There’s a sect of folks in Christianity that believe in what is called “generational sin”. In this view, God visits the sins of parents on their children without the child having committed such sin. An example of this would be if God were to punish a child for the child’s father’s embezzlement. Let me say this is categorically untrue and is unsupported in ALL of Scripture! Those who support this tend to pick and choose a few verses, and then they spin off into semi-logical diatribes that do not connect with the whole of Scripture.
Hence, this post is NOT about such “generational sin.” Rather, it is about the fact that we, as parents, have a tendency to pass on our own weaknesses and tendencies to our children. This may be some pet-peeve around how we say wash versus warsh, or maybe it’s the strang habit of always sipping/tasting a drink before we consume it. And yet, this can extend to less ancillary habits, such as a tendency to be a workaholic or a predilection for sexual sin. And these latter examples are the main thrust of this posts caution.
How many of us could make that same statement? To put it another way, “follow me, and I will show you Jesus.” I don’t know about you, dear Reader, but for me, that statement would make me shudder. I don’t think I reflect Jesus well enough to be so confident. And yet, the Apostle Paul knew his sinful state, and yet, he could make that claim. Why? Because the man knew our Lord!
The real question is not, “do I completely and accurately reflect Jesus enough…” but “am I keeping my eyes on Jesus enough…”. It’s never about me! It is all about Jesus. If I am keeping my eyes on Him and seeking TO reflect Him, then I can say, “follow me, and I will show you Jesus” because I am no longer thinking about how I measure up but how He is faithful!
Before I go further, I should inject a caveat here that the above verse is pulled away from it’s context. Anytime someone pulls a verse away from it’s context, there is the danger of contorting it to fit some preconceived notion; as the old adage goes, “text without context is pretext.” I’ll leave that to you to look up the words and understand the meaning, but in this case, Paul’s discussion is one of putting right living in context, that living rightly is not about doing so for righteousness sake, but that we are to live rightly in reflection of Jesus, looking out for those who are weaker and need more strict adherence to rules, so that we do not cause people to stumble in their walk with God. Hence, I believe the context of this Scripture speaks to what I’m expounding, even though not directly.
So, what am I saying? It boils down to this: as parents, we should be seeking Jesus so intently, our eyes fixed so directly on Jesus that our children reflect Jesus! Additionally, where we stumble and fail to keep our eyes so fixed, our children will likely stumble and fall, as well. And yet, this isn’t meant to disparage but to encourage!
We (in the US, at least) live in a culture that is heavily anti-God. With it’s support of blatant sin, rationalization of greed, justification for corruption, and increased pornofication of entertainment, it is clear that American culture has shifted from honoring God, into distancing itself from God, to downright turning against God. As such, our children face a greater challenge in coming-to, seeking, and following Jesus in this present day. While it has always been a challenge, our “modern” culture, in the US, has made it even more difficult to follow Him and has increased the temptations away from Him!
As such, it is incumbent upon us to pursue Him even more fervently than our parents may (or may not) have done! When temptation rears it’s ugly head, it is not just about what sin may do to us! It now becomes what it may do to us and do to our children! What example will this set? How will my children overcome this, if I do not?
“But my sin is private! My kids never see it! That can’t affect them!”
This idea was started in the 90s, and I’ve watched it destroy many men and women of God. Here’s the unvarnished truth: It will ALWAYS affect them! They may not find your playboys, but they’ll pick up on how you view women. They may not notice your boyfriend leaving in the early hours, but they recognize there’s a lingering fragrance that wasn’t there last night, or maybe that there’s something different about you. They may not smell the alcohol, see the theft, or realize the depth of lies that were spoken, but one day, the pieces will connect in their brain, and they will begin repeating the pattern.
Now, this is not a promise. Maybe you are the exception to this rule; perhaps, you have the child that blazes his/her own trail and is unaffected by your sin. Maybe! But honestly, do you really think it’s loving toward them to bank on that? Is it truly loving to hope they turn out different than you, when you know you could do something to ensure they have a better chance?
Let me put it a different way. Let’s say that you knew your kid would grow up healthy, strong, and mentally fit if you chose to forego dinner. Assuming you were a healthy adult and all that meant was a little hunger every evening, wouldn’t you choose that evening hunger for the sake of your child? If you wouldn’t, then I beg you to lay yourself before the cross and repent of selfishness. But assuming you would, then why would you not deny temptation and pursue Christ for the sake of your child?
As a single parent, I understand the challenge I’m laying before you. To put it simply, I enjoyed being married! And I abhor being single! Even so and despite the failures I’ve had, I desire to pursue Jesus with everything I have, for the sake of my children. This is not to say that I pursue Jesus just because of my children! God forbid it! Yet, when I am in the depths of whatever ache, as my flesh yearns for some sinful desire (or a godly desire to be fulfilled by sinful means), one of my handholds is the reality that I don’t want to be a reason my children stumble. Furthermore, when my children are tempted as I have been, I want to be able to encourage them that I, too, have been tempted and, by Jesus’ strength, prevailed!
Consequently, I do not find cause to believe in generational sin, but I do find cause to believe that parents set examples for their children! And as such, I encourage myself, and my fellow Believers who are parents, to step up, once-more, and hold to Jesus through whatever temptations for the cause of Christ and for your families! He is faithful, and the more we conform ourselves to His faithfulness, the more we can confidently tell our children, “imitate me, as I imitate Jesus”. More than that, we can stand, with confidence, at the throne of Mercy and say, “I set the example for my children, by letting Jesus hold me and by Him showing my children Who He is!”
This is a mighty call! And yet, Scripture often refers to fathers as warriors (Psalm 127:4), refers to children being saved through their mothers’ examples (1 Corinthians 7:14), and refers to wives as having a powerful impact even without words or warfare (1 Peter 3:1b). Hence, there is a powerful impact we parents can make, if we are in Jesus! So, no matter how you feel about yourself, with Jesus as your source and provision, stand-up, repent of whatever sins you have harbored, and begin walking the narrow road, following Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith, who guides us, provides for us, carries us, and strengthens us for every challenge He places before us, even those challenges He has placed for us to watch Him conquer while we endure through His provided means.
Godspeed – 1 Corinthian 15:10, “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is within me.”
Earlier this week, WordPress notified me that I hit my 10th anniversary with them! 10 years of blogging! (Minus the 4-ish year hiatus!) That’s 8 years of being able to bless y’all with what God lays on my heart….plus a few nerdy anecdotes now and again.
When I started this journey, I was just here because a few friends encouraged me to tell my story and encourage other single Dads. Just over a year ago, I returned from my hiatus realizing that God had given me a chance to speak into some of y’all’s lives, and I considered that a sacred honor that I shouldn’t walk away from. Now, a year later, this blog has grown even further, and I continue to be able to bless many of you whom I have never met!
And so, here we are, on the eve of Thanksgiving, and I am thankful for y’all, for the chance to speak into your lives, and the hope that what God has given me to put out here is a blessing for you! I am equally thankful to be with family this year, to have a roof over my head, to have food and warmth, and to have another year to raise my 3 God-given challenges known as my kids!
I hope you are able to be thankful for the blessings He has place in your life. Even if it is a roof over your head for one day, or for that Thanksgiving meal someone gifted you (even if you’re not sure how you’ll ever cook it all, like I once wondered!). Wherever this Thanksgiving finds you, I pray you see His hand in your life, and that you continue to surrender your life to His purpose, trusting in Jesus payment for your sins, and seeking to follow Him and serve Him in every way He opens to you.
This world is a rough place for many, this year. Some of those who may read this blog are in war-torn countries. Some are under the thumb of communism. And still others are in some halfway point between freedom and something less than freedom. But no matter where you may be this year, know that Jesus is right there with you. The King of All Kings was born in a manger (Christmas is coming). He learned to be a carpenter. And He lived like any other human for over 30 years, without running water, under various monarchies that were more like dictatorships, and under the weight of the Roman Empire. He can empathize with your pain, even now. Rest in Him!
This Thanksgiving, no matter where we are, let us give thanks for The Almighty’s provision, even if it’s meager, and for the fact that by Jesus’ sacrifice, we can know Him and have the confidence that when we go home, we go to a better place! And while we’re here, we can rest in knowing He has a purpose for our daily lives, for the circumstance He has allowed us to be in, and for the people He causes us to interact with on a daily basis. Let us be thankful, and let us share His Gospel with those around us!
Thank you for being a reader here, whether subscribed or just someone passing by! It is my blessing to be however-much a part of your life! And may God’s blessings be yours, in Jesus, through the remainder of this year and into the next, as you follow Him! Amen!
Often times, when Jesus allows a trial into our lives, we focus on the pain, the loss, the hurt, and the ever-present question “Why me?” It is not often that we think about that fact that before that trial got to me, Jesus knew of it, knew what would come out of it, and, most importantly, knew how much it would hurt! It’s important to note that I didn’t say “how much it would hurt me”, since I am not the only one that hurt! Jesus hurt with me, FOR me, before that trial ever came TO me.
Parents often hurt for their kids. Many of us heard the phrase “this is going to hurt me a lot more than you” during periods of discipline, and many of us never understood that phrase. Comedians have often made jokes on the phrase, as well. But when you become a parent, it suddenly makes sense that no matter the pain to your child, it hurts you more because 1) you know the pain their going through and 2) you can’t do anything to stop it. That second part is even more excruciating, sometimes, than the original pain.
Jesus is NOT powerless to stop our pain, as some pseudo-scholars would suggest. Nor is He apathetic or indifferent to our pain! On the contrary, He has experienced some of the greatest pains a human being can endure. Let’s take a moment and list some of them:
He was betrayed by one of His own disciples; Judas Iscariot ate with Jesus, watched Him perform miracles, heard Jesus’ teachings, and willfully followed Him around for 3 years. At the end of all of that, Judas sold out Jesus for the same as the cost paid for a slave that had been killed. What a slap in the face! And to top it off, Judas Iscariot’s betrayal was marked by a kiss, an intimate act in Middle Eastern culture that identified someone as received or accepted as a friend.
He was mocked, ridiculed, and beaten; most adults have been witness to an abuse of authority, and many adults have been witness to someone being physically harmed. Jesus endured both. In fact, it is widely agreed, amongst Biblical scholars, that Jesus was beaten to the point that it was hard to recognize Him. Additionally, the ridicule included being crowned with a crown woven of thorns long enough to pierce the skin and scratch the bones of the skull.
He was then flogged; this process was intended to inflict maximum casualty to a person’s back. The whip was designed to tear at the flesh and muscle. In point of fact, there are only a few who ever survived this punishment of 40 lashes. It was considered a death-sentence. And this happened without time to heal from the aforementioned beating and ridicule. In short, Jesus has now endured an immense amount of pain!
He was then condemned, unjustly and without cause, to a death on a cross. A crucifixion was a deadly enough sentencing as to be excruciating on its own. However, it is important to realize that Jesus is now carrying a cross (or portion thereof, depending on your interpretation) with a face of broken bones, likely sporting a concussion, and a severely sensitive, raw-meat-esque back. There is no doubt that every movement, every step, every sensation was agonizing! Without a doubt, He could not even grimace without it causing additional pain!
And amidst this, the Lord of All was denied by the very creation He’d made. His chosen people and the majority of humanity had aligned against Him. The very God who had created them, who had provided for them, who had lovingly taught, nurtured, and protected them was here being beaten, broken, battered, and crucified by them. I can’t even imagine the grief that had to pierce His heart watching something akin to His own kids shout for His death.
And this is not the end! We can also infer that Jesus had endured His earthly father’s death, had been present while others grieved the loss of loved ones, and He had to knowingly walk away from healing some, as He tended to His Father’s mission. It is no small thing to say that Jesus endured everything we have experienced and more!
Hence, we can honestly conclude that when Jesus allows a trial into our lives, He not only understands the pain we are about to endure, but He grieves that we must go through it. Yet, He also sees the outcome, and this is the other important aspect! Depending on where you are in life, either of these may be more revelatory for you, but He knows your pain, and He knows why this pain at this time!
We are not called to know the why, but to trust Him in the midst of the questions. Given that He endured these pains, and given that He knows all things (past, present, and future, until the end of all time), then we can trust that the why is inconsequential (to us, ultimately) because of the love that approved this moment. And how do we know His love approve this moment? For that, we turn to Job.
“Have you considered my servant Job?” Seriously?! Why, Lord, would you bring Job to the enemy’s attention? Well, that question is never answered, except that we know God wanted to use Job’s life as a text to teach us about Himself and encourage us to endure these times when God may appear unjust (for God is never unjust!). But God never says why Job had to go through His trial. We only know that Satan was explicitly bounded by The Almighty. Make no mistake, dear Reader, Satan is not unlimited! He has only as much rope, power, or ability as God allows Him to have. That said, if we choose to focus on the situation rather than Our Savior, we may well be handing Satan a little extra support, and we should always resist the enemy in our lives.
I’m at my self-imposed word limit, so I’ll wrap this up with one final quote, as I think it grants the final perspective I hope to leave you with. At the end of the day, no trial is without purpose! God is working in and through our lives (both, at the same time) as we follow Him. Hence, when He allows a trial, He is both working something out-of/in-to our lives and using us in others lives. But, when the trials get rough, and the cries turn toward, “please, Jesus; just let me come home!”, it is important to remember that even Jesus said the same, “Father, if there be any way, please take this cup from Me!” And with that, I’ll let Paul close us out.
Recently, I was reading an article regarding women and fashion in tech. The article lamented the struggles of women, in technology, to find ways to dress that weren’t considered inappropriate and/or have some options (like women’s sizes for company/product shirts) that currently are not available. However, one problem caught my eye; the problem of male colleagues and/or industry folk who make inappropriate comments or who deem an outfit too inappropriate. Now, I am not interested in judging someone’s clothing here; I will say that I find myself overly conscious of my own clothing, as I struggle with my own self-image and don’t measure up to my own expectations for myself, and I’m a guy. However, this article sparked a reminder of something that must be said now and again. And so, here we go!
Technology has largely been a male-centric industry, though not necessarily because of any attempt to keep women out. Even so, this post is neither about a woman’s appearance, in general, nor about the tech industry, specifically. Rather, this is a post seeking to call out an underlying issue so many ignore: the responsibility of men to call out beauty in their daughters, wives, and women they may influence (such as the ladies in a pastor’s youth group, nieces, or perhaps a co-worker). God gave men the responsibility to call out beauty, and often, we men make a mess of it, like a pig in a mud puddle.
Now, someone is going to misinterpret me, so let me say this: I AM NOT TALKING ABOUT PHYSICAL BEAUTY, FASHION (per se), NOR ATTRACTIVENESS!!!! Our culture has misinterpreted and contorted beauty to be something it is not! Beauty has to do with the person inside! The realities of the person, and personality, behind whatever glitz and glamor may be brushed on, attached to, or draped over the outside. Calling out beauty is the more explicit realm of drawing out the person God has made, and encouraging/building that person more than whatever accoutrements.
With this definition in mind, what am I talking about? Quite simply, I’m talking about how we, as men, are not to be cat-calling, not to be rating external beauty, and we are not to be ogling or otherwise lusting after some worldly definition of beauty/attractiveness. We are to have our eyes so firmly fixed on Jesus that when we see a woman, we see her through Him, as a sister in Christ, and appeal to her on that basis, or we see her as someone who needs Jesus, and we appeal to her on that basis! If men were to take this to heart, we would see a woman not based on her appearance itself, but we would see her for how we can reflect Jesus to her, and I guarantee you that Jesus would not be thinking on how she’d look naked.
Let’s get very real; we have a culture, in America, that is pornographic! It’s not just leaning that way, not just an aspect restricted to red-light districts, and certainly not something concealed in someone’s closet. It is in-your-face, can’t find a safe place to look, what was just thrown in front of me, GROSSLY present! I weep for my sons and the world they are inheriting! We can’t even have the ad-supported streaming plans, anymore, because the ads blast foul ideas/ideals into our home! Hence, I’ve had to get very choosy with our entertainment; just 10 years ago, this would’ve been unnecessary and maybe a bit insane. Just 10 years! Hence, it is no wonder that so many have lost their understanding of beauty and so many men have lost the understanding that we are to call out beauty.
“Wait a minute! You’re telling me women aren’t responsible to call out beauty? What?! Are you a chauvinist!?”
No. Some might characterize me that way, but those that know me can attest to the fact that I am not, at all, a chauvininst. Rather, I am trying to encourage the proper roles….let me try it this way; imagine that you can lift 150 lbs. That’s a very respectible lifting weight. But then, let’s assume there’s another person who can lift 200 lbs. Not a big diffference, but it is significant, no? Ok. Now, imagine that someone expected you to do that second person’s lifting job! It would be difficult, not impossible, but difficult, for sure. You might even hurt yourself, at some point, because you’re not equipped to lift that much! Now, imagine that we allowed people to do what they’re equipped to do? You’d love life a lot more, be hurt less often, and you’d be more at peace with your day-to-day.
Encouraging people to take up their proper place is no different. If I ask that 200 lbs lifter to sit behind a desk all day, they’re going to be miserable for some portion of it, because they have been equipped to do more. Hence, when we stop trying to make everyone exactly the same, and we start calling people into their proper places, we find many things start working out better, and we find that there is less pain and injury. Thusly, men need to step into our roles as those who encourage true beauty. (And while I acknowledge this may be a bit over-simplified, it still remains largely accurate!)
As a father of a daughter, I have seen the challenges this disgusting culture has created for my daughter. No matter where she looks, there are messages that she’s not good enough, not thin enough, not beautiful enough, and she’s not even a full-grown woman yet! Worse yet, when her mother decided to abandon her, the message was also sent “you’re not enough.” Try as I might, I will never be able to fully heal that ache (Moms, you ARE VERY important!), but with time and a relationship with Jesus, she can come to a place where she makes peace with the whole her mother made. All the same, I am constantly vigilant to call out my daughter’s beauty, and to attempt to provide some counter-balance against the world’s evil messages.
But what does it mean to call out someone’s beauty? Well, it’s both what it is and what it is not. In other words, I need to be careful that our entertainment doesn’t include some devolvement into inappropriate images. I need to be careful that the message of what we watch doesn’t somehow communicate to my daughter that outer-appearance is more important. And when something like that comes up, it is important that I address it, so I help her to build the defenses of her mind to not buy the world’s definition of beauty. Hence, if I’m watching a show and there’s a classic hint of someone undressing, we talk about the context (are they married? Is that appropriate of him/her? What should happen here?), and we try to avoid that happening again. Or perhaps we’re watching something and an ad pops up that’s inappropriate, it is appropriate to ask “what did you think about that?” and discuss what did or did not happen and why that was or was not appropriate. These things build her ability to process the messages she encounters and helps her to build defenses against the negative messages. (Similarly, my sons are, often, also present and a part of this interaction, such that they build similar defenses but also learn this way of helping folks process the messages they’re confronted with.))
In short, it is helping the women around you to feel supported in conforming to the image of Christ and expressing the person God has made them to be. Now, I was tempted to include a qualifier of “appropriately” in that above sentence, but I held off for one simple reason: if we are conforming to the image of Christ, we will express ourselves appropriately. It won’t need to be said. Additionally, if we are teaching our daughters (and likewise, encouraging our sons to be this type of man) to value true beauty, then there’s no end for the qualifier. A woman who values true beauty won’t feel the need to wear a skimpy bikini; more specifically, when she feels like wearing such a bikini, she will consider if that’s how she wants to be seen or judged. Similarly, a guy who seeks to honor Jesus, who values true beauty, won’t want to gawk at a woman in such clothing because he wants to honor Christ with his thoughts and his actions. Nor will he try to make a woman feel bad because of what she wore; more than likely, he will work to ignore it and/or find a way to lovingly encourage her into something more befitting a daughter of the Most High.
Hence, when we men take our place and call out true beauty, it is no longer about women vs men, nor about stumbling or making someone stumble, nor is it about “appropriate” and “inappropriate”. It becomes exclusively about Jesus and encouraging our sisters (or potential sisters) in Christ to have the true beauty He gave them and pursue Him rather than some worldly standard. It becomes an effort of love and hopefully encourages both women and men rather than being destructive.
As far as women’s fashion in tech, I really don’t have an opinion. I’ve known amazing women who’s appearance I never really noticed. I’ve also known some women who focused so much on their appearance, they dimmed their true beauty, and it was difficult to appreciate them. And yet, both of these groups are beautiful people who Jesus cares deeply for, as He does those who are not in technology, those who are struggling to understand true beauty, and anyone/everyone in between.
So, men, let’s be the warriors God has made us! Let’s kick back against the trend of this horribly-broken world. Let’s be rebels and warriors for The Almighty, who call out true beauty and do not conform to this world’s image of the classic, wandering-eyed man who only sees women for what they wear or what they’ll do. Let’s be the men that see and call out the beauty inside, the brains, the personality, the amazing daughter of Eve that God has created and with whom we have the honor of interacting. In short, let’s be real men!
Let me start this post with a confession: I am not some parenting expert, nor am I a particularly great parent! I will accept that I am a good parent, but I don’t want anyone to believe that I’m some parenting guru or that I have all the answers. I am so far from having all the answers! But, as I have always maintained on this blog, I have a unique perspective, and I have come to accept that my unique perspective allows me to see things or congeal ideas in a way that is not present for many others. In any case, I wanted to get that out of the way.
I believe I’ve covered this before, but all the same, in parenting, humility is absolutely crucial, and this is where we come to in this post. My kids are growing up, and it feels utterly surreal that they are this old (especially because that means I am much older than that! LOL!). But in the midst of my grief at the times lost by my ex choosing to abandon my kids, in the midst of my own grief as my mortality is ever-more real to me, I am struck by how much my own flesh (my sin-sick side) grasps at some sort of importance, as if I need to be important or even central. My kids love me, but they shouldn’t cling to me! I’m blessed to have raised them to want to step out on their own. And any desire to reel them back in is not of God; it is purely my own selfishness.
That probably hit a nerve somewhere, and if it didn’t, then please consider that you may not be holding your kids close enough (or their in their 30s and beyond). In adolescence, we should be encouraging decision making, but with wisdom and guidance. We want them to leave the home and to follow Jesus into the things He’s prepared for them. Holding them back from that is generally a selfish instinct; to be clear, I’m not talking about being careful or cautious with a special needs child. My eldest is my most needy, in that respect, and while I’m excited to see him launch into the world soon, I am terrified and very cautious, trying to make sure I helped him establish good habits and behaviors that, even when he goes through the initial phase of forgetting (or not caring) about taking care of his home, dishes, etc, that he will still have the skills to pull it back together! At the conclusion of all things, it’s about making sure he has what he needs to be an adult, rather than trying to hold him back from adulthood because I’m not ready.
“So, what does The Village have to do with this?”
Oh! Well, it’s not The Village, like the M. Night Shyamalan movie. Rather, it is the reality that God likes to work with tribes. Another way to phrase that would be that God likes to work with groups, communities, peoples, and villages. Many years ago, Hillary Clinton ruined the phrase “It Takes a Village to Raise a Child” by turning it into some malicious twist that meant the government should raise your kids. But in reality, that statement’s original meaning remains! It takes more than just the parents of a child to raise it.
If we got back to the idea of a NASA rocket, the parents are the primary engineers. They design, modify, and solidify the blueprints that go into manufacturing. In manufacturing, if a flaw is identified, they are the ones to identify how to resolve it. In assembly, they’re more excited than anyone, and when the final launch day comes, they’re right there to help get that rocket into space/adulthood. So, we can’t exclude them or usurp their authority. At the same time, if those two engineers were the only ones building, testing, assembling, and transporting the rocket, it would never make it’s launch date! So, we have multiple people in the process who help to build the parts, help to put the parts together, help to load it on the launch vehicle, help to monitor it’s journey to the launchpad. These may be teachers, pastors, youth workers, grandparents, uncles/aunts, cousins, even semi-random folks like the mailman or a barber/hair-dresser. At the end of the day, the parents/engineers are responsible for that child’s/rocket’s launch, but there are hundreds of people in-between that will help reinforce, refine, and even help to figure out the views, values, intentions, and directions that will help that child become who they are made to be.
In the midst of that village, you find things you didn’t think of, or a perspective you didn’t expect. As noted above, these may help refine a perspective/value, or they may help reinforce or create a value. And this is where the humility comes in; that is, this is where we parents have to be humble enough to listen, even though “it’s my kid, and I’ll decide what’s best.” Yes! It is your kid, and you should decide what is best, but be willing to accept the feedback, as it may be a perspective you just can’t see yet. If we hold our abilities too highly, then we may miss opportunities where God is wanting to establish or correct something in our child, something that will make their future better with Him. If we choose not to listen, we choose to make life harder for our children. And all of this requires us to be in a relationship with Him. We can’t listen well, nor can we receive from Him, if we aren’t in relationship with Him. So, the converse becomes true, that we could miss an opportunity where God is wanting us to hold the values He’s already established rather than accept someone’s “fool’s gold”, as it were. And we won’t know that it’s fool’s gold, unless we hold it up to His refining fire of truth.
Single-parents, I think this reality needs to sink in for some of us. Depending on our stories, some of us have endured trauma that has caused us to be more comfortable in isolation than in community. As one who has (and still does) struggled with that, I’m going to tell you, “Stop it! Find at least one friend!” We know the enemy likes to isolate us, and Proverbs 18:1 tells us that “Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment.” In many cases, this isolation is a protective mechanism; this much, I completely understand. However, God calls us to community; in multiple places in the Bible, He talks of believers in groups, not isolated, and in many other places, He speaks to being together and not abandoning being together. Additionally, God Himself is 3 persons and He created us in His image, such that we can very easily infer that He created us for community, not for isolation. Hence, when we are honest, our selfish isolation is us protecting ourselves, rather than trusting in God to protect us, trusting Him that any/all pain is only as-much-as-needed, and trusting Him to heal us when such times come. After all, in isolation, we miss so much richness that we gain from friendships, from time conversing about the things of God, and from the valuable perspectives that we can never see until someone turns their light onto our situation. God is good! And though it sometimes means a bit of pain, remember the pain He went through just for the chance to know you, and trust Him as you step into community with His people!
And with all that said, I feel that saying much more would just be saying more of the same. So, I’ll go ahead and end here, but feel free to ask questions or otherwise create a conversation in the comments. Comments are moderated, mostly to keep the spam out, but I’m happy to entertain civil debate and/or exchange ideas.
“The linear…what? Cyclicity?! Huh? Of History. Ok. You’ve lost me!” Yeah. It’s a mouthful, but I think it paints the perfect word picture.
There are a few schools of thought on the path of history, whether it’s linear or cyclical. And while this particular variant may be covered in a book, somewhere, I’m going to throw this idea down here, as it has been burning a hole in my brain for some 20 years now. History is neither linear, NOR cyclical, but it is linearly cyclical. =)
By this, I mean that history is not a straight line from the past to the future, nor is it just a series of cycles, each varying from the next, but that it is a series of fits and starts with a central aim and an unexpected opposition. If we look through history, we will see many patterns repeated; even in the present, our President has repeated many patterns of previous Presidents, believing, it seems, that the date and technological differences make certain choices more likely to succeed this time than last time.
Now, it may seem like the cyclical side of history is evident. I would tend to agree. What I think is equally evident, but requires some careful observation, is that history also has a linear aspect to it. By that, I am seeking to acknowledge the very feeling we all experience that, “I can do better.” We see someone do something, and we find ourselves thinking we can improve on the action, design, or idea. In one sense, we acknowledge that we may start another cycle of the same failure, but we feel that something has changed, and thereby believe that we can shift that cycle in some way. (To be clear, this feeling, alone, is insufficient to justify many cycles, and it is likely to be wrong, but if the approach is carefully considered and the outcomes honestly assessed, then the feeling is merely a spark, not the fire itself.)
Thus, I believe there is an inherent linear aspect to our cyclical history. And this is where it dawned on me, what I’m talking about is a spiral! If you take a set of cycles, place them on a line, and allow the progression through time, you have a spiral. Now, spirals can be good and bad. “He’s winding up…” “Oh, he’s wound himself up good!” “It’s time to wind down.” “That’s a tailspin, pull up! Pull up!” Spirals are just another shape in our universe, but once we recognize the shape, we can ask a question, and I think the question is the key to this revelation.
“Well, where is the spiral leading?” See, spirals, by virtue of being spirals point toward spin out from a destination. Looking the other way, they spin out from a point of origin. And either way we ask the question, we come to similar conclusions. The spiral of history is spinning out from creation. And where it is leading, or what is the trending of this spiral? The trend is the increasing sinfulness of man, leading to an end for our world. When? I refuse to guess, as Jesus Himself (God on foot!) said “But concerning that day and hour, no one knows, not even the angles of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.” (Matthew 24:36). In other words, God the Father withheld this knowledge from even JESUS, yo! Just let that sink in. (Having lost friends to the darkness of false prophets, please heed this caution: If someone tells you they KNOW when Jesus will return, or that He has already returned, THEY ARE LYING!!!!)
So, that’s kind of depressing, isn’t it? Honestly? Yeah. A little. But I temper that depression with the reality that there is still time to be saved! There are still chances for this world to turn back tides of sin, if folks would begin turning their hearts and minds away from the pleasures and trappings of sin and to the purity and riches of Jesus, following Him with everything, in every way, and beyond any limits. You see (I hope), this world doesn’t have to end with all things under sin and all people’s in pain and anguish.
“Whoa! Didn’t God say it would?” Yes. But that’s like saying that Los Angeles is going to be underwater in 100 years, so we might as well abandon the town now. WHAT?!? Hundreds to thousands of square miles of land, homes, and businesses, just abandoned because of something that’ll happen in 100 years? In the same way, it is ludicrous (hear me well, LU-DI-CROUS!) for us to give up on this world because it will end one day! We must stand up and fight for the lives, the spiritual, eternal lives, of our loved-ones and neighbors!
The Spartans of Greece once had a saying they’d tell their soldiers before they’d go out to battle; “come back WITH your shield, or ON it!” The idea being that you leave nothing on the field but death or your own blood. You don’t lay down your weapons; you don’t surrender! You fight until the enemy is defeated or until you are dead!
Scripture uses the imagery of a shield to describe faith, the love of God, and God Himself. If we apply this imagery back to the Spartan claim, we find ourselves saying, “Come back WITH your faith and your Lord, or ON your faith and His Word!” Suddenly, this statement which seemed almost cruel becomes an amazing statement of hope! It lifts us to a place where we now see the battle at hand, not of “flesh and blood but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12-13) And having had to engage such battles myself, I can testify that it is easy to get lost in your flesh, thinking it’s all about you and your ability to coerce, to punch, or to twist arms (figuratively or literally). But my dear Reader, it is not about any of those things, for we serve a God so powerful that when He is roused to battle, no army can face Him, no bureaucrat dare oppose Him, and no authority dare speak over Him.
Dear Reader, this world is spiraling, as sin weaves its webs and sinks its fangs into the hearts of men and women. And while this world may yet be doomed to face judgment for its willful rebellion against the One, True God, it’s Creator, we are called to the battlefield, to contend for our loved-ones and neighbors, through prayer, through Biblical study and living, and through living life with each other (including said loved-one and neighbors) that we might, through our actions, our shown-love, and our conversations, may bring any-and-all-that-will-come to Jesus.
What an amazing opportunity? How can anyone say no? What an adventure to press into?
How great the God that we serve! Amazing that He loves to deeply and so sacrificially as to seek each and every one of us out to make Himself known and to offer (as a gentleman, not required) the opportunity to be saved and to know Him! I don’t know why anyone would reject Him, but let us dwell not on that thought, but let us set our eyes completely on Him, the One who set aside all of heaven to come walk among us, as a nobody, and to die a brutal, terrible, fearsome, and gruesome death to be the sacrifice for my sins (past, present, and future). I am not perfect, but His perfect and overwhelming love continues to draw me out of my failures and compels me to be more like Him, everyday. How amazingly incomprehensible is this love! Our God is like NO other god! Our God is amazing in power, in wisdom, and absolutely overwhelming in love! Our God is above and beyond all we can ever think or imagine, and He chooses to know us, a mere speck in the grandiosity of the universe. Even greater, He chooses to love us and provide for us, though we amount to a grain of sand or a speck of dust in a hidden crevice. How great is our God!
As I’ve prayed and thought about today’s post, God brought me back to an old milestone. Many years ago, God was beginning to reveal Himself to me, as a young man. Somewhere along the way, I’d bought into the idea that God didn’t do any real works anymore. Sure, He spoke to me, at times, which was weird enough. But no way He’d ever use me to speak into someone’s life in a wild or prophetic way. ….well, that is…until He did!
I had recently changed states, and God has brought another young man and I into a sweet friendship. To this day, neither of us can tell you exactly what connected us, but God drew us together like David and Jonathan. I still love this man, and his family is as precious to me as my own! But on this day, he was grieved! His heart was so heavy, you could see it in his stance, in his movements; every fiber of his being seemed to weep, yet without tears.
The day before, he and I had discussed something that had beset him, a frustration in which he felt God had taken something away from him, out of his life. But he (we’ll call him Chuck) didn’t give me any of these details that I’m now filling in. Instead, Chuck merely said, “I feel like the Shunemite woman!”
“What?!?” Being the Biblical Scholar that I was at the time (read a thick coating of sarcasm right there, y’all), I had no clue what Chuck was talking about. So, he pointed me to 2 Kings 4; while I read it with all due desire to help my friend, I had no clue what Chuck was going though.
Back to the day of Chuck’s grief; I was doing a job on the other side of the warehouse from him, but I could see his pain. I was praying for God to help him, to give him wisdom and comfort, and I heard God, plain as day, tell me, “Go tell him that what he’s lost, he will gain back.” And I heard it so clearly, that I got up and did so. Chuck’s response was, “Figured it out, did ya?” To whit, I responded, “Dude, I don’t even know what I’m talking about!”
But today, I’ve learned to value the Shunemite woman’s story. It is a worthy reminder that sometimes, God chooses to take from our lives so He can make Himself more known. We, of course, do not like this because it freaking hurts! But God is so perfectly good that He only makes us to endure the pain that is truly necessary. And our relationship with Him is the most important relationship we will ever have; consequently, it is worth whatever pains to know Him!
I encourage you to read 2 Kings 4:1-17. (For brevity, I will not quote it here, but I implore you to read it, as the Word of God speaks so mightily that I cannot do it more justice than it does itself.) In this passage, we meet a woman who clearly respects the Almighty. Elisha, a prophet of old, a prophet of God, stops at this family’s house every time he passes this way. In fact, he stops so often, the woman tells her husband to make a room for him on their roof (note: this story puts emphasis on the woman, not her husband; this is in contrast to some of the claims that Christianity is some tyrannically patriarchal belief system, when, in fact, woman are held in higher regard than in such patriarchies).
Over time, Elisha is so moved by her provision, by her desire to bless the Lord, that he wants to give her something. Nonetheless, this woman declares she has no need. Yet, Elisha perceives she desires to have a son, as she has no children to speak of. At the core of this woman’s heart is such a desire, but she is also carefully guarded, imploring Elisha, “O man of God, don’t deceive me and get my hopes up like that.” (2 Kings 4:16b). This statement is so potent that, some years later, when the child dies, she brings this statement back to Elisha, that she was not interested in having a child only to lose him.
Make no mistake, God is good! He is never cruel! In our humanity, we may, sometimes, think Him cruel because the pain cuts deep, but as a Master Surgeon, He cuts only as deep and only as much as must be done to heal our soul! And sometimes, truly, we can lose focus because we hold something too close. In this case, I believe the Shunemite woman wasn’t holding her child too close. The Bible doesn’t tell us, so I will not surmise, but one can assert that God had purpose in allowing her child to die.
It is easy to read the Bible and miss the gaps. By that I mean that we can sometimes read this history and miss the reality that everything isn’t happening as quickly as we read it. I hate cliffhangers, but in real life, they often happen. We know that this woman’s child was alive for some 7-10 years, as he’s going out to help his father. So, we have a decade, roughly, between when she is told she’ll have this child and the child falling ill and dying. But think about that woman’s journey to find Elisha! While the distance to Mt Carmel from Shunem is only about ~33 miles, and a donkey’s top speed is around 43 mph. So, let’s just roughly say that it took her an hour to reach Elisha. Elisha sent his servant on ahead, and then comes himself. So, all things considered, we’re talking about some 2-3 hours before Elisha is present at the Shunemite woman’s house. If you’ve ever dealt with an emergency or a death, you know those 2-3 hours seem to crawl by.
An interesting side note is that God withholds this situation from Elisha. He is unaware of what has happened when the woman comes to him. I won’t theorize as to the reasons, but I think there was something God was doing in Elisha’s life, too. I don’t know what, as I haven’t studied Elisha’s life recently enough, but we know God could’ve told him. So, the fact that He holds back is noteworthy.
Now, what I find very interesting is that Elisha tries to raise the boy, and it is on the third time, as Elisha has laid out similar to a crucified man, that we finally see this boy rise. Elisha first puts a staff on the boy (via his servant, Gehazi). Staffs were often used by the Lord to work miracles, but the staff alone is insufficient to raise the boy. So, Elisha prays, and he lays on top of the boy (don’t get too crazy with this; I think the significance is the fact that we’re told he is stretched out over this kid’s body). The imagery here hints at the cross, “…his mouth on the child’s mouth, his eyes on the child’s eyes, and his hands on the child’s hands. And as he stretched out on him…” (2 Kings 4:34). If you think this through, you get the imagery of someone with their arms stretched out, like a man on a cross.
Additionally, we know that Jesus visited this area, during his ministry, when the city was then known as Nain. Interestingly, Jesus encounters a funeral and raises a widow’s only son. But I don’t intend to get into that parallel (or contrast) here. More so, I was pointing to the fact that Elisha’s behavior is similar to Jesus’ own death. He was beaten and mocked (a staff), then whipped 40 times (first time Elisha laid out), then hung on the cross. Additionally, he was in the tomb Friday, and Saturday, and raised on that Sunday. Threes and threes and more threes!
God is not one to take away without purpose! In Chuck’s case, God restored the relationship he’d taken away, and it blossomed into a beautiful marriage that has lasted through many tests, trials, and challenges. I am still encouraged and blessed by my friendship with Chuck and his amazing wife and family! They’re good people! And the fact that we both know Jesus makes it such a rich and rewarding friendship; had God not taken that relationship for a moment (and I’m inferring a bit because I never really knew WHAT God took, but I infer because of circumstantial coincidences), I don’t know if Chuck and I would’ve become the friends that we have, and I would’ve missed out on so much growth and so many opportunities to stretch myself out.
I apologize, some, for the length of this post. But I hope that if you’re living with a loss, that you will allow yourself to trust God in the midst of it. If you have accepted Jesus’ sacrifice in your place, and if you have chosen to follow Him with every aspect of your life and every ability of your being, then you can be assured of Romans 8:28, that He will work it out for your best. It hurts, and He knows that. It’s ok to tell Him that. It’s ok to shout, to cry, to scream. But like Psalm 42 (and so many chapters of Psalm), remind your soul to hope in Him, for you will (and do) have reason(s) to praise Him once again!
To be quite frank, I don’t want to write this post. You see, once I write it, I am accountable to live it. And honestly, I don’t want to live this some days.
“What are you TALKING about?!”
Right. I haven’t really explained anything. Well, let’s get into it, then!
If you went to church as a kid in the late 80s or early 90s, you likely have a song running in your head right now. “This is the day (echo: this is the day), that the Lord has made (that the Lord has made), I will rejoice (I will rejoice) and be glad in it (and be glad in it)….” It puts Psalm 118:24 to music.
When I was younger, this was a fine song to sing. Life held promise, hope, and I was happy to face a new day. But as my life has taken a dark road for the last 12 years, and as each new day tends to question my hope more than upholding or encouraging it, I’ve really struggled with this verse. I would even go so far as to say that I despised this verse for some time.
Why? Because I couldn’t understand it! How am I supposed to rejoice and be glad in another day of pain and suffering given from the Lord. What the crud, man? Why would I be happy and joyful about that? How can you even ask me to do that?
And then the answer came. Quite honestly, I was reading the verse but not thinking about what I was reading. If you just read this verse, as someone in pain, it can sound very demanding. But if you break this down, it’s not nearly as demanding, and it’s actually quite the reality-check. So, let’s break it down.
This is the day….pretty simple, right? It’s this period of time. It may not be a whole day, or it could be a long day, but all the same, it’s a period of time. Yours may start early, or you may wake up late. All of these things are within the Lord’s “day.” He set this time aside for YOU! And that feeds into the next phrase.
That the Lord has made! On the surface, it’s sounds like buying a trinket, and seeing it was made here or there. No, this is not that. Rather, God is identifying that He has specifically created this day, this moment in time, for you to be here and for you to fill. In one sense, it’s like someone handing you clay or a canvas or a set of paper, and then asking you to create some piece of art or something functionally useful, you’re choice.
But it’s bigger than that! You see, in Ephesians, 2:10, we find that “we are God’s masterpiece.” So, there’s no need for us to create some fantastic thing, as our work, in Him, is already fantastic! So, the pressure is off! We can relax and just do what He guides us to do, however imperfect we may be.
Not only that, but God has prepared a day for you! You see, He didn’t just make this day, as if He’d accidentally burped and the sun rose. But rather, He intentionally created today “so we can do the good things He planned for us long ago,” Ephesians 2:10b. Check that out! God created today, with opportunities for you to serve Him, planned long in advance, designed just for you.
Now, think about this first sentence of Psalm 118:24, rephrased: “This is the period of time that God, who is rich in love and mercy, has specifically designed just for you, to utilize your abilities, hidden and known, to serve Him and give Him the glory for all He is able to do through you, beyond what you once thought possible, and above what you imagine yourself capable of today; things you may never know He’s doing, He is working out in and through you in this day He has determined to create.”
When you think about that simple sentence the way I just broke it out, suddenly, the second sentence makes more sense: “We will rejoice and be glad in it.” Now, it is no longer a command, but it is a clear outflow of the recognition of what today is. The fact that God loves me so much that He has made opportunities for me to be able to express my gratitude for His sacrifice, so that I could be saved, and He has built these opportunities just for me. I don’t know how not to rejoice in that!
That said, there are times when it is difficult to want to get up, to want to keep going, and to want to praise Him. However, if I reflect on His love, His gentleness, His absolute sacrifice for me, I find it easier to ignore my flesh and it’s screams for relief, for pleasure, for worldly joy, and I find myself more able to agree with Psalms such as 118.
If you’ve never read Psalm 118, I highly encourage you. It has some Messianic prophecies, has some laments, and has a LOT of hope! It is a great Psalm to meditate on! But with that said, I hope this post has helped you understand some Scripture a bit better, and I hope Jesus uses this to encourage you into the day (or days) He has created for you!
If you don’t know Jesus, I encourage you to get to know Him now. It really just breaks down to turning to Him, acknowledging that He died for your sins, and choosing to follow Him, to live as He leads, from this day forward. To follow Him, get yourself a Bible, start reading and praying each day, so that you’re in communication and relationship with Him through those prayers and His Word, the Bible. Lastly, get connected with, and start attending, a local church where you’ll be taught from the Bible, not from popular culture or some savvy person’s thoughts, but truly given the Bible. You need that fellowship with other Christians!
And with all of that said, I’ll close this time out. I hope this has blessed you!
Anyone who knows me knows that I’m not exactly a silent guy. Whether it’s a key-chain jangling, my laugh, my footfalls, or my input on an issue, I am rarely without some sound. For some years, I was the guy who wouldn’t shut up. Then, I was the guy who always had a thought, but I could keep it to myself for a while. But these days, I am still a bit chatty, but I’ve begun to learn the value of silence. Sometimes, this is listening, but sometimes, it’s just being silent regardless of the circumstance.
Many people have a drive to do something. When a tragedy hits, a child needs assistance, or there’s a job to be done, these people step in. But it may be less obvious, too. It could be that drive to save money, the desire to make a name for yourself, or maybe just the desire to “make the world a better place” for those around you. The common aspect is that most people want to DO something! And if you don’t want to do it, it’s a fair bet you want someone to do it! After all, what often happens when there is some major tragedy in the US? People cry out for the authorities (be it law enforcement, local government, or federal government) to “do something!”
This drive, this desire to do something, is can be a holy desire, but oftentimes, it is more of a human desire, something borne of our flesh, our sin-sick side. And that’s what we’re examining today. When that desire is not from the Holy Spirit, we are in danger of doing harm to the cause of Christ, and we are feeding our flesh. Hence, it is crucial for Believers to develop the discipline of silence.
While this may harken images of monks taking lengthy vows of silence, I don’t mean to imply anything that extreme, though some may be so compelled. Rather, I am calling to the need to quiet ourselves (internally and externally) in times of prayer. Sometimes, we spend so much time talk TO God that we forget to listen FROM God. As I often repeat, Christianity, following Jesus, is not about religion (rules and regs) but a relationship with Jesus, with the Almighty God. And you can’t have much of a relationship with someone if you don’t listen to them.
Wait, are you saying God speaks? Audibly? This tends to be where many people get hung up. In general, there are three camps, three answers to this question. One group says, “No. God does not speak anymore, not audibly! He only speaks through His Word, through circumstances, or through other people!” Another group says, “Oh, absolutely! God speaks to me every day; it’s like He’s right next to me, talking as audibly as you.” And a third group straddles a middle ground, “Well, God doesn’t always speak audibly, but He can! He speaks through all the above, and audibly, but He will never contradict His Word.” No matter which group you are prone toward, let me submit that the third group is the most accurate!
“So, God actually speaks to you?”
Sometimes, yes! And sometimes, it’s my imagination. And other times, it’s Scripture, others, or any of the above. But the fundamental point is that He will never contradict His Word, aka the Bible. So, if I hear God telling me to get drunk, I can be sure I’m not hearing God. If someone tells me it’s ok to move in with my girlfriend, I can be sure that person is not speaking for God. And while there may be a caveat or two that someone could site to make some statement sound Biblical when it is truly unBiblical, let’s stick to simple examples.
God often has plenty to say to us, but He is a gentleman, and He will rarely force us to listen. (I say rarely because there are times and is precedent for God to intervene, powerfully, when there is need, but it is truly rare.). In reality, it’s as was said above; it is a relationship, and that relationship must be nurtured or we will find ourselves further and further off-course, following after our own desires and forgetting what His voice sounded like.
The discipline of silence helps to redirect us away from ourselves, learning to quiet our exceptionally boisterous flesh, and tuning our ears to His voice. This can be a time of prayer where you make your requests known but spend several minutes in silence, just listening for Him to respond. It may be turning the radio off on a drive, so you can focus on a Scripture He drew to your attention that day. Or it may be quietly praying in your mind for what the Lord would have you to do in a situation, not doing something and not saying much, until the Lord responds or choosing to let a situation pass when no response is heard.
This is complimented when we regularly spend time in the Word. Without that, our spirit will whither and we will be prone to that same wandering above, more inclined to hear our own selves than the Almighty.
“Jesus said to the people who believed in Him, ‘You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’”
Shortly after saying this, Jesus goes on to say “So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free.” (John 8:38) Later, at the final supper with His disciples, in John 14:8, Jesus reveals that He is “the way, the truth, and the life…”(emphasis mine). So then, it is not any mere truth that sets us free but Jesus Himself, and not just a knowledge of the truth, but a knowledge, a relational, life-spent-with-each-other knowledge of Jesus. In other words, without spending time getting to know Jesus and following His example, we cannot hope to be free.
Hence, it is necessary for us to take time in the discipline of silence to learn to hear His voice to invest in our relationship with Him and our ability to follow after Him.
One final note, as I’m sure I’ve caused a brief bit of confusion. This is not a work we can take credit for. This isn’t a “gold star” that God puts on some cosmic chart. Without Jesus, we would be blind to our need for Him, like a man in the desert who is so dehydrated that he thinks the sand will quench his thirst! And yet, it is something we do out of love for our Savior. In the same way that a man or woman will give their girlfriend or boyfriend, respectively, their time or a gift; in the same way, this is one of our expressions of love and gratitude for what He has done for us.
He made the absolute, ultimate sacrifice for us. Nothing we can do will ever compare, but we live our lives for Him out of love and gratitude. Like a child who uses his father’s money to buy the same father a gift, so we give to Him out of all He has given (and continues to give) to us. Praise the Lord that we don’t have to be perfect but are continually loved and nurtured back when we fail. He is so good, and we are so unworthy. Let us give up our selfishness, and endure the challenge of silence, that we may serve Him better, love Him dearly, and hear Him more clearly. And may the glory, honor, and power be His, forever and ever! Amen!