Like Father, Like Son: How God Uses Parenting to Teach Us

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Being a father has been a big learning experience for me. Seven years ago when the Lord blessed Steph and I with twin daughters, I never dreamed all that God would teach us. Indeed, children are a wonderful blessing in many ways, but one of the surprises was that I have learned much about God and our relationship with Him just through being a parent. Here are a couple lessons.

 

One of the things I often hear around our home are the words, “Daddy play with me!” It used to just be our older son John, but now that Jeremiah has started to talk, I hear it from both of them. Obviously, I enjoy playing with my kids, but at times is can be a tad overwhelming. For example, in the mornings when I am trying to get off to work and the boys want to play, I often feel torn. I want to play with them, but I know I have responsibilities to attend to. Not long ago, I was reflecting on this and I asked myself, “why do they want to play with me so much? Can’t they just play by themselves?” As I thought about this, it occurred to me that it is only natural for sons to want to be with and play with their father. Families that are healthy naturally want to spend time together – that’s just how it works (see Malachi 4:6). Parents are going to want to spend time with their kids, and kids are going to want to spend time with their parents.

 

The lesson that I learned from this (and continue to learn) is that it is only natural for Christians to desire to spend time with their heavenly Father. It is unfortunate that even as Christians we often we get distracted with other lesser things, and frankly, don’t desire to be with our Father. These distractions can be a huge hindrance to our growing closer to God. Another thing to keep in mind are the words of the Apostle Paul in Ephesians 5:1-2: “Therefore, be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” In the same way that children are master imitators, so too should we strive to imitate God and His Son Jesus Christ.

 

Let me share with you another lesson. When you look at your kids, you can’t help but see lots of similarities. When I look at all four of our kids, I see things that mirror myself and Steph in them. Of course, there are differences, but there are resemblances and similarities that I marvel at. These include physical, emotional, and personality characteristics that indicate a definite family resemblance. I remember one time when we still lived in New York state and my parents were visiting for the first time. My Dad and I were attending our monthly men’s breakfast and as all the guys saw my Dad and I come in, their faces said it all. It was kind of like, “Wow, they really look alike!” I am sure you are not at all surprised by this. It has always been true that the closer parents and children look, the more similarities they are going to see.

 

In the very first chapter in the Bible, we are told that man was created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). This astounding truth is often glossed over by readers, but think about it for a minute. The Creator God, the One who is Lord of Heaven and Earth…..has made us in His own image! Now, we need to keep in mind that after the Fall of man (Genesis 3), our status as image-bearers has been marred because of sin. That’s not to say it is gone for good, but the Fall had devastating, far-reaching consequences. The good news is that for those who are in Christ, the image of God is being restored and remade in us. Let me quote from Paul once again: “Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator” (Colossians 3:9-10). Ask yourself, are you growing in grace? Are you growing in godliness? In other words, if you are a Christian, is there a clear family resemblance between you and your Heavenly Father? Scripture tells us that God is working to make his children “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:3-4), and conform us more and more to the image of Christ. In this we rejoice.

 

I could share with you more lessons that I have learned or had reinforced just through being a parent. No doubt the lessons will continue. Even though child rearing is tough at times, children are a huge blessing from the Lord (Psalm 127:3) and God uses this relationship to teach us about Himself. May we be ever more attentive.

 

For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. (Romans 8:14-17)

 

The Not So Hidden Treasure That Is Christ

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A couple weeks ago, our family vacationed at Myrtle Beach, South Carolina and of course, we had a great time. One morning, Steph and I up were up early doing devotions and enjoying a spectacular sunrise when we saw a funny sight. A guy with a metal detector was walking very slowly and was clearly searching for treasure on the beach. If you are a beach-goer, you will know that seeing that kind of thing on the beach is not out of the ordinary. It’s pretty common actually, but what struck me was that he was headed in the direction of the rising sun. Now, anytime you can see a sunrise, it is amazing (see Psalm 19:4b-6). We often take it for granted, but it is even more amazing when you see it rising over the ocean, like we did that morning. We had a most remarkable backdrop, but it was almost as if he missed it. He was searching for little gadgets and trinkets that might be worth something, but missed something truly priceless.

 

Now, if you are one of those people who like to use your metal detector to find hidden treasure, don’t hear me the wrong way. Don’t give up your hobby. Keep enjoying what you do and maybe you will strike it rich some day….lol. There is obviously nothing wrong with what that guy on the beach was doing. It is just a hobby that he (along with thousands of other people) does and enjoys. But for me this served as an illustration pertaining to our value system. We all have values. There are things that we value greatly while there are other things we don’t value at all. You have heard the saying, “one man’s junk is another man’s treasure.” I’ve said to people before, “why would you spent that much money on that thing?” I’ve had other people say the same to me. In the study of economics, this is called “The Subjective Theory of Value.” That is a fancy title but it has to do with a rather simple concept – values are subjective and not objective. In other words, one person places more value on certain things than another person and vice versa.

 

As Christians, however, we recognize that there values that are beyond the category of subjective. As we study the Scriptures, we come to see that we must align our value system with God’s value system. We must love the things He loves and hate the things He hates. We must treasure what He treasures and forsake what He forsakes. The apostle Paul wrote, “And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ” (Philippians 1:9-10). What this tells us is that not everything is subjective. There is an objective value system that is beyond question. It’s not about – I like this and you like that. No, it is more like – God values this and therefore, that trumps our subjective opinions. Just like that, we have moved from a subjective value system to an objective value system and that transition happens through Holy Scripture. God’s word shows us what is truly valuable, excellent, praiseworthy, lovely, commendable, etc (see Philippians 4:8).

 

In the gospels, there are a couple of short parables that illustrate what I am saying. Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it” (Matthew 13:44-46). In the ancient world, there weren’t banks like we have today. Often people would gather up their treasures and valuables, dig a hole, and leave them there for safekeeping. Eventually, they would go the way of the world and die, with no one knowing where the buried treasure lay. Fast forward a few decades or even centuries later, and perhaps someone would be working in the field, planting their crops when….you guessed it….they stumble upon the buried treasure. That is the basic idea with the first parable and the second is related.

 

Friend, if you knew the secret of hidden treasure what would you do to acquire it? What lengths would you go in order to lay claim to that treasure? I want you to know that the greatest treasure in all the world is the Lord Jesus Christ. To find Him is to find life itself (John 14:6). What is so amazing is that Jesus has not hid himself from us (Romans 10:6-13) but has revealed himself in a most remarkable way. He has made Himself available to all who would call upon His name.

 

Getting back to my opening illustration, the sun serves as a pointer to the Son – the Son of Righteousness. How sad to think that there are scores of people who are searching for treasure in this world when the greatest treasure is right there in front of them – the Lord Jesus Christ. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19-21).

 

We live in a world with a very skewed value system. We value and treasure the things of the world (what the Bible calls transient and passing away), while laying aside that which is of infinite value, namely Christ Himself. Like the sun rising over the ocean, Christ is in no way hiding himself from us. Through His spoken Word and through the created world, God has revealed Himself most clearly and unmistakably. The question is, do we have eyes to see and hearts that are willing to receive the One who is more beautiful, more glorious, more excellent than anyone or anything? Of course, that question remains to be answered.

 

“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:15-17).

God Fixed It!

Our family recently had an experience that reminded us of the power of prayer. It was a Monday morning and I was trying to get off to work when we discovered that the water wasn’t working in our home. Now, to some of you, this probably sounds like a minor problem. But we felt pretty fragile at the time. We had just moved into a new home and had already dealt with a lot of repair issues and we felt like the last thing we needed was another problem to deal with. To make matters worse, you don’t realize how much you rely upon water until you go without it.

 

I won’t go into all the details but I will say it ended up being a long morning. First, I went to the township building, then they suggested going to an auto-body shop (the water guy works there), and finally I came back home. Along the way I made some phone calls and bought some water at the grocery store. Nobody seemed to be able to give us any answers as to why the water was not working. After Steph and I talked things over for a while and I tested out a few more things, I had an idea. I called our little family up to the kitchen and we held hands and we prayed. We had done pretty much everything we could think of, and now all we could do was to leave it in God’s hands. Probably around half an hour later, Steph came up from downstairs and asked, “Did you try anything more with the water?” I said, “No honey, nothing.” She proceeded to walk over to the sink and turn the faucet on. Of course, I was skeptical given the amount of times we had tried without success, but low and behold, it worked! We were shocked!

 

The best line, without a doubt, came from our 4-year-old son John. “God fixed it!” I love how little minds are so logical. He had heard the prayer, he had seen the result, and there was no doubt in his mind what had taken place – God had fixed our water problem! I said to Steph, why did you all of a sudden want to test the water again? She told me, “I just felt like God was saying, ‘trust me and try it.’”

 

To be honest with you, we have had a few of these faith-building experiences over the past year. God has come through for us time and time again. I feel kind of silly that I am so prone to doubt when God has taken care of us and provided in a million different ways, but I often do. What was so memorable about this one was that our kids got a first hand experience in the power of prayer. Only God could have ordained and ordered things in this manner, and it’s safe to say our kids won’t soon forget this experience.

 

The words of Jesus in Matthew 7:7-8: “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.” This is a simple verse but it is oh so powerful. If you are a child of the King, you have the privilege of asking your loving heavenly Father for literally anything. You may not get exactly what you asked for, but you can trust that God will answer your prayer according to His will. 1 John 5:14-15 puts it this way: “And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.”

 

Before I forget, let me tell you the rest of the story. Later on that afternoon, one of the water guys finally showed up. As it turns out, they had been doing some work in our area and had to turn off the water. They had told everyone else about it, but had neglected to tell us, perhaps because we were the new kids on the block. But Steph and I were not bitter at all about what had transpired that morning. God had given our family a powerful lesson that we won’t soon forget.

Bored With Jesus?

During my senior year of High School (way back in April of 2001), I was part of a group of students in our school that went to France. It was an amazing experience, although I can safely say I would appreciate it much more now than I did back then. I will never forget going to the Louvre museum in Paris, one of the largest and most famous museums in the world. We were given 2-3 hours to browse around, but you could easily spend many more there if you had the time. The first thing my friends and I did was to locate where the Mona Lisa was on the map, and then go check it out. We had all heard about this famous painting and so we figured we would go and see it. I will never forget walking into that room with all those people crowded in and being totally underwhelmed by the “ordinariness” of the painting. It was not a large painting and in my opinion at the time, not very impressive. I didn’t know what made for a good piece of art nor did I really care. Apparently, my friends thought the same because after a couple minutes, we moved on to something else (I think the Venice De Milo) and then after that we plopped ourselves down at the cafeteria and hung out for a couple hours before it was time to leave. In other words, we weren’t impressed by what the Louvre had to offer. Like me, my buds were more interested in sports and other things than “the arts” at the time.

 

There are probably a lot of people all over the world who would jump at the chance to go to the Louvre and see the Mona Lisa and other great works of art. They would probably think that my friends and I wasted an opportunity. Obviously, everyone is different and we all have different tastes and interests, and I am certain that High School boys do not make up the biggest demographic of museum visitors. But as I pondered this all, it made me wonder, why is it that Christians often seem to be bored with Jesus? We know that Jesus is the most amazing, wonderful, wise, compelling, loving, gracious, powerful, glorious, perfect and compassionate person to ever live, and yet it seems as though the world has all our affection. We tend to be captivated by the things of the world and we fix our eyes upon ourselves rather than the Savior of the world, the Lord Jesus Christ. How can this be?

 

To be completely honest with you, all too often I find that this is true of me. Even though I desire to set my mind on things that are above (Colossians 3:1-3), I find that my thoughts are set on earthly things. I can relate to the struggle that the apostle Paul talks about in his letter to the Romans. He writes, “For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing” (Romans 7:18-19). Frankly, this battle is real and it is something that every Christian must deal with. God’s will for us is to be sanctified (1 Thessalonians 4:3) and mature (James 1:2-4) in Christ. Therefore, we must fight for holiness, for without holiness, no one will see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14).

 

Real quick, let me share a few things that I have found helpful in my struggle against sin. First, remember that this is a spiritual battle and that Satan is out to destroy you and to keep you from the light of Christ. The antidote is fairly simple….resist him, firm in your faith (1 Peter 5:9). Second, meditate on the glories of Christ (Philippians 2:5-11, Colossians 1:15-20 and many more in the gospels) and remember that He has already won the victory over sin, death, and Satan. The Bible says, “Greater is He that is in you that he that is in the world” (1 John 4:4). Third, remember that “beholding is becoming.” I got that from John Piper, but He got it from 2 Corinthians 3:18 and the apostle Paul: “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.” In other words, as we gaze upon the risen Christ, we can’t help but be transformed. Fourth, remember that this is a work of God in the soul of the believer. “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit says the Lord of hosts” (Zachariah 4:6). We can’t live the Christian life in our own strength. No, we need all God’s spiritual resources that come by way of the Holy Spirit. Fifth, our citizenship is in heaven (Philippians 3:20) and this world is not our true home. We are simply passing through on our way to a better place. How silly to live as if this world were our permanent home.

 

Friends, when you have your eyes fixed upon the world and all that it has to offer, I can pretty much guarantee that you are not going to grow spiritually. But when you have you eyes fixed upon Jesus – His glory, His beauty, His majesty, then I can pretty much guarantee you that you will grow. You will experience growth and sanctification in your life. And you won’t find Jesus boring. Far from it, you will find Jesus exciting, compelling, wonderful, and He will change your life. God’s Word reminds us that this world is transient and is passing away (1 John 2:17). But Jesus is eternal and one day He will return to this earth to reign and rule. Praise God!

Sharpen the Saw

This has been an exciting year for our family. After moving down to Snow Shoe, PA back in January, we purchased a home (our first!) over the summer and moved in about a month ago. Before moving in we spent a month fixing up our new place. One of the lessons that was reinforced several times over was the importance of having the right tools. Let’s just say the previous owners loved wallpaper. Steph and I opted for paint rather than 80’s wallpaper so that meant we had to get the old stuff off. I was very thankful that we had a “steamer” to aid in the process and let me tell you, that tool saved me a lot of time. As I neared completion of this job, however, there was a lot of wallpaper in small spaces. These spaces were too small for the steamer head to fit over and create the necessary seal for it to work effectively. This slowed the job down considerably. What I didn’t realize, however, was that there was a smaller tool that helps precisely in those small spaces. I could have saved myself a lot of time if I knew we had that tool (I guess next time I should look in the box). The funny thing is, right before I finished up, Steph and I found the smaller head!!! Needless to say I was a little irked, but I got over it pretty quickly.

This little lesson reminded me of a verse from the book of Ecclesiastes: “If the iron is blunt, and one does not sharpen the edge, he must use more strength, but wisdom helps one to succeed” (Ecclesiastes 10:10). In other words, if the blade gets dull, sharpen it. Simple proverb, but it can be enormously helpful and useful.

Did you know that in our Christian walk, God has given us all the tools we need? That’s right, God has given us all the spiritual resources we need to grow and be more like Jesus. He has given us means of grace such as the Word, prayer, the fellowship of believers, and service. All of these are gifts that God has given us for our benefit and to bring glory to His great name. But, here’s the key – we need to use them! Let me take a few moments to run through these spiritual resources.

The Word: The Bible says, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). In short, God’s word is powerful! The Bible is a great gift to the church as it offers us the means to know God and to grow in Christ-likeness. We should strive to follow the example of the Berean believers in Acts 17:11: “they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily.” Dear friends may we follow their example and be a people of the Book.

Prayer: Jesus said, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened” (Matthew 7:7-8). All too often, we know the power of prayer and our need for prayer, but we allow our busy lives to get in the way. May it never be! The Bible says, “Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and hidden things that you have not known” (Jeremiah 33:3). If you truly love the Lord, there will be a desire in your heart to commune with Him and call upon His name. God has given us this invitation, and we must take Him up on it.

Fellowship: The Bible says, “And let us consider how to stir one another up to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:24-25). It’s easy to drift away from the church, isn’t it? In fact, it happens all the time to professing believers. But God has designed things in such a way that we need one another, within the Body of Christ. We need one another’s prayers, encouragement, love, and support. This is what the Church is all about. As the apostle Paul reminds us, “So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:10).

Service: Jesus set the example for us in this regard: “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28). We are servants of the Most High God, and we must do all that we can to be faithful servants. In our own pride, we often approach relationships from the perspective of “what have you done for me lately?” rather than the “what can I do for you?” approach. However, every Christian should have a burning desire to “spend and be spent” (2 Corinthians 12:15) for King Jesus. We must desire to use our spiritual gifts (Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4) in service to God and for the good of the church.

Just to summarize, God has given us all the tools we need to succeed in our Christian walk. We have these amazing spiritual resources at our disposal, but we need to take advantage of them! Brethren, may God find us faithful.

Growing to Christian Maturity

When Steph and I first got married, we planned on taking the slow approach to growing our family. We wanted to have kids, but we also wanted to wait a few years before we got the ball rolling, so to speak. Well, lo and behold, God had other plans. If you know anything about our family, you will know that we now have 4 kids all under the age of 6. Having kids has been a wonderful blessing for Steph and I and we are grateful to God that “the heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps” (Proverbs 16:9).

 

One of the many blessings of having children is that you get to watch them grow and develop simultaneously. Our youngest, Jeremiah, is just started walking. Our middle-man John just started to ride his bike. And our twin daughters have both started to read. Steph and I are thrilled with each of these new developments, but it’s also a reminder that kids grow up fast. It wasn’t all that long ago that John was at the stage Jeremiah is at. So too, it seems like yesterday that the girls were at John’s stage. Children grow and develop rapidly and we know it won’t be long before the kidlets are all grown up and leaving home.

 

I believe that just as God gave us marriage to be a picture of Christ’s love for his bride, the church, so too, God has given us children to be a picture of our need for growth in Christian maturity. For believer’s, our growth in godliness and Christ-likeness should mimic the rapid development of our kids. That is not to say we won’t have setbacks along the way, but it is to say that growth over the long haul will be steady and consistent. One of the things that I lament over is the swell of professing Christian’s who are stagnant – they never seem to grow in sanctification. What they looked like in 1995 is not all that different from what they look like now. Dear friends, may it never be! The desire of every true believer should be to grow and mature, and look more and more like our Savior, Jesus Christ. “For this is the will of God, your sanctification” (1 Thessalonians 4:3). I could marshal 100 more verses that speak to this truth, but suffice it to say that God never intends us to stay at the same level of spiritual maturity. He intends for us to grow as he prepares us for heaven. “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18).

 

What about you – are you growing in your Christian walk? Do you look more like Jesus each and every day? Don’t be content with a nominal faith that produces little (if any) growth. Strive with all you might to add to your faith (2 Peter 1:5-11). Strive for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14). And like newborn babes, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it your may grow up into salvation” (1 Peter 2:2).

The Suffering Son

I can’t imagine anything harder than watching your child suffer. A couple years ago our son John got a serious case of the hives and Steph and I were forced to watch John suffer in agony for several days. There was little we could do to relieve his itch and pain, except to pray for him and let it run its course. That was a hard time for us, but God brought us through and I am sure many parents can relate to our feeling of helplessness as we watched our son suffer.

Sickness, sorrow, and death all part of living in a Genesis 3 fallen world. Life is downright hard at times. But we can take comfort in knowing that as sin and death entered into the world, the living God did not sit back and let things simply play out. No, the Triune God launched a rescue plan. Remarkably, this plan involved the Son of God suffering in an unthinkable manner on the cross. Centuries before the time of Christ, the prophet Isaiah, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, uttered these words found in Isaiah 53:

He was despised and rejected by men;

a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;

and as one from whom men hide their faces

he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Surely he has borne our griefs

and carried our sorrows;

yet we esteemed him stricken,

smitten by God, and afflicted.

But he was pierced for our transgressions;

he was crushed for our iniquities;

upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,

and with his wounds we are healed.

All we like sheep have gone astray;

we have turned—every one—to his own way;

and the Lord has laid on him

the iniquity of us all.

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,

yet he opened not his mouth;

like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,

and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,

so he opened not his mouth.

By oppression and judgment he was taken away;

and as for his generation, who considered

that he was cut off out of the land of the living,

stricken for the transgression of my people?

And they made his grave with the wicked

and with a rich man in his death,

although he had done no violence,

and there was no deceit in his mouth.

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Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him;

 

This past Easter we were reminded of the costliness of the cross. We were reminded of the immense sufferings of Christ that were required in order to purchase redemption for all God’s people. Without question, it must have been horrific for God the Father to watch the Son suffer and die on the cross. As He heard the Son cry out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” we can only imagine how hard that must have been. What is even more remarkable, however, is that all along, this was the Father’s plan. “It was the will of the Lord to crush Him.”

 

Earlier on, before his arrest and trial, Jesus knew what awaited Him. In Gethsemane, Jesus prayed: “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will” (Mark 14:36). If there had been any possible alternative to the cross, no doubt the Father would have taken it. He would have removed “the cup” so that His precious Son would not have had to suffer in such a manner. But there was no alternative. Jesus would have to walk the Calvary road in order to complete the atonement. As 1 Peter 2:24 explains it, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness.” Friends, we have now moved beyond the season of Easter, but may we ever keep ourselves near the cross. May we never lose sight of the love of God and the costliness of salvation and may we “live to righteousness.”