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.

Temper, Temper


In your anger do not sin; when you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent. Selah – Psalms 4:4 (NIV)

There can be a lot to be angry about in this life – injustice, greed, hate, bigotry and other symptoms of that hideous disease called sin.  There really isn’t a problem with the anger itself, but where it comes from and where it leads us.  This is what the psalmist is warning us about.  He is not asking us to guard against anger, but to have the right relationship with it.

I have a temper.  If I had been irradiated with gamma rays instead of Dr. Bruce Banner, the Hulk would have been around a lot more often.  That being said, God is patient and works on this with me with gentleness and persistence.  He has worked on this most effectively through my children.

It isn’t so much that they give me all sorts of opportunities to get mad; they are wonderful girls and have blessed me more than I can say.  But they do have their fallen moments.  My love for them has created a new lens for me to see my anger through.  When I feel that heat rising from my neck to my ears and my jaw clenches, I have to ask, “Is this really worth getting angry about?”

God knows exactly what to get angry about.  His anger is always righteous and always deserved.  I cannot say the same for mine.  I have questionable motives.  I have pet peeves which reveal more about my flaws than the object of my peeving.  I would like my anger to reflect God’s anger, but unfortunately anger tends to be a door to stupid and not saintliness.  So comes the warning from the psalmist.  We have to be leery of our anger.

I have heard plenty of teachings on anger and too often they will look at God’s anger, or Jesus casting the moneychangers out of the temple and use that as a rationalization for angry Christianity.  I even bought that for a while, but it doesn’t getting you anywhere good.  This passage warns us to be wary when anger begins to rise in us and I think that is excellent advice.  I don’t want to get angry at my children just because God got angry with His.  I want my anger to be like God’s anger so that means I have to question it every time.

I know that I will get angry at my children again in the future (probably sooner than I’d like), and I want to be ready for that moment.  I want to make sure that my anger does not lead me hurtful words, or misplaced blame.  My children deserve the same patience, grace and compassion that God has given me, so anger has to be watched for and controlled.  My kids don’t need the Hulk, they need Jesus, and that means anger has to get out of His way in my life.

Lord, help me to control and understand my anger.  Help me to know where my anger is coming from and how to handle it when it rises.  Give me a peaceable spirit, especially in disciplining my children. Amen.

A Righteous Man


Blessed is the man
who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked
or stand in the way of sinners
or sit in the seat of mockers.
But his delight is in the law of the LORD,
and on his law he meditates day and night.
He is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither.
Whatever he does prospers. – Psalm 1:1-3

It occurred to me the other day that the old saying, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions,” is not entirely accurate.  It should really be, “The road to hell is paved with man’s good intentions.”  The path to heaven is paved with God’s intentions, and His intentions are always good.  The life of the righteous man can then be defined as one that fulfills God’s intentions.

The Psalmist paints a beautiful picture of a life that is perfectly in step with God’s intentions for His children.  He has good relationships.  His happiness comes from God’s truth.  He is firmly planted where he can be sustained.  He is spiritually productive and he brings prosperity to the world around him.  This is the kind of man my family deserves, but does not yet have.

I need to be more concerned about God’s intentions. For the sake of my family, I need to be a man who guards his relationships.  I need to be a lover of the Word and a tree with deep roots.  I need to abide with God so that He can provide for the needs of others through me.

Lord, help me be a man of Your good intentions.  Let me live a life that enriches the lives of those around me.  Make me a blessing. Amen.

The Challenge of Pain


At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship and said:

“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised.”

 In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing. – Job 1:20-22 (NIV)

Loss is a part of life, but for some the loss is greater.  I have never had a Job moment.  The losses I have experienced were painful, but the extreme nature of Job’s misery has never visited my doorstep.  However, I cannot live with the misguided notion that misery will never darken my door.  There may come a time where grief could overwhelm me and pain makes its home in my heart.   I hope not, but that day may come.  Am I prepared for loss? Am I ready for the pain?

The true but uncomfortable answer to both those questions is no.  It is not as if I can manufacture loss and pain to practice, nor do I want to.  I can read about the experiences of others, but they are different personalities with different strengths and weaknesses.  What is to come is unknown to everyone except God and therein lies the hope for us.  God knows.  He knows what we will face, what we will need to face it and what will bring us through.

This is somewhat of a relief and a challenge.  It is a relief because we do not have to spend our lives preparing for our best guess of what might happen.  We do not have to live with the anxiety that question marks induce.  As a father, this is a great comfort, but also a challenge.  We must work diligently to be in step with God.  We have the advantage of the Holy Spirit that was not available to Job.  Through Him we have everything we need, but that does not mean we utilize all that has been given.  The challenge is to pursue a walk with God that leads through every step of every circumstance as He desires.

I don’t know if I will ever have a Job-like experience, but I am beginning to not worry about it.  I am more and more becoming concerned with God shaping me into the husband and father I need to be to face the challenges that lie ahead.

Lord, help me to be the man You desire me to be and the husband and father I need to be for my family.  Help me refuse the anxiety and worry that so easily plague my mind and heart.  Give me a faith that is strengthened every day by Your presence in my life.  Amen.

Celebrating God


Because of everything written in this letter and because of what they had seen and what had happened to them, the Jews took it upon themselves to establish the custom that they and their descendants and all who join them should without fail observe these two days every year, in the way prescribed and at the time appointed.  These days should be remembered and observed in every generation by every family, and in every province and in every city. And these days of Purim should never cease to be celebrated by the Jews, nor should the memory of them die out among their descendants. – Esther 9:26-28 (NIV)

I think I want to start a family tradition.  We celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, graduations and awards, but I don’t think we celebrate God’s provision and blessings.  When the Jews realized all that had transpired to rescue them, they wanted to celebrate and to remember again and again their reason for celebration.  I think I want to start celebrating God’s movements in my families’ life together.

It doesn’t require a party planner or a guest list, just a conscientious choice to recognize God’s providence, record it and remember it.  This used to be done in the family Bible.  All the key events in a families’ history would be recorded there and then remember each year.  Today, our Bibles get updated as often as the iPhone, so maintaining a history there can be difficult.  I think I will start a journal; a log book of God’s work in our midst to remind us of His constancy, mercy, grace and love.

It will be hard at first to remember to write those moments down, but it will be worth it.  When we sit together and walk through the year that He has brought us through, it will be worth it.  When we get a clearer vision of what He had laid out in front of us with patience and care, it will be worth it.  When we see His blessings listed one after the other day after day, it will be worth it.  I want to celebrate what God is doing in my family and I want my children to grow that habit in their lives with Him.

Lord, help me recognize Your work in my family.  Give me eyes to see Your hand move among us and a mind disciplined in writing it down.  Give us hearts that celebrate Your provision and blessing and action in our lives.  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.

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.

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.

How to Build Community


The third chapter of Nehemiah has the phrase “next to” twenty-one times.  This chapter describes in detail the families and locations that they were responsible for in rebuilding the wall.  That is a powerful phrase when you are in a difficult situation: next to.  It is a source of courage and solace to know that you have help at your side in the face of adversity and struggle.  It is a blessing to be next to others as they face the struggles of rebuilding what has been broken.

Families should be about that phrase.  They should be next to each other in facing this life.  They should be next to each other in overcoming obstacles and facing challenges.  They should be next to each other when the world is against them.  The strength and solidity of community begins at home.  If we learn to be next to one another in our families, it prepares and equips us to be next to our extended family in the church.

Our children need be the kind of people who stand next to others, who face challenges with others.  They can learn so much from seeing the space next to others as a place of privilege and blessing instead a place of burden duty.  For Nehemiah it wasn’t just about rebuilding the wall, it was about rebuilding his people, God’s people.  He wanted those community ties to be reconnected and tied even tighter.  Every day they worked on the wall, the families of Israel were reminded that they could not do it alone.

We should not be in this alone.  We need to have others come and stand next to us when the walls are crumbling and the enemy is threatening to attack.  Let’s be families that are next to others in the life of God’s people.

Lord, help me to be a man that is next to my wife and children.  Help me lead my children into an understanding of the privilege and blessing of living our lives next to our brothers and sisters in Christ.  Amen.