The point I am considering today and invite you to consider is that of contentment and joyful living and how that makes a huge difference in the lives of those we come in contact with each day.
One of the Shepherds at South Macomb Church of Christ once said to me… “God didn’t promise a smooth flight…He promised a safe landing.” The comment was made in reference to fact this world is tough, our lives will be tough, difficult circumstances will present themselves…BUT…if we cling to our God and Father through our Elder Brother and Savior Jesus Christ…we will one day make it home to be with God forever. That home has no tears, no fears, no sin, no death, no confusion and the list goes on. It is a perfect rest in the place God always intended for us to be…in His presence, in His family, forever.
Though we are not home yet…God is all around us! His glory and power are screaming at us…but we don’t always see it because of all the noise and confusion and suffering in the world. But He is there and if we look, and we consider Him and His promises…how can we not be filled with joy and peace? And if we are filled with this how can we not love and live in such a way that is different and makes those around us take notice? And how powerful is that opportunity when someone asks “How can you be so at peace or so joyful or so loving and so hopeful in a time or place like this?”? That is when the power and love of God that fills us pours out and makes a difference in the world.
Fill yourself up with Him to the point it overflows and others will notice and opportunity will arise for the Gospel. We sow the seed…the increase belongs to God. Go about your day singing and you will be different and you will have opportunity for Christ and in that God will be glorified.
I love you all and appreciate the work you do for the sake of Christ in your homes, in the Church, in the workplace and throughout your everyday experiences. May a song of Jesus fill your heart today and the spill over into the lives of others.
4 And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.
This verse comes on the heels of Paul’s teaching to children to obey their parents in everything. The standard is clearly set for children in our homes just as the standard is clearly set for each of in the family of God…obey! Guess what…just like us…our children don’t always get it right and disobey and sin. The result…grief. With this in mind, what is Paul teaching us fathers?
Notice first that “fathers” are directed in this command. Paul knows how to say parents because he did so in verse 1. Why are fathers singled out? Ephesians 5:23 tells us that husbands are declared by God to be the head of the family and therefore responsible and accountable for what happens in the family. Fathers are to have an active role in the family, particularly in raising the children. Additionally, fathers are going to be challenged to not act in anger toward the children. There is a reason God says this to the men. The intention seems clear that this is an issuethat we must be aware of. Fathers are going to have the temptation to provoke the children to anger.
Children test our patience, our will, and our authority as fathers. They grieve us, however, the command rules out excessively severe discipline/consequences, unreasonably harsh demands, abuse of authority, being unfair, nagging, being humiliating, etc. Children are persons in their own right and are not be manipulated, exploited, or crushed. Our Father is loving, graceful, merciful and long suffering…we must be the same with our children. With that said, this does not mean we allow our children to run the household. Children are not the head of the family.
The answer to the challenge of parenting…to fathering…is not to let the children do what they want. Verse 4 tells us fathers to raise our children and to not provoke them…both are required. So how might we do this? We might start with saying “no” with a reason. It is easy to just say “no”. But think about the frustration, confusion, and disappointment our child might experience if we do not explain the reason or make the “no” inconsistent with how we live. This is especially important with our children who are old enough to reason with and to make every effort with each “teachable” moment. Our Father teaches us with “no” and His consistent and Holy will gives us confidence “no” is right and best.
Please don’t misunderstand me…there are times as Godly fathers when our rule or word must simply be enforced. What I emphasizing here is we cannot let our attitude always be “my way or the highway”. The word “discipline” speaks to the activity of the education. Some translations rightly read, “training.” This is active and it is a partnership with our children. “Our way or the highway” all the time is not “parenting” or “teaching” or “leading”…that is simply “bossing”…and our God does not love us or raise us that way.
I know we all want our children to safe and in the loving care of our Heavenly Father because that is what they choose to be. I know we want our children to have the life skills to be independent of us when they leave our home. Fathers, we have a job to raise our children so that when they turn 18 they can live life independent of us but are especially dependent on our Heavenly Father! We must show them that we desire God and find our joy in God. What we are doing is not an activity as if God is something to do. We desire these things because this is the whole life and joy.
(NOTE: These thoughts were amplified by a sermon by Brent Kercheville from West Palm Beach CoC; 2014.)
In the fifteenth year of Amaziah the son of Joash, king of Judah, Jeroboam the son of Joash, king of Israel, began to reign in Samaria, and he reigned forty-one years. And he did what was evil in the sight of the LORD. He did not depart from all the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, which he made Israel to sin. He restored the border of Israel from Lebo-hamath as far as the Sea of the Arabah, according to the word of the LORD, the God of Israel, which he spoke by his servant Jonah the son of Amittai, the prophet, who was from Gath-hepher. For the LORD saw that the affliction of Israel was very bitter, for there was none left, bond or free, and there was none to help Israel. But the LORD had not said that he would blot out the name of Israel from under heaven, so he saved them by the hand of Jeroboam the son of Joash. Now the rest of the acts of Jeroboam and all that he did, and his might, how he fought, and how he restored Damascus and Hamath to Judah in Israel, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel?
(2 Kings 14:23-28)
My Veggie Tales memories are coming back…”Jonah was a prophet…ooh, ooh! But he never really got it, sad but true. And if you watch it you can spot it, a doodley do, he did not get the point!”
Jonah was a prophet of God during a really great time for Israel. And what I mean by that is that Israel as a nation (not spiritually) was on the rebound. They were getting stronger and more prosperous. Possessions and lands that they once owned were now being restored. We can see in the above text that borders and cities were restored.
So then, what was the spiritual condition of the country? Wicked. Every king of the northern kingdom of Israel from the first King Jeroboam to the destruction by Assyria (931-722 BC) was evil. Jeroboam II (not a son of the first Jeroboam) was no different. The Bible says here in 2 Kings 14 that he was wicked just like all the other kings, and Israel followed right along with him in these sins.
Where is God in all of this? How did God see Israel? With what kind of heart did God watch over Israel? Again, in the text we see that God saw that Israel had no “helper.” The merciful God saw that Israel’s affliction was “bitter.” “He saved them” by the hand of the wicked King Jeroboam II.
Which prophet is right there by God and the king’s side through all of this? Who willingly prophesies to the king and is part of this great national restoration? Jonah.
Can you put yourself in the sandals of Jonah during this time of restoration and hope for Israel, and now God calls you to go to your sworn enemies, the Assyrians? God wants you to preach to those wicked and violent people? They want to destroy you! Nineveh, according to a later prophet, Nahum, was a “bloody city.” Why would God call you to preach to the very enemies that seek to destroy what God has been working to rebuild?
Because God is merciful. Jonah saw this clearly with God’s interaction here in 2 Kings 14 toward Israel. This is precisely why Jonah did not want to go to preach to Nineveh. He knew God’s heart of mercy and compassion.
Look at what Jonah said after he finally preached to the people and king in Nineveh and they repented of their sins.
But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry. And he prayed to the LORD and said, “O LORD, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster. Therefore now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.” And the LORD said, “Do you do well to be angry?” (Jonah 4:1-4).
Even after Nineveh repented, Jonah sat outside the city expectantly waiting in self-righteous hope borne out of his religious bigotry that God would still wipe out the city and destroy the Assyrians (Jonah 4:5).
Did you see how Jonah said “when I was in my country?” First of all he was wrong, it was God’s country. Secondly, it displays the heart that is not outward focused and concerned with every soul wherever that soul may be.
I’m not sure if the Veggie Tales song about Jonah is right that Jonah “never really got it.” We don’t know. The book ends with God speaking, as it should. Whether Jonah finally understood what God was trying to teach is between God and Jonah.
The question is, do I get it? Do you get it?
Will we be like Jonah, knowing of the grace, compassion and mercy of God and still try to flee to the farthest place possible to avoid teaching those God has called us to teach?
Will we be so filled with nationalistic pride that we fail to see that God is not an American?
Will I willingly go and preach where God calls me to preach only if I agree that these people are worthy of God’s (and my) acceptance?
Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith. (Galatians 6:10; NKJV)
We are empowered to be a change agent for good in all of our relationships. We stand firm on the love, grace, mercy, forgiveness, and hope of our Heavenly Father through His Son Jesus Christ. We have a peace that surpasses all understanding in the tranquility of right relationship with the Great I Am. We are free to love others how He has loved us and God will be at work.
The great spiritual battle rages on around us and I pray we will become stronger in it rather than bitter or beaten down. We will be hurt and tired for sure. We will are all at risk of becoming defeated or bitter even when we feel like our hearts and spirit are at their strongest. Yet we have a choice to not allow the devil even an inch, put on the whole armor of God, and allow the love of God to prevail in our choices.
We focus on the steadfastness of the Lord and not the fickle or hurtful people in our lives.
We choose to see His smiling face rather than the downtrodden or frowning faces we encounter.
We concentrate on the majesty of our God and not the messes we find ourselves or those we care about sinking in.
We love people from a position of strength in our loving, abiding relationship with the Lord.
We are the first to forgive and we forgive often and we sow mercy and grace.
We work to find common ground with those in conflict, reminding ourselves of the relationship we have or desire in Christ…that God wants us all in the Book of Life.
We die to ourselves (Galatians 2:20) and in doing so we die to other people’s criticism AND praise and focus only on the glory of God and its revelation in our relationships in love.
No matter the situation, we cannot sow evil and produce good, sow discord and produce unity, sow lies and produce truth, sow sin and produce holiness. Those around us might not understand this and have no interest in seeing it. But if we do good…if we sow repentance, compassion, love…we can trust that the increase belongs to the Lord (1 Cor 3:7) and He is working.
Remember the Golden Rule.
“…whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them…” (Matthew 7:12; NKJV)
Look for the Golden Result. People might just surprise you and return to you what you have given to them. Do good, be different, be a light, be the reason people ask “why do you behave that way”, be ready to tell them your story about Jesus, and trust God!
An old man, going a lone highway, Came at the evening, cold and gray, To chasm, vast and deep and wide, Through which was flowing a sullen tide. The old man crossed in the twilight dim; The sullen stream had no fears for him; But he turned when safe on the other side, And built a bridge to span the tide.
“Old man,” said a fellow pilgrim near, “You are wasting strength with building here; Your journey will end with the ending day; You never again must pass this way; You have crossed the chasm, deep and wide — Why build you the bridge at the eventide?” The builder lifted his old gray head: “Good friend, in the path I have come,” he said, “There followeth after me today, A youth whose feet must pass this way. This chasm that has been naught to me To that fair-haired youth may a pit-fall be, He, too, must cross in the twilight dim; Good friend, I am building the bridge for him.” —Will Allen Dromgoole
I came across this poem during one of my Air Force leadership classes and have kept it and shared with others when the opportunity presented itself. It resonated with me for all kinds of different reasons but today I wanted to share as we think about Choices and Consequences.
In thinking about my children as I write this, there are two things that come to mind in terms of raising them and the choices/consequences in their lives. First, I have always desired that my kids would not have to face the same heartaches and tough patches that I did due to bad decisions or improper focus. Secondly, I am sometimes frustrated, disappointed, and discouraged with the decisions my kids make and the reasoning they offer me when I ask them “why would you do that” or “what were you thinking?
Disappointed or not, what I know to be true in this is that my kids have to live their own life and make their own path. This is a hard thing to accept at times, especially when my kids stand on the brink of disaster or destruction…and I am not being melodramatic here…they don’t know how close they are sometimes to tragedy or how hurtful they are being.
In times like this, I look to my Heavenly Father and I have to believe He feels the same way about me most every day. Knowing that and what He has done and is doing for me puts my mind right for my kids. Though He is the Great I Am and is in need of nothing…He took the time to build a bridge of reconciliation with Him in Jesus. Further, He continues to work in my life to build bridges over perilous chasms in my life and most importantly…no matter how off track I get, the most important Bridge…the one that leads me home…Jesus…is always there. He is my Rock and I have Him because my Heavenly Father gave Him for me and closed the gap of sin because He knew I was going to have to pass that way and I would not get across on my own.
So…for my kids…for you kids, we can’t control their choices and might have to let them live through some pretty tough circumstances when they choose poorly. That doesn’t mean we stop parenting, stop demonstrating Jesus, stop teaching them the truth, stop loving them, or stop believing God is at work. Those are all bridges we need to continue to build…even if we don’t think we have the time or there might not seem a good reason to do so. If we do that, if we choose to build those bridges, then when most needed our kids will have a safe passage they might not otherwise have and if we do our jobs right…they will always have a way back home to us…and most importantly they will recognize their way back home to their Heavenly Father.
Let’s continue our discussion from yesterday regarding “choices” and “consequences”. We are in control of our choices and we understand that our actions (based on those choices) have consequences. Wrong actions have negative consequences and right actions have positive consequences. This is biblical pattern and the foundation of the discussion in Galatians 6:6-10.
I have to sow to reap.
“The lazy man will not plow because of winter; He will beg during harvest and have nothing.” (Proverbs 20:4; NKJV); Matt 25
I will reap the same kind as I sowed.
“He who sows iniquity will reap sorrow, and the rod of his anger will fail.” (Proverbs 22:8; NKJV); Job 4:8
I will reap more than I sow.
“They sow the wind, and reap the whirlwind.” (Hosea 8:7; NKJV); Mark 10:29-30
I will reap in proportion to what I sow.
“Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.” (Luke 6:38; NKJV); 2 Corinthians 9:6
I will reap in a different season than when I sow.
“Be patient…the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain.” (James 5:7; NKJV); Matt 5:12
These principles are simple and easy to understand and we know that we are to sow Godly choices, thoughts, and behaviors in order to reap everlasting life. If we sow to the flesh, we will reap corruption and a whole lot of trouble. This is where it can become difficult…in the application.
We are all living a lifetime of mistakes and so we don’t always sow what we should and find ourselves in trouble. This could be a momentary lapse in judgement or a prolonged choice to seek after pleasures, activities, or interests that are contrary to what God has called us to. Application of this principle is where the rubber meets the road and we don’t always get it right.
This becomes even more complex if we consider the fact we are not living in a bubble and we live each day in the context of our relationships. It is bad enough we hurt ourselves with our bad choices and negative consequences, but we also are in danger of hurting those closest to us. Further, even if we are right where we are supposed to be and making good choices; it might be that those who we have the most interaction with or care about the most are making (or have made) bad choices and their consequences/circumstances impact our lives negatively.
What if someone sows anger into their life and our relationship…do we get to be angry back? What if someone sows judgment, do we get to withhold mercy? No, we don’t. And I am not talking about tolerating sinful behavior, we cannot do that. What I am talking about is not allowing the consequences of that behavior to change how we see our God, His blessings, His peace, or the freedom He provides to love like He loves. If we hold firm and stay close to Him, we will have the reassurance, love, joy, etc. we need regardless of how the consequences of others impacts us. Further, if we are able to reflect the fruit of the Spirit, even if someone is full of the fruit of the flesh, we are right where God wants to us to be in order to be an influence for good. It doesn’t always feel good and it isn’t always easy, but if we are sowing love…we will reap love either today or in eternity. We control our choices…not the choices of others or the consequences associated with those choices. Choose God.
God has chosen us and He has given us a leadership role to fill at home and in the relationships we share with the women in our lives. Some of us might be the only Godly man some women know and we certainly are the most important to our wives, daughters, and sisters in Christ. He chose us, He has chosen to redeem us and He has left us here so that we will be blessing to those in our lives. He is working and He will work for us and with us for the benefit of everyone…He doesn’t want anyone to end up anywhere other than at home with Him.
Stephen Covey, in The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, introduces the concept of Circle of Concern and Circle of Influence. The Circle of Concern is the area that we have no control over. For this discussion, I adapted this concept and changed “Influence” to “Consequences” and “Concern” to “Choice”.
Throughout the Bible we see the concept of the “Law of the Harvest” or the “Law of Sowing and Reaping”. The idea is that in order for us to receive a return we must first take action and put in the work. To build upon this further, we “choose” to work and have control over this aspect of the equation. The “consequence” of those choices is a result and therefore not something we directly control and/or avoid past the choices we make.
The apostle Paul wrote, “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap” (Gal. 6:7). This is a cause and effect relationship…there is a reaction to every action…we are free to choose but slave to the consequence. So what? How does it fit with God’s grace, mercy, forgiveness, love, and hope? In what ways will it impact how we live and our relationships with those in our lives?
We should not be of the mind that because God has forgiven us (or others) that all of the negative consequences of our (or others) sins will be washed away. That isn’t how it works. Conversely, if we have negative things happen in our lives, we shouldn’t think that God really hasn’t forgiven us or that He doesn’t really love us because we are suffering.
Forgiveness and consequences are not opposite ends of a spectrum. Together, they establish an essential part of the Lord’s plan for believers. Forgiveness is relational. The Father sent Jesus to make a sacrifice on our behalf, and by so doing reconciled us to Himself. By His mercy alone, we can have communion with the Lord. On the other hand, consequences are circumstantial. Consider an illustration of this from the cross itself. Christ made it clear that the thief dying with him was completely forgiven (Luke 23:39-43). Yet moments later, the man died an excruciating death. The thief’s sins had been erased in God’s sight because he chose to believe in Jesus, but he suffered the punishment for his crime…the consequence of his previous bad choices.
Consequences from sin are not an indication that a person isn’t saved or that God is angry with the individual. The Lord frequently allows some painful situations to continue so He can teach lessons we would otherwise never learn. Very few things motivate us to give Him our undivided attention like being faced with the cost of our wrong choices. When we draw near to the Lord, He reveals how to respond correctly to painful circumstances. Unprecedented spiritual growth will often result.
We all have scars. Their purpose is not to cause us grief as a daily reminder of our sin, but rather to remind us of how gracious and merciful the Lord is. He loves us and chooses to work though us despite our past mistakes and wrong choices. Further, as we bear scars from past sins we often become the most effective at leading unbelievers to know Jesus as their Savior.
Our attitude toward negative consequences affects how we relate to our heavenly Father and to others. A negative approach could lead us to become bitter, whereas a positive attitude could bring us to a point of understanding and gratitude for the daily reminders of divine mercy…and how we can have grace with those in our lives. We can view our scars as monuments to God’s grace, or as ongoing punishment. I encourage you to see them as proof of your spiritual healing and if you do, you will change even when circumstances stay the same.
Rest assured, sinful choices have consequences, if not in this life, then in the next. We are blessed, though, because the principle of reaping and sowing works in a positive way as well: “The one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life” (Gal. 6:8). We can sow good seeds that will turn negative situations into positive ones.
Don’t spend the bulk of your time trying to convince God to remove painful consequences. Try praising Him instead. Receive His blessings, be at peace, sow love, and allow that to change your life and the lives of those you love.
NOTE: Some thoughts taken directly from "Charles Stanley's Handbook for Christian Living" (1996).
People were sitting quietly. Some reading newspapers, some lost in thought, some resting with their eyes closed. It was a calm, peaceful scene. Then suddenly, a man and his children entered the subway car. The children were so loud and rambunctious that instantly the whole climate changed. The man sat down next to me and closed his eyes, apparently oblivious to the situation. The children were yelling back and forth, throwing things, even grabbing people’s papers. It was very disturbing. And yet, the man sitting next to me did nothing.
“It was difficult not to feel irritated. I could not believe that he could be so insensitive as to let his children run wild like that and do nothing about it, taking no responsibility at all. It was easy to see that everyone else on the subway felt irritated, too. So finally, with what I felt was unusual patience and restraint, I turned to him and said, ‘Sir, your children are really disturbing a lot of people. I wonder if you couldn’t control them a little more?’”
“The man lifted his gaze as if to come to a consciousness of the situation for the first time and said softly, ‘Oh, you’re right. I guess I should do something about it. We just came from the hospital where their mother died about an hour ago. I don’t know what to think, and I guess they don’t know how to handle it either.’
Can you imagine what I felt at that moment? My paradigm (heart) shifted. Suddenly I saw things differently, and because I saw differently, I thought differently, I felt differently, I behaved differently. My irritation vanished. I didn’t have to worry about controlling my attitude or my behavior; my heart was filled with the man’s pain. Feelings of sympathy and compassion flowed freely. ‘You’re wife just died? Oh, I’m so sorry! Can you tell me about it? What can I do to help?’ Everything changed in an instant.” (Stephen Covey)
Now consider the Holy Spirit’s words in (Galatians 6:1-5).
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. 2Bear 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.
What did you think of in this exercise? What comes to my mind is the importance of knowing and participating in the lives of those I love…especially the brethren. If I know them and participate in their lives, I will understand better their circumstances. If I better understand their circumstances, I will have more patience with what I might be observing in their lives and seek out opportunities to help rather than chastise or be annoyed. If I seek out opportunities to help, those I love will be lifted up and God will be gloried and the law of Christ is fulfilled…and His law is love.
We all have spiritual and physical burdens to carry but God has given us one another to be a helper to each other and sometimes that “one thing” we carry for another is just enough. Meditate on this today. Pray God would turn your eyes and heart to other’s lives. Have the courage to love them.
I have made the point in recent discussions that the relationships we have and how we conduct ourselves in them provides a tremendous opportunity to live out and demonstrate the power of the Gospel. God has blessed us with grace, mercy, love, forgiveness, and hope. This produces a peace within…a serenity and tranquility based on a right relationship with God. From this position, we are free to truly love others and work to build them up spiritually and emotionally.
Loving others, however, isn’t always easy. Love is an action word. Love is a choice. Love requires us to humble ourselves and elevate others to a higher position of importance in our lives. That is what Jesus did. Jesus humbled Himself in becoming a man. Jesus humbled Himself in accepting the punishment due us and going to the cross to die for our sins. Jesus is the example and demonstration of all God’s blessings and personification of peace in the face of a tremendous adversity, pain and suffering. We look to Jesus’ teaching to see how it is we can and should love others in such a way that not only will we be a blessing to them but we will surely shine forth God’s glory and help others find their way to salvation, peace, and hope…now and in eternity.
Consider Jesus’ teachings in Luke 6:27-31.
27 “But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you. 29 To him who strikes you on the one cheek, offer the other also. And from him who takes away your cloak, do not withhold your tunic either. 30 Give to everyone who asks of you. And from him who takes away your goods do not ask them back. 31 And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise.
Previously (vs. 20-23) Jesus teaches about the mindset we are to have in The Beatitudes. In a word…humility. This provides us with the foundation to then love those who are our enemies. An enemy is simply one who is opposing another. We often think of enemies as those who are outside our circle but many times they are those in our families, congregations, friends, etc. Anyone who is standing in opposition to you and your life in Jesus is an enemy and they will hurt you. So what do we do?
Jesus says our actions should be to love our enemy, do go good to those who hate us, bless those who curse us, and pray for those who mistreat us. Further, Jesus provides how we should react. If someone hits our cheek, we offer the other. If they take our coat, give them our shirt too. If they ask (even if they are hurting us)…give! If someone takes something of ours, don’t look to get it back. These take on different forms in our relationships but the principles are the same.
What this all adds up to is exactly how God loves us. We were/are His enemy when we sin and yet He took the initiative and He loved us even when we didn’t deserve it. And what a difference that has made. For those who hear and obey the call of the gospel, they are saved and redeemed and back in fellowship with the Living God. This model and example is how we are to live with those in our lives. Treat them like we have been treated by God. Do that and you will surely look different, people will notice, they will ask why and God is glorified.
A favorite parable of Jesus for me can be found in Luke 15:11-32 telling the story of the lost son or what is often referred to as the prodigal son. There are many lessons to be learned in the parable but for today’s discussion lets focus on the teaching of God’s grace, mercy, love, forgiveness and restoration of hope for His children and the application as we work to better love and lead our children.
I have long thought about this parable and what has always struck me is how awesome it was to see the father running from the porch and going out to greet his returning son. His son had taken his inheritance, moved out of the house, gone to a faraway place and blown all that his father had given him on a lifestyle I am sure did not make his dad proud or happy. I imagine it was known to the father just how bad his son was behaving and I am sure it grieved him tremendously. There are a lot of emotions that might apply…anger, pain, embarrassment, regret, fear…I am sure there were some long nights for this dad. This dad could have just got bitter and wrote his son off…that would have been an understandable ending to this story (just consider the older brother’s position…a lesson for another day). Still, knowing how wicked the son had been and the grief he had caused, the father still gets up as he sees his son returning and runs to welcome him home. What we see are the foundational blessings of God being expressed to this wayward son who wants nothing more than to come home. What a great image and lesson.
As time has passed and my children are getting older, this parable is starting to take on a different shape for me. With teenagers now roaming my home, I have learned that “bigger kids=bigger problems”. Further, as they grow and begin to shape their own lives, we allow them more freedom and there become more times when they are away from us with their friends and you hope and trust they are making good decisions and respecting the boundaries you have taught and modeled in their lives. And guess what, they don’t! They make stupid decisions. They get themselves into situations you know they know are dangerous. The wonders of the teenage brain ceases to amaze me and quite frankly disappointment me.
So what do I do? What does this particular piece of God’s inspired word teach me? It has taught me the tremendous heart of the father in his getting up off the porch to run to his son. However, what I am learning now is that as remarkable as this act is, what is even harder and equally important as a father is to stay on the porch. Our children have to spread their wings and as they do they are not going to make the right choices every time and the older they get the more dangerous wrong choices become. No matter how much we want them to listen to every word we teach them, to trust us (and God) in shaping their hearts and minds, to learn from our mistakes so they don’t have to suffer as we have…no matter how much we want that they are going to have to figure some of it out themselves…and that can really hurt and cause some sleepless nights for dad.
So we sit on the porch. What does that mean? Does that mean we wash our hands of the responsibility for our children? Does it mean we burry the fear and hurt and just write them off with a “they will get what they deserve” or “I told you not to…”? Does it mean that we resign ourselves to a position of abdication and just move on with whatever else is going on in our lives? Of course not.
What we do is remember we operate from a position of strength and draw upon the peace of God. We are confident in that God will not forsake us and He loves our children too. We have a voice in prayer and we take our worries and concerns for our children to Him and we trust He is working. We accept his grace, mercy, love, forgiveness, and hope and let it fill us up so that we are strengthened…both while sitting on the porch and so that we might get up and grab ahold of our children in the biggest bear hug out there when they come home and say “I am sorry”.
Even more, you don’t have to sit on the porch alone. There are brothers in Christ out there who will sit with you. We are a family. We all want each other to go to Heaven. We all, however, are not always going to take the easiest route. This is especially true of our children but our God is faithful and He will fight for them too…praise Him in that, be thankful, holdfast dad.