Surrounded by Children

I have taken a week off from writing, you may have noticed… but I suspect few have. It is both understandable and alright if you have not. Sometimes I need to be quiet and listen. Probably more often than I actually do. That is, however, a subject for another day.

During my time of “quietness,” I was touched by an expression I have heard so many times in my life when someone else was leading a group in prayer: “We are gathered as your children in your presence…”

As Cindy and I have passed into our sixth decade of life, our children and grandchildren are busily engaged in their own lives, as they should be. But sometimes we long for them to come… just to be with us… without schedule… without agenda… without electronic devices… without wishing their “detention” in our presence would quickly come to an end… just because they want to be with us. Since we live some distance from all of them there are actually very few times that can happen.

With God it is different. We can “live” in His presence all of the time. We can “go there” in all of the odd moments that inhabit the spaces in our lives. We can program times to “be still” and sit at His feet, marinating in the splendor of His presence. We can be unhurried, unforced, uninhibited in our praise and meditation, “relaxing and rejoicing as His child in His presence.”

Being “All In” is not “all work.” Being “All In” is being “all His.”

 

The Garbage Does Not Take Itself Out

A friend reported that her little girls had learned to say “b*#ch” in a foreign language. While that seems to be a rite of passage for children, it clearly demonstrates the aggressive proactive posture parents need to take in their children’s lives. Whether it is with their electronic devices, television shows, music preferences or “new words” they pick up, the garbage doesn’t take itself out now does it?

Adults must stay on the offensive to keep themselves pure as well. The great deceiver, Satan, takes every opportunity to chip away at our holiness and make us comfortable with that which we would not have tolerated in our own lives in the past. It happens so slowly that we find ourselves making justifying arguments based upon technicalities instead of godly principles.

Being God’s “All In” disciple has its foundations well before associated behaviors become apparent. We respond to life and situations from the depths of who we are.

For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he” (Proverbs 23:7 KJV).

Being “All In” is not a religious hobby, it is a godly obsession.

“His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:3-11 ESV).

photo credit: 2016 – Mexico – Pachuca – Keeping it Clean via photopin (license)

I Am Weary, But Forever Changed

There are difficult times and difficult circumstances for each of us, whether pagan or “All In” disciple. It doesn’t matter if we believe God exists and just ignore Him, or if we are marginal in our lip-service to God. Difficult times are ordained to be a part of human life as Job astutely observed: “Man who is born of a woman is few of days and full of trouble” (Job 14:1).

There are theoretical discussions and explanations for this reality that make perfect sense and are Biblically sound. I have been involved in that type of discussion and believe that pain and difficulties are tools to sharpen us and draw us to God, but it is not always the right time to speak about that.

I sat with a family who had just lost their child, a child I had learned to love as well. When I arrived at the hospital and we had settled for a few minutes, it became obvious that it was time for me, the preacher, to say something. The mother looked at me and said: “I do not want to hear that everything happens for a reason.”

I told her that saying that right now wouldn’t help, as a matter of fact, nothing helps much but time. I shared that I had lost some grandchildren several years back and it did not help then either.

Being able to articulate the theory does not take the place of living through and growing through the event and associated pain. Analyzing the process is not the same thing as participating in the process.

“Be Still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). Sometimes we just need to be still and let God do with it what He will.

photo credit: The Massacre of the Innocents via photopin (license)

What To Do?

Sometimes it is not easy to know what to do, even as an “All In” disciple. The principles are clear:

  1. Everything I do is to be focused upon God’s Will and His Purposes;
  2. My interactions with other people are always to be focused on the best interests of the other person(s).

But it is not always easy to balance the best interests of others. As a parent, do I punish or immediately release the stress on the child? It is a judgement call. It is certainly easier on the parent and child to release, but is that in the best interest of the child in the long term? After all, wisdom is birthed in “pain,” whether physical or emotional. Do I cheat my child the opportunity for wisdom because it is easier for me, the parent?

The same question arises in holding adults accountable for wrongs, whether lies, thefts, or assaults. When to show grace… before accountability… or after? It requires judgement, and your judgement and mine will not always be the same.

What is ultimately important is not that you and I agree on each situation, but that you and I are always motivated by the principles, both #1 & #2. God is gracious regarding matters of judgement. He’s not so gracious in matters of self-focused rebellion.

What to Do? Love God and His purposes and focus on what’s ultimately best for others. Then do the best you can with those firmly planted as intent. Let God do His work after that.

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

 

photo credit: A study in human nature, being an interpretation with character analysis chart of Hoffman’s master painting “Christ in the temple”; (1920) via photopin (license)

God Is Not Like Me, I’m Supposed To Become Like Him

A friend who can rival Erma Bombeck with the accounts of life at her house recently told of her nine year old daughter’s observation about her string of snow days at school. Her account picks up as mother and daughter were driving to a local store.

Mom said: “I can’t believe you’re out of school again- the roads are perfect; God sure has been answering y’all’s prayers about not going to school for some reason.”

Daughter’s response: “Yeah He is; isn’t it great? Of course I’m sure He hated school too when He was a kid.”

While perfectly predictable and acceptable in the immature, imagining God in our image is a real problem. The ancient Greeks and Romans did that and amassed a collection of vindictive, self-absorbed gods.

In an interview yesterday an older man told me that he had grown weary of trying to make God into his own image and had, years ago, decided to take God for who He is. It makes a huge difference.

Paul, in his letter to the Roman church, predicted that God’s wrath was in store for people who, although they could know God, refused to allow His sovereignty and existence hold any sway in their own reality (Romans 1). Ignorance of God’s expectations (righteousness) results in the only thing it can, man establishing his own expectations of himself and others (Romans 10).

Not a good plan… Accept God as sovereign and be “All IN” about living for Him. (It’s easier said than done.) It is comforting to know that God loves us, sent His Son for us, because He doesn’t want us to be “condemned” (John 3:16&17).

Image credit: Heartlight

“Suffer the little children…”

Too quickly forgotten is the value every man is to place upon others ahead of self. Too easily we slip into preoccupations with our own circumstances and see others as a help or hindrance in achieving those goals, long term or short, that we have set for ourselves.

“Suffer the little children” unintentionally becomes Let the little children suffer.” Do not misunderstand, while some purposely target the little ones, most don’t. I have that confidence in humanity.

Those who intentionally target children are certanly worthy of attention, but they are outside the purview of this brief.

Several years ago, while counseling teens in juvenile court charged with truancy, the go-to excuse was, “I didn’t miss the bus on purpose.” While that sounds reasonable to the novice counselor, the question to be addressed was, “Did you get on the bus on purpose?” An ocean separates those positions. One is a reaction to responsibility, the other to whimsey.

Responsibility toward children, assigned by the creator, has no basis in convenience, personal comfort, or whimsy. It is not a response to some “good-feeling” moment or circumstance. It is not dismissed because of conflict or illness. It is a responsibility that calls into play “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23).

The key to this is the main thing with which mankind struggles: self-denial. God slipped off the throne in heaven because we needed Him to wrap Himself in humanity for our sakes. He only asks us to do what He did, hop off our little thrones and serve the most vulnerable among us: children.

Who among us will?

Kudos for use of the picture: momentarylapseofsanity.com