Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Feeding Lambs

“Feed My lambs.”  John 21:15

As a parent I know I am also called to my feed lambs, or rather, feed the children God has placed in my home.  But, over the years I have learned that feeding them is much different from making them eat.

Two years ago we adopted 3 lambs whose mother had died.  And, feeding those lambs was by far the toughest part of caring for them.  We tried the bottle method, but they will not suck.  We tried giving them various forms of nutrition; feed, hay, electrolyte solution, and milk replacer in a bowl, yet their eating was still not as enthusiastic as it should have been.  In feeding those lambs I did my part to put food before them so they can make wise choices and fill their need for sustenance.  But in the end, it was up to each individual lamb to take what I have given, eat it, and let the food do its work in helping bring nutrition to his/her body.

I feel in the same way, we parents need to feed our children.  Our job is to set the lessons before our children, make sure the lessons are hearty (based on truth), and are presented in a way that allows the best digestion and integration into the child’s life – is spiritually nutritious.  Our child’s job is then to accept our feeding.  But, just as our lambs, our children do not always see the need for eating what we feed them.

In these types of instances I have to admit that force feeding is a rather tempting method to resort to. I know what my child needs, and yet when he/she will not take in what I am offering in love it can be one of the most frustrating life experiences.  But, force feeding our children will only lead to enabling because even though instant feeding may go a little way, the drive to consume highly nutritious food from an internal motivation is not at play in the child’s heart. 

The painful truth at times is that we need to watch our children starve a bit.  Watching, waiting, praying, and letting the hunger develop until the child is ready to take in what is offered.  In feeding lambs the starvation is physical and therefore feeding is a little less complicated.  For our children, the starvation to build a strong appetite for truth is a little more complicated.  Each child is different and so for each child we must trust in God to show us how to bring each child to the point of realization that what you, the parent, are feeding him/her is what will take away those hunger pains.

Do not get down on yourself if your child is not taking in what you are offering.  Instead, keep on feeding, trusting in God, relying on His guidance, and staying strong in providing your child what he/she needs to grow strong in the Lord.

Monday, January 30, 2012

My Weakness, His Strength

“…most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distress, for Christ’s sake.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.”  2 Corinthians 12:9b-10

This scriptural truths found in these verses are not ones easily learned through reflection; rather they are learned through looking back at the difficult times in our lives and realizing how in our past weaknesses God has strengthened us beyond our own abilities.   The important lesson here is to reflect on the provisions and power God has shown He is capable of when in the past you have been weakened by the stresses of life.  And then to take that arsenal of reminders and attack each new weakness with the full assurance that God, who is faithful and never-changing, will again provide in your time of need.

I took the liberty to look up all of the key words in the verses above in their original Greek and wanted to share my more expanded version with you.  I hope this insight along with the experiences of your past will empower you for the struggles you face today.

“…with sweet pleasure I would rather rejoice in my fragility, that the miraculous power of Christ may be superimposed over me like a glorious covering to hide my simple frame.  Therefore I will resolve to willingly accept and abide in any sickness that may come my way, in any insults or hurtful words that pierce my soul, in any constraints or limitations that cause added burdens in my life, in oppositional confrontations that tear at foundations of my faith, and in life dictated limitations which limit my freedoms all for Christ’s sake.  For when I am continuously powerless to do anything on my own, then I am mightily equipped.”

Whether today brings the first or the hundredth opportunity to embrace a weakness of self, just remember each time you take a step of faith to trust in God over your own abilities you are building a legacy covered by the glorious power of Jesus Christ.  A legacy that will last for eternity and be used in ways you could never hope or imagine all because they are done outside the human will and within the will of God.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Knowing Leads to Eternal Life

Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. John 17:3

I once heard it said that all human beings seem to be programmed with a desire to live forever.  We yearn to push the boundaries of how young we can look, how healthy our lifestyle can be to keep us free from sickness, and how modern medicine can aid us in lengthen our life expectancy.   Yet, all of these pursuits aim much too low than what that programmed desire was designed to push us towards – a desire for the eternal life only God can provide for us.

In John 17:3, Jesus explicitly states what eternal life really is.  Eternal life is knowing God and Jesus.  Now the word “know” that Jesus uses here means to have continual experience of.  Jesus is not saying that the more knowledge gained about the Father and Him will lead a person into eternal life.  Rather, He is saying that the continual relational experience with God the Father and Him, Jesus the Son, IS eternal life.

When I try to explain the difference of these two “know” meanings, I often use the example of teaching my son how to know a roller coaster, and in this case my favorite roller coaster, the Rockin Rollercoaster at Hollywood Studios in Disney Word.

In relating to him the first type of “know” I would share with him the description that Disney provides on their website about the ride:

“Aerosmith's having a backstage party across town and you're invited. Ready to brave the LA freeways? Zoom from 0-60 mph with the force of a supersonic F-14, take in high-speed loops and turns synchronized to a specially recorded Aerosmith soundtrack and zip through Tinseltown in the biggest, loudest limo you've ever seen.”

Now, in relating the second type of “know” to him, I would share with him an experience on that same ride:

“As we entered the final section of the line to board the ride we found ourselves in a noisy parking garage with coaster cars looking like really long stretch limos.  The attendant sat us next to each other in the front seat of the limo and then made sure the locking harnesses that came down over our heads were securely locked into place for our safety.   Built into each of our seats were speakers place on either side of our heads so we were sure to not miss a single beat of the synchronized sounds that were awaiting us.  As our limo rounded the corner and pointed itself at a completely black hole in the building the count-down began.  “5”, “4”, “3”, “2”, and then even before the count hit “1” the entire car and all of its occupants were shot from 0 to 60 miles per hour in a manner of seconds.  (I have to tell you I have ridden this ride many times and try as I might there is no possible way to stop your skin from pulling back on your face and to keep your eyes from watering when you are shot that fast.)  The remainder of the ride took us on a track that put us completely upside-down at least three times, all the while the music adds an even greater element of intensity to the ride.  Getting off the ride and ending his first experience on the coaster, he had a look on his face like he was wondering just what had happened to him, but then when he did speak he said, “Let’s do that again!”

From my experience, “knowing about” God the Father and Jesus His Son only leads to dull religious and pure academic pursuits – just like reading the description the roller coaster to my son could not give him a real taste of the ride.  The pursuit of knowledge, if done solely for its attainment, will eventually lead me away from the relationship Jesus was talking about.  In the end, I am left seeking for more because the initial desire that started my pursuit was not fulfilled. 

But, when I focus on the relationship first and make my first priority to “know – have experience of” God the Father and Jesus His Son, that is where I find my soul’s desire satisfied and where eternal life is mine to partake in.   Then the difference in the knowledge attained through my relationship with God becomes experiential knowledge, where each nugget of truth brings with it a deep and intimate experience that ties that knowledge to my heart and to God in a way that pure academic knowledge never could. 

Just as I needed to share the roller coaster with my son to have him “know” the coaster, so too do each of us need to share a relationship with God to know Him.  A relationship with God the Father and Jesus is eternal life, one you do not have to wait for until your time on this earth ends.  It is available to us every day that we choose to put knowing God first on our list. 

Who Do You Serve?

…choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve…But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.  Joshua 24:15

In Joshua’s farewell address to the Israelite nation he pressed them to make a choice on who they would choose to worship.  The Israelite nation responded by saying they chose to serve the Lord.  In rebuke Joshua came back and told them their actions were witnesses against them – they were in every way still worshiping the gods of their fathers while thinking in their minds they were worshiping the Almighty Lord God. 

The easier choice to serve God is in the mind.  We can say we are serving God, and believe we are serving God, but in reality be serving anything but Almighty God.  The litmus test for our true choice is wrapped up in the way we respond to the simple acts of service God puts before us each day.  If God is really the Lord of your life, then anything He may ask of you should be considered as a request to be fulfilled to honor your Lord and King. 

Often times these requests come into our lives in simple forms of service to the people God has put in and around our lives.  And, most of the time these requests are interruptions to our own personal schedules and agendas.  If we grumble and complain every time we are called to these simple acts of service, then the test reveals that the Lord is far from being the lord our hearts.  But, if with each interruption we see a chance to worship and serve the Lord behind the simple act of service, then the test reveals, through each act, the Almighty Lord God is the One we have chosen to serve.

One way I have found to remind myself of this choice to worship is to place little Post-It notes around my house in places I am often asked to do small acts of service (on the dishwasher, washing machine, over the diaper pail, in the car, etc.).  On these notes I put three simple letters, “TIW,” meaning “This Is Worship.”  These notes over the years have been training tools for me, training me to make simple acts of service into acts of worship.  Over time I have found less need for the notes as my all-embracing choice to serve God has gone from my head to my heart.

Each day we are called to make the choice in whom we will serve.  Make the choice today to serve the Almighty Lord God as He would desire for you to serve, through simple acts of worship.  Also, remember that getting to God is not a destination.  Finding God, choosing to worship Him, and living a life devoted to His calling is a journey that requires one step of faith at a time while being able to rest in those steps.  The journey with God is the prize and you will miss out on so much that He has to show you if you don't slow down to see how He is at work around you each day of your journey with Him.