It Ain’t Pretty

“Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day.”  II Corinthians 4:16

Brother Claude joined my family for Thanksgiving dinner in 2016.  Kristine goes all out for my favorite holiday, fixing all the traditional favorites as well as some Harrison family specials.  We usually have enough food to feast on for four or five days in a row.

I picked Claude up around 11 and we got down to eating around one in the afternoon.  A little while after lunch he made me aware that he had to use the facilities so we wheeled him over to the restroom door and quickly realized that, even if I took the door off the hinges, his chair wasn’t going to fit through.  Our home was obviously not up to the American Disabilities Act guidelines.

Before I go on, I need to tell you a little bit about Claude’s background.  After college, he joined the Air Force and became a pilot.  During his time in the service he received two Flying Cross medals, a Bronze Star, and a Legion of Merit, just to name a few.  He retired as a Lieutenant Colonel and went on to have a career in real estate and as a broker for Merrill Lynch.  This was a man who understood dignity, power and success.  Now back to the restroom.

We stood (well Claude sat) at the door of the bathroom deciding how we would approach the task at hand.  I got into the room and stood facing him, preparing to pull him up out of his chair.   Claude lined the chair up with the doorway and engaged the brake.  With a coordinated effort, I took him by the hands and pulled him upward, wrapping my arms around his chest and under his armpits as he stabilized himself on the bathroom sink with his left hand.  I then proceeded to half carry/half drag him to the front of the toilet.  At this point, Claude had his right hand on the wall and his left hand still clutching the sink basin.

I moved around Claude so that I could stabilize him from behind.  It was at this point that I realized both of his hands were occupied keeping himself upright, preventing him from falling over.  This meant that it was my job to help with his pants and undergarments.  Thankfully, once that task was done, he leaned forward and put his head on wall for stability so that he could take care of the rest.

I stood back and watched as this former Lieutenant Colonel leaned forward with his head on the wall, clutching the sink with his left hand, so that he could go about the simple task of emptying his bladder.  A process that most of us do several times a day and take for granted had become an exhausting and embarrassing experience for this dear man.

Why the story?  In the scheme of things, this adventure with Brother Claude was relatively mundane.  He had to rely on others all the time for more intimate physical needs like bathing and changing clothes.  He handled the decaying of his body with understanding and grace.  He was never under the illusion that our flesh was meant to last forever.  In his life he had tasted significance, success and power but those were not things that he tried to hold on to.  They were temporal and he was living for the eternal.  Brother Claude’s identity was not wrapped up in titles and toys, it was rooted in the Lord Jesus Christ.

What about you?  What about me?  I’d like to think that my treasures are in heaven but that is not always the case.  I care too much about the approval of men.  I spend too much energy chasing significance in this life.  I don’t really know how I will react when the trophies of this world are stripped away from me…and they will be stripped away.  One way or another we will all end up leaning our heads against the wall staring down at the toilet, metaphorically speaking.

When it is all taken away, will we have anything left?

“Do not love the world nor the things in the world.  If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.  The world is passing away, and its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.”  I John 2:15-17

Stand Firm. Be Sure. Shine Light

This week we have thought about the fact that we can stand firm and secure if we are faithful and hold onto our Abba Father and Savior Jesus.  From here, we can live a bold confidence that when our time is over here we will be with our Father and Elder Brother in Heaven for all eternity.  These thoughts are awesome and life changing…for our own lives and the lives of those around us…especially your families.

Living this way, however, will certainly stand out in the world we live in and will be a light shining into the darkness many of the people we meet are experiencing in their own lives.  We can and do shine the light of Christ into other people’s lives if we are standing with Him and living for Him.  A light that we hope will illuminate or even expose so that people we interact with will see Jesus and see themselves and understand that sin is keeping them from being reconciled to the Father and Jesus can remedy that with His blood.  This shining of light is a powerful thing, but it comes from a power source we do not directly possess and can only have through Jesus.  For us to be fully charged we have to continue to be in contact with the power source and we do that through God’s word, prayer, meditation, fellowship…by staying plugged in or said another way abiding (John 15).

There is so much encouragement in God’s word and God has given us all we need to be charged and to emit.  We just have to stay connected.  I know many of you have your own way of doing this but today I am going to invite you to read Revelation 21-22 and consider what God has told us about Heaven, what Jesus is doing…today…and how that can translate to a great hope that is infectious even if every indication we are getting from others is that it repels.

Here are some highlights from chapters 21 and 22 that I find awesome and encouraging in terms of our home and how active and involved and interests our Savior is in ensuring we get there.

3…“Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. 4 And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” (Rev 21)

 6 And He said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts. 7 He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son.

 4 They shall see His face

 5 There shall be no night there: They need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light. And they shall reign forever and ever.

 7 “Behold, I am coming quickly! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.”

 12 “And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work. 13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last.”

 14 Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city.

 16I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things in the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, the Bright and Morning Star.”

 20 He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming quickly.”  Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Let that be your response today.  Be filled.  Shine your light.  Be ready when someone can’t help but ask “why”…and start with “Have you heard about my Jesus?”

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.

Evangelism Made Simple

I was encouraged last night as we continued our meeting with Benjamin Lee at South Macomb. Ben taught us about evangelism and here are some thoughts from his lesson.

  • We have to have a sense of urgency when it comes to the gospel because there are people out there who want to hear it and we might be the one to tell them.
  • There are a lot of excuses we create to keep us from sharing Jesus but we are not alone in that and there are great men in the bible (i.e. Moses; Exodus 3:1-4:17) who made excuses about why they shouldn’t do what God was asking them to do…and God was patient but in the end His anger was kindled against those who resisted Him and that is the same with us…we need to repent of that and get to work.
  • Evangelism is not Rocket Science and there is no secret recipe or silver bullet…it is simple and it is about us and our attitude and our purpose.
  • There are opportunities all around us whether at work, at the grocery store, at the gym, in our home…we just have to be ready to see them…we have to prepare our mind to see them and we can do that through prayer.
  • So how simple is it? How about this simple:
      • Open Your Eyes: In John 4:30, Jesus says “lift up your eyes” in talking about the opportunity to teach and that is what the Apostles did throughout the first century…they looked and what they saw were opportunities to teach Jesus. What was the difference between the time when Jesus taught in John 4 and what we see them doing in the book of Acts? Their eyesight! That is, they were focused on lost souls and because that is what they were looking for that is what they found and in that they found opportunity to teach.
      • Open Your Mouth: Can’t you say something about Jesus? Hasn’t He done more than enough in your life to come up with something to share? Of course you can…but we don’t always because we lack confidence or are afraid we will offend or that there is no way they are going to believe us. Well, the truth is all that is true…we will lack confidence at times, some will reject us, some will mock us…but some will want to hear more and some will hear more and obey. How awesome! It happened to Paul in Athens (Acts 17) and like Paul can’t we endure a little disappointment for the joy of a soul saved? We just have to open our mouths.

    • Open Your Bible: And we have to use God’s word…it has the power to save not ours. We can overcome our lack of confidence by being well studied in the bible. Are we taking time each day to grow in our knowledge of God’s word? If yes, that is evangelism…at least it is the training necessary. Add prayer for opportunities to that and you are on your way…with eyes wide open ready to speak and teach…God’s word will not fail…so speak it confidently.

As I think about this…I know that these points are true and having a sense of urgency for the gospel and evangelism is something that I need to grow in…especially for my children. Even if we all retain our health and live a full life…I only have them for a short time before they become men and women…now is the time to plant and water so that they will be prepared in Jesus to take on the world. And I don’t have to be afraid…God is with me and if call out to Him…He will reassure us and He will be with us…and He will work with us. He did for Paul (Acts 18:9; Acts 23:11). Be encouraged. Let go. Get out of the way. And let God work in you!

Live Like You Are Dying

Tim McGraw is a famous country singer and a few years back he had a hit song titled “Live Like You Are Dying”. The song is about a man who receives a life-changing health diagnosis and how it changes his perspective, priorities, and lifestyle. His point is simple…live today like you are dying…don’t take life for granted. To be honest, I often changed the station when this song came on because it was hard to hear…it pricked my heart…frankly it convicted me as I looked at my life and wondered just how much I was squandering, especially with what God has taught me from His word on the frailty of life, the importance of my spirituality and the fact I am a sojourner here and my real home and hope is in Heaven. The bottom-line…to my shame, I wasn’t living like I was dying and more than that…I wasn’t living like Jesus died for my sins.

I bring this up because we started our meeting with Benjamin Lee yesterday and the series is titled just like the song…“Live Like You Are Dying”. Just like with the song, my heart was pricked as Ben brought the first lesson, “Facts of Life” with Ecclesiastes 9 as its foundational scripture.

His points were simple but the implications are soul shaking, life changing, and echo in eternity. The points are this…we are all going to die, time and circumstance happen to all, and we may die today.

I know as Ben was teaching that everyone in the room who was really listening was going through their own significant emotional response. I mean come on…he is hitting home right? We are doing to die, we aren’t in control and we might just die today. How does that not give you pause and what do we do about it?

The answer is Jesus. He had to die too…and He did…just as God purposed for Him to do and in doing so provided us hope through the saving power of His blood. We all have to die and it might happen today but as a disciple of Jesus we do not have to fear that. We can stand confident in God’ mercy, grace, and love. We can know for certain that our bodies will return to the ground (dust) but our spirit will return to God who created it and if we live a life where we revere Him and keep His commandments…He will welcome us home and we will enter into an eternal rest. That is not scary. That is awesomely hopeful!

So if you don’t feel hopeful…what is the problem? Well, if you are anything like me, dread instead of hope is a result of or symptom of a life not lived the way God has prescribed. Living in such a way that we are without God makes a death of like manner terrifying. But that is the point. God wants us to feel that so we will turn back to Him and run and get back to Him as fast as we can…while we are alive…because there will not be time or opportunity for that after we are dead.

God might let bad things happen to us if that means it will either bring us back to Him or keep us close to Him. He wants us to live like we are dying because we are all going to die and we don’t know when…but He does. So if you are struggling, don’t blame God but ask Him to give you an understanding heart and allow Him to turn your discomfort into a restful peace as you return to Him. Do it now…because we are all dying…and there is a point when it is too late.

Don’t change the station when you hear this song…turn up the volume to what God is telling you, take the action He is calling you to and live forever in His love and life.

Note: The Live Like You are Dying sermons will be provided on the South Macomb Church of Christ website (https://www.southmacombchurchofchrist.org/). Take a listen and follow along in your Bibles…a lot of great material and discussion on what God’s word says about this important topic.

Responsibilities, Expectations, Consequences

 10 For “He who would love life and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips from speaking deceit.  11 Let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it.  12 For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their prayers; but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”  13 And who is he who will harm you if you become followers of what is good? 14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed. “And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.” 15 but sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; 16 having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed. 17 For it is better, if it is the will of God, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.  18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit… (1 Peter 3:10-18).

Our children are little people and just like us big people, they have their own personality, make their own choices, have their own desires, etc.  I say this because sometimes I forget that as much as I want to protect my children, see them not make the same mistakes I did, always go the right way, not hurt…these are not realistic.  Our children, like us, have to make their own way and WILL make their own way.  Our hope is that we will provide them a good example, teach them to keep Jesus close and to pray without ceasing and allow God to work in their lives.

God has always given His people specific guidance in the form of His laws.  It is His will for us.

The Israelites had the Law of Moses and their obedience to the laws of Moses set them apart and their obedience would point them and others to Jehovah. (Deuteronomy 4:1-8).

As Christians, we have the Law of Christ and our obedience sets us apart and will point us and others to Jehovah.  (1 Peter 1:13-25).

In teaching our children God’s Law…that found both in the Old and the New Covenant, we provide them the opportunity to understand what is expected of them, their responsibility and the reward for their obedience and/or the consequences of their rebellion.  We cannot make them choose obedience and as much as I would like to duct tape my children to their bed or hide them in a bubble, that is not how our Father raises us and is not how we will raise our children.  Our Abba Father wants us to choose Him and if we abide in His Son…loving Him by keeping His commandments…He will work in our lives…even in the times that hurt.  The same is true for our children and if we believe that and talk to Him about it…we will find comfort, confidence and hope.

God has provided us the roadmap for our lives and the guideposts to ensure we know we are on the right path.  He has taught us our responsibilities, His expectations, and the consequences if we go astray.  Our prayer…God help us to learn your way, believe your word, and model it in our lives and teach your way to our children.  With God in their lives…they have no better Father.

Safely With Her

In yesterday’s post we painted an image of a safe place in Jesus and how hard it is sometimes for us and others to take that last step towards Him and abide in Him and be safe.  In the passage we considered, Jesus taught that it is good to know what is expected, but what matters is what we do with it.  I want to take both of those thoughts and consider this section of scripture in the context of the relationships we have with the women and/or girls in our lives.

 22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. 24 Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.  25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, 26 that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, 27 that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. 28 So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. 30 For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. 31 “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church. 33 Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband. (Ephesians 5:22-33; NKJV).

I know this is a familiar passage to many of us in terms of studying marriage and roles therein.  There is a lot going on in this section of scripture, but I want to focus on a couple thoughts.  First, consider the word “submit”.  This can seem like a harsh term to some.  It is a military term and has to do with rank and file and in my mind, it has to do with order.  Our God is a God of order and in the marriage, He is calling wives to submit to husbands.  This is the order of things and a woman who is endeavoring to be a Godly wife will submit to her husband.  So, this is all her responsibility…right?  No, of course not because husbands are called to love their wives just as Christ loved the church…giving Himself for it…dying for it…willing even to go to the cross.  There is a great responsibility for husbands and that is where submission begins.  In order for our wives to submit to us, we have to first submit to Jesus.  In order for our wives to be safe in a Godly marriage, husbands must first be safe in their relationship with Jesus.  We have to take those last couple steps first.

So we have to KNOW this and then we have to DO this.  We can’t expect our wives to come to us and take those last steps if we have not first done that with our Savior.  We have to submit to Jesus in order to be the husband He has called us to be so that it is safe for our wife to come to us, to submit, to be fully engaged in a Godly home.  It isn’t a “you shall submit” that we command but an attitude and life lived in Jesus that calls her to us and we abide together in Jesus and His love, His power, and His safety.

In doing so, we also demonstrate to our daughters the kind of man we would want them to look for, a man who loves Jesus more than he loves them.  Many husbands love their wives and it is beautiful.  But how much more beautiful is a husband who first loves Jesus and because of that love truly loves his wife.  And how much more beautiful is a wife who loves her husband because he first loved Jesus.  This is a safe place.  This is what Jesus wants us to know and to do.  When we live in this safety, we can then call our wives and our daughters to us and they will see Jesus in us and come because they first loved Him.

There are a lot of times I am barking at the door “get in here” when I should be silent and stand with Jesus.  Opening the door of my heart to Him who will make room for my wife and for my daughter.  I pray that God will take down the barriers I put up so that I can nestle into the loving arms of Jesus and abide in Him.  I pray my wife and daughter see Jesus in my life and find safety in that.  Jesus will take care of the rest and what a beautiful thing when my wife and my daughter are there with me because we love Jesus and He loves us.

Only Steps Away

28 Then one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, perceiving that He had answered them well, asked Him, “Which is the first commandment of all?” 29 Jesus answered him, “The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. 31 And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” 32 So the scribe said to Him, “Well said, Teacher. You have spoken the truth, for there is one God, and there is no other but He. 33 And to love Him with all the heart, with all the understanding, with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is more than all the whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.”  34 Now when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, He said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” (Mark 12:  28-34; NKJV)

Today the sermon at South Macomb was a continuation of our working through the four gospels and focused on lessons in Mark 11 and 12.  There were many points to be made but I wanted to focus on a section found in chapter 12.  I encourage you to read the chapter as I am not going to lay down much background but want to focus on this encounter between Jesus and the scribe.  I want to attempt to paint a picture in your mind that was given today and then keep that image in our mind as we work through this week.

The image I want to paint is of a safe place, a dangerous place, and someone caught in the middle.  You might have your own version of this, but I am going to offer one of my own.  Imagine you are in a building and a battle rages outside with gunfire and explosions all around.  There is a group who is safe in their reinforced concrete bunker, with no windows and made to survive the kind of chaos and destruction going on.  They are safe, but someone cracks the door to see what is going on and notices a young man running down the street…unarmed, confused, scared, looking for shelter…to be safe and live.  The one looking out also notices he is wearing the wrong uniform…the uniform of the enemy.  Even more, the one looking is wearing the wrong uniform in the eyes of the man outside…the clothes of his enemy.  But the one inside calls out to him anyways…beckons him to come and be safe.  He hears the call and he sees the caller and even starts making his way to the door.  He is hesitant and unsure what to do as he gets closer.  What if it is a trap?  Even though the bunker gets him out of the gun battle going on outside and everything he has been taught about fighting tells him this is a secure place…how does he know what is inside is safer than outside?  Still the call goes out to him, encourages him, tells him it will be safe.  Others from inside gather with the one and join and shout this same message of safety…of friendship…of hope.  He comes closer and it is clear he really wants to live and wants to be safe and wants to believe that he can be inside the bunker.  He is right there…just a couple more steps and he will be in and safe and can live.  Everyone calls to him but he stops…he looks at them…they want to grab him but the bullets are flying and they can’t quite reach him…if only he would take one more step…but he stops.  Now he is out in the open and all the danger of the situation is upon him though he is only a step or two from safety…he is unsure, and he hesitates.  Surely he was about to come those two steps…they sure want him to…but a bullet hits its mark and he is gone.  It is too late…he was so close to safety…the caller was there to save him…they had a place for him to be safe…they called out to him…they wanted him with them…but his hesitation…his lack of faith in the caller’s intentions, their actions, and the offer left him just a couple steps too far from being saved.

I know you get the point.  So let me just end today with this.  I want us to look at these kinds of situations from three perspectives this week.  Jesus is the one calling out.  We are the ones who join with hHim to encourage.  Those in the world or those of our brethren who are astray are the man in harms way.  You saw that coming right?  But don’t stop there.  Take another look.  Jesus is still calling out, our brethren are still joining in the call, but are we the man in harms way?  That could be a likely scenario…right?  Could it be that it depends in any given situation or stage of our lives or the lives of others?  Read chapter 12.  Paint this image in your head.  Meditate and pray about what we can do about those 2 last steps…whether we are in harms way or with Jesus calling others to safety.  Take some time and work that over in your head and heart and let’s see what we can learn and apply this week.  I love you all…and thankfully Jesus loves us more.

Don’t Be Afraid to Share

1 Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. 2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. 3 For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. 4 But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. 5 For each one shall bear his own load. (Galatians 6:1-5; NKJV)

13 Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. 16 Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.  (James 5:13-16; NKJV)

These two passages came to mind as I thought about fear and how it affects our ability to come to one another with our burdens and with our sins.  I was thinking about how hard Satan works to convince us we are supposed to be perfect and how often we fall into that snare.  Our Heavenly Father, however, through His inspired and eternally true word tells us that we have all sinned and fallen short.  He tells us that it is this very thing that He purposed to remedy through sending His Son so that He could offer Himself as payment for our sins.  God does not expect us to be perfect…so if we are feeling like that we are called to perfection then we need to turn to Satan and tell him to get lost.

Because if we think we have to be perfect, then we are going to be afraid to go to the very people who we need the most in this world with our imperfection…our brothers and sisters in Christ.  Have you been afraid to confess your sins to a brother because you were certain they couldn’t possibly forgive you or somehow your relationship with them would be forever changed?  I have.  And how unfair is that to my brother…because if I am afraid to be honest, open and vulnerable with him…how hard is going to be for him to do the same with me or am I causing him to question his worthiness as a brother.  There are a lot of scenarios that could play you but the bottom line is that the one scenario that should play out is very clearly described above.  God’s word says go to your brother.  God says bear another’s burden.  God says pray!  God assures us that we will be forgive, healed, and that the fervent prayers of a righteous man avails much.

We so very much need each other, and we cannot be afraid to share the hard stuff.  There are no secrets.  God sees it all.  He wants us to share it not so that we can be open with Him but with one another.  That we can be encouraged when we are down and when we are the encourager we can know there will be someone for us when we find ourselves in need of a brother to lean on.

I believe Satan works to confuse us with what is expected and drives a wedge between us.  A lot of time he uses fear as that tool.  Don’t be afraid.  Trust God…He will be with you when you trust a brother and share.

Don’t be Afraid to Forgive Your Kids

Did you ask God yesterday or today to forgive you for something you knew you shouldn’t have done or have been admonished for doing in the past?  Did you really mean it?  Were your really sorry for what you did and committed to not doing it again?  I know I did.  I know we all find ourselves before our loving, merciful, longsuffering Father knowing we have violated His rules, hurt Him, or strayed from the straight path He has laid out for us.  So what?  Why start here?

I start here because I am not providing this same blessing to my children.  There are probably a lot of reasons for that but as we have been talking about…a lot of times my own insecurity or fear of the trajectory of my kids’ life is taking when considering their actions or decisions.  I want them to be safe…first and foremost spiritually and when I see them going or catch them in the far country, I am guilty of going straight to angry and sometimes that takes away any opportunity for them to say “I’m sorry” or ask for my help.  Certainly, I am expected to discipline my children, but I am not talking about constructively leading my children.  I am talking about being for them what I find in my Abba Father and Elder Brother…graceful, merciful, longsuffering, forgiving, loving, providing security, help…all of the tremendous blessings I have in Jesus.

So that is the thought for today.  How can we better forgive our children so that we can be a positive part of the solution?  Again, we should all endeavor to get ahead of trouble and teach our children to avoid it…but when they don’t…can we forgive them, love them, and take them by the hand as they stand up and get themselves back on the path they should be on?

Jesus demonstrated it.   (I Pet. 2:21; Phil. 2:3-5; Luke 23:34).  Jesus gave us the example.  Our Father forgives us daily.  We have our examples and they are worth following for our own sake and the sake of our children.

We have been forgiven. God, in Christ, has forgiven the sins of the Christian (Eph. 4:32). As Christ has forgiven us, then we should forgive others (Col. 3:13) and our kids need it so that they can feel safe and we might find opportunity to teach them and model a forgiving heart.

We must pattern our forgiveness after the forgiveness God has granted to us. It must be accompanied by actions which befit true forgiveness.  Forgiveness involves a kind attitude—abandoning all animosity and hatred. All bitterness, anger, wrath, clamor and evil speaking should be put away (Eph. 4:31). We can’t hold grudges.  We are the adult.  We have to act it.

We are going to have to forget.  Of course, we are not able to just erase it from our mind, but we can avoid holding our children accountable to something if they have come to use for forgiveness and with a true heart toward not doing it again.  Our forgiveness granted should be the end of the matter and we should assume the best of our kids to do their best moving forward.  God is for us.   He is for them.  We are in this together with our kids and I know forgiving isn’t always the first thing I think to do but when I can get that right I see a softened heart looking for my leadership and that is an awesome opportunity.

Like you, I have spent my children’s entire lives protecting them and providing them every advantage.  In the end, the best advantage they have is a life lived with Jesus.  That is our best advantage and if we are freed up in that security we can stand to forgive and love…just like our Abba Father forgives and loves us.