I'm thankful to say that my life has reached a season in which I'm able to listen to sermons again. Sometimes. In chunks big enough to at least know what it's about. Sometimes.
Anyway, this past Sunday, both of my children were occupied and quiet enough that I was able to pay attention and even (gasp!) take notes. Considering the subject now, it's no big shock that God wanted me to hear it.
It seems like I'm always struggling with something and here lately it's been my parenting skills... or lack thereof. It's hard to parent when you're being convicted to change something about yourself. Resisting God's will and being a patient, loving, kind person don't seem to go hand in hand. And being a frustrated, rude, hateful person and being a mama don't go hand in hand.
Does it ever feel like God is trying to tell you something everywhere you look? Every blogpost I've "happened" on, every scripture I've tried to read, songs on the radio, Bible studies I've been "randomly" invited to participate in, other people's Facebook status updates... seriously, everywhere I've turned lately something has been screaming at me to change. CHANGE... and don't look back.
So, after listening to the sermon and taking a few scattered notes, pondering on it since then, re-reading the scripture, and taking more detailed notes... it has felt more and more like a tailor-made gift all packaged up and gift-wrapped just for me. Most people probably would have caught on a lot more quickly than I have, but it took actually sitting in a pew and having it handed to me. I mean... God even helped my kids behave so I wouldn't have any distractions.
The question that's been plaguing me is this:
What am I doing to prepare my children's hearts for salvation?
The thought of the conviction they're sure to face has been torturing my prayer time and while I don't purport to be able to help them be saved, I can't help but think that my influence will have something to do with how they deal with it when that time comes.
Sure, I pray for them. I take them to church, teach them Bible verses and Bible stories, try to show teach them right from wrong, and try to help them pray. I talk a good game when it comes to stay-at-home parenting and homeschooling. But really... really... what am I doing?
I want to look "peculiar" as compared to the rest of the world, but shouldn't that start at home? Shouldn't my children be able to see that in me first and foremost?
If I'm telling them that we're supposed to be set apart and holy but still harboring sin in my own home then shame on me.
I might as well wear a big neon sign over my head that says HYPOCRITE so everybody knows for sure.
So, with all that said... Sunday's sermon was entitled "Acceptable Proofs" and was based on Ephesians 5:1-21 - a long list of instructions that Paul wrote to the church at Ephesus and then a list of ways by which they should prove themselves as children of God.
The more I look at the list, the more convinced I am of my need to change. These are the ways we outwardly show what we inwardly are - to our children and everyone else with whom we come into contact.
I broke these scriptures down as concisely as possible so my feeble brain would have a better chance at remembering them.
1. Follow God like a child follows a parent (5:1).
(This makes me think of imitation... I should imitate Christ so I can be more godly)
2. Love selflessly (5:2).
3. Avoid all sin and excessive foolishness (5:3-4).
4. Use your energy for praise instead (5:4).
5. Don't be deceived (5:6).
(Doctrinally or otherwise. Know what's morally sound and stick to it. Period.)
6. Don't partake in those deceptive things (5:7).
(If it's not doctrinally or morally sound, don't do it. Period.)
7. Be a light in the darkness (5:8).
(Be obvious about it. Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom he hath redeemed from the hand of the enemy - Psalm 107:2)
1. ...with good fruits - goodness, righteousness, and truth (5:9).
2. ...by not having anything to do with things opposite those good fruits (5:11).
3. ...by reprimanding sin (5:11).
4. ...by not even speaking of sinful things except in reproof (5:12).
5. ...by being careful to use wisdom (5:15).
6. ...by using our time wisely (5:16).
7. ...by godly wisdom and seeking after God's will (5:17).
8. ...by being filled with the spirit rather than excess wine (5:18).
9. ...by meditating on spiritual things (5:19).
10. ...by thankfulness for all things (5:20).
(makes me think of Job... What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?)
11. ...by submission to one another out of respect for God (5:21).
I don't really know what else to say about this other than... just wow. I've read these scriptures a lot of times in my life. They aren't the most poetic or picturesque words in the Bible, but they become absolutely beautiful when they're delivered to your heart as an answered prayer.
God's little handbook on parenting. Just for me. And for you.