Lessons From An Arnett Man

Shortly after leaving the rap concert, because Cathy’s contractions were getting too close together, our first son was born into this world. Then after a whirlwind of activity at the hospital and our home we were finally alone with Nathan. When he fell asleep in his crib Cathy and I looked at each other and said, “what do we do now?” Little did we know that when the baby sleeps you should sleep! Looking back I’m amazed at how much we didn’t know. But that’s one of the interesting thing about being a father, there’s no owner’s manual.

Sure there are books written about parenting, and some are very helpful, but I think the best training for being a father is having a good father of your own. My dad was always the dad who played with the neighbor kids. We’d have kids over and my dad would teach them how to throw tomahawks, or he’d be teaching us how to make a fire with flint and steel. I remember jumping into his warm truck after a particularly cold Boy Scout camping trip. And as long as I can remember back we’ve always had a project that we were working on together. We’d be fine-tuning a pinewood derby car, shooting something, painting my car, or bending the handlebars on my bike so I looked “cool” on my bike. Where did my dad learn to be such a good dad? I really doubt that my dad ever read a book on being a father, rather he learned it from his dad.

IMG_1547

Of course I wasn’t there for my dad’s childhood, but I’ve heard stories of grandpa and how he raised my dad. He would often come home from work, grab the shotgun and he and my dad would go out rabbit hunting. Besides hunting, my grandpa would take my dad fishing, they would build things together and there’s also many stories of them joking and laughing together. Grandpa was a WWII veteran, a hard-working welder on the railroad, a faithful churchgoer, and a good father.

Maybe you come from a very different background than what I’ve had. Maybe your dad was absent. Maybe work meant more to your dad than you did. Maybe even worse, your dad was physically or sexually abusive to you. Maybe your dad was in prison or an alcoholic.  My grandfather, my dad, and I were not (nor are) perfect fathers. There are times that we’ve messed up. I’m sure there are things that my children will have to unlearn from the way I raised them. “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) That verse doesn’t just speak about our relationship to God, it also speaks about our human relationships and our fathering.

Yet God chooses to reveal himself to us as our Father. “Our FATHER, in heaven.” (Matthew 6:9 ESV emphasis mine) Where we see only a shadow of what perfect fatherhood looks like in our earthly fathers, in God we see what it means to have a perfect father. “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48 ESV) “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (James 1:17 ESV) In our heavenly Father we have one who will never leave us, nor forsake us. “It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” (Deuteronomy 31:8 ESV)

Being a father is not an easy job, nor is it ever done. I’m thankful that my heavenly Father isn’t done raising me and I’m thankful that He even guides me in my fathering. When the prodigal son came back to his father, the “father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.” (Luke 15: 20b-24 ESV)

If you want to be a better father, I suggest you take lessons. Take lessons from a perfect father. One who will teach you to be loving, faithful, encouraging, patient, kind, knowing wrong from right, and oh so much more.

To all my fellow fathers, I say “Happy Father’s Day!”

camofive

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Sucking Heat

Although it’s supposed to be in the 90s this weekend with lows only in the upper 60s, the other night it got down to 42 degrees. My wife and I have an ongoing difference of opinion about leaving the windows open in the bedroom. I think my wife would leave the windows open year-round if I let her. Two nights ago the windows were open and I woke up in the wee hours of the night freezing. To quote my good friend Al, “if you’re cold, put a hat on.” That’s too much work in the middle of the night, so instead, I slid over in bed and put my back right against my warm wife. All was once again right with the world and after quickly warming up I drifted back to sleep.

Believe it or not, the Bible talks about this. It says:

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken. (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 ESV)

Solomon wrote those words. I wonder if he was thinking of marriage when he wrote those words, because he had 300 wives and 700 concubines. Regardless, I only have one wife (the way God intended it) and so Solomon’s words speak very well of marriage. Matter of fact, I’ve heard these verses often used at weddings. Solomon uses very common examples like being cold in bed to teach a deeper truth. But why does he end the way he does with the words “a threefold cord is not quickly broken?” He was just talking about two, and then he switches to three. Well, let’s take a look at a threefold cord:

Rope-600x300

What do you see? I looks like two, doesn’t it? Yet there are three cords.

6527-a-frayed-end-of-rope-isolated-on-a-white-background-pv

So what is the third cord? I truly believe it is God himself. When you take two sinful human beings the struggles of life tend to weaken a marriage. When you add God in the mix it changes everything. I’m not saying that a Christian couple never gets a divorce, but it has been shown that it is less likely. One secular website that talks about divorce risk factors put it this way:

  1. having different or no religious affiliations. Couples who share a similar religious faith often find that it increases their bond and gives them strength and guidance through difficult times. Couples without any religious affiliation don’t have that resource. And couples with quite different religious beliefs may find that to be something that divides them. It’s an important area of their lives that they don’t share. (http://www.landphaircounseling.com/risk-factors-for-divorce/)

Jesus put it this way:

He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” (Matthew 19:4-6 ESV)

Cathy and I will celebrate thirty years of marriage this September. We don’t have a perfect marriage (as if anyone does) but knowing we are there for each other, and that God is in the midst of our marriage helps me sleep better whether the windows are open or not.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Parable of the Persistent Cat

Are you more of a cat lover, or a dog lover? You may love all of those cute cat videos on facebook, but I am more of a dog lover myself. And yet, there is a scenario that plays out morning after morning revolving around the two cats that we own.

I am often the first one up at our house, and the cats know this. They will often be waiting outside our bedroom door for me to come out in the morning. If they’re not right there at the door, they’ll come running when they hear the door open. As soon as I step out of the bedroom they are meowing at me and running over to their food bowl. Running over to their food bowl is their way of showing me that they are starving and near the point of death. Understand that feeding the cats is not the first thing on my mind when I’m headed out of my bedroom in the morning. But the cats don’t really care about my needs. As I head into the bathroom (the first thing that is on my mind in the morning) I try to do a quick fake and shut the bathroom door so I can go to the bathroom without cats rubbing up against my legs. The next thing on my mind is making breakfast. This I can’t do without cats meowing miserably, them constantly under my feet and rubbing against my legs. Please don’t misunderstand, these cats are not ignored in the least. If anything they are over pampered and a little on the heavy side. I try to tell them that they’re not starving and that they can wait till Cathy gets up (otherwise they’ll end up getting two breakfasts). They don’t seem to understand English. Usually I end up giving in and getting them some cat food, just so I can have some relief while I eat my breakfast.

IMG_0847

It makes me think of the parable that Jesus told:

He (Jesus) said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’” And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” (Luke 18:2-8 ESV)

This widow’s situation was far worse than my cats, but in both cases they got what they were after because of their persistence. Verse one tells us exactly why Jesus told this parable. He said, “that they ought always to pray and not lose heart.”

So what are you praying about? What seems to be an on-going situation in your life that you need God to intervene? Often we do lose heart, shake our heads (or maybe our fist to the sky), and give up. Understand that God’s timing is often not our timing and that His plans are always better than our plans. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6 ESV)

Look at the questions in the last verses of the parable again.

“And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night?” God is a just God and we would be foolish to think that he wouldn’t give justice to his elect. Of course he will!

“Will he delay long over them?” This, I think, is where we misunderstand. Back to that whole thought of God’s timing not being our timing. We want God to act and to act now! Which puts us in the place of being God and somehow thinking that we know better than the Omniscient One. It would be better to trust in God’s timing. Jesus himself says, “I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily.”

“Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” This parable is about prayer so I think we could understand this ending to also mean, will he still find us praying in faith.

No matter your struggles and challenges, don’t lose heart and keep on praying!

Unknown

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Are You Ready?

 

Today is the Friday before Memorial Day weekend, the launching point of summer. Are you ready for this weekend? It could be that you’re preparing your house for a high school graduation open house. It could be that you’ve got family showing up, or it could be that you’re loading up the SUV and heading to go see family. It could be that you’re headed up north and opening up the cabin for the summer. Are you ready?

For me this weekend brings the first triathlon for the 2017 season. After months of training the time is finally here. Yesterday I started packing up all my gear and I could feel the excitement rising inside of me. To get my bike ready I switched the tires over to my race tires, cleaned all the old oil off of my chain, cleaned the rear cassette, and gave the drivetrain a brand new oiling. I even waxed my bike! I confess that I haven’t waxed a car in years, but my bike is shining! Underneath all of this excitement is the question, “are you ready?”

IMG_0615

That same question seems to be ringing in my ear on a much more serious topic than a race or opening up the cabin. You see, in my devotional reading, Matthew 24 & 25 has been begging the question, “are you ready for Christ’s return?”

“But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left. Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.

“Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his master has set over his household, to give them their food at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions. But if that wicked servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed,’ and begins to beat his fellow servants and eats and drinks with drunkards, the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know and will cut him in pieces and put him with the hypocrites. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth…

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. (Matthew 24: 36-51; 25:31-33 ESV You would be blessed to read all of chapter 24 & 25!)

I have also had an old hymn stuck in my head a lot lately. It’s “We Shall See The King” and it includes the verse:

Are you ready should the Savior call today

Would Jesus say, “Well done” or “Go Away”

My kingdom’s for the pure, the vile can never stay

We shall see the King when He comes

I brought this up to my high school Bible class and asked them about being ready. They pretty much all agreed that they were indeed not ready to die if today were the day. Indeed there are two ways to meet Jesus: we either die, or Jesus returns. If we’re honest, most of us are not emotionally ready to die. But are we spiritually ready to die or have Christ return?

The very simple answer to the question “are you ready?” comes down to one five letter word: faith.

If we have faith in Jesus Christ we are ready. If we do not have faith in Jesus Christ we are not ready.

Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test! I hope you will find out that we have not failed the test. (2 Corinthians 13:5-6 ESV)

Are you ready?

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Not By Sight (or is it?)

Did you see that wind yesterday?

I know that not everyone is local to me, so forgive me if you didn’t experience the same wind that we did here in Michigan, but believe me it was very windy! So, did you see the wind yesterday?

Technically, no, you did not see the wind yesterday. You saw the effects of the wind. At one point I looked out the back window of the house and I saw a huge dust cloud that was being blown up from the field across the road (like a dummy I didn’t close all of the windows and now we have a fine layer of dust in the house). It was a great day for drying clothes on the line, but boy did I see the effects of the wind as I hung clothes out to dry. It knocked part of a split rail fence down in the back yard, plus this morning when I came into church I was made aware that there was a huge limb that took out a power line behind church. There were all kinds of effects from the wind yesterday!

In the book of Acts, Luke describes the Holy Spirit as a mighty rushing wind.

When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. (Acts 2:1-4 ESV)

Screen Shot 2017-05-19 at 11.33.01 AM

Have you ever seen the Holy Spirit?

I can’t specifically know your answer to that, but I’ll bet your answer is still “no.” I know that I have never physically seen the Holy Spirit. I know that there are times in the Bible where people specifically see God, but I don’t think that is the norm. And I also know that those who did see God were quite often terrified of the vision. For instance:

And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” (Isaiah 6:5)

And Manoah said to his wife, “We shall surely die, for we have seen God.” But his wife said to him, “If the Lord had meant to kill us, he would not have accepted a burnt offering and a grain offering at our hands, or shown us all these things, or now announced to us such things as these.” (Judges 13:22-23)

And Manoah said to his wife, “We shall surely die, for we have seen God.” But his wife said to him, “If the Lord had meant to kill us, he would not have accepted a burnt offering and a grain offering at our hands, or shown us all these things, or now announced to us such things as these.” (Exodus 33:18-23)

Even if you’re like me and you’ve never physically seen the Holy Spirit, I’ll bet you have seen the effects of the Holy Spirit. Here is a short list of Holy Spirit effects that I’ve seen:

-sinners who are called to repentance and respond

-God’s grace being lived out on a daily basis and in very specific ways

-forgiveness being granted to others

-tears shed for a myriad of Holy Spirit inspired reasons

-healing in the physical realm, the emotional realm, and in the spiritual realm

-Godly comfort in the time of grief, after trauma, in the time of sickness, and for those who are dealing with past abuse

-guidance for decisions that have to be made, and in life paths

-etcetera

These are all examples of the Holy Spirit’s working. They are also perfect examples, to borrow from Dr. Luther, of “I cannot by my own reason or strength.”

I would love to have you share ways that you have seen the Holy Spirit work in your own life.

06798da585100dd496568bb2288747d9

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

This Day

About 25 years ago I went to a training where they presented a topic that has helped form my view of people and helped me understand how they think better. Many times in counseling I’ve shared this learning with others to in turn help them understand the people in their life. It’s from the world of NLP and deals with how we perceive time. It states that people are either “In Time” or “Through Time.”

In Time people store time internally. For them time is now. In Time people are open ended, they don’t want lists or to be tied down in any way. They may have several things on the go at the same time and don’t always need completion.

Through Time people store their memories left to right or right to left or in any other way so that all time is in front of them. To be traditionally Through Time, all of your time line will be in front of your eyes. Through Time people will like lists, they will be on time always (and get angry if you are not), will love to use their organizers and will want to complete things…now!

Infinity-Time1

So are you In Time or Through Time?

Through Time people tend to marry In Time people because they need them to balance each other out. They are attracted to the “opposite,” but it does also tend to cause disagreements as well. Neither perspective is “right” or “wrong,” it’s just a different way of experiencing time.

I am very Through Time! If you know me, you already figured that out. My wife teases me because I finished a final paper for one of my college courses so early that I was embarrassed to turn it in until we were closer to the end of class. I still turned the paper in weeks before it was due, but to my Through Time brain I clearly saw the timeline out in front of me and wanted to get it done.

One of the problems of being Through Time is that I have a very hard time enjoying the moment. I tend to always be living outside of the moment. I know for myself, sitting on the beach doing nothing is death to me. I also tend to wish my life away. I’m always looking at the future and counting down how long till the next big event. How long till schools out? Only seven months till we travel to Haiti. The Servant Event is basically here in my head.

Right now we’re doing “This is the Day” as our Children’s Hymn of the Month at church. It’s taken directly from Psalm 118:24: “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” (ESV) I don’t have a problem with the rejoicing, but I must confess that I do have a problem with the “this.” That may be nitpicking a verse to death, but I don’t think so. Jesus taught us to pray “give us THIS day our DAILY bread.” (emphasis mine)

a-131

I know that God holds the future and will bless us all the days of our life. The problem is not trusting that God holds the future, I’m good with that. The problem is also not God’s perspective of time, it’s my limited perspective of time. You see, I’d rather God give me the whole plan, all of the bread. I’ll ration it out, or at least I think I would. But that’s not the way God works. THIS is the day that I must rejoice in, and TODAY I must pray for DAILY bread.

I don’t know if In Time people struggle with this as well, or just how their perspective on those two verses would differ from mine. In order to get that answer I would need some of you In Time people to leave some comments, or maybe I can get my wife to do a guest post for me. Maybe next week…(which is basically right now to me)!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

How Strong Are You?

How strong are you?

Seriously, I want you to take a moment and answer that question. I’ll wait…

youth-strength-training_1-1024x6821

Did you answer that question by saying how much you can bench press, or by how many squats you can do? Or did you go for more of an endurance answer like being able to race a triathlon? Maybe you didn’t think of physical strength, but rather thought about how you are emotionally strong, proven by the storms of life that you have weathered. Did you think of, or try to gauge, your spiritual strength? There are many different ways that we could measure strength that’s for sure. How we even answered that question indicates something about us.

You might be like the person I talked with recently who said to me that she felt like she “had lost all of her strength.” Strength seems like it is not a constant, but ebbs and flows throughout life.

The English Standard Version of the Bible uses the word “strength” 175 times and overwhelmingly has two main themes:

  1. the lack of strength on the part of humans and
  2. the strength of God.

Check out this verse in Daniel. Especially note Daniel’s weakness before an angel of God.

I lifted up my eyes and looked, and behold, a man clothed in linen, with a belt of fine gold from Uphaz around his waist. His body was like beryl, his face like the appearance of lightning, his eyes like flaming torches, his arms and legs like the gleam of burnished bronze, and the sound of his words like the sound of a multitude. And I, Daniel, alone saw the vision, for the men who were with me did not see the vision, but a great trembling fell upon them, and they fled to hide themselves. So I was left alone and saw this great vision, and no strength was left in me. My radiant appearance was fearfully changed, and I retained no strength. Then I heard the sound of his words, and as I heard the sound of his words, I fell on my face in deep sleep with my face to the ground.

And behold, a hand touched me and set me trembling on my hands and knees. And he said to me, “O Daniel, man greatly loved, understand the words that I speak to you, and stand upright, for now I have been sent to you.” And when he had spoken this word to me, I stood up trembling. Then he said to me, “Fear not, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand and humbled yourself before your God, your words have been heard, and I have come because of your words. (Daniel 10:5-12 ESV)

God is not impressed with human strength. Psalm 147:10-11 says: “His delight is not in the strength of the horse, nor his pleasure in the legs of a man, but the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love.”

Now the strength of God is something totally different. We actually use the theological word “omnipotent” which the dictionary defines as:

omnipotent |ˌämˈnipəd(ə)nt|

adjective

(of a deity) having unlimited power; able to do anything.

having ultimate power and influence: an omnipotent sovereign.

noun (the Omnipotent)

God.

Omnipotent

When we feel that weakness, when life beats us down once again we can turn to ourselves or pick up another self-help book but that’ll only leave us empty and without strength. It may actually add to our weakness because we just add more guilt to our already weak state. Or we can turn to the Omnipotent. Isaiah says that if we’ll turn to Him we’ll renew our strength.

Have you not known? Have you not heard?

The Lord is the everlasting God,

the Creator of the ends of the earth.

He does not faint or grow weary;

his understanding is unsearchable.

He gives power to the faint,

and to him who has no might he increases strength.

Even youths shall faint and be weary,

and young men shall fall exhausted;

but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;

they shall mount up with wings like eagles;

they shall run and not be weary;

they shall walk and not faint. (Isaiah 40:28-31 ESV)

To quote Paul, “when I am weak, then I am strong.”

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment