For the Repeat Offenders Who Are Loved, [A Poem Prayer]

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“Lord,

Every family has a rascal, someone who breaks the rules

a delinquent of untold frustration and sleepless nights

a repeated offender and bearer of woe

The problem child who needs the most chastening.

Is this why you love me most persistently?

When you correct me, is it because

I’m the one most contrary

Or because you love me so?”

 

I wrote this thinking about Hebrews 12 and God’s purpose of chastening. I don’t pretend to understand this dynamic; but my childhood was punctuated by so much difficulty. As a father, my two children are now grown and fatherhood has been far easier than my dad had with me.

7 “As you endure this divine discipline, remember that God is treating you as his own children. Who ever heard of a child who is never disciplined by its father? 10 For our earthly fathers disciplined us for a few years, doing the best they knew how. But God’s discipline is always good for us, so that we might share in his holiness. 11 No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.”

Hebrews 12:7, 10-11, NLT

I think we really understand our Heavenly Father when we spend quality time with this part of scripture. We are given insight into His care and into our own issues. It is a good thing He gives us— it enriches our spiritual lives. When He disciplines you, He proves that He is your Father. It’s critical to remember: God’s correction is always for our good.

“Father, I’m so sorry that I grieve you. I promise to behave. Thank you for being a faithful Father to my soul. Amen.”

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The Future is According to God

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“I say this because I know what I am planning for you,” says the Lord. “I have good plans for you, not plans to hurt you. I will give you hope and a good future.

Jeremiah 29:11, NCV

“So that for all future time he could show the very great riches of his grace by being kind to us in Christ Jesus.”

Ephesians 2:7

The word “future” is defined as “all that time which is to come hereafter.” It seems that it can never be held by us in a literal sense. In trying to explain it, I have come up with this idea or concept of something that will exist or happen in time to come.

People who struggle with a mental illness  often have a problem with the idea of having a personal meaning.  I remember reading this somewhere, Depression is the inability to construct a future.”  I think  that many have issues with trying to make life work.  It seems that hopefulness has been brutally cut out of our hearts, and we think and believe that we’re lost and cursed.

It seems to me that this is one of my own problems.  Closely related are the twin issues of cruel despondency and a terrible despair.  When these two run rampant through my life it is sort of a “spiritual mugging.”  I’ve just been totally ripped off. I’ve been completely drained of hope.  I don’t anticipate life and grace, instead I have profound pain and incredible loss.  I feel terribly alone in an ugly void. My depression is all I can see. A relationship with an eternal God seems highly unlikely.

I believe that it isn’t so much me reaching out to Him— rather it is Him coming to me.

The promises God gives us are made to energize and propel us into life and meaning.  The Father completely understands me, and has purposefully given me “a future and a hope.”   I once worked out a plan to kill myself a couple years ago.  It involved duct-taping heavy weights to my ankles and jumping off the dock in the harbor.   I had reached the point of complete despair. Everything was without hope. And all I will say is that God prevented me and then gave me hope.

At times, our future is sometimes woven with predominently dark threads.  If we just look at the back side it makes no sense at all. But God works patiently and expertly, as a skilled Artisan.  We have His word that what He does will be a wonder and a marvel. And we will see an intricate and beautful work.

“Father forgive me for despairing. I know You control everything, and especially all that concerns me. Give me hope for my future.”

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Dressing Up to Please, [Authenticity]

“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience,”

 – Colossians 3:12, ESV

I used to always get dressed up for Sunday church, hey– our whole family dressed in their best.  “Windsor knots” and jewelry, and we looked good.  I was pastoring at this time, and we felt compelled to make a statement.  We were examples, after all. (But we were also idiots.)

This now seems a little ‘kooky’ living in rural Alaska.  During the spring breakup, we would wear big rubber boots as we navigated the mud, and then in the church foyer we would all change into our dress shoes before we entered into the sanctuary.  I admit, I’m glad that we are no longer compelled to do this.

But “dress up” is a major spiritual issue with real consequences.

Not the physical dressing, nor our preening and posturing– but spiritually, getting dressed.  Paul urges us to put on our spiritual man clothing that will honor our Father.  He lists the clothes in our “wardrobe”.  These are the things we should put on, and be seen in.  We are to cover ourselves in what really matters.

“Put on…compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience”

This is a list of items the Lord wants us to wear.  If my dear wife Lynn tells me she really likes to see me in a particular sweater, I will wear it and frequently.  I know she likes it on me, and I want to please her.  The list just above is what the Father really wants you to wear.  He wants to see you in these things.

I just want to urge you today, that you would think about your spiritual clothing.  What is covering your spiritual man?  What do you look like?  This might mean changing your clothes and putting on something that the Father really thinks you look good in.

“Father, when will I learn to dress the inside? Help me attend to the things that really matter to You. Amen.”

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THE SNARE OF THE FOWLER, [Warfare]

Peter Bruegel, "The Bird Snare"

Peter Bruegel, “The Bird Snare”

“Surely He shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler
And from the perilous pestilence.
He shall cover you with His feathers,
And under His wings you shall take refuge;
His truth shall be your shield and buckler.

You shall not be afraid of the terror by night,
Nor of the arrow that flies by day,
Nor of the pestilence that walks in darkness,
Nor of the destruction that lays waste at noonday.”

Psalm 91:3-6, NKJV

“There is no neutral ground in the universe; every square inch, every split second, is claimed by God and counter-claimed by Satan.”

C.S. Lewis

I believe that there is a great opposition to living free. Satan contests every square inch. His ‘modus operandi’ parallels the predator. He likes to hunt human beings. I’m being quite careful not to be melodramatic or manipulative when I say this, but Satan has a terrible plan for your life. He often uses human ‘lackies’ to carry out his wishes.They will use deception, lies and foolishness to snare people’s souls. They [he] will even resort to brute force. Many believers are being persecuted for their faith.

Some Old Testament thoughts:
14 “David now stayed in the strongholds of the wilderness and in the hill country of Ziph. Saul hunted him day after day, but God didn’t let Saul find him.”
1 Samuel 23:14, NLT
5 “My future is in your hands.  Rescue me from those who hunt me down relentlessly.”
Psalm 31:15
7 “We escaped like a bird from a hunter’s trap. The trap is broken, and we are free!”
Psalm 124:7

And there is plenty more where this come from. And we haven’t even got to the New Testament yet, where there are substantial references to this kind of attack. The doctrine of Satan is developed further there. Perhaps it is because we encounter the person of Jesus Christ and the act of personal redemption He made for each of us. Through this we discover that we have an enemy that we were never really aware before. And guess what— he hates us!

Some New Testament thoughts:
31 “The time for judging this world has come, when Satan, the ruler of this world, will be cast out.”
John 12:31
4 “Satan, who is the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe. They are unable to see the glorious light of the Good News.”
2 Corinthians 4:4
12 “For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.”
Ephesians 6:12

Just as we have in Jesus a personal savior, we find we also have an anagonist and a sworn enemy that is set on going to war on us. You didn’t ask for it, and it would be really swell if he didn’t exist at all. But the evil around us has a source and we dare not minimize it.

“To admire Satan [in Paradise Lost] is to give one’s vote not only for a world of misery, but also for a world of lies and propaganda, of wishful thinking, of incessant autobiography.”

C.S. Lewis, “A Preface to ‘Paradise Lost'”

Our fealty to Jesus becomes critical at times like this. The warfare has an ebb and a flow, sometimes the battles can be intense, and at other times less so. But we cannot do nothing at all. We must defend ourselves, or become a casualty.

  1. We can pray.
  2. We can read truth (the Bible).
  3. We can praise and worship.
  4. We can put on “the armor of God’ (Ephesians 6:11).
  5. We can “submit to God” (James 4:7).
  6. We can resist Satan and be firm in our faith, (1 Peter 5:9).
  7. We can “plead the blood of Jesus” over our lives, and over our loved ones, (Exodus 12:13)

Probably the capstone is the following verse. I pretty much sums up this ‘act of resistance’ we are all called to do. I wanted to emphasize it because it is critical:

Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.”

1 Peter 5:8

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