Do Not Fret

Do not fret because of evil men or be envious of those who do wrong; for like the grass they will soon wither, like green plants they will soon die away. Trust in the LORD and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun. – Psalms 37:1-6 (NIV)

There is a lot in this world to get frustrated and angry about.  We see injustice, greed, meanness and a general sense of selfishness that can get us down. All of these have influences on how we perceive life.  We can get cynical and pessimistic about the world, but it can bleed over into how we see everything.  We can turn into sour and surly saints.

This keeps us from shining the light of God.  If we lose sight of God’s goodness, we become more defined by our surroundings instead of God transforming our surroundings through us.  We cannot look to the world for our happiness and contentment; we will be disappointed.  We must look to God, always God.

The Psalmist puts forth a great argument here: live life on God’s terms and let others live life on their terms and God will deal with us accordingly.  This less about worrying who is being bad and more about how we can be good.  If we keep our eyes on the Lord, we won’t have the time or inclination to monitor the fairness of life.

It leaves us with a choice between being fretting frowners or faithful followers.  Will we live life moving toward the love, light and beauty of God or will we wallow in the misperception of thinking we don’t have all we deserve?  God is all we really need, so I know what the answer should be, but there are days where I act like a wallower.  I want something better for myself and my children.

Lord, help me not to wallow in my self-made misery.  Give me the wisdom and opportunity to teach my children the importance of following after You alone.  Amen.

Uncommon Wisdom

The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple. – Psalms 19:7 (NIV)

Most of us have heard the euphemism “Common sense isn’t so common.”  We laugh or snicker, but the truth of the saying pricks just a bit.  As a culture, we share the same sensibilities with our neighbors less and less.  We have become diverse not just in the characteristics closer to the surface of who we are, but deep down in the core.

Cultures go through these eras of tumult and transition and they are rarely without difficulty.  In theUSAwe have gone through our share – the Revolution, the Civil War, the Civil Rights movement – where combating groups held their sensibilities to those which were common.  Christians took their stance on both sides of all these issues, so even we did not hold things in common all the time.

There is something common for all of us.  We can take our opinions or feelings and use them to define reality, to determine what is true.  Maturity is no longer allowing our weaknesses to define the world around us, but to allow the truth of God’s word to define the way we see ourselves and the world.  His law is perfect and allows us to see things perfectly, but we must see the world through that lens.

We need to begin this with our children before they are increasingly exposed to the worldliness around them.  We need to expose them to the truths of God well before they are inundated with the lies of the world.  This means that we and our children will be at odds with our culture, even at odds with our family and neighbors.  The hope is that standing our ground will turn others to look at that perfect law.

Lord, help us to live according to Your word and not according to our will.  Help me to increase in wisdom and knowledge of Your statutes.  May my children be prepared to meet the foolishness of the world with Your wisdom.  Amen.

Prepared for God’s Timing

When Esther’s words were reported to Mordecai, he sent back this answer: “Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape.  For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?” – Esther 4:12-14 (NIV)

There is a short list of things I would like to accomplish in life and near the top is raising children who are prepared to do the will of God.  Esther was raised to be more than a bauble on the arm of a pagan king.  She was raised to be a daughter of Israel; being Queen was about location, not vocation.  Esther was called to be a deliverer, an instrument in God’s hands to save His people.

I do not know where life will take my children, but I do know that decisions will come that will not be easy.  They will have a choice between serving God and serving themselves.  It is my responsibility to help prepare them for those moments.  Day by day, my vision needs to be clearly focused on leading them towards Christ.

Mordecai had the right words at the right time, but he was calling to something that was already in Esther’s heart and mind.  She had been raised to believe in her people; raised to be a Jew.  When Mordecai tells her that she is in her place for a reason, it is not said in a vacuum.  I can’t expect to wait until the moment of decision comes for one of my daughters to dispense some wisdom and expect it to act like a magic wand.  Laying the foundation always gives them something to rely on.

Lord, help me to disciple my children to be Your children.  Give me the wisdom to teach them all they need from me to live according to Your will.  May I raise children who are prepared for the opportunities You will place in their path.  Amen.

Respect for the Word

So on the first day of the seventh month Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, which was made up of men and women and all who were able to understand. He read it aloud from daybreak till noon as he faced the square before the Water Gate in the presence of the men, women and others who could understand. And all the people listened attentively to the Book of the Law.

Ezra the scribe stood on a high wooden platform built for the occasion. Beside him on his right stood Mattithiah, Shema, Anaiah, Uriah, Hilkiah and Maaseiah; and on his left were Pedaiah, Mishael, Malkijah, Hashum, Hashbaddanah, Zechariah and Meshullam.

Ezra opened the book. All the people could see him because he was standing above them; and as he opened it, the people all stood up.

Ezra praised the LORD, the great God; and all the people lifted their hands and responded, “Amen! Amen!” Then they bowed down and worshiped the LORD with their faces to the ground. – Nehemiah 8:2-6 (NIV)

The church I currently attend (Risen King) does something that I really appreciate: we stand during the reading of the Word. It shows a respect for Scripture and reminds me of the proper relationship I have with God’s Word.  The scene described above reflected a return to a right relationship between the people ofIsrael and the Word of God.  It had been common practice to stand during the reading of the Law in the past, but obviously Ezra and Nehemiah were working to restore more than a temple and a wall; they were restoring faith and fellowship.

Teaching our children respect for the word and their relationship to it is no easy task, but vitally important.  There are so many things in this world pushing our children toward a disrespectful and egocentric attitude.  TV, movies, books and computer games celebrate individual rights and relativistic morality.  Sports icons and pop idols live irresponsible lives without any serious consequences.  Too many politicians, regardless of party persuasions, find no problem with moral ambiguity and changing their positions to suit popularity polls.  It is so hard to respect anything.

In so many ways our culture teaches children to question everything and that can seep into them in ways they don’t even realize.  If we don’t help them approach Scripture with respect, they may question it more than they allow it to question them and challenge them.

Lord, help me to have a humble and respectful relationship with scripture.  Help me to teach my children this respect and allow themselves to be shaped by the Word. May we all hide it in our hearts so that we may not sin against You. Amen.

Close To the Vest

I went to Jerusalem, and after staying there three days I set out during the night with a few others. I had not told anyone what my God had put in my heart to do forJerusalem. There were no mounts with me except the one I was riding on. – Nehemiah 2:11-12

There is something very comforting in the privacy we have with God.  There is someone who knows us completely, but will never break that trust.  Whatever we share with Him is sacred and safe.  Nehemiah uses that safety to give him confidence in his mission and to plan his steps.  The truth Nehemiah shared with God and God alone was the restoration of Israel’s security.  By inspecting the wall with that truth between him and God, Nehemiah didn’t open the door to argument or anxiety from those he was with.

This is a great lesson for us to keep in mind as parents.  As we are leading our children in their life with God, we don’t always have to let them know when we are parenting and discipling.  Sometimes we need to keep the truths that God has given us close to the vest so we don’t incite argument or anxiety.  Our children don’t always need to know what God has put in our hearts.  Nehemiah shows great wisdom in his restraint.

This is the kind of wisdom I want God to grow in me.  I want to know when to keep those works and words He gives me to do and say to myself until the time is ripe.  I want to know how to lead my children without them always knowing they are being led.

Lord, help me to have the wisdom of privacy with You.  Help me to know when the work you are doing in me or through me is for my eyes only.  Build in me the inner boldness to act on Your will in my life without fear. Amen.

Opposing Forces

Then the peoples around them set out to discourage the people of Judah and make them afraid to go on building.  They hired counselors to work against them and frustrate their plans during the entire reign of Cyrus king of Persia and down to the reign of Darius king of Persia. – Ezra 4:4-5 (NIV)

It is hard to be a good neighbor when your neighbor hates you and wants to see you fail.  It is difficult to stay in hostile territory, especially when you have no other friendly place to go.  This has been the problem of God’s people throughout their history; firstIsraeland now the body of Christ.  We are unwanted by the world.  We stand opposed to the humanized view of our place in the cosmos and preach a gospel that rejects the relativism of the world’s morality.  Some have responded to this dilemma by becoming isolated communities, others have bought into a more militant approach, but either one gets us stuck without any ability to handle the other.

Israelwas isolated, but not because they chose to be.  They were isolated because the chose to follow God and the nations around them decided that wasn’t going to go well for them.  When isolation didn’t work, the nations became combative.  What is interesting is thatIsraelwas prepared for either situation as long as they were obeying God and doing the work He wanted them to be about.  WhenIsraelwas successful, it was because they were keeping in line with what God wanted for them.

This is a hard lesson to learn, but we cannot live our lives reacting to the world.  We have to live our lives in obedience to God and trust that He will take us where we need to go, whether that is into isolation or confrontation.  We don’t need to run away from a fight or run into it, we just need to follow the one who is worth fighting for and shelters those He calls His own.  Teaching our children to be peacemakers and warriors for God at the same time is challenging, but possible if we keep them focused on seeking the heart of God.

Lord, help me live a life that is balanced by Your will and not imbalanced by my emotions and passions.  Teach me to know when to fight for Your purposes and when to sow peace.  Grant my children the hearts and minds to pursue You above all else. 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.

A Heart After God

He committed all the sins his father had done before him; his heart was not fully devoted to the LORD his God, as the heart of David his forefather had been. – 1 Kings 15:3 (NIV)

Sin is a problem, but not an unsolvable one.  The passage above happens with tragic repetition through 1st and 2nd Kings highlighting the problem of sin and pointing to the solution.  The problem is being complicit with our sinfulness rather than struggling against it.  David isn’t brought up in this passage because he was without sin, but that he struggled against it.  At his core, David desired to be right with God, even when he messed up.  David’s offspring, however, seem to have lost a heart for God.

There is much to be said for wisdom, strength and talent, but none of them get us anywhere good if they are not ruled by a heart surrendered to God.  Too often we define ourselves by those things that the world and those around us value.  These kings thought they were being good kings by giving the people other gods to worship, building powerful armies and constructing mighty cities, but this is a worldly view.  God wanted men who would lead the people to His heart.

God is still calling for his children to break away from the sins of their fathers and mothers.  He is calling them to seek the heart of their heavenly Father and run from sin.  He is asking them to be like David, who though he struggled, returned again and again to his God with a contrite heart.  The world wants to teach our children that they have excuses and rationales for their sinful behavior, or even worse, that their behavior isn’t sinful at all.  Not only do we as parents have to struggle against sin, we have struggle with a world that wants to convince our children that sin doesn’t exist.

I want my daughters to have hearts that belong to God, who seek Him earnestly and pursue righteousness, but they will never feel the need for any of it if they don’t understand their sinful state.  Teaching them about their sinful bent is less about shoving sin in their face and more about helping them see it with their own eyes.  It is far better for them to discover the error of their ways than to be slapped in the face with them.  It is about speaking the truth in love, about gentleness and mercy.

Lord, help me lead my children to a discovery of their sinfulness so they can turn to You for righteousness.  May they not fall into the sins of their father, but have hearts that strive after You.  Give us all hearts for You and You alone. Amen.

In the Counsel of the Wise

Rehoboam went to Shechem, for all the Israelites had gone there to make him king.  When Jeroboam son of Nebat heard this (he was still inEgypt, where he had fled from King Solomon), he returned fromEgypt.  So they sent for Jeroboam, and he and the whole assembly ofIsraelwent to Rehoboam and said to him:  “Your father put a heavy yoke on us, but now lighten the harsh labor and the heavy yoke he put on us, and we will serve you.”

Rehoboam answered, “Go away for three days and then come back to me.” So the people went away.

Then King Rehoboam consulted the elders who had served his father Solomon during his lifetime. “How would you advise me to answer these people?” he asked.

They replied, “If today you will be a servant to these people and serve them and give them a favorable answer, they will always be your servants.”

But Rehoboam rejected the advice the elders gave him and consulted the young men who had grown up with him and were serving him.  He asked them, “What is your advice? How should we answer these people who say to me, ‘Lighten the yoke your father put on us’?”

The young men who had grown up with him replied, “Tell these people who have said to you, ‘Your father put a heavy yoke on us, but make our yoke lighter’–tell them, ‘My little finger is thicker than my father’s waist.  My father laid on you a heavy yoke; I will make it even heavier. My father scourged you with whips; I will scourge you with scorpions.'” – 1 Kings 12:1-11 (NIV)

This is not the best way to start off a reign.  Rehoboam has the opportunity to heal some wounds, repair some cracks in the kingdom and become beloved by his people, but he decides to hang with his friends.  Where the elders under Solomon had gained wisdom, experience and perspective, Rehoboam’s friends had gained arrogance and bitterness.  Stupid friends.

There is a disease that every generation suffers from in varying degrees.  It attacks the mind, especially the areas controlling perspective, logic and reason.  Those who suffer from this disease become convinced of their superior intellect, accepting their opinion as absolute truth.  Usually the malady affects children beginning in the pre-teen years and can only be cured by respecting your elders and being teachable.  The sickness is known by many names; I-know-it-all-itis, you-ain’t-the-boss-of-me-enza, and it’s-all-about-me-fever.

Rehoboam certainly had contracted the disease and it seems it was his friends who were contagious.  Unfortunately our children can contract the disease very easily from friends, TV and even at home.  We need to provide a healthy environment at home and inoculate them against the foolishness of this world.  This requires discussing hard issues with hard answers, honesty and whole-hearted dependence on God for His wisdom to salt those conversations. Teaching our children to walk in the counsel of the wise is a daily challenge, but God will meet our daily need if we ask.

Rehoboam did not heed the words of his own father, “A wise man will hear and increase learning, and a man of understanding will attain wise counsel, to understand a proverb and an enigma, the words of the wise and their riddles. The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” (Proverbs 1:5-7)  Our children need to hear this truth again and again, but more importantly they need to see it in action.  They need to see God’s wisdom at work in our lives.  They need to watch us reject the foolishness of this world for the wisdom of God’s kingdom.  Let’s cure the disease by seeking healing for ourselves first.

Lord, help me to be wise.  Give me a hunger for Your wisdom and good counsel.  May my children grow in wisdom and humility, seeking friends who follow after You and You alone.  Let them not “despise wisdom and instruction.” Amen.

Ask for Wisdom

At Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream by night; and God said, “Ask what I should give you.”  And Solomon said, “You have shown great and steadfast love to your servant my father David, because he walked before you in faithfulness, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart toward you; and you have kept for him this great and steadfast love, and have given him a son to sit on his throne today.  And now, O LORD my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David, although I am only a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in.  And your servant is in the midst of the people whom you have chosen, a great people, so numerous they cannot be numbered or counted.  Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, able to discern between good and evil; for who can govern this your great people?” – 1 Kings 3:5-9 (NRSV)

Wisdom is one of those characteristics that defy social boundaries.  It is the scepter kings rule by, the beacon that draws the child into adulthood and the soundness of thought that pulls our attention regardless of where the voice is coming from.  For Solomon it was the defining characteristic of his life, and where his father wrote songs and psalms, Solomon wrote on wisdom.  But we don’t hear much about wisdom today.

There is much being said about people who are intelligent, savvy, smart or insightful, but not much on people who are wise.  God, however, is not as interested in us being savvy, smart or insightful, as He is in us treasuring wisdom.  Unfortunately wisdom doesn’t get talked about much today.  The world is more interested in information and acquisition than wise words; more attentive to changing opinions than clearly state truth.  It is one of the reasons that wisdom stands out when we see it or hear it.

There is a lot of information out there for parents.  Much of it is intelligent and savvy, but there is one thing parents should seek with far more diligence and passion and that is wisdom.  We can read articles, study books and listen to TV shows, but godly wisdom will outdo them all and help us sort through all that information with more clarity and discernment.

Lord, grant me wisdom to raise my children in righteousness and truth.  Help me to seek wisdom each day in thought and deed and put a hunger in my children’s minds for Your wisdom. Amen