Freedom

I remember the birthday that my dad surprised me with a ride in an old Stearman biplane. It was the most exciting thing I had ever experienced in all my life. Strapped in the middle of the wide front seat by myself, with the prop wash and roar of the engine, we took off for my first airplane ride. It was a bit unnerving with the wind and noise, but I soon came to really like it in spite of my uneasiness.

After climbing a bit, the pilot made a few turns which challenged my not-too-steady nerves. I discovered that tipping sideways in a turn was okay, even a bit fun. All of that was just the warmup though, and I didn’t suspect what would happen next.

While flying straight and level, the pilot began a slow roll. At first it seemed like we were making another turn. However without the turn’s centrifugal force holding me in place, I began to slide sideways on the slick leather seat troubling me greatly. By then, the plane had rotated ninety degrees, and I’d slid against the cockpit while the plane continued to rotate. As it began to turn upside down, the slightly padded seat I had been sitting on was exchanged for air with only the seatbelt preventing me from my first attempt at skydiving. Not being comfortable with just the seatbelt between me and a free fall experience, I immediately grabbed the front edge of the seat. To my satisfaction this provided a great handhold, and with my eyes closed, I proceeded to cling to that seat with every ounce of strength I had.

Having given my full attention and might to staying in the plane, I realized the plane was now completing the roll. I was back on the seat sitting where I belonged. When my heart was no longer synced to the motor RPMs, I began to relax. I took inventory and realized I was still in the plane and alive. Not bad. As if the pilot sensed I was returning to normal, he began a slow roll again. This time I was prepared! I grabbed the bottom of the seat and held on. Determined to keep my eyes open, I discovered the world was indeed beautiful upside down with the wind in my hair and new-found liberation from gravity. We moved about in the sky with total freedom from what weighs man to the ground.

Flying like the birds have flown since Creation was a marvelous and exciting new life for me. It was one that I would live for and give whatever I could earn in wages to experience over and over again in the future. Flying became my purpose in life and it remained so until about ten years later when I placed my faith in Jesus’ death on the cross for my sins.

Where are you in your walk with the Savior? Maybe you have no walk. Perhaps you are attending church because your wife wants you to, but you are living without the indwelling Spirit of God. Could it be that you have no real interest in spiritual things? If so, you are like I was – in love with the things of the world – and God has no place in your heart. If that is you, please ask yourself what you will do with your sin when facing a righteous and holy God. Remember, not all die old. The young die too and often without warning. Don’t delay to repent of your sin and believe that Jesus died on the cross to pay for your sins. “Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out . . .” (Acts 3:19).

After my salvation, a competition for my heart began. Not only was there the competition between flying and the Lord, but I was married and working. My flying priorities caused conflict in my spirit, and there wasn’t peace when there should have been. I had Jesus, wasn’t He enough?

When I sought God’s answers to that question, He poured out grace and mercy in my life as He patiently continued to vie for first place in my heart. He led me to establish a daily Bible time first thing in my day. Because of that time in the Word, things began to improve. With great excitement, I saw my relationship with the Lord growing. I now was experiencing a new freedom that was far beyond the freedom flying gave me!

Maybe you have made a profession of faith. Perhaps at some time you prayed to trust Jesus’ death on the cross for salvation, but you do not have joy and freedom. I had great turmoil for a time after trusting Jesus. I wasn’t reading my Bible every day. I wasn’t feeding my spirit the Word of God what it needed to grow in Christ. There were no alternatives or quick, easy fixes. Jesus wanted first place in my life. As much as I loved the freedom and fun I had while flying, it lasted only until the money ran out. The joy that came with Jesus didn’t depend on money, but it did cost. It cost me time, focus, and even flying. When I gave Him proper place in my life, I had peace and joy. Though it has been over thirty years since I have flown a plane, I wouldn’t trade my freedom in Christ for the freedom of flying. There is NOTHING that beats life in Christ.

On that summer morning, I discovered the joy of flight and the freedom from what holds us physically down to this earth. Years later I discovered the joy of Christ and the freedom only He can give.

It is my delight to encourage dads who are weighed down trying to be all things to all people, dads who thought it was supposed to be better as a believer, and dads who are struggling with marriage or family issues. That is why I write a Dad’s Corner each month. I also provide an audio podcast of it because many dads don’t have time to read even a short article of encouragement. They can, however, simply listen to the Dad’s Corner as they drive.

As God has enabled me through the years to encourage dads in the role God has placed them in, the direction and power is always the same. “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18). I want to share steady words of full surrender to Christ. That joy and exhilaration I experienced when I first discovered freedom from gravity is far exceeded by freedom in Christ through a surrendered life. As we begin 2013, may I come alongside you and be an encouragement to you and your family? There is no life, like life in Christ. Amen?

Posted in: Dad's Corner

Siblings: The Good and the Bad – Part 2

Last month, I shared the joy of the relationships that I observe between our eight children, especially the six that are still at home. Their ages range from sixteen to thirty (thirty-six if we include the two who are married), so my children are much older than many of the children in the families who are reading this article. I also described their failures and how they now deal with them since they are all adults or almost adults. My desire was to encourage younger moms not to lose heart as they work with their children to facilitate solid sibling relationships. In addition, I wanted to provide some practical suggestions for how that might be accomplished. If you haven’t read that article, you may do so here.

Growing up, our children were very normal children, with conflicts between them—bickering, selfishness, tattling, and other negative aspects of childish behavior toward a brother or sister. We well remember the Christmas trip from Florida to Kansas we made to visit my parents with three little children in the back seat, ages one, three, and five. There was no end to the conflicts that arose between those children. The three-year-old was even unhappy with his brother for looking out his window! While it is laughable to us now, back then by the end of that trip, Steve and I thought we would never take the children anywhere again!

While that was the reality of our little children, it was never where we wanted those relationships to remain. It was always the prayer of our hearts and the direction of our parenting to help our children learn to be kind to each other, settle disputes lovingly, ask forgiveness for offenses, and develop positive, lifelong relationships.

Although daily struggles were the norm when our children were little, they are no longer the norm and haven’t been for a long time. We have the advantage of being able to look at the relationships our children have now that they are grown versus what they were when they were young. The development of those positive relationships was a day-by-day, step-by-step process that took God’s grace and wisdom, plus our investment in time to help those children, work with them, and encourage them. I would like to motivate each of you to do the same and not be discouraged by your daily reality when it doesn’t match the desires of your heart for your children.

I believe the greatest progress in those positive sibling relationships came when we started having consistent, daily family Bible time. That forty-five minutes or so every evening impacted much of our lives, including the children’s interactions with each other. Steve and I became Christians about a year after we were married, and we occasionally heard a sermon that would mention the importance of family Bible time. However, it was years down the road before it became a conviction and then a reality in our home. Once we began having daily family Bible time, there was no turning back. The changes were too good, and our hearts were so filled with our Lord Jesus Christ and His truths that we have continued the habit to this day.

During family Bible time, Steve had the opportunity, in a non-confrontational way, to discuss a verse we would read and how it applied to the way we treated others, including brothers and sisters. He could make the Scriptures real and practical for the children. For example, we might be reading through Colossians and come to these verses: “Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness” (Colossians 3:12-14). Steve could ask the children what each of those words meant, have them give examples of how they would relate to getting along with their brothers and sisters, and have them think of times when that happened and when it didn’t happen. We might discuss forgiveness and the way Christ forgave us while the children figured out how that could apply to their conflicts with a sibling. We would regularly bring up the fact that bitterness grows with lack of forgiveness.

Did the children get it the first time we talked about it? Of course not. They were children, and children act like children. However, those godly attitudes were always the goal on our hearts for them, and we continued to encourage, admonish, and exhort them toward that end. With each year of teaching, growth, and maturity, the relationships between them also became better.

That time in the Word was the most powerful offensive weapon we had for building strong sibling relationship and hindering negative ones. “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).

Pick out some verses that will help your children in their relationships with each other and then sweetly, quietly, and gently use them. Even a two-year-old can memorize simple verses. Here are a few you could start with:

“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” (Psalm 133:1)

“ . . . love one another . . .” (John 13:34)

“Even a child is known by his doings, whether his work be pure, and whether it be right.” (Proverbs 20:11)

“And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” (Ephesians 4:32)

For younger children, you could just take part of a verse, such as Ephesians 4:32, and have them simply learn “be ye kind.”

To raise brothers and sisters who love each other is probably a desire on each of our mothers’ hearts. Those who have young children are likely to become discouraged when they are daily bombarded with less-than-loving actions, words, and attitudes between their children. I want to encourage you to continue to work with your children, using Scripture to direct their hearts. “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not” (Galatians 6:9). Next month I will address the questions posed by a college graduate who has worked as an executive director but is stumped by squabbling toddlers. Maybe there are many moms who feel like she does.