Did You Know?

Twenty-three men and no women have

been executed in the United States in 2017.

August

It was a rhetoric repeated so often that many stopped listening.  It held little meaning for them, especially the ones it was designed to reach.  It was not until he was older and an adult that Lucas came to realize the truth and importance of that all-so-frequently-repeated rhetoric: stay in school, get an education, graduate, and don't break the law.

 

Lucas was an average student.  He occasionally turned in homework - and always had an excuse for when he didn’t.  He was much more interested in other pursuits - hanging out with friends, playing video games, constantly trying to prove himself to the older group of boys in the neighborhood.  Lucas knew that those boys never graduated high school.  Neither did his parents or most of the adult that he knew and their life seemed just fine.  So why should he waste his time learning stuff he was never going to use again when there were other things he would rather be doing?  Lucas began to more and more frequently skip school because he did not want to go. 

 

Many schools across the nation resume classes in August.  It is appropriate, then, that August is National Truancy Prevention Month.  Truancy is an intentional, unauthorized or illegal absence from compulsory education.  These absences can vary from state to state, according to each state’s own laws.  Unfortunately, not all schools report attendance information, and with the variation in laws, truancy data is extremely limited. Usually student who are truant end up dropping out of school.  Those results are known.  Just half of the students who drop out of school are gainfully employed and those who are employed earn 35 percent less than those who graduate high school.  Student who drop out of school are also at a higher risk for criminal behavior and activity and teen pregnancy.    

 

This month, pray for the students returning to school.  Pray that they will find encouragement, friendships, and a welcoming environment.  Pray that the teachers will engage their students.  Pray for families to encourage their children to continue with their education.  Pray for the children.

BEEP! BEEP! BEEP!  Just five more minutes… BEEP! BEEP! BEEP!  Arrgg!!! Alright, alright!  Slowly the household starts to come awake.  Mom putters out to the kitchen to start the coffee, while Dad hops in for a quick shower.  BEEP! BEEP! BEEP!  The kids take a bit longer to wake up, but dad’s mouthwatering pancakes are waiting for them, with real maple syrup.  Everyone hustles around getting ready for the day, with Mom shouts out reminders about various activities relating to the person she is currently passing.  Before you know it, everyone heads off in their own direction for the day.  The day flies by, everyone involved in their own life.  In the evening everyone starts to slowly trickle back to the house, all arriving in time for dinner: Mom’s famous spaghetti!  During dinner, they exchange brief stories about their days before agains wandering off, each in pursuit of their own leisure activities.  Too soon, it is time for bed.  And then, BEEP! BEEP! BEEP!, the pattern begins again.

 

Can you recognize your family in the above story?  Many families have their own similar story to tell.  Is that all there is to being a family?  Having a routine?  Living in the same house?  Sharing meals?  Briefly talking about your day?  Separating for your own leisure activities?  No!  Family is not simply a group of people with whom you live!  Family is a gift from God and should be treasured!

 

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.  (Ephesians 6:1-4, ESV)

 

Paul provides instructions for each member of the family, instructions which are based on the commandments given in the Old Testament, during the time of Moses.  Children are to obey their parents.  In return, parents are to raise up their children in the way of the Lord, teaching them right from wrong.  They are to discipline their children when they misbehave, but it should be done out of love, not anger.  Family is work!

 

In our hectic lives, family is not always given the attention it deserves.  Tempers can flare after a long and trying day, causing harsh words.  Often, it is family who can receive the brunt of the temper.  After all, many reason, they are family; they will forgive, they have to forgive.  Should we not strive to treat our family better?

  

August is National Family Fun Month!  While family may be work, just like everything else in life, it should also be fun.  This month, the final month before school starts once more, take time out from life and focus on the family.  Focus on having fun with your family!  Plan a special outing or adventure!  Let the kids help plan - or let them plan a fun activity and discover something new about them!  Teaching does not always have to be a serious affair!  This month, pray for your family.  Pray that you may grow closer as family and discover, or rediscover the joy in family!

Are you smiling or growling?  SMILE!!!  That was Alyssa. Always smiling, always finding the silver lining.  Whenever her friends were having a bad day or looked down, Alyssa was there to cheer them up!  But Dani?  GRRRRR!!!  Dani was the opposite.  Dani could find the bad on the best of days.  Constantly growling about something.   And, whether Dani was aware or not, her negativity would bring down her friends when they were happy.  Do you have a  friend like Alyssa?  Do you have a friend like Dani?  Which one do you emulate in your life?

 

Happiness is a choice.  It has been said many times and will be said many more times throughout your life, we cannot choose the circumstances and situations in our lives, but we can choose how we react to what life may bring.  August is Happiness Happens Month!  It is a month to recognize that in the midst of everything, happiness still happens, sometimes you just have to look for it!

 

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. (Philippians 4:4, ESV)

 

Christians always have a reason to be happy - Jesus Christ is our Lord and Savior!  He is always with us, ever in our darkest hours!  We are never alone!  It is a joy that we should strive to share with others, for all should know true happiness that can only come through a relationship with Jesus Christ.

 

Unfortunately, the world is not perfect and that joy that we should exude from knowing our Savior can often be overwhelmed by everyday problems.  Happiness in our lives, and showing that happiness to others, is a choice we must make several times everyday.

 

What are you happy about?  What joy to want to share with the world?  With those around you?

Daniel and Benjamin grew up together.  Later, they attended the same classes.  They both wanted to succeed.  Daniel spent his free time having daily devotions and praying.  Benjamin spent his free time socializing with others and partaking of the company of women.  Daniel carefully chose what he ate and drank, making sure he was honoring the Lord with his choices.  Benjamin over indulged on food and wine.  Daniel relied on the Lord for wisdom and understanding.  Benjamin relied on himself and his own knowledge.  Daniel excelled in his classes and went on to become successful in all that he did, earning praises and great rewards.  He had a loving relationship with his wife and children.  There were still times in which he struggled and was persecuted for following the Lord instead of the world, but his faith in the Lord brought him through all of his trials.  Benjamin struggled in his career, never finding a job he enjoyed.  His relationship with his wife was strained and he barely knew his children.  Who are you - Daniel or Benjamin?

 

As for these four youths, God gave them learning and skill in all literature and wisdom, and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams. At the end of the time, when the king had commanded that they should be brought in, the chief of the eunuchs brought them in before Nebuchadnezzar. And the king spoke with them, and among all of them none was found like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. Therefore they stood before the king.  (Daniel 1:17-19, ESV)

Daniel and his friends were ripped from their homes, taken captive, and forced into an environment that went against everything they had been taught and believed in.  But they did not give up or give in.  They continued in their faith, working to serve the Lord, and were intellectually rewarded for their dedication to following the laws of the Lord.

 

And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.  (Deuteronomy 6:6-9, ESV)

August is National Back to School month.  We picture children buying supplies and clothes for the new school year.  But part of preparing children to go back to school is preparing children to face the world, to stand apart, to be Daniel. 

 

Upbringing is important, as children build upon what they know.  Daniel was brought up in the way of the Lord.  His parents followed the Lord’s instructions in Deuteronomy and sought to serve the Lord everyday.  When he went out on his own, he was prepared to continue in the way of the Lord.  For Benjamin, serving the Lord was a once a week activity, occasionally more on special holidays.  It was not a way of life.  When he went out on his own, his minimal relationship with the Lord was abandoned in favor of worldly pursuits.  Is your child prepared to be the Daniel of their school?  A trendsetter for God instead of a follower of the world?

 

And what about adults?  Learning does not begin and end in the classroom.  Life is a classroom!  As adults, we continue to learn new things.  Daniel was nearly an adult when he was taken to the king’s court in Babylon. It was during Daniel’s adulthood that he was challenged for his faith and dedication to the Lord.  We also need to ask ourselves are we Daniel?

  

Follow the instructions of the Lord and teach your children of Him and His ways.  Pray that they may, like Daniel, have strength to stand for what is right. And consider your own life.  Do you need to go back to school?  The school of God?  Do you stand strong for Him against the world?  Be a Daniel!

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