A Man’s Best Friend

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Timber watching his master.

This dog! His name is Timber, and he belongs to our son Tim.

“I’ve never seen a dog that listens so well,” my friend said to me. We were sitting at the picnic table and Timber waited patiently at the end of the table, the plate of shrimp tails and shells at his feet, untouched.

Timber cocked his head, waiting. Yet he never moved his position or his poise. He just stood, waiting.

On the words, “Okay!” from his master, he scarfed up the food on the plate.

I’ve accused my son of being mean to make his dog wait so long to eat. He challenges me that it does not hurt his dog to know that he has to listen – and waiting a few minutes will not hurt him at all.

He’s right, you know. Timber is the best-behaved dog I have ever known, thanks to his Master.

Tim has taught his dog well. From the time Timber was brought to his new home as a 6-week old puppy, the two have been inseparable. Timber’s mother is a pure-bred German Shepherd. His father – a lab – came from who-knows-where.  Over Thanksgiving in 2010, we went to get two puppies for our place when Tim decided to ride along. We came back with three puppies – two for us and one for him.

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Timber and his sister siblings when they were puppies.

Whenever Tim has to be gone for several days and we “dog-sit”, Timber is not happy. He knows we love him and he knows there will be plenty of dog food and table scraps (his favorite), but he misses his Master. Sometimes he won’t eat until Tim gets back. Other days he eats only table scraps and no dog food. I suppose it’s his way of coping with his unhappiness.

Dave has little tolerance for animals in the house. Yet somehow when Timber arrives, the dog manages to be allowed to sit on the rug just inside the kitchen door. If I’m not around, he also manages to come further into the house. I like Timber, but I do not like dog hair on carpet or on sofas.

 

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The mascot of the boat. Timber always rides along.

Whether Tim is on his boat on Mayo Lake or driving one of his trucks, Timber is with him.

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Sometimes Tim’s business puts him on the road with a truck and trailer – and Timber is as much a part of the business as anyone else. Everywhere they go, Timber rides on the back of the trailer, moving from side to side to bark at other vehicles and their passengers. Sometimes, if it’s really cold or raining hard, he rides in the cab – but he is always wherever Tim goes.

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Timber even comes to church, but he stays outside. He stays either in the vehicle or under the vehicle – wherever Tim puts him and tells him to “Stay!”. On our annual Heroes of Faith night, he participated in the skit Tim performed for his character. Tim was Lazarus with sores on his legs, and Timber came bounding in to lick the “wounds” on Tim’s legs. You would have thought they had rehearsed the skit because it went so well.

Timber functions as a guard dog when his master ventures into precarious situations because of his business. He functions as a playmate for the many children who come in and out of our home. He serves as a watchdog wherever he goes. At the warehouse that houses Tim’s business, he is the mascot.

Most importantly, he serves as his master’s loyal and best friend.

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How to Prove That I Love Jesus

When all is said and done, there’s a record of  how we’ve lived. For those who lived thousands of years ago, God kept a record as well. For some of them – and, I believe, especially for those of us who claim to be His children – God kept a record. He recorded what mattered. You’ll find those folks in what we call the Faith Chapter: Hebrews 11.

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If you grew up in church and heard the Bible stories from little up, you’ll know the characters. You’ll know what they did (or didn’t do.) What strikes me most is that these folks did what God told them to do – by faith.

The record of their obedience is proof to us that they were people of genuine faith. They proved their love to Him by acting out their faith.

Jesus said that if we really, truly love Him, we will love and keep His commandments. God gave specific instructions to those heroes of faith. Not only are their names listed, but what they did is listed as well.

By faith . . .

  • Abel brought the offering required by God. [Later he was murdered because of it.]
  • Noah built an ark and spoke to warn others. [In spite of ridicule.]
  • Abraham left his familiar, comfortable home and became a stranger in a foreign land; he packed his bags when he didn’t know where he was going. [How’s that for not having a GPS?]
  • Sarai conceived and bore a son in her old age. [This one makes me tired just thinking about it.]
  • Abraham offered his son as a sacrifice because he reasoned that God could raise him from the dead.[Could I really do this?]
  • Joseph gave instructions for the burial of his bones and prophecied about the exodus from Egypt years before it happened. [After being sold into slavery.]
  • The parents of Moses (Amram and Jocabed) hid their son Moses for three months because they saw he wasn’t an ordinary child and because they were not afraid of the king’s edict. [They knew they could lose their lives in defying the king’s edict.]
  • Moses chose to be mistreated and counted his disgrace for the sake of his people to be of greater value than the treasures of Egypt. [He claimed his people.]
  • Moses led the children of Israel out of Egypt, crossing the Red Sea. [And boy, were they stiff-necked!]
  • The walls of Jericho fell down under the leadership of Joshua. [Six days of marching without anything happening.]
  • Rahab was saved from death because she received the spies and kept them safe from harm. [A forgiven prostitute.]
  • Gedeon, Barak, Samson, Jephthae, David, Samuel and the prophets, through faith, subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword and were made strong out of weakness. The list (and their accomplishments) goes on and on and on.

Adam and Eve with their slain son Abel

The way I see it, it wasn’t an easy road. In fact, it was more difficult than pleasant, harder rather than easier.

They obeyed, and they persevered.

That’s why they are listed in the Hall of Faith. It was their obedience. Surely, they loved God. Yet the only way to show their love was to obey.

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It still works the same way, today.  

To love means we obey.

What are the things He is asking you – or me – to do?  Sometimes He asks us to go somewhere. Sometimes He asks us to be someone. Sometimes He asks us to forgive, or to share, or to give. Sometimes He wants to change our relationships. Sometimes He asks us to change the places we go or the places we aren’t willing to go. Sometimes He asks us to make changes in the things we wear or the things we do, or the things we say.  Sometimes He wants us to spend more time with Him. Sometimes He asks us to step outside our comfort zone.

This I  know: if we ask Him, He will tell us what He wants us to do.

The most accurate measurement of our love for Jesus is our obedience to Him. 

Jesus said to those who claimed to love Him, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” He also responded to the crowds following Him, “Why do you call me LORD,but do not the things that I say?”

He is still responding in the same way to those of us who declare our love for Him.

What cities is He asking you to march around? What sacrifice is He asking you to put on the altar? What offering is He asking you to bring?

We can’t say we love Him if we’re not willing to do those things.

 

A Second Chance for Moses

second chance

Poor Moses. He’s called to lead the people of Israel out of bondage in Egypt when he never campaigned for the job. He stutters and he has a temper. Not exactly the marks of a good leader. Yet he serves a God who continues to give him a second chance.

The first time his temper gets him into trouble is when he kills an Egyptian in anger. We could say the anger was justified because the Egyptian was mistreating one of the Hebrew slaves. Nevertheless, Moses goes into hiding – and that’s where God meets him and tells him that he has been chosen. Beside that burning bush that never burned up, God tells Moses the plan He has for him.

Moses finally agrees to lead these stiff-necked people, and they set out for the land of promise. Three months after their departure God takes Moses up in a mountain. Moses doesn’t know – because God doesn’t tell him or the people – that he will be gone for forty days and forty nights.

The people get tired of waiting and complain to Aaron, who helps them make a golden calf they can “worship”, using their jewelry. Finally, Moses comes down the mountain.

In his arms, he carries two tablets of stone, tablets on which God had written the commandments they are to follow. Both tablets, both sides. On tablets made by God Himself and written by the finger of God on both sides, Moses carries those stones down the mountain. He knew before he left the top of the mountain that the people had sinned, for God told him so.

Obviously, he wasn’t prepared for what had happened in his absence. He saw the golden calf and the people, naked and dancing. This was not what he expected or envisioned – in spite of what God told him just before he came down the mountain. In his anger and frustration, he threw the tablets to the ground and the tablets broke.  Oh, my! Was that righteous anger?

Interestingly, a short time later, God sends Moses back up the mountain. This time, Moses has to hew out two tablets of stone. Moses has to carry those tablets of stone up the mountain. Is there a reason God doesn’t provide the tablets the second time? Is there a reason Moses has to carry them up the mountain? Surely the Lord God could have given him another set of tablets, or certainly provided a way for Moses to get them back up the mountain without needing to carry them himself. [Parents: our Father in Heaven has ways to make the “punishment fit the crime.” We can follow His example.]

Interestingly also, Moses spends another forty days and forty nights on the mountain with God. Was this for Moses, for the people, or both? Was it for God to show him what it means to get a second chance?

Of one thing I’m sure: Moses never forgot the work hewing out those two tablets of stone. He never forgot the journey going back up that mountain to meet with God, carrying those stone tablets. He probably also remembered that both visits up that mountain lasted forty days.

I  have to smile when I envision Moses hewing out those tablets of stone. It had to be hard work. I don’t think he grumbled or complained because he knew exactly why God was asking this of him.

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When was the last time God had you doing something that was unpleasant – but you knew exactly why He asked this of you? If it’s never happened to you, then maybe you should consider why.

If you’ve found yourself on your knees hewing out stone because God told you to, be glad for a God Who gives second chances. Be grateful that our God is merciful and gracious, even while He is just.

Moses continued to lead the people for the next forty years. He made his share of mistakes.  One of those mistakes cost him entrance to the promised land.

Even so, God never gave up on him. Jehovah never stopped using Moses. The Almighty God gave Moses another chance to do those Ten Commandments. He continued to meet with him and continued to guide him as he led the Israelites.

God doesn’t give up on us, either. We keep getting a second chance.

Sometimes we have to re-climb that mountain. Sometimes He requires us to cut out new tablets of stone.

Forever and always, He doesn’t give up. He keeps providing. He continues to give us a second chance. He keeps extending grace.

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This is the God we serve!

Pinterest second chance

Why Parents Shouldn’t Count to Three

Don’t. Count. to. Three.

Just don’t do it.

If you’re a counting-to-three-parent, how many times have you stopped at three and required what your kids knew you expected? How many times have you slowed the count to give your kids more time to decide to cooperate or obey? That’s why I don’t think counting to three accomplishes the end goal.

You might think I believe I have all the answers. I don’t. Especially when it comes to parenting, we made our share of mistakes. It’s always easier to see how ridiculous we act as parents when we’re watching someone else instead of ourselves. It’s also easier to see what works and why it works when we’re observers. One thing I know is that in our parenting, we need to constantly ask ourselves what is my goal in this?   If we can figure out the goal, we can usually figure out the best way to get there.

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As parents, we want our kids to respond when we ask them to do something.

When it’s time to pick up the toys, we want them to do it now instead of playing for another ten minutes. When it really is time to go to bed, we want them to be in bed on time and not an hour later. When there is homework to be done, we want it finished in plenty of time so we’re not staying up past their bedtime to complete what should have been done earlier. There is only one way to accomplish that: teach them instant obedience. Counting to three does not teach instant obedience. [Lest you think we did this perfectly, think again. I fear we failed more often than we succeeded – and that’s one reason why I notice it in other parents today.]

On the slip side, we don’t want to be “too hard” on the kids we love so much. After all, “he’s only two”, or “she’s never had to do this before.” We want them to feel like they can make choices; we want them to experience the opportunity to choose ways to do things when there’s really nothing wrong with getting to choose. Yet in our desire to be fair, we sometimes lose the vision of what it means to teach our kids to obey.

3 little girl with glasses

Most of us don’t like to discipline our kids. It’s a hassle to follow through on rules and responsibilities we have given. Sometimes it’s just easier to look the other way than to deal out consequences (ask me how I know!) Without realizing it, we tend to choose the easiest way. When we tell a child to come to us or go pick up toys or clothes, or go do a chore, it would save us a lot of time if we’d just follow through then.

3 1,2,3

Instead, we begin counting:  “One . . .   two .  . .  two-and-a-half . . .. two-and-three-fourth . . . three .  . . . four . . .” and we wonder why our kids don’t obey. We make it too easy not to obey. They know they’ve got more time than they deserve; they know if they continue to drag their feet, we’ll keep adding fractions or slowing down the count. The problem with counting to three is that there are many numbers after three. How many times have you really stopped at three?! What are the consequences if you reach three and the child still hasn’t obeyed? If there are no consequences, then your child is the one in charge and not you.

Recently we had a four-year-old boy at our house. He hit his sister and it caused tears. I was sitting in the room and I told him to come to me. He stood next to his sister’s chair and just looked at me. I spoke gently, and said, “You need to come to me now.” He continued to stand still, just watching me. I was tired and I really didn’t feel like dealing with this. It would have been so much easier to have ignored what happened or just said, “If you do that again, then . . . . ” I also knew that if I didn’t deal with this now, I’d regret it the next time (for there was sure to be the next time.)  The instant I moved to get up, he started crying, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry!  I’m coming now!” [Have you ever noticed in church how a child will cry and cry, and the minute the parent stands up to take him out, his crying stops. Hmmmm.]

The problem wasn’t that he didn’t understand what I wanted him to do. The problem was that he has a sin nature just like mine. He went to Time Out for not responding when I asked him to come. Of course, he had to apologize to his sister after he could explain to me why he had to be in Time Out. He would have been spared Time Out if he had obeyed, but he wanted to see if I was going to make him do what I said.

I continue to be amazed at how a child will defiantly refuse to obey until the minute a parent gets up to follow through.  Suddenly, the child begins to beg, “I’m coming,” or “I’m sorry,” or “I’ll do it now,” or “I was going to come!” Obviously, it’s not a matter of the child not understanding what is expected; it’s a matter of him figuring out if the parent is going to let him be the boss or not.

When we skip the counting to three and teach our kids to obey at once, we are grooming them for life and for listening to God’s voice when they are older.

3 boy on mat thingie

It’s a great idea to give our kids notice for something that needs to happen. When our kids need a little notice, I’d recommend setting a timer.  “In ten minutes, you will need to get ready for bed.  So I’m setting the timer, and when the timer goes, play time is over and you’ll need to get ready for bed.”  When the timer goes, don’t count to three. Just follow through on what you said needs to happen. [If the child procrastinates, the next evening he gets even less time to play on the timer; soon  he will learn to stop playing when the timer goes so he doesn’t lose more play time the following evening or even have to go to bed earlier for not being obedient.]

Counting to three teaches our kids three things:
  1. “I don’t have to obey right away. I can take my good old time doing what they say.”
  2.  “If I have to obey, I certainly don’t need to until they lose their patience.”
  3.  “I’m as much in charge as they are. “
Teaching our kids to obey without making concessions teaches them three things:
  1. It teaches them that anything less than instant obedience is disobedience.
  2. It helps them obey God when they are older because they will have learned to obey their parents while they are young.
  3. It helps them experience rewards now and the pleasure that comes with obedience. An obedient child is a happy child.

Again, think about your goal, then map a path for getting there. Figure out your plan, follow it and stick to the plan.

You’ll get there.  Don’t give in and don’t give up.  By hanging in there today, you’ll make parenting easier tomorrow.