Never Departing—Raising Kids with Values and Not Just Skills

arrows“Dedicate your children to God and point them in the way that they should go, and the values they’ve learned from you will be with them for life.”  (Proverbs 22:6 TPT The Passion Translation®. Copyright © 2017 by BroadStreet Publishing® Group, LLC.)

Your child’s real future isn’t in scholarship, it’s in #discipleship. Scholarship says, “I got it all because of ME.” Discipleship says, “yes I have talent, but even that is because of HIM.”

Praise the Lord for favor and open doors, for free rides to college, and I’m all for getting all the education and credentials we can; but please, Christian parents, don’t elevate your child’s talent above his or her spiritual well-being. If we teaching our children it is all about their earthly goals, we are teaching them to build on sand instead of the Rock. If their entire hope is tied up in their talent—their life plans formed solely around what their own hands can do–then their future is as fragile as one unfortunate sports injury or failed entrance exam. And what good would a scholarship be on the timeline of forever if that renowned college were to transform your child into someone who no longer believes there even IS a God? Celebrate that talent, but don’t make talent an idol. Don’t neglect the foundation in favor of making the facade look good. Want eternity for your kids even more than you want moments...yes, let’s want heaven for them even more than we want a degree from that prestigious university hanging on their wall! If we seek Him first and His righteousness, did our Lord not say that “all these things” (the things that the world would make the primary or sole focus) would be added to us?

I get grieved when I see once God-focused homes where the celebration is no longer on the children’s Jeremiah 29:11 future, but on exalting nothing more than skills and beauty and temporary achievements. Are your children discovering their spiritual gifts? Are they growing strong in their relationship with God, connected to stable children’s or youth church groups where they are fortified by other young believers and godly adult mentors? Are they being brought to see and participate in the move of the Holy Spirit in revivals, prayer gatherings, youth camps, and worship services, or is there never time or desire for those things because of all the other pursuits we have enabled? Do they hear prayer and the Word read in the home, or does God only receive honorable mention from time to time? Are the dreams they chase guided by godly wisdom and balance, or are we endorsing paths that lead far away from God by not teaching them to use those talents for His divine purpose? If we aren’t training them up in the way they should go, how can they stay on a path they were never taught not to depart from!

Lord, speak to our hearts today as Christian parents and recalibrate our focus. Forgive us for grooming our kids to grow up as unbelieving adults who were raised in lukewarm, powerless Christian homes rife with duplicity. You gave them to us as arrows; show us when the problem lies in our aim. You have blessed us with healthy, smart, beautiful kids–and we will teach them how to use their gifts to glorify You rather than to replace You.

Help us to train them to be as effective in fervent prayer as they are in the fast pitch; to tear down strongholds even better than they can sack the opposition’s quarterback; to be Esthers instead of divas; Solomons instead of just intellectuals; Davids instead of rock gods; Daniels instead of conformists. Help us to model in front of them a burning, living relationship with You instead of just a religious experience we once had. Help us not to have poisoned our kids with pride and self-absorption! Remind us to tell them often that we are pleased with them not just because of all they can do but rather, who they are in YOU! Help us not to live our lives vicariously through our kids, trying to recapture our own missed opportunities. We want them to be successful and strong, but O God, we want them to love You even more than we ourselves have loved you. We want them to rise and be the ushers of a last-day awakening, who use their gifts and talents and testimonies to draw people to the Savior!

We choose today to openly to put You first, and to teach them to put You first, too. We will guard our conversations in our homes, what we take into our gateways of eyes and ears. If You tell us we need to change some things, add or take away some things, we will not ignore Your voice! We will communicate to our kids that no matter what else they do or don’t become, we want them to love and serve You first and foremost. We will help them hone their skills, but will teach them to give You all the glory for what those skills help them achieve. We will instill eternal-mindedness into them, and we will live lives in front of them that back up what we teach. It will show in how we invest our time, our money, our affections. We will have great fun with them and laugh and make memories; and we will teach them how to have compassion, how to give, how to love with perfect love, and how to flee from temptation. We will teach them how to cling to truth, stand firm even when the world bullies them for what they believe, and we will teach them how to forgive and be forgiven. We will love them like You want us to love them–unconditionally–and will love them too much to let them be deceived and led by the devil away from their life purpose!

Help us to hear Your voice concerning our kids, Father. Your planned future for them is better than anything we could lay hold of for them on our own. As we trust You for that future, we will be good stewards of our little arrows; and by Your grace, they will grow to be arrows hitting not just any mark, but the actual destinies for which You handcrafted each of them uniquely, fearfully and wonderfully!. We consecrate ourselves, our homes, and our children today. Bless them, protect them, do great things through them, and let them never depart from You, in Jesus’ name.

(Adapted from my Facebook status, August 11, 2017)

Crazy Faith

Now faith brings our hopes into reality and becomes the foundation needed to acquire the things we long for. It is all the evidence required to prove what is still unseen. (Hebrews 11:1 TPT)

God expects #faith that compels action. I’m not talking faith versus works…I’m talking about faith that is too strong not to respond in some way to what we believe about Him.

Jesus requires the man with the withered hand to stretch it out as best he can toward Him. God’s word for Naaman is to dip seven times in the muddiest water hole around. The disciples are ordered to sit the 5000+ down for a meal that hasn’t yet materialized–and it’s either going to make them heroes or the biggest fools on the planet.

There are many “bring them to Me” moments recorded in the Bible. Everything from five loaves and two fishes to a weighty test of whether Abraham will be willing climb a mountain to offer his son to God. When the Lord is getting ready to do something whopping stupendous big, He asks a token of that person’s faith–and that something might seem embarrassing, ostentatious, risky, perplexing, seemingly nonsensical, or impossible to rationalize. But consider: isn’t faith at times any/all of the above?

I saw where Theresa Hanshaw posted a challenge today for believers to get their passports in anticipation of trips to the mission field. It’s another bring-them-to-Me window of opportunity. It’s a way of saying, “I don’t just flirt with the idea of God doing extraordinary things for me; I prepare for it.”

People of real faith don’t just pray for rain, they set out their buckets and barrels. Hungry seekers don’t just wish for a visitation from God; they clear all the junk out of their guest room, fluff the pillows, and keep checking to see if He’s on the doorstep yet. They start coming up with names for the baby. They stick their toes into the Red Sea before it parts. They don’t calculate their odds of winning, consult the Doppler radar for probability of precipitation, or fact-check at Snopes to ascertain whether that sort of miracle has ever really happened before.

Put walking shoes on your prayers today. And don’t pray lazy, boring, 95% off markdown rack prayers that apologize for expecting too much of a tired, frail, depleted, resourceless Savior—request the impossible kind of stuff a person would ask only if he or she really believes in a great big wonderful God. Not that any of it is actually a challenge to Him, of course…but our prayers are often so lackadaisical and faithless that they don’t even get the attention of our angels (who are left undispatched, like Maytag repairmen)—much less inspire the Creator of the Universe.

Ask big…then go get your passport. 😉

Father, we live in a day when, even with all our technology and endless information and gadgetry, our imagination for dreaming big things seems diminished.  It doesn’t even occur to us to bind and loose, to call things that be not as though they were, to see wrongs and deficiencies and make them right.  Forgive us for our anemic, lazy, “template” requests that require little to no faith.  Forgive us for giving You so little chance to show us just how powerful and capable You really are!

We ask You to awaken the dreamer in each of us today.  File away the callouses from our hardened, indifferent hearts so that we may have a heightened awareness of situations around us which warrant change.  Make us those agents of change!  Your Word tells us that we have not because we ask not…and we are not asking because we are instead ignoring or just accepting.  O God, realign our priorities.  Make us hungrier than ever for Your Word; for as we read Your great exploits from Genesis to Revelation, it renews our understanding all over again just how mighty and capable You are to do the seemingly impossible.  We ask that You will reveal to us extravagant requests to make…make us aware of what never before occurred to us to ask.  You are the Creator who created us in Your image, with creativity in our DNA.  Awaken that creativity which causes us to partner with You in the miraculous.

From this day forward, make us divinely dissatisfied to coast through our lives, doing just enough to get by.  Give us BIG vision.  Share Your heart with us about what YOU see needing changed and then help us to get on board with You.  We stretch out “withered” hands to You that have withered from inaction and we say, “Wake up every sleeping part of us that could otherwise be doing Your work.”  Help us build “crazy faith” so that we will imagine, dream, and invite You to go above and beyond our wildest requests.  Nothing is too hard for You…so take us on the ride of a lifetime as You erase the “im” from impossible.  In Jesus’ name we pray, and in faith we ask for more from a Father with an unlimited supply.

(Adapted from my Facebook status 7/31/17)

OCD NO MORE (Warning–read only if you want your life back!)

figure_measure_1600_wht_5484“Do not be anxious or worried about anything, but in everything [every circumstance and situation] by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, continue to make your [specific] requests known to God. And the peace of God [that peace which reassures the heart, that peace] which transcends all understanding, [that peace which] stands guard over your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus [is yours].” Phil 4:6-7 (AMP)

I believe one of Satan’s greatest deceptions is to convince people that the very things which hold them in bondage put them at some sort of advantage. He does this with unbelievers and believers alike. The belief that one drives a little better when drinking. Or that getting high helps release or enhance the talent of the singer or musician. The belief that cleanliness or fitness or aesthetic appearance taken severely beyond the norm makes us better, safer, more beautiful than the people around us–turning us into germaphobes, steroid-abusers, anorexics, addicts to plastic surgery. Any time our enemy can convince us that imbalance is helping us in some way, he will keep us testing its limits over and over, in increasing quantities, till he ultimately kills or cripples us with it.

Yes, we recognize the more obvious destructive misconceptions, but what about the more subtle ones? The belief that one’s tendency for worry or obsessiveness or unyielding perfectionism makes that person invaluable and better on the job or at home or in the church? Yes, it might bring some results, but the cost to that person’s emotional and physical (and perhaps even spiritual) health, not to mention its cost to relationships with those around him or her, is proof that it’s turned from mere attentiveness into a bondage that needs broken.

Bottom line: God doesn’t need you to violate His Word to accomplish His will!

If the Bible says, “Be anxious for nothing…” (and that whole verse is beneficial here) then it applies even that person who’s given to detail and excellence and finesse. So yes, friends, even you who are leaders, professionals, artists, even movers and shakers in the business realm, yes, YOU…are meant to be able to lie down and rest at night and be able to lay aside the garments which define you in the eyes of those around you. You’re not better at what you do by having your thermostat broken, you’re just suffering and nobody’s told you that you don’t have to in order to walk in the place of greatness! As a matter of fact, the devil wants a child of God, in particular, to believe that it’s ok for his/her controlling obsession to run unchecked because that person is letting it consume him/her “for God.” How cruel indeed this deception, and it’s not at all from the Father! Do good, godly people fall into that trap? Yes, sadly, all the time. It’s time for you to deal with yours today if this writing is resonating any at all with you.

Lord, Your Word says we aren’t ignorant of the devices of the devil (2 Corinthians 2:11). You are a giver of peace, of joy, of rest, of blessed assurance. Those of us who want to be fruitful and productive can sometimes let our zeal for excellence push us beyond Your safe boundaries. We can ticker down our lists of what we’ve accomplished but at the end of the day, our obsession and need to be in control of our environment makes us miserable, sick, exhausted, and it probably makes anyone tied to us equally nervous, tensed, stressed because they in turn are trying to appease our relentless nature. Our unforgiveness of our own perceived inadequacies can turn inward and manifest in autoimmune disorders, traumatic stress disorders, early death or disability due to stress-induced disease…if we don’t get a handle on it. So we release and forgive ourselves and others for not being perfect! The devil is crafty–he tries to make us feel guilty if we relax our hold. He has convinced many that this sickness and misery is the price they must pay to carry the talent, anointing, or advancement they’ve worked so hard to achieve. We are not going to be those people anymore! We reject the idea that our obsessive nature is just the cross we must bear, or that this type of bondage is a good thing. We don’t need it in order to be valuable–that’s a lie straight from hell! WE WILL NOT LET OUR GOD-GIVEN GIFTS BECOME OUR WEAPONS OF SELF-DESTRUCTION, IN JESUS’ NAME!

So we come into agreement with Your Word today and we are going to make a marked effort to surrender all to You. This is probably one of those areas Paul referred to when in 1 Cor. 15:31 he said that he “died (to self)” daily. You are teaching us the boundary at which we are to stop. We have the ability to work on something and release it as finished, in peace and trust that it is enough. Your Holy Spirit assures us that we can let go of a few things or that enough time has been spent on a particular detail. We crucify that driving force in us that won’t let us rest, that won’t let others rest, and that won’t trust You to keep what we commit to You!  We ask You to deliver us from perfectionism, the need to micromanage our lives and others’, from any spirits attached to this unhealthy belief that our best is never good enough or that we could have done more. We renounce any negative confessions spoken over us by ourselves or others, and we receive healing of any damage inflicted to our souls from someone who didn’t love or accept us enough.  We rebuke the spirit of fear that brings with it paranoia, inferiority complex, jealousy, inordinate competitiveness, domination, controlling spirits, and compulsiveness.  We ask you to forgive us when our own pride is the culprit. We will not confess OCD over ourselves–not even jokingly–like it’s a beneficial trait. It’s a curse and we have been redeemed from the curse! Remind us of how Satan has used this to the destruction of many brilliant people, like Howard Hughes, who became so obsessive he died a rich, alone madman in self-imposed exile, afraid of germs and people and imperfection. We rebuke the spirit of fear that tells us if we relax, we will lose our “superpowers” or our competitive edge. Our times are in Your hands, Father. You will keep us in perfect peace as we cast our cares on the One through Whom true promotion comes!

We will be excellent, we will be tenacious and we will work while it is day, but we repent, reject, and renounce all times in the past where we embraced this bondage as some kind of good thing. We are going to rely on You more and our own abilities less. We give this to You, knowing that You are setting us up to be MORE fruitful in the long run. When someone brings up OCD to us in the future (probably from times we’ve joked about it in the past), we are going to reply, “No, I’m not given to obsessive behavior anymore! I’m delivered! I have an eye for detail and I operate in strong gifts and abilities, but I no longer let perfectionism hold me in bondage. I do the best I can now to just plant seed, allow someone else to water, and trust God to give the increase…and with that, I’m resting while God is at work making my effort pay off! I’m healed!”

In Jesus’ name we pray today, Amen.

(Note: This and other issues I hope to be covering in the CALL THOSE THINGS: Bible-Based Confessions Over Mental and Emotional Health edition…available at some time in the future.)

A Grateful Giver

helping handsMy children, our love should not be just words and talk; it must be true love, which shows itself in action.  (1 John 3:18 GNT)

Cats are peculiar critters.  As I was unloading and packing groceries from my car this morning, I nearly stepped on a dead, disemboweled mouse right in my walking path.  It was a “gift” from one of the cats we feed and care for who live on our property.

Those of you who own cats know that this is a pretty typical thing!  I’m regularly encountering little presents like this.  Some are good presents; getting rid of rodents and creepy crawlers is always a welcome offering.  Others, not so much!  Occasionally my kitties will nab a bird or a ground squirrel in their zealous guard duties, unfortunate casualties of the war on pest control.

We’re not so unlike these four-legged creatures, you know.   When we enter into a true, healthy relationship with our Master, we seek to do things which please Him.  Perhaps they are things we would have been doing anyway, like being generous, or using a talent, but our motivation changes to a godly one.  Even those times when we get it wrong, our Master’s grace envelops us as He sees the pureness in heart.  He may scold us over a wrong choice, but He will lovingly teach us how to conform to His image.

Cats are hunters by instinct; catching prey is their nature.  However, instead of just doing whatever they wish with their conquests, my cats choose to lay out their trophies for me.  They want ME to share in their accomplishments. They want to remind me that, although I haul those huge bags of cat food up the hill to keep their bellies full, they are grateful and wanting to reciprocate.

One aspect which sets Christianity apart from all others is that we are saved by grace.  Many feel that it ends there, and excludes any opportunities for works.  While it’s true that we cannot achieve salvation through our giving, that change of heart when we accept Jesus also motivates us to do good works.  Or, at the very least, to do what we may have already been doing, but with a higher purpose!  Our gratitude to our Lord spills over into wanting Him to be blessed as well.

You don’t have to perform great exploits today, or seek achievements beyond your reach.  Just do what seems second nature to you, but with a holy motivation!  Gatherer by instinct, giver by faithful love.  Find something in your day which you can deposit on the walking path of your Master!  He loves a cheerful giver!