Wednesday, April 26, 2017

"Patron Saint of All Hurt Children"

2nd Samuel 4.4 NASU

“Now Jonathan, Saul's son, had a son crippled in his feet. He was five years old when the report of Saul and Jonathan came from Jezreel, and his nurse took him up and fled.

And it happened that in her hurry to flee, he fell and became lame. And his name was Mephibosheth.

Mephibosheth” [1]

Verse 1:

Once there was a certain nurse who had a little boy;
She cared for him as if he was her own.
She helped him learn to read and write, and taught him how to love.
They played and sang and laughed and had some fun.

Chorus:

Mephibosheth, can you ever forgive me?
Mephibosheth, patron saint of all hurt children,
I’m so sad I caused you all this pain;
Please come and heal the broken heart in me.

Verse 2:

Then she heard some awful news, it took her by surprise;
She grabbed the child and tried to run outside.
In all her haste she missed a step, and fell and dropped the boy;
Mephibosheth was crippled then for life.

Verse 3:

Jesus make me understand that little pairs of eyes
Are always there to watch my every step.
Deliver me from fear and haste, and all that would destroy
The precious life you placed within my kids.

Verse 4:

Stumbling blocks, they’re bound to come; that’s just what Jesus said.
But woe to him who hurts a little one.
Please help me be a better dad, and keep my children safe
From handicaps caused by this foolish man.

Chorus #2:

Jesus, can you ever forgive me?
Jesus, You watch over all hurt children.
I’m so sad I caused You all this pain.
Please come and help me be a better dad.
Please come and heal this broken heart in me.
Please come and help me be a better dad.
_________________________________

[1] I was inspired to write this song in September 1983 after reading about Mephibosheth's accident in 2nd Samuel 4.4. The message of this song is still very personal to me. At the time I had two children and one on the way. They are now 37, 35, and 33 years old. God blessed me with four more children since then. I am very proud of all seven of my kids (and six grandchildren). They have grown up to become wonderful human beings in spite of the many mistakes I made raising them. Thank you Jesus.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

"Be the Hero They Need"

1st Samuel 30.6 Amplified Bible

“David was greatly distressed, for the men spoke of stoning him because the souls of them all were bitterly grieved, each man for his sons and daughters. But David encouraged and strengthened himself in the Lord his God.

Mob from Islamic clipart www.al-islam.org

David and his band of 600 men were making raids on nomadic tribes of the Negev. Upon returning home, they found the town empty. No wives, sons, or daughters. Their temporary residence in Ziklag was invaded by Amalekites who kidnapped every woman and child when their husbands and fathers were not there to protect them.

In grief these men “lifted their voices and wept until there was no strength in them to weep” (1st Samuel 30 4). They turned their rage and bitterness toward their leader. These men believed would not see their wives and children again, and they blamed David.  He would have to pay for this tragedy. The soldiers “spoke of stoning him” to death.

I have never experienced this level of chaos and horror. I have felt lost, ashamed, frightened, and alone. I have known failure and moments serious defeat. I even occasionally wondered if the world would have been a better place had I never been born. But I cannot claim to have faced my own execution by a mob of 600 angry men blaming me for the loss of their loved ones. These were bad times for David.

A lesser man would have given up, admitted defeat, and surrendered his life. Instead David headed to the only place he knew to go. He fell on his face before the Lord.

“...David encouraged and strengthened himself in the Lord his God.”

God inspired David to chase down and defeat the Amalekites. He went from villain to hero because he was able to ‘strengthen himself in the Lord.’

David’s response to tough times gives me hope. I too can ‘strengthen myself in the Lord’ and be the hero my family and loved ones deserve.

 __________________________

The sketch at the top of this post is called "Mob" from an Islamic clip art site at http://www.al-islam.org/gallery/kids/Clipart/drawings/drawings.html.

Monday, April 24, 2017

"The Stripped Down Version of You"

1st Samuel 26.19 NASU

“...for they have driven me out today so that I would have no attachment with the inheritance of the Lord...”


Most of us think and act as though our lives are defined by the things that surround us. In casual conversation, especially with new acquaintances, we tend to describe what we do, where we live, what and who we know. We are looking for commonality but, at a minimum, we hope to impress others, leaving them with an appreciation of who we are based on the things and relationships we possess. Our jobs, education, social status, income levels, and house values are all descriptors of material status. We communicate with the expectation that others, in turn, will recognize our personal status.

What if we were stripped of all these attachments? Without a job, no education or income, zero social standing and homeless, would we still have value? Is our value intrinsic? Or, is it based on outward indicators of success?

David lost it all. He was pursued as an enemy of the nation he loved. King Saul was intent on killing this innocent man. David cried out for justice:

“They have driven me out today so that 
I…have no attachment 
with the inheritance of the Lord”.

Imagine the loss of all things. No family, no home, no income, no friends, no status. Would you truly believe in your own value? Would you believe yourself to be lovable by God and others? Jesus loves even the stripped down version of you. He lived and preached that “life is not defined by what you have, even when you have a lot” (Luke 12.15 “The Message”).

I have more than my fair share of emotional and physical attachments. I hope they never get stripped away. But if they did, would I still believe I still had value?

Friday, April 21, 2017

"Decision-Making 101"

1st Samuel 23.1-5 “The Message”
 
“It was reported to David that the Philistines were raiding Keilah and looting the grain. David went in prayer to God: ‘Should I go after these Philistines and teach them a lesson?’ God said, ‘Go. Attack the Philistines and save Keilah.’ 

But David's men said, ‘We live in fear of our lives right here in Judah. How can you think of going to Keilah in the thick of the Philistines?’
 
So David went back to God in prayer. God said, ‘Get going. Head for Keilah. I'm placing the Philistines in your hands.’ David and his men went to Keilah and fought the Philistines. He scattered their cattle, beat them decisively, and saved the people of Keilah.”


Problem: The Philistines were raiding Keilah.
Plan: David went to prayer. God answered. “Go… save Keilah”.
Opposition: David’s troops did not want to go. They were afraid.
Confirmation: David did not argue with his men. Nor did he cave into their fears. “David went back to God in prayer” and God told him the same thing as before… “Head for Keilah”.
Results: David and his men beat the Philistines and “saved the people of Keilah”.

The problem with problems is they always require me to make decisions. That’s a problem. I don’t like to make decisions. Decision-making scares me. My decisions will positively or adversely affect my future. That’s where Jesus comes in. It would be wise for me to seek His guidance in every important decision I must make.

When I sense the the Lord’s direction, I can expect opposition. It is best neither to argue nor acquiesce. If someone who matters questions my decision, I should go back to prayer and await confirmation of the original message. If I hear the same thing in my soul again, then I must find the courage and gather the faith to be a leader.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

"Zebras... Stay Alert!"

1st Samuel 22.23 NKJV

“Stay with me; do not fear. For he who seeks my life seeks your life, but with me you shall be safe.”

I’m fascinated by the animal kingdom. I fulfilled a boyhood dream by earning an undergraduate degree from the University of Washington in Fisheries with a minor in biology. I worked in a pet store cleaning bird cages, commercial fished in Southeast Alaska, and found employment with a distributor of animal specimens for college dissection classes. I grew up collecting snakes, turtles, spiders, crayfish, bugs, butterflies, salamanders, lizards, hamsters, rabbits, gerbils, tropical fish, dogs, and cats. I even had a pet goat and a skunk! My poor mother.

I still love to learn about the animal kingdom and watch spellbound when TV wildlife shows graphically depict a predator stalking and capturing its prey. I am amazed by female lions who stealthily surround a band of grazing zebras before springing into action.

The results are predictable. The victim is always the one that strayed too far from the herd.

David offered protection to Abiathar after the brutal slaying of his father Ahimelech.

“Stay with me; do not fear. For he who seeks my life
seeks your life, but with me you shall be safe.”

Jesus offers you and me the same protection. Oddly, zebras appear to possess only a vague notion of their vulnerability. The prey seem genuinely surprised when a lion leaps from the grass. If I were a zebra living in lion country, I’d stay near the middle of the crowd at all times.

According to the New Testament writer, Peter, I am a zebra living in lion country. 

“Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil,
prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”
1st Peter 5:8 NASU

There’s only to keep from being 'picked off' by the enemy of my soul. Remain near Jesus and His people. Close to the edge, I’m an easy target. I must be aware of my own vulnerability and stay far from the outer limits of barely permissible, unwise, or isolated activities. 

“Stay with me; do not fear. For he who seeks my life 
seeks your life, but with me you shall be safe.”

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

"My Success"

1st Samuel 18.14 NLT

“David continued to succeed in everything he did, for the Lord was with him.”


David rocketed to the highest limits of political power in Israel about a thousand years before Christ. What was his secret? How did he achieve so much with so little? It was the Lord. God was the secret of David’s rise to super-stardom. He was successful because “the LORD was with him.”

David had little to do with his own success. Check his resume...

The prophet Samuel anointed David as king to replace Saul (1st Samuel 16.12-13).
King Saul chose David to be his personal musician (1st Samuel 16.19).
The Philistine giant Goliath fell before this boy with a slingshot (1st Samuel 17.49). 
David’s military victories were too numerous to count (1st Samuel 18.5, 7). 

The children of Saul, Jonathan and Michal, loved David (1st Samuel 18.1, 20).
The entire nation, all the tribes of Israel and Judah loved David (1st Samuel 18.16).

David’s success appears random, not of his own doing. It was God-ordained. The Lord was with him. God was the secret of his success and the reason for the prosperity he enjoyed.

My personal success is not up to me. It’s God’s call. I can make myself available and endeavor to obey the Lord. I can try to muster faith and courage when necessary. I can attempt to act with integrity, work hard, and put my trust in Jesus. But that’s about all I can do. The rest of my life appears random, but it’s not... God is in control. 

I cannot guarantee an income, secure a position, or make someone love me. I am unable to fully plan my future or absolutely insure the safety of my family. Nothing I do comes with the promise of success. I will do my best, but remain aware of this fact: Life is wrought with risk and failure is always a possibility. All I can do is my small part. My success is solely in the hands of the Lord.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

"Exchange My Mind"

1st Samuel 15 NASU (selected verses)

Samuel anointing Saul by Guy (Giro) Rowe (1894-1968)“Samuel came to Saul, and Saul said to him, ‘...I have carried out the command of the LORD.’” (v.13)

“Then Saul said to Samuel, ‘I did obey the voice of the LORD...’” (v.20)

“Then Saul said to Samuel, ‘I have sinned;… because I feared the people and listened to their voice.” (v.24)

“As Samuel turned to go, Saul seized the edge of his robe, and it tore. So Samuel said to him, ‘The LORD has torn the kingdom of Israel from you today and given it to your neighbor, who is better than you.’” (vv.27-28)

The human mind can rationalize and justify almost anything. Saul was given a specific order from the Lord. He obeyed one part of the command. Saul convinced himself, “I have carried out the command of the LORD.” It was not relevant to Saul that he did so only partially. When challenged by the prophet, Saul persisted: “I did obey the voice of the LORD.” Samuel did not agree and, while Saul eventually admitted the truth: “I have sinned.” the damage was done. It was too late for Saul to make amends. He lost his opportunity to serve the Lord.

In a final attempt to secure his royal position, Saul used violence. Saul assaulted Samuel, and succeeded only in tearing the prophet’s robe.

Samuel rebuking Saul by Guy (Giro) Rowe (1894-1968)
I have seen the same pattern in me...
  1. I fully understand what is required of me but I choose to perform less.
  2. I convince myself that partial performance is good enough.
  3. I become defensive when others point out what is lacking.
  4. I finally admit to my shortcoming and expect my new-found honesty to make everything OK.
  5. Everything is still not OK.
  6. I get angry and take it out my frustration on those nearest to me.
  7. I lose my hope and quit trying to perform altogether.
Only Christ can heal this hopeless and pathetic behavior pattern. In the quiet admission of my utter failure, Jesus offers me another chance. This time I am expected to do more than change my mind. I must exchange my mind. My mind plays tricks on me. I can’t trust it. It will justify and rationalize anything. Not so with the mind of Christ. 

Thankfully I can exchange mine for His.

“…we have the mind of Christ.”
1st Corinthians 2 16.b NASU
_________________________

The paintings above are by American artist Guy (Giro) Rowe (1894-1968) depicting Samuel anointing Saul as the first king of Israel and later the prophet rebuking Saul.

Monday, April 17, 2017

"Make It Count!"

1st Samuel 12.23 NIV

“As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by failing to pray for you. And I will teach you the way that is good and right.”


Samuel was a real leader. He was a prophet, priest, and judge in Israel about 1,000 years before the birth of Christ. He was a father of the faith for his countrymen. Samuel was called to pray for his nation and teach truth to his people. For Samuel, to fall short of his divine mandate was to commit gross sin.

I too am called to shepherd a flock. My flock is much smaller than Samuel’s, but no less significant. My precious wife, who died of cancer nineteen months ago, gifted me with two incredible teenagers I am privileged to finish raising. Some of my kids are grown and live far away from home, but they occasionally call on me for what we amusingly refer to as “cheap fatherly advice.” I’m even blessed with three cool little grandsons and three beautiful granddaughters. I have an outstanding daughters and sons by marriage and a host of amazing in-laws. I’m surrounded by good neighbors and scores of excellent clients and vendors. I belong to a large church which meets in a warehouse and I have an active ministry with hundreds of men. I stay in touch with many friends from the past. I even participate in a couple social networks and play racquetball with a bunch of guys at a local sports club. This is my little flock.

As I visualize these people, I know what I must do. I must teach them by my example, attitudes, and words “the way that is good and right.” Furthermore, I must not “sin against the LORD by failing to pray for” them.

This is an awesome calling, which I don’t always fulfill as I should. But God inspires me to try. I have have an opportunity to love and cherish the people Jesus gave me. These relationships are priceless. 

Whether together in person or apart on my knees, I want every minute I spend with each of these special humans to count.

Friday, April 14, 2017

"You..." (Part 2)

Super Hero by Michael Dougherty (www.mikedougherty.net)1st Samuel 8.19-20
“The Message”

“But the people wouldn't listen to Samuel. ‘No!’ they said. ‘We will have a king to rule us! Then we'll be just like all the other nations. Our king will rule us and lead us and fight our battles.’

Why were the people so desperate for a king? Probably for the same reason I want one today. A king, like each of my imaginary super heroes, saves me from all that is hard about life relieving me from the responsibility to make a better life for myself and others. A young woman imagines her ‘knight in shining armor’ will swoop down and save her from the mundane and make her feel like a princess every day of her married life. A young man thinks the marital union will be just like being single except now he gets unlimited sex, good meals, a clean house, and folded clothes.

These human expectations have collided on more than one occasion leading to a national divorce rate of over 50%.[1] I should exchange my expectations for His. My expectations are not really pertinent to real success in any endeavor. Only divine expectations matter. It’s not about what I expect from others. It’s all about what God expects of me.

The people of Israel wanted a king so they could be “just like all the other nations.” Then they would relax and enjoy the good life. “Our king will rule us and lead us and fight our battles.”

Oh, how much I want a king like that; my very own hero, father, president, leader, mommy, shepherd, personal trainer, personal consultant, personal valet, personal savior, etc. Someone who would make life better for me without any investment from me.

A crown for King Christopher by Michelle Amarante
The worst of all possible outcomes is that God would answer my prayer like He did for Israel. They got their king and were forever sorry they did.

I don’t need a king. I already have one. With Jesus I can step up and be my own father, trainer, mother, shepherd, mentor, and hero. I hear His voice today: “You don’t need an earthly king. I am Jesus. I am enough for you. You rule yourself. You lead yourself. You fight your own battles. I will be with you. I will never leave you or forsake you. With Me you can do all things. You fulfill my commands. You perform my will. I have empowered you.”
_______________

[1] “50% percent of first marriages, 67% of second and 74% of third marriages end in divorce”, says Jennifer Baker of the Forest Institute of Professional Psychology in Springfield, Missouri. These statistics may be slightly exaggerated according to http://www.divorcerate.org/ who places the divorce rate in America for first marriages at 41%, 60% for second marriages and 73% for third marriages.

The cartoon "Super Hero" was created by commercial artist Michael Dougherty who works as a character designer at Nickelodeon Animation Studios in Burbank, CA. You can view his art at his personal blog at http://michaeldougherty.blogspot.com/.

Michelle Amarante shot the photo of a crown called "A crown for King Christopher" and displayed it on her photo blog at http://www.michelleamarante.com/. Michelle is a professional photographer from Hope Valley, Rhode Island.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

"You..." (Part 1)

1st Samuel 3.13 “The Message”

“Im letting him know that the times up. I'm bringing judgment on his family for good. He knew what was going on, that his sons were desecrating Gods name and Gods place, and he did nothing to stop them.”

I’m intrigued with the account of Jesus’ miraculous feeding of five thousand people.

The disciples prodded Jesus to send the crowds away after a long day of healing and preaching so that “they could buy themselves something to eat” (Mark 6.36 RSV). The Master’s matter-of-fact response recorded in all three Synoptic Gospels surprised his followers then just as it does me now

“You give them something to eat.”
Matthew 14.16; Mark 6.37; Luke 9.13

Jesus made His disciples responsible for feeding the hungry crowd and He makes me fully responsible for the role I must play in the drama of living out my Christian faith. This divine expectation is exactly what distinguishes my existence before and after Christ. Before I knew Him, God expected little of me. Now that I am a disciple of Christ, I must “give them something to eat.”

I have no idea how to fulfill God’s expectation of me. That I am willing to perform His will may be more important than how I do it. He will show me how when I step into the arena of faith and face the lions of fear. Jesus will do for me just as He did for his first disciples on the day 5,000 were fed. Clip art licensed from the Clip Art Gallery on DiscoverySchool.com

Eli knew his sons were misbehaving. He was fully aware of their crimes of theft and rape, yet “he did nothing to stop them.” Eli may have truthfully complained, ‘I don’t how to stop them.’ But Eli could have saved his sons lives by taking bold restraining action. He should have insisted they desist from their sins. He might have risked their wrath by standing in their way when these boys wanted their own self-centered way. That was his role as their father. Had he mustered the guts to force the issue, Eli could have fulfilled God’s will and witnessed His miraculous power. Instead, he nagged his boys without enforcing consequences, a practice to which his sons responded in a predictable manner: “They would not listen to the voice of their father” (1st Samuel 2.25 NASU).

Eli’s opportunity was no different than the disciples of Jesus or mine...
Eli: ‘My sons are out the control.’

God: ‘You control them.’

Disciples: ‘The people are hungry.’

Jesus: “You give them something to eat.”

Me: (What needs to happen. Fill in the blank.)

God: ‘You do what needs to happen.’
______________________

"Bread and Fish" created by Mark A. Hicks, illustrator. Clip art licensed from the Clip Art Gallery on http://www.discoveryschool.com/.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

"I Got Noticed!"

Ruth 2.10 NKJV

“So she fell on her face, bowed down to the ground, and said to him, ‘Why have I found favor in your eyes, that you should take notice of me, since I am a foreigner?’ 


The Bible says Boaz noticed Ruth when she “just happened to end up in… the field belonging to Boaz” (Ruth 2.3). The literal Hebrew reads: “her chance chanced upon” his field. According to The NET Bible study notes:

“The text is written from Ruth's limited perspective. As far as she was concerned, she randomly picked a spot in the field. But God was providentially at work and led her to the portion of the field belonging to Boaz, who, as a near relative of Elimelech, was a potential benefactor.”[1]

It was no accident that Ruth found herself gleaning in the field of Boaz and it was not accidental that Boaz noticed Ruth. We romanticize the text but the book of Ruth is not primarily a love story between an rich man and a lovely Moabitess virgin. If Ruth’s beauty was so captivating that Boaz couldn’t help but to notice her, then Ruth’s relative closer than Boaz may have claimed her for himself (see Ruth, chapter 4).
 
Let’s examine the historical context. There was a famine. The immigrants from Moab were verging on starvation. Ruth was probably horribly skinny with sunken eyes, weather-beaten skin, and baggy, torn clothes. She couldn’t afford expensive, guaranteed-to-attract-a-man make-up. Limited sexual electricity there. Gleaning was hard work. Ruth was a foreigner, impoverished, homely, dirty, and covered in sweat. 

There was no good reason for an upstanding wealthy Israelite like Boaz to notice Ruth. Yet notice her he did. Boaz noticed Ruth for the same reason she chose to glean in his field… God was orchestrating the entire story. It was no accident. It was providential.
 
I’m like Ruth. No great catch. Nothing special to look at, but Jesus noticed me. I caught His eye. It was no accident I became a child of God. I did not stumble into this divine relationship. I was part of His plan. He directed my steps. He conceived and wrote the story of Ruth and the story of Dave. He redeemed me. I was and still am under the watchful eye and providential care of Jesus.

“A man's steps are directed by the Lord.”
Proverbs 20.24 NIV

“…no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father”
Jesus, John 6.65 NASU

I didn’t make it happen, God did. I was on a journey gleaning my way through life when I “just happened” to land in Christ’s barley field. For reasons I will never fully understand, He noticed me and chose to have me as His own.
______________

[1] The New English Translation (NET Bible) ®, Copyright © 1996-2006 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C., Dallas, Texas, www.bible.org. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

The painting at upper right is titled Les Glaneuses (The Gleaners, 1857) by Jean-François Millet who was part of the Realism Movement that began in France in the 1850's.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

"The Ambush"

Judges 20.29-30, 37, 42 Amplified Bible

So Israel set men in ambush round about Gibeah. And the Israelites went up against the Benjamites on the third day and set themselves in array against Gibeah as at other times.”

“And the men in ambush quickly rushed upon Gibeah, and the liers-in-wait moved out and smote all the city with the sword.”

“Therefore they turned their backs before the men of Israel and fled toward the wilderness, but the battle followed close behind and overtook them; and the inhabitants of the cities destroyed those [Benjamites] who came through them in their midst.”


Sin is very tricky business. It’s impossible to sin just a little, especially for any length of time. The devil’s strategy includes plans for your complete destruction. Don’t be fooled. You can be easily lulled into tolerating an acceptable level of sin only to discover there’s no such thing. You are quickly swept into the power of your enemy, engulfed by the flames of fire you meant only to touch.

The tribe of Benjamin had two military victories under its belt. This day would be no different. Benjamin’s fighters would chase and defeat the men of Israel as before. But this time Israel set an ambush. As Benjamite warriors left Gibeah to pursue fleeing Israelites, those in hiding sneaked into town and burned it to the ground. The smoke of their victory signaled Israel to turn on their attackers. Benjamin was caught in an ambush, surrounded on almost every side. Benjamin’s soldiers were out of options and “fled toward the wilderness” where they were slaughtered by more Israelites secretly waiting there for them.

Sin has a way of drawing us outside the protective walls of our inner city. While chasing our pleasures, something inside of us dies. We violate our integrity. We stray too far from home and get caught in a spiritual ambush between our sinful desires and the loss of self. We’re forced into the wilderness where we die at the hands of our souls’ enemy. The “wages of sin(Romans 6.23) and Satan’s plan are the same... death!

There is another way. Stand still. Don’t be fooled by the temptations of the evil one. Never play with the fire of sin. Refuse to be lured into open interaction with the enemy. That’s a set up for a spiritual ambush. There’s nothing for you out there. Press into Jesus. Stay close to center of His will. Avoid the boundaries of permissive behavior. Don’t peer over the edge of holy living to imagine a life of sin. Run to  Jesus. He’ll fight your battles for you.

“Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord
will bring you today... The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”
Exodus 14.13-14 NIV

Monday, April 10, 2017

"Thanks Ned"

Judges 18.27-28 NIV

“Then they took what Micah had made, and his priest, and went on to Laish, against a peaceful and unsuspecting people. They attacked them with the sword and burned down their city. There was no one to rescue them because they lived a long way from Sidon and had no relationship with anyone else. The city was in a valley near Beth Rehob.

The people of Dan felt squeezed. They were the last tribe to roll the dice for an inheritance in Canaan. Stuck between four other tribes, Dan got the property leftovers. Besides being the smallest portion of land, “the Danites had difficulty taking possession of their territory” (Joshua 19.40-48). Apparently the original inhabitants were hard to dislodge. So Dan sent 600 warriors to locate a less protected piece of real estate. Israelite spies found Laish at the northern tip of Palestine “where they saw that the people were living in safety,… unsuspecting and secure. And since their land lacked nothing, they were prosperous. Also, they lived a long way from the Sidonians and had no relationship with anyone else” (Judges 18.7).

Perfect! Just what the soldiers of Dan were looking for. The people of Laish thought they were secure and “living in safety.” They were “prosperous” and “lacked nothing,” but they were also naïve and “unsuspecting.”

False security is easily breached. Laish had no idea what was about to happen. They lost everything and it could have been avoided. Laish could have developed allies of neighboring cities for just such a time as this. Instead they were all alone and “had no relationship with anyone else.” This made the city an easy target for war-savvy Israelites. Laish was destroyed “with the sword and burned” to the ground.

I attended a dance at my high school somewhere around 1968. A couple of long haired guys from another school cornered me and I felt threatened. Ned noticed my plight. He quietly strolled over and asked if everything was all right. Ned was a big guy. He was a lineman for the Ingraham football team and best of all, Ned was my friend. The bullies quickly got the picture and vanished. Thank you Ned.

Laish had no such friend. Do you? There will come a time when you wish you did. -

Friday, April 07, 2017

"Love Can Say No"

Judges 14.1-3 NLT

“One day when Samson was in Timnah, one of the Philistine women caught his eye. When he returned home, he told his father and mother, ‘A young Philistine woman in Timnah caught my eye. I want to marry her. Get her for me.’

His father and mother objected. ‘Isn't there even one woman in our tribe or among all the Israelites you could marry?’ they asked. ‘Why must you go to the pagan Philistines to find a wife?’

But Samson told his father, ‘Get her for me! She looks good to me.’

Young Samson needed a strong dose of the “N” word. His parents were too permissive. What Sammy wanted, Sammy got. It did not matter who was inconvenienced or hurt. If it ‘caught his eye’ and ‘looked good’ to Samson, he made a fuss until he got what he wanted. Mom and dad weren’t strong enough to just say “No.”

In his best seller No: Why Kids - of All Ages - Need to Hear It and Ways Parents Can Say It [1], author David Walsh writes a chapter on “Self-Esteem: Kids Need the Real Thing.” He proposes a “Self-Esteem Quiz” reprinted below.  --

Self-Esteem Quiz Answer the following questions Yes or No, depending on whether you think these efforts will help Adam build positive self-esteem.

  1. Adam’s parents praise his performance regardless of the effort.
  2. Adam’s teacher never uses a “red pencil” because he doesn’t want Adam to feel that his work is not good enough.
  3. Adam learns songs and reads books that remind him how special he is.
  4. Mom praises Adam for any effort on chores around the house.
  5. Adam’s parents steer him away from things that might frustrate or discourage him.
  6. When Adam’s teacher corrected him, his parents got upset and called the teacher to complain that she was hurting his self-esteem.
  7. Adam’s parents tell him not to pay attention to what other people think and that “the important thing is to please yourself.”
  8. Adam is learning the most important goal is to “feel good about yourself.”
  9. Adam’s parents don’t want him to feel guilty because they’re afraid that would hurt his self-esteem.
  10. Adam learns that if he loves himself, he will be successful.

“All the above answers should be No because none of these actions will build Adam’s real self-esteem” according to Dr. Walsh. He goes on to describe three self-esteem myths…
---

-----Myth 1: Self-Esteem Comes First and Leads to Success ---
-----Myth 2: Self-Esteem = Feeling Good ---
-----Myth 3: Stress, Challenge, and Disappointment Damage Self-Esteem.


Samson was called and empowered by God to lead Israel for 20 years. But this man’s existence was destined to become a series tragic episodes. He was an “R-rated” guy. Sex and violence dominated his life. He demanded the pleasure of unfaithful women and killed more than his fair share of ruthless men. Samson spent the last days of his life in a Philistine prison and died a violent and horrible death.

Imagine how much better life would have been for Samson if he had heard “No” more often as a child. Denying kids their every wish will not hurt their self-esteem. False affirmations, permissive parenting, and over-attentiveness are more likely to endanger a child’s self-esteem than catering to their every whim. Self-esteem isn’t free. It doesn’t come in a bottle.

If you want to help a child increase self-esteem, make it real. Give him age-appropriate opportunities to earn it. Earned success always leads to positive self-esteem. The stress, challenges, and disappointments on the road to success are a necessary part of that journey.

Don’t be afraid to say “No” to your child... or to yourself the next time you’re acting like one.
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[1] No: Why Kids – of All Ages – Need to Hear It and Ways Parents Can Say It, David Walsh, PhD, Free Press – A Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc., 2007, pp.57-79.

Thursday, April 06, 2017

"Midolescence"

Judges 12.2-3 NIV

“Jephthah answered, ‘I and my people were engaged in a great struggle with the Ammonites, and although I called, you didn't save me out of their hands. When I saw that you wouldn't help, I took my life in my hands and crossed over to fight the Ammonites, and the Lord gave me the victory over them.’”

I’ve known some 50 year old adolescents. I call them midolescents, people who never quite grew up. They still depend on others for their safety, happiness, and success. When they don’t get what they need, adult-children blame others. Aging parents are favorite targets of 40, 50, or 60 year old children. Presumably, if their parents had been more (or less) attentive or indulgent; stricter or more permissive; kinder, nicer, more understanding and qualified, the child, who is now an adult, would be a well-rounded human being. The adult-child’s stressors, conflicts, traumas, disappointments, and failures are mom and dad’s fault (or anyone besides his or her own). Character flaws are not an occasion for the hard work of personal growth, but rather an opportunity to point fingers. 

Jephthah was the 10th judge in Israel (according to the biblical record if you count Barak and Abimelech, but not Eli). He ruled Israel for 6 years about 1,100 years before the birth of Christ. Jephthah was the son of a prostitute. His father’s wife and other sons kicked Jephthah out of the home despising him as “the son of another woman” (Judges 11.2). Jephthah hung out with the wrong crowd, “worthless fellows” (Judges 11.3) and, having good reason to blame his family of origin, could have remained a child for the remainder of his life. Instead, this man of God (as imperfect as he was) took hold of one important truth… 

No one was going to help Jephthah. 
If he was to better himself, he better do it himself.

This attitude gave Jephthah fierce confidence to lead Israel in a successful rebellion against the Ammonites and their 18 year reign of tyranny. His unhappy childhood became an asset. It taught Jephthah self-reliance, a character trait that catapulted him to the top rung of Israel’s political ladder.

Jephthah asked for help in his war against the Ammonites, but when help was not forthcoming, he refused to whine or blame others. The judge of Israel simply took charge: “When I saw that you wouldn’t help, I took my life in my hands… and the Lord gave me the victory.”

It may be time to grow up. You don’t need to depend on anyone else for your safety, happiness, or success. Stop pointing the finger of blame and, taking full control of your life, affirm with Jephthah:

“I took my life in my hands... and the Lord gave me the victory.”

We all need a loving community of faith, but that starts with Jesus and you. He is more than enough. Jesus is the only savior you need.
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Check out over 1,000 pictures at "Idioms by Kids" (http://www.idiomsbykids.com/). This is where I found the I found the clever "Grow Up" image.