Walking the Walk – Living Like Christ – Faithful Father Series

Walking the Walk

You talk the talk but are you walking the walk? It is an age old idiom and as we continue the Faithful Father series we need to move beyond simply talking about God and the work Jesus did to acting upon those words. Our children learn so much from us at home because they spend so much time with us. Eli has picked up on some of our behaviors and Ella articulates herself like an adult because that is how we speak with her at home. To be a good father we have to capitalize on those sponges in their head while they are young. The best advice on how to do that comes from Paul in his  first epistle to the Corinthians where he urges the church in Corinth to be imitators of him for he is an imitator of Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1).

For whatever the Father does, the Son does likewise.

It is not the only piece of sage wisdom Paul gives the Corinthian church, in fact there are all kinds of phrases in 1 Corinthians that we all quote and reference from time to time. Paul was nothing short of prolific in his walk with God. He didn’t get there easily though and walking the walk of a Christian father is not something you segue in to, pretend to be good at and then get an awesome participatory trophy.

Christians, we are prone to give platitudes because we believe we are “showering people with love” but are we really? Where is our heart in those words? Where is our heart in our actions following those words? I have to wonder how often we say things but don’t follow up when it comes to God. If we do not fulfill the words, “I’ll pray for you.” we are quite frankly, shunning God’s love. I’ve been guilty of it, I would find it hard to believe that anyone I’ve met who is a Christian is not guilty of it too.

You can thank the world for that. There are so many distractions that those promises are easily forgotten. Forgetting about God seems almost impossible I mean, He is everything! We do not truly forget about God but the devil is really good at distracting us. Out of sight, out of mind is a bit on the nose but it is exactly how we treat the words we speak to others and then fail to follow through. Our children see that, they hear it, they see our inaction and think it is the way they should act.

Walking the Walk

So how do we fix it? You solve inaction by action. I can share with you a story of how I personally turned my inaction and platitudes in to a chance to teach my children action and why it is important to walk the faith and not simply regurgitate things we learn in Bible school.

A few weeks ago we were picking up some things from Michael’s craft store. We left the parking lot and everyone got in, buckled and all that good stuff. When we turned the corner of a median in my rear view mirror my wife and I saw a pair of ladies walking and one fell as she stepped off the curb. She didn’t get up. I swung my car around and pulled in to a parking spot right there. My wife and I got out and the kids stayed in the car.

When we got near we could see the woman was an older lady who had been wearing sandals. She had tripped up and fallen. The reason she was not moving is because her left arm, which she was laying on, was in pain and very likely broken. We blocked traffic coming both ways while an ambulance was called. My wife is a nurse so I stepped back and let her do her thing (which she is awesome at btw) and checked on the kids.

They were in the car and only knew something had happened. They needed to be assured that everything was alright. We talked, I told them the woman’s name and what happened to her. Ella was worried for her and I told her I know, I was too but it was time for us to pray. My kids like praying to God. I try to teach them not to rush their prayer because God deserves our time, all of it. They are kids of course and prone to all things done quickly because two minutes is an hour in their world. They closed their eyes, we prayed for her quick healing and safe journey home.

It was a sweet moment where God happened even in a time when someone a few feet away was in pain. I never told the woman we prayed for her. I don’t think we need to tell people that all the time, we simply do it. If someone is on your mind, pray for them. If you hear about someone who is facing a trial, pray for them. You do not need to go back and tell them you did, it takes away from the focus of placing your love in God’s hands and shines a light on you instead.

The whole point of that story I think is that the solution to our problem of speaking it but not doing it, is to do it then and there. Hug them, show them real love and pray for them, pray with them. Right then. Not later at home when you’re going to struggle to remember. When you’ve barely survived putting the kids to bed or running ragged all day. Include your children if possible so they see what you are doing. They’ll learn and it will have the potential to make them some of the most prayerful people one day and that is not a bad thing at all.

The Son Can Do Nothing

Jesus tells us directly in John 5:19-23 how the parental relationship involving action vs. inaction works. He was speaking of Himself at the time of His words. He had healed on the Sabbath and the Jews were angry with Jesus. He told them that the son can do nothing on his own but that the son does as he witnesses the father doing. The Jews were riled up because Jesus claimed to be the son of God and His words placed Him on the same level as God.

Take a step back one day and observe your child(ren) and see how they act. Is it like your spouse? Is it like you? It can be eye opening and also a scary thing. They are going to pick up on your habits both good and bad. Their behavior and actions are on your level. That is why walking the walk is an important cornerstone of being a faithful father.

We repeat what we learn just as I emphasized in the last part of this series where we went over teaching our children the truth of Jesus. Now we must show them how to act like Jesus. Lip service may win over the heart of someone temporarily but loving God-filled action is a matter of the heart and not the mind. If we teach them to do all things from their heart and not their emotion we get rewarded with Godly children serving a world full of pain in ways that pleases the Son and the Father. Walking the walk and showing God’s love is a powerful thing that we cannot mistreat.

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Teaching Truth – Faithful Father Series

Teaching Truth

In the introduction of this series I discussed just a piece of where this was headed. God has given man a defining set of characteristics that a father should not only be aware of but strive to be. A father who teaches is the most defining role we play in our children’s lives. It gives us the chance to really put our love for Christ in to practice and teach the next generation. As a father you need to be an educator. That education comes in many forms such as first words from your toddler, primary school and hopefully your child’s married life. We do that by teaching truth to our children and that truth starts with the greatest commandment.

It is not that God has developed an inability to speak but His stubborn children have employed selective hearing.

In Deuteronomy 6:4-5 God has given Israel their greatest commandment. It was to love God with all our heart and soul and might. It is a command to place God first above all things. It is also a reminder to Israel that the nation has often turned from that behavior and done it’s own thing. It’s why they ended up in Egypt after all, men forgot to continue teaching truth or they simply did not care.

This commandment is more than just a reminder, it is a way of life. Two verses define how we should live as Christians. Those verses are called the shema by Jewish practitioners. The word shema means ‘hear’ in Hebrew and makes complete sense. When we fail to abide by God’s greatest commandment we can no longer hear Him.

I’ll highlight my recent hearing issues so that I can give an idea of what I mean. I don’t ever want someone to come across this and think ‘that guy is on a high white horse,’ and I am not, this site allows me to share my struggles hoping men like me learn and grow just as I do. My kids have found out that as brother and sister they want to be as caustic as possible some days. It is a weary battle that has stressed Bethany and I to the point some days where I want to lay waste to their hopes of ever getting in to the swimming pool my brother and I constructed for them this summer. There have been times where I’ve told them unkindly to be quiet and jumped to conclusions on who should be reprimanded for some behavior or another.

In every one of those instances I chose to ignore how patient God is with us and emulate that with my children. That is what teaching about God is all about, unwrapping his nature and showing children why they should try to live like Jesus lived. The truth is that God is benevolent when we do not deserve it. That does not mean that you allow your children to run roughshod over you and become a doormat. It means teaching them better behavior through other activities that do not always result in a spanking. It means putting God first in your actions and letting them know that what they are doing or have done is not honoring Your wishes for them and by proxy their disobedience is displeasing God.

Life is not idyllic and the pretty picture above of the dad reading the Bible to his children is clearly a stock photo but what it represents matters. You have a father who is taking time out of his day, spending it meaningfully with his children and teaching them about God. He is teaching truth to his children. He is doing it, not the church. The church is mans partner is a partner to the endeavor to teach our children about God. They should not be the only source and if they are, we are failing as parents.

The world provides us a wonderful amount of distraction that we intentionally dive in to every day. Most of that attention is a diversion of things we ought to be doing. No child comes out of the womb wishing they had an absentee father. They grow up  believing that behavior is normal because that is their experience. Absenteeism is not restricted to a father who leaves. In fact I would like to submit that a father who stays but shows little interest in the rearing of his children causes more damage than the one who ghosted his family.

Teaching Truth

Proverbs 4: 1-4 calls for our children to be attentive listeners but it is something they learn through us. Their desire to listen to what we say is derived directly from how we address teaching them. Children need their mind flexed and not just fed information. You overcome that by asking them questions and engaging them. I wholeheartedly believe we do a disservice to them by reading them Bible ‘stories’ that take a dive headfirst in to prosperity. God doesn’t promise us protection from harm or even physical death. His promise is the reward of Heaven through Christ’s death in place of our own damnation.

Stay in the word with them every day. Memorize important verses. Pray. Be kind and understanding to your wife. Show them how much you love your wife so they have a good understanding of what husband and wife should be and not what society expects them to be. All of these activities are teaching. They watch, they emulate, they learn to repeat your behaviors.

The Gospel Coalition goes over missteps we all make in more detail. Check it out!

What we learn, we repeat. Are you happy with where you are in your children’s lives? Can you do better? I can, I believe every one of us father’s can. It starts with teaching the greatest commandment. Put God first by teaching truth to your kids.

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Faithful Father Series: Introduction

Faithful Father

There are no more terrifying roles in a man’s life than those of husband and father. I mean let’s be honest, we can really make life difficult for the ones closest to us if we do not guard ourselves against the enemy. In fact, we can make their life suck by not being a faithful father and devoted husband. As a step-parent I am constantly guessing myself on how I am raising my children. It is not because I feel that I am a bad parent or that my heart is not in the right spot. It is a huge responsibility to raise children while dealing with my own issues of being a “step” parent.

I will be honest, I have no love for that term and it stems from overhearing people say things like, “Well that isn’t his dad anyway, he’s just a step-parent.” or any other derivative that attempts to sabotage the place a man has in his family. God put him there, not you. God is you father, and let’s be clear, He adopted us as Paul clearly tells us in Ephesians 1:5 “He predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ.”

God has been good to me, I have not had to hear that towards me personally and pray I never do. I was raised calling my step-father “Dad” and not anything else. My kids call me “Scott” or “Scotty” and I hope one day that it gets replaced with “Dad” because I am that for them. I get it here and there when they are in bouts of excitement and it makes my heart swell.

Small rant aside, my heart is not to say that biological father’s are not to be given their due because they should. The purpose of this series is to empower Christian fathers to be faithful to the duties God has spoken of, for them to strive for. This series addresses the fact that it doesn’t matter if you came from a split home, an abusive father, a father you don’t even know, or a well-meaning Christian father who may have failed at God’s will for that position in his life; all of those circumstances shaped you today but they are not who you have to be. You can build your family legacy apart from that and be the faithful father God has called you to be.

It takes work, lots of hard, self-less, prayerful, self-sacrificing work but at the end the legacy you can leave is a family full of God and love.

Characteristics of a Faithful Father

So what does it take to be that man God calls you to be for your children? Over the next seven weeks we will discuss the characteristics of a faithful father highlighting each one. A preview of what God wants from a father figure is;

All of those things combined is a tall order but God wants his children to not only love him but to love others and to spread His message. That cannot be done without all of these things together. We like to use the phrase “Great Risk for Great Rewards” and I cannot think of a greater reward than being a faithful father who has raised God loving children who have a desire to seek Him and spread His work to the world.

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I Wish You Were Dead; Powerful Words From a Child

Angry young girl

“I Wish You Were Dead.” – Ella

It is one of those things you never expect your children to say. In fact, it is something they should never say at all. The wishing of the death of someone can be a tragic statement simply because it is an explicit evacuation of love. Imagine for a moment if that is how God felt towards us? The difference between our ability to wish someone dead simply by words and God’s ability is that He could do it. Instead, God gave His son up for sacrifice in lieu of the complete devastation of His creation. That is where God is a perfect father that we can only aspire to be.

Yesterday we stopped at a little place for dinner called Roma Pizza. We grabbed a booth and Eli sat next to me and Ella sat next to Bethany. They take turns on who sits next to momma, no one is ever stoked about sitting next to me. Such is life.

We have to combat the typical behaviors that parents who take their children out to eat must deal with. There is climbing on the booth, peeking over the booth at other people, trying to crawl under the booth. Anything that is not sitting still basically. Eli has this habit of taking his shoes off despite our multiple commands to keep them on and once again he did this. I told him get his shoes off the floor and get them back on.

His cheerful “Okey dokey!” before disappearing under the table gets him out of a lot of trouble. A few moments after he went to put his shoes on, this awful howl of pain came from beneath the table as Ella had kicked him in the knee. Normally this would not be a huge deal and we’d just tell her to apologize and keep her hands (or in this case feet) off of him. The problem is that the knee she kicked him in had a large crusty scab on it from a fall he had taken a week or so ago. His skin split the scab and the wound weeped a bit of blood which threw him in to a new squall of hysterics.

I’m far from a perfect parent  and I’m not going to pretend to be. Ella received the ninja-eyed gaze of an angry daddy because she had already been in trouble before we had entered the restaurant for talking back in a disrespectful manner. So when she kicked his knee I assumed (yeah I know the age old adage) that she had done it to be spiteful. I could have been wrong there, she’s kicked him while he was under the table before, he’s kicked her too, like I said, not a perfect papa.

Regardless of that, she got upset and angry and then uttered words that really break my heart, “I wish you were dead.”

So you take a breath, let it roll off your back even though you may want to breakdown or become angry. Your knee-jerk reaction to that really can be an indicator for how you parent under duress. She put her head down and Bethany rubbed her back. I did not say a word because I know those things were said in anger and she may have felt like she meant them but really she did not. It is an unresolved issue that we will discuss tonight when I get home but I want to use that as a tool to teach her.

I’ve told her before that hate is a very strong emotion and one that was a part of the reasons Jesus was killed. He was challenging the status quo and basically telling the Pharisees, “Guys, you got this all wrong.”

The Pharisees responded with anger, fear and hate. They wished Jesus was dead. The Son of God dead because their pretensions of superior sanctification was more important to them than the word of God. It’s dangerous to pretend that we do not fail or that our skills as parents are so amazing we never have problems at home. It’s dangerous to think we are perfect leaders as men. It’s the same danger the Pharisees refused to see when God walked among them in flesh.

How short is a child’s anger? A minute can pass and they forget what angered them. When it was bedtime Ella hugged me tighter than I think she ever has. That speaks volumes more than her sharp-tongued words ever could. It’s also an example of what Jesus gave us that we so sorely forget, forgiveness. Ella and I will talk about what happened, we will talk about God, we will talk about Jesus and we will talk about His gift.

My wish is that I would rather her understand that gift and how to use it and how to emulate it more than my pains of heartbreak over vapid words said in a moment of difficulty.

Wish Daddy's Girl

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Praying In Public Unashamedly | Public Prayer

Praying In Public

Why do we not see more praying in public? I don’t mean when we are in the house of the Lord or in the presence of faithful family and friends. I see families out for dinner and lunch all the time and I never see them praying. This is something that crossed my mind when my family and I were out at Cracker Barrel a few days ago. I am not saying we need to stand on a chair and do the whole “Y’all bow so we can go before the Lord y’hear?” type of thing but a simple bowing of heads, hands held with family or clasped together in absolute submission before God.

I am in no way tooting my own horn for good parenting but instead I want to lift up the joy that my children happily say grace in public. While their prayer may be formulaic it still allows them to express their thanks to God and they do so unashamedly. They do not whisper it either, they sing it from the top of their lungs sometimes and I have to resist the urge to laugh a bit because it makes my heart swell with so much joy.

Praying in Public is Biblical

Our savior Jesus prayed in public often (Mark 8:6-7) and we can safely assume that whenever He gave parables there were prayers. Ezra prayed in public (Ezra 10:1) when he could no longer bear the knowledge that Israel had forsaken the worship of God. Solomon prayed before the entire nation of Israel in a plea not only for himself but for his people (1 Kings 8:22-23).

You will never make saints through force, saints are made from conviction and through salvation.

There are plenty of examples in the Bible where praying in public was acceptable, done and enjoyed. That isn’t what we see anymore, in America anyway.

Praying in Public is Controversial

Praying in public is also highly controversial and we see that in the Bible. Daniel an administrator in King Darius’ kingdom was tossed in to the den of lions because he prayed in public when Darius’ was convinced by jealous individuals that praying to their Gods was a problem. Daniel ignored the law, prayed publicly and was punished (Daniel 6:1-16). His desire to please God was more important than what other people thought. Courageous.

We see that in modern times as well. Christians are beaten, drowned and slain for praying in public. Muslims are beaten, drowned and slain in public for praying. I make a point to mention another faith because persecution happens in all religions and we should never be so short-sighted to think we are the only victims. I am absolutely certain of where I will be when I die and I have a genuine concern for the souls of others but violence against someone because their faith is different or non-existent does not show Christ.

Prayer in School

I see people complain that prayer was taken out of schools and get so upset about that. Why are we so concerned about forcing children who may not be Christian to pray? We should be teaching our children to pray unashamedly and to respect the will of others. There is a time for Evangelism but forcing children at a public school to be stuffed in to a box that they do not understand is wrong. You will never make saints through force, saints are made from conviction and through salvation. Our negligence to encourage our children to pray so bravely is what has led to the cry that law has ‘taken’ God out of schools. It hasn’t, He is everywhere we should acknowledge that by encouraging our kids to pray instead of point fingers.

Prayer From the Heart

Pointing out the issues and triumphs of prayer in public leads me to my point really. We should pray in public regardless of the consequence. Whether it is out of practice over meals or because you’ve got that weight pressing down that calls for you to kneel, do it. It’s not illegal and God loves hearing from His children. Jesus warned us about praying in public when our intentions are not focused on the purpose of praying to God but instead we do so to try and raise our status with others (Matthew 6:5-6). It is sinful plain and simple. Anytime you place your wants, desires and needs above the sovereignty of God you are trying to undermine Him.

Pray from your heart men, get your family praying from theirs. Show them that praying publicly is not only okay but encouraged. How? By doing it. Just hold fast to your faith and the desire to please Him. When you let go of that need to improve your stature among other men you gain the courage of God’s love.

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Men to Know: John Mark

Mark

For the most part when I look at who I want to highlight in the Bible I look for uncommon men who provide an uncommon lesson that just makes sense when it clicks. Sometimes, like today I look at the life of a well known man from the Bible. In fact, how about someone who wrote Bible? How amazing is that?! The life of John Mark or as we refer to him, Mark was much like our own. He was young at one time, thought he knew best and…well let’s dive in to see how that worked out for him.

Roots

John Marks beginnings start in Luke’s book Acts 12:12 where we find that he is the son of a woman named Mary. His mother was prominent in the Jerusalem church and it was not uncommon that their home was a meeting place for some of the congregation. We also know from Colossians that he was the cousin to Barnabas, a traveling companion of Paul. So here we have John Mark (JM), the son of a committed family to the church and cousin to the traveling companion of Paul who made it his life’s mission to bring God’s word to the gentiles. He was in some pretty amazing spiritual company you know?

John Mark’s Departure

We find that John Mark was the helper to Barnabas and Paul’s very first journey to spread the message Christ gave them (Acts 13:5). This great journey for JM was not all ups with no downs. Instead, after their visit in Cyprus he left Paul and Barnabas to return to Jerusalem (Acts 13:4-13).  The Bible doesn’t say why or what caused this departure but it was a cleaving point in Paul’s mind. He and Barnabas continued their journey to Antioch, Iconium and to Lystra where Paul was stoned and thought dead but rose when the disciples around him were to pray. The next day and went to Derbe to speak God’s word. This dude’s work ethic puts us all to shame!

A Second Chance

Barnabas is called the “son of encouragement” (Acts 4:36) and he did just that when Paul and he were planning their next mission trip from Jerusalem. He made a case for JM to come along again but Paul was having none of it. They had a “sharp disagreement” and parted ways. Paul took Silas and headed towards Syria. Barnabas took JM and headed across the sea to Cyprus (Acts 15:36-41). We don’t hear much about John Mark after this which leaves us to wonder if God had given him a chance at redeeming himself or if he was a lost cause. Does Paul continue to hold him at arms length after his desertion in Cyprus?

Fifteen Years

God is really good. We step away from Him purposefully and knowingly and yet He is always there for us. What of John Mark? Does he deserve that unchanging grace? Of course he does and if we look at Paul’s letters later in his life, around fifteen years from the sharp disagreement he had with Barnabas, we see a softening of heart in Paul. In Colossians 4:10-11 we see Paul tell the church in Colossae to welcome John Mark and that John Mark has been a comfort to him.

Paul continues to place JM close to his heart as he describes him as a fellow worker in Philemon 1:23-24. His final note to Timothy is one showing his adoration for John Mark as he tells Timothy to “Get Mark…because he is helpful to me in my ministry.” (2 Timothy 4:11).

Big Idea

John Mark’s life is proof that the early hiccups you have in life are not a death sentence to separate you from the glory of God. He is righteous and forgiving. We are so easy to look at our stumbles and become crestfallen over them that we don’t see the work God has prepared for us.

John Mark did two great things and he may have only been aware of one of them. He wrote Bible and that is the easiest one for us to see and discern. Yet if we look back we can see that the separation of Paul and Barnabas did great work because now there were two strong teams out spreading the word to the gentiles.

We know God’s long game, He has put it directly into writing for us. We should be focusing on what is right in front of us because our faith in the work of Christ has cemented our salvation by God’s decree. There is no refund on that glory, there is no loss of that redemption. Instead dust yourself off and do what John Mark did. He seized that chance in life and set the world on fire for God.

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Men to Know: Jephthah – A Tragic Vow

Jephthah

We are taking a look at another judge this time (last time was Barak and Deborah). This time we will have a look at Jephthah and his life as he was judge over Israel for six years. The history of Jephthah begins in Judges 10:6 and goes all the way to Judges 12:7 where he dies and is buried in Gilead.

Israel

Oh Israel, you never learn. You continue to forsake God and when you do He allows you to be crushed beneath the heel of many enemies (Judges 10:7-9) and then you cry out and God gives you salvation in the form of a Judge. You right yourself and for awhile you walk with God only to forget Him in your hearts and then you fall again. The book of Judges is a clear example of not only the failing of a nation but a showing of how we sin and get comfortable in that sin. Like Israel we get complacent and we forget God in our hearts only to call out to Him during tragedy and need.

Yet every time, God is there showing us the way. Judges is an uncoated display of the forgiveness and patience of the Father who deals with a child consistently testing it’s boundaries and willfully disobeying the words (law) of the Father. This is something any father can understand because our children, like Israel are amazing and loving for a time but they have their spells where there is no way but their own. Dad does not know what he is talking about and he has way too many rules so we are just going to do everything we can to not listen to him. Yet, that is who is called upon when fear or pain sets in and we, despite our displeasure with our children comfort them and love them. There is nothing wrong with that relationship, it is an emulation of our own with God and one of so many reasons we refer to Him as Father.

Jephthah

We know some things about good ol’ Jep thanks to God’s word. He was a Gileadite meaning he came from the land Gilead. He is the product of a forbidden union between his father whose name is actually Gilead and a prostitute. His father’s wife also bore him sons who once old enough drove Jephthah away to the land of Tob. (Judges 11:1-3)

Eventually the elders of Gilead begged for Jephthah to return and help save them from the Ammonites. Jephthah in his anger condemned their actions towards him but he did accept their request. He was raised up above all over Gilead and tried to resolve the war with the Ammonites peaceably. This was refused by the Ammonite king and he continued to attack Israel. (Judges 11:10-27)

The Vow

We’ve done this, we’ve probably all broken them as well. You get worked up or try to show sincerity by words and you say things like, “I swear to God…” or “I swear on my Grandmother’s grave…” and other forms of vow taking. We do this as a way to show we are being genuine and as a way to illicit a favorable response form whoever we are talking with. We do this as a way to get something we want, “If you do this, I will do this.”

This is the very mistake that Jephthah made. The Spirit of the Lord came on Jephthah (Judges 11:29) and he made a vow to God that if he delivered the Ammonites in to his hands that whatever came out of the door to his home first to meet him would be the Lord’s and that he would sacrifice it as a burnt offering.

Tragedy

God did deliver the Ammonites in to the hands of Jephthah and his army. He subdued twenty towns and then returned triumphantly to his home in Mizpah. As he approached his home his only child, his daughter came from his home to greet him while dancing to the sound of timbrels. Jephthah was devastated and he tore at his clothes. He told his daughter of the vow to God that he could not break.

Despite his misstep for making a vow he really did not need to make, his daughter said that she had only one request. She wanted to go to the hills for two months to weep with her friends. She showed great courage in God’s plans by returning and allow herself to be given up as sacrifice. In a way she was the antithesis to his actions. She did not make a vow to return, she did not try to persuade for better circumstances or plea for her life.

What We Learned

I would like to say that we learn things and not forget but that would be untrue. We must consciously make an effort to remember the things we learn from men in the bible like Jephthah. There are some key things we can learn from this judges tragic mistake;

  • You do not need additional assurance from God that He will do what He promises. To ask for more than what He has promised is a failure in faith.
  • God is not a bank, you cannot bargain with Him.
  • Making rash vows to God can lead to grave consequences.
  • Think about the outcomes of your words before they depart your lips.

A Commandment on Vows

One of the things I stressed to Bethany during our dating, our engagement, and will continue to do so in our marriage is that I am a man of my word. What I mean by that is that I will not tell you that I can and will accomplish something you ask of me unless I am certain I can complete the task. Marriage is a sacred vow. It is a serious proclamation of love and devotion that God endorses and allows man and woman to create a covenant with Him. This is why a vow is not a promise and a promise can never reach the importance of a vow.

A promise being not the same and something we often confuse with a vow. It is important to give an example; I can promise that every night until my death I will rub my wife’s feet before bed. There may be mitigating circumstances that force me to break that promise. I could be sick, away on a business trip or even paralyzed.

Understanding that, we can see why Jesus told us in Matthew 5:33-37, “Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ 34 But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.”

The vow of marriage is a specifically God endorsed vow that we are granted to take because it is the symbol of union between man, woman and God. The commandment that Jesus was giving during His sermon on the mount was against the practices that the Pharisees were using to control the people. There were vows being made on the heavens and earth, on the creatures of the sea and the land etc. Yet, none of those vows were truthful. They were being used to sound impressive and to subjugate the people of Israel under the hand of the Pharisees.

In short, if you say yes, mean it and allow it to be sufficient. If you say no, mean it and allow it to hold it’s own weight. You do not have to promise the heavens or the earth. Frankly you can’t. You do not own them, you have no sway over them and you never have. Only God has that authority and if we find ourselves doing that we are putting ourselves on the level of a Pharisee. Repent and allow yes and not to be enough.

Jesus told us it was enough. Jephthah did not take God’s word for what it was and faced dire circumstances because of it.

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2016 in Review, 2017 a Path Forward

2016 Review

2016 will go down in the annals of history… However, we write it. It does not have to be the worst year ever, and it may not be the best year the world has seen. Those terms are entirely relative and often personal. A friend may have had a terrible year in some aspects while having great things happen in other areas of life. We, us fragile humans are concerned with blips in our time here on earth and often they are the things that happened yesterday or a week ago or a month. How we review our year determines how we feel about the bounty we have reaped. It shows us what we consider abundant and what is meager. Those things ultimately set the tone for how we expect our year to go. Genuinely consider that sunny disposition and ask if that is a facade for society or will you decide that your year is a mess the 1st day of January when someone makes your coffee wrong?

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Keeping Christ in Christmas – He Never Left

Christmas

We often talk about ‘Keeping Christ in Christmas’ or ‘Putting Christ Back in Christmas’ or another catchy derivative of that. It’s easy to see why we use it. Every year like a bunch of idiots we run to stores looking for deals on items. It was after Thanksgiving and now it’s 6:00PM on Thanksgiving Day instead. So, do we get Little Timmy that toy and skip family time or are we good stewards and let God handle the availability of a gift and spend time with our family that is precious and finite. Those gifts will be there another day folks. Sure, maybe not at that price but they will be there. Saving $30 or family time, think about that.

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Election, Pride, and God’s Directions

Election

Whew! That was an election of elections. I would be a terrible liar if I said I showed love during the last 18 months that the election cycle ran. Let me be blunt here, I was in no way acting like a Christian either. I don’t like the outcome of the election, I don’t like what has happened in our society and I’m ashamed of that, of my own actions. Terribly so. I thought people were stupid for their views; I sat gobsmacked listening to things that just didn’t align with what I thought was the right choice. In short, I was prideful.

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