Brothers and Sisters
“You were cleansed from your sins when you obeyed the truth, so now you must show sincere love to each other as brothers and sisters. Love each deeply with all your heart.” 1 Peter 1:22 (NLT)
6:15 a.m.: I was abruptly awoken by the phone ringing, providing an automated message that school had been cancelled due to inclement weather. I breathed a sigh of happiness. I could sleep in and the kids and I would enjoy a peaceful day at home, sipping hot chocolate and snuggling by the warm, crackling fireplace.
8:15 a.m.: My son and daughter both come downstairs and crawl in bed with me.
8:20 a.m.: My son and daughter begin quarrelling over who gets to hug me the most and squirming around to see who could get their arms around me first. For fear of injury, I had to end that quarrel rather quickly. We then get out of the bed and scurry to the kitchen to make pancakes and bacon. As my daughter pulls the griddle from the cabinet, the coffee pot tumbles out as well, shattering into a hundred pieces all over the kitchen floor.
After getting that cleaned up and telling the kids to put their slippers on so they don’t step on any glass, I ask my son to get the eggs out of the refrigerator. Excited to be helping, he rushes to retrieve them, and accidentally drops the eggs out of the carton all over the floor. As I quietly cleaned up this slimy mess, I hear spoons going wild, as another quarrel begins over who gets to stir the pancake mix.
9:00 a.m.: I am seriously contemplating renting a bulldozer to scrape the ice off the roads so school could reopen, but instead I just continued cooking breakfast, without enjoying my morning coffee I might add. I found myself asking, what happened to the peaceful day I had dreamed about as I lay in my warm bed on this cold, icy morning?
Children are gifts from God and I know we are all thankful for them, but sometimes they can push us to the limits of our patience! There is nothing that breaks my heart more, than to deal with sibling rivalry. I would rather clean up ten milk spills (or broken eggs and coffee pots) than hear my children quarrelling with each other, and the black and white striped referee shirt that I seem to be forced to wear all the time is not a flattering fashion statement!
So what is a mom to do?! I want my household to be filled with peace and happiness, not constant fussing and doling out punishments. I yearn for my children to understand how important it is that they love each other and treat each other with kindness, consideration and love. Most importantly, I desire for my children to understand that being a faithful servant of Christ does not end when you accept Christ into your heart. Faith is an action, not a feeling. True devotion to Christ is showing our ability to put aside our own desires and frustrations, and respond to others in a loving way. Faith is loving your brothers and sisters!
I finally sat down with my children on this frustrating morning, and explained to them that by loving each other, they are also showing their love to God; and when they are mean to each other, that God feels that as well, because the Bible tells us that whatever we do to the least of these, we are also doing unto Him. As they learn to treat their brothers and sisters with love and respect, they will be equipping themselves to better love and respect all of their Christian brothers and sisters – those in the spiritual family of believers. Lastly, I helped them understand that when they treat each other lovingly they are treating Christ lovingly through their actions. Their faces beamed when they heard that they could make Jesus smile, just by being kind to one another. Even if I have to give them this speech daily for a month for the truths to sink into their hearts, it will be well worth the time and effort. We still have a long way to go in achieving perfect household harmony, but with God, all things are possible.
Dear Lord, we ask that you instill in our families the desire to love you and serve you. Help us, as parents, be loving examples for our children so that they can witness the traits of kindness, love, character, willingness to serve, and putting others needs before our own. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
The loved ones chastened
“As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.” Revelation 3:19
Suggested Further Reading: Job 12:1-6
See how the righteous are cast down. How often is virtue dressed in the rags of poverty! How frequently is the most pious spirit made to suffer from hunger, and thirst, and nakedness! We have sometimes heard the Christian say, when he has contemplated these things, “Surely, I have served God in vain; it is for nothing that I have chastened myself every morning and vexed my soul with fasting; for lo, God hath cast me down, and he lifteth up the sinner. How can this be?” The wise of the heathen could not answer this question, and they therefore adopted the expedient of cutting the intricate knot. “We cannot tell how it is,” they might have said; therefore they flew at the fact itself, and denied it. “The man that prospers is favoured of the gods; the man who is unsuccessful is obnoxious to the Most High.” So said the heathen, and they knew no better. Those more enlightened people who talked with Job in the days of his affliction, did not get much further; for they believed that all who served God would have a hedge about them; God would multiply their wealth and increase their happiness; while they saw in Job’s affliction, as they conceived, a certain sign that he was a hypocrite, and, therefore God had quenched his candle and put out his light in darkness. And alas! Even Christians have fallen into the same error. They have been apt to think that if God lifts a man up, there must be some excellence in him; and if he chastens and afflicts, they are generally led to think that it must be an exhibition of wrath. Now hear the text, and the riddle is all made clear; listen to the words of Jesus, speaking to his servant John, and the mystery is solved. “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.”
For meditation: God is good to his children, both providing for them and disciplining them (Deuteronomy 8:1-5). Teachings such as the “Prosperity Gospel” and “Healing being in the Atonement” miss the point that such blessings are guaranteed to the believer only in the Glory (Revelation 21:3-7).
Nick Vujicic stood atop a table and faced a room full of mesmerized high school students.
Some of them wept silently as they listened to this man who was born with no arms or legs proclaim joyfully, “I love life.”1
If there is anyone who would seem to have a good reason to be joyless, it would be Nick. And yet he has chosen to embrace his life and the possibilities it offers as well as the gifts hidden in his suffering.
I think people like Nick are so compelling to us because we all want to know the secret of joy like his — joy that doesn’t depend on physical perfection or life following some specific formula for success. We long for this because deep down we know that our journey throughout this life is fragile… inherently without guarantee. People like Nick show us that joy doesn’t need to be tied to circumstances. They hold out the possibility of unshakeable joy that transcends suffering. For many of us, joy is at a very low simmer. Even small disappointments — a canceled lunch date with a friend, an unexpectedly high bill, finding the last piece of pie gone — can rob us of whatever joy we have.
What makes people like Nick different?
I believe part of the secret to Nick’s kind of resilient joy is to consider life, all of life, as a gift. Every single day.
We can choose to be thankful for the gift of life no matter how difficult our path is because we are assured that God is with us in the middle of it and that He continues to bring blessings to our lives, even in our most painful moments.
I love this quote by Rowan Williams as he reflected on Jesus’ final night before the cross: “When Jesus gives thanks at that moment before the breaking and spilling, before the wounds and the blood, it is as if He is connecting the darkest places of human experience with God the Giver; as if He is saying that even in these dark places God continues to give, and therefore we must continue to give thanks.”2
Take some time today to reflect on a difficult season in which it wasn’t easy for you to experience joy. What gifts was God still giving you? Perhaps it was the comfort of His presence or a powerful truth He revealed to you during that time. Grab a pen and a journal, and list any gifts that come to mind. Then spend some time thanking and praising God for His faithfulness, rejoicing that He never stops giving to us, even when our way is marked with sorrow.
Because God is good, we can worship Him always.
Five Minutes in the Word
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. Of He brought forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures. — James 1:17-18 ESV
Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless His holy name! Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. — Psalm 103:1-5 ESV
There was nothing attractive about Him, nothing to cause us to take a second look. He was looked down on and passed over, a man who suffered, who knew pain firsthand. One look at Him and people turned away. We looked down on Him, thought He was scum. But the fact is, it was our pains He carried — our disfigurements, all the things wrong with us. — Isaiah 53:2–5 The Message
Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. — 1 Thessalonians 5:18
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. — Colossians 3:15
I have broken the yoke of the king of Babylon. Within two years I will bring back to this place all the vessels of the Lord’s house. – Jeremiah 28:2-3 ESV
Hananiah was known as a prophet. He delivered a prophecy that sounded authentic. It was a message consistent with the hopes of the people, one they wanted to be true. The problem was this message did not come from God. The only person who seemed aware of this deception was Jeremiah. He declared that God had not given Hananiah these messages. Everyone would know the truth when his words were not fulfilled.
Responding to Jeremiah’s accusations, Hananiah continued to act in ways consistent with those of a prophet. Other people seemed convinced, but Jeremiah knew better. Sometime later, God told Jeremiah to tell Hananiah that he had misled the people. The message was clear: “The Lord has not sent you, and you have made this people trust in a lie.” God declared that he would die because he had “uttered rebellion against the Lord” (v. 15-16). When he died as prophesied, Hananiah was proven to be a fraud. Jeremiah’s words were proven true.
This clash illustrates a common problem. How do we really discern the difference between genuine and false? Many people claim to know the truth. Politicians powerfully declare their convictions. Entertainers try to shape our morals. Society tries to persuade us that their ways are right. But these people are often fake. Today, ask God for discernment that you might know the truth. Pray and seek His wisdom. Study His Word that you might know His standards.