Three Great Loves

Steve Arterburn

Let me suggest three things that every father can focus on today’and everyday’that are mandatory for accomplishing God’s purposes in the lives of your children.

 

First, fathers must love God. The only way you can be assured your child will learn the most important truths in life’truths about living with faith, obedience, and joy as a follower of Jesus’is knowing those truths yourself and assuming the responsibility for teaching them to your children. You can’t give what you yourself don’t possess.

Second, fathers must love their own fathers. I know for many men that’s a tall order’and often for very good reasons. Nonetheless, being a good father means being a loving son. If your father hasn’t, can’t, or won’t provide the love you need from him, you must get it from God Himself. Fathers must find healing for their own broken hearts to prevent breaking the hearts of their children.

Third, fathers must love their wives. Parenting is a partnership. And nothing will embitter children more than living with a mother who’s been turned resentful by the callous affections of their father.

If you as a father will set your hearts on these three loves, all the other details of raising children will work themselves out.

Trick or Treat’Choosing Authenticity

Dante Poole MA, NCC

Ask a kindergartener what they want to be when they grow up and most will give you an answer without hesitation. In the mind of a child the possibilities are endless as they are allowed the freedom to dream big dreams because they are children and well’the possibilities are endless. By middle school most early adolescents begin to exchange their big dreams for someone else’s small fantasy. The greatest heist occurs during these years as the enemy begins to seduce us through the influence of our peers, into believing that we need to be just like them. Using our need to belong and the threat of that need not being met, our dreams latent with the truth about who we were suppose to become, get tabled in exchange for cheap Halloween costumes that we accept as our new identity.

If you have ever worn one of those costumes you know how uncomfortable they can be.

As a child my parents allowed us to celebrate Halloween. Every year we would get a new costume and participate in some party or gathering highlighted by tons of the sugary treasures we hoarded in our pockets, socks, plastic jack-o-lanterns, themed plastic bags or the old faithful brown paper bag. Most outfits were plastic jumpsuits with drawstrings that got tied around your neck. There were two very distinct features about these outfits;

(1) no matter which character you chose to be (or in some cases the only character left on the shelf because your parents waited to the very last moment to buy your costume) there was always a part of your back that remained exposed leaving part of your true identity without concealment;
(2) the rubber band that held that hot plastic mask to your face always irritated your head as you sweated profusely all the while yelling ‘Trick or Treat!’

Oh, the lengths we went to become someone else.

The truth is we enjoyed those outfits because for a moment in time we had the chance to be something or someone we admired. The costumes, whether superhero or super-beast/creature, had characteristics we longed to have in our own lives and we chose them so that we could pretend to be able to leap over buildings in a single bound. We were faster than a speeding bullet and more powerful than a locomotive.

Unfortunately, masses of men are still running around hidden behind hot sweaty masks with their backs exposed hoping no one will notice that it’s just a costume. We have somehow convinced ourselves that as long as we wear the costume and play the part no one will know the truth. Our lives have become adjusted to the darkness of our concealment to the point that we have become crafty as actors, playing our roles so well that we can no longer distinguish between the false persona and the real person. When faced with the truth about ourselves we fortify our masks and push others away so that we can remain in darkness.

The scripture says in Luke 8:17 ‘For everything that is hidden or secret will eventually be brought to light and made plain to all’. (NLT)

Have you ever met a child who wanted the trick instead of the treat? What disappointment a child would experience if they got duped into believing that they had a bag full of treats only to discover later that they had been hoodwinked. Have others experienced this disappointment because they were expecting to encounter the genuine you and what they ended up with is feeling tricked? We cannot hide in darkness forever. We are called to live authentically. That means we not only tell the truth about ourselves, but we live the truth and accept that some people will not be able to engage us with loving kindness when they see us for who we really are. To live authentically can be unnerving for those who are skilled at hiding.

One truth that has helped me in my struggle for genuine transparency is knowing that God loves me despite all of my failures, bad decisions and all the other things about my life that make me want to take cover. He loves me, not the person others say I should be, not the person I wish I could be’.He loves me and that’s the truth. The Father Almighty takes pleasure in bestowing His love, mercy and favor upon all those who would dare to live the truth. His love looks beyond our faults and meets our need for love.

Here are three steps to towards living more authentically:

1. Learn to tell yourself the truth. Jeremiah 17:9-10a says ‘The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is? But I, the Lord, search all hearts and examine secret motives.’ It is part of our human condition to lie to ourselves about our abilities, limitations and the true nature of our condition. Left on our own we will make a mess of our lives. What is it that keeps us from being honest with ourselves? Pride. It is being confident in our own ability to fix things. The trouble in our lives didn’t get there because of someone else but because we refused to accept our own limitations for fear of being seen as weak or failures. If you re-examine every failure in your life you’ll find bread crumb trails that lead you back to moments of pride & self sufficiency. All of us are in need of spiritual heart surgery.

2. Let God show you how to live in any way that seems right to Him. Sometimes we are expecting God to do things according to what we have determined is the right course of action. The problem is that God’s ways are above our ways and His thoughts are above our thoughts (Isaiah 55:8). We are all guilty of trying to tell the Expert how to do His job. The Lord knows what is best and He chooses the course of action that best accomplishes His will for the lives of humanity. Trust the Expert.

3. Look at the man in the mirror. Authenticity requires regular self examination even when things are going well’no especially when they are going well. Surveying our hearts for the little things we let slide because they don’t seem to matter, will make all the difference. What we won’t deal with today, will deal with us tomorrow.

Either we make a choice to come into the light freely or God will allow circumstances to bring us into the light through consequence. Never ever forget that God is with you and longs to reveal the real you to the rest of the world because you are an expression of His love. The earth becomes a better place when men decide to take off their masks and live an unconcealed, unveiled life. Walk in the light and may every person who encounters you discover the treat that God has gift wrapped in the package called you.

When the Bathroom Door is Locked

Dwayne Collins

Recently, my wife and I were flying on a small commuter jet. The plane was full and we had the last row on the right side of the airplane. I was on the aisle and immediately behind and to my left was the sliding bathroom door. I was trying to read, but was aware of the people as they entered the door to the bathroom.

I vaguely noticed a little child, about 4 years old, enter the bathroom and slide the door shut. A short time later, I thought I heard a light tapping. I listened, and again I heard the tapping. It was getting louder and louder. It was apparent that the child, a little girl, had locked the door and didn’t know how unlock it. She was stuck.

I glanced across the aisle and the passenger there nodded his agreement with my assessment. I got out of my seat and tried to slip the slide lock with my finger, to no avail. I got close to the door and yelled for the child to slip the lock back, but she could not understand. I could tell the she was beginning to cry.

I knew that an adult next to an empty seat was probably her parent. I walked about four rows forward and found a lady sitting alone. I told her that her child was locked in the bathroom and couldn’t get out. She looked back and motioned to her husband who was sitting two rows back. He jumped up and tried to force the door open. By this time, the flight attendant, a male, came and began to work the door. He finally got it open and freed the child. Crying, she climbed into her father’s arms to be comforted.

I was reminded of another time, years ago, when my sister was taking her three children to Florida from Illinois on the train. My nephew experienced the same fate. He too, was hysterical by the time he was freed from his prison, unaware of all that was going on, outside of his sight and understanding, to unlock the bathroom door.

Isn’t this just like us. We get ourselves locked in the bathroom and can’t get out. We panic and yell because we don’t know what is going on outside the door. Yet, all the time, God is making the necessary arrangements to rescue us.

The problem is that we can’t see what is going on outside of our sight. We don’t know what God is doing to help us. We begin to doubt. We take matters into our own hands. We think we have to devise a plan instead of letting God work.

This happened in Genesis 15 when God promised Abraham (Abram) a child, even though he was already old, and his wife Sarah (Sarai) was long past child bearing age. Abraham could not see how God was going fulfill His promise. He did not know how God was going to get him out of the locked bathroom of childlessness. So he and Sarah panicked and took matters into their own hands. Sarah gave her maidservant to Abraham to bear a child.

To sit in the locked bathroom and wait on God takes faith. Hebrews 11:1 says, Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. So, even when we are in the bathroom, and don’t see what God is doing, we can be patient and know that God has a plan.

We need to remember that God hears the first tap on the door. Daniel found this in Daniel 10:12. Then he continued, “Do not be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them.

Are you locked in a bathroom? Have you tapped on the door? Do you think that no one has heard your tap? Be assured, even when we lock the door ourselves, and don’t know how to unlock it; when we tap on the door, and are not sure anyone has heard; when you are trapped in circumstances that you don’t know how to get out of, don’t be alarmed. God has heard your tap on the door. He will answer.

In my alarm I said, “I am cut off from your sight!” Yet you heard my cry for mercy when I called to you for help. Psalm 31:22.

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