A Father’s Gift from God

I cannot imagine being a father to our two sons without their mother (my wife) and her godly influence on my life.

I am a listener.  I don’t have the need to talk all the time.  But when I need to talk it is an intense need, and the one I want to talk to the most is my wife.  She listens then.  And she lets me vent my heart without jumping in and “solving” my frustration.  I then ask for her opinions and we give and take; or she just gives and I take (when necessary).

When we are having trouble with one or both of our sons she doesn’t try to tell me how I should respond to them.  She doesn’t micromanage home life.  She asks me questions to help me see what is truly important in the situations we experience with our two sons.  These questions help me see critical things I am missing on my own.

My wife prays for me.  She knows that only Jesus can help me be a better father.  She knows the only one who can change me is God and she puts her time and effort in with Him.  She spends time with Jesus on my behalf.

Honey, many women do noble things, but you are my gift from God.

Jesus was faithful again in a small/large thing

My wife called me and said she had lost a roll of 100 stamps.  To us, $56.00 is a lot of money.  We prayed over the phone, dear Jesus, please find the stamps.  It was 5:00pm and my wife had bought the stamps at the Post Office around 9:30am.  She had searched everywhere and so decided to go back to the Post Office where she bought them.  As she approached the Post Office’s parking lot she prayed, dear Jesus, I know you care about postage stamps.  When she got to the parking lot she saw the top of the tiny, flattened, cellophane covered roll of stamps.  She called me and said excitedly, “Did you  know God cares about our finances?”

“A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.”

God cares about the smallest details of our lives.  That is the character of Jesus.  He cares so much about you that He decided He would rather die than spend eternity without you.  And now it’s your turn to decide if you want to spend eternity with Him.  He will not force you, He’s a gentleman, and only goes where He’s invited.  He offers eternal life, right now, not just after you die.  And you don’t have to be perfect, that’s His work, to make you like Himself.  You do have to choose, as He makes you able, to not sin anymore.  But if you do sin again, He is faithful and forgives you and helps you through the consequences of sin.  He will also challenge you to discover that His way is better than any sin.  When you choose to obey Him, He will give you real life, real joy, real meaning, real satisfaction.  You will discover that satan’s way has never ultimately satisfied you like Jesus’ way.

Jesus is with you right now.  He can give you the power to change.  All you have to do is ask Him, and let Him give you the power to obey Him.

God is faithful in small things, and will be faithful in large things

I was told by a mentor that seeing as much answered prayer as I do is a gift.  I hope this is not true.  I don’t see nearly as much of what God is doing as I would like.  And I hope everyone sees as much or more of what God is doing than I do.

“Thank you Jesus”

If you are like me you have blamed God when things go “wrong”.  “God, how could you let this happen?”  If God gets the blame when things go wrong, shouldn’t He get the credit when things go right?  And if He should, do I thank Him? for everything?  Did my alarm clock get me out of bed for work?  Thank you Jesus.  Was there air in my car tires to take me to work?  Thank you Jesus.  Did my car start?  Thank you Jesus.  Did the traffic lights work?  Thank you Jesus.  I could spend all day thanking Jesus in my head for all the things that He makes go “right” for me.

If I think these examples are trivial then what would I do if Jesus didn’t make these things go “right” for me?  I overslept, had a flat tire, my car wouldn’t start and after I had changed the tire, jump started the engine I found myself in a traffic jam because the traffic lights were out.  If it is not trivial when it goes wrong, it is not trivial when Jesus makes it go right.  I’m going to thank Him.

“Fired”

I told my employer that I would not work with pornography, occult, or abortion ads.  They threatened to fire me.  My Bible-study group prayed for my wife and me and I prayed God would tell me what to say.  God didn’t give me the exact words to say, instead He made my thinking very clear, He made the path of love very obvious.  I would be hurting others by doing these ads.  I was responsible for my actions.  There is a chain of actions that takes pornography from producer to user and I would not be part of that chain.  God gave me the chance to tell top level management about Jesus.  And in the end, I didn’t get fired.  In fact, five years later they asked me to write an evangelism series of ads for them.

“Finding the Lost… Toys”

When we first adopted our two sons (they were 6 and 2 years old) they had lost a toy.  I suggested to them that we pray and ask Jesus to help us find it.  We prayed, “Jesus would you help us find this toy”.    I simply told my two sons that Jesus would help them find the toy and that He might not bring the toy to them so they needed to start looking.  And then I had to resist the urge to “help God find the toy.”  This was nerve-wracking for me.  Did I really trust God to come through?  What if we didn’t find the toy? What would that communicate to my sons? to me?  I was relieved when they found the toy.  I decided that every time we lost something we would ask God to help us find it as a faith building exercise for my two sons, and me.  Sixteen years later we now depend on God to answer our prayer to help us find things that are lost and for everything that concerns us.  And I realize God doesn’t need my “help” finding things, I need His.  We have found all but a handful of the things we have lost.  And some of those things may have been thrown away by mistake.

“Mator and the big public test”

Jeremy and John were swimming in a lake with their toys, one of which was a truck called “Mator” from the Disney film Cars.  They lost it in the murky water thirty-five feet from shore.  They yelled to me, “Dad, we lost Mator, we’ve been looking for it and we can’t find it anywhere… should we pray?”  Now this was a test for me.  I have never found anything I have lost in any lake if I couldn’t see it. And, dozens of strangers were standing around us waiting for my response.  I yelled back,  “Dear Jesus, please help them find it.”  Jeremy took one step and his foot stepped on top of Mator.  My boys were ecstatic.  But not as much as me.  My trust in Jesus soared.  I laid my public reputation and my life’s purpose on the line that Jesus could do something I could never do, and He came through.

“Faith Games”

I expanded this idea for my youngest.  He spent a lot of time playing video games then and I said to him, “You know how we pray to Jesus and He helps us find things?”  He said, “Yeah.”  I said, “He can help you play video games too.  Just ask Him.”  Jesus has turned playing video games into a faith classroom for my youngest son.

“NOT hearing from God”

Interest rates were at record breaking lows for mortgages and the time seemed right to move.  I decided I wouldn’t do anything until I heard from God.  My wife wanted to move, people were telling us now was the time, but I wanted to make sure not to run ahead of God.  I waited and prayed for God to let me know it was His will to move.  I waited months and heard nothing from God.  I told God that time may be running out.  Finally, my wife said, “Jim, you’re waiting for God to tell you it’s time to move, how will He do that?”  I said I was waiting for an impression, something similar to how God has communicated to me in the past.  She said, “Maybe God is speaking through our circumstances?”  Though our elementary school special ed experience had been excellent our sons needed a school system with stronger middle and high school special ed programs.  I realized I had had tunnel vision, expecting God to work in only the ways I had experienced before.  We moved and our boys have had a great special ed experience.  My wife is my best counselor and Jesus uses her daily to help me.

“Looking for a House… and the Bathroom Door”

In our old house I could lay on my bed with my head at the foot of the bed and look through the bedroom door, across the hall, through the bathroom door and make sure my youngest son was okay taking a bath.  I asked God, “How am I going to be able to watch him like this in our next house?”  He had me stand next to my bed, lay down and look at the wall.  He said I would be able to monitor John by laying on my bed just like that.

I didn’t believe Him.

After we had bought our new house I realized that the extra door to connect the master bedroom to the main bath  was exactly where God said it would be for me to be able to see into the bathroom and monitor John in the tub.

“Jeremy Tithes”

I told my oldest son about the benefits God claims for those who give Him back the extra 10% he gives us.  My son gave 10% to our local church of the money he had earned and we watched what God would do.  Within a few days a co-worker had run out of people to give free movie tickets to so she offered them to me and my family.  God had taken Jeremy’s $7 and given Jeremy $40 in tickets.  Now here’s the disclaimer:  God is not Santa Claus, a vending machine or the stock market.  If you give to get rich you will be very disappointed.  God’s goal is that we learn to love and depend on Him, not manipulate Him so we can love money more.

“Two of my Mentors say I Over-Spiritualize”

When I first was saved by Jesus my mentor said that I over-spiritualized.  I saw everything in the context of Jesus.  More recently one mentor said, “God doesn’t care what color socks you wear.”  I believe that if it matters to me, it matters to God, and that if it matters to God, it should matter to me.  And I believe no circumstances are by chance, everything that happens has been planned by God.  And I believe there is no part of life that you can say, “This doesn’t have anything to do with God.”  There is no such thing as “secular.”

Let’s change the world

 Deuteronomy 8  (NIV)

10 When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the LORD your God for the good land he has given you.  
11 Be careful that you do not forget the LORD your God, failing to observe his commands, his laws and his decrees that I am giving you this day.
12 Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down,
13 and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied,
14 then your heart will become proud and you will forget the LORD your God,
who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.
15 He led you through the vast and dreadful desert, that thirsty and waterless land, with its venomous snakes and scorpions. He brought you water out of hard rock.
16 He gave you manna to eat in the desert, something your fathers had never known, to humble and to test you so that in the end it might go well with you.
17 You may say to yourself, “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.”  
18 But remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your forefathers, as it is today.
19 If you ever forget the LORD your God and follow other gods and worship and bow down to them, I testify against you today that you will surely be destroyed.
20 Like the nations the LORD destroyed before you, so you will be destroyed for not obeying the LORD your God.

Though my university selectively showed me facts that imply otherwise, I believe our nation was founded on Jesus and the Gospel.  (Other faiths enjoyed freedom of expression, and that is attributable to the characteristic of being a predominately Christian country).  Because Jesus permeated the new culture, God blessed this nation just as He blessed Israel when Israel obeyed God.  However, God did not spare Israel, His “treasured possession”, when they did not obey Him.  He sent droughts, floods. storms, and lastly, invading armies, to get their attention.

The parallels to what has been happening to the USA is striking.  America has suffered droughts, floods and storms in increasingly greater severity.  Why?  I believe because America has gone far from God and God is trying to get our attention.

God has a great heart for justice for the oppressed, for the helpless.

Racism causes great injustice: educationally, socially and economically.

Abortion literally chops up helpless living babies and sends them to the garbage.

And our money driven culture doesn’t care.

For a few brief moments American’s priorities were exposed by 9/11.  We suddenly saw that ball players were not the heroes that the commercial culture makes them out to be.  The real heroes were firefighters, police officers, and military personnel; and the countless ordinary citizens who have also sacrificed themselves by helping others.  Churches saw many new faces…briefly.  President George W. Bush said that the rest of America moved on from 9/11 but that he stayed there.  I wish all of America would have stayed there long enough to pay attention to God.

God said to Israel that if they obeyed Him they would be the head and foreigners would be the tail.  And if they did not obey Him foreigners would be the head and Israel would be the tail.  Similarly, hasn’t our own economic health paralleled our moral decline since the 1960’s?  We used to lend to other nations.  Now we are in massive debt to other nations.  And the debtor is servant to the lender.

What is next for God to use to get our attention?  As terrible as 9/11 was, it only woke up America for a few weeks, a few months at best.  Since then it has been no different than before.  When Israel refused to acknowledge the One that won their wars and gave them freedom from their enemies, God stopped helping them.  In time of war after 9/11 our nation prayed.  And we saw God help us using technology.  If we do not acknowledge the One who loves us and protects us, all our technology will be useless.

You may be asking, what can we do, the problems are so big and I am just one person?  God says one person praying is like a thousand and two like ten thousand.  Let’s ask God to first change us and offer ourselves to Him each day to do whatever He asks.  Then let Him lead us.  Margaret Mead is attributed as saying, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has”.