Behold I Make All Things New

Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold I make all things new.” And He said to me, “Write, for these words are true and faithful” (Revelation 21:5).

I’m looking outside the window this morning and seeing much more green today than before. It is just amazing how that happens. The Lord just turned on the green switch last night. Birds are singing and building nests in the trees. Spring flowers are coming up.

The promises that come with spring are so encouraging; God is making all things new again. Leaves will come back on the trees, fruits and vegetables will grow. New creatures will be born. The blossoms on the trees will spread their fragrant aromas. Spring brings such a hopeful atmosphere with it.

Take these opportunities to direct your children’s attention to God’s marvelous creation, and the amazing work He accomplishes every spring!

Consider also that during the springtime is when Jesus raised from the dead. The God who raised Jesus from the dead is the God who said, “Behold I make all things new.” Just as spring flowers, baby birds and green grass are a testimony to God’s handiwork, even more so is the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

The very fact of Jesus’ resurrection serves as a promise that one day, God will truly make all things new. There will be no more death, no more sorrow, no more pain because the “former things” will have passed away (Revelation 21:4). So as we see the Spring bring new life, we can comfort our hearts in faith that the God who made the robin and its beautiful blue egg will one day make all things new in heaven.

Some principles for making a wise decision

Today we will consider some principles for making wise decisions. We make decisions (tons) of them on a daily basis. Some are pretty insignificant, like which coffee mug to use this morning. Others have generational impact, in other words, this decision will affect your great-grandchildren. The Bible is full of teaching and advice on how to make good decisions, we cannot even scratch the scratch of the surface in today’s post. Hopefully, however, we can consider just a few basic principles to keep our feet on solid ground and our heads out of the clouds when making decisions.

Some principles for making a wise decision

Did I come to God first and ask Him for wisdom (James 1:5)? There are many examples of people in Scripture who did not consult God first, and it really turned out poorly (Joshua 9:14; Isaiah 30:1-2). Those examples are given to us so that we can keep from repeating history! God promised, and He does not ever break a promise, that He would liberally pour out wisdom upon us if we ask!

Have I consulted His word? His word is designed to give us prudence, the discernment to make sound decisions (Proverbs 1:1-4). Are there clear commands from God on this matter? What consistent Biblical principles can I draw from to help shed light on this matter? Can I find examples of people in Scripture who were in a similar situation? Is this conclusion / choice I am making consistent with Biblical wisdom?

What is the advice of the godly, wise people around me who love me (Proverbs 1:5)? There are many times when the godly, wise men and women around you will speak with one voice on a matter. Take those words seriously.

If you feel like you have to hide your decisions/course of action from the wise godly people around you, then ask yourself “Why is that?” We had better have a really good Biblical reason for not taking the advice of several godly people who surround us.

There are other times when you will get a wide array of advice, sometimes very different advice, and it will all come from very wise and godly people. So we have to go back to #1 and pray for wisdom to discern. Sometimes well-meaning Christians will all say “this is what God wants you to do,” but the problem with that is they may all have several different answers. In this specific instance, I’m not talking about matters of doctrine and sin, I’m talking about things like career choices, education choices, purchasing decisions, relationship advice, etc. Folks have lots of advice, that is why we must do a LOT of praying and searching Scripture for discernment.

Is this a decision I should be making right now (Genesis 25:29-34)? When we are really stressed, tired, and highly emotional, it is not a time to make huge life-changing decisions. Take some time to sleep and recover before you make those big choices. For example, you are really stressed and tired, and you are driving home from work. The tire goes flat. So, in your frustration, you decide to have it towed to the dealership and get a loan for a new car. A simple tire repair turned into a 5 year loan. This is just a made up example, but I hope you can see the point.

How will this decision affect others (1 Corinthians 8:12; 10:32-33)? We do not live in a vacuum; our decisions have direct impact on those around us. Esau’s wives were a grief of mind to his parents. Simeon and Levi’s anger and thirst for vengeance brought shame to their father Jacob. The 1st century Christians also faced this when it came to eating of certain meats and keeping of certain holy days. Their decisions had the power to cause another to stumble and sin. What they decided to do could either draw someone closer to God or make it far more challenging for another to obey God. How will this decision affect my influence upon others for Christ? What will this decision do to my loved ones? Who is looking up to me…how will this influence them?

Does this decision glorify God (1 Corinthians 10:31)? Am I making a choice that will bring glory to God or more attention and glory to me? Am I seeking the praise of God or the praise and attention of men?

Hopefully these principles help. It is not all-inclusive, and many of you will have much better ideas. Please share them with me. Thanks!

And the Lord Remembered

And the Lord remembered Hannah (1 Samuel 1:19).

The Lord remembered Noah (Genesis 8:1).

God is worthy of praise because He “remembered us in our lowly state, for His mercy endures forever” (Psalms 136:23).

The above verses are so comforting. “And the Lord remembered…” God loves His children. He remembers His promises. God never leaves us nor forsakes us. That is a fact, but in the midst of pain, look at what God’s people sometimes wonder. Watch as they go through the process of despair to hope. These Holy Spirit-given passages are there for us today to help us go through the same process with God (and to help others do the same).

I will say to God my Rock, “Why have You forgotten me? Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?” As with a breaking of my bones, my enemies reproach me, while they say to me all day long, “Where is your God?” Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God (Psalms 42:9-11).

To the Chief Musician. To Jeduthun. A Psalm of Asaph. I cried out to God with my voice–To God with my voice; and He gave ear to me. In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord; my hand was stretched out in the night without ceasing; my soul refused to be comforted. I remembered God, and was troubled; I complained, and my spirit was overwhelmed. Selah. You hold my eyelids open; I am so troubled that I cannot speak. I have considered the days of old, the years of ancient times. I call to remembrance my song in the night; I meditate within my heart, and my spirit makes diligent search. Will the Lord cast off forever? And will He be favorable no more? Has His mercy ceased forever? Has His promise failed forevermore? Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has He in anger shut up His tender mercies? Selah. And I said, “This is my anguish; but I will remember the years of the right hand of the Most High.” I will remember the works of the LORD; surely I will remember Your wonders of old. I will also meditate on all Your work, and talk of Your deeds. Your way, O God, is in the sanctuary; who is so great a God as our God? You are the God who does wonders; You have declared Your strength among the peoples. You have with Your arm redeemed Your people, the sons of Jacob and Joseph. Selah. The waters saw You, O God; the waters saw You, they were afraid; the depths also trembled. The clouds poured out water; the skies sent out a sound; Your arrows also flashed about. The voice of Your thunder was in the whirlwind; the lightnings lit up the world; the earth trembled and shook. Your way was in the sea, Your path in the great waters, and Your footsteps were not known. You led Your people like a flock By the hand of Moses and Aaron (Psalms 77:1-20).

Here is one final passage from Isaiah. Notice how God’s people feel, and how God helps them (and us) to see the reality. He will never leave us nor forsake us.

Sing, O heavens! Be joyful, O earth! And break out in singing, O mountains! For the LORD has comforted His people, and will have mercy on His afflicted. But Zion said, “The LORD has forsaken me, and my Lord has forgotten me.” “Can a woman forget her nursing child, and not have compassion on the son of her womb? Surely they may forget, yet I will not forget you. See, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands; your walls are continually before Me” (Isaiah 49:13-16).

You have had pity on the plant

Then God said to Jonah…”You have had pity on the plant…”  (Jonah 4:10).

I encourage you today to read Jonah 4 today. Jonah was angry, really angry. He was angry because he knew God was gracious and merciful. God showed mercy on the city of Nineveh and forgave them because they repented at the preaching of Jonah. Even though Jonah preached to them, he really didn’t care about the salvation of the souls of Nineveh. He preached in anticipation that this effort would fail. Nineveh would reject God and God would toast them.

Read the last verse of chapter 3 and the first verse of chapter 4. God relented because Nineveh repented and Jonah vented. Jonah went outside of the city in verse 4 and waited in eager anticipation of God raining down judgment and destruction upon Nineveh (Jonah 4:5).

Notice the mercy that God had upon Jonah, while at the same time teaching a critical lesson. God prepared a plant to grow up and shade Jonah “to deliver him from his misery” (Jonah 4:6). Jonah was very grateful. Next, God sent a worm to destroy the plant. Then God brings a “vehement east wind” and the sun “beat on Jonah’s head” (Jonah 4:8).

All Jonah wants to do now is die. Now Jonah is really ticked off. This provides one of those “teachable moments.”

Then God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry about the plant?” And he said, “It is right for me to be angry, even to death!” But the LORD said, “You have had pity on the plant for which you have not labored, nor made it grow, which came up in a night and perished in a night. And should I not pity Nineveh, that great city, in which are more than one hundred and twenty thousand persons who cannot discern between their right hand and their left–and much livestock? (Jonah 4:9-11).

You have had pity on the plant

This being Wednesday, our focus is on parenting. I want to take this concept and apply it to parenting. As a Father, God was parenting Jonah. There are some valuable lessons to learn here in parenting.

Our children sometimes will care more about the plant, which creates teachable moments. They will get really upset about something, like a sibling borrowed a shirt without asking. Justice must be administered! It is times like that that we can help direct them to areas where they really should focus their passion. We are there to help them gain some “perspective.” Jonah cared more for a stupid plant than he did for 120,000 souls. Andy Harrison wrote an article recently about “Misplaced Compassion,” and today’s article connects well with it.

We must show mercy to our kids at those times, like God showed Jonah. I mentioned in Monday’s article about a sermon that Mike Sullivan preached recently. He made a point that Jesus was not self-righteous about the self-righteous. Jesus ate with the Pharisees, too. He loved them and wanted desperately for them to understand His grace and mercy. As we see the hypocrisy and double-standard in our kids, we must remember God and Jonah. God kept teaching Jonah and showing mercy to Jonah, too.

Do all things without complaining and disputing

Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world (Philippians 2:14-15).

We have spent the last two days complaining…well, at least we have spent the last two days considering complaining. Monday’s article considered God’s view of complaining, and Tuesday’s article looked into the marriage relationship and how we need to work on producing a different climate in the home.

Here are a few thoughts today about helping our children to be thankful and to correct complaining behavior.

  1. Model the behavior you want to see. Let’s work on being examples of thankful people.
  2. Put them to work. Be age appropriate, but get them working. They are not living as royalty in a palace with mom and dad as their slaves. One quick way to squash the entitlement mentality is to make kids pull weeds, clean toilets and vacuum the van. Again, be age appropriate, you are not going to make a 3 year old chop wood and clean the toilet, but hopefully you get what I’m saying.
  3. Take away privileges and possessions for a time. I know this is simple, but if you can’t be thankful for what you have, you can live without it for awhile.
  4. Allow them to experience or internalize what real suffering looks like. For example, take them to visit someone who is really suffering. Have them do volunteer/service work for others in some type of need. I know for me, when I went as a young man to Riley Children’s Hospital in Indy, it had a profound effect upon me. When you see a young boy, a cancer patient, with no hair walking around with an IV cart, it really makes you feel really stupid for complaining about some trivial thing. I remember being in the burn unit with my cousin in Riley hospital. There were two young boys, ages 2 and 4, whose mother set their mattress on fire in an attempt to murder them. I have no problems. Going to a Holocaust exhibit is another experience that will sober you up. Again, be age appropriate on this one, but they need to somehow be lifted out of their own world and see the lives of others.

Hope this helps.

Look at Me Daddy

“Look at Me Daddy…Look at Me.” Please indulge me as I tell a couple of “kid” stories.

Maddie, our almost three year old, loves to dance.  Anytime music is turned on she will stop what she’s doing and find the source.  Lately she has added a little more style to her performance.  She puts on a princess skirt and twirls around because she likes the way it flares out and flutters.  A few days ago I was in the living room reading and I put some music on.  Of course Maddie came running in the room, grabbed her little skirt, and started spinning.  I continued reading but as she repeated her pirouettes, she started saying, “Look at me daddy…look at me!”  Her chant continued until I put my book down and acknowledged what she was doing.

A few months ago I had a talk with Natalie, our 13 year old, about boys.  Two of her friends from church seemed to be constantly talking about “boys” and their recent “boyfriends” so I thought it was a good time to check in.  I asked Natalie if she had a boyfriend, to which she responded, “NO!”  I asked her if there were any boys she liked, to which she responded, “NO!”  I said, “Have you noticed how Friend 1 and Friend 2 are always talking about boys?  What do you think about that?”  She said, “I think it is silly.”  I asked, “Why aren’t you interested in boys like them?”  Natalie paused for a minute and thought about it and responded, “Because I’ve got you dad!”

A couple of cute stories and perhaps familiar to anyone that has children but they speak to an important reality.  Our kids crave our attention, our appreciation, and our approval and if we don’t provide it they will seek it from another source.  Humans inherently have a need to feel significant, to belong, and to be connected.  As fathers, we play a vital role in promoting a healthy connection with our kids.  We can help create a feeling of significance or we can erode that feeling over time.  Even when our kids get older and stop saying, “Look at me daddy”, they are still craving our attention.

Here are just a few practical things I’ve learned in my short 13 years of being a dad:

  • Simple Stuff Matters Most: I used to think I had to create big things or dedicate a significant amount of time for certain activities, and on occasion that will happen, but it is the little everyday things that make the difference.  Talks at the dinner table, asking about the book they’re reading, or dropping to the floor and playing Legos for 30 minutes are the type of daily things that build a connection and foster significance.
  • Eye to Eye: Rarely am I sitting and doing nothing when one of my kids wants to tell me something.  It was common for me to nod and say, “yes…yes…yes” but I wasn’t listening.  Kids are perceptive.  They quickly pick up that we’re not paying attention and the message is clear; dad doesn’t care and I’m not important.  A few years ago I trained myself to sit and listen.  When one of my kids has something to tell me I get down to their level and look them in the eye as they talk.  That way I break away from a potential distraction and they know they have been heard.
  • Time Not Toys: Some of the most materialistically spoiled children are neglected when it comes to things that matter.  I travel regularly for work and early on I used to bring toys home for the kids.  I believe my intentions were good but what I’ve realized is that my kids want ME when I get home not “stuff”.  So instead of arriving home with a bag full of junk, I arrive home with ears ready to listen and a genuine curiosity about their lives.  “Stuff” is often a lazy man’s way of avoiding the real responsibility that comes with having children.
  • Apology Accepted: Even when I put forth my best effort I fail.  I’ll get wrapped up in a project or sidetracked with a hobby or I just get tired and impatient and snap at the kids or fail to keep a promise or simply not listen.  One of the worst things we can do in that circumstance is just move on like it didn’t happen and “try and do better”.  We all get down, we all fall short, but acknowledging our failure and asking our kids for forgiveness teaches them more than we can imagine.  We can’t allow our pride to robe our children of a significant lesson.
  • The First Lady: A healthy connection with my children must be built on a strong connection with Kristine.   Loving their mother, and giving preference to her, is the first and most important way I can show them love.  We must not put time and energy into our children at the expense of our spouse.

As dad’s, the most valuable currency we have is our time and we must spend it wisely.  We have a small window of opportunity to train and teach and influence our kids.  Let’s rise up to the responsibilities God has set before us and make the most of the blessings we have been given.

“Behold, children are a gift of the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward.  Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth.  How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them;” Psalm 127:3-5.

Why We Overreact

Last Wednesday, we considered that sometimes we make an environment where kids do not feel safe telling the truth. If we are too harsh, and are quick to throw down the judgment, then our kids won’t feel safe to open up to us. But I wanted to consider why we overreact as parents.

Why We Overreact

  1. We genuinely want them to make good choices and to tell the truth. But we feel so passionately about it that we try too hard to make it happen. What is forgotten in this? In the real world, learning to make good choices involves making bad ones. We may not want to accept this, but that is part of learning. In your work/career, have you learned by making some really dumb business decisions? In sports, a basketball player learns what a good shot is partly by taking several bad ones. In the same light, our children have to have the grace and wiggle room to make poor choices at times without us freaking out. Of course we deal with the sin or the mistake, but keep in mind this is part of the growth process.
  2. Our goal becomes to keep them from repeating our mistakes. We are trying so hard to keep them from being like we were, that really we end up driving them there anyway. This is not a good goal. Yes, we want to help them avoid the same pitfalls we experienced, but we cannot with our strong wills keep them from sin and mistakes. This goal, ultimately, is about us as parents, and not about what is best for our children.
  3. Sometimes we overreact because we just are simply overtaxed and stretched too thin. Life is pressing on us, and we are pulled in a thousand directions. Go, go, go. We don’t have “time” to patiently deal with this situation, so we bark out a few things and think we fixed it. Daddy needs to chill out, take a breath, put everything aside and really talk to the child.

So, dads, before we go nuclear today, keep this in mind. Keep God’s grace, patience, and mercy in mind. How is God toward us as we grow and develop? Does He rain down death and judgment upon all our mistakes? Thankfully not! May we extend that same grace today.

Feeling safe to tell the truth

Feeling safe to tell the truth. We want our kids to tell the truth, but are we helping to create a safe environment for that to happen?

God expects honesty from us. We understand that relationships are built upon trust. As parents we really want to instill within our children the importance of telling the truth.

Sometimes, however, we can be so determined to get the truth out of them that they clam up, deny, lie, etc. Some kids are so scared of getting in trouble that they will do anything or say anything to avoid it. If our attempts to extract the truth from them sound like an FBI interrogation, then they are more likely to lie or clam up. We had this experience early on in parenting. As parents, we knew the child was lying, and we wanted that child to confess. However, we were too passionate about it, and there was no way the child was going to admit the wrong.

Feeling safe to tell the truth

We realized the error of this approach, and worked to create an environment where the child felt safer to come to us.

Dr. Kevin Leman in his book Have a New Kid by Friday words it this way:

If your child does break that vase and comes to you with the truth, she can know that you’re unhappy, but she should not be punished for telling you the truth. In those situations, you’ll need to think carefully before you open your mouth. How you respond to such a situation directly relates to how comfortable your child is in telling you the truth.

Kids can be as dumb as mud and will do stupid things in life (like hanging a camera out the window of a car and dropping it), but if they own up to them and say they’re sorry, they need to know that life will go on. You won’t beat them over the head for years for their mistake. The relationship between the two of you will still be okay.

Our response to our children will directly impact how willing they are to be open with us in the future.

There’s so much more to say on this subject, so let’s do a part two next week.

According to the Pace of the Children

Then Esau said, “Let us take our journey and go, and I will go before you.” But he (Jacob) said to him, “My lord knows that the children are frail and that the flocks and herds which are nursing are a care to me. And if they are driven hard one day, all the flocks will die. Please let my lord pass on before his servant, and I will proceed at my leisure, according to the pace of the cattle that are before me and according to the pace of the children, until I come to my lord at Seir” (Genesis 33:12-14).

According to the pace of the children. There is a great principle of leadership that we see exhibited in Jacob here. He knew the capabilities and limitations of both his livestock and his children. Because of this he was concerned that if he drove too hard, both his livestock and his kids would suffer. If he went at his own pace, he would take off and leave some, while others would be pushed to exhaustion trying to keep up with him.

Jacob understood that he had to lead at a pace that those following him could endure. That got me to thinking…as fathers, are we leading in a way that considers the limitations and capabilities of our children?

According to the pace of the children

Dads, we don’t want to be too easy on our kids, having such low expectations that they are never challenged. On the other hand, we don’t want to drive them so hard, that they are crushed and spiritually drained under the weight of our unrealistic expectations. I believe that is what the apostle Paul meant when he wrote about not provoking our children to wrath because they will lose heart (Colossians 3:21).

Like Jacob, we have to know who we are leading. We can take off and go, go, go; we can aggressively pursue our goals, convinced we are driving our family to eternity. What happens, though, when we look back? What do we see? If Jacob drove too hard, what would he have seen when he looked back? Dead animals and distant kids.

We dads have to remember that we can’t go at our own personal pace. Our kids are not going to grasp these concepts and truths in the same way and at the same time frame we did. Also remember that what took us decades to learn is not going to be instilled within our kids in a 15 minute lecture. It may take them decades, too!

Our children have different learning styles and personalities, and that requires us to use varying approaches. Even as they age, we have to remember this. The approach I used for a 5-year old just won’t work on an 18-year old.

It is important for us to take an assessment of how we are leading and if our expectations are too high. My wife, Anna, helps me with this. Sometimes we may need to talk to a wise, older Christian and have them give an honest assessment.

Take some time today to pray about this. Are you leading at a pace the kids can follow?

A link to some great parenting sermons

Good morning men!

For today, I wanted to share with you a link to some great parenting sermons that I’ve been listening to presented by Roger Shouse. They are called Parenting 101, 201, and 301.

Parenting 101 – Helping Them Start Over

Parenting 201 – Helping Them Remain Pure in a Polluted World

Parenting 301 – Helping Them Spiritually