Posts Tagged ‘guidance’

Where Do We Go From Here?

          I recently watched  a re-run of the show called “The Practice”. In this episode a couple was placed on trial for murder because they refused to get medical attention for their sick three year old son. They were Christian-Scientists and chose to believe that their strongest chance of a cure rested in prayer for God to heal their son. The defense argued that the “Constitution” guaranteed religious freedom and the prosecution argued that the parents had a responsibility that they violated and were guilty of murder. To further complicate the issue, the accused mother was about to deliver another child which set up an additional argument as to the rights of the unborn fetus.

          It occurred to me how important a belief system can be to a nation. Some citizens would say that an unborn fetus has no rights while others would oppose that point of view. How essential is it that we have a basis for what we believe? I’m not suggesting that we believe what we care to believe but rather that we need to support out belief  by factual evidence that we can use as a foundation. I believe that our founding fathers had such a unified belief. In the “Declaration of Independence”, evidence of such belief was based upon their understanding that certain unalienable rights were given by our Creator. That is the right to “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness”. Given the time in history of the writing I believe with certainty that their definition of happiness was far different than that which we as Americans have pursued over the past several decades. Their view encompassed the basics of life and existence, not so much lifestyle. Their standard of conduct was based upon a moral code which rested on nothing less than Biblical tenants. I think what they had in view was the goal of holiness, the only true path to happiness.

          Today we find the leadership of our government and business sector in chaos. There seems to be little agreement on the way forward and I contend the reason for such chaos rests squarely on our lack of identity as a people and the failure of our society to maintain the beliefs that made this a great nation. The strength of what one believes can have a profound effect on the world around us. It is difficult for most of us to understand the commitment of the Kami-Kazi pilot from World War II or the dedication of a suicide bomber in a modern day terrorist attack. Both such actions were born from deep rooted belief systems. Unfortunately, too many of our leaders today have corrupted the values of our society and are driven only by the lust for power or money. These things are a poor substitute for the godly wisdom of character and integrity.

          The questions that plague our society have real answers. However, they can only be found in the light of Biblical scripture, the same light that shone brightly on the founding documents of this great nation, written by men who used to adjourn and pray for hours to seek the face of Almighty God before determining their course of action. The Bible was the document most consulted over all other writings. Are we really more enlightened? Are we wiser in our own estimation than the fathers of our nation? For our liberal minded fellow citizens who object to the idea of our Biblical heritage I will concede that there was never a mandated national religion. Christianity cannot be mandated as it remains a personal decision for every human to accept Jesus as their Savior, solely reliant upon the gift of God’s Holy Spirit. Yet there can be no denial of the Biblical influence by which our founders and their writings  relied upon for the birth of this nation. Further there can be no denial of the destruction brought about by the religion of  liberal thinking to our way of life, our liberty and our pursuit of happiness. The proof exists all around us in the chaos that is now present. True followers of Jesus can have peace knowing that the sovereignty of God is still in tact. The “Good News” is still the “Good News”. For everyone else I suggest you read the world’s most important book before you dare reject it. It’s your only hope for living with assurance in the midst of these chaotic days.

Spare the Rod???

Water2          As He inspired the scriptures God often used the imagery of the shepherd and the shepherd’s rod or staff.  Being the original multi-tasker He has several purposes in mind as we consider how the shepherd uses his staff and how God intends us to understand His role in relating to each of us. The staff was used particularly in Old Testament history as a symbol of authority. As God’s representative Moses demonstrated God’s power before the Pharaoh, struck the rock in the wilderness to produce water for two million people and caused Israel to succeed in battle when he held the staff above his head. The staff was his symbol of authority. Likewise the shepherd is master over the flock and performs many functions with his staff as he cares for the sheep.

          First, let us consider the matter of discipline. Discipline is not a very inviting word. It has taken on more of a negative connotation in our culture today than it probably deserves. It is often more associated with punishment than its more accurate definition of instruction or guidance for a code of conduct or behavior. As the shepherd pokes and prods the sheep they acquire the learned behavior necessary for living in the flock or community of sheep. As parents it becomes necessary for us to supply the loving discipline in order for our children to acquire the desired behavioral traits that benefit life in community. While the shepherd uses the tangible and visible staff or rod, God uses circumstances to get our attention. Likewise we must find ways to gain the attention of our children in a loving but guiding manner. This writing is not meant to discuss the pros and cons of corporal punishment, which must be an individual decision. Often we hear the phrase, “spare the rod and spoil the child”. I believe that the rod represents far more than is often brought to mind by that phrase. As we explore the many purposes of the shepherd’s rod perhaps we may discover the many ways of spoiling a child. Disciplines are generally designed to produce a positive result. We can easily see in the life of any successful superstar that discipline allowed them to excel in their particular field. Tiger Woods is perhaps the greatest golfer of all time but we never would have heard of him without the discipline to practice golf consistently over a long period of time. Disciplines allow us to hone our abilities for living the life God intended. It is the word from which we get disciple.

          Protection is another function of the shepherd’s staff. He defends the sheep against predators by using his rod. In the same manner God protects us by means of His direction in our lives. We may not be aware of all His efforts on our behalf and it becomes all important for us to seek Him and His will for us as He knows what is best for us and never intends us harm. As we model God’s love for us in raising our children, it is important for us to make wise decisions in order to protect them from all possible harm. Acts of discipline and protection maybe painful at times but necessary guidance for proper direction.

          Separation of the sheep in the flock was also accomplished by the staff.  God calls for separation for His followers. To be considered Holy, a believer must be set apart or separate. This simply means that we are available for use by Him for His purpose.  This does not mean that we are separatists. The scriptures tell us that we are to be “in the world, not of the world”. We are called to be recognizably different. We hear so much today in regards to peer pressure among young people. If we raise our children according to God’s plan, peer pressure will not have it’s ugly result. If a young person has a good sense of who they are and what they believe then their choices will be much easier. Hopefully their actions will impact others around them and peer pressure will be reversed. We need to teach them to be separate in their thinking, deciding their values in advance of their decision making opportunities.

          Gathering is yet another use. The shepherd gathers the flock by using his staff. He gathers them for feeding, protection and providing rest. The imagery continues as God also desires to gather us in community for the purposes of feeding, guiding and causing us to rest. Perhaps the most violated of all God’s principles is the principle of rest. Many believers today do not even comprehend God’s concept of rest. His rest allows for a time of reflection and meditation on His Word, it allows us to receive direction, strength and wisdom from Him. This is difficult if not impossible to pass on to our children if we haven’t mastered this discipline ourselves. This is one area that needs nurturing from the time children are small. It can be quite a task to convert a teenager to the discipline of resting. Most of them cannot slow down for more than a minute or two without exploding.

          Comfort may be the most interesting of all uses of the shepherd’s staff. All of the above items and more are necessary for the sheep to be comforted by the shepherd. These are all items of provision for the flock’s well being. Psalm 23 states, “…Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me…” .  By a touch from the shepherd the sheep know his presence. While it might seem contradictory, an act of discipline can be an act of comfort. We all need boundaries especially our children. They are comforted by the knowledge that someone else exercises concern and caring over their well being. Someone else provides for them and instills values and stability to face the challenges of life. In the same way God wants to do the same for each of us. We often criticize our children for not wanting to listen but in reality it may be that we are the ones who are most disobedient. Perhaps this is largely due to the fact that many Christians are unsure of how to listen to God. He speaks but doesn’t yell. We need the discipline of rest and intentional deliberation of His Word. We need to know His presence, His prodding and poking as He gently guides with His staff.

          While this doesn’t exhaust all the uses of the rod, it is easy to see that using the rod too sparingly may easily spoil the child. A lack of discipline doesn’t send a message of comfort and love; it creates a void, a void of boundaries, a void of reassurance and a void of the presence of another who really cares. This is the way God designed the necessities of life, He modeled it through the shepherd. “I am the good shepherd, I know my own and they know me. (John 10:14)