Every family requires these three elements for survival in the world we live in. Yet, many of us have overlooked their importance to our own peril. Many people in our world have lost any sense of faith in the ability of God to come through in their relationships with their spouses or children; they have no hope that things will get better because they have been disappointed many times; and their love has waxed so soft that it’s almost completely melted away in the face of the harsh heat of reality.
I hope to challenge this vicious cycle fading faith, hapless hope and lethargic love in this new series on the role of the ingredients of faith, hope and love in family life and child care. The plan is to restore our faith, renew our hope and refresh our love so the wheels of family life can run smoothly once again as they get oiled with these graces. The family remains the functional unit of society and almost every societal ill can be traced back to a breakdown in the family structure. Christian homes which should serve as a model for the world like a city set upon a hill are sadly not exempt from this unfortunate situation of decay… How do we return and take our place in the plan of God for the world? How shall the sons of God be manifest in this dying world?
It is when we shine as lights in the midst of a wicked and perverse nation. It is when our faith is so strong that nothing else matters; our hope is so tangible it is almost palpable and our love- our pure unconditional love is so real that it overflows in selfless actions.
I will introduce the subject of faith as a necessary family life ingredient today with the following story of the Syro-Phoenician woman’s encounter with Jesus when He walked this earth:
From there Jesus set out for the vicinity of Tyre. He entered a house there where he didn’t think he would be found, but he couldn’t escape notice. He was barely inside when a woman who had a disturbed daughter heard where he was. She came and knelt at his feet, begging for help. The woman was Greek, Syro-Phoenician by birth. She asked him to cure her daughter.
He said, “Stand in line and take your turn. The children get fed first. If there’s any left over, the dogs get it.”
She said, “Of course, Master. But don’t dogs under the table get scraps dropped by the children?”
Jesus was impressed. “You’re right! On your way! Your daughter is no longer disturbed. The demonic affliction is gone.” She went home and found her daughter relaxed on the bed, the torment gone for good. [Mark 7:24-29 (The Message)]
This woman wanted her daughter healed by Christ- she believed and knew that Jesus could cure her daughter and she didn’t get daunted in her faith even when He told her that healing was first for the children then left-over scraps could be scrambled by dogs. She knew Jesus had the power to heal and she wasn’t going to give up at the initial words which some would have felt was discouraging at the least or even found insulting. Jesus recognized her faith and granted her heart’s desire!
We see also the faith of a parent in the story of Jarius- a ruler of the synagogue who wanted healing for his daughter as well before further complications arose and the little girl was dead. Yet, Jesus said to him- “Don’t be afraid; just believe”. These same words are for you today- do not entertain fear in your parenting, let the power of Christ be manifest as you tackle the affairs of daily living in this world; whatever the situation may be in your home, however complicated it may seem; take the words of Jesus to heart- “Don’t be afraid; just believe!”. Remember we are joint heirs together with Christ; for as many as received Him even to as many as believe on His name- to them He gave the power to be called sons of God. Healing is the children bread. You can experience it in every area of your family life. When faith is present, contradictions don’t faze us, the cares of this world don’t break us, we have our faith grounded in He who was and is and is to come! Hallelujah…
We’ll continue with the subject of faith next week before we delve into hope and love in the family… till then, continue in God’s grace.
Dr ifelayo ojo
Reverence for the LORD is an education in itself. You must be humble before you can ever receive honors. (Proverbs 1533)
Take God out of the equation and what you have left is chaos and disorderliness. Imagine a situation in this world where morals are relative to the individual’s knowledge and sense of what is good and evil. That is, what I regard as ‘sin’ may be ‘good’ for you. Someone has not had any food to eat for a whole day; therefore, he steals a bar of chocolate at the mall. Justifiable, right? You rationalize it thus- the guy probably doesn’t have a job else he would have had money to provide himself food, therefore, picking a chocolate bar out of thousands to satisfy his hunger isn’t wrong. Besides, the management of the mall makes exorbitant profits on a daily basis and this little bar of chocolates is less than ten pennies. When everyone becomes a law for himself there’s bound to be friction and infringement on the rights of other people because the nature of man is intrinsically selfish- self preservation is the name of the game!
However, God did not design us so; His plan for humanity right from Eden was for man to be dependent upon Him for the knowledge of what is good and what is evil. Adam & Eve’s desire in partaking of the fruit was to be able to have knowledge of what is good and what is evil by themselves without relying on God.
Having established that the responsibility for guarding the hearts of our children at the early formative stages of their lives is in the hands of the parents; I want to direct our hearts to the corner-stone for shaping the heart of your child.
If you miss this, the basis for your instruction, nurture and admonition will be warped and the results will not be desirable. Don’t just hand down instructions to your children which MUST be obeyed BECAUSE YOU SAID SO.
Rather, steer their hearts and young, impressionable minds towards the fear of the Lord as many versions put our key-verse for today. The fear of the Lord does not mean a morbid dread of punishment or trepidation at the mention of God, but a reverence for Him that is borne out of love and adoration for who God is and What He’s done for humanity.
Reverence for God is said to be an education in itself because, it is a well-spring from which good, godly attributes are generated. If you make reverence for God the cornerstone for your home, the task of shaping the future of your children becomes an easy one because they have a reason for their actions which goes beyond the unbreakable codes given by Dad, Mum or the fear of punishment.
To have knowledge, you must first have reverence for the LORD. Stupid people have no respect for wisdom and refuse to learn (Proverbs 17)
*Scripture quotations are from the Good News Bible
– Dr ifelayo ojo
Last week, I read about a 7-year old Indian boy who could only communicate by chirping and flapping his arms. Guess why? He was raised in aviary by his mum and she did not talk to him at all since his birth till the time he was discovered by social workers. He had learnt to communicate like the birds he’d been exposed to all his life, one can only wonder what kind of experiment his mum was making of her son. However, before you point your fingers to accuse her of child abuse or call her a lunatic; consider what kind of influence you are directly or inadvertently exposing your own children to on a daily basis.
Babies are born with an enviable apparent innocence- pink and cuddly, smiling in their sleep, they appear to be the perfect picture of purity. However, just how pure they grow up to be is a function of what kind of environment they find in the home and the kind of training received from the parents. If you find a little child using swear-words; it is only reasonable to deduce that such words are in the average vocabulary parlance of the parents. This is because language development as with all other forms of development in children is a function of stimulation. What kind of social stimulation do you give your child?
Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it. (Proverbs 22:6)
To train here means to instruct deliberately, to coach, tutor or induct. The main task of a parent is to bring up these little ones in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
And the fathers! provoke not your children, but nourish them in the instruction and admonition of the Lord. (Ephesians 6:4)
Apostle Paul was talking directly to fathers here as the head of the home, to make their instructions to the children such that the child will obey. Although, it is the duty of children to obey their parents, the parent also has a responsibility to maintain such a character and home administration that it’ll be proper for the child to obey.
Do not provoke your children by unreasonable commands, by being unduly harsh or by displaying anger. This is child abuse! Christian parents are allowed to discipline or punish their children if necessary, but not in anger. Do it in such a way that your child will not lose confidence in you but will love you. This love will make your known wishes a law for them; your child will like to bring you pleasure by fulfilling your wishes.
Feed your children with God’s word not swear-words, it is your duty to guard their minds, because at the early stages they cannot do it by themselves. Children are highly impressionable, if you leave them to watch the just any kind of movie or listen to just any kind of music; you may realize too late just how much it does matter!
There’re plenty of good, godly materials in Christian bookshops targeted at helping you nourish your children in the way of God. Take the time to purchase these cartoons, videos, books, sing-along tapes etc. that will positively stimulate your child. Their toys should also have Christian undertones; rather than buy a gun for your four year-old at the toy shop, why not buy him a story-set of ‘The Good Samaritan’? Put up posters with godly characters and verses of scripture in their rooms instead of the heroes of our time who wear revealing clothes and live on drugs. The input you give to your children will determine their output.
(To be continued…)
– ifelayo ojo
“When I fed the five loaves to the five thousand…
When I fed the seven loaves to the four thousand…
…were there not left-overs?”
Jesus had demonstrated his ability to more than supply human needs on these two different occasions in the presence of His disciples. Yet, they (the disciples) were worried about not having bread for their trip and worse still, they misinterpreted Jesus warning about the teaching of the Pharisees to be a rebuke for their forgetfulness to take bread along for the trip!
The master of the universe, El-shaddai, the multi-breasted one- God who is more than enough was saying to them here- “remember the occasions of old when I made provisions for human needs out of nothing?”
The baskets of left-overs which Jesus instructed them to collect after the miracles of feeding so many was considered insignificantly small by the disciples though they were meant to serve as monuments; reminders of God’s mighty power. They were never supposed to doubt His ability to meet their needs; yet, here they were like many of us being very anxious and worried over bread. They had the fountain, the bread of life with them and they were worrying about the supply of bread, while Jesus wanted their hearts on more spiritual things. How could they have taught that He whose meat was to do the will of the Father was rebuking them for bread? However, we all fall into this error many times, rather than trust God to supply our physical needs while we learn spiritual truths at His feet; we beg and plead for crumbs forgetting that we are children and ALL that our Father has is ours! At moments, when we forget the works of God, and distrust the ability of our King, displaying no faith, we ought to chide ourselves like Jesus did his disciples.
This year, stay in the place of trust in God for your needs and that of your family as a whole; do not waste useful time debating whose fault it is that there is just one loaf of bread when you have the chief-multiplier who has proved himself more than sufficient on your side. Instead, take the spiritual lessons He’ll have you learn and stop being so physical in your reasoning. Think more than enough at all times, because our God is more than able to take care of you and any deficiency you may perceive in your life and he’ll rather have you in the place of worship and receptivity to his voice than hearing your groaning for what He’s already provided. Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees who care more for physical appearances than what is on the inside, take time to get rooted and built up in the grace that’s for you in Christ so you can be a greater blessing to all around you.
Scripture references: Matthew 16:5-12, Mark 8:14-21, 1Timothy 6:17-19, Romans 8:32, Colossians 2:6,7
-Dr ifelayo ojo
Safe in the arms of Jesus
Safe on His gentle breast
There by His love o’ershaded
Sweetly my soul shall rest
The words of this hymn re-echoed in my mind a few weeks ago when I watched a little girl nestling so snugly on her Daddy’s arm, with her head sweetly on his chest. You could see that this little girl had no worries at all; she did not care what was happening around because she was with ‘Daddy’.
Think about the days when you were a toddler, running around, playing with everything you could lay your hands on, free of cares or worries. No anxieties about housing, transportation, feeding or even clothing. You were not bothered because those things had a way of getting ‘fixed’ by either Dad or Mum and you didn’t have to care who did it as long as you always had food at meal times and clothing on your back when you needed it.
Now that you’re all grown-up and raising a family of your own; it’s easy to feel ‘so responsible’ that you get irresponsibly anxious because you’re now the bread-winner or supporting provider. However, God’s word for you from Philippians chapter 4 and verse 6 &19 is:
6 Do not fret or have any anxiety about anything, but in every circumstance and in everything, by prayer and petition (definite requests), with thanksgiving, continue to make your wants known to God.
19 And my God will liberally supply (fill to the full) your every need according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.
Loosen up and drop your cares with God, He loves you more than you love yourself. Why else do you think He gave Jesus before you thought to ask Him?
Romans 8:32 He who did not withhold or spare [even] His own Son but gave Him up for us all, will He not also with Him freely and graciously give us all [other] things?
Enjoy life; sail through without cares or worries, leaning on His everlasting arms.
Dr ifelayo ojo
Find listed below, some examples of sibling rivalry in the bible:
- Cain and Abel
- Jacob and Esau
- Leah and Rachel
- Joseph and his brothers
This is to show how this problematic phenomenon has existed since the creation and subsequent fall of man. The tendency in the natural man is for competition, selfishness and a desire to be greater than his fellows. While not condemning a pure desire to excel and succeed at endeavours, I wish to propose God’s method and will to you:
For through the grace given to me I say to every man among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith. (Romans 123 NASB)
We are to live as individually unique members of Christ’s body, exploring and utilizing to the fullest the riches of grace bestowed upon us and showcasing God’s workmanship.
It is unwise to work by comparisons or judge our physical or spiritual achievements by other people’s attainment- whether they be siblings or fellow heirs of God’s grace because each one shall stand before God and be judged as individuals at the end of the age. (See 2Corinthians 1012, Galatians 62-5, Romans 1510-13)
The desire of God is that we complement one another and help each other be the best that He has created us to be.
Parents, learn to commend good behaviour and praise worthy achievements without comparisons amongst your children. Let your children express their grievances and do not take sides with anyone, just correct bad behaviour without putting any child down as the ‘bad one’. Give gifts to each child according to need not just equally because you want to avoid jealousy. As you practice these things, the rivalry and competition amongst your children will not disappear suddenly but they’ll grow to know how they can resolve differences without unhealthy crisis if you don’t give up.
Children, therefore, be imitators of God as beloved children; and walk in love, just as God loved you, and gave Himself up for us (Ephesians51,2a). Display love in relating with your siblings, do not insist on your own rights. Be willing to share. Rejoice in the achievements of your sibs and love them for it, even if your brother or sister gets something which you personally desire before you do.
As a family, do all that will make for peace always…
– Dr ifelayo ojo
Sibling rivalry is a common phenomenon in families and it is worsened by the fact that most parents do not recognize its existence. In fact, many parents stimulate sibling rivalry by their words and actions towards their children.
Sibling rivalry is a type of competition or animosity among brothers and sisters, blood-related or not.
We find an element of it in the story of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32) which we were to read and ponder upon as requested in the last post on this blog. The younger son was obviously more outspoken and pragmatic than his brother.
– He asked for his portion of the father’s wealth and got it.
– After the father apportioned his property to them, (notice it was to both of them that the father gave portions- verse 12b), he collected all he had and travelled, squandered his inheritance and when things became rough he had the good sense to return home! Though, he felt he was only deserving of a servant’s position in his father’s house, he judged that it was better-off there than the strange-land he’d migrated to.
However, like we know, his Father accepted him right back to status-quo making the elder brother jealously angry. He felt cheated and unappreciated because he’d never had a party in his honour despite his good behaviour, yet the ‘bad boy’ got one, he seemed to be eating his cake and having it.
LESSONS FOR PARENTS
Learn from the way father handled his older son’s anger:
– He also went out to meet the elder brother who’d refused to enter the party in protest (verse 28)
– He listened to him and allowed him air his grievance
– Then he went ahead to explain to him the reasoning behind his action, reassuring him by reminding him of his rights in the home- “all I have is yours”.
Let’s take a break here with a short note to us all:
ALL THAT OUR HEAVENLY FATHER HAS IS OURS!!!
For his divine power has bestowed on us every requisite for life and godliness through knowing him who has called us to his own glory and excellence (2Peter 1:3 RBV)
Act like the King’s kid that you are- walk in authority and live your life without apologies to any of the elements that once held you bound, DOMINATE!!!
We’ll continue in our next post with more lessons for parents and then for children reading this blog, till then, I remain yours, Ifelayo Ojo
Some major issues that threaten healthy family life are the hurts and failures of the past. I refer to hurts and failures as one because the points at which one fails usually becomes a hurt on the mind and it keeps haunting you preventing your progress.
For instance, if your husband used to be a non-resident father who will only come home after spending his earnings on loose and riotous living like the prodigal son. But, unlike the prodigal, he kept going back to his vomit month-in, month-out till he contracted HIV which brought him to his senses and back to God and then home.
Maybe your situation is not that grievous, your wife simply embarrassed you amidst your peers when she said something out of turn and since then you’ve been afraid to take her out to public functions. Perhaps, it’s your son that brought shame to the home when he jilted your family-friends’ daughter.
God’s panacea comes to all ailing families today. Those hurts and failures belong to the past, so LEAVE THEM THERE! Don’t carry yesterday’s burdens into today. The sinner has repented before God and received forgiveness; this is the most important part of the matter. If your heavenly Father has forgiven him/her then you need to follow suit as His child. God forgives every sinner who comes to Him in repentance. ‘If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness’1 And for the saints that have erred in someway in the past, God’s position is clear- ‘My dear children, I write these things so you may not sin, and if anyone does sin, we have a counsel for our defense in the Father’s presence, Jesus Christ the righteous one’.2
Forgiveness came by the cross, that’s where God dealt with the sin problem of humanity forever. He punished our sins- past, present and future in Jesus. There remains no more sacrifice for sins than that which has been made- Jesus died. Thus, God has legal grounds for forgiving and forgetting our sins.
Therefore, we ought to extend grace to this repentant member of our family, STOP viewing the person in the light of the past because God does not do that, He Himself took our sins far from us as far as the east is from the west. The way to deal with past hurts or failures is to take on God’s view point which was displayed in the story of the prodigal; His father ran to meet him and threw a welcome party as though the boy had been a good ambassador of the home all the while. He believed the best of the boy and treated him like a king. Love covers a multitude of faults and expects the best always. Show God’s love; don’t let what has happened in the past affect your family relationship and you’ll realize as you choose to extend grace that it’s not as difficult as you thought because you’ve been wired to live and act like God- your Father.
Scriptures:1 1John 1:9, 2 1John2:1
ASSIGNMENT: Read the story of the prodigal son once again [Luke 15:11-32] and post your comments about the love displayed by his father and the elder brother’s approach to the matter.
– Dr ifelayo ojo
In the last write-up I proffered the new birth as God’s panacea for disobedience. Nevertheless, you say, at the risk of sounding renegade- “I thought a panacea was supposed to be a cure-all, a universal remedy, final answer to all problems and a perfect solution; well, my child is born again yet he is very disobedient”.
For such parents, guardians or care-givers, this short article is targeted.
Godly living is a result of a submission on the part of an individual to the spirit born after God. The fact that a person is born again does not mean he/she will automatically toe the line of God’s word. True, God is at work inside, but He will not fuss or force subjection to His will. Therefore, what you need to do is to help this child understand more about the life of God and you’ll see that child walking in obedience perfected in every good work.
For the saving grace of God has appeared for all people, training us to renounce godlessness and worldly passions and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present world.1
The solution to sins and every form of disobedience lies in recognition of God’s grace. The same grace by which we were saved is sufficient to keep us doing right. Do not attempt a reversal to the law in a bid to enforce obedience. The law did not work for the Israelites for which it was established, how much more the new creation?
For what the law was unable to do, weakened as it was through the flesh, that God did by sending His own son in the likeness of sinful flesh and on account of sin; He thus condemned sin in human nature.2
Does this mean that any and everything goes in the Christian home because of grace? NO! It does not mean that you do not have principles guiding your children in the home but that you carefully teach your child God’s word in recognition of grace and the righteous nature bestowed by the new birth. Then, you will see right living result in this child and your child will work out his salvation with fear and trembling because he recognizes that it is God Himself who is at work within, both to cause him to desire to do and to perform God’s pleasure. This will certainly be your pleasure too.
Scriptures: 1 Titus 2:11-12 2Romans 8:3
– Dr ifelayo ojo
“Accordingly, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old is gone, lo the new has come”. But all these things are from God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Christ and has given to us the ministry of reconciliation, which is that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their sins against them, and committing to us the message of reconciliation.” 1
The new birth is the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of an individual to create a new spirit in the likeness of God Himself inside him/her. It is not a change of character or attitude; rather it results in behavioral changes.
In ministering the new birth to your family, especially the children; you need to help them realize that sins are a result of the sinful nature which all humans inherited from the first man- Adam. Be graphic when you illustrate the fall of man to them and the efforts of humanity ever since to please God. For example you can buy a video of the ‘Ten Commandments’ and let them watch the interaction between God and the Israelites through Moses.
Tell them about the sacrifices instituted for sins under the law and how those sacrifices could not take away sins. (See Hebrews 10:1-10)
Then introduce Jesus to them as the solution provided by God. God Himself taking on human flesh to die as man for the sins of men; so that sons of men will become the sons of God. Let them know that an expression of faith in Christ is all that is needed for them to become beneficiaries of all that He’s done. Simple trust, belief in the heart of a child that Jesus died to save him/her makes him born again. Now, you can expect the best behavior from that child as he/she is taught by God and you are aiding the process of mind renewal by teaching your child God’s word and living out the life of God consistently. Do NOT underestimate that kid of yours from the moment he gets born again because he has the Holy Ghost just like you do!
This article is based on the assumption that you- the reader are actually born again yourself because you cannot introduce another person into what you have not partaken of. You become a minister of the new birth by virtue of the new life you have received yourself.
Scripture Ref: 12Corinthians 5: 17-19 (Revised Berkely Version)
Dr ifelayo ojo