Hedge-Building

 

“Anna, there’s a duck out.”  That was my observation as I looked out the living room window the other morning. Her reply revealed that this was NOT the first time one of our ducks had escaped. “Again??”, she said. What followed was the normal procedure of Bethany distracting Mocha, the dog, while Anna corralled the curious duck back to safety. As usual, it was not without the loss of a few feathers. Fortunately, for the duck, the loss was not greater. Will these ducks ever learn??  I doubt it. It seems to be “duck nature” to always want the greener grass on the other side of their fence of protection.

Around our house lately, there has been a whole lot of preparation going on for an upcoming graduation cook-out! Along with this busy-ness comes times of reflection as our fifth child, Bethany, sees a chapter close in her life. As with any parents of older children, the times of looking back include thoughts of “I wish I had done this a little differently” or “If I had known then what I know now, I would have…”. But, along with those thoughts come the assurance of, “If I could go back, I wouldn’t change a thing!”  I am thankful for the grace that God has shown my husband and I through the years, but I am also thankful for the grace our own children have shown these imperfect parents as they have had to be on the receiving end of some “trial and error” parenting while their Daddy and I have grown in the Lord.

Reading the following verse this morning was a reminder of some things we would not change if we were able to go back and do it again:

“Why hast thou then broken down her hedges, so that all they which pass by the way do pluck her?” Psalm 80:12

Through the years, my husband and I, by God’s grace, have attempted to build a hedge of protection in our home…a hedge built of standards that were based on Biblical convictions. The hedge was not as tall, not as dense when our children were small. But, as our children got older and as we – “the Hedge-Builders” – grew in knowledge of what God’s Word said, the hedge got a little taller…a little thicker. Over the years, there have been times when it was necessary for the hedge to be reinforced or even repaired when a break was revealed by inspecting it in the light of Scripture.

One aspect of our hedge-building involved my husband’s decision to homeschool our children and oh, how thankful I am for this decision! God had already been working in his heart for a couple years but he knew he must wait for the Lord to show me as well. I will always remember the verses God used to show me His will for our family, “And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.”  Deuteronomy 6:6,7

Since that time, the Lord has used other Scripture to confirm this decision, such as –

“Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.”  Proverbs 4:23  (All of our decisions come from what is in our hearts. If we, as parents, hope to influence our children in their important decision-making, we must have their hearts.)

“And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers…”  Malachi 4:6

“My son, keep thy father’s commandment, and forsake not the law of thy mother: Bind them continually upon thine heart, and tie them about thy neck. When thou goest, it shall lead thee; when thou sleepest, it shall keep thee; and when thou awakest, it shall talk with thee. For the commandment is a lamp; and the law is light; and reproofs of instruction are the way of life:” Proverbs 6:20-23

Hedge-building will not take place without challenges from within. Just as that curious duck of ours, there will be times in our parenting years when curious children/teens desire to escape or at least stick their neck out to be able to reach the “greener grass”. Their desire is human nature, partly due to the inability to understand the hedge is for their protection. It is when their natural curiosity turns to challenging instead of trusting the wisdom of the hedge-builders, that a heart problem is revealed. The child’s heart has been lost. And, sadly, the loss of a heart could result in further loss if not retrieved quickly.

Hedge-building will also be met with ridicule from without. As with any parents who choose to go against the grain by submitting to God’s will for their family, we have had our share of opposition. Just recently, I found myself in the middle of a conversation that was somewhat of a challenge to a choice that had been made…a questioning of a decision in the repairing of the hedge. Because of God’s Word, I was able to confidently say that if we had to make the decision all over again, we wouldn’t change a thing. A break had been discovered and, in light of the Scripture, a repair had been made. My husband and I both knew that the decision had resulted in the retrieving and/or keeping of children’s hearts. Again, how important to build the hedge with Biblical principles. As Christians, God’s Word should always, always be our final authority!

If we could, would we go back and make some adjustments to the hedge, or maybe repairs that we failed to see? Absolutely! What parent hasn’t said or at least thought, “If I only knew then what I know now…” Thank the Lord for His mercy and longsuffering in each of our lives! But, there are some areas in which I know that we would not change a thing and one of those areas is my husband’s decision almost 24 years ago. Perhaps I am feeling a little sentimental these days, as I witness yet another child complete her high school education. With five of our six now graduated, where have the years gone? I truly thank God for His faithfulness to us – faithfulness to provide our every need  in the education of the children He has blessed us with – faithfulness to provide strength and wisdom from His Word in this area of hedge-building.

“And I sought for a man among them, that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap…”  Ezekiel 22:30

~ Rachel ~

When Jesus Comes

(when I hear this song, I think of Br. Lester Roloff)

One sat alone beside the highway begging,

His eyes were blind, the light he could not see.

He clutched his rags and shivered in the shadows

Then Jesus came and bade his darkness flee.

Chorus:

When Jesus comes, the tempter’s power is broken;

When Jesus comes, the tears are wiped away,

He takes the gloom and fills the life with glory,

For all is changed when Jesus comes to stay.

(words by Oswald Smith)

~ Rachel ~

If We Were a Bible Character – Demas

If we were a Bible character; our life, men had read.

From the pages of Scripture, just what would be said?

If God were writing our profile today,

To record in His Word; just what would it say?

“For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica; Crescens to Galatia, Titus unto Dalmatia.” II Timothy 4:10

I would say the majority of those who are familiar with the name “Demas” are also familiar with the few words that follow his name – “For Demas hath forsaken me…”  The fact that the apostle mentions Demas forsaking him is evidence, I believe, of the hurt it had caused. Paul was in a deep valley. Paul was suffering persecution. Paul needed the comfort of his friends. What did Demas do? Demas forsook him.

In a recent Bible time, Anna shared from II Corinthians 7 where we read of another trying time in the life of Paul:

“For, when we were come into Macedonia, our flesh had no rest, but we were troubled on every side; without were fightings, within were fears.” II Corinthians 7:5

Have you ever felt as Paul described in the above verse? No rest – Troubled on every side – Fightings without – Fears within.  Do any of those phrases hit too close to home? Are there circumstances of your own that come to your mind at this very moment? I like what the next verse says…

Nevertheless God, that comforteth those that are cast down, comforted us by the coming of Titus;” II Corinthians 7:6

Praise the Lord for friends like Titus! As the above verse says, God comforts those that are cast down, and one way He does is through friends. I am not speaking of “gossiping friends”. Too often, the presence of those whom we may consider friends actually leave us feeling more miserable by all the “supposings”, “what ifs”, “if onlys”, and other vain imaginations. The friends I am speaking of are “praying friends”, “listening quietly friends”, “keeping it to themselves friends”, “offering comforting words from Scripture friends”. Those type of friends know that prayer can give grace, having a listening ear without fear can allow for a releasing of emotions, Scripture can give comfort. Those types of friends are rare. Those types of friends are with you through thick and thin.

Thinking about both of these friends of Paul, as well as reading the following verses this morning, has caused me to think about true friends.

 “Yet setteth he the poor on high from affliction, and maketh him families like a flock. The righteous shall see it, and rejoice: and all iniquity shall stop her mouth.” Psalm 107:41,42

“Bring my soul out of prison, that I may praise thy name: the righteous shall compass me about; for thou shalt deal bountifully with me.”  Psalm 142:7

In both of these passages, the Psalmist is speaking of being delivered from affliction. In both passages, he specifically mentions who is rejoicing with him – the righteous. Why are the righteous rejoicing? I believe, as in the case with Paul and Titus, the righteous are rejoicing now because they were there with him through the time of affliction. The Bible says in Galatians 6:2, “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.”  Righteous friends bear the burdens of their hurting friends. In Romans 12:15 we are commanded, “Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.” Righteous friends are not just there in the good times. Righteous friends are not fair weather friends as in the example of Demas. Righteous friends, like Titus, stick with us through thick and thin. When the storms are raging high in our lives, they are there to pray, listen, and offer words of hope from Scripture. Then, when morning comes (and it does come!), those same righteous friends are right there with us in sincere rejoicing because our burden…our affliction…had actually become theirs too!

While writing this post today, I was reminded of the times that I have fallen short in this area of being a true friend. As a result, I missed out on the opportunity to be a blessing to a hurting individual. But, I also missed out on the sincere rejoicing with that individual when their morning finally came. Their burden had not become mine therefore I was not able to truly appreciate their time of rejoicing.

I pray that these thoughts will be a blessing as well as a challenge to each of us…that we would allow the Lord to continue to “grow us” in this area of true friendship. There are many, many hurting people in this world. In our relationships, when God allows us to see one who is hurting, instead of taking the fair-weather-friend route of Demas…let’s set our own comfort aside and allow that person’s burden to become ours as well. As in Titus, may it be our desire for God to use US to comfort those that are cast down!

“A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.”  Proverbs 17:17

~ Rachel ~

Faith – D. L. Moody

There are three kinds of faith in Christ: 1. Struggling faith, like a man in deep water desperately swimming. 2. Clinging faith, like a man hanging to the side of a boat. 3. Resting faith, like a man safely within the boat (and able to reach out with a hand to help someone else get in). – D. L. Moody

“I have set the LORD always before me: because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved. Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth: my flesh also shall REST IN HOPE.” Psalm 16:8,9

I’ve Got Joy!

Serving in bus church on Wednesday nights has given our family new opportunities including learning a new chorus. We had never heard the following children’s song before, but lately, it is one that has been sung at very random times around our house. Just let someone say, “I’ve got joy”, and everyone else is ready to chime in. 🙂

I’ve got joy down in my heart

Deep, deep down in my heart

J – O – Y  down in my heart

Deep, deep down in my heart

Jesus put it there

And nothing can destroy it, destroy it, destroy it!

I’ve got joy down in my heart

Deep, deep down in my heart

“And ye now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you.”  John 16:22

~ Rachel ~

Responding to Reproof

“Then Job answered the LORD, and said, Behold, I am vile; what shall I answer thee? I will lay mine hand upon my mouth. Once have I spoken; but I will not answer: yea, twice; but I will proceed no further.”  Job 40:3-5

Because Job’s response to the Lord’s reproof in the previous two chapters was one of humility, God continued to speak to Job:

“Then answered the LORD unto Job out of the whirlwind, and said,”  Job 40:6

When our response to reproof is one of pride by exhibiting anger, self-righteousness, etc., we are forfeiting further instruction from God. Our spiritual growth will be at a standstill until we humble ourselves and accept what the Lord desires to teach us. Matthew Henry’s comments on this passage include:

“Those who profit by what they hear from God shall hear more from Him.”

As painful as it may be at times, we must respond to the Lord’s reproof with the teachable spirit of humility if we desire to continue growing.

“Reprove not a scorner, lest he hate thee: rebuke a wise man, and he will love thee. Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be yet wiser: teach a just man, and he will increase in learning.”  Proverbs 9:8,9

~ Rachel ~

100% Hamburger or Mystery Meat?

“For the ear trieth words, as the mouth tasteth meat. Let us choose to us judgment: let us know among ourselves what is good.” Job 34:3,4

Reading the above verses this morning brought to mind my school days and cafeteria food. One not-so-fond memory I have were the days that hamburgers were served. One bite told any discerning eater that what was in their mouth was NOT 100% hamburger. It did not matter what the menu for the day said. It did not matter if the cooks claimed that there was not a misprint. The menu may have “hamburgers” printed on it, but “hamburger” it was not. 

I will admit something right now. When our children were very young, I often had a few tricks to get them to eat their “good food”. One such trick was hiding that “yummy green bean mush” behind fruit. When those sweet, innocent little eyes looked at the spoon and saw that fruit (OK…I’m feeling guilty now), their mouths would open wide and in would go a rather interesting mix. I remember using this same trick with one of our GRANDbabies and baked beans. This little buddy did not want to eat his beans so I cleverly mixed a few in with a food he liked, only to have him suck off the favorite food and spit out the beans. The minute that food mixture entered his little mouth, his discerning taste buds alerted him to those yucky beans. Oh well…

The Bible clearly warns us to be very discerning in the words we hear. Just because the speaker may claim the words to be 100% true does not guarantee 100% truth. As the above passage says, “…the ear trieth words…”, we are commanded in I Thessalonians 5:21, “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.”  It is the simple person that believes everything they hear “The simple believeth every word …” but it is the WISE person who exercises much caution in what they believe – but the prudent man looketh well to his going.” Proverbs 14:15

Words spoken to us may contain “part hamburger”…part truth…but, how careful we must be to not quickly pass judgment until we are able to hear the whole matter. Practicing caution can save us from much shame down the road, “He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him.” Proverbs 18:13  Even then, how very important to pray for wisdom and discernment. I have found that if we want to believe everything that is said to us, we will believe it. But, if we desire only to believe truth, God is very faithful to reveal truth to us.

“Charity…rejoiceth in the truth.” I Corinthians 13:4,6

~ Rachel ~