The Problem with Parenting

There’s a wealth of wisdom to be gleaned when it comes to being a good parent, but there’s something we tend to overlook.  When it comes to kids making poor choices, often the finger is pointed at the parents. “If they had taught that kid better…” has been said so many times, and for no other reason than to cast blame on an already hurtful situation. But what exactly does the Bible say about parenting? Let’s look at a few examples.

Ephesians 6 tells us: “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, because this is right. Honor your father and mother, which is the first commandment with a promise, so that it may go well with you and that you may have a long life in the land. Fathers, don’t stir up anger in your children, but bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.

I think we would all agree that children should obey parents, and parents should train up their children to know and honor God. And let me add that if you are a parent and not teaching your children about God, you’re ignoring one of the key commands of parents in Scripture. Teach your children! Let the church help! Bring them to Bible classes, youth events, and small group. Don’t teach them about life and neglect teaching them about God in the process. Teach your children!

But every good teacher will tell you that teaching only goes so far. In the end, it is entirely up to the student what they will choose to do. So do we blame the teacher/parent if they are doing their part? Surely if they were a good parent their kids would turn out perfect, right? Scripture tells us that King David was a man after God’s own heart. You would assume everything he did as a parent would go well. It didn’t. One child turned out ok. His name was Solomon and he was the wisest man to ever live. You would assume everything he did as a parent would go well. It didn’t. Scripture shows his children didn’t inherit any of Solomon’s great wisdom, and even less of a relationship with God. In just a couple of generations we went from a man after God’s own heart to grandchildren who refused to obey God.

Maybe we should look back at the perfect Father. God is perfect in all of his ways. He is the perfect example, the perfect law, the perfect teacher, and surely His children would be perfect as well…after all He did say we are to be perfect as He is perfect. But God is another “parent” whose children fell into sin. God does everything perfectly, yet His children sin. Does this make God a bad parent? Absolutely not!

The problem, which is also a blessing, is a concept called free will. God created us with the ability to choose. We can be filled with all the information in the world as to right and wrong, wise and foolish, and yet we still have the choice of how to use that information in our actions. The Creator of the universe saw fit to let tiny, insignificant humans choose to do what we wish! And because we have that freedom we will make some bad choices, often as a result of letting the wrong voices influence us.

Parents, hang in there. When a child falls into sin, or unbelief it doesn’t mean a bad parent is behind that situation. It means the child may have made, or is continuing to make bad choices. Something is influencing the child more than their faithful parents. Keep speaking truth and wisdom into the situation, and continue to pray that the child will accept your influence, but know in the end that free will is in play. Being a lifelong influencer of another human is a difficult job. Bad decisions by a child shouldn’t immediately become a reflection on the parent, just as a sinful person isn’t a condemnation of God’s perfection.

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Connections: The Passover and the Lord’s Supper – Part 6

Last time we explored the significance of the cups of wine used in the Passover celebration. This article will examine a reference that Jesus and Paul make to one of theses cups.

The third cup comes right after supper. This cup is mentioned specifically in Luke 22:20 – In the same way he also took the cup after supper and said, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.” This third Passover cup is known as the Geulah which means redemption, and is sometimes called the cup of blessing. As mentioned previously, the phrase “new covenant in my blood” is an allusion by Jesus to Jeremiah 31:31-34. “Look, the days are coming”—this is the Lord’s declaration—“when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah…”  The passage ends with the words: “For I will forgive their iniquity and never again remember their sin.”

It is a powerful statement Jesus is making by taking the cup of redemption, or cup of blessing, and interpreting it as God’s new covenant with humankind. The third cup reminded the Jews of God’s blessing by redeeming them out of slavery in Egypt on the very night of the original Passover. In a similar, but far greater way, God will redeem his people once, for all time through the events that would begin the very night that Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper. This was to be a new feast to commemorate God’s eternal redemption of his people.

The apostle Paul alludes to this third cup in his letter to Corinth. The church in Corinth was apparently involved in consuming food that had been sacrificed by pagans to their idols. Some saw nothing wrong with eating the food, while others were deeply offended by this claiming the Christians were worshipping idols in eating these feasts.

1 Corinthians 10:16-17 – The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a sharing in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a sharing in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, since all of us share the one bread.

Barclay offers the following commentary on Paul’s teaching to the Corinthians. “…a man who has sat at the table of Jesus Christ cannot go on to sit at the table which is the instrument of demons. If a man has handled the body and blood of Christ there are things he cannot touch.”

Those of us who have entered into “the new covenant in [Christ’s] blood” have pledged our faithfulness to him. Eating this feast is worship, and when we eat the bread and drink from the cup, we are not only reminding ourselves of his sacrifice, we are recommitting ourselves to this new covenant in Christ which excludes worshipping any other god.

All Christians who eat the Lord’s Supper are “one body” in doing so. Unfortunately we still allow idol sacrifices to divide us today. We often place our allegiance to our denominations, our worship preferences, our schedules, our convenience, as well as other idols before our allegiance to unity in Christ. In many ways, we fail to remember the body (church) of Jesus when we eat this feast.  May God forgive us for our lack of unity, and may God strengthen our bond to him and each other through the body and blood of Christ.

Connections: The Passover and the Lord’s Supper – Part 5

Last week we explored the significance of the blood being applied to the doorposts of the houses of Israel. God had spared the children of Israel because the blood of the Passover lamb had been applied to their homes. In this article we will look at the wine used in the Passover celebration, and the symbolism that Jesus applied in the Lord’s Supper.

A cup of wine is not mentioned in Exodus 12, and nobody really knows when this tradition was added to the celebration, but it was in place by Jesus’ time, and two references are made to drinking from it as part of the ceremony. (Luke 22:17, 20) The participants of the Passover celebration each have a cup of wine, and on four separate occasions would use the wine in their cup. Each time the cup has a specific name and symbolic significance in the ceremony.

The first cup which opens the meal is called Kiddush which means sanctification. A blessing was given thanking God for the “fruit of the vine” before taking this cup. Most likely this is the drink referenced in Luke 22:17-18 –  Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks, he said, “Take this and share it among yourselves. For I tell you, from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.”

The second cup was known as the cup of plagues which reminded the Jews of the wrath of God poured out on the Egyptians in the form of the ten plagues. This was not a drink from the cup, but rather a dipping of the finger, and a drop of the wine on their plates for each of the ten plagues.

The third cup comes right after supper. This cup is mentioned specifically in Luke 22:20 – In the same way he also took the cup after supper and said, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.” This third Passover cup is known as the Geulah which means redemption, and is sometimes called the cup of blessing. (We’ll explore a New Testament reference to the cup of blessing next time.)

The fourth cup known as the Hallel or the cup of praise accompanied the singing of hymns. These hymns are in your Bible as Psalm 113-118. I don’t have room to include these passages here, but you should read through them to see what Jesus sung just before he was arrested. And though this fourth cup is not mentioned specifically, it would have been taken with the hymns sung by Jesus and his disciples. (Mt. 26:30, Mk. 14:26)

Christians don’t usually pick up on the statement Jesus was making when he used the phrase “new covenant in my blood.” This phrase is only used once in the Old Testament in Jeremiah 31:31-34. “Look, the days are coming”—this is the Lord’s declaration—“when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah…”

Jesus’ statements during the Passover, and his use of the Passover emblems and traditions made it clear that he was the chosen Messiah of God, the true Passover lamb that was sacrificed once and for all to take away the sin of the world. “For I will forgive their iniquity and never again remember their sin.” Jeremiah 31:34b

For further reading on this subject, you can visit Jews for Jesus, or Chabad.

Connections: The Passover and the Lord’s Supper – Part 1
Connections: The Passover and the Lord’s Supper – Part 2 
Connections: The Passover and the Lord’s Supper – Part 3
Connections: The Passover and the Lord’s Supper – Part 4

Connections: The Passover and the Lord’s Supper – Part 4

As we continue our look at the Passover and the Lord’s Supper, we will take a two-part look at the blood of the lamb, and the wine. Much symbolism is given to these by Jesus, but first we’ll look at the Egyptian culture that had influenced the Israelite lives in slavery.

When Israel came to Egypt at Joseph’s invitation, they were a distinct people from the Egyptians. The Israelites were nomadic, living in tents, and they worshipped the one true God. The Egyptians worshipped many gods, and lived in houses made of mud brick and stone. By the time of Moses, the Israelites began to adopt Egyptian customs, including abandoning their tents to live in houses, much like the Egyptians did. (Ex. 12:22)

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that God instructed the Israelites to place the blood of the Passover lamb on the doorposts and lintels of these houses. You don’t enter the house by way of the doorposts and lintel, but by way of the door. What would be significant about the doorposts and lintels? Why not put blood on the door? One of the customs the Egyptians had was writing their names on the stone doorposts of their house. The name was very important to Egyptians, and having your name remain in writings after your death helped ensure your place in the afterlife. In a very real sense, the Egyptians put their eternal hope in their own names on their doorposts. As the Israelites had adopted the custom of living in Egyptian style houses, and often built houses for the Egyptians, they most likely adopted the custom of putting their names on their doorposts as well.

“They must take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses where they eat them…The blood on the houses where you are staying will be a distinguishing mark for you; when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No plague will be among you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.” – Exodus 12:7, 13

God wanted a “distinguishing mark” for the Israelites…something that made them different from the Egyptians. Israel had begun blending into the world around them, and adopting Egyptian customs. Other than their societal status as slaves, there was really very little difference between their beliefs and that of the Egyptians. When God has them cover over their names on the doorposts, he is asking that they not trust their own efforts of engraving their names in stone, but to trust in God’s promise, and in the blood of the Passover lamb for their salvation.

Today Christians often blend in with the world around them. As Craig Groeschel writes, “Welcome to Christian Atheism, where people believe in God but live as if he doesn’t exist.” The “distinguishing mark” for Christians is still the blood of the eternal Passover lamb. And when we are covered by the blood of the lamb, it shouldn’t only hide our names…it should transform our lives. Jesus said “Do this in remembrance of me.” He expected that we would be reminded often of the sacrifice he made, and the blood on the doorposts of our heart. Participating in the Lord’s Supper should be a memorial, and transformational experience. It calls us to be different from the sin filled world around us, and motivates us to teach others why they need to apply the blood of Christ on the doorposts of their hearts.

Read the rest of my series on this topic by using the links below:

Connections: The Passover and the Lord’s Supper – Part 1
Connections: The Passover and the Lord’s Supper – Part 2
Connections: The Passover and the Lord’s Supper – Part 3

For further reading on this subject, you can visit Jews for Jesus, or Chabad.

Connections: The Passover and the Lord’s Supper – Part 3

Continuing our look at the Passover and the Lord’s Supper, today we are going to focus on the bread. But before looking at what Jesus said about the bread, we will first look at the history of Passover traditions. From the time of the first Passover, Rabbi’s began interpreting and applying the different elements of the Passover seder to their own lives. Different traditions were added to the feast that were in addition to what Exodus 12 commanded of the Israelites. According to Jewish scholars, what we will discuss today are traditions that were already in place by the time Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper.

Part of the Passover seder is the unleavened bread (matzoh) being presented in a very specific way. Three loaves of unleavened bread are placed in a bag (matzoh tosh), each loaf being in its own compartment. The loaves are discussed symbolically as a sign of unity, but Rabbis are very divided upon where this tradition comes from and what unity the loaves refer to. Some say unity of the patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob) while others say unity of the nation of Israel (Priests, Levites, People of Israel). The exact meaning of this tradition has been lost to history according to Rabbis, but we will attempt to uncover the true meaning.

During the seder, the matzoh tosh is opened and the second (middle) loaf, known as the Bread of Affliction, is removed and broken in half. Rabbis again don’t know why the middle loaf is used, and the other two remain untouched. The broken piece is wrapped in a linen bag called an afikoman which means “it comes later.” The afikoman is taken out of the room of celebration and hidden, symbolically buried somewhere in the house by the leader of the celebration. Towards the end of the meal the participants will search for the afikoman and when it is found it is returned to the table. The leader of the celebration will then take the bread and break off small portions for everyone at the table.

Why is the middle portion broken, buried, and brought back if the unity of the matzoh tosh refers to the patriarchs or the nation of Israel? It doesn’t make any sense. But if the loaves in the matzoh tosh represent the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the middle loaf being broken, buried for a time, and brought back has incredible symbolism. Not only did this meal point toward the coming of the Messiah, but God even used the traditions added by men to further point toward his Son.

And he took bread, gave thanks, broke it, gave it to them, and said, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” – Luke 22:19

Jesus’ body would soon be broken for us, wrapped in linen, buried for a time, and like the afikoman was brought back to us. And just like the Passover lamb, no bones were broken in his body, even though it was the custom of the Roman soldiers to break the legs of the crucified.

The symbolism in the Passover and in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus are a reminder that God planned to save us from the beginning. Jesus’ sacrifice wasn’t an afterthought of God. It was his plan to show his incredible love for us, even at the cost of his Passover lamb, his Son, Jesus.

Connections: The Passover and the Lord’s Supper – Part 1
Connections: The Passover and the Lord’s Supper – Part 2

For further reading on this subject, you can visit Jews for Jesus, or Chabad.

Connections: The Passover and the Lord’s Supper – Part 2

Last week we took our first look at the Lord’s Supper, and the goal was for us all to remember the sacrifice Jesus made every time we ate this past week. If you didn’t do that, I would encourage you to make that a priority this week. Don’t just thank God for your food, but take a moment and reflect on what Jesus did for you on the cross. Now we turn our attention to the first Passover, which you can read about in Exodus 12. This is less of an article, and more just a list of observations that I feel we often miss.

The first thing that stands out to me about this passage is that God wanted Israel to remember this event, so much so that they were to rearrange their entire calendar system around it! This goes far beyond simply observing a holiday…their entire year would begin with this feast. This shows how important, and how seriously God wanted the people of Israel to take this feast. “The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt: ‘This month is to be the beginning of months for you; it is the first month of your year.’” (Exodus 12:1-2)

What would our worship services look like if we gave The Lord’s Supper that sort of prominence?

Next, this was a community event. Every household participated in this feast at the same time, in the same way. In addition, smaller households who couldn’t eat the entire Passover lamb by themselves were told to get together with the neighbor closest to them and share a Passover lamb. Participating in the Passover was a unifying event. All divisions were removed and the whole of Israel participated in this event together. It was a uniting experience. And this experience was not a one time event. This memorial feast was to be a permanent fixture in the lives of the Israelites. “This day is to be a memorial for you, and you must celebrate it as a festival to the Lord. You are to celebrate it throughout your generations as a permanent statute.” (Exodus 12:14)

Does a sense of unity come over you when we take communion? Not just with those around you, but those all over the world doing the same thing?

It also reminded the people that God had saved them because of the blood of a lamb. “Take a cluster of hyssop, dip it in the blood that is in the basin, and brush the lintel and the two doorposts with some of the blood in the basin. None of you may go out the door of his house until morning. When the Lord passes through to strike Egypt and sees the blood on the lintel and the two doorposts, he will pass over the door and not let the destroyer enter your houses to strike you.” (Exodus 12:22-23)

We too should live our lives like the only reason we’ve been spared is the blood of The Lamb.

There are many more connections between the Passover memorial, and what Jesus did for us on the cross. This week I encourage you to read through Exodus 12 and consider the parallels for yourself.

Read the rest of my series on this topic by using the links below:

Connections: The Passover and the Lord’s Supper – Part 1

For further reading on this subject, you can visit Jews for Jesus, or Chabad.

Connections: The Passover and the Lord’s Supper – Part 1

The Lord’s Supper is something that my religious tribe commemorates each and every week. But for some reason, I feel it is an act that many don’t understand. Some say that taking the Lord’s Supper each week makes it feel ordinary, and not special…which to some degree I can agree with. Others say we need to be taking the Lord’s Supper much more frequently if we want to be like the early church, which I also agree with (see Acts 2:46).

But the biggest issue, in my opinion, is that we have taken the Lord’s Supper out of the context where it was implemented. We think about the Lord’s Supper through our own experiences at church on Sundays. For some of us it’s sitting in a pew and passing a plate. For others it’s standing in a line and walking down front. But whatever your experience has been, I want us all to experience what it was like on that Passover night nearly 2000 years ago.

Matthew tells us in 26:26 that “As they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, gave it to the disciples…” Jesus and his disciples were eating the Passover dinner. These men had put in a full day, and it was time to eat for the evening. But this meal was special. This meal was significant, because it commemorated Israel being set free from bondage in Egypt. And unknown to the first participants this centuries old custom was about to be changed forever.

The first thing I want us to realize is the Last Supper was actually supper. For the Passover, Jewish law stated that the whole lamb and all food on the table was to be eaten, so the Lord’s Supper wasn’t just a little ceremony with a cracker and a teaspoon of grape juice. This was a part of a full on meal where Jesus chose to create a remembrance of the sacrifice he was about to make for all mankind.

When was the last time you paused at a meal and remembered the sacrifice that Jesus made for you? I’m not talking about thanking God for your food. I’m talking about taking a moment every time you eat to remember the sacrifice that Jesus made for you on the cross. Most of us eat several times a day, so what do you think it would do to our lives if we intentionally stopped to remember our Savior’s sacrifice each time we ate? How would it change the way we interact with, and think about others if we remembered the cross that frequently?

Commentator William Barclay had this to say about Matthew’s telling of the Last Supper.

“We might well say that what Jesus is teaching [us] is not only to assemble in church and to eat a ritual and symbolic Feast: He is telling them that every time they sit down to satisfy their hunger and to eat a meal, that meal is in memory of Him. For Jesus is not only Lord of the Communion Table: He must be Lord of the dinner table too.

Over the next several weeks we’ll take a close look at the Passover Seder, and the Lord’s Supper. There is a lot to learn from, and consider about this part of our service. Next week we will look closer at the institution of the Passover meal in Exodus 12. But this week, I want us all to take a moment and remember at our regular mealtimes what we do when we take the Lord’s Supper. It can be, and should be, life changing.

For further reading on this subject, you can visit Jews for Jesus, or Chabad.