Father lessons

I certainly don’t claim to be an expert on fatherhood.

I do often wonder how to be a better parent.  What makes a good parent?  I have learned to be intentional.  And I have learned to look for good role models in life and in scripture to model my parenting after.  I love to study, and I am a big copycat!

Last year for my birthday my sister Shadow gave me a new translation of the Bible called the Voice.  I have been reading through it in an unorthodox fashion.  I started the historical books this month and today I found myself in Judges 13, the story of Samson.

In all my studies of Samson, I have to admit I have always wondered about his parents.  What kind of people were they?  Why on earth did Samson turn out so rough?  I understand environment had a lot to do with it: he lived in rough times.  And then I read chapter 13.  The beginning.

Here is what I learned:

Israel spent most of this time in history under the authority of other kingdoms because they couldn’t keep their eyes on God.  At this particular time, they had been under Philistine (think Goliath) rule for 40 years.

A man named Manoah and his wife (she doesn’t get named in scripture so I will call her SMom i.e. SamsonMom) don’t have any children.

A “Messenger of the Eternal One” brings SMom a message.  Here is my first red flag in this story.  Why didn’t God send the message to Manoah?  (That’s how it worked for John the Baptist’s parents – see Luke 1)  What was his relationship to God that God would bypass him in this patriarchal society and tell the message directly to SMom?

I want to challenge any men reading this blog, are you the kind of man that would receive the message from the Lord?  Or would God bypass you and give the message directly to your wife?

The messenger tells SMom how to live her life during the conception and pregnancy.  She tells her husband.  And he prays.  That’s good, so he has some understanding of God.

His prayer seems simple enough: send back the messenger to teach us what to do with this boy you are giving us.  But this really is another red flag.  SMom already had the instructions. I wonder if Manoah really believed her or if he wanted to see for himself.

But God is always good.  The messenger returns, but again to SMom.  And look at the timing of this.  SMom is out in the field working alone.  She sees the messenger and goes to tell her husband.  Manoah has to “get up” to go out to the messenger.  Red flag #3: why is the wife working the field while the husband sits at home?

Maybe he is an accountant and I am making more out of this than I should.  So again I challenge: are you contributing to the provision of your family?  Are you modeling the kind of man you want your sons to be?

Manoah begins to question this ever patient messenger.  Yes he is the same from before.  SMom should do as previously instructed.  Then Manoah offers to feed the messenger a goat.

The messenger’s response if red flag #4.

  • “if you could detain me” – the messenger sees the play here.
  • “I would not eat your food” – Eating together is a sign of community or relationship.
  • “offer it to God” – don’t worship the angel.

Challenge: What are your motives for doing religious things?  Would God want to eat at your table with you?  Do you worship the Eternal Lord, or the powerful things from Him?

So Manoah and SMom offer the goat as a sacrifice to God.  As the flames go up to heaven, the messenger also goes back to heaven.  That’s when Manoah finally realizes this is from God.  Hello.

His response is to fall to his face expecting sudden death.  SMom comforts him with her understanding of God.  “God will not kill us or He would not have accepted our sacrifice and given us this message.”

Red Flag #5: Manoah understands God’s wrath and judgment and power.  He doesn’t seem to understand God’s motives or plans in our lives.  He is not looking at the big picture.

Challenge: Do you know God?  It would take a lifetime of study.  And still there would be more.  Are you willing to make time in your life to learn anything you can about the Creator of the Universe?  Are you willing to step back from your self-centered focus of life and see what God is doing in the people around you, especially your children?

I hope so.  It is my prayer that anyone who reads this blog would seek after God and grow in relationship with Jesus, His son and my savior.

What do I learn from this?  What will I take away?  Mostly this:  I can’t expect my children to be anything I am not.  I MUST model anything I think is important for their lives.  I need to have an obvious relationship with God if I want my kids to have one.  I need to be willing to work hard if I want my children to be hard workers.  I need to have strong character if I want my children to be influential in the world around them.  And I need wisdom to see the world as God created it so that my children can find joy and contentment even when life gets hard (and they have 3 tests, a paper, and a presentation in one week).

After seeing these things from Samson’s origin, I can understand a little better how he turned out like he did.  I am curious why the messenger never instructed them further in how to actually raise the boy.  How God uses Samson is an interesting study in the sovereignty of God that I will leave for another blog.

until then – AJ

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Of Kings and Presidents

No, I am not going to talk about the election.  I am going to talk about God, and what He did for me on election day.

My sister, Shadow, gave me a new Bible for my birthday this year.  It is called The Voice.  It is a transliteration (like the Message) with commentary added throughout the text.  I am enjoying it immensely.  I started reading the New Testament this summer.  Then I skipped back to Job so I could read the poetry.  Now I am reading the prophets.  I just finished Jeremiah, and even though I have read it before, I am understanding so many new things.

Each day I set my timer for 30 minutes and read as much as I can.  This is giving me a bigger picture of the stories and context which I don’t get when I just read chapter by chapter.  When the timer goes off, I look back at what I’ve read and pick a verse or two to send to my children.

Tuesday (November 8,2016), I sent them each Jeremiah 42:11-12.  I told them I was praying for the election and how it would affect their future.  I didn’t fully realize the significance of it until the election completed that night and people started reacting.  So I wanted to share it with anyone else who might find it looking for hope.  It is rather profound and just reiterates to me how wonderfully good my God really is.

Jeremiah 42:11-12  “I know you are afraid of this king of Babylon, but don’t fear him any longer.  For I, the Eternal One, declare that I am with you and I will save you and rescue you from his authority.  I will show you compassion, and then he will have compassion on you.”

God has always been in control of who leads our country, just like He put Nebuchadnezzar to rule over Israel for a time.  God has a plan.  God knows the future. God never changes.

Be at peace, sweet readers,

AJ

Armor

Usually in my prayer life I am pretty straight forward with God.  Never disrespectful, I always understand my place in this relationship.  But I figure: if He already knows my thoughts and my heart, there is no place for pretense.

Lately, as I put on my spiritual armor (see Ephesians  6:10-20) I have been telling God that we need some updates.  I think the armor could stand a couple modern additions.  First, I think we a comm would be a good idea.  A cute little earbud that lets us communicate more effectively, more directly.  And second, night vision goggles {am I right?} would be excellent for this spiritual battle with darkness.

So at church Sunday, as I am worshipping God, I think about my armor.  I smile at my ideas, thinking maybe this time I can help God out a little.  And that’s when He reminds me of a few basic truths.

First, He already knows my thoughts and all I ever have to do is listen for that still small voice (1Kings 19:12).  No comms necessary.  Second, He is the light.  I have the best flashlight ever!!  I am not supposed to see into the darkness, I am supposed to shine a light into the darkness.  No night vision needed.

I love love love how God gently reminds me of the truth.  I love how the WORD I have hidden in my heart comes alive as God uses the truth I know to correct my thinking.  I am so thankful that God loves me enough to correct me, and that He is gentle every time He does.

Of course, God doesn’t leave it there.  Today (10/31) the devotional from Experiencing God has this quote:

God has provided you with spiritual armor that is more than sufficient to withstand any assault

Ok God, I get it.

Irony

I think the most ironic statement in the Bible is this:

Chief priests and elders: you know, according to the law, we can’t put blood money in the temple treasury. 

The Voice- Matthew 27:6

How often do we do what we want and then once it’s accomplished we put the laws of God back on the table?  We use God when he gives us advantage and then we set him aside when he gets in our way.  

Jesus had told the disciples they would all stumble and fall on account of him. Peter told lies because he was uncomfortable. Judas handed Jesus to the elders because he didn’t understand. The elders broke many laws because they saw Jesus as a threat to what they believed. 

How often do I lie for my own comfort? How many times have I headed in the wrong direction because I didn’t understand things from God’s eternal perspective?  When have I set aside the law for my own advantage?

Luckily Jesus made a way to make us right with God again. He knows we will stumble. 

May God give us all conviction to the right thing in all situations. Praise Him for salvation when we don’t. 

“We must picture Hell as a state where everyone is perpetually concerned about his own dignity and advancement, where everyone has a grievance, and where everyone lives the deadly serious passions of envy, self-importance, and resentment. ”
CS Lewis

Courtship

When we began homeschooling almost 20 years ago, the idea of Courtship was big.  The concept is noble.  If you protect your children’s hearts from breakup they will be more pure and whole for their spouse one day.  If these children only have one relationship in their lives, then they won’t have so much emotional baggage to deal with and their marriage should be stronger.

It sounds great in theory.  But years later it wasn’t working.  Many of the young ladies eagerly accepted their father’s leadership but were finding themselves single into their 30s and beyond.

So why did this beautiful idea fail?  I don’t have all the answers, but I awoke this morning with a curious question on my mind.  Have we taught our children to be stingy with their love?

God’s love is a beautiful thing; a thing meant to be shared generously.  Granted, purity is His idea and a worthy pursuit.  I am not talking about living like the world does in regard to unmerited intimacy.

Today I think the idea of courtship is too self-focused.  And that is not the way Jesus asked us to live our lives.  We are to love others with all the love God gives us after we have loved Him wholly.

I don’t pretend to have all the answers or to be an expert on the situation.  My teenage children are not married.  We have had many bumps on this road: when your children’s hearts get broken, it hurts a mama.

God is sovereign.  And He is the expert with all the answers for each of our children and their relationships both with friend, spouses, and Himself.  Ultimately my children’s relationship with God is the one I pray to be strengthened and made more intimate.  I’m sure this walk is different for every human being.  I am so thankful that God walks with us to give us wisdom and understanding.

I hope by sharing this one question I woke with, that I have helped someone gain a better focus.  To God be the Glory.

AJ