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.

Leadership Can’t Wait

Joash was seven years old when he began to reign. – 2 Kings 11:21

There is a movement today, similar to other movements through the ages, where the youth are being told that they are going to be the ones to change the world.   Often this message comes with the idea, whether overt or with subtle manipulations, that the old is bad, outdated and ignorant.  These ideologies and philosophies come from politicians, groups and even churches and see that new is better.  This develops an attitude of disdain for those things that have come before and undermines the heritage that could otherwise inform their views and actions.

There is a different perspective put forth in Scripture.  From Genesis on there is a reminder to each generation to not forget; to remember God’s goodness, the blessings of obedience and the consequences of disobedience.  This gives someone like Joash something to work with and the ability to lead his people to the ways of their ancestors.  When leadership is disconnected from heritage and history, it is misleading.  When leadership is rooted in who and what has come before with God’s people, it produces a better outcome.  For Joash it resulted in this summary of his reign: “Joash did what was right in the eyes of the LORD all the years Jehoiada the priest instructed him.” (2 Kings 12:2)

Joash was a leader because he followed God.  Our children will be leaders if they are doing what is “right in the eyes of the Lord.”  We cannot wait until they are in the circumstance where they need to lead to teach and prepare.  Our children need to learn how to lead before they are required to lead.  We need to be providing opportunities for them to be responsible, self-controlled and disciplined.  We need to be laying the foundation for leadership before the structure is built.

In 2005 an article came out in TIME magazine about a new trend in American culture – the development of a new group called the Twixters.  This article states that “The years from 18 until 25 and even beyond have become a distinct and separate life stage, a strange, transitional never-never land between adolescence and adulthood in which people stall for a few extra years, putting off the iron cage of adult responsibility that constantly threatens to crash down on them. They’re betwixt and between. You could call them twixters.”  This is the atmosphere that we are raising our children in and we can do better for them and for the world.

In Paul’s well-known passage “When I became a man….”  It should be noted that his manhood came somewhere in the early teens.  We need to rebel against a culture that thinks adulthood comes at 26 years of age.  We do a disfavor to our children, God and our culture if we continue putting off manhood and womanhood.  Our communities would be transformed if teenagers had the same level of maturity that we now expect of a college graduate.  Joash wasn’t a twixter, he was a leader and our children can be too, but we need to lead them in to adulthood purposefully and in step with God’s timing, not our culture’s timing.

Lord, help me to teach my children to lead.  Help me to guide and direct them into adulthood with purpose and patience.  May they be used by You to lead their generation in doing what is right in Your eyes. Amen.

Godly by Association

“What!” exclaimed the king ofIsrael. “Has the LORD called us three kings together only to deliver us into the hands ofMoab?”

But Jehoshaphat asked, “Is there no prophet of the LORD here, through whom we may inquire of the LORD?”

An officer of the king of Israelanswered, “Elisha son of Shaphat is here. He used to pour water on the hands of Elijah.[b]”

Jehoshaphat said, “The word of the LORD is with him.” So the king ofIsraeland Jehoshaphat and the king ofEdomwent down to him. – 2 Kings 3:10-12

Elisha was requested by kings because of who he hung out with, not because of anything he had done.  While God had worked through him a few times up to this point, he had not built up a very big resume yet.  Jehoshaphat jumped (pun intended) at the chance to hear from the man who had attended the prophet Elijah.  It is good to have a good name behind you.

So what kind of name are we making for our children?  What do people think when they hear who our child’s parents are?  Are we living in such a way that people will have a good opinion of our children because they know us?  The mistake for us is to try and make a reputation for our children with the world’s rules.  Our world is about status and clout and manipulation, but all of those will inevitably bring ill-repute.  We need to trust God to decide what ours and our children’s reputations will be.

If we want our children to be thought well of, we need to live lives in obedience to God and teach them to do the same.  This is why Elijah had his reputation; he lived for God.  This is not an easy task in the politics of modern life.  We will need to remind ourselves with great frequency that seeking a good opinion from God is far better than seeking a good opinion from men, and that the first often leads to the second, but the second never leads to the first.

Lord, help me live a life beyond reproach.  May my life be a positive influence on how others see my children.  Remind me to live to please You and not mankind. Amen.

Answering God’s Call

So Elijah went from there and found Elisha son of Shaphat. He was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen, and he himself was driving the twelfth pair. Elijah went up to him and threw his cloak around him.  Elisha then left his oxen and ran after Elijah. “Let me kiss my father and mother good-by,” he said, “and then I will come with you.” “Go back,” Elijah replied. “What have I done to you?”  So Elisha left him and went back. He took his yoke of oxen and slaughtered them. He burned the plowing equipment to cook the meat and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he set out to follow Elijah and became his attendant. – 1 Kings 19:19-21 (NIV)

In a land of false prophets and false gods, it is impressive that Elisha has a heart worthy of a prophet of the one true God.  It is impressive that not only has Elisha and his family survived in the midst of this world, but thrived.  Elijah doesn’t find him hiding in a cave or living in poverty, but driving a team of 12 oxen.  He had the markings of a man blessed by God and yet he left it all for a cloak across his shoulders.

God’s call is a blessing beyond compare.  It defines action and gives focus to our thoughts and dreams.  God’s calling is His fingerprint on the purpose for our existence and we are all called, including our children.  Are we ready for our children to answer God’s call on their lives?   Are we preparing our children to be God’s servants?

The question we need to be asking our children is not “What do you want to be when you grow up?” but “Whose do you want to be right now and for the rest of your life?”  We work so hard to get our children to choose the right sport, the right school and the right career and hope these experiences will help them find God’s call.  That seems backwards.  We should be doing everything we can, through prayer, study and conversation, to help our children answer God’s call and let Him take them where He needs them, when He needs them.

Once Elisha is called, there is nothing left to do but throw a big BBQ and say his goodbyes.  He breaks ties with his former life and moves forward into the life God has called him to not in grief, but celebration.  The next question we need to ask is of ourselves: “Do we love our children enough and trust God enough to release them to God’s call?”  I wonder how many missionary posts would be filled if parents released their children to answer the call.  I wonder how many communities would be transformed if God’s call was more important than career options in family conversations.  I hope my wife and I have the courage to raise our daughters to answer the call, and the faith to release them to follow it wherever God leads them.

Lord, help me to be brave in raising my children to be called by You.  Give me the perseverance and faith to lead them forward into a life defined by Your call. Amen.

Staying Ahead of the Chariot

And Elijah said to Ahab, “Go, eat and drink, for there is the sound of a heavy rain.”  So Ahab went off to eat and drink, but Elijah climbed to the top of Carmel, bent down to the ground and put his face between his knees.  “Go and look toward the sea,” he told his servant. And he went up and looked. “There is nothing there,” he said. Seven times Elijah said, “Go back.”  The seventh time the servant reported, “A cloud as small as a man’s hand is rising from the sea.” So Elijah said, “Go and tell Ahab, ‘Hitch up your chariot and go down before the rain stops you.'”  Meanwhile, the sky grew black with clouds, the wind rose, a heavy rain came on and Ahab rode off to Jezreel.  The power of the Lord came upon Elijah and, tucking his cloak into his belt, he ran ahead of Ahab all the way to Jezreel. – 1 Kings 18:41-46 (NIV)

Went God set Elijah against Ahab, I don’t think Ahab was too worried at first.  Elijah was literally the only prophet of God left to challenge Ahab, so the odds were with Ahab, or at least that is what he thought.  But numbers are meaningless to an infinitely powerful God and His obedient servant.  I think Ahab’s first real wake-up call was when the prophet beat him on foot back to his own home.  Can you imagine holding the reins of the chariot, the wind whipping in your face, the horses galloping ahead when Elijah runs past you with a wave and a nod?  That is not going to be your best day if you are Ahab.

There are plenty of Ahabs around today.  Little kings of little kingdoms that want to rule us.  They are ideologies, philosophies and cultures that prop themselves up with catch phrases and sound bites.  They are pundits, politicians, and prophets of the religion of me.  They are dead set on having their way with us and our children, but they do not have God on their side.  They may have chariots, but we can outrun them.  They may have numbers, but God’s math always works in our favor.

If we want to run like Elijah and stay ahead of our enemies when they pursue us, we have to walk like Elijah in the midst of our enemies when they accuse us.  We need to be ready for fight or flight at God’s behest.  How can we expect our children to do what we ask if we are not willing to do the same for God?  How can we show our children the way to victory if we aren’t even in the fight?  Peter Marshall, the Senate Chaplain during the late 1940’s, once said in a prayer, “Give to us clear vision that we may know where to stand and what to stand for – because unless we stand for something, we shall fall for anything.”  Elijah had a clear vision of where to stand and who to stand for and so can we.

Lord, help me have the faith and wisdom to hear Your voice and follow Your commands.  Help me to be a man who stands for truth and righteousness.  Give me power in its proper time to stay ahead of the chariot.  Give me the words and the deeds to speak and act before those who stand against You.  May I live a life empowered by You before my children that they might seek You and know You. Amen.

The Challenge of Elijah

Then Elijah said to them, “I am the only one of the LORD’s prophets left, but Baal has four hundred and fifty prophets.  Get two bulls for us. Let them choose one for themselves, and let them cut it into pieces and put it on the wood but not set fire to it. I will prepare the other bull and put it on the wood but not set fire to it.  Then you call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the LORD. The god who answers by fire–he is God.”

Then all the people said, “What you say is good.” – 1 Kings 18:22-24 (NIV)

If this kind of showdown happened today, it would be covered by some reality TV station with a title like Ultimate Altar Showdown and color commentary by Bobby Flay and Bob Costas.  The technology has changed and so has the way we learn about the world around us, but the confrontation between truth and falsehood is still in full swing.  The world still needs Elijah’s.

Here was a man of God living among false prophets and depraved citizens, preaching the words God put in his mouth.  He faced them with faith in God and the certainty of His promises.  Elijah was courageous, obedient and steadfast in the face of great opposition.  Elijah stood firmly in the gap between the world God desired for His people and the world they were living in and spoke truth.  He is a shining example of unflinching confidence in God.

It is easy for us to think that we are lucky things are different today – that we don’t have to worry about false prophets and imitation gods who require abominable sacrifices – but the tension still exists.  The prophets where different clothes and use different words, but they still speak against the will of God; the idols don’t stand as statues on hills, but they still require abominable sacrifices.  Our children are introduced to these deceptive influences through their contact with the world and we need to give them eyes to see and minds to understand.  We need to be their Elijah.

When we here them say something or see them doing something that doesn’t reflect the will of God, we have to stand in the gap of who God wants them to be and who they are and speak the truth.  We need to stand against the false prophets of false Gods with the truth of scripture with unflinching confidence.  We need to show our children the powerlessness of false teachings and the power of God’s truth.  God calls us to lead our children from the will of the world and their own fallen will into His will with courage, obedience and steadfast faith.

In order to fulfill this calling our lives as parents, we need to be people immersed in the Word, engaged in His work and transformed by His will.  We cannot call our children to something we don’t understand ourselves.  We cannot lead the way if we are not on the Way.  If we want to be like Elijah for our children, we need to press on in our life with God.  Elijah had a lot of reasons not to continue his ministry, but the one reason he had to continue was good enough: because God had called him to do it.

Lord, help me answer the call of Elijah for the sake of my children.  Through the conviction of the Holy Spirit, show me the false prophets that are speaking into my life and silence them.  May I be a man of courage, obedience and steadfast faith and lead my children into Your will each day. Amen.