Pagan Kings and the Will of God


“This is what Cyrus king of Persia says: “‘The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and he has appointed me to build a temple for him at Jerusalem in Judah.  Anyone of his people among you–may his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem in Judah and build the temple of the LORD, the God of Israel, the God who is in Jerusalem.  And the people of any place where survivors may now be living are to provide him with silver and gold, with goods and livestock, and with freewill offerings for the temple of God in Jerusalem.'” – Ezra 1:2-4 (NIV)

I think there is an assumption among Christians that the only place our kids can get shaped by God is in and by the church.  We can work towards insulating them in a cocoon of church activities and groups because we think that will protect them from sin.  This view, however, makes God less powerful and providential than His omnipotence would suggest.  God used numerous situations to shape His people that were outside the community of faith.  In the passage above, God is using a pagan king to replant His people in the promised land.  A pagan king.

The world is a scary, treacherous and sometimes dangerous place, but it is small compared to God.  If He chooses to work through a pagan king to bring His children home, who are we to question?  When I consider the different choices that face our family, I have to remind myself that fear is not a factor.  We are His children and He will bring us safely to His side, but we don’t get to decide who or what He uses to get us there.

I want my children to be safe.  I want them to be protected, but more than that, I want them to walk the road that God has set before them.  This is going to be a challenge, because I may have to trust people and situations that seem “unsafe” for my children.  I don’t relish those moments of decision where God is calling my child to be in a worldly place under worldly people.  I pray that I will be ready when those moments come.  I hope that I will see God’s hand at work in those situations and trust in His will and wisdom rather than my own.

Lord, help me to trust You with my children.  Give me the strength to let them go into the world, trusting that you can use even the things of this world to shape them for Your glory and honor.  Remind me of Your faithfulness and mercy when those moments arise.  Amen.

Unfinished Conquering


When Joshua was old and well advanced in years, the LORD said to him, “You are very old, and there are still very large areas of land to be taken over. – Joshua 13:1 (NIV)

During Joshua’s leadership over the Israelites, the northern and southern kings were routed and the land of promise was being claimed.  Armies and lands were overcome with the power of God through His people.  Miraculous interventions, like the Sun standing still in the sky, were signs of God’s hand aiding the twelve
tribes.  And yet God tells Joshua, “there are still very large areas of land to be taken over.”  Unfinished conquering lay ahead.

Raising our children in the wilderness that is the fallen world will require an understanding of unfinished
conquering.  If we want our children to be land wholly devoted to God’s purposes, they will need to be prepared to
conquer the land.  As they grow and mature, our children will face new enemies; enemies that will disguise
themselves as friends or as harmless.  These enemies will try to conquer spiritual territory in the hearts and
minds of our children.  They need to be conquerors.

God’s promise to Joshua before entering into a life of conquest was, “Be strong and courageous.”  That promise holds for us and our children.  If we are intent on conquering the land God has given us – our time, talents and treasures – He will be with us.  But we will need to stay faithful to God’s commands.  Each of our children are
children of promise.  Through Christ they have the potential to conquer the world for God, but first they must be conquered by God.

Lord, give me a conquering spirit.  Help me to raise my children to be more than conquerors for Your kingdom.  May they grow in strength, courage and faith each day. Amen

Getting to What God Has Already Done


Then the LORD said to Joshua, “See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands, along with its king and its fighting men.  March around the city once with all the armed men. Do this for six days. Have seven priests carry trumpets of rams’ horns in front of the ark. On the seventh day, march around the city seven times, with the priests blowing the trumpets. When you hear them sound a long blast on the trumpets, have all the people give a loud shout; then the wall of the city will collapse and the people will go up, every man straight in.” – Joshua 6:2-5 (NIV)

God makes statements throughout Scripture where He refers to future events as already done.  Israel was 7 days out from the walls of Jericho crumbling before their marching band, but God tells them He has already delivered Jericho into their hands.  This is a fundamental reality of God; He is without beginning or end, being fully present in each moment of time.  This makes everything in history true for God, whether it has happened for us or not.  Israel had spent 40 years in the wilderness fully dependent on this same ever-present God.  This made whatever God said, however unlikely or seemingly impossible, a fact.

Parents are not ever-present or perfect, but they are called to integrity and servanthood.  We have the opportunity with our children to model this character of God by being people who follow through.  There are not many things that erode trust faster than broken promises.  If we want our children to believe in a God who has already followed through on His promises, we need to be the kind of parents whose yes means yes and no means no.  There is a caution that comes with this because we are not like God; we have limitations and boundaries.  First, we must be careful about the promises we make.

As awesome and powerful as God is, His promises are limited and specific.  This is not due to Him being limited, but because He meets us in the real world.  His promises come to us through suffering and work and discipline and sacrifice.  His promises are not magic potions that fix things; they are exhibitions of His grace and power in a broken, fallen world amongst broken, fallen people.  His promises are His kingdom come.  His promises have been true, are true and will be true, We need to help our children live in and hope for the promises of God because He is already there

We need to lead our children to where God already is.  They need to develop vision that is defined by faith hope and love.  We need to build in them and expectation that they can tear down walls.

Lord, thank you for being everywhere, all the time and all at once.   Help us to live in an attitude of expectation for your works and will to be revealed.   Bless my children with love and grace to keep them in the promises of God. Amen.

With God There are No Giants


They came back to Moses and Aaron and the whole Israelite community at Kadesh in the Desert of Paran. There they reported to them and to the whole assembly and showed them the fruit of the land.  They gave Moses this account: “We went into the land to which you sent us, and it does flow with milk and honey! Here is its fruit.  But the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large. We even saw descendants of Anak there.  The Amalekites live in the Negev; the Hittites, Jebusites and Amorites live in the hill country; and the Canaanites live near the sea and along the Jordan.”

Then Caleb silenced the people before Moses and said, “We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.”

But the men who had gone up with him said, “We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are.”  And they spread among the Israelites a bad report about the land they had explored. They said, “The land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw there are of great size.  We saw the Nephilim there (the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim). We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.” – Numbers 13:26-33 (NIV)

It is hard to be a true believer.  It is difficult to trust what you have been told when everyone else seems to be turning a deaf ear to the truth.  No one said following God would take us through friendly territory, just that He would take us through.  Joshua and Caleb were true believers.  Apparently, they were a very small minority.

Teaching our children to stick to their faith, to follow through with their commitment to God, is critical.  We live in a culture of shifting beliefs and smorgasbord spirituality.  When we don’t like something, we go to a philosophical grab bag and pick out the ideology en vogue at the time.  This nonsensical atmosphere can seem like a land of giants, but with God there are no giants.  There is nothing, no one bigger than our God.

I want my daughters to be like Joshua and Caleb.  I want them to walk into their friendships, schools, groups and gatherings unafraid of the giants they may meet there.  My hope for them is based on the command and promise that God gave to Joshua later in his life: “Be strong and courageous … for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)  I want my daughters to be brave.

Lord, make me into a giant killer.  Help me to be brave when giants are in the land.  Give me the strength and will to overcome and the faith to believe.  Let me show my children that You are above all things. Amen.

Manna and Quail


That evening quail came and covered the camp, and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. When the dew was gone, thin flakes like frost on the ground appeared on the desert floor.  When the Israelites saw it, they said to each other, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. Moses said to them, “It is the bread the LORD has given you to eat.  This is what the LORD has commanded: ‘Each one is to gather as much as he needs. Take an omer for each person you have in your tent.'”

The Israelites did as they were told; some gathered much, some little.  And when they measured it by the omer, he who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little did not have too little. Each one gathered as much as he needed.

Then Moses said to them, “No one is to keep any of it until morning.”

However, some of them paid no attention to Moses; they kept part of it until morning, but it was full of maggots and began to smell. So Moses was angry with them.

Each morning everyone gathered as much as he needed, and when the sun grew hot, it melted away.  On the sixth day, they gathered twice as much–two omers for each person–and the leaders of the community came and reported this to Moses.  He said to them, “This is what the LORD commanded: ‘Tomorrow is to be a day of rest, a holy Sabbath to the LORD. So bake what you want to bake and boil what you want to boil. Save whatever is left and keep it until morning.'”

So they saved it until morning, as Moses commanded, and it did not stink or get maggots in it.

“Eat it today,” Moses said, “because today is a Sabbath to the LORD. You will not find any of it on the ground today.  Six days you are to gather it, but on the seventh day, the Sabbath, there will not be any.”  Nevertheless, some of the people went out on the seventh day to gather it, but they found none.

Then the LORD said to Moses, “How long will you refuse to keep my commands and my instructions?  Bear in mind that the LORD has given you the Sabbath; that is why on the sixth day he gives you bread for two days. Everyone is to stay where he is on the seventh day; no one is to go out.”  So the people rested on the seventh day. – Exodus 16:13-30 (NIV)

Getting your children to trust you can be an epic chore sometimes.  They can be very sure of their perception of things and be very unsure of what mommy and daddy try to tell them.  The process of earning their trust is one we will go through numerous times, but it would be good for us to keep in mind that God goes through the same process with us.  The passage above is a clear indication of how stubborn humanity can be even in the face of God’s goodness and providence.

We are going to have manna and quail moments with our children.  We are going to be frustrated that they still behave as if we are not on their side, or don’t care about them or don’t want them to succeed.  They will say hurtful and uninformed things about us and our motivations.  They will act in ways that seem disconnected from the way we treat them day after day after day.  In the midst of all this, God is going through the same frustration with His children.

For God and us, this process of trust sits entirely with us.  There is nothing God needs to prove, there is nothing He needs to change and there is nothing He owes us.  However, as parents we need to empathize with our children and approach their growth and struggles with humility.  We aren’t perfect and therefore have no right to expect it from anyone else, especially our children.

Next time I am about to nitpick one of my children, I hope God brings the manna and quail to mind.  When the time comes and I am about to enter into a diatribe on respect and obedience, I pray that God will cause me to pause and re-evaluate the situation.  Lord, help me to be a voice of patience, grace and wisdom into my children’s lives. Amen.

Crossing the Red Sea


Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and all that night the LORD drove the sea back with a strong east wind and turned it into dry land. The waters were divided, and the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left.

The Egyptians pursued them, and all Pharaoh’s horses and chariots and horsemen followed them into the sea.  During the last watch of the night the LORD looked down from the pillar of fire and cloud at the Egyptian army and threw it into confusion.  He jammed[b] the wheels of their chariots so that they had difficulty driving. And the Egyptians said, “Let’s get away from the Israelites! The LORD is fighting for them against Egypt.”

Then the LORD said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand over the sea so that the waters may flow back over the Egyptians and their chariots and horsemen.”  Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and at daybreak the sea went back to its place. The Egyptians were fleeing toward[c] it, and the LORD swept them into the sea.  The water flowed back and covered the chariots and horsemen—the entire army of Pharaoh that had followed the Israelites into the sea. Not one of them survived. – Exodus 14:21-28

When the Israelites were finally released from slavery, God needed to take them somewhere else.  He needed them to get away from their old life and old surroundings.  They needed to realize that God had something better for them.  They needed to discover what they were created for and they needed to travel to make that discovery.  So that this point would be clear and unforgettable, God takes them across the bottom of the sea on dry ground.  Talk about an object lesson.

Our children need to be taken out of their environments as well.  There are times where a complete change in geography can help open them up to see God and the promises He has for them.  They need to understand the relationship of responsibility and freedom and how they grow together.  This is not easy.  Teaching our children to live a life of freedom is not easy, but it is worth every struggle we face in the process.

While God gave the Israelites every opportunity to see what He was doing for them, where He was taking them and why, they still went back to their enslaved ways of thinking.  Before and after crossing the Red Sea, the Israelites complained.  Freedom was too dangerous and demanding and difficult.  They were gripped by fear and they started acting like they belonged to someone else.  But they belonged to God and so do we and so do our children.

We need to have a relationship with God that will allow us to be Moses to our children.  Our ability to be moved by God to do and say what our children need to do and hear is critical.  They will look to us to lead them away from their oppressors.  They will be watching us to see if what we say matches with how we live.

Lord, help me to lead my children from slavery to freedom.  Give me wisdom to know my child’s needs and lead them to God.  Help me to know when my children are slipping back into their old, enslaved habits.  Amen.

Calling Our Children Out of Egypt


Then the LORD said to Moses, “Pharaoh’s heart is unyielding; he refuses to let the people go. Go to Pharaoh in the morning as he goes out to the water. Wait on the bank of the Nile to meet him, and take in your hand the staff that was changed into a snake.  Then say to him, ‘The LORD, the God of the Hebrews, has sent me to say to you: Let my people go, so that they may worship me in the desert. But until now you have not listened.  This is what the LORD says: By this you will know that I am the LORD: With the staff that is in my hand I will strike the water of the Nile, and it will be changed into blood.  The fish in the Nile will die, and the river will stink; the Egyptians will not be able to drink its water.'” – Exodus 7:14-18 (NIV)

I have been a slave.  A slave to my own desires.  A slave to ignorance.  A slave to imperfection.  A slave to the brokenness of humanity.  I was born into this slavery and there was no way out of it by my own design.  I didn’t even have the inclination to try.  But there were voices calling me out of the land of slavery, calling me out of Egypt.  A mother’s voice sang songs of Jesus and read to me the words of God.  A father’s voice full of wisdom and tempered with grace called me from a plagued land to a land of promise.  Many other voices of friends, mentors and ministers have pushed and pulled me in the right direction on a journey not yet completed.

I made my way from the land of slavery toward the land of promise and am still on the road.  I forget sometimes about the voices that called me out of slavery, and I lose my way in the wilderness.  In those moments, it seemed like the life in Egypt would have been the easier route, but the voices cut through the foolishness and pride and set me back on course again.  I am so thankful for the voices that have spoken on behalf of God into my life.

Our children need to hear us calling them out of Egypt.  They need to know that there is something better in this life than living by our base desires and fractured feelings.  They need us to speak against the enemy and stand against the deceivers who would keep them in bondage.  Our children need to know that they will not walk through the wilderness alone and that the Promised Land is worth the journey.

Lord, help me be a voice calling my children from slavery to sin into freedom in Christ.  Help me to lead my children through the wilderness of this life and instill in them the hope of the Promised Land of eternity with You.  Amen.