Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Life Lessons from the Father

Naturally, our troubles are often the consequences of our poor choices. In order to teach us a life-lesson, God may be like the father who quits reminding his son to do his homework; as a result, the boy fails the assignment. The goal is that the child then learns the importance of responsibility and self-discipline. On the other hand, we all can think of some bull-headed children who didn’t learn the lesson, and thereby, failed the assignment…the class…school.

5And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons:
"My son, do not make light of the Lord's discipline,
and do not lose heart when he rebukes you,
6because the Lord disciplines those he loves,
and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son."[a]
7Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? 8If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. 9Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! 10Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. 11No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. Hebrews 12:5-11

Like the rebellious teen, we often shake our fist in anger and shout, “Why me?” We fail to see that our troubles really are the product of our decisions. When God teaches life-lessons, He begins with a whisper. “Try to get the whisper before the earthquake comes because the whisper is always followed by a little louder voice, then you get a brick I say, and then sometimes a brick wall, and then the earthquake comes. Try to get it on the whisper” (Oprah Winfrey's Commencement Address Wellesley College, May 30, 1997). God doesn’t abandon us; we abandon God. Nehemiah 9:29-31 describes the troubles the Israelites endured because of their rebellousness, “Stubbornly they turned their backs on you, became stiff-necked and refused to listen…so you handed them over to the neighboring peoples. But in your great mercy you did not put an end to them or abandon them, for you are a gracious and merciful God.” When you see the red flag or feel the sting of a reprimand, self-reflect and look for your role in the situation; that way you can avoid the crisis down the road.

As I continue my walk in faith, my impression of God is more like the father of the prodigal son; His love is unconditional. The son blew his inheritance on good times and loose women to the point where he was surviving on pig slop. With his head hung low, he goes home thinking that he’ll become a servant in his father’s house. Instead, the father welcomes him with a huge feast and celebration. (The other son is not too happy about this because he’d followed the rules all along, similar to those “church ladies” in every congregation.) God’s greatest desire is to welcome you home! Psalm 20:4 says, “May he give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed.” David also wrote, “Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your hearts. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this.” If you break apart Psalm 37:3-5, you can see a clear cause--effect relationship described in the verbs:
do good,
… and then, you will be given the desires of your heart.

Many times in my life I’ve felt like the Samaritan woman at the well; Jesus gently coaxed her into confessing her sin. Then, he revealed himself as the Messiah and asked to drink from eternal waters. As a result, she told others about her experience with the Christ. John 4:42 demonstrates how this impure, foreign woman was able to share the gospel, “They said to the woman, ‘We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world."’ This story is a concise example of how God wants to transform our lives into authentic witnesses of God’s grace. Ephesians 2:8-10 is a fundamental verse for explaining God’s grace, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” God saved us because he loves us; all that is required is faith. Furthermore, God has predetermined our talents and already opened the doors for us to serve—thereby, we can lead others to Christ. You are the messenger from God your widowed neighbor, the drug addicted teen, your under appreciated coworker, or your angry teammate has been waiting for. How awesome is that?!

Later in John 8:2-11 we read the story of the woman accused of adultery, who Jesus saves from being stoned to death: “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her…being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. When Jesus had lifted up Himself, and saw none but the woman, He said unto her, Woman, where are thine accusers? Hath no man condemned thee? She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more." What a wonderful stories of God’s mercy and ability to use the most humble of sinners! Even in our addiction filled world, Jesus proclaims the freedom of forgiveness: “For the power of the live-giving Sprit—and this power is mine through Christ Jesus—has freed me from the vicious circle of sin and death.” Romans 8:2 I challenge you to self-examine and determine the deterrents that are standing between you and your transformation. What life-lessons is our Heavenly Father trying to teach you? “Let us examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the Lord.” Lamintations 3:40 Then, we can hold fast to the promise that “No good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly.” Psalm 84:1

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