Unwrapping the Gift: Herod

In the Christmas account of Matthew 2:1-19, the clear villain is Herod. He was a brutal character the Romans installed as a puppet king, not even a Jew, but an Idumean from the south. When the Wise Men appeared in his courts asking, “Where is He who is born king of the Jews?” (Matthew 2:2), it’s no surprise that Herod was troubled. After all, he wasn’t born to his royal position, and someone who was might challenge his authority one day. Herod had murdered several family members to eliminate rivals for his throne, so One who had a claim by birth must be stopped!

Unwrapping the Gift: Herod | An Advent Series with The MOB Society

Herod asked the Wise Men to report back when they found the Christ Child under the false pretense that he wanted to worship Christ as well. (Matthew 2:8). Herod lied. His aim was to locate the Infant and murder Him. God warned the Wise Men in a dream not to return to Herod, thwarting the king’s plan. In a fury, Herod sent soldiers to Bethlehem with orders to slaughter every boy under two years old.

How horrifying! Even now, two thousand years later, we are sickened by this massacre. How can we learn from the example of such a ruthless, despicable character?

I doubt Herod in his childhood was much different from any young boy. How on earth does any mother’s son turn out to be a mass murderer of children? He does it by giving way again and again to sin in his heart. Most of our boys go through a time in the preteen- or early teen years when their hormones go crazy and they are tempted by anger – a lot. It’s got to be one of the most frustrating times of all to be a parent. They get mad for no reason, hurling accusations at anyone nearby, and they’re spoiling for a fight. It’s awfully hard not to get mad right back at them.

We can’t give way to anger in response, though. Anger easily leads to bitterness, meanness, and cruelty. Our boys have to learn how to climb down off the walland deal with their temptation in a godly way–we all do. The Word tells us, “Whoever has no rule over his own spirit is like a city broken down, without walls.” (Proverbs 25:28)

When we master our anger, we defuse disaster.

A city without defenses reacts to the slightest threat because it can’t just shut the gates and ignore provocation. In the same way, when we let anger control us, we’re vulnerable to the attacks and temptations of our enemy. We react and retaliate when there’s no need—or justification—for it. We shouldn’t be that way and neither should our boys. Instead, we need to respond to anger with a soft answer (Proverbs 15:1). We need to listen carefully, consider our own words, and be slow to anger ourselves (James 1:19). When we master our own anger, we model self-control for our children, and they learn to trust us.

Unwrapping the Gift

  • Do you struggle with anger? If so, you may want to check out our No More Angry MOB group on Facebook.
  • How can we model good practices with controlling anger to our boys?

Pray with Me

Father, please help me to control myself and to respond in a godly way to my children’s anger, so they can learn not to give way to anger, too. In Christ’s name, Amen.

Related Resources

Boot Camp 9-12 is a LIVE webinar series for parents of boys nine and up, to help you learn how to make the teen years great. In the very first session we talk about dealing with anger and moodiness common in this age. Join us!

Melanie-Winter-PicMelanie Young is, with her husband Hal, the author of Raising Real Men: Surviving, Teaching, and Appreciating Boys, Christian Small Publishers 2011 Book of the Year, and the soon-to-be-released (preorder now!) My Beloved and My Friend: How to be Married to Your Best Friend Without Changing Spouses. Join them on the web at their blog!

 

Unwrapping the Gift – The Innkeeper

When I was asked to write about what our boys could learn from the infamous innkeeper who turned Joseph and Mary away, I was torn. Was he a good guy or a bad guy? Did he do all he could to help this very pregnant mother and her husband or did he simply tell them there was no room at the inn and get lost?

I decided I needed to research more about him so I started with the gospels of Luke and Matthew, the only two gospels that mention Jesus’ birth.

You know what I found? Nothing.

That’s right – nothing. Like the presence of the wise men at Jesus’ birth (it is believed that the wise men actually didn’t visit Jesus until he was a toddler), this detail has been fabricated by man.

“While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born,  and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.” – Luke 2:6-7

The Innkeeper: Villain or Good Samaritan? | An Advent Study via The MOB Society

The innkeeper is never mentioned in scripture – he’s the product of humanity’s imagination, perhaps fulfilling our desire to insert characters into a story to elevate the suspense of what would happen next.

We don’t know how Mary and Joseph discovered there was no room at the Bethlehem inn – it could have been word-of-mouth, it could have been from a guest who was staying at the inn, or it could have indeed been the innkeeper.

But for today’s discussion, let’s just pretend an innkeeper actually existed. He was a good guy who meant well but . . . he didn’t do all he could do to diffuse a desperate situation.

It Begins With Listening

I want my boys to listen intently to a problem before deeming it impossible to solve. I want them to exhaust all possibilities before saying “no.”

They should exhaust all possibilities because I want them to truly care.

They should truly care because caring is loving your neighbor as yourself.

Loving their neighbors as themselves is how I know they are putting skin on scripture.

And I want my boys to put skin on the scriptures because that’s what authentic faith does.

Every room in the inn was full – there wasn’t much the innkeeper could do . . . or so it seems. He did at least offer the stable to Mary and Joseph and that’s better than nothing, right?

I do applaud him for at least trying to think of another solution that wouldn’t leave a laboring young woman out on the streets. However, I wonder why he didn’t ask one of the inn’s guests if they would sacrifice their room so  Mary and Joseph could rest comfortably and give birth in a cleaner and safer environment?

Sure, some might have been offended to have been asked to give up their room, but desperate times call for desperate measures and this was a desperate time. I don’t want my boys to fear offending someone or be imprisoned by what other people think – if someone desperately needs help, then nothing, I mean nothing, should stand in the way of what they’re willing to do to help that person.

The innkeeper did try to help Mary and Joseph but his help was safe. He helped in a way that wouldn’t ruffle feathers or create negative PR for his business. He helped in a way that didn’t put anyone out. He helped in a way that said “I care do to the bare minimum – but not much more.”

The innkeeper meant well. He was probably a good guy. But even good guys make bad mistakes and are guilty of doing just enough to get by but not enough to really help the problem.

My sons, I want so much for you . . . But there’s nothing, NOTHING, I want more for you than to love your fellow man with a sacrificial love. A sacrificial love that doesn’t care what others think. A love that isn’t held in bondage by thick, heavy chains, that won’t just do the bare minimum but instead do the over-the-top maximum to help someone who desperately needs it.

I want you, my boys, to love others at a level that scares you – in a very good way.

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves.” – Philippians 2:3

UnWrapping the Gift

  • Make a list of ways you can love others this season.
  • Take that list and go one step further. Pray over it and ask God how you could go above and beyond this season.

Dear Lord, convict my heart today to serve others sacrificially. I don’t want to just serve when it’s convenient or when I feel like it but rather serve to the point where I feel the love of You who lives in me pouring out to them. Give me the strength and energy  to manage the other tasks I’ve been entrusted with and help me to exhaust all possibilities when someone else needs help. Amen.

 Natalie-SnappNatalie Chambers Snapp is first and foremost a follower of Jesus, then wife to Jason, and mom to one spunky daughter and two spirited sons with a crazy amount of energy. Choosing to follow Jesus at 27, Natalie is passionate about sharing the grace, mercy, and truth of God’s love regardless of your track record. She lives in the Midwest with her crew and tries to channel her inner Brother Lawrence by writing about faith in the everyday mundane. The outpourings of her heart can be found at www.nataliesnapp.com in the fleeting moments between being a wife and mother. Her first book, Heart Sisters: Being the Friend You Want to Have, will be published by Abindgon Press in Spring of 2015. Connect with Natalie on Twitter, Pinterest, and Facebook

 

 

 

Unwrapping the Gift – Zechariah

Every story and every word of the Bible is God breathed. Interwoven in every story is God’s sovereignty and steadfast love. Zechariah was a priest whose story can be found in Luke 1: 5-25, 57-80. Before we dive into Zechariah’s place in the Bible I encourage you to turn to Luke to read the scripture for yourself.

Good People Still Struggle With Hard Things

Zechariah was a priest that lived in Judea, who was married to Elizabeth. Despite both of them being upright in the sight of God, they endured the heartache that comes with infertility. We are told that they are both “well along in years.” One can only wonder what their states of minds were at this time. Were they still hopeful that they would have a baby or had their aging bodies silenced their longing to conceive?

Zechariah: An Unexpected Servant | An Advent Series with The MOB Society

Duty Calls

Zechariah had to leave his home and stay at the temple for one week as was his duty as a priest. He was chosen by lot to go into the temple by himself to burn incense. While there, an angel appeared and told him that his prayer had been heard. He was going to be a father and he was to name his son John. This wasn’t just any baby boy, this baby boy was going to “bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God.” (vs 16) This boy, Zechariah’s son, was going to be the forerunner of Christ, the One they had been waiting to rescue them. Can you imagine?

There is so much going on in the above paragraph. Can we stop to take a closer look at five little words that hold so much hope? “Your prayer has been heard.” (vs. 13) I don’t know about you, but that just send chills down my spine. God had heard his prayer and He hears our prayers!

Then the story takes a turn. Zechariah met this answered prayer with unbelief. He didn’t think it could possibly happen; he and Elizabeth were old. The angel then tells Zechariah that because of his unbelief he will be unable to speak until John is born. Zechariah not being able to speak was both an act of grace and rebuke. After his time at the temple was completed he returned home. Soon after, his wife Elizabeth became pregnant.

The Birth

There were several family and friends who had gathered for John’s circumcision. Their family and friends assumed the baby boy’s name would be Zechariah but Elizabeth spoke up and said his name would be John. Zechariah confirmed this by writing it on a tablet. It was at that moment that Zechariah was able to speak again. If you had just gone through one of the most miraculous times in your life and weren’t able to speak during it, what would be your first words be the moment you were able to speak again? Zechariah chose to praise God and remember the holy covenant. He then he began to prophesy about John’s future ministry.

Can you see God’s sovereignty and steadfast love throughout this beautiful story? God loves to use the people we least expect. He used Zechariah a man that was old and perhaps past his prime for His greater glory and for a greater purpose.

God used a shepherd; the youngest of several brothers, to defeat a giant and when he got a little older God made him King. We see God use people from every race, every background and every age. Don’t ever put limits on a limitless God. He’s using you too. His sovereignty and steadfast love are intertwined all throughout your story. And it’s all for His greater glory and for His greater purpose.

Unwrapping the Gift

  • If you didn’t already, go ahead and read the account of Zechariah in Luke 1: 5-25, 57-80
  • What do you think your reaction would be if you heard something as preposterous as people who were old enough to be your grandparents having a baby?
  • Has there ever been a time in your life where God gifted you something and all you could do was chuckle?

 

Monica-Leigh-300x300Monica is a follower of Jesus, photographer, sporadic blogger, health activist, wife, and mom to three energetic boys. (ages 5, 3,and 11 months) You can keep up with her writing at pixelperfectblog.com

Unwrapping the Gift – Elizabeth

From the very start, we’re born into this world, waiting. Waiting for the next moment, the next hour to get here…or pass by. Each day we’re blessed with twenty-four of those hours and if we slow down long enough to breathe and just rest in the waiting, no matter what we’re waiting for, we’ll realize that God is in each one of those tiny little moments…every single one of them.

That’s what Elizabeth did.

A Long-Awaited Gift: Elizabeth | An Advent Series via The MOB Society

 

When I read and re-read the brief words that describe this woman–mother of John the Baptist, wife to Zechariah and cousin to Jesus’ mother, Mary– I can’t help but love her heart more and more. And with each new thing I discover about her depth, it also reveals the heart of our gracious and loving God for His children.

In my own life, there have been many things I’ve waited years for. Some have come to pass while others remain a hope and a dream. Other desires have been put aside because God clearly showed me they weren’t for me to have. I wish I could say I’ve always just accepted God’s “No” or persevered faithfully, while I waited patiently for whatever God’s good plan would be, but I can’t.

I want to live more like Elizabeth when I’m in the midst of harder days.

It’s even hard, at times, to keep fighting the good faith-filled fight in the everyday of motherhood, isn’t it? We want to teach our sons how to be content and even thankful, in all circumstances, butt how do we do this when things aren’t going our way?

We can look at the life that Elizabeth lived. She didn’t live with bitterness or resentment. She didn’t complain. She didn’t even live as a woman focused on the waiting. No, Elizabeth lived her life trusting God for His best and choosing to bless the people around her, even though things weren’t going the way she hoped. She placed her hope and trust in the One who knows best.

When we’re waiting for our hopes and dreams to come true, it’s not the waiting that will define or build our character, but the actions we take, or don’t take, while we wait.

Elizabeth waited many many years to have a precious baby. I am in awe of how she lived a contented life, full of grace, humility and devotion to her husband and her Heavenly Father. God knew all along that He would bless her and her husband, Zechariah, with a son in His own perfect timing. And this son, John, would be the one to help set the stage for the coming of God’s own Son, Jesus. Elizabeth was so very much a part of God’s great big plan.

God hears every one of our prayers. He knows the condition of our hearts and  wants us to remember the heart He has for us. It’s filled with a love so deep that He came to this earth himself, in the most vulnerable way, to be with you and me. This is how we can know that if we’re waiting for something to happen, and it’s not, right now, God already knows about it and has a perfect plan in mind for each and every single one of us.

Unwrapping the Gift:

Read the story of Elizabeth in Luke 1 with your children.

1. As you read about Elizabeth, take note of how she lived her life, despite her circumstances. Together with your kids, list as many character traits as you can about her. Are there any “Elizabeths” in your life that have some of these same character qualities?

2. Is there anything you’ve been waiting and/or hoping for that isn’t coming to pass? Nothing is impossible with God. What is God calling you and your boys to trust Him for?

3. There are times when God answers our prayers differently than we expected. Share some ways God has been faithful to you and how He’s answered your prayers.

4. Elizabeth chose not to dwell on her circumstances. Instead she focused on serving God and others. Taking the focus off of ourselves always produces more contentment. With your sons, make a list of ways you can bless others this month. Maybe this could become a new monthly habit heading into the new year.

 

Megan-SpiresMegan and her husband, along with their four young sons live in the beautiful state of Washington. As often as possible, she and her family spend their time outdoors exploring and discovering the beauty of God’s creation. Megan is passionate about encouraging moms in their faith, sharing resources and ways for families to connect and grow, and is inspired by others willing to share their real-life stories. She and her husband write about all this and more at Devotional Family, Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter.

Teaching Boys to be Thankful in Prayer

It has been a very difficult and trying season for my family.  Over the past few years we have walked through depression, death, divorce and financial struggles.  There were many times that I sat at the dining room table trying to figure out how to pay my bills when I had no money. There were numerous days when the cupboards were empty and I had 2 growing boys to feed. In all of those situations God was faithful and He provided.

Teaching Boys to be Thankful in Prayer via The MOB Society

The Bible tells us that when we choose to follow Jesus that we are choosing to walk a difficult path. This is something that my boys have a hard time understanding, but nonetheless is very important.  There will be times I have to tell my boys that they can’t read a book (or watch a movie) that all their other friends are watching.  There will be times when they are treated differently (and maybe harshly) because of their faith.  There are going to be times when life is unfair beyond our abilities to understand.

Lessons from the Lion’s Den

Whenever I think of an example from the bible of a young man that remained steady in his faith and thankful through his trials, Daniel comes to mind.  He is one of those figures in the bible that I am constantly holding out to my boys as a good example to follow when it comes to being a man of God.

One of our favorite stories of Daniel is when he is thrown into the lion’s den.  The thing that stands out the most to me is that even in the face of death, Daniel continued to pray and give thanks to the Lord:

When Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he went to his house where he had windows in his upper chamber open toward Jerusalem. He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously. Daniel 6:10 ESV

No matter what happened to Daniel, he never forget to give thanks to the Lord. He continued to pray, he stayed true to his faith and he served the Lord wholeheartedly. This is what I want for my boys.

Helping Our Boys be More Like Daniel

What are some practical ways that we can help our boys be like Daniel and continue to pray thankful prayers even in hard situations? Here are a few things that I’ve been working with in my home:

  1. Setting a good example: I noticed that I sometimes complain when things aren’t going my way or that I slip into worrying instead of depending on God. As parents we set the tone (and example) for our children. If we can model being prayerful and thankful during the storms of life then our children will learn to do the same.
  2. Teaching our children to pray during difficult times: Whenever my children start complaining or tell me about something that think isn’t fair in their lives I encourage them to pray about it–to ask God to show them what lesson He wants them to learn and for them to give thanks to God for being there with them (just like he was with Daniel in the lion’s den).
  3. Turn to scripture: Spend some time going through the Bible and find examples of people that were grateful and prayerful during tough times (Jesus, Paul, Joseph, etc).

 

LaToya-EdwardsLaToya Edwards has a heart for equipping and inspiring women to find their passion and purpose through life coaching. You can find her blogging about homeschooling,  parenting, faith and single mom encouragement and learning to find joy in motherhood and  God’s purpose and plan in broken circumstances at www.LaToyaEdwards.net .