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Good friend, follow your father's good advice; don't wander off from your mother's teachings. Wrap yourself in them from head to foot; wear them like a scarf around your neck. Wherever you walk, they'll guide you; whenever you rest, they'll guard you; when you wake up, they'll tell you what's next. For sound advice is a beacon, good teaching is a light, moral discipline is a life path. (Proverbs 6:20-23 MSG)

There are certainly those in society today that lack the good advice of a father (or a father who actually listens to any good advice) and the wise teachings of a mother (or a mother too caught up in herself to actually listen to others). Perhaps father or mother is actually absent from the scene - or simply totally not involved in the life of their children. Worse yet is that the parent was present to teach, but what was taught was continual abuse, absolute neglect, or total mistrust. Society today has not done a good job of representing the role of father and mother. There are homes torn apart by all kinds of selfish influence - leaving damaged children in their wake, kids wanting for this type of wise counsel and solid direction in their lives, but finding nothing of the sort.

It is heart-warming to recognize that God "sets us in families", many times simply to re-parent us where we have been parented poorly in the first place. That family he sets us in is our local church - an assembly of other believers, much like ourselves who draw strength from one another and grow in the graces of Christ right alongside the other. Within the local church, he brings us face-to-face with others who will help us walk this out on a daily basis - individuals who will invest in our lives. According to our passage today, we are to wrap ourselves in the teachings of our parents - allowing them to guide us, guard us, and tell us what to do next. If we have lacked "solid" parenting in the natural sense, we must focus on our "spiritual" parenting within the community of Christ to guide, guard, and assist us in our walk.

Our spiritual family is often the path by which we learn the meaning of true love and unconditional acceptance. It is often the place where we come to recognize the strength of open arms, the infusion of value that a positive word brings, and the emotional healing of an accepting nod of approval when words just aren't necessary. Our spiritual family is a refuge for us - a place of growth. No wonder God makes such an awesome provision for us by placing us in the local church and within close-knit relationships! There are three truths I'd like to elaborate on just a little. Our writer indicates that sound advice is a beacon, good teaching is a light, and moral discipline is a life path.

Sound advice - most of us would be quick to acknowledge that there is nothing more rewarding than to have received sound advice and to have acted on it. Sound advice is characterized as that which guides our action or conduct. Often, sound advice can be a warning designed to keep us from harm, or to redirect our course so that we avoid pitfalls along the way. It influences our thought and in turn, our actions. Good teaching has a similar function in our life with a subtle difference. Some of us have learned things throughout life that we need to be "re-schooled" about now that we are walking with Christ. We may have developed some pretty unnecessary actions and thought-patterns in our life experiences that we need to have exposed as self-centered, sinful, or just plain "dumb". The strength of good teaching is that it produces light - light gives exposure to that which is hidden. We find good teaching in those who are placed into our lives in our local church and other close-knit relationships. Heed their teaching well - whether it is in word or action - and see what the light will expose in your life.

Moral discipline is a little different - it carries the idea of being upright, ethical, and pure in our action. All action stems from thought - therefore, true moral action stems from true moral thought. Moral discipline is the desire and ability to keep the rules without being overly focused on the rules. Moral discipline is a life path - it is an understanding of the rules for right conduct and then the passionate pursuit of those rules that will produce that right conduct consistently in our walk. We cannot learn this kind of discipline alone - it takes a village! Therefore, we are placed into a family - to engage in this walk together and to hold each other accountable along the way. We each get a fresh start in Christ - including a fresh start on family. If your family was not "ideal" and the parenting you received was "less than perfect" - take heart. God has placed you where you will receive all you need for a life of godliness - you are placed into his family. Let's learn to turn toward the beacon of the good advice shared in the lives of those he has surrounded us with. We are each an example of God's love and grace in some manner - let's learn from each other as we grow in Christ! Just learnin!

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