Dirty Diapers

Most of us wouldn’t want someone to have to change our diaper. And yes, most of us right now don’t have to wear diapers anyways — but you did — and you may again some day.

I use this example to illustrate the point of John 13:1-18 in a more relatable context given today’s culture. In Jesus’ day, their feet were filthy and nasty. They didn’t wear a new pair of freshly scented and fabric softened socks everyday, safely covered by shoes, and they didn’t live and work in environmentally controlled and meticulously cleaned buildings, and they didn’t travel in vehicles. They were outside, in open sandals, walking where the animals walked and defecated, working in the open environment. Feet were nasty, like a dirty diaper would be today.

Years ago, I wrote a post entitled “It’s time to stop pooping our pants” and it came to mind as we discussed our morning devotional about John 13.

Instead of talking as a family about washing feet (which is really not a big deal in our society today because of how relatively clean feet are these days) — we talked about the fact that some adults have to wear diapers — and that changing someone’s dirty diaper would be more in line with what Jesus did when He washed the disciples’ feet.

And we talked about how sin is like a dirty, stinky, filthy diaper spiritually — and

1) how sinfulness in our own lives will influence and stink up the spiritual lives of those around us if not repented, confessed and forgiven

2) how we need to come to Jesus to be washed clean from our sin

3) how we need to be like Peter after he was told the purpose having our stinky mess uncovered and revealed in front of others (public, verbal confession of our sin, struggles, shortcomings)

4) how we need to be imitators of Jesus that we would help meet the physical needs of others as a servant (even as far as lovingly changing their diapers as a caregiver if it comes to that) and more importantly, willing to hear others’ struggles and be willing to forgive them, remind them that they are washed clean by the Blood of the Lamb, and to intercede with prayer for them, encourage them, and serve them spiritually as well

Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God. Let there be no sexual immorality, impurity, or greed among you. Such sins have no place among God’s people. Obscene stories, foolish talk, and coarse jokes—these are not for you. Instead, let there be thankfulness to God. You can be sure that no immoral, impure, or greedy person will inherit the Kingdom of Christ and of God. For a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world. Don’t be fooled by those who try to excuse these sins, for the anger of God will fall on all who disobey him. Don’t participate in the things these people do. For once you were full of darkness, but now you have light from the Lord. So live as people of light! For this light within you produces only what is good and right and true. Carefully determine what pleases the Lord. Take no part in the worthless deeds of evil and darkness; instead, expose them. It is shameful even to talk about the things that ungodly people do in secret. But their evil intentions will be exposed when the light shines on them, for the light makes everything visible. This is why it is said, “Awake, O sleeper, rise up from the dead, and Christ will give you light.” So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do. Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, and making music to the Lord in your hearts. And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Ephesians 5:1‭-‬20 NLT

As we become caregivers for our elderly , and as we are already spiritual caregivers for those we counsel, shepherd, sharpen, encourage, and equip for the ministry — let’s not forget that our example is to get our hands dirty doing the real work of the ministry that is dealing with things most of us would buy nature rather be left hidden and not dealt with — but if we are only superficially religious, we are walking around with untended, stinky diapers spiritually, that need to be washed clean.

So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.
1 Thessalonians 5:11 NLT

Are we ready for the mess?

Are we willing to have our mess, our weakness, be surrendered publicly in front of others so that God can get the glory for washing us clean?

Are we afraid of letting others “know our business” and possibly “gossip about us” if we were to confess to others — can we be honest with ourselves and with them about our lack of trust?

Are we willing and ready to forgive, to wash clean, to do the “work” of an imitator of Christ and get in the mess with someone else?

Lord, it is only by the power of your Holy Spirit, by the power of Christ who lives in the heart of the believer, that we can do these things that will be hard, challenging, and will stretch us beyond our being comfortable. But you bid us step out of the boat and into the water, even in the midst of the waves — you bid us to take up our cross and bear it — you bid us come and die to self and be imitators of you. Reveal yourself to us, through us, and in us. Amen.

Worshipping Warriors

Let the praises of God be in their mouths, and a sharp sword in their hands— to execute vengeance on the nations and punishment on the peoples, to bind their kings with shackles and their leaders with iron chains, to execute the judgment written against them. This is the glorious privilege of his faithful ones. Praise the Lord !
Psalms 149:6‭-‬9 NLT

A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.
Ephesians 6:10‭-‬18 NLT

Help us Lord, to praise you even at the gutsy opening of our eyes, even with those groanings of our waking moments that are unintelligible but that prepare us for the day ahead. Like a great roar of a lion, may our loud yoaning and groaning, be like a battle cry that this worshipping warrior is risen to see victory manifest in the will of God brought forth on earth as it is in heaven. May we rise and put on the full armor of God, remembering those things that equip us and send us forth are not pour own striving, but are the vey spirit and power of Christ in us going forth. And may our prayers not be so much about the changing of circumstances, but of the revealing of you, the revealing of hearts, the repentance and reconciliation of your people to your kingdom purpose and calling. May we cry out for the lost and the hurrying and the dead and the dying to find hope, faith, love and life in you. May we both pray for and remind our family, friends, nation, leaders of the whole Word of God, and may it be rightly divided to both bind their consciences to resist ungodly temptations and loosen your spirit to bring life and victory. May our prayers and the spoken Word of God rise powerfully in the name of Jesus, to see demons bound to depart and be replaced by your presence so they might never never return, and to loose your warring angels to execute the judgements written against those who oppose you. Remind us to stand firm and fully prepared. You are not only the light to our path, but the peace that we have found in you establishes pour footsteps. Guard ours hearts, our minds, our words, and our actions against whatever might muddy our testimony, stumble our brother, or hinder our prayers. Make straight what was once crooked, oh Lord, and overflow into our lives so that territories may be expanded, lost may be found, needy may find help, hopeless may know hope, the hurt may know healing, and the proud may know the valley. Thank you, Lord. You are faithful and true and may we sing your praises with our lives today. Amen.

Sin, Repentance, Righteousness, Judgement

Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in  it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does. – James 1:21-25 NKJV

If anyone sees his brother sinning a sin which does not lead to death, he will ask, and He will give him life for those who commit sin not leading to death. There is sin leading to death. I do not say that he should pray about that. All unrighteousness is sin, and there is sin not leading to death. We know that whoever is born of God does not sin; but he who has been born of God keeps himself, and the wicked one does not touch him. We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies under  the  sway  of the wicked one. And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us an understanding, that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life. Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen. – I John 5:16-21 NKJV

Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unrighteous, and not before the saints? Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world will be judged by you, are you unworthy to judge the smallest matters? Do you not know that we shall judge angels? How much more, things that pertain to this life? If then you have judgments concerning things pertaining to this life, do you appoint those who are least esteemed by the church to judge? I say this to your shame. Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you, not even one, who will be able to judge between his brethren? But brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers! Now therefore, it is already an utter failure for you that you go to law against one another. Why do you not rather accept wrong? Why do you not rather let  yourselves be cheated? No, you yourselves do wrong and cheat, and you  do these things to  your brethren! Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God. – I Corinthians 6:1-11 NKJV

Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city. But outside are  dogs and sorcerers and sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and whoever loves and practices a lie. – Revelation 22:14-15 NKJV

Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. – Galatians 5:19-21 NKJV

Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma. But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them. – Ephesians 5:1-7 NKJV

But we know that the law is  good if one uses it lawfully, knowing this: that the law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless and insubordinate, for the ungodly and for sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, for fornicators, for sodomites, for kidnappers, for liars, for perjurers, and if there is any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine, according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God which was committed to my trust. And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has enabled me, because He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry, although I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man; but I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. And the grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant, with faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, to God who alone is wise, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen. – I Timothy 1:8-17 NKJV

Therefore strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed. Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled; lest there be any fornicator or profane person like Esau, who for one morsel of food sold his birthright. For you know that afterward, when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought it diligently with tears. – Hebrews 12:12-17 NKJV

For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries. Anyone who has rejected Moses’ law dies without mercy on the  testimony  of two or three witnesses. Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know Him who said, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. And again, “The Lord will judge His people.” It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. – Hebrews 10:26-31 NKJV

Honoring men? Honoring God?

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
Ephesians 4:1‭-‬3 ESV

I would ask, are we living as a prisoner for the Lord?

Are we seeking to honor Him or are we seeking to honor men?

Are we urging one another to walk in a manner worthy of our calling?

Are we standing against wickedness while being gentle and patient with each other, or have we chosen one or the other?

Are we eager to make war against our brothers and sisters – or are we maintaining a false peace because we have become lukewarm and complacent towards sin, worldliness, and wickedness?

I rest in a tension between the two sides that seems to me to be the narrow path that is rarely chosen. It is a path where we genuinely care enough about someone that we want to see them delivered from a life of sin, not just accept their life of sin. So we love them whether or not they are sinning, but we do not delight in their sins or make light of them.

Much of the world wants to justify their sin, even rejoice in it. I daily see people laughing and rejoicing together over their being law breakers. Laughing about putting others’ lives in danger with their careless attitude of entitlement to be able to consider the law as only a “suggestion”. And instead of joining in their public celebration and delight over their being lawbreakers, I am humbled, realizing that I set some of that example when I do things like ignore the speed limit myself. But I cannot join in their celebration or honor them for their wickedness, even if I too have been guilty myself. Instead, I ask the Lord to help me so that I might live a better example.

It would be easier to join in the laughter. It would be easier to honor those people’s rejoicing – but it would not be honoring to God, and that is more important. Aren’t we supposed to urge one another to walk in a manner worthy of our calling – not just be advocates of sin?

Also, it would be easier to point my finger at them and say, “Look how you celebrate wickedness, you are of your father the devil!” Than to examine myself and identify how I need to change to be a better example myself. Only after I’ve committed to change my own example can I speak on the subject from a place that is not ripe with hypocrisy. But I’m not meant to remain unchanged and I’m not meant to join in their celebration – I’m meant to repent, and to urge others towards a righteous life while maintaining peace and unity.

It is easy to maintain peace and unity if you are bringing a sugary sweet message that wickedness can be celebrated, because you will not have opposition from the carnal and the worldly. It is easy to maintain peace and unity if you bring a biting and condemning message that points a finger from a position of pride, because you will not have opposition from the religious and the self righteous. But to speak from the position that convicts both of these groups individually, this is how Christ brought Truth in Love.

Lord, you always teach us first with your message, if we are willing to listen and to change. Don’t let our hearts be hardened to either openly rebellious or self righteous ways. Set our feet on that path that makes both those groups uncomfortable that while we don’t walk in either of their camps, that we do not walk as their enemy, because we walk with their deliverer.

Deliver us from evil, Lord. Amen.

Light, Truth and Love

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
Ephesians 2:1‭-‬10 ESV

We once walked in sin when we were dead and lost.

We found hope in the offer of grace, a gift freely given to those who believe, to those who are called, chosen, and drawn by the Lord to Himself.

It is by this grace that we are saved, liberated, redeemed, freed.

Now we walk as new creations, with a new purpose of good works for the glory and honor of God.

Now we have a new master. Sin and temptation and wickedness was our old master leading us along as we chased after it for ourselves – but now Christ is our new Lord, a merciful yet loving guide,  who has the best for us.

We have traded the short sighted blindness of worldliness and sin,  for the patient vision of light, truth, and love.

Still the rebellious son, even at 42

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother,” which is the first commandment with promise: “that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.”
Ephesians 6:1‭-‬3 NKJV

I just want to tell my mom and dad how much I love them and am grateful for them.

The other night they came to help me with some urgent items. I was stressed and grumpy because we are down to just the car (with the truck in the shop for some major repairs). We have so much going on with selling our house, getting ready to live in a camper, and getting ready to build a new house –  and I REALLY don’t like having to rely on others for help. (I tell myself that I like “feeling like” I’m being a blessing and not a burden – but honestly, it’s just my pride.)

In my rush trying to get things done, I was disrespectful at one point to my dad who was there to help me. We’re both type A personalities and we clash at times each wanting to do things our own way – because I don’t submit to his authority as my father like I should. I told him as we were finishing up last night that I was sorry, but I don’t know if he realizes that I really am sorry in my heart for letting circumstances take hold, which led to me disrespecting the closest thing I have on this planet as an example of a Good, Good Father.

You see,  my dad chose me, he adopted me, and gave me his name. And he has always been an amazing dad to me. No one would ever think otherwise watching his love towards his “adopted” son. No, in his eyes and in mine,  I’m not adopted. I’m his and he is mine – exactly like it is with my Heavenly Father who chose me and adopted me to be His child.

I’m glad that they both will forgive me for my foolish behavior last night, and I love them both enough to try to learn from it and change. I’m not just remorseful about it, I want to not be that way anymore. It is embarrassing and humbling to see myself still as the rebellious son, even at the age of 42.

I love you, dad.

Friends, tell your dad that you love him today. Even if you “don’t say stuff like that” – ESPECIALLY if that is the case. Call him and ask him for some wise advise over something in your life today and actually listen to what he has to say.

Then, pray to your heavenly Father and tell Him that you love Him – ESPECIALLY if you haven’t done it recently. And open that Bible and listen to His wise advice for your life today.

It’s Monday again.

It’s Monday. And it matters whether I see myself as “putting on my slave clothes” to go out and work for “the man”, or whether I get to go out and be a bearer of Christ’s spirit and nature even in my workplace.

When we slip into an attitude of not being grateful, we can begin to grumble and complain and not bear the light of the Lord in our workplace and in our lives. We can sometimes find ourselves compartmentalizing our joy – bring thankful for one area of our life but dissatisfied with another. This dissatisfaction is a signal that something needs to change.

Many times it is our own attitude that needs to change – not our circumstances or surroundings.

Bondservants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh, not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but in sincerity of heart, fearing God. And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ. But he who does wrong will be repaid for what he has done, and there is no partiality.
Colossians 3:22‭-‬25 NKJV

Bondservants, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in sincerity of heart, as to Christ; not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, with goodwill doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men, knowing that whatever good anyone does, he will receive the same from the Lord, whether he  is a slave or free. And you, masters, do the same things to them, giving up threatening, knowing that your own Master also is in heaven, and there is no partiality with Him.
Ephesians 6:5‭-‬9 NKJV

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure. Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain. Yes, and if I am being poured out as  a  drink  offering on the sacrifice and service of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. For the same reason you also be glad and rejoice with me.
Philippians 2:12‭-‬18 NKJV

Lord, we thank you for the opportunities that we have to provide for our families and help others. We thank you that we can be one who rises early to prepare for the day and who can diligently work for you,  whether it is in the ministry of a cubicled office, a field of crops, building and repairing things for others, or service unto others that is more visibly recognized by others as self sacrifice. Help us to endure the trials,  to stand firm in our service to others – whether it is the business owner and authority, or whether it is the needy and helpless. Help us to serve faithfully and diligently in all circumstances, without grumbling and complaining – but gratefully bringing you honor and glory. Amen.

Arise, Awake, Don’t just dream light, Be light.

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.
Matthew 5:16 NKJV

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them.  For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret. But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light. Therefore He says: “Awake, you who sleep, Arise from the dead, And Christ will give you light.”
Ephesians 5:8-14 NKJV

Being a follower of Christ is not about just having an enlightened understanding of Christ or of His teachings – yes,  this is how we come to the knowledge of truth – by hearing the  Word of God. But being a follower must be more than just head knowledge – it must be active and alive in our hearts and actions and daily lives.

We are to walk in the light. We aren’t to fear or hide from the darkness. We aren’t to participate in the darkness,  we are to expose it. Jesus didn’t spend time amongst sinners so that He could sin, but so that He could bring them to God. We should do the same. Jesus didn’t use love and mercy as an excuse to break the law, He demonstrated how God’s instruction is built upon loving God’s ways and character and nature instead of our own carnal desires. He doesn’t call us to add to our subtract from the Word of God to fit our own comfortable lifestyles or opinions,  He calls us to pick up our cross and follow in His footsteps – in His example, in His truth, in His life – even if it leads to a similar end to His with people hating us and persecuting us because they hate Him.

He never instructs folks to “say a sinners prayer and then get in a good church” – He calls us to lay down our old lives and follow Him. He calls us to die to ourselves and to love Him completely. He calls us to walk in light and to be the church, to be the body,  the vessel,  that is willing to carry His truth, His love, His message out to the world – even to those who hate it. He doesn’t call us into a life of guaranteed comfort and prosperity in this world. He doesn’t call us into a life of complacency towards godliness, holiness, righteousness, repentance, and sin.

He says: “Awake, you who sleep, Arise from the dead, And Christ will give you light.”

Sincere love

Peace to the brethren, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace be with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity. Amen.
Ephesians 6:23-24 NKJV
http://bible.com/114/eph.6.23-24.NKJV

Grace for all those who truly love our Lord Jesus Christ.

Yes, grace is available to all,  it is a gift extended and avaliable. And grace isn’t just a promise of escape from consequences – it isn’t just an idea of a loving Father and merciful Savior. Grace is being born again, with a new seed of life planted within the tilled up soil of our old lives. Those of us who love Jesus Christ as the Lord of our lives, who seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness – yes, this grace is for us.

And what a simple, but complete requirement to receive the gift of life – sincere love of Jesus Christ as Lord of our lives. Yes, something like this takes faith.

Do you love Him?

That is my question. At its essence, that is the gospel. Because if we believe, then how could we not love Him? He is the light come into the darkness, not to condemn us for our chains of sin, but to deliver us to new life. Are we running from the light to hide, or running to the light in grattitude for His revelation, for His truth, for showing us the way?

Thank you, Lord, for opening our eyes to your love. For revealing your very nature to us. For bearing out your fruit in our lives as evidence of your life breathing within these dead bones. Thank you for welcoming us with open arms as the loving Father, when we were just hoping to come back to your house as a humble servant. Remind us that it isn’t about our works, but about your love, and our love in response. Teach us to love more today, so that others might find us peculiar enough to want a taste of this sweet grace, of this wonderful for of your love that is alive in us. Amen.

Love your wife

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church. Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.
Ephesians 5:25-33 NKJV

I want to be a great husband and father. I want to lead my family by my example of love. I want to be obedient to God. And I’ll be honest with you – most days, my greatest struggles are not with temptations, or my job, or with what I face in the streets/jails/rehab. The greatest challenge daily usually comes from within my own closest circle – either my family or those closest friends in my life.

Many times the greatest struggles are between our closest friends. Besides Jesus, I consider my wife to be my closest friend. But I have to admit that life inside our house is not perfect and without its tension, disagreements, and misunderstandings. When the Lord is calling us out into ever deeper waters, and we are making decisions constantly to swim against the stream of the ways of the world, and we are giving up on the very security and safety that our nature is used to craving – there is going to be tension even if that was just a single person being affected. But when it is a whole family – now you’re facing a challenge.

So how can we best deal with these situations? I like to look at how Christ treated people.

He asked questions and listened intently to see past any emotions, posturing, manipulation, and defensive behavior to hear the heart of their issue – so that He could address the root cause, not just the symptoms.

Christ offered His love and His guidance and was the leading evangelist,  teaching His disciples, His church, how to live a life more like Him. Discussions with Him would inevitably bring up convictions in the lives of those around Him over the things that weren’t yet yielded and that were self serving instead of honoring God and serving others – not because He was preaching AT them, but He was walking it out, and telling them, and showing them a right life.

When someone was willful and prideful, wanting to pull in a different direction that He knew was leading them to destruction, He was firm and bold – even to the point of direct correction – but even His correction had a loving purpose.  When someone was scared and of little faith, not yet trusting in God’s faithfulness to provide getting the need, and walking a doubt filled and powerless life, He was patient, gentle, and encouraging – but He still pointed out their doubt and their need to press in further. He didn’t crush anyone with direct judgement and condemnation, because the truth of His words spoke to them clearly and their own hearts either convicted them into new actions, or testified against their unwillingness to yield to His will.

Yes, He used discernment to see what was happening on the inside,  the underlying issue, and then He determined what fuel needed to be added to the fire. If someone was full of the darkness of bitterness, He would flame the fire of forgiveness, saying,  “Father, forgive them. They know not what they do.” If someone was full of the darkness of self interest and concern for their own plans,  He would flame the fire of sacrifice and service unto others. If someone was full of the darkness of worry and anxiety,  He would flame the fire of faith through offering either they lay down their heavy burdens at His feet or expect promised trials and testing that they cannot bear on their own. Yes, all of this to humble us, to remodel us, into a new creation that more and more resembles Christ.

And I’m supposed to show this kind of love towards my wife. And I’m supposed to lead my family in this same manner, making disciples of my children so that they can go out and bear their crosses and face opposition from the world. If we didn’t believe, we would laugh in the face of such nonsense and maybe settle for a Sunday morning religious practice to keep Good off of our backs so that we can spend our lives with the idol that we really love most, ourself.

But if we believe, there is work to be done daily. There is examination and guidance, and correction,  and firm leadership of the family that is expected from our fathers. There are difficult discussions and decisions that have to be has and made for the sake of our families – even in times where there is not yet agreement and unity, we must stand up and lead in love.

And we must learn to care enough about our families not to drag them along kicking and screaming, but to identify what they need and determine how we can best fill that need. To realize that what we think that we want is not always the same as what we need and what is best for us. We as fathers must strive to determine the true needs, and to provide for their needs, to make sure that an outpouring of His nourishing fruit is being fed to our families daily.

Love is not all puppies and balloons and cakes and ice cream. It takes work and sacrifice – and sometimes the very people you love and are trying to help would be happy with nothing less than hammering the nails into you themselves to watch you “die on the cross of your self righteousness” – but as long as it isn’t self righteousness and your only righteousness comes from Crust who lives in you, Jesus tells us –

Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.
John 15:13 NKJV

Lord, help us to feed our families with the fruit that they truly need from an eternal perspective, with a discerning eye, and with a loving heart. Amen.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.
Galatians 5:22-23 NKJV

But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.
I Timothy 5:8 NKJV