What Would You Do for a Miracle?

When Elisha reached the house, there was the boy lying dead on his couch.  He went in, shut the door on the two of them and prayed to the LORD.  Then he got on the bed and lay on the boy, mouth to mouth, eyes to eyes, hands to hands. As he stretched himself out on him, the boy’s body grew warm.  Elisha turned away and walked back and forth in the room and then got on the bed and stretched out on him once more. The boy sneezed seven times and opened his eyes.

Elisha summoned Gehazi and said, “Call the Shunammite.” And he did. When she came, he said, “Take your son.”  She came in, fell at his feet and bowed to the ground. Then she took her son and went out. – 2 Kings 4:32-37

The prophets of the Old Testament were asked to do some odd things in order for God’s power to be released, and this ranks up there in the weird category.  I am not sure how I would feel if an old bearded man in robes came in and lay down on my recently deceased child, but I am sure I would feel grateful and amazed if it brought that child back to life.  It is the idea of “normal” that gets in the way of us experiencing God more than a lot of other distractions in this life.  I would rather be weird and see miracles than normal and expect nothing.

If I expect God to show up to answer prayers, to provide for my needs, to guide and direct my path, then I have to accept how He decides to show up.  You don’t invite the king over and then complain about what mode of transportation he rode in on; just be happy that the king showed up.  This is something I need to grow in and help my children understand.  They need to have an expectation of God’s power working in and through them without an expectation of how He chooses to do so.

God has given us power through His Holy Spirit to heal the sick, cast out demons and, yes, raise the dead, but He has not boxed in the details of how that gets done.  This indicates that we need to be guided and directed by Him on the process.  It provides another opportunity to be dependent solely on Him rather than some legalized system of healing or exorcism.  Are there rules or guidelines? Absolutely, but there is also a lot of room for God to work in those boundaries, and I want my children to experience the freedom to work with God within His will and ways.

Lord, help me be open to the ways You want to work through me to bring Your miracles about in other’s lives.  May my children grow with an expectation of Your power and an adventurous anticipation of how You want to express Your power in and through their lives. Amen.

Describing God’s Wonders

Due to an amazing lightning storm that passed through our area, I spent about three hours troubleshooting our internet connection.  That said, I will be posting today’s post tomorrow.  However, I did want to share an experience I had with my daughter on our drive home last night.

Due to the normal juggling of rides, schedules and available drivers, I was bringing my oldest daughter, Keely, straight from her volleyball game to my writer’s group.  This would present her the possibility of finishing up some homework and staying up past her bedtime.  Unknown to us, a storm moved into the area during our meeting and we walked to the car gaping at the lightning scattering across the night sky.

While we were driving home, it was clear that Keely was a little unnerved by the quantity and quality of the lightning.  I tried to explain how we were safe since the rubber of the tires insulated the car and that most of the lightning was in the hills or travelling from cloud to cloud.  These scientific statements did not comfort her, and then it struck me. (horrible lightning pun intended)

I told her we were going to play a game that went like this: I would begin with a word beginning with the letter “A” that described lightning.  She would then have to come up with a word beginning with the letter “B” to describe lightning and so on until we reached the letter “Z.”  This seemed to help her focus less on her fear and more on the lightning.  Although she did use the word horrific for the letter “H.”

God can be scary and beyond comprehension, but when we take the time to concentrate on His character instead of on our fear, we begin to see Him differently.  We can appreciate the beauty of His power instead of worrying about how tiny we are in comparison.  This is why worship is so important – it gets our eyes off of us and our worries and on Him and His amazing qualities.  What is your alphabet description of God today?

A Forgotten Legacy

that whole generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation grew up, who knew neither the Lord nor what he had done for Israel. Then the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord and served the Baals. They forsook the Lord, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of Egypt. They followed and worshiped various gods of the peoples around them. They provoked the Lord to anger because they forsook him and served Baal and the Ashtoreths.  In his anger against Israel the Lord handed them over to raiders who plundered them. He sold them to their enemies all around, whom they
were no longer able to resist.  Whenever Israel went out to fight, the hand of the Lord was against them to defeat them, just as he had sworn to them. They were in great distress. – Judges 2:10-15 (NIV)

I want to leave a legacy to my girls beyond a bank account and a home full of things.  I want to pass on more than
information and religious platitudes.  I want to leave my children a hope for heaven, a desire for holiness and a penchant for faithfulness.

Joshua left a legacy of faithfulness and obedience toward God.  His generation had seen the handiwork of God and realized His promises.  Unfortunately the following generations lost sight of God even while living in the light of
His blessings.  This put them in the Promised Land without promise.

There is a way to leave a legacy that lasts and that is if the legacy is rooted in God.  Israel began their history with
God, but slowly God disappeared from their story.  He was something that happened in the past, but not someone they had in their present and placed their hope in for the future.  This is the cautionary tale of a chosen people who made bad choices.

If I don’t want my girls to forget who they belong to, I need to live a life that reminds them who I belong too.  I need to
show the love of God for them to grow in the love of God.   Our children need to see God in action before they allow God act on them.

Lord, help me be a legacy builder.  Help me to live a life that is worthy to emulate. rant me your favor and providence to build a legacy for my children.

Getting to What God Has Already Done

Then the LORD said to Joshua, “See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands, along with its king and its fighting men.  March around the city once with all the armed men. Do this for six days. Have seven priests carry trumpets of rams’ horns in front of the ark. On the seventh day, march around the city seven times, with the priests blowing the trumpets. When you hear them sound a long blast on the trumpets, have all the people give a loud shout; then the wall of the city will collapse and the people will go up, every man straight in.” – Joshua 6:2-5 (NIV)

God makes statements throughout Scripture where He refers to future events as already done.  Israel was 7 days out from the walls of Jericho crumbling before their marching band, but God tells them He has already delivered Jericho into their hands.  This is a fundamental reality of God; He is without beginning or end, being fully present in each moment of time.  This makes everything in history true for God, whether it has happened for us or not.  Israel had spent 40 years in the wilderness fully dependent on this same ever-present God.  This made whatever God said, however unlikely or seemingly impossible, a fact.

Parents are not ever-present or perfect, but they are called to integrity and servanthood.  We have the opportunity with our children to model this character of God by being people who follow through.  There are not many things that erode trust faster than broken promises.  If we want our children to believe in a God who has already followed through on His promises, we need to be the kind of parents whose yes means yes and no means no.  There is a caution that comes with this because we are not like God; we have limitations and boundaries.  First, we must be careful about the promises we make.

As awesome and powerful as God is, His promises are limited and specific.  This is not due to Him being limited, but because He meets us in the real world.  His promises come to us through suffering and work and discipline and sacrifice.  His promises are not magic potions that fix things; they are exhibitions of His grace and power in a broken, fallen world amongst broken, fallen people.  His promises are His kingdom come.  His promises have been true, are true and will be true, We need to help our children live in and hope for the promises of God because He is already there

We need to lead our children to where God already is.  They need to develop vision that is defined by faith hope and love.  We need to build in them and expectation that they can tear down walls.

Lord, thank you for being everywhere, all the time and all at once.   Help us to live in an attitude of expectation for your works and will to be revealed.   Bless my children with love and grace to keep them in the promises of God. Amen.

Grumbling at God

The whole Israelite community set out from Elim and came to the Desert of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after they had come out of Egypt.  In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the LORD’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.” Then the LORD said to Moses, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions.  On the sixth day they are to prepare what they bring in, and that is to be twice as much as they gather on the other days.” – Exodus 16:1-8 (NIV)

So Moses and Aaron said to all the Israelites, “In the evening you will know that it was the LORD who brought you out of Egypt, and in the morning you will see the glory of the LORD, because he has heard your grumbling against him. Who are we, that you should grumble against us?”

Moses also said, “You will know that it was the LORD when he gives you meat to eat in the evening and all the bread you want in the morning, because he has heard your grumbling against him. Who are we? You are not grumbling against us, but against the LORD.”

“Nobody likes a whiner.”  It makes a good t-shirt or bumper sticker, but the reality is that we are all whiners at some point.  There is something that nags us or puts us in a sour mood when in reality, our life is just fine.  Times come our way when a sacrifice is required for a good cause and we can find ourselves basking in self-pity when no one thanks us for giving up so much.  We all have our weak moments, and this was a weak moment for the children of Israel.

Often it is the ones closest to us that feel the brunt of our grumbling, but we are really grumbling at God.  Just as the Israelites’ grumbling at Moses and Aaron was really grumbling at God.  There really is no telling what God was willing to provide His people if they had shown gratitude and humility.  They only got the minimum of what they asked for – meat and bread.  They were headed to the land of milk and honey, and God may have given them a foretaste on the journey, but instead they ate the same thing every day for 40 years.

This is a lesson that many children never learn.  There are way too many people out there believing they deserve a perfect life.  I have met too many people who seem to think that God owes them something.  Children need to learn the lies behind this way of thinking.  It will save them from a lot of pain, suffering, wasted time and embarrassment.  Complaining, whining, grumbling – these are not the characteristics of God’s faithful.  We need to teach our children how to be grateful and content and the best way to do it is by being grateful and contents ourselves.

I want my daughters to experience the amazing and unexpected of God’s providence.  I want them to live lives marked by gratitude and grace.  As a father, I must be disciplined in modeling this before my daughters.  Lord, help me to live the life of gratitude and contentment.  Help me to lead my children into a right relationship with their God.  Amen.

Growing Up by Digging Deep

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge–that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
Ephesians 3:16-19 (NIV)

Most of us have seen a sidewalk mistreated by the roots of a tree; as it grows the concrete buckles and cracks and another contractor finds gainful employment.  The power to do such damage is one of the unsung miracles of trees (a mature Oak can pump 50 gallons of water a day out of the ground).  The root structures of most trees are incredibly powerful, tough and extremely efficient at transporting nutrients and water from the ground to the highest branches.  Roots are crucial for healthy growth and act as an anchor for the tree in extreme weather. As believers we also must have strong roots that dig deep into the soil of God’s love so we can weather the storms of a fallen world.

There are several trees near our stream whose roots have been exposed by the slow erosion of soil by the water flowing in its course.  The exposed parts of the roots are just a fraction of the actual length and breadth of the total root system.  It is curious that the part of the tree that makes it grow and gives it stability is the one that is least seen by most observers.  This leads me to think that some of the most important ways for us to stay connected with the life of God take place where others do not see.

The life that Paul is praying for the Ephesians is a life that is “rooted and established in love” because having roots is not the same as being established.  In order for us to be established trees, we must be difficult to uproot.  This can only happen if the roots sink deep and wide and draw the life-giving water to the life that others see.  Trees are steadfast in this regard, growing their roots slowly but firmly to reach the source.

The roots are like the various spiritual disciplines – meditation, prayer, fasting, study, simplicity, solitude, submission, service, confession, worship & celebration – reaching into the depths of God’s immeasurable mercy and grace.  They are the means by which the Holy Spirit flows from Heaven into our branches to produce good fruit.  They are the strong ties to the soil of God’s love that hold us fast when the winds buffet and rages. A tree by itself does not produce fruit; a tree that is receiving all the nutrients it needs will produce fruit.  If we want to produce fruit, we have to sink the roots.

In our world, we have been told to take care of the outside so people will like what they see.  In another of God’s reversals of conventional wisdom, He has told us to develop the inner life so that it informs and transforms the outer.  So many have beautiful looking trees, with lush branches and thick trunks, but the slightest wind will uproot them.  Others have plentiful fruit at first glance, but it is only decorative and has nothing to nourish those who might try to eat what is offered.

Let me ask you a question: when you have just bitten into a juicy, flavorful apple, do you wonder if the tree it came from is attractive or impressive?  Probably not.  More than likely you pined at the possibility of having a tree like the one your apple came from in your back yard.  What makes a tree a blessing to others is its ability to produce good fruit season after season.

As Christians we do not grow fruit on our branches for our own sake.  No tree does.  We sink roots deep, grow our branches strong and thicken up our trunk to hold fruit out to those who need to eat.  It is interesting to note that each of the disciplines require a certain characteristic – stillness.  We must be still by the stream and sink our roots deep to allow God’s love to flow through us, producing fruit in its season for a hungry world.

Crossing the Red Sea

Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and all that night the LORD drove the sea back with a strong east wind and turned it into dry land. The waters were divided, and the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left.

The Egyptians pursued them, and all Pharaoh’s horses and chariots and horsemen followed them into the sea.  During the last watch of the night the LORD looked down from the pillar of fire and cloud at the Egyptian army and threw it into confusion.  He jammed[b] the wheels of their chariots so that they had difficulty driving. And the Egyptians said, “Let’s get away from the Israelites! The LORD is fighting for them against Egypt.”

Then the LORD said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand over the sea so that the waters may flow back over the Egyptians and their chariots and horsemen.”  Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and at daybreak the sea went back to its place. The Egyptians were fleeing toward[c] it, and the LORD swept them into the sea.  The water flowed back and covered the chariots and horsemen—the entire army of Pharaoh that had followed the Israelites into the sea. Not one of them survived. – Exodus 14:21-28

When the Israelites were finally released from slavery, God needed to take them somewhere else.  He needed them to get away from their old life and old surroundings.  They needed to realize that God had something better for them.  They needed to discover what they were created for and they needed to travel to make that discovery.  So that this point would be clear and unforgettable, God takes them across the bottom of the sea on dry ground.  Talk about an object lesson.

Our children need to be taken out of their environments as well.  There are times where a complete change in geography can help open them up to see God and the promises He has for them.  They need to understand the relationship of responsibility and freedom and how they grow together.  This is not easy.  Teaching our children to live a life of freedom is not easy, but it is worth every struggle we face in the process.

While God gave the Israelites every opportunity to see what He was doing for them, where He was taking them and why, they still went back to their enslaved ways of thinking.  Before and after crossing the Red Sea, the Israelites complained.  Freedom was too dangerous and demanding and difficult.  They were gripped by fear and they started acting like they belonged to someone else.  But they belonged to God and so do we and so do our children.

We need to have a relationship with God that will allow us to be Moses to our children.  Our ability to be moved by God to do and say what our children need to do and hear is critical.  They will look to us to lead them away from their oppressors.  They will be watching us to see if what we say matches with how we live.

Lord, help me to lead my children from slavery to freedom.  Give me wisdom to know my child’s needs and lead them to God.  Help me to know when my children are slipping back into their old, enslaved habits.  Amen.