Claude Going Home

“Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me.  In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you.  If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, you may be also.  And you know the way where I am going.”  John 14:1-4

The movers were loading up our house in Texas, Kristine and the kids had already headed north the day before.  I only had one essential task before getting in the car the next morning and making the 18 hour drive to Indiana.  I had to visit Brother Claude.

Over the years I had the opportunity to visit one on one with Claude many times.  Whether he was at home or in the hospital, he always greeted me with a smile and with a joyous spirit.  This visit was a bit different.  He didn’t have the same smile and energy as usual.  His health issues had increased and he had recently made the decision to pay for more constant help at his assisted living facility.  Additionally, he knew it would be our last visit for quite some time.

We chatted about life for a bit.  I told him about the new house in Indiana and I bragged on the Christians in Lafayette.  I updated him on the kids and shared my concerns about their transition.  Claude could tell I was excited to be moving home.  When I asked him how he was feeling our conversation turned in a more serious direction.

“I’m tired. I’m ready to go home.” was his response.  On just about every visit, Claude would speak of heaven but he would never say “heaven” or speak of a reward.  He always talked about “home” and “being with the Lord”.  Heaven was not a mansion or streets of gold.  It wasn’t a materialistic paradise where you run around in the perfect immortal body.  Heaven was the perfect home with the perfect Father, the perfect Brother, and the perfect Spirit.  Heaven was the ultimate fulfillment of our purpose and design…being with the Lord, our Creator.

And when Brother Claude spoke of “home” it wasn’t with wishful thinking or fingers crossed.  He didn’t speak about it in the distant future or as some far off magical place.  Claude had a confident expectation of being with the Lord.  He was longing for it, he was living every moment for it.  He understood the pain of this life, better than many of us, and allowed his physical suffering to fuel his desire to go home.

Now this is the part that hit me right between the eyes and caused an aching in my heart.  On that visit, as he was talking about home, I had just been talking about our new home in Indiana with such longing and passion, such excitement.  I realized, in that moment, that my hunger to be home with the Lord is insufficient.  I spend so much time and energy creating a comfortable existence here, trying to fill myself up with the temporal, that I don’t meditate on the eternal enough.

I realize that many of us are in different life situations than Brother Claude.  We have children to raise and responsibilities that require our time and attention here on this earth.  But the reality is that every day we either draw closer or slip away.  We decide how to invest our time and resources and where to set our minds.  If we don’t consciously and purposefully direct our lives the world will direct them for us.

When things are rough, talk about home.  When things are good, talk about home.  When your kids had a bad day at school, tell them about home.  When your back aches, think about home.  When your brother or sister starts despairing about our culture, remind them of home.  In the morning, at mid-day and just before bed, meditate on home.  When sorrow weighs down your heart, picture the faces of all those loved ones that are waiting for you at home.

Welcome home Brother Claude.

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.

The Master and Us

Whatever your role as a man, you have responsibilities.

Today we are considering our role(s) as it pertains to the women in our lives…husbands, fathers, sons, brothers…and this is whether we are single, married, widowers, divorced…there are women in our lives and we have responsibility to them because of our responsibility to Jesus.

How well we fulfill our responsibilities depends upon our view of the Master of the House.

As we start with the Master…let’s define the word “master”.  The Greek word is “kurios” and means “he to whom a person or thing belongs, about which he as the power of deciding; master, lord.  This is used universally, of the possessor and disposer of a thing, the owner.  Kurios is a title of honor, expressive of respect and reverence, with which servants salute their master.  (Thayers)

Just to be clear.  When we talk Master we are talking about Jesus Christ.  The Savior.  The Messiah.

Because of Who He is…The Lord of Lords!  Because of What He did…Sacrifice!  Because of What He is Doing…Intercession!  Because of What He is Going to Do…Glory!

He is our Master and therefore we are to “…be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.”  (Ephesians 5:21; NASB).

“Subject” is to arrange under, to subordinate; to subject, put in subjection.  “Fear” is reverence, respect.  “Christ” is the anointed of God, the Lord of Lords, the Master of the House!

So when we live our lives and find ourselves saying “I can’t do this or that for a particular woman in my life”; let’s change the question and ask “Can I do this or that for the Lord?”

Because, the truth is, what we do we do for Jesus whether we mean to or not.  If we are looking to Him and endeavoring to follow (be subject to) Him, then He will lead us and we will be the man we need to be and He will be glorified.  If we live like that, then the women in our lives will notice and it will make a difference.

The reward in living like this is a reward for all.  If we lead by example and live our lives subject to Jesus then it is likely those women in our lives who we care about, seek to influence, or work along side will be impacted for good.  If we live this way, then together with the women in our lives we can seek out and expect the reward God is offering.

“Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance.  It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.  (Colossians 3:23-24; NASB)

Strive for the crown of life promised by God for you in Heaven…and hold tight to the women in your life and don’t let them go…serve them because Jesus is worthy of our service no matter what or who we might be dealing with.

The Company You Keep

Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.
(Proverbs 13:20)

Today’s article is one of caution, but also of encouragement: the company you keep will (not can) influence you in one direction or another. This is a discussion that I’m sure many of you as parents are having with your kids, but remember that it applies to big people, too.

The new Galatians Christians were “quickly deserting” the gospel of Jesus Christ. Why? Because a little leaven leavens the whole lump. Some among them were troubling them and perverting the gospel (Galatians 1:6-7; 2:4; 4:17; 5:7-10; 6:12-13). It is a reminder of how quickly someone can be turned away from God and led to believe lies.

The same thing was happening in the Corinthian congregation. Some were preaching that there is no resurrection of the dead, and Paul warned that bad company (and teaching) can corrupt good morals (1 Corinthians 15:12,33).

We see the same warnings by Paul as he wrote to the young evangelist Timothy. Certain conversations along with certain types of people can lead to the “ruin of the hearers,” and will “lead people into more ungodliness.” This teaching and influence will spread like gangrene, resulting in the “upsetting” of the faith of some (2 Timothy 2:14-18). These are powerful warnings from God, and as parents and children we should take heed.

There are verses aplenty about how many will follow the bad influences of others. It’s not just about false teaching, it may be that you are hanging around people with lousy attitudes and worldly passions, and that will take you down the wrong road as well (Hebrews 12:15; 2 Peter 2:2,18).

We are called by God to come out from among these evil influences and to chose holy friends and godly influences (2 Corinthians 6:14-18).

I am a companion of all who fear you, of those who keep your precepts.
(Psalm 119:63)

Think of what David just said. Who are his companions? Those who fear God and keep His commandments. Those are great friends!

Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you. We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death.
(1 John 3:13-14)

What is the sign that we have passed from death into life, according to John? Our relationships! When we love the brothers, we will abide in life. When we love the world, we will by definition hate the brothers, and we will abide in death.

Look at this passage from Malachi. In the midst of a lot of wickedness and religious hypocrisy, there was a righteous remnant that hung out with each other and encouraged each other. See how God took notice of this?

Then those who feared the LORD spoke with one another. The LORD paid attention and heard them, and a book of remembrance was written before him of those who feared the LORD and esteemed his name. “They shall be mine, says the LORD of hosts, in the day when I make up my treasured possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his son who serves him. Then once more you shall see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve him.
(Malachi 3:16-18)

And all who believed were together…
(Acts 2:44)

The believers were together. When we are together, powerful things happen for the kingdom of God. Our fellowship is not with this world, it is with Jesus Christ, His blood, and His body of believers!

that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.
(1 John 1:3)

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.
(1 John 1:7)

It really is pretty simple, if you want to move closer to God, look at your friends and relationships. Where are they leading you?

James and Fathers, Part 2

Last Wednesday, we began a look into the book of James and some things we learn about God as our Father. Here are a few more thoughts.

As a Father, He wants us to bless Him, but He is also deeply concerned with how we talk about our brothers and sisters. As dads, remember to keep a check on how your kids talk to each other. That’s a big lesson they will learn and hopefully translate into other areas of life.

Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.
(James 5:11)

We can always trust that God’s intentions and purposes for us are good. Even when we don’t understand why things happen or why God asks certain things from us, we can trust He loves us and know that in the end my soul’s salvation is first on my Father’s mind. This is important for us, dads. My end goal is not being “right” on a matter. My end goal is not having my child be perfect in every way. My goal is to keep my heart as a Father in line with the heart of the Father in heaven. If my heart is line with my Father’s, then that will affect everything I say, do and think when it comes to my kids.

We may think too much about the training and instruction we are giving our kids, and all the investment we have poured into them, but fail to think about some very important things. Sometimes we lose sight of the working of God in our sons and daughters. We also at times lose sight on the transformation that God is working within us as well. Our Father loves us very much, too, and He is transforming us every day as dads so that we will imitate our Father as dear children (Ephesians 5:1)

James and Fathers, Part 1

The book of James has been on my mind a lot lately as we are preparing to be part of a camp next week where the theme will be from the book of James.

Today (and also for next Wednesday), I wanted to look at a few passages from James that give us a picture of the God we serve. He is our Father, but what kind of Father is our Lord?

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.
(James 1:5)

He gives generously, and doesn’t hold it over our heads after He gives. Of course, God does remind us of what His gifts have cost, but He doesn’t do it like a lot of us dads do. The result of dads reminding kids repeatedly of how much they “cost” is guilt and feeling like a constant inconvenience. Our Father does not do that for us. He gives and gives and gives and gives. One of my favorite verses on this is Romans 8:32 – read it. The result of God’s giving to us is praise, gratitude, and a desire to come to Him for everything! The reason sometimes people feel guilty asking the Father in heaven for things, is because they have been conditioned by their dads on earth to feel bad for coming AGAIN to ask for something.

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.
(James 1:17-18)

He is a gift giver, who gives good things with the best interest of His children in mind. He is also a Father who is not a different dad each day. There is no variation within Him. As we mature in Jesus, we become more stable and there are less “variations” in our thinking and behavior as Fathers. God “gave birth” to us through His word, and that is the same way we as dads will bring life and growth to our children is through the power of the word.

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.
(James 1:27)

God has made it plain as a Father what He really wants. Yes, there are other details to “religion,” but there are the main things He wants us to focus on. As dads, we must have to keep focused on what the big things are, and what God really is looking for in them. It can get really easy to get lost in the weeds of all the little things our kids are doing that are either wrong or need to improve, but keep focused on the big things first.

With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God.
(James 3:9)

More on this next Wednesday, Lord willing.

Truth can be found even among a lot of error

Does a person have to be right on everything before we listen to them on anything?

Here is a thought to contemplate, and a thought to share with your sons and daughters. Truth can be found even among a lot of error. Sometimes we might be tempted to disregard somebody’s advice because we see so much wrong in his or her life. But be careful, even someone who is wrong on a whole lot can be right in something he or she tells you. Before you have a knee-jerk reaction thinking, “Who is this guy to tell me this?”, consider the statement itself. It may be true after all.

Here is a Biblical example. Job’s friends were wrong on a WHOLE LOT, even God rebuked them for being so mistaken (Job 42). I want you to notice that Eliphaz is specifically spoken to by God,

After the LORD had spoken these words to Job, the LORD said to Eliphaz the Temanite: “My anger burns against you and against your two friends, for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.
(Job 42:7)

Does that mean that everything Eliphaz said in the book of Job was wrong?Apparently not, because the apostle Paul quoted Eliphaz in 1 Corinthians.

Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their craftiness,” and again, “The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.” So let no one boast in men. For all things are yours,
(1 Corinthians 3:18-21. In the above section, Paul quoted Eliphaz (compare Job 5:13 & 1 Corinthians 3:19).

Does God catch the wise in their craftiness? Yes, He sure does. Eliphaz was generally right on in that matter, even if he was wrong in applying that specifically to Job. The point is for today, God condemned and rebuked Eliphaz for saying a lot of wrong things, and yet the Holy Spirit led Paul to quote Eliphaz. Paul also was inspired by God to quote the Greek poets on more than one occasion (Acts 17:28; Titus 1:12-13; 1 Cor. 15:33).

God may be sending you advice from an unlikely source that you are tempted to disregard. Someone doesn’t have to be right on everything before you listen to them on anything. By the way, think of the assumption we are making about ourselves if we set that kind of lofty standard.

How is that scolding working out for you?

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
(Ephesians 6:4)

A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.
(Proverbs 15:1)

I’m reading a book called “The Power of the Other,” written by Dr. Henry Cloud. I appreciate my good friend Andy Harrison recommending this book to me. In the chapter I was reading yesterday, he was talking about the Brain and Feedback. I wanted to share a brief quotation with you for today.

“Have you ever been yelled at, put down, or scolded when someone was ostensibly helping you get better at something? Remember how you felt? Of course you do: horrible-ashamed, afraid, anxious, sad, angry, and/or closed off. What stood out most to you in that moment-the feedback itself, or how you were feeling about it, the other person, or yourself? No doubt you were much more in touch with how you were feeling-awful-than with what was being said. The actual issue, what was truly important, was no longer what you were focused on.

There’s a reason for that. In highly charged emotional moments, the part of your brain that gets tapped for action is called the amygdala. Chemicals get released there that interfere with learning. Threat of any kind can trigger a fight-or-flight reaction, which is not focused at all on learning, only on protecting oneself. Hence the “checked-out” expression on a teenager’s face while being scolded. In those moments, a dose of adrenaline floods over brains, producing anxiety, and we literally go blank. Whenever we’re in fight-or-flight mode, we can’t absorb feedback and improve our self-control and learning.”

Dr. Henry Cloud, “The Power of the Other,” p. 117-118

Take some time to think about this.

Yes there is a time for corrective measures, rebuke and punishments, but we also need to realize the times when what we are doing and how we are doing it as parents may not be working at all. The reactions we are getting from our kids may be a result of how we are addressing the matter at hand. We are getting the exact opposite reactions we desire because of our own approach.

The wise of heart is called discerning, and sweetness of speech increases persuasiveness. Good sense is a fountain of life to him who has it, but the instruction of fools is folly. The heart of the wise makes his speech judicious and adds persuasiveness to his lips. Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.
(Proverbs 16:21-24)

Is your approach as a father one of wisdom, calmness, mercy and patience? Or are the lectures and scolding shutting down learning and keeping real growth and communication from happening?

As always, if you need help and growth in these areas, I encourage you to sit down with or talk on the phone to a wise godly father who can help you walk through these things. Those wise godly fathers/grandfathers can help walk you through how to improve your communication and approach.

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.

Mature Plants and Pillars

May our sons in their youth be like plants full grown, our daughters like corner pillars cut for the structure of a palace;
(Psalms 144:12)

In this Psalm we see a desire of the people of God to receive blessings from God. Psalm 144 ends with, “Blessed are the people to whom such blessings fall! Blessed are the people whose God is the LORD!” (Psalms 144:15). Some of those blessings are material in nature (cattle, grain, prosperity), while others have a spiritual focus. Verse 12 is one of those. Look at what blessings they desired of God when it came to their sons and daughters.

Sons in their youth to be like plants full grown. 

Daughters like corner pillars cut for the structure of a palace.

Think about that for a bit. What is that saying? What do these parents want for their kids? Maturity and stability! Plants full grown, not seedlings and saplings. Corner pillars cut for the structure of a palace brings to mind something strong and stable that supports other things.

May the Lord bless our children with these qualities. May they develop within them maturity and stability. May we as fathers and mothers have the wisdom, grace and patience to guide them and give them time to develop these qualities. May we as parents remember that God has given us quite a bit of grace, patience and time!