Patience


Waiting for berries.

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.

Our Deliverer


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.

Praise His Holy Name


Sing to the LORD, you saints of his; praise his holy name.  For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning. – Psalms 30:4-5 (NIV)

One of the hardest things to do is to give your best to someone or something when you are not feeling your best.  When the day is long and patience is short and the pain of life seems overwhelming, sing to the Lord?  That’s what the psalmist is getting at.  Bringing the sacrifice of praise to God is not supposed to hinge on our mood, but that doesn’t jive with the ways of the world.

Too often we use worship and praise as personal therapy.  We look forward to Sunday mornings because we enjoy the music and hope it will help us feel better.  There is something profoundly important about worship being about God and God alone.  Being disciplined about why we worship – because God is worthy – helps us keep a longer view of things.  If we can worship God in the midst of our storm, it helps us hope for the sun to break through though we don’t yet see the light.

To develop this discipline in our children we need to ask ourselves on a regular basis why we worship.  What is it about God that we need to praise Him for?  Why is it important to praise Him even on our darkest day?  It is not that we don’t know the answers to these questions, but emotion is hard to overcome when our knowledge doesn’t go deep enough.  We and our children need to know why we love and worship God like we know the sun will come up in the morning.

Lord, help me to worship You as you deserve.  Give me the strength and discipline to give you praise, even on the worst of days.  May my children worship and rejoice in You all the days of their lives.  Amen.

Waiting for the Lord


I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD. – Psalms 27:13-14 (NIV)

Heaven is going to be beyond anything we can hope or comprehend.  To be perfectly at peace with God in His presence, joining together with all the saints in praising His name is amazing to think about.  However, heaven is someplace we end up and there is a long road between now and then.  The Psalmist has confidence that life in this broken world is not something we muddle through without hope or happiness.

I don’t want to be one of those people who are just waiting for heaven.  I have seen the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living and I have faith that I will see it again.  My arrival in heaven doesn’t really require anything more from me than the step I made at 9 years of age to surrender my life to Christ.  However, the life of Christ in this world requires intention on my part.  It is possible to get to heaven and miss the times that heaven touches down on earth.

The prescription laid forth in the psalm has three parts: be strong, take heart and wait for the Lord.  If we want to see the goodness of the Lord in the here and now, we need to grab a hold of these three disciplines.  To be strong is to be unshakeable and unbending.  It is strength in our beliefs and standards that take us through the wilderness to the land of promise.  But strength only comes with exercise, with increasing weight to bear.  To be strong one must bearing the weight of waiting for God’s goodness to break through.

Taking heart is what keeps our attitude in a place so we can be strong.  If we lose heart we lose our motivation for gaining and keeping the strength we need in this world.  Taking heart is about gaining courage from the truth of who God is and knowing how that changes everything in our lives.

If we can be strong and take heart it will help us to wait for the Lord.  We do not know God’s timing, but we do know His timing is right.  Strength, courage and patient trust in God’s timing – these are the disciplines that give us eyes to see His goodness and be His instruments of goodness in a broken world.

As a parent, there is comfort in the reality of a heaven to come.  The joy and wholeness we will experience in the place and time are beyond words, but I want my children to have those heavenly moments today. I am confident of this:  they can know the strength that comes from knowing the truth, take heart from experiencing the mercy and grace of a loving God and learn patient expectation for the goodness of God in this world.

Lord, help me to be strong, take heart and wait for Your goodness.  Help me lead my children into these disciplines so that they can see heavenly moments in this world. Help us wait for You.  Amen.

The Fear of the Lord


Who, then, is the man that fears the LORD? He will instruct him in the way chosen for him. He will spend his days in prosperity, and his descendants will inherit the land. The LORD confides in those who fear him; he makes his covenant known to them. – Psalms 25:12-14 (NIV)

We hear a lot of sermons on the love of God, many on His grace and on His mercy, but the fear of Lord does not get as much attention.  Fearing God has become underrated.  We live in an age that lauds fearlessness and celebrates the brash.  It is not courage that we hold up as valuable, but a lack of fear and there is a difference.

Too often we equate courage with fearlessness, but it is fear that is a prerequisite for courage.  Fearlessness is a form of sociopathic behavior.  It is an indicator that someone also lacks love or hope or faith.  Even Christians can sometimes fall into this pitfall.  We need to remember that it is not our fearlessness that equips us to live good lives, but our fear of the Lord casting out all other fears.

Fear of the Lord gives us courage to overcome all other fears.  It is the beginning of wisdom according to Proverbs.  Fear keeps us humble before God instead of calling Him our homeboy, copilot or buddy.  He is the everlasting, ever present and all knowing God and we do right to fear Him, but it is not a fear without hope.

The fear of the Lord is not where we end up, it is where we start.  It leads to a greater appreciation and gratefulness for His love, mercy and grace.  It opens our eyes to the future hope of heaven and our present power to live life abundantly.  The fear of the Lord gets us places that our fleshy fears would keep us from.

The world wants to hold us in fear, hold our children in fear, and we have a God who is not okay with us living timid and fretful lives.  The challenge of keeping our children from giving in to their fleshy fears is a long road.  At every twist and turn of growing up a new fear is introduced.  As we walk them through this terrain, we will need to draw them back to the fear of the Lord so that all other fears diminish.

Lord, help me be a man that fears the Lord.  May I live courageously in this life, unafraid of what the world may bring against me.  Give me all I need to raise my children to fear You and You alone. Amen.

God of all Creation


The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; for he founded it upon the seas and established it upon the waters. – Psalms 24:1-2 (NIV)

We hear in the news about the extravagantly rich, the exorbitantly wealthy, but even they have limits.  In history, kings and kingdoms have expanded across the globe, but all of them have come to ruin sooner or later.  The fights over what belongs to who eat away at our communities, neighborhoods and families.  Ownership is a funny thing, for it can help or hinder us depending on our perspective.

The world sees ownership almost solely in the context of rights. Scripture, however, sees ownership as stewardship. The one who owns something is responsible for how he handles that something.  The parable of the talents comes to mind.  The Psalmist understands this in the greater context and states it clearly, “The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it.”

We are in a constant conflict with the world as it tries to convince our children that they have rights to certain things.  We will be hard pressed to instill in them a sense of responsibility and gratitude for everything they have.  Our lives will be marked not be spent in seeking ways to make more money, but investing more in our children and their life with God.  If we can plant in their hearts the seeds of truth about everything belonging to God, we will help them have much happier lives.

Lord, help me avoid the consumerism and greed in the world around me.  Keep me from striving after things that fade and rust.  Let me live my life with the knowledge that everything belongs to You and help me teach that truth to my children.  Amen.