On Being A Child of God

teddy bears

I had been gone for a particularly long and exhausting day. When I walked in the door all four of my children and my wife were occupied.

My oldest child was reading a book. One of them was playing on an iPod and another with a toy while my wife was making dinner. All good things.

My youngest daughter, who is only 18 months old, was the only one who acknowledged that I had come in and she did so in a thrilling way.

She squealed. Then she dropped her toy and ran towards me. She wrapped her tiny arms around my legs and refused to let go.

I’ll be honest, I felt like a million bucks.

In that split second I heard in my head, “that is how Jesus wants you to see and enjoy Him.”

 

Jesus said, “…unless you are converted and become like little children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew‬ ‭18‬:‭3‬ MEV)

Teenagers and adult children often dislike the company of their parents and willfully avoid them. Little children are thrilled to see their parents.

“become like little children”

Teenagers and adult children will argue with their parents and challenge their beliefs and assertions. Little children believe everything their parents say.

“become like little children.”

Teenagers and adult children often want special events or occasions to spend time with their parents. Little children just want to be next to their parents all the time, or on their lap.

“become like little children.”

Teenagers and adult children tend to do their own thing, often without regard for their parents wishes. Little children will often do whatever they’re asked to do. All they want is to please their parents.

“become like little children.”

Teenagers and adult children want to do things on their own and try to figure out their way to accomplish goals and meet needs. Little children just grab their parents hand and hold on.

“become like little children.”

Teenagers and adult children worry and stress over needs, responsibilities and the future. Little children don’t worry about anything. They completely trust their parents to provide everything they need.

“become like little children.”

Teenagers and adult children only request reasonable things that wouldn’t seem an imposition of their parents. Little children believe their parents are able to make their wildest dreams come true. As a result, they ask for anything and everything, believing their parents will supply.

“become like little children.”

Teenagers and adult children develop personality traits that make it difficult to get along with family members and causes disagreements from time to time. Little children often love everybody and offer a smile to anyone who looks their way.

“become like little children.”

What would our world look like?

What would the church look like?

What would your family look like?

What would your heart look like?

What if we were to trust Him thoroughly, obey Him completely, worship Him singularly and love Him wholeheartedly.

What if we all were to “become like little children” and look at God as the good Father that He is.

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When You Pray

park bench.jpgThe most comprehensive collection of Jesus teaching is contained in The Sermon on the Mount. In what is regarded as some of the most beautiful and challenging teaching in scripture, Jesus addresses the issues of the human condition.

He teaches about envy, lust, anger, murder, adultery, divorce, prayer, fasting, finances, anxiety, hypocrisy, promises, enemies, the poor, war, peace and a myriad other topics.

In Matthew 6 Jesus addresses three specific activities that should be present in the life of every committed disciple. He tackles When You Pray, When You Fast and When You Give.

Jesus teaches in Matthew 6:

“And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly. But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him. After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.” (Matthew 6:5-13, KJV)

Prayer is one of the most basic, fundamental activities of the faithful Christians life. Singers sing, writers write, teachers teach and Christians pray. Prayer is how we build a relationship with God. A relationship where there is no communication or worse, only communication when someone has a need or want is dysfunctional at best and essentially no relationship at all. When we only talk to God when we need something we rob ourselves of the depth available in relationship with God.

In Genesis 3 we learn that God had a relationship with Adam and Eve. He walked and talked with them in the Garden of Eden. However, after they sin, God comes looking for them and they try to hide themselves from God (Gen. 3:8-9). Sin has a way of keeping us from the presence of God in prayer.

Thats what prayer is; walking and talking with God. It’s the primary manner by which we build a relationship with Jesus Christ. The amazing truth is that prayer is a shadow of the relationship that God’s redemptive plan aims to restore. What Adam and Eve lost in Eden God wants to restore with you!

So Jesus teaching says, When You Pray. Not IF you pray, WHEN. The implied message is that His disciples will engage themselves in prayer. Believers are praying people. It should be expected and normative that the healthy Christian is a praying Christian. It’s the health of your soul.

Singers sing, writers write, teachers teach and Christians pray!

Jesus goes on to say, in verse 5 of Matthew 6, that, when you pray, be sure to talk to God, not men. Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for praying in public places “to be seen of men”. He called that hypocrisy, it’s not genuine prayer. Prayer should be directed towards the ears of God, not the ears of your fellow man.

There is a very real temptation for Christians to only pray when we gather together. We have a strong sense of identity within the Christian community and it’s often important to look like a believer, to look pious and religious. Jesus steps into our hypocrisy and highlights our motive. We don’t really want God to hear us, we just want other people to know we pray.

Jesus said, when you pray, talk to God. Go somewhere private and pray to cultivate a relationship with God, not to procure a reputation with other men. I don’t know any serious Christians who believe the only Biblical location for prayer is in a closet. What Jesus meant was, go somewhere free from the distractions of the day and the ears of other men. Get alone with God and talk to Him.

Jesus then goes on to instruct His listeners to not only talk to God when they pray but to talk to God. Talk to God. Open your heart and mind and try to hear from His heart and mind.

Prayer does not have to be complicated, ritualized and performed in the King James English. The act of prayer itself is not redemptive. God is not interested in getting us to repeat cliches ad nauseam while on our knees. It’s less about the talking and more about what you’re saying. It’s about relationship with God.

The people who think prayer is about what you say and how you say it are missing the point. Jesus said they think they will be heard for their “much speaking” and “vain repetition”. They don’t understand that God’s interested in quality not quantity. Jesus said, “Don’t be like that.”

After all, prayer is not so much about what God needs to hear as it is what we need to say. The truth is, God knows what we have need of before we even ask (verse 8). So praying is not about keeping God up to speed or in the loop. We’re telling God all the things we’ve decided to turn over to His trust.

In the end, prayer is an act of faith. Faith that I can take everything in my life and trust it into His hands. Faith that even when I’m insufficient, He is more than enough. Faith that refuses to let natural evidences out weigh a supernatural promise. Prayer says, there are things that I believe about God that mean more to me than the things I see in my world. You build your relationship with your Heavenly Father and put your faith in Jesus Christ when you pray.

Thoughts for Dads

Superhero TootsiePopMy son has been running around the house with a cape and a mask making noises and jumping around. He’s not in trouble or needing attention. He thinks he’s a superhero. He’s being male. No one has to teach little boys to shoot guns with their finger, to make explosion noises or to do karate. They just do. It’s very natural for a boy to want to be a hero.

Men are called to lead. It’s built into our nature. It’s part of our being. It’s why we compete, hunt and sport. We are born leaders. God designed man to lead the home and the family.

That is not to say that women don’t have leadership abilities. Mothers and wives are responsible for their homes as well only in a different degree than men are. It was Eve that believed the lie of the serpent but it was Adam that God called to account for the spiritual condition of himself and his wife. Simply put, God’s ideal is that men be responsible for the provision, protection and spiritual health of the family.

When God wanted us to understand what His relationship with His people would be He employed the analogy of a Father and his children and a husband to his wife. We have a heavy calling as fathers and husbands to bear the image of our Father.

The scriptures often speak of God in the nature of a Father.

“As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.” (Ps. 103:13)

“The Lord reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.” (Prov. 3:12)

“Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation.” (Ps. 68:5)

It is of utmost importance that men, especially in our increasingly decadent and reckless culture, model the fatherhood and husbanding of God. We can and should honor God in how we treat our families. What the world knows of the Father we serve will be the sum of what they see in the Christian Fathers they know.

I never knew my father. My wife and I met him for the first time when I was 23 years old. It was Godly male leadership in the church, and the example of good Christian men, that helped me understand that God wanted to be my Father and that I could trust Him. It has been Godly male leadership in the church that has helped me understand what it means for me to be a good father and husband. Do not underestimate the value of Godly, Biblical, male leadership.

I’d like to also say that fathers and husbands in ministry need to be especially careful not to make ministry an idol to the detriment of their family. We commit idolatry when we place the ministry of the church above ministry to our families. We often forget that, according to 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1, our ministry in the home is what qualifies us for public ministry in the church.

God has called dozens of men to your city to carry the Gospel. If you were to die today He would raise someone up to Pastor your church. However, you are the only man called to your wife & children.

Pastor Mark Driscoll of Seattle offers 11 practical ways for men to lead their families on his blog. He says:

As men, we bear a greater burden before God for the well-being of our families and our church. Our wives and children should flourish under our loving leadership.

By the grace of God, you can be who God has called you to be, do what God has called you to do, and love as God has loved you.

As men, we will never in this life experience perfection, but by the grace of God we can experience progress every day until we enter perfection in the life to come. So don’t sulk, don’t sin, and don’t settle, but instead strive.

Here are 11 practical tips for husbands to strive to lead their family well:

1. As the family leader, model humility, honesty, repentance, service, study, and worship. Your life preaches at least as loudly as your words, so teach and model humble godliness by the grace of God.

2. Make sure everyone in your family has a good, age-appropriate Bible that they regularly read. Read the Bible yourself and with them so they are encouraged to read on their own.

3. Make sure you have some basic Bible study tools available for your family in either print or digital form and that everyone learns to use them. If you do not know where to begin, ask your pastor or a godly student of Scripture in your church about things like a good Bible commentary, concordance, dictionary, and atlas.

4. Buy good Christian books for everyone in your family to read. Include Christian biographies among those books.

5. Choose good books that you and your wife can be reading together, including books of the Bible, and discuss what you are learning.

6. If there are Bible-based classes offered in your church, attend with your family.

7. Redeem your commute by listening to good sermons and classes, many of which you can download for free.

8. Have dinner together with your family most nights, and use that time to pray together, keep a journal log of prayer requests for other people, and read a portion of the Bible and talk about it together.

9. Pray for each member of your family every day and let them know you are praying for them.

10. Place a hand on the head of each of your children every day and pray over them. Then kiss them on the head and make sure they often get a loving hug.

11. While either snuggling or holding hands, pray with and for your wife every day and remember to include the reasons you are thankful to God for her that day. If these things have not been common in your home, it is very likely that your family has been aching for them and will be thankful for your loving leadership as the head of your home.

Do you have any other suggestions? Are there any things you’re intentional about to show your kids you love them and Jesus loves them? What kind of things did your dad do that showed you, not only that he loved you, but that Jesus was real in your family and that God loved you? Let me know in the comments below.

Prayer

old church crossWe know more truth than we’re living.

Most of us are not confused as to why certain things in our lives are the way they are neither are we confused as to how to change them. I am of necessity speaking in generalizations but we know more truth than we’re living. In those moments when we examine difficult and taxing situations we face, and we desperately want a solution, we usually know what the solution is. Unfortunately, we all too often trade what we need and really want for what we want right now.

We know we need to be more disciplined, we know we need to be more dedicated and we know we need to pray more. Not only more but properly. James 4 tells us that we “have not because we ask not” and that when we ask we often “ask amiss”, namely, that we may consume what we ask for upon our lusts and passions. In other words, God doesn’t answer prayers you don’t pray and God doesn’t answer carnal prayers.

Real power in prayer is found when we bring our will into agreement with God’s will. Pray in His will, pray His Word and you’ll find God attentive and active.

We need to not only learn to pray but to actually pray. If the Christian life is worth living it’s worth living poorly. Meaning, no matter how feeble your attempts may feel continue attempting. Soon enough your weak prayer life will become a strong prayer life through faithfulness and experience.

After all, prayer is not simply a monologue. It’s not me dictating a list of demands to God. Prayer is a dialogue whereby God and I draw closer together. Prayer is as much about me hearing from God as it is God hearing from me.

So pray. Pray for your family. Pray for your city. Pray for your nation. Pray for the church. Pray for renewal and for a revival of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.