Saturday, April 28, 2012

We Kid You Not

  Children, obey your parents as the Lord wants, 
because this is the right thing to do

-- Ephesians 6:1

If you've ever experienced the joys and tribulations of parenting, you can probably relate to these astute observations from actor and comedian Bill Cosby:

"You know the only people who are always sure about the proper way to raise children? Those who've never had any."    

"No matter how calmly you try to referee, parenting will eventually produce bizarre behavior," adds the father of five. "And I'm not talking about the kids. Their behavior is always normal."

Sound familiar? It's in this domestic arena that God has given parents an awesome responsibility: one of preparing children to make a positive difference in the world and readying them for eternity.

Thankfully, God takes a personal interest in the lives of those who love Him. And this interest extends to the patience and love it takes to raise children according to His high standards. The Bible tells us that respectful, obedient children don't just happen by accident. Godly parenting involves intentional actions and instruction. For example, consider what the Old Testament's Book of Deuteronomy has to say to parents about emphasizing God's ways to their kids:

"Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up."

Children not only look for boundaries of acceptable behavior, they crave direction and seek love and approval. It's when they don't get enough of this from their parents that they can act out, perform poorly at school and gravitate toward the wrong crowd and bad influences.

So what's a parent (new or veteran) to do? First, understand that parenting is privilege rather than a burden. And second, remember that God is our heavenly parent. This means that human parents have the great responsibility of playing His role in the child-rearing process. Therefore, follow God's example for raising us: Give your children unconditional love, apply consistent discipline and give them spiritual direction. And don't forget to lead through your own positive attitude and outlook on life.

No one says that parenting is easy. But in a dark society that's quickly turning its back on God, it's arguably the most important job in the world--and one with literal world-changing consequences. 

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Draft Pick

And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love;
with him I am well pleased.”

-- John 1:12

When you were in grade school, did your classmates tend to pick you first or last when choosing teams for kickball or other playground sports? And as you got older, did you ever try out—and make—your high school football, baseball or basketball team?

There’s something special about being chosen by others—and in particular—by people you respect. And it extends beyond school and sports. When you’ve gone through the interview process and the Human Resources representative finally calls to offer you a job with the company, there’s nothing quite like it. After all, you’ve been picked over the competition to join their team.

Kurt Warner knows what it’s like to be picked for a team. But he also knows a lot about rejection. The retired NFL quarterback excelled at football, basketball and baseball in high school, and even led his gridiron team to victory in Iowa’s Shrine Bowl. This success, however, failed to translate into a big name college scholarship. So for the next three seasons, Warner rode the bench at the University of Northern Iowa until his senior year. It was then that he guided the Panthers to an 8-3 record while garnering honors as Offensive Player of the Year.

As good as Warner was in college, no NFL team picked him in the draft. He stayed in shaped and supported himself financially by stocking shelves in a supermarket. And before long, he joined an area Arena Football League team. NFL scouts eventually noticed his talent, but he was cut during tryouts for the Green Bay Packers. Warner finally broke through by starring in the NFL’s now defunct European league, and later signed a contract as the Los Angeles Rams' third-string quarterback. The following year, when the starting quarterback suffered a season-ending injury, Warner got his chance. And he responded by leading his squad to a 13-3 record and an unlikely victory in the Super Bowl.
“People think this season is the first time I touched the football; they don’t realize I’ve been doing this for years—just not on this level—because I never got the chance,” Warner told reporters. “Sure, I had my tough times, but you don’t sit there and say, ‘Wow, I was stocking groceries five years ago, and look at me now.’ You don’t think about it, and when you do achieve something, you know luck had nothing to do with it.”
Although he was now a champion quarterback, Warner still faced obstacles in his career. For a short time, he accepted a stop-gap assignment with the New York Giants as they groomed another future Super Bowl quarterback, Eli Manning. Eventually traded to the Arizona Cardinals, Warner played in his second Super Bowl, where he threw for 377 yards and three touchdowns in a loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Kurt Warner is an unabashed Christ-follower who’s quick to give God the credit for his successesboth on and off the field. He wasn’t always picked first on his sports teams. And he wasn't immune from failure and disappointment. But his gifts and talents always showed through. And the scouts and coaches noticed.

If you’ve ever been overlooked or experienced disappointment on the playground, the officeor even in your own homenever forget that God notices and loves every Christ-follower. That’s no promise that you’ll ever lead your team to the Super Bowl. But you’re still guaranteed to be His first round draft pick.  

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Family Matters

As many as received Him, to them He gave the right, the authority,
 to become children of God, even to those who believe on His name.

-- John 1:12

Baseball legend Babe Ruth. Apple computer mastermind Steve Jobs. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts. Country music superstars Faith Hill and Shania Twain.

Other than being famous for excelling at their professions, what do they have in common? They were all adopted. In the United States last year, there were about 1.5 million adoptions. And as anyone who has been through the process can tell you, adoption can be stressful, tedious and very expensive. Arrangements with birth parents can fall through at the last minute. And related agency fees, court costs and attorney fees can easily exceed tens of thousands of dollars. But for the right adoptive parents whose hearts are set on a special child, no price is too high.

Scripture reveals that God is quite familiar with the adoption process, its struggles and legalities. That’s because in a very real sense, He’s the adoptive parent of every Christ-follower. When we first put our faith in His Son—Jesus Christ—as our Savior, God acted legally on our behalf and paid all the related costs. The result? Our adoption into God’s Royal Family.

But just as adopted children don’t pick their new parents, John’s Gospel reminds us the same is true for our heavenly adoption. “You did not choose me; I chose you,” Jesus told His disciples. “And I gave you this work: to go and produce fruit, fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you anything you ask for in my name.”

Before God became our Heavenly Father, we were spiritually dead. And from breaking God’s laws, our sinfulness had made us His enemies...and He the Judge. What’s so remarkable is that this same Judge has declared us “not guilty” because of His willingness to pay the price of our adoption through Jesus’ death on the cross. And for us—through our adoption—came a change of family, name and home. As God’s adopted children, it also meant an array of new well as life-changing responsibilities.

The implications are remarkable. God—as our loving Father—is now approachable through prayer. He’s no longer some cold, impersonal Being accessible only through a priest. In fact, Jesus outraged the strict religious authorities of the day by referring to God as “Abba,” or “Daddy.” And He’s a Daddy who watches out for His children.

Indeed, the Creator of our vast universe cares for us so much and knows us so intimately that He’s literally counted the hairs on our head! He’s willing to pay any price to adopt us into His family. And for every Christ-follower, that’s exactly what He forever convey His name, protection, inheritance and love.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Remembrance Day

And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it,
and gave it to them, saying, "This is my body given for you;
do this in remembrance of me." 

-- Luke 22:19  

Americans call it Veterans Day. But for Canadians, November 11 is Remembrance Day--a special occasion for remembering the thousands of men and women who sacrificed their lives in military service during WWI, WWII, the Korean War and in Afghanistan. 

One of them was George Lawrence Price, a soldier who was killed only two minutes before WWI ended on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918. Private Price was the last of more than 66,000 Canadians who died in what was then called The War to End All Wars. It's in his memory--and that of thousands of others who made the ultimate sacrifice--that Canadians pay tribute with two minutes of silence every November 11.

Christ-followers also set aside a special time to remember sacrifice. We remember Jesus' death, burial and resurrection through Communion, a symbolic meal where we take in His body in the form of a small cracker ("the Bread of Life") and grape juice ("The True Vine"). In Matthew's Gospel, we read that the night He was arrested, Jesus gathered His apostles to celebrate the Passover meal, which itself symbolized the Jew's escape from slavery in Egypt:
While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, "Take and eat; this is my body." Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, "Drink from it, all of you.This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins."
At the time, the apostles failed to recognize the significance of their Master's words. But within just a few hours, Jesus was arrested by the Jewish authorities, tried, found guilty and handed over to the Romans for execution. Luke's Gospel paints a vivid scene following Jesus' crucifixion in a place called Golgatha ("The place of the skull"):  

It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Jesus called out with a loud voice, "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit." When he had said this, he breathed his last.

"That surely was the Son of God," exclaimed the awe-struck Roman soldier who witnessed the scene.

Not long before, Jesus and His apostles had entered Jerusalem in triumph amid the cheers of the people's approval. But now, His followers were in despair. Their Master was dead. And they wondered if all was lost. But three days later--just as the Old Testament had foretold--Jesus was resurrected from His tomb and appeared in bodily form. And not only to the apostles, but to hundreds of other witnesses!

Thomas--remembered to this day as "Doubting Thomas"--said he wouldn't believe the stories about Jesus' resurrection unless he saw the nail marks in His Master's hands. And Thomas did believe once Jesus appeared to him and revealed those wounds.

"Put your finger here; see my hands," Jesus said to Thomas. "Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe."   

The eyes of every apostle opened wide. They believed. And they remembered.