Prepared for God’s Timing


When Esther’s words were reported to Mordecai, he sent back this answer: “Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape.  For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?” – Esther 4:12-14 (NIV)

There is a short list of things I would like to accomplish in life and near the top is raising children who are prepared to do the will of God.  Esther was raised to be more than a bauble on the arm of a pagan king.  She was raised to be a daughter of Israel; being Queen was about location, not vocation.  Esther was called to be a deliverer, an instrument in God’s hands to save His people.

I do not know where life will take my children, but I do know that decisions will come that will not be easy.  They will have a choice between serving God and serving themselves.  It is my responsibility to help prepare them for those moments.  Day by day, my vision needs to be clearly focused on leading them towards Christ.

Mordecai had the right words at the right time, but he was calling to something that was already in Esther’s heart and mind.  She had been raised to believe in her people; raised to be a Jew.  When Mordecai tells her that she is in her place for a reason, it is not said in a vacuum.  I can’t expect to wait until the moment of decision comes for one of my daughters to dispense some wisdom and expect it to act like a magic wand.  Laying the foundation always gives them something to rely on.

Lord, help me to disciple my children to be Your children.  Give me the wisdom to teach them all they need from me to live according to Your will.  May I raise children who are prepared for the opportunities You will place in their path.  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.

A Vigilant Community


From that day on, half of my men did the work, while the other half were equipped with spears, shields, bows and armor. The officers posted themselves behind all the people of Judah who were building the wall. Those who carried materials did their work with one hand and held a weapon in the other, and each of the builders wore his sword at his side as he worked. But the man who sounded the trumpet stayed with me. – Nehemiah 4:16-18 (NIV)

Watchfulness can rarely be overrated.  Being prepared for whatever may come is a valued trait in soldiers and police, but it is also incredibly important for community.  Nehemiah knew that sometimes the best defense isn’t offense, it is vigilance.  He put into place the means and the manner for his community to be safe and secure.

In each community there needs to be a sense of vigilance.  There are enemies to every fellowship, family or congregation and they are waiting for apathy or infighting or corruption to set in.  The problem with community is that we can get so internally focused that we forget about the world outside.  We can become ignorant of the world’s allure and cruel intentions, or we can get an inflated view of ourselves in comparison to anyone outside our group.  These do not build healthy communities.

There is a tension in being a safe community that is still welcoming to those who want to enter in; vigilance against ill will and in expressing good will.  We need to look out for one another.  We need each other.  As a father, I need to be vigilant for my family, to watch for those things that may harm the ones I love, but I also need to be open to those who may enter into our community and lead with love.  It is less about looking for a fight and all about being prepared when the fight comes to our doorstep.

Nehemiah wanted to get the wall built.  He wasn’t looking for a fight.  He just wanted his people to be safe and secure.  Sounds like a good attitude for a father and a friend.

Lord, help me be vigilante to defend what I love and extend love to others.  Give me the strength of heart and mind to be watchful over the communities you place me in.  Amen.

Close To the Vest


I went to Jerusalem, and after staying there three days I set out during the night with a few others. I had not told anyone what my God had put in my heart to do forJerusalem. There were no mounts with me except the one I was riding on. – Nehemiah 2:11-12

There is something very comforting in the privacy we have with God.  There is someone who knows us completely, but will never break that trust.  Whatever we share with Him is sacred and safe.  Nehemiah uses that safety to give him confidence in his mission and to plan his steps.  The truth Nehemiah shared with God and God alone was the restoration of Israel’s security.  By inspecting the wall with that truth between him and God, Nehemiah didn’t open the door to argument or anxiety from those he was with.

This is a great lesson for us to keep in mind as parents.  As we are leading our children in their life with God, we don’t always have to let them know when we are parenting and discipling.  Sometimes we need to keep the truths that God has given us close to the vest so we don’t incite argument or anxiety.  Our children don’t always need to know what God has put in our hearts.  Nehemiah shows great wisdom in his restraint.

This is the kind of wisdom I want God to grow in me.  I want to know when to keep those works and words He gives me to do and say to myself until the time is ripe.  I want to know how to lead my children without them always knowing they are being led.

Lord, help me to have the wisdom of privacy with You.  Help me to know when the work you are doing in me or through me is for my eyes only.  Build in me the inner boldness to act on Your will in my life without fear. Amen.

A Good Confession


“I am too ashamed and disgraced, my God, to lift up my face to you, because our sins are higher than our heads and our guilt has reached to the heavens.  From the days of our ancestors until now, our guilt has been great. Because of our sins, we and our kings and our priests have been subjected to the sword and captivity, to pillage and humiliation at the hand of foreign kings, as it is today.” – Ezra 9: 6-7

Ezra is heartbroken in this passage.  His return to Jerusalem, the land of his forefathers, becomes a tragedy instead of a victory.  After all the time the people spent rebuilding the city God had delivered them to, they had fallen short in obeying His commands.  It is this tension between being God’s people and acting as God’s people that has Ezra tied up in knots.  He clearly sees that there are consequences to disobeying God, and is upset that his current generation is moving in that direction.  His confession speaks volumes about how we face sin in ourselves and in those around us.

First, Ezra includes himself in the confession even though he had not participated in the actual disobedience in question.  He sees himself as part of the problem, because it happened on his watch.  Parents have the same burden to carry with their children.  When we challenge our children over their behavior, part of our process needs to be a sense of ownership because we are responsible for them.  Ezra doesn’t look for ways to excuse the behavior or punish the behavior, he just recognizes it and owns his responsibility in the transgression.

Second, Ezra ties action to consequence.  Teaching our children that there are consequences for their actions has become more difficult because our culture is trying to remove fault and place it anywhere else but the individual.  It is the parent’s fault, or society’s or environment or TV, but it isn’t the individual’s fault.  Ezra blames no one, but those who broke the law.  Confession helps our children take responsibility for their actions and helps them face the consequences.  And confession is the doorway to repentance.  This is where Ezra is heading the people of Israel, but he begins with confession.

It is one thing to help your children deal with the sin in their lives, but it is an entirely different discipline to own the sins of our children.  We can blame the world and make excuses about the influences of society, but if the Son of God can take on our sin, it is not too much for us to take on the sins of our children.  We can’t pay for their sin, but we can pave the way through it to confession and repentance.  If we have a high priest who sympathizes with us, we can sympathize with our children even in their worst moments.

Lord, help me to take the burden of my children’s sin and walk them through confession and repentance.  Grow in me the compassion, mercy and humility I need to lead my children through the consequences of disobedience.  Make my heart more like Yours every day. Amen.

Opposing Forces


Then the peoples around them set out to discourage the people of Judah and make them afraid to go on building.  They hired counselors to work against them and frustrate their plans during the entire reign of Cyrus king of Persia and down to the reign of Darius king of Persia. – Ezra 4:4-5 (NIV)

It is hard to be a good neighbor when your neighbor hates you and wants to see you fail.  It is difficult to stay in hostile territory, especially when you have no other friendly place to go.  This has been the problem of God’s people throughout their history; firstIsraeland now the body of Christ.  We are unwanted by the world.  We stand opposed to the humanized view of our place in the cosmos and preach a gospel that rejects the relativism of the world’s morality.  Some have responded to this dilemma by becoming isolated communities, others have bought into a more militant approach, but either one gets us stuck without any ability to handle the other.

Israelwas isolated, but not because they chose to be.  They were isolated because the chose to follow God and the nations around them decided that wasn’t going to go well for them.  When isolation didn’t work, the nations became combative.  What is interesting is thatIsraelwas prepared for either situation as long as they were obeying God and doing the work He wanted them to be about.  WhenIsraelwas successful, it was because they were keeping in line with what God wanted for them.

This is a hard lesson to learn, but we cannot live our lives reacting to the world.  We have to live our lives in obedience to God and trust that He will take us where we need to go, whether that is into isolation or confrontation.  We don’t need to run away from a fight or run into it, we just need to follow the one who is worth fighting for and shelters those He calls His own.  Teaching our children to be peacemakers and warriors for God at the same time is challenging, but possible if we keep them focused on seeking the heart of God.

Lord, help me live a life that is balanced by Your will and not imbalanced by my emotions and passions.  Teach me to know when to fight for Your purposes and when to sow peace.  Grant my children the hearts and minds to pursue You above all else. Amen.