Archive for the ‘Bible Study’ Tag

What’s a Father to Do?

My daughter’s birth brought me up short, a wake-up call to learn the heavy responsibilities of what it means to father a child. What did I know about being a dad? I knew nothing!

What does it take to be a good father? I reasoned that fathering a child is more than just bringing a child into this world, and exchanging butterfly kisses. Fathering is a life-long responsibility. It is a forever commitment. That is, if a man truly wants to “father” his child.

So what to do? I wrote a description of what I wanted my daughter to become. I wanted her to become a woman of integrity, honesty, and good morals. For that to happen, I decided I needed to model these qualities for her. That meant I had to be who I wanted her to become. I was sure a strong faith in God, who has those same qualities, would help.

I started early. While she was still pretty young, I started taking her out on daddy-daughter-dates. I wanted her to experience a good example of how a man should behave. I opened doors for her. I held her chair for her. I ordered the meal and the drinks, and explained to her appropriate behavior for a young woman on a date. We talked of what she would want in a man, and how she wanted to be loved and cared for. We talked about integrity, honesty, and chastity. We talked about faith in God, and whether faith was relevant. We even discussed the Bible, which gives answers to most of life’s questions that arise.

We continued to “date” until she married. I knew I would only get one chance to get it right. She would only be young once. I knew that if I were to impress on her heart the values I knew were important, I had to talk about them at home, when we were out, and when she got up in the morning and went to bed at night.

Now that she’s married, with children, we still go out on an occasional daddy-daughter-date. She feels free to talk openly and candidly to me because the door to that kind of relationship opened long ago. We can explore together answers to more mature questions that are on her heart. We can pray together for solutions to problems she faces in her grown-up world.

I found that it takes a lot of effort and commitment to be a good dad. I discovered I had to do it on purpose, with purpose, to make a plan and work the plan. I set out on a mission to be a good dad and devoted myself to make it happen. We still exchange butterfly kisses; we have a very special connection, my daughter and I. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

 

A Father’s Responsibility

I was the first person to hold her tiny, delicate form in my arms. My hands trembled as the nurse placed her tenderly in my arms. Miniature and fragile, could she break? Looking into her E.T. face, I instantly fell in love. I counted all her fingers and toes. There were ten each—tiny and perfectly formed—paper-thin nails and all. My eyes stung and my heart swelled as she turned toward me, and snuggled into my chest. I couldn’t help it. I promised her I would always love and protect her. I would shield her from evil and harm all her life. I promised to raise her to love and fear the Lord.

My mind jumped to the future. This is my little girl. Already, I was thinking what I would say to her when a young man would ask her out on her first date.

Then I started thinking about what I would say to her date! How do I prepare her for that?  I began to search the Scriptures. What does God say about fathers? What are a father’s responsibilities toward his children?

I discovered that a father’s responsibility to his children is to mentor them and to teach them the ways of the Lord, His commandments and His decrees. A dad must live a Christlike life before his children, teaching them to hear, trust, and obey the heavenly Father. Following Deuteronomy 6:5, I read, “These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up” (vv. 6-7).

I found it is up to a father to help his child recognize that God is the teacher and ruler in the child’s life. It’s not about me, and what I could do as a father. It is about God, and what a child could become by learning about God

Her E.T. face is now beautiful. Her fingers are long and skilled at the piano. My heart still swells when she turns to me and hugs me. She’s married to a fine Christian man who became the main man in her life. But she’s still mine. And, most importantly, she is God’s.

Garlic & Integtity?

Garlic. Just mentioning the word evokes memory of how it smells. I have a clove of garlic in my hand. Its strong, pungent odor assails the taste buds and makes my mouth water. I peel off the paper-like skin. My nose stings and tears fill my eyes. Garlic reeks through the house as I chop it into tiny pieces and place it in stew.
Garlic flavor permeates the vegetables and meat in the stew, flavoring everything—even steam billowing from the boiling pot smells like garlic.
Garlic is garlic inside and out, and will always be garlic, no matter how I chop it, slice it, or cook it. My fingers reek of garlic. Garlic saturates everything it touches. It doesn’t go away easily. Tomorrow, the kitchen will still smell of garlic. After eating the stew, my breath, even my skin will smell of garlic.
Daniel of the Old Testament was like garlic inside and out. Not because he smelled, but because a Godly integrity saturated him through and through. It penetrated everything he touched—everything he did. Daniel’s character had a strong quality, difficult to corrupt, and difficult to suppress. He couldn’t hide it—it is who he was.
When he was elevated (Daniel Chapter 5) to be over King Darius’ entire kingdom, it was because of his integrity. When jealousy arose among the other leaders, they tried to destroy him by watching for anything he might have done amiss. But we are told they could not find any ground to accuse him of any wrongdoing. His integrity was impeccable. They had to manufacture a way to trap him by passing a law they knew his faith would not let him obey. They passed a law that everyone in the kingdom must pray only to Darius or die.
Daniel immediately went into his chamber to pray and to worship God. His enemies caught him in the act of praying to the one true God.
I have discovered that a person’s character is who he is. It suffuses everything he touches, everything he does, in much the same way. It is who people perceive him to be. Integrity is a condition that does not vary with circumstances of life or personal preferences. I have learned that a person of strong integrity will be strong in character. Conversely, a person of weak integrity will be weak in character.
Is integrity a condition that varies with circumstances of life or personal preferences? I think integrity is an ethical quality. It is moral excellence. It is honesty. It is innocence of motive. It does not have bad intent or improper behavior. Daniel was filled with the Spirit of God. He worshiped God only. He depended on God for everything. Daniel’s integrity was righteousness of the heart. It was a transparency of Godly motive. It saturated him through and through. It nearly cost him his life.
Now I am faced with a question. Will I allow God to fill me with His holiness? Will I let Him infuse me with the odor of righteous integrity?

God Calls

_DSC0718 copy     Sweat burned my eyes and stung the sunburn on my face. Equatorial heat and humidity made it difficult to breathe. My blue jeans stuck to my legs, mud clung to my boots, and made it difficult to climb the scaffolding. From up on the scaffold, Emmanuel asked me to toss him a roll of wire and a sack of nails.
“Emmanuel,” I asked in floundering Spanish, “what do you do for a living?”
“I am a building contractor. And you? What do you do?” He started another nail.
“I am a contractor, but I am praying, asking God what He wants me to be.”
“What are you doing right now?” he asked. “Aren’t you serving Him by doing what you are doing right now?”
“You mean building buildings? No, that just pays the bills and feeds my family.”
“No.” He drove the nail home with three blows. “I mean right this minute. Aren’t you serving Him by doing what you are doing right this minute? By being here, helping us build a church, and visiting my neighbors, and preaching? Isn’t that serving Him?”
“Well yes, I guess it is!” I clipped a short piece of wire. “But this is just a ministry trip. I can’t do this on a permanent basis.”
“Why not? Maybe God is calling you, like Abraham, to go to a country that He will show you?” He took the wire from me, ran it through the holes in the wood planks, and tied them together.
“Look,” he said. “See how these planks fit together? We fasten them with wire and nails? They will hold the planks in place when the concrete is poured inside. Together, they will give a proper shape to the concrete. When the concrete matures properly, we will take off the planks, and the column will stand on its own. We are the planks. God’s word is the wire and nails. He fastens us together, to help shape the pillars of the church He has given us to build. That is what a missionary does. He comes and helps form the pillars of the church until it matures sufficiently and then he pulls himself away and the church will stand on its own.”
God spoke to me clearly, “This is what I have for you. I want you to be a missionary.”
For as long as I could remember, I knew that God was calling me into full-time ministry. I had tried out several roles of ministry—preaching, youth pastor, Sunday school teacher, music ministry, and others—but never felt a confirmed call in any of these areas. I remember asking God to please clearly reveal His perfect will for my life. In my youth, I grew desperate to know what God had for me. It seemed I would never know. Then I had an opportunity to join a work and witness team from my church.
That trip changed my life. I understood my ministry role. Missions has been my life ever since.

Christlike Discipleship

My throat constricted, and my fingers started to clinch involuntarily, as I listened to my friend, a former university classmate, tell me he no longer attends an organized, denominational church, but is still living a fruitful Christian life. In fact, he no longer attends any church, because, he said, “they are all designed, ruled, and organized by man, and not God… I can be a better, stronger Christian on my own, doing my own Bible studies and private devotions”.  This person was formerly a fellow pastor and evangelist in the Church of the Nazarene.

Although this was a shock for me,  I was not surprised by his perception and decision, which is becoming increasingly common.  What is the cause? Why are we losing these people? Although I believe there are many contributing causes, one of the greatest is packed into the word “discipleship”.

May I offer an over-simplified perspective on the term “discipleship”? Discipleship is “investment”. Investment in people is the basis, the core, of discipleship. It goes far deeper than “influence”, or seminars, or classroom teaching. It forms the very basic premise behind God’s prevenient grace. It is investment in relationships with people,  a personal, in-depth, sometimes painful, investment. It is Christlike investment to walk as Jesus walked.

God sent His Son to repair a broken relationship with His greatest creation, humanity.  He created us for relationship with Him.  That relationship was broken through Adam’s sin. In Jesus, what an investment He made! The very blood and life of His Son, shed on the cross of Calvary that we might have life, and relationship with Him.

Jesus was the Great Disciple-maker. He invested Himself in relationship with His disciples. He taught them, disciplined them, mentored them, lived with them, and died for them. He showed them what it meant to be Spirit filled, passionate, compassionate, sacrificial, and humble. He showed them how to be disciple-makers.

I want to walk as Jesus walked!

He walked in the complete, overpowering presence of God and His Holy Spirit. He walked in deepest love and compassion. He walked in all the spiritual authority He was given. He walked in holy humility with an indomitable passion for the lost and dying world. Jesus wept over those who were lost, without a shepherd, wandering blindly through life. He invested His tears, His compassion – true compassion – into His disciples, so they could see and feel beyond themselves to others who were in grave spiritual need. He made disciples. Discipleship is every believer’s privilege and responsibility. We all are responsible to be a disciple, and to make disciples.

Discipleship1To be a disciple-maker, we must first be a disciple. That means being personally discipled until our last breath. Secondly, we must disciple others, both formally and informally – being Christlike wherever we are, including intentionally influencing the non-Christian and unsaved toward right relationship with Jesus. Third, we must disciple other Christians toward Christian maturity – intentionally and strategically influencing Christians to know and follow Jesus; to be Christlike, Holy Spirit filled, entirely sanctified Christians. Fourth, we must disciple maturing Christians to become disciple-makers who mentor others. And fifth, we must disciple maturing Christian disciple-makers to intentionally and sacrificially help others in making Christlike disciples.

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