Christianity 201

June 14, 2022

Mothers Prayers

Today something a bit different, as we look at mothers interceding for their children, both in scripture, and with contemporary examples.

Last week I met Canadian pastor Rev. Bruce Pero for the first time, who has just written Teachings from God’s Word. You can learn more about the book by clicking this link. Bruce graciously supplied us with a devotional to share with you today.

Mothers Prayers

So many times, down through the ages, we have heard it said there is nothing like a mother’s prayer. That is so true, even today. Let’s take a look at situations where mothers’ prayers prevailed. We are going to talk about a number of mothers.

The first is Moses’ mother found in,

NIV.Exodus.2.1 Now a man of the tribe of Levi married a Levite woman, and she became pregnant and gave birth to a son. When she saw that he was a fine child, she hid him for three months. But when she could hide him no longer, she got a papyrus basket for him and coated it with tar and pitch. Then she placed the child in it and put it among the reeds along the bank of the Nile. His sister stood at a distance to see what would happen to him.

Then Pharaoh’s daughter went down to the Nile to bathe, and her attendants were walking along the riverbank. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her female slave to get it. She opened it and saw the baby. He was crying, and she felt sorry for him. “This is one of the Hebrew babies,” she said.

Then his sister asked Pharaoh’s daughter, “Shall I go and get one of the Hebrew women to nurse the baby for you?”

“Yes, go,” she answered. So the girl went and got the baby’s mother. Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Take this baby and nurse him for me, and I will pay you.” So the woman took the baby and nursed him. 10 When the child grew older, she took him to Pharaoh’s daughter and he became her son. She named him Moses, saying, “I drew him out of the water.”

Can you just imagine the prayers that went up from Moses’ mother. The joy she felt as God took care of her son; not to mention, the plan God had for Moses in leading the children of Israel out of bondage.

A comparative example for today is John Hagee who also had a wonderful praying mother. For years John’s mother, a God-fearing, praying lady, had asked God for a minister among one of her sons, and she believed John was the one. So many times, as John would sneak in, after a late-night out with his friends, he would go past his mother’s bedroom door and hear her crying out to God for him; that God would watch over her son and make him the preacher, she knew, God wanted him to be.

John would often say to his mother, “If you are praying for me, stop because when I turn eighteen, all you will see is the dust from my feet, going down the street.” But when we have a praying mother and she will not quit, God has another plan. Just one week before John was to register at West Point, God, through his mother’s prayers, radically changed his direction, and just a short time later, he registered at Oral Roberts University.

That was over fifty years ago; all because of the prayers of a righteous mother.

Today, we know John as John Hagee Ministries from San Antonio Texas, one of the biggest ministries in the United States. John is the forty-seventh member of his family to be in ministry.

Another righteous mother we can think of is found in 1 Samuel.

NIV.1Samuel.1.20 So in the course of time Hannah became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She named him Samuel, saying, “Because I asked the Lord for him.”

21 When her husband Elkanah went up with all his family to offer the annual sacrifice to the Lord and to fulfill his vow, 22 Hannah did not go. She said to her husband, “After the boy is weaned, I will take him and present him before the Lord, and he will live there always.”

23 “Do what seems best to you,” her husband Elkanah told her. “Stay here until you have weaned him; only may the Lord make good his word.” So the woman stayed at home and nursed her son until she had weaned him.

24 After he was weaned, she took the boy with her, young as he was, along with a three-year-old bull, an ephah of flour and a skin of wine, and brought him to the house of the Lord at Shiloh. 25 When the bull had been sacrificed, they brought the boy to Eli, 26 and she said to him, “Pardon me, my lord. As surely as you live, I am the woman who stood here beside you praying to the Lord. 27 I prayed for this child, and the Lord has granted me what I asked of him. 28 So now I give him to the Lord. For his whole life he will be given over to the Lord.” And he worshiped the Lord there.

Another amazing and righteous lady that we can think of today, to compare to Samuel’s mother, is often referred to as Sister Hannah.

When some of you hear this name, you will know who I am referring to. But in her son’s own words, “Sister Hannah?…God’s gift to me.” Chuck Price told his story.

After dad died, I was sixteen and rebellious, so off I went and joined the CNR, working on a gang crew. We were stationed about three and one-half hours west of Toronto. I had not told a soul where I was going, but no worries, Mom prayed, and the Holy Spirit said, “Go.” directing her miraculously to the very street where we were clubbing it up. Long story short; she parked her car one block from the bar I walked out of. During that part of my life, Mom’s prayers protected me until I could run no further.

In ministry, she would call late Sunday evenings… “I knew you were up Chuck still wrestling through the preached word and lack of response. You know Chuck, when you preach, there is not always an immediate result. Let me pray with you and then, get some sleep.”

Even in death, Dec. 2009 Mom had dementia and could not always remember everything, but she could still pray. So thank God for a praying mom.

– Pastor Chuck Price

The fifth and final man that we will look at, with an amazing, fearless, praying mother and father, was a very gifted and talented singer.

He was also a very good athlete, excelling in baseball. When he was young, the Lord revealed the call that He had on his life. Like all God-fearing, praying mothers, his mom got a hold of this; like a dog with a bone, determined not to let go. When this young man was old enough, he left home to make his way with a music career. Just when he was about to sign a major recording contract, he became extremely ill. He returned home, where he spent some time in bed.

Quite often he would hear his mother praying for him. Then one evening as his dad entered the room to say goodnight, as he always did, his father had a vision from the Lord. God revealed to him that his son was to enter the ministry, and he saw hundreds of thousands of people being ministered to and giving their lives to Christ and many more getting healed.

Oral Roberts shared this with his son. Shortly thereafter, Richard Roberts signed up at Oral Roberts University, starting one of the largest ministries going today. Since this happened, Richard’s mother and father have passed, but until his mom died, she never stopped praying for her son, Richard Roberts. He took over his dad’s ministry with a double anointing on his life, and it all began with his mother’s prayers.

For those who may not understand what the anointing is, it is the power and wisdom that God put on our being through the Holy Spirit so we can accomplish The work we are to do. So a double anointing would give us twice the power to accomplish our work. So you see, through the ages, the strength of a mother’s prayers, your prayers, have been proven over and over again to defeat any situation that comes along.

I am sure, that every time a mother gets down on her knees for her children or any situation, the Devil is cringing in his boots because nothing can win over against a mother’s prayers.

I even asked my mother if she ever thought, when we were growing up, she would have any of her children in ministry; not to mention, by this June, in 2011, she will have five in the ministry. She said she, “had always prayed for one to make it but never dreamed five would make it.”

So mothers, don’t ever give up praying for your children, grandchildren, husbands, or anything you need in your life. God will not let your prayers return to you void. Amen.

 

June 12, 2022

When People Crave Darkness

The report of your obedience has reached everyone. Therefore I rejoice over you, but I want you to be wise about what is good, and yet innocent about what is evil. – Romans 16:19 CSB

This is our eighth time with Into the Foolishness of God by Shara Case, and the posted article references an event that took place last November. Rather than edit that information in throughout the piece, we’ve left it as is, however there is a paragraph missing which references some graphic images for which you need to click the link in the header which follows, and read the piece at Shara’s site. (We could have run another one of her pieces that wasn’t tied to a news story the week she wrote it, but this one has a message worth sharing.)

Golden Images

“To you it is commanded, O peoples, nations, and languages, that at the time you hear the sound of the horn, flute, harp, lyre, and psaltery, in symphony with all kinds of music, you shall fall down and worship the gold image that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up; and whoever does not fall down and worship shall be cast immediately into the midst of a burning fiery furnace.” So at that time, when all the people heard the sound of the horn, flute, harp, and lyre, in symphony with all kinds of music, all the people, nations, and languages fell down and worshiped the gold image which King Nebuchadnezzar had set up.

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.”

Daniel 3: 4-7, 16-18

At the sound of the horn, the flute, the harp, the lyre… they all fell down and worshipped. These often-read verses struck a little differently yesterday as I read them, I think because I was fresh off reading the news of the past few days of the modern-day version of this idolatrous nightmare. Over the weekend 8 people lost their lives and many were injured attending a concert/festival in Houston called “Astroworld. From all accounts, this looks like a personification of absolute hell on earth.

I had barely heard of ‘artist’ Travis Scott before this, he’s connected with a little family we know as the Kardashians, whom I am proud to admit, I have not “kept up” on at all. I personally think this ‘music’ genre is awful at best. After squirming through some video of the weekend show, I’d like to upgrade my ‘awful’ to ‘demonic’. To see young people pouring into a venue full of cultish symbolism and giving themselves physically and emotionally over to the leadings of one single human being on stage is horrifying on many levels. Likewise, to watch a performer in a trance-like state stare down and ‘sing’ as people drop like flies down below is… well it’s probably satanic.

I won’t go into all the weird details, but I just want to shout out a little reminder if you have young people in your life to pray for them because the enemy is after them on so many levels it’s quite frightening. It’s not being hidden away, it’s not even being sugar-coated anymore, the occult has made it’s way into a willingly ignorant and oblivious culture and the results are disastrous.

Why do we revere them so? Why do we give a ‘like’ to people who have sold their souls for money and fame? Like a slow drip, we let things into our lives that we shouldn’t, and we don’t realize how their messages affect us. I remember holding off on social media for my kids for so long. I carefully learned about Instagram only to have Snap Chat and Tic-Toc appear out of nowhere. It’s like that analogy of a boat at sea, it never sinks unless the water gets inside.

The waves keep on coming, and we need to make sure there aren’t holes in our boat. We binge watch the Real Housewives of wherever and wonder why our girls have such struggles with self-esteem or nonsensical drama. We ignore the violent music or videos playing in our homes and are shocked when our sons grow into angry men. A million little things that we as a culture have bowed down to, and we are “shocked” when the natural consequences play out.

Music is powerful, and like anything, it can be used to build up or tear down. There is a reason worship is so revered in the Bible, and a reason we are heavily warned against giving our allegiance over to anyone but Jesus Christ Himself. Never underestimate the destructive power of humans gathered in a large group giving themselves over to darkness.

Life is spiritual, and idols are real. The human heart really hasn’t changed that much since Daniel’s time. We are prone to wander, vulnerable to drifting into all kinds of evil, especially when it is laid out in front of us like some kind of red carpet. We are way past the ‘entertainment’ phase and well into ‘indoctrination’.

Who is willing to hold the line? We need everyday Christians willing to stand up and let it be known that we will not bow down to their idols, no matter the cost.

Those doing the enemy’s bidding are empty vessels who are hostile to any kind of truth or light. We shouldn’t be afraid to honestly call out evil for what it is. In the same way, how about talking more of the goodness of God? The light will always, always dispel the darkness, and that job isn’t left to the pastors or ministry leaders, it’s up to all of us. Replace the bad with what is edifying. Understand how the entertainment we absorb affects how we think and act. Nothing… absolutely nothing… is neutral.

Romans chapter 1 warns that people will “exchange the truth of God for the lie, and worship the creature rather than the Creator” (v. 25). They are given over to all kinds of horrific thinking and debased minds because the didn’t retain God in their knowledge (v.28). I can’t think of many verses more fitting for our time.

It’s no stretch to say that this awful industry wants you to bow down and worship whatever it is they churn out, no matter how trashy, shocking, disgusting or weird it may be. We have to be more aware, as believers, of what is happening around us. Do we fall over face first when the proverbial horn and lute begin to play? Just because everyone else watches it or listens to it, do we really need to keep up with it? Romans 16:19 tells us to be “wise in what is good, and simple concerning evil.” Spend time cultivating wisdom and don’t be entrenched in ungodly junk. We aren’t naive to what is happening, but we certainly can’t embrace it or let it just creep into our households. You can’t be a witness for Christ while walking arm in arm with this culture. Daniel and his friends boldly said ‘no’ to the golden statues, they stood up and stuck out, and God took care of the rest.

Enjoy what is good friends, think on it, teach it to your kids so that they will not crave darkness, but rather the wonderful things of God instead. It’s not some ‘out there’ spiritual concept, it’s the very life to our bones and breath in our lungs. Evil breeds evil, it rots and destroys, it deceives to the point of death.

Be alert, be joyful, and be discerning in the journey.

April 27, 2022

Can God Be Trusted?

With all their apologetics objections met, after crossing the line of faith, the major question faced in living the Christian life is, “Can God be trusted?”

This is our ninth time with Jack Wellman who posts daily devotions at Rhetorical Jesus. Each one contains an original drawing that may be used as a link to his writing for your Facebook or Pinterest account. Today’s devotional shared here is really the second of two on a similar theme. We’re going to give you the link to the first one and then you can come back here for part two.

The first one asks the question, Where is Your Faith? Looking at the narrative of Jesus asleep on the boat Jack writes,

…he disciples panicked, and one of the most humorous statements you’ll likely ever hear comes from the disciples when they woke Him at the height of the storm basically saying, “Master, don’t you care that we’re all going to drown” (Luke 8:24a)? Now think about that statement. Does Jesus care about them?…

The reference for this is Luke 8:25,

He said to them, “Where is your faith?” And they were afraid, and they marveled, saying to one another, “Who then is this, that he commands even winds and water, and they obey him?

Then we come to the second one, which is linked in the header below. Clicking is encouraged!

Do you trust Me enough to give you what is good?

If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him! – Luke 11:13

Being the Parent

We see Jesus speaking here about what earthly parents do for their children, and if parents, who have a fallen nature, know how to give good things to their children, then how much more so does God know how to give good things to those who ask Him? Jesus compares the idea of when a child asks his father for a fish. Will he give him a serpent or snake? Some fish and some snakes look very much alike, so Jesus’ point is that God the Father can tell what is best for us even if our eyes might deceive us. If a human father, being sinful and having a fallen nature by birth, knows how to give good things to his own children, then surely God the Father knows so much more how to give us good things if we ask Him. He gives His Holy Spirit to everyone who repents and trusts in Christ. The Spirit of God gives a person a new nature, and then even an earthly father can discriminate much better between what is good for their children and what isn’t and what is good for us to ask for in prayer requests and what really isn’t.

Know What to Give

Even a human father or mother, as imperfect as they and all human beings are, can usually tell the difference between what a good thing is and what a bad thing is and whether to give it to a child. When my son was young, he tried to grab a knife out of the kitchen drawer, but the drawers in our kitchen had childproof latches. Even though he wanted to play with the knife, I knew he would hurt himself, so he had no access to it. I made sure of that. In the same comparison, even a human father or mother knows the difference between an egg and a scorpion, and the parent would never give the child something that they could hurt themselves with (Luke 11:12). Since this is true, again Jesus contrasts the frail and subject-to-error parent with the perfect heavenly Father, Who would never choose to give us anything that would hurt us, even if we think it wouldn’t. We don’t have that kind of wisdom. That wisdom comes from above (James 3:15-17), so I must ask for God’s wisdom in order to even know what to ask for.

Knowing What to Ask For

It takes great wisdom to know exactly what to ask for in prayer because what might seem good to us (a fish) might actually be bad (a snake) (Luke 11:11). Just asking is not enough. The Holy Spirit, Whom God gives to those who ask for Him (Luke 11:13), can help us in knowing what to pray for (Rom 8:26-27). Not one of us could ever comprehend the mind of God without the Spirit of God helping us (1 Cor 2:11). The question is do we trust God enough to give to us what is good, even if we don’t think it is?

A Closing Prayer

Righteous God in heaven, thank You for not always giving me what I ask for but giving me only what I need. I haven’t the wisdom to always know what to pray for, but You do, so please help me by Your Spirit to know what to ask for that is best for me. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen

 

March 5, 2022

Carrying and Sharing the Light

After a break of several years, today we’re back with Canadian Presbyterian pastor Jeff Loach who writes at Passionately His, whose writing first appeared here in 2011. Clicking the header which follows will take you to that site, where you’ll also find video of sermons Jeff has recently preached.

Throwing and Flooding

I met with my spiritual director earlier this week, and she read this familiar verse from The Message, which always manages to take the familiar and make one think about it:

Jesus once again addressed them: “I am the world’s Light. No one who follows me stumbles around in the darkness. I provide plenty of light to live in.” – John 8.12

It was a really good reminder for me that though we live in a time of darkness, with the pandemic and all the divisions that have been created and underlined by it, Jesus still provides plenty of light to live in.

It can be easy to point fingers and take pot shots (especially on social media, where we can’t see the other).  This verse reminded me of the importance not of pointing out the deficiencies of one, but of flooding all we know with the light of Jesus.

Since getting interested in the world of everyday carry (EDC), I’ve learned more about things like flashlights than I ever thought I would need to, or care to learn.  Some flashlights are made to throw light a long distance.  These lights have a fairly narrow beam, but you can see a long distance with them.  Other flashlights are made to flood a smaller area: you can see a lot around you, but not for very far.

Let me encourage you, in this politically and socially challenging time, to flood the world with the light of Jesus.  Not everybody lives in his light; some do stumble around in the darkness.  But we can flood the world around us with the light of Jesus, prayerfully hoping that some will see that light and turn to him and live in that light.

We all long for a peaceful world, free of division and strife.  Jesus is the way to fulfill that longing, and he invites us to spread that light.  By flooding the world around us with his light, we will have a greater impact as we seek to share the One who is our peace.

For Christ himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in his own body on the cross, he broke down the wall of hostility that separated us (Ephesians 2.14, NLT).


Because Jeff’s articles are shorter, here’s a bonus item for today.


The Alternative to Prayer in School

In a previous Encouragement From the Word, I recounted part of the story of Cassie Bernall, the student at Columbine High School who was killed for being a Christian, relating that to the reality of suffering and persecution among believers.  This elicited a heart-tugging response from a subscriber who was part of a tragic school shooting at one time.

This person told me how important a role prayer played in the aftermath, noting that “Amongst the sirens and the ambulances and the police, we gathered in small groups, holding hands and praying.  God was there giving comfort to us in our time of greatest need”, and that when the school reopened, a few days later, a prayer was offered over the PA system to bring comfort to the injured and the families of the victims.

Most schools today, at least where I live, don’t offer the option of public prayer.  And while I would welcome a call to restore school prayers, I fear that horse has left the barn, as the saying goes, and that nothing short of national revival is going to bring it back, especially in the political culture in which we find ourselves these days.

So what is the alternative?

Prayer at home.  (Now there’s a concept.)

Those students who gathered to pray amid the chaos in my interlocutor’s story must have had some foundation of prayer, both at home and in the church, to lead them to pray together.  It served them well to provide comfort in an unimaginable moment.

Too often, in our consumer culture, we depend on institutions to do work that more rightly belongs to the family.

We should not rely on the school system – even a Christian parochial school system, if that’s where our kids go – to teach them such foundational faith basics.

I dare say we should not even rely on the church to do this.  (Gasps come from the crowd.)

I think this is the responsibility of parents.  In fact, this is not my idea; it’s deeply rooted in the history of God’s people.  Consider that sharing the basics of faith has been considered a family mandate from as far back as the time of Moses:

Listen, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone.  And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength.  And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today.  Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up (Deuteronomy 6.4-7, NLT).

Of course, parents themselves have to learn this, if they weren’t taught it by their own parents.  And that’s where the church comes in.  The church’s job is to equip parents to be used by God to shape their children as followers of Jesus.

Someone has said, tongue-in-cheek, that as long as there are exams, there will always be prayer in school.  But in an age of increasing persecution for followers of Jesus, all the more do children and young people need to be spiritually formed at home – including knowing how to communicate with God in a loving relationship – so that they can be strong in their faith, no matter what they face, in school or elsewhere.

It may not be bullets that they face (and so we earnestly pray!), but it may be words, which injure in different ways, or something else that comes with persecution.  As the church equips the parents to form the children, we will see great spiritual renewal among the people of God, which we need for the world in which we live today.

December 6, 2021

Peace Which Transcends Human Understanding

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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Today we have a new writer to share with you who calls herself and her site, The 5th Sparrow. For 30 minutes today I sat down and looked inside the window of her life as reflected through her blog, and once we were committed to share this today, I found the closed thing to an “about” page through an article called This Is Us, Again. To summarize, it details a number of physical and cognitive challenges faced by both her two sons, and herself.

All of which for me made her writing that much more impactful.

In the end, I chose her most recent article to be representative of her writing. I trusting you’ll click the header which follows and then take a few minutes to also look into the window of a family that is probably different from yours.

Peace

NLT.Phil.4.6 Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

The second week of Advent focuses on peace. What first comes to mind when you read or hear this word? Maybe the iconic dove with an olive branch? A beautiful winter scene complete with quiet streets and falling snow? Ocean waves lapping at the shore or a mountain brook bubbling through a small clearing? Maybe a symbol made popular in the 60’s? Or maybe something more personal perhaps? A treasured memory, safe family and home, good news at work, even better news from the doctor…

What if I told you there was a peace available that is stronger, purer, and more abundant than all those things put together? What if I told you it is possible to have peace even when everything around us is no where close to being peaceful? Are you sick, broken, worn down? Did you lose your job? Are you struggling to keep up in school? Do you have more things in need of repair than your bank account has the finances to cover? Is your home more of a war zone than a safe shelter? Do you struggle with uncontrollable emotions and thoughts? You can still have peace!

It’s true, if we are talking about the peace of Christ. Peace that surpasses all understanding. It makes no sense! It doesn’t fit the narrative of everything else going on in our life at the moment. It seems impossible! That though is the beauty of it. It is impossible, but Christ makes the impossible possible for those that put their hope and their trust in Him, for those willing to rest in His arms and lay their burdens and worries at His feet.

Because of Christ, when I think about peace these days I think about a water heater. A very specific one, that’s barely a year and a half old. One that has been broken now for the past two and a half weeks with still no solution in site. I remember when I first heard the words “we think it’s cancer” shortly before I found myself in a whirlwind of preparations for emergency surgery, including putting together legal papers with instructions on what to do with my sons if I were not to make it. Memories flood in of being locked away in a place I didn’t belong while in a foreign country, fighting for safety and a way home while growing a small child inside. Filling my pillow with tears, yet my day with song just to try and hold on to my sanity.

Why in the world would I associate these things with peace?? It’s not that I enjoyed the fear of foreign oppressors I couldn’t even understand half the time due to language barriers. Being rushed to a hospital for a blood transfusion just to make me stable enough for the life saving surgery I just found out I needed wasn’t any fun either. Don’t get me started on trying to stay clean with nothing but cold water for weeks. Brrr! Definitely nothing peaceful about any of that!

No, I associate those things with peace because I look to Christ for it instead of at my life (2 Corinthians 4:18, Colossians 3:2). These things remind me of how Christ continuously steps in to calm the storm inside my heart and mind even as the waves crash around me. He has provided for me in ways I will never be able to fully explain and has taken care of my needs in more ways than I can count even when all looked bleak. When we look to Christ, He offers us a peace that isn’t like anything the world can offer (John 14:27, Isaiah 26:3). He promises to give us rest and to share our burdens (Isaiah 40:28-31, 43:2, Isaiah 41:10, 1 Peter 5:7) and that He will never leave us (Deuteronomy 31:6, Joshua 1:9, Isaiah 46:4).

He invites us to bring all we’ve got to Him. All of our hurts, hang-ups, fears, joys, celebrations, tears, frustration, excitedness, anger, doubt… He can handle it and He wants us to bring it to Him! He longs to come alongside us and share His yoke with us so He can help shoulder the load, not just in the good times, but also in the bad ones. Along with that invitation, He also delivers a promise to provide the peace that surpasses all understanding. The peace that makes no sense, but is ever so badly needed in our hearts and lives. If we remember to come to Him with what’s in our hearts or what is filling our heads, being grateful for Who He is and all He has done and has promised to do, He will fill us with His peace to help guard our hearts and minds in Christ (Philippians 4:6,7). That doesn’t mean all our problems and worries will disappear, but it does mean we have a safe shelter from the storm when we need Him.

That is what comes to my mind when I think of peace.

November 21, 2020

Our Highest Desire for Our Children … and for Ourselves

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:32 pm
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If you’re a parent, grandparent, godparent or aunt/uncle, the spiritual aspirations you have for the children in your sphere of influence should also be the same spiritual aspirations you set for yourself.

Today for the first time we’re featuring the writing of Luke Wagner who serves as a volunteer pastor in Lawrence, Kansas, and writes at An Eternal Viewpoint.

Called To Influence

There is a prayer I have for all of my kids, and I think it’s one most parents who are followers of Jesus have for their kids as well.

God, empower them be the influence.

It’s simple. But it could change the world.

And honestly, being influential in the life of my kid’s beyond just being the parent is something I am still learning. Speaking life isn’t always the tendency I have, but it needs to be. Jesus gave the instruction,

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.

Matthew 28:19-20

In essence, get out there and influence others for Me. Live a life that points others to Me. Tell them about Me with your words AND actions. When I see my daughter interacting with her friends and peers, I pray that she would be the influence in the group that points towards Jesus.

She doesn’t always get it right. But then, perfection isn’t the expectation.

Really, that’s the same position God takes with us. He knows perfection isn’t a reality for us in this life. But are we striving to be the influence in our circles? When guidance is sought, direction is needed; are you the one who steps up and points those around you in the right direction?

I love how Jesus begins this directive. In the verse before He says,

All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.

Matthew 28:18

His basis for giving this directive is rooted in His ultimate and explicit authority over everything. And He doesn’t kind of suggest we do this, He commands it. This is what gut punches me, as a follower of Him, being a person of influence for the Kingdom isn’t an option. It’s not a task get to decide when and where I want to engage in.

It’s implied that this is an ongoing, constant expectation as a follower of Jesus. I mean, look at how He ends this command:

And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Matthew 28:20

I’m pretty confident that my time on earth will end before the “end of the age” comes to pass. That leads me to conclude the expectation is to live a life of influence for Jesus. To strive every day to make an impact for His Kingdom through the interactions I have. To speak life.

That’s what I want to see in the lives of my kids.

But it has to start with me.

September 18, 2020

Four Things You Need When Considering Education Choices

One glance at today’s headline and you’ll see it’s a bit more “practical” than what we normally do here. However, these are times when many families are at a crossroads, and the “four things” are straight out of scripture, a checklist so obvious that I think it’s easy for many parents to miss it, because many are bewildered about what’s taking place in our schools.

Not surprisingly, today’s post comes from a parenting blog and one that is new to us. Wattsup with Kids is written by Tracy Watts. (I’ll give you a few seconds to make the connection!) As we say daily, click the header below and read this at her site and then take a few minutes to look around at other articles.

[Not a parent? Check out this post by Tracy on Trying to Do Everything in the Will of God. It’s more similar to what we normally share here!]

Simplicity and Direction

And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man. ~ Luke 2:52

In all the myriad of choices, stresses, and concerns of education this fall lies this verse. Here in first century Palestine, without electricity, Amazon.com or even running water, Jesus grows and develops (as any child should). And how did he grow? This verse lists four categories:

  1. Wisdom (Mental? Intellectual? Spiritual? I think the answer is probably yes 😊)
  2. Stature (physical growth and skills)
  3. In favor with God (spiritual growth)
  4. In favor with man (social growth)

I find much comfort from this verse. We see here both simplicity and direction. In an age of endless options, we hold in our hands simple truth: Do I provide opportunity for my child to grow his mind and wisdom? Do I provide opportunity and sustenance to grow physically? Do I provide time where I impart the love of God and the truths of the Bible – both in explicit teaching as well as in the “teachable” moments throughout the day? And do I provide opportunity for him to practice kindness and love to others?

Sometimes, we get lost stressing about things that are not actually important. We worry about things that God has not placed in our hands. We need to lay aside these weights, like the Hebrews author says

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. ~ Hebrews 12:1-2

Stretching before us is an entire season of tomorrows, seemingly filled with worry and doom, judgement and criticism. God does not ask us to live weeks or months at a time. He gives us one day, one hour, one moment at a time. Choose God’s direction and simplicity. Choose what is more – eternity. Live in today, point your feet heavenward, and take someone else by the hand to go there too.

Dear one, leave tomorrow to God – it belongs to Him anyway.

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. ~ Matthew 6:33-34

July 29, 2020

Our Kids’ Emotions in the Middle of Loss

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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Today’s blog post is a little different from what I normally run here. Hopefully, it contains some practical advice for parents, but it really deals with emotions that all experience in times of loss. But first I need to set this up.

My sister-in-law and her husband have two twin boys. She writes,

Parenting is … hard. On so many levels.

We want the boys to enjoy the experience of having a family dog. It’s not quite working out so well. The boys have had four dogs in their 12 years of life. The first had a compromised immune system that just quit at the age of 3 years old. The second had Parvovirus as a new pup. The third had fear aggression and bit a couple children (including our own) so he had to go live with a family member, and now the fourth dog gets overheated, Lyme Disease, and a ruptured bowel over the span of two weeks.

B. says “I think Gods trying to teach us about grief.” Although he’s also incredibly devastated and angry, I told him it’s OK to be angry with God— just ask Him to help you understand.

C. says “What are we doing wrong?!” We told him, sometimes things in life just suck and this is a big one. We’ve explained what we couldn’t control about every scenario but he still thinks there has to be something we could’ve done.


Of course it’s easy to simply read things on social media and click on a sad-face emoticon or just let my wife’s replies suffice. But I think this touches on matters that affect us all, not just parents, not just kids. I took about 45 minutes to craft a multi-paragraph response…

Thinking about C.’s question, I turned to Job 1:1 “In the land of Uz there lived a man whose name was Job. This man was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil.” (NIV) Job clearly hadn’t done anything wrong.

In John 9, “As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man who had been blind from birth. Rabbi, his disciples asked him, why was this man born blind? Was it because of his own sins or his parents’ sins?” (NLT) And Jesus’ answer is “Neither.”

In Matthew 5:45, Jesus says, “For he makes the sun rise upon evil men as well as good, and he sends his rain upon honest and dishonest men alike.” (Phillips translation.)

[At this point I realized that some people might default to a ‘Well-then-it-doesn’t-matter-how-I-live’ type of response believing that it doesn’t affect outcomes at all. So I continued…]

But that doesn’t mean there aren’t benefits from living a good, God-centered, Christ-following type of life. There are, and one of them is having someone to turn to and pour out your anguish and disappointment at times like this. And I would dare to say — some may disagree — that it’s okay to say, ‘God, I’m really upset with you. We prayed and our prayer wasn’t answered.’ And he’d say, ‘I know.’ God would rather have our anger than our apathy

And who knows the big picture? It started out about the dog being overheated, but then became about Lyme disease. In the end it was about a bowel obstruction. How did all these factors play together? I don’t know.

Pets do come in and out of our lives. Maybe not with this frequency all the time, but it happens. Each loss, as B. says, is a learning experience. Reactions varies from person to person, and from pet to pet. Jonah threw a major fit over a plant that died, a plant he’d known for basically one day. “Then the Lord said, ‘You feel sorry about the plant, though you did nothing to put it there. It came quickly and died quickly.‘” Scripture records this for us to see these feelings are not unique. And remember, that was about a plant!

We all want to feel like we’re playing on a winning team, and your team got into an epic battle which at the end wasn’t won. But that doesn’t mean that us (the four of you and we, your extended family) aren’t winners, because the dog was supported and loved and cared for until the end. That means that everyone involved had an overflow of love to give, and an overflow of love to grieve. That’s the correct response. Waking up today and deciding it’s just another Wednesday wouldn’t be right. We were made to feel things; we are a combination of body, mind, soul and spirit.


I could have kept going, but these kids are young and it’s just a day later.

Maybe this applies to you or someone you know today. Perhaps you are just really upset over the situation the world is in right now, and asking, as someone asked me yesterday, how God is permitting all this to happen.

My answer would be the same: Talk to him. Confess your sadness, your disappointment, even your anger if that applies.

Talk to him.


Here’s one of Ruth’s responses:

…Part of love is wanting to protect, both for you toward your family, and the guys toward their pets. We’ve all been there. We’ve all struggled with helplessness. In those moments all we can do is be there with and for each other. God may not give us the miracles we ask for, but he gives us each other. That’s not a fix, but it can be enough to give us the strength to hope.


Related (somewhat):

June 17, 2020

Drive In Service: Stuck Inside a Car, But Experiencing Freedom

Today another new author for you, and an unusual devotional format as well. Marjorie Wingert’s focus on her blog is Prayer Over Our Children. On her ‘About’ page she explains,

…As a new parent seeking to raise her child up in the Lord while recognizing the power of prayer in my family’s life, I hungered to proactively pray on behalf of my child. Oh, how my mother’s heart beat to pray against the temptations and struggles that will inevitably bombard our children as they grow. Moreover, I desired to pray in a way that would deepen my walk with our Heavenly Lord while feeding my soul with the meat of Scripture.

One evening as my husband and I were joined in prayer, the Holy Spirit whispered softly to my heart. Why not pray Scripture over her? Why not read a chapter a day from the Bible and use the content from each passage to form your prayer? My eyes popped open. What a great solution!…

So, for example, in its original formatting, following the scripture verse, today’s sample blog post begins,

Prayer Over Our Children
Call my child to You, oh Lord, and surround her with an abundance of Your joy and love. I pray that You will keep her from unbelief, sexual immorality, perversion, slander, and ungodliness. May she not grumble, boast, flatter, fault find, or follow evil desires. Instead, I pray that You will buildup in her a most holy faith and help her to learn to pray in the power of the Holy Spirit. Keep her in Your love, oh God, as she waits to be brought to glory. May You also help her show mercy and intercede for others. Oh Lord, keep my little one from falling but help her to stand before Your glorious presence without fault and with great joy. Amen.

Parents might want to read more prayers like this as a model for something you can do in your homes.

…Currently, Marjorie is in a series on Revelation. So I scrolled back to this post-Easter article to find you something that would work as a stand-alone devotional. Please, click the header below to read this at source, and consider subscribing to her blog, marjoriewingert.com


Jude

“But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.”
Jude 1:20-21, NIV

Living Hope

The day dawned like any other. The sun rose, people slumbered in their beds, and quiet tip-toed through the neighborhoods. Birds chirped their greetings and winds rustled the leaves clinging to tree branches. Young children scrambled to start their day while their parents groaned for more sleep. Today, however, was different. It was Easter Sunday!

My own family tumbled out of bed for the early service. To a nearby fast food restaurant, we headed. Our special Easter breakfast comprised of egg, bacon, and cheese muffins. Hash browns rounded out the meal with small cups of orange juice. Armed with an arsenal for our growling bellies and music blaring from the radio, we nibbled our way to the Easter “drive in” service.

Having participated in sunrise Easter services, never did I dream that Easter “drive in” services would also be added to my repertoire. We sat in our vehicles with one parking spot in between each car to ensure social distancing. Everyone remained in their vehicles and each radio tuned into the same low frequency airwaves. Some engines idled while others remained off.

Here, in this unlikely gathering of dusty vehicles, the Holy Spirit fell strong and vibrant upon this unconventional Easter service. Surrounded by fast food wrappers, empty water bottles on the floor, and neighboring cars instead of people in pews, our souls feasted on a message of hope. In noisy procession, geese banked high above us, raining down their honks of hallelujahs. Even sun rays which crested above the rooftop painted the perfect backdrop to the morning.

Yet, while hearty “Amens” flashed by flickering car lights and hands clapped or raised in praise, two truths unfolded in my brain. The thoughts made my spirits soar and deepened my gratitude. For although our gathering today was far from the traditional Easter service, devoid of Easter lilies, decorative bows, and fancy dresses, something new and beautiful unfolded before me.

Clothed with anonymity within the privacy of our cars, a new freedom of the Spirit emerged. No longer was I hindered by the self-consciousness of what others would think. No longer did I suppress the joyful bubblings stirring for expression. Vibrant Amens frequented my lips. Even my husband flashed multiple Amens with his flickering car lights. A new freedom in worship washed over us.

Though surrounded by rows of cars, the seclusion which our individual vehicles afforded, produced a freedom in the Spirit I had never known. Freedom to dance in my seat. Freedom to wave my hands in praise. Freedom to shout jubilations. Freedom to whoop, holler, or yell agreements and affirmations. Freedom to raise a hallelujah!

Although many of us have felt the stirrings of the Holy Spirit prompt expression from the inside out, I suspect many of you are like me. We have tamped down the stirrings of the Spirit due to social etiquette and convention. We have opted not to give expression to our praise and adoration due to self-consciousness and worry of what others may think. However, here, in the privacy of my own car, I experienced the freedom to worship as the Spirit led. The freedom to dance as David danced. The freedom to let go of pride and self-restraint. The freedom to engage in authentic worship.

Interwoven amidst this dawning light, another truth spoke life. Hope. Yes, a hope that this virus will recede. A hope that someday soon we can emerge from our houses. A hope that a cure will be found. This is a good hope. This is a shared hope. However, what struck me is that we were hearing in the Easter message of a different kind of hope. This hope which bound us together and stirred in our very souls was not just hope. It was Living Hope.

A hope bound by earthly measures is not complete. It is like a cup that is half full. It awaits the richness of its potential, not fully blossomed into the abundance of its splendor. When this hope stands beside the crowning riches of eternal glory, it pales in the light of true Living Hope.

Living Hope is exactly that. It is living, it is breathing, it is palpable. It is firmed through the beatings, the blood, and the bruises. It is pounded through by nails driven deep into flesh. It was heard with the anguished yet triumphant cry, “It is finished.” It was seen in the darkness of the land and felt in the quaking of the ground. It was fulfilled with the veil torn top to bottom and the tombs of saints cracked open. It is marked by an empty tomb. It is the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Oh death, where is your sting? Oh grave, where is your victory? No longer does death have a hold over us. No longer does death have the final word. It is conquered. It is defeated. It is overcome.

Unlike earthly hope, Living Hope is not grounded in the visages of this world nor is it an emotion, desire, or wish conjured from within. It is derived from the eternal truth of the sacrificial act of the One who came to save. Living Hope is found in the person of Jesus, the Son of God who clothed Himself in human flesh, was crucified, died, buried, and raised on the third day. Jesus is not dead. He is alive. He is the Living Hope. He is our Living Hope.

June 3, 2020

Pre-booking Your Choices

The excerpt from Thinking out Loud which follows is a principle I’ve always held in high regard, but was surprised this morning to find I’ve never shared it here at C201. (You’ll see why I looked in the second half of this devotional.)

Our kids hated road trips. We would get to a city, walk into a motel, pull out our coupon book, and then be told that due to a soccer tournament, there were no motels with openings anywhere within an hour radius. Back to the car, hungry, hot, tired, and another hour’s drive.

Later on, we discovered the joy of planning destinations ahead, and making reservations, though by that point, the kids were older and opting out of our excursions.

Their road trip phobia later turned into an interesting object lesson. I told them that somewhere in the future, they will find themselves in situations that will tempt them to compromise their principles, or do something foolish and unsafe. We said that like our motel example, they need to pre-book their choices. That way they won’t regret something done in the heat of the moment. Decide now what they will and won’t do.

One author suggested that this is what the book of Proverbs is about. It’s a father saying to his son something like, “Look, this stuff is gonna happen; here’s how it’s gonna go down…” and then describing the benefits of wisdom and not be the proverbial (!) lamb to the slaughter of temptation.

Proverbs is a great book to teach your kids. 31 Chapters, one for each day of the month. Lots of easy-to-understand translations out there; and you need to spend money if you really don’t want to; just read it off the tablet at suppertime from BibleGateway.com. ICB, NCV, NLT, The Voice, all recommended for the younger set, in that order. Start each new month with the same chapter in a different translation. (Yes, a few of the verses are explicit, but you can skip over those until the kids are older.)

What got me thinking about this was an excerpt at Devotions Daily from a recently published book by Kathi Lipp, Ready for Anything: Preparing Your Heart and Home for Any Crisis Big or Small (Zondervan, 2020). You can read the full devotional — which contained some very practical advice — at this link, or learn more about the book at this link.

…Predeciding is when you make a decision before you get into the thick of a situation. It can be as simple as making a menu plan for the rest of the week so you don’t get to five thirty each night and have to figure out what in the world you are going to make for dinner. Or it can be as hard as deciding that the next time I see Aunt June and she mentions how much weight I’ve gained—because she lives for that kind of thing—I’m going to say, “So good to see you,” and then give my husband the preagreed-upon signal to get me out of there.

Predeciding takes most of the emotion out of decisions because we are not in the midst of the situation. We can use logic and wisdom instead of adrenaline and anxiety. And that will make our decisions—for us and our family—so much better, healthier, and wiser.

One of the biggest benefits of predeciding is giving ourselves and our loved ones the confidence that if something scary happens, we have a plan.

Throughout the Bible we see God honoring those who made decisions before they were ever tested who remained faithful to their plans.

Here are some other examples:

  • RUTH 1: When Ruth decides to stay with Naomi, even though her husband has died and Naomi has nothing to offer Ruth.
  • DANIEL 3: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who refused to bow down to the king’s image and were thrown into the fiery furnace but were preserved from harm.
  • ESTHER 4: When Queen Esther went before the king and made an appeal for the lives of the Jewish people, she declared, “Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my attendants will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish” (v. 16).
  • LUKE 10: Mary choosing to sit at Jesus’s feet even though she was receiving pressure from Martha to get up and help with the preparations.
  • PHILIPPIANS 4: Paul’s decision to focus on God, and not his circumstances, while in prison awaiting trial.

These are just a few of the circumstances where God empowered people to set a course and follow it, despite hardship and temptations to choose a different route.

Predeciding is an invaluable skill. Making a decision about how you will act before a crisis comes will save you pain and heartache in everything from parenting to budgeting to handling an emergency…

Taken from: Ready for Anything: Preparing Your Heart and Home for Any Crisis Big or Small by: Kathi Lipp Copyright © 2020 by Zondervan. Used by permission of Zondervan. zondervan.com

 

March 12, 2016

Praying Prodigals Home

17 “When he finally came to his senses, he said to himself, ‘At home even the hired servants have food enough to spare, and here I am dying of hunger! 18 I will go home to my father and say, “Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, 19 and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. Please take me on as a hired servant.”’

20a “So he returned home to his father.

Today we pay a return visit to the blog Power Up! which is part of the Charisma Magazine website. This particular blog is updated weekly and features different writers. To read this at source, explore other articles on the blog, and then migrate to one of ten other blogs on the site, click the title below; for more info on the writer, click her name below the title or the links at the bottom of today’s article.

Trust in the Lord That Your Children Are Coming Home

by LaNora Morin

Throughout my years of ministry and travel, I discovered that countless parents were suffering silently over their backslidden children. Because of accusations and condemnations from the devil and the judgments and opinions of men, they felt guilty and ashamed. My heart would go out to them as they would share their grief and ask for prayer.

Little did I know that one day I would be the parent with the same problem. I felt so disqualified and responsible that my heart would break over and over again. Believe me when I tell you, I tried everything! There were times that I didn’t know if I could make it another day.

Through it all, I learned that there is no formula. However, there are some strategies that I learned from the Holy Spirit. I do not pretend to have all the answers and I humbly confess that I failed many times during the process. Yet, in God’s wonderful grace, I found His Word and ways to be flawless.

Before I could be effective in securing my daughter’s freedom, I had to be free from my own bondage of guilt, condemnation, accusation and judgments. Standing in my friend’s kitchen, I heard the words that set me free. We had been having a normal, friendly conversation, but then I turned our conversation down the same path of despair. I always seemed to say at least something about my prodigal daughter.

“Prodigal.” I hated that word. Defined as “spending recklessly, wasteful, extravagant waste,” the word summed up my daughter’s wasted life.

I couldn’t go a day without the topic coming up. I really couldn’t help myself even though I knew everyone was growing tired of hearing it. There seemed to be a foreboding threat hanging over my head like a dark cloud. It was always there—the knots in my stomach, the tightness in my chest. I felt myself braced for bad or tragic news every day.

My friend had patiently listened to me talk of my heartbreak. Finally, she said life-changing words: “Your daughter is eating just enough from your table to not realize she’s starving to death. If you will stop feeding her, she will realize she is in the pig pen.”

At that moment, I realized that I had been feeding her with all the spiritual benefits of my life. She never had to seek God for herself because I was always there with the answers to every crisis. Repeatedly, I bailed her out of circumstances that God, Himself, had set up. I thought it was love and mercy, but actually I had stepped into the role as “savior.” I had sought God for her and provided her with spiritual solutions. I gave her Scripture promises to help her get over each dilemma. I rescued her from the consequences of her choices time and time again.

That day I made a conscious decision to take my hands off and let my daughter experience the “pig pen.” It wasn’t going to be easy to watch her sink deeper into the mire. However, I knew that I had to be free from the role of playing “God” in my daughter’s life before she could see her deep need for Him. It wasn’t much longer after God set me free, that she came to her senses and realized she had a need for God that only He could satisfy.

Can you imagine the joy you will also feel the day your precious one comes back to the Lord? You will feel like you are dreaming. You have gotten so used to the nightmare of their captivity that you will hardly believe it.

I remember, in the midst of my darkest days, that I heard the strangest sound. I heard the sound of rejoicing. For a split moment, the Holy Spirit opened my spiritual ears to hear the sound of God laughing. Just in that instant, I had a glimpse of celebration in heaven. I thought, Can’t God see my tear-soaked pillow? Suddenly, I knew He was mocking His enemy and rejoicing in His triumph! The Lord can see what we cannot see. He can see that the enemy’s days are numbered and He laughs. I purposed in my heart to join heaven’s perspective and rejoice and praise Him for my child’s return.

With a faith for the future, I was then able to begin to speak words of life into the situation. When we agree with His Word and begin to declare it over our children, His creative power begins to move over the darkness of their lives and releases His light. I began to realize that as the parent, I have the spiritual right to enforce the kingdom of heaven and His will. My authority is God-given and is in partnership with Him. The power of that agreement renders a verdict upon the unjust trespassing of the enemy in the life of my seed!

I believe that it is no accident that you read this article today. I believe that the battle has raged long enough! Your children have a calling on their lives and it is time for them to be free from the snares of the enemy. You, as the parent, carry an authority and an anointing to unlock the prison doors. I believe the time is now! I am agreeing with you for the accelerated fulfillment of God’s will over your child’s life.


Adapted from the book 40 Days to Freedom: Prayers and Proclamations to Call Backslidden Children into Their Destiny by LaNora Morin of Fountaingate Ministries International, and Fountaingate School of Revival; used with permission.

 

August 12, 2015

Absalom, The Rebel

After several weeks away, regular Wednesday contributor Clarke Dixon returns. We don’t indent his stuff like we do other guest writers, since we like to think C201 is his second home online!  Clarke is a pastor (and motorcycle enthusiast) in Ontario, Canada.

Loving the Rebel

How do you love the rebel in your life? I’m not referring to an enemy, but rather someone you love deeply. They have hurt you, or hurt someone you love, or you fear that because of their rebellious decisions, they themselves will land in a world of hurt. Do you say “you reap what you sow” and let them suffer the consequences of their decisions? Or do you mount a rescue operation and try to fix everything?

We see this tension being played out in 2nd Samuel 18 as the army commander, Joab, treated the rebellious Absalom in a very different manner than what his father, King David, would have. Absalom had rebelled against his father and led much of Israel to follow him instead. This led to David fleeing Jerusalem with his loyal armies who now stood ready to fight the numerically superior armies of Absalom. As David’s men went out to fight he gave some very clear instructions regarding the rebel son Absalom:

The king ordered Joab and Abishai and Ittai, saying, “Deal gently for my sake with the young man Absalom.” And all the people heard when the king gave orders to all the commanders concerning Absalom. 2 Samuel 18:5

Though his son had rebelled, David’s heart was filled with compassion and hope for him. Joab, on the other hand, had a different attitude toward Absalom. We discover this when Absalom gets stuck in a tree and his misfortune is told to Joab:

Joab said to the man who told him, “What, you saw him! Why then did you not strike him there to the ground? I would have been glad to give you ten pieces of silver and a belt.” But the man said to Joab, “Even if I felt in my hand the weight of a thousand pieces of silver, I would not raise my hand against the king’s son; for in our hearing the king commanded you and Abishai and Ittai, saying: For my sake protect the young man Absalom!. . . Joab said, “I will not waste time like this with you.” He took three spears in his hand, and thrust them into the heart of Absalom, while he was still alive in the oak. And ten young men, Joab’s armor-bearers, surrounded Absalom and struck him, and killed him. 2 Samuel 18:11,12,14,15

Where David wants to be gentle with his son, Joab wants to eliminate the rebel. Where David wants to be compassionate, Joab wants to be practical, eliminating the possibility of any future rebellion. Where David wants to see no harm come to Absalom, Joab wants to ensure he never again harms another. David believes in second chances. Joab believes strongly in the Biblical affirmation that “you reap what you sow.”

So who is the better leader? And which one better reflects how you deal with the rebels in your life? Compassion or justice? Gentleness or practicality? “Let’s fix this,” or “you reap what you sow”?

Is there something we can learn from Joab and David here? At first we might not think so in that their lives seem to be in a greater mess than ours. However, their handling of the rebel points us to the One who really knows how to handle a rebel. Let’s take a look:

First, While Joab enforces consequences without compassion, God lets us sit with consequences because of love. Something we don’t see Joab doing is having any kind of conversation with Absalom. The opportunity is there to discuss the possibilities of repentance and reconciliation, but Joab does not go there. Instead he dishes out the consequences of rebellion with brutality, and, it would seem, out of hatred. On the other hand, God will let us sit with the consequences of our decisions, but when He does, He does so out of love. God does not rescue us from every bad decision like a “helicopter parent” but rather lets us learn from our mistakes. Learning from mistakes is important for our growth and our growth is important to God:

And you have forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as children— “My child, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, or lose heart when you are punished by him; for the Lord disciplines those whom he loves, and chastises every child whom he accepts.”

Endure trials for the sake of discipline. God is treating you as children; for what child is there whom a parent does not discipline? If you do not have that discipline in which all children share, then you are illegitimate and not his children. Moreover, we had human parents to discipline us, and we respected them. Should we not be even more willing to be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share his holiness. Now, discipline always seems painful rather than pleasant at the time, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Hebrews 12:5-11

God disciplines from a place of love. Do we lash out against the rebels of our lives like Joab, or do we let our loved ones sit with the consequences of their decisions out of love?

Second, while David was the absentee father who was not there for his son in a time of need, God is the loving Father who has made Himself present in our greatest need. We can imagine a very different ending for this story had David come across Absalom rather than Joab. But David was not there and was not able to help. At first David wanted to be with the army as they moved out, but they convinced him to stay behind because his life was more important than theirs. His life was too important to be put on the line. However, on hearing of his son’s death,

The king was deeply moved, and went up to the chamber over the gate, and wept; and as he went, he said, “O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! Would I had died instead of you, O Absalom, my son, my son!” 2 Samuel 18:33

In the end David wished he could have died in the rebels’s place. God is the One who did die in the rebel’s place through Jesus Christ at the cross. God is the One who made himself present to us, in Jesus, and even now through His Holy Spirit. Though it is a Biblical truth that we reap what we sow, it is also a Biblical truth that we reap what God has sown. He has sown and shown love, rescuing us from a predicament and calamity that we could never rescue ourselves from. Do we remain present in the lives of our rebel loved ones to rescue with a second chance when their predicament is too much for them? And do we have the wisdom to know when to rescue, and when rather to call off the helicopter so that a timely lesson may be learned? Do we love enough to put the hard work into thoughtful prayer and discernment?

But perhaps it is not David or Joab that you may relate to in 2nd Samuel 18. Perhaps it is Absalom. You are the rebel son or daughter who needs the Lord’s loving discipline. You are the rebel son or daughter who needs the Lord’s rescue and salvation. Absalom was the rebel son. Jesus is the obedient son who was obedient even to death on the cross. Your rebellion has its consequences. And Jesus suffered those consequences on the cross for you. Unlike Joab with Absalom, you are given the opportunity for repentance and reconciliation.

All Bible references are taken from the NRSV

 

July 1, 2015

Praying For Your Children

As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him;
  Psalm 103:13 NIV

praying boy and dogEven if you’re not a parent, you might be a grandparent, Godparent, aunt, uncle, brother, sister, teacher, Children’s ministry leader, etc. Or perhaps you can use this as a checklist to see how you measure up yourself! This is a return visit to the blog Into The King’s Garden by Angel Koerner Bohon. Click the title to get the source for this and think of someone who has children in their sphere of influence you can send it to. (The text in each section alludes strongly to scripture passages you will recognize, but if you want to study them further, copy and paste into BibleGateway.com)

Virtues to Pray for Your Children

1. Salvation — “Lord, let salvation spring up within my children, that they may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory.” (Isa. 45:8; 2 Tim. 2:10)

2. Growth in Grace — “I pray that my children may grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (2 Pet. 3:18)

3. Love — “Grant, Lord, that my children may learn to live a life of love, through the Spirit who dwells in them.” (Gal. 5:25; Eph. 5:2)

4. Honesty and Integrity — “May integrity and honesty be their virtue and their protection.” (Ps. 25:21)

5. Self-Control — “Father, help my children not to be like many others around them, but let them be alert and self-controlled in all they do.”
(1 Thess. 5:6)

6. Love for God’s Word — “May my children grow to find Your Word more precious than much pure gold and sweeter than honey from the comb.” (Ps. 19:10)

7. Justice — “God, help my children to love justice as You do and act justly in all they do.” (Ps. 11:7; Mic. 6:8)

8. Mercy — “May my children always be merciful, just as their Father is merciful.” (Luke 6:36)

9. Respect (for self, others, and authority) — “Father, grant that my children may show proper respect to everyone, as Your Word commands.” (1 Pet. 2:17)

10. Biblical Self-Esteem — “Help my children develop a strong self-esteem that is rooted in the realization that they are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus.” (Eph. 2:10)

11. Faithfulness — “Let love and faithfulness never leave my children, but bind these twin virtues around their necks and write them on the tablet of their hearts.” (Prov. 3:3)

12. Courage — “May my children always be strong and courageous in their character and in their actions.” (Deut. 31:6)

13. Purity — “Create in them a pure heart, O God, and let that purity of heart be shown in their actions.” (Ps. 51:10)

14. Kindness — “Lord, may my children always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else.” (1 Thess. 5:15)

15. Generosity — “Grant that my children may be generous and willing to share, and so lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age.” (1 Tim. 6:18-19)

16. Peace-Loving — “Father, let my children make every effort to do what leads to peace.” (Rom. 14:19)

17. Joy — “May my children be filled with the joy given by the Holy Spirit.” (1 Thes. 1:6)

18. Perseverance — “Lord, teach my children perseverance in all they do, and help them especially to run with perseverance the race marked out for them.” (Heb. 12:1)

19. Humility — “God, please cultivate in my children the ability to show true humility toward all.” (Titus 3:2)

20. Compassion — “Lord, please clothe my children with the virtue of compassion.” (Col. 3:12)

21. Responsibility — “Grant that my children may learn responsibility, for each one should carry his own load.” (Gal. 6:5)

22. Contentment — “Father, teach my children the secret of being content in any and every situation, through Him who gives them strength.” (Phil. 4:12-13)

23. Faith — “I pray that faith will find root and grow in my children’s hearts, that by faith they may gain what has been promised to them.” (Luke 17:5-6; Heb. 11:1-40)

24. A Servant’s Heart — “God, please help my children develop servant’s hearts, that they may serve wholeheartedly, as if they were serving the Lord, not men.” (Eph. 6:7)

25. Hope — “May the God of hope grant that my children may overflow with hope and hopefulness by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Rom. 15:13)

26. Willingness and Ability to Work — “Teach my children, Lord, to value work and to work at it with all their heart, as working for the Lord and not for men.” (Col. 3:23)

27. Passion for God — “Lord, please instill in my children a soul that ‘followeth hard after thee,’ one that clings passionately to You.” (Ps. 63:8)

28. Self-Discipline — “Father, I pray that my children may acquire a disciplined and prudent life, doing what is right and just and fair.” (Prov. 1:3)

29. Prayerfulness — “Grant, Lord, that my children’s lives may be marked by prayerfulness, that they may learn to pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers.” (1 Thess. 5:17)

30. Gratitude — “Help my children to live lives that are always overflowing with thankfulness and always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Eph. 5:20; Col. 2:7)

31. A Heart for Missions — “Lord, please help my children to develop a desire to see Your glory declared among the nations, Your marvelous deeds among the peoples.” (Ps. 96:3)

 

July 1, 2014

Lay Your Burdens Down

With a few exceptions, we try not to “borrow” devotions from the same source more than every six months, but Stephen and Brooksyne Weber at DailyEncouragement.net are an exception. This is my personal “go to” devotional blog, and I try to make it the first click when my computer boots up in the morning, but sometimes email interrupts!  When I read this, I thought of the video I wanted to include with it, Chuck Girard’s Lay Your Burdens Down, and then realized a few days later that they had the same idea. There’s also a great illustration in the middle of this that I hope to remember. To read today’s devotion at source, including pictures and other suggested videos, click this link.

“Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens” (Psalm 68:19). “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). “Casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).

In our final session at the chaplaincy training conference this week we heard Doug Clay share a message on coming to Jesus for our needs. He based his message on the story of the blind man in Mark 8 who came to Jesus to be healed and then came back a second time because he saw men as “trees walking”. Doug shared that this illustrated a persistence in coming to Jesus concerning our needs. One of the lines I really liked from his message was, “Starve your doubts and feed your hope”.

Following his message he asked the various leaders on our chaplain team to come to the front and then extended an altar call for any who may have come to the conference with a special need for which they wanted prayer. I think he was only expecting a few but long lines formed. As I observed the lines I thought of the burdens these people were bearing. For some it was a physical need, for others perhaps a matter in their marriage and family. For others it might have been a financial burden. Perhaps it was a special challenge or hard time for some in their ministry. Brooksyne and I sure recall going to meetings with a heavy heart due to ministry matters in past years.

As I observed the line I considered the burdens those we minister to are enduring. Encounters we have in the course of our chaplaincy, notes and prayer requests we receive from Daily Encouragement readers and those in our church and churches we have served. It was a long line in my mind as I considered specific situations people have and are experiencing.

One of our favorite writers is Robert J. Morgan, a pastor in Tennessee who shared an interesting illustration: he had been on a long trip and was travel weary as he walked through the airport. He was physically relieved when he spotted a long moving sidewalk and headed in that direction. It was here that the Lord spoke to his heart.

He had a bag in each hand but in his fatigue he didn’t even think to set them down. “I was still carrying my load while the moving sidewalk was carrying me. Not until halfway down the hall did I have the presence of mind to release my bags and let the moving sidewalk carry them for me.”

Can you can identify with Morgan’s illustration? In regard to my burdens I tend to set them down (trust) and then pick them back up again (doubt).

As we write this message today I consider several I know who face heavy burdens, part of the long line of people who need God’s tender touch.

“Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens.” In Scripture God often emphasizes the unit of time we call the day.  In fact it’s the very first unit of time that is referred to in the Bible and the most frequently mentioned starting with Genesis 1:14.

Certainly each of us knows about burdens and we can readily identify with the Lord’s statement that “each day has enough trouble [burdens] of its own” (Matthew 6:34b). A commentary considers the meaning of the daily text in this way: “God daily carries us as a manifestation of His protective and sustaining care.” Such an interpretation brings to mind “Footprints in the Sand” written by Mary Stevenson during her teen years in 1936 as she endured major obstacles in her young life.*

What assurance His Word brings. Believing friend, God is bearing your burdens today, and wants to lighten your load. He loves you, and the trial you are presently enduring does matter to Him. He is faithful and He will see you through to the other side! Don’t try to shoulder your burdens for the heavy load will surely break you.  Instead lay your burdens down at the foot of the cross. Jesus will meet you there.

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

*I didn’t want to edit the devotional, but I’ve always heard “Footprints” credited to Margaret Fishback Powers. Either way, the illustration applies. (At least a half-dozen people have claimed the poem was ‘theirs,’ Powers is widely considered to be the author of record.)

March 21, 2013

The Vulnerability of God

The Parable of the Lost Son – Luke 15 (NIV)

11 Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.

13 “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living….

…17 “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ ,,,

…“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate…

Today’s reading is an excerpt from a sermon by a radical Lutheran pastor, Nadia Bolz-Weber. Radical is a bit of an understatement; you can read more about her and watch a video of her speaking to a youth rally at this Thinking Out Loud article from last July.   Nadia blogs at The Sarcastic Lutheran, where you can not only read today’s full text, but also listen to this brief sermon (about ten minutes) on audio. To do both, click here.  Nadia begins with a story of a time she thought her child was missing; and continues…

…[I]t’s vulnerable to have a child.  To create or adopt a child is to leave yourself vulnerable to a broken heart in the way nothing else can.  Which is why I started wondering this week about the vulnerability of God.

There is much talk out there about the strength of God and the mightiness of God and the awesomeness of God.  But what of the vulnerability of God?

That God would breath into dust and create us in God’s own image….that God would bring humanity into being as God’s own beloved children was to leave God’s self vulnerable to a broken heart in a way nothing else could have. What a risk God took creating us. Giving us enough freedom to be creators and destroyers.  Giving us enough freedom for us to make a mess of everything and act as our own Gods and to also trust in God and love each other…

…I’ve always heard this parable, one of the most famous stories in the Gospel, titled the Parable of the Prodigal son.  But out of everything we could say this story is about – why do we say it’s about the wasteful extravagance of the younger son? Why is that the focus when it’s not even that interesting?

I mean, It’s actually common for young people to leave home, waste their lives and their money for awhile until they have no other option but to come home to the parents they didn’t treat very well when they were leaving in the first place. Maybe we make this a story about the wasteful stupidity of the younger son because it’s a story we are more familiar with than the alternative, which is this: if the word prodigal means wasteful extravagance, then isn’t it really the story of the prodigal father?

Isn’t it wastefully extravagant for the Father to give his children so much freedom?  Isn’t it wastefully extravagant for the Father to discard his dignity and run into the street toward a foolish and immature son who squandered their fortune? Isn’t it wastefully extravagant for the father to throw such a raging party for this kind of wayward son?

But, see, I love that kind of grace.

I personally love that Jesus tells this story of the prodigal father in response the to Pharisee’s indignation that Jesus would eat with tax collectors and prostitutes because, when it comes down to it, give me a church filled with awful sinners over a church filled with pious Pharisees any time.

Some of us might find the grace the father shows to the younger son to boarder on offensive, but the thing that really gets me in this story is how wastefully extravagant the Father is toward the older son.  The kid who never left him.  The one who has always done everything right.  The kid who is clean cut and went to college right out of high school and came back to work in his father’s business.  The kid who always signs up to do jobs at synagogue but resentfully notices all the slackers who show up and never help at all.  The kid who feels entitled. The kid who can’t stomach going into a party to celebrate the return of his screw-up of a brother.  I can’t stand that older brother even as I cringe at the ways I may be a little bit like him.  You know what’s wastefully extravagant in my book?: the fact that the Father says to that kid “all that is mine is yours”.

What risk God takes on us. Children who waste everything in dissolute living.  Children who begrudge grace being extended to people who so clearly don’t deserve it. But this is a risk born of love. God risks so much by loving us which is why, tonight anyway,  I prefer calling this the Parable of the Prodigal Father.

Because it is here we see that your relationship to God is simply not defined by your really bad decisions or your squandering of resources.  But also your relationship to God is not determined by your virtue.  It is not determined by being nice, or being good or even, and I struggle with this, but it’s not even determined by how much you do at church.  Your relationship to God is simply determined by the wastefully extravagant love of God.  A God who takes no account of risk but runs toward you no matter what saying all that is mine is yours. Amen.

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