Crissy and Brian Bontrager: Love your enemies

By | January 31, 2010

In our daily devotions we have been reading through the book of Luke. My seven year old son Michael has been intrigued by the lessons Jesus taught and he always looks forward to finding out what the next lesson is. However, when we came to Luke 6, he had a hard time understanding why we should love our enemies.

But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.  “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ lend to ‘sinners,’ expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Luke 6:27-36

We read these verses and discussed what Jesus was telling us to do; Michael could not understand why we should be nice to someone who has been mean to us. Tried as I might’ I could not explain well enough for him to understand. We ended the devotion with a prayer asking God to help us learn to love those who are mean. I felt like I had failed as a mom to teach the lesson of these verses to my son.

I continued to pray that God would reveal the meaning of these words to Michael. This morning on our way to school God did just that. Michael shared with me about a friend (we will call him Joe) in his class who has been lying (ie. My dad owns a race car, my grandma has a million dollars—the typical exaggerated lies children tell).  Michael shared that he gets angry when Joe lies to him, and that some of the other boys will not play with Joe anymore. He also shared that he felt bad that no one wanted to be Joe’s friend. I reminded Michael of the verses in Luke 6 and asked him if he thought God might be telling him to love Joe in spite of his lying.

As I watched Michael think this over I could see the understanding show on his face. Finally, he said with a big smile, “I can love him by being his friend even though I don’t like his lying!” He got it! We continued to talk about how we can pray for Joe and show Jesus’ love to him by being his friend. We said a quick prayer for Joe as we pulled up to the school, and Michael was ready to be Joe’s friend and pray for him all day long.

Even though Michael did not understand the meaning of these verses right away, I had not failed to relay the lesson. God gave Michael a greater understanding through this situation with his friend Joe and made the lesson real. I realized that the simple act of reading these verses with my children plants the lessons in their hearts even if I do not see the fruit right away; God is faithful and His word does not return void. (Isaiah 55:11)

Importance of boundaries: Daryl and Leslie Mayfield

By | January 20, 2010

Daryl and Leslie Mayfield were one of the first people from Dublin I met. Their friendship and guidance has blessed Tim and I over the last three years. They are authentic, teachable servants living at the crossroads of Jesus and real life. Daryl sent me this teaching by Michael Brooks from South Shores Church. It is a great follow-up to the Godly Obedience class we had on January 10th.

When my grandson Conner was young, he came to stay with us for several days while his parents were on vacation. My wife told me that bedtime was going to be a little challenging because Conner did not have a schedule — he was allowed to stay up as long as he wanted and was put to bed only after he fell asleep. Obviously, that wasn’t going to work for us.

On the first evening when 8:30 pm rolled around, we got Amanda (our youngest daughter) and Conner ready for bed — pajamas on and teeth brushed. Then I read them a story. “Okay, lights out, sleep well, see you in the morning,” I said as I kissed each one good night. Conner said: “But Grandpa I’m not ready to go to sleep.” I said: “Remember what I told you? The rules at Grandma and Grandpa’s house are a little different than Mommy and Daddy’s. At our house kids go to bed at 8:30. See you in the morning.” Conner obediently nodded: “Okay Grandpa.”

By the time my son and daughter-in-law picked up Conner after their trip, they were shocked to see he was not only going to bed at 8:30, but also eating what we ate at mealtime. My son asked: “How did you get him to do it?” My answer: “I just told him what the rules were — we all eat what Grandma makes (this isn’t a restaurant), and bedtime is at 8:30. It wasn’t very difficult because he’s a really great kid. You guys have done a wonderful job with him — just make sure he knows his boundaries and parenting will be a lot more enjoyable.”

Let me ask you this question in the context of our passage today: Did Conner know he was breaking a rule at his own house if he didn’t go to bed at 8:30, or  if he ate only peanut butter sandwiches (no jelly)? Of course not; where there is no law, there can be no trespass. Conner didn’t know there were rules, so he couldn’t be held accountable for breaking any. He thought bedtime was when he felt tired and he should eat only what tasted good.

In our passage today, Paul explains this same concept applied to man before the Law was given:  “…sin is not taken into account when there is no law.” In other words, you can’t be punished for breaking a rule that doesn’t exist.

Parenting Tip: Play a game that is familiar to your child but drop all the rules. The player can do whatever he or she wants, whenever they want and for whatever reason. Discuss how the lack of rules equals chaos and that the rules are designed to make the game more fun for everyone. It is the same when playing the game of life. God designed us, knows what is best for us, and gives us a rulebook – the Bible. It is in our best interest to obey and live by His plan. (Durbin Parenting with Scripture p. 155)

Titus 2 living

By | January 13, 2010

There is a certain young woman who is somewhat of a celebrity to many girls at Vista. They rush to see her, give hugs and say hi. Her reaction to them always reminds me of what Jesus would have looked like greeting the little children. She takes time to notice them and shows them they are loved. She lives her life following the Titus 2 principle: look for someone to mentor you then turn around to invest in someone younger.

Recently this young woman hosted a sleepover for some of the girls who adore her. The purpose was two-fold; she desired the girls to have fun, but there was more to it than that.

Her first objective was to turn their adoration of her into adoration for Jesus. When they looked at her, she wanted to point them to Him by inviting them into her life; this meant sharing her home, her time and her story. She took the time to listen to them, play games with them and study God’s word with them.

Secondly, she wanted to model to another young woman and three high school girls how to invest in the lives of others. She built into their lives and wanted to encourage them to turn around looking for younger girls to influence. Afterward, they were amazed at how their time, gifts and talents had so much impact. “Sisters in Christ” was the phrase being celebrated.

This was not a Vista event. It was not something I planned or initiated as the Kids Community Director. This young woman prayed about her influence and how she could turn it for Jesus with Vista girls. Lives and perspectives were changed by young women and girls living out Titus 2. I am hoping this example sparks more of us to pray and consider who is building into us and who we are building into. Wouldn’t it be great if more of these building moments took place in our homes, our church, our schools and neighborhoods?

Parenting Tip: We have asked two families in the church who did not have children to be “special friends” with our different children. They spend time together a few times a year. The idea is to put safe Christian adults in their lives that show Christ to them in a way we cannot as parents. Erin Bradshaw is Elisabeth’s special friend. Because of Erin’s building into Elisabeth’s life, Elisabeth now considers Erin’s daughter Kaitlyn to be her special friend. That’s the Titus 2 principle.

A witness: The Hooper family

By | January 2, 2010

Ali and Matt Hooper are the definition of servants for Jesus. I am always astounded with where God is leading in their lives and how they humbly try to follow every step of the way. They are not perfect, but to me they are the perfect reflection of the grace and power of Jesus Christ; I am blessed to share them with you as guest bloggers.

One of our holiday traditions includes sending Christmas cards to friends and family. Recently I ran into a friend who had received this year’s card. She thanked me for the card, and then said, “I smiled reading your note; you sound so happy.”

I thanked her and then rambled on, “I have my moments, but the kids help me appreciate the simple pleasures in life.” She then added, “Reading your note, I thought, she’s so happy and I’m so not. I wonder what her secret is.” I gave her an awkward smile, and then I bombed. This friend, a fellow parent and someone who is not saved, had given me the perfect opportunity to share the Gospel with her.

In my head, I silently shared, Jesus! Jesus is my secret. But I bombed. I don’t remember what exactly I said to her, but it wasn’t the Gospel. Shame on me.

Later that I day I was beating myself up, disappointed that I didn’t share Jesus with her, and that I didn’t trust I Corinthians 2:4 “my message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power.” Why did I not rely on the power of the Holy Spirit to share the Gospel?

But God is merciful. And He was quick to remind me of the details of that card and note. In the note, I spoke of how God has blessed my family. I wished blessings upon her family, and I even included a personal invitation to our church’s Christmas program. No, I did not share the Gospel that day, but I shared my life with her. With a kind note and a gracious attitude, I lived to show Jesus in my heart. Only God knows my friend’s fate. I have been praying like crazy for her and her family. After all, her words, though few, said so much: she is so happy, and I am so not.

I pray that next time when I am given the opportunity to share Jesus, I trust the Holy Spirit, remembering that it is His power that delivers the message. Until then, I will continue to rely on God to help me through the daily battles of parenting, and to allow me to find happiness in simple earthly pleasures. I also pray that I live in such a way that other parents can see my secret . . . Jesus.

Gospel Tip: Write out a one page personal mission statement for 2010. Not so much a list of resolutions but a testimony to where God has brought you and how you plan to follow Him in 2010. It will make it easier to verbalize when you are in the situation described above.

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