Happy Thanksgiving! Or at least as best you can manage…

www.bible.com/1713/1ch.16.34.csb

I hope you get to spend yours with family and friends today that love and care about you. Living with family isn’t always easy. Sometimes for the sake of family we won’t let ourselves out too much. Family has a way though of getting under our skin and rooting out old anxieties and issues. That’s why family get-togethers are both welcome and shunned. It’s tough being who you are since you left your home of origin. Sometimes there are bad memories of who you were, or who they were.

But fear not. The God of yesterday is the same as the God of today. If you need a moment to center yourself, find a quiet space, gather your thoughts, and meditate on the goodness of God. This day is about thankfulness. Even if your own family is a mess, we know God is not. Don’t retreat into your phone or whatever’s on TV. Retreat into God, for there is your only sure stronghold.

I hope and pray you won’t need it, but if so, may the peace of God be with you today. May His peace fill and infuse your gathering. Fear not. God is with you.

Submit to Freedom

www.bible.com/1713/1pe.2.16.csb

No one is ever truly free. The only free Being is God because He is subject to no one. All of us however are subject to something. In this life, we are slaves to our needs for air, water, and food, however long we think we could hold our breath or go without. If you live in a society in which currency is a necessity, you are never far from obligations if work or bills. If you live in a family, there are surrendered obligations of raising children or meeting your spouse’s needs. Additionally, if you have older family members, you are never far from obligations to meet their needs.

So tell me where I am free? I am free to think, choose and believe. I am free to choose what beliefs govern my life, and how I choose to meet those obligations. I am free to determine the frame of my life, which motivates me to choose certain actions over others. I am free to choose my values. And in the context of this text, I am free to choose God’s values of the world’s values. But to whichever system I choose, I am subject to it and it’s consequences.

Praise God His consequences are joy and peace! His consequences are belonging and hope. With Him there no fear, no anxiety or worry. I am free from the bondage of sin and sorrow and have entered into His glorious presence! If I must be in chains, then let those chains be forged from His sacrifice for me; His love for me never ends. I would give my life for such a One who loves me as God does. Wouldn’t you? Happy is he for whom it is said, ”Well done my good and faithful servant! Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord!”

A Father’s Compassion

www.bible.com/1713/psa.103.13.csb

Happy Father’s Day to all the men who have sired progeny today. This day we set aside to honor and remember those men whom we call “Dad” above others. Some memories are harder than others. For some, dad was a hard-nosed disciplinarian. For others, he was non-existent, or cruised from day to day from his recliner and never-ending case of beer.

No surprise, dads are human. As one Scripture says, our fathers disciplined us the best they knew how. I empathize with those whose fathers were less than ideal.

But that’s the thing, isn’t it? Regardless of what kind of father you had, you had a better picture in mind. It’s funny, even children raised by bad fathers can tell something isn’t right. It’s like we have this implanted knowledge of proper fatherhood, and when we become fathers, we suddenly feel nervous because we feel we will fail that inbuilt standard.

That’s why today I want to draw attention to this verse, because compassion is something we seldom associate with fathers. Discipline, angry outbursts, hard working, but compassion? We see that come out in grandfathers, seeing their grand babies for the first time, and feeling like God has given them another chance. I think grandfathers may feel the grace and forgiveness of God more acutely.

Compassion is a gift given where it is not deserved. You can’t earn compassion. It is given freely and with no expectation, and when fathers are expected to raise kids according to rules, learning the helped knocks of life, compassion seems like an extra lesson. More than this, it is the measure of a good father. A father who exercises compassion is the reason we have a Father’s Day today, because a little girl once thought there ought to be a day to honor men like her father.

Father I want you to do a compassion check today. Do you care when your child is sick, or your wife is hurting? Do you seek your child’s best interests, or your own? What is more important, your needs or your wife’s? If you were able to answer in love, you are probably doing okay.

Men, I want to encourage you today to take after your Father. He has called you to be His witness to your family of His love and grace, as well as His justice. MY you find that just as sensitive a balance as I have.

God bless you all!

So What’s the Promise?

www.bible.com/1713/eph.6.2.csb

We have a lot of Scripture to thank the Apostle for. We can attribute much of our daily practice and theology to him. Which is why this passage presents us with a problem.

Paul has written elsewhere that Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of the law, and that we are no longer under the law, but under grace. That said, he presents this text “Honor thy father and thy mother”, the fifth commandment, complete with its context, for this commandment contains a promise “that it may go well with you and that you may have a long life in the land” the Lord God is sending you to, i.e., the land of Israel. Here’s why this is a problem.

The promise of the fifth commandment is to the people of Israel, so that they could occupy and inhabit the land of promise indefinitely. The promise involved a particular piece of real estate. However, Paul does qualify this promise in its original context. Instead, his quote ends at ” land”. The problem, one might argue, is that Paul is appropriating the land promises made to Israel and passing them on to the Christians of his day. In a greater argument that Paul is extending the promises (and obligations) given to Israel are also to Christians. That’s a lot of weight to put upon one verse, especially taken out of context of the rest of Paul’s words.

Rather, Paul is extending the promise here made to Israel by observing a different focus. His focus is on the promise of “long life” rather than the land. The land here really could be anywhere Christians find themselves. The strength of this promise comes from the authority of God Himself. So why do Christian children, who have honored this commandment, still die young?

Let me present the third possibility. That the land of long life promised here isn’t eighty years and dying of old age. What’s in view here, a child that honors his father and mother by clinging to the God that saved them is a child who is promised eternal life in the land God has prepared for them.

If we are honoring father and mother, we are working out God’s will in our lives. We are honoring those He chose to bring us life, and this is important, whether we actually respect them or not. Being able to honor them is to fulfill the commandment, and to honor the God that maybe even despite them, brought you to Himself.

Not every parent is perfect, and many don’t come close. But the commandment of God is non-negotiable. Honor means respect, both in life and in memory. Honor can be honest, but it must be respectful. If you have good parents, this is easy. If not, this is one of your greatest challenges. But know that we are all in this together. If you need help, ask. Let us pray with you.

I hope you can have a happy Father’s Day. God bless you all!

The Law of the Harvest

www.bible.com/1713/gal.6.7.csb

Honestly I don’t think about this one very much. I don’t live in a area where I am surrounded by cornfields and soybeans like I used to. But I remember enough of those days to know that whatever you plant, you can expect to sow. That is, you won’t get wheat if you plant corn. You won’t get tomatoes if you plant potatoes. You reap what you sow. You harvest what you plant. Sounds obvious, doesn’t it? That’s why it’s called the Law of the Harvest.

However, did you know that this law extends into other areas? If you sow lies, you will get deceit. If you sow anger, you will get rebellion. If you sow infidelity, you will get betrayal. If you plant something in your relationships and even in your church, you will reap accordingly. Do you want a good family? Then must at least do good among them. Do you want a good marriage? Then you must at least be a faithful partner.

The fist part of this verse says this: “Do not be deceived. God is not mocked.” What is this supposed to mean? God has already said what is the best way to deal with your kids, your spouse, you family and you church. He has already told you how to deal with your manager, your friends, other people in the world. He will not be mocked by you. Others may try to deceive you into another way to deal with all of these people and relationships. They may tell you that letting your children be free to discover themselves is the best way, but God says, “spare the rod, spoil the child.” A child needs external discipline from parents to teach them what good and courteous behavior is. Only with that external discipline will they begin their own internal discipline, which makes for good citizens, and people of conscience. God told us, and He will not be mocked. And we have already seen the results of what happens when you spare the rod.

I don’t know what pain you are going through right now, but I want to encourage you too. It’s not too late. God will not be mocked, but He will forgive. You may have been deceived, but you don’t have to stay that way. God calls you today to truth, believe and you can be forgiven. Come to Jesus so that you may receive forgiveness through His blood. You won’t regret it.

God bless you today.

Imageo Dei

www.bible.com/72/gen.1.27.hcsb

One of the more hotly contested scriptures today. Lots of opinion what this verse means. In what way are we the image of God? A lot of deep stuff has been written about this. But I think it is important to say that God does not look like us. We look like God.

I believe another important observation here is the question of gender. The image of God, whatever it is, was created and shaped into two genders. Now I know there are those that say that God’s image resides within each of each, and there is truth there. But i also have to wonder why this phrase is added so closely to the other. God made man in His image, male and female He made them. It’s almost a parallelism, that one statement builds on the other.

While God is neither male nor female, He created both genders to reflect His image, so that the wholeness of God is reflected in the union of both. God possesses both masculine and feminine aspects, but we are to call Him Father, and so we do. But we are also to “honor your father and your mother” and that this is the first commandment with a promise. “That it may go well with in the land the Lord your God is giving you” and that you would live long on the earth.

Parents who model God in the home do well. Marriages of one man and one woman model God for their children. And should you find yourself in one of these relationships, thank God you have found her or him. For we are made in the image of God.

God bless you and your family today!

0101 – Source Code 5 -Why Parents Still Matter

“Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you. (Exo 20:12)

This fifth commandment is familiar to most, though its counterpart in Deuteronomy is perhaps less well known.

“‘Honor your father and your mother, as the LORD your God commanded you, that your days may be long, and that it may go well with you in the land that the LORD your God is giving you. (Deu 5:16)

Notice the additions (I have in bold) that add just a little bit to the original commandment, both the reinforcement of the original command with the authority of the Lord, but also an additional blessing of not only long life but a good long life, conditional upon obedience to this command. The Apostle Paul quotes from this second iteration in his letter to the Ephesians.

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” (Eph 6:1-3)

When I started this series, I started with this commandment in mind, thinking that in all of us, there is a need for our parents. In my initial post on the subject, “Source Code” I wrote the following on Bart Millard’s conversion story, “I Can Only Imagine”.

“That moment also got me to thinking about father-son issues, in which this movie traded heavily. Even if our parents, mothers or fathers, treat us horribly, even if we hate every fiber of their being, every breath of their body, there is still a part of us that cares. There is still a part that longs for reconciliation, even if it’s no longer possible. That’s why this moment is so powerful in the movie, because it resonates. Everyone has a father, and everyone desires approval from that father. We all want our fathers to be proud of us because it is built into us to care what our fathers think of us.

“We can’t explain it, because it isn’t part of the intellect. In fact, it defies the intellect. It is part of what I liken to “source code”, or more exactly, that code that a computer has burned in to its motherboard that tells it how to read a hard disk, before it ever loads the first bit of the operating system and everything its ever learned. It’s the BIOS of the human psyche. It is built into us as human beings to have a relationship with our parents. When that relationship isn’t “right” it leads to a host of other problems, “daddy issues”, psychological syndromes and traumas later on. As described in the movie, Bart couldn’t have a close relationship with his girlfriend until he resolved his relationship with his father. How many people labor today in horrible marriages, live-in situations even same-sex relationships because that one aspect of their being was wrong?”

And that’s what’s intriguing about the whole “source code” concept. I counsel a host of people who have trauma issues, family issues and and problems in relationships. I also live in an area where the roles of parents and children are in distress due to the prevalent drug culture. I see grandparents laboring to raise grandchildren, even great-grandchildren even when they are physically unable. I see adults ignoring their responsibilities and children who don’t even know who they are and are desperate to figure it out.

It is as if when children do not know who their parents are, they can’t define themselves either or that task becomes a great deal harder.

While the scriptures counsel us against pursuing “endless genealogies” (1 Tim 1:4) they do tell us to mind our elders, and respect our parents. Let us give respect and honor to those ancestors that we still see alive, rather than pursue the dead. There is some importance to knowing where we came from. For we either align ourselves with the traditions of our ancestors, or we set ourselves intentionally against them, saying, “never again!” The legacy of drug and alcohol abuse is certainly something to resist. The legacy or womanizing, divorce, abuse and the like are other things we might stand and say, “not in my generation!” But legacies of faith, honesty, and leadership, are qualities to be admired. If your grandfather was a minister, or a soldier, or an honest man, those are qualities to emulate. Service never goes out of style. Honesty is always valued. Integrity is respected.

To walk into a place and tell someone your name, and then to be automatically credited with respect, that’s not something to cast aside. The so-called “white privilege” is what those who don’t have this kind of history complain about. If your father or grandfather (or for that matter, your mother or grandmother) were recognized and respected in your community, “white privilege” is afforded to children and grandchildren. The children of the honorable and respectable are automatically extended that same respect (and always have been throughout history). By the same token, the children of the dishonored and infamous are afforded that same level of suspicion.

If your life is to “go well with you” and God promises, then we ought to follow the good choices of our parents and grandparents. Savings ourselves for marriage (to avoid unwanted pregnancies and complicated sexual entanglements), using our finances responsibly, raising our own children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Those who fail to heed the lessons of our parents (some learned the hard way), Will be forced to learn those same lessons. God’s word describes the family as a husband, a wife, and children. That is the core unit of the family. Yes, life happens and interrupts even God’s perfect blueprint. But that doesn’t mean the blueprint is invalid.

I want to encourage you today to take a serious look at your family. What are the good things you remember about your parents? Those are things you want to emulate and give respect to. What were the bad choices they made? Those are things you want to avoid in your own life. How can you improve on what has come before you? Every parent wants their child to be better than they were. To learn from their mistakes and have a good name.

How are you doing?

God bless!