A Dad…

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A dad doesn’t always have natural paternal instincts but is a work in progress.

A dad is burdened with teaching his kids life lessons that he is still learning himself.

A dad is expected to remain strong in the most difficult of circumstances.

A dad is forced to grow up when everything inside him still longs to be a kid.

A dad bears the responsibility of providing for his family at any cost, even the cost of his own dreams.

A dad doesn’t let his family in on his darkest fears or troubles but keeps his worries and concerns to himself.

A dad sees a different piece or trait of his in each of his kids and knows they are his.

A dad is always concerned about the welfare of his kids and the decisions they make.

A dad is expected to blaze a trail for his kids when he doesn’t always no the way.

A dad doesn’t overreact at the sigh of blood or a broken bone but hurts inside for his kids where none can see.

A dad is to teach his children God’s ways but pushes the limits of God’s grace in his own life.

A dad is expected to be a builder, a mechanic, a handyman even when those skills are not his strengths.

A dad has to face the declining physical abilities due to aging but keep up with the increasing demands of energy and activity of his kids and grandkids.

A dad is soft spoken until his kids are threatened and will then risk life and limb to protect them.

A dad is the biggest fan of his kids even when they don’t realize it.

A dad sometimes pushes his kids too hard so they won’t make the same mistakes in life that he made.

A dad is forced to watch his kids fall off the bike and get banged up because he knows if he doesn’t let go they will never learn.

A dad must sometimes work extended hours or additional jobs at the sacrifice of his relationship in order to provide for his kids and secure their welfare.

A dad never stops loving his children even at times when it doesn’t show or is hard for him to communicate or demonstrate.

A dad wants and needs all the same things he attempts to give his kids, love, respect, affirmation and encouragement.

A dad is looked to for wisdom in areas where he is still seeking answers.

A dad is constantly evaluating his performance against a model of a heavenly Father that no one can ever duplicate on Earth, and is overwhelmed at his own failures to measure up.

A dad is challenged with trying to identify with his kids by being cool or hip even if it doesn’t naturally become him, while still maintaining a paternal presence.

A dad must discipline his kids for going down the same paths he traveled at their age.

A dad is sometimes unfairly judged by his status, his career or his ability to produce income.

A dad deals with an ever changing life on a daily basis with little recognition but is okay with that as long as he knows his kids are growing or have grown to be responsible adults based on what little influence he may have had on their lives. But he will always wonder if he could have done more or done things differently.

A dad’s greatest reward are his grandkids so he can start the process all over again.

Have a happy Father’s Day dads!

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Prayer for Dummies-A Simplistic Privilege

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I’ve often heard of prayer being described as a spiritual discipline when in fact, it’s a holy privilege afforded us by the brutality and suffering of our Savior which we will be remembering in a few weeks.   There seems to be misconceptions about prayer, who prays better, what catch phrases to use to get God’s attention, the secret tricks to getting your prayers answered and so on. There is no mystery in prayer, no seeds of faith that must first be planted, no prayer hankies to purchase, no holy water from the Jordan River. It’s not snake oil, it’s simple and honest dialogue between us and our Father. Yet many remain intimidated at the concept or waiver thinking they don’t know how to pray.

What exactly is prayer?  Simply put, prayer is nothing more than communicating with God.  It isn’t something you have to study and learn, it’s not a dialect you have to master.  All my life I’ve heard people say they are not good at praying, or say something like “I wish I could pray like that person”, or “you pray, I’m not very good at it”.  I walk away scratching my head.  So, for all of you who may feel you don’t know how to pray, I’m going to give you the real secret.  If you can put words together is some recognizable form, whether vocalized or in thought, you have mastered prayer!

Do we fully grasp the privilege we have in approaching God directly in prayer? How did we came to acquire this privilege?  Before Christ, only High Priests were allowed to enter into the Holy of Holies, a special place within the temple, to offer up prayers and sacrifices on behalf of the people, and then, only at certain times of the year.  After Christ’s death and resurrection, we read that the temple veil that separated the Holy of Holies from the rest of the temple was torn completely from top to bottom, symbolizing our new direct access to the throne of grace, by anyone and at anytime! We can instantly be in the presence of God, on holy ground.

In many of the Catholic, Orthodox and other faiths, you won’t find a schedule of services-you’ll find instead a schedule of liturgies.  Liturgy  comes from the Greek leitos, the people of God, offering up their ergon, or energy and efforts to God in prayer.  There should be a compelling desire on the part of all Christians to be a people of prayer, to want to stand in the presence of our Lord and spend time with him daily in our personal life, and corporately in our churchesMartin Luther King Jr. said that being a Christian without prayer is like life without breath.

When I met my wife, I wanted to be in her presence all the time.  It wasn’t enough for me to stand in front of a picture of her and think about her, or call her up on the phone once a week for 30 minutes or read a biography about her written by someone else.  My days were brighter because I knew I could see her and spend time with her everyday.  And when I was with her, I wanted to talk to her, and to listen to her talk back.  I wanted to know what she thought about things-I wanted to know more about who she was.  I put in the time and energy to make this happen.  God desires our time alone with Him more than we could fathom.

In Luke Chapter 11, verse 1 we read “One day Jesus was praying in a certain place.  When he had finished, one of his disciples came to him and said, “Lord, teach us to pray”. What do you think the disciple was asking him?  These disciples did life with Jesus-they watched him perform miracles-they listened to his teachings, and they observed his prayer habits.  They didn’t just want to know how to pray-they wanted to know how to pray like He did!  They watched as he spoke to his Father-they witnessed him bask in the glory of God’s presence.  The disciples wanted their prayer life to have the same impact on them as they saw on Christ.

At that point Jesus responded by giving us one of the greatest gifts we could ever ask for-the model prayer.  He responded to the request by saying, “when you pray, pray like this”.  After that, we read the Lord’s prayer, recorded both here in Luke 11 and in Matthew 6.  Note here that Jesus didn’t say, “pray this prayer”.  Jesus understood what the disciples were asking him, and he gave them a model to fashion their prayers around.  Let’s take a look at that model we call The Lord’s Prayer.

The prayer can be broken down into 5 parts, all important ingredients for powerful and effective prayer.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

  “Our Father in Heaven, hollowed be your name”.

It’s important that we recognize the deity of God.  It’s a beautiful thing to know that by virtue of the cross, we have been given the right to call him Abba, or Father, on the same level as our Brother, Jesus Christ.  But, oh, how important it is to remember that we are in the presence of Holiness when we approach God, and we need to express that gratitude reverently and in awe when we pray.

Any of you who have kids or in my case grandkids, especially girls, can relate to this.  When your little girl, daughter or granddaughter climbs up in your lap and throws her arms around your neck and says I love you Dad, or I love you Papa, you know that at that moment there is nothing in the world you would not do for her if she asked.  Why-because she just got your undivided attention.   Jesus said,” if you dads on earth know how to give good gifts to your kids when they ask, how much more does the Father want to give you good things when you ask of him”.

SUBMISSION

Your kingdom and your will be established on earth just as it is in Heaven”.

It is important that when we approach God, that he knows we want and seek his will for our lives, first and foremost-that regardless of what we are about to petition him for, we submit to his perfect plan for our life.  That’s a tall order.  Whenever we talk about “God’s will for our life”, we almost always assume it’s different than our will for our life, and few of us want to know that.  We need to remember Christ’s example when he prayed in Ghesthemane before his arrest.  He knew what he was about to endure and asked if there was any other way for this plan to unfold, that he wanted the choice, but prayed, “nonetheless, not my will but yours be done”.  If we are to be like Christ, we have to submit to God’s will.

In the very same chapter where we find The Lord’s Prayer, in verse 33, we read “seek first the kingdom of God, and then everything else will be added to you”.

PETITION

Give us our food for today

AFTER we have acknowledged God and his deity, and AFTER we have requested his will over ours, then can we make our requests of God.  Let’s go back to our little girl for a moment.  If you’re sitting there reading the paper and she comes in and knocks the paper out of your hand and says “Daddy, why won’t you buy me a new pair of shoes”, your immediate response would be for her to step off and remember who she’s dealing with.  But if she comes over and climbs in your lap and gives you a big kiss, and then asks you, you give in, even if you recognize the ploy, because she’s your little girl and you love her that much.  Remember, our emotions are God given-if it works for us, it must work for him.

Note that in the model, we are to ask for our provisions for the day.  I think sometimes our petitions look more like a Christmas wish list than daily necessities.  Yes, James 4:2 says we have not because we ask not, but this is not to be understood as a blank check promise, but willingness to be blessed as God sees fit to better serve Him and His kingdom.

REPENTENCE

Forgive us of our sins as we forgive others”

This is a prerequisite to effective prayer.  Mark 11:25 says “But when you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in Heaven will forgive your sins too”.

Some in the body have been led astray by a false presentation of the work of Grace and eternal salvation.  The Apostle Paul had to address this even in his day as many thought they had a license to do anything because of a grace covering.  Paul said, “should we sin more so that grace may abound more?  No Way”.  A humble and repentive spirit is required for effective prayer. God’s mercies are made new and fresh every day because we need them every day!

DIRECTION

Lead us not into temptation and deliver us from the evil one

Psalms 19:13 reads, “Keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me.  Then I will be blameless and innocent of great transgression”.

God does not put stumbling blocks before us-that’s the work of the evil one.  Sometimes, however, we put ourselves into positions or situations where we are tempted or attracted to doing what we know is wrong.  Prayer is a great weapon against the daily onslaught of the tempting situations we face. In Ephesians 6:11, we read “Put on all God’s armor so that you’ll be able to stand firm against all strategies and tricks of the devil.” It then tells us in verse 18 to “pray at all times and on every occasion in the power of the Holy Spirit.” God knows what we’re up against, and has given us all the weapons we need, working together in prayer.

There is a final key to developing a reverent fear of God through effective prayer.  Quite simply, there are times when we need to know when to just shut up!  Psalms 46:10 says “Be still and know that I am God”. It may be coincidence, but again maybe not, that both times in the New Testament when the Lord’s Prayer is recorded, there is no modeled ending to the prayer, no “amen”, etc.  I see this as my invitation to sit patiently in the Lord’s presence and listen for his voice.  His voice may come as a peaceful holy silence; it may come as an inner voice in your heart; it may come as an urging or sudden thought or inspiration.  One thing is for sure, it won’t be detectable unless you are giving God an opportunity to speak as you wait and listen.

“Pray without ceasing”; “in everything give thanks”. What an awesome privilege to spend time alone with the creator of the universe in intimate prayer.

 

 

I Will Never Be Like Him

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He was born into a poor family in rural Mississippi. Upon his birth his mother went right back into the cotton fields where she worked and placed him on the ground in a blanket beneath the shade of a tree that offered little comfort from the 100 degree heat and southern sun and humidity. He was vitamin deficient and and could not fend off childhood illnesses easily. At the young age of just seven, he was made to work in the cotton fields along with adults. Because of his lack of experience and speed, he was beaten mercilessly with the handle of a hoe until sheer adrenaline sped him up. He and hunger were good friends. He was familiar with the pains of an empty stomach. Cornbread and molasses was a welcome treat.  Flour and feed sacks were his daily clothing. 

They would pick 1800 to 2000 lbs of cotton that might yield 400 lbs after being processed. At the age of eight he was put to the plow and would work sun up to sun down. The nearest town for supplies was eight miles away-he walked, and many trips home were in the dark of night before electricity. At age 12 he would work for other area farmers for $1.00 per day, only after his normal work was completed. His dad was not a kind man and would beat him with plow lines at the slightest infringement. This went on most of his adolescent life. He survived childhood Rickets, Rheumatic Fever, heart murmurs, beatings and hunger.  He knew no other life than this.

Perhaps by now you might assume I am portraying the story of a southern slave. I would never be so bold as to draw direct comparisons to their plight, even thought there are similarities in their stories. You may be surprised to find that this is the story of my Dad. It is a story of survival-it is a story of overcoming-it is a story of breaking a cycle through an amazing faith in a God many of us would have dismissed in similar circumstances. And its a story that none of us would have ever imagined as we grew up in our family as his children.

We didn’t learn of our dad’s history until just a few years ago. We were raised in a normal mid-western home and atmosphere. Dad worked for a truck manufacturer and we always had food on the table and clothes on our back. At 6’8″ he was a gentle giant who never unleashed his anger on us.  In fact I can remember explicitly that it really hurt him to spank our butts when needed. Now we understand why. We were never beaten physically or emotionally-quite the opposite!  We were blessed with loving parents who were engaged in our lives and who showed us their faith in God every day. We learned about Christ in church and saw him in action in our parents.  So you might imagine the shock as my brother, sister and I learned of our dad’s harsh upbringing. 

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My dad asked Christ into his life at the age of eight and held to that faith until such time as he was able to leave home and all his past behind him. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says this: Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new!  This surely must be true. We witnessed it without knowing at the time. We were raised and nurtured with all the love, the encouragement, the unity that any family could ask for. We didn’t realize it but we were the broken links of a chain from the past that had been ripped apart by the love and faith of an earthly father determined to be free from generational abuse, and a Heavenly Father who honored the faith of two parents living in His love and pouring it out on us.  

My dad set a standard of fathering that I never reached with my boys. With full disclosure now as an adult to the life my dad overcame and the great distance with which he removed himself from his past, I missed the mark dramatically as a dad. Yet I work everyday, just as I did as a kid, to make my dad proud and to pass along something of his character to our kids and grand kids, three generations removed. I only wish our grand kids could know what a great man he is.

I’ve heard of sons declaring to their dads-“I can’t wait to grow up. I’m never going to be like you!”. Well, I’m grown up and I can truly declare, I will never be like him!  Happy Father’s Day Dad!