Do Not Forget You are Sons & Daughters of the King

The Lord Disciplines those He LovesAnd have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?

“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
nor be weary when reproved by him.
For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and chastises every son whom he receives.”

It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. – Hebrews 11:5-8

In this passage the author of Hebrews quotes the Old Testament, reminding his audience of something they’d forgotten – that they are sons of God.

He admonished them earlier for being immature (Hebrews 5:12). This passage from Proverbs 3:11-12 is one that would have been well known by a Jewish audience. He’s saying, you’ve forgotten this basic teaching of scripture from this commonly used passage. You’ve forgotten a passage you should be familiar with, that you should be turning to for help and encouragement.

And what is in this passage that is so important?

(v. 5b1) “…My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord…

The word “discipline” in the first line of the verse is associated with the training of children. It has the sense of helping someone reach full development. The difficulties they are facing is the Lord training them and the author tells them not to take that lightly. The verb form implies continual action: do not “keep on taking it lightly” or, said another way, do not “keep on caring too little about it.”

How do we care too little about the discipline the Lord sends into our lives?

Most of the time if I’m facing difficulty, I care a whole lot about it. But, here’s the thing, it is all in how I view it. By treating it as a nuisance, or as something just to be endured until it’s over, or as disconnected from my Christian life, after which I can get on with my life or my ministry or whatever – like a train pulling off of the main track onto a siding, I am not in a position to learn from it, to grow from it. As I heard someone say, difficulty is not a distraction from your ministry, it is your ministry. It’s not a sidebar in the journey for a Christian, it is the journey.

Paul tells the Corinthian church:

For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. – II Corinthians 1:8-9

 God had a purpose for the difficulty He placed Paul in. God has a purpose for the difficulty these Jewish believers are facing. He has a purpose for the difficulty He places in my life and in yours.

John Piper wrote a books called “Don’t Waste Your Cancer.” By that he meant, don’t lose the opportunity to grow as a Christian and glorify God that something like cancer provides you with.

The author of Hebrews says something similar, don’t keep on acting like these difficulties have no purpose, don’t see them as nuisances or as something just to get through, see them as discipline from the Lord. See them as something God has placed in your life to grow you in the faith. Don’t take them lightly, don’t waste them.

He goes on…

(v.5b2) “…nor be weary when reproved by him.”

He talks of another type of God’s work in their lives – reproof.

This word has a more negative connotation than “discipline.” This word is associated with rebuking someone, exposing their guilt or proving them wrong.

Not all difficulty that comes into our lives is a direct result of our personal sin –The man born blind John tells us was not that way because of his sin or his parents but, so that God’s works could be displayed  (John 9:1-3).

But some is.

When believers are involved in sin we should expect the Lord’s correction.

Often that comes in the form of a fellow believer coming along side us and gently pointing us back to the right path. At other times it may reveal itself as a consequence of our actions – a man who steals from his company is discovered and fired. At still other times it may be seemingly unrelated, such as an illness.

Again, not all difficulties are the result of my personal sin but when I find myself in a continuing difficult circumstance it pays to examine my life and see if there is any sin from which I need to repent.

Could it be some of the difficulty they were facing was because they were looking back like Lot’s wife (Genesis 19:26) and considering a return to their former way of life?

They were considering abandoning the faith so the Lord was reproving or rebuking them for this.

Whatever form it was taking with the recipients of Hebrews, they had become weary of the Lord’s correction. They wanted it to stop before it had done its work or before they had done what they needed to do, such as repent, because they didn’t see in it the hand of God.

But the author reminds them that such things, discipline and chastisement, are marks of God’s love and of their status as His sons and daughters.

(v. 6) “For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.”

 These difficulties are a mark of God’s care and concern for them as His children. Therefore, the author says, you must endure it.

(v. 7) “It is for discipline you must endure.”

 Endurance is necessary for the discipline to be effective. Part of the discipline is the waiting, the trusting God in the midst of difficulty. If you seek to short circuit what God is doing in your life or you don’t seek to learn from it or you run from it, the discipline the Lord is trying to bring to your life, the growth He seeks for you, as His child, won’t happen.

It is for discipline you must endure.

He closes out this section with a sobering thought and a dire warning: If you’re not being disciplined, you don’t belong to the Lord.

 When the Bible tells us that something is the mark of an unbeliever, we need to listen up because it’s important.

 (v. 8) “If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.”

 Let that sink in a minute. If my Christian life makes no demands on me, does not stretch me and is always problem free I might not be truly converted. And while I don’t think we can say because we’ve had lots of difficulty we’re believers, based on what the author says here, if we are not experiencing the discipline of the Lord either positively as training or negatively as chastisement and rebuke when necessary, it’s a sign we’re not converted.

A friend of mine once told me “The most dangerous place you can be is involved in sin and experiencing no adverse consequences for it.”

In other words, if I’m not being chastised for my sin, if I’m not experiencing negative consequences of my sin, if I can just sin with impunity and be fat and happy about it, or even worse, proud of it, it’s because the Lord does not consider me His son or daughter and He’s therefore not taking the time to discipline me.

If someone tells you the Christian life is a life of health and wealth and ease and the only reason you don’t experience those things is your lack of faith or your lack of positive thinking or speaking good things into existence run from them, they’re a false teacher.

In this life you will have trials Jesus told His followers. If it was true for Him it will be true for us. Thankfully for believers those trials are not random purposeless things but tools a loving Father uses to mold us into the likeness of Christ.

 

Photo credit: Grotuk via VisualHunt / CC BY

Why is Europe the Destination of Choice for Syrian Refugees?

I saw this on Twitter recently:

refugees

Voices of Youth is “UNICEF’s global online community for young people who want to know more, do more and say more about the world.” Far be it from me to question the motives of the United Nations but I do have a few questions:

Why are people “running towards Europe” when it is several hundred miles farther away than Jordan or Saudi Arabia or even Egypt? Why is Europe obligated to Muslim refugees to a greater degree than their Islamic neighbors are? If “no human being can be illegal” and everyone has a right to live anywhere they choose with no regard for borders or local laws and customs, why go hundreds of miles out of your way when there is an oil rich kingdom you could reach several hours sooner?

And besides, wasn’t Saudi Arabia just chosen to head the UN Human Rights Council? Given that, shouldn’t they be air lifting their Muslim brothers and sisters into the kingdom so they don’t have such a long trek?

Just seems a bit illogical to me unless there is something else at work here than mere expediency and humanitarianism.

The Facts of Life in Paris

The Facts of Life in Paris
That’s me on the left, yeah, the one with his eyes closed.

In the summer of 1982 I spent about a month in Europe with some friends. We started out in England and after a few days there crossed the channel to France and made our way to Paris. We did all the normal tourist things, the Eiffel Tower, Napoleon’s tomb at the Invalids,  the Louvre, etc. On the day we visited Notre Dame, the crowd outside was unusually large. As we got closer, it became clear why. The cast of the popular American sitcom “The Facts of Life” was outside the church. They were filming what would become the made-for-TV movie “The Facts of Life Goes to Paris” which aired in September, 1982 as the opener for season four of the show.

Since many of the tourists were Americans, people were crowding around wanting to meet the stars, take their pictures, get autographs, etc. The cast was so gracious in accommodating the fans. I don’t recall seeing any security, at least no one ever tried to stop people from approaching the cast, and the stars comfortably mingled with the crowd spending several minutes posing for pictures.

Though I don’t have anything to compare it to (my brush with celebrities has been scarce since then), I somehow doubt it would work the same way today. My guess is the cast would be separated from the crowds by barricades and any attempt to get close to the stars would be “discouraged” by big guys wearing sunglasses and ear pieces.

At any rate, as a reminder of a simpler time, here are some of the pictures I took that day:

The Facts of Life in Paris
Lisa Welchel, Mindy Cohen, Kim Fields & Nancy McKeon
The Facts of Life in Paris
Lisa Welchel & Charlotte Rae
The Facts of Life in Paris
Charlotte Rae

A Tribute to My Dad

A Tribute to My Dad

My father died on January 15, 2013 at the age of 74, a little over a year after being diagnosed with cancer. I wrote this about him and used it as the basis for my tribute to him at his funeral.

I had a great dad.

When you’re young, every little boy thinks his dad can do anything. But, as I got older I realized that in my dad’s case it was true. He was one of the most talented men I’ve ever known.

The Lord gifted him with a mind that could figure things out and I never knew him apply himself to a problem or something that needed fixing or something he wanted to build where he didn’t figure it out.

The variety of things he learned to do over the years is amazing. And not just to do them, but to excel at them. He learned to repair watches and became the one at his office who fixed the mechanical time pieces they used during that era. After watching the farrier shoe horses at my grandparents’ barn, he thought “I can do that” – and he was right. And so he learned to shoe horses.

He also learned photography even winning a couple of contests. He built a darkroom in our basement when I was a kid and learned to develop his own film. He learned to build furniture. We still have a beautiful doll cradle he made for our daughter when she was small.

After he retired he pursued a life-long dream and learned to fly an airplane and most recently he learned how to reload ammunition. And every one of these things, with the exception of flying a plane, he taught himself.

Even more than his talent, however, was the way he used it. Sure he enjoyed all these things but there was more to it than that. He saw his skills as a way to serve others. In fact, I think that’s the way dad showed his love to others best – through acts of service.

I couldn’t begin to count the number of times I asked him to help with some project whether it was a home repair issue or a pinewood derby car for the boys, he would always make time to help.

Over the years we’ve installed at least two hot water heaters, two dishwashers, a stove, a microwave, a toilet, put up wall paper, painted, tiled a back splash and installed ceiling fans and crown molding.  In fact the last thing he helped me do was work on some crown molding for our upstairs bath. We needed some decorative molding boxes for the corners and he said “don’t go buy them; they’ll cost you $8 or $10 each. I’ll just make you some.” And he did and they were nicer than anything I could have bought.

And, not just for me. My sister could tell of the many times he helped her and her family as well. He also did this for people in the extended family, for friends, anyone who needed his help; he was willing to use his God-given talents to help others. This is one of the many ways he was a godly example for my sister and me and for his grandchildren, whom he loved dearly.

He was also a godly example in the way he treated my mother.  For almost 53 years he was a faithful husband, generous and loving, caring for her in sickness and in health until they were parted, just as he promised. His biggest worry in his final days was not for himself but for mom. He told me several times while he still could “look after your mother.”  And of course I promised him that I would.

So like I said, I had a great dad.

But more important than that, my dad had a great Savior.

Dad loved the Lord and he loved the Word of God and he loved to teach the Word of God. His hope was not in the things of this world but in Christ, the One who created the world. And because of that, even though we’re sad and we grieve, we don’t as the Apostle Paul said; grieve as those who have no hope.

The evening before he died, I was able to sit by his bed and read to him from the scriptures. I don’t know if he was able to hear me but my prayer is that he was and that he was comforted by the words he knew so well. The last passage I read to him is also one of the last in all of scripture – Revelation 21:1-7:

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”  He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life. He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son.

Dad has overcome. He has finished the race.

I love him and I’ll miss him – especially the next time something around the house breaks – but I’m so thankful for the years God graciously gave me with him and for the knowledge that one day, because we serve the same Lord, I’ll see him again – in a place where nothing is ever broken.