Friday, March 29, 2019

developing character

I have a confession--I don't like to discipline my kids.

When I threaten a consequence ("If you keep that up, you're going to lose x"), I really hope they will stop whatever that is because I don't want to take "x" away from them.

I would much prefer to only have fun times with my kids. I love to see them smile...wouldn't you?
It would be wonderful if I never had to tell them no, never had to correct them, never had to hurt their feelings. I would love to make sure their lives are full of laughter and happiness, where nothing is ever hard for them and the world gives them everything they could ever want.

Here's the problem, though: I want my kids to grow up to be good people. I want them to develop a strong work ethic, good character, empathy, generosity, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control (you caught me--I didn't come up with that list on my own...).

As Helen Keller said, "Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved."

If I want my kids to develop those traits I mentioned, they have to be tested. They have to be put into situations where the easy thing to do isn't necessarily the right thing. They have to be made uncomfortable and frustrated and angry and sad, because those are the things that will build them up to be the people I hope they will become.

So as much as I don't want to, I have to correct my kids. It doesn't make them happy and they don't really understand it all the time. Sometimes, they get mad at me. They think I'm punishing them because I get some sort of crazy pleasure out of it, like it's some sort of game and I just like having power over them...

...sound familiar?

How many times are we like that? Our Father wants what's best for us. He wants to give us blessings beyond our wildest imagination, to see us happy...just to see us smile.

But He knows who He wants us to become. He knows that to develop our character we will have to face things that hurt. He doesn't watch us suffer and hurt because He gets some sort of pleasure from it. He wants to see us happy, but more importantly than that, He wants to see us become like Christ. He wants us to become true reflections of Him...

people who truly live out the directive found in Matthew 7:12

"This is what our Scriptures come to teach:
in everything, in every circumstance,
do to others as you would have them do to you."

and in Romans 12:9

"Love others well, and don't hide behind a mask;
love authentically.
Despise evil; pursue what is good
as if your life depends on it."

and in Ephesians 5:1-2

   "So imitate God. Follow Him like adored children,
 and live in love as the Anointed One loved you—
so much that He gave Himself as a fragrant sacrifice, pleasing God."

and Ephesians 4:1b

"Live a life that is worthy of the calling
He has graciously extended to you."

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

after the walls fell

The Israelites had just experienced the impossible. Never mind the escape from Egypt, the parting of the sea, the food falling from the sky in the wilderness...or a whole host of other ways God's power had been shown. After all, we're 40 years removed from those times.

This time, they had walked around Jericho for a week and then watched the walls fall. They'd been able to rush in and wipe out the entire city. They were told to burn everything except the metal.

As an aside, there's a thought now that there was likely a plague in Jericho. If that were the case, it would definitely explain the importance of everything being destroyed and burned...

The wall of Jericho wasn't some dinky thing. It was 5-6 ft thick and ranged from 12-17 ft high. The whole thing was surrounded by a ditch that had been dug out of solid rock, a pit that was 9 ft deep and 27 ft wide.

Obviously, they would have been on top of the world after that. They could accomplish anything! So when Joshua sent spies to the city of Ai, they came back with a report that they wouldn't even need to take the full army up against that city. So 3,000 men went out...and were immediately driven back with 36 soldiers killed.

Joshua's reaction was a lot like one I have sometimes: "Why, God?"

Now, I'm not one to say that we can't ever ask God why. I asked that a lot after Michael was killed, and I don't think God took issue with those questions.

This wasn't that kind of question, though. This was, "Poor us! You brought us out here just to get us killed. I sent men out there to conquer Ai, and they were driven back. We would have been better off if we had stayed on the other side of the Jordan River. Now, we just look bad." He threw himself face down in the dirt and cried about losing.

I'm just as guilty as Joshua here, though my words sound different. "Okay, God, I did this thing and I just knew You were going to support me in it. Why did You let me fall on my face and look bad? I was going to give You glory for it, but now I can't."

Do you see the issue there? It's kind of like this:

Image result for cart before the horse
So often we're like Joshua. We make our plans, do what we want, and then expect God to bless our actions. The problem is, that's got things out of order. God's approval and blessings don't usually work retroactively, as much easier as that would make things for us.

What was God's response? "Get up. What are you doing in the dirt?" (Joshua 7:10) To paraphrase things a bit, He said, "Stop feeling sorry for yourself--you all messed up and brought this on yourself. I'm not going to fight the battles you pick. I'll fight when I choose to, in the battles I send you into. Your job is to do what I tell you, how and when I tell you to do it."

As it turns out, Joshua's men didn't all do what they were supposed to do. Not everything was destroyed--there was a Babylonian robe hidden, along with some gold and silver. So when Joshua was asking why, he didn't know that disobedience was a big part of the equation.

We see later that God does turn the city of Ai over to the Israelites, and this time He tells them they can take the cattle and spoils for themselves. When Joshua led the men in God's time instead of his own, 12,000 people fell at the hands of Israel.

Too often, I get ahead of myself. I get this picture of what I think God has in store for me, and I run with it. I start rushing ahead and making plans, just assuming that God will bless my plans as I go.

Honestly, that's when things start going haywire.

It's when I take things into my own hands that everything tries to fall apart. I don't know what it is about me and a need to control everything, but it's something that's been part of my personality since I was little. I've been working on it lately, trying to let go and act on my belief that God's plan is the right plan, but it's hard. It's hard to get past my desire to control things and to try to map out the future that I think God has in store for me.

They say hindsight is 20/20, though, and that has definitely proven to be the case in my life. When I look back on all the craziness that has made my life what it is today, I can clearly see how God orchestrated all the seemingly disconnected parts. I'm trying to keep that in mind as I look forward into the unknown, into a future I can't get a clear picture of.

So when things don't go the way I think they should, when I find myself face down in the dirt feeling sorry for myself, I'm going to try to remember God's words to Joshua: "Get up. What are you doing in the dirt?" I'll brush myself off, take a deep breath, and say, "Okay, God--I messed up again and did things my way. Tell me how to do them Your way."

***
This post is the result of our Sunday morning study and discussion of Joshua at Living Word Fellowship in Green Forest. If you're in the area, we would love to have you join us! Breakfast and coffee are ready at 10:15

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