Did I Get the Job Done?

Did I Get the Job Done?

moving day

In January, my 21 year old daughter was the first to fly the coop.  Strike up Barbara Streisand singing “Memories” and pass the tissues.  While it has been quite an adjustment for all of us, it has not been too bad thanks to (and I can’t believe I’m saying this) the wonders of texting and the Marco Polo app.

On the morning her brother and I drove her to her new home in another state, I wrote a note to her that I planned to leave in her apartment for her to find after we had left.  (It’s the writer in me).  As I was writing, I was partially successful in holding back tears as my mind ran through 21 years of very precious memories.  I kept reminding myself, “She’s not dying or even getting married.  Get a grip!”

As I wrote, I couldn’t help but think about all the things I failed to do well or at all.  My perfectionistic flesh was really whipping me good.  Hindsight is always 20/20.

I imagine that some of you reading this have already had a child leave home through work, education, marriage, or some other reason.  As we wrestle with the changing seasons in family life, we can take encouragement from some principles in the Bible that address our performance as parents.

We are ambassadors, not saviors.

If I could do everything right, then I would not need Jesus.  It was never God’s intension to share his glory with us by making it so we could do a perfect parenting job.  2 Corinthians 5:20 says we are plain ambassadors with a powerful message.  The Holy Spirit is the only One who is able to call and change our children and he does the changing on his perfect timetable.

God’s plan takes into account our failures.

Paul says in Romans 8:28-29, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.”  All things includes bad things.  God is able to use even our worst moments in his work of conforming us and our children into the image of his Son.  It’s never too late to confess our failures and ask forgiveness!  Sometimes, it takes many years, decades even, before we see how God has worked/is working through our good and bad moments—but he is working!

God restores the years that the locust has eaten.

Our failures do not define us as Christians.  God is all about redemption.  Joel 2 says that “he restores the years that the locust has eaten.”  Recognizing what I could have done better strengthens me not to repeat the same failures with my other children who are still at home.  My failures do not have to remain failures!  We can learn from them and change how we disciple our other children and grandchildren.  I can also share what I have learned with other parents, thus helping them avoid our mistakes.

We serve a God of grace and mercy.  He delights in showing mercy.  Micah 7:18 says, “Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance? He does not retain his anger forever, because he delights in steadfast love.”  I am most grateful that my God—our God—is like this.  It gives us great hope and confidence as we move through the different but challenging seasons of parenthood.

 

Empty Prayers

Empty Prayers

empty prayers“Asking someone, ‘How Can I Pray for You’ is Bull *&%^ !”

These words were spoken to me with blunt frustration by a man after I had just taught a class on being intentional in relationships. Praying for one another was one of several practical exhortations I had made in the class. (There was more to what I said on prayer which I will get to later.) This brother in Christ had been wounded by some bad experiences.

As we talked, I was struck by what I suspect is probably the ugly and embarrassing truth about our prayer lives as Christians: we often take it for granted and become careless and lazy in our prayer habits.

Prayer for one another is an essential habit in our Christian walk. Yet, we can all relate to saying, “I will pray for you”—only to forget. Sometimes we ask for prayer without really thinking about it. It’s an easy (and expected) part of our Christian talk.

How seriously do we really take prayer? Following are three practical ideas to help us be more intentional in our prayer life.

  1. Write Down Prayer Requests

Studies show that we remember 90% of what we write down. Why not write down what people ask us to pray for? It forces clarity and helps us remember to pray. Along this line, one of the ideas I gave my Sunday school class that morning involved writing prayer requests on 3×5 index cards. Index cards are a cheap and wonderful tool. You can keep them in your pocket or tuck them in your Bible.

Make a card for each person we pray for. Put the person’s name on the top line. Beneath their name, write the date and then the request next to it. When the prayer is no longer needed, write down the date and the answer or resolution. Keep the card to add future prayer requests for that person. As you add cards for each person, you develop a powerful story; a tool for recounting God’s work through your prayers in other’s lives.

  1. Ask People to Pray For You Rather Than Telling Them to Pray For You

Have you ever had someone just say, “Pray for me” or “You can pray for me about …“. We’ve probably all done it at some point, however, without a “will you please” in front, it can come across a bit presumptuous or even demanding.  This is not so much an issue of manners as it is not taking prayer for granted. We all should remember to be mindful of the privilege prayer is. It is a gift to be able to minister to each other through prayer. It is also a comfort to know that we can ask our brothers and sisters to pray for us in times of need which in effect allows them to help us carry our burdens.

Consider that if we ask and the person says, “yes” then there is a greater possibility of them following-through which also means their prayers will likely be more intentional and effective.

Following is not so much a literal suggestion as it is a way to expose our own attitudes and expectations about asking others to pray for us. Would it ever be right to say, “No, I’m sorry but I cannot/will not be able pray for you”? The thought of that seems almost unconscionable. But consider: can we realistically pray for every request that comes our way either directly or indirectly? How many more can we add to a long and probably dusty list? At what point are we just being disingenuous?

Here’s an idea. If we’re having trouble being faithful with our current list, maybe a good alternative when asked to pray is to just stop and pray with the person for the need at that moment rather than to say we will pray later –and never do it.

  1. Report Back to People Who Have Agreed to Pray for You

For the person who is being intentional about following through on praying for our request it can be disheartening to pray especially over a long period of time and never get an update on what is going on in that situation. When no report is given, it can convey little regard for the time others invest in praying for us. Write down the names of those we ask to pray for us so that we remember to report back.

A simple report is very encouraging to see how God is working through our prayers. It builds our faith. We keep praying for the specific need. It encourages us to pray for others. It builds our unity in Christ. Frankly, it also helps us to be more serious about asking others to pray for us. We realize there is a cost to them: their time that we should seek to honor.

Evaluate Our Prayer Habits

Prayer is a powerful and effective weapon. God instructs us to pray. He promises to hear our prayers and to answer them. It is good therefore to evaluate our prayer habits and to try to correct areas where we have waxed lazy and unintentional.

Whether we’re asking for prayer or agreeing to pray—it is a sacred privilege; a treasured part of our identity as members of God’s family that helps to build our oneness in Christ.

 

Jesus: The Ultimate Blockchain

Jesus: The Ultimate Blockchain

“What in the world is blockchain?” I asked the Barnes and Noble employee as he somewhat unceremoniously plopped a stack of magazines with “blockchain” written on the cover on the rack. He said, “It is a technology that is being used to help protect our identity and personal information.” I grabbed a copy and was quickly hooked by the article’s title which began with the huge block letters: “Identity Crisis…”

“Identity” regularly occupies the headlines. We are so much more aware of it. Protection of our personal information has become a minimal expectation for doing business. In some cases, it even represents a competitive edge. Politically and culturally, debate surges over the most basic definition of identity: male and female.

All of the attention given to identity these days makes for some wonderful opportunities to grow in Christ.

First, it presents an opportunity to think about our own identity, in Christ.“Identity” is a simple one-word summary of what Jesus has done for us. Who are you? If you are in Christ, then you are a new creation. We tend not to think much about this new identity and all that it entails. Instead, we favor thinking about what we should do. Marinating in all that Jesus has fully accomplished not only instructs us in how to live, it motivates us, too.

Second, it reminds us how fragile, needy, and dependent we all really are. The fact that there is such concern over our SSN and credit cards numbers is evidence just how little control we actually have. We are vulnerable. Much of the media attention preys on and stokes our fears. None of us are in control.

But Godisin control. He is our refuge, strength, and protector. No matter how compromised my personal information is on the internet, God protects me through the end of my life on this earth—and beyond. My identity is completely, irrevocably secure in Jesus Christ.

Third, it provides a great entry point to share the good news with nonbelievers. It is not hard to imagine why people get so hysterical about their identity being stolen. This world really doesn’t offer much in the way of security. It is another reason why people without Jesus Christ have reason to be afraid.

When my family goes to visit an elderly neighbor in a local care facility, we often find the neighbor watching the news. He sometimes makes fearful, even angry comments about the future when the stories involve healthcare and social security. In those moments, I remind him that God cares for his own and that he can rest in that. Before leaving we usually pray with him and for him to rest in God’s sovereign care. Over the years we have had many deep spiritual conversations but we are still uncertain about his relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. Still, I can say that when I remind him of God’s care for his people in those moments it brings peace. I trust that a deeper work is taking place.

We all need the peace that only God offers because he is the only one in control of all that is happening everywhere and all of the time. If we are marinating in all that Jesus has done for us, we will be more attentive to the fearful, anxious cry of those around us who desperately need the security only Jesus can give. Jesus is the ultimate blockchain.