Lessons from My Son : “Thank You Daddy ” …The Love of a Father

WP_000463This will be the last entry in this series, although it wont be the last about my son or either of my kids. I started this series a couple of months ago for a couple of reasons . One reason is that my son truly has been and continues to be a teacher in my life … I preached many sermons inspired by him and blogged even more … He and his older sister have been the greatest gauge or thermometer as to how my wife and I are doing as parents. (I don’t blog much about my daughter because she is 14 and has asked me not to – my son however is just learning to read , so I have more leverage with him..) At any rate , the main reason simple – I love him. I love he and my daughter both with an indescribable love  ..A love too big for words or too vast for description. I believe that the love I have for my kids could never be captured by definition , or I did until recently .. Once again , life had thrown itself at my son and we were forced to deal with it head on , and by HIS example – I was the student  , and he the teacher.

A couple of weeks ago , my son fell out of the bed. This particular night I had fallen asleep on the couch and my son was in bed with my wife , so in true form I slept through the entire event . My wife , the quintessential care taker she is , handled the whole event and I was never awoken. Upon waking up the next morning  ,we realized that Kole was going to probably need stitches.He had hit the side of his face above his ear on the bed frame and it was laid open about a half an inch. It was too big to let heal on its own but we  , like always had some obstacles. It was Sunday morning – I had to preach and urgent care didn’t open until 1 P. M. Preaching doesn’t come with insurance (although, 3 weeks later I do now have it) but the emergency room was out of the question. It wasn’t an emergency ,but it was going to need attention. SO  – I went on to Worship , and Kelly and Kole stayed home.

After returning from worship , a quick bite to eat  and then on to get stitches for Kole. Needless to say , Kole was very concerned about where we were going and what they (the doctors) were going to do to him. I assured him that whatever it was , it would be right and it would be for the best and that NO MATTER WHAT – I would be there with him… No matter what.

Once inside the Urgent Care Center , the waiting game started to take its toll on Kole and his fear of what was to come and clung to me like bark clings to trees – Concern had become fear and fear had become dread   to an all seeking comfort and protection from whatever scenarios were playing out in his head. As much as I wanted to tell him that I could guarantee him no pain , I knew that would be a lie and couldn’t. I knew that to keep his trust ,  honesty was the only thing I could give him and then be there to comfort him and console him. Too many parents lie to their children in hopes of creating security by telling them”this wont hurt a bit” and then destroying the trust between them , because it DID in fact – hurt!  Truly loving your kids begins with honesty ,not deceit…

After what seemed like an eternity , it was finally time.

As he laid up on the table ,he shook all over… I squeezed his hand and told him to look at me , to stay focused on me and that soon it would be over. As the doctor cleaned the wound and applied anesthetic to numb the pain that was coming , his little body jerked with every poke and probe  and cries of pain filled the tiny room .”Just look at me Kole , just look at me , Focus on Me” I told him repeatedly  , trying to sooth and comfort him in his distress . Tears streamed from both of our eyes as the doctor stitched up his wound because he could still feel the prick of the needle each time it entered his skin and I , I could feel every stick of the needle right with along with him because I was there with him – not just physically , but in that pain and fear we were bonded together . Bonded because he was enduring it , and bonded because I wanted so badly to take it from him .. If it would have been possible to take his pain , I would have in a second…

That’s when it hit me.

In the book of Matthew  , we read in chapter 27 verse 46 that Jesus cried out “My God, My God – why have you forsaken me?” . It has been taught by me and others that God , for the first time ever in eternity  -turned his back on his son because he could couldn’t look at the sin of the world That had been “laid upon him”.. That he abandoned him and left him there to die on the cross to fulfill the sacrifice necessary for you and I to enter heaven though him ,by our confession of faith ,repentance and baptism into him then also dying to ourselves to rise agin in his resurrection… I still believe that , now more than ever – but I’m not convinced anymore that God left him. Another preacher and good friend pointed out to me that the concept of “laid our sins on Him” and “He became sin for us” was that Jesus was our sin offering and that the guilt of sin was laid on Him, since sins (transgressions) cannot be “laid” on anyone. He also pointed out that if Jesus was defiled with our sins, He would be a blemished sacrifice and unworthy of being offered. It made a lot of sense but especially the point that Jesus is the offering and is an unblemished lamb. So there was nothing for God to look away from. ALSO, I took the “God had to look away” without digging in. God looks upon the world every day and yet it is filled with sin. He had close relationships with the patriarchs who were imperfect men. In fact, the Holy Spirit filled people who committed sin (as in the High Priest who spoke by inspiration about killing Jesus).

The second thing was that if God abandoned Jesus in His point of greatest need while fulfilling the plan of God, what hope do I have ? You see , while Christ suffering and death was absolutely necessary for our salvation and his will to be accomplished and couldn’t be done any other way , I don’t believe that God left him there ,alone. I believe that while  Christ was enduring the unendurable ,his father was there , telling his son “Just look at me son , just look at me , Focus on Me” and that he felt every cut and probe that entered his sons skin , just like I did with mine. I could not stop my sons pain and he had to endure the suffering  – but I never abandoned him while he was going through the pain. Taking Matthew 27 and Psalm 22 together, I see such a relationship between the Father and His Beloved Son: He allowed Him to suffer but did not turn His face from Him.

The very  thought of God turning his back on His Son as He carried the sins of the world  is creates a chilling and moving scene in our minds eye ,Psalm 22  teaches clearly  that it did not happen. God was with His Son in as he bore the sins of the world and died on the cross , but because of his love  –  a fathers love  , he allowed him to go through it all because it was what was NECESSARY … and I don’t doubt for a second if our Father in heaven could have taken the pain away from HIS son , then he would have.. Just like I would have for MINE.

When it was all over, and the doctors left the room , I just held him.

After a few moments  ,my son whispered 3 words I didn’t expect from him that day – “Thank you Daddy”…

I wasn’t sure at first why he thanked me ,but I supposed it was for being there when he needed me. I suppose  , though scripture doesn’t  say this , that Jesus and his father may have had a similar moment once his ordeal was said and done ?  Thanking him when he needed HIM the most? I don’t know that for a fact and it is just an opinion , but I do know that true comfort from all suffering will be in the arms of our heavenly father one day  , and I cant wait to be there to tell him “Thank you “as well..

Until them I can thank him daily for many things and many blessing ,but none quite so much as my son Kole  who has helped me see the God that I serve in the Lessons he has taught  me though him..

And None at all like his son  ,Jesus who suffered and died so that I can also know  – A fathers love.

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Breaking the Cycle in 2013…

If you know me , then you know by nature I am an optimist. I give strong diligence to always trying to find the best in every situation , and everyone. Admittedly – this has become extremely difficult in our current time and despite very good things that happened in my own life , 2012 was a hard year to see through positive eyes.  With a culture that has adopted a completely debased mindset and shoved God out of everything , its difficult for even me to fight the Monster within…but I do…and I press on – with much hope for the oncoming year.

The sense of renewal that comes with the passing of the old year and the anticipation of the new one to come is nothing short of exhilarating!  As humans we love the idea of beginning again ,fresh .. another opportunity to somehow ,this time – get it right… To truly change something about our lives for the better … to make a difference. All to often however  , this fades. It fades because the mistakes of last year and it’s consequences follow us , or because while change sounds good – it often requires too much work from us and so we fall back to our old comfortable habits … The truth is –  We allow history to repeat itself and then look to God as somewhere to place  blame .. There should be no need to remind anyone of this – but it was man and his CHOICE that brought sin into the world , not God .The consequence of sin is DEATH ,both physical and spiritual so everything around us now is in a state of decay . This makes renewal almost seem pointless , and yet every year – we vainly look with hopeful eyes to the promise of a new year and what it MAY bring…. but you see , that’s the point –  “The Year” in and of itself doesn’t bring anything… WE DO.

This perspective changes things , doesn’t it? The truth is – “the universe” doesn’t bring anything to you or me ,but rather we bring the universe to us. Bad things happen to good people because of choices made before our time . Our morality in America didn’t just begin to decline , its been going on for decades and every passing generation feels the effects a little stronger from the choices made by the previous  – This very principle goes back to The Garden with Adam and Eve and the CHOICE of sin that THEY made and that we STILL suffer the consequence for. In the 50’s ,morality in America was at an all time high and now just some 60 years later it is truly at rock bottom. We have exchanged EVERY truth with a LIE – just as Eve did with thee fruit from the forbidden tree. The enemy added one word to Gods command  ,and changed mankind forever. In Genesis 2 :16-17  God said ” If you eat of the fruit from the tree of knowledge  of Good and Evil , Surely  -you will die”… Satan simply added the word”Not” and changed it to “Surely you will NOT die”…. But DIE we did… and we still do.

With violence and sexual immorality glorified in today’s culture , I can only imagine what truths we are exchanging for lies that our children will have to face and ultimately suffer for . Drug use continues to become more and more prevalent as people look to escape the reality of this world we have created and in doing so creating more and more of consequences they are trying to numb themselves to. Evil men make evil choices and pure and innocent minds are corrupted , thus making even more soldiers of the enemy for future generations. Economies crash because of greed , fear and paranoia prevail and  inevitably – somewhere  the innocent are slain down for NO APPARENT REASON ….. and we , who have welcomed these evils from previous times , who have exchanged truth for lies , who have pushed God out of EVERYTHING scream out with arms outstretched begging to know “WHERE IS GOD”???

He is exactly where he was when we first betrayed him , and where he was while we still betray him.

More importantly – He is exactly where he was when we nailed HIS son to the cross…. and he still waits there for us to CHOOSE HIM.

The REAL question is – “Where are YOU???”

In the midst of the consequences of our sin , God had a plan.. and through this plan – regardless of what condition the world is in , we can have peace – TRUE PEACE .. we can have renewal – TRUE RENEWAL ..and we can have change – TRUE CHANGE..

There are only 2 agents for change that can be served , and we all serve one  o r the other…2013  can be different from 2012… or not…. The CHOICE is truly ours.

15 And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:15

If you are serious about change , as always – The invitation to Study the bible is ALWAYS open…   😉

Read  Romans 12:1-8

 

Peace ,Perfect Peace… Some random thoughts on Peace

Peace , perfect Peace…

The Personnel Journal reported this incredible statistic: since the beginning of recorded history, the entire world has been at peace less than eight percent of the time! In its study, the periodical discovered that of 3530 years of recorded history, only 286 years saw peace. Moreover, in excess of 8000 peace treaties were made–and broken.

True peace..complete and perfect , can only come from one source – its Author… Our Creator.

This time of year the phrase ” Peace on Earth and Good Will towards all Men” is used quite a bit (although not as much as it used to be). Taken from Luke 2:14 , it is meant to be used as a sentiment of gesture , implying that we should all be peaceable towards each other… While I don’t disagree with the sentiment , that’s not actually what the scripture says. Its says “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”…

Who exactly is he pleased with? – Those who love him…those who obey him… Those who TRULY try to know him…

The truth is , the peace that is being talked about here is not that of war between men ,but peace between a disobedient creation and its creator. Being reconciled to God through faith ,love and obedience to his word can one only REALLY ever experience TRUE peace…

I for one , can testify to this truth.

Even then , the peace that we have through God doesn’t ensure us a pain-free life ,but rather one of testing.Peace is not a life without trial ,but rather the quiet place you find among the noise … safety in the midst of harm…. Comfort in the throes of utter turmoil and anguish….Peace that Jesus gives is not the absence of trouble, but is rather the confidence that He is there with you always.

I had read a short story of a man who sought the perfect picture of peace. Not finding one that satisfied, he announced a contest to produce this masterpiece. The challenge stirred the imagination of artists everywhere, and paintings arrived from far and wide. Finally the great day of revelation arrived. The judges uncovered one peaceful scene after another, while the viewers clapped and cheered.

The tensions grew. Only two pictures remained veiled.

As a judge pulled the cover from one, a hush fell over the crowd.

A mirror-smooth lake reflected lacy, green birches under the soft blush of the evening sky. Along the grassy shore, a flock of sheep grazed undisturbed. Surely this was the winner.

The man with the vision uncovered the second painting himself, and the crowd gasped in surprise. Could this be peace?

A tumultuous waterfall cascaded down a rocky precipice; the crowd could almost feel its cold, penetrating spray. Stormy-gray clouds threatened to explode with lightning, wind and rain. In the midst of the thundering noises and bitter chill, a spindly tree clung to the rocks at the edge of the falls. One of its branches reached out in front of the torrential waters as if foolishly seeking to experience its full power.

A little bird had built a nest in the elbow of that branch. Content and undisturbed in her stormy surroundings, she rested on her eggs.

With her eyes closed she spread her wings to cover her little ones…

She manifested peace in a place where there was none… A Peace that transcends all earthly turmoil. …True peace.. Because safety consists not in the absence of danger but in the presence of God.
We are living in dark times .. and dark times don’t require dark measures ,but rather – The Light ….I’ll end this with the poem that inspired this thought tonight ,in hope that it will leave you with the same “Light” it left me..
” I rest beneath the Almighty’s shade,
My griefs expire, my troubles cease;
Thou, Lord, on whom my soul is stayed,
Wilt keep me still in perfect peace.”
– Charles Wesley.

Damage Control

Whether we want to admit it or not , we all damage our kids. From the argument over money right in front of them , or dealing with them sharply for no other reason than you’re not in the mood” to deal with with them – we damage them. Granted , these things wont scar them for life but they certainly have influence over who they become. We all do it , and there is no way to avoid it –  we are human ,  and we are flawed… we too , are damaged.

It’s a hard thing to admit.

I woke up from a sound sleep this morning at 2 a.m with this sobering thought and wrestled with myself for an hour before I could get back to sleep. Have I REALLY done the best I can with my kids? I’m already aware of mistakes I made with my oldest  ,but the truth is  – I couldn’t be happier with who she is right now.. She is confident , smart ,talented and beautiful – not mention armed with a quick wit that allows her to hang with ANY of her older boy cousins and absolutely SLAY them when necessary! She is INCREDIBLE and I love her more than I can express – but do I deserve credit for that? I have given her many reasons to fail because of my own damage and yet she continues to blossom…

But , what about my son? – The day I found out we were having a boy , it literally paralyzed me…. I was scared to death…  How was I supposed to raise this baby boy into a GOOD man  , when I wasn’t even sure myself if I was a good man?.. and then it hit me ,like it always does. I’m usually a little late to the party and this was NO exception –

God has given me EVERYTHING I need to raise my kids right in SPITE of who I am or fail to be …This sobering thought brought me to where I should have already been  –  My knees.

 

As I prayed that afternoon , I asked God to help me help him and my daughter.. To help me become the man I want my son to model after ….and to become the kind of man my daughter will look for in a husband one day.. To help me be the husband I should be to my wife so that we together can be a model of what BOTH of our kids will look to for future relationships and NOT what  the entertainment world says relationships are, but what GOD says they are!!  Help me be the kind of man that despite my own damage and despite my own flaws – raise good children ,who will raise good children that will raise good children!!

To be the kind of man who can say he is sorry when he is wrong ,and forgive himself so he doesn’t drag that baggage into the equation as well… because THAT’S where all the damage we do comes from ANYWAY…

Isn’t it?

The truth is , God must be part of the equation with parenting – just like he should be with marriage. So on the days when I screw up , and the days when I get it wrong and the days when I have messed it all up – it all stays together IN SPITE of my best efforts to tear it apart…

I still pray that God will help me be that  kind of man.

As we go through life  ,we continue to grow…. We continue to learn.. and with learning comes mistakes. If you’re not making mistakes , you’re not learning – its part of it… But if you continue to make the same mistakes , you have missed the lesson and aren’t  growing at all. As a parent  , my worst fear is that I will do more damage than good to my kids – That as a human being capable of error , I may fail…But this has been my biggest failure by FAR.

Why ?  Because  fear is only an outward sign of distrust and if I trust my God the way I say I do , then I have  NOTHING to fear..

The reality is , I’m a good parent … My kids are proof of this… My kids are proof that my wife and I despite our flaws , we are doing it right… Our kids sleep more sound than anything I can think of because they KNOW they are loved…and they ,with God’s help will turn out not undamaged or unscathed  – but  physically and emotionally and most importantly SPIRITUALLY healthy!! In a single word – GOOD…

It is my hope that yours do too..

In the face of our flaws and mistakes , God forgives us – so forgive yourself also… Trust in him and HIS way and any fear of being a less than perfect parent will leave you. … We may not be perfect  , but HE IS….. And he don’t make no JUNK.

 

As always – the invitation to study the bible is open. We can study anything you like , trust – it’s all in there no matter what it is.

 

Read  – Ephesians 6:4,Proverbs 1:8-9 ,Psalms 127:3-5 ,Deuteronomy 7:14 and Proverbs 22:6

 

Perspective

In the face of negativity , I will boldly defy it…

Perspective is a funny thing – you and I can look at the same thing and yet see it completely differently , depending on where we allow our influence to come from…. We can see a world full of anger , or a world full anguish.. A world full of hate or a world in desperate need of love.. A world that demands justice , or a world that I pray doesn’t get it..(think about that one for a minute)… A world that deserves burning , or a world in DIRE need of saving..

A world that needed a SAVIOR and rejects him STILL , or a world that he DIED for and yet STILL SAVES – if only it were willing.

Study the bible with me – don’t allow the media to be your influence , but rather allow God to.

A change of perspective could change everything.

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling.”(Mathew 23:37)

Who Prays for the Preacher?

Pray for me Preacher! he shouted as he was walking away…”OK” I shouted back  ,not really knowing what to pray for ,  just knowing  that God could fill in the blanks that  I may have left open as I prayed..

This is the scene all too often in with what I do.. .”Pray for Uncle  So and So  or Pray for Aunt  So and So” , “Pray for my Mom or Pray for my Dad” or  “Pray for this ,pray for that”….pray ,pray , pray…. And so I do.  I pray for people I don’t even know upon the request of someone I do know… I pray for our Leaders ,yes even HIM.

Why? – because if I can pray for people who I know NOTHING about , I can CERTAINLY pray for a man who is under the microscope of the American people especially when so many are unhappy with him and the decisions he has made in the last 4 years. I can’t  IMAGINE the pressure he and his family must be under… SO even though I don’t support his politics , his beliefs or his lackluster performance – I certainly can pray for him as a human being ,a father and a husband. He is human and humans need prayers to a righteous God who can save…. There is no doubt HE NEEDS IT.

So  , this got me thinking –  As and Evangelist , I do ALOT of praying..ALOT of encouraging…ALOT of caring – even for my enemies  ( Mathew 5:44).  I pray because I can’t help myself… I pray because I’m helpless… I pray because the need flows out of me all the time both waking and sleeping…… I pray  NOT because it could ever  change God – but because  it changes ME…

And yet –

I get discouraged. I get frustrated. I struggle with sin…and I fail – Just like everyone else. I am not immune to humanity..If anything I am numbed by it…almost made callous due to over exposure of it…and that’s when I need God to prick my heart again and make me understand why Jesus Wept… to make me understand my need for Christ in my  OWN life … to remind   me that I am NOT bullet proof , but rather frail and fragile as everyone …and to make me see fully , the power of PRAYER.

So who prays for the preacher? Who prays for the one who continually prays for others? Who prays for ME when I need it?

The correct answer should be “Anyone I ask to” … But just because I don’t ask , it doesn’t mean I don’t need them –

All too often we assume because the preacher is solid  and doesn’t need it when in fact ,  he may be the one that needs prayer the most at that moment. Handling rightly the word of God comes with a massive responsibility and accountability ,as it should. James warns us in chapter 3 verse 1 of his letter “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.” There is no “almost right”…its right or its wrong when it comes to handling Gods teaching.  This alone is enough to call for the prayers of others on the Preachers behalf..

But even in the small things of life – Money troubles , family stress, keeping up appearances  or possibly –  even moving your family to another state   to serve with a congregation there (yes , this one is about me) – Prayers are not just welcomed  , they are MUCH needed.

There is no sound louder than that of a prayer not heard on your behalf … especially when it has been requested.

So pray. Prayer FOR our leaders AND  about our leaders ,  The Lord knows they need God’s guidance whether they think they do or not.  Pray for the Preachers everywhere fighting the Good fight , we are human bleed just like you do…

And pray for each other. James 5:16 says “Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.”

They can ….  and they do…

But no prayer at all accomplishes just that – nothing.

I will pray for you… so please – Pray for me.

The invitation to study the bible is still open…..  😉

Read the book of James.. yes, all of it.