February 24 – Show Me

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Most of the people you know are “show me” kind of people. That simply means they prefer actions over words. In my estimation, it is pretty normal and I don’t think that God is too terribly offended by that sort of initial reaction. Now the desired goal, as we grow up spiritually, is to walk more by faith than we do by sight. But we shouldn’t expect to jump out of a boat and start walking on the water overnight, if you know what I mean.

There is a whole lot more to it than that. When we hang around the Gospel account of Jesus’ time on earth, we will find that most of those who were ministered to and mentored by Him were “show me” kind of people until they grew to trust that His words could back up His ways.

That brings us to Nathanael, one of my favorite Bible guys. I see him as an honest, genuine, hardworking individual who was all about the truth. Depending on where you look, the name “Nathanael/Nathaniel” can mean, “Gift of God” or “No guile, no deceit, no falsehood, no duplicity!” And since I have a Nathaniel for a son, I reckon the Bible Nathanael was a little bit of both of these two traits: gifted and brutally honest.

That’s important to me when I survey his response to Philip. When Philip came to tell him that they had located the One the Law of Moses spoke of, he wasn’t being disrespectful with his question, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”

It’s possible that he was saying, “I don’t remember the law saying anything about the Messiah coming out of Nazareth, of all places!” But regardless, I don’t see him or those like him as rude and faithless because they require some, “show” before they say that they “know” all is well and good. And the way Philip responds is perfect when dealing with a Nathanael. He didn’t try to debate or further explain; he simply said, “Come and see.”

This is good wisdom for me today. Because there are still times I forget.   With my own son, I can find myself a tad frustrated when he unconsciously challenges me to show him instead of just pointing it out to him. And sadly, there have been more times than I care to mention that he has come to me and asked why my actions failed to line up with what I had previously told him. You and I are surrounded by Nathanael’s. And if we will let them, they will help us always have something to show for what we think we know!

Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets, wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” And Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” John 1:45-46 NKJV

 Biblical Meditation: Proverbs 16:13  Kings take pleasure in honest lips; they value a man who speaks the truth

February 13 – Hurry Up and Wait

patience-is-a-virtue

 As a kid, I had “ants in my pants” and I needed to dance, often. But loving parents, loyal leaders and a gracious God helped me to cultivate some crucial characteristics for living. And with them have come a few coined sayings, such as: “No Freedom Without A Fight,” “Difficulty Develops Discipline,” and “If You Plan To Stand Forever, It Won’t Take Very Long.”

 These all remind me that without patience, nothing of intrinsic value ever gets accomplished. You and I are tempted to think we know a little because we’ve experienced a thing or two along the way. But the truth is we haven’t learned much of anything at all and we still need the good Lord’s wisdom and guidance.

I don’t believe God goes around breaking His children’s ankles to teach them to obey, but I have gained a few knots on this hard head of mine when I’ve chosen to take Frank Sinatra’s advice and “do it my way.”

Everyone should read up on the first followers of Jesus. They were just like us; they were working with the brains they were given. And boy, did they misunderstand the Master plan from time to time.

But the more they walked, the more He taught; until the day came that He left them in charge of His earthly ministry. Why? Because they finally learned all there was to know? No! Because, in my opinion, they knew enough to be patient and wait (“Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about.” Acts 1:4, emphasis mine).

Read the rest of Acts and you will see how much patience would be needed for these forerunners to focus on the promised day. Again, we are no different. If it was mandatory then, it’s mandatory now.

If you have refused to pray for patience in an effort to avoid any unnecessary tests, I do have some news for you. The test will come anyway. You’ll just end up taking the make-up test because your patience is underdeveloped.

The tests are to prove what you have learned thus far. So, don’t run from the help (The test, I mean!). Pray and embrace all that God wants to give you.

The Character First  I WILL’s for Patience:

I WILL change the things I can and accept the things I can’t

I WILL keep trying until I succeed

I WILL make the most of my spare time

I WILL not interrupt

I WILL not complain if I don’t get my way

There’s more to come: We continue to shout our praise even when we’re hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we’re never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary—we can’t round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit! Romans 5:3-5 The Message Bible

 Biblical Meditation: Philippians 4:4-7 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

 

January 9 – Obedience is Life and Death (Jenny)

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One of the sorest subjects around our house in our entire marriage involved an animal. Let me be more specific: a 120 pound black lab puppy. (He was not the first pet to be a part of this story, but I won’t go back that far!)

I completely dropped the ball when it came to helping this active and enthusiastic dog. Of all the obedience training I attempted to put in place while Lorenzo was at work, nothing seemed to stick! Several places on our home’s light beige carpet stuck around to prove my ineptness. In spite of all the success of my sisters and other friends and family with their pets, I just couldn’t get it to sink in.

Truthfully, I was too inconsistent to see any real progress! We do live in a society that values obedience training in our pets. And I know lots of animal lovers that do an amazing job. But the stakes really get high when we start talking about the pursuit of obedient children.

My husband has always said that whatever we see in our 2 year-old that goes uncorrected, “multiply that particular behavior” by a 16 year-old. It usually doesn’t give a pretty picture. Research has shown that the foundation to our children’s character is formed by the time they turn five.

What may look like cute antics right now in our toddlers won’t be so cute when they are ten, or older. In much the same way as our dog, (and even more so), our children are begging us for boundaries! They not only need to know “yes, no, who’s in charge, and I love you,” but they need to be trained how to respond in certain situations.

All of us have moments we need our children to stay close to us and not run off. So when our first three children were four and under, I would take them to the mall (a big, safe space) on a morning that wasn’t busy, and I would tell our older two that “our job today is to stay by mommy.”

Then we would walk around the mall, as I reminded them of the goal as I pushed the baby in the stroller. If one of them ran off, I would bring them back and give them a gentle reminder. After fifteen minutes of this kind of training, we’d all be ready for a reward.

Moments like that can really pay off in the long run. We can practice situations at home that will come up later, such as eating in a restaurant, sitting quietly through a wedding, etc.

Obedience doesn’t come just because we demand it, or even from using discipline, it comes from building a relationship. And it is life and death, because we can all face a time when a child tries to run towards a busy street. Then, obedience can save their life.

God loves an obedient heart. He’s certainly not into condemnation, nor does He hold our wrongs against us.

Mistakes will be made. But just as Jesus willingly went through the last moments of his life as God revealed His will to him, so should we cultivate the riches of obedience in our children. And their response to us will always reflect the level of our obedience to the Father as well. Spend time training your heritage towards obedience.

And these words which I am commanding you this day shall be [first] in your [own] minds and hearts; [then] you shall whet and sharpen them so as to make them penetrate, and teach and impress them diligently upon the [minds and] hearts of your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down and when you rise up. Deuteronomy 6:6,7 AMP

 Biblical Meditation: James 1:25

Favorite Source: Hints on Child Training by H. Clay Trumbull

November 20- No Need to Fuss

“If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, and do his best for you? What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, and God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.

Matthew 6:30-33

When I was a boy, I loved to get in the sun and throw shadows. I would be walking along and all of a sudden I’d come upon a wall. My shadow would make me look like I was ten feet tall. It was always fun to come up behind my buddies and make them think I was an adult or one of the big boys. Sometimes they would get all nervous until they realized it was just me.

Have you ever found yourself making a big fuss over something only to find out it was just a shadow? Growing up, penicillin was the wonder-cure for everything. My mom was a nurse, and if I ever even acted like I was coming down with something she would threaten to take me to the doctor to get a shot of penicillin in the backside!

One day the visit was inevitable and I got to fussing, “Momma, NO! I don’t need a shot. Please, Momma, It’s gonna hurt!” I worried myself sick all morning over that shot of penicillin and the mean doctor that was going to stick it to me. What I didn’t know is my mom worked with the doctor and had already arranged to give me the shot herself in his presence. I didn’t feel a thing, except a little foolish for making a big fuss over nothing!

Listen, life is no different then a shot of penicillin when God is your Papa. He’s not going to let anyone or anything stick it to you. Open your heart and hear what He’s saying to you today. He loves you and He knows your needs better than you do. All your problems are just sophisticated shadows that have no true power to harm you. Let His Word comfort and guide you. It matters not what the issues are. There’s no need to fuss, Daddy’s got you covered.

Lorenzo

Suggested Bible Meditation: Matthew 6:25-34 and Luke 12:22-34

November 17-Accustomed

Luke 2:41-43 Every year Jesus’ parent went to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover. When he was twelve years old, they went up to the Feast, according to the custom. After the Feast was over, while his parents were returning home the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it.  

Change can mess you up, if you let it. My oldest daughter loves to rearrange the kitchen and she does it with no warning. The first time she did it, I couldn’t find anything for days! Cups had changed places with bowls, pots and pans swapped space with the storing containers, and Lord knows where the silverware went. Up until that time, I thought of myself as a fairly flexible individual. In reality, I was no different than anybody else when it came to change. I believe it is just woven into the fabric of our humanity to dig ruts and camp out. It happens to us before we even know it.

Going to Jerusalem was a yearly thing for Mary and Joseph’s family and apparently quite a few people traveled with them from their home town of Nazareth. Jesus wasn’t on their minds as one of the youngsters who needed their attention. Needless to say, they were probably flabbergasted when they realized he was nowhere to be found. If you have ever misplaced a child, you are familiar with what they were going through! But add to the equation they had traveled a whole day home before they discovered he was gone!

What happened? How in the world do you leave your child somewhere and don’t miss them for a whole day? You become accustomed to the trip, the people, the event, and even the child. We do this all the time, everyday. Customs have their place, but in the midst of building our daily traditions, it is important to remember everyday is a new day. God is all about showing us something new right smack-dab in the middle of a routine we’ve done for years. So today, keep your eyes on Him and don’t take anything for granted, not even your own kitchen!

Lorenzo

Biblical Meditation: Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.

October 27- Parent Training Gone Bad

I Samuel 3:12-13 The time has come for me to bring down on Eli’s family everything I warned him of, every last word of it. I’m letting him know that the time’s up. I’m bringing judgment on his family for good. He knew what was going on, that his sons were desecrating God’s name and God’s place, and he did nothing to stop them.

It is a popular assumption that public accomplishments can somehow overrule private life deficiencies. Hardly a day goes by that we are not informed of yet another modern day icon’s demoralizing descent due to poor judgment. Contrary to popular opinion, historical evidence tells us being good and doing good in the presence of others isn’t a true test of core character. It’s much deeper than that and only the Creator of the Universe can be the ultimate judge.

During a time of constant battle and unrest, Eli served as High Priest of God’s chosen people. For forty years, he and his family carried on the Aaronic priesthood legacy established in the days of Moses, when he and his brother Aaron led the Israelites out of Egypt. As far as his priestly abilities go, the Bible offers no disapproving words. But as a father and leader of his home, this otherwise good man fatefully failed. He absolutely refused to direct and discipline the conduct of his sons, Hophni and Phinehas. These young men top the “the worst leaders of all time” list. They were rude, obnoxious, and utterly irreverent. God first warned Eli in private through the words of a prophet (I Samuel 2:27-34). Eli did nothing. Later, God spoke to the innocent young Samuel, whose mother had dedicated him to the Lord, three times in the night. The message, in essence was “Judgment is coming to the house of Eli.” Still the priest took no action.

Maybe it was fear of hurting his boys’ feelings or maybe he just thought discipline and training to be cruel. Maybe he even viewed God as too loving to truly allow harsh consequences for corrupt character. Maybe he just didn’t want to do the work it would take to consistently train his sons. I don’t rightly know. But I do know the Bible tells us that because Eli was unwilling to correct his sons, he eventually lost them completely along with his name and position. Instead of being known as one of Israel’s great spiritual leaders, Eli’s clan went down as the priests who cared more about outward appearance before the people than inward obedience before God.

Home can be the hardest place to step up to the plate and direct. Our children are our pride and joy, therefore we often despise having to be the heavy hand in their lives. But if we love them and if we truly respect God, we will periodically play the bad guy, so, in the future, God won’t have to!

Lorenzo

Biblical Meditation: Proverbs 12:1 Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but whoever hates correction is stupid.

 

March 17 – Dear Mama

Listen, my son! Listen, son of my womb!  Listen, my son, the answer to my prayers! Proverbs 31:2 NIV

There is quite a bit of mystery concerning this “prophetic exhortation” from an otherwise unknown king. But I personally believe its message is like a perfect slice of dessert after a most scrumptious meal.

Motherly advice comes from a place that only a Mother understands…the womb. It doesn’t matter if you are 5 or 50, your Mom is still your Mom and at one time, that little woman carried you around in her body. You push her, and she will remind you!

And when you couldn’t care for yourself, she did!

But I must say, it appears that the battle of the sexes is ageless, even with Moms and their sons. The word listen is stated three times before she dares mention her advice.

In all actuality, Mom, know this: your children hear you. Even when it appears they have lost their minds and don’t have a clue of what’s best for them and how you stay up late in the night worrying and praying your guts out over them.

They hear your love. They hear your loyalty. They hear your life of sacrifice. Therefore, your words are just the supporting cast.

So when your small, medium, or large-sized kid gives you the “I know, Mom” stare, it’s ok. Just stop talking, smile real big and say, “I’ll be right here to finish that thought when you need me!”

Lorenzo