Someones looking out for us
A couple days ago, another mentor and I decided to get together with our protege's to play some volleyball. When I got to the court it was already being used. Neither one of the boys has been playing very long so this was supposed to be an opportunity to teach some basics and start developing some skill. I was concerned that the boys might get frustrated because it appeared that the guys already there were quite skilled. I prayed and asked the Lord to intervene. We decided to invite ourselves to play four on four. After about 5 minutes, the score was something like 13 to 0 but that was when it happened. Clouds had been threatening all night but suddenly they opened up. Everybody grabbed their gear and headed for the cars. We decided to stick around but the rest of the guys lit out of there like lightning was going to strike at any moment. We hung out in the car and talked for a couple minutes and decided to head back to the court despite a light drizzle. Within 10 minutes, the rain had completely stopped and we we now had the court all to ourselves. It was great to get a gentle reminder what our Father can do if we stop worrying about the circumstances and details and give the situation to Him.
Last week I did something thoughtless and stupid. Yeah, I know, big surprise, right? In the spur of the moment, joking around, I posted something online about a friend of mine. I didn't think of asking for their permission and didn't stop to consider the consequences. The next day I got a message from them mentioning how I didn't ask for permission. I know this person well enough to know that even if though it appeared that they were joking, there were still some deeper truth to their statement. For the rest of the day I was upset with myself. I had done something that could put a wedge in our relationship. I was very worried that I offended them. Unfortunately, I couldn't remove what I put online until late that night so all day long thoughts were running through my mind.
I finally got home after 9:00 at night and called the person to apologize as well as remove the online post. After doing that, I got to thinking. Why did this affect me so much. All day long I couldn't help but worry about the damage I might have done to our relationship. Something was bothering me though. This was a dear friend but certainly not the most important relationship in my life. My most important relationship is with Jesus Christ. But when was the last time I was this concerned about whether or not I hurt Jesus by my actions. Do I recognize when I've done something to damage my relationship with Him? Am I concerned about how quickly I can repair the damage I've done when I sin? After an honest assessment, I have to confess that I do not. A man who died for me, a man who went through unspeakable torture for me, and yet I just take it for granted that He is not affected when I disobey Him or allow sin to come between us. Why am I more concerned with what people think than what He thinks?
If I am not currently affected when my relationship with Christ is interrupted by sin, how do I change that? How do I get to the point where my natural reaction when I sin is to recognize that I have hurt the person closest to me? The obvious reaction is to get to know Him better, to spend more time with Him. But I thought that I was already doing that. I pray, I read the Word, I journal what He shares with me through daily time in the Word. I'm involved in ministry and I attend Church regularly. So what is the missing component? I don't have all the answers but here is what I have come up with so far. My perspective needs to change. Because I do not have the physical, tangible person of Christ standing in front of me, I tend to think of Him in the abstract. I know through Scripture that He is always with us. When I sit down to watch a movie I need to remember that He is watching it with me. When I make a demeaning comment or tell an off color joke, I need to remember that He is hearing it too. I need to intentionally picture Him in every conversation, in every activity throughout the day. We all react differently when people are with us than we do when we are alone. By ceasing to picture Christ as an all present, all seeing God and choosing to see Him as a friend who walks with me every moment of every day my entire world will change. I will also get to know Him better because the more time we spend with someone, the more we see the little things that make them who they are.
Ester (Chapters 1-5)
We can learn many things through this amazing story.
From the king we learn the importance of not making rash decisions.
From Mordecai, we learn that our actions affect more than just ourselves. He had to live with the fact that his actions put his entire nation in jeopardy. Fortunately, God had a plan and a purpose in the situation.
From Ester we learn the importance of being prepared before heading into battle. What is the most important way to prepare spiritually for battle? By prayer and fasting. There is great power there and most Christians do not understand the significance of these weapons.
Reputation: A Portrait of You
By the time we get to the time of Daniel's life where he is thrown into the lions den, he has been in captivity in Babylon for over 50 years. It is interesting to note that he would be around the same age as the new reigning power, Darius. We are not told how Daniel gets put into a position of leadership, especially when the previous leader, Belshazzar, did not seem to have any contact with Daniel until the famous graffiti incident. According to the notes in my Bible, this is only the 1st or 2nd year of Darius' time in office but already Daniel has a significant reputation with the new king. The evidence of this reputation is found in verse 16. Keep in mind that in the New Living Translation, it is not a "word for word", translation but rather a "thought for thought" translation. Two words pop out of this verse.
1) Worship – Darius was aware of Daniel's relationship with the one true God. It was not a relationship borne of convenience or necessity but the term worship seems to indicate the intensity and passion that Daniel had for his God.
2) Continually – This was no half-hearted approach to "Christianity" for Daniel. He lived it from sunup to sundown. His approach carried him from the home to the office. Daniel did not compartmentalize his life into work, religion, home, etc. Of course, this was easily accomplished because he had been allowing God to spill into every area of his life since he was a teenager over 50 years earlier. If you don't believe me, just check out Daniel chapter 1. 500 miles from home, with no one to keep him accountable, Daniel intentionally and purposefully chose to obey God's commands even when he knew there was no authority on earth that he would have to answer to.
Because of the way that Daniel lived his life, there was a vivid testimony that revealed the true power and love of God. Darius seemed to have more than a slim hope that Daniel would be saved from the lions. He shows that hope in verse 20. A man with no hope would have simply sent someone else to collect the remains of his friend for burial. Instead, he runs to the lions himself and instead of assuming Daniel did not survive, he calls out to him asking if he was.
Does your reputation and testimony tell others of the power and love of the God that sent his Son to save us?
Holiday Car Trouble
I am beginning to think that certain holidays and three-day weekends are bad for my health. It started a few years back on Mothers day when my nephew ran me over with a golf cart. The next year, my brakes went out right as I came up to a stop light at a busy intersection. Surprisingly, I emerged unscathed both times. On Memorial Day this year, my mother fell down and broke her hand – compound fracture. That same day, I broke a tooth while flying into New York City airport.
Yesterday was Labor Day and hilarity ensued again. I was heading down to Sarasota (80 mile round trip) when some guy passed my on the shoulder of the road. Of course, my natural reaction is to comment on this "idiot" who thinks that I'm going too slow so he's going off road just to get around me. Instead, he motions for me to roll down my window. When I do, he informs me that my back tire is completely flat. Great, now I'm going to be late for my appointment and probably have to shell out money that I don't have in order to get new tires.
But sometimes we can learn a lot about what God does in our daily lives if we just step back and look at it from His perspective. First of all, I learned, or at least was reminded, that we should be quick to listen and slow to speak, and slow to become angry. If it wasn't for that "idiot" that risked getting a ticket in order to ensure that he had my attention, I would have been facing repairs a lot more costly than just a couple of new tires. Not to mention the safety of my daughter and I.
The other lesson is that God will put us in circumstances where we have a chance to interact with people that we would not have an opportunity to talk to otherwise. I have a friend of mine who had a disagreement with me a few months ago. A couple of weeks ago he sent an email apologizing. I have been meaning to write him back but due to bad timing and poor planning on my part, it just hasn't gotten done. Well yesterday, because of the circumstances with the car, I ended up eating at McDonald's. I have only eaten at McDonald's about five times in the previous year due to my new diet. If it were not for the flat tire, I would not have eaten there yesterday. But while my daughter and I were eating, around the corner comes this gentleman with the un-returned email. We were able to talk and he apologized once again.
The whole experience reminded me of a lesson I learned many years ago – be careful of the excuses you make, God may remove the excuses. In this case, I wonder that if I had just emailed this guy in the first place, maybe I wouldn't have had the trouble with the flat tire that forced me to be in exactly the right place at the right time? Something to think about.
What is the spiritual significance of palm trees in scripture? We know that in the week before the crucifixion, when Jesus came into Jerusalem on the donkey, palm branches were used as an expression of worship. In Revelation 7:9, the great multitude of people from every nation stands before the throne to worship God. Each of them is holding a palm branch in their hand. Here in Ezekials vision of the temple, we see palm trees as a significant item of decoration on the temple walls. The decorations all center on the most Holy place, which would seem to indicate and importance much greater than simply something nice to look at. I can only conclude that palm trees represent worship of the most Holy God. Living in Florida, as I walk by palm trees on a daily basis, I will now use them to remind myself to worship the one who created all things.
I Chronicles 7:21-23 (NLT)
Ephraim's sons are killed while trying to steal livestock from the farmers near Gath. With limited information we could make many assumptions about this story.
We might first try to determine if the actions of these two sons are dishonorable. Even if you know very little of Scripture, most people might recognize Gath as the hometown of the giant that fought with David and was killed by his own sword after being felled by a small stone. You could then surmise that the actions of these two men might be honorable. They could be disrupting the enemy by making raids on their territory. If that were so, you might cheer them for their courage in facing the enemy.
Or, and this is more likely, they could be common thieves who are looking to get something for nothing. There would then be no honor in their deaths. Their death would bring great shame to their family.
So the question then would be, "what is this man mourning"?
Is he mourning the character of his sons and the embarrassment that their actions brought to the family name?
Is he mourning the loss of relationship with his sons due to the consequences of their sin?
Perhaps you a parent who is in a similar situation. Maybe your son has involved himself in a gang or is dealing drugs. You know that their actions may ultimately lead to their death and you feel powerless to stop them. Don't give up hope. God is able to change the circumstances. He may choose not to. Either way, as a parent, you can not live your child's life for them. But you can help. Intercede for them through prayer and fasting. Don't give up even if it appears that God is doing nothing. Continue to trust God that He has a plan and a purpose for their life even if it is a painful one.
There is comfort to be found in this difficult passage. First, there is no condemnation for the man in mourning for the death of his two sons. There is also no accusation that the father was responsible for their actions. It's OK to mourn for the loss of the child even if they paid the ultimate price for their rebellion. Do not feel guilty for grieving. Second, God replaced what was taken away from this man. After this tragedy, another son was given to him - Beriah.
Why are people never satisfied? The same people that complain about a God who would allow pain and suffering are the same people that scream and rant when God steps in and tries to work in their life. Fortunately, He is a patient father that knows the best way to help. He won't force His help on us. He waits until we ask for it so that we will listen and obey when the time is right. We are so stubborn though, that we usually bang our head against the wall over and over because we are trying to solve a God sized problem with man sized tools. There is a reason the verse tells us to "cast all your cares upon Him, because He cares for you". As fathers, we know that if we step in and solve every problem that our children's problems, then they don't learn and they don't grow. That amazing teachable moment comes only when the child realizes his own limitations and reaches out to us for help. The same is true with our heavenly father. He cares enough to not force Himself on us. Give every problem, issue and trial to him today and enjoy a little less stress in your life.
Sharing the pain of divorce
I haven't shared anything on this page in a few days and I must say that I am disappointed. The goal was to blog 3 times a week. As I was praying after my daily reading this morning, my heart was heavy for those people close to me that are going through the pain of a divorce right now. I wish I could turn off the pain. Having experienced it myself, I know how difficult it is. People try to console or encourage you but even though they may have gone through a similar situation, you never feel like they really understand what you are dealing with. So how do you reach out to those that are suffering? Dealing with a Christian is one thing because the assumption is that you are both standing on Gods Word and the promises and commands contained in its pages. But how do you reach out to a non-Christian? How do you get them to understand that this is not what God intended? They feel abandoned by everyone, including God so how can you get them to understand that God hates divorce just as much as we do? How can you tell them that "all things work together for good, for those that love God, that are called according to His purpose" when they don't love God? How do you console a Christian brother whose wife, professing to be a Christian, goes so completely against God's command and serves him with divorce papers? How do you stand firm in your own life when the loneliness becomes overwhelming? I don't have all the answers. So I continue praying. I reach out to those hurting when I can. I share my story - how God took the shattered pieces of my life and made something beautiful from them.
For those of you that read this, for those of you hurting, I do have this advice...
Standards of Righteousness
Ezekial 14:14 (NLT) Even if Noah, Daniel, and Job were there, their righteousness would save no one but themselves.
This verse is a "who's who list of righteous men"
Noah - a man singled out from the whole earth. A man who alone sought to serve and obey God.
Job - A man who lived so intentionally as a righteous man that he became a spiritual target of Hell itself.
Daniel - A contemporary addition to this list as he lived during the same time as the writer. We all know him as a man who stood and refused to bow down to any other God and faced the lions as a result. What most of us don't realize is that the den of lions came late in his life. He had already been honing his spiritual habits and choices for over 50 years. The true test of his character came when he was just a teenager. Before most of us start making any significant choices in our life, Daniel was taken captive and transported over 500 miles from home. We can travel that distance in just hours today but then it would have taken weeks to return if he had tried to escape. While in captivity, he had no parents around to keep him accountable to follow Gods laws but he deliberately chose to obey God first and foremost, no matter what the consequences. We see this evidence in the first chapter of Daniel. The 8th verse sums it up perfectly - "Daniel PURPOSED in his heart that he WOULD NOT defile himself..."
Q: How did these three men make this elite list?
A: Through intentional, deliberate, repeated decisions.
Know Gods commands
Psalm 119:9 How can a young person stay pure? By obeying Gods word. (NLT) The first step in becoming a righteous person is to know Gods commands. How do you get to know His commands? By reading his word. Do this daily.
Twice in the flood account of Genesis chapter 6 and 7, it is recorded that Noah did exactly as God commanded him. Daniel was not afraid to make the tough decisions, even if it meant risking his life. The same word is used to describe both Noah and Job - Blameless.
Do not compromise
In Job chapter 1, Job runs toward righteousness and away from evil. Daniel applied Gods standards to every nook and cranny of his life and was not willing to settle for just getting by. He knew where the line was and was not willing to cross it. We can also learn from Daniel that it helps to have men standing by you with the same standards - all of us need an accountability partner. If you don't have one, get one. A chord of three is not easily broken.
We all need to follow Christ as the perfect example of how to live our lives. Few of us have not heard of WWJD - What would Jesus do. If you need some extra encouragement from some men who committed the same faults and experienced the same failures that you and I do, take a good long look at the lives of Daniel, Job and Noah By doing so, discover the principles of what makes a righteous man.
What is this?
I start every day by digging into Gods Word. I try to journal what I learn so that I can remember it and apply His principles to my daily life. I challenge you to do the same.