The Pleasant Places

For the difficult moments in life when nothing seems fair or right, Psalm 16 can guide our hearts to pleasant places.

“Keep me safe, my God, for in you I take refuge. I say to the LORD, ‘You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing…’ LORD, you alone are my portion and my cup; you make my lot secure. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance…I keep my eyes always on the LORD. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead…You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” (Psalm 16:1-2,5-6,8-11)

When the brokenness of this life comes crashing down on our children, we can teach them to find safety and refuge, joy and pleasure, in Jesus Christ. 

-When their teacher gives them a “C” and they clearly deserved an “A.”

-When someone posts something about them on social media that isn’t true.

-When a friend hurts or betrays them.

-When someone takes credit for what they did.

-When another child breaks their favorite toy. 

-Or, yes, even when the only jelly doughnut gets devoured before they get to it.

No child is too young and no situation is too insignificant to bring their hearts to the truth of Psalm 16.

It’s not wrong to remind our children of the many blessings in their lives, but ultimately we want to teach them to focus on the Lord. We want to remind them that:

-Even if everyone were to betray us, the Lord never would. 

-Even if nobody loves us, God always will. 

-Even if we were to lose our lives, we are safe! God will not abandon us to the grave. We have eternal life through Jesus and we are going to have the most fun and experience the most pleasure doing amazing things with Him throughout eternity.

When we see our children becoming upset because things didn’t go the way they wanted, we can teach them to find joy in the Lord. We can remind them that He will always be with us and bring us safely into His Heavenly Kingdom, so we can assure ourselves that the boundary lines have fallen for us in pleasant places. We can help them from a young age learn what to do when they face terrible situations and disappointments in life. Instead of focusing on how awful the situation is, we can refocus on how good we have things in Christ. We don’t have to look for things to be fair. We can, instead, fill our hearts with joy in the Lord’s presence as we remind ourselves just how pleasant our lot really is. 

Fair or Pleasant?

We cut doughnuts into quarters around here!

Yep, that’s right, one regular size doughnut into four teeny pieces. 

I gave my sister and her family a Dunkin Donuts gift card this Christmas. She sent me a thank you text which said they would be sure to honor us by ordering a variety of doughnuts and cutting them all into quarters, true “Puerto style!” 

Harold thought I was nuts the first time I suggested it. He said, “Why would you do that?” I replied, “You know, so that everyone can get to try each different kind of doughnut.” He has since given up on me and the doughnuts. He lets me have my crazy way!

The fairness gene is strong in me. How could I allow one member of the family to be excluded from tasting every flavor of doughnut brought to the table? Heaven forbid! It wouldn’t be fair.

Depending on how strong of a fairness gene you have seared into your DNA, the unfair things in life will bother you a little, or they will bother you A LOT!

We are bound to face things that aren’t fair in this life. We can take the opportunity to teach our children to guard against insisting that things always be fair.

Here are some things to help them consider when they encounter situations that aren’t fair:

-Our desire for things to be fair is normal and good. God created us for perfection and the desire to have everything be perfectly fair is part of that.

-We no longer live in a perfect reality. Our world has been broken by sin. Because of this we will encounter situations when things are not fair.

-We can use the desire for fairness to be a catalyst for reaching out to others. This is when our fairness gene can be allowed to have full reign. We can see the injustice in the world around us and seek to make things better for others. We can seek to rescue the lost, heal the hurting, strengthen the weak, and free the oppressed. We can work towards making things fair for those God places in our lives.

-When we are discouraged or frustrated because of things that are not fair, we can learn to focus on how pleasant things really are for us and take courage in that.

Nothing wrong with cutting some doughnuts. It is a good desire to want to make things fair for our children. But, when the only jelly doughnut gets greedily gobbled up and they begin to sulk or pout, we want to be quick to turn their hearts away from self-pity and willfulness and turn them to a meek and humble heart attitude that, not only accepts unfair things, but takes the opportunity to turn the unfair things in life into very pleasant things. My next post will show exactly what pleasant things I am referring to and how to teach our children to access the joy of the Lord in the midst of the brokenness of our world.

Loving Others is Required

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (John 13:34)

“Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.” (Romans 12:10)

“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples; if you love one another.” (John 13:35)

“Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another…” (1 Peter 3:8)

“Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” (1 John 4:11)

“…if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” (1 John 4:12)

“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.” (1 John 4:7)

“Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.” (Romans 13:8)

“Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart.” (1 Peter 1:22)

“…I am not writing you a new command but one we have had from the beginning. I ask that we love one another.” (2 John 1:5)

“And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us.” (1 John 3:23)

The most important thing we will ever teach our children is TO LOVE!

Loving God is above all else and loving others is very important to Him. It’s a part of the way we love Him. Not only is it a way to love God, but it is required. God has commanded us to love one another. So, that is exactly what we want to teach our children to do.

When we teach our children to love others, sharing becomes a requirement, not because it’s a nice thing to do, but because it embodies loving others.

That means that when we see them struggling with sharing we stop what we’re doing, we come to them gently and firmly and explain that we see them not wanting to share. We can humbly confess that we understand how difficult it can be to share because we struggle with that too, but then we explain how we are called by God to better things. Better things for us and for those He brings into our lives. We must share because love requires that we put the needs of others before our own. We then require them to act on their love and share.

-We teach them to share when they don’t feel like it because, as followers of Christ, we don’t let our emotions rule over us. Instead, we rule over our emotions and obey God despite not “feeling like it.”

-We teach them to share even when the other person is being unloving or unkind to us because God said we are to love others the way He loves us and He loved us while we were sinners. We are not to seek vengeance on our own for wrongs done to us, but allow God to deal with that. We can learn to love, even our enemies. 

-We teach them to share when things are tempting them to love this world and the things of this world. We help them understand that everything belongs to God. We can show them that this world and everything in it is passing away. Our hearts are much safer and well cared for when they are fully committed to our Savior and not entangled in the fragile possessions of life that can be gone in a moment.

Sharing is nice, but that’s not why we do it. We share because we must love one another. This truth will lead our children to experience and express God’s great love.

Sharing is NOT Nice!

I know what you’re thinking…what do you mean, “sharing is not nice?!”

When we teach our children how to appropriately interact with those around them, we do it best when our reasoning comes from God’s truths revealed in His Word.

You can teach your child to share because sharing is nice, and that will teach them one basic concept:

SHARING=NICE

NOT SHARING=NOT NICE

But what if they don’t feel like being nice? 

Or what if someone is not being nice to them?

What if they find a way around sharing by giving something else less desirable to another while holding onto that item that has captivated their heart and mind?

It is important to teach children from a young age to share. But as Christians, we can turn a necessary and good lesson into a powerful and impactful truth to be learned. 

If sharing is just nice then:

-When they’re in a bad mood, they can determine that they don’t want to be nice right now, therefore they don’t have to share. 

-When someone else is mistreating them, or not sharing with them, then they can retaliate by not sharing with that person.

-When something has pulled on strings of greed and infatuation with them, they will try to find something else to share while holding onto an item that has an unhealthy hold on them. 

We want to teach our children to share:

-Even when they don’t feel like it or want to. 

-Even when the other person is undeserving.

-Most especially when an object is creating an unhealthy attachment to material possessions. 

The way we can help them do this is by teaching them to share because God requires that we love others.

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” (John 13:34)

This life-giving truth can help our children learn to:

-Move beyond their emotions.

-Love when it’s difficult. 

-Conquer materialism and idolatry from a young age.

We’ll discuss why loving others is required and why it’s so important to teach our children to do this in the next post.

Doing Our Best is Paramount!

We want to teach our children to do their very best at all times, in all things, so that they can glorify God.

Listen to the wisdom of God’s Word:

“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Cor. 10:31)

“We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, so that what you hope for may be fully realized. We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.” (Hebrews 6:11-12)

“He [Christ] is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me.” (Col. 1:28-29)

We want to live this way ourselves, setting our children an example. Then, we want to instill in them a desire to do everything they undertake with excellence to bring glory to God. We want to teach them to be diligent in all God has for them to do and never be lazy. We want them to learn to give their all, strenuously contending for Kingdom purposes in their lives and in this world.

Here’s some examples of what this can look like:

1-When our children are playing a soccer game their focus should not be on winning the game or scoring the most goals, but on giving their all, treating the other players with love and respect, being obedient to coaches and referees, and encouraging those around them.

2-When they are working on a school assignment, their goal should not be to obtain a perfect score, or get the best grade in the class. They should strive to be diligent, not wasting time or allowing their minds to indulge distractions. They should try their hardest. And, they should avoid rushing through the task at hand to get to something else. They should remain focused, doing their absolute best. 

3-When our children are getting dressed in the morning, we can guide them to keep from trying to be the best looking person in any room. Instead, we can lovingly help them to focus on being thankful for the clothes God has provided them with. We can teach them to be obedient to our guidelines for what is acceptable. We can show them how to select and choose clothing that will best enable them to fulfill the duties and tasks that God has for them that day.

When we help our children shift from trying to be the best to trying to do their best it will filter into every area of their lives. They will begin to see that they can…

…wipe down the table to the glory of God

…run a marathon to the glory of God

…practice their flashcards to the glory of God

It is a beautiful thing to see our children learn to live life from the security of God’s love and to let that love motivate them to do everything with excellence, not to earn favor or beat someone else, but because they want to honor the one who loves them so well.