Deceptive Distractions

If they were obvious, I wouldn’t fall for them.  If they produced immediate deadly consequences, I would resist.  However, due to their subtlety, I lose my focus on Christ and become ensnared.  I’m talking about the deceptive distractions used by the world’s false prophets and their teaching.  I often look for them within the church’s walls, but to be honest, I see them more in my home (via TV, computer, radio, etc.), place of employment (i.e. selfish business practitioners), schools (by providing untrue and irrational relational advice/expectations), etc.  Even family members have been used by the enemy to loosen my footing upon the Solid Rock.  No wonder Jesus likens false teachers and prophets to ravenous wolves.  (Pause for Thought:  “Watch out for false prophets.  They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly, they are ferocious wolves.”—Matthew 7:15.  How do the false teachers in your life “come to you”?  How quickly do you determine them to be false?  What do you use to determine the un-truths?  What measures do you take upon discovering the falsehoods?)
 
Contrary to popular belief, a wolf and its pack will pursue and kill about anything—not just the young, old, or weak.  If conditions are right, and the pack is in accord, wolves will kill a full grown, healthy bull moose—the largest animal in the deer family.  God has given the bull-moose razor sharp hooves and massive antlers, and these divine defensive weapons will more than cause a hurt for the wolf.  Wolves know this and understand, to successfully attack a moose, they must cause it to turn and run.  The alpha female wolf will feign (deceptive distraction) a frontal charge at the moose in hopes of getting it running out of fear.  The pack will pursue the beast nipping and biting its hind quarters to weaken it from exhaustion and loss of blood.  (Pause for Thought:  “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves.  Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.”—Matthew 10:16.  What does Jesus mean by being “shrewd as snakes” and “innocent as doves”?  Is something or someone pursuing you and your family right now?  Have you inquired of the Lord in regards to gaining wisdom on how to handle the deceptive and/or distractive situation?)
 
Once the moose is exhausted, the pack will wait a long time until it becomes convenient and free of harm to kill the moose.  Only when the moose has become completely distracted with fatigue and fear, will the pack kill it by attacking its head and throat.  (Pause for Thought:  “But each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed.  Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.”—James 1:14-15.  As a father, I’ve noted some of my own rationalizations and statements that tell me I’m being deceived, distracted, and pursued.  I’ve learned to listen and watch for these telling signs in my son and family:  “It’s not fair…”, “I don’t deserve to be…”, “When is it my time/opportunity to…”, “At least I’m better than…”, “But it’s Christmas {substitute any event, holiday, or happening when Christ isn’t the center focus of attention} time…”).
 
Our enemy, the Devil, is never distracted, however, our Savior and King is never distracted either.  God knew, before he made us, what it would take to turn us around and for us to stand our ground when the Enemy comes to us – Emmanuel – God With Us! “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?  Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!—Roman 7:24-25.  Your family and you are worth the Son of God.
 

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Perilous Presents

Many people have heard the story of Gideon and his victory over the 120,000 terrorists of his day utilizing only 300 men, torches, and trumpets.  Most people, I would venture to say, have never heard “the rest of the story.”  (Pause for Thought:  Read Judges 8:22-9:56)
 
Gideon was offered the opportunity to be a hereditary king over God’s people, but he declined the offer.  Instead he requested a portion of the plunder taken from the Midianites he and his army had defeated.  With the gold and various other items, Gideon made an ephod and presented it as a gift to his hometown of Ophrah.  An ephod existed in the town of Shiloh, as prescribed by the Lord, for the Levites to use in the inquiry of His will for the Israelites.  The ephod in Ophrah would become the center of false worship (Baal idolatry) and would lead to the downfall and death of many Israelites, including Gideon’s sons.  (Pause for Thought:  Why did Gideon refuse the offer to be king over Israel?  How did Gideon’s acceptance of the gold and his giving of the ephod contradict his refusal and rationale for being king?  How did Gideon’s gift lead to the estrangement and destruction of the people?)
 

Generosity is often displayed by refusing to give or receive a gift that would harm (spiritually, soulfully, physically) the receiver and/or giver.  We live in a society of instant gratification and have the means to fulfill every pleasure, so it is important to consider our gifts and the consequences of giving them—especially to our children. In kindergarten I received the gift of a comic book from a fellow classmate because he knew I enjoyed superheroes.  When I showed my parents the present, they requested I graciously return the comic with the explanation that the comic’s main hero was the son of Lucifer, and we, as a family believed Christ to be our hero over Satan.  Devastated, I did what they instructed me to do.

A few weeks later I was shopping with my mom at a department store only to hear about the pending arrival of my favorite superhero—Spiderman—over the loud speaker!  I received a free comic and photo with Spiderman, and my mom bought me the 45 record of the Spiderman TV show theme.  Needless to say, I was the hero at the class’ next show-and-tell when I revealed my new Spiderman gifts and listened to the theme song.  “Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish will give him a snake instead?  Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion?  If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in Heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!”—Luke 11:11-13   (Pause for Thought:  Have you ever received a gift that brought you closer to the Lord?  Have you ever been given a gift that distracted you in your relationship to Him?  If so, what did you do with it?  How are the gifts you are planning to give your children this Christmas going to help/hurt you and your children’s desires to follow Christ Jesus?)

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Make Room

Read the story of the Shunammite Woman in II Kings 4:8-37; 8:1-6

In a day and age when God’s people had rejected His directions and those who supplied them, a woman maintained the divine order of hospitality by inviting Elisha to eat and relax in her and her husband’s home.  Not only did the Shunammite woman provide meals and conversation, she also made a room within her household for Elisha’s learning and teaching of God’s eternal principles.  This resulted in the blessing of a son–by her increased faith, the loss of her hopes–in the death of her son, and a victory over death, corruption, and sin–by the resurrection of her son and the re-establishment of her faith-filled legacy.  Her faith became surrender as the Lord’s influence through Elisha invaded her home.  (Pause for Thought:  Why did Elisha appreciate the room the Shunammite woman gave him?  What made the Shunammite’s household different from other Israeli homes of the time?  In what ways was the Shunammite’s household blessed by the presence of God’s prophet)\
 
Israel had stopped hosting the Lord’s servants during Elisha’s time.  Prophets were considered outlaws who had become outdated and unwanted.  As a consequence, the people had become disconnected in their relationship with their Father to the point of killing His ministers and rejecting His decrees (In his pride the wicked does not seek Him; in all his thoughts there is NO ROOM for God–Psalm 10:4)
 
While growing up, my mom and dad would often host missionaries, gospel singers, and preachers and their families as they remained away from home to minister to our church family.  This provided my sister and me an opportunity to have extended or one-on-one conversations with these ministers of the faith resulting in great worship, testimony, and witnessing.  I asked my dad why our family hosted these people so often.  His simple reply has remained in my soul for my entire life—“We sometimes entertain angels without knowing it”.  (Hebrews 13:1-3).  I believe what my father said is true, and I have confirming results.  My marriage is a direct result of my aunt and uncle’s faithful hospitality to my then future wife and mother to my son.  Their generosity connected with my parents’ desire to see their family and family friends come to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ as Lord and savior resulting in Renee’s and my engagement to each other.  I’m a blessed man because of a legacy of hospitality and making room for Christ.  (Pause for Thought:  How has hospitality benefited you as a host?  How has it benefited those you’ve hosted?  How has your hospitality blessed others within your family?)
 
Faithful hospitality is what Mary and Joseph displayed when they made room for God’s only Son when He left home.  Like the Shunammite woman, Mary and her family would know first-hand the blessing, loss, and victory when providing room for the Lord.  “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered.  “May it be to me as you have said.”  Then the angel left her.—Luke 1:38  (Pause for Thought:  How will you and your family be demonstrating hospitality around Christmas this year?  What do you want your children to learn and know through your and their hospitality?  How can and will Christ be the influence as you make room for Him?)
 

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Thanks & Giving

Anna had been a witness to much in her 84 years of life.  A devoted follower of God, with a spirit to match, made her a beautiful wife (Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.—Proverbs 31:30) for seven of her early years, but the death of her husband and the loss of her nation’s independence would cause Anna to consider what she had and what to do with it.  (Pause for Thought:  What has the Lord given you and what has the Lord taken away?  When you have been given blessings, how have you responded to God?  When given difficulty, how have you responded to the Lord?  Who has witnessed your responses?)
 
In her lifetime, Anna witnessed, or would have heard about, king and high-priest Jannaeus’ contempt for Israel’s religious leaders, and his defilement of the sacrifice during the Feast of Tabernacles resulting in the slaughter of 6,000 Jews in the temple courtyard and a civil war that would last decades.
 

Anna saw the end of the civil war as Roman general, Pompey, would massacre 12,000 of her countryman and desecrate the Holy of Holies at the temple in Jerusalem, leading to Judea’s rule by Rome.  This was happening all the while Anna remained at the temple worshiping and praising God for the promised Messiah.  (Pause for Thought:  “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”—I Thessalonians 5:16-17.  What promises are you giving God thanks for this week?  How can the giving of your time, talent, resources—self, be a fulfillment of these promises?  How is your family helping God’s fulfillment of these promises in others?)

Anna’s proximity to tragedy never impaired her devotion to God or her faith in Him—“she never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying.  Coming up to them (Mary & Joseph), she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child (Jesus) to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Israel.”  Her thankfulness led to and was a service of instruction and realization for others in recognizing Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. (Pause for Thought:  Read the story of Simeon and Anna in Luke 2:21-38.  How well does your family live out their thankfulness?  How will you use this Thanksgiving to instruct your children about thankfulness and giving?)
 
Anna had been a witness to much in her 84 years of life.  A devoted follower of God, with a spirit to match, made her a beautiful wife (Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.—Proverbs 31:30) for seven of her early years, but the death of her husband and the loss of her nation’s independence would cause Anna to consider what she had and what to do with it.  (Pause for Thought:  What has the Lord given you and what has the Lord taken away?  When you have been given blessings, how have you responded to God?  When given difficulty, how have you responded to the Lord?  Who has witnessed your responses?)
 

In her lifetime, Anna witnessed, or would have heard about, king and high-priest Jannaeus’ contempt for Israel’s religious leaders, and his defilement of the sacrifice during the Feast of Tabernacles resulting in the slaughter of 6,000 Jews in the temple courtyard and a civil war that would last decades.

Anna saw the end of the civil war as Roman general, Pompey, would massacre 12,000 of her countryman and desecrate the Holy of Holies at the temple in Jerusalem, leading to Judea’s rule by Rome.  This was happening all the while Anna remained at the temple worshiping and praising God for the promised Messiah.  (Pause for Thought:  “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”—I Thessalonians 5:16-17.  What promises are you giving God thanks for this week?  How can the giving of your time, talent, resources—self, be a fulfillment of these promises?  How is your family helping God’s fulfillment of these promises in others?)
 

Anna’s proximity to tragedy never impaired her devotion to God or her faith in Him—“she never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying.  Coming up to them (Mary & Joseph), she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child (Jesus) to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Israel.”  Her thankfulness led to and was a service of instruction and realization for others in recognizing Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. (Pause for Thought:  Read the story of Simeon and Anna in Luke 2:21-38.  How well does your family live out their thankfulness?  How will you use this Thanksgiving to instruct your children about thankfulness and giving?)


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The Appeal of Joy

November 15 marks the opening day of firearms deer season in Michigan.  I used to celebrate this day by sitting for endless hours on a 5-gallon bucket while my toes froze or rain dripped from the brim of my hat.  I don’t have the chance to participate in this Michigan tradition any longer.  I miss the venison being in the freezer from my own natural inclinations, and I miss the black-capped chickadees.
 
Chickadees have the God-given ability to turn the most frigid, lifeless morning into a time of praise and worship.  They also have the ability to turn the end of a luckless day into a bright expectation for tomorrow.  The chickadee isn’t colorful.  In fact, its plumage is downright plain.  But what the bird lacks in visual pizazz, it makes up for in its joyful social interaction and song.  Many is the time a chickadee has perched on my knee or hat and looked into my face as if to say, “Isn’t this day great!”  The “chickadee-dee-dee” song of this bird inspires life in a leafless, still, woods.  As I would watch this bird and listen to its joyful notes, I remembered that those whose life of service is filled with joy often have their life’s appeals listened to and answered to their highest-good.  (Pause for Thought:  “Rejoice in the Lord always.  I will say it again: Rejoice!  Let your gentleness be evident to all.  The Lord is near.  Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”—Philippians 4:4-7.  How joyful has been your service to the Lord lately?  How joyful has your attitude been in the parenting of your children?  How joyful is the attitude of your children while they are serving the Lord?  Is it time for an attitude check in your family?)
 
While I don’t have chickadees, anymore, to remind me of my heart condition and attitude, God has given me a family to be a reflection of my very soul, and, at times, inspire and point my soul’s outlook to something much higher than our current circumstances.  (Pause for Thought:  “Children, obey your parents IN THE LORD, for this is right, ‘Honor your father and mother’—which is the first commandment with a promise—‘that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth’.  Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction OF THE LORD.”—Ephesians 6:1-4.  Who do you rely on to be a “reflection” of your attitude?  How often do your children approach you with a joyful spirit?  How often do they approach you with a complaining spirit?  Have you instructed them in and about God’s goodness and grace and their responsibilities in loving Him?)
 
If the black-capped chickadee is the opening day cheerleader, the red squirrel is the harbinger of gloom and doom.  I would always try and beat the awakenings of the red squirrels in getting to my deer blind in the morning.  Once I was set and still, the red squirrel’s complaining bark and guttural hiss would indicate the approach of anything moving near me.  It never seemed joyful in regards to another’s presence or its current circumstances.  The last deer I shot on opening day was due to the bitter oversight of a red squirrel in the tree under which I was sitting (sleeping).  If that squirrel were to have been gracious, like a chickadee, I wouldn’t have awoken, and the buck sneaking around me wouldn’t have died.  (Pause for Thought:  “Do not be misled:  ‘Bad company corrupts good character.’  Come back to your senses as you ought, and stop sinning; for there are some ignorant of God—I say this to your shame.”—I Corinthians 15:33-34.  How does the relationship you have with others influence your joy?  What relationships are affecting the attitude of your children today?)
 

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The Umbrella of Authority

Once there was a man who witnessed great injustice and found himself in a unique position to do something about it.  His miraculous birth and life during an awful time of persecution, not to mention his subsequent education and rise to authority, placed him in a special place and time to come along his earthly authority to fulfill his Heavenly Authority’s will to free an entire people.
 
Unfortunately for Moses, he placed himself outside of the umbrella of his authorities, took matters in his own hands, and started a precedent of death and destruction.  (Pause for Thought:  Read Exodus 2:11-15.  What precipitated Moses to think it was all right to kill the Egyptian?  How could have Moses appealed to his earthly (Pharaoh) and Heavenly (God) authority regarding the situation, so a person wouldn’t have to die?  How do you want your children to appeal to you in their time of distress?  When and where will you hear them out?  Will you explain your expectations and reasoning to them?)
 
Moses would once again, under God’s grace and authority, find himself in a position to free his people.  God’s timing and preparation of not only Moses, but also Pharaoh, would have to take place, so God’s ultimate authority and might could be on display for an entire people.  The Israelites, from day one, would never get over Moses’s original willfulness to place himself outside of God’s Heavenly authority and the earthly authority He established.  Even Moses’ own family questioned his ability to be an authority over them for a generation.  (Pause for Thought:  Read Exodus 14:10-12; Numbers 12:1-2; Deuteronomy 31:27-29.   What authority(ies) do you find yourself under?  How do your responses to their instruction influence the way your children view authority?  How well do you appeal to your earthly authority? Heavenly authority?  Do your responses to those you are “under” meet the expectations you have for your children’s responses to you?)
 
Ultimately, Moses found himself at the threshold of God’s promised land.  A generation of those who started to follow Moses authority would perish in the wilderness due to their inability to appeal to their earthly and Heavenly authorities and remain under God’s umbrella.  Even Moses was denied entrance into the Promise Land because he had withdrawn himself from under God’s authority throughout his life’s journey.  Joshua, filled by God’s spirit, would be the authority God used to build a nation.  (Pause for Thought:  Read Deuteronomy 33:51-52; 34:4,9)
 

I often wonder how this story might have ended for Moses and the Israelites who first left Egypt had Moses remained under his authorities’ umbrella, and not killed the Egyptian out of his own arrogance.  I often wonder about our children’s journey and ending in this life as they serve their authorities, including the Most-High Authority—God our Father.  (Pause for Thought:  Is there something or someone causing your children distress?  Have you given your children a time and place to appeal to you for advice, and if appropriate, your correction/solution to the matter?  What/Who will you pray about with your children this week?)


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The Endurance of the Like-Minded

One of the most fascinating displays in nature, to me, is the phenomenon of the bait-ball.  A bait-ball is a group of small, open-water roaming fish that will synchronize their movements around a center, so they appear to be a large single organism to predators.  I become mesmerized by each fish’s ability to move exactly in the same time and space the other fish are moving.  I often wonder how a species as simple as an alewife or sardine, can be so like-minded in their group, they can elude a complex predator, such as a salmon or shark.
 
God knew, for groups of small fish and Christ following families, it would be necessary to be of like-mind for endurance and prosperity. (Pause for Thought:  “Also in Judah the hand of God was on the people to give them unity of mind to carry out what the king and his officials had ordered, following the word of the Lord.”—II Chronicles 30:12.  How “in-sync” are the members of your family right now?  What do you want for your family’s center?  Is this the center your family members are moving and thinking around?  How able to withstand the stresses of life is your center?)
 
One thing alone can break up a bait-ball—fear.  If a predator fish causes stress from without the group, a fish or two may decide it would be better for their self-preservation to abandon the center and others for open water.  This fish is often pursued and eaten which causes the bait-ball to lose their like-mindedness for fear’s sake.  Chaos ensues and the group is whittled down in size by those wishing to harm it.  (Pause for Thought:  “I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may not be divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought.  Is Christ divided?  Was Paul crucified for you?  Were you baptized into the name of Paul?  For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.”  I Corinthians 1:10, 13, 17.  Have you witnessed a family and/or group of families moving around a center in harmony of thinking and behavior?  Do you suppose they experience little to no stress?  Have you asked them what, if any, stresses they encounter?  Will you ask them what the center of their like-mindedness is and if you can join their thinking?)
 
The church needs to be and is the place where individuals and families can look for the peace and endurance of the like-minded.  (Pause for Thought:  “Finally brothers, good-by.  Aim for perfection, listen to my appeal, be of one mind, live in peace.  And the God of love and peace will be with you.”   II Corinthians 13:11.  What dishonest or unreasonable thinking is keeping you and your family from moving in coordination with Christ and Christ-following families?  Will you address this fear this week?  How will you address it?  If left unaddressed what, do you think, will be the outcome for you and your family?) 
 

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First Things First

First Things First

The cowbird does something unique to the avian world.  In order to shirk its duties as a parent, the female cowbird will remove an egg from the nest of another bird species, destroy the egg, and return the following day to lay her egg with the other eggs in the nest.  The cowbird then leaves the egg to retain and maintain her previous lifestyle while leaving the builder of the nest the responsibility of rearing the cowbird chick.
 
Our Father in Heaven knew, because of our sinful nature, we would be tempted to leave the “first things” to others while looking to our own self-interests.  (Pause for Thought:  “If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”  I Timothy 5:8.  Knowing we are made up of spirit, soul, and body, and knowing we relate to our Heavenly Father in spirit—“Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.  God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.”  John 4:23-24—what must we make a priority in our lives to be fully complete and approved by God?  Who has God chosen to be our children’s primary spiritual care-giver?)
 
A wise and judicious institution or government will always see the family as the cornerstone of community, and it will not place anything above the family’s spiritual, soulful, or physical welfare.  Godly parents/children will not sacrifice their family’s welfare for personal gain.  (Pause for Thought:  “The king’s edict granted the Jews in every city the right to assemble and protect themselves; to destroy, kill and annihilate any armed force of any nationality or province that might attack them and their women and children; and to plunder the property of their enemies.”  Esther 8:11.  “A greedy man brings trouble to his family, but he who hates bribes will live.”  Proverbs 15:27.  In what ways has the family been under attack by Satan?  In what ways has Satan “bribed” you to be fearful about making your family’s spiritual welfare a priority?  Has he bribed you with financial security?  Ministry?  Self-peace=lack of internal/external conflict? Time?)
 

The tragic story of the cowbird doesn’t end with the destruction of just one egg.  Most nest builders will accept the cowbird egg and try to raise the chick as their own.  However, the cowbird grows fast and large to the point it will out compete the other chicks for food until they die.  A few birds, like the robin, will recognize the intruding cowbird egg, and its parent’s selfish intent.  The egg will either be destroyed or covered up with the rest of the eggs in hopes a second nest will not be invaded.  (Pause for Thought:  “He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect.  If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?”  I Timothy 3:4-5.  How will you make the spiritual welfare of your family a priority this week?  Is there something you have to give up to make this so?  How will you do it?) 


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For Crying Out Loud

I just learned this week the euphemism for “For Christ’s Sake!” is “For Crying Out Loud!”  I have said “for crying out loud” many times in my desperation and exasperation, but had no idea I was invoking the name, power, and expectations of my Lord and Savior.  It caused me to think about those who consciously called on the Name of the Lord and were saved.  My first thought was of David the shepherd boy who would be King of Israel.
 
As a tender of sheep, David cried unto God to save him and his family’s welfare from marauding lions.  David, the young warrior, would invoke his Savior’s name to defeat giants.  As the spiritual, military, and political leader of Israel, he cried out loud the name of the Most High to overcome evil enemy kings. (Pause for Thought:  “I cry out to God Most High, To God, who vindicates me.  He sends from Heaven and saves me, rebuking those who hotly pursue me—God sends forth His love and His faithfulness.”  Psalms 57:2-3.  David wrote this as King Saul pursued his life into a cave.  David had this sung to a tune called, “Do Not Destroy”.  Have you ever cried out loud to God, “Lord Save Me!”?  If so what was the result?  Why don’t people call on the name of the Lord in their initial distress?)
 
Based on the many times David cried out to God for salvation, and based on the different Hebrew words used for “cry out”, David was vocal in his pleas—some were murmurs and some were shrieks from terror. (Pause for Thought:  “In my distress, I called upon the Lord, and cried out (shava=high pitched shout for help) to my God; He heard my voice from His temple, and my cry (shava) came before Him, even to His ears.”  Psalm 18:6; “The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their cry (shava).”  Psalm 34:15.  Why does a vocal response to our danger invoke such power from God?  Have you been vocal in your distress in front of your children?  Who or what have you called upon to save you?)
 
I’ve read and heard how the name of Jesus has stopped gunmen in their tracks, stalled the motors of machinery poised to do damage, and even thwarted kidnappers and carjackers.  David is proof of how a life lived consciously in the presence of our Lord and Savior can manifest that presence by crying out loud for rescue.  Unfortunately for David, he did not pass this beautiful truth and skill on to his daughter, Tamar.  (Pause for Thought:  Read II Samuel 13:1-22.  During her pleading with Amnon, why, do you suppose, Tamar didn’t voice out a cry for help to God?  Based on what we know concerning David’s crying out, what could have been the results of Tamar’s crying out to God?)
 
As parents, we tell our children, “I’ll always be there for you” and, “I’ll never let anything happen to you” all in front of a backdrop of Stranger-Danger, ALICE training, and JUST SAY NO.  Are the promises we’re making true? (Pause for Thought:  As it concerns the privilege of voicing our cry to ABBA FATHER, what can you tell and teach your children about danger and alertness?  Are you willing to practice crying out to the Lord with them this week?  What fear is stopping you from crying out or teaching your children to do so?)
 

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The Rigidity of Bitterness

Forced, under threat of physical harm, we freshmen boys were made to serve our senior masters by waiting on them and their tables.  We considered how our first week of high school misery might play out for the remainder of our tenure.  During one of our brood sessions, one of my fellow sufferers offered “hope” to us in his statement he couldn’t wait to be a senior, so he could impose his oppressive authority on some unsuspecting freshmen boy.  This kind of hope for justice didn’t seem right to me, nor did getting “even” with my senior tormentors seem righteous.
 
The rigid cycle of bitterness and the foolishness it brings rages on in our lives no matter our age or circumstance.  (Pause for Thought:  A foolish son brings grief to his father and bitterness to the one who bore him. – Proverbs 17:25; Read the story of Amaziah – II Chronicles 25; How did Amaziah’s foolish quest to get “even” cost him his authority and integrity?  How should have Amaziah dealt with his bitterness over his father’s life and death and the circumstances in his own rule over Judah?)
 
Bitterness’s vicious cycle is founded in the pride that leads to a fall.  Unfortunately, after we fall, the bitterness can be, and often is, picked up by our children for them to repeat the same mistakes and display the same foolishness.  Jesus’ ways of getting even and providing hope through bitter times is much different from the world’s ways.  (Pause for Thought:  But I tell you:  Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. – Matthew 5:44; Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.  – Romans 12:14. What enemy is causing your bitterness today?  In what ways has the bitterness impacted you, your family, your children?  How will you choose to deal with the bitterness if front of your family this week?)
 
We freshmen boys decided we did not want to perpetuate the bitter tradition we were suffering through and leave a legacy of foolishness.  I’ll never forget the disbelieving, but joyful, faces on the freshmen boys as we served them and their tables at lunch for the first week of their high school lives.  (Pause for Thought:  How can you get “even” by abolishing a rigidly bitter tradition/cycle by your service to your family or children this week?  Why does service result in our ability to be flexible and less rigid?  Can you name examples of how Jesus’ service to another lessened bitter rigidity and brought flexibility?  If you can think of some examples, share them with your children this week.)
 

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