Friday, April 12, 2013

Seven words to change your family

I have been reading so many good books lately, and they deserve some attention here on my blog. Last fall I encountered my first James MacDonald book, "Lord Change My Attitude" through my womens' Bible study, and then this spring we read two more of his, "Seven Words to Change Your Family" and "Gripped by the Greatness of God."

I want to write about all three of them but I'll start with "Seven Words to Change Your Family." I actually finished reading this in February, but this month we ran smack into a big family upheaval, so I figured it would be good to go back and review this and write down some important principles.

There are three healing words: forgiveness, blessing, honor; three building words:  truth, church, commitment  and one transforming word, love.

MacDonald has the gift for getting right to the heart of the matter; and his Bible study is both incisive and yet accessible. Some of his words, like forgiveness and love are obvious; but he pointed out some things about the process of forgiveness that I hadn't realized - it really is an ongoing process, not just a one time event. 

Some of his other words I hadn't really thought about before, like what it means to as an adult to honor our parents, or what it means to bless our children. 

In blessing our children, the author uses the example of Isaac and Jacob blessing their sons, and from other biblical examples he shows how to speak words of affection, words of reconciliation, words of vision "you're going to make a difference in this world", and words of security.
We need to be pouring a spiritual vision into our children. We don't want them to just get by; we want them to be the super conquerors that Christ Jesus has created them to be. A spiritual vision. "You are going to walk with God. You're going to be a godly man or woman. God is going to use your life."

...When the blessing is given, a child emerges into adulthood able to answer to the three most important questions in life: 1. Who am I? (a question of identity) 2. Why am I here? (a question of security) 3. Where am I going? (a question of confidence)

Matt 3:16-17 tells us that the heavens were opened and the Spirit of God descended in the form of a dove. And a voice came from heaven, saying, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased." Isn't that great? God the Father Himself modeled the importance of affirmation.
Another part that really struck me; this is from the chapter on truth.
We only get so many words in our families. The older our kids get, the fewer words we have with them. What are you going to spend your words on? "clean up your room!" "I asked you five times to take out the garbage!" Is that how you are going to spend your words? Like that's going to have a big impact! I fear we're wasting our words on issues of little value, and then we're too exhausted to pour into our families the kind of truth that can be fountain of life to them. Instead, let's choose words of truth that build and guide and that establish a foundation of wisdom.

Lord, keep me from wasting my words with my kids! Right now they will listen to me when I talk about You - when I talk about anything. When they are older, I know they won't listen or if they do they won't value what I say as much. This something we're we're facing right now:
Then there's the opposition of emotional distance. Perhaps you have teenagers who call you uncool and unloving, and they won't see for many years the values of the truths on which you are building your family and refusing to compromise. I plead with you not to back down, no matter ho many hurtful words they say or rolled eyes you must endure. In the major things, do what's right even if it sets off a war in your home. Draw the line. When your kids become adults and are raising their own kids, they will know that you did what was best for them
Here's a principle I really want to teach my kids:
Every time God says "Don't" - as in "Don't harbor unforgiveness" what He's saying is "Don't hurt yourself." In other words, when you choose to sin, you choose to suffer.

...My capacity to forgive is directly related to my comprehension of how much God loves me. When my concept of God is very small, my capacity to love others is very small as well.... so often I see that the Lord's people need to have a breakthrough in their understanding. God doesn't love like our parents. God doesn't love according to our human experiences. God loves fully and unconditionally. That's what we're after.

...Periodically, I will invite the perfect people in our church to stand, and thus far we have found none. We are all fallen people, not just in principle but in practice (James 3:2 "We all stumble in many ways"
Another thing I want to do in my family, create a poster that hangs in a prominent place in our house, like the author's house,  that displays our 5 most important family principles:

1) Love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and mind (Matt 22:38)

2) Love your neighbor as yourself  (Matt 22:39) and your closest neighbors are your family. "We are together in this, and we'll get through this together"

3) Work hard, without complaining for the glory of God (Philippians 2:14 and Colossian 3:17)

4) Always tell the truth and seek to learn God's truth (2 Tim 3:16,17)

5) Be kind and compassionate to one another (Ephesians 4:32)

The section on honoring our parents was unexpectedly heartbreaking. The author shared several letters that brought tears to my eyes, first of callous and neglectful treatment of aging parents by their adult children, and one by a man who took the time to thank his parents and spend extra time with them, and was so thankful he did because his mother died unexpectedly shortly afterward. The book also includes a tribute that James wrote himself to his parents. 

Some more quotes:

You are not standing for the truth unless you are doing so at the specific point where the truth is being resisted.... you can be standing for the truth in fifteen different places, but if you are conceding at the very point of oppositon, you are not building your home on truth. 

...God's Word has never been tried and found lacking. Never! However, it has often been found difficult and therefore not tried. 

... It is absolutely vital for us to understand that truth is most powerfully taught in the context of relationship.

One last excellent thing, this from the chapter on commitment:

Commitment is the defining characteristic of a person's life...there are people who keep their commitments and there are people who don't. It's the watershed issue. Which person are you?

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