Worship with Creation


The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.  Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge.  There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. – Psalms 19:1-3 (NIV)

My family has the blessing of living in the scenic beauty of northernCalifornia.  Rugged, snow-capped mountains, pine forests, pristine lakes and a meandering river valley create a land that begs to be recognized.  The sunsets are breathtaking and the nights are filled with countless stars.  It is a place where God’s glory shines through so clearly, you would think it couldn’t be missed.  But it is.

The human heart can be severely near-sighted, focused on the things that are closest to it without concern for anything else.  When the heart sees the world this way, so much goes by unnoticed and unappreciated.  This can also happen with our physical eyes.  The text on the phone, the picture on the TV or the line on the page can sometimes draw our eyes from what God is saying outside our window.

I am trying to teach my children to keep their eyes open for the fingerprints of God; to see His handiwork and give praise.  We take time to watch the sunset.  We stop to look at a flower or a bird in quiet reflection.  We gaze at the night sky and see something great than the sum of the stars, but not often enough.  I still miss those opportunities to worship God with my children.

It is odd that my physical vision gets worse as I get older, yet my spiritual vision gets clearer and sharper.  It is not, however, a done thing.  Still pressing on.  Still learning to see the world with eyes wide open.

Lord, help me to see the opportunities You put before me every day to join with creation in giving you praise.  May I lead my children into these moments of worship and help them develop a clearer vision of Your creation.  Let me see the night sky and perceive more than stars.  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.

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.