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My Kids and Oxen…Getting Dirty. Yes, I Went There.

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I almost missed it again this morning.  I’d skipped right through it and was two verses past it when I quite literally heard the Spirit of God whisper in my ear, “go back and read that again.”

“Without oxen a stable stays clean, but you need a strong ox for a large harvest.” – Proverbs 14:4 (NLT)

I’ve read this particular verse in Proverbs probably a hundred times or more and missed it every time.  After a few minutes reflecting on that verse, I was left with more questions than answers:

“What am I doing to reap a harvest for God’s kingdom?  I mean what am I REALLY doing?  Am I living in a way that reflects Christ living in me to those around me?  How dirty am I willing to get to do the work God’s called me to do?”

Planting, sowing, tilling and harvesting a crop is dirty work.  And yet, we are called to it…put here on Earth to reap a harvest for God’s kingdom…to bring Him glory in everything we do…to point the lost to Him.

“‘Bring all who claim me as their God, for I have made them for my glory.  It was I who created them.’” – Isaiah 43:7 (NLT)

“So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” – 1 Corinthians 10:31 (NLT)

Spoiler alert!  The lost aren’t generally in the most pristine and cleanest of places (by our standard of clean anyway).

In actuality, our first priority in reaching the lost should be in our homes.

As parents, we’re on the front lines doing battle to win the hearts and souls of our precious little ones for God.  And make no mistake moms and dads…it IS a battle.  A battle that takes place both in the spiritual realm between God’s angels and the forces of evil…and a battle that takes place in the physical realm between us and the influences a fallen world has on our children.  As we seek to hold our children close long enough to instill in them Godly character and moral truths, Satan is working overtime through the world around us.  He is working to pull them farther from our reach into a cycle of sin that can only be broken when they truly realize and accept their brokenness and complete dependence on God.

Dads, as a father of three boys and a special needs girl, I can assure you that raising kids is messy work.  I get it, I know.  It’s emotionally cluttered and chaotic…littered with drama.  Drama we don’t like and would just assume avoid every chance we get.  I mean honestly guys, who among us wouldn’t “rather be fishing”?  Fatherhood is heavy-laden with emotional turmoil and baggage that wears us down…leaves us inpatient and unkind.  It’s scary and often times traumatic.  It’s heartbreaking and gut wrenching.  It’s late nights and early mornings…with sleepless nights in between.  And that’s just the emotional side.

It’s just as physically relentless and cluttered.  You show me a dad who’s never navigated the minefield of Legos and Hot Wheels, and I’ll show you ten more with the battle scars to prove otherwise.  For the mom reading this, when you look at the living room littered with toys, the couch covered in Cheerios, the syrup-covered dining room floor, the endless loads of laundry, the kitchen sink overflowing with the day’s dishes, the bathroom you wouldn’t let a stranger use, let alone a close friend who stops by unexpectedly, the ransacked-looking bedrooms and kids running around half-dressed with bubble gum stuck in their hair…have faith that “Without oxen a stable stays clean, but you need a strong ox for a large harvest.”

You WILL one day wake up to a clean house with no laundry to wash, no dishes to clean, no floor to mop, no bathroom to sterilize, no toys to pick up.  No giggles to enjoy.  No children to play.  For the dad reading this.  You wanna make an impact in your kids’ lives?  Don’t let mom be the one to do all the dirty work.  Let’s man up and get in the trenches with her in managing the homestead, eh?

Because like it or not, we are right where we are called to be…whether we’ve fully accepted the role or not.

“Children are a gift from the LORD;  they are a reward from him.  Children born to a young man are like arrows in a warrior’s hands.  How joyful is the man whose quiver is full of them!  He will not be put to shame when he confronts his accusers at the city gates.” – Psalm 127:3-5 (NLT)

“Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” – Proverbs 22:6 (KJV)

Do you see it?  To get an ox to plow the field and do the work that’s hard, it has to be trained.

“It’s easier to train oxen when you start when they’re babies.  In addition to being smaller and easier to handle, you gain their trust and respect from the beginning.  They’ll trust you and your judgment just as they would trust their mother.  If you are careful in how you handle them (never abusing them, but never letting them get away with anything) they respect your dominance and will not challenge your authority when they are older and much bigger”  (excerpt from “Training Oxen: Start with Calves” by Heather Smith Thomas via http://www.countrysidemag.com)

The ox doesn’t become strong after one planting season.  It takes many seasons to develop its strength.  It has to be trained, and then only after years of training is it strong enough to do the work well.  Much like an athlete who has spent years training for his sport, the ox is stronger for having endured the training.  Likewise, our kids are being trained.

The question we have to ask ourselves as their father is, “who’s training them?”

Are we training them for the work God will soon call them to?  Or is the world training them to resist Him?  Are we preparing and equipping them for success on the front lines for God?  Or is the world preparing them to rebel against Him?

As dads, we have to be on the front lines in the mud with them (mostly figuratively, though many times literally).  We lead from the front, not the back.  To win their hearts and minds, we have to be involved.  Engaged.  Committed.  Standing steadfast and consistent.  Intentional in our actions and words.  Every. Single. Day. Without fail.  There are no breaks in fatherhood.

It won’t happen overnight. It won’t happen this week, this month, or even this year.  Through many years of training, though, they will grow stronger.  They will come out the other side stronger for having endured it.  Stronger spiritually.  Fully reliant on God.  Through our consistent love (which is more than affection…it includes discipline, but that’s a note for another day), we will have reaped a harvest in our children.  A harvest that will go forth and reap another harvest when it’s their time.  The question that remains is, “how messy are we willing to get?”

What we’re called to do isn’t easy, by any definition.

“Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path.  And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself.” – Galatians 6:1 (NIV)

We’re being asked to work in the mess without getting messy.  To work the field without getting any of the field on us.  To be in the dirt without getting dirty.  How is that possible, you ask?  Only by the power and grace of a God who loves us enough to get messy for us.  It’s by the blood we’re kept clean and holy.  Even when we fail.  It’s by the cross we are found pure in God’s eyes.  It’s by the Son we can do all things.

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” – Philippians 4:13 (NKJV)

I’m gonna go jump in the dirt.  Who’s with me?

Love,

Dad

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A Burning Bush Moment

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#1. “But Moses protested to God…” – Exodus 3:11(a)

#2. “But Moses protested…” – Exodus 3:13(a)

#3. “But Moses protested again…” – Exodus 4:1(a)

#4. “But Moses pleaded with the Lord…” – Exodus 4:10(a)

#5. “But Moses again pleaded, ‘Lord, please! Send anyone else.'”- Exodus 4:13

Here’s Moses, standing before a bush that’s on fire…but not being consumed by the fire…and it’s talking to him, no less!! Once he knows it’s God, he still doesn’t fully trust. Five times, Moses protested, finally pleading to God that He send someone else. Anyone.

We wouldn’t be that mistrusting would we? I mean really if a burning bush is talking to us claiming to be the one true God and calling us to do something, we’d jump right on it, right? Well, my question to you is this…what is God asking you to do? Have you pleaded that

1. what He’s asking of you is too big for you?
2. you’re not qualified?
3. you’re not worthy?
4. you’re too busy?
5. He send someone else?

Guess what? You’re right. To a point.

1. Out of our comfort zone is precisely where God wants us…because when we realize it’s bigger than our ability to do it alone, we have no choice but to call on Him for help…and to give Him the glory afterward.

2. God doesn’t call the qualified. He qualifies the called.

3. You’re not worthy. None of us is. God doesn’t NEED us to do anything. He WANTS us to serve Him…because we want to, not because we have to.

4. & 5. If not now, then when? If not you, then who?

Not everyone gets a “burning bush” call from God. And even if you did, would you really believe it was God anyway? Or would you stand there talking back to and arguing with a fiery bush? So stop waiting for it, because while God can certainly talk to us through a flaming bush if He wanted to, He sent us His Spirit after Christ’s death on the cross for us. And it’s the Holy Spirit – dwelling within us – that He uses to call to us. All we need do is turn off the distractions of this world and slow down so we can hear Him. And then trust Him to do His part in it all.

Love,

Dad

So…what is God calling you to do? Are you pleading your case or jumping on board? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Will you pray this prayer with me today?

Gracious and holy Lord, I pray that I can put the worries and distractions of this world aside every day so that I can come into closer fellowship with You. That I can hear the whisper of Your voice on my heart and know with certainty it’s You. I pray, oh God, that when I hear Your call, I would have the courage and passion to follow where You lead me without question. I long to know and follow hard after You. Dwell within my heart, soul and mind that I might always feel Your presence. I pray this in the blessed name of your Son, my Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Not My Job

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When one child recently told me “not my job” when asked to do a household chore, and another told me “you are not the best anymore” when I was honoring what I’d said about not getting dessert without eating dinner first, it got me thinking…am I starting to become more your friend than your father? That’s a slippery slope to navigate, so, I want to set the record straight right now and be crystal clear in where I stand on the answer to that question…

It’s not my job to give you a cookie when your siblings are eating one for dessert and you want one too. It’s to teach you that there are rules. Eating your dinner before you get dessert is one of them. It pales in comparison to the rules you will experience as an adult…and when you’re an adult, you can choose to eat dessert first if you want. 😛

It’s not my job to ensure you’re happy. It’s to help you find joy…even in your darkest moments.

It’s not my job to ensure you get what you want. It’s to teach you the skills you will use to provide for yourself and your own family some day.

It’s not my job to keep you from falling. It’s to teach you how to get back up and try again.

It’s not my job to get involved in every argument or fight you have with siblings or friends. It’s to teach you how to respectfully interact with others who have opinions and beliefs different than your own…and to show you how to think outside the box…and to admit when you’re wrong.

It’s not my job to think for you. It’s to teach you how to think for yourself.

It’s not my job to pick up after you or to clean up your messes. It’s to teach you how to care for yourself so that you can be a contributing member of society, not a drain on it.

It’s not my job to make sure you never lose, or that you always win. It’s to teach you how to lose without losing your cool…and how to win with grace and humility. There are winners and losers in life. There is no prize for participation when you become an adult. The sooner you learn that, the better your odds.

It’s not my job to keep you from being hurt. It’s to teach you how to see when others are hurting and to help them.

It’s not my job to serve you. It’s to teach you how to serve others.

It’s not my job to pay for everything you want. It’s to instill in you a work ethic that says “If I work hard for it, I can buy it myself.”

Likewise, it’s not my job to give you money (i.e. allowance) for doing nothing. The government is doing that well enough for all of us. It’s to teach you money management so that you have the ability to live a debt-free life if you choose wisely. You need to know that merely existing as part of our family (or society in general) is not worthy of getting a handout. You want money from me? Earn it. Know, though, that in life there are things we adults do without reward or compensation. Likewise, some chores around here are expected of you…without compensation…simply because your existence contributes to the wear and tear on the things we have.

It’s not my job to see that you never experience anger, frustration, disappointment or sadness. It’s to teach you the sanctity of life and that every life matters…and how to control your emotions and to show respect for others regardless of how you feel.

It’s not my job to teach you to avoid conflict. It’s to teach you to approach conflict like you’re walking up to a small fire with a bucket in each hand. One is filled with water…the other with gasoline. How you react to the situation (I.e. which bucket you choose to pour on it), is what will determine the outcome.

It’s not my job to keep you from making mistakes. It’s to help you learn from them. Many of the best lessons I’ve learned in life came from the mistakes I made. There will be times you’ll make the same mistake more than once. Until you learn from them, you’re destined to keep repeating them.

It’s not my job to make sure your heart is never broken. It’s to show you how to lead your heart, not be led by it.

It’s not my job to make sure you have friends. It’s to show you how to be a friend to others.

It’s not my job to make sure you’re right all the time. It’s to teach you truth…and that there are absolutes in life, regardless of what society wants you to believe about this. There are some grey areas in life, but there also exist a set of absolutes that are true…regardless of whether we believe them to be true or not…and it’s my job to equip you to defend those truths.

It’s not my job to make sure you don’t ever miss the school bus. It’s to teach you time management…and how to make a plan and execute the plan, and to have a contingency plan…because “when you fail to plan you plan to fail.”

It’s not my job to stand over you constantly to ensure you don’t sink. It’s to teach you how to swim. In the beginning that means providing you a life jacket to keep you afloat until you can stay afloat on your own. And when you do sink, I’ll be there to extend a hand to help you up…not out…up. Because there’s a lesson to be learned in sinking…one you won’t learn unless you get yourself out.

It’s not my job to fast forward through the commercials and previews for you. It’s to teach you patience and self control…and that good things come to those who wait.

It’s not my job to fight your bullies for you. It’s to teach you how to protect and defend yourself from tyranny. And that in some situations, the best defense is a good offense.

It’s not my job to keep you and your siblings from ever fighting. It’s to remind you that some minor conflict within the family is a natural thing, but that family comes first…we stand on our family’s side in times of conflict from sources outside our family.

It’s not my job to ensure you always have a roof over your head. It’s to teach you to be thankful for what you have…because camping out with nothing but the stars overhead is fun on occasion, but the harsh reality is that it’s all the “roof” many in this world have. We’re blessed beyond what we can comprehend. Don’t take it for granted.

It’s not my job to teach you how you should vote or who you should vote for. It’s to instill in you a love for your country and a respect for those who’ve served, bled and died to protect your freedoms, including your right to vote…and that it’s not your right to vote…it’s your responsibility. When you don’t vote, you give up the right to complain about your elected officials and anything they do.

It’s not my job to solve all your problems. It’s to teach you critical thinking skills…how to explore multiple options until you discover one that works to solve the problem for yourself.

It’s not my job to make sure you catch a fish with every cast. It’s to make sure you know how to fish. When Jesus told the disciples to put down their nets and taught them to be “fishers of men”, not even they “caught” every man for Christ. It’s called fishing, not catching, for a reason. We win some…we lose some. But you won’t win any unless you cast the line.

It’s not my job to respond to your every request for my attention. Likewise, it’s not my job to be with you 24/7…that’s not healthy. It’s my job to teach you independence…and to take care of my spiritual, mental, physical, and psychological well-being…because when one of those is out of whack, I’m of no use to you or anyone else. Trust me, my sanity is important for your well-being…and as much as I love hanging out with you, I need to be away from you sometimes too.

It’s not my job to argue with your teacher for not giving you an “A”. It’s to teach you that we get out of something what we put into it…and to earn the “A” yourself.

It’s not my job to shelter you from the storm. It’s to help you weather it. The strongest trees in the forest are the ones who survived the storms, high winds and forest fires.

It’s not my job to see that you never lack what you need. It’s to teach you the survival skills that will help you overcome adversity. Trees that survive drought do so by sending their roots deeper into the ground in search of water. The deeper roots provide more strength for the tree. They’re stronger because of the drought than they were without it. The deeper your roots, the stronger you will be.

Likewise, it’s not my job to see that your every need is met instantly. It’s to teach you how to recognize the needs of others and to show love and compassion to those less fortunate than yourself.

It’s not my job to provide you the latest and greatest “thing”. It’s to teach you to be content with what you have. I grew up without 24/7 internet access, cell phones, DVR’s, or iPods…and I survived. You will too.

It’s not my job to put only foods you like on your plate. It’s to teach you where your food comes from and how to provide food for your own family some day, whether by working a job for the money to buy it…or hunting it yourself.

It’s not my job to make sure you have fun at school. It’s to teach you respect for your elders and those put in charge over you. For that matter, it’s not my job to provide you nonstop, fun-filled activities throughout the day or to constantly entertain you. You want to have fun? Do what I did…pick up a book. Go outside. Explore your world.

It’s not my job to see that you grow up to become a firefighter like me. It’s to let you see how much I love my job and to instill in you a passion to serve your community. I will love and support you, no matter what you do with your life…that’s what dads do…it’s how we roll.

It’s not my job to love you more than your mother. It’s to remind you that she and I existed before you…and we have to live with each other when you leave out on your own. She comes first…yes, before you. I love you, but I love her more. Get over it. Guess what? I love God more than her. She’s over it.

It’s not my job to force you to believe what I believe. It’s my job to share what I believe and allow you to choose for yourself.

It’s not my job to make sure you never feel lost. It’s my job to show you that you’re already lost. So am I. It’s only through the love and sacrifice of Jesus Christ dying for us that we are ever found.

It’s not my job to be your friend. It’s to be your dad…and to teach you how to be a dad someday too. I don’t always get it right, but I’m trying my hardest with every day.

Love,

Dad

I Wouldn’t Wish This On My Worst Enemy…or Would I?

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Have you ever put any thought into who that might be? I hadn’t, until now.

You know, I’ve said the first part of that title so many times over the years that it’s almost become a habit…something I say without giving it another thought.  I’ve been battling the flu since December 30th.  The coughing got worse the first week of January while I was dealing with my mother’s recent passing, but the cough was it…no other symptoms.  Until two weeks ago.

Two weeks ago it crept in and made its home in my body…and wiped me clean out.  This past month has really been a time to say “I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy.”  And when I said that aloud the other day, my mind started thinking of who that might be.  Old bosses.  Former school classmates who tortured me.  Coworkers who just grate on my last nerve.  No, I wouldn’t consider any of them enemies.  An enemy…Satan is an enemy.  He’s my enemy:

“Be alert and of sober mind.  Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” – 1 Peter 5:8

So if Satan is my enemy, he’s got to be my worst one right?  I mean, I can’t imagine anyone being a worse enemy than Satan.  Can you?  He is, after all, the father of liars:

“You are of your father the Devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires.  He was a murderer from the beginning and has not stood in the truth, because there is no truth in him.  When he tells a lie, he speaks from his own nature, because he is a liar and the father of liars.” – John 8:44

So if Satan is our enemy…indeed our worst enemy…would I be in the right to wish upon him this sickness that I just said I wouldn’t wish upon my worst enemy?  I mean, when I said it aloud, I was thinking more about my worst earthly enemy…not really a spiritual enemy.  Either way, we’re called to love our enemies, right?

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.  He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.  If you love those who love you, what reward will you get?  Are not even the tax collectors doing that?  And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others?  Do not even pagans do that?  Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” – Matthew 5:43-48

So as followers of Christ, we’re called to love our enemies.  I get that.  Easier said than done, but I get it.  I’m not the best at this, but I try.  I try to turn the other cheek…I’m human so I don’t always get this one right, but I try.  I’m a work in progress…as long as God is keeping breath in my lungs and life in my body, He has not finished making me into who He needs me to be in eternity.  So I’ll be honest…I’m not quite there on the whole “love your enemy” thing yet.

But I certainly don’t walk around wishing ill will on my enemies all day either…Mostly.  Yes…the occasional thought does cross my mind as someone cuts me off in traffic, or someone at work is making life difficult for no other reason than because they can.  I am human after all.  But with the help of the Holy Spirit and the grace and mercy found in Christ, I’m able to push it aside and move toward forgiveness…and love.  After all, we’re called to “hate the sin, not the sinner”, right?

“Love must be without hypocrisy.  Detest evil; cling to what is good.” – Romans 12:9 (i.e. “hate the sin”)

“But God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us!” – Romans 5:8 (i.e. “not the sinner”…because if Christ loved me in my sin enough to die for me anyway, who am I to not love someone else because of their sin?)

Which brings me right back to where I started…am I called to love Satan?  We’re taught in Isaiah 14:12-15 that Satan is one of God’s fallen angels.  So he’s an angel who sins.  But by the very nature of who he is, he’s not just an angel who sins…he IS sin (re: John 8:44 above).

So which is it…if we hate the sin but love the sinner, where does that leave us with our relationship with Satan?  Should I hate what he does (sin) and yet love him?  Or since he IS sin, is it okay to hate not only what he does (sin), but also hate him?  What do you think?  Is it okay to wish this illness on my worst enemy, or not?

Love,

Dad

Awoken by a Whisper

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Have you ever been sleeping so soundly that it seems a loud noise like the slamming of a door wouldn’t have awoken you, yet been awakened from that deep sleep anyway…with only a whisper? A whisper so soft you might not hear it while you’re awake? A whisper so gentle and quiet that the noise of your daily, fast-paced, non-stop, hectic life would drown it out? Yet in the deepest, most restful slumber you’ve had in months…maybe even years…this soft, peaceful whisper courses through your innermost being and startles you into complete consciousness…so alert to your surroundings, you feel like you were never asleep? I have.

I’m a naturally deep sleeper…such a deep sleeper in fact that as a teenager, the house next door to ours literally exploded from a gas leak inside, and while sleeping only 50 feet away, I slept through it…only awakened by my dad as he ran through the room yelling for mom to call 911 because the neighbor’s house had exploded and was now on fire. Even as I stumbled from bed, I was groggy and not alert for quite awhile…which is how I usually am in the mornings. I’m not fully awake and alert for an hour or more most mornings…certainly not before the coffee hits my lips.

Yet, it was just that…a whisper…that jolted me awake this morning. I remember my dream beforehand very vividly, which for me is not normal either. It was an evil, perverted, twisted and not-God-honoring dream at all. I’m not going to be sharing any more than that, except to say this…addiction sucks. My addiction invades even my dreams, leaving me little hope for a reprieve, except for when I am drawing near to God through prayer and the Word…and even then it’s often still there in the back of my thoughts. Yet in the midst of my dream, in a place where God’s holiness would never reside, it was just that…a soft whisper that coursed through my veins…literally gave me chill bumps from head to toe…and jolted me out of slumber into complete and total alertness. It literally felt like someone was standing right next to me, watching me sleep, as they leaned into my ear and whispered one word. My name. I get chill bumps even reliving it now to share it here.

Over my morning coffee, before reading His Word, my prayer was this…Lord, please take these desires from me. I cannot fight this addiction alone. I no longer desire for this to so greatly invade my thoughts. I do not long for this anymore, Lord. To win this battle for my mind, heart and soul, I acknowledge that You must take this from me. Please. Please Lord. Please take this from me.

In my readings after that prayer, I find this:

“My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, listening closely to wisdom and directing your heart to understanding: furthermore, if you call out to insight and lift your voice to understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it like hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and discover the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding. He stores up success for the upright; he is a shield to those who live with integrity so that He may guard the paths of justice and protect the ways of His loyal followers. Then you will understand righteousness, justice and integrity – every good path. For wisdom will enter your mind, and knowledge will delight your heart. Discretion will watch over you, and understanding will guard you, rescuing you from the way of evil – from the one who says perverse things, from those who abandon the right paths to walk in ways of darkness, from those who enjoy doing evil and celebrate perversion, whose paths are crooked, and whose ways are devious.” – Proverbs 2:1-15

“She [wisdom and understanding] is more precious than jewels; nothing you desire compares with her.” – Proverbs 3:15

“Maintain your competence and discretion. My son, don’t lose sight of them. They will be life for you and adornment for your neck. Then you will go safely on your way; your foot will not stumble. When you lie down, you will not be afraid; you will lie down, and your sleep will be pleasant. Don’t fear sudden danger or the ruin of the wicked when it comes, for The Lord will be your confidence and will keep your foot from a snare.” – Proverbs 3:21-26

A whisper. God is in the whisper. Nothing more than a soft, gentle whisper is all He needs to jolt reality into us. To bring us up from the depths of evil and despair. To heal us. To turn us toward Him. He awoke me from my slumber this morning with nothing more than His whispering my name…as if He was standing right beside me. Indeed He was…and is.

When the noise of daily life drowns out the whisper that calls us to draw near to Him, He grabs our attention by any means necessary to turn us toward Him. It can be as much as a slap in the face with a 2×4, or as little as a soft, gentle whisper in our ears while we sleep. Either way, it’s done so that we will “Be still, and know that [He is] God.” – Psalm 46:10

Love,

Dad

Lord, I believe this morning Your whisper is what coursed through every fiber of my being and startled me awake. I do not claim to know with certainty what the true purpose of that whisper is, and I am choosing right now to believe You are calling me to a life of integrity. If you have another purpose for it, please reveal it to me in Your will. I implore you, gracious Father, I cannot live that life of discretion and integrity without You. Without You removing these wicked desires from me. Without You residing within me. I will do my part and draw near to You through the reading of Your Word and through prayer. And I cling to the promise that you will fill me with Your wisdom, knowledge, discernment and understanding. Thank you for continually offering grace and forgiveness to me, though I do not deserve either. Though I fail you miserably over and over again, you have never failed me…and for that I know nothing else to say, except thank you.

Amen

When Your Father Comes Back

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As a child did you ever hear from your mom, “when your dad gets home…”? 5 little words, when composed just right can mean so much…and mean different things to different people.

As a child, I would dread those words when I knew I had done something wrong…knowing that when dad came home, the punishment for my poor choices was coming with him. In all my memories of youth, I can’t recall those words being a foreshadowing of anything good to come. They were used as a threat to forewarn of a punishment for my actions. What I’m wondering now is why those words have to instill fear? Why can’t they be used to provide hope and promise?

Like my dad was in my youth, I’m gone a lot. My job leaves your mom home with y’all much more than I prefer…and it forces her to be the disciplinarian more than I prefer. I’m wondering if your memories of “when your dad gets home…” will be like mine…or different. I pray those words are filled with the promise and hope of my return, and not used as a threat to instill fear.
More importantly, I pray that you will one day find the hope I have in a different phrasing of those words…instead of “when your dad gets home”, rather “when your Father comes back.”

For those who have not accepted Christ, I imagine death brings uncertainty, fear and anxiety. As a child of God, though, I long for the day my Savior returns. I am actually looking forward to the rapture…praying I’m still alive to experience it. What a ride that’s gonna be!! When Christ comes back to call His people home, He will be standing beside us as we face the Father at the judgement seat…with a front row seat to hear Him say, “your Father has returned, and the time has come that ‘every knee shall bow and every tongue profess I am God.'” – Romans 14:11

On that day, we will be judged according to what we have or have not believed. Like my poor choices resulted in my earthly father disciplining me when he got home, we will be disciplined for our choices by our Father in heaven before we pass into eternity. Those who have professed Christ as Lord will hear the Son say something like, “This child is with me. I took his place. His debt is paid.” Our discipline will have already been taken, paid forward by Christ Jesus on the cross, and we will reside with Him in eternity. If you’ve not professed Jesus as Lord, you alone will face the punishment for your sin, eternity apart from Him in hell.

We all will face the same judgement. The difference really comes down to perspective…how you look at the situation. Which do you feel when you hear “when your Father comes back…”? Anxiety, fear, uncertainty, question, doubt and concern? Or do you feel peace, joy, hope, promise, comfort and happiness?

Love,

Dad

P.S. Your mother would like to remind you that she has never said those 5 words to you in a negative light. I failed to make that clear when saying that she is forced into the disciplinarian role more than I prefer since my work keeps me away from home for extended periods. So, please know I have no real concern that when she says “when your dad gets home” it means anything other than when your sad gets home, you’re gonna have SO much fun! 🙂

110 Cars of Faith

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“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” – Hebrews 11:1

“Dad, there are a lot of cars driving today.  I bet every car in the whole world is driving right here now.”

“Yeah, son there are a lot of cars this morning, but I don’t think every car in the world is right here…that would be a whole lot more cars.”

“Yeah, cuz there are 110 cars in the whole world, and that would be a lot!” (Imagine that said with the awe and wonder at how a 5 year old sees the number 110 as infinity.)

This morning, I was driving NE to school following an early morning doctor appointment when he said that, and it made me smile…and got me thinking about how much of a child I really am in my faith.  Have you ever found yourself putting limits on what God can do?  Silently thought to yourself, “this situation is hopeless.  I don’t see how this is going to work.  This is not possible.  There’s nothing we can do.  It’s just too much…too big for me.”

I remember the first Upward Sports season for us at FBCW.  When God laid it on my heart to bring this ministry to our church, I never envisioned starting the first season with 241 kids.  After all, there was a league being played at the same time right across the street with 250 kids already.  I planned for 100 that first season…and thought that would be a lot…I set my limits on what God had planned.  In season two, I planned for 300…and the league across from us disbanded, and we had 458 register.  By season three, I started dreaming big…and planned for 500.  God again demonstrated He’s bigger than we are, and brought us 518.  So in season four, I thought…I’ll show Him…and I planned for 600.  He brought us 621.  As we planned for the men’s Bible study we recently started, we ordered materials for 30 men, thinking that was more than enough…believing we’d never get 30 guys to attend this study…and 45 committed to the 8-week study!

These are just the most recent instances I can look back on in my life and see that I have a habit of limiting what I believe God will do.  Maybe it’s that my faith isn’t that strong or deep, but I think it’s also that in my humanness I can never really know how great our God truly is.  After all, our limited perspective feels like on most days this is all there is.  When we walk around this world we see things from a human’s eye…because that’s who we are…how He made us.  We can’t truly grasp what infinity is because we’re a visual people.  Even the universe we live in is defined by a boundary, so infinity seems an impossible concept to grasp.

Like 110 is the highest number known to a 5 year old, so it is with us.  We think that our vision limits God’s visions.  When what we need is to reverse that and realize that it’s God’s vision that sets the limits of our own understanding.  He placed in us a desire to know and follow Him, and limited our vision to what is seen for a reason.  The vision we have in us to see the unseen is only a small portion of what He placed within us.  I choose to believe He did so because if He had completely revealed to us the fullness of His vision, then of what purpose would faith be to us?  Anyone can believe what is seen…it’s the unseen that takes faith.  On this side of eternity, we’ll never fully comprehend the fullness of His vision and the limitlessness of His power and love.

When NE was first learning to count, ten was it.  That’s all the fingers we have, so that must be as high as we can count, right?  I remember the amazement at learning there’s an eleven…a twelve…and even more…but not seeing it made it hard to believe.  So to help him understand and believe, we hung a number chart on the dining room wall.  Numbers all the way to 100!  Wow!  As he mastered that which he could see, we again rocked his world when we revealed to him that it doesn’t end at 100.  Next is 101…102…103, and that you can keep counting numbers forever.  He had to learn (by faith) that it doesn’t stop at 100…to imagine a world where you can keep counting forever and ever.  Like his understanding of numbers grows over time, so does our faith.  Let your faith grow beyond what you can see…beyond what you feel…beyond that which you can understand and comprehend…beyond what you can grasp.  Because faith in what you can see and grasp is not really faith at all.

“When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child.  When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.  For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face.  Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.  And now these three remain: faith, hope and love.  But the greatest of these is love.” – 1 Corinthians 13:11-13

Love,

Dad

Gracious Father, I’m thankful that you’re not limited by my vision.  Forgive me for placing limits on what is possible through You.  May you continue to grow my faith through whatever means you find necessary to do so.  Please enlighten the vision within me to better see all that You would have me to see.  Ignite a passion within me to daily follow after you with all I am and all I have.

Amen

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