Short Thoughts: Week 15 – Days 99-105

Day 99  –  Resurrection

 

 But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay.      Matthew 28:5-6

 

After two days of violence and darkness and gloom, it is the third day. For the followers of Jesus, it is time to cast off fear. The resurrection of Jesus Christ triggered a variety of reactions: an angel appeared; women told others the good news and met the risen Lord; soldiers and chief priests were afraid and spread a lie; the eleven disciples went to Galilee and met Jesus there and worshipped Him; Jesus gave the great commission.

There are some sets of two in Matthew 28: two fears, two fear nots, and two messages.

The guards were afraid of the angel. When they told the chief priests that an angel had appeared and rolled away the stone that blocked entrance to the tomb, these priests consulted with the elders and fabricated a story, paying off the guards in return for protection from the governor. When you don’t want to hear the truth, you make up a lie and spread it around.

The women who had gone to the tomb out of love for the Lord were afraid, but were told, “Don’t be afraid[of me, an angel].” What chased away fear? “He is risen,” said the angel. And a little later, Jesus Himself met them with greetings and, “Do not be afraid.” Both the angel and the Lord gave them a task, namely, to go and give good news to the disciples and all the “brothers” that Jesus would meet them, too!

The fear the guards experienced did not go away as sincerely as did the fear of the women. The guards still had to wonder if they would get punished for falling asleep and allowing the body to disappear. The women ran with “great joy” to tell the disciples the wonderful news. As said above, the guards’ message to the public was a dangerous lie. For the followers of Jesus, the message was, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and    make_disciples of all nations,  baptizing them in_the name of the Father and of the Son   and of   the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold,I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthews 28:19-20)

Which message have you listened to and acted upon?

 

Your Turn:

  1. Read Matthew 28.
  2. How can you help someone hear the truth about Jesus?
  3. There were three parts to the Great Commission that Jesus gave: (a)“All authority is given Me”, (b) “Go, make disciples, baptize and teach them.”; (c) I am with you always.” Which part have you found hardest to heed?
  4. Notice that the action part, the part requiring obedience (“Go, make disciples…”), is surrounded by two reassurances (“All authority is given Me” and “I am with you always”).
  5. What do you need from Jesus today: the removal of fear? the challenge of finding purpose? or the comfort of His presence that He promises? Talk to Him in prayer about this.

 

Day 100  –  Defensiveness

 

“…reprove a wise man, and he will love you

10  A rebuke goes deeper into a man of understanding

than a hundred blows into a fool. Proverbs 17:8b,10

 

Defensiveness has been defied as  “self-protection in the form of righteous indignation or innocent victimhood in an attempt to ward off a perceived attack” (https://www.gottman.com/blog/the-four-horsemen-defensiveness/). When I examine my own life, I see defensiveness as an area of weakness. I believe strongly in the teaching of Proverbs quoted above, that a wise man learns from rebuke, and there are times I’ve appreciated a gentle rebuke. But, I nonetheless, find myself all too easily wanting to defend myself when I perceived a criticism that in retrospect I realize may not even have been intended.

Another source says, “We are all wired to protect ourselves, and this can lead to defensive behavior.” ( https://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-17713/12-truths-about-defensive-behavior.html ). While it may be a natural response, defensiveness can easily lead to communication failures and unnecessary conflict. It harms a relationship rather than helps. I sometimes reflect on my years as a pastor and think about some time when I did not help a problem by my defensive response to either a personal criticism or a general comment on the way the church ministry was going at the time.

Such realizations should lead me to repentance. Also, I need to ask God to help me see my tendency to be defensive. Perhaps it is a certain person or type of person whose actions or words trigger a defensive response in me. Perhaps it is a certain situation that I react to. I need to be alert to this weakness in me. A spiritual weakness needs spiritual strength to overcome.

The Bible teaches us to practice humility, gentleness, and patience – and to “bear with one another” (Ephesians 4:2). Surely that is an antidote to defensiveness. God’s Word teaches that we are not to avenge ourselves but leave such to God (Romans 12:19) for that is what Jesus did, not reviling but “entrusting Himself to Him who judges justly” (I Peter 2:23). The Lord taught , “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5). Meekness involves self-denial, which is the opposite of defensiveness. God has given His children the Holy Spirit to convict us when we sin, to enlighten our understanding, to equip us with the power we need to live for Him.

“Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment” (John 16:7-8)

“I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 1:17-20).

Your Turn:

  1. Read II Peter 1:3-11.
  2. I have a feeling that I will be writing more on this topic in some future devotional – defensiveness has such stubborn tendency to return in my life. What problem do you find yourself having to deal with repeatedly? Is God’s power within you really strong enough to overcome? Re-read John 16:7-8 and Ephesians 1:17-20 (above).
  3. It may be that someone else in your circle struggles with defensiveness. How can you help that person without being negative – for example, re-phrasing how you speak so that your words are less likely to be seen as an attack; or being understanding and gentle when they overact; or avoiding defensiveness in return.

 

Day 101 – Fatherhood: David’s Failure 

Day 101 Failure

His father had never at any time displeased him by asking, ‘Why have you done thus and so?”  I Kings 1:6

Reading through I and II Samuel and the early part of I Kings recently, I could not escape thinking about how poor a father King David was. We know that David was called “a man after God’s own heart” and we see much of his devotion to the Lord in the Psalms he wrote. Yet, he also was a fallible man, and especially so in regard to his marriages and family life. David had at least eight wives and at least nineteen sons and one daughter who survived infancy. Three of his sons and his daughter Tamar provide examples of his failure as a father.

David’s first-born, Amnon, raped his sister, Tamar, and was later killed by his brother , Absalom.  (II Samuel 13). We read that Amnon’s sin made David “very angry” (II Sam. 13:21), but we cannot see that David did anything about it. Absalom took Tamar into his house where she lived “a desolate woman”.  David appears to have done nothing to rebuke or confront Amnon, and nothing to help his victimized daughter.

Then, there is Absalom. David favoured Absalom. This time,  he mourned Amnon’s death (II Sam. 13:37) and you might say that by default rather than specific order, he exiled Absalom for three years – wanting to “go out” to him but not extending any offer of reconciliation until the commander of David’s armed forces intervened. Then, after another two years, David agreed to meet with Absalom and restored him to favour with a kiss (II Sam 14:33). Absalom then conspired against David, forcing David to flee Jerusalem. When Joab eventually killed Absalom, David lamented another son’s death: “O Absalom, my son, my son!” (II Sam. 18:33). David has to be told by Joab that he is honouring his rebellious son more than the people who rallied to David’s support.

The third son in this group, Adonijah, set himself up as king in David’s old age. I Kings 1:6 observes, “His father had never at any time displeased him by asking, ‘Why have you done thus and so?’ ” His failure to correct his son led to this second rebellion, and to another intervention, this time by Bathsheba and the prophet Nathan. They awoke David out of his inaction and David belatedly supported the coronation of Solomon as his successor.

In each case, David allowed the sinful actions of the three sons to go unchecked. Perhaps he was simply too permissive as a parent, or perhaps he bought into common wisdom in not wanting to interfere with the right of the next in line to the throne to remain in place, or perhaps it was a matter of favouritism. In any case there was neglect. Proverbs 13:24 says that he who loves his son is “diligent” to discipline him – not to overcorrect and end up provoking the child (Ephesians 6:4), nor to fail to apply the kind of discipline that is appropriate for this particular child (Proverbs 22:6) – but to take the difficult steps that teach the self-discipline that child will need later in life (Hebrews 12:11, “We have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them”).

Your Turn:

  1. Read Hebrews 12:5-11.
  2. What different roles do parental responsibility in the child-raising years and personal responsibility in one’s adulthood play in the choices a grown child makes when he or she leaves home?
  3. Besides the three sons, who else did David’s failure with them hurt?
  4. Do you hold respect for your father? Or not? Why? If you have children at home, how does your answer influence your parenting actions today?

Day 102 – Fatherhood: Failures and Successes

The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church?  I Timothy 3:1-5

Day 102 Fatherhood SuccessandFailure

It would be unfair to David to focus only on his parenting failures. He did have a tender heart towards God which manifested itself on numerous occasions. He also supported his son, Solomon, in the latter’s plan to build a Temple that would be glorifying to God, and he gave Solomon good advice in I Kings 2:1-4 –

            When David’s time to die drew near, he commanded Solomon his son, saying,“I am about to go the way of all the earth. Be strong, and show yourself a man,and keep the charge of the Lord your God, walking in his ways and keeping his statutes, his commandments, his rules, and his testimonies, as it   is written in the Law of Moses, that you may prosper in all that you do and wherever you turn, that the Lord may establish his word that he spoke concerning me, saying, ‘If your sons pay close  attention to their way, to walk before me in faithfulness with all their heart and with all their                   soul, you shall not lack a man on the throne of Israel.’

David also set an example of faith (when facing Goliath), a willingness to listen to good counsel (including the counsel of Abigail, Nathan, Joab, Bathsheba), a deep passion for God’s honour (as in his desire to build a temple, and his many psalms of worship), etc. We could also cite other biblical examples of good fathering. Here are some:                                                                                     – Job, who showed concern for his children’s walk with the Lord by consecrating them and offering sacrifices for their sins                                                                                       – those men who had monogamous marriages (Isaac with Rebecca, Joseph with Asensath)                                                                                                                        – Noah who obeyed God in building the ark over a lengthy time frame while being ridiculed by his neighbours                                                                                                                – Joseph, husband of Mary, who supported her in their engagement and marriage                                                                                                                – Abraham in his obedience in leaving Ur for a land he didn’t know, who allowed Lot to       choose the choice land, who offered Isaac on the altar

But we need to take warning from the poor fathering that we see in some of these men and others:                                                                                                                                                                       – Noah became drunk and that caused problems for his sons                                                            – Lot was selfish in selecting the best land                                                                                         – Abraham did not take responsibility for fathering Ishmael and later sent him and his mother away with few provisions                                                                                                      – Isaac show favouritism towards Esau, as did the patriarch Jacob towards Joseph                                                                                                                                       – Aaron’s sons and Eli’s sons dishonoured the priesthood with little or no parental     correction                                                                                                                                – Gideon (and several others) followed the worldly practice of marrying multiple wives

So, we have examples of fatherhood, pro and con. These can be instructive to those of us who are fathers. But the clearest instruction comes from direct teaching in the Word of God and from a study of the character of God the Father Himself. (The latter I will address in the next devotional reading.)

Bible Teaching on Fatherhood                                                                                                        Here are some verbs that directly inform us what a father should do:                                                         1 show compassion to children (Psalm 103:13)                                                                                 2 discipline one’s children (Eph. 6:4; Prov. 13:4; Prov. 3:11-12)                                                     3 do not provoke children to anger (Eph. 6:4)                                                                              4 live a righteous life + live with integrity ((Prov. 20:7)                                                                   5 instruct, train, teach, exhort – so the children will walk worthy of the Lord (Gen. 18:19;  Prov. 22:6; I Thess. 2:11-12)                                                                                                  6 do those things all day and in every way you can think of (Deut. 6:6-9)                                       7 charge and command them to do righteousness and justice (Gen. 18:19)                                      8 love your children (Prov 3:11-12)                                                                                                       9 fear the Lord (Prov. 14:26)                                                                                                              10 love your wife (Eph. 5:24)

Can you imagine having a father who lives in these ways before his children?

Your Turn:

  1. Read Deuteronomy 6.
  2. Men, consider the ten instructions listed above. In which ones are you most deficient? What can you do to grow in those areas?
  3. Also consider the examples of good fathering and poor fathering given above. In what areas are you most susceptible to failure? (Is there something you need to change to help you avoid temptations in these areas?) What would others say are your strengths? (Thank God for these!)
  4. How might we honour the men in our lives who have excelled in their obedience to God in one or more of the commands listed above?

Day 103 – What the Bible Teaches About Fatherhood

“The righteous who walks in his integrity – blessed are his children after him!” Proverbs 20:7 ESV

“For you know how, like a father with his children, we exhorted each of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manor worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.” I Thessalonians 2:11-12

Day 102_Bible on Fatherhood

 

Having considered David’s performance as a father, and then the positive and negative examples of other fathers we meet in the scriptures, now it is time to reflect on what the Bible teaches about good and excellent fatherhood.

Essentially, I conclude that the bible tells us that fatherhood carries with it certain obligations which, if fulfilled, bring outcomes worth celebrating. These obligations can be classified into three parts.

Part 1: A father’s obligation to God

First, we fathers need to be in a right relationship with God Himself. This includes being a man of integrity. Proverbs 20:7 says that if such is so, our children will be blessed. Integrity is defined by Oxford as being honest and having strong moral principles. Other sources define the word with terms like fairness, ethical, soundness of character, and wholeness. The term is often applied to the work environment. Warren Buffet, for example, has said, “When looking for people to hire, look for three qualities: integrity, intelligence and energy. And if they don’t have to first, the other two will kill you.” God desires that we this kind of person in the home, too.

Other biblical passages that speak to a father’s accountability to God include these:

  • “In the fear of the Lord one has strong confidence, and his children will have a refuge.” Proverbs 14:26
  • “I am writing to you, fathers, because you know Him who is from the beginning…” I John 2:13

Children need the example of a father who “knows” God  and seeks to know Him better through life. They need a “refuge” – someone to flee to when things are scary or tough, one who will accept and reassure them and direct them to God.

Part 2: A father’s obligation to his wife

A father has an obligation to the mother of his children. Genesis 2:24 reminds us that a man is to hold fast to his wife. This is God’s intention for marriage. The couple are to be one. Ephesians 5:25 adds, “Husbands, love your wives” and indicates the type of love, namely, a sacrificial love like that of Christ for His church. “In the same way husbands should live their own wives as their own bodies.”  (Eph. 5:33). A father provides an example for his children – How does he long for his children to relate to God? What kind of a man does he want his daughter to marry? How does he want to see his son treating girls and women? If he fulfills his obligation to his wife, his children will learn firsthand the answers to these questions.

Part 3: A father’s obligation to his children

The Bible places a strong obligation on fathers to instruct their children. Not all men are gifted teachers, but all can teach in their own way and share truth along the way and in the regular walk of life (Deuteronomy 6:6-9). We are to instruct  by sharing wisdom we have learned, insights that we have gained through life, commands that we believe God expects us to obey (Proverbs 4:1-9; Genesis 18:19).

These instructions are to be age appropriate and one built upon the other (Proverbs 22:6; Deuteronomy 6:6-9; Psalm 78:5-8). Our instruction is sometimes to be in the form of discipline or correction (Proverbs 13:24; 3:11-12; 19:18; Hebrews 12:7), but it should not be discipline that overreaches or provokes (Ephesians 6:4). We are to encourage our children when they do right. Job, for example, supported his sons and daughters in their worship (Job 1:4-5). At our stage of life, my wife and I find ourselves living nearby three of our four children. All three attend different churches than the one we attend. We make a point of going to their churches from time to time to encourage them and their families in their following of the Lord.

Outcomes

What will be the outcomes of faithfulness in these three aspects of fatherhood? We will have joy when we see our children walking in the truth:                                                                          – “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” (III     John 1:4)                                                                                                                                         – “A wise son makes a glad father…” (Proverbs 10:1)                                                                        – “The father of the righteous will greatly rejoice; he who fathers a wise son will be glad in him.” (Proverbs 23:24)                                                                                                         – “And he [the repentant prodigal son] arose and came to his father. But while he  was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and  embraced him and kissed him.” (Luke 15:20)

We can assuredly say that fatherhood carries with it certain obligations which, when fulfilled, bring outcomes worth celebrating.

Your Turn:

  1. Read Deuteronomy 6:1-25.
  2. If you have or had a godly father, what do you most appreciate about him?
  3. If you are a father, in what ways do you need improvement in your walk with God, your love for your wife, and your training of your children?

 

Day 104 – The Fatherhood of God

 “As a father shows compassion to his children,  so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him.”           Psalm 103:13

Day 103_Fatherhood of God

 

The subject matter in the Bible for a study of the fatherhood of God is far, far too extensive to consider fully in a short devotional. Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology reports that Jesus used the term “Father” over one hundred times in the first three Gospels, and another hundred in the Gospel of John. Paul taught the fatherhood of God over forty times in his letters, and the term is used of the nation Israel and of certain individuals several times in the Old Testament. For our purposes here, let’s think about the role of God as Father to believers.

“I will be a father to you, says the Lord Almighty” (II Corinthians 6:18). Paul quotes from II Samuel 7:18 where God through the prophet Samuel assures David of His fatherly presence. Paul uses the same thought of believers in his day who are reminded that they are temples of the Holy Spirit, in whom God dwells as their father. His presence should inspire them to live holy lives. To have God as Father implies relationship. Elsewhere, Paul gives thanks to “The Father” who has qualified the believers to receive an inheritance – something fathers leave their children. How does a person become qualified as a child of God? In John 1: 12 we read, “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name,  he gave the right to become children of God.”

Theologian Douglas Wilson authored a book entitled Father Hunger (Thomas Nelson, 2012). In it, he argues that in our age many homes are starving for a father who will be present physically and attentively in the lives of the family members. He goes on to seek to understand how Jesus Christ related to God the Father. Using the Gospel of John as his source, Wilson concludes that the most obvious feature of the Father of Jesus Christ is His generosity. The Father gives His Son, His protection, His joy, His Spirit, Himself. We could add, from other scriptures, these ways in which God as our Father is generous:

  • Generous in our very existence: I Cor. 8:6, “yet for us there is one God, the Father,  from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.”
  • Generous in His compassion and other mercies: Psalm 103:1-5,                                   “Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name.  2  Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, 3  who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases,    4  who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,   5  who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s                                 
  • Generous in His supply of our needs: Matthew 6:26 Look at the birds ofthe air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not of more value than they? Luke 12:29-31And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. 30 For all the nations of  the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31 Instead,  seek his kingdom,  and these things will be added to you.
  • Generous in His good gifts: Matthew 7:11  If you then,  who are evil, know how to_give_good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!

So, this is what the Father in heaven is like to the ones He loves. Should not I, as a father and grandfather, likewise be generous and giving in my involvement with my children and grandchildren?

Your Turn:

  1. Read John 17.
  2. Notice the tremendous oneness of the Father and Son in that chapter. If you are a father, do you desire oneness with your sons and daughters? What can you learn from how the Father related to Jesus, the Son?
  3. Charles Spurgeon, preaching on September 12, 1858 said this, “This relationship also involves love, If God be my Father, he loves me. And oh, how he loves me! When God is a Husband he is the best of husbands. Widows, somehow or other, are always well eared for. When God is a Friend, he is the best of friends, and sticketh closer than a brother; and when he is a Father he is the best of fathers.” Do you aspire to be the best of fathers?
  4. A good father gives good gifts to his children. Sometimes, those gifts can be material things, but not all are able to provide in that way, and not always is that the best gift. What “good gifts” can you provide for your children and grandchildren?


    Day 105 -The Mother-like Work of God

     As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you; you shall be comforted in Jerusalem. Isaiah 66:13

    Day 104_Mother-Like God

    In both old and new testaments of the Bible, God’s children are warned and rebuked for their following of heathen gods and goddesses. Among the female deities were Ashterah, Ishtar, and Artemis – all associated with immoral practices that were tied to worship. The one true God is a spirit without gender, but is nonetheless explained to us through male metaphors. And, though God is most often, in the Bible, spoken of as “Father”, and especially so in the New Testament, there are ways in which God is like a mother to us. In some ways it helps us to know God’s nature better when we think of Him as a “mother” to His children.

    God, for example, is the one who created life and gives us life, both physical and spiritual.

                Psalm 131:2-3,     “ I have calmed and quieted my soul,_like a weaned child with its mother; like a  weaned  child is my soul within me. O Israel, hope in the LORD from this time forth and forevermore.”

                Hosea 13:1,8, “I am the LORD your  God … I will fall upon them like a bear robbed of her cubs …”

    Genesis 32:18 adds that He is the God who gave his people birth: “you are unmindful of the Rock that bore you and you forgot the God who gave you birth.” In John 3:33-6, Jesus says that this includes spiritual birth – being “born again” and “born of the Spirit”.

    In addition to being the progenitor, God is the protector. Jesus, the second person of the Trinity, likens Himself to a mother hen, stating, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings and you were not willing!” (Matthew 23:37). As protector, God shelters us from threatening storms or enemies, maybe even ourselves in our foolishness at times. He is a refuge, as Boaz says to Ruth, “The LORD repay you for what you have done, and a full reward be given you by the LORD, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge!” (Ruth 2:12)

    Then, we can add to the images of life-giver and protector, that of a compassionate and comforting mother.  

                “As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you;  you shall be comforted in Jerusalem.” (Isaiah 66:13)

                “Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on     the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I [the Lord] will not forget you.”         (Isaiah 49:15)

    Though it should not be that fathers often neglect their children, it is observable in society that mothers are much less likely to do so. God is likened to a mother who is a compassionate provider who exerts great energy in her child’s care. In Isaiah 42:14 and following, God says He will cry out as a mother in labour, gasping and panting as He removes obstacles to the child’s welfare.

    In all these ways, God identifies with us, as a mother does with her child.

    Your Turn:

    1. Read Deuteronomy 32:1-18. [Note: Though this passage begins with the picture of God as Father, it ends with God as birth-giver, or mother and has another reference to the one who suckles her children (v. 13).Think of the ways God is described as a caring parent to His children.]
    2. God created Eve so that man would have a suitable partner who completes him (Gen. 2:18). Then, God gives the several metaphors of Himself as a responsible and caring parent. Think of Him, therefore, as father and mother in His provisions for you and deep interest in your life.
    3. Think also of the many ways that the work of the church would be so very much lacking if not for the women who serve. This also helps us as we picture God in a mothering role in our