Aaron Summers

Posts Tagged ‘Israelite’

Raising Kids Like a Boss, Part 2

In Life and Culture on November 13, 2013 at 7:00 am

Be-Transformed-Christian-PowerPoint

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world,
but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.
Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

— Romans 12:2

I remember the day of birth for each of my children.  I remember holding them in my arms, counting fingers and toes.  I brushed their hair and kissed their heads.  Blondie and Brownie, their names for web purposes, are now 12 and 9.  Much has changed over these past few years.  My wife and I are working hard to do what we discussed yesterday.  However, they are dropped off 5 days a week for 8 hours each day into a culture that is necessary, but difficult.  My kids will go to public school because I want them to be salt and light and I don’t think that happens if I teach them at home.  The trade-off is that they are discovering new things at a rate faster than I would prefer.  They are being washed over by our culture right there in the classroom, the cafeteria, and especially the playground.

How can I help them not be conformed to this world?
How can I help them be transformed so they can know God’s Will and have the ability to do it?

1.  Do NOT let them choose for themselves.  I was standing in line at a fast-food joint the other day watching as a 2-year-old tried to make up their mind about what they would eat.  They were being allowed to choose for themselves what they would eat.  Left to her own devices, Brownie would eat Mac and Cheese every meal.  That is not happening on my watch. I know of one family who attended church regularly.  The father was a leader in the church.  However, they allowed their son to choose for himself about spiritual things.  They did not want to push him.  Now, his life is forever different as an ex-con.  Our kids are not prepared to choose for themselves.  We choose for them and then help them understand why the choice was made.  In this way, you shape them into the ability to make proper choices when they come to a point when you are not around.

2.  Do NOT believe the culture can raise them properly.  A quick review of our culture notes a downward spiral with relation to the Biblical ethic.  Consumerism is on the rise which see a disposable nature in everything.  Now we have starter homes and starter marriages.  Sex used to be inside marriage, now it is a group game on a Friday night.  Life used to be sacred.  Now Euthanasia is on the rise in new ways.  30 years ago boys had no confusion.  Now we have same-sex marriages in 14 states.  With open sexual relationships and now “eye-licking“, we are finding STD’s in eye infections.  Our culture cannot raise our kids properly.  We cannot turn them out and expect them whole when they return.

3.  Do NOT believe we are safe.  Within the Christian community, there has been a thought that everything will be OK.  The problem is that until 30 years ago, most people followed a similar moral and ethic.  Now we have 330 million people in our country and that many ethics and moral codes.  When there are no absolutes, everyone is right.  Of course, no one is right either.  1 out of 5 people consider themselves has having no religious affiliation.  Of those under 29, this rises to 1 of 3.  Our world has changed and we cannot sit back and think otherwise.

Of course, we could just throw this all out and let their friends help them make choices, television shape their morality, and bury our heads in the sand.  We could.  However, this would be the result:

After Joshua sent the people away, each of the tribes left to take possession of the land allotted to them.  And the Israelites served the Lord  throughout the lifetime of Joshua and the leaders who outlived him—those who had seen all the great things the Lord  had done for Israel. Joshua son of Nun, the servant of the Lord , died at the age of 110.  They buried him in the land he had been allocated, at Timnath-serah  in the hill country of Ephraim, north of Mount Gaash. After that generation died, another generation grew up who did not acknowledge the Lord  or remember the mighty things he had done for Israel. The Israelites did evil in the Lord ’s sight and served the images of Baal.  They abandoned the L ord , the God of their ancestors, who had brought them out of Egypt. They went after other gods, worshiping the gods of the people around them. And they angered the Lord .

— Judges 2

 

Life in the Rear View

In Chrisian Life, Decisions, Joshua, Journey on April 30, 2013 at 10:21 am

rear-view-mirror

Traveling to a funeral, we passed through Dallas during rush hour.  I had hoped to get through the city before it got too hectic but missed the window by a small margin.  It is amazing how early it starts now.  As we were passing through miles of construction it became a lot of start and stop.  I have never found myself nervous about driving in traffic, but I was very glad to get through to the other side!  The lanes had been narrowed from 4 to 1, the traffic was rising and everyone was in a hurry.  I am not a saint when it comes to texting in the car and I knew others were not either.  I felt like I had a bobble-head attached to my body because of looking ahead to know when to stop, to the sides to not hit any barrels, and in all the mirror to make sure others were going to stop in time.  There were a few times that I was not sure the car behind us was going to stop!  I could just see being shoved up the backside of the truck in front of us and then having the gravel/stone/dirt unload on top.  One of the times my head bobbled to the rear view mirror, I noticed two smiling faces looking back at me.  I realized my anxiety was based out of a protective sense toward those riding along.

We are told in life to never look back except to learn from history, both good and bad.  We are to look ahead, forge a path, and focus on the future.  There is a balance to all of this looking around.  We cannot simply live in the past and allow that to control our future.  Our destiny is more than responding to the past.  Certainly we can check our past decisions and create a plan to bolster our forward progress.  We cannot live life without looking in the rear view, however a steady gaze takes our eyes off the road ahead and accidents do happen.  If we only look ahead we might forget what lies behind, or just in the back seat!  We can get so enamored with our lives, our goals, our futures, our desires that we leave behind those who love us most.  Concentrating only through the windshield does not fully prepare you for reality.  What happens when your past catches up with you?  What happens if you are hit from behind or side-swiped?  Crashes happen because we are not fully paying attention to our surroundings.  Safe driving involves a balanced approach to looking ahead and in the mirrors as well as glancing at the gauges periodically in case of something critical happening now. Because of what I saw that day, I am reminded of how we are to livevu.  We are to live balanced as well.

We should look back.  We should take a look back to see from whence we came to give thanks and honor to our glorious God.  We look back to better understand how His plan is coming to fruition.  We look back to learn.

We need look around.  We should look in our other mirrors and dash gauges.  Taking a look at our surroundings helps us understand how to pray.  Awareness of our culture and context is invaluable in living a life worthy of the calling of Jesus Christ.  We cannot just mindlessly drive through life.  We are to take advantage of every situation, every conversation, every experience to fully glorify God.  We look around to listen.

We must look ahead.  Just like driving, if we never have our eyes on the road how can we ever expect to stay on the road.  I believe that we often find ourselves outdated and irrelevant when we never look ahead and map out a path.  If we only react tot he past and present without any idea of where we are trying to go we are doomed to repeat the history we are trying to avoid.  Reactionary thinking rarely takes into account the view through the windshield.  We look ahead to live.

There is no joy in reactionary living.  Like the walls around a prison, you find yourself locked inside with no hope.  Take a look back and learn.  Take a look around and listen.  Above all, look ahead so that what you have learned and heard can create a path of life and joy and peace in the hands of God.

Let’s go for a drive!

19 The people came up from the Jordan on the tenth day of the first month, and camped at Gilgal on the eastern limits of Jericho. 20 Then Joshua set up in Gilgal the 12 stones they had taken from the Jordan, 21 and he said to the Israelites, “In the future, when your children ask their fathers, ‘What is the meaning of these stones?’ 22 you should tell your children, ‘Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground.’ 23 For the Lord your God dried up the waters of the Jordan before you until you had crossed over, just as the Lord your God did to the •Red Sea, which He dried up before us until we had crossed over. 24 This is so that all the people of the earth may know that the Lord’s hand is mighty, and so that you may always •fear the Lord your God.”

Joshua 4:19-24

 

Do you need some cheese with that whine?

In Uncategorized on April 10, 2011 at 9:57 pm

A few years ago we were given a gift of a pool.  It is a soft-side pool you take down annually.  We absolutely love it!  I start prepping the area in April each year.  The last couple of years I have told the kids that the rocks need to be removed from the sand before I can put the pool up.  Why do I start in April?  It takes a while for that process to actually happen!  Here’s how the process usually goes down:

  • Looks at the site: Whine.  That is too hard.  We will never get that done. Now we will never get to swim.
  • Picks up a handful of rocks:  Whine. This is too hard.  We will never get it done. Now we will never get to swim.
  • Week goes by. Bucket of rocks. Whine. This is too hard.  We will never get it done. Now we will never get to swim.
  • Another week goes by. Wheelbarrow full of rocks. Whine. This is too hard.  We will never get it done. Now we will never get to swim.

You get the picture.  My answer was consistent.  If you want to swim, then pick up the rocks.  There is a similar situation that occurs in Joshua.  The children of Israel have crossed over into the promised land.  They have whipped the southern kings, moved to the northern kings, and are now distributing the land.  Joshua receives a message from the tribe of Joseph saying they did not get enough land for the amount of people they have.  An initial thought is that God is the one who apportioned the land.  If there is an alleged discrepancy, are they really blaming God?  The reality is that they were lazy and greedy.  They wanted more land without the effort.  Where was this land to be acquired?  Looking at a distribution map, they essentially wanted a brother to receive less so they could have more.  The audacity! Joshua sees through this and replies:

15 “If you have so many people,” Joshua replied to them, “go to the forest and clear [an area] for yourselves there in the land of the Perizzites and the Rephaim, because Ephraim’s hill country is too small for you.”

Joshua tells them to go and clear the land they already have.  They were supposed to remove all the people as an agent of God’s discipline.  They were to clean out the area.  They didn’t want to do that because it took an effort.  Blessing rarely comes without some form of effort.

16 But the descendants of Joseph said, “The hill country is not enough for us, and all the Canaanites who inhabit the valley area have iron chariots, both at Beth-shean with its towns and in the Jezreel Valley.”

Whine.  It’s too hard. We will never get that done. Now there will never be enough room!

17 So Joshua replied to Joseph’s family (that is, Ephraim and Manasseh), “You have many people and great strength. You will not have just one allotment, 18 because the hill country will be yours also. It is a forest; clear it and its outlying areas will be yours. You can also drive out the Canaanites, even though they have iron chariots and are strong.”

Same thing I told the kids…sort of!  We need to hear this sometimes as well.  We face tough times financially and our sense of entitlement takes a hit. We begin to whine about unfair treatment.  Our family relationships breakdown because we are never home and don’t communicate.  We feel God should have made it all better so we whine a little and cry out “Unfair! This is too hard.”  Our life expectations are not being met.  We feel depressed and taken advantage of by life.  We whine and cry to God that He should have done something.  He should provide for all the wants that we determine are needs.  We want the BMW, but are forced to drive something less.  We want the 4000 sq. ft. home but must settle for the rental unit with 1 bathroom.  We are unsatisfied with life and with God.  Like the tribe of Joseph, we complain about the apportionments.  Why is God so cheap?  Why is God so stingy?  He could give me so much more, so why is He not?  Typically we will design our prayers in a different fashion.

God, You have blessed me so much in life.  I feel that I could serve you so much more with a larger home.  I could host missionaries and have small group meet at the house.  You know the community I serve.  I can’t drive this rundown mini-van any longer and continue to serve these people.  Lord, I need that new BMW.  Lord, I love you.  Amen.

Show of hands…who has prayed that prayer?  We cloak our greed in spiritual terms.  This is what the tribe was doing and Joshua called them out.  You want more land?  Go clean out what you already have.  You will get more if you take responsibility for what you already have been given.  If I want the larger house, I should pray about God’s plan for my life.  Does it include a  larger home?  If so, what am I willing to do to acquire the house?  Will I cut spending to save money to afford the home?  Will I sell my firstborn to have what I feel I rightly deserve?

Why can’t we simply be grateful for what God has given?  Why can’t we live within our means?  Why not take responsibility for what we have before trying to trade in and trade up for something we can’t really afford or handle?  The sense of entitlement we have is astounding.  The tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh (Joseph) thought about who their relative was and felt entitled.  They were not.  You are not.  I am not.

Take what you have been given and be happy.  Be content.  Be faithful.  God will upgrade your life when you are prepared and when He chooses is the right time.

4 Keys to Dinner Dialogues

In Faithfulness, Family, Joshua, Journey, Parenting, Trust on March 31, 2011 at 10:27 pm

What seems to be a lost family moment is the dinner dialogue.  When I grew up we ate dinner as a family several nights a week.  We did not have a food pattern, but we did have a discussion pattern.  Every day we talked about our day.  What was good?  What was bad?  What happened?  We all talked answered the questions.  Then we asked questions.

“Someone said something bad about me today, what do I do?”  Mom and Dad then begin to explain to me how I should respond to such situations.

“I got into a fight today….”  Mom and Dad would express disapproval and then how I should respond.

Every time we ate dinner together this was our pattern.  These were special times that I wish to continue with my own family.  In my family today we eat at home together several nights a week.  We talk about what we did during the day.  We ask the kids what they learned and what they like about the day.  Each day is unique.  Each is wonderful in its own way.  We take the teachable moments that come and use them to instill biblical principles into their young lives.  This dinner dialogue can be entertaining to intimidating depending on the topics and questions raised.  We are developing a trust between everyone that we can talk, express, and ask questions in a safe place.  These questions can be spiritual or social, sports or sewing, relational or religious.  All questions are fair and welcomed.  As they age and the issues become greater and more critical with each year, this trust will be cherished.

4 So Joshua summoned the 12 men he had selected from the Israelites, one man for each tribe, 5 and said to them, “Go across to the ark of the Lord your God in the middle of the Jordan. Each of you lift a stone onto his shoulder, one for each of the Israelite tribes, 6 so that this will be a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean to you?’ 7 you should tell them, ‘The waters of the Jordan were cut off in front of the ark of the Lord’s covenant. When it crossed the Jordan, the Jordan’s waters were cut off.’ Therefore these stones will always be a memorial for the Israelites.”

Joshua 4

Joshua is developing a proclamation made by Moses early in Deuteronomy.

4 “Listen, Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is One. 5 Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. 6 These words that I am giving you today are to be in your heart. 7 Repeat them to your children. Talk about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Bind them as a sign on your hand and let them be a symbol on your forehead. 9 Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

Deuteronomy 6

Dinner dialogue is something that was being introduced 3300 years ago!  Moses told parents to take God’s Word and repeat it to the children.  They were to discuss when they sat down or walked around.  There is hardly a meal that goes by that something couldn’t be discussed and tied back to the Bible.  Joshua adds to this directive from Moses.  The people are to be prepared to answer the questions of family and national history as it relates to God.  For example, our children might ask how we met.  The simple answer is that we met a graduate school.  This is clean, crisp, to the point, and we can all move on with our lives.  However, to honor the spirit of these passages of scripture we add more to the story.  We talk about that God wanted each of us to go to that particular school.  God brought us together as friends and later we felt tha God wanted us to become married.  This takes a little longer and might raise more questions, but we integrate God into the very basic portions of our lives.

Here are a few tips about Dinner dialogues:

1.  Make room for meal times as a family where dialogue can happen. Running through the drive-thru on the way to an event, practice, or game is not the best time.  We should not confuse that as family time either.  Children need quiet, alone time with the family.  The distractions need to be able to fade out of the picture so that real moments can be established.

2.  Read the Bible from a research perspective. Every day, I read the Bible because God has a message for me.  As a person, husband, father, pastor, and friend there are several hats I wear daily.  There are issues raised and questions asked every day that are demanding an answer.  What better answer can I give than one that is Biblically based?  While I do not quote scripture at every turn and answer, it is important to have scripture in the backdrop of my mind as I dialogue with others and especially my children.

3.  Integrate. Children and grandchildren can ask some CRAZY questions.  Where did I come from?  What does God look like?  Where does the sun go at night?  What’s the name of the Man in the Moon?  Who is Jesus?  Why does Bobby speak in a weird language at his church?  How come Johnny is a different color than me? Whether the questions are biblical or not, we should be able to express ourselves in spiritual terms and behavior.  Scripture is the message from God for your life.  Read it so you can know how to live and dialogue properly concerning God in history both nationally and personally, even around the dinner table.

4.  Take advantage of teachable moments. Every time it happens jump on it!  Teachable moments do not always happen.  Yet, when they do we must take advantage of that moment.  When we are given the chance to express truth in a life moment we have a Biblical responsibility to do so.  When we sit down, stand up, lie down, or walk about we are to be instilling truth in those over whom we have influence.  It is not enough to simply passively wait for the next moment, praying and sweating that we have the right answer.  Look for those moments.  Make those moments happen.  Be in the Word and answer those questions while instilling life into the next generation through introducing them to God and His message for humanity.

Whether you have PB & J or grilled steak and baked potatoes, have a dinner dialogue as soon as you can.  The next generation is waiting and they are hungry!

Leaving the Cave of Adullam: Handling Transition

In Anger, deuteronomy, Faithfulness, Grief, Leadership, Trust on March 29, 2011 at 7:17 am

Every organization deals with transition, some even handle it well!  For the past 30 years I have been well acquainted with the transition process organizations go through, whether it be food service, security, or church.  Because the common denominator is people, the response is similar despite the organization.  When leadership changes a few truths come into play that will follow many, if not all, of the Kubler-Ross model of grief.

Panic – while this may not be widespread, there is a fear and anxiety that establishes itself in the group.  There is no sense of direction.  There is a feeling of dread, especially on the part of those who enjoyed the established leadership.  In these moments people do crazy things.  Some will quit or leave.  Others will rise up and demand power.  Many will sit in shock and awe and not have the ability to function for a period of time.  When we found out the security company was being sold, widespread panic filled the office.  No one was guaranteed a job.  Everyone would be interviewed by the new company to see if there was a position available.

Anger – there will be those in the organization who get angry at the situation, but will take it out on others.  The sense of loss a group feels can collectively turn to rage.  The night I resigned a church a few years ago was a life-defining moment because it was not my sole decision.  This was a mutual agreement between two parties for the good of the whole.  During the evening, there were several unsolicited responses in defense of me and in offense to others.  This anger was a result of the initial panic and outrage of what was unfolding before them.  Given their history, Israel probably had issue with Moses not being the one to lead them into the promised land.

7 Moses was 120 years old when he died; his eyes were not weak, and his vitality had not left [him].

Deuteronomy 34

According to this scripture, there was nothing wrong with Moses.  How often do we feel this emotion?  A leader exits and there seems to be no reason.  The people mourned for 30 days, which was a traditional amount of time.  Certainly there were those who feigned the mourning while others genuinely did so.

Guilt – there will be those who will consider what they did to cause this transition.  What could they have done differently?  How could they have retained the leadership.  Unfortunately, there is often nothing that could have happened.  This guilt, while admirable in leading toward responsibility, can be destabilizing if allowed to run too far.  On different occasions, Moses told the people that God was angry at him because of them.  Now that Moses was gone, how many ask the question, “What could we done differently?”

25 Please let me cross over and see the beautiful land on the other side of the Jordan, that good hill country and Lebanon.
26 “But the Lord was angry with me on account of you and would not listen to me. The Lord said to me, ‘That’s enough! Do not speak to Me again about this matter.

Deuteronomy 3

21 “The Lord was angry with me on your account. He swore that I would not cross the Jordan and enter the good land the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance. 22 I won’t be crossing the Jordan because I am going to die in this land. But you are about to cross over and take possession of this good land.

Deuteronomy 4

Acceptance – after a period of time the organization realizes stagnation is imminent unless a new leader is chosen.  Those who sit on the board of directors or church leadership refocus and begin a search for the next leader.  God had already chosen Joshua.  Moses had relayed this truth to the people already.

9 Joshua son of Nun was filled with the spirit of wisdom because Moses had laid his hands on him. So the Israelites obeyed him and did as the Lord had commanded Moses.

Deuteronomy 34

How does an organization move forward?  Once acceptance has been reached, even if just barely, what happens next?  I think there are a few things that we all should review.

1.  Express how you feel in community.  Moses was mourned for 30 days.  The leader of the people and voice for God over 40 years was gone.  Their emotion was deep, heartfelt, and necessary.  Every organization needs to allow for emotive communication.  David, while hiding in the Cave of Adullam during a transition of leadership wrote these words.

1 Be gracious to me, God, be gracious to me,
for I take refuge in You.
I will seek refuge in the shadow of Your wings
until danger passes.
2 I call to God Most High,
to God who fulfills [His purpose] for me.
3 He reaches down from heaven and saves me,
challenging the one who tramples me. Selah
God sends His faithful love and truth.
4 I am surrounded by lions;
I lie down with those who devour men.
Their teeth are spears and arrows;
their tongues are sharp swords.
5 God, be exalted above the heavens;
let Your glory be over the whole earth.

Psalm 57

2. Establish your point of reference. David was very emotional!  What artist isn’t?  Throughout the Psalms, David would share his pain, grief, anger, need for vengeance, and more.  He often concluded his songs reminding himself that God is sovereign and worthy to be praised, worshiped, and followed regardless of the current circumstances.

7 My heart is confident, God, my heart is confident.
I will sing; I will sing praises.
8 Wake up, my soul!
Wake up, harp and lyre!
I will wake up the dawn.
9 I will praise You, Lord, among the peoples;
I will sing praises to You among the nations.
10 For Your faithful love is as high as the heavens;
Your faithfulness reaches the clouds.
11 God, be exalted above the heavens;
let Your glory be over the whole earth.

Psalm 57

3.  Engage the process of discovery of new leadership. While Joshua was already chosen like the eldest son of a sitting Monarch, the people needed a process by which they engaged this new leader.  They did not have search teams and interviews, but they needed to be a part of the process.  Joshua was commissioned for the task in Deuteronomy 31.  As a follow-up to this procedure, Joshua had the people reaffirm their commitment.

16 They answered Joshua, “Everything you have commanded us we will do, and everywhere you send us we will go. 17 We will obey you, just as we obeyed Moses in everything. And may the Lord your God be with you, as He was with Moses. 18 Anyone who rebels against your order and does not obey your words in all that you command him, will be put to death. Above all, be strong and courageous!”

Joshua 1

The next time your organization experiences a transition be sure to handle it with care.  Just make sure you handle it!

Heart and Soul

In deuteronomy, Faithfulness, holiness, love, tithe, Trust on March 25, 2011 at 6:23 am

Do you remember this song?  I cannot tell you how many times I played this on the piano, both solo and as duet, over the years.  For a few years it seemed that it was played by everyone even close to a piano!  In case you have forgotten, here is a video of the song from the movie “BIG” starring Tom Hanks:

What does Heart and soul really mean?  I ran across this statement as Moses is wrapping up with the people with the covenant summary.  He has just spent what we will call 16 chapters expressing the covenant stipulations.  These boundaries for the blessing are for their own good and the development and maintenance of their relationship with God.  Here are some of the things listed in these chapters:

  • Worship – anything smacking of ANYTHING else is to be totally destroyed
  • Tithing – 10% is to be given to honor the Lord and the Levite
  • Holiness – both the inside and outside of a person is to be clean and pure as would be presentable to the Lord
  • Attendance – daily, weekly, monthly, and annual sacrifices and festivals were to be attended without excuse
  • Justice – treat each with respect both personally and judicially

While not an exhaustive list, this does cover a large amount of what is delivered.  For the details you can read start reading it here.  As we approach the end of this section, Moses gives a summary of both parties:  God and the people.

16 “The Lord your God is commanding you this day to follow these statutes and ordinances. You must be careful to follow them with all your heart and all your soul. 17 Today you have affirmed that the Lord is your God and that you will walk in His ways, keep His statutes, commands, and ordinances, and obey Him. 18 And today the Lord has affirmed that you are His special people as He promised you, that you are to keep all His commands,

19 that He will elevate you to praise, fame, and glory above all the nations He has made, and that you will be a holy people to the Lord your God as He promised.”

Deuteronomy 26

Moses states that the people must follow them with all their heart and soul.  What does this mean?  On the surface, we could easily say that we should follow the prescriptions of the law with every part of ourselves.  Heart and soul would have dealt with the emotional and spiritual aspects.  Emotionally, we are to follow these laws.  It has always been the design of God that we be in a relationship with Him.  If we simply read these cold and lifeless, then we are not engaging them emotionally.  We are to love God and love His message.  How many of us just skip through these books to get to the “good stuff” of Joshua and Jericho?  To do so would be to skip the whole foundation of scripture.  To emotionally involve myself with scripture I would read, ponder, examine, and listen (more on this next time).

Moses does not end with the emotional aspect but adds that the people should follow with their soul also.  Now, soul leads to a spiritual aspect.  How do we follow with our soul?  How do we follow spiritually?  Faith is key to our understanding.  So much of what we read is foreign to us, though it was not for the original hearer.  They would have understood what was being said to them.  However, just 40 years prior their parents had not acted on faith concerning the Word of God.  We are to obey His commands even when we do not understand or see a positive outcome.  This group of Israelites are being reminded to act on faith more than fact.  As we read the scripture today, there is relevance for us today.  We must act of faith.  When we do not understand it or even agree with it in light of our culture today, will we still follow God?  Will we follow with our soul?

I haven’t played that song in years.  How long has it been since we have loved God heart and soul?

Heart and soul, I fell in love with you
Heart and soul, the way a fool would do,
madly
Because you held me tight
And stole a kiss in the night

Heart and soul, I begged to be adored
Lost control, and tumbled overboard,
gladly
That magic night we kissed
There in the moon mist

Oh! but your lips were thrilling, much too thrilling
Never before were mine so strangely willing

But now I see, what one embrace can do
Look at me, it’s got me loving you
madly
That little kiss you stole
Held all my heart and soul

Shampoo Spirituality

In Cleansing, Commitment, deuteronomy, Faithfulness, Leadership, Trust on March 19, 2011 at 8:22 am

Have you ever read the directions on a bottle of shampoo and conditioner?

Massage into wet hair.  Let it remain for a minute. Rinse. Repeat as necessary.

I actually used this stuff back in the day.  Lather. Rinse. RepeatI am not sure why I read the back of a bottle of shampoo recently, but I did.  A very simple procedure for an important concept in hair care.  I have never been one to concern myself with this sort of hair product as much as others.  Yet, I know that it is very critical for some.  As I was reading through Deuteronomy these past few days it struck me again the simplicity that Moses used with the people before he turned everything over to Joshua.  This book is basically the final sermons of Moses to the people.  The most famous of these speeches came near the beginning as he stated what would later be named “The Shema“.

3 Listen, Israel, and be careful to follow [them], so that you may prosper and multiply greatly, because Yahweh, the God of your fathers, has promised you a land flowing with milk and honey.
4 “Listen, Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is One. 5 Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. 6 These words that I am giving you today are to be in your heart. 7 Repeat them to your children. Talk about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Bind them as a sign on your hand and let them be a symbol on your forehead.

Deuteronomy 6

This passage of scripture has been memorized often.  In fact, I would encourage you to memorize these verses and tuck them away in your heart and mind as reminders of the importance God places on fidelity in the relationship with Him.  Moses lets this sit there for a few days before picking up this theme again.  In Deuteronomy 11 Moses, for the most part, repeats what he had told them earlier.

18 “Imprint these words of mine on your hearts and minds, bind them as a sign on your hands, and let them be a symbol on your foreheads. 19 Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 20 Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates, 21 so that as long as the heavens are above the earth, your days and those of your children may be many in the land the Lord swore to give your fathers.

Deuteronomy 11

Not much has changed over the centuries.  From shampoo to spirituality we are still down to a simple process for something very important.  There is a “preacher story” that has been passed down over the generations about a young pastor who preached a sermon one Sunday and was surprised when God told him to preach it again the next Sunday.  A few people realized that this was a repeat sermon but dismissed it as inexperience on the pastor’s part.  The third Sunday came along and God had instructed the young man to preach the same message again.  This time a few more picked up on it and still disregarded as the young man struggling to find something to say.  The fourth time he  preached the message the leadership pulled him aside and began to discuss why he was preaching the same message.  Did he need help?  Was he called to preach or not?  Was he overwhelmed?  Could he not find something else in the whole Bible?  After they said their peace, the pastor calmly responded that God had inspired Him to preach this same message each week until they started practicing its points.  In fact, he would repeat it as often as needed until they started living out the message God intended.  This is what I see Moses doing with the people in Deuteronomy 6 and 11.  He will repeat this same theme again before the end of Deuteronomy.

Were the people slow?  Maybe.  Was there nothing else to say?  No.  God wanted the people to get something very simple, yet profound in importance.  God is still doing it today.

  1. Get Wet– God prepares our heart in many ways for the truth He wants us to have.  The tragedy, death, struggle, or pain that you have had recently is  a possible time of preparation.  God has a lesson for you.  May we settle down long enough to hear what God is saying.  Putting shampoo into dry hair is useless.  There has to be something there for it to lather up with to become useful.  Like wetting our hair to prepare for the shampoo, God allows things into our lives to prepare us for a productive and developmental moment in our lives.
  2. Let it Sit– Sometime we want a quick solution and immediate response from God.  However, how many times have our “questions” in prayer been left hanging?  How often do we get up without a clear answer.  If we don;’t have immediate peace, immediate healing, or immediate results we become frustrated and seek alternative answers outside of God and His Will.  Meanwhile, God simply needed our faith and trust to develop a bit while the situation permeated our soul.  Like that conditioner, if we rinse too soon then it has no lasting effect.
  3. Rinse and Repeat. How often have we walked through a difficult time and never once opened our hands and hearts to God?  How often do we find ourselves right back where we started, only getting more mad at God rather than compliant?  If we do not learn the lesson the first time, God will likely rinse and repeat as necessary.  That recurring bad choice leads to the same place.  Learn what God has for you.  That relationship issue you continue to face leads to loneliness again.  Learn the lesson from God so that repeating won’t be necessary.  Moses repeated the same thoughts over and over because he suspected the people were not getting it.  God had already forecast for them the eventual demise of the country because of disobedience.  He still offered an alternative if they would only remain faithful.

Shampoo spirituality is not something we should take likely.  In fact, every time you wash or condition your hair think about how God wants to work in your life.  Have you gotten all wet with life lately?  Consider what God is trying to tell you.  Do you feel stuck right now?  Does it feel like God is not listening to your pleas?  Consider asking the Holy Spirit to reveal to you what you are missing.  Stop begging for release and relief and start seeking the truth in the moment.  Doing this more often leads to a simpler life with God and less repeating of circumstances to get our attention.

 

Get Your Kicks on Route 66

In Uncategorized on March 18, 2011 at 7:26 am

Three years ago we started a journey that has been a dream of my wife’s for a while.  As she talked about it I thought it sounded cool, though it would be totally antithetical to my normal way of traveling.  Known as “The Mother Road“, Route 66 is becoming extinct. Main Street of America Every year there is less to actually travel on without hazard to life or tie rod.  I got online and found a turn-by-turn map and directions for each leg of the trip from Chicago to Santa Monica Pier.  The Oklahoma portion of the trip was our starting point.  After the SBC convention in Indianapolis, we drove up to Chicago and started at the beginning and came home driving on as much of the original road as possible.  Right now I am sitting in Albuquerque having driven 1100 miles in the last three days driving on Route 66 as much as possible.  Because of a generous gift to our family we have been able to make this trip a reality this year.  We booked it down to the Texas border and got off the Interstate and haven’t seen much of it since.

The sites have been so much fun!  We have seen a barbed wire museum and route 66 museum in Mclean, TX, the big cross at Groom, TX, a VW Bug ranch and Cadillac Ranch.  We stopped at the Midway Cafe and Bobcat Bite where we ate Green Chile Cheeseburgers.  We have come down from Santa Fe through several Indian Pueblos and drove alongside spectacular views of mountain ranges.  We saw a 100 ft rock owl and crossed the continental divide.

So what? Right?

All of this driving off the beaten path was slower than usual.  All of this driving off the regular routes took longer than usual.  There was one time along our journey we were not sure where we were going and if it was the right way, but we trusted the directions and arrived just fine.  As I was driving 55, which everyone knows Sammy Hagar cannot do, I noticed the constant desert and scrubby looking land mile after mile.  My wife and I discussed what it must have been like to have been some of the early travelers across this region.  How desolate, yet exotic, it must have seemed.  As I drove my mind began to drift to my Bible readings right now.  The Israelites had just spent 40 years in the wilderness, which I think would have looked a lot like this.  Moses received the same kinds of questions I did as we traveled:

  • Are we there yet?
  • What are we going to eat?  That again?
  • I’m thirsty!
  • I want to do something else.

They have traveled very well, but we all have our perceived needs.  The Israelites were very disgruntled.  They wanted certain foods and water at certain times.  They often wished they had never started this journey.  They whined and complained and expected Moses to magically fix everything.  When he did not, they dissented.  After a horrible decision at the border, they spent 38 years walking in circles until the elders died off.  Through this reading of Numbers and this trip so far, I have learned:

  • Don’t take home for granted! Driving through different areas of the country both geographically and financially makes me appreciate what God has given us at home.  It may not be the mansion, but it is home and God granted it to us.  Even with its quirks and issues, I recognize that we blessed.
  • Trust the one giving directions. I was in charge of driving.  My wife was the navigator.  Moses simply drove the people wherever God told them to go.  I listened and made the turns and adjustments as needed.  I stopped for pictures.  I stopped for bathroom breaks.  I slowed down to drive the old road.  It was nice.  It was pleasant.  It was not the normal drive-like-a-madman-to-the-destination day and it felt good.  We ate PB & J in a roadside park.  Like is good.  Because I trusted the one who was giving the directions we are able to enjoy the moments together.
  • Take every thing in stride.  During this trip the weather has been gorgeous, but hot.  It was not supposed to be hot.  So we adjust as we can.  In downtown Santa Fe they changed the direction of the road, but the map did not show this adjustment.  You take it in stride and find another way.  So often in our lives we force a certain way.  The Israelites could not see the way into the promised land and then spent 40 years in the desert.  Moses and Aaron could not see his way to speaking to the rock at Meribah and missed out on the promised land.   We must calm down and recognize that things change.  Roads, people, weather, classes, music, worship, church all change.  Only God remains the same throughout.  Let’s take change in stride and simply continue to follow God, who does not change, rather than all the other things that constantly do so.
  • We fly through life too fast. We tend to live life in the fast lane.  We live at 75 and can’t slow down enough to notice anything.  When I slowed down on this trip a little and got off the popular road I was able to see beautiful landscapes and people.  I saw areas that are not visible from the highway and am better off for doing so.  Take some time with family.  Take time and let the journey be the destination.  Our culture today demands that we go to a “place” spend time there and rush back.   This pattern cripples the discipleship of a believer.  In a believer’s life the journey is important.  If we try to by-pass the journey through this life to get to the next we miss out on our purpose to make disciples that make a difference.

Enjoy and appreciate the life and times God has given each day.  Do it with more than words and pithy sayings.  Actually learn to enjoy the now, for that is all you truly have.  You cannot change the past and the future is not guaranteed.  Live now for the Lord through your life and family and service to God.  Take the time and get your kicks on route 66 {the Bible has 66 books…cool huh?}

Do You Trust Me?

In behavior, Commitment, Faithfulness, Jesus, Numbers, Trust on March 12, 2011 at 9:27 am

I was sitting in the office one day when I received a call.  The director of the local rehab facility was calling to ask if I would go and teach a class on grief.  The chaplain they had was gone and they needed a substitute.  I prepared a few things and went down there the next week. To be honest, I was scared to death.  I had nothing in common with anyone in the room.  I had no relationship with them. I was the hired hand that was teaching a lesson.  We all got through it together.  The director encouraged me and I went back to the office feeling like nothing had been accomplished.  The director called me the next week and asked if I wanted to return on a weekly basis.  From that point, every Thursday for three years I went to the Next Step Network as a chaplain.

Over time I built relationships and felt very helpful in the position.  One concept was repeated more than any others: God loves you, but the consequences must be faced.  Every person that heard that would leave depressed.  There was a belief, albeit an unbiblical one, that belief in God would remove all the bad from their life.  Time after time I would explain that God loved them, Jesus died for them, and God wanted to forgive them.  However, there were physical, financial, and relational, and mental consequences of their choices for which there was no guarantee.  There is a wide gap between what God can do and what God will do.

Moses had a difficult group which with to deal.  They complained.  They whined.  They betrayed.  They followed after other gods.  Yet, Moses still came before God and pleaded for their lives and for mercy.

20 The Lord responded, “I have pardoned [them] as you requested. 21 Yet as surely as I live and as the whole earth is filled with the Lord’s glory, 22 none of the men who have seen My glory and the signs I performed in Egypt and in the wilderness, and have tested Me these 10 times and did not obey Me, 23 will ever see the land I swore to [give] their fathers. None of those who have despised Me will see it.

Numbers 14

Could God have removed all consequence?  Absolutely.  God is sovereign over the entire universe.  He can do whatever He chooses.  He just is not required.  The addict should not expect to have be without headaches and ulcers.  The one who has had multiple affairs should not expect his marriage to continue.  The alcoholic should not be surprised with liver damage.  Could God fix all of these issues?  Yes.  Will God fix these issues?  Sometimes He does.  In our way of thinking there is no rhyme or reason to His activities and choices.  God’s plan is sure.  Our comprehension is shaky.  There are several faith groups that would disagree with me on this point stating that a person who has enough faith can have all of the bad removed.  I believe God can do it.  I simply do not feel I have the right to demand of God or try to use some prayer formula that puts a bit in the mouth of God in order to drive Him where I want.  God is sovereign.  I am a  sinner.  The issue is a matter of trust.  Once a person has put their faith into Jesus Christ and made peace with God every day comes down to a choice.  Will I trust God no matter what?  When the marriage crumbles will I trust God?  When the aches and shakes come will I trust God?  When the liver fails or cancer comes will I trust God?

Will I trust God no matter what?

Dealing with Betrayal

In Anger, Betrayal, Control, Faithfulness, Leadership, Numbers, Trust on March 11, 2011 at 6:07 am

Betrayal brings a sickening feeling to mind, body, and soul.  When those who were warm become cold we panic.  When everything seems to be fine and then we are handed our walking papers our hearts sink.  How do we handle the stress of betrayal?  What are we supposed to do?  Whether it is friendships that falter, marriages that fail, or jobs that are ripped from our grip betrayal shakes us to the core.  Paranoia establishes itself as you begin to fantasize about who the next betrayer will be.  You start to over analyze the smallest decisions in an attempt to maintain a mental and emotional balance.

John and his wife had been married for a number of years and had raised their family.  The perfect couple by community standards ended in divorce because of an infidelity that resulted in a child from earlier in the marriage.  An entire family, church, and community rocked because of betrayal.

Billy had been brought in to lead the organization.  This young, bright leader brought to the table fresh ideas that would enhance the morale and economy.  After a few years he was fired by the same people who hired him citing that he just wasn’t the right leader.  In actuality, Billy was introducing new players into the decision-making process and the power base had been threatened.  A man’s psyche and family lay in ruins because of dissension and betrayal.

Moses had been given the job of leading this miserable lot of people by the very hand of God.  The people had been given their freedom from the hand of Pharaoh’s taskmasters.  God proved His might by parting the Red Sea sealing off the Egyptian army inside the walls of water.  For the multitude the voice of God was the voice of Moses.  The hand of God was the hand of Moses.  He personified God for them in the midst of good and difficult times.  He had given his life to leading them.  What went wrong?

1 Then the whole community broke into loud cries, and the people wept that night. 2 All the Israelites complained about Moses and Aaron, and the whole community told them, “If only we had died in the land of Egypt, or if only we had died in this wilderness! 3 Why is the Lord bringing us into this land to die by the sword? Our wives and little children will become plunder. Wouldn’t it be better for us to go back to Egypt?”

4 So they said to one another, “Let’s appoint a leader and go back to Egypt.”
5 Then Moses and Aaron fell down with their faces [to the ground] in front of the whole assembly of the Israelite community.

Numbers 14

There are thousands of stories among us that speak to this issue of betrayal and dissension.   How do we handle betrayal from those closest to us or held most dear?  How should we respond in these moments?  The resolve necessary to walk away with the fewest scars comes from God.  Peek into the next few moments in Moses’ life and we find a few truths to take with us.

1.  Feel the Weight – Moses and Aaron fell down before the people.  It is impossible to not feel the emotional weight of such an occasion.  Feel the weight.  Emote.  Allow grief to run its course.

2.  Stay Close to God – It is easy to interpret Moses’ falling down before the people as a posture of worship before God.  No matter how much you have been hurt, God is the ultimate balm for the wounds of the soul.  Good grief affords faith the proper room to breathe and relieve us of the pain and stress.

3.  Have Integrity – when given the opportunity to respond about your situation be kind.  Moses sticks up for those who were calling for his head and position.  When God, an outside source, wishes to inflict damage Moses responds with logic and kindness.

4.  Let God Fight the Battle – our sincere response of kindness and integrity is honorable before God.  We must accept the sovereignty of God as supreme in its judicial process.  However, we must not groan or glory in His decision.

8 Mankind, He has told you what is good
and what it is the Lord requires of you:
to act justly,
to love faithfulness,
and to walk humbly with your God.

Micah 6

We cannot control every facet of life.  We do have considerable control and responsibility over what we say and do in response to betrayal.  In the hurt, bow down with your face to ground before God and wait for Him to reveal His majesty and glory.

%d bloggers like this: