The Blessing of Family


Family is an incredible institution.  The connections through blood and marriage are many and varied, each one carrying the possibility of friendship, fellowship and blessing.  This past weekend was one of those moments where I was reminded of this complex and beautiful blessing.  Nanas, papas, aunts, uncles, cousins gathered to give thanks and remind one another that, while the world may assail us, family gives us strength.

God has also given us a family that offers of friendship, fellowship and blessing.  The relationships we experience can remind us that the world holds no fear for us.  Together we give strength to each other and spur one another on to the good deeds of our good God.  It is good to have family.

I hope that you had time this Thanksgiving to consider the blessing of family, both the natural one and the spiritual one.  God has blessed us with both and has called us to be a blessing to both.  This year I hope that the way I live is reason for someone else to give thanks.  I hope I love my families with gratitude and grace.  I hope I don’t forget in the busyness and distractions of life in this world that family is a blessing and that I am to be a blessing to my family.  Lord help me to be mindful of these truths.  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.

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.

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.