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.

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 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.

Cup-bearer to the King


In the month of Nisan in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when wine was brought for him, I took the wine and gave it to the king. I had not been sad in his presence before,  so the king asked me, “Why does your face look so sad when you are not ill? This can be nothing but sadness of heart.”

I was very much afraid, but I said to the king, “May the king live forever! Why should my face not look sad when the city where my ancestors are buried lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?”

The king said to me, “What is it you want?”

Then I prayed to the God of heaven, and I answered the king, “If it pleases the king and if your servant has found favor in his sight, let him send me to the city in Judah where my ancestors are buried so that I can rebuild it.”

Then the king, with the queen sitting beside him, asked me, “How long will your journey take, and when will you get back?” It pleased the king to send me; so I set a time.

I also said to him, “If it pleases the king, may I have letters to the governors of Trans-Euphrates, so that they will provide me safe-conduct until I arrive in Judah?  And may I have a letter to Asaph, keeper of the royal park, so he will give me timber to make beams for the gates of the citadel by the temple and for the city wall and for the residence I will occupy?” And because the gracious hand of my God was on me, the king granted my requests.  So I went to the governors of Trans-Euphrates and gave them the king’s letters. The king had also sent army officers and cavalry with me. – Nehemiah 2:1-9

Our God is the God of perfect timing.  He places where we need to be, when we need to be, around the people we need to be around.  He doesn’t miss anything or make mistakes in this regard.  However, we can and do miss these opportunities.  Our focus is on something else, or we move the other direction out of fear, but we miss the appointment He has set for us.  Nehemiah made his appointment.

Cupbearer to the king was a trusted position in the court.  He was responsible for protecting the king from poisoning and had unparalleled access to the king and his family.  Very often cupbearers were chosen for their attractive qualities, both physical and mental.  In other words, Nehemiah had a lot going for him.  His position and the manner in which he filled it gained him the concern of a very powerful king.  And yet, by Nehemiah’s own words was “very much afraid.”  It was Nehemiah’s willingness to overcome fear that allowed him to say the right thing at the right time to the right person.  God had moved things in such a way to place Nehemiah in that circumstance and Nehemiah completed the equation.

Parenting requires us to not only pay attention to the appointments God has for us, but the appointments He sets for our children.  We need to have open eyes and attentive ears to take in all that God is putting out there for us to see and hear.  We need to be in tune with Him so He can use us as instruments of His will and work in our children’s lives.  We will need to overcome our fears to keep our eyes on Jesus and not the potential risks of raising children.  And God will meet us every step of the way.

Lord, help me have the courage of Nehemiah to be in the right place at the right time with the right heart for my children.  Give me eyes to see and ears to hear when You are moving in the lives of my children.  Let me be an instrument in Your hands to draw them toward You. 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.

Opposing Forces


Then the peoples around them set out to discourage the people of Judah and make them afraid to go on building.  They hired counselors to work against them and frustrate their plans during the entire reign of Cyrus king of Persia and down to the reign of Darius king of Persia. – Ezra 4:4-5 (NIV)

It is hard to be a good neighbor when your neighbor hates you and wants to see you fail.  It is difficult to stay in hostile territory, especially when you have no other friendly place to go.  This has been the problem of God’s people throughout their history; firstIsraeland now the body of Christ.  We are unwanted by the world.  We stand opposed to the humanized view of our place in the cosmos and preach a gospel that rejects the relativism of the world’s morality.  Some have responded to this dilemma by becoming isolated communities, others have bought into a more militant approach, but either one gets us stuck without any ability to handle the other.

Israelwas isolated, but not because they chose to be.  They were isolated because the chose to follow God and the nations around them decided that wasn’t going to go well for them.  When isolation didn’t work, the nations became combative.  What is interesting is thatIsraelwas prepared for either situation as long as they were obeying God and doing the work He wanted them to be about.  WhenIsraelwas successful, it was because they were keeping in line with what God wanted for them.

This is a hard lesson to learn, but we cannot live our lives reacting to the world.  We have to live our lives in obedience to God and trust that He will take us where we need to go, whether that is into isolation or confrontation.  We don’t need to run away from a fight or run into it, we just need to follow the one who is worth fighting for and shelters those He calls His own.  Teaching our children to be peacemakers and warriors for God at the same time is challenging, but possible if we keep them focused on seeking the heart of God.

Lord, help me live a life that is balanced by Your will and not imbalanced by my emotions and passions.  Teach me to know when to fight for Your purposes and when to sow peace.  Grant my children the hearts and minds to pursue You above all else. Amen.

Honoring the Word


Then the king called together all the elders ofJudahandJerusalem. He went up to the temple of the LORD with the men of Judah, the people ofJerusalem, the priests and the prophets–all the people from the least to the greatest. He read in their hearing all the words of the Book of the Covenant, which had been found in the temple of the LORD. The king stood by the pillar and renewed the covenant in the presence of the LORD–to follow the LORD and keep his commands, regulations and decrees with all his heart and all his soul, thus confirming the words of the covenant written in this book. Then all the people pledged themselves to the covenant. – 2 Kings 23:1-3 (NIV)

The cycle ofIsrael’s history is a reflection of man’s history and even the lifecycle of many individuals: realization of God’s existence, walking in God’s protection and will, growing apathetic and worldly, open disobedience toward God, suffering the consequences of bad choices, repentance and revival.  The passage today is part of the repentance and revival movement in the cycle and is tied to the discovery of God’s Word and a revelation of their history as a people of God.  While this cycle does not reflect God’s desire for His people it does reveal some important things about His character.

First, God is merciful.  After initially introducing Himself to the people ofIsraelthrough Moses, God runs into rebellion upon rebellion from a stubborn and cowardly element in the ranks.  Instead of abandoning the Israelites and starting over with another group of people, He is merciful.  He relents in His anger.  He withholds His wrath.  God is merciful.

Second, God is patient.  With miracle upon miracle and sign after sign, God revealed Himself toIsraelas powerful and true to His promises.  And yet His power is forgotten quickly when things don’t go the wayIsraelwants them to go.  They fall easily into fear and worry and begin finding solutions of their own, which inevitably gets them into trouble.  Despite the overwhelming evidence of God’s providence and power, the people ofIsraelput their trust in other things. But God gives them opportunity to find redemption.  He sends His messengers to bring truth and warning.  He sends signs and wonders to show His power.  He waits for them to turn to Him in repentance and humility.  God is patient.

Last, God is unchanging.  Each time the Israelites go through their broken cycle, God is still the same when they come around to obedience.  He never did change throughout their cycle, whether they were following Him or in the midst of rebellion, but they did not know it until repentance brought them back to wisdom and truth.  He was merciful and loving and patient and kind every step the Israelites took through their checkered history.  God is unchanging.

DoesIsraelremind you of anyone?  I seeIsrael’s painful cycle every time I look in the mirror.  I know first hand the insipid weakness of my human condition and have cried out to a merciful God to raise me from my rebellious mess.  Gratefully, I have learned from my own failures and the cycle is less often repeated in less severe fashion.  God is merciful, He is patient and He is unchanging and He asks us to pass that along to our children.  As He has done to us, He wants us to do to others, especially our children.

This is something I am working on.  It was one thing to accept God’s mercy, patience and unchanging presence, but trying to emulate that for my children is a challenge.  The question arises, “How can I reflect the mercy, patience and constancy of God to my children?”  Good question and I think the life of God’s people gives us the answer: honor His Word.  Every time the people ofIsraelfell out of good graces, it was because they ignored the Word of God or at least became apathetic toward it.  If we want to help our children avoid the broken cycle, we need to be people who honor the Word of God.

This is more than reading the Bible everyday and more than being involved in a Bible study, although those things can inform what is important.  To honor the Word of God requires that the Word is more important than us; more important than what we think or feel, more important than what is popular, more important than our fears and worries.  To be people who honor the Word of God, we must place it as something more than a reference on how to fix our lives.  It is the living and active Word of God.  It is not a tool in our hands, it is a sword in the hand of the Holy Spirit to divide truth from untruth and set us right.  But we cannot expect it to keep us from the broken cycle if we only see it as something that gets us out of trouble.

The Word is what keeps us from trouble, but we must be in and it must be in us.  There should be less and less difference between what the Word says and the way we think.  In this way we honor the Word and if we honor the Word we will honor the God who gave it to us.

Lord, help me be a man who honors Your Word.  Keep me from the broken cycle that leads to shame and hurt and pain.  Help me lead my children into a right relationship with Your Word that they might follow you all the days of their lives. Amen.