Kindling Strife – The Fire Tetrahedron

Like a madman who throws firebrands, arrows, and death is the man who deceives his neighbor and says, “I am only joking!” For lack of wood the fire goes out, and where there is no whisperer, quarreling ceases. As charcoal to hot embers and wood to fire, so is a quarrelsome man for kindling strife (Proverbs 26:18-21).

I’ve been taught that fire needs three things: fuel, oxygen and heat. But I know a firefighter (Jason) who corrected me on this. It is actually a fire tetrahedron: along with fuel, oxygen and heat there is a fourth element called a chemical chain reaction. If you knock one of these out, you don’t have a fire.

A fight needs the same four things: inflammatory words, people to say and repeat them, folks to react to them, and hot tempers. It doesn’t take much to start a fire, and it is pretty easy for people to fight.

So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell (James 3:5-6).

This is what brings down nations, splits churches, destroys the workplace environment and causes the home to fall apart.

Here are some passages about the heat, fuel, oxygen and chemical chain reactions that cause fires in our relationships. Let’s meditate upon this today, men.

The words of a whisperer are like delicious morsels; they go down into the inner parts of the body (Proverbs 18:8; 26:22).

What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? (James 4:1)

Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets; therefore do not associate with a simple babbler (Proverbs 20:19).

A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouths of fools pour out folly (Proverbs 15:1-2).

A man of wrath stirs up strife, and one given to anger causes much transgression (Proverbs 29:22).

Before destruction a man’s heart is haughty, but humility comes before honor. If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame (Proverbs 18:12-13).

Singing with your kids

Music is powerful. I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately, especially in the context of our worship as an assembly. But I am also thinking of it in terms of its power to teach outside of the worship assembly.

Music is a wonderful teaching tool for our kids. The world knows this, think of a simple example like the ABC song. It locks the alphabet into the brain. You don’t forget it. I also don’t forget Lindsay when she was first learning the alphabet sang loudly, “A, B, C, D, wanna wanna be…”

Song was created by God. Did you know that even God sings? Did you know that God sings loudly? Do you know that even God “rejoiced” and was “happy” when he sings? I can only imagine what that sounds like!

The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.
(Zephaniah 3:17, ESV)

“The LORD your God is in your midst, A victorious warrior. He will exult over you with joy, He will be quiet in His love, He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy.
(Zephaniah 3:17)

Today, my encouragement is to the fathers to sing with your kids. Teach them about God, encourage them in His ways by singing. Even if you can’t carry a tune in a bucket, sing with them anyways.  Play songs in the car when you are going places, especially while on your way to worship.

Here are some links to places to purchase some of this music

One Stone Bookstore. We like groups like Narrow Way, Hallal, One Voice, and Praise & Harmony.

Praise & Harmony singers have several albums. This is a link to purchase their albums, either digitally or on CD.

And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.
(Ephesians 5:18-21)

And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
(Colossians 3:14-17)

The Bridge Builder

An old man, going a lone highway, Came at the evening, cold and gray, To chasm, vast and deep and wide, Through which was flowing a sullen tide. The old man crossed in the twilight dim; The sullen stream had no fears for him; But he turned when safe on the other side, And built a bridge to span the tide.

“Old man,” said a fellow pilgrim near, “You are wasting strength with building here; Your journey will end with the ending day; You never again must pass this way; You have crossed the chasm, deep and wide — Why build you the bridge at the eventide?” The builder lifted his old gray head: “Good friend, in the path I have come,” he said, “There followeth after me today, A youth whose feet must pass this way. This chasm that has been naught to me To that fair-haired youth may a pit-fall be, He, too, must cross in the twilight dim; Good friend, I am building the bridge for him.” Will Allen Dromgoole

I came across this poem during one of my Air Force leadership classes and have kept it and shared with others when the opportunity presented itself. It resonated with me for all kinds of different reasons but today I wanted to share as we think about Choices and Consequences.

In thinking about my children as I write this, there are two things that come to mind in terms of raising them and the choices/consequences in their lives. First, I have always desired that my kids would not have to face the same heartaches and tough patches that I did due to bad decisions or improper focus. Secondly, I am sometimes frustrated, disappointed, and discouraged with the decisions my kids make and the reasoning they offer me when I ask them “why would you do that” or “what were you thinking?

Disappointed or not, what I know to be true in this is that my kids have to live their own life and make their own path. This is a hard thing to accept at times, especially when my kids stand on the brink of disaster or destruction…and I am not being melodramatic here…they don’t know how close they are sometimes to tragedy or how hurtful they are being.

In times like this, I look to my Heavenly Father and I have to believe He feels the same way about me most every day. Knowing that and what He has done and is doing for me puts my mind right for my kids. Though He is the Great I Am and is in need of nothing…He took the time to build a bridge of reconciliation with Him in Jesus. Further, He continues to work in my life to build bridges over perilous chasms in my life and most importantly…no matter how off track I get, the most important Bridge…the one that leads me home…Jesus…is always there. He is my Rock and I have Him because my Heavenly Father gave Him for me and closed the gap of sin because He knew I was going to have to pass that way and I would not get across on my own.

So…for my kids…for you kids, we can’t control their choices and might have to let them live through some pretty tough circumstances when they choose poorly. That doesn’t mean we stop parenting, stop demonstrating Jesus, stop teaching them the truth, stop loving them, or stop believing God is at work. Those are all bridges we need to continue to build…even if we don’t think we have the time or there might not seem a good reason to do so. If we do that, if we choose to build those bridges, then when most needed our kids will have a safe passage they might not otherwise have and if we do our jobs right…they will always have a way back home to us…and most importantly they will recognize their way back home to their Heavenly Father.

Lucky Charm Marshmallows

This morning, as I was sitting on the front porch, the cats were eating (now, ignore the title of this blog, they were not eating Lucky Charms). We recently bought the El-Cheapo barn cat food and decided to feed it to the cats. They revolted. So, then we mixed the El-Cheapo with our regular cat food. Again the cats revolted, but in a different way.

Watching them this morning, I observed that they picked out the cat food they liked, and left the El-Cheapo stuff in the bowl. By the way, just so you know, El-Cheapo is not an official brand.

You know, this is just like how kids (and adults) are with Lucky Charms. They pick out the yummy colorful marshmallows and leave the boring brown stuff.

It seems like a theme…it is how folks sometimes approach studying the Word of God. Are we only looking for the yummy colorful marshmallows, while ignoring the things that make us uncomfortable, or are “too hard”?

Consider this and compare it to the heart of David toward “all” of God’s word, especially as he wrote about it in Psalm 119. “All of your commandments are faithful” (vs. 86), and “all your commandments are righteousness” (vs. 172). David didn’t just pick out the pink hearts and blue moons, he wanted all of God’s word.

Another point to consider is this: the cats do come back later and finish the El-Cheapo stuff. Why? Because they are hungry.

If you are hungry, you will eat. If you are hungry for God’s word, you will take in more than just the stuff that tastes yummy. In fact, your spiritual palette and taste buds will change to where you actually like the “boring brown stuff.” Just like David did, pray for God to increase your desire and heart for His word (Psalm 119:32-36).

Psalm 119:20 – “My soul breaks with longing for Your judgments at all times.”

Sitting on the Porch

A favorite parable of Jesus for me can be found in Luke 15:11-32 telling the story of the lost son or what is often referred to as the prodigal son. There are many lessons to be learned in the parable but for today’s discussion lets focus on the teaching of God’s grace, mercy, love, forgiveness and restoration of hope for His children and the application as we work to better love and lead our children.

I have long thought about this parable and what has always struck me is how awesome it was to see the father running from the porch and going out to greet his returning son. His son had taken his inheritance, moved out of the house, gone to a faraway place and blown all that his father had given him on a lifestyle I am sure did not make his dad proud or happy. I imagine it was known to the father just how bad his son was behaving and I am sure it grieved him tremendously. There are a lot of emotions that might apply…anger, pain, embarrassment, regret, fear…I am sure there were some long nights for this dad. This dad could have just got bitter and wrote his son off…that would have been an understandable ending to this story (just consider the older brother’s position…a lesson for another day). Still, knowing how wicked the son had been and the grief he had caused, the father still gets up as he sees his son returning and runs to welcome him home. What we see are the foundational blessings of God being expressed to this wayward son who wants nothing more than to come home. What a great image and lesson.

As time has passed and my children are getting older, this parable is starting to take on a different shape for me. With teenagers now roaming my home, I have learned that “bigger kids=bigger problems”. Further, as they grow and begin to shape their own lives, we allow them more freedom and there become more times when they are away from us with their friends and you hope and trust they are making good decisions and respecting the boundaries you have taught and modeled in their lives. And guess what, they don’t! They make stupid decisions. They get themselves into situations you know they know are dangerous. The wonders of the teenage brain ceases to amaze me and quite frankly disappointment me.

So what do I do? What does this particular piece of God’s inspired word teach me? It has taught me the tremendous heart of the father in his getting up off the porch to run to his son. However, what I am learning now is that as remarkable as this act is, what is even harder and equally important as a father is to stay on the porch. Our children have to spread their wings and as they do they are not going to make the right choices every time and the older they get the more dangerous wrong choices become. No matter how much we want them to listen to every word we teach them, to trust us (and God) in shaping their hearts and minds, to learn from our mistakes so they don’t have to suffer as we have…no matter how much we want that they are going to have to figure some of it out themselves…and that can really hurt and cause some sleepless nights for dad.

So we sit on the porch. What does that mean? Does that mean we wash our hands of the responsibility for our children? Does it mean we burry the fear and hurt and just write them off with a “they will get what they deserve” or “I told you not to…”? Does it mean that we resign ourselves to a position of abdication and just move on with whatever else is going on in our lives? Of course not.

What we do is remember we operate from a position of strength and draw upon the peace of God. We are confident in that God will not forsake us and He loves our children too. We have a voice in prayer and we take our worries and concerns for our children to Him and we trust He is working. We accept his grace, mercy, love, forgiveness, and hope and let it fill us up so that we are strengthened…both while sitting on the porch and so that we might get up and grab ahold of our children in the biggest bear hug out there when they come home and say “I am sorry”.

Even more, you don’t have to sit on the porch alone. There are brothers in Christ out there who will sit with you. We are a family. We all want each other to go to Heaven. We all, however, are not always going to take the easiest route. This is especially true of our children but our God is faithful and He will fight for them too…praise Him in that, be thankful, holdfast dad.

Summer Brain Drain

Today is an article by NetNanny about tips to reduce “Summer Brain Drain” now that the kids are out of school for roughly 3 months.

I thought it would be helpful. In addition to their tips and advice, here are some additional thoughts:

  1. Have your kids read the Bible out loud with you. Maybe they can write down some of the verses to practice their writing and spelling skills.
  2. Take them to Bible-based camps where they can be encouraged. This will fight “soul drain” as well as “brain drain”!
  3. Visit members of your congregation and get involved in doing works of service to help those in need.
  4. If you have kids who are artistic, have them draw pictures of the places they visit and the things they do during the summer. Encourage them to think of a Bible verse that connects to it.
  5. Get them involved in the gardening or any building/remodeling projects you are working. They will develop all kinds of practical skills as you develop a closer relationship with them. We just had a shed delivered by the Amish a few days ago, and it was amazing to see these young boys with their father going right to the work knowing exactly what to do. I think those boys were around 8-10 years old.
  6. Take a walk with them and identify all the creatures you see along the way (butterfly, hawk, ant, etc.). You can talk about how special each of these creatures is and how beautifully and wonderfully designed it is.

“And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” (Deuteronomy 6:6-9)

Gideon’s Influence Upon His Father

On Monday, we asked the question, “Can you be courageous and afraid at the same time?” We looked at an event in the life of Gideon when God called him to confront the idolatry of his father and to destroy his father’s idols (Baal and Asherah).

For today, please read the same excerpt from Judges 6, but this time, read it from the perspective of Gideon’s father. But then go back and re-read it and think about it as if YOU were the father. How would you respond if your son directly confronted your religion/worship and destroyed your idols?

Then Gideon built an altar there to the LORD and called it, The LORD Is Peace. To this day it still stands at Ophrah, which belongs to the Abiezrites. That night the LORD said to him, “Take your father’s bull, and the second bull seven years old, and pull down the altar of Baal that your father has, and cut down the Asherah that is beside it and build an altar to the LORD your God on the top of the stronghold here, with stones laid in due order. Then take the second bull and offer it as a burnt offering with the wood of the Asherah that you shall cut down.” So Gideon took ten men of his servants and did as the LORD had told him. But because he was too afraid of his family and the men of the town to do it by day, he did it by night. When the men of the town rose early in the morning, behold, the altar of Baal was broken down, and the Asherah beside it was cut down, and the second bull was offered on the altar that had been built. And they said to one another, “Who has done this thing?” And after they had searched and inquired, they said, “Gideon the son of Joash has done this thing.” Then the men of the town said to Joash, “Bring out your son, that he may die, for he has broken down the altar of Baal and cut down the Asherah beside it.” But Joash said to all who stood against him, “Will you contend for Baal? Or will you save him? Whoever contends for him shall be put to death by morning. If he is a god, let him contend for himself, because his altar has been broken down.” Therefore on that day Gideon was called Jerubbaal, that is to say, “Let Baal contend against him,” because he broke down his altar.
(Judges 6:24-32)

We can look at Gideon’s father and stay in the shallow water thinking of him merely as an idolater. But there is something deeper here to consider, Gideon’s father was awakened and led to truth by the faith, courage and conviction of his son.

I know for me that there have been times that whether it was the brilliant, inspired comments of my four-year old or the courage and faith shown by one of my teenagers, that I have been humbled, taught, convicted and encouraged.

Don’t assume as a father that teaching only goes one way. It certainly did not for Gideon’s dad. His father showed amazing humility, did he not? Instead of trying to save face among his neighbors and fellow Israelites, he stood up for his son who “showed him up.”

Today, take a lesson from Gideon’s dad, and put it in your toolbox as a father. Be ready to accept that your children have wisdom, insight, faith and courage that just may expose an area in your life where you need to grow. Praise God and thank Him that He gave us these young evangelists to show us how to draw closer to God.

Trust the Line

Last Friday, Shane Blackmer wrote about our need to “Hold the Line.” Today I want to write just about about the “line” itself.

My son, Joseph, and a friend, Noah, were working last week to put gutters on our garage. This garage is older, it wasn’t built properly, and clearly has some foundation issues; because of this the roof sags.

When Joseph and Noah snapped a chalk line across the fascia board, an optical illusion occurred. If you looked straight at the garage, the line looked like a frown, it looked much higher in the middle and lower on the ends. But the line wasn’t the problem. If you went over to the edge of the roof and looked down the fascia board you could clearly see that the line was straight as an arrow.

The line wasn’t the problem, it was the building.

I believe there is a lesson in that! We may have built our lives on the wrong foundation, or we may not have taken the care to upkeep ourselves spiritually. As a result, lives become crooked and sag, just like that garage. In fact we may become so crooked that we begin to think the line (God’s word and standard of authority) is the problem.

Trust the line. There is nothing wrong with the line. God’s word is straight; we are the ones who need correcting.

I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways (Psalms 119:15, ESV).

“Fix your eyes” on the line. Use the line to help point out what needs to be corrected in your life. His commandments are true (Psalm 119:142,151), sure (Psalm 119:86) and they are right (Psalm 119:128,172).

Plumbing the Depths of God’s Love – Part 3

1 Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.  2 Blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit. (Psalm 32:1-2 NKJV)

We sin…but can be blessed.  How?  Why?

The three words used to describe sin by David are transgression, sin, and iniquity.  Each word has a specific implication and the three words used together communicate the nature and gravity of our actions when they are against God’s standard of Holiness.

Transgression means rebellion or revolt describing how we go away from God and His authority.  It reminds us when we sin we are sinning against God and departing from the course He has prescribed for us.  The word sin is most like the Greek word in the New Testament and means to fall short or miss the mark.  This is an archery term describing when an arrow falls short of the target and in our lives God’s law is the target and we fail to measure up.  The final word, iniquity, means corrupt, perverse, twisted indicating what we do to the standards of God and corrupting ourselves in the process.

This is where we are without our Heavenly Father.  We are in rebellion, falling short, and corrupting ourselves by twisting God’s standard in thought, word, or deed.  This is not a position from which we can be an effective man…a blessed man…someone who can stand strong in their own life and in the lives of others.  Think about what we said earlier.  Billions of people on this earth all sinning and falling short of God’s standard.  It is no wonder we find all the hurt, pain, and evil in the world.  We hear it all the time…how can there be a God with all this evil in the world.  Man hurting those closest to him.  Man not valuing the soul of another enough to be decent to them.  Man making decisions or taking actions without regard of the consequences to another.  All of this creates pain, turmoil, confusion, dread and certainly does not communicate or espouse hope.  So what do we do?

Well, we are right back where we started.  We recognize that we are sinning and that we are sinning against God alone.  We recognize that if left to our own devices our life and the lives of others will continue to be lacking, pain-filled, confused, and without the direction needed to go from tragedy to triumph in Christ Jesus.  We will lack the perspective and state of being required to make it through this sin cursed world to Heaven…where there is no sin…where God is.

So we go back to the true source of our manhood and we find the one thing we need the most…forgiveness.  David also uses three words to describe the forgiveness we receive from God.  The first is forgiven which literally means “to lift off”…God lifts the burden of our sin off our shoulders and we can stand a little taller.  The second word used is covered which is taken from the imagery of the Day of Atonement on which the high priest would enter the Holy of Holies and sprinkle blood on the mercy seat (lid) of the Ark of the Covenant.  We are blessed because the all-powerful and cleansing blood of Jesus not only covers but washes us clean of our sins.  The final word/phrase is “not impute” which means to not count or account or think of.  This is a bookkeeping term and David is telling us that God does not count our sins on a ledger sheet when we are forgiven…He forgets too.  We understand from our own lives how awesome of a power that is…to forget.

The message is simple.  All of our sins, our corruption, and our rebellion is lifted from us, covered, and not counted against us when forgiven by God.  When we recognize we are forgiven…then we can forgive.  Our life might seem like a drop in the bucket this big world but think about the drop of water falling in the middle of a still pond.  It makes the pond a little fuller and the ripples stir the reeds on the banks.  That is impact.  We have impact…but only in a life lived blessed because our Heavenly Father forgives and empowers us…when we ask Him…but that is a discussion for tomorrow.

For today, don’t wash over the terrible and grave nature of your sin in your life…no matter how big or small.  Don’t forget that when you sin, you sin against God and God alone.  Don’t forget, that even though you sin, God will forgive you and only He can.  And remember, reconciling the sin in your life with your Heavenly Father results is the source of blessed living.  If you consider what you have done and what God has done, you are so much better equipped to reflect the grace, mercy, forgiveness, love and hope of God to others and that will have an impact.  That will make the terrible conditions we face in this world a little brighter and a little more loving for us and those we come in contact with.  Recognize your sin but never forget your Father will forgive you…He is on the porch ready to run to you with open arms (Luke 15)!  What an awesome God we serve!  What an awesome man you can be with His help.  Live blessed today!