Monthly Archives: February 2016

Showing them mercy

Kids mess up…all the time.  Well, adults mess up to, but as a parent, I am constantly focused on my kids and their daily walk.  One of the  most important things I am charged with in this life is to bring my kids up to love and desire a relationship with Jesus Christ.  To do that, I have to model and teach.  I have to correct and love.  Most of all I have to guide them.  Kids are learning everyday and part of that process is making mistakes.  I have often found myself focused to much on teaching them that life has consequences.  For every decision they make their will be a result.  When they mess up and break the rules, or do something that is disobedient, I am quick to correct through punishment and consequences.  When you hear the word punishment, the first thing that comes to mind is the paddle, or a grounding or something that is displeasing.  The very word punishment literally means the infliction or imposition of a penalty as retribution for an offense.  It’s a bad thing.  However, it’s a necessary thing too.  Kids need to learn from a young age that inappropriate actions have consequences that are not very fun.  It’s how we teach them about respect for authority and those lessons will hopefully translate into later life when the consequences are often more life-altering.

In all this focus on punishment to help shape and mold my children, I often overlook another very important lesson that needs to be taught.  Grace and mercy.  See, remember this started out with my number one job is to lead them to desire a relationship with the heavenly father.  I can teach them about respect and help them see that what motivates me in life, and what helps me choose my actions is respect and reverence for God’s word and my personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  But I also need to help them understand the fundamental bed-rock of that relationship – grace.  I didn’t seek Christ and get my due reward from him.  I sought Christ when I came to realize that I could never measure up or deserve forgiveness for my sin nature.  I was eternally separated from God and deserved death and punishment in hell.  It is only by grace that we are saved from that punishment, declared innocent in the eyes of a perfect and righteous God.  God’s grace is the perfect love story.  Romans 5:8 paints the perfect picture of this love.  “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ dies for us.”  Why did he die for us?  Because that was the only sufficient payment for my sin and for the sin of the world.  His love is given freely though his grace.

If I want to help my children see their need for Christ, I have to show them that they are sinners.  Just like I am, just like everyone born in this world is.  We are sinners.  I have to show them that there is a consequence for our sin and that is death and separation from God.  But I have to demonstrate God’s love for them and help them understand what grace looks like.  Now, I can’t take it to the cross, like Jesus did for me, but I can show them mercy when they mess up and rather than deliver a harsh punishment, I can show them forgiveness without penalty.  What a teachable moment to have your child do something he knows is wrong, look at you with eyes that say, I know I am getting punished for this, and then hear the words, it’s alright, I’m not holding this against you.  What a door that may be opened to help them make the connection about how forgiveness and grace are waiting for them in Jesus Christ.

God, today I thank you for your endless mercy and grace in my life.  I thank you for the opportunity to be a parent and for the responsibility to lead my children to you.  Thank you for laying it on my heart today the importance of showing grace and mercy in my children’s lives.  Help me have discernment and wisdom to know when to hand out punishment and grace.  Most of all, help me to always model my respect and love for you Jesus because of your mercy and grace toward me.  In your name, – Amen.

Stop Wandering, Turn North

I am 100% male.  I know this, because of the obvious, but also because I despise asking for directions.  I am a careful planner, and do my very best to be sure I don’t have ask for directions, but ultimately end up making a wrong turn here or there, and then the real struggle begins.  I first try to problem solve. While driving 75 mph, arguing with the mapping app on my phone, I end up driving further in the wrong direction, and when it’s a family trip, end up in a disagreement with my wife that adds to the list of things to do: be humble, say you’re sorry, and thank her for still loving you.

Life can be like this too.  I was working on a half-time devotion for the upward basketball games this weekend and came across one that I really found intriguing and it is where I focused my time in God’s word this morning.  Deuteronomy 2:3 says “You have been traveling around this mountain country long enough. Turn northward.” (ESV).  A little context.  The Israelite’s had been wandering around the desert for 40 years (and my wife thinks that extra 5 miles we drove, while I tried to figure it out, was a waste).  Now, God was directing them on the path that would lead them to the promised land.  His simple instructions, quit wandering around, turn northward were epic.  Simple, deliberate and I can almost imagine with a bit of sarcasm in his voice.  Are you done now?  You tried it your way, didn’t work out, ready to listen?  How many of us are wandering around our own desert trying to find the right path, or direction that will take us to our “promised land”?  How often does our wandering cover the same paths, time and time again?

This scripture stuck out to the original author of the devotion and I have to say, I agree.  God specifically pointed them northward…because that was the way he wanted them to go.  Now, remember I have ADD, so I heard north and immediately thought of a map…and maybe a squirrel and a tree, and…

But the word north, brought a picture of a map to mind, and on the map, north is…up.  Where is God?  We are told to look up to the heavens, to lift our voice up to our heavenly father.  So in essence northward may have been the direction of travel, but it was also invoked my natural instinct to think of looking up to follow God.  God is still speaking this same truth to us today.  To anyone that will listen, to anyone that cries out, where should I turn?  God speaks, through His word, and says, enough is enough. I will show you the right path towards where you should be, to what I have for you, and that path is always toward Him.

Human beings (especially males) are independent creatures. We don’t like to think we need help or assistance with anything.  That is what we teach our young men from day 1, be independent.  The truth is, we need someone to give us direction.  We need someone to guide us.  When we turn toward God, we find that someone, or better yet, we find that only one that can lead us in the right direction.  Our sinfulness is what keeps us wandering our own desert, turning down the wrong paths, and following the wrong directions.  When we turn toward God, we find our focus and direction and most importantly a life free from the guilt and dependence of sin.  John 14:6 is an often quoted verse of scripture, but it is so plain and clear.  Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life, no one comes to the father except through me.” (NIV)

Jesus went to the cross to bear the punishments for my sin, and all the sin of humanity.  He did it without any expectation of compensation from me or anyone else.  It was a free gift to an undeserving world.  It is through that free gift of grace that we are able to live the life God intended for us.  To follow the right path, in the right direction.

Friend, are you wandering today?  Are you tired of doing the same thing over and over again, with no sense of direction or purpose?  Do you find yourself on worn-out paths that keep your circling the mountain?  Well ENOUGH is ENOUGH.  Turn to Jesus today and follow his direction.

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Father God, today I thank you for the gift of your word, and for the gift of salvation through your son Jesus Christ.  I thank you that I am 100% yours, and that nothing can ever change that.  I thank you for the Holy Spirit that guides me everyday.  I pray that someone may read this devotion today and see their need for you.  I pray that you will help me depend on your word and your direction to lead my family and raise my children to understand their need for you.  Help us all to submit to your direction and plan, and give you all the glory forever.  In your name I pray, Amen.

 

Sometimes God says…No

“Praise the Lord for answered prayer”

I have heard this so many times in my life, and I have often typed / said those same words when I heard about something miraculous that my God did in my life, or in the life of someone I know.  My God is in the business of miracles.  He never fails.  He CAN’T fail.  God is perfect.  A few years ago, my youth group engaged in a Character of God study and it was truly fascinating.  I have long known that God is perfect, but what does that perfection look like?  Among many things that describe his character, his omniscience is one of my favorite.

He is Omniscient

God knows all things.  He encompasses all knowledge – ever.  Seems pretty simple.  He knows all.  But looking a little deeper we truly understand what that means.  Psalm 147:4-5 talks about  God knowing every single star and calling them each by name.  How many stars are we talking.  According to a quick google search, an Australian study, a few years back, claimed that we can observe about 70,000 million million million stars.  (7,000,000,000,000,000,000,000).  Perspective?  That’s more than all the grains of sand on all the beaches in the world.  He knows them each by name.  Not only does he know everything, but he knows everything about me.  God knows every single cell, every single hair, every single thought  (scary to fathom), he knows it ALL.  He also knows exactly how I fit into his perfect plan.  Not just his perfect plan for me, but His PERFECT PLAN.  He can see how all the pieces fit together, and because of that, he knows the perfect answer to make sure the puzzle comes together.

So when I think of God answering prayers, I have to admit that his answer isn’t always going to be what I want to hear.  I can only see a small fraction of the puzzle, which is my life and all that is in that life.  I am human and I pray for what I want.  I have been saved by the grace of Jesus Christ and through that salvation, I have the holy spirit living in my heart, directing me in my prayer life and so forth, but I can pray for what I want.  I am selfish.  I will almost always choose to pray and ask God for those things that I think will make my life better.

Why am I going down this road?  Well, my family is in the middle of a trial.  My 11 year-old son developed a swollen lymph node that wouldn’t go away after antibiotics and time.  Almost three months after it showed up, he was sitting in a surgeons office talking about next steps, when the doctor said the words lymphoma or leukemia.  As parents, I don’t know any worse words for a living child than the possibility of cancer.  Over the next couple days we researched, and prayed.  Two days later, he had a biopsy of the lymph node and we helplessly watched him be as tough as he could while they obtained core samples.  Then it was time to wait.  We were told it may be as long as a week or so to get the pathology report back.  That waiting time is agonizing.  You can’t keep your mind from going to the worst case scenarios and you stress and stress and you PRAY.

Today we learned that the initial testing revealed no abnormal cells, no cancer.  A moment of elation, we breathed again.  There are follow-up things and second opinions, but the initial prognosis looks great.  That is what triggered this reflection today.  I got the answer, to my prayer, that I wanted.  But if I truly believe in God, and I truly want to submit to His will and plan, I have to be ready to accept a no answer in my prayer life.  Even for things as serious as this, I have to be alright with no.  I can tell you that in the past few days, I have experienced a deeper sense of “I can’t do this alone”.  God has humbled me and helped me see there is more to life than what I was letting in and what I was taking part in.  I won’t always get it right, but I see that spending a few more minutes with my kids is more important than a few more minutes with a report.  Truly spending quality quiet time with God is more important than rushing through it.

It’s easy to write this today, because God answered yes.  But I have to realize that God always answers yes as it fits into His plan.  He loves me and he’ll never leave me or let me down.  He can’t fail me, He is perfect.  What may seem like a no through my small vision, is always a yes when looking through the eyes of the Father.

God, today I praise you and thank you for your blessings in my life.  I thank you for the opportunity to know you each day.  I thank you that you are a personal God and while all-knowing and ever-present, you never forget the little details, you never miss any opportunity to be in direct fellowship with your creation.  I thank you for helping me to remember each day that you have this and I don’t have to try to handle things.  Thank you for bringing me to a deeper trust in you and your plan.  I pray for continued good news regarding my son and that through this I’ll be able to show him how we are to depend on you and how we can trust you with our entire life.  In your name I pray, Amen.