How to Build Community

The third chapter of Nehemiah has the phrase “next to” twenty-one times.  This chapter describes in detail the families and locations that they were responsible for in rebuilding the wall.  That is a powerful phrase when you are in a difficult situation: next to.  It is a source of courage and solace to know that you have help at your side in the face of adversity and struggle.  It is a blessing to be next to others as they face the struggles of rebuilding what has been broken.

Families should be about that phrase.  They should be next to each other in facing this life.  They should be next to each other in overcoming obstacles and facing challenges.  They should be next to each other when the world is against them.  The strength and solidity of community begins at home.  If we learn to be next to one another in our families, it prepares and equips us to be next to our extended family in the church.

Our children need be the kind of people who stand next to others, who face challenges with others.  They can learn so much from seeing the space next to others as a place of privilege and blessing instead a place of burden duty.  For Nehemiah it wasn’t just about rebuilding the wall, it was about rebuilding his people, God’s people.  He wanted those community ties to be reconnected and tied even tighter.  Every day they worked on the wall, the families of Israel were reminded that they could not do it alone.

We should not be in this alone.  We need to have others come and stand next to us when the walls are crumbling and the enemy is threatening to attack.  Let’s be families that are next to others in the life of God’s people.

Lord, help me to be a man that is next to my wife and children.  Help me lead my children into an understanding of the privilege and blessing of living our lives next to our brothers and sisters in Christ.  Amen.

Even Heroes Need God

Now Ahab told Jezebel everything Elijah had done and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword.  So Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah to say, “May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like that of one of them.”  Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, while he himself went a day’s journey into the desert. He came to a broom tree, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.”  Then he lay down under the tree and fell asleep. All at once an angel touched him and said, “Get up and eat.”  He looked around, and there by his head was a cake of bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again.  The angel of the Lord came back a second time and touched him and said, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.”  So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, themountainofGod. – 1 Kings 19:1-8 (NIV)

Taking on hundreds of false prophets, running faster than a chariot and challenging a powerful and evil king are things a hero does, and Elijah is definitely a hero.  Scripture doesn’t tell superhero stories, just stories.  No embellishments or edits to avoid embarrassment.  As heroic as Elijah had been, he was a real person with real fears.  He still needed God.

One of the worst things we can do to our children is only let them see us win.  God lets us in on Elijah’s low points.  He doesn’t try to cover them up or wash them over to make Elijah out to be someone he’s not.  If all our children ever see or hear about us is the successes or victories, we are not preparing them for the low points.  Even Elijah had to regroup and overcome his fears, and God met him in that moment and provided what Elijah needed.

Life will overwhelm us from time to time.  We will be faced with a situation that will challenge our limitations and put us on the ropes.  We need to be confident in those moments that God is with us and to allow our children to walk through those moments by our side.  They need to see us at our wounded worst and watch us get pulled to our feet by the grace and mercy of God.  They need to know that there is a way forward from failure and a path from brokenness to wholeness.   Elijah’s life took him from a faceoff with false prophets to huddling in fear under a broom tree, but God did not leave him there, and He won’t leave us in our brokenness either.

Lord, help me to live honestly before my children.  May I find the courage to let my children see my weakness and in the process discover Your strength.  Give me strength for each day to face my fears and lead my children toward courage. 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.

Remembering September 11th

The 10th anniversary of September is coming up this Sunday.  This post was originally written in 2010, but has been updated for this year. I hope that this post is a blessing to all who read.

Preparing for Battle

These are the nations the LORD left to test all those Israelites who had not experienced
any of the wars in Canaan (he did this only to teach warfare to the descendants of the Israelites who had not had previous battle experience):  the five rulers of the Philistines, all the Canaanites, the Sidonians, and the Hivites living in the Lebanon mountains from
Mount Baal Hermon to Lebo Hamath.  They were left to test the Israelites to see whether they would obey the LORD’s commands, which he had given their ancestors through Moses. – Judges 3:1-4

Israel had lost their fight.  The tenacious commitment to claim what God had promised had faded and years of living in safety had softened them.  They needed to
go back to basic training.  In order to get them back into shape, God kept a thorn in their side by allowing surrounding nations to stick around – some on the job training, if you will.

This brought to mind a question for parenting: Can my girls protect themselves?   Are they equipped to turn away the attack?  Have they picked up the skills and qualities that they need to venture safely through this world?  We are working on it and that means facing the enemy.

The only way for the Israelites to be prepared for battle was to go into battle. Anyone in the military can tell you there is a difference between obeying orders in the safety and security of peace, and obeying them when the bullets are flying. It is the difference between a trained soldier and a seasoned soldier.  One has equipment and information, the other has experience and wisdom.  I want my girls to be seasoned soldiers for Christ.

This may require our children being in “risky” situations where feelings get hurt and character is tested.  They may go into harm’s way for a good cause.  Words like sacrifice, discipline and perseverance need to be understood at a deeper level. Failure is an opportunity to discover weaknesses to overcome.  All of these must be rooted in a growing love for Christ.

We parents have our work cut out for us, but God is on our side.

Lord, help me lead my children into a disciplined life.  Give me the strength and patience to put them through difficult circumstances.  Help me to shape them into the person you have designed them to be.  Let us all be overcomers for your glory and honor. Amen.

Grumbling at God

The whole Israelite community set out from Elim and came to the Desert of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after they had come out of Egypt.  In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the LORD’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.” Then the LORD said to Moses, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions.  On the sixth day they are to prepare what they bring in, and that is to be twice as much as they gather on the other days.” – Exodus 16:1-8 (NIV)

So Moses and Aaron said to all the Israelites, “In the evening you will know that it was the LORD who brought you out of Egypt, and in the morning you will see the glory of the LORD, because he has heard your grumbling against him. Who are we, that you should grumble against us?”

Moses also said, “You will know that it was the LORD when he gives you meat to eat in the evening and all the bread you want in the morning, because he has heard your grumbling against him. Who are we? You are not grumbling against us, but against the LORD.”

“Nobody likes a whiner.”  It makes a good t-shirt or bumper sticker, but the reality is that we are all whiners at some point.  There is something that nags us or puts us in a sour mood when in reality, our life is just fine.  Times come our way when a sacrifice is required for a good cause and we can find ourselves basking in self-pity when no one thanks us for giving up so much.  We all have our weak moments, and this was a weak moment for the children of Israel.

Often it is the ones closest to us that feel the brunt of our grumbling, but we are really grumbling at God.  Just as the Israelites’ grumbling at Moses and Aaron was really grumbling at God.  There really is no telling what God was willing to provide His people if they had shown gratitude and humility.  They only got the minimum of what they asked for – meat and bread.  They were headed to the land of milk and honey, and God may have given them a foretaste on the journey, but instead they ate the same thing every day for 40 years.

This is a lesson that many children never learn.  There are way too many people out there believing they deserve a perfect life.  I have met too many people who seem to think that God owes them something.  Children need to learn the lies behind this way of thinking.  It will save them from a lot of pain, suffering, wasted time and embarrassment.  Complaining, whining, grumbling – these are not the characteristics of God’s faithful.  We need to teach our children how to be grateful and content and the best way to do it is by being grateful and contents ourselves.

I want my daughters to experience the amazing and unexpected of God’s providence.  I want them to live lives marked by gratitude and grace.  As a father, I must be disciplined in modeling this before my daughters.  Lord, help me to live the life of gratitude and contentment.  Help me to lead my children into a right relationship with their God.  Amen.

Intended for Good

But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God?  You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.  So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.” And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them. – Genesis 50:19-21

My daughters do not always like the decisions my wife and I make for them.  We have withheld things from them or demanded certain behaviors, and the consequences for them have varied depending on their choices.  Along the way, difficulties have come that had nothing to do with their choices, good or bad, but came as a result of living in a sinful world.  At these times we try to guide their eyes to see God moving in the midst of difficulty.  We need to teach them Joseph’s attitude.

This is one of the hardest things to develop in our children.  To have a long view of life and to see our circumstances as preparation for what is ahead takes discipline and faith.  To hold onto purpose and meaning when we are crushed and perplexed takes perseverance and hope.  We have the privilege to be used by God in these situations, fulfilling the promise that He, “works for the good of those who love him.”

Yet, there is a challenge set out for us in pointing our children in the right direction; we must be pointed in the right direction.  If we want our children to see God working for their good in the midst of strife and struggle, they need to see the same characteristic at work in our lives.  If we love our children as God desires us to, we will do all we can to work things for their good.  We will do all we can to put them in a position to succeed.  We will watch over them and protect them.  We will present opportunities for them to shine the light of Christ.

Joseph didn’t come to know God through his trials; it was his knowledge of God that made his trial bearable and meaningful.  Do our children know us well enough to trust us in the storm?  Have they seen us live lives reflecting the character of God?  Will they turn to us in their hour of need because they know where to find love and help?  We have a short time to build this kind of relationship with our children and the world works its wicked way against us along the way.  God help us to be there for our children.

Lord, help us to live the life you desire for us.  Fit us for a fatherhood that reveals your character and qualities.  May our children come to know you better by knowing us and may we know our children better by knowing 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.

Original Sin is not A Myth

Now the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God say, ‘You shall not eat from any tree in the garden’?”  The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you shall die.'”  But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not die; for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”  So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate.  Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves. – Genesis 3:1-7 (NRSV)

I remember the day I first realized my oldest daughter was a sinful creature.  She had been fascinated with something on our coffee table and we told her a number of times not to touch it.  While she knew few words at this stage in her life, she was fluent in “no” and “mine.”  I was watching her stand by the table, staring at the object when she turned to look at me.  As she looked me in the eye, she extended her hand toward the object.  I very firmly said, “No” and her hand stopped, and then started up again, her eyes never looking away from mine.  I used her full name when I told her not to touch the object, but her hand continued to move, her gaze never wavering.  Finally, she touched the object and I let her know she was in trouble.

There was an immediate change from open disobedience to self-preservation as she realized the consequences of her actions.  There were many tears and whimpers, but in the end, she apologized in toddler fashion.  It was a scene repeated more than once in her younger years.   We watched her go through the struggle Paul describes in Romans 7 – “As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me.  I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.” (Romans 7:17-18)

This was the time for us to teach her how to ask God for help.  Simple prayers of holding her hands clenched like fists, holding onto the bad things in her heart, and then letting them go when she asked God for forgiveness; steady reminders to pray for God’s help whenever and wherever she needed to; and celebrations when she made good choices. They were the first steps down the right road.  Owning up to our sin is not easy and certainly does not feel good, but it leads to goodness we cannot otherwise have.

While we journey with our children, we need to be aware of our own fallen moments, to be humble enough to apologize when our transgressions cause them pain or hurt.  When we say something unkind to our spouse in front of our children, we need to have the integrity to apologize in front of our children.  If we fall short in our walk with God when our children are watching, we need to make them part of our process of repentance.  God desired one thing from Adam and Eve in the passage above and it was repentance born of a contrite heart.  Instead, He received excuses, denials and passed blame.  God deserves so much more than attempts to manipulate his grace.

Today, pray that God will give you the opportunity to teach your child about repentance.  Pray for the courage to repent in front of your children.  Pray for relationships with your heavenly Father and your children to be marked by honesty, grace and love.



The Challenge of Fatherhood

You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand [generations] of those who love me and keep my commandments. – Deuteronomy 5:9-10 (NIV)

The first day I held my oldest daughter was one of the most transformational moments in my life.  Dramatic changes took place in my heart and mind; changes to the way I viewed everything.  She was beyond beautiful, a culmination of my wife’s and my love for each other.  Every day her personality bubbled to the surface and we discovered the wonderful person God had designed her to be.  Unfortunately the ugly stain of sin that had touched the rest of humanity was unwilling to leave her unblemished.

This is the challenge of fatherhood, to remember that we are a sinful breed, prone to selfishness and pride.  Our recognition of this trait is the first step in overcoming it for our sake and the sake of our children; confession preceding repentance.  It is our willingness to maintain the discipline of confession and repentance that helps us lead our children into the same practice.  We can teach our children to do well in school, make healthy choices and use good manners, but if they don’t understand how to live right with God we leave them adrift.

As fathers we have to face sin in ourselves and our children with honesty and hope.  We cannot lead our children to freedom in Christ if we do not recognize their human condition.  We cannot hope for a better life for our children if we do not teach them the path to righteousness.  There are too many examples of sinful cycles repeating again and again in families, from father to son, mother to daughter.  With the help of God, that cycle can be broken through love and obedience.

God does not leave us alone in this great challenge.  He walks before, behind and beside us through the journey of fatherhood.  His story as our heavenly Father, from the garden to the great judgment, is rich with wisdom and knowledge for us as earthly fathers.  In the days ahead, I pray that this devotional blog will be a blessing and a challenge to fathers who desire to live the life of God with their children.


Chris Yeager