Passing on the Story of God
He established a decree in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our ancestors to teach to their children; that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and rise up and tell them to their children, so that they should set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments; and that they should not be like their ancestors, a stubborn and rebellious generation, a generation whose heart was not steadfast, whose spirit was not faithful to God. – Psalms 78:5-8 (NRSV)
Information is almost too available to us. Stories are made, ingested and forgotten like cheap candy. TV shows come and go and few stand the test of time. Books are written with a movie in mind and movies are made with product sales in mind and somewhere in there a good story died. We are slowly losing the rich and powerful gift of storytelling.
Asaph was concerned about this same issue in his own day. He saw a weakness in mankind that we are quick to forget what we do not hear repeated again and again. His exhortation to tell the story of God and His people is the cure for hereditary disobedience. If we are tied to the rich heritage of all that God has done through history, we are more likely to remember His promises walking through a broken world.
Today we have a lot of distractions to take our eyes and minds of the story we are living with God. Our children are growing up in an instant information world with technology specifically designed to occupy their time with crushing candy or flinging birds at pigs. It is easy to live life on short term memory and forget the heritage that ties us all together from Adam’s first breath to the return of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
We need to tell our children the story of God; stories of His love and grace and mercy and power and compassion. Stories of his people overcoming the brokenness of the world with the wholeness of His Spirit within us. Stories of His unending patience with our unending stubbornness. Stories of His everlasting love for a world gone astray. These are stories to tell again and again and again so they will recognize when they are living the story themselves.
Lord, help me to share your story with my children so that they might follow you all the days of their lives. Amen.
The In Between
Hear my cry, O God; listen to my prayer.
From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I.
For you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the foe.
I long to dwell in your tent forever and take refuge in the shelter of your wings. Selah – Psalms 61:1-4 (NIV)
It is hard to be in between. Feeling unsettled, un-rooted, unfamiliar. Being in that place that fills in the space from where you’ve been and where you are going. Between now and then, here and there and what is and what shall be we find ourselves realizing how much we need God. David was a man who understood the time and place in between.
David learned the hard way that the only thing that could fill the in between was God. It was God alone who made sense of the in between, revealing it as the connective tissue in a life of purpose and meaning. Instead of the in between being a place of isolation and disorientation, God uses it to reconnect and reorient. But it is easy for us to get lost in the in between.
If we are not ready for the in between, it can overwhelm us and leave us wandering, hovering in a holding pattern with no place to land in sight. God uses everything to transform His children, even the in between. I need to show my children how valuable the in between is before they become professionals at distraction busyness.
It is a common habit to keep children occupied, but I think the better discipline – and the harder to teach – is to teach our children to be content when they are not occupied. Our society has made whole industries based on distraction for the in between. We don’t enjoy the quiet of a drive on mountain roads; we pop in a CD or show a movie to keep the kids from tearing each other apart. But maybe we are missing something. Maybe our kids will benefit more from seeking what is profitable during their in betweens rather than finding ways to waste time.
Will our children run to the Wii or to the Word? Do they seek comfort in the still small voice or the next track on the CD? Are they following friends on Facebook or following Jesus? Are they filling the empty space of in between with distractions or with the things of God? What do my children see me do with the in between? (That one stings!)
I want the in between in my life and lives of my children to be rich and meaningful and time well spent. I want to look back and see how the in between connected the crisis and celebrations and calms of our life together into a storyline of purpose and power and meaning. I want to see what the time of longing for God’s refuge and being securely in the midst of His refuge looks like.
Lord, help me to live fully in the in between. May I lead my children well in making use of the time instead of wasting it. Show our family how You move in the in between and let us linger as long as You need us to. Amen.
Forgiveness and Humility
Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will turn back to you. Save me from bloodguilt, O God, the God who saves me, and my tongue will sing of your righteousness. O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise. You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. – Psalms 51:13-17 (NIV)
One of the plotlines repeated by Hollywood goes something like this: a young boy who is part of the uncool crew at school somehow breaks into the cool group and then forgets his uncool friends or that he was ever uncool in the first place. Usually the main character has a critical moment of decision whether he will continue on the path of coolness or reject coolness to redeem broken relationships. The movies and shows with this storyline vary from corny to heartwarming, but the storyline remains the same.
David went through this same story arc. He was a lowly shepherd in a field, but he had his faith in God. He was considered tiny by his brothers and the king, but he wanted to fight a giant. He was banished to a life of running and fighting by a jealous king, but he still fought the enemies of that king. He is finally ordained as king and takes his place on the throne of Israel, but somewhere along the way he forgot where he came from. He never would have considered stealing another man’s sheep when he was a young shepherd, but that is the truth Nathan confronted him with.
David’s journey took him to a point of decision, a humiliating dressing down by a trusted prophet where he realized, in God’s eyes, he was still a simple shepherd boy. His story is a reminder that no matter how much we grow, how mature we act, how knowledgeable we become, we are still little children in our Father’s eyes. The appropriate response from us for the forgiveness and grace of God is a humble and obedient heart, and yet it is easy to be that Hollywood character that forgets where they started. David reminds us that it is always easier to be humble than to be humbled.
Lord, help me to be humble. Remind me every day who I am in light of who You are, so that my eyes will see everything with clearer vision. Amen.
Karma and the Problem of Sin
Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice. Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity. Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. – Psalms 51:7-12 (NIV)
One of David’s most admirable traits was his ability to clearly state his need and God’s ability to meet that need. Sometimes it took a hard road to get him there, but when he arrived at the place of understanding, he put it to words that connect and convict. The passage above is a great example.
David lived under the Levitical law which demanded sacrifices and ritual cleanliness and adherence to moral codes. Within this context David writes about a relationship with God where adherence to law is not mentioned. The sinner does not reclaim his standing with God through sacrifice or service, but by being cleansed and purified by God.
A common pitfall in human behavior is the practice of karma in “paying” for dirty deeds. If we do something wrong we better do something right to make up for it, and it doesn’t hurt to do something really nice to get the karma ledger on your side. Despite the obvious flaws in this practice, we tend toward it if we are not paying attention. This is easily seen in our children when they make the good behavior rush just before Christmas rolls around.
Getting children to understand that they are supposed to be good because it is the right thing, not because they can make up for bad or earn a free pass on their next transgression is difficult. It is especially hard since we as parents can enforce the behavior when we manipulate good behavior by promising gifts from Santa. God pays the price for sin and gives us the power to overcome sin and that is the only way it will ever work.
Lord, help me teach my children about grace and holiness, mercy and purity. Cleanse me and make me holy for Your name’s sake. Amen.
Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge. Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place. – Psalms 51:1-6 (NIV)
Sin has become a passé term. Dysfunction, emotional baggage, flaws, psychological scars are all real, but they are symptoms of the root problem – sin. Instead of treating the infection, we treat the symptoms and wonder why people stay sick. In fact, sin tries to convince us that we are not sick at all. We portray vibrant and energized lives to the world, but we are wasting away on the inside, dead men with candy coated shells.
We need to face our sin. This is more than admitting that we are sinners. Most people get that they sin and understand that they can’t fix it themselves, but there are too many cures for the symptoms that just worsen the disease. Instead of facing sin and seeking healing from the only one who can provide it to them, they turn their eyes to temporary balms and hopeless remedies.
I don’t want my children to head down that road. If they are going to have a relationship with God that transforms and matures them, they will have to be honest about the sin in their life. They will need to understand that sin at every level is against God first and then others. Their hearts will need to be well lit by the process of confession and repentance. I want them to have hope that the love of God can bring them from where they shouldn’t be to where they should be so they can be who they should be. I want them to experience what it is to overcome sin through the power of God.
Lord, help me lead my children into a godly understanding of sin and the way out. May my children grow to know how to handle the sin in their lives and experience victory through Jesus Christ. Amen. .
A Thirst for God
As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?
My tears have been my food day and night, while men say to me all day long, “Where is your God?”
These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go with the multitude, leading the procession to the house of God, with shouts of joy and thanksgiving among the festive throng.
Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. – Psalm 42:1-5 (NIV)
I wonder sometimes if I am doing enough as a father to instill a thirst for God in my children. Do I set an example of dependence on God day after day? Have I planted the idea in them that sometimes the only way to appreciate a cool drink is to know what it is like to be really thirsty? I have to admit that I don’t know. While I am certainly working on moving closer to Christ, I can’t give you a measurement of how far I have to go. I am stilling learning what it is to thirst for God.
That isn’t such a bad place to be, I guess. Maybe it is okay for my girls to see that I’m not perfect and that I am still working on what it is to follow Jesus. Or maybe it is okay for me to be okay with them seeing my imperfection. That is one of the most notable characteristics of the Psalms; their transparent honesty. Yet that honesty is always tempered with truth. It is why the downcast soul can put its hope in God.
So I will live imperfectly with my children, transparent and honest about my life with God, but always rooted in the truth. That sounds like a good way to instill a thirst for God in all of us.
Lord, help us to live honestly together as a family. Give us a thirst for You above all other things. Amen.
I waited patiently for the LORD; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the LORD. – Psalms 40:1-3 (NIV)
Patience. It sounds like such a nice word. It has a calm cadence to it and they even named a flower after it, but as most of us know, patience is hard. Patience can be torturous and even painful, especially in a slimy pit. However, it is always rewarded when it is rooted in God.
When we wait for the Lord, He turns His attention to us like a parent waiting for their child to sit still before they can get up from the table. God could give us everything we wanted, when we wanted it and how we wanted, but He wants us to have our attention on Him not on what we want.
We have a garden with tomatoes, squash, onions, sunflowers, cantaloupe and berries. Some were just planted and some have been there for a year or so. Every day we look for signs of growth and health. We tend each plant, watching for signs of bugs, lack of nutrients, water and anything else that will help us grow a good harvest. And we wait. We do a lot of waiting. Gardening takes patience.
The garden has been a good way for my daughters to learn patience. They are beginning to understand that not everything they want comes without time and effort. They are learning that anticipation has to be married to preparation. By learning about patience in the garden now they are preparing to be patient in their relationship with God. Berries do not ripen at our whim and God does not answer our wants and desires at our whim either.
So tend the garden of your fellowship with the Father with patience. It is a blessing for all of us.
Lord, help me to be patient. Amen.
Do Not Fret
Do not fret because of evil men or be envious of those who do wrong; for like the grass they will soon wither, like green plants they will soon die away. Trust in the LORD and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun. – Psalms 37:1-6 (NIV)
There is a lot in this world to get frustrated and angry about. We see injustice, greed, meanness and a general sense of selfishness that can get us down. All of these have influences on how we perceive life. We can get cynical and pessimistic about the world, but it can bleed over into how we see everything. We can turn into sour and surly saints.
This keeps us from shining the light of God. If we lose sight of God’s goodness, we become more defined by our surroundings instead of God transforming our surroundings through us. We cannot look to the world for our happiness and contentment; we will be disappointed. We must look to God, always God.
The Psalmist puts forth a great argument here: live life on God’s terms and let others live life on their terms and God will deal with us accordingly. This less about worrying who is being bad and more about how we can be good. If we keep our eyes on the Lord, we won’t have the time or inclination to monitor the fairness of life.
It leaves us with a choice between being fretting frowners or faithful followers. Will we live life moving toward the love, light and beauty of God or will we wallow in the misperception of thinking we don’t have all we deserve? God is all we really need, so I know what the answer should be, but there are days where I act like a wallower. I want something better for myself and my children.
Lord, help me not to wallow in my self-made misery. Give me the wisdom and opportunity to teach my children the importance of following after You alone. Amen.
No king is saved by the size of his army; no warrior escapes by his great strength. A horse is a vain hope for deliverance; despite all its great strength it cannot save. But the eyes of the LORD are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love, to deliver them from death and keep them alive in famine. Psalms 33:16-19 (NIV)
The power of the individual has become so overblown in our society. We elevate individuals to a height that they don’t deserve and can’t live up to and so we are perpetually let down by our cultural heroes. We see this in athletes, actors, singers and politicians. We even do this with Christians, making them celebrities of the church. But our hope isn’t in others, it is in the Lord.
We look to the wrong things too often to help us in our troubles. We follow trends twitter accounts, but we miss out on following Jesus. This certainly isn’t about whether we should be responsible people or not, but where we get our strength and comfort. As God’s children we should do everything to the best of our ability, but when the world is against us we need to trust in God and not ourselves or our resources.
God is our deliverer. He frees us from our worries and wounds. He heals our brokenness and purifies our hearts and minds. He gives us life that overcomes death. He satisfies our hunger and thirst. Nothing we can get in this world can do any of this, but the arena of the world is where our children live. We need to draw their eyes and hearts to the one who gives them everything they need. We need to teach them not to put their hope in hopeless things.
Lord, be my deliverer. Remind me that my hope should not be in the things of this world, but in the one who created it. Help me teach my children to trust in You instead of anything else. Amen.