Life Without Training Wheels, A Modern-Day Parable

One day a father went out to play with his son in the driveway as he was trying to teach his son how to ride his bike without training wheels. The son was scared to take the chance—not knowing what it would be like without the comforts of the training wheels. He was preoccupied with the fear of falling and what would happen if he fell. He could envision loosing control, skinning his knee or worse yet breaking a bone.

Now the father knew that with his guiding hand and encouraging words, the son would eventually learn to trust him and learn to ride the bike on his own. But he understood the fear and so he was patient with his son—being careful to give him every reason to trust him.

Eventually the child warmed up to the idea of riding without the training wheels, and so together they went to work, taking the wheels off the bike. But as the father was taking the screw out of the last wheel, the child’s fear only grew with more intensity. “What’s wrong?” said the father to his son. “Daddy, I’m afraid I will fall.” The father looked at him and said, “Don’t worry about falling son. I will carefully guide you until you learn to ride on your own. And if you fall, I will be there to catch you. We’ll just get right back up and keep on trying.” The child’s confidence seemed to grow. “You’ll get there. I promise,” the dad said as he gave his son a wink. So with trust in his heart, the little boy began to ride. The father walked briskly behind his son with his hand firmly placed on the seat, as his son launched off into the unknown. As he started he wobbled back and forth a bit, but was soon able to carefully balance the bike and start to peddle.

Eventually the child began to build confidence as he saw that he was able to do it without the aid and comfort of the training wheels. As time went on and as he practiced more, and as he listened to the words of his father as he guided him from behind, he was able to get better and better at peddling and balancing.

Finally one day, when the child had gained the confidence that he could actually ride his bike without training wheels, after he had come to believe and trust the words that his father spoke to him, he decided to turn around and ask his father to let him go.

“Look daddy, I am doing it, I am doing it! You can let go now daddy. I think I can ride without you holding me now!”

As the child looked back to see his father, he noticed that he was not holding the bike anymore. His father had let go a long time ago. He was now running behind his son, as the boy peddled in unrestrained joy. “You already are son, you already are.”

Let he who has an ear, hear…

The God Who Is Aware of Our Suffering

Have you ever been in a place in life where you have wondered if God was present, if He was listening, if He was even there?

I have.

For me it was when we experienced the near death of our son back in October 2010, when he was struck by a boulder at Fall Creek Falls. The circumstances that surrounded those fateful days sent us into an emotional, mental, physical…spiritual tailspin.

We didn’t have to wait long to see God show up. He made His presence known in so many ways. His love, His guidance, His hand, was always there, gently guiding us, comforting us, giving us what we needed for one more day, one more hour, even one more second.

I came across a verse today in my Bible reading that really stood out to me. It occurs in Exodus chapter 3. To give you a little background, it’s the story of the Exodus. Moses has already grown up and is on the run from Pharaoh. He’s lived in the wilderness of Sinai now for over 40 years. He’s married. He even has a child. Long past are the days he used to be a prince of Egypt. He tried to be a leader for his people when he struck the Egyptian taskmaster 40 years earlier, but he failed. Miserably.

Turning The Other Cheek

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile” (Mt. 5:38-42).

There was once a high up ranking sergeant who was once asked about his story-about how he came to Christ. “What was it that made you turn to Christ?” The sergeant then began telling about a private that was serving in his company many years before. This particular private was not very popular with his fellow soldiers and had been being ridiculed for his faith in Christ.

One evening the private came walking into his barracks at an unusually late hour. It was a very rainy night that night. And as was the custom of the young private, before he lay down in his bunk, he would kneel down beside his bed to pray. After he did this, the sergeant, who was across the room, picked up one of his mud soaked boots and threw it at the young private-striking him across the side of his face. The private said nothing. He wiped the mud from his face and crawled into bed.

Following The Good Shepherd (And Not The Bad Ones)

“When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice.” –John 10:4

Something hit me today as I was listening to another minister’s sermon. It wasn’t the sermon that got my attention. It was just a single phrase that was said: “Hearing the voice of God…” That phrase for whatever reason reminded me of the teaching of Jesus over in John 10 as he gave the illustration about him being the Good Shepherd and the Shepherd of the Sheep. The context of the passage has to do with Jesus talking to the Pharisees—those who were supposed to be the shepherds of Israel, under their one Shepherd, God.

Our Homes Are the Laboratory of Life for Our Children

Children need instruction to apply Scripture to issues of authority, obedience, conflict resolution, and God-given roles in relationships. Everyday life affords scores of opportunities to connect Scripture to life — from lost book-bags to broken friendships and poor test grades. Scores of training opportunities evaporate without notice as we hurry through our days thinking that devotional time with our children is enough. Our responses to the circumstances and crises of everyday life make our theology real.

Bible stories glow with illustrations of children whose knowledge of Scripture translated into obedient, bold action. David’s words to Saul sound naive and childish in the face of the Philistine army and the terrifying threats of Goliath, “Let no one lose heart on account of this Philistine; your servant will go and fight him” (1 Sam. 17:32). But David’s spiritual life and experience as a boy shepherd resounds with his right to speak. “But David said to Saul, ‘Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth…. Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear…. The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine’” (1 Sam. 17:34–37).

Say Goodnight, Together

During our first few years of marriage, my husband Ted’s favorite late night companion was the website Free Republic.

Free what?

Free Republic. That would be an online gathering place for the politically conservative to discuss the latest in politics.

You see, prior to our union, freeping – as it’s called – was Ted’s go-to, end-of-the-day, wind-down activity. One that he brought with him into our marriage. Most nights, after I went to bed, he’d still be curled up on the couch with his laptop (yep, those were the dark days before iPads) having “spirited conversations” with other freepers.

While there wasn’t necessarily anything wrong with this in his pre-Ashleigh days or even in moderation after our wedding, it meant that our heads rarely hit the pillow at the same time. Maybe one or twice a week. Most evenings I’d head to bed, while he logged in a few more hours of screen time.

Perhaps you can relate. It could be that after that initial newlywed bliss wore off, you and your spouse have discovered that syncing your bedtime routines is a challenge. If so, I’m here to encourage you.

Jesus Loves Me, This I Know

“If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.” – I Corinthians 13:2

One of the simplest lessons we learn as children is reflected also in one of the earliest songs we learn as children, Jesus Loves Me.

So many move on from this most basic lesson to then study further, and learn more sophisticated and complicated doctrines. People get Master’s degrees and PhD’s in theology. They debate and argue over things that most people don’t even know how to define: transubstantiation, baptismal regeneration, complementarianism, egalitarianism, and on and on.

And yet, in all my years of following Jesus, I cannot find a simpler and yet more profound and in depth study, than the study of his love. Its not that I am against the other things, but I want to be the kind of person that gets a PhD in love, and gets a bunch of minors in the other stuff.

Its love that opens up the door of heaven for a relationship with God. It’s love that changes the human heart and receives the miracle of the sacrifice of Jesus. Its love that lays aside all sin and moves on toward holiness. Its love that forgives others and paves the way for healing and restoration in all of our relationships. Its love that goes out of its way to find those in need of love. Its love that impresses the hearts of men once darkened and draws them to Jesus himself.

Love is the light that lights the way.

In all you do, do you best today to pursue love.

God Is NOT Dead, Barren or Silent

This is a guest post from Serena DeGarmo. I have grown to love and respect the DeGarmos for all they have been through in the loss of their son Azaiah. No parent should have to go through what they have.  And yet, through their pain they have demonstrated such faith, such hope, and such love. I came across this post the other day and knew I would have to share it. When we began sharing our story with others concerning God Still Speaks, and what really happened when we nearly lost our own son back in 2010, we too began to receive the same looks and stares, the same negative words and rejections. The truth is, people are afraid of what they don’t understand.  And it is my prayer that as we go to the Bible to see what it really has to say about our relationship with God, we will come away knowing that we serve a God who is first and foremost relational, who loves us, and who wants to speak to us and to our daily lives. I pray God’s greatest blessings on the DeGarmos and they continue to give God glory for all He has done for, through, and in them.

This video captures the heart of who we are today. It captures our loss, our suffering, our faith and our hope.

This video captures a message that I am pretty relieved that I could portray. We stayed. My son died and we stayed. My husband buried a son that he yearned and we stayed.  We were tortured by grief and we stayed. We stayed because we clung to Truth. We clung to the resurrected Christ.

Isn’t that what it’s all about? When you stand at your crossroad of tragedy, will you turn your back on God or run full speed ahead into him?

I think that is what its all about. But there are some in churches around the country that disagree. There is an outspoken tribe who have taken this video to mark my husband as a false teacher because of three words. Mine. Did. Too. This tribe has taken to the web, the pulpit and the kitchen table to warn people of the evils that come from this message. They believe if an individual hears a message from the Creator they must be delusional or a raving liar.

Jesus Is Still Willing

When Jesus came down from the mountainside, large crowds followed him. A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing…” – Matthew 8:1-3

Matthew 8 is full of stories of Jesus healing others. I love how the chapter begins when the man with leprosy comes and kneels down in front of Jesus and asks him if he is willing to heal him. Jesus’ response is so typical of his character. I am willing.

When you read the rest of the chapter you encounter a Roman centurion whose servant was paralyzed back home, Peter’s mother-in-law who was sick in bed with a fever, and then later the text says:

“When evening came, many who were demon-possessed were brought to him, and he drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick.”

Notice it says that Jesus healed all the sick. It struck me that there is never a verse in the New Testament that says Jesus ever turned down someone’s request to be healed. It seems that not only was Jesus willing, but he was always willing.

May It Go Well for Your Children

There are innumerable spiritual blessings for children who live under God’s structures of authority. They learn that God is good and kind. They learn that creatures find happiness as they know and trust God. They understand that the true nature of freedom is not autonomy (being a law to myself), but joyfully walking in God’s laws. They learn to trust God to work through their parents to bring blessing to their lives. They learn that true joy is not having my own way, but following the will of God. They learn that living as God has ordained is the best life a created being can have.

These are rich spiritual blessings. Children will never learn these truths if they are self-directed, autonomous people who think life is good only when they have no external restraints.

There are also practical ways it goes well with obedient children. People respond much more favorably to children who are under authority than to children who are wild and unruly.

Imagine planning a family outing with your children. You are going to spend the day hiking through some rugged and beautiful country and perhaps enjoy an overnight under the stars. You want to invite one or two other children along to be companions and to enjoy the adventure with your family. Who are you going to invite? A child who is wild and unruly? A child who will only listen to you if he happens to agree? A child who will complain when the firewood needs to be gathered? A child who will fight you over each step of the hike? You get the point. You are going to invite a child who is responsive to adult leadership. In scores of practical ways it will go well with the child who understands that God’s world is vertical.

[Read the rest of the article at Shepherd Press.]