Let’s counter the overwhelming influence of worldliness by making our Bibles have more of a presence in our communities. We’re all very aware of the moral decline in our nation, and the reason we’re so aware of it is because we see it everywhere we turn. It’s on the news, radio, TV shows, talk shows, magazines, billboards, and internet. What’s trending? Worldliness. All of these media outlets and various other avenues touting materialism, secularism, and godlessness can be discouraging. Satan must be pleased. He wants us to despair, to ask, “Where are the Christians?” He wants us to throw our hands up and quit. I think we can do something about that. We can remind everyone that there are still many who want to serve God. And we can do that by the very simple act of making our Bibles more visible.
Bibles are recognizable. Everyone knows what they look like. Outside of the church building, we don’t see them very often. If we do, it’s notable. The few times I’ve seen someone with their Bible on a plane or in an office, I think, “Hey, they’re holding a Bible!” And it always makes me smile. So what if we ALL carry our Bibles with us, in a very visible way, everywhere we go? The next time we meet friends for lunch, we can call and ask each one to bring their Bible, and then just set them on the table. The Bibles won’t go unnoticed. If we’re shopping, the Bible can rest in the seat of the cart. If we’re carpooling, we can display it in the dash. If we’re at the gym, we can put in on the treadmill. If we’re in the bleachers, we can set it right next to us. Whether we’re working, playing, traveling, networking, or relaxing, we can look for ways to allow our Bibles to have a presence. (This means it’ll have to be a traditional Bible, as the ones on our phones or other devices won’t be easily recognized by others.) Even though such a simple act doesn’t involve extra time or money on our part, I think this kind of Bible-saturation can make an impact.
What’s the worst that can happen? Someone might ridicule us. Someone might be offended. Someone might even ask us to put the Bible away.
What’s the potential for good? At the very least, our Bibles will be noticed. People around us will automatically know we are believers. Other godly folks will be encouraged. The nonstop message of immorality will be partially countered by the presence of Bible believers. Others might start carrying their Bibles, too. Who knows? It might even become commonplace in your community to see Bibles out in public. And one day, someone might even be interested in studying that Bible with you.
“You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16).
Prayer for Today: May I never be ashamed of Your Word, O Lord.
I’ve been thinking about the great Bible class we had Sunday morning taught by Will Hanstein. The discussion centered around the warning Jesus gives about not causing others to stumble (Luke 17:1,2). Mr. Hanstein pointed out that our actions and words can influence whether or not others go to Heaven. He then said that Jesus tells us in the very next verse how to keep from causing others to stumble: “Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him” (Luke 17:3). Mr. Hanstein challenged us to consider how we’re doing with this difficult command. It occurred to me that there’s one significant thing that would make this command easier for all of us, and that is having genuine relationships. If we really know each other, rebuking and forgiving are powerful and effective. If we don’t really know each other, we risk abusing the very safeguard Jesus put in place for His “little ones.”
If I don’t really know you, I won’t care enough to rebuke you. Why should I? It’s none of my business how you choose to live your life. Right? We don’t feel this way at all when one we dearly love is in trouble spiritually. It takes courage to confront someone who’s entangled in sin. But if we care about them, we’re more willing to do it, no matter how painful.
If I don’t really know you, I might misjudge you. I might feel the need to admonish you for something because I assigned motives that weren’t really there. Yet when we know and care about others, we will give them the benefit of the doubt instead of assuming the worst.
If I don’t really know you, a rebuke from me may appear self-righteous rather than loving, no matter how valid. If we hardly ever talk to someone, naturally they will not welcome any sudden interest in their spiritual welfare.
If I do know you, I will humbly rebuke you in a timely manner. I won’t wait until it’s too late. (As Mr. Hanstein pointed out, a rebuke is needed when someone is caught up in sin and not doing anything about it, not when someone is aware of their sin and trying to change.) When we know and care about others, we won’t put off talking to them, lest they ask, “Why come to me now, after all this time?”
If I do know you, I will be eager to forgive. Like the father of the prodigal son, we rush to welcome back with open arms those we care about. If we don’t really know someone, we may not be as diligent in reassuring them of our joy and love.
Genuine relationships spell the difference in how we handle Luke 17:3. It will keep us from abusing the command (being too eager to rebuke because we see the worst in others), and it will help us carry out the command (being motivated by love to humbly rebuke and forgive those who need it). There may be Christian brothers and sisters who sit on the other side of the auditorium that we don’t know very well. Let’s build genuine relationships so we can give (and receive) what Jesus put in place as safeguards for our souls.
Prayer for Today: Help me, Lord, to care enough to get to know and love my Christian family.
There may be times when you’re not thrilled with your spouse or your marriage. Do you feel like you’re not communicating well? Do you feel like you’re the only one who really cares enough to make an effort? Or perhaps you feel like the only spark left in your marriage is the kind that comes from friction. While your feelings may be valid, your marriage is worth a little self-examination. Particularly, why are you now viewing your relationship unfavorably? Why are you frustrated? It could be that you have more control over the way you see your marriage than you think.
Your marriage is better than you think when you ignore the busybodies. “A whisperer separates the best of friends” (Prov. 16:28). Who is telling you your marriage isn’t good enough? There are some who seem to enjoy sowing seeds of discontentment. They plant doubts in the minds of those who are married, creating problems where none existed before. Your own parents or siblings can do this by making negative remarks about your marriage. Have they ever questioned the actions of your spouse? Coworkers and friends might make comments like, “I don’t know how you put up with that. I know I wouldn’t!” Some comments are veiled criticisms. “Would you like me to replace that light switch? I know your husband’s not much of a handyman.” Next thing you know, you start noticing that there are a lot of things around the house your husband has neglected to fix. You may have been content before, but now you’re more aware of all the annoying things your spouse does. And you’re embarrassed that someone else had to point it out! Sometimes your friends don’t have to say anything. All they have to do is raise their eyebrows a little and suddenly, you resent your spouse. The truth of the matter is we are easily influenced by the opinions of those around us. Thoughtless remarks that hint that our spouse is inconsiderate, lazy, stingy, or clueless can be taken to heart if we’re not careful. Only listen to things that promote your spouse, even by family members. “There is one who speaks like the piercings of a sword, but the tongue of the wise promotes health” (Prov. 12:18). Your wise friends and family members, the ones who are worth listening to, will say things that build up your marriage, not tear it down.
Your marriage is better than you think when you embrace your differences. You may have heard the story about the little girl who said to her younger brother, “Why don’t you ever admit that I’m right?” Her brother answered, “You always think you’re right.” The girl said, “Well, I always AM right.” The boy said, “Ha!,” and walked off, muttering under his breath, “Some day I’m gonna get married to get away from all these arguments.” One of the most popular official reasons for divorce is “irreconcilable differences.” In her book The Challenge of Being a Wife, Ruth Hazelton has a chapter entitled “How to Stay Friends even though Married.” She wrote, “Perhaps the biggest problem of all is the fact that he is a man and she is a woman.” Chances are, you didn’t marry someone exactly like yourself. You think you need to be stricter with the kids and your spouse thinks you need to be more understanding. Your ideal vacation involves a spa hotel and outlet malls, while your spouse would prefer tent camping in the wilderness. You want to wind down listening to the Marriage of Figaro, but your spouse is blaring Led Zeppelin. Sometimes you wonder how on earth you ended up together. You’re so different! You don’t get him, and he certainly doesn’t get you. Dr. Harley, creator of the website “Marriage Builders,” said, “Couples are usually most compatible on the day of their marriage, and things go downhill from there. Why? Prior to the marriage, they make great effort to be compatible. They try to understand each other’s likes and dislikes and then try to accommodate those feelings. They are more willing to change their behavior to become more compatible. Trouble is, once the marriage takes place….mission accomplished! Now they are married, so they can focus on other things—careers, children, etc.” You’ve probably seen a young woman out to impress her man. She grins all the way down the aisle as a beautiful bride. And then she waits to be impressed. Before long she tearfully announces that she is disappointed. Her man does not impress her as a husband. He does not impress her as a father. Did he really change, or did her mindset? Perhaps your marriage seems less than ideal because you’re no longer trying to impress. You’re no longer trying to accommodate. Remember what used to motivate you to put all that effort into being compatible–you WANTED your spouse, differences and all. View those differences once again as attractive traits that complete you.
Your marriage is better than you think when you want to make your spouse happy. Instead of allowing disagreements to make you disagreeable, you can enhance your marriage in such a way that both of you come out on top. “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition, or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others” (Phil. 2:3,4). God’s advice is for us to have a new mindset, different from the selfish society in which we live. Marriage isn’t about how your spouse can make you happier, it’s about how you can make him/ her happier. Wanting your spouse’s happiness means you don’t have to have the final say in every disagreement. Instead, let God have the final say. Wanting your spouse’s happiness means instead of criticizing, you daily look for ways to verbally admire and appreciate. Wanting your spouse’s happiness means instead of taking him/ her for granted, you’ll cherish each day as a gift from God, thanking Him for the blessing of your marriage. You won’t want your spouse’s happiness if you don’t have a Christ-like mindset. If you are caught up in your own desires and expectations, your selfish heart will be blinded to your spouse’s needs. As always, God knows what is best for us. Trusting Him means putting your spouse’s happiness before your own. You’ll be thrilled when you notice that you end up being the one to find so much more joy in your marriage.
Prayer for Today: By emulating Your Son, Lord, may we show the world what it really means to have “a marriage made in heaven.”
In 2011, I was given an assignment to interview a Christian parent. Having three sons myself, Sister Butt seemed an ideal candidate. Stan and Sheila Butt have brought up three sons in the training and admonition of the Lord (Eph. 6:4). She graciously allowed me to share this interview here on my blog. It is encouraging to see a mother who has successfully raised boys to grow into faithful men, active in the Lord’s church. All three of her sons preach the gospel!
*Besides your spouse and the Almighty, who was the most helpful to you as you trained your children spiritually? In what ways?
The body of Christ had the greatest influence on our children. When Stan Jr. was in law school at Emory University, he wrote an article describing the church’s influence on his life. He said the church made him a stronger person. We often had Bible teachers, preachers, and missionaries into our home whom we greatly credit as having influenced the spiritual growth of our children.
*Were there any book or articles you read that were a help?
Next to the Bible, I enjoyed Dr. Dobson’s book “Hide or Seek.” This book describes the importance of building a child’s self-esteem. However, I soon realized that it is more important for a child to have “Christ-esteem.” For a child to say, “I can do anything” is one thing; for a child to say, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” is quite another. That child will have the proper respect for God and will also develop humility and compassion. Many children with high self-esteem will never develop those characteristics.
*Did you have any specific technique or persistent plan that you utilized through all of the children’s training?
We believed consistency was key to effective biblical training. We gave three answers, “yes,” “no,” or “I’ll think about it,” and did not feel we needed to justify every answer. When our sons were young, we held them close. When they grew into teenagers, we gave them more responsibilities and let them have input into the decision making process. In addition, we were consistent with Bible quizzes at bedtime and prayer. The quizzes took place during our nightly devotionals, and helped build their basic Bible knowledge. The prayers were daily and out loud. They knew our hearts and we knew theirs in the presence of God. The practice of this blessing cannot be overemphasized.
*Besides potty training and the Terrible Two’s, what was an unusually hard time for you as a parent? How did you get through it?
We did not experience the Terrible Two’s because our children learned to obey and were not allowed to be “terrible.” We felt that being two years old was no excuse for misbehaving. As a result, we enjoyed every year of our children’s upbringing. I admit, though, that the most difficult stage was when our sons started driving. It was hard not to think of all the bad things that could happen. I had to trust in God, and my children, and pray they would make good choices.
*What is your favorite memory as a parent?
My favorite memories were the days each of our sons decided to put on Christ in baptism. The only thing that compares was watching our oldest son baptize his own daughter into Christ.
*If you could do anything over again in training your children, what would it be?
Stan and I discussed this question together and we feel we can honestly say we have no regrets. We readily admit that we were not perfect parents, but we used Deuteronomy 6 as our child-rearing guide. We spent time with our boys, and made each decision in view of eternity. Our children knew we loved the Lord more than anything else in this world. We can only say that God has made up for our imperfections, and we are eternally grateful to Him for that! To Him be the glory!
*Your children are faithful Christians, and even serving God in mighty ways. What would you tell other parents to do to achieve the same results? What do you consider the greatest factors in their upbringing that led to this?
Instilling love for the Lord in your children is the greatest factor in bringing up faithful children. They should love God above all else, even their parents. Children should recognize that every talent or ability they have is God-given. And parents should pray that their children will use their talents to serve their Lord and fellow man.
*What do you see as the biggest mistakes parents are making today?
I am saddened by children who are not made to obey simple commands like, “Come here.” I am sad when parents call their children ugly names like “little fool.” I am sad when parents are paralyzed by the wild behavior of their children. I am sad when I see parents so busy giving children what they didn’t have, that they don’t give them things they did have (which were much more precious)! I am sad when I see parents taking their children to worship, but neglecting to give any Bible training at home. I am sad when parents care more about their children’s physical appearance than how their heart appears to God. I am sad when parents are more interested in homework from school than in ‘heartwork’ from the Word. And I am so sad when we spend more time at the ball field than on the battlefield for Christ. It makes me so sad to see parents who are much more concerned with what goes into their children’s mouths than what comes out of them. I am afraid that the prince of this world has managed to confuse many parents about what is truly important. The effect of this may only be realized on the day of judgment. I pray that the Lord will open the eyes and hearts of young parents and give them the courage and the backbone to be parents whose children will glorify God!
Amen! She added some extra thoughts on parenting in general:
There is only one way of raising children and that is with prayer, the wisdom of the Word, and the determination to do the very best one can to shoot those arrows in the right direction. That takes intention, practice, and faith in the Word.
Prayer for Today: Thank you for successful mothers like Sheila Butt. May we learn from her wisdom and experience.