesus.”   They cried.  He had loved them very much and they in turn loved him dearly.”

 

There was a long silence.  Ruth could hear sobs coming from all over the dark cell.  Suddenly an angry voice cried out,  “Curse those Red Guards!  Why do they get away with this?  I wish I could get my hands on their necks.  They’d be the dead ones!”

 

“No, no,”  Ruth called out.  “You must not hate them.  This is a vicious cycle of bitterness.  Jesus taught that we must love even our enemies.  I pray every day for those Red Guards, that they will find Jesus.  In the same way, I will pray for all of you.  You too are loved by Jesus. 

 

“Hah!” responded a cynical voice.  “If Jesus loves me so much, why am I here in this filthy cell?”  Ruth began to explain how the filth of their cell was just like sin.  Only the cross of Jesus could bridge the gap between sinful people and a holy God.  All they needed to do was confess their sin and ask Jesus to make them new people.

 

Again there was a long silence.  Then, one by one, cellmates began to drop on their knees at her side, tearfully confess aloud their sinfulness and receive Jesus’ gentle cleansing.

 

“Thank you, Lord,” Ruth prayed.  “You really can turn everything into good!”

 

Are we as parents raising Christian children with worldly guidelines to make a difference in an unbiblical way.  Extraordinary families with extraordinary teachings, will be the only people to influence the world in an extraordinary way.

 

We have a task to train children to live extraordinary lives as they adapt to the opposites of the Spiritual World as taught in scripture

 

Yes indeed, the only difference between an ordinary life and an extraordinary life is that little extra

3 December 2010 - Lesson 14 - eXpression

Raising children is no easy task.  Guiding children towards a life of self-denial and living extraordinary lives in Christ is however not optional. 

 

 This week we look at the duty of eXpressing and sharing the broken heart of God.  An action in the life of every Christian that is not an option but a command. 

 

 

 

We have already contemplated the following lessons from the X-files of Scripture.

 

  20 August 2010 – Lesson 1 - eX perience - (to establish a point of reference)

  • 27 August 2010 – lesson 2 - eX posure - (to create memories)
  • 3 September 2010 – Lesson 3 -  eX pectations (to establish purpose and vision)
  • 10 September 2010 – Lesson 4 -  eX pansion (to enlarge horizons)
  • 17 September 2010 - Lesson 5 - eXpense (to count the cost)
  • 24 September 2010 – Lesson 6 - eXtra (to refuse an ordinary life )
  • 1 October 2010 – Lesson 7 - eXaltation (choosing to worship)
  • 8 October 2010 – Lesson 8 - eXamination (to open a mind)
  • 15 October 2010 – Lesson 9 - eXcuses (crushing opinions and creating convictions)
  • 29 October 2010 – Lesson 10 - eX its (to open doors in the barriers of  comfort)
  • 5 November 2010 – Lesson 11 - eX ecution (putting feet to our faith)
  • 12 November 2010 – lesson 12 - eX igency  (the time is now)
  • 19 November 2010 – Lesson 13 - eX purgate (to embrace holiness)
  • 3 December 2010 – Lesson 14 – eX pressions (A time to weep)

Colossians 3:12 Therefore, as God’s chosen ones, holy and loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.

 

"Were you colder than this for me, my mother?"

It was a cold winter's night in Korea. An expectant mother trudged through the freezing snow towards the home of a missionary friend where she knew she would find help. A short way down the road from the mission house was a deep gully spanned by a bridge. As the young woman stumbled along, birth pains overcame her. She realised she could go no farther and crawled beneath the bridge. There alone between the trestles she gave birth to a baby boy. She had nothing with her except the heavy padded clothes she was wearing. One by one she removed the pieces of clothing and wrapped them around her infant son - around and around, like a cumbersome cocoon. Then, finding a discarded piece of burlap, she pulled it over herself, and lay exhausted and shivering beside her baby.

The next morning the missionary drove her Jeep across the bridge to take a food basket to a Korean family. On the way back, as she neared the bridge, the vehicle sputtered and died, out of gas. She left the Jeep on the side of the road and started walking across the bridge towards the mission, but stopped when she heard a faint cry beneath her. She crawled under the bridge to investigate. There she found the tiny baby, warm but hungry, and the young mother frozen to death by his side.  The missionary took the baby home and cared for him. As the boy grew, he often asked his adopted mother to tell him the story of how she had found him.

On the 12th anniversary of his mother's death, the lad asked the missionary to take him to her grave. Once there he asked her to wait a distance away while he went to pray. The boy stood beside the grave with bowed head, weeping. Then he began to disrobe. As the astonished missionary watched, the boy took off his warm clothing, piece by piece, and laid them on his mother's grave.

Surely he won't take off all his clothing, the missionary thought. He'll freeze! But the boy stripped himself of everything, putting all his warm clothing on the grave. He knelt naked and shivering in the freezing snow. As the missionary went to him to help him dress, she heard him cry out to the mother he never knew: "Were you colder than this for me, my mother?" And he wept bitterly.

 

When Christ came, He stripped himself of every royal garment and entered into a world of hatred and cold indifference. Why did He do it? Because He saw that centuries of broken lives needed a Saviour. And then He died of a broken heart. What broke it? The sin of mankind. The long history of men worshipping false gods in temples made with hands. War, bloodshed, crime, cruelty, sexual deviation, and greed - these things broke the heart of Christ.

But so did we. Our coldness broke His heart and now it freezes Him out. We complacent Christians who are outwardly satisfied, yet inwardly suffering from apathy! We who pray, "Give us compassion for a lost world," and then "sacrifice" only a Rand for missions. We with our comfortable homes and apartments and brimming garbage cans. We who have the money, knowledge and manpower to take the gospel to every creature, and yet we don't. We who say we love the lost, and neglect to tell a lost neighbour about a loving Saviour. Jesus' love lies frozen between lips that ought to be warm to speak for Him.

Lord, we take off our garments of pride and self-righteousness, glittering but transparent filthy rags that they are, and lay them at Your feet. In our naked need we cry, "Were you colder than this because of us, Lord?" And we weep bitterly, because we know You were.

 

There is no doubt that we live in a broken world and that never before has there been such a time as this, to express our emotions before the Lord.  We live in a time such as this   We live in a time to weep

 

It seems like in modern society everybody wants to be as happy as possible.  Everybody wants to ignore tears and the emotions that accompany even the thought of tears.  Sadly this is true for the Church as well.  There are movements of laughter and theologies of “enjoyable Christianity”

 

Don’t get me wrong.  There can be no greater joy than experiencing the saving grace of a loving Father.  There is no greater source of joy than the Holy Spirit and a Comforter who brings us ever closer to a gracious God.  And yet, when we read scripture, we do not find any reference of Jesus laughing.  Nowhere in the Gospels is there any mention of Jesus and his disciples laughing and having a “good time”.  There is no doubt in my mind that there were times when the group and the “Master” had times of laughter and joyous times together.  But the task and purpose of Christ coming to earth was of such an intense and serious matter that we only read of his tears and His compassion:

  • Luke 19:41            He saw the city and he wept
  • John 11:35            When he saw the people crying at the tomb of Lazarus, he wept
  • Luke 7:13              When he saw the dead son of a widow he had compassion
  • Matt.9:36              When he saw the crowds he was moved with compassion
  • Matt.14:14            When he saw the multitude he was moved with compassion
  • Matt.15: 32           When he saw the hungry he said to his disciples “I have compassion on them
  • Matt.20:34            When he saw the blind man he had compassion
  • Mark.1:41             When he saw the leper, he had compassion
  • Mark.6:34             When he saw those who are like sheep without a shepherd

 

It is vital that we as parents implant into the lives of our children the same urgency that Jesus displayed.  It is vital that we teach our children to express themselves with the same compassion that was evident in the life of a loving Saviour.

 

It is indeed a time to weep

A time to weep for our sins

It seems like an immoral society finds laughter in sin.  Today we are bombarded by sin covered in candy coated laughter.  Promiscuity, using Gods name in vain, sex outside marriage, lust, etc, etc.  These are all the cornerstones of most “family” comedies and TV shows. 

 

Can we as parents honestly say that through our lives and through our actions we are setting examples of confession and restitution?  Are we as parents teaching our children to weep for our sins?  Do we ask forgiveness when we as parents make mistakes and do we install into their lives an attitude of recognising sin and being saddened by the presence of sin?

 

A time to weep for the lost and the hurting

When was the last time we, as parents, wept for the lost in front of our children.  In the Middle East every three seconds someone dies who have never heard about Jesus as the son of God.  This must break the heart of God.  Does it break our hearts?  Does it feature in the hearts and minds of our children.  Are we teaching our children selfish and self-fulfilling lives or is the lost part of their passion.

 

When Jesus spoke about the harvest he did so with compassion.  We tend to talk about the unreached, the 10/40 window, the Muslim world etc, purely out of statistics.  When we talk about Islam and involvement our only reason should be compassion - not pride or fear or targets and goals.  How is it possible that we can teach our children about the love of Jesus and souls going to hell without crying!  If your children can cry, they qualify for mission work

 

A time to weep for the suffering Church

Sadly, in all my travels, I seldom find families weeping for the Suffering Church.  It seems as if we have found the ability in the west to focus so much on our own needs that we actually forget that we belong to a body.  A body that is in pain.  Do my children know and understand the pain of their “brothers and sisters” in Vietnam, Cuba, Sudan and countless other countries.

 

Author and lecturer, Leo Buscaglia, told the story of an occasion where he had to be a judge at a competition.  The competition was to find the child who showed the most compassion towards other people.  The winner was four-year-old boy.   Their neighbour, an elderly man, lost his wife through illness.  One day the boy saw the neighbour crying and he jumped over the fence and ran to the man and went to sit on his lap.  When he returned home later the afternoon his mom asked him what he said to the neighbour to comfort him.  “Nothing…” the boy replied “I just sat on his lap and I helped him to cry

 

BUT - As families we obviously have to learn to laugh together as well.  We need to make expressions of love, expressions of joy and expressions of sadness a culture in a world where everyone is concerned only about his own well being

We need to:

express compassion and our emotions - frequently

express laughing and crying – together

express our love to one another, especially our spouses – visually

19 November - Lesson 13 - eXpurgate

Raising children is no easy task.  Guiding children towards a life of self-denial and living extraordinary lives in Christ is however not optional. 

 

 This week we look at the necessity of living a holy life, set apart for Gods purposes – expurgate.  Expurgate is probably another word that would have most readers reaching for their dictionaries.  To expurgate means to purify.  An action in the life of every Christian that is not an option but a command. 

 

We have already contemplated the following lessons from the X-files of Scripture.

 

 

 

  • 20 August 2010 – Lesson 1 - eX perience - (to establish a point of reference)
  • 27 August 2010 – lesson 2 - eX posure - (to create memories)
  • 3 September 2010 – Lesson 3 -  eX pectations (to establish purpose and vision)
  • 10 September 2010 – Lesson 4 -  eX pansion (to enlarge horizons)
  • 17 September 2010 - Lesson 5 - eXpense (to count the cost)
  • 24 September 2010 – Lesson 6 - eXtra (to refuse an ordinary life )
  • 1 October 2010 – Lesson 7 - eXaltation (choosing to worship)
  • 8 October 2010 – Lesson 8 - eXamination (to open a mind)
  • 15 October 2010 – Lesson 9 - eXcuses (crushing opinions and creating convictions)
  • 29 October 2010 – Lesson 10 - eX its (to open doors in the barriers of  comfort)
  • 5 November 2010 – Lesson 11 - eX ecution (putting feet to our faith)
  • 12 November 2010 – lesson 12 - eX igency  (the time is now)
  • 19 November 2010 – Lesson 13 - eX purgate (to embrace holiness)

 

Matthew 5:43 So be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

1 Peter 1:14-16 14 As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance:  But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation;  Because it is written, (Lev.11:44) Be ye holy; for I am holy.

 

I want to serve Jesus

On 15 December 1999 a mob of 400 to 500 people attacked the Doulos Bible School on the outskirts of Jakarta.  One of the main aims of this Bible School is to evangelise the 30-million-strong Sundanese, the largest unreached people group in the world, who live in west Java.

 

During the attack one theological seminary student, Sariman, died and 44 other students were wounded.  About 80% of the buildings were destroyed

The attack started at about 20h30 the evening when most students were preparing themselves for the exams the following day.  There was also a fellowship being held which was led by Sariman, a student who was on his way to Central Java for a campus ministry.

 

We had the joyous privilege of meeting Domingus, a young student who is studying at the Bible School.  Domingus shared his testimony of the events that fatal evening:

 

“At the night I was asleep in bed so I didn't know what was happening.  Suddenly a friend woke me up and shouted that we were being attacked.  The building was already burning and I did not know where to run to.  I knew if I ran to the main gate I would be killed.

 

I ran to the back of the campus where my friend lived.  I prayed "Lord, if I die I know I will go to heaven"  Suddenly the crowds arrived and they shouted to kill me.  I thought about dying and going to heaven

 

They grabbed me and blindfolded me.  They brought me to a dark place and opened my eyes.  There were about 30 people and I knew it would be impossible to defend myself.  The Lord spoke to me "Don't be afraid, I will be with you"

 

They hit me with a big stick and I lost consciousness.  I felt my spirit leave my body and I saw in front of me five other people in bright clothes.  My spirit said " This must be angels that will take me home".  Through a sequence of events I was brought to a place where people were singing and worshipping God.  I was then brought to a room, which I knew was the room of Judgement.  Suddenly I saw a very bright light and I closed my eyes and bowed down.  Suddenly the light disappeared and a voice said "Your time has not come yet, it is time to go back!"  It was a man on a white horse.  Suddenly the man and the horse became bright lights and disappeared.

 

I regained consciousness and realised where I was.  I tried to look at my watch but I discovered my neck was very badly cut.  I found a lot of fluid on my body (the doctors confirmed that there was also fluid from Domingus brain on his shirt) and saw all the blood.  I prayed that the Lord would send someone to take me to hospital.  I thanked the Lord that I could be persecuted for the gospel and that through this I could meet Him.

(It was also later discovered that the mob tried to burn Domingus by setting his hair on fire but because of all the blood they were unsuccessful)

 

After I prayed a man suddenly came to me to help me but I could not speak.  When the police arrived they asked, "Where did you find this corpse?". They took me to hospital.  This was 03h00 in the morning, already four hours after they attacked me.  I tried to open my eyes and I still saw the angels around me.  When I arrived at hospital the rector was also there and he prayed for me as they took me to ICU.  I stayed there for three days.  The doctors said I would be paralysed if I survive but today I am alive and as you can see I am not paralysed.

 

Upon the conclusion of his testimony we looked at him and asked the obvious question:  “What now?  They will come back to finish the job and kill you.  What do you want to do with your life Domingus?”

Domingus serenely looked at us and with great conviction simply answered the following: 

“I just want to serve the Lord, I just want to serve the Jesus "

 

The final command from the Lord is : Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect  To be Holy means to be “set apart”

 

Our children are set apart for God’s purposes – not for their own kingdoms, our own dreams and our own financial gains and pleasures.  Created by God, entrusted to us, our children are set apart to present and represent His Kingdom – not our own.  They are set apart to do His will, whether we like it or not, whether we agree or not.  They are set apart to set an example, to excel, to refuse an ordinary life in Christ

 

To live a life separated for God’s purposes would require that they separate themselves of the norms and standards of this world.  And even though they will always be IN the world and will have to make a difference in their environment, they will not be OF the world. 

 

Holiness is not an option it is a command.  It is a character quality and an attitude that is evident of God.  In our teachings and example as parents this is the one character quality that must form the foundation of every other lesson we teach.  Becoming Christ-like is the goal for those who follow Him.

 

The lessons of holiness are simple

Holiness is not contagious, sin is

Haggai 2:11-13  Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Ask now the priests concerning the law, saying,  If one bear holy flesh in the skirt of his garment, and with his skirt do touch bread, or pottage, or wine, or oil, or any meat, shall it be holy? And the priests answered and said, No. Then said Haggai, If one that is unclean by a dead body touch any of these, shall it be unclean? And the priests answered and said, It shall be unclean. (KJV

It will be vital for our children to understand that going to youth groups, attending youth camps and listening to Christian music will not make them holy.  Holiness is not contagious.  It only comes with determined Godly choices and living a Godly life .  At the same time our children need to know that worldliness and sin is contagious.  If your child visits discos and raves and watches age restricted movies and spends time with friends who swear, inevitably it would rub off on their lives.

 

Holiness is directly opposed to worldliness

Deuteronomy 14:2 2 For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God, and the LORD hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto himself, above all the nations that are upon the earth. (KJV)

Separation from the world will not be difficult.  When we follow Christ wholeheartedly the world will automatically separate it self from us.  We don’t have to separate ourselves from the world.  This will make separation easy.

 

Holiness is not LAW it is ATTITUDE

John 14:15 15 If ye love me, keep my commandments.

Teaching our children to be obedient should always be an act of love and an act of respect.  If our children are obedient simply because we force them to be we have lost the essence of obedience.  To be holy is born out of an attitude of love, not fear.  Do our children see in our lives the love for God?  Do they see the attitude that will automatically lead to holiness?

 

Holiness comes through the Word

Psalm 19:7-14 The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever: the judgements of the LORD are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward. Who can understand his errors? cleanse thou me from secret faults. Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me: then shall I be upright, and I shall be innocent from the great transgression. Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer.

Everything less than the Word is too little.  Everything that is more than the Word is too much.  Everything that is according to the Word is fit for holiness.  This will be the only guideline to a Christ-like life.  No seminar, no theology, no book – including this one – can add to the lessons for Holiness.  The Word is enough.

 

Holiness comes through purification – difficulties and suffering

Revelation 3:18  I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see. (KJV)

Zechariah 13:9 9 And I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried: they shall call on my name, and I will hear them: I will say, It is my people: and they shall say, The LORD is my God. (KJV)

Do we understand today that persecution and holiness are inseparable?  We often think that the spiritual maturity of our children will prosper under favourable circumstances – in the peace and tranquillity of a home that provides in all the needs of our children, without any resistance and without any tests. 

THIS IS NOT TRUE

Without fire, gold will not be refined.  Without exercise a muscle will not become strong

A Church without battle, without testings and without suffering becomes spoilt, passive and self centred.  Do we teach our children that persecution is a blessing or a curse?.  Do we teach them to see persecution (for the name of Jesus) a way to holiness?  Do we fear the difficulties that our children will face or do we long for the purified effect of the fire in their lives?  Parents, always remember, God is more concerned about the character of our children than their comfort

 

Holiness leads to missions and outreach

Isaiah 6:6-8  Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar: And he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged. Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me. (KJV)

It is inevitable that the closer your children come to Jesus, the more their hearts will burn for a lost world.  This would eventually mean that you as parent might lose them.  

 

Holiness leads to persecution

2 Timothy 3:12 12 Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution

The source of holiness will eventually lead to the fruit of holiness.  To choose a Godly life will lead to ridicule at school, to losing friends and venturing on a narrow and lonely road.  But oh the glory of walking that road with Jesus.  No prize, no dream for your child, can be greater than this - to serve Jesus unconditionally

5 November 2010 - Lesson 12 - eXigency

Raising children is no easy task.  Guiding children towards a life of self-denial and living extraordinary lives in Christ is however not optional. 

 

 This week we look at the urgency of our times – exigency.  Probably not a word used in everyday language but never the less a concept that was evident in the life of our saviour until the day of His ascension.   Exigency simply means “urgency” or, as the dictionary describes, something that a situation demands or makes urgently necessary and that puts pressure on the people involved. 

·         20 August 2010 – Lesson 1 - eX perience - (to establish a point of reference)

·         27 August 2010 – lesson 2 - eX posure - (to create memories)

·         3 September 2010 – Lesson 3 -  eX pectations (to establish purpose and vision)

·         10 September 2010 – Lesson 4 -  eX pansion (to enlarge horizons)

·         17 September 2010 - Lesson 5 - eXpense (to count the cost)

·         24 September 2010 – Lesson 6 - eXtra (to refuse an ordinary life )

·         1 October 2010 – Lesson 7 - eXaltation (choosing to worship)

·         8 October 2010 – Lesson 8 - eXamination (to open a mind)

·         15 October 2010 – Lesson 9 - eXcuses (crushing opinions and creating convictions)

·         29 October 2010 – Lesson 10 - eX its (to open doors in the barriers of  comfort)

·         5 November 2010 – Lesson 11 - eX ecution (putting feet to our faith)

·         12 November 2010 – lesson 12 - eX igency  (the time is now)

 

Judges 7:1  Early in the morning, Jerub-Baal (that is, Gideon) and all his men camped at the spring of Harod.

 

They rose early:  Their hearts were fixed on the task ahead of them and there was no time to lose.  This is key in our service to the Lord.  To maintain a sense of urgency and to understand the times and the seasons we live in.   Too often we find Christians living a Spiritual life as we are on a playing field while few really understand that we are on a battle field. 

 

We tend to look at the World through a keyhole. We have a limited view, limited knowledge and often our own comfort limits our understanding.  Gideon and his men rose early with fixed hearts and a fixed purpose.  We live in critical times.  On the spiritual time clock we are minutes before midnight. 

 

The ‘Iron Curtain’ has lifted and the "Veil of Islam" was drawn. The fact that Communism came to a fall at the same time as the moral decay in the West, gave birth to a growth of Islamic fundamentalism. The World changed from Communism that declared: ‘there is NO God’ to a new force that declares: ‘There is NO God but Allah.’ 

 

Surely the words of Jesus (Mark 13:37)  What I say to you, then, I say to all: Watch!" is applicable to us as well.  WATCH!  The warning is clear.  The clouds are gathering.  In Luke 12:54-56 Jesus gave a clear warning to all who fail to be alert.   He said to the crowd: "When you see a cloud rising in the west, immediately you say, 'It's going to rain,' and it does.   And when the south wind blows, you say, 'It's going to be hot,' and it is.   Hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky. How is it that you don't know how to interpret this present time?

 

I have no choice

As I entered the house of Past.Li to meet with him and Past.Wu I was surprised to observe the humble existence of these two mighty men of God.  Together they were the leaders of house churches in their province, which has grown the past nine years to more than 200,000 Christians.  They were both in their late twenties and even though they have been in the ministry since they were 19 years old their enthusiasm reflected their youth in a beautiful way.

 

Their relentless and bold sharing of the Gospel has led to an incredible growth in their ministries and everybody knew about the work of the Lord through these faithful servants.  I knew that they both spent several years in prison in extremely harsh conditions, but nothing prepared me for this humble home and modest lifestyle.

 

In the small house were no furniture, no ornaments, and no beds.  The clothes were hanging on the wall due to a lack of cupboards and the only furniture was a table and a chair to sit on.  The only item in the house was a blanket on the ground that was obviously used as the bed. Together we sat down on and I started questioning them about their activities and work that was obviously bearing much fruit in their area.

 

“How often do you travel to neighbouring villages?” I asked

“As often as possible” they replied

“Where do you obtain your finances to do so?”

“We sell what we have” they replied and supplied me with an answer to the question about the empty house which I dared not ask

“We sold the chairs and we sold the cupboard” they continued “..and that supplied much-needed funds for our outreach

“What happens when you have nothing more to sell?”

Past.Li sadly looked down to the ground and answered softly “we find something else to sell”

“But what?” I kept on pressurising them.  “You have already sold everything and have nothing left to sell.  How will you raise money now?

And then came the startling answer:  “We sell our blood on the black market.  We get about $5.00 but the need is so great that we have to do something to tell the people around us about Jesus.

“How can you do this” I asked.  How can you justify selling your blood to send out missionaries”

 

Past.Li looked up and without hesitation answered :

“We have no choice! The need is so great, we have no choice”

 

Like never before the Church nees a sense of urgency.

·         The urgency of the times we live in. 

·         The urgency of a generation that will take the message of salvation to a lost world. 

·         The urgency of determining the times and knowing that time is of the essence

·         The urgency of broken lives and training our children to make a difference

·         The urgency of a spiritual famine that was prophesied in Amos 8

 

Sadly, when we look at our children, we tend to think about the years to come with an end goal in mind.  We need to realise that the education and spiritual training of our children is not a goal but a process.  The time is now

·         The time  is now to teach them about the lost

·         The time is now to build Godly characters into their lives

·         The time is now to install hearts of compassion

·         The time is now to start sacrificing

·         The time is now to make a difference

 

5 November 2010 - Lesson 11 - eXecution

5 November 2010 – Lesson 11 - eX ecution (putting feet to our faith)

Raising children is no easy task.  Guiding children towards a life of self-denial and living extraordinary lives in Christ is however not optional. 

 

 This week we look at putting feet to our faith - eXecuting what we confess.

 

  

 

  • 20 August 2010 – Lesson 1 - eX perience - (to establish a point of reference)
  • 27 August 2010 – lesson 2 - eX posure - (to create memories)
  • 3 September 2010 – Lesson 3 -  eX pectations (to establish purpose and vision)
  • 10 September 2010 – Lesson 4 -  eX pansion (to enlarge horizons)
  • 17 September 2010 - Lesson 5 - eXpense (to count the cost)
  • 24 September 2010 – Lesson 6 - eXtra (to refuse an ordinary life )
  •  1 October 2010 – Lesson 7 - eXaltation (choosing to worship)
  • 8 October 2010 – Lesson 8 - eXamination (to open a mind)
  •  15 October 2010 – Lesson 9 - eXcuses (crushing opinions and creating convictions)
  • 29 October 2010 – Lesson 10 - eX its (to open doors in the barriers of  comfort)
  • 5 November 2010 – Lesson 11 - eX ecution (putting feet to our faith)

 

Proverbs 20:11 Even a child is known by his acts, whether or not what he does is pure and right.

1 Peter 1:13 Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep a clear head, and set your hope completely on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed.

Matthew 7:21 “Not everyone who keeps saying to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will get into the kingdom of heaven, but only the person who keeps doing the will of my Father in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, we prophesied in your name, drive out demons in your name, and performed many miracles in your name, didn’t we?’ Then I’ll tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you evildoers!’”

James 2:17 So also faith, if it does not have works, by itself is dead.

 

Bread for a village

A crowd of smiling faces awaited us as we entered the small stuffy room.  The ages of the children ranged from 8 to 11 years and they were seemingly oblivious and unaware of the circumstances surrounding their village - poverty, problems and persecution.  To be a Christian, let alone a Christian child, was not an easy life in the Middle East

 

It was Saturday evening and the excitement that filled the air overwhelmed any feeling of self-pity and despair that might have existed.  Our curiosity grew by the second as we observed the picture in front of us.  Between 30 and 40 young boys, each equipped with large maize bag, excitedly awaited the command to “go”

 

As we entered the room the youth leader saw the frowns on our faces and answered our questions even before we could ask.  “Yes, Its Saturday evening…”  he started explaining  “..and tonight the children will once again “invade” our little village.  They will go to every house in every street.  They will ask the inhabitants of every house whether they have enough bread to eat or not.  If there is more than enough bread in the house they will ask the families to place any extra bread in the bag for those who do not have enough bread.  The children will continue until all the bags are filled to the top.  Then the fun part of the evening starts.  They will then go back to all the homes where there was not enough bread to eat and then distribute so that every family in our village will have enough bread to eat for the next week.  They do not have the means to provide it themselves but, regardless of their own needs, they have become instrumental to eradicate all hunger in our village”

 

Something in my spirit moved.  This is exactly the calling of every believer worldwide.  To feed the hungry – whether it be spiritual or physical, to care for the needy and to make a difference in our society.  We have a mandate from a saviour who taught that religion is dead unless we put feet to our faith

 

Yes, as parents and teachers, we need to put our faith into practice and walk the talk to those who follow our lead.  Even though we live in a world that is dying of hunger, wars, famine, pestilence and, worst of all, a lack of knowledge of a loving Saviour, we continue to teach our children a religion that is useless to most of the world - a comment that would probably raise some eyebrows. 

 

Can religion ever be harmful.  Can prayer ever be negative?  Can faith ever be useless?  Can worship ever be void and mission work to no avail?  The Bible is quite clear that faith, and for that matter religion, is useless unless it is accompanied with the obedience and actions that is required of the faithful.  Here are a few:

 

Useless worship              

Matthew 15:9  Uselessly do they worship me, for they teach as doctrines the commands as men

Useless prayer

Matthew 23:14   You swallow up widows houses and for a pretence to cover it up you make long prayers - therefor you will receive greater condemnation

Useless preaching          

Matthew 23:3   So observe and practice all they teach you BUT do not do what they do, for they preach but they do not practice

Useless mission work    

Matthew 23:15  You travel over the sea and land to make a single proselyte and when he becomes one you make him doubly a child of hell as you are

Useless tithing 

Matthew 23:23  You give a tenth of your mint..and have neglected the more important matters of the law-right and justice and mercy and fidelity

Useless religion               

Matthew 7:21  Not everyone who say to me Lord, Lord will be saved, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven

Useless love      

1 John 3:17  But whoever has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart for him, how does the love of God abide in him?

Useless faith

James 2:17  So also, faith without works is dead

 

To clarify our own hearts regarding the validity of what we teach our children we need to ask ourselves some serious questions:

  • Does the Church in the West still have an influence in society?
  • Does the Church in the west still have a right of existence?
  • Is the broken heart of God for the spiritual and material poor my heart and am I conveying this to my children?
  • Do we really have an influence or are we providing an alternative entertainment?
  • Are we making a difference or did the Church become one more social club for the saved where we meet Sunday to Sunday to feel good about ourselves?
  • What is preventing the church from changing this world?
  • What will prevent the next generation, my children and their friends, to influence their society?
  • Are we raising a selfish generation or a compassionate generation?
  • Are our children equipped to walk the talk and influence our society, not with religion but with compassion?

 

If we cannot in all honesty give positive answers to the above questions we need to seriously take stock of the execution of our confessions

 

  • If we confess Jesus to be the Prince of Peace – are we involved in war zones in order to bring peace or do we only pray for our own peace and prosperity?
  • If we confess the Holy Spirit to be the comforter – do we comfort the sad or do we desire to laugh and be entertained?
  • If we confess God to be our Father – do we take care of the homeless, the orphan and the widow – or do we close our doors and our hearts to needs of a broken world to enjoy our Fathers goodness in private?
  • If we confess the cross as a symbol of victory – why do we dread the thought of death, sacrifice and persecution for the name of Jesus?
  • If we confess the Word to be the bread of life – do we share this bread with the hungry or do we feed ourselves, and our children, into a state of gluttony?
  • If we confess that God is our provider – do we train our children to depend on Him or on healthy bank balances?
  • If we confess that God answers prayer – do we live as if we might be the answer to someone else’s prayer?

29 October 2010- Lesson 10 - eXits

Raising children is no easy task.  Guiding children towards a life of self-denial and living extraordinary lives in Christ is however not optional.  The lessons in achieving this objective I call the x-files.  These are not quick solutions but simply teachings from Scripture.  It is not lessons for an individual but lesson for every believer who wholeheartedly desires to follow Christ.  The teacher in these devotions is the persecuted Church and the lessons are not revelations but simply confirmations of what is already revealed in Scripture.  Hereby the X-files for raising Godly families.

  

  • 20 August 2010 – Lesson 1 - eX perience - (to establish a point of reference)
  • 27 August 2010 – lesson 2 - eX posure - (to create memories)
  • 3 September 2010 – Lesson 3 -  eX pectations (to establish purpose and vision)
  • 10 September 2010 – Lesson 4 -  eX pansion (to enlarge horizons)
  • 17 September 2010 - Lesson 5 - eXpense (to count the cost)
  • 24 September 2010 – Lesson 6 - eXtra (to refuse an ordinary life )
  •  1 October 2010 – Lesson 7 - eXaltation (choosing to worship)
  • 8 October 2010 – Lesson 8 - eXamination (to open a mind)
  •  15 October 2010 – Lesson 9 - eXcuses (crushing opinions and creating convictions)
  • 29 October 2010 – Lesson 10 eX its (to open doors in the barriers of  comfort)

 

Hebrews 13:13 So we must go to him outside the camp and endure the insults he endured. For we don’t have a permanent city here but are looking for the one that’s coming.

 

I am of the firm belief  that faith only begins at the end of our comfort zones.  It seems like most parents are experts in creating comfort zones for their children and I believe that the absence of the opposition that Christ promised raises serious questions concerning today's Christianity in the West?  If the blood of the martyr is the seed of the Church, as we so often confess, we have not been doing too much sowing lately in our prosperous societies.

 

We try to shield our children from difficulties and try to protect them in cocoons of comfort.  The problem however is that every area of comfort becomes a brick cemented onto the previous one and soon it is impossible to escape from a comfort zone that hinders our children from following God unconditionally.

We need to train our children to create exits in their comfort zones.   Not emergency exits but barn doors that make it easy to leave their comforts and follow Christ.  Our children need to break down comfort zones and barriers that will prevent them from following Jesus unconditionally.  

 

Most grownups are unable to venture into God’s plan for their lives simply because their parents trained them to establish, accumulate and settle.  We need to train our children to escape from these patterns.  We are not born into comfort zones but brought up in them.  Pioneering should become a life style and sharing with others second nature   The  biggest mistake that most parents make is to create comfort zones for their children instead of training them to escape from it.

 

We need to build exits in walls of comfort.

 

Do you need a calling?

“I am brother Li, your son asked me to come and visit you”

As I spoke these words to the elderly man in front of me I could see the utter surprise and even confusion in his eyes.  Suddenly the man grabbed me and jerked me inside their small room.

 

It was hard to retrace my steps and all the events that had led to this meeting.  First meeting Br.Wang in Hong Kong after his daring escape from China.  Then came the challenging request from my pastor to travel to China to bring greetings and Bibles to the family of br.Wang.  Then came the daring journey and dangerous expedition that led me to this grateful couple.

 

Sist Wang quickly excused herself and I spent the next hour bringing greetings and love from br.Wang as well as all the other believers from our small church in Hong Kong.  Curious about the sudden disappearance of Sist Wang I enquired where she went to.  “She is in the room next door praying for our safety,” Br.Wang replied.

 

It was with a deep sense of joy, mixed with an intense sadness that I finally had to say goodbye to this dear couple.  The words of Br.Wang pierced my heart:  “You have to come again”  he pleaded.

 

 I smiled politely but in my heart I knew I would not return.  This was too risky and much too dangerous for my liking.  Being a Chinese I knew that my destiny would be prison if I were caught.  “You must bring Bibles” Br.Wang pleaded “You must come again and bring Bibles” he repeated as if he could read my troubled mind

Again I smiled and gave the only correct answer I could think of “I will pray about it”

 

As in a daze I walked to the train station and boarded the first train to safety.  In my heart I knew what I wanted to do.  This was the country responsible for all my sorrow, for arresting my mother and for causing me to grow up as an orphan.  I would not return!

 

Suddenly the unmistaken voice of the Holy Spirit spoke to me:  “Do you need a calling, Johny?”

“Lord what do you mean” I asked.  The voice was umisakeable:  “You have seen the need.  Why do you need a calling to respond?”

 

I knew I had no choice.  I knew the Lord had spoken.  I knew this was the truth.

 

This was 27 years ago and today Johny Li has been an immense blessing and instrument to the Church in China.  He has been responsible for producing the first Chinese Children’s Bible in modern Chinese and has delivered thousands of Bibles and literature into China.

 

 George Whitfield wrote the following:

“Everything I meet with seems to carry this voice with it, “Go thou and preach the Gospel; be a pilgrim on earth; have no particular or certain dwelling!”  My heart echoes back – “Lord Jesus, help me to do or suffer thy will!  When thou seest me in danger of nestling, then in pity, in tender pity, put a thorn in my nest to prevent me from it”

 

Yes indeed, may God deny our children peace and grant them victory

22 October 2010

I would like to dedicate this weeks devotion to Pastor Youcef Nadarshani form Iran who is to be excecuted on Sunday 24 October (see "Heroes of Faith: Persecuted).  Please spend the time you would have taken to read the devotion to pray for our brother and his family.  We will continue the series on the X-files next week.

15 October 2010 - lesson 9 - eXcuses

 

Raising children is no easy task.  Guiding children towards a life of self-denial and living extraordinary lives in Christ is however not optional.  The lessons in achieving this objective I call the x-files.  These are not quick solutions but simply teachings from Scripture.  It is not lessons for an individual but lesson for every believer who wholeheartedly desires to follow Christ.  The teacher in these devotions is the persecuted Church and the lessons are not revelations but simply confirmations of what is already revealed in Scripture.  Hereby the X-files for raising Godly families.

 

 

  • 20 August 2010 – Lesson 1 - eX perience - (to establish a point of reference)
  • 27 August 2010 – lesson 2 - eX posure - (to create memories)
  • 3 September 2010 – Lesson 3 -  eX pectations (to establish purpose and vision)
  • 10 September 2010 – Lesson 4 -  eX pansion (to enlarge horizons)
  • 17 September 2010 - Lesson 5 - eXpense (to count the cost)
  • 24 September 2010 – Lesson 6 - eXtra (to refuse an ordinary life )
  •  1 October 2010 – Lesson 7 - eXaltation (choosing to worship)
  • 8 October 2010 – Lesson 8 - eXamination (to open a mind)
  •  15 October 201 – Lesson 9 - eXcuses (crushing opinions and creating convictions)

 

Titus 2:15 These are the things you should say. Encourage and refute with full authority. Don’t let anyone look down on you.

Proverbs 22:6  Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.

 

When I grew up there seemed to be one standard answer every time I questioned a command from my parents: “Because I said so!”  This left no space for negotiation and obedience had to be quick or I had to face the consequences.  I understood the principle that delayed obedience was disobedience.

 

Then I grew up and became a father.  The spiritual “times” have changed and as a parent I was taught that this was not the right way to answer your child.  I had to explain why certain commands were given and why I expected obedience immediately.  “Because I say so!” became a parental curse word and every mom and dad were very careful not to use these words in front of fellow believers.

 

Then I became a grandfather and suddenly the values of “old” held new meaning.  I now realise that questioning every command could be legitimate but at the same time could so easily create a generation that questions authority and questions commands, not only from parents but especially from God.  Explaining reasons for obedience creates opportunities to find excuses for disobedience.

 

In our lives there will be many situations where God’s immediate commands do not make sense.  It will require unconditional obedience, without questioning or doubting His Sovereign Being and trusting him as a loving Father.  This will only be acquired by teaching our children that they need to obey, even if they don’t know why.  That they need to obey even though it doesn’t make sense.  That they need to fully trust and rely on the love and wisdom of those who know better and desire only the best for their children.

 

It is time that we stop making excuses for what we believe and who we are as parents.  It it time that we stop making excuses for building into the lives of children, character and obedience.  We have Godly mandates to be parents and we will give account to God alone

 

Offer no excuses as a parent for:

The commands and the standards in the Word of God.

The truth of Scripture

taking up your Godly responsibility as parents.

being a Godly parent in your instructions, reprimands and discipline.

Exercising your God given authority with Agape love .

 

It will be required of all parents to firmly set borders and boundaries in their homes.  No matter how wide or how narrow these boundaries are, they will be tested.  If you have no boundaries, you have failed.  If your boundaries are firmly settled, it will be challenged. 

 

Only when we stand for what we believe will our children follow

 

Roy Pontoh

 

124 Indonesian Christians went on a  retreat  to one of the many beautiful mountains outside Ambon city.  The adults and 84 children were aware of the problems in this turmoil area but were expectantly looking forward to this weekend.

 

Rumours reached the group that a group of armed Muslims were on their way to the campgrounds and the pastor then left for a nearby town to bring a police escort home to Ambon city.    The group were awaiting the return of their pastor after being stranded in an isolated fisheries’ laboratory rented from a nearby university when a large crowd of Muslims attacked the group, waving machetes in the air and shouting "Allahu Akbar."  

 

The Youth leaders locked children up in dorms and told them to pray but as the mob attacked the site, the doors were all forced open. Everyone was marched outside and made to stand in three groups: children, teenagers and adults.   What happened next was heroic and nightmarish at the same time.

 

Singling out a 15-year-old, Roy Pontoh, the assailants then asked him in front of everyone, "Who are you?"

Shaking with fear Roy replied, "I am a soldier of Christ."

To everyone’s horror, they slashed and chopped off his left arm.

Among those watching was Roy’s nine-year-old brother, Marlan.  Intending that he should deny his faith, they asked him again, “Who are you?”

Back came the reply, "I am a soldier of Christ." They hacked at his right arm and chopped it off as well.

 

They then tried to make Roy recant, forcing him to say "Allahu Akbar," but he replied, "As far as I know, Jesus Christ is the only Lord." At that they sliced his stomach.  Still he was conscious. A third time they asked him, "Who are you," and as he gasped his reply,  "I am a soldier of Christ,"

 

Little Roy was beheaded. 

 

His body was then thrown into the gutter, but his spirit -- no doubt -- entered through gates of gold.

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

8 October 2010 - lesson 8 - eXamination

Raising children is no easy task.  Guiding children towards a life of self-denial and living extraordinary lives in Christ is however not optional.  The lessons in achieving this objective I call the x-files.  These are not quick solutions but simply teachings from Scripture.  It is not lessons for an individual but lesson for every believer who wholeheartedly desires to follow Christ.  The teacher in these devotions is the persecuted Church and the lessons are not revelations but simply confirmations of what is already revealed in Scripture.  Hereby the X-files for raising Godly families.

 

20 August 2010 – Lesson 1 - eX perience - (to establish a point of reference)

27 August 2010 – lesson 2 - eX posure - (to create memories)

3 September 2010 – Lesson 3 -  eX pectations (to establish purpose and vision)

10 September 2010 – Lesson 4 -  eX pansion (to enlarge horizons)

17 September 2010 - Lesson 5 - eX pense (to count the cost)

24 September 2010 – Lesson 6 - eX tra (to refuse an ordinary life )

 1 October 2010 – Lesson 7 - eX altation (choosing to worship)

8 October 2010 – Lesson 8 - eX amination (to open a mind)

 

1 John4:1 Dear friends, stop believing every spirit. Instead, test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.

Acts 17:11 Now these Jews were better disposed and more noble than those in Thessalonica, for they were entirely ready and accepted and welcomed the message with inclination of mind and eagerness, searching and examining the Scripture daily to see if these things were so.

 

All of mankind are “truth seekers” with teenagers the most of all.  To find the truth will require examination and explanation.  In an age where new age movements are encouraging people to have “Open Minds” it might be of value for parents to emphasise “Open Bibles”. 

 

William Barclay said the following:  “It is true that there is everything to be said for the open mind, but there is nothing to be said for the mind that is open at both ends”

 

The Bible is clear about the importance of a man coming to his own conclusion.  There was a day when Jesus asked his disciples “Who do men say that the Son of Man is?”  And when they had told Him what others were saying, he demanded “But you, who do you say that I am?” (Matt 16:14,15)

 

Epictetus said with certain vivid crudity that sheep do not vomit up the grass to show the shepherd how much they have eaten.  They turn it into wool and milk.  The aim of teaching is not to produce an echo, but to enable man to think his way to an independent faith

 

We need to train our children to examine trends and to discern between new thoughts and new theologies.  Every movement that enters the church in the name of Jesus is not always from the Lord and every teaching from a “Bible verse” is not necessarily from Scripture.  As parents we must teach our children to examine EVERY trend in the same way that Jesus examined the fig tree.  We have to train them to look at the roots, the stem and the fruit:

 

The roots

Evaluate the origin.  If the roots are “self” the fruit will be selfish.  If the roots are material, the fruit will not be eternal. If the roots are not in Jesus and founded on scripture the fruits will be death.

 

The stem

Evaluate the content.  If the stem is not to the glory of God, the branches will not bear the fruit of the Spirit.  If the content is for the benefit of the self, the tree will be irrelevant in a Kingdom context.

 

The fruit

If the fruit is evil, the tree is evil.  If the fruit focuses on the self, the tree is doomed for death.  If the tree doesn’t bear the fruit of the spirit, the tree is not from the Spirit.

 

The major obstacle that many Christians, especially those of the Suffering Church,  face today is a lack of Scripture and a total depravation of any opportunities to examine the truth of God.

 

Amos 8:11 The time is surely coming, says the Lord, when I will send a famine on the land - not a famine for bread or water, but for hearing the words of the Lord.  Men will wander everywhere from sea to sea, seeking the Word of the Lord

 

Chris and his team stood at the pickup point where they were to meet their contact and deliver the Bibles. They arrived with only minutes to spare.  But the contact didn't show up. Knowing they were being watched, the team started walking to the edge of town as though leaving. Hot and tired, they stopped at a nearby park for a drink of water, rest and prayer. It was hard to understand why, after all the difficulties God had brought them through, something had gone wrong.  Soon the team became aware of three very ragged and dirty men under a tree behind them. Chris felt the Lord leading him to go over with some water. When he offered it, one of the men suddenly spoke the password, very clearly, in English.  The rest of the team hurried over and pieced together the men's story from the little Chinese they knew.

 

Two years earlier, God had given a word in one of their services that they should plan for this trip. He would lead them to this park on this date and have Bibles ready for them, which would be brought by white men from far away. Since they were all poor farmers, it had taken a long time to save enough money for food and shoes to last the trip.  The men had walked for two and a half months, mostly at night to keep from being arrested. Coming from the far north of China, near Mongolia, they had climbed a range of snow-capped mountains, travelled through the desert and crossed several rivers, without a compass or any knowledge of the country. All they could explain was that God had shown them where to go. How did they know the password? How could they speak it in English when they knew no English? How did they survive the heat and the snow without protective clothing? How did they arrive on exactly the right day? It could only be God!

 

When the men saw the Bibles, they cried and praised the Lord for a long time. They had brought the cloth bags to carry the Bibles home, and inside each one was a small watermelon they had brought all those miles as a gift of appreciation. Even though they had been without food for several days, they didn't eat a single watermelon.

 

The team exchanged clothes with them, and Chris explained what an honour it was to put on those dirty rags. The shoes were completely worn out, but the team chose to go barefoot and give up their own shoes. They fitted perfectly! Apparently, God had chosen each group based in part on their shoe size! Many tears were shed as the team prayed with the Chinese and sent them back home with food and money for their journey.

As Chris shared this story, he brought out those precious little melons and passed them around. It's hard to explain the feelings and unworthiness as the group ate, careful not to waste a single morsel. They were very sweet and juicy. Everyone cried as they thought of the sacrifices these beloved brothers had made to bring this humble gift.

1 October 2010 - Lesson 7 - eXaltation

Raising children is no easy task.  Guiding children towards a life of self-denial and living extraordinary lives in Christ is however not optional.  The lessons in achieving this objective I call the x-files.  These are not quick solutions but simply teachings from Scripture.  It is not lessons for an individual but lesson for every believer who wholeheartedly desires to follow Christ.  The teacher in these devotions is the persecuted Church and the lessons are not revelations but simply confirmations of what is already revealed in Scripture.  Hereby the X-files for raising Godly families.

 

 

20 August 2010 – Lesson 1 - eXperience - (to establish a point of reference)

27 August 2010 – lesson 2 - eXposure - (to create memories)

3 September 2010 – Lesson 3 -  eXpectations (to establish purpose and vision)

10 September 2010 – Lesson 4 -  eXpansion (to enlarge horizons)

17 September 2010 - Lesson 5 - eX pense (to count the cost)

24 September 2010 – Lesson 6 - eX tra (to refuse an ordinary life )

 1 October 2010 – Lesson 7 - eX altation (choosing to worship)

 

Hebrews 12:28-29 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that can’t be shaken, we must be thankful and worship God in reverence and fear in a way that pleases him. For our God is an all-consuming fire.

Psalm 99:5 Exalt ye the LORD our God, and worship at his footstool; for he is holy.

Psalm 34:1  I will bless the Lord at all times, His praise shall be continually in my mouth.

Psalm 103:1 Bless the Lord oh my soul, and all that is within me bless His holy name.

Psalm 104:1 Bless the Lord oh my soul…..

Psalm 104:35 …Bless the Lord oh my soul…..

 

Diary of a nightsoil digger (as told by Richard Wurmbrand)

Psalm 27:4  The one thing I want from God, the thing that I seek most of all, is the privilege of meditating in His temple, living in His presence every day of my life, delighting in his incomparable perfections and glory.  There I’ll be when trouble comes... Then I will bring Him sacrifices and sing His praises with much joy

 

Br Zhang, a medical doctor and preacher in Zhejiang, was encouraged by the government to join the three self Church in China.  Upon his refusal he was arrested and as a young man of 28 had to spend the next 18 years in prison.  Eighteen years – not a short time, especially for someone in prison, surrounded by four walls, eating poor food, being beaten and drowning in the stench of your cellmates.  Br.Zhang reflected as follows about his time in prison:

 

Harassment and uprooting was not enough for the communists. I was destined to see the inside of the communist Chinese prison system.  The eighteen years were a tremendous spiritual challenge, which brought great blessings I never before thought possible in my life.  At times I was so weak, discouraged or sad that I thought my burden had grown unbearable. But those feelings came rarely and usually lasted only a short time. Most of my prison years were filled with joy and gladness as I grew in faith, surrounded by frightening, degrading and often disgusting circumstances.

 

Prison officials were familiar with my background; they knew I had been born into a relatively well to do family. They also were aware of my superior educational background. When they chose my prison work assignment, the wardens ordered me to empty the camp nightsoil pit - the prison's cesspool. The officials must have laughed, knowing that the college-educated son of a capitalist family... and a Christian ... would be working with a shovel in his hands.  While I had little experience of physical labour its hardship and suffering did not frighten me, although most of the other prisoners dreaded nightsoil pit duty as the most difficult task in prison. I accepted this assignment without complaint

 

To understand how God sustained me through prison, you must first understand the nightsoil pit.   Three meters long (about 10 feet), three meters wide and two meters deep, the pit stored all the human excrement, both liquid and solid, from the entire camp. Once the pit was full, its human waste steeped until its foul contents were ripe enough to be used as fertiliser.  Not only did I walk into this disease-ridden mess to remove it, but I had to breathe its stench as I scooped away each successive layer and dropped hundreds of shovel loads into collection buckets for others to carry to the fields.   Spadeful by spadeful, digging constantly deeper, I discovered that the compost became much heavier and the stench even stronger as I neared the bottom. Prison officials allowed me only one day to dig out the pit clean enough that I could stand at the very bottom. Any liquid left behind had to be ladled by hand, for the pit's bottom had to be perfectly dry. Every ounce or drop of human waste had to be utilised for the advancement of the communist nation.

 

In China we have a saying: "The music lingered in the air, but you failed to notice it for three days'  " Not so the nightsoil pit. Its pungent odours lingered with the digger at least three days, literally surrounding him with an almost maddening stench. All the guards and other prisoners avoided the nightsoil pit digger to escape being overcome by the lingering odour.  To work in the nightsoil pit, a prisoner cannot be afraid of hardship, filth or stench. I was happy to get the job. At first, my shovel felt unwieldy, but God gave me the strength to perform this horrendous task and every other job I was assigned.  One reason - really a hidden blessing - I could enjoy working in the nightsoil pit was the solitude. Surrounded only by foul air and human waste, I could sing music of praise to God as loudly as I wanted. And the guards were never close enough to protest this otherwise objectionable behaviour!

One of my favourite songs during those days was  "In the Garden":

"I come to the garden alone,

Where the dew is still on the roses.

And a voice I hear, falling on my ear,

The Son of God discloses.

And he walks with me,

And he talks with me,

And tells me I am his own,

And the joy we share as we tarry there,

None other has ever known."

 

My Chinese nightsoil pit was hardly the garden that the composer of that hymn had in mind! But God delivered great happiness to me to be able to sing His praises in such earthly misery. Such praises came not from men. Nor did I invent excuses to escape my work.

 

 

The challenge we face as parents, is to install into our children’s lives an attitude of CHOOSING to reverently worship God. 

  • When times are good AND when times are bad. 
  • When they feel like it AND when they don’t
  • When they are allowed to do so AND when they are not

 

For most of us this might seem like an impossible feat.  Most of us would choose, and even desire, to worship God fervently … but only when conditions are suitable and favourable, when the atmosphere is right and when we sense the presence of Jesus. 

 

For the Suffering Church there will never be a right “atmosphere”.  There will never be a sense of peace and a place of safety or tranquillity.  In all honesty, worldly speaking, there might not even be a reason to worship God.  But the worship extends to the throne of God on a daily basis as the suffering saints worship the Lord with all their hearts – not for what He has done, but for who He is.

 

The obvious question is therefor “How do I install this attitude in the lives of my children who have so much already?” 

There are thousands of answers - but it will involve only three areas of our children’s lives:  Body, Soul and Spirit

 

This is the message that Paul confirmed to the Church in Thessalonica:

(1 Thes. 5:23) 23 And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

We must understand that there is a definite difference in body, soul and spirit and that all three elements need to be involved in exaltation and worship.

 

In our Spirits

1 Corinthians 6:17 17 But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit. (KJV)

The Spirit, and only the Spirit, is able to worship and communicate with God. 

Since it is only our Spirit, not the soul or the body, which can commune with God, it is only the Spirit that can truly worship God and hear His voice.  The Spirit is the element that is able to worship while the soul is able to praise and give thanks

 

If we therefor want to teach our children to worship God we have to train them to be tuned in to His Spirit.  Our training should therefor require of us to teach our children to:

  • Pray and Fast .
  • Read their Bible.
  • Fellowship with other believers.
  • Have a regular quiet time.

 

In our souls

In Gen. 2:7 we read that, when God breathed His spirit into Adam, his soul was formed.  The soul is therefor the connection between our Bodies and our Spirits. 

Derek Prince describes it as follows: “The body was clay infused by divine life.  The soul came about through the union of Spirit and body.”

 

The soul is the individual “me”.  This is the element that makes the choices.  The “I want”, “I think”, “I feel” of our whole being

 

The soul is the decision element.  David commands his soul to choose to bless the Lord when he says “Bless the Lord oh my soul”.  He is actually saying “Soul, choose to activate my Spirit in worship to the Lord”

 

As we train Godly children it will be essential that we start with their souls, with their choices, by activating their spirits and their bodies.  Only a few areas where  they will have to make choices of worship will be to:

  • Deny their rights – of being understood, being right, being comfortable and being served.  They will have to choose to deny themselves to enter into worship.
  • Submit – to God, to parents, elders, teachers but also to rules and regulations .
  • Focus – on God - In times of trials and suffering but also in times of abundance and prosperity.
  • Excel - In their attitude, their language, their actions, their relationships.
  • Respect – towards God, other cultures, their elders and also their subordinates.
  • Decrease – in worship there is no room for pride or arrogance.
  • Forgive – those who harmed or sinned against them – even their parents.
  • Sacrifice – their bodies as a living sacrifice.

 

Our Bodies

It is vital that we teach our children to use what the Lord has given them to reach out to Him.  Their bodies therefor need to be the temples of praise as they worship almighty God.  It would need to be

  • Presentable.
  • Set apart.
  • Holy.
  • Sacrificial.

 

The Love Song

A young girl from the Middle East wrote the following:

 

O Lord, in public I invoke You in a way one invokes his master. In public I say, “Oh my God” but when we are alone I say, “O my beloved”.  O Lord if I adore you because I fear hell, let me burn in hell; and if I adore you because I hope for paradise, exclude me from paradise.  But if I adore you for what You Yourself are, do not deprive me of the vision of Your eternal beauty.  I do not desire from You either this world or the world to come. You are enough for me.

 

 

24 September 2010 - Lesson 6 – eXtra

 

Raising children is no easy task.  Guiding children towards a life of self-denial and living extraordinary lives in Christ is however not optional.  The lessons in achieving this objective I call the x-files.  These are not quick solutions but simply teachings from Scripture.  It is not lessons for an individual but lesson for every believer who wholeheartedly desires to follow Christ.  The teacher in these devotions is the persecuted Church and the lessons are not revelations but simply confirmations of what is already revealed in Scripture.  Hereby the X-files for raising Godly families.

  • 20 August 2010 – Lesson 1 - eXperience - (to establish a point of reference)
  • 27 August 2010 – lesson 2 - eXposure - (to create memories)
  • 3 September 2010 – Lesson 3 -  eXpectations (to establish purpose and vision)
  • 10 September 2010 – Lesson 4 -  eXpansion (to enlarge horizons)
  • 17 September 2010 - Lesson 5 - eX pense (to count the cost)
  • 24 September 2010 – Lesson 6 - eX tra (to refuse an ordinary life )

 

Matthew 5:40 If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go two with him. Give to the person who asks you for something, and don’t turn away from the person who wants to borrow something from you.”

 

To refuse an ordinary life in Christ

The serenity of the pastor walking beside us seemed to calm the hustle and the bustle of the small village.  He suddenly came to a stop, carefully looked around and then spoke to us.

“Some time ago, exactly on the spot where you are standing now, a Christian brother was slaughtered to death because of his faith.  He was abducted and brought here to be executed.  Life in a Middle Eastern villages like this, is not easy if you confess Jesus to be the Son of God.  It could cost you your life”

 

We looked at this servant of Christ and asked him the obvious question “Why do you choose to live here?  Why do you choose to follow Christ under such severe circumstances?”

 

Without hesitation he looked at us and his reply became a challenge and guideline for me in my walk with the Lord, even if it is in the safety of my home .   He replied “I refuse to live an ordinary life in Christ”

 

As Christians we are called to refuse an ordinary life in Christ.  We are commanded to reject worldly standards, to reject mediocrity and to reject compromise

 

Have we accepted that teenagers are teenagers and will therefore live ordinary lives?  Are we satisfied that they participate in the activities of the world – or will we train them to refuse the worldly standards and live an extra-ordinary life in Christ?

 

We live in a time where there is an enormous need for Christians to rise and proclaim, through their words and through their actions, “I believe in what I do.  I reject the corrupt standards of this world.  I refuse to live an ordinary life in Christ”

               

We read in Matthew 5 that Jesus teaches His disciplesYou have heard that it was said…….BUT I tell you”

 

We need to train a new generation to reject the standards of the world.  We need to teach our children not to conform to the ““You have heard that it was said” of the world but to base every action and every motivation on the “BUT I tell you” of the Lord.  With television, magazines and internet that determine the trends and standards, we have to train our children that there is but ONE guideline and ONE example - the “I Tell you” of scripture:

  • They will hear that gambling is acceptable -  
  • BUT I TELL YOU  -I will destine you for the sword if you prepare  a table for the god of fortune (Isaiah 65:11)
  • They will hear that homosexuality and adultery are acceptable –
  • BUT I TELL YOU , fornicators and adulterers will not inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor  6:9)
  • They will hear that sex before marriage, impurity and pornography are acceptable
  • BUT I TELL YOU my wrath will be upon you (Col 3:5)
  • They will hear about disrespect and backchat
  • BUT I TELL YOU show proper respect to everyone (1 Pet.2:17)
  • They will hear that violence can be justified
  • BUT I TELL YOU  turn the other cheek and love your enemies (Matt 5:38)
  • They will hear how the Lord’s name is used in vain
  • BUT I TELL YOU – You shall not use my name in vain (Ex 20:7)
  • They will be trained to make riches and be lovers of money and lovers of pleasureBUT I TELL YOU – God will destroy you (1 Cor 6:9-20)

 

As parents and guardians, the “BUT I TELL YOU.. “ of scripture will be our only guideline to lead a new generation into an extraordinary life.

 

William Barclay says the following:

The simple fact is that the world will never have any use for Christianity, unless it can prove that it produces the best men and women.  The authentic mark of a Christian is a life lived on the standards of Jesus Christ.

 

In the same manner it is unacceptable as a Christian to be satisfied to do only that which is required of you.  The life of a Christian is based on the extra and we need to train our children that that is the norm and not the exception.

 

One thing we must teach our children is that the Bible doesn’t tell us when to stop blessing people, when to stop loving people, when to stop caring for people and when to stop forgiving our enemies

 

Sold out for Jesus

A missionary in an African country told this story. His church had a gift day, but instead of sending their gifts ahead of time for decorating the church, they brought them with them on Sunday morning. When the service was over and the missionary stood looking at the pile of gifts, he thought he heard something. Raising his head, he saw a little African girl in the aisle.   “Do you want to speak to me?”  he asked.  Very timidly the girl came to the front of the church, and said, “'Please sir, I want to give something.”

Putting her hand into her scanty garment she pulled out a bag.  Opening it, she brought out handful after handful of silver and gold until there was a pile on the table worth more than all the other gifts put together.

The missionary said, “You ought not to have done this. Tell me where you took the money from, and we will put it back.”    The child burst into tears. “It's all mine!”   “'It can't be!” exclaimed the missionary. “You are much too poor.”

 

Then the story came out. The child had sold herself as a slave in order to be able to give money to the church.

 

The Lord asks of His Church extra.

  • It is not enough just to go to Church and Youth on Sundays.
  • It is not enough to only bless those who bless you.
  • It is not enough to only give your tithes.
  • It is not enough to just pray and wait for an answer.
  • It is not enough to just believe.

 

Once you have found and experienced something worth dying for, only then have you discovered something worth living for.


 

17 September 2010 - Lesson 5 – eXpense

Raising children is no easy task.  Guiding children towards a life of self-denial and living extraordinary lives in Christ is however not optional.  The lessons in achieving this objective I call the x-files.  These are not quick solutions but simply teachings from Scripture.  It is not lessons for an individual but lesson for every believer who wholeheartedly desires to follow Christ.  The teacher in these devotions is the persecuted Church and the lessons are not revelations but simply confirmations of what is already revealed in Scripture.  Hereby the X-files for raising Godly families.

  • 20 August 2010 – Lesson 1 - eXperience - (to establish a point of reference)
  • 27 August 2010 – lesson 2 - eXposure - (to create memories)
  • 3 September 2010 – Lesson 3 -  eXpectations (to establish purpose and vision)
  • 10 September 2010 – Lesson 4 -  eXpansion (to enlarge horizons)
  • 17 September 2010 - Lesson 5 - eX pense (to count the cost)
  •  

Luke 14:27-33 Whoever doesn’t carry his cross and follow me can’t be my disciple.

“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. He will first sit down and estimate the cost to see whether he has enough money to finish it, won’t he? Otherwise, if he lays a foundation and can’t finish the building, everyone who watches will begin to ridicule him and say, ‘This person started a building but couldn’t finish it.’

(33) In the same way, none of you can be my disciple unless he gives up all his possessions.”

 

Get thee behind me Satan

“The persecuted often have to say to the Western church, ‘Get thee behind me.’ The Western church is Satan because it tempts us with the third temptation of Christ -- to claim the victory without enduring the struggle.”

It was the first time I had ever been called “Satan!” But no one could fault the careful exegesis as this fiery Korean preacher bellowed to the 200-member house church in Dandong, China, right on the border of North Korea.

“The third temptation of Jesus,” he declared, “was when the devil offered him the kingdom without the cross. The devil was basically saying, ‘Don’t go off and make all those sacrifices, touch all those lepers, spend nights in agony praying, and end up being tortured by soldiers and dying a horrible death. Just take it all now … from my hand!”  He went on: “The church often has the same temptation. The devil offers us power without suffering. And … I’ve got to say this even though our Western friend is here … this is a temptation one part of the church tempts another part of the church with. We have to call that part of the church ‘Satan,’ just as Jesus had to call Peter ‘Satan’ when he made the same suggestion later in his ministry.”

Good rip-roaring stuff, and thoroughly Biblical. But I was intrigued as to why this pastor had singled out the Western church as the tempter. He was happy to explain over a meal.

“I took five pastors from North America last year. All Koreans. They came with reading material. … Good stuff as far as it went, and they were supplying a sort of formula for church growth. But could one of them even bring themselves to mention suffering? No! And when I heard those Korean pastors preach, it was also absent.”

He leaned forward and whispered, “When these pastors preach to the persecuted church, and mention everything but suffering, they are taking away the cross from the Christian life. That’s why I have to say that they are bringing a satanic suggestion. Anyone who says you can follow Christ but not carry your cross is no better than the old deceiver himself. Jesus said so. He said it to Satan, and he said it to Peter. And I’m going to say it to anyone else who dares to think they can be a witness to Christ from anywhere else but on a cross.”

 

There will be a cost involved for bearing the name of Jesus.  If we, as parents,  try to shelter our children from the cross then we are guilty of the third temptation of Christ.  Our children need to understand that there will not be a victorious life in Christ without following the footsteps to the cross.  Not around the cross, as we often desire, but through the cross.

 

We once asked a Christian in Vietnam how he introduces the Gospel in the villages where people have never heard about God.  Without hesitating he answered “Oh very easily.. I simply tell them the following:  I have good news for you but it might cost you your life, would you like me to continue?   People want to hear good news and most of the time they eagerly ask me to tell them.  But the introduction is always that there will be a cost involved because for us in Vietnam, being a Christian means a life of self-denial.  When they are persecuted and imprisoned they are not surprised.  They expect it”

 

It sometimes amazes me how we find it suitable to counsel our children regarding the costs involved in buying a new bicycle or starting a new hobby but we never sit down and discuss the cost of following Jesus.  We need to train our children in no uncertain terms that being ridiculed at school, being rejected and facing mockery, is part and parcel of being a Christian.  It comes in a parcel and you cannot have the one without the other.

 

  • We need to train our children to sacrifice. 
  • We need to train our children to count the cost
  • We need to train our children that they do not belong to themselves

 

Our lives are often based on our expectations.  If we are confronted with the unexpected, we seldom know how to react.  If we neglect to teach and expose our children to the reality of the cross, difficulties will come as a surprise. 

 

BUT, once again, if we as parents cannot testify through our lives by being examples of living sacrifices, our teachings will be futile.

When was the last time you were ridiculed for the name of Jesus?

When was the last time you sacrificed your time and money to work amongst the lost?

When was the last time you sacrificed ALL you have to visit the Suffering Church?

 

Willing to bleed

She stood outside the doorway of the church intrigued by the love and joy displayed by those inside. The American missionary had asked her to come in, but she had politely declined. It wasn’t because she didn’t want to accept the kind offer. Quite the opposite; her heart was beckoning her to join in their singing and worship. They seemed so happy, and the fellowship was so spontaneous and natural. But this was a hostile area in the Philippines, and her father had strictly forbidden her to have anything to do with “those Christians.”

Unknown to the little Filipino girl, the missionary was praying fervently for her soul.  She longed to see the day when she would accompany her inside the village church and learn of Jesus and how He shed His blood on a cross so that her sins could be washed away. The girl knew something was happening because each week she found it harder and harder to say no to the missionary. Finally one Sunday morning, she accepted. She accepted the invitation to attend the Sunday school class, but also opened her heart to Jesus and became a child of God. The missionary, overjoyed with the new believer, soon presented her with a beautiful white dress, representing the fact that Jesus had washed all her sins away.

Anxious to see her new disciple, the missionary rushed to the next service. But the girl was nowhere to be found. No one had seen her or heard of her whereabouts. Concerned for the girl, the missionary travelled to her home village. Upon arriving at her home, she found the young, new believer lying in the dirt. Her white dress was torn, filthy, and soaked in blood.  The girl’s father hadn’t shared the missionary’s joy in his daughter’s newfound faith. In a drunken rage he had beaten her, repeatedly kicked her, and left her to die.   The missionary gently lifted the fragile girl and carried her back to the church where a doctor rushed in to help her. But there was nothing he could do. He removed the ragged dress and cleaned her up, but her injuries were too severe. The young Filipino girl would soon die. The missionary and other friends stayed with her, trying to comfort her during her final hour. Upon regaining consciousness she made an unusual request. Despite the pain and trauma of her father’s beating, she was insistent on holding the white dress the missionary had given her.  They explained that it was torn and soaked with blood and dirt, but she insisted on having it in her hands. With the simple faith of a ten‑year‑old she whispered, “I just want Jesus to know that I was willing to bleed for Him.”

Sometimes struggles are exactly what we need in our lives. If God allowed us to go through our lives without any obstacles, it would cripple us. We would not be as strong as what we could have been.  We would never fly!

 

  • I asked for Strength.........And God gave me Difficulties to make me strong.
    I asked for Wisdom.........And God gave me Problems to solve.
    I asked for Prosperity.........And God gave me Brain and Brawn to work.
    I asked for Courage.........And God gave me Danger to overcome.
    I asked for Love.........And God gave me Troubled people to help.
    I asked for Favours.........And God gave me Opportunities.
    I received nothing I wanted........I received everything I needed!

10 September 2010 - Lesson 4 – eXpansion

Raising children is no easy task.  Guiding children towards a life of self-denial and living extraordinary lives in Christ is however not optional.  The lessons in achieving this objective I call the x-files.  These are not quick solutions but simply teachings from Scripture.  It is not lessons for an individual but lesson for every believer who wholeheartedly desires to follow Christ.  The teacher in these devotions is the persecuted Church and the lessons are not revelations but simply confirmations of what is already revealed in Scripture.  Hereby the X-files for raising Godly families.

  • 20 August 2010 – Lesson 1 - eXperience - (to establish a point of reference)
  • 27 August 2010 – lesson 2 - eXposure - (to create memories)
  • 3 September 2010 – Lesson - 3 eXpectations (to establish purpose and vision)
  • 10 September 2010 – Lesson - 4 eXpansion (to enlarge horizons)

 

Exodus 34:23 On each of these three occasions all the men and boys of Israel shall appear before the Lord…For I will drive out the nations before you and enlarge your boundaries.

2 Corinthians 10:15 We aren’t boasting about the work done by others that can’t be evaluated. On the contrary, we cherish the hope that your faith may continue to grow and enlarge our sphere of action among you until it overflows.

 

The ultimate goal of every parent is to teach and lead their children to a point where they will independently make Godly choices in times where the odds are against them and at places where no one else will influence them to do so.  The successful parent is the one who equips his child with a bigger conscience than any desire can ever overrule.  But this will require that our children exercise their character in an ever increasing way.  Borders off challenges need to be enlarged.  Faith only starts at the ends of our comfort zones and the more secure these borders become the harder it becomes for those trapped between the walls to enlarge their horizons.  As parents we often seek to protect our children from outside dangers and in doing so create an even bigger danger – the inability of our children to deal with temptations and pressures.

 

We need to teach and train our children to continually plant flags outside their borders of comfort.  Each flag becomes a beacon for future decisions and steps of faith.

 

I simply fly to Jesus

25 December – A time of peace and joy for those who are fortunate enough to celebrate the birth of their saviour in freedom.  For Marko and his two fellow believers this was the 15th Christmas that they had to celebrate behind the bars of a prison cell in a Muslim country.

 

26 December - We knew we had no option.  We had to visit Marko as an encouragement and confirm to him once again the love of a saviour who is called Emmanuel. 

 

From the outset we understood the difficulties as we approached the grey building.  Our Arab friend, Joshua, did everything in his power to assist us securely through the iron gates but we knew that only a miracle from a loving Father would open doors to two westerners into this closed area. 

 

We were searched and most of the gifts were confiscated according to the needs and wants of the guards.  We were then told to wait in a room that bore the marks of many tears and sorrows.   We waited patiently as Joshua approached the dirty counter.

“We would like to visit Marko Abraham” he asked

The guard paged through a long list of names and unceremoniously answered

“There is no one by this name”

Experience surfaced as Joshua tried again.. “Sorry, I forgot, we would like to see prisoner number 9979”

The guard paged through the list again and answered abruptly “Wait till you are called.”

Sadness filled our hearts.  A human soul, a brother and a loved one, has been reduced to a number.  We knew now even more than before that this was the right place and the right time for us to be here.

 

An even greater sense of sadness filled our hearts as we entered the “visiting quarters”.  Even though we have often heard the saying that a prison cell in the Middle East is the closest to hell that you will experience on earth, nothing prepared us for the sense of hopelessness that we experienced in this room of despair.

 

As the prisoners entered it was not difficult to recognise Marko and his two friends.  Beaming eyes and smiling faces immediately assured us that they have not been separated from the love of God.  Tears flowed freely as they shared how lonely they were on Christmas day and how joyful they are to know that they are not forgotten.  “It was so difficult yesterday..” Marko spoke softly ..  ”Apart from being a Christian prisoner in a “Muslim” prison, it was also the fast of the Ramadan.  We were not allowed out of our cells and we were not allowed to talk to anyone.  Fortunately, a week ago the three of us got hold of a piece of cake and we hid it underneath our cushions especially for Christmas day.  Yesterday, when the fast was broken, we simply walked to one another, held the slices of cake together and simply said “Merry Christmas” – that was our Christmas”

 

We felt so inadequate in the comfort that we tried to bring.  We cried, we prayed but most of all we rejoiced.  We knew once again that nothing can separate us from the love of God.

 

The visiting hour flew past and soon it was time to say goodbye.  Before being marched off back to his prison cell we looked at Marko and asked him a final question:  “Marko, what are you going to do now when you get to your cell and once again you are all alone?”

 

Marko smiled and with a deep sense of hope and serenity answered the following:

“I simply spread the wings of my spirit and I fly to Jesus”

 

To get to a point where neither circumstances nor peer pressure determines our decisions will require an expansion of character.  It will require that our children enlarge their horizons, experiences and exposures.  It will require a determined choice by parents to actively expand the points of reference to their children.

 

To make Godly choices in times where your role models are absent, will require from the children an expansion of:

  • Conscience. When parents are not present, the conscience will be the only roadblock to temptation.
  • Compassion.  When the world condemns, to look through the eyes of Jesus.
  • Faith.  When all else fails, the expanded faith, that has been proven in times of difficulties, will be the only building stone to use.
  • Trust. When all hope is lost, the trust acquired in a faithful God, and steadfast parents, will cement relationships into a solid foundation.
  • Biblical knowledge.  In times of attack the “IT IS WRITTEN” of God’s word will be the only weapon worth using.

 

 

3 September 2010 - Lesson 3 - eXpectations

The lessons of raising Godly children, who will live extraordinary lives in Christ, I call the x-files.  It is not the teachings of a person but the teachings of Scripture.  It is not the lessons of an individual but the lesson of every believer who wholeheartedly desires to follow Christ.  The teacher in these devotions is the persecuted Church and the lessons are not revelations but simply confirmations of what is already revealed in Scripture.  Hereby the X-files for raising Godly families.

  • 20 August 2010 – Lesson 1 - eXperience - (to establish a point of reference)
  • 27 August 2010 – lesson 2 - eXposure - (to create memories)
  • 3 September 2010 – Lesson 3 eXpectations (to establish purpose and vision)

 

Psalm 62:5  for my hope and expectation are from Him.

Act 2:17 In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on everyone.  Your sons and your daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, and your old men will dream dreams.

 

Before I die

“If someone wanted to kill me..” observed Amelic, a young girl in a communist country, I would say to him, "First let me tell you the story of Jesus." If he killed me afterwards, at least I'd go to heaven.   Her thinking was wiser than her years.  Christians in Communist or Islamic countries who are brought before torturers or executioners make it their first priority to tell them about salvation through Christ.  Before answering any questions from their interrogators about the underground Church, they share their faith. Then what comes, may come.

 

As parents we do not have a mandate to raise children to become rich, comfortable and wealthy.  Our mandate is to install into their lives Godly purposes and Kingdom vision.  Our children were not given to us to raise selfishly nor do we have the right to impose our dreams on their lives.  Godly parents will determine the talents of their children and nurture it to the fullest extent in order that their children may grow to the fullest in Christ. 

 

We must create dreams.  Godly dreams.  We must help our children envision what they are capable of when they walk with the Lord.

 

Whenever we travelled to closed countries as a family our children were beyond themselves with excitement.  We were all counting the sleeps to the date of departure.  There was an excitement and expectation about what the Lord was going to do.  We all had dreams and a sense of purpose.  Being a Christian was worth it, it was exciting.  Years later it seems that all we remember are the dreams that we created as we waited in expectancy.  But those are the dreams that count, because we can once again refer to the joy of serving Jesus.

 

What dreams are we creating for our children?

Has Church life and being a Christian become dull? 

 

Can you imagine a young boy sitting in the crowd with his mother and father amongst the multitudes in Mark 6:35-?  Jesus takes the fish and the bread, multiplies it and feeds thousands of people.  How can he ever forge?.  I can only imagine the young boy, after seeing how the Lord provided in the needs of hungry, going home and telling his friends how awesome the meeting was.  He was a witness of God almighty.  He was a child but his expectation of God for future faith was inspired and ignited. He understood that God was real and he was excited about it.

 

I believe God wants to inspire our children in the same way.  They need to believe it as well.  No contribution will be too insignificant, no prayer too simple, no act of obedience too small.

 

Our children are significant to God.  He said so himself.  (Mat 19:14  Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.")

We need to install into their lives the expectation that God has a purpose for them and that He will use them if they submit to His will.

 

As a young Muslim boy of twelve years old, Abdul, experienced a tragedy that would change his life forever.  Abdul drowned and was dead for more than an hour.  During his death he had a vision of how the angels came to fetch him but brought him to a closed door.

 

 A man met him at the door and asked him where he was going.  Abdul answered that he was on his way to eternity upon which the man answered that he would not be allowed in because he still had a lot of work to do on earth.  He woke up on his bed only to find a Pastor praying for him.

 

This happened 20 years ago and ever since, Abduls’ life has changed.  He is currently the pastor in a church in a small and very poor village on the island of Mindanao on the Philippine islands. 

 

Even though he only passed grade 5 in school he, to put it in his own words, “now knows the Lord”.  He has a ministry in healing and is a source of great encouragement in his village.

 

What a glorious privilege.  Our children have all the opportunities to live, and die, for Jesus in any country of choice.  If only we, as parents, can be faithful in creating dreams and expectations of a life with Christ.

27 August 2010 - Lesson 2 - eXposure

The lessons of raising Godly children, who will live extraordinary lives in Christ, I call the x-files.  It is not the teachings of a person but the teachings of Scripture.  It is not the lessons of an individual but the lesson of every believer who wholeheartedly desires to follow Christ.  The teacher in these devotions is the persecuted Church and the lessons are not revelations but simply confirmations of what is already revealed in Scripture.  Hereby the X-files for raising Godly families.

  • 20 August 2010 – Lesson 1 - eXperience - (to establish a point of reference)
  • 27 August 2010 – lesson 2 - eXposure - (to create memories)

  1 John 4:14 We have seen for ourselves and can testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Saviour of the world.

 John1:34 I have seen this and have testified that this is the Son of God.”

 

Seeing and Testifying are inseparable.  Exposure in the life of every believer is not an option but a necessity.  The tragedy is that most Christians can only talk about things they have heard about.  This automatically becomes a theology, whether you want it or not.

 

The ultimate goal of every parent should be the exposure as described by William Barclay in a tribute to his parents.  He wrote: 

"If I have been privileged to catch a more comprehensive glimpse of life than many other men, it is simply because I have stood on the shoulders of my parents".  Through the love of my parents, I am privileged to testify about this influence in my life as well.  Will my children be able to say the same?

 

During a recent courier trip to Asia we as a family had the most glorious privilege of delivering much needed Bibles into a closed country.  Joining up with another group from various parts of the world there were adults and young people, but no families. 

The one elderly American walked up to us and then said the following:  "In all my travels, this is the first time I have seen a family smuggling Bibles together"

 

Why was this such a strange phenomenon?  This should be the norm.  We should use every effort to create memories together with our children.  If our children are not exposed to the needs of the poor in India, the hungry in Africa, the lost in the Middle East and the countless  souls in Asia dying without Jesus, how can the Saviour on the cross ever be a reality to them?

 

As parents we have made many mistakes, but one of the better decisions we have made in raising our children, was taking them with us to Russia, Romania, the Middle East and Asia to visit the Suffering Church.

 

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases

Amidst fierce criticism we decided in 1990 to take our two small children with us on a courier trip to Russia.  The reasons offered why we shouldn’t take them along were many.  Apart from the dangers, the costs and the “emotional scars of fear” we were offered countless reasons why our two pre-school children should not be exposed to such a “dangerous” journey. 

 

We knew the Lord was not giving us an option.  We were called as a family and if we wanted our children to share the burden of the suffering church, they needed exposure.  They needed to “see” so that they could “testify”.  We were not disappointed.  The life changing experience for Elisha happened during our visit to Odessa

 

As we entered the hotel after a tiring day in the streets, Elisha came sobbing in our room.  “I saw a man today begging for money”  she sobbed  “He had no legs and was sitting on a skateboard.  He looked so poor and lonely….”  The tears rolled down her cheeks.  She truly felt a compassion for a sight that we didn’t even notice. “Let’s call him Uncle Alexi”  I suggested “..and then we can pray for him”  As we knelt down I knew this prayer would mean so much more if we could put feet to our faith.  Elisha continued to weep as we prayed together and was quick to answer her own prayers. 

 

“I think Jesus wants us to give him a Bible when we see him again”  she immediately responded after our joint AMEN.

 

I was certainly not too positive about this.  It was simply too dangerous but there were also believers who were waiting urgently for God’s word and they would obviously put more value to it.  Secondly, it would practically be impossible to find this man again in a city with millions of people.  Reluctantly, without extinguishing the flames of excitement in my daughters’ eyes, I said  “Yes” knowing that if it was Gods will, nothing would stop us from meeting Uncle Alexi again.

 

The following morning early, as we started our journey through the streets of Odessa, it wasn’t long before Elisha tugged my shirt with an eager voice.  “Daddy, there’s Uncle Alexi, remember what Jesus told us!”

 

We stopped and Elisha carefully opened her rugsack.  We knew that there was a certain amount of risk involved in handing out Bibles in the streets and we didn’t want to make it too obvious.  We approached Uncle Alexi and carefully placed the Bible in his hands.  The scene that enfolded before our eyes is etched in our hearts up to this day.

 

Alexi carefully picked up the Bible and opened it.  He slowly started paging through the book and tried to absorb what has happened to him.  Then a sudden expression of sadness covered his face, he bowed his head and he handed the Bible back to Elisha.  We pushed the Bible back into his hands and tried to encourage him in our very limited Russian. : “Nyet, Biblia, Biblia” we urged him.  He suddenly reached down and took all the money in the handkerchief next to him and offered it to Elisha . 

 

I suddenly realised that he must be under the impression that we’re selling the Bible on the black market and therefor the offer of all his savings.  We once again tried to comfort him.  “Nyet, gift gift” and we pushed his hand with the money back and once again offered the Bible.

 

Uncle Alexi took the Bible, pressed it against his chest and then the tears started rolling down his cheeks.  He suddenly opened the Bible and then  spent several minutes reading and paging through  a book that he had obviously heard about but had never seen.  We left Uncle Alexi with hearts overflowing with gratitude

 

The next morning Elisha burst into our room with a radiant smile,  “Daddy, Mommy, Jesus spoke to me this morning" she exclaimed.  "What did He say?” we curiously asked.  “When I woke up this morning I remembered a song”. Elisha continued and then started singing a well known hymn: 

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, His mercy never comes to an end, they are new every morning, new every morning.  Great is His faithfulness.”

Jesus told me that his love for Uncle Alexi will never cease.  He will always be faithful.”

 

We never heard from Uncle Alexi again.  We don’t know what happened to him after he received his own Bible.  But we do know that our lives, and the lives of our daughters, were never the same again.  Elisha prayed for Uncle Alexi for months after this event.  She prayed with tears, because she had seen and she could testify.

 

Exposure will be expensive.  Exposing our children to the needs of the world will cause pain and hardship.  But at the same time it will result in gratitude and action.  It will bear fruit in hearts of compassion and attitudes of identification.

 

The greatest threat to our children will not be the scars of experience but the selfishness of apathy and ignorance.  In Luke 16:19-31 we read the frightening story of the rich man who was condemned to hell for ignoring the needs of the Lazarus’s around him. 

 

Of this scripture William Barclay writes the following:

The sin of the rich man was that he never noticed Lazarus, that he accepted him as part of the landscape and simply thought it perfectly natural and inevitable that Lazarus should lie in pain and hunger while he wallowed in luxury.  It was not what he did that got him into hell.  It was what he did not do.

The sin of the rich man was that he could look at the worlds’ suffering and need and feel no answering sword of grief and pity pierce his heart, he looked at fellow man, hungry and in pain and did nothing about it.  It was a terrible warning that the sin of the rich man was not that he did wrong things, but that he did nothing.

 

Chevchenko wrote the following from a Russian prison:

“It is terrible to fall in prison and chains, but it is much worse to sleep in liberty”

 

We need to create memories of exposure, incidents that have changed the course of our children’s lives.  Events that exposed them to the needs, the answers and a loving Saviour. 

20 August 2010 - Lesson 1 - eXperience

The lessons of raising Godly children, who will live extraordinary lives in Christ, I call the x-files.  It is not the teachings of a person but the teachings of Scripture.  It is not the lessons of an individual but the lesson of every believer who wholeheartedly desires to follow Christ.  The teacher in these devotions is the persecuted Church and the lessons are not revelations but simply confirmations of what is already revealed in Scripture.  Hereby the X-files for raising Godly families.

 

20 August 2010 – Lesson 1 - eXperience - (to establish a point of reference)

 

Philippians 3:8-11 What is more, I continue to consider all these things as a loss for the sake of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. It’s because of him that I have experienced the loss of all those things. I consider them rubbish in order to gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the Law, but one that comes through the faith of Christ. This is the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ—that is, what his resurrection power is like and what it means to share in his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, though I hope to experience the resurrection from the dead.

 

In a Communist country, a Christian girl named Viorica was beaten harshly in school because she had invited her schoolmates to church. She fainted during the beating, and an ambulance had to take her to hospital. Two days passed before she regained consciousness.

When she did, the doctor at her bedside said,  “You poor girl, at last you have opened your eyes. All this time I have been thinking of the cruelty of the Director who beat you like this. My heart has been bitter with hatred. I wish I could take revenge on him.”  

Viorica smiled. “There is no need to hate him. Jesus taught us to love everyone. Just before I opened my eyes, I saw Him and talked to Him. He asked me whether it still hurts.  And He told me that in heaven I will receive a very beautiful crown, which is reserved only for those who have suffered for Him. He told me to pray for those who mistreated me, and to love them, because our influence will help them to give their lives to God and so become His children.”

 

According to children's theology, this is how a Christian should react to being flogged.  Like their Saviour, they know how to love when abused, and how to forgive when persecuted.

 

Our children need points of references in their lives.  When difficulties and temptations come, it will be vital for them to know : “The Lord has done it once before, He will do it again”.  This will only be learnt in the university of life, through trials, testings and experiences.

 

How recent are our testimonies as parents of what the Lord has done for us.  Most Christian parents can testify how they gave their lives to Jesus ….. 20 years ago.  Do we as parents have a recent testimony of God’s provision?  Can we honestly share with our children our intimate times with God when He spoke to us as His children?  Are faith and trust a theology in our homes or do our children experience first hand Gods Lordship in our lives with His faithful provision and intervention?

 

It amazes me how we all desire for our children to experience God intimately, yet we seldom allow or create situations for this experience to prosper.  We want them to learn from our mistakes and then try to shelter them from making their own.  Experience will come at a cost.  Our children will never learn faith in an environment of abundance or comfort.  They will never learn the power of forgiveness unless they have been harmed.  Sacrifice will remain a wonderful character quality, in the life of someone else, unless they are forced to give up something precious.  Experience seldom grows in the comfort of our homes.  It normally happens in the war zones of life, outside our comfort zones. 

 

Abundance teaches us nothing, not even the wonderful experience of simply being grateful

¨       Our children will only experience God as provider in times of need.

¨       Our children will only experience God as comforter in times of sorrow.

¨       Our children will only experience God as healer in times of pain.

¨       Our children will only experience God as saviour once they have seen the lost.

¨       Our children will experience God as Father in the way that we as parents love, nurture, discipline and care.

 

As a family we recently ventured on a courier trip to South East Asia, our suitcases packed with Bibles.  Upon returning our youngest daughter, Helga, wrote the following:

 

“I realised anew the power of encouragement and that I can’t encourage those around me but that the Spirit of God can do it through me.  I was often prepared to be an encouragement to our brothers and sisters by speaking touching words to them but found myself close to tears by merely looking at their faces and experiencing Gods presence in and with them.  I had little to say and felt very insignificant but I know that it is not what I say that makes a difference but only the Spirit and love of God in me that can. 

I wish I could describe to you the faces of the pastors when they opened the suitcases and saw the Bibles inside.  All the funny foods, the sacrifices during the year to get enough money for the trip, the long hours on the  plane……. what more can I sacrifice to see this again?  Why don’t they have enough Bibles?  Isn’t there something else I can do to turn this scarce joy into a fountain of abundance?  And God forbid that one more day in my life should pass without me reading my Bible.”

 

Do we as parents care enough to provide points of references for our children - even though it might hurt?

 

They have a saying in China:  It is better to experience something once than to hear about it a thousand times.

13 August 2010- The x-files - Introduction

The greatest miracle ever.

“What is the greatest miracle Jesus ever performed?”  The Muslim leader looked at Joshua who automatically sensed that this was a question that already had an answer.   “Raising Lazarus from the dead”. He hesitantly answered.  “No, even bigger than that”.  “Turning water into wine?” came the second guess.  “No, much greater than that!” “I don’t know, why don’t you tell me.” Joshua finally conceded.  “The greatest miracle that Jesus ever performed is the fact that there is still a Church in the Middle East today” the Muslim answered and then also supplied the reason why .  “Despite the persecution, the harsh discrimination and severe restrictions, the Christian Church has not only survived but has actually grown.  This must be the biggest miracle of all times”.

This is an absolute reality, especially for the Church in closed countries.   The Christian Church is potentially one generation away from extinction.  If we as parents do not live, teach and explain the teachings of Christ as found in scripture, there will not be a next generation of Christians.  The existence of the Church will start, take root and bear fruit in the Christian home.  How we train our children will determine the future generation and the influence they will have on society.  Greed for power, fame and fortune will prevail, unless our children are taught different values and different rules.

When two Christians marry, it does not automatically guarantee a Christian marriage.  Likewise, two parents who confess Christ will not automatically guarantee Christ-like children and a Godly family.  It will take more than Christian parents, Christian schools, Christian friends and Christian teachings to secure Godly families.  It will require the mind of Christ and the character of God.  It will entail that we sacrifice our bodies, that we deny ourselves, that we adopt a new set of rules and that we follow the supreme example of servanthood.  We will have to put salve on our eyes to look through God’s perspective, sanctify our lips and learn to listen to God more than we listen to trends and opinions.  And then we will have to clothe ourselves, as Gods elected parents, with tender-hearted mercy and compassion, unconditional Agape love and finally, put on a white robe of holiness.  As parents our actions and our attitudes will speak far louder than our teachings and our trainings. 

Read this again, but this time not as a teaching or a good idea.  Read this again as a Biblical command and the one and only solution to produce a Godly family.....

 

It will require the mind of Christ (Romans 8:5) and the character of God (Ezekiel 18:31, Ephesians 4:22,23).  It will entail that we sacrifice our bodies and desires (Romans 12:1), that we deny ourselves (Matthew 16:24), that we adopt a new set of rules and code of conduct (Matthew 5:38-48) and that we follow the supreme example of servanthood  (Matthew 20:26-28).  We will have to put salve on our eyes  (Revelation 3:18) and look through Gods perspective.  We will have to sanctify our lips (James 3:5-10) and learn to listen to God  (Matthew 17:5) more than we listen to trends and opinions.  And then finally we will have to clothe ourselves, as God’s elected parents, with tenderhearted mercy and compassion (Colossians 3:12), unconditional Agape love (1 Corinthians 13) and put on a white robe of holiness (Rev.3:18).  As parents our actions and our attitudes will speak far louder than our teachings and our trainings. 

Unless it is our sole desire to obey God’s word and follow His plan for our family, unconditionally and regardless of the cost, do not read any further.  The lessons in this devotions are for extreme families, those who choose an extraordinary life in Christ.

                                                                                       Gerhard Hamm                                

Gerhard was one of the thousands of faithful believers through whom God's light continued to shine in the Soviet Union during the years when communism reigned there.

Gerhard grew up in the Urals. His parents raised a farm off the ground there. But then communism arose and in 1929 the 'bandits' came, as Gerhard later often called the Bolsheviks. Because his father was a Christian and moreover of German descent, he was arrested and exiled to Siberia. The farm was confiscated. Mother Hamm and her twenty children also moved to Siberia.  For a few years, the family was together. Then Gerhard's father was taken away from his family, and never came back. None of the family know where his grave is. All the churches were closed and atheist propaganda was being disseminated all around

As a young boy Gerhard lost his father, his security, his home and his freedom – all because of the name of Jesus. Hunger and cold were his daily lot, an obvious reason for a young teenager to resent God and His commands.

But despite the difficulties, ridicule and persecution, Mother Hamm prayed every day with her children, and they read the Bible together.

When Gerard Hamm died in 1999 at the age of 76, he left a legacy of faithful children behind.  All of his children and their spouses were devoted Christians.  His grandchildren have all committed their lives to the Lord.  All of Gerhards’ 19 brothers and sisters and their spouses and children followed the footsteps of Jesus and many were and are still involved in various ministries reaching all corners of the globe. 

 

An extraordinary life in Christ does not depend on teachings, circumstances or comfort.  In many countries in the world today there are severe restrictions and obstacles facing parents in instructing their children in the ways of the Lord.  In communist countries like China and Vietnam it is officially against the law to share the gospel with anybody under the age of 18 years, including your own children.  In the Middle East, Christian schools are non-existent and Christian children are forced to attend Muslim schools and receive instruction from the Khoran and Muslim teachers. Yet, it seems as if Christian families in restricted areas are more Godly and committed to the Lord than their counterparts in the west, where opportunities abound and Christians live in abundance.

The lessons that we learn from the suffering Church are far more of value than seminars or books, including this one, can ever teach.   She teaches the lessons of true discipleship and wholesome living.  Lessons that are neither theology nor speculation but teachings of life, reality and practice.

Godly families will only come into being once God’s families start living the Biblical teachings that we teach so eagerly.  The suffering Church has no other option

 

These lessons I call the x-files.  It is not my teachings but the teachings of scripture.  It is not my lessons but the lesson of every believer who wholeheartedly desires to follow Christ.  The teacher in these devotions is the Suffering Church and the lessons are not revelations but simply confirmations of what is already revealed in scripture and what you, as parent, probably already know and practise.

The lessons will be listed in no specific order because no single one takes priority over the other.  No ONE Biblical teaching is more important than the other and to follow Christ will involve a complete life of total sacrifice. 

Hereby the X-files for raising Godly families who will live extraordinary lives in Christ