The Desires of Our Hearts

May he give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed.  We will shout for joy when you are victorious and will lift up our banners in the name of our God. May the LORD grant all your requests. – Psalms 20:4-5 (NIV)

The desire of any parent’s heart is to see their children realize the desires of their hearts.  We want to see them succeed and we want to see them live victorious lives.  However, none of these things are under our control.  We have no power to provide these things for our children.  Ours is a different responsibility.

We prepare our children’s hearts to be open to the leading of the Lord so their desires are in line with the things of heaven.  We teach them the meaning of success according to the Word instead of the world so they will pursue God’s purpose for their lives. We discipline our children’s wills to be humble before God so that they are empowered to contend for the truth.

Parents have the blessing and privilege to prepare their children to receive all that God has for them, but we have to be cautious and not try to do God’s job for Him.  He fulfills desires.  He empowers and equips us for success.  He is the motivation and means of victory.  He is the provider of all good things.  We are the tillers of soil and He makes the seed grow and bear fruit.

If I want my children to experience the blessing from God in the Psalmist’s prayer, I have to be leading them to the depths of God.  I need to be educating them in the Word.  I need to be discussing the life of God with them each day so that, as much as it is in my power, my children are His to bless.

Lord, help me to set my children up for success with God.  Show me the ways I can till the soil of their hearts so You can grow the truth in their hearts.  May they be Yours wholly and happily to bless and to keep all the days of their lives. Amen.

Worth Remembering

Remember me for this, O my God, and do not blot out what I have so faithfully done for the house of my God and its services. – Nehemiah 13:14 (NIV)

This will probably be one of my shortest posts.  Here it is:

I want to be able to say the prayer above as a husband and a father.

Lord, help me live a life worth remembering. Amen.

Simple Prayer

They were all trying to frighten us, thinking, “Their hands will get too weak for the work, and it will not be completed.” [But I prayed,] “Now strengthen my hands.” – Nehemiah 6:9 (NIV)

I have heard the phrase, “I don’t know what to pray for” a few times from my daughters.  It is understandable since their world is still pretty small, but sometimes I find myself with the same problem.  It isn’t always those deep prayers where the Spirit groans for me; just a normal day where I have forgotten the simple math of praying for what I need.

Nehemiah’s prayer is short, to the point and appropriate.  There was nothing fancy about it and Nehemiah doesn’t invoke any big words to convince God that what is being said is REALLY important. He just prays according to the needs at hand.

Sometimes the journey toward holiness stays on track due to simple prayers.  I hope I can help my children understand this and get it down deep in their hearts.  They need to learn as soon as possible that prayer doesn’t need to be complex to be profound and meaningful.  They need to know that God doesn’t grade their grammar or critique their prose, He just want a heart turned toward Him and dependent on His power, love and grace.

Lord, teach me the discipline of simple prayers.  Help me to see my needs and the needs of those around me with honesty and hope.  Give me the wisdom and words to shoe my children to pray simply to You for their needs.  Amen.

What Would You Do for a Miracle?

When Elisha reached the house, there was the boy lying dead on his couch.  He went in, shut the door on the two of them and prayed to the LORD.  Then he got on the bed and lay on the boy, mouth to mouth, eyes to eyes, hands to hands. As he stretched himself out on him, the boy’s body grew warm.  Elisha turned away and walked back and forth in the room and then got on the bed and stretched out on him once more. The boy sneezed seven times and opened his eyes.

Elisha summoned Gehazi and said, “Call the Shunammite.” And he did. When she came, he said, “Take your son.”  She came in, fell at his feet and bowed to the ground. Then she took her son and went out. – 2 Kings 4:32-37

The prophets of the Old Testament were asked to do some odd things in order for God’s power to be released, and this ranks up there in the weird category.  I am not sure how I would feel if an old bearded man in robes came in and lay down on my recently deceased child, but I am sure I would feel grateful and amazed if it brought that child back to life.  It is the idea of “normal” that gets in the way of us experiencing God more than a lot of other distractions in this life.  I would rather be weird and see miracles than normal and expect nothing.

If I expect God to show up to answer prayers, to provide for my needs, to guide and direct my path, then I have to accept how He decides to show up.  You don’t invite the king over and then complain about what mode of transportation he rode in on; just be happy that the king showed up.  This is something I need to grow in and help my children understand.  They need to have an expectation of God’s power working in and through them without an expectation of how He chooses to do so.

God has given us power through His Holy Spirit to heal the sick, cast out demons and, yes, raise the dead, but He has not boxed in the details of how that gets done.  This indicates that we need to be guided and directed by Him on the process.  It provides another opportunity to be dependent solely on Him rather than some legalized system of healing or exorcism.  Are there rules or guidelines? Absolutely, but there is also a lot of room for God to work in those boundaries, and I want my children to experience the freedom to work with God within His will and ways.

Lord, help me be open to the ways You want to work through me to bring Your miracles about in other’s lives.  May my children grow with an expectation of Your power and an adventurous anticipation of how You want to express Your power in and through their lives. Amen.

The Art of Blessing

All these are the twelve tribes of Israel, and this is what their father said to them when he blessed them, giving each the blessing appropriate to him. – Genesis 49:28 (NIV)

When is the last time you blessed your children?  Not the obligatory “Bless you” after a sneeze, but a genuine blessing.  We have lost sight of its power and dignity.  We have become too focused on putting away money for college, getting them the right car and putting them on our cell phone plan. There is nothing wrong with providing things for our children, but in the grand scheme, it is the blessings of God that will sustain them. We need to bless our children with the things of God.

While some of the blessings that Jacob gave his sons could be construed as curses, in the long view they were what his children needed.  For example, Jacob blessed Levi by scattering his offspring among the rest of Israel.  This doesn’t look like a blessing until you go forward to the formation of the priesthood under Aaron.  The Levites are spread among God’s people as the priests for the other tribes; a place of honor, discipline and power.

Jacob knew his sons and his blessings were what they needed in order to be used by God.  I want to bless my children in that way as well.  I want to know them well enough to bless them with clarity and conviction.  I want to bless them so that they will have all they need to be used by God.  I want them see God’s blessing on their lives and be humbled by it.

I’m going to start blessing my children.  Bless them as they go to sleep in their beds.  Bless them when they sit and watch TV with me.  Bless them when they are laughing and playing together.  I am going to speak words of promise and hope and challenge over them in the silence of night.  Lord, help me to bless my children with wisdom, knowledge and faith for Your glory and their walk with You. Amen.

Moving Our Children Toward Love

When the LORD saw that Leah was not loved, he enabled her to conceive, but Rachel remained childless. Leah became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She named him Reuben, for she said, “It is because the LORD has seen my misery. Surely my husband will love me now.” – Genesis 29:31-32

There is nothing quite so heartbreaking as watching your child’s heart break.  It doesn’t really matter how it happens, it is just so hard to watch.  The brokenness of this world breaks our sons and daughters and we can’t really do anything to stop it from happening.  But we can be the ones to point them back to love.

God is a mender of hearts, a healer of souls.  He watches His children with compassion and mercy and is moved to bring wholeness and health to their lives.  He desires the best for them and puts opportunity and hope within their reach.  He does not force His help on them or so sedate and anesthetize them that they cannot feel the hurt incurred in this life.  He opens doors and invites His children to come into His peace and blessing.  He is the perfect Father.

God does not expect us to be Him, but He does call us to be like Him.  We cannot make choices for our children and we certainly cannot protect them from the world, but we can be the ones that meet them with compassion and mercy in their wounded moments.  We can pray for healing and wholeness in their lives.  We can speak honestly with them about the hurt and pain of life in a broken world, always seasoned with words of hope and love.  We can offer them the safe place of a father’s love and hold them tightly against the storms life brings.

God presented an opportunity to Leah to receive His love, but she still saw it as an opportunity to compete for the love of Jacob and the shame of Rachel.  Instead of offering songs of praise, she determines to pull Jacob away from her marital competition.  She missed the open door.  She remained in her brokenness.  This is the hard reality of fatherhood – we can do everything right, but our children can still make bad choices.  However, if we are to be fathers like our heavenly Father, we must persist in loving our children.

Lord, help us to be a safe place for our children.  Help us to find ways that lead them to You in times of trouble.  Make us more and more like you every day and give us all we need to minister to our children. Amen.

Our Children Do Not Belong to Us

After these things God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains that I shall show you.” So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac; he cut the wood for the burnt offering, and set out and went to the place in the distance that God had shown him. – Genesis 22:1-3 (NRSV)

We have all had reality checks. These critical intersections between our perception and the truth help us change direction or motivate us to move with more purpose in the direction we were headed. Sometimes we have been the mouthpiece for God to speak truth into someone’s delusion. Other times we needed to hear good sense from anywhere God could get through to us. But I know of only two people who God asked to sacrifice their sons – Abraham and Mary.

However, Abraham’s story calls us to an attitude as fathers; to a posture toward God regarding our children. It is a simple, but difficult truth – our children do not belong to us. Everything is His and we are entrusted with what He chooses to give us, including our children. Some may say this is a cop out on being responsible – making our children God’s responsibility – but this is a kneejerk perspective and a misunderstaning. More often than not, we take better care of what is entrusted to us than we do the things we own. It is a matter of accountability. I only have to account to myself for what I own, but I must account to someone else for what has been entrusted to me.

Abraham, by his actions, proved that he was totally in tune with this concept. He moved forward on God’s command without hesitation or complaint, understanding that it was fully in God’s rights to ask whatever He wanted of Abraham. So how do we get to that same place of immediate and unquestioning obedience in our lives? The answer is practice.

Abraham had a long track record of going where God told him to go, and had learned that the promise was only going to come on God’s terms. He had plenty of opportunities to practice his righteous response to God. The reality is that God has a plan for our children’s lives that may involve risk and we need to be prepared to support them in following God’s plan. If we want to have the response that Abraham had, we need to start practicing on the easier things now.

Today is an opportunity to offer your children to God as a sacrifice. Certainly not to the extreme that Abraham was asked to go, but we must be willing to let them grow and go beyond our comfort zone. Pray for the strength and courage to let your children go where God wills to do what He wills. Pray for insight into the gifts and abilities that God has given to you children. Ask for the wisdom and patience to lead them forward in prayer into a life of obedience, sacrifice and love. Amen.