Do you trust Him?

imageThis passage in Psalms began my daily reading today.

In light of our discussion, “does everything happen for a reason,” this scripture seemed quite timely. In this Psalm, David challenges his own soul to remember no scheme of man can ever snatch Him from God’s omnipotent hand.  Continue reading

Coffee Chat 8 – Are you putting family or God on the back burner?

coffee chat

I love a good discussion with a friend over a steaming cup of chai, but since I can’t gather all of you at a comfortable cafe, I’ll have to be content with this little corner of the Internet.

I want to thank each and every person who has come to these coffee chats and commented. I have thoroughly enjoyed your insights and inspiration! Thank you for your time.

Read previous coffee chats under the “discussion” category or click here.

It has always mystified me how a godly parent can have awful children and how awful people end up with godly children. The most common answer is, of course, that people make their own choices in spite of upbringing. While that maxim is certainly true, it still shocks me when I read about Eli, Samuel, David and their children. The accounts of all three families are sobering.

Eli’s sons 1 Samuel 2:12-36

Now the sons of Eli were worthless men. They did not know the Lord.

1 Samuel 2.12

If you click on the passage, it will take you to the full context so that you can read, in detail, the wicked deeds of Eli’s sons. In that scripture, it details how they “treated the offering of the Lord with contempt,” and that they would “lay with the women who were serving at the entrance to the tent of meeting.” Eli rebuked them, but he did not stop them and it was within his power to do so.

Samuel’s sons 1 Samuel 8:1-5

Yet [Samuel’s] sons did not walk in his ways but turned aside after gain. They took bribes and perverted justice.

1 Samuel 8.3, ESV

The people of Israel were so frustrated with Samuel’s sons that they demanded a king!

David’s sons

  • Amnon – 2 Samuel 13 (Amnon raped his stepsister)
  • Absalom
    • 2 Samuel 13 (Absalom kills Amnon because he raped his [Absalom’s] sister)
    • 2 Samuel 15 (Absalom conspired to overthrow David and rule the kingdom)
    • 2 Samuel 16:20-23 (Absalom had relations with his Father’s concubines on the roof of his house for all to see).
  • Adonijah – 1 Kings 1:5-7 (Adonijah set himself up as king without authorization from David)

Now, those three men—Eli, Samuel and David—were recognized as godly men, but the state of their households was deplorable! They pleased God, and yet it appears they neglected to instruct their children in the ways of the Lord.

I know of instances in which missionaries, preachers or pastors decide they are going to do some “great work” and they go on to accomplish great things in the name of the Lord… but while they are off changing the world, they leave their families behind to crumble from neglect. Is this acceptable to God? Is this how God wants us to put Him first?

It’s an interesting conundrum. In the book of Matthew, Jesus talks about the need to put God above family.

“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.

For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household.

Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

Matthew 10.34-39

When two people choose to be married, that relationship is a covenant relationship. Vows are made between two people before God and other witnesses that they would love, honor and cherish one another under every circumstance while they are both living. There will be times in which that commitment requires one spouse or the other to set other obligations aside. When a couple decides to bring children in the world, those children are entrusted to their care (unless for some reason both parents are suddenly killed). We are told repeatedly to train our children in the ways of the Lord. Training children up in the way of the Lord is putting God first while still caring for the needs of those children. The two are not mutually exclusive.

God told the Israelites that they were to teach their children, and we know how well they did that… (sarcasm intended):

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.

And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.

You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.

Deuteronomy 6.4-7

Here are some cut-and-dry scenarios:

  • Your kid’s Sports/Extra-curricular activities on Sunday or… worship? (Ahem. Worship, of course!)
  • Your child doesn’t want to go to Bible class because it’s boring. In order to keep peace, you decide to stay home. (Negative! They are under your roof and you are charged with teaching them. Don’t be wishy-washy!)
  • Your child or spouse or parent has a medical emergency or illness and you are missing services or losing out on bible reading or class to care for them. (Yes!)

Here is where the gray area emerges: I have read about (and observed) missionaries and preachers so engrossed in working for the Lord that their families are neglected. Their care for a congregation is phenomenal and the church is thriving, but their children don’t love the Lord. The spouse begins to seek affection elsewhere. They may be doing a great work for the Lord, but what about their family? I read the story of one woman who was sent off to boarding school so her parents could go be missionaries in a foreign country. Apparently this was not an uncommon practice in the early twentieth century. Would you entrust the teaching and raising of your child to someone else so that you could go off and teach the gospel? Which one is right?? If you take your children with you, will you be able to care for them physically and spiritually? I’ve read about it being done successfully from time to time. Again, how do you find balance?

Maybe you aren’t a preacher or missionary, but you are very involved with your local congregation. Are you still meeting the spiritual and physical needs of your own children?

As a blogger trying to share the Word of God with others, are there times you have to set aside your blog to care for the needs of your family?

Maybe you have the opposite problem and you make excuses not to do this or that because you have to take care of family. (I will be the first to admit that I have been guilty of this in the past.)

I firmly believe that our walk with God and care for our family should be intertwined, but the how is not always clear.

How do we uphold our commitments to our families in a way that honors God without neglecting the work that God has for us outside the home?

How do we achieve balance?

Are they stronger than steel? [The Effective Prayer 8.3.15]

This post is part of the weekly series on effective prayer.

forging steel

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

James 1.2-3, ESV

Last week, a friend of mine posted the following image on Facebook:

The Strong

Have any of you found this to be true?

This makes me think of people in the Church who are knowledgeable, careful, humble, loving and whom by all appearances, have it together. They are orderly, unshakeable, and strong.They are the go-to-guy or gal when you need advice or help. They are pillars in the church. It isn’t just a facade either; if you spend an abundance of time with them one-on-one they truly are who they appear to be.

Does this describe someone you know?

The strongest of Christians are forged like steel—they are molded and strengthened through intense heat and intense pressure.

When I think of forging metal, I picture hot furnaces and dangerously powerful machinery.

Steel and iron—two of the strongest metals—are usually hot-forged.  The metals are put under intense pressure and heat to be formed into the desired shape. There are many ways of completing this process, but I, admittedly, am no expert on this subject. I do know that steel isn’t just warmed up to a baking temperature to be formed. It is heated to temperatures exceeding 1000 degrees Fahrenheit. It isn’t gently pressed into a mold like butter. It’s compressed or beaten into shape. If you’ve ever seen a blacksmith forging metal, you’ve seen glowing orange metal whacked repeatedly with a heavy hammer, powered by a muscular arm.

God desires His people to be strong. He wants us to withstand the alluring draw of this world. Living a life in contrast with the world takes courage and strength.

My reading has lately consisted of literature published by Navy Seals. The training they describe isn’t just physical, there is a mental beating that takes place as well. The training staff do everything they can to make those men quit. There is a saying frequently used during training in both military and paramilitary groups: “live for the next meal.” You focus on getting through a particular moment not by thinking long-term, but by completing this one training to make it to your next meal. Thinking too far ahead is dispiriting. The majority wash out. The pain is unendurable, the strain too great. The guys that do emerge successfully are hardened… like steel. Does that make them unbreakable? Are they perfect? No. But they are a mighty force to be reckoned with.

What does all this have to do with strong Christians and prayer?

The Christians that are truly strong, did not get to that point without great difficulty, nor is their testing complete. If it appears that nothing seems to shake them, it is more likely that they have learned to draw strength from God and they bring their pain to Him first. There are still incidents that hurt, moments of unspeakable pain, and periods of unutterable grief. They just seem stronger because they either don’t talk about it or they seem little fazed by it.

They have been forged, tested and not found lacking…

…but they are NOT invincible.

They still need our prayers, and our encouragement.

I want you think of one person who is a pillar in the church. They don’t have to be recognized as such, but they would be sorely missed if they were gone. Write down their name and put it somewhere you regularly pray or a place you look at often.

For the next seven days, commit to praying the following for them:

1) Pray that they will practice humility.

It’s easy for people who are strong to get a big head. They think they’re too smart to learn, to strong to break and too big to fail. Pray that the strong person you are praying for will remain humble before God and His Word, and not place his or her confidence in their own strength.

Remember Samson? He was confident in his own strength and failed to remember that his strength came from the Lord. He got up to fight one day and was soundly defeated.

The bigger they get, the harder they fall.

Pray that this person will not be self-inflated, but will walk humbly with God.

2) Pray for them to resist temptation.

Remember David? David was king over Israel. He had victory in everything. Nothing seemed to hard for him!

Then, there was this woman named Bathsheba…

Instead of being with his troops fighting the battles of the country, he was sitting idle at home watching a woman bathe on the roof of her house. Then he went a step further and took her for himself. When he found out she was pregnant, he brought her husband home from the front lines to be with her so that he [David] could cover his tracks, but Uriah (Bathsheba’s husband) refused to do so. David sent Uriah to the front line of the battle and ordered that his captain pull the troops away from him, leaving him defenseless. Uriah was killed.

After Uriah was dead, David took Bathsheba for his own wife.

David’s poor choices had staggering consequences. At least 2 people died from his sinful decisions: a mighty warrior and a helpless infant. When he was finally confronted about his sin, he repented with every ounce of strength he could muster. David was crushed by what He had done (read Psalm 51). He received God’s forgiveness and is still counted among the righteous of God, being mentioned as “a man after God’s own heart” in the New Testament. And yet, the rest of his life was restless and troubled as he payed the consequences of his sins.

Think of the person you are praying for. Do you want them to suffer lifelong or eternal consequences for falling into temptation? Of course not! Pray that when temptation comes, they will take the way of escape that God provides.

3) Pray for them to make wise choices.

The Apostle Peter is a great example of a good man blundering into bad choices.

This is the man who fervently proclaimed to Jesus that he would go with him to death, then flaked under pressure and denied that he even knew Jesus.

This is the man who spoke to an enormous crowd on the day of Pentecost and 3,000 people were baptized into Christ. He’s also the same person who succumbed to peer pressure and wouldn’t eat with the gentile Christians when his Jewish buddies showed up. It took Paul’s open rebuke to set him straight.

Because of his position, his choices swayed other, more impressionable Christians. The strong can do great damage with their poor choices. 

Pray for them to make godly choices and to live their lives in such a way as to bring honor to God and the Church.

4) Pray that they will put their trust fully in God.

Do you ever find yourself placing your trust in your own strength? You may not do it consciously, but I’m sure you have from time to time. What do you do when your strength fails you?

In American Sniper, Chris Kyle described some of the jihadist hideouts they found as being a druggies dream come true. Many of the jihadists had to use drugs to get their courage up to fight. They couldn’t trust in their own strength or courage so they took in some chemical courage.

If you think a strong Christian is immune to trusting in chemical courage, you are wrong. Plenty of good men and women have been undone by trusting in a drug or a drink to give them strength to carry on. It isn’t just chemical either. They might put their trust in their own knowledge, wealth or influence.

Pray for them to trust fully in God.

I want to ask you to do something else for this person you are praying for:

Send them a note, a text or an email. Make it known to them that you are praying for them. Your words may be like a glass of cold water on sweltering August day.

Let us pray to the Lord each day this week to great effect!