Archive for the ‘commitment’ Category

The last couple of nights Joshua has been extra clingy (is that a word?).  He wants me by him constantly. While he is playing, he wants me by him. When he is laying down, he wants me by him. I love it, yet it is draining. Sometimes I just need to have a break. I feel drained. Yet, at the same time, I enjoy the fact that he loves me so much. All he wants is for his daddy to be around. He wants to know he is safe. He wants to know he is not alone. He wants to know I am near by.

I want to enjoy these moments. I know that one day he will be older and we will not get this moment back. He will be wanting to do his own thing and I will long to be near him. I pray I learn to embrace these moments.

As I think about Joshua’s desire to be near to his daddy, I am forced to think of my own relationship with God. We are encouraged to draw near to God (James 4:8).  I have to ask myself the hard question: Am I seeking to draw near to God? DO I desire to get closer to Him each day?Do I so long to be with Him that I cannot stand the idea of not being near him? Do I, like Joshua, just want to be near my daddy? I believe God wants me to be that in love with Him. He wants me to seek Him. He wants me to love being with him. He longs for me to long after him. God is my daddy and he loves his child.

I am thankful for the lessons we learn through children. My prayer is that we can all learn to love God so much we cannot stand the thought of not being near Him. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.

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John records a scene in chapter thirteen of his gospel about Jesus that is so heartbreaking. Jesus knows that his time to bear the cross is drawing near. In verses 37-38, we are told of an incident that brings tears to eyes of many. “Peter asked him, ‘Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life you.’ Then Jesus answered, ‘Will you really lay down your life for me? I tell you the truth, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times!” Can you see the tears in Jesus’ eyes as he speaks those words? Can you hear the pain in his voice? He knows that Peter loves him. He knows that Peter is sincere, but he also knows that Peter will indeed deny him three times.

How many times do we deny Christ? How many times do we say with all sincerity, “I will lay down my life for you,” but when the hardship comes we deny him? With a compassion that can only be felt by our Lord, he weeps and cries over us. With tears in his eyes and with nails in his hands and feet, he says, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” He forgave Peter for denying him, just as he continually forgives us.

Today, make up your mind to celebrate that forgiveness. Rejoice with Peter in experiencing the grace and mercy of a God who loves us beyond all comprehension. Even now as you have so many thoughts on your mind and heart about all those times you denied your Jesus, you can take comfort in those words spoken on the cross and for eternity, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”

Joseph and Mary began the search. They traveled about looking for a room so that baby Jesus could be born in some type of dignity. They arrived in Bethlehem only to find there was no room. The hour was drawing near for the time when our Lord would enter the world, and there was no place for him to be born. Instead of a room at the inn, there was a stable. Instead of a crib, there was a manger. Jesus Christ, the Savior of our souls was born in a stable. There was no room for him.
As I look at the world around me, I find that there is still little room for Jesus. People fill their lives with so many other things that there is no longer room for Jesus. I want to have room for Jesus. I want to stress to those whom God has called me to minister the need to make room for Jesus.
Lord, I’m sorry there was no room for you. I’m sorry there is still no room for you. I want to give you room in my life. I want to empty out all the junk I hold dear and make room for you. May my purpose always be about making room for you. Search deep within me and find room in my heart. Do you see room, Lord? If not, please show me what I need to get rid of in order for you to have room. Fill my life. Be my only desire. Lord, please find room.

I always love how our children can teach us about God. Over the years, this blog has been filled with spiritual lessons I learned through being a father and watching my children. Joshua is growing so big. He is walking, running, getting into all kinds of mischief. He enjoys life and is very playful.

One of his interesting characteristic is that he is learning to become a little more independent, yet he wants to be able to see us. He want to know we are nearby. Joshua will go in the other room and play, but every so often he comes into the room we are in to make sure we are still there. He wants to be near his parents. If I have to leave and he sees me grab my jacket and walk toward the door, he begins to cry and hold out his arms for me to take him with me. He is even worse with his mommy. He wants to know we are there to care for him, to love on him, to be near him. He needs the reassurance that we will protect him and take care of him.

I suppose most kids are similar. Most small children I know hate when mom or dad leaves them with a baby sitter or nursery worker.  I wonder if there is a spiritual lesson for us. Kids love to be with their parents. They want to have their mom and dad nearby. I wonder if that is part of what Jesus meant when he talked about our need to become like children. Do I have those feelings for God? Do I so want to be near Him that I can’t stand it when I do not see Him? I want eyes that long to see God. I want to see Him at work. I want to see that He is nearby; that He loves me; that He will protect me and take care of me. I need to see Him. When He is not near, I am not the same. He is the only one I can fully trust. Others let me down, but He loves me unconditionally.

A child growing up in a healthy environment usually hates when mom and dad leave, yet something changes as they (we) become older. It seems we become comfortable. We learn that even though mom or dad had to go to work, we will see them at the end of the day. We learn that even though they leave us with a baby sitter, they will be back in a couple of hours. Soon we become used to the fact that we are loved and taken care of – then our own attitude seems to shift. We don’t mind when mom or dad leave as much. We may miss them, but we are fine watching tv or playing outside with the sitter until they return. We become comfortable with the idea that sometimes they have to leave. I wonder if this carries over into our spiritual lives. When we first become Christians, we are babies in the faith. We want to spend every minute with our Father. We can’t stand it when we are apart. Then after a while we miss a prayer time, we skip a day’s reading and over time, we become comfortable. We are comfortable with God’s love so much that we have forgotten how much that love cost. Soon we have spent so much time apart that we don’t really even miss being with our Father. We are content to watch TV, or work , or spend time with our hobbies until next Sunday when it is time to go to spend time with our Father again. I wonder what God thinks of all this? What happens to us? How do we go from being so in love with our Father that we cannot stand to be apart to being content with only spending time with Him once a week in a large crowd where we don’t have to be really intimate in our relationship with Him? God forgive us! Let us see. May we become like the child that longs to spend each minute with you.

A man was very much in love with his wife. He longed to show her that he loved her. He told her that he would one day prove his love to her. He decided to show his love to her by swimming the deepest river. He was so proud of his show of love that he set out to walk across the longest desert. After accomplishing that feat, he decided to prove his love by climbing the highest mountain and shouting, “I love you!” As it turned out, his wife divorced him – he was never home.

The story above illustrates something about people. We long to be a success. We want to do things in a big way. We want to be the best at what we do. We want to prove our self worth by doing bigger, better things.   We want to be best at our careers; to be successful. We long to build the biggest companies; to plant the most churches; to grow the biggest program; to be the biggest and the best.

I have to wonder: is bigger really better? Is more really more?

In Genesis 3, Adam and Eve have it all. They are in a beautiful garden called Eden. They have have no stress, no job, no pain. They in a total state of paradise. They enjoy total fellowship with God. They have it all. Or did they? The crafty serpent enters the scene and begins to place doubt and desires for more into Adam and Eve. He approaches Eve and asks, “Did God really say ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden?'” Eve responds by explaining that they could eat from any tree except the tree in the middle of the garden – if they ate from that tree, they would die. The serpent begins his crafty twist of words, “You will not surely die. God knows if eat from that tree, you will be like Him and know good from evil.”

Did you notice what happened? The serpent, in a subtle way, tells Eve she can have more. The text of Genesis 3:6-10 explains this longing for more, the giving in to the craving, and the result.

When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband who was with her and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.

Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. but the Lord god called to the man, “Where are you?”

He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”  Genesis 3:6-10 NIV

Adam and Eve had all they needed in the garden. It was a perfect situation; total paradise. Yet the serpent convinced them they could have more. They could have more knowledge, more power, more – so they ate the fruit. They gave into the power of more.

Have you ever noticed how we, the human race, struggle with the desire for more? We want more power, more influence, more money, we want more! We buy a new computer and it has everything we need. We are perfectly content. Our friend buys a computer that is newer and nicer and has more features and all of the sudden we want more. We want more speed, more memory, more software, more features, more compatibility. We were content, but all the sudden a seed was planted in our minds that we needed more.

We have a car that gets us from point A to point B. It has decent gas mileage and is reliable, but it seems to not be enough. We see a commercial or ride in a friend’s car that has more features. Soon we want more power, more features, better gas mileage, we want more. We are no longer content, we want more. the desire and pursuit for more begins to drive us.

We want more – but at what cost? Adam and Eve had great fellowship with God, but their desire for more caused them to be banished from the garden and suffer a disconnect from God. Their desire for more cost them everything. They ended up with more work; more pain; more suffering; more rebellion; and a murdered son. They got more than they bargained for.

I find it interesting that the first thing Adam and Eve do when their eyes are opened to their sin is to cover it up. They try to hide their sin. The fig leaves are symbolic for all of mankind to follow. We feel the need to hide and cover our sins. Their response is not one of realizing they have sinned and seeking to make it right; it is instead to realize their sin and seek to hide it – to cover it up. Our own pursuit for more often makes us want to hide. What are you trying to hide? What are you covering up? What is in your life that you do not want others to know about?

This post is titled Making a Mark. We are all making a mark in some way. Adam and Eve left a mark that has affected all of mankind. When they realized the mark sin would leave in their lives, they tried to hide from God. What will your response be? Sin has left a mark on you – will you go to God and confess your weaknesses; or will you try to hide from Him? The choice is yours – what mark will you decide to make?

All month long, we have been studying the story of Esther in JAM time at church. The kids have done a great job being able to relay the story of Esther into their own words. I have been excited about seeing the kids share the story and retell it. They talk about King Xerxes and how he was looking for a queen. Esther entered the pageant and the king liked Esther so much, he chose her to be his king. What I find interesting is that Esther never really desired to be queen. She didn’t want to be in the running. Maybe she was too shy or maybe she just really wasn’t that into the king and all the power and prestige that comes with being queen. For whatever reason she never really considered it. I love that her cousin, Mordecai, convinced her to enter the running to become queen. He believed that God had a plan for her life. He believed that God placed at the right place at the right time to bring about a change that would bring glory and honor to God.

Well, God did use Esther. Mordecai learned of Haman’s plan to kill the Jews. He convinced Esther to take a risk and go before the king and make him aware of Haman’s evil plan. Esther did the right thing. She took the risk. God used her to save His people.

My favorite part of Esther’s story comes when her cousin, Mordecai, tells her in Esther 4:14, “And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?” I wonder what God has placed us here for at such a time as this? I wondered as I taught the kids how God would use them for such a time as this. We have such a short window of time in this world. What will we do with it? How will God use us? Will we take advantage of this time – or will we miss the opportunity?

Joshua’s leg was red and swollen. He found it difficult to walk and we could tell it was infected. He went to the doctor last Monday. He was prescribed a couple of antibiotics. We came back to the doctor Wednesday, he was given a shot of antibiotics. We checked him into ER on Wednesday night and he was sent home. We took him back to the doctor on Thursday and they immediately admitted him into the hospital. It was scary to Kellie and I.

We sat there at the hospital holding our precious child wanting so badly to protect him. He was given an iv with a steady flow of antibiotics. It broke our hearts to see our 1-year-old child laying there with an iv. We were not sure how bad the situation was until the doctor and nurse began to explain that when we brought him in, it was close to being fatal. That thought still haunts us.

Joshua is a strong kid and he managed a lot of smiles during his hospital stay, but what sticks out most are his screams. He hated to have anyone touch his leg, yet the doctor and nurses had to touch and examine it. They had to see that it was progressively getting better. When he was admitted, his white blood cell count was at 31,000. The normal is 5,000-10,000. He was in bad shape. The lab workers had to prick his finger to get his blood for testing. He screamed. We had to hold him down. There was a time when his iv came loose. He had to have it moved to the other arm. Three nurses and Kellie held him down. I entered the exam room as they were trying to insert the iv. He somehow managed to get a leg loose and kick one of the nurses. I came in to help. It was so hard to look at him. With tears in his eyes, he looked at Kellie and me. Though he was unable to speak verbally, his eyes and tears told us what he was thinking. “Why are you letting them hurt me? Why are you helping them hurt me? Can you pick me up and hold me? Can you tell these people who are hurting me to go away?” It broke our hearts. How do you communicate to a one year old child that we are not hurting him, but helping him? The nurses and Kellie and I knew something he didn’t know. We knew that without this pain, there would be no healing. The pain was a part of the healing process.

I learned something that day. From a father’s perspective, I did want to just pick him up, hold and comfort him, and tell the ladies with the needles to go away and leave my son alone. But had I done that…I don’t want to speculate. I realized that this pain was part of the healing process. I had an image of Jesus as he was being beaten and nailed to the cross. I thought of his prayer in the garden where he asked God if there was any other way. I thought of the pain His heavenly Father must have felt as he saw his son having nails driven through his hands and feet. Jesus words on the cross were “My God, my God why have you forsaken me?” It is as though he is questioning, “Why must this happen?” And I pictured God, the heavenly Father looking down at His Son and answering, “Without pain the people have no true healing.” Without the suffering Savior, I have no healing. Without his pain, I am lost. Without his pain, I am hopeless.

I find myself sometimes looking toward the heavens and begging God, ” Why are you letting this happen? Can you make this pain stop? Can you take the hurt away? Will you make these people who are hurting me go away and leave me alone.” His quiet answer is “Without pain, my son, there is no real healing.” My pain helps me realize my need for God. My pain reminds me that although I may not realize it, my condition is severe – it is fatal. If I do not have the pain, I may not seek the doctor of my soul; the healer of my soul. Without the pain, I have no real healing. What about you? Do you have times of pain? Have they caused you to look toward the heavenly Father who is the healer of your soul? Look to Him – he has the cure for your heart’s condition. He is the healer.