Wrestling with God


That night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two female servants and his eleven sons and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. After he had sent them across the stream, he sent over all his possessions.  So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak.  When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man.  Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.”

But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”

The man asked him, “What is your name?”

“Jacob,” he answered.

Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.” – Genesis 32:22-28

Disagreements, arguments and even fights can be a part of fatherhood. Our children are different from us, growing up in a different world than we did.  These encounters range from the common battles over eating vegetables to the more prolonged wars over who they hang out with and how they are doing in school.  It is easy, especially when these tussles are more frequent, to mistake contention for wrestling.

Children need to work things out about themselves, the world, their understanding of God and how it all fits together in their head and heart.  This is no easy task.  Jacob found himself in a struggle with God and pushed through to achieve something – a new self.  Jacob became Israel.  It wasn’t something he earned, but something he was rewarded with. Jacob probably discovered more about himself and his God in that encounter that much of what he had experienced to that point in his life. That is the blessing of the struggle.

We need to recognize the moments when our children are struggling.  We need eyes to see the difference between contention and grappling with life’s hard questions.   When our children are disrespectful, disobedient or hurtful, we need to answer with discipline, mercy and wisdom in appropriate measure, but when they are wrestling we need to wrestle with them.  In those moments we can lead our children into a new sense of self.  When they wrestle with us, it prepares them for wrestling with God.  When they wrestle with us they learn about themselves, building mental and emotional strength and self-control.

Lord, help us to see our children’s struggles clearly through your eyes.  Give us wisdom and insight into their needs so we can meet them in those moments prepared and equipped.  Let us struggle with them for their sake and Your glory. Amen.

Moving Our Children Toward Love


When the LORD saw that Leah was not loved, he enabled her to conceive, but Rachel remained childless. Leah became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She named him Reuben, for she said, “It is because the LORD has seen my misery. Surely my husband will love me now.” – Genesis 29:31-32

There is nothing quite so heartbreaking as watching your child’s heart break.  It doesn’t really matter how it happens, it is just so hard to watch.  The brokenness of this world breaks our sons and daughters and we can’t really do anything to stop it from happening.  But we can be the ones to point them back to love.

God is a mender of hearts, a healer of souls.  He watches His children with compassion and mercy and is moved to bring wholeness and health to their lives.  He desires the best for them and puts opportunity and hope within their reach.  He does not force His help on them or so sedate and anesthetize them that they cannot feel the hurt incurred in this life.  He opens doors and invites His children to come into His peace and blessing.  He is the perfect Father.

God does not expect us to be Him, but He does call us to be like Him.  We cannot make choices for our children and we certainly cannot protect them from the world, but we can be the ones that meet them with compassion and mercy in their wounded moments.  We can pray for healing and wholeness in their lives.  We can speak honestly with them about the hurt and pain of life in a broken world, always seasoned with words of hope and love.  We can offer them the safe place of a father’s love and hold them tightly against the storms life brings.

God presented an opportunity to Leah to receive His love, but she still saw it as an opportunity to compete for the love of Jacob and the shame of Rachel.  Instead of offering songs of praise, she determines to pull Jacob away from her marital competition.  She missed the open door.  She remained in her brokenness.  This is the hard reality of fatherhood – we can do everything right, but our children can still make bad choices.  However, if we are to be fathers like our heavenly Father, we must persist in loving our children.

Lord, help us to be a safe place for our children.  Help us to find ways that lead them to You in times of trouble.  Make us more and more like you every day and give us all we need to minister to our children. Amen.

Let There Be No Favorites


After Isaac finished blessing him, and Jacob had scarcely left his father’s presence, his brother Esau came in from hunting. He too prepared some tasty food and brought it to his father. Then he said to him, “My father, please sit up and eat some of my game, so that you may give me your blessing.”

His father Isaac asked him, “Who are you?”

“I am your son,” he answered, “your firstborn, Esau.”

Isaac trembled violently and said, “Who was it, then, that hunted game and brought it to me? I ate it just before you came and I blessed him—and indeed he will be blessed!”

When Esau heard his father’s words, he burst out with a loud and bitter cry and said to his father, “Bless me—me too, my father!”

But he said, “Your brother came deceitfully and took your blessing.” – Genesis 27:30-35

There are some days that we would like to do over.  There are decisions and words we would like to erase.  We make mistakes.  It is a gift from God that we have scripture to learn from other’s mistakes.  Isaac had watched his sons grow through the years as their disdain for each other also grew.  Instead of making peace between his two sons, he helped it along by setting Esau above Jacob.  It is true that the firstborn son has a position of privilege, but that shouldn’t become a point of division.

Loving our children without favoritism will require discipline.  It is usually easy to love someone if they are like us, but different can be difficult.  To love the child we contend with, who has a personality that we have a hard time understanding, may require more vigilance.  My two daughters are wonderfully and beautifully different from one another.  I am learning every day how to love each of them the way that is best for their unique personalities.  It is not easy, but no one ever said parenting would be.

I have seen too many fathers and children torn apart by this treacherous weed.  Favoritism and family together make for bad blood, hurt feelings and burned bridges.  This becomes even more compounded with blended families, and believe me, there is plenty to learn from scripture on that topic.  God has called fathers to bless their children, to love them with wisdom and grace.  He calls us to love our children as He has created them, not to try and make them fit the way we want to love.

Pray today for wisdom and insight into how you can love your children.  Ask God to give you clear vision to see your children’s unique personalities and needs.  Lord help us to love our children as you love them, to cherish them as you cherish them and let there be no favorites. Amen.

Blessings,

Chris

Am I My Brother’s Keeper?


Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let us go out to the field.” And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel, and killed him. Then the LORD said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?” He said, “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?” – Genesis 4:8-9 (NRSV)

Sibling rivalry is one of the oldest plots in the story of man.  Cain and Abel, Abraham and Lot, Jacob and Esau, Joseph and his brothers and the list goes on.  Very often it hinges on one being favored over the other in some way.  Whether the favor comes from an earthly father or heavenly Father doesn’t seem to matter, jealousy rears its prideful head and problems ensue.  The real tragedy is that the jealous son rarely gets the message in these relationships:  “If I would keep my concerns on honoring God, maybe I wouldn’t be worried about my brother being better than me.”

Fortunately, we can redeem this kind of situation by orienting everyone in the situation to the same thing – the example of Christ.  There is nothing quite as humiliating as being told, “Why can’t you be more like (insert sibling’s name here)?”  It devalues our individuality and demeans the unique, creative power of God at work in our lives.  Instead of comparing siblings to one another or favoring one that may be more like you than the other, we can point them to Christ.

If our eyes are on Christ, then they aren’t on each other, at least not in a critical way.  When we see ourselves in light of who He is, what He did and how He did it, we can see the way forward.  If we say or do things that have our children looking at each other as competition or obstacles to our affection, they will never move forward because the forbidden fruit of supremacy will always distract them.  If Cain had kept his eyes on his heavenly Father instead of his brother, things might have gone differently.

Let’s pray today that we can be peacemakers in our families.  Lord, grant us the wisdom and words to point our children to Christ, who can set them free from the enmity and jealousy the world can bring.  May we raise our children to love and respect one another for your glory and honor.  Amen.

Blessings,

Chris

Original Sin is not A Myth


Now the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God say, ‘You shall not eat from any tree in the garden’?”  The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you shall die.'”  But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not die; for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”  So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate.  Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves. – Genesis 3:1-7 (NRSV)

I remember the day I first realized my oldest daughter was a sinful creature.  She had been fascinated with something on our coffee table and we told her a number of times not to touch it.  While she knew few words at this stage in her life, she was fluent in “no” and “mine.”  I was watching her stand by the table, staring at the object when she turned to look at me.  As she looked me in the eye, she extended her hand toward the object.  I very firmly said, “No” and her hand stopped, and then started up again, her eyes never looking away from mine.  I used her full name when I told her not to touch the object, but her hand continued to move, her gaze never wavering.  Finally, she touched the object and I let her know she was in trouble.

There was an immediate change from open disobedience to self-preservation as she realized the consequences of her actions.  There were many tears and whimpers, but in the end, she apologized in toddler fashion.  It was a scene repeated more than once in her younger years.   We watched her go through the struggle Paul describes in Romans 7 – “As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me.  I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.” (Romans 7:17-18)

This was the time for us to teach her how to ask God for help.  Simple prayers of holding her hands clenched like fists, holding onto the bad things in her heart, and then letting them go when she asked God for forgiveness; steady reminders to pray for God’s help whenever and wherever she needed to; and celebrations when she made good choices. They were the first steps down the right road.  Owning up to our sin is not easy and certainly does not feel good, but it leads to goodness we cannot otherwise have.

While we journey with our children, we need to be aware of our own fallen moments, to be humble enough to apologize when our transgressions cause them pain or hurt.  When we say something unkind to our spouse in front of our children, we need to have the integrity to apologize in front of our children.  If we fall short in our walk with God when our children are watching, we need to make them part of our process of repentance.  God desired one thing from Adam and Eve in the passage above and it was repentance born of a contrite heart.  Instead, He received excuses, denials and passed blame.  God deserves so much more than attempts to manipulate his grace.

Today, pray that God will give you the opportunity to teach your child about repentance.  Pray for the courage to repent in front of your children.  Pray for relationships with your heavenly Father and your children to be marked by honesty, grace and love.

Blessings,

Chris

Sons of Adam, Daughters of Eve


Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.”  So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. – Genesis 1:26-27 (NRSV)

In the Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis, the Pevensie children, and others from our world, are referred to as Sons of Adam or Daughters of Eve.  It is an interesting address to greet someone with since Adam and Eve’s story tends to be a downer.  There is an upside, though; it is good to remember where you come from and who you come from.  We can get along far better if we admit we are descendants of forbidden fruit pickers, then blaming it on genetics and environment.

As fathers we have the privilege of helping little sons of Adam and daughters of Eve overcome their heritage.  For those who call God father, a new heritage is available.  We can overcome our forbidden fruit picking tendencies by living as children of God instead of children of sin.  We move from the Garden of Eden to the Garden of Gethsemane; from rebellion to surrender.  If we keep moving in this direction, we cut a clear path for our children to follow.

It is good to remember where we come from, but we are also a people that have somewhere to go.  We are heading to a place beyond paradise and we have the blessing of taking our children along the way.  Pray today that you will have a better sense of your identity as a child of God.  Pray that you will see the opportunities to teach your children the way that leads to heaven.  Pray that you and your family can move from forbidden fruit picking to spiritual fruit bearing.

Blessings

Chris Yeager

Autonomy is Misery


So all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah.  They said to him, “You are old, and your sons do not walk in your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have.”

But when they said, “Give us a king to lead us,” this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the LORD.  And the LORD told him: “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king.  As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you.  Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will do.” – 1 Samuel 8:4-9 (NIV)

Begging for a king of your own imagination is a dangerous thing, especially if your imagination is tainted with the influence of sin.  The Israelites wanted a ruler that would support the life they wanted, not the life God’s law called them to.  What they really wanted was autonomy – their rules and their ruler – but
“Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.” (Proverbs 16:18)

Children by inclination desire autonomy.  They want life their way, their rules.  Every day parents lay before their children the choice of obedience or disobedience, self-control or selfishness, the kingdom of God or the kingdom of “me.”  But there is a tension at work here because we want our children to be responsible individuals who also are vitally involved in community.  They need to learn the difference between autonomy and personal responsibility.

The difference lies primarily in orientation.  Autonomy is focused on the wants and desires of the individual where personal responsibility is focused on the needs of others.  Autonomy is rooted in pride where personal responsibility anchors itself in humility.  Autonomy is about the flesh where personal responsibility is about the spirit.

The tensions above are at work in every believer’s life and we need to be especially aware of these tensions in our children.  They are surrounded by a world that praises autonomy and rewards pride, so convincing them to choose personal responsibility and humility will sometimes be a challenge.    But we cannot leave them to the danger and misery of autonomy.

Lord, help me show my children the way of humility, self-control and a life of service.  May I reflect the peace and love of Your heart for others.  Let me guide and direct them to be Your servants and leave self-serving behind. Amen.

Knowledge + Obedience = Happy Father


“‘If you follow my decrees and are careful to obey my commands, I will send you rain in its season, and the ground will yield its crops and the trees of the field their fruit.  Your threshing will continue until grape harvest and the grape harvest will continue until planting, and you will eat all the food you want and live in safety in your land.

“‘I will grant peace in the land, and you will lie down and no one will make you afraid. I will remove savage beasts from the land, and the sword will not pass through your country.  You will pursue your enemies, and they will fall by the sword before you.  Five of you will chase a hundred, and a hundred of you will chase ten thousand, and your enemies will fall by the sword before you.

“‘I will look on you with favor and make you fruitful and increase your numbers, and I will keep my covenant with you.  You will still be eating last year’s harvest when you will have to move it out to make room for the new.  I will put my dwelling place among you, and I will not abhor you.  I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be my people.  I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt so that you would no longer be slaves to the Egyptians; I broke the bars of your yoke and enabled you to walk with heads held high.” – Leviticus 26:3-13 (NIV)

Going to bed every night would be so much easier if my daughters just did what they were supposed to do.  It is a dream I have.  Jammies on, teeth brushed and prayers said without turmoil, trial or tears.  This is not my reality.  It isn’t that they don’t know the process.  They know exactly what they need to do, what order to do it in and how quickly they need to do it.  Knowledge has never been the problem; obedience has been the problem.

This was the same issue for Israel.  God had gone over the process for maintaining a good relationship with Him.  His rules and commands were open doors to His blessing, providence and protection.  His law was a set of boundaries to keep them from harm and close to His heart.  Just like my daughters have difficulty making it from the living room to the bedroom without conflict, so did Israel have trouble traveling from Egypt to the Promised Land without detours, delays and disappointments.

When we require our children to pay attention to the details and abide by the rules of our home, we are preparing them for a life of obedience.  It is not a very popular word today.  People don’t like to think of themselves as obedient, but it is obedience that confirms our belief.  I don’t expect to have as many rules and guidelines for my girls as God gave the Israelites.  I do expect to go over the ones my wife and I have set forth numerous times with them before they get it.

Lord, help me to follow Your commands.  Help me to teach my children obedience by living it out each day.  Give me the words and opportunity to speak the truth of Your commands into my children’s lives.  Amen.

With God There are No Giants


They came back to Moses and Aaron and the whole Israelite community at Kadesh in the Desert of Paran. There they reported to them and to the whole assembly and showed them the fruit of the land.  They gave Moses this account: “We went into the land to which you sent us, and it does flow with milk and honey! Here is its fruit.  But the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large. We even saw descendants of Anak there.  The Amalekites live in the Negev; the Hittites, Jebusites and Amorites live in the hill country; and the Canaanites live near the sea and along the Jordan.”

Then Caleb silenced the people before Moses and said, “We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.”

But the men who had gone up with him said, “We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are.”  And they spread among the Israelites a bad report about the land they had explored. They said, “The land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw there are of great size.  We saw the Nephilim there (the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim). We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.” – Numbers 13:26-33 (NIV)

It is hard to be a true believer.  It is difficult to trust what you have been told when everyone else seems to be turning a deaf ear to the truth.  No one said following God would take us through friendly territory, just that He would take us through.  Joshua and Caleb were true believers.  Apparently, they were a very small minority.

Teaching our children to stick to their faith, to follow through with their commitment to God, is critical.  We live in a culture of shifting beliefs and smorgasbord spirituality.  When we don’t like something, we go to a philosophical grab bag and pick out the ideology en vogue at the time.  This nonsensical atmosphere can seem like a land of giants, but with God there are no giants.  There is nothing, no one bigger than our God.

I want my daughters to be like Joshua and Caleb.  I want them to walk into their friendships, schools, groups and gatherings unafraid of the giants they may meet there.  My hope for them is based on the command and promise that God gave to Joshua later in his life: “Be strong and courageous … for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)  I want my daughters to be brave.

Lord, make me into a giant killer.  Help me to be brave when giants are in the land.  Give me the strength and will to overcome and the faith to believe.  Let me show my children that You are above all things. Amen.

The Sabbath


Moses assembled the whole Israelite community and said to them, “These are the things the LORD has commanded you to do: For six days, work is to be done, but the seventh day shall be your holy day, a Sabbath of rest to the LORD. Whoever does any work on it must be put to death.  Do not light a fire in any of your dwellings on the Sabbath day.” – Exodus 35:1-3 (NIV)

We live in a world of busyness.  We occupy our time and fill our empty spaces.  We live without any margins on the pages of our story.  We are desperately in need of rest.  God is not unaware of this since He created us with work and rest in mind.  But the world, and those who live in it, are broken.  We don’t seek the kind of rest that heals and revives.  The rest we seek is play.  We find ways to escape from the busyness by doing fun things with fun people, returning from our vacation more exhausted than when we left.  Rest seems far from us.

The Sabbath rest is a discipline of letting go.  It is setting aside the day without any inclination toward accomplishment.  It is about being and not doing.  This is not easy for most of us.  We have been taught that doing nothing is lazy, but slothfulness is an aberration where rest is the desire of God for His people.  Israel began to learn this truth from the schedule He set with the manna and quail.  As hard as they looked and searched, there was never any quail or manna on the Sabbath.  Never. Yet, they always had enough to eat on that Sabbath day.

Teaching our children to rest may be a challenge, especially since we probably struggle with it ourselves, but it is invaluable to the life God desires for us.  He has designed us to work certain ways and to operate within certain limits.  When we exceed these limits we can burn out and enter into the growing army of perennially tired parents.  We need margins.  We need empty space…and so do our children.

Lord, help me to enter into Your rest and bring my children with me.  Grow in me the discipline and desire for resting.  Help me to show my children the beauty and power of unoccupied, unhurried time. Amen.