Uncommon Wisdom


The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple. – Psalms 19:7 (NIV)

Most of us have heard the euphemism “Common sense isn’t so common.”  We laugh or snicker, but the truth of the saying pricks just a bit.  As a culture, we share the same sensibilities with our neighbors less and less.  We have become diverse not just in the characteristics closer to the surface of who we are, but deep down in the core.

Cultures go through these eras of tumult and transition and they are rarely without difficulty.  In theUSAwe have gone through our share – the Revolution, the Civil War, the Civil Rights movement – where combating groups held their sensibilities to those which were common.  Christians took their stance on both sides of all these issues, so even we did not hold things in common all the time.

There is something common for all of us.  We can take our opinions or feelings and use them to define reality, to determine what is true.  Maturity is no longer allowing our weaknesses to define the world around us, but to allow the truth of God’s word to define the way we see ourselves and the world.  His law is perfect and allows us to see things perfectly, but we must see the world through that lens.

We need to begin this with our children before they are increasingly exposed to the worldliness around them.  We need to expose them to the truths of God well before they are inundated with the lies of the world.  This means that we and our children will be at odds with our culture, even at odds with our family and neighbors.  The hope is that standing our ground will turn others to look at that perfect law.

Lord, help us to live according to Your word and not according to our will.  Help me to increase in wisdom and knowledge of Your statutes.  May my children be prepared to meet the foolishness of the world with Your wisdom.  Amen.

Strength


You, O LORD, keep my lamp burning; my God turns my darkness into light.  With your help I can advance against a troop; with my God I can scale a wall. – Psalms 18:28-29 (NIV)

If you go into any gas station mini mart you will find a large section of the cooler contains energy drinks.  Some give you wings, others make you feel like a monster and some turn you into a rock star.  None of them give you strength.  They can hype your mind, but they cannot up your talent or ability.  The Psalmist indicates something different is available from God.

It is one thing to be perkier for a few hours and another entirely to be empowered beyond our own abilities.  God can strengthen us against all that assails us in ways that nothing else can.  But it is easy for Christians to go for the quick bursts of energy.  We can get ourselves pumped up by reading a book or listening to a song, but our strength is in the Lord.

Protecting my children from the mentality of getting fixes of fake energy with a pill or a drink will be difficult.  The marketers want to get them hooked young and keep them hooked.  They promise much and deliver too little.  God promises Himself and He is more than enough.  So I must live that promise out in front of my children.  God’s empowering grace needs to shine through my words and deeds.

This will require second guessing myself when I am feeling weak or wounded.  I will need to question what I reach for first when I am feeling inadequate.  The discipline of allowing God to keep my lamp burning needs to be in the front of my mind each day.  I want to be empowered by Him so that my children will seek to be empowered by Him.

Lord, strengthen me with Your grace and love.  Help me to stand strong for You in the trials of this life.  May my children learn of Your empowering presence through me.  Amen.

In the End, God


But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation.  I will sing to the LORD, for he has been good to me. – Psalms 13:5-6 (NIV)

Psalm 13 has a number of bad things going on: loneliness, abandonment, evil overcoming good and internal conflict.  David is in a bad place.  These are the dark nights of the soul that most of us will face in our lives.  It really does not matter how we get there, but the way out is essential.  David keys in on this way out – trust in God.

This is an overwhelming theme in the Psalms.  The idea that no matter what circumstance the writer finds himself in, God is still loving, trustworthy and righteous. The Psalmist testifies time after time that salvation is still found in God and that He is still deserving of worship.

In the end, God is always God, though we may not feel it in the moment.  We may struggle, strain and twist in this life, burdened with pain and sorrow, but we must hold onto this truth.  Everything else changes, but God doesn’t.  No matter how we start, or where we go, or where we end up, God’s love is there welcoming the prodigal child home.

I desperately need to believe this in my life.  This truth needs to define me more every day, not only so I can see my way through the pain and sorrow, but so I can begin to live this out with my children.  I need to exemplify this steadfastness to them.  They need a father who does not change in his love for them, no matter what circumstances the choices take them to.

Lord, help me to live with the truth of Your unchanging character deep in my heart.  May I learn to love my children with integrity and grace. Amen.

Worship Leader


From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise because of your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger. – Psalms 8:2 (NIV)

I enjoy the worship at my church.  It is a time to give glory to God, get prepared to hear that day’s message and join together in unity in our love of God.  The musicians are gifted, the leaders are thoughtful and the room is built for singing.  This is a blessing each time we enter into that place of worship and I am grateful.  That being said, what I love the most is hearing my children worship.

It doesn’t matter that they don’t get the words right every time.  It is okay that they miss a note now and then.  It is perfectly acceptable for them to sit and listen to songs they don’t know. I just love watching a heart for worship grow inside of them.  I love hearing that a meaningful worship song is their “favorite” song to listen to on the radio.  I want them to be worshippers of God with reckless abandon.

I think my flaw lies in waiting for Sunday morning for worship to happen.  I need to lead my children into worship wherever and whenever.  I need a heart that is moved to sing and shout praise to God without fearing embarrassment or shame.  I need the sensitivity to know when a song raised in humility will bring more peace and healing than any conversation could.  This child needs to silence the foe and the avenger.

Lord, help me become more prone to worship than to lecture or discuss.  Grow in me an attitude of praise so that my children will see and hear and imitate.  Make me a worship leader for my family. Amen.

Courageous for the Truth


Then Queen Esther answered, “If I have found favor with you, O king, and if it pleases your majesty, grant me my life–this is my petition. And spare my people–this is my request.  For I and my people have been sold for destruction and slaughter and annihilation. If we had merely been sold as male and female slaves, I would have kept quiet, because no such distress would justify disturbing the king.” – Esther 7:3-4 (NIV)

Sometimes telling the truth is easy.  When you are asked if the meal is good and it is good, that is easy.  When you are trying to uncover a conspiracy to eliminate a race of people – a race to which you belong – that is not easy.  There are times that truth telling requires courage because the telling may cost more.  Esther did not know how the king would react to the truth she had to tell.  She needed to be courageous.

But courage is not a skill that is developed; it is a character trait built on the foundation of our beliefs.  We are courageous because of what we believe in and what we love.  If what we believe in is transitory or false, then our bravery will be just as transitory and false.  If we want our children to be brave for the sake of the truth – God’s truth – then they need to believe firmly in God.

Courage doesn’t exist in a vacuum and it doesn’t just pop up like a magic genie.  I need to help my daughters be courageous by encouraging them; encouraging their faith, encouraging their service to God, encouraging their public witness of the Gospel.  The questions rise in my heart, “Do I exhibit courage?  Is my foundation firm enough to help me overcome fear?  Am I standing for the truth despite the possible cost?”  The only answer I can give with confidence is that I am trying.

And that is what I will keep asking my daughters to do; try.  Try to speak up when fear clenches at your words.  Try to live for Christ when others live for themselves.  Try to live according to His word and not according to your fears.  This is what I will try to do in my life and what I will try to instill in my children.

Lord, help me to be courageous. Amen.

The Truth Hurts and Heals


“Now therefore, O our God, the great, mighty and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love, do not let all this hardship seem trifling in your eyes–the hardship that has come upon us, upon our kings and leaders, upon our priests and prophets, upon our fathers and all your people, from the days of the kings of Assyria until today.  In all that has happened to us, you have been just; you have acted faithfully, while we did wrong.  Our kings, our leaders, our priests and our fathers did not follow your law; they did not pay attention to your commands or the warnings you gave them.  Even while they were in their kingdom, enjoying your great goodness to them in the spacious and fertile land you gave them, they did not serve you or turn from their evil ways.” – Nehemiah 9:32-35 (NIV)

The better part of chapter nine in Nehemiah is a recollection of Israel’s spotty history with God.  Their penchant for sinfulness, even in the face of God’s blessing, borders on embarrassing.  At least it would be if Scripture was only a window to past events instead of a mirror of our present circumstances.  I cannot say that I have been any less foolish than they.  I look at their story and I see myself and understand their appeal to God’s mercy and love.

It is easy to forget our pattern of foolishness when we are disciplining our children.  Our memory can become fairly selective when we are dealing with disobedience and disrespect from our offspring.  But when we hide our imperfect past, we miss the opportunity to share the moments when God’s perfection stepped in and saved us.  If we paint the picture for our children that we never had problems and never disobeyed and never fell short we will regret it in the end.

God is perfect and we are not and we should never get those things mixed up.  It is good to remember how much God has done in spite of us.  It is good to remember that His mercy and love alone are responsible for the goodness in our lives.  It is good for us to allow God to redeem the low moments of our lives to speak to our children.  If God can teach me about my sin through the lives of His children, shouldn’t I let God teach my children through my life? Even if it hurts?

The truth can hurt, but it also heals.  The truth helps us teach our children that sin is always the way to pain and God is always the way to healing.  The truth teaches us that obedience is not a weight around our necks; it is the life rope that pulls us from the wreckage of a sinful life.  Truth hurts like resetting a bone, but it allows us to heal correctly.  This is why confession is good for the soul.

Lord, help me to be a truth teller.  Help me be transparent with my children about the work You have done in my life to save me from sin.  May the truth about my life, good or bad, be used by You to help my children walk in Your ways.  Amen.

Following Through


So the wall was completed on the twenty-fifth of Elul, in fifty-two days. – Nehemiah 6:15 (NIV)

It is good advice in baseball, football and basketball.  It is key in a golf swing and sought after in valued employees.  Follow through; the discipline of finishing what is started.  Nehemiah had follow through.  Not once did he see any challenge as an excuse to end his run at completing the task God had set before him.  In fact, it seems Nehemiah saw them as opportunities for God to reveal Himself to His people and those who would stand in their way.

We seem to have lost our sense of follow through in our post-modern sentiments.  Shows are cancelled part way through their season, people quit jobs because they don’t “like” their boss and we change our opinions more often than our clothes.  We hop churches, jump fences and switch allegiances.  Our steady drift toward the importance of the individual has eroded the emotional strength and mental maturity required to make sacrifices and hard choices.  We don’t follow through.  I don’t follow through.

I want my children to finish what they start and I want them to finish well, so it is incumbent on me to stick with those things I have committed to with tenacity and toughness.  I need to develop the disciplines and determination Nehemiah brought to bear on his work.  I need to know what it is I am about and be about it without hesitation.  Prayer, time in the Word and time in community will need to be where I live each day with eyes and ears ready to see and hear what the Lord has set before me.  I will need to develop a heart and mind intent on following through.

What is it the stops us from see the finish line?  Why do we find ourselves making excuses instead of making plans?  I will start with the mirror and say that it is easier to stay where I am comfortable.  Thank God that He does not leave us alone in our comfort.  He chastises us to pursue something more – the abundant life – by speaking conviction and encouragement into our hearts.  He brings others into our lives to spur us on.  He points us to the story of Nehemiah and shows us the value of follow through.  God brings everything we need each day to finish well, but He has left it to us to make choices that get us there or not.  I want to get to the finish line at the end of each day.

Lord, help me to follow through in life.  Help follow through in work, in play, in relationships and in pursuing You every day.  May I finish well in everything I do each day.  Give me the discipline and desire to pursue the finish line with passion, integrity and hope. Amen.