Quality Time

A few years ago there was a statistic which claimed that the average American dad spent five minutes a day with his children. If that’s true, I sure hope those are five really good minutes!

I’m sure we can debate the validity of the statistic, but it does raise a question: How much time are you spending with your children and grandchildren? Perhaps the better question is: How are you spending that time? We certainly do lots of good things with the children in our life. We cheer for them as they run the bases in a little league game. We take them to the lake, to the movies and to the county fair. We read to them, laugh with them and wrap them up in great big hugs. Those are the good times.

What about the other times? Much of the time we spend with them is filled with impatience and frustration. We use harsh words and unloving actions. We fail to discipline and instruct with love and patience and compassion. Sometimes we are too busy for them. Sometimes we are too preoccupied to answer their many questions.

If we are honest with ourselves, too often even our “quality” time with our children is missing something. God reminds us of what we too often leave out of our time with the children who are important to us: “Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds…Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up” (Deuteronomy 11:18-19). Do the children in your life get to hear from you about the love their Savior has for them? Do they get to hear on a regular basis about the God who has created them and saved them and given them so many wonderful promises? If we don’t take the time to teach them, who will?

Thankfully we have a Father who gave us more than five minutes. Actually, our heavenly Father gave us much more than that: he gave us an eternity in heaven through faith in our Savior Jesus Christ. We will be with our Father in heaven forever. That same Father is with us every minute of every day in his Word. Get together with the children in your life and spend some quality time with God’s Word.

Offering the True Hand of Help

It can be so frustrating. In love you reach out a hand of help and get rebuffed. “Mind your own business.” It could be as minor as a child stubbornly saying, “I can do it myself.” But it could be as tragic as a loved one enslaved in a dangerous habit, and refusing to see your offer as anything but meddling. Dangerous habits become tragic addictions. And the person seems blind to the horrendous outcomes of ruined lives and empty bank accounts or worse. How can I show that person I care and not be pushed away?

Look to the One whose outstretched hands offer help for now and for eternity! Your Savior God says, “I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.” Isaiah 41:13 Those hands of Jesus touched lepers and healed them. Those hands of Jesus smeared mud on eyes and turned the blind into seeing. Those hands of Jesus were stretched out and nailed to a cross in a love payment for all sins, even sins of addiction. Those hands of the resurrected Jesus were shown to doubting Thomas as proof positive of power to do the impossible.

The Lord Jesus still demonstrates the power to do the impossible and reaches out his hands of healing. Start with prayer and remember his promise: “Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10 Talk to your loved one and extend your hand in prayer with him or her. Don’t pretend you can fix it. Together ask Jesus for his powerful love to reach a heart. Ask Jesus to move that heart to see and reach for the many other hands offered to help: a pastor’s hand of Scriptural counsel, a doctor’s hand of medical help, a counseling center’s hand of intervention. Be patient and persistent in your love and in your prayers. Stay close to that person and lovingly remove opportunities to indulge the addiction. Reach out in love, and remember your Savior’s promise, “Nothing is impossible with God.” Luke 1:37

How can I help when others are depressed?

What a helpless feeling! A friend, spouse, sibling, co-worker shows all the signs of depression. The person has gone from full of energy and life to tearful, lethargic, unmotivated and overwhelmed. The change from positive and confident to pessimistic and hopeless is heartbreaking to observe. You desire to help your loved one, but how do you? What can you do? Perhaps you have tried to cheer them up or invite them to functions so that they can get out and be with other people. Maybe you have attempted to talk them out of their depression by telling them it will get better soon or encouraged them to look at the positives in their lives. Despite your efforts, does it seem like nothing you do really helps?

There are things you can do to help someone you care about who is depressed. You can be a loving listener, an encouraging voice, and a praying heart. You can remind them of the many blessings that they have and help them identify the times in their lives in which they have not felt depressed. You can encourage them to seek the counsel of a physician, therapist, or minister. However, the most important gift you can give them is to remind them that they are loved unconditionally by Jesus Christ.

Jesus is the only one who understands their suffering completely. The Bible explains how God became a man, in Jesus. And He lived on this earth with all its challenges. Jesus suffered as He endured pain, hunger, fatigue, rejection, loneliness, and more. Ultimately, Jesus even experienced death on a cross. The Bible says in Philippians 2:6-8, “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross!” Not only does Jesus understand what it is like for us to suffer but he did all of this so that we can be saved. Jesus died for us that we may receive the ultimate blessing of eternal life in heaven. Sharing this gift with someone we care about who is depressed is perhaps the best medicine!

Where is contentment to be found?

A farmer who had lived on the same farm all his life began to long for something better. He finally decided to sell it. He listed it with a real estate broker who promptly prepared a sales advertisement for the farm. The ad, of course, listed all the farm’s advantages: ideal location, modern equipment, healthy stock, and acres of fertile ground.

When the farmer saw the ad in the paper, he hurriedly phoned his real estate agent. “I’ll buy it!” he exclaimed. “It’s exactly the place I’m looking for!”

Contentment is a matter of perspective. How many times have you lived out the cliché, “You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone?”

There is a place where contentment is found, and you don’t need to take a religious pilgrimage to find it. Look at the people, possessions, and pleasures in your life and see them not as your own but “on loan” from God. He gives them to you for a purpose. He wants you to take care of them, and to manage them faithfully.

Some people have received talents from God that are most appreciated by the company’s upper management. Other people have received talents that are noticed most by two-year-olds as they live securely in a loving home. Both kinds of people can be content.

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” one Bible writer happily urges. “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:4,12-13).

Contentment is a happiness and appreciation that comes from God tapping you on the shoulder and saying, “I’d like you to do something for me. It’s not the same as everyone else is doing, but I know you can do it well. Here’s what I want you to use.”

Rejoice! No matter what the circumstances, you can be content when you see what you have as a gift from God. Part of that gift is the purpose behind it, an improvement project that improves not just the gift, but also the one to whom it is given.

Perfection

A group of special friends comes over for dinner. You spend hours preparing for the meal. You vacuum your house or apartment. You bring out the best dishes in your cabinet. You want everything to be just perfect. Any food improperly cooked or signs of a dirty house could take away from the specialness of the evening. Everything must be perfect.

Our desire for perfection can be seen not only in the home but also in the workplace. Your employer expects you to do your job well. Mistakes will cost the company time and money. If a company is to run efficiently and profitably, everything must be just so, perfect. Further, you feel the best when you have done your job perfectly. And what about your leisure time? What is it that keeps you coming back to play that round of golf again and again? Isn’t it those few perfect shots in a round that motivate you to return again and again?

The God of the universe also is one who expects perfection in the people he has created. The Bible says, “Be perfect, for I the Lord your God am perfect” (Matthew 5:48). God knows that if his people are going to be what he expects them to be, they will be perfect.

The big problem here, as we all know, is that none of us is perfect. Some of that food that we prepared for those guests doesn’t always turn out right, our house has dirt and spiders even though we clean it often. That perfect golf shot slices and ends up just off the green. The assignment at work ends up with a mistake or two. The same holds true in our relationship with God. He has given us 10 commandments. But we break them. We say harsh words. We think bad thoughts. Being the just God that he is, our God must punish us. “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). Fortunately, a person named Jesus came into the world. He wanted to rescue us. Thus, he lived a perfect life. And that perfect life has been credited to us. We receive Christ’s perfection as our own. Then he died a death for all the times we messed up and weren’t perfect.

Jesus is God’s perfect solution to our imperfection.

Can God take my guilt away?

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21)

“I wish I could take it all away,” Mom whispered to her suffering five-year-old son. He had the flu for a couple of days now, and Mom’s heart was broken. As he lay in his bed suffering from the chills and a fever, there wasn’t much Mom could do except give him some children’s flu medicine and just be there for him. Mom felt helpless and wished she could take it all away from him. She even wished she could have the flu instead of her son.

When children are sick, the love of Mom and Dad really starts to shine through. In a heartbeat, parents go to extra lengths to make sure their kids are feeling as comfortable as possible. If you’re a parent, you’ve been there. You make sure their pillow is extra fluffy. You bring their favorite juice box. You provide their favorite movie to watch. And any time you hear them call, you quickly respond with, “What can I do for you?” The love of Mom and Dad goes so far that if they could take the sickness away, even become sick instead of their child, they would. But they can’t, and it hurts.

Has there ever been a time when you wished you could take it all away? Not just a sickness of a child, but something you did that you really regret? Maybe it was something you did to end a close relationship with a friend. Maybe you said something to a family member that you wish you could take back. Maybe it was something that only you know about, but it haunts you each day.

It’s at moments like those that God’s love really starts to shine through. He knows your sin, your guilt, your regrets. But he doesn’t just wish he could take them away. He did take them away. He forgave them all! He took your sin and guilt away when he put them on his only Son. He loves you so much that he had his only Son, Jesus, die for your sins so that you wouldn’t have to. God forgave your guilt and now considers you right with him because of what Jesus did for you.

Wish your guilt and regrets could be taken away? They were. In their place he gives you forgiveness and eternal life. Now that’s a love that shines through!

Parenting

A sign along the freeway shows a picture of a worried mother with her teenage son. The caption reads, “Too bad children don’t come with instructions.”

Every parent is faced with many dilemmas, frustrations, and heartaches throughout life, and it seems like sometimes there is nowhere to turn for “The Instructions.”

But in actuality instructions ARE available. It’s just that so many parents either don’t know or overlook the instructions. It’s called the Word of God.

You see, we parents don’t create children. God does. Science can explain the process to some degree. But only the Creator can create new life.

Now, along with that new life, He wants to bless parents and children with a deeply caring relationship that will last for time and eternity.

First and foremost, the Lord God made it possible for our family bonds to last forever. God the Father sent his one-and-only Son to bring forgiveness of wrong doings, to rescue the world from death and hell, and to give us the gift of heaven on top of it all! It’s a “done deal” through the life, death, and Resurrection of Jesus!

Now when your family has Jesus in the center of its life, that makes for a loving and rewarding home life, too. Not easy, not trouble free, but richly blessed.

These instructions really WORK! If you could list every valuable piece of advice from books, newspaper columns, radio talk show hosts, and clinical counselors, you’d find that all the best advice has been said before—in the Bible!

Consider, for example, this one piece of advice from the Apostle Paul: “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32).

Parents, don’t toss the “Instructions” away. Take the time to read the Bible. It works.

Why Am I Suffering?

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.—Romans 8:18

This article is not for everyone. Rather it is for those of you who know what it is to suffer, because you are going through it right now.

Some of you have joints that are screaming from rheumatoid arthritis. Some of you are miserable from chemotherapy. Some of you have back pain so severe you can only stand, sit or sleep for short periods of time. Some of you get frequent headaches so massive that any kind of light or sound is a torture. Some of you are reeling from multiple surgeries, barely recovering from one when doctors tell you to get ready for another. And some of you possess one of a thousand other maladies–-physical or emotional. What they all have in common is that they all define what it is to suffer.

It’s often when our suffering is at its worst that the devil walks in, ready to attack our faith. Many times, he points out other people similar to us in age and circumstance. He leads us to think that they don’t seem to have anything near the suffering and pain that we have. And with that, he lets our sinful nature do the rest. He lets our sinful nature drag us away into the dungeon of self-pity.

But the Lord of your life has something to say about this. He speaks though the apostle Paul who knew all about severe suffering. He grappled with a terrible problem that appeared to plague him until he died. Instead of comparing himself to others who did not have to suffer as he did, Paul made the comparison that really matters. He said, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”

What is the specific reason why the Lord is allowing you to suffer? That is not for us to say. Perhaps it is to nurture within you a faith that is heroic and robust. Perhaps it is to give others around you a living, breathing sermon on Christian courage. Perhaps it is to bring you into contact with a lost soul the Lord will save through your witness. Perhaps it’s for an entirely different reason.

Never forget, however, the comparison that matters. Your temporary suffering is a droplet in comparison to the oceans of joy that await you in heaven. That’s why Jesus came. That’s why he suffered and died for your sins. That’s why he rose. That’s why he lives.

Why does bad stuff happen?

Have you ever:

  • Been gossiped about…
  • Been injured in a freak accident…
  • Been dumped in a relationship…
  • Contracted a disease…
  • Lost a loved one…
  • Lost a job…
  • Just “lost it”…

If so, what is the common denominator in all these situations? Isn’t it that they hurt? When bad stuff happens, it hurts, and because we don’t like to hurt we ask why bad stuff happens.

The answer, in a single word, is “sin.” You won’t read that word on the op-ed page of your favorite newspaper or on a CNN newscast. Scientists won’t use that word. Philosophers won’t use that word. Politicians won’t use that word. But God does!

In the book of Romans we read, “Just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned” (Romans 5:12). God is willing to identify the source of suffering and pain. It is sin. That’s why bad things happen.

But just knowing why is not real helpful. What we really want to know is what we are to do about the bad stuff that happens.

In that regard CNN, the scientists, the philosophers, and politicians will have something to say. They will offer a theory, a medicine, or a philosophy by which to live. Those answers to life’s problems, however, only create another problem. What do we do when the solution doesn’t work?

That’s when it is wise to turn again to God. He has something to say about bad stuff. He is willing and able to do more than identify the source, he has provided the solution. God has a plan for health and healing. God deals with sin–the source of hurt and pain–by removing it.

Romans 5:20-21: “Where sin increased, grace increased all the more, so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Romans 6:23: “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

If scientists could wipe out diseases, they would…
If politicians could end war, they would…
If philosophers could create bliss, they would…

But they can’t, so they don’t, and we keep asking why bad stuff happens.

If God could wipe out sin, he would…

And he has. Where sin increased, his grace–the love he has for undeserving sinners–increased all the more. That grace came to all in the perfect life of Jesus, in the sacrificial death of Jesus, and in the resurrection to life of Jesus. Jesus brings us God’s grace, and with grace come spiritual peace and health and joy that last forever. That’s God’s good answer to all the bad stuff.

 

How Can I Be Safe in a Terrifying World?

There are scary people and scary events in this world. But terror is not really outside of you. It’s internal. Terror is being so afraid inside that you are paralyzed outside, unable to live a normal life.

Because terror is internal, the solution to it has to be something that works internally. Lots of people try to work out internal solutions, such as “sucking it up” or “lifting themselves up by their own boot straps.” But those don’t seem to work.

Experts will tell you that you have to go outside of yourself to feel safe. They suggest a network of friends and reliable diversions to take your mind off what’s bothering you.

Do you want to feel safe? Real feelings of safety come from actually being safe. That’s where Jesus comes in.

He’s not called “Savior” for nothing. He has actually made us safe from the devil (1 John 3:8). He has defeated the worst enemy of all, death (1 Corinthians 15:55), rescuing us from the fear of what comes after death. He has saved us from hell by winning forgiveness for us (Luke 1:77).

When you get to know the power and love of Jesus, you can say and really mean things like: “I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress. . .You will not fear the terror of the night. . .No harm will befall you, no disaster will come near your tent” (Psalm 91).

There are still scary people and things out there. You can still feel uneasy in scary situations. But when you have Jesus, you have real safety where it’s needed — inside.