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.

A Place of Worship

“Then have them make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them.  Make this tabernacle and all its furnishings exactly like the pattern I will show you.” – Exodus  25:8-9 (NIV)

The Tabernacle was an amazing structure; a house of worship crossed with a mobile army hospital.  It combined the ornate and the practical to supply a place of holy confrontation and restoration for the people of Israel.  The Tabernacle became the center point for God’s people as they made their self-inflicted journey through 40 years of wilderness.   We have gone a different direction in today’s world.

Instead of the house of worship going with us, we go to the house of worship.  Our churches, for the most part, have become stationary structures, that anchor us to a certain location and culture.  I am not saying that this is innately bad, but if we are not conscious of it, we can miss something very important about worship.

We can still be people of the tabernacle, but a different sort.  I am trying to teach my daughters to worship God whenever and wherever they can.  Just this past weekend, I was on a family camping trip near a lake in Oregon.  It was surrounded by thick pine forests and a large mountain dominated the skyline to the northwest.  In the early morning and late evening, the lake would begin to settle from the wind and activity of the day.  Into this setting, I walked with my daughters just before sunset.

We sat on the shore, skipped rocks, watched falcons soar through the air and loved each other.  In the midst of this God’s presence was strong yet gentle.  This was a tabernacle moment, where we had taken a place of worship with us into the wilderness.  It was a beautiful and holy moment.  We did not sing any songs; the music of the wind and waves and the changing light of the setting sun sang out the power and splendor of God.  We did not read any scripture; His word was at home in our hearts and minds.  That rocky shore became our sanctuary and we are better for it.

Lord, help me to be open to those tabernacle moments.  Help give me eyes to see and ears to hear and a mind to understand when your presence and our availability can connect to create a holy moment for my family.  Please give me the heart and will of a worshipper.  Amen.

Growing from Season to Season

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 (NIV)

My daughter and I have grown to love the stream where we live, even as it changes throughout the year.  Whether it is sitting on the beach skipping rocks with dragonflies perched on the cattails in the spring, or the mist rising off the water into the crisp morning air of fall, it has become a place of community and celebration for us.  In each season, we have experienced beauty and pain, either in our own lives or by observing the changes experienced by the landscape itself.  I have come to appreciate the seasons equally for their amazing differences and subtle commonalities.

It has been fascinating watching the trees next to the stream, especially a large mimosa, as the seasons pass by.  There are several other mimosas on the property, but only one next to the stream.  It is definitely larger and tends to get leaves earlier and lose them later.  In other words, its proximity to the stream helps it handle the seasons better, but it does not eliminate the seasons.   So the tree grows stronger, produces more fruit and sinks its roots deep into fertile soil, but the world around it is still the same.

We are in the same situation.  We may grow strong in our understanding of God and His Word.  We may produce good and plentiful fruit through the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.  We may sink our roots into the rich soil of God’s love, mercy and grace.  But the world around us remains the same; the seasons still change, the weeds still grow and the storms still rage.  The difference is not in what we experience in this life, it is how we experience it.

For those who root themselves in Christ, each season is a time to grow stronger for the season to come.  This is why we can come to cherish each of the seasons of life.  We are no longer defined by those seasons as they come and go, but by the One who gives us a life abundantly in the midst of every season.    In Him the winter is as rich and full of purpose as the summer, and the shedding of leaves just as meaningful as their bursting forth in spring.  This, however, is not an easy reality to grasp in a world that values change for its own sake.  The question we need to ask ourselves is “Am I handling the inconsistencies of life better today than I did last week, last month or last year?”  If not, it may be a matter of moving closer to the stream and sinking your roots deeper and deeper.  If so, don’t settle for where you are; keep digging deeper.  If we don’t look just like Jesus, there’s still room to grow.

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.

Overcoming Doubt

Moses answered, “What if they do not believe me or listen to me and say, ‘The LORD did not appear to you’?”

Then the LORD said to him, “What is that in your hand?”

“A staff,” he replied.

The LORD said, “Throw it on the ground.” Moses threw it on the ground and it became a snake, and he ran from it. Then the LORD said to him, “Reach out your hand and take it by the tail.” So Moses reached out and took hold of the snake and it turned back into a staff in his hand.  “This,” said the LORD, “is so that they may believe that the LORD, the God of their fathers–the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob–has appeared to you.” – Exodus 4:1-5 (NIV)

There are several moments I can recall from my childhood when a word of encouragement or wisdom or truth overcame my doubts.  Whether it was trying a new thing or overcoming a challenge in school, my mother or father would help me move beyond myself to what I could be.  I was able to experience so many things and learn more about myself, the world and the God who created us both.  They were doubt dispellers and truth tellers and I am eternally grateful.

Moses needed the great doubt dispeller and truth teller.  His experience in leaving Egypt had left him with several doubts: Would the Egyptians remember him with wrath or mercy?  Would the Israelites accept anyone from the royal family as their leader?  Would anyone listen to his message?  These doubts were so pervasive that they overcame the awe he had been filled with when he first encountered the burning bush.  In the face of God’s obvious presence, Moses needed a background check and a performance guarantee.

Our children are going to experience these moments of doubt and they will need a staff in their hands to help them overcome it.  Whether it is a memory verse, a meaningful saying, a picture, a physical object that represents something to them or just your presence, they will need something to remind themselves and others that they can be exactly who God created them to be.

But the enemy loves doubt.  He relishes the opportunity to plant weeds in our children’s hearts to crush dreams and choke their potential.  It is good to remember that the Aaron’s staff turned into a snake and consumed the snakes of the Egyptian priests.  In our children’s lives, we need to teach them that through Christ they are over-comers.

Lord, help me to be a doubt dispeller and a truth teller for my children.  Give me the words and tools I need to put a staff of confidence and boldness in their hands that is rooted in Your word and filled with Your presence.  Help me be an over-comer in my own life so that my children can see your victory at work.  Amen.

Believing in our Children

Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.  I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” – Genesis 12:1-3 (NRSV)

One of the great blessings of fatherhood is watching your child realize and comprehend the love you have for them.  It comes at different times for different reasons, but it always changes the way they see you and relate to you.  When a child understands the love you have for her, she knows you believe in her and the potential she has in this life.

The amazing thing about God’s statement in this passage is the unquestionable belief God has in His child, Abram.  There are no “ifs” in his statements.  God has a vision for Abram, that will bring him from Ur to the Promised Land, from Abram to Abraham, from childless to being the father of nations.  What an incredible source of motivation and encouragement – to know that God believes in you.

It is a gift we can also give our children.  Critical moments will come into our children’s lives, and we need to be prepared with the voice of motivation and encouragement.  We need to give them a vision of who they can become and what we will do to help them get there.  Our voices need to call our children out of Ur into the Promised Land of living in God’s will.

Pray for eyes to see a clear vision for your children.  Ask God for insight, wisdom and knowledge to speak words of motivation and encouragement into your children’s lives.  Pray for the faith to believe great things for your children and the discipline to do what it takes to lead them there.  Amen.

Walking Our Children through the Garden

They heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden.  But the LORD God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?”  He said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.”  He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?”  The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit from the tree, and I ate.”  Then the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent tricked me, and I ate.” – Genesis 3:8-13 (NRSV)

I remember that as a young boy, I tried to lie to my parents a few times (let’s not define “few” today).  It never ended well.  Trust was broken, regret set in and apologies seemed worthless.  Over time my love for my parents and for God, overcame my fear of coming clean and eventually helped me overcome many sinful habits that created the problem in the first place.  I am eternally grateful for a father who walked with me through those years with love, patience and wisdom.  His willingness to walk through the Garden with me, asking me questions about motivation and identity, set a mark for me to shoot for as a father.

Here is one of the challenges of fatherhood that can lead our children to a blessing: communication.  It is incredible how little communication goes on today with all of the technology available; so much noise, so many words and so little content.  We are slowly and surely loosing the art and beauty of conversation.  My father is not a man of many words, but the words he speaks have meaning and purpose, and he still asks me the right questions.  I want to ask my children the right questions too, and give them the right answers to the questions they bring my way.

Sometimes it is hard to ask a question you don’t really want to hear the answer to, but know you need to hear it.  It starts with simple questions like, “Did you write on daddy’s nice pants?” and progresses to, “Did you cheat on the test?” and may move to, “Did you drink at the party you were at instead of sleeping over at your friends?”  We will hear all sorts of excuses, very similar to Adam and Eve’s, but in the end the goal is not to find out what they did wrong, it is to get them pointed toward doing right.  That is the hard part for me – a short fuse.  My anger wells up too easily and it squashes communication without fail.

All the texting, Facebooking and emailing in the world cannot replace a word of comfort or compassion in a difficult moment.  Children need to know they can talk to us, so we need to be very careful how we talk to them.  God was certainly not pleased with Adam and Eve, and He lets them know in clear terms, but He doesn’t destroy them.  God provides them another chance.  He could have ended it right there with Adam and Eve, snuffed ‘em out and tried something else, but they were His children.  He kept the conversation going and it has continued ever since then, passed down generation to generation.

We have the challenge and blessing of entering that conversation with our children. Pray today for the opportunity to communicate with your children.  Pray for the wisdom to answer their questions in a godly way.  Seek opportunities to talk to your kids about things they love.  Let’s continue the conversation.