Karma and the Problem of Sin


Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.  Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice. Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity.  Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.  Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.  Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. – Psalms 51:7-12 (NIV)

One of David’s most admirable traits was his ability to clearly state his need and God’s ability to meet that need.  Sometimes it took a hard road to get him there, but when he arrived at the place of understanding, he put it to words that connect and convict.  The passage above is a great example.

David lived under the Levitical law which demanded sacrifices and ritual cleanliness and adherence to moral codes.  Within this context David writes about a relationship with God where adherence to law is not mentioned.  The sinner does not reclaim his standing with God through sacrifice or service, but by being cleansed and purified by God.

A common pitfall in human behavior is the practice of karma in “paying” for dirty deeds.  If we do something wrong we better do something right to make up for it, and it doesn’t hurt to do something really nice to get the karma ledger on your side.  Despite the obvious flaws in this practice, we tend toward it if we are not paying attention.  This is easily seen in our children when they make the good behavior rush just before Christmas rolls around.

Getting children to understand that they are supposed to be good because it is the right thing, not because they can make up for bad or earn a free pass on their next transgression is difficult.  It is especially hard since we as parents can enforce the behavior when we manipulate good behavior by promising gifts from Santa.  God pays the price for sin and gives us the power to overcome sin and that is the only way it will ever work.

Lord, help me teach my children about grace and holiness, mercy and purity. Cleanse me and make me holy for Your name’s sake.   Amen.

Facing Sin


Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.  Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.  For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.  Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge.  Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place. – Psalms 51:1-6 (NIV)

Sin has become a passé term.  Dysfunction, emotional baggage, flaws, psychological scars are all real, but they are symptoms of the root problem – sin.  Instead of treating the infection, we treat the symptoms and wonder why people stay sick. In fact, sin tries to convince us that we are not sick at all.  We portray vibrant and energized lives to the world, but we are wasting away on the inside, dead men with candy coated shells.

We need to face our sin.  This is more than admitting that we are sinners.  Most people get that they sin and understand that they can’t fix it themselves, but there are too many cures for the symptoms that just worsen the disease.  Instead of facing sin and seeking healing from the only one who can provide it to them, they turn their eyes to temporary balms and hopeless remedies.

I don’t want my children to head down that road.  If they are going to have a relationship with God that transforms and matures them, they will have to be honest about the sin in their life.  They will need to understand that sin at every level is against God first and then others.  Their hearts will need to be well lit by the process of confession and repentance.  I want them to have hope that the love of God can bring them from where they shouldn’t be to where they should be so they can be who they should be.  I want them to experience what it is to overcome sin through the power of God.

Lord, help me lead my children into a godly understanding of sin and the way out.  May my children grow to know how to handle the sin in their lives and experience victory through Jesus Christ.  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.

A Father’s Resume


LORD, who may dwell in your sanctuary? Who may live on your holy hill?  He whose walk is blameless and who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from his heart and has no slander on his tongue, who does his neighbor no wrong and casts no slur on his fellowman, who despises a vile man but honors those who fear the LORD, who keeps his oath even when it hurts, who lends his money without usury and does not accept a bribe against the innocent. He who does these things will never be shaken. – Psalms 15:1-5 (NIV)

I have turned in my resume for different jobs several times over the last two decades.  It has changed because my experiences, skills and technical knowledge have changed.  The resume reflected what I had already lived up to and it was my hope that those hiring would have like what they read.  Father’s have a different kind of resume.

Our children are the living resumes for the world to see. The way they live their lives will reflect how well we are living up to God’s commands.  The psalm above is a description of who we are to be as men, and therefore, fathers.  I have to ask myself if my children’s lives are beginning to reflect the characteristics listed.  Am I striving daily to live up to that kind of standard, or am I satisfied with just getting by?  Do I live a life that cannot be shaken?

My children need a father who seeks God above all else; a father who abides in the sanctuary of His love and righteousness.  They don’t need a best friend or a cool dad. They need someone who will lead them to that sanctuary of God’s love and righteousness.  I have to have more than me in mind in the choices I make, the actions I take and the words that I speak.  They need a Godly man.

Lord, help me be more and more like you every day.  May I be an example of integrity to my children.  Let me lead them to the sanctuary of Your love, grace and righteousness. 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.

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.

Love That is Bone Deep


Elisha died and was buried.

Now Moabite raiders used to enter the country every spring. Once while some Israelites were burying a man, suddenly they saw a band of raiders; so they threw the man’s body into Elisha’s tomb. When the body touched Elisha’s bones, the man came to life and stood up on his feet. – 2 Kings 13:20-21 (NIV)

I don’t know what it would be like to be so immersed in the love of and life of God that your bones could raise the dead, but it is something to shoot for.  How awesome is it that your remains, the evidence of death, mean life for someone else?  I want a bone-deep love for God.  I want the life of God to sink into the marrow and make me wholly His.  Do I think that someday my bones will bring someone to life?  I will leave that to the perfect judgment of God, but I do think that the “bones” of my life can count for something even after I am gone.

The “bones” of my life are the things that don’t decay after death.  The time spent with others, the actions done in God’s service, the words left in the ear or on the page the changed a mind or heart – these are the bones.  If our time and talent are immersed in God’s will and Word, they will become treasures to those we leave behind.  If they are not, we can suffer from a sort of spiritual osteoporosis that takes the firmness out of who we are and how we are remembered.  Even today, the bones of Elisha’s life are bringing life to others and that possibility exists for us.

Our children need to be taught how to love God with a love that is bone deep and provides structure and strength to their actions and words.  They need to see that love at work in us and experience what it looks like in practice.  Our lives need to be steeped in the presence and power of God until it sinks into the deepest parts of us and we need to take our children with us.

Lord, help me to live a life of depth and meaning with and through You.  May I and my children be pierced to the bone by Your love and transformed by it.  Bless us with lives that will touch the lives of others for Your glory even when we have gone to be with You forever. Amen.