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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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

Kings

My quiet time has me reading in Samuel this fall.  I know I have read this section of the Bible before, maybe more than once.  But it sounds so different this time.  I absolutely love how the Bible can be that way.

As I pray over my marriage and my teenage children’s future spouses, God brought my thoughts to Israel.  Early in the book of 1 Samuel the Israelites asked for a king.  This was really a petty request considering God was there king.  Samuel was befuddled but he asked God about.  God had Samuel tell Israel all that having a king would require.  They would have to pay taxes to the king and have to work the land for the king and have to send their sons to war for the king and have to send their daughters to the castle to work for the king.  The king would get their best.  Or they could keep God as their king and give Him their best.

Israel wanted to be like the world.  They wanted to have a king.  They wanted a king’s leadership and protection and provision and the status that comes with having a king.  So God gave them one.

Samuel doesn’t describe Israel’s first king Saul with much except to say that he was really tall and rather good looking.  Saul is humble, he shied away from being anointed.  Then he began taxing and warring and collecting things for himself.

One thing I often pray for my children is the wisdom to see better into their circumstances than I saw into my own when I was young.  God showed me that when I was in college I wanted a king, I called him husband.  I wanted someone to make decisions for me and to protect me and provide for me.  I had no idea the cost.

So now in my experience and limited wisdom I understand what Paul meant when he said to focus on Jesus if you are single, to stay single if you could.  Having a king comes at a cost.  Being a king also has a cost.

Entering a marriage should be about teaming up to glorify God.  When you look for your own personal benefit out of the arrangement, there will be much heartache and pain.  There will be great cost.

I love how God can use old stories to share new truths with me.  I pray I will glorify Him in sharing His wisdom here.

AJ

God is faithful

I have this hard place in my life that I just get so tired of walking through.  Yesterday as I was praying about it again that well used verse fragment of God providing a way out came to mind.  I am not very fond of well used verse fragments.  But in my frustration with the situation I cried out to God, “where is my way out?”  I know I could make a way out, but is that really what God wants me to do?  So I went to the Source.

No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.
As I study the actual words of Scripture I see that God did not promise me a way out of my hard place.  He promised me a way out of temptation.  So what’s my temptation?  What am I considering in this situation that I know is outside the plan of God?  When I looked from that perspective the temptation became clear.  So I prayed for the way away from the temptation.
Before the morning was over I received a text answering a huge prayer about my situation and giving me the way out of my temptation.  God is faithful.
AJ
PS. I realize I am being cryptic about this situation.  Maybe one day it will no longer be a hard place in my life and I can tell more detailed stories without damaging relationships.  I pray that day will glorify God even more!

The Creation of an Idol

One of the reasons I started this blog was to share some of my really deep thoughts. Here is one:

I am studying Exodus this year in Bible Study Fellowship (bsfinternational.org). We are at the point where Moses has gone up on the mountain to get the 10 Commandments. He is gone for 40 days on a mountain smoldering with fire and lightning and earthquakes. The Israelites previously heard the physical voice of God and were shaken so badly they chose to let Moses go for them while they waited at the camp.

He is gone for 40 days: more than a month, almost 6 weeks. The Israelites didn’t know what to think. I know when my kids are gone longer than I think they should be my mind starts coming up with some pretty ludicrous ideas about what could have happened. Some of these ideas are funny, some are pretty dark. I think I would have given up hope just like the Israelites did.

Giving up hope is the first step in the Creation of an Idol. The thing we had set our mind to do doesn’t happen in the manner we expected and we loose hope in the dream we had rallied behind. We loose faith in people and in God when we loose hope. If a person has strength and perseverance enough, they can remember who God is and walk away at this point. If we think on God’s character and remember how in all the things written about Him, we know one thing for certain: God doesn’t change.

The Israelites were not known for strength or perseverance. And after that long month, they abandoned hope. They looked around for something to hope in. They looked back to their life in Egypt. The Egyptians had a god for everything.   In order to grow their hope up again, they wanted something they could see. Maybe even something less intimidating than the fiery, shaking-the-mountain God that seemed to have consumed their leader.

These people in the wilderness gave up things valuable to them to create this idol. Earrings. Golden trinkets taken from the Egyptians when they left captivity. Seemingly insignificant items. With a crowd of around 2 million people, I wonder how much gold all those earrings amassed to. They had their substitute leader, Aaron, craft a calf out of the gold.

Honestly, I think it is easier to hope in something you can see. It takes less work than when your hope is in something you must believe without seeing. Hopelessness grows lazy. So now the Israelites made small sacrifices and built a false hope. I do this too. I minimize my expectations and I begin to change where I put my hope. I no longer keep the ideal. I settle for something less hoping the success is more likely. I see the world around me settle for less than God’s best and it doesn’t look so bad from this hopeless state I have found myself in. I am tempted by mediocrity and my own selfish desire to eliminate pain.

The Israelites then sacrificed to the idol. This is big. They were willing to have faith in a powerless inanimate object. They gave up on the truth and worshiped a lie. I see many of these lies in the world around me. Lies like these: If I could get more money I could buy happiness. If I could have more education I could get more power. If I divorced my spouse I would divorce the problems I am having as well. If I steal money from a rich company no one gets hurt (unless I get caught).

God sees these things. He knows the idols we create. We can’t sneak it past Him. Even though sometimes we pretend He won’t find out. Truth is always revealed. Moses came down from the mountain and spoke truth to all Israel.

Then usually comes the blame. I think Aaron’s ability to dodge his responsibility in this matter is one of the funniest lines in the Bible. “Then they gave me the gold, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf.” Yes, that is really written in the Bible. I didn’t do it, honest, it just popped out of the fire. As the mother-of-a-teenage-boy, I find myself repeating this mantra: “OWN IT”.

Once the truth was revealed and the blaming stopped, God asked those brave enough to walk away from this idol to join His team again. He is so good to do that for us. He gives us perspective to see what we missed when our hope left. Then we can see Him and the truth in His promise. Our hope is restored, which is a blessing in itself.

Where are you prone to loose hope? That is the likeliest place for idols to be built. What change do you see to bring hope? Is God at the center of it? Or is it a creation of your own imaginations?

So if you find yourself without hope today, pray for God to reveal the truth in your situation. God is waiting for you to remember that true hope is found only in His ability to keep His promises. Nothing else can restore you; nothing else can bring back your strength or your motivation to continue. All else is false hope in something created. True hope is in the Creator.

You can read this story for yourself in Exodus 32.

AJ