‘From infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures.’ 2 Timothy 3:15 NIV
There’s a story about a woman who came to her pastor and said, ‘How early should I start the spiritual training of my child?’
The pastor asked, ‘How old is the child?’
She answered, ‘Five.’
He replied, ‘Lady, get busy—you’re already five years late!’
Psychologists confirm that your child’s capacity and hunger for knowledge begins at infancy. So while they are in the listening stage, you should be in the teaching stage. Take every opportunity to read the Bible to them. Use everyday experiences to teach them what God’s Word has to say about the Golden Rule, how to be polite, how to forgive, and how to confess and repent of sin.
Never underestimate God’s ability to develop spiritual character and teach spiritual truths to your children, even at a very early age. While their heart is still young and tender, introduce them to Jesus. Some of the greatest Christians in history were saved at an early age. Jonathan Edwards, whose ministry shook New England for God, was saved at an early age. Charles Spurgeon, ‘the prince of preachers’, was saved at the age of fifteen. Matthew Henry, the great Bible commentator, was saved at the age of eleven. Timothy was an apostle, it is believed, by the time he was seventeen. Paul writes, ‘From infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.’ Yes, your child can understand the basic truths about salvation. And they can come to know Christ at an early age.
‘Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil.’ Isaiah 5:20 NKJV
Did you know that God Himself gets angry? The Bible says, ‘The Lord became angry with Solomon, because his heart had turned from the Lord God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice.’ (1 Kings 11:9 NKJV) Often change begins with righteous anger. Aristotle once said: ‘Anybody can become angry; that’s easy. But to be angry with the right person to the right degree at the right time for the right purpose, and in the right way that’s not easy.’ But it is possible!
A person who always gets angry is foolish, but a person who never gets angry is lacking in moral courage. Henry Ward Beecher said: ‘A man who doesn’t know how to be angry, doesn’t know how to be good. A man who doesn’t know how to be shaken to his heart’s core with indignation over things evil, is either a fungus or a wicked man.’
Here are four things that we ought to get angry over:
(1) A sex-crazed, profanity-filled movie and television industry that’s polluting the minds of young and old alike.
(2) Cowardly politicians who do what’s politically expedient instead of what’s morally right.
(3) Injustice done to others because of the color of their skin or their economic status.
(4) Your children when they openly defy you. However, a word of warning: ‘Don’t go to bed angry.’ (Ephesians 4:26 CEV) So, clearly explain the rules of the house, consistently enforce those rules, but make sure that your child knows you love them and have only their best interest at heart. They may not understand it at the time, but they will appreciate it later.
‘Be angry, and do not sin.’ Ephesians 4:26 NKJV
There’s a right way and a wrong way to handle your anger. Moses handled his anger the wrong way and it cost him the Promised Land. Jesus handled His anger the right way, and those who took advantage of the poor were exposed and thrown out of the temple. The Scripture, ‘Be angry, and do not sin,’ means instead of just complaining about the problem, you’re supposed to do something about it. Instead of walking around on a slow burn and keeping those around you on pins and needles, get to the core of your anger and express it the right way. Pastor and author Dr Jack Hyles wrote about how his child was assigned to read a book in school—one that was filled with foul language and questionable situations. The more Dr Hyles perused the book, the angrier he got.
Eventually he marched up to the principal’s office and politely but firmly said, ‘My son is not going to read this book: he’ll be assigned a different book to read, and he will not be marked down because of it.’
The principal, taken aback and attempting to argue with Dr Hyles, said, ‘But…’
Dr Hyles interrupted and said softly but sternly, ‘No ifs, ands, or buts about it. He will not be forced to read this book, and he will be assigned another one. Is that clear?’
The principal replied, ‘All right, Dr Hyles, but I don’t understand the fuss. After all, the language in that book is no worse than what’s written on the bathroom walls.’
Dr Hyles smiled and said, ‘Yes, and when that becomes required reading—I’ll be back!’
‘On His law he meditates day and night.’ Psalm 1:2 NIV
Butterflies cover more ground, but bees gather more honey. That’s because the butterfly just flies over the flowers, whereas the bee lands on each one and stays there long enough to extract the nectar. That’s the difference between merely reading your Bible for a few hurried minutes, and taking time to meditate on what you’re reading.
Meditation isn’t something difficult and mysterious that only scholars and ‘spiritual’ people do. It’s just thinking deeply and continuously about a passage of Scripture, memorizing it, letting it take root, and ‘owning it’ until it becomes a life force operating within you each day. The point isn’t how much Scripture you memorize, it’s what happens to you in the process. Meditating on God’s Word clarifies your understanding and corrects your conduct. It enriches your thinking and equips you by making you think different thoughts than if you were watching TV, for example, or texting, or talking on your mobile phone, or shopping.
The psalmist writes: ‘The Law of the Lord makes them happy, and they think about it day and night. They are like trees growing beside a stream, trees that produce fruit in season and always have leaves. Those people succeed in everything they do.’ (Psalm 1:2–3 CEV) Meditating on God’s Word is the cure for moral and spiritual weakness; for a life with no focus; for a lack of intimacy with God; for chronically-weak faith that causes you to fail and keep missing God’s best. So open your Bible, read it, and pray, ‘Lord, what are You saying to me?’ Then meditate on His answer.
‘Be generous, and someday you will be rewarded.’ Ecclesiastes 11:1 CEV
The Dead Sea has such high mineral concentrations that even non-swimmers can stay afloat in it. The only problem is the smell. Because it has no outlets, any fresh water that comes in quickly becomes contaminated. There’s an important Biblical principle at work here: ‘The generous will prosper; those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed.’ (Proverbs 11:25 NLT) God never intended you to be a reservoir that just takes in, but a river of blessing that flows out to others.
The Bible says: ‘A farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop. You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.” And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others.’ (2 Corinthians 9:6–8 NLT) So if you need a job, volunteer at a soup kitchen while you’re looking for work. If you’re praying for an increase in your business, pour your best into someone else’s business and ask God to prosper them.
Solomon writes, ‘Give generously, for your gifts will return to you later. Divide your gifts among many, for in the days ahead you yourself may need much help.’ (Ecclesiastes 11:1–2 TLB) Even if you don’t have a specific need right now, sow a seed of kindness anyway. God knows what the future holds, and one day when you need it most, it will come back to you as a harvest.
‘God wants you to be holy, so don’t be immoral in matters of sex.’ 1 Thessalonians 4:3 CEV
When God created Adam and Eve, He told them to ‘multiply and replenish the earth.’(Genesis 1:28 KJV) That helps explain why sex is one of our strongest drives. But it can also propel you into making decisions that mess up your life and destroy your relationships. The Bible says: ‘It is God’s will that you should… avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the pagans.’ (1 Thessalonians 4:3–5 NIV)
Why did God say this? Because when there’s physical intimacy without true commitment, somebody’s going to get hurt. You need to heed what God says on this issue. And you need to do it now, before you get into situations where you’re tempted to compromise your character, because by then it’s too late. We all struggle with our sexuality, particularly in a culture where ‘sex sells’.
Sex is such an integral part of us, and guilt about it has a way of making us feel separated from God like nothing else can. In order to determine your values and establish some ground rules, you need to pray: ‘Lord, I’m not going to allow my impulses to dictate to me, or sin to separate me from You. I choose to keep Your standards, to rely on Your Spirit to give me strength day by day. And if I do sin, to seek Your forgiveness, get back up, and move closer to You.’ That’s a prayer God will answer!
‘After Ehud came Shamgar son of Anath, who struck down six hundred Philistines with an ox-goad. He too saved Israel.’ Judges 3:31 NIV
If Shamgar had focused on the fact that he was going up against six hundred Philistines, he would probably have given up before he even started. Understand this: Satan will try to discourage and defeat you by making you feel overwhelmed by the problem. That’s when you need to counterpunch, by breaking down your goals into smaller steps. You may not be able to overcome your addiction, anxiety, or anorexia for the rest of your life, but with God’s help you can win the battle today.
Don’t worry about next week or next year. Live one day at a time. Can you resist temptation for twenty-four hours? Can you win the battle for one day? You know you can. And so does the enemy. So take it one day at a time. We spend far too much energy focusing on the very thing we can’t control—the outcome. You say, ‘What if I fall back into my bad habit? What if my romantic efforts aren’t reciprocated? What if I don’t hit my target weight or get my dream job?’ Jesus said, ‘Don’t be anxious about tomorrow. God will take care of your tomorrow too. Live one day at a time.’ (Matthew 6:34 TLB)
The manna the Israelites received in the wilderness arrived daily, not weekly or monthly. Why? Because God wanted them to live in total dependence on Him. God’s grace, not your own works, is the key to victory. The word for you today is: ‘His compassion never ends. It is only the Lord’s mercies that have kept us from complete destruction. Great is His faithfulness; His loving-kindness begins afresh each day… therefore I will hope in Him.’ (Lamentations 3:21–24 TLB)
‘In the days of Shamgar.’ Judges 5:6 NIV
When Shamgar picked up his ox-goad and slew six hundred Philistines, he made a decision that, if he was going to go down, he was going to go down fighting (see Judges 3:31). And that’s the key to deliverance, whether it’s from the Philistines, or pride, or prejudice, or pornography, or any other stubborn problem in your life. You’ve got to go on the offensive. There comes a point when you say, ‘Enough is enough.’ You know you cannot continue down the path you are on because it’s a dead end relationally, physically or spiritually. It may not kill you, but it will eat you alive. You know you cannot keep doing what you’ve always done. Not if you want to get into shape, or get out of debt. Not if you want to recapture the romance, or reach the goal. Not if you want to leave a legacy worth living up to. And the good news is this: you are only one decision away from a totally different life.
But you’ve got to grab your ox-goad and go for it. Cut up that credit card. Apply for the graduate programme. Take the mission trip. Set up the counseling appointment. William A. Lawrence wrote, ‘On the plains of hesitation bleach the bones of countless millions who, at the dawn of victory, sat down to wait, and waiting—died!’ Stop being a procrastinator. Stop being a perfectionist. Spiritual growth is about progress, not perfection. When it comes to going after your goals, your greatest adversary is inertia. We have a tendency to keep doing what we’ve always done, hoping that somehow things will change. They won’t, so be a Shamgar and take action!
‘After Ehud came Shamgar son of Anath, who struck down six hundred Philistines with an oxgoad. He too saved Israel.’ Judges 3:31 NIV
Shamgar is mentioned only twice in Scripture, and his story takes up three lines and two verses. But his impact was amazing. And it’s a challenge to all those who think, ‘God would never use someone like me.’ He may have been the least qualified person to deliver Israel from the Philistines. For starters, it’s likely he wasn’t even an Israelite. His name seems to come from the Hurrian language.
He could have rationalized inaction in a dozen different ways. ‘I don’t have the right weapon. I can’t do this by myself. These aren’t even my people.’ If you look for an excuse, you will always find one. If you don’t, you won’t. When it comes to making excuses, we are infinitely creative. What if we channeled that creativity into finding solutions instead of finding excuses? If we did, God could use us as an instrument to fulfill His purposes just as He used Shamgar. When God stirs your spirit or moves your heart, you cannot sit back, you’ve got to step up and step in. And when you do, it can become a defining moment in your life. Don’t worry about the results. If it’s the right thing, the results are God’s responsibility. Focus on doing right things for the right reason, and don’t buy into the lie that it can’t be done! Yes, it will take all-out effort, but you can do all things through Christ who gives you strength (see Philippians 4:13). A failed attempt is not failing. Failing is not trying. If you are trying, in God’s eyes you are succeeding. So grab your ox-goad—and go for it.
‘He offered Himself once and for all.’ Hebrews 9:26 CEV
There were many pieces of furniture in the tabernacle, and each served a different purpose. But there wasn’t a single seat. Do you know why? Because the priest’s work was never finished! The people sinned constantly, so lambs had to be constantly sacrificed to atone for their sins. However, when Jesus died, rose again and went back to Heaven, the first thing He did was sit down (see Hebrews 10:12). That’s because the work of salvation was finished!
The Bible says: ‘Christ did not have to offer Himself many times. He wasn’t like a high priest who goes into the most-holy place each year to offer the blood of an animal …instead…He offered Himself once and for all, so that He could be a sacrifice that does away with sin.’ (Hebrews 9:25–26 CEV) And because of Christ’s ‘once and for all’sacrifice on the cross, you have direct access to God at any time. The moment you say, ‘Father, I come in the name of Jesus,’ you’re made welcome and all your needs are met.
There’s a story from American Civil War days about a soldier sitting on a bench outside the White House looking depressed. A little boy passing by stopped and asked what was wrong. The soldier told him he needed to see President Lincoln but the guards wouldn’t let him in. Hearing this, the boy took him by the hand and led him directly into the President’s office. ‘Father,’ he said, ‘this man really needs to speak with you.’ That boy was the President’s son; he had direct and continuous access to his father. And because you belong to Jesus, you do too!