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Friday, December 14, 2012

"TURN THE HEARTS OF THE PARENTS TO THEIR CHILDREN"

 Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. 12 When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. 13 But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. 14 He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, 15 for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. 16 He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. 17 And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
Luke 1:11-17

This morning I was reading the passage above as I have many times before, but this time the enlarged phrase stuck in my mind:  "To turn the hearts of the parents to their children".  The angel of the Lord, Gabriel, came to Zechariah and told him that he and his wife were going to have a son.  They were to name him John, and he would go before the Lord in the spirit and power of the prophet Elijah.  His mission was to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and also to turn the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous.  He was to prepare the people for the Lord's coming.

We know that the world is filled with unrighteousness.  It was then, and it still is now.  We know Satan is at work trying to get people on his side.  But doesn't it seems strange that this verse says the part about turning the hearts of parents to their children?  Isn't it odd that there was even a problem with parenting in those days?

Years before, the prophet Elijah was sent to help with parenting problems.  Malachi has almost the same message in chapter four, verses 5 and 6, although this time it not only mentions the parenting problem, but also the disobedience of the children:

“See, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes. He will turn the hearts of the parents to their children, and the hearts of the children to their parents; or else I will come and strike the land with total destruction.”
Malachi 4:5-6

I'm not a perfect parent.  My husband isn't a perfect parent.  Our children aren't perfect.  But, they are not disobedient.  They are not habitually disobedient. They may disobey at times, but for the most part, they want to obey us because they love us - and know we love them.  They also know that because we love them, we will discipline them when they do wrong.

Why is it that parents' hearts would need to be turned back to their children?  Why would that even be an issue in Zechariah's day or in our day?  There are several reasons to examine.  Time.  Work. Hobbies. Activities.  Responsibilities.  Goals.  Pride.  Communication. Respect. We could look at many, many different areas, but in reality, all of these areas go directly to one area:  SELFISHNESS.  Selfishness is the root of all of the other problems.  

SELFISHNESS

Many parents are selfish.  They want "ME" time.  It is less about what needs to be done for their spouse and their children and more about what needs to be done for "ME".  Do you notice as you read the Bible that the people didn't talk about "getting time for myself"?  Do you notice that Jesus didn't go off alone for himself, but to talk to His Father?  If that is the time away we need, that's wonderful.  Because then it is about HIM - GOD, and not about "ME".  We do need time alone with God, and as parents, that alone time may be hard to find.  But don't we find time to do the things we want to do?  Don't we find time for TV, movies, hobbies, exercise, shopping, etc.?  Yes, we find time for what we want to do.  

Turning our hearts to our children will not be excluding them in our day to day lives.  It will be using every opportunity available to teach them and nurture them - in the LORD - not about things in the world.  Turning our hearts to our children will not be making them participate in activities to boost our own egos and to receive accolades from others about things of this world, but to teach them about God, and Jesus, and the church He died for.  It will be showing them a faithful Christian life of service to God.  It will be leading by example.....worshipping together as a family on Sundays and Wednesdays.  It will not be forsaking the assembling of the saints - of the Christian family of God that will help be an example to the children.

So, what if we examine our lives as see that we have become selfish?  What if we realize that our hearts aren't turned to our children, but turned to ourselves - to our own wants and desires?  What should we do?  We need to stop.  We need to stop being selfish.  But how?  The simple answer is to stop thinking about "ME".  Any time something comes up, we must stop thinking about how something will affect "ME".  "ME" can no longer matter.  It becomes about "YOU".  What is best for "YOU".  What is best for "OTHERS".  What is best for the children.  Ultimately, what is best for God.

Maybe we're used to being away from our children all day long.  Our society has a problem with pawning our children off on others.  We expect other people to raise our children:  teachers, babysitters, daycare workers, coaches, youth ministers, grandparents, older siblings, friends, etc.  We want (and maybe even expect) someone else to raise our children for us while we just enjoy the "good" parts....the fun and easy parts of parenting.  The thought process is something like this:  "Someone else can do the dirty work, but I'll take the glory. If there's a problem, I'll have someone else to blame.  It's not my fault."  And that's what is wrong in our society, and must have been wrong in Zechariah's society as well.

No one can change your heart for you.  God can help you and He will, but you have to want to change.  You have to want your heart to turn back to your children.....or to your spouse.  It won't happen without your consent.  Satan will try his best to keep it from happening.

When parents turn their hearts to their children and teach their children about what is really and truly important, amazing things can happen.  The family will be stronger.  Relationships will be stronger.  Love will be evident.  Your family will not be perfect, but it will be stable.  Children will feel secure.  You may have less time for "ME", but you'll feel more fulfilled.  You'll see that life is about more than just you.  You'll see that true joy is found in serving others.  You'll know that you're doing the most important thing - teaching your children about God, Jesus, and His Church.  You'll be doing what God wants you to do and there is nothing better than doing His Will.

 Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 35 For whoever wants to save his life[c] will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. 36 What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? 37 Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?38 If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”
Mark 8:34-38

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