SHORT-TERM PAIN…

Can you finish the phrase?  I just had a total knee replacement for the second time (I have two knees, so I don’t plan to do anymore). This round is a struggle. I was bearing down on my swollen knee, and a family member said, “Don’t do that. You’ll hurt yourself.” To which I replied, “Hospital people told me to do it, and you’re right–it hurts.”

When I go for my “required” walks in the hall, the first steps are painful. The knee wants to settle in with status quo (state as is). But what we’re going for is flexibility. Getting there hurts. If I don’t do the sometimes painful physical therapy, the knee will decide that we are settling for less than it is capable of.

I wouldn’t mind pain if it didn’t hurt so much. My preference is to not do the exercises. I’d rather lie in bed and groan once in a while. I need a long-term vision for the PT (and for life). People have coached me by saying from experience, “It’s all in the PT.” I would like to tell them, “But you don’t understand–PT hurts.” They went through it, so they do understand. They know that it will hurt much more in six months when I try to make my knee do what it should do, and it can’t, because I went the no-pain route.

I sometimes see pastors avoiding conflict. It hurts. Conflict is the light on the dashboard, saying that something needs to be dealt with. The light does not fix the problem; it only alerts me to the problem. How foolish if I put my hand on the dashboard to cover the light because I don’t like what it is saying. I must see the light as my friend, letting me know that I have business. I once tried to ignore the light telling me that the engine was hot. I figured I could get to the top of the hill and coast. Wrong. I didn’t drive the car home. It was towed. Cost me much more to ignore it than to deal with the problem.

Like I said it another blog: short-term pain–long-term gain. The opposite is also true. Avoid the conflict and it becomes a disaster. Deal with the conflict and learn how to live successfully. There may be fallout, but less than by avoiding it. Peter warns us not to be surprised at the trials that come our way, but we often do: “I thought it was going to be easier.” Jesus told us, “In the world you will have tribulation…”

So I am doing the exercises with a heavily swelled knee. The pain is actually my clue that something good is happening. Interesting. Sometimes we interpret pain as the absence of God. Maybe He is closest to us in our pain. Just as I got correction for causing pain to my knee, some “friends” who don’t understand may encourage you out of pain–the very thing you need to become all God wants you to.

When we get to the point where we can thank God for the pain that is stretching our spiritual muscles, we are posturing ourselves for long-term gain. Hey, I think I’m getting it. Back to the exercises. Ouch!

SO WHY FAST?

3 REASONS NOT TO

To impress others. God hates religious flesh.  Some are tempted to think that they are doing something religious, as if God will be impressed. Jesus warned against making one’s fasting obvious.  Those who do so get what they want–the approval of others (Matthew 6:16-18). Abstinence is meant to humble us (Deuteronomy 8:3). Heaven was not listening when the Pharisee “stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like all other men…I fast twice a week…'” (Luke 18:11,12).

To manipulate God. Fasting is meant to open us to God’s design, not our desire. The people of Israel once complained, “Why have we humbled ourselves, and you have not noticed?” (Isaiah 58:3). True fasting bends us rather than demanding that God bend to us.

To stop being civil. Disciplines carried out in the flesh can make us mean, rigid, or judgmental. Isaiah had strong rebuke for people who fasted, yet continued to oppress their workers. They abstained “only to quarrel and to fight and to hit with wicked fist” (Isaiah 58:3,4). Those who fast should watch their motives.

7 REASONS FOR FASTING

To intensify prayer efforts. Hannah and Anna were two women who prayed with fasting. Both rejoiced as God answered. Prayer is often interrupted by the duties of life. In fasting, we give ourselves to God in a concerted way.

To receive guidance. God led the Israelites to victory after they had fasted for guidance. Daniel received understanding about Israel’s future.  Barnabas and Saul were thrust into mission work after fasting. Elders were appointed in the churches they had founded through prayer and fasting.  Arthur Wallis writes in God’s Chosen Fast, “Not a tea-meeting but a consecration fast marked the first missionary valedictory….Where are the churches today in which leaders are set apart in a solemn season of prayer and fasting?”  

To deliver the captives.  Fasting has the power to “loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke” (Isaiah 58:6).  Jesus prescribed fasting to deliver people possessed by demons (Mark 9:29).  Could it be that there are desperate people in our churches waiting until brothers and sisters fast for their release?

To avert judgment.  In the time of Jonah, a fast proclaimed from Nineveh’s throne turned back the hand of divine wrath.  Two proclamations of fasting in Joel’s prophecies were followed with a promise of God’s outpoured Spirit.

To seek help.  National fasts in Israel brought the intervention of God without exception.  They helped bring victory to Samuel and the Israelites, deliverance to Jehoshaphat from the Moabites, protection under Ezra, and salvation under Esther, when God reversed an anti-Semitic decree.

To express grief.  “Blessed are those who mourn…”  Fasting fits more with mourning than merriment. We, like Nehemiah, identify with the sorrow of God’s people and the world. David, Ezra, and Nehemiah all fasted with mourning.

To pursue holiness. Paul says, “Train yourself to be godly” (I Timothy 4:7).  Fasting is one way to do that. It opens the spirit to the Lord, because it quiets the flesh, often screaming for attention.  Whatever is flesh-denying can be character-forming. Hey, Lent is a good time to learn.

HOW TO WALK IN THE LIGHT!

So I once told my son whom I was mentoring, “If you want to be an overcomer, call me right when something happens that you are not proud of, and even better, when you are being tempted. When I hear fourteen hours later, the shame has taken hold of your soul. You need to hear the word of forgiveness soon and then make a fresh commitment not to do it again. That’s called ‘walking in the light.’ Darkness is damaging. Light is aggressive; it destroys darkness.”

If Satan can get us to step into the dark, he tries to keep us there so he can beat us up for a while. He rules over “this present darkness” (Ephesians 6:12). There is not a shred of light in him, so everything he says is a lie. If we get back into the light, we find out what freedom is. As light and truth go together, darkness and lies stick together. Stay in the darkness, and you will be bombarded with lies:

“You are stupid for doing that. You are a miserable Christian.”

“You’ll never get victory over this sin, because you are a wimp.”

“Don’t even try to walk in the light, because they will be ashamed of you.”

“They don’t want to know anyway, because they are almost as bad a sinner as you are.”

“Sin isn’t that harmful. You can get forgiveness and forget about it.”

The Liar says that if we come into the light, we will get shame. Wrong! The shame is lifted and the blood is applied–immediately: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:9).

I was traveling through Eastern Europe after a year of study in Israel. I came across a team from Operation Mobilization and decided to join them. The leader asked, “Do you want to walk in the light together?” I said, “Yes,” not knowing what he meant. So he said, “I want to be accountable to someone for the way I live. I don’t want any secrets. If I start flirting, you will know about it. If I give in to temptation, I will let you know.” Sounded good to me. I responded, “And I’ll do the same.”

Satan is incapable of living in the light. We managed to keep our word to one another on that trip, and I learned an important truth that has stayed with me since that experience as a twenty-five year-old. An accountability partner is not the police. Just the opposite. We need a friend to lift shame and invite us to receive the grace of forgiveness when we have stepped over the line. The quicker that action is taken the less likely we will wallow in the darkness, beat ourselves up, and get pummeled by an unmerciful devil. We sometimes feel like we need to stay there and punish ourselves for a while. Wrong! Jesus paid the price. Ours is to apply the blood and go free. I’ve had a close friend and an older mentor for decades to help me walk in the light. Give it a try!

LEGACY

  1. a gift of property, especially personal property, as money or a will.  2. anything handed down from the past, as from an ancestor or predecessor.

On January 31, 2018 at 10:57 AM, I wrote this to our children and their spouses:

“I pray for your children by name almost daily. Bless you for raising them to love God. If you think we have fun family times, imagine what it will be when they grow up close to their cousins. There is not a word to describe what that kind of fellowship and fun will be. I pray that there will not be one who will depart from the faith, not one who gives in to the lies of the devil. Each generation will only accelerate the anointing…

What about when they have kids twenty and thirty years from now. I probably won’t be hitting the road as much, so Mom and I will have even more time to enjoy them, sing, play the piano. ‘Do not be weary in well-doing, for in due season you will reap if you do not give up’ (Galatians 5:9). What Mom and I had in both our families has gained momentum in yours. It will gain even more in each succeeding generation, IF (big if) you are faithful in raising them as you are doing, passing the baton, and continuing to stay in touch and pray.

As I have told you, I pray for the great-grandchildren who don’t exist yet, the children of your children… If all of them are loving God and each other, it will be quite a tribe of Christ-honoring people. Let the vision of the legacy keep you from burning out. One of the best words to describe raising God-fearing children is the word “hard.” Anxious moments (did I do the right thing?), sad moments (when they did the wrong thing), fearful moments (when they say “goodbye” and you’re not sure if they are ready). One day you will launch yours with tears of joy, thankful that God gave you the grace needed to give them what they require to live the same way you lived, walking in His ways.”

Why did I write this? Because seeing the big picture helps us to endure the whining, the kickback, the resistance. Karen and I got it. They are getting it, too. Jesus said, “In the world you will have tribulation.” He could have said, “In the family…” You don’t get as much if you want to be the friend of your child, if you back them rather than the teacher, if you let them get away with stuff, because it is easier than making a big deal out of it.

When my kids said that they worked harder than the kids down the street, I had one answer. I asked, “Do you know why you work harder than the kids down the street.” “No, why?” “Because you don’t live down the street.” Rather than trying to make them feel important or be popular, I said, “Don’t think you are hot stuff. Hang with kids no one else wants to be with, and you’ll get the favor of heaven.”

We are encouraging our children to think generationally: “Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, O God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your might to all who are to come” (Ps. 71:18).

GLAD I VOTED FOR TRUMP!

HE IS APPOINTING GOOD JUDGES, those with pro-life and pro-family values. He brought Neil Gorsuch onto the Supreme Court, a great move for the future of America.

HE IS MAKING GREAT DECISIONS REGARDING TAXES. I have long regarded some forms of taxation, like the income tax, as unjust. Hey, he agrees. He is making progress on changing inequitable tax laws.

HE IS PROUD OF AMERICA. President Obama seemed more interested in globalism than Americanism. He did not encourage patriotism, nor did he go out of way to encourage the military. President Trump supports our troops and says so publicly.  He wants to take better care of our veterans. He speaks with optimism about America. Obama was cautious to the point of being critical. He would sometimes side with those who were ripping into America rather than supporting it. President Trump is not afraid to be patriotic, and that strikes a positive chord with people who love our land and pray for our leaders. Did I like His SOTU speech? Very much. I was proud of him for being himself, for being bold, tender, patriotic, and God-honoring.

HE IS BOLD, a positive quality. Sometimes “bold” turns into “brash,” as it can for President Trump, and then it is not a strength. He knew he would not be popular in the United Nations when he chose to move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, supporting it as the capital of Israel. He did what was right, not what was popular. I affirm that courage. Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush had promised before their election to transfer the embassy but chose not to when in office.

HE IS A BUSINESSMAN. Abraham Lincoln said that we needed more non-professionals in government. Trump has made some great moves to clean up the bureaucracy. Do we need it? Ask a doctor how much time is spent filling out papers. Or a school teacher. Liberal politicians want more government control, and it has been squeezing the life out of America. They did it in California and ruined the state. Trump is attempting to deregulate the system. Good for him. The economy is booming. He is helping to set businesses free from government restrictions.

HE BELIEVES IN PRAYER. Members of Donald Trump’s cabinet are gathering weekly for Bible study and prayer. He sometimes closes messages by referring to God. Good for him and Malania.

Am I proud of everything he does? No, but I am far more proud of what he is doing than what the predecessor was doing or what Hillary Clinton would have been doing. I wish he was better at bringing the two sides together. He often polarizes rather than uniting. He is not an Abraham Lincoln, who knew how to wisely use those who disagreed with him. He is not a Ronald Reagan, who as a conservative won the respect from many liberals in Congress. I hope he can grow as a unifying statesman. He has some excellent people around him, like Vice President Pence. Partially because of his past and also because he is sometimes a loose cannon, he probably won’t become an icon, but I say, “So far, so good!”

6 REASONS TO GO TO CHURCH!

Many consider going to church an option. Not if they know better. Check the Bible!

1 WE NEED IT MORE THAN WE REALIZE.

Lone rangers are unhealthy. Those not sharpened by others get strange ideas. “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16). Sunday is training for Monday. Isolation is a really bad idea. “Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment” (Proverbs 18:1). People say, “Don’t tell us to go to church; we are the church.” Okay, pardner. You can’t be the church without going to church.

2 THE BIBLE COMMANDS IT.

“Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:24,25). The closer we get to the end, the great the need to gather.

3 THE EARLY CHURCH GATHERED.

“And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts” (Acts 2:46). “Every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus” (Acts 5:42).

4 REMEMBER THE SABBATH DAY TO KEEP IT HOLY.

We need a day of rest. Jesus kept the Sabbath. It was written into the cycle of life from the beginning. God rested after six days of creation. Part of our rest from regular work includes corporate worship and fellowship.

5 WE DIE TO SELF AND LIVE FOR OTHERS.

Can’t do that unless we are together. Common phrases in the epistles are the “one another’s.” We are called to “encourage one another” and “love one another.” The way to do that is to be with each other. It is more to give than to get: “Let all things be done for building up” (I Corinthians 14:26), written in the context of New Testament corporate worship.

6 JESUS LOVES THE CHURCH AND DIED FOR HER.

“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25).His followers love what He loved. Going when it suits us is not showing love for the church and the local expression of it. Jesus shows up when His people meet. “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20). Sitting around the dining table can be rich, but it is not church in the New Testament sense. The apostles would not have called that “church.” Leaders are raised up in local churches to give oversight. We need instruction and guidance from people farther along than we are. Church is worshiping together, listening to and exhorting each other, teaching and training time. Corporate worship takes loving God to a new level. Be there with the whole family. You’ll be glad you did!

POSITIVE PARENTING!

Children aren’t raised by accident. They are brought up by careful and deliberate parenting. I once skipped church to go to my friend’s house. Later in the day my dad asked me how church was. I said that I had not gone. He was silent for a moment, a long moment. Then he spoke quietly. He never yelled at me. Never. He asked me very soberly if I would ever do that again. I said, “No.” I didn’t. Church was important to Mom and Dad, and it became important to me. So were daily devotions, alone and with the family. So was evening mealtime. Same for Karen’s family.

Our daughter Erikka recently said to me in a conversation about parenting: “We love getting together, all six of us siblings. No tension, no fighting, pure joy and laughter. You know why? You made us come together. We had devotions in the morning, even when we were grouchy. We ate dinner together and we talked. You put a jar on the table, and we would take turns picking the topic for conversation. We learned to relate in a fun way. And we really enjoyed it. We went to church. Always. No exceptions. We went on family vacations together. And we worked together on Saturdays. We had work parties. No surprise–we love being together.”

Did they ever complain? What do you think? We did it anyway. Did they like getting up and reading the Bible together? Sometimes. Dads, it was my job to see that we gathered. Why are they all following Jesus today? Why are they teaching their kids better than we did to love and honor the Lord? Because it had been modeled for us the same way, and we did what we knew.–with Holy Spirit grace. Call it legacy–the passing on of the faith from one generation to the next. What could be more important? Then expect Satan to intercept it with a thousand excuses. My kids whined. We did it anyway. Every one of them is glad we did!

I wish the Bible heroes we admire had some parenting skills. Samuel, a great prophet, knew nothing about being a dad. “When Samuel became old, he made his sons judges over Israel…Yet his sons did not walk in his ways but turned aside after gain. They took bribes and perverted justice” (I Samuel 8:1,3).  He wasn’t even aware that his sons were incapable of leading the nation. He unwisely put them in positions of influence, and they abused the power.

“And Samuel grew, and the Lord was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground” (3:19). Too bad that some of those words were not directed toward his own boys.

Samuel knew about the sons of Eli. God spoke to him when he was a boy and said, “I am about to punish [Eli’s} house forever, for the iniquity that he knew, because his sons were blaspheming God and he did not restrain them” (2:13). Had he learned from the divine judgment, he might have spared his sons from the same.

Absalom hated his father and tried to overthrow him. David was crushed when he heard the news of his death. Absalom died from dart wounds, but he really died of father wounds. David was a better fighter than a father. He didn’t know how to relate to his children, and especially the son who was most like him. Thank God we have all learned a lot since then about intentional parenting.