Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. (Matthew 22:37-40. KJV)
Jesus Himself said the number one commandment was to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. What then does loving God mean? It means that we love God with our whole being. With everything that makes us human; heart (emotional, passion), mind (cognitive, mental), soul (spiritual, prayer), and body (physical, energy). All that we feel, think, say and do should reflect our love for God. Jesus said ALL; therefore we should not hold anything back. We must love Him with everything.
The number one commandment is our love for God, what is the second? We must love our neighbour as ourselves. Most of us have no problem with the number one commandment but when it comes to number two we falter. How should we love our neighbour? As ourselves; and how do we love ourselves? We:
Who is our neighbour? All people; our best friends, our spouses, thieves, politicians, our enemies, Muslims, Rastafarians, street people, children, adults, etc.
According to 1 John 4:20-21 we cannot do number one (love God) without number two (love our neighbours).
If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? 21 And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also. (1 John 4:20-21. KJV)
Number one is manifested in number two. Jesus has commanded us to love our neighbours; in what practical ways can we demonstrate our love for them? We ought to know our neighbours so well that we are aware of their goals and aspirations, as well as their hurts and needs. We should meet those needs that they are unable to meet themselves.
Church members should not prefer to keep their needs to themselves, rather than share them, because they are afraid of others reactions, especially if it is because they did so and got burnt. Conversely if we have never shared our needs with others but feel we should keep our hurts and needs to ourselves; then we are not allowing our brothers and sisters to minister to us as Christ has blessed them. We are operating from a perspective that may be false or true but we cannot say for sure unless we share our hurts and needs. We should also not be upset if we suffer silently as no one can fill those of our needs that we will not let show. Pride, a weapon used by the evil forces in the spiritual war being waged for our souls, prevents us from sharing in love, the major weapon God uses to defeat those evil forces.
Our gifts and talents are given to us to serve our neighbours in the Name of Jesus. We cannot love God if we do not love the humans we come in contact with (1 John 4: 20-21). How well are you serving others? When was the last time you used one of your gifts to bless someone who was in need? The Lord has given each of us at least one gift that is the perfect solution for a need of someone in our sphere of interaction (usually, but not limited to, our Church home). Likewise He has placed a lack in each of us that can only be satisfied by someone in our sphere of interaction (usually, but not limited to, our Church home). When we can bring the two together we have the most fantastic spiritual fireworks that are beyond our wildest imaginings. You have work to do if you are not experiencing this on a regular basis. Congregations or auxiliaries may want to consider instituting a system where persons place their needs in a box and these needs are indicated to the congregation or auxiliary, without revealing who. Have persons indicating how they can help and match the need with a willing giver. Jesus said we, His disciples, should be known by our love. Can you be identified as a Christian by the love you are exhibiting?
Jesus himself said He came not to be served but to serve. “For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister,” (Mark 10:45. KJV). Likewise we, His disciples, should not seek to be served but to serve. James, His brother, also said faith without works is dead. “Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.” (James 2:17. KJV) So we demonstrate our faith through the way we serve God by serving our brothers and sisters (neighbours) here on earth.
You may be asking: what are the benefits of my love in action? Firstly, Jesus commanded us to and therefore we should be satisfied in knowing we are doing His will; but there are other benefits for you and the person you are serving.
You will be judged by what you do for others because what you do for others (good or bad) you do for God.
Christ’s disciples must trust and love each other. Then the Church is truly alive and well.
Parents you are the primary teachers of spiritual things to your children. As Solomon says in Proverbs 22:6, we should: “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it”. It is important that you not only tell them what should be done but that you also show them by doing what should be done regularly in your everyday life. Teaching your child to pray is the best thing, after leading him/her to Christ, that you can do for your child.
You should have daily family devotions to include your children from infancy. Let their first awareness of prayer be in a family setting. Beginning when they first start talking you teach them to pray according to their age group.
Children Just Learning To Talk
You can teach children who are just learning to talk a short one sentence prayer, e.g. “Jesus I love you”. As children age you increase the number of sentences and tell them what prayer is.
What is Prayer
Prayer is talking to God. When you talk to someone you talk and then listen while they speak. That is how it is with prayer. When you speak to God you give Him a chance to respond. You speak to God, not at Him. The same way you speak to another person. Use everyday words and your regular voice. You don’t need any special words or voice to speak to God. Tell Him what is happening in your life.
Teach them that God hears their prayers and they can know He does. By listening carefully they will hear that still small voice inside their heart. That is God speaking to them. Sometimes He will not respond immediately but they will see the answer to their prayer sometime after. They need to listen carefully because they will be distracted by everything around them and not hear God’s voice. He doesn’t shout and so they will have to give Him their full attention. When they speak to God they should make sure the place where they are is quiet and have nothing to distract them. That is why it is said that you have a ‘quiet time’ with God.
They may ask; “How do I know it is God’s voice and not my thoughts”. Tell them the same way they learnt your voice by spending time with you when they spend time speaking to God and learning His Words they will know His voice.
You may use the following format to teach children to pray:
It is called the ACTS method.
A is for Adore
C is for Confess
T is for Thank
S is for Supplicate (To ask)
Adore: To tell or show someone you like them
A child may pray: “I love You Lord. You are the best God there ever was.”
Confess: You tell God the things you did wrong and tell Him you are sorry you displeased Him.
A child may pray: “I took one of mommy’s rock cakes and I did not finish my homework before watching TV. I am sorry I displeased You. Please forgive me.”
Thank: You thank God for the many good things He has given you or allowed to happen to you.
A child may pray: “Thank You for mommy and daddy. Thank you for the camera grandma sent me. Thank you for helping me to understand that math problem the class didn’t understand. Thank you for watching over me.”
Supplicate: Tell God everything here. Tell Him about your life, family, friends, people you meet, church, school, the country, etc. You tell Him about your needs and those of others and what you would like Him to do about them.
A child may pray: “Lord You know I don’t like English, but I have to do it, so please help me to do better at it. Help mommy and daddy not to get tired or sick. Tai’s mother just came out of the hospital, please help her get well and don’t let Tai be so sad anymore. Amen.”
Remind children to listen to God when they pray. They may do it at the end of each section or at the end of the whole prayer. Also practice becomes perfect, so they should pray regularly.
As parents you should make space during your family devotions and bedtime ritual for children to pray.
To raise godly children we must first dedicate them to God through prayer.
Expectant parents (both mother and father) should pray constantly for their unborn child. Pray to God for:
After the child is born you continue to pray for the child, asking God to:
Pray with them consistently. Pray for them when they are away from you e.g. at school or hanging out with their friends. This will move God to fight his/her battles. It will also put the devil on notice that this is a child of God and if he messes with her/him he will have to answer to God.
So pray for them in and out of season, whether they are being good or bad, whether they are glad or sad, whether they are sick or well and whether they have a problem or a solution. Your first duty in raising God-fearing children is to dedicate them to God through prayer. Pray from your heart and not your head.
It was brought home to me recently that we are deliberate in preparing our children to be successful in this world but somewhat nonchalant about preparing them for eternity. The Lord Jesus said we should seek first God’s kingdom and his righteousness and everything else will be added. Yet as adults we pursue everything else and then give God what is left of our time, energy and material resources. We teach our children, by what we prioritize, that God’s Kingdom has last place in our lives and theirs. For the next 30 days I will be giving tips to raise children who can live successfully in this world and the next.
But Jesus said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 19:14, NKJV)
Jesus Himself indicated that children should be brought to Him which suggest we should not wait until they are adults and “can make their own decisions” to take them to church and to have them baptized. Contrary to popular opinion children can make decisions about spiritual, physical and emotional things.
We are meticulous in ensuring our children are trained academically. We but away a large portion of our monetary resources to ensure they are trained to the college level if they so desire. We give them all the support they need to be academically successful. We provide all the extra trappings needed for their academic success. We affirm their success by the praises we and society provide. They are allowed to skip church activities in order to complete projects. Parents are in church and children are at home or children are in church and parents are at home. Children give the church and its activities the same scant regard we do.
At the end of our lives here on earth the Lord will not ask for an account of our academic prowess or how much material resources we have acquired. We will be asked about the care we have shown to humanity in Jesus Name.
Children are smart and are aware of a lot more than we give them credit for. Teaching them to love the Lord and to hear from Him at an early age will provide the world with an adult who is caring, compassionate, peace loving, good, kind, competent, committed, joy-filled, self-controlled and visionary.
This world is practice for the next one and so we should do all in our power to ensure our children are ready for eternity. Giving it second place does not prepare them adequately to transition to this permanent space we will eventually occupy.