Good Stewards

The money brought into the temple was not spent for making silver basins, wick trimmers, sprinkling bowls, trumpets or any other articles of gold or silver for the temple of the LORD; it was paid to the workers, who used it to repair the temple.  They did not require an accounting from those to whom they gave the money to pay the workers, because they acted with complete honesty.  The money from the guilt offerings and sin offerings[c] was not brought into the temple of the LORD; it belonged to the priests. – 2 Kings 12:13-16

Somewhere along the line, we have been taught that money is evil – that it is inherently tainted – but as with all things, it is us that makes them good or evil.  When we handle money with integrity and stewardship toward God, it is put to good use.  When it becomes the object of our affections, we and it are put to bad use and it is questionable if we are any longer in charge.  The example above shows the type of conduct and attitude the people of God should have toward money.

If we approach the subject of money with our children as a matter of the heart and not the pocket, we will equip them for a successful life.  If we teach them to master their money with a heart full of love for God, instead of being mastered by a love of money, we prepare them for a life of contentment and gratitude.  We can teach them that there is a difference between earning wealth and pursuing riches.  The best way to do this is by being good stewards ourselves.  In a culture where money is listed as one of the top reasons for troubles in marriages, this can be a hard row to hoe.

Having the relationship with money that we want our children to develop as they grow older will be the toughest challenge for some of us.  We can give them Scripture verses, quotes from famous Christians and tell them what is right, but if we aren’t living it, our efforts will fall flat.  Whatever your weakness is with money, start working on it because your children are watching; I know because I am still working on it and it is nice to know I am not alone.

Lord, help me to be a good steward.  Show me the flaws, misconceptions and weaknesses I have in how I handle money.  Work in me an attitude of contentment and gratitude so I can master money instead of it mastering me, and may you begin the same work in my children. Amen.

Living Right in a Wrong World

Joash did what was right in the eyes of the LORD all the years Jehoiada the priest instructed him. 3 The high places, however, were not removed; the people continued to offer sacrifices and burn incense there. – 2 Kings 12:2-3

It can be a startling wake up call for our children the first time they encounter the blatant sinfulness in the world.  Usually they will already know that people can be mean or selfish or insensitive, but when they face cruelty or violence or spite, it can be overwhelming.  Sadly, some children grow up around the full-blown brokenness of the world, but that is another issue.  It is the children that raised in light of God’s presence, surrounded by love, mercy and grace that can be startled by this revelation of badness. Children, for the most part, assume that the way their life is reflects the reality of everyone and when they find out this isn’t true, they will struggle.

Since Joash was living the right way, we may ask why wasn’t everyone else?  If the king has turned to God and been instructed in the ways of righteousness, why would his subjects remain disobedient and sinful?  The answer is simple and yet difficult to deal with: people can choose and we can’t choose for them.  Even with the power of the kingdom and God behind him, Joash couldn’t make people obedient, righteous and holy.  Our children will need help to understand that the way they live their life is more important than trying to make others live life the same way.

Joash could have used violence or coercion, but there is no repentance or responsibility from the people in that scenario.  The key to changing the world is personal responsibility.  Teaching our children that they are responsible to live a life that is “right in the eyes of the Lord” is far more important than trying to change the world around them.  Helping them to live a right life in a wrong world will equip them for many times they will face the brokenness in school and work and play.  We can teach them about courage, hope and the power of the Holy Spirit equipping them for this life.  We can show them the men and women throughout Scripture who lived holy lives in an unholy world among unholy cultures.  We can teach them about the life of Christ shining through them into the darkness of their world.

Lord, help me to educate my children to understand the brokenness of the world and Your call to them to be holy.  May they bring wholeness and healing to the broken places and people you have placed them.  Help them see the brokenness of this world through the hope and love only You can bring. Amen.

Family is About Fidelity

It happened, late one afternoon, when David rose from his couch and was walking about on the roof of the king’s house, that he saw from the roof a woman bathing; the woman was very beautiful.  David sent someone to inquire about the woman. It was reported, “This is Bathsheba daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite.” – 2 Samuel 11:2-3 (NRSV)

Relevant magazine had an article in their recent issue about sexual activity among Christians with some startling results.  It seems that sex outside of marriage is as common among young Christians as non-Christians.  This speaks to the cultural acceptance of sex as just another thing we do with our time.  It is no longer an act of intimacy and devotion.  It is no longer about fidelity but fun.

This is where David takes his biggest wrong turn.  This is the moment the kingdom is split and the people of God become ruled by kings, good and bad, all because of a moment of infidelity.  David had lost sight of who and what God had called him to be and he would never be the same.  This induced David to write Psalm 51, a prayer of confession, repentance and forgiveness.

Our God is the God of fidelity.  He asks us to let our yes be yes and our no be no. If we say “Yes” to the sanctity of the relationship between a husband and wife, we are saying no to all other sexual relationships.  These are the difficult, but incredibly important conversations we need to have with our children.  We wait too long to teach them the beauty and importance of marriage.  We treat sex like it is some secret unmentionable activity instead of the joyful gift from God He has given to husbands and wives.  Our children will grow up being told all sorts for wrong information about sex and marriage and we have to stand against it.

I want my daughters to treasure the gift they will share with their husbands someday.  I want them to value the man they will marry someday enough to be disciplined in their purity and fidelity.  I hope that they will be drawn to young men who have the same dedication to purity and fidelity.  But I must first be committed to purity and fidelity in my marriage.  I need to show the love, honor and respect to my wife that reveals my commitment to her and her alone.

Lord, help me be a good husband.  Work in me your faithfulness and purity to set an example for my children.  May my children grow in their commitment to marriage, purity and fidelity.  Amen.

True Friends

After David had finished talking with Saul, Jonathan became one in spirit with David, and he loved him as himself. – 1 Samuel 18:1 (NIV)

Friendship is a funny thing.  It is a relationship that can be difficult to define, but easy to recognize.  When Jonathan watches David interact with Saul, he recognizes the characteristics of what he wanted in a friend.  This doesn’t always happen this way.  Sometimes friendships take years to develop and sometimes those we once considered enemies become our closest companions.  This is the mystery of friendship.

I have been blessed to have several good friends over the years that have challenged, encouraged and changed me by their character and commitment.  My life is better for the friends I have and have had over the course of life and I want the same for my daughters.  But finding friends can be hard.  Hopefully my daughters will not need to slay a Philistine giant to find a friend who will love them as they love themselves.

There are giants they will have to overcome in order to have good and godly friendships.  They will need to overcome pride, selfishness, greed and fear.  They will have to triumph over the voices advertising the kind of friends that are cool and acceptable.  They will have to pursue victory over the temptation to change others to be just like them.  Teaching our children how to be friends is one of the greatest gifts we give to the world.  Helping them understand the blessing and benefits of friendship is one of the best gifts we can give to our children.

Lord, help me teach my children to be godly companions to their friends.  Help me show them the blessings of friendships that improve all your other relationships.  Give me the opportunities to speak into their lives and circumstances and may they be the kind of friend that makes someone else’s life better. Amen.

God’s Mercy is a Father’s Mercy

“Do not be afraid,” Samuel replied. “You have done all this evil; yet do not turn away from the LORD, but serve the LORD with all your heart. Do not turn away after useless idols. They can do you no good, nor can they rescue you, because they are useless.  For the sake of his great name the LORD will not reject his people, because the LORD was pleased to make you his own.  As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by failing to pray for you. And I will teach you the way that is good and right.  But be sure to fear the LORD and serve him faithfully with all your heart; consider what great things he has done for you.  Yet if you persist in doing evil, both you and your king will be swept away.” – 1 Samuel 12:20-25 (NIV)

The people of Israel had asked for a king and God had given them what they wanted, but Saul was not what they needed.  While God was willing to let them suffer the consequences of their disobedience and lack of faith, He also extended mercy.  Even though they had forgotten all of what God had done for them and their ancestors, put their trust in false gods and chosen a king over their heavenly Father, God still showed mercy.  This is a common thread in God’s relationship with His children.

Our children will beg for things that aren’t good for them and occasionally we will relent and let them suffer for their choices.  We will watch them struggle through the pain and humiliation of failure and defeat.  We will hear their complaints and appeals for help and we will extend mercy.  As parents, we extend the mercy that has been extended to us.  Here is a discipline I am working on to put this mercy into practice: each day waking up with a clean slate in regard to my children’s bad choices.

This isn’t some touchy-feely memory wipe, but a conscious choice to treat every day as a fresh opportunity for my children to succeed in righteousness.  It is too easy to see our children with the hindsight of judgment instead of the foresight of vision and hope.  Our privilege and responsibility as parents is to see a future for our children through the lens of mercy.  This helps us to see all of their potential and promise even on their worst day.

Lord, help me to show the same mercy to my children that you have shown me.  Give me eyes to see all the promise they hold and the wisdom to guide them into it.  Help me grow a discipline of starting each day with a clean slate. Amen.

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.

A Name Worth Living Up To

His daughter-in-law, the wife of Phinehas, was pregnant and near the time of delivery. When she heard the news that the ark of God had been captured and that her father-in-law and her husband were dead, she went into labor and gave birth, but was overcome by her labor pains.  As she was dying, the women attending her said, “Don’t despair; you have given birth to a son.” But she did not respond or pay any attention.

She named the boy Ichabod, saying, “The glory has departed from Israel”–because of the capture of the ark of God and the deaths of her father-in-law and her husband.  She said, “The glory has departed from Israel, for the ark of God has been captured.” – 1 Samuel 4:19-22 (NIV)

Names are very important in the Bible.  They carried meaning and purpose, defining ancestry or foretelling hope.  Names could be an anchor, holding someone in place during a storm or a rudder, guiding them through treacherous waters.  That’s why Ichabod’s name is so tragic.  Instead of having a name to live up to, he has a name to live down.  Admittedly, Israel was in dire straits at the time, but should your son’s name have to represent the worst of things?

Through Christ, we have some different names, names worth living up to.  He calls us beloved, redeemed, co-heirs and ambassadors.  He calls us His.  The question we need to ask is do we not only live up to those names, but do we treat our children like those names belong to them?  Are we helping them root their identity in what God calls them instead of what the world calls them?  The names we give our children have meaning.  They may have belonged to a relative or link back to ethnic roots, but the names God gives us, and our children, were purchased by the blood of His Son.

I hope I can teach my daughters what being beloved means.  I want them to understand in the depths of their souls the power and peace that comes with being the redeemed.  They need to soak in the truth that they are co-heirs with the one who saved them.  They need to carry the name that gives them all of their names into the world as ambassadors.  This reminds me and convicts me to be cautious what I call my child.  It is easy to let things like brat, snot or goofball come out, contradicting my child’s identity as one of God’s beloved.

Lord, help me to treat with respect the names You have given to my children.  Let me help them understand their identity in You.  May I honor You by honoring them.  Amen.

The Desire of Our Heart

Once when they had finished eating and drinking in Shiloh, Hannah stood up. Now Eli the priest was sitting on a chair by the doorpost of the LORD’s temple. In bitterness of soul Hannah wept much and prayed to the LORD. And she made a vow, saying, “O LORD Almighty, if you will only look upon your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the LORD for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head.” – 1 Samuel 1:9-11 (NIV)

I love the story of Hannah, not only for her devotion to God, but because of her desire to have a child.  This is a desire that men and women have had at varying degrees of intensity since Adam first loved Eve.  It is a desire I had even as a young man. Fatherhood was as much of a goal as any career aspirations I held.  Even so, I can’t imagine the depth of desire that Hannah felt.  She wanted to serve God through motherhood more than anything else in this world, and God fulfilled her desire.

My daughters are amazing and special girls and I am grateful to God for Him allowing me to be their father.  They inspire me and challenge me in my walk with God and the manner in which I live my life.  Unfortunately, I forget how desperately I wanted to be a father in the midst of being a father.  I forget that God’s desire to hold His children close never waivers or wanes.  Hannah seemed to hold onto this with all of her heart.

I want to have a greater desire to become a better father than I did to become a father in the first place.  My daughters deserve a better man tomorrow than they have today.  My girls need someone with the devotion, commitment and passion like Hannah and I want to be that someone.

Lord, please remind me of the amazing gift fatherhood is each day.  Help me to be a better father, husband and friend in increasing measure.  May your love and grace be evident in the way I love my children. Amen.

A Spiritual Lineage

Then the elders and all those at the gate said, “We are witnesses. May the LORD make the woman who is coming into your home like Rachel and Leah, who together built up the house ofIsrael. May you have standing in Ephrathah and be famous inBethlehem. Through the offspring the LORD gives you by this young woman, may your family be like that of Perez, whom Tamar bore toJudah.” – Ruth 4:11-12 (NIV)

God certainly answered the prayers of the elders that day since Ruth became the ancestor of King David and Jesus.  A woman of foreign birth became part of a lineage more important than genetics.  Ruth was part of a spiritual lineage; a lineage defined by God’s promises and not by man’s limitations.  This spiritual lineage is not restrained by nationality or race.  It is not bounded by man’s weaknesses or flaws.  It began in the Garden and will end when God so desires.

This lineage is entered into through faith, honored by grace and extended through love.  It respects the past, embraces the present and presses on to the future.  This lineage is a single thread of God’s truth tying men and women together into the Kingdom of God.  It is God’s life at work in us to become like His only begotten Son. It is the lineage I want to pass on to my daughters.

Regardless of what may happen in their lives, I want my daughters to have learned from me that their life with God is more important than anything.  I want them to know the difference between being a Christian as the world defines it and being a follower of Christ as the Word defines it.  They will face challenges in this life where a respect for the past will help them embrace the present and prepare for the future.  They need a spiritual lineage and I hope that I can help them tie into it over the coming years.

Lord, help me to show my daughters the spiritual lineage that is available to them.  Give me the words and opportunity to speak into their hearts and minds, the truths of God’s Word.  May they never be defined by genetics, but by the work of Your Holy Spirit.  Amen.

A Family of Our Choosing

But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.  Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the LORD deal with me, be it ever so severely, if anything but death separates you and me.”  When Naomi realized that Ruth was determined to go with her, she stopped urging her. – Ruth 1:16-18 (NIV)

Family is a funny thing.  While blood is supposedly thicker than water, Ruth proves otherwise.  It was her commitment to Naomi despite blood that gained her a reputation among the Jewish people.  It was her entrance into a family of her choosing that set her apart as honorable and noble.  It was her decision to stay with the family she adored that placed her in the lineage of David and Jesus.

We all have two families; the one we are born into (or adopted into) and the one we chose to be part of.  The family of man and the family of God.  As our children grow in their life with God, they will need to choose to be a part of God’s family.  It is not something they can inherit or marry into; it is something they must choose and keep choosing.  However, it is the responsibility of the family by blood to prepare them for the spiritual family.

This is why it is so important to be part of a community of believers.  It is hard to know how to live with family if you aren’t spending time with them.  Children need to be involved in prayer, worship, service and fellowship.  They will need to learn how to get along with their brothers and sisters in Christ.  Our children are also God’s children, with family responsibilities.  A life with God’s people should begin at home, but it culminates everywhere else.  Hopefully, in this way, we can raise our children to not just to play well with other, but pray well with others.

Lord, help me to raise not just my child, but your child, that they would call you Father and have fellowship with their brothers and sisters.  Help me to love my family into Your larger family.  May all we do as a family fit us for Yours. Amen.