Monday, January 30, 2012

Growing Up and Out

We traveled to Iowa last weekend to visit my daughter who is working for a consulting company out there.  She has been living in an apartment, come home of holidays, etc. - emotionally it felt like she was still in college.

One of the purposes of this visit was to look at a house she is buying.  Emotionally that DIDN'T feel like she was in college.  This had and has a feeling of permanence, of "OK, I am staying out here".  It didn't hit me too hard during the weekend because we were running around and trying to get a bunch of things done. However, as I settled in last night to my weekly routine, I began to emotionally understand that my daughter has not only moved out, she has grown up. 

This did not come as a surprise for me, but it sure sneaked up on me.  Part of why this is challenging is that you always wonder if you have done enough as a parent to prepare them to live in the world; to live successfully in the world.  Did you show them love enough, did you teach them enough, did you spend enough time with them, did you release them appropriately, did they know that you loved them, did you mess them up too bad, etc.

This is the hard thing about parenting.  There is no coasting.  Coasting means slowing down and coming to a stop.  You never speed up when you are coasting.  You never get to your destination if you just coast.  You have to drive; intentionally set a direction and put energy toward it.

I hope that I did that enough; I hope that I am doing that enough (I still have three more to go through this phase).

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Does God ever give up?  Does He ever just throw up His hands and say "I'm done".  At first glance, when I ask myself this question, if feels wrong.  Isn't God patient?  Doesn't He model the perfection of forbearance?  It doesn't feel very loving for God to give up on us.

In one sense, God never gives up.  He pursues us, attempts to bring us to Him, invites us, and desires us.  His love for us drives Him to pursue us.

Having said that, I do believe that there is a time when God gives up - a better way of saying that would be "lets us go our own way".

In my study of Judges, this section popped up in chapter 2:

20 Therefore the LORD was very angry with Israel and said, “Because this nation has violated the covenant that I laid down for their forefathers and has not listened to me, 21 I will no longer drive out before them any of the nations Joshua left when he died. 22 I will use them to test Israel and see whether they will keep the way of the LORD and walk in it as their forefathers did.” 23 The LORD had allowed those nations to remain; he did not drive them out at once by giving them into the hands of Joshua.

He had promised to drive out the nations that lived in Canaan.  He promised that the Israelites would have victory over their enemies.  What changed?  

These statements were given right after the summary of how the Israelites moved into the Canaanite culture and, instead of conquering it, adopted it.  They settled into the towns that they had conquered - they set up house, arranged their furniture in the rooms, put the rugs down, hung curtains and settled in.  They didn't move toward removing the nations from among them.  They settled in.

The problem of settling instead of conquering was that they adopted the worship practices of the idols of these nations.  Judges 2 records that they abandoned God and worshiped the idols.  From a 3500 years later perspective, it is hard for me to believe that this only took one generation to happen.  They knew the stories of God; how He brought them from Egypt, how He carried them for 40 years in the dessert, how He subdued the enemies in Canaan, but they chose to abandon God.

That is the operative word - they chose to abandon God.  God pursued them by allowing nations to conquer them and by giving them judges, but they still chose to abandon him.  Pursuit after pursuit after pursuit failed - they chose to move away from God instead of move toward Him.  After many attempts to pursue, God allowed them to continue in their path and removed the barriers that were in front of them.  He didn't give up, He just allowed them to move in the direction that they wanted to move in: in spite of the consequences.  (Also see  Romans1.)

Obvious question - when will this happen to us?  When will God stop putting up guard rails and let us go our own way (which will never result in a life giving result.....)?  You never know.  You never know when your rebellion will result in God saying "OK, I will let you go your own way; I will not stop you".  Read the rest of Judges and see what happens when He allows us to move in our own direction. (And yet He still was waiting to take them back!)

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Light of the World

Happy New Year!  The new year is already one week old - hard to believe.  Have been reading Judges in preparation for our Wednesday morning men's group.  Some pretty interesting history here.  The book of the Judges covers a period of history from about 1350 BC to 1000 BC when Saul was anointed the first king.

There are two things that jumped out to me as I began this study.  First, how fast the people forsook God.  Notice these words in the second chapter of the book of Judges:

 7The people served the LORD throughout the lifetime of Joshua and of the elders who outlived him and who had seen all the great things the LORD had done for Israel. ....10 After that whole generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation grew up, who knew neither the LORD nor what he had done for Israel. 11 Then the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD and served the Baals. 12 They forsook the LORD, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of Egypt. They followed and worshiped various gods of the peoples around them. 

Although the stories of how God had defeated the Israelites was known, told, retold and told again; even though the nations around Israel trembled when they heard what God had done 400 YEARS BEFORE with Egypt, the generation after Joshua faded.  They forgot that it was God that delivered them.  They doubted the goodness, testimony and word of God and started worshiping the carved poles and sculpted idols of the nations around them.  Instead of being a light to the nations around them, they became like them.  Their light went out.

The obvious question that I must ask myself is about my light to the world.  Is my candle under a bushel?  Is the light within me hidden because I am too much like the world?  Am I about showing the world what a life obedient to God can look like or do I just look like everyone else - in every area of my life?  Do my finances show that priority?  Does the use of my time?  Do the things that I put into my mind?

Enough to think about.  Will go an to the second thing later.......

Sunday, January 01, 2012

The beginning of a new year - wow!  This is always the time of year when you take stock of life and see what changes need to happen.  It is funny how God brings things into your life to give you a push in that direction.  Had a opportunity to visit a man named Carl yesterday.  Carl found out 3 weeks ago that he had a brain tumor - the fastest growing brain tumor this is currently known to man.  I visited him in hospice yesterday and took this picture.  He is very close to death - the experts give him about a week or so.  This is a picture of Carl in his hospice bed.

Carl is a unique man.  The most unique thing is that Carl loves Jesus.  He has committed his life to pastoring, being a missionary and being a counselor.  I have been impressed with his relationship with Christ.  The testimony of his life and the words from his lips always speak of Jesus.  It seemed as if every other word out of his mouth was about Jesus.

The thing that simply amazed me in my conversation with Carl yesterday was his worship of God.  He statement to me was "God is so gracious to me.  I could have had this tumor and illness for years; God is being gracious to me by taking me soon."  I really was astonished at his statement.  Normally I hear complaint and groaning - not from Carl.  He gave glory to God and His abundant grace toward him.

I was reminded of the words of Paul in his last letter to his friend and protege Timothy:  I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.  Now there is in store for me a crown of righteousness (II Tim. 4:7-8).  Well done, good and faithful servant (Matt. 25:21).

How does this tie into new years?  I want to be like Carl.  I want to me a man of God like he is.  I want to finish my life well and grace filled.  I know what I need to do in order to accomplish this.  I know that this is not going to happen automatically; without work and focus on my part.  I know that there are things that I have to start doing and things that I have to stop doing.  I know that if I am ever going to be the kind of man I have to work at it.  That is my charge for this new year.