Goodbyes

I just did one of the most heart-wrenching things I’ve had to do in my life. I dropped my oldest child off at the airport to head off to college; not just a state away, but half-way around the world.  We won’t see her for Thanksgiving or Christmas as so many other parents will see their college-bound children. Maybe we will see her when summer comes around. Why is it so hard to say, “goodbye?”

I’m happy for our little girl who has grown up to be a good and godly young lady. Her smile and the twinkle in her eye still capture her daddy’s heart as much now as they did when she was a little baby in my arms.  

I remember well, a conversation I had with the Lord the day she was born.  I recall speaking to God about this “new love” I was feeling in my heart that I had never known. I felt a little closer to God, understanding now – the heart of a father. Again, I feel that I’ve entered deeper into His fellowship, learning what it is like to be separated from someone you love while they go to do His will. 

Things in life are not permanent. Even our offspring must spring off to begin lives apart from mom and dad, just as we did many years before. I suppose letting go of anything is hard, but some things just have more of an attachment than others. Some hurt more when they are taken from your hand. 

Goodbyes are not easy, in fact, they keep becoming more difficult. Comfort is found in that this is not a goodbye to send her off to the unknown; she is in good hands – God’s hands.  We realize that the next joy we’ve not yet experienced would evade us if we did not first go through this sorrow. 

We now look forward to, with anticipation, what God will do with her life. I suppose that God, with anticipation, looks forward to what He knows He is making of our lives. Let us not disappoint Him. 

Punishment with Promises

There is nothing more the devil would like to do than convince us that punishment is hatred and that chastening is permanent. His goal is always to separate us from our God. He tempts us with sin, understanding that our flesh is weak; knowing that sin will separate us from God. When God’s chastisement comes because of sin, he then would convince us that God is against us and cruel and unfair. “I mean, what does He expect? We’re only human.” Again, his attempt to drive a wedge between God and man. 

Yet, when we are the children of God, we need not fall into this trap if we know God’s Word and take God at His Word instead of listening to the lies of Satan. 

Consider the nation of Israel in the days of Jeremiah the prophet. Judah was in trouble. She had not learned the lessons from her sister to the north and was following in the same footsteps of sin. God sent the prophets to warn them to turn and return to God, but they refused.  Chastisement comes to the people of God, from God. However, with God’s punishment also comes God’s promises:

“For I am with thee, saith the LORD, to save thee: though I make a full end of all nations whither I have scattered thee, yet will I not make a full end of thee: but I will correct thee in measure, and will not leave thee altogether unpunished.

For thus saith the LORD, Thy bruise is incurable, and thy wound is grievous.

There is none to plead thy cause, that thou mayest be bound up: thou hast no healing medicines.

All thy lovers have forgotten thee; they seek thee not; for I have wounded thee with the wound of an enemy, with the chastisement of a cruel one, for the multitude of thine iniquity; because thy sins were increased.

Why criest thou for thine affliction? thy sorrow is incurable for the multitude of thine iniquity: because thy sins were increased, I have done these things unto thee.” – Jeremiah 30:11-15

The punishment was just; they  deserved to have God chastise them. In fact, God basically told them to stop crying about others afflicting them, He sent it and wasn’t going to do anything about it – like a parent who takes Solomon’s wisdom:

“Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying.” – Proverbs 19:18

However, with the punishment there is a promise, and therefore hope.  The chastisement isn’t the end of the relationship, it is the salvation of the relationship. 

“For I will restore health unto thee, and I will heal thee of thy wounds, saith the LORD; because they called thee an Outcast, saying, This is Zion, whom no man seeketh after.

Thus saith the LORD; Behold, I will bring again the captivity of Jacob’s tents, and have mercy on his dwellingplaces; and the city shall be builded upon her own heap, and the palace shall remain after the manner thereof.

And out of them shall proceed thanksgiving and the voice of them that make merry: and I will multiply them, and they shall not be few; I will also glorify them, and they shall not be small.” – Jeremiah 30:17-19

“And ye shall be my people, and I will be your God.” – Jeremiah 30:22

May God be our example when we are called upon to chastise – and we are. Always give the promise of a future that’s better after the punishment has ended. Make it known there will be an end, and the relationship restored. 

My Children Are Not Perfect

Many are familiar with the story of Job, a man whom God recognized above others. A man whom God trusted enough to allowed Satan to hurt him that He might prove that Job did not serve God only for the good that God did for him.  We’ve heard of the patience of Job while his “friends” took potshots at him. 

But in the beginning of the book of Job we see Job, the father.

“And it was so, when the days of their feasting were gone about, that Job sent and sanctified them, and rose up early in the morning, and offered burnt offerings according to the number of them all: for Job said, It may be that my sons have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts. Thus did Job continually.” – Job 1:5

Job prayed for his children.  Job sacrificed for his children. Not the type of sacrifices that we often think of making for our children, but sacrifices to God to intercede for any sins they may have committed.  

I see some things about Job concerning his children that I believe would be good for every father (or parent) to understand:

1. Job realized that his children were not perfect.

Job said, “It may be that my sons have sinned.”  How refreshing to hear a parent who can readily admit that their children may have done wrong.  I know every parent wants to believe the best about his or her child, but some seem to truly believe that their child is incapable of doing wrong. 

The best of men are men at best, and the best of children still have some foolishness bound in their hearts.  Job accepted that he could not know everything about his children; and as parents we should not be fooled into thinking our children might not have a secret life we are unaware of.  Walk guard around your children, but pray a hedge about them as well. 

When our children are accused of wrong, may we not immediately jump to their defense without considering that it could be true that our child may have sinned. It doesn’t make you a bad parent that your child is a sinner, remember, “for all have sinned.”  

2. Job did not ignore his children’s sin.

To realize our children are not perfect is not to throw our arms into the air and give up on trying to make them do right.  It does not mean that we excuse their sin either.  We have too many people excusing themselves of wrong with that old adage, “nobody’s perfect” or “humans make mistakes.”

I have no reason to doubt that Job was a father who taught his children to do right, and the difference between right and wrong.  I believe he insisted on their adherence to right.  I don’t believe for a moment that Job excused his children’s sin.

But Job took it a step farther.  He understood that the ultimate judge of sin is God, and Job did what he could to intercede on behalf of his children to stay God’s hand of judgment in their lives.  Sin was real to Job.  Sin was really bad to Job, and thus he saw the need to come continually to God to make sure his sin, and the sins of his children were confessed and dealt with before God.

3. Job was concerned about his children’s relationship with God. 

Job’s concern for his children was that in their hearts that they had not cursed God.  He understood that the real issue is a heart issue. We can make our children do all of the right things, and we should, but if in their heart they are against God, against His Word, against His will, they may eventually rebel when they realize they can no longer be forced to conform. 

Many a good child on the exterior is a rebel in the interior.  The appeal of Solomon is what I believe to be God’s appeal to us, “Son, give me thine heart.”  I want my children to give their hearts to God, so that He becomes the reason they do what they do. 

I want to walk right, so that I do not become the reason they may curse God in their hearts; but if they do, I still want to intercede on their behalf.  I want God to have their hearts. Parents, are you turning their hearts toward God?  Do they see that God has your heart?  Or, are you imparting to your children a heartless Christianity?  

4. Job believed his children would turn out, but didn’t take it for granted. 

It takes work to raise children for the Lord. We hope, we pray, we sacrifice, we spend, we educate, we do all of the things we believe are necessary to raise them properly.  But we should not for a moment believe that there isn’t a chance for them to go astray. 

At this stage, I believe all of our children are headed the right direction, but I will not allow myself to believe that they are immune from sin, or that it’s a done deal.  I still want to take every opportunity to teach  and to train. But above all, I want to take every opportunity to bring their names before God, to seek His forgiveness and mercy for where they may have sinned, to petition His grace in their daily lives, to ask that He grant them wisdom and understanding as life begins to peel back the scales from their eyes and they are met by a cruel and sinful world that they’ve been largely shielded from. 

I want to believe they will do God’s will, but I will not stop praying that they do.  Job’s children were already grown and married with houses of their own while Job offered these sacrifices for them. Let’s not wait until they are out of the nest before we show this concern for them. 

My children are not perfect – so I am not done being a parent. 

Life’s A Coin Being Tossed

“Then said his wife unto him, Dost thou still retain thine integrity? curse God, and die.  But he said unto her, Thou speakest as one of the foolish women speaketh. What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil? In all this did not Job sin with his lips.” – Job 2:9-10

Struggles and blessings are two sides of the same coin. Have you met anybody who does not have some sort of struggle they are going through?  Have you met anybody who is not in some way being blessed?

We tend to talk about whichever side of the coin we are looking at. We describe what we are seeing, not what we are not seeing. 

To pretend we have no problems or struggles in life is to ignore that the coin has another side to it. However, to talk as if all you have is trouble in life, is to likewise ignore that your life has another side to it. 

But if it is true for us, it is true for others. When we hear someone speak of their troubles – let us not forget they are also blessed (even if they are not focused on it).  And when we hear someone speak of their blessings, let us not think that they have a trouble-free life. 

“Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not.  Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.” – Romans 12:14-15

Allow those who are looking upon the blessings to have that time to rejoice, and rejoice with them. Allow those who are feeling the struggles to weep, and suffer with them for awhile.  

“I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.” – Ecclesiastes 9:11

Let’s be patient with each other, because we don’t always call the coin toss the way the coin happens to land at any given time. Sometimes it’s heads, sometimes it’s tails – but having Jesus Chrsit as our Saviour – we never lose!

Until We See Him

For more than a week I’ve been away from my family, taking care of immigration paperwork mostly, but also getting to visit with good friends.  I had a scheduled flight to go home yesterday, but another unexpected twist has pushed the trip home to today. 

I look forward to seeing my family and they look forward to my being home.  I’m not bringing them to a place I have been preparing for them. I’m going to the place they’ve been waiting for me. 

As believers, however, we are waiting for Jesus to come; not to a place we are preparing for Him (He’s preparing a place for us), but to a people prepared for Him. 

“I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.” – 2 Timothy 4:7-8

Paul spoke of a reward he expected to receive because of how he fought and how he ran his race. But this reward was not only for him; it is a reward available to all who fight or run well. The expectation is that if you “love His appearing” then you will run well until you see Him. 

I suppose the questions each of us must ask are, “Do I love Him to the degree that I love that He is coming?” “How am I going to show Him that I’ve been anticipating (looking forward to) His return?”

Have you ever gone to get somebody, and even though they knew what time you were coming, they waited to get ready until you arrived?  It’s frustrating and disappointing that someone who knows you’re coming doesn’t seem to care enough to get ready “before” you arrive. 

My fiend, we know that Jesus is coming, but we don’t know when. Yet, we should be ready for His arrival which triggers our immediate departure. This tells me that if we love His appearing we should spend our time doing the things that matter for where we are going, not so much for where we are staying now. 

Remember, we are not taking a vacation with Jesus. We are not returning to this place, we are getting ready to vacate this place. Be ready to go at any moment!  He is coming for us. We will see Him soon. 

Disastrous Disappointments

Everyone experiences disappointments in life. As long as men continue to set expectations, men will continue to be disappointed. It is not that expectations are wrong; God has expectations, and He too has been disappointed. 

When we consider the life of Jesus Christ, the Perfect, Holy, Sinless Son of God, He did not meet everyone’s expectations and thus many felt disappointment. 

Consider John the Baptist.

“Now when John had heard in the prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples, And said unto him, Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another?” – Matthew 11:12-13

John had spent his time promoting Jesus Christ, building Him up before the people – in essence, building up people’s expectations for the coming Messiah.  Yet, John himself began to be disappointed that Jesus was allowing him to remain in prison.  It just didn’t seem right that someone, like John, who had been different for the cause of Christ, endured conflict with the Pharisees concerning Jesus, and spoke boldly for righteousness, would be left to rot in prison while the One Who, in his mind, was supposed to change all of that, seemed to have forgotten him in all of the attention He was receiving.  John felt a little forgotten, and a little disappointed. 

John sent his disciples to Jesus with a hint of a reminder that John was in prison, and if Jesus was truly Who John introduced Him to be, that He should make it known…and a good start would be to “get me out of jail!”

Jesus’ response may have even been disappointing to John the Baptist, because it would have revealed to John that he was putting expectations above truth and righteousness; his personal desires above the work Christ came to do.

“Jesus answered and said unto them, Go and shew John again those things which ye do hear and see: The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them.  And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me.” – Matthew 11:4-6

Jesus was doing exactly what He was supposed to be doing, and wonderful things were happening; just not for John.  John, like us, was disappointed because of his own personal condition.  The fact that other people were rejoicing in what the Chrsit was doing for them, didn’t comfort John while he was suffering.  It was the “but what about me?” disease that all of us with the sin nature have from time to time. 

John was suffering for doing right, and it didn’t seem right to him.  John the Baptist was a little disappointed.  But Jesus tried to help him with a blessing for those who would not allow their disappointment in Christ to become a reason to quit.  “And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me.”

What a lesson for all of us when we are feeling disappointed. May we learn to consider whether we are upset because someone has actually done wrong, or simply because our personal expectations have not been met?

Jesus turned the conversation back to those He was with and spoke highly of John the Baptist, and even answered some of the concerns those with Him may have had concerning John the Baptist.

He challenged their expectations.

“And as they departed, Jesus began to say unto the multitudes concerning John, What went ye out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken with the wind?  But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? behold, they that wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses.  But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet.  For this is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee.  Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.” – Matthew 11:7-11

Jesus realized that the people may begin to be disappointed with John the Baptist after this, and He questioned their expectations of him.  What did you “expect” to find in John?  Jesus had nothing but praise for John even though John was born of woman – he was flesh. We cannot set people, even our leaders, in such high expectation that when they disappoint us, “we” stumble.  It does not mean we have no expectations, but we must be realistic in our expectations.  We all have the ideal in our mind of “what should be,” but reality is not always going to match up with the utopia in our mind, and we need to be willing to get past our disappointments. 

It was part of the problem with the generation Jesus encountered, and that generation continues to resurface.

“But whereunto shall I liken this generation? It is like unto children sitting in the markets, and calling unto their fellows, And saying, We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned unto you, and ye have not lamented.” – Matthew 11:16-17

We will always have those who call out, or express their disappointment, to those who do not perform in the way they expect them to.  The truth is, “nobody” is going to ever meet 100% of “your” expectations 100% of the time.  And this is why it doesn’t take much for people to so easily turn against those they once held in high esteem.  The longer we know someone, the more opportunity for them to disappoint us.  It is still true, “Hope deferred maketh the heart sick.” (Proverbs 13:12a).   The longer it takes for us to see our expectations become reality, the harder it is. We should not lose hope, because the rest of that verse states, “but when the desire cometh, it is a tree of life.”

Jesus took this opportunity (or illustration) to give a great warning to those living in His time, that would, because of disappointment in Him, face destruction if they allowed their unmet expectations to keep them from accepting Him.

“Then began he to upbraid the cities wherein most of his mighty works were done, because they repented not:  Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.  But I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you.  And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day.  But I say unto you, That it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee.” – Matthew 11:20-24

May we never lose our sense of, or our desire for, righteousness.  Righteousness is a high bar for all of us, one in which we all fall short except for the righteousness imputed to us by faith in Christ. May we allow ourselves to be disappointed in others, but move pass it as we must so often do with the disappointments we have for ourselves.  Don’t allow disappointment to become a stumbling block. Don’t miss all of the good that is there because of the area of unmet expectation that is also there.  

The truth is John, Jesus is the Messiah, the Christ, even if He is not meeting your expectation at the moment.  Don’t forsake Him, just because you’re hurt or disappointed. Just focus on the good He is doing, even if it does not seem to be exactly what you would hope for, concerning yourself, right now.

Are We Out Of Times?

As if anyone who has been paying attention to American politics should be surprised, an outgoing president is going all out. He promised on his way in that he would fundamentally transform America, and for a man who has been an undisputed liar, he has kept his word with that promise.  It seems that now the straw is being laid that may break the camel’s back, as preachers start to finally voice that enough is enough. 

It is as if a sleeping giant is awaking now. It could prove to be the best thing for America’s churches to be confronted with where tolerance has led us. But, are we out of times?

The story of Samson and Delilah is one that most are familiar with. Samson, one of the judges of Israel who had incredible strength, was seduced by a Philistine woman to give up his power. Not only would he lose his sight, but also his life in one last act of heroism. 

At least three times it is recorded that Delilah called for Samson to awaken because the Philistines were upon him. Each time he showed that he was strong enough to fend off their attacks. Then she continued to press him daily until finally he revealed the truth about his strength. 

“And she said, The Philistines be upon thee, Samson. And he awoke out of his sleep, and said, I will go out as at other times before, and shake myself. And he wist not that the LORD was departed from him. But the Philistines took him, and put out his eyes, and brought him down to Gaza, and bound him with fetters of brass; and he did grind in the prison house.”  – Judges 16:20-21

The world has watched us, to see which Delilahs we are attracted to. Which worldly practices we can be comfortable with. Which music? Which dress? Which activities? Little by little our compromises with the world have worn down our defenses. We’ve lost our clear distinction from the world, and the world has not given up on pressing ever so hard against the church.  Are we so sure of ourselves that we forget from where our true strength comes?  Do we think we can just get through this as “at other times before?”

I pray this is not our last chance to wise up to the world or to get back to our strength which is the Lord. Oh may we put our hope in God once again and seek His righteousness no matter what the enemies of God think of us.  It’s time we recognize the Delilahs and stop pretending we are “strong enough” to continually resist her seductions while we share her bed.  

It’s time we find the Word of God again, as in Josiah’s days, and hear it, weep, and humble ourselves. It’s time we look back as many generations as necessary to find the pattern we should follow. Of Josiah it was said he walked in “all the ways of David.”  After two wicked kings, preceded by one who was good but foolish (and selfish), there was still hope to stay God’s hand of judgment at least for Josiah’s years.  Let’s, pray for it!