From time to time, at my full time day job, I have to work a shift that necessitates that I work until 8pm. Obviously, no one would consider this to be an ideal shift, but I have found that there are some benefits to working these hours. When I work this time span, I start at 11am. This means that, in theory, I could sleep in and enjoy a longer morning before heading into my workload for the day. I have kids, though. So, this naturally lends itself to chaos and an early wake time regardless.
Last week, I had a late day and had the opportunity to spend time with my daughter. My son was at school and my wife decided to go on a walk with her friend. I asked her what she wanted to do, and she chose to play with baby dolls and make shadow puppets. We had a great time, and there was a lot of laughter and smiles from both of us. It was so fun, and she led the play time as if she had been planning exactly what she would do if she had alone time with Daddy. Everything was calculated, and the game rules she made were well thought out. I could tell she was in her girly element.
At the end of this play time, Mommy came home and it was time for me to go to work. My little girl hugged my neck and kissed me goodbye. It was a tender moment and I loved the look in her eyes as she focused her attention on me.
To understand the reason why this day was significant, it is important to understand how my daughter has behaved lately. She has experienced behavioral issues and general disobedience. Part of the problem is the fact that she is 3, but there were times that it went beyond a typical 3 year old general disobedience. There has been something missing, and my wife and I have been frustrated because of it.
Before you make assumptions, I want to clear the air and say that I regularly play with my kids, and make it a point to show them a great time (I also discipline them as needed). I can probably admit that I tend to spend a larger quantity of time with my son because of his age and certain things that we do together, but not so much that there is favoritism shown.
This impromptu playdate with my girl brought about a realization in me that I had been hypothesizing for a little while. Her behavior was kind, sweet, and loving for most of the day after I left for work. She obeyed more, and even kept her focus (for the most part).
I realized that she needed me to “fill her tank” from time to time. The times when I have taken her on dates, or focused my attention on her alone has always made a significant difference in her day. Often, she runs on empty, and I have the power and the spiritual obligation to fill her with life and call out the girl she was made to be. I am her closest male connection to God here on Earth. I know that sounds extreme, but I take personal responsibility for the spiritual wellbeing of my family, and I am the leader when it comes to helping my kids understand God and His faithfulness in their lives. I don’t take that lightly.
So, it has come to my attention that I need to take more time to fill the spiritual and emotional tanks of my children (also my wife, but that is another blog post for another day). I thank God that I did not wait until they were older to find this out.
My daughter needs me, and I need her. God is growing me through loving her in her own unique way. Her behavior is not perfect, but I can see glimpses of change from time to time.
My princess needs her king.
A few days ago I was reflecting on what it means to follow Christ. When I was thinking about this, various standard things came to mind. You know…the things pastors preach about all the time. It made sense to me that, to be a Christ- follower, a person would naturally desire to get closer to God through prayer, scripture reading, giving, and fellowship with other believers.
What about in the times when we are out and about? What about the mundane things that people take part in on a regular basis? My mind started to gravitate towards things people do on a regular basis that display their faith. These things are often overlooked. They are not elaborate displays of sainthood, and things that will probably never be acknowledged. I think the following are things that Christ-followers should do, not to show the world they are Christian, but because the living God dwells within.
Disclaimer: No one is perfect. God fills us with the ability to do these things.
5 Things Christ-Followers Should Do:
1. Put the grocery cart back in the “cart corral” or back to the store– This may sound silly, but this concept goes further than just putting a cart away. It is really not about a cart at all. This is about loving others and being considerate. The real reason this is done is because it is an exercise in inconveniencing yourself to do something for those who may never see your face.
2. Tip Well– Nothing makes me shake my head more than a Christian who prays before a meal, and leaves a lousy tip at a restaurant. Do me a favor…if you do not plan to tip well, don’t pray for your meal in public. It makes Jesus look bad. I think, when we do this right, we show the world that Christ is a generous God. Do some research on the wage of a server. It is not great, and yes it is your problem. Oh…and stop complaining about how slow your service is (within reason )…You do realize that you came to this place, sat down, and now people are BRINGING FOOD TO YOU…right?
3. Listen– Now, I want you to understand my heart in saying this, because I am a huge proponent of having proper theology, but sometimes people just need to listen to each other. Not every conversation is a platform for theologcial reform. Sometimes people need to talk and need to “hurt out loud”. Listen to them. Let them say bad words. Let them be mad at God, and hate for just a few minutes. It will be okay, and God will not be dethroned by doing so. God will soften your heart more deeply, and speak more loudly to what He wants you to do. You know why? Because God is real and He does that.
4. Show Contentment– So many relationships (married and friendships) are shattered, because people reject the concept of “enough”. If we stopped trying to pull people into our pitty, and invited them into our celebration, we would see more people praising God. If we get up every morning and thanked God for what we have first…we will feel the power that only the Holy Spirit can bring.
5. Cry and Laugh– You are not made of stone and God made you to show emotion. This enhances our lives and helps us express things that are real. Weep with those who mourn, and laugh at things that are corny. Who cares what people think?!?!
There are obviously many more that I could write, and they will come later. Let’s make a covenant to act like authentic Christians. Not the cookie cutter kind, but truly real.
The struggle is real. A 4 year old boy in a department store. If you are a parent today, and have raised a son to this level of maturity you could write the story yourself. The fact is, there are times in life in which a normal human being must go to a store of their choice and buy things such as clothes for oneself or gift items for another. This is a pretty mundane occurence.
The difficulty comes when this individual, and their significant other have created another human being in the relatively recent past and this miniture human seems to think this store is a neutral zone in which the house rules no longer apply. The end result is discipline…justice.
It can be frustrating when interacting with a child and trying to embed in their heart and mind the concept of obedience. Our son in a runner. When he is placed in a situation in which him and his sister out number the adult supervision, he makes it a point to make whatever adult is in attendance work for their accolades. At the end of the experience we find a parent who just can’t seem to keep their sanity. When in a store with a short amount of time to finish errands, my son will make the decision to play tag at the most inconvenient times. This causes an obvious safety problem. Deep within us is the fear that someone will snatch him up when he is out of view. This concept has been conveyed to him regularly, and it will stick for a period of time.
The Israelites in the Old Testament behaved in the same way. God sent prophet after prophet to keep them pointed in the right direction. He gave them moral and social law, not to burden them, but to make their lives run more efficiently. He gave them spirit filled leaders, who were not perfect, but were put into place to lead by example. God’s people would obey and live in holy abundance, but when things became more difficult, they would fall away into a more convenient pattern of life. The creator of the universe desired to show His children love through provision, miracles, and mercy. These people had such trouble staying in an attitude of obedience.
There is a problem with obedience. It is unnatural. In the depths of who we are, we have a constant impulse to follow our own way. There is something temporarily satisfying about creating our own solutions to the problems and hardships of life. It feels good to be in control…especially when things go somewhat well. Obedience takes us out of our element and puts our future in God’s hands. It makes us admit that our abilities do not measure up. The Israelites found out time after time that God’s way is right, and the guidance He gave was not oppressive but meant to make their life run in the way in which it was created. Why, then, do we reject God’s way time after time? I think, because, we have to admit our own weakness.
How many times have you reflected on your life and realized it didn’t go as planned? Of these instances, how many times did you realized you followed what felt right instead of what was right? The enemy of our souls wants us to follow our impulses. When we give our heart and life to God, our impulses become missional and our desires become His.
Don’t reject obedience. Pray for His wisdom.
The serpent nestled comfortably in the elbow of a thick branch on the beautiful tree at the center of the garden. He rested as he waited for the inevitable confrontation between he and the woman (as it was called). The serpent had an agenda and wanted to give the appointed stewards of the garden a taste of what rebellion is really like.
These humans, as they were called, seemed to be cherished by the tyrant (as he saw it) above any other being. He wanted to change that. There was something invigorating about saying no to a system that seemed to be so controlling and provided no immediate reward for obedience.
On the other side of the large garden, the Creator Father spent time enjoying His creation…these new earth stewards; humans. Adam and Eve were such great companions and each day they spent time with the Father they felt more energetic and fulfilled. The time together was filled with laughter, rough housing, and pure joy…as if this Father was not only an authority but a friend. Neither one wanted the times together to end.
Adam and Eve wandered to the center of the garden one day, and found the serpent resting in the tree. The sinister creature was taking a nap, but awoke when the woman approached. As he spoke, he made the forbidden fruit seem so appealing, and even though the Father told them they should never eat it, they took a bite. It seemed so harmless, and the chemical make up of the food probably was safe, but this was a life lesson they needed to embrace. So…fast forward…the humans were thrown out of the garden and the relationship between them and the Father was damaged. Trust was lost and their times together were forever defined by shame.
When we read the Bible we see story after story that describes a deep desire God has for us. He wants to repair the relationship He has with humanity to revert it back to the joy once found in the garden. He created us to be the beings that interacted with Him in this way. We operate best at this level. Whether it be stories of God’s wrath or compassionate mercy…we see God wooing His creation back to himself. He went to great lengths to execute a plan to get them back…because He is driven by love.
Why do we fight this? I can tell you why…because we have tasted rebellion and it is temporarily pleasant. We think we were created to find happiness at any cost, and abandon truth when our reward is not immediately visible. Some generation needs to stand up and walk away from the serpent’s influence. Could it be us? Let’s try.
This is what the LORD says to the house of Israel:
“Seek me and live; Amos 5:4
This passage comes at the end of an indignant tirade on behalf of God. Amos, up to this point, has been describing the deep sin that Israel has been involved in, and also includes the iniquities of the surrounding regions. Israel had fallen into pleasing themselves, and bowing down to idols and God was teaching them a very important lesson. It was a lesson brought on by their refusal to seek God’s will, and fashion their own empty truths.
One can read the book of Amos and sense the anger that was spoken through the prophet. God had given Israel a strict warning that there would be hell to pay if they turned their backs on Him. Many would interpret this series as “God taking back His love.” This is because God is describing the destruction that will be coming their way as a result of their actions. In all reality, it is quite the opposite. God had warned Israel of consequences from the very beginning. Israel shouldn’t have been surprised at the coming punishment. In the midst of this angry rant, God is also reminding them of all He has done for them. This situation became an essential teachable moment for God’s chosen people, and later we see true tenderness, and concern for a nation in real trouble.
The book of Amos balances on this one verse (listed above). God asks Israel to turn back to Him and experience life. The fact is, we can experience true life when we seek God. Many are lost and drowning in a world that seeks to desensitize them to the calling of the spirit, but God is constantly wooing us back to a relationship with Him. God doesn’t desire to fight us, and destroy us if not obeyed……He simply lets us know what life is like without Him. It is empty, destructive, cold, and useless. Only He can change that. Seek Him and live!
Walking up the mountainside with my father that day felt very natural. We were traveling there to make a sacrifice to the god that my father called Yahweh. This was the only god that my father worshiped and he seemed to act as if he really spoke to this god. They actually had an intimate relationship…like they were best friends that had been through so much together. Father seemed a little upset and even nervous while we were heading to the altar site that day. He would not look me in the eye and he would answer my questions with short replies. He was talking to Yahweh the whole way. At first the conversation with Yahweh was friendly but then the mumblings sounded more frustrated. Nevertheless, my father seemed determined to give God honor.
After a long walk we finally made it to the site and set up the altar. I soon realized that dad forgot the offering. Obviously we were going to have to go back and get it. This happened one other time before and it was a long day. We had never been to this site before and I was looking at the two servants that were with us and they didn’t seem to notice. I should have said something before we left but I wasn’t paying attention. When I was about to mention the lack of a sacrificial animal my father turned to me and I noticed something alarming. His eyes were puffy, and his beard was soaked with tears. I could tell he had been crying for a long time. My memory went back to the night before when I was awakened by the sound of violent sobbing. Father was upset about something, and he was even pounding the walls…So, EVERYONE was awake.
I then mentioned the fact that we did not have a sacrifice and he looked as if he was angry that I mentioned it. Rather rudely he snapped back at me “God will provide a sacrifice”. Ok then, remind me never to mention something like that again….he was obviously in a bad mood that day. He picked me up and put me on the altar. I wasn’t sure why but I imagined it was to test the sturdiness and how much weight it could hold. Then he raised the knife with his hand shaking. Wait……what was happening? Was I about to be the sacrifice?
Just then we heard a rustling sound. After that, a wimper… It was a beautiful and majestic ram caught in a bush. I then heard a booming voice and I could tell that it was God but I couldn’t understand the words. Dad did though… My father jumped higher than I have ever seen him jump and started laughing as if he were crazy. He kissed me and tossed me to the side like we were wrestling around at home. God provided a ram for us to sacrifice.
Later I found out more than I ever wanted to know about that day. I was the one that God asked my father to sacrifice. His beloved son. I can’t imagine the pain that my father was feeling after God asked him to take this step. Looking down from my current perspective, and knowing what I do now I have made one main observation about this current generation. I have noticed that sometimes God asks us to do things we don’t understand. If we are obedient, blessings always follow. It’s rather simple really…but applicable to all generations.