The way of the Lord is not just?

Yet the house of Israel says, ‘The way of the Lord is not just.’ O house of Israel, are my ways not just? Is it not your ways that are not just? (Ezekiel 18:25,29).

The people of Israel accused God of not being fair. God turned it around on them. It was their ways that were not fair. Just read Ezekiel 34 to see how the Jewish leadership was treating people. That was injustice to put it mildly. God is always just.

Look in Ezekiel 18 to see the “just” nature of God. God doesn’t want anyone to die in his sins. He wants the wicked to repent and turn from his wickedness. God wants the righteous person to stay on the right path.

Here are six examples in Ezekiel 18 to show that God is just.

  1. If a man lives by God’s word and is a righteous person, he will live (Ezekiel 18:5-9).
  2. If a righteous man raises a wicked son, the wicked son doesn’t get extra credit points for being a righteous man’s son. He will be punished by God for his wickedness, even if his daddy was godly (Ezekiel 18:10-13).
  3. If a wicked man raises a righteous son, the righteous son is not going to be held accountable to God for the sins of his wicked father (Ezekiel 18:14-20).
  4. If a wicked man turns from his wickedness and chooses a godly path, God will save him and he will live (Ezekiel 18:21-23,27-29).
  5. If a righteous man turns from his righteousness and decides to live a wicked life, God will judge him for his wickedness (Ezekiel 18:24-26).
  6. God will judge everyone according to his ways and deeds – That is fair and just (Ezekiel 18:30).

Think about this! How much more “fair” can you get? You are judged by your own deeds. It is not a rigged system that exists in so many places, like politics and business. God doesn’t judge you by other’s deeds and words, He judges you by your own. If your parents are evil, you don’t lose your relationship with God. If your parents are righteous, you don’t get to ride into heaven on their coattails. God is fair – He judges you by what you say and do and how you respond to His word. It’s not anymore complicated than that.

David Served God’s Purpose in David’s Generation

Acts 13:21-22 “Then they asked for a king, and God gave them Saul the son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, for forty years. And when he had removed him, he raised up David to be their king, of whom he testified and said, ‘I have found in David the son of Jesse a man after my heart, who will do all my will.'”

Acts 13:36 “For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep and was laid with his fathers and saw corruption,”

David served God’s purpose and God’s will in his generation. But what does that really mean at a practical level? For David here’s what it meant: He wanted to build a temple for God and His glory, but God said, “No…your son Solomon will build it for Me.” So at a practical level for David, he spent the rest of his life preparing Solomon and the nation for the temple-building project. This was God’s calling for David.

God gave David a clear “to-do” list, and David went about that job with “all his might” (2 Chronicles 29:1-2). He defeated the enemies on every side, creating peace and national security. David organized the priesthood into divisions so they could divide up responsibilities in leading temple worship. He also did the same for the military, so it would be properly organized. During his reign, he collected a TON of money through his military victories and he took a big stash of his own cash to put in the treasury to help build the temple. Through the revelation of the Holy Spirit, he also drew out and wrote out the building plans for the temple. Again, with God’s guidance, command and inspiration, he designed musical instruments for worship and he wrote all kinds of worship music to be used in the temple. David was one pretty busy dude during his reign! On top of that, David gave first importance to the spiritual training of his young son Solomon and helping him see the value of God’s wisdom.

This was God’s purpose for David in David’s generation. God said “No” to building the temple, but “Yes” to helping get all the preparations together to build that temple.

I’ll leave you with this thought: You may not get to do the job you think you should do for God, but what can you do for God? How will you, like King David, dive in to help prepare the next generation of God’s people so that they can be ready to build God’s house in their generation? Are you serving God’s purposes for you in your generation?

He Went On His Way Rejoicing

Acts 8:35-40 Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus. (36) And as they were going along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?” (38) And he commanded the chariot to stop, and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him. (39) And when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord carried Philip away, and the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing. (40) But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he passed through he preached the gospel to all the towns until he came to Caesarea.

We baptized a young man last night in the cold St Clair River. This young man’s girlfriend was reading Acts 8 to him last night as they were studying about coming a Christian. She taught him the gospel, and he wanted to go get baptized right away just like the Ethiopian here in Acts 8. So, we went down the road to the St. Clair River (very cold, very deep), and we baptized him into Jesus Christ for the remission of his sins.

What an awesome night it was, indeed.

That young man came out of that cold water rejoicing. Just rejoicing. He knew he had done what Jesus asked him to do, and he knew that he was right with God and covered by the blood of Jesus. He was a free man. Free from sin, and free to serve God.

There are a few quick thoughts:

  • You don’t have to be a preacher to sit down and show someone what he or she needs to do to be saved. It doesn’t take a master’s degree, just a love for Jesus and a basic understanding of His word.
  • When someone is ready to become a Christian, you can’t stop them, even if it means jumping in ice cold water late at night.
  • As we obey the gospel, believing in Jesus and being baptized into His death, we become free from sin. We become a new man, a new creation. That is liberating and invigorating. This young man was certainly awake because of the ice cold water, but really he was just like that Ethiopian who went on his way rejoicing!

Stand Still–Stand Firm

David writes in Psalm 18 about the words he sang on the day God delivered him from all his enemies and the hand of Saul.  David writes:

1 I will love You, O Lord, my strength.  2 The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; My God, my strength, in whom I will trust; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold3 I will call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised; So shall I be saved from my enemies.  (Psalm 18:1-3; NKJV)

Peter, after being arrested for preaching the gospel and speaking to the Sanhedrin says of Jesus… 11 This is the ‘stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone.’ 12 Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:11-12; NKJV)

I thought of these verses in thinking about what kind of husband and father to my daughter I want to be.  There are a lot of different challenges to being a good Godly husband and father.  One of the most challenging for me is to know what the right thing is to do for my wife or my daughter at any given time.  What I want to do is rescue them from whatever is troubling them.  I want to be the knight in shining armor, the fixer, the “man”.  But I will tell you, this approach often has unforeseen consequences and the disappointment I feel when I get it wrong is crushing at times…and if nothing else confusing and can lower my confidence in myself and what God wants me to do.  In the worst case, I get angry and blame my wife or my daughter for not getting me or appreciating me…me, me, me.

What I think about in this context about these verses is this.  If I believe that God is my rock, my fortress, my stronghold and His Son Jesus is the chief cornerstone of my salvation, then I need to stand upon that Rock and be strong for my wife and my daughter.  If I holdfast to God and receive from Him the love, grace, mercy, forgiveness, longsuffering, strength, peace…if I get all these spiritual blessings and more from Him and know that He is with me and will not forsake me…then I am free to just stand there or said another way I am free to just “be there”.  As I stand solidly on my faith and demonstrate the firm ground under my feet in Jesus, my wife and my daughter will take notice.

Standing on solid ground, I can be there for them to lean on when they need me.

Standing on the Rock of Jesus, I can stand firm if they need to climb up, lay down, and rest or just get a hug or a warm touch.

Standing firm in God, I can be an example they can look to or point to in difficult times and be encouraged.

If I am standing with Jesus, I will be what God wants me to be for my wife and my daughter.  It isn’t about what I am getting from my wife or my daughter, but what I get from my Abba Father and Elder Brother that matters.  When I get that spiritual strength through faith and abiding in Jesus, I then can give of myself in a way that is most beneficial to my wife, my daughter and my family.

Sounds crazy, but give it a try.  The next time things are going crazy, the house is hectic, there is more to be done than hands to do it…just stand still with Jesus and holdfast to Him as you hold onto her and that will make an eternal difference.

If I had preached my daughter’s wedding…

Before my daughter married her beau in March, many asked if she invited me to ‘perform the ceremony’, and they did, but I said I would rather be DAD. I wanted to watch her stand giddy next to the man with whom she wants to spend her whole life. I wanted to see him look at her and smile as her eyes lit up when he promised his heart – for a lifetime. But truthfully, when the vows were exchanged, I did not want to accidentally call her by her mother’s name or accidentally replace a name with the family dog – either.

But you know, there is one dad in Scripture with whom I related as we prepared for that day. There was a dad at wedding feast in Cana that could have seen their joyful feasting turn into a nightmare (John 2:1ff). Jesus’ mother Mary discovered that the wedding provisions had practically been depleted. While most Americans might worry about cake. However, for that father of Cana, it would have been “a social faux pas that would become the subject of jests for years (since) the host was responsible to provide his guests with adequate wine for seven days” according to some resources. Seven hours, I get that. Seven days. Wow.

Additionally, “the women’s quarters were near the place where the wine was stored; thus, Mary learns of the shortage of wine before word reaches Jesus and the other men. Her words probably suggest that Jesus should do something (since) guests were to help defray the expense of the wedding with their gifts. It seems that their friend needs some extra gifts now” (from IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament by Craig S. Keener Copyright © 1993).

Had it not been for Jesus’s mother finding out and Jesus Himself gifting this miracle, the fond memory of these parents for a beautiful wedding for their daughter would have unraveled to a fiasco that likely would have made them a laughingstock among neighbors and sharp-tongued gossips too. I am certain that father was grateful without fully appreciating the scope of how lucky he was that Jesus had been invited. Jesus saved the day.

So, in my wedding sermon I would have said, “we invited Jesus here today!” The reason is because…

We invited Jesus to her life when she was born. We brought her, with her brothers, to hear His word and celebrate His worship. We read to her Bible stories and sang songs of worship as we drove down the road. We held hands when we prayed. We laughed. We cried. And we felt the broken heart and the brokenness of the world in which we were raising her – but we wanted her to know Jesus, to follow Jesus and to love Jesus.

And we invited Jesus to our family time and vacations. We would stop for worship along the way and meet Christians we had never met. We would battle the skip services for “convenience” because “no one will know” syndrome but because Jesus had already been invited, we tried to put Him first in front of our children always. I’d never say temptations never came, but we tried to bring Jesus along every day – doing on vacation what we would want other Christians to know we did. In our home, we prayed around our meals. But we also argued – even the father of the bride. And when I spoke harshly – or incorrectly – I had to acknowledge that if Jesus was going to be invited to her wedding, I had to invite Him to my home to stay and then apologize. Every man (woman and child) needs to see that.  Jesus needs to be the reason you love your wife. He needs to be the reason that you stay together. And He will be the reason that your marriage will be to you all God ever intended it to be. But, you have to invite Him now.

So, I invited Jesus to my daughter’s wedding not because I was afraid we would run out of cake or coffee. I wanted Jesus to be there for them so that when they ran out of love, of hope, of kindness, forgiveness and compassion, Jesus would be there for them – as He has been for me – to help me supply in me what keeps running low. Marriage was God’s idea. And it will be everything our hearts really need and everything we need to experience.  But if you forgot to invite Him to your own wedding or even now realize that He is missing in your marriage, Jesus takes late invitations. Even if it is “the day of” He will come to those whose hearts realize marriage is all about finding in each other what God has found in us.

Invite Jesus now to your marriage. That’s what I would have said because He would indeed, as He did in Cana,  save that day – and every day thereafter.

Lessons from Herod

But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his nobles and military commanders and the leading men of Galilee. For when Herodias’s daughter came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests. And the king said to the girl, “Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will give it to you.” And he vowed to her, “Whatever you ask me, I will give you, up to half of my kingdom.”
(Mark 6:21-23)

A lascivious dance, an aroused king, and a hasty vow.

This section of Scripture is part of the explanation of the death of John the Baptist. Herodias, who was married to Herod, wanted John the Baptist dead. John confronted the couple on their unlawful marriage (Herodias was actually Herod’s brother’s wife), and Herodias wanted to kill him. Now she had her chance.

By prompting and using her daughter (Matthew 14:8), she had her daughter dance in front of all of these men. Whatever the nature of that dance was, it “pleased” Herod and led him to offer half his kingdom to her. I don’t think it takes much imagination to conclude this dance was not a square dance.

To make it even more vile, this was his step-daughter, and if this young lady was the daughter of his brother Philip, then she would be Herod’s niece.

The result of this dance, Herod’s “pleasure” and the hasty vow led to the death of John the Baptist.

We can learn several valuable lessons from Herod:

  • Lust kills. It’s not a laughing matter. Lust kills our souls. Lust kills marriages and families. Lust destroys our influence as God’s men. Lust stirs a person up to make commitments that he will forever regret. “Flee youthful lusts…” (2 Timothy 2:22).
  • Our choice in entertainment matters. Herod allowed himself and all his guests to be pleased by the dancing of his step-daughter. Look where it led.
  • Our choice in spouse matters. Herod stole his brother’s wife, and we can see from the heart and choices of Herodias that she was not a godly woman at all. She used her husband and her daughter to accomplish her sinister schemes.

These things are recorded for us in Scripture so that we can learn from them.

Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.
(1 Corinthians 10:11-14)

Make your struggle with lust known, so that a brother in Christ can help you with it.

But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people (Ephesians 5:3).

You Have Authority Over Them, But…

I was having a conversation recently with an elder/shepherd near Dayton, Ohio. We were talking about our approach to people, and how we may try to command people (our kids, people at church), but are we allowing God to work? Are we praying about it?

He referenced a couple of passages that an older man pointed out to him decades ago. Here are those two passages, take a moment to ponder them.

And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach and have authority to cast out demons.
(Mark 3:14-15)

The apostles were clearly given “authority” over the demons. Authority and power was not the problem. The apostles were able to cast out demons, and they had done so before the events of Mark 9. But in Mark 9, the disciples were not able to cast out a demon from a young boy. They did not understand why they couldn’t do it.

Jesus’ answer to them was simple:

And when he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?” And he said to them, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.”
(Mark 9:28-29)

They had the power and authority to command the demons, but what had they not done, according to Jesus? They had not prayed about it. Good grief, this is so simple to understand, but how many times do we as fathers and leaders forget this concept? We have power and authority over others, maybe at church and at home, but are we trying to command people, or are we praying about it? Are we giving these things up to the throne of God and seeking His counsel and wisdom? Are we giving God time and space to work in someone else’s life?

A basic truth, but a powerful one to me. I really appreciated what this shepherd shared with me the other day, and also it was neat to think that an older wise godly man shared these concepts with him decades ago. The wisdom is getting passed on.

Moments

My daughter Jessica wrote this today. One year ago today we had a barn fire that killed our animals, 2 of those animals were Jessica’s horses, Kale and Dublin. I wanted to share with you her thoughts.

Moments… Our lives are made up of millions of little moments. Many of these moments might seem insignificant at the time, but what if they just disappeared? What if in the matter of seconds your whole life was turned upside down; and everything was spun into a downward spiral. How do you prepare for that? When the barn fire took my horses and all of my family’s animals, there was no way to prepare for the devastation that caused. There was no way to be prepared for all of the various after effects of it either. Looking back I cannot even remember summer, it is all just a blur. For those who know me, they know that horses are like breathing to me. I love them, they are a part of me. To work so long and hard for something, and then to have it all gone in the matter of seconds is… there is no word for it. The point I have come to now is that I won’t give up. Even though I have been, and keep getting tested every day, with God all things are possible. Through all of this I have come to lean on Him more, and realize that no matter what happens, I will always have God with me in the storm. God pulls us out of the fire and tells us that He will carry us when we can’t walk, He will give us peace when all around us is chaos, He will give us strength when we want to give up. In Him I have a new hope, a hope for the future. So even though there is all of this pain, God is holding my hand, and I never want to let go of Him again.

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.