Pay Attention To The Ripple Effect

ripple effectThe decisions you make and the actions you take affect those around you.

Rehoboam learned that lesson the hard way. Rehoboam followed his father Solomon to the throne of Israel. Solomon had exacted harsh labor on the people. A delegation, led by Jeroboam, went to the new king and asked him to take away the harshness.

In private, Rehoboam asked his elder council what he should do. They advised that he become a servant to the people, lighten their load, and the people would always be faithful servants to the king.

His circle of younger friends gave him just the opposite advice. They told him to work the people harder. He liked that idea, told the delegation his plans, and wound up with a divided kingdom.

At one time or another all of us are impacted by someone else’s decisions or actions. When we suffer the negative consequences of another’s wrongheaded decision, God can redeem the situation. Although Rehoboam wound up ruling only two tribes—Judah and Benjamin (as opposed to Jeroboam’s rule over ten tribes)—it was through Judah that Jesus came to us. God can work, and often does what seems to us as his best work, in situations that seem the most difficult.

We should always consider how our decisions and actions affect those around us. In “systems thinking” it is said that “you are the highest leverage point in any system you are in.” More simply stated, you can make a difference. You are more “powerful” than you think you are––no matter your station in life.

Clint Eastwood’s film Invictus tells the story of Nelson Mandela’s use of the South African rugby team to help heal a nation divided by apartheid. In one scene of theripple effect 3 movie he explains to a team member, “Reconciliation starts here. Forgiveness starts here.” He knew his actions would have a ripple effect on those around him. Eventually the blessing of that “ripple” washed across the nation.

Rehoboam made a bad decision, but it was really his father Solomon’s actions that divided the kingdom. He forsook the one true God and chased after other “gods,” he neglected to serve the people and instead forced them to work harder, and he was focused on himself, as reflected in his accumulation of wives, gold, and horses in direct disobedience to God’s counsel. His son Rehoboam was merely living out consequence of those decisions and actions.

Learn from Solomon’s mistake. Love God first. Love others second. And serve those that do not yet know God. You will be surprised to see how far your ripple will travel

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Your view of God

distorted picture 3Ever since Peter Stuyvesant visited the Palace of Versailles the world has had a distorted view of itself.

Peter was the governor of New Amsterdam—later to be renamed New York City—beginning in 1647. He was visiting France to discuss colonial land agreements. While at Versailles he was awed by the Hall of Mirrors.

Peter was determined to bring a similarly amazing showcase to his city. In 1651 he founded the Peter Stuyvesant’s House of Mirrors. He charged one Dutch gulden for admission.

This house of mirrors eventually morphed into what we know as a Fun House of Mirrors seen at many carnivals. For a few tickets the fun begins by walking into a maze of mirrors, both convex and concave. We amuse ourselves by looking at distorted images of our figure.

Today you don’t even have to go to the carnival for this experience. A laptop with a webcam and a silly photo feature will allow you to take a picture of yourself that you can manipulate to look odd.

It’s all fun. But sometimes distorted pictures can cause trouble. It did in Israel during the time of the prophet Samuel. One of the major distortions was found at the Tabernacle, that portable place of praise for God’s people.

It was parked at Shiloh and was meant to be a clear picture of God’s holiness and grace. A system of sacrifices had been established that foreshadowed the coming sacrifice of the Messiah. Yet anything but holiness was found there.

Eli the priest had two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, who dishonored God in their treatment of the sacrifices and also engaged in immoral sexual activity with women at the Tabernacle (1 Samuel 2:16, 22). Because the picture of God they were giving was distorted, these two were killed in battle against the Philistines. When news of their death reached Eli, he fell over in his chair, broke his neck, and also died.distorted picture 4

Just like Eli and his sons we are representatives of God. We represent Jesus to others. You may have heard it said that you may be the only Bible those around you will ever ‘read.’ The question is, “Are you giving a clear or distorted picture of the One True God?”

Decisions you make affect those traveling with you.

travel 2Every parent has been there. The trip ahead is long. The travel schedule is tight. You hit the road with a full tank, confident the plan you have crafted beats anything AAA could muster. But twenty minutes down the highway you hear a small, squeaky voice from the backseat. The artillery begins to bombard you. The questions.

Some you expected. Are we there yet? How much longer? Can we get something to eat?

The next barrage is unexpected. Who was the first person to decide to squeeze those things on a cow and drink whatever came out? Why does our dog get mad at us when we blow in his face but when we take him on a car ride he sticks his head out the window?

Every parent has been there. Questions from the backseat. You come to expect them. Every journey to a destination includes them. The same is true for the journey of faith.

Just like kids on a trip we get tired of the journey. We want to know when we can stop. We get tired of serving. We get tired of waiting. We get tired of the people we’re traveling with.

And we grumble. The Israelites did. They complained about the food, about the place they were traveling, and about their ‘driver’ Moses.

Grumbling does not set well with God. In fact, our grumbling can lead to our wandering. When offered the chance to leave Kadesh and enter the Promised Land, the Israelites listened to the fear-filled report from ten spies instead of the faith-full report of Joshua and Caleb.

Kadesh means “Spring of Decision” and it was time for one. They were in the right place to make the right decision. But the majority made the wrong one. The people wished they had died in the desert. So God told them they would get their wish. They would wander until the unbelieving generation  died out.

And they did. They wandered in the Wilderness for forty years. And their children were impacted by their decisions.

The decisions you make affect those around you, just like the decisions the Israelites made at Kadesh. You can decide to grumble or be thankful. You can decide to turn away from God or turn toward God. You can decide to wander without purpose through life or follow God’s vision for your life.

Just don’t forget that those in the backseat will be affected by your decisions.

What Will They Say When They Are Gone?

Father’s Day has come and gone. The very thought of the day can bring anger, disappointment or regret too many. On the other hand, it can be a day of delight, pride and tremendous peace. It all depends on the kind of father you have or had and the kind of father you are or were.

All my kids are out of our house and married. Two have their own children. Our parenting years are pretty much gone, even though we still inject our direction and advice whenever we can.

So father’s day for me is different from those who are in the middle of parenting on a 24/7 schedule. For me it is a reflection on the past. And I love it because it gives my sons a chance to express their thoughts and feelings about my parenting. Here are a couple of their written comments from Father’s Day cards I received this year.

“I am so lucky to have a father like you. I don’t think that you were perfect, but you were excellent. I owe the man I am to who you are. Thank you for being in our lives.”

“Thank-you for giving me an example of what a good, God-fearing father should be. Everything I know how to do with my son I learned from you. Thank you for that example. I don’t often say it with words, but I appreciate the father you have been and the grandfather you will be.”

Father’s Day helps me see whether or not I really made a difference in the life of my sons by the words they express back to me, now that they are out on their own.

Which leads me to ask, what will your kids say about you once they are gone from your house? When they are out on their own what will their feelings and expressions be as they look back? Will they be able to authentically say the kind of things that make you feel overwhelmed with pride that you were their father (or mother)?

If you have your doubts or if you are sure it won’t be that rewarding, then what do you need to do right now to make a change? What do you need to develop, get rid of or redirect in your parenting approach? I would encourage you to not wait another day to get right what is currently wrong.

By the way, what do you feel are the most important qualities of a great dad that needs to be consistently evident in out parenting approach? Would you care to share your convictions?

For example, I believe an excellent model is one. Someone was right on when they said, “We teach what we know, we reproduce what we are.” And Albert Schweitzer said, “Example is not the main thing in influencing others-it is the only thing.” So the model we set forth will eventually be set in our children.

Our children are like play-doh. We are daily making impressions in their lives that over time will become set and very difficult to change. So make sure we are making the kind of impression we want to be with them for life.

What else do you feel is a non-negotiable when it comes to parenting?