Revolutionary

www.bible.com/72/rom.1.16.hcsb

Jews AND Greeks? Are you serious? God wants to save both of them? What about the Romans?

Seriously, the power of God is the gospel. Without regard to piety, reverence, law-keeping and ritual, the gospel has more power than any of these. The gospel is a story. It is the story of an Almighty Creator God who wants to save His Creation, namely Man from his own rebellion. So God sends His Son as witness and testimony to the care and love of God. Man kills the Son in the ultimate act of rebellion. The Son rises from the dead in order to demonstrate His forgiveness for sin. He is the God who loves us despite our evil to compel us to change.

This requires of us in humanity a desire to return. Under the right circumstances and conditions, something in us will revive that had died. It is our love for our father. Our desire to be approved and loved by our father. Our desire to make our father proud of us. It is as deep-seated in us as our need to breathe. It transcends culture and language. And the gospel is the power of God to restore that fundamental relationship despite our sin and grief and guilt. It is God who forgives, who stands ready to receive us back when we’ve realized in the hog pen that being in our father’s house, even as a servant, would be far better.

I challenge you with the gospel today. I know this world is lost and broken. It has Daddy-issues. But the gospel is stronger. The world has rebellion, strife, murder and death, but the gospel is stronger. It is the power of God unto salvation. And it is ours to wield simply by telling.

God bless you today.

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Source Code

I had the opportunity to watch “I Can Only Imagine” last night, the biographical movie about Bart Millard’s journey to stardom in the band MercyMe. If you are familiar with his story, you know he grew up in a abusive home and left as soon as he could, only to discover he couldn’t be “authentic” until he resolved his issues with his father. In the meantime, his father had turned to Christ and became a different person. Their reconciliation becomes the impetus for Bart’s own transformation. His father’s death prompts him to write the eponymous song. The shining point of the movie is Bart’s moment in Nashville, having sung his song, seeing his father clapping for him. In an interview, Bart explained that he believed he sang to two people that night, both his father, and His Lord. It moment worthy of the Kleenex.

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 father’s 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?

We are all built with this source code, called a conscience. The Bible recognizes this:

They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them
(Rom 2:15)

Written on our hearts, our BIOS if you will, is the law of human beings. As sentient, rational beings, we are built with a set a laws of interaction (not unlike Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics) that direct the “rightness” and “wrongness” of our actions. Our conscience (C.S. Lewis’ moral law argument) is universal. Every human being has one, and they are all coded with a set of unwritten laws of human interaction. One of those laws is that relationship between parents and children. And when we willingly violate those laws, that’s when we run into problems,from simple (in the form of fractured relationships) to complex (in the form of mental illness). I believe that a person who consistently violates his own moral code, deterred by his “conflicting thoughts” in his conscience, is well on the road to insanity. He is trying to reconcile a world of his own creation with the real world as written in his source code. A logical being (which we are, to a fault) cannot hold two diametrically opposed points of view simultaneously, and still have a hold on reality.

So how do we address this innate moral code so that we can correct ourselves for error? Can we correct ourselves?  Let me re-introduce you to the most succinct explanation of our innate moral code ever written, complete with correctives for repair. You may know it as the Ten Commandments.

  1. “You shall have no other gods before me.
  2. “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.
  3. “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.
  4. “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
  5. “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.
  6. “You shall not murder.
  7. “You shall not commit adultery.
  8. “You shall not steal.
  9. “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
  10. “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.”
    (Exo 20:3-17)

I will come back to this issue of parents and children, but to do so, I need to look at the Ten, the underlying principles that each describe, and how they affect us when they are broken. These commandments are so well written, that if you know how to read them, you can discover both the underlying moral code that we were built with, and the correction for applying that moral code to life. The manner in which God sends these ten is I believe one of the most dramatic in history (He wrote them down with His own finger so we wouldn’t miss how important they are). He doesn’t do anything like this until Daniel 5 (where he writes again, saying, “you have been measured and found wanting”). These ten, though immediately applicable to the Israelites at Mt. Sinai, describe the innate moral code of all human beings, which is why they affect people every time they are posted. This is why many want them taken down.

For the next several posts, I will be taking and looking at each commandment individually, and its parallels in Deuteronomy 6, with other passages in tow. I can’t wait to dive into these things with you. Thank you for reading and I hope this is an encouragement to you.

On this Father’s Day

IMG20040When my grandfather died in 1989, it was a Saturday in December. Dad had worked all night the night before and was sleeping when the phone call came. I picked it up. It was mom, who was at the hospital. She said to wake Dad up and have us all come to the hospital. I woke him up, but he rolled over. I told him Mom wanted us to come to the hospital. He said ok, and fell back to sleep. I left the bedroom. He woke up fully a few minutes later and coming into the living room, confirmed what I’d said, and we all rode up to Lafayette, to Home Hospital, where my grandfather was. When we arrived, I heard crying, and looking into the room, saw my uncles, my mother, and my aunts weeping around the bed. Grandpa was lying there with his jaw open. I remember seeing his jaw just hanging open, which was just unnatural and wrong. Part of me knew he was dead, he’d had prostate cancer for about a year, but it felt wrong to see him so utterly still. It was the first time I’d really seen anyone dead before. I didn’t know how to feel, or what to think. I just felt numb. It was weird to see my family, who normally would be laughing and talking together just weeping and holding each other. I didn’t know what to do or how to react.

Sometimes, I still don’t.

The closest I came to crying over him was at his funeral, when someone was singing, and nudged my emotions to the surface. If I had known him better, or longer, I probably would have been more distraught. But all I could feel was numb. Every December 26th I remember him again on his birthday. I remember waking up the morning after Christmas and having breakfast with him before we had to go home. But what tears me up now more than ever is what he could have told me. Whether or not we was proud of the direction my life has taken, or what he would have thought about my family. I don’t know why I care what he would think, but I do. He was always quiet in his praise of others, and I guess I am hoping I would make the cut.

I need death to be more than the grave, but a New Beginning, for my grandpa and for everyone else’s. I need to death to be temporary, not permanent.

There are two things going on at the cross, one explicit in the gospels, and one implicit, which is expounded in the letters.

  1. The death of Jesus Christ was a horrifying event (What we see)
    1. The manner in which the gospels records Jesus’ crucifixion is actually matter-of-fact, told in passing, as if the gospels’ audience were well-familiar with this manner of execution. Mark 15:25 (NIV) is typical, “It was nine in the morning when they crucified him.” The word employed in the Greek is stauroo. There is no reference to the nails, the “tree” or to the manner of how the nails were fixed. The only reference to “nails” in the New Testament is Colossians 2:14, where Paul employs the image of “nailing” to nailing (proseloo) the law to Jesus’ cross.
    2. The gospels focus on what Jesus says from the cross, and what the crowds say to the crucified Jesus. The manner of Jesus’ death, that is, slowly losing his ability to breathe, adds unseen drama and urgency to Jesus’ words.

     

  2. The death of Christ Jesus was a atoning event (What we know)
    1. The gospels hint at this in the rending of the Temple veil, a sign that the way to the Holy Place (if you were familiar with the placement of the veil) is made clear upon Jesus’ death.
    2. The letters too add to the weight of Jesus’ atoning sacrifice – namely Colossians 3:13-14, “. . . He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross.” And Romans 5:8, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this, While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” The letters stress that Jesus’ death on the cross was a means of God saving sinners from eternal punishment for breaking the Law and satisfying the wrath of God for sin. Romans 5:9, “Since we have not been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him!”

Why it matters

  1. So what? Why do we care about this? Because we abhor senseless death. With every fiber of our being, we strain to find reason out of chaos. When a father or mother dies, we look for a reason. Maybe it was the cancer, maybe it was the hospital. Maybe it was “his time” or “God needed another angel” but we strain to find a reason for things when they cut to our heart. We strain because we cannot accept that God would allow someone good to die for no reason. Many of us shake our fist at God, even to deny He exists, or at least to hate him because we cannot reconcile a good God with senseless death.
  2. Of anyone on earth, Jesus’ death was the most senseless. He had committed no sin. He had no regrets, no family members he was on bad terms with, no one he owed money. Jesus had everything to live for. Yet on that night in Jerusalem, he was arrested, arraigned in a kangaroo court, and murdered in front of everyone.
  3. Over and over again, Jesus repeats that it was exactly God’s will that he go to the cross. Jesus prayed in the garden, “not my will but thine be done.” He knew he was going to die, knew the greater purpose for which he died, and still prayed in the garden to avoid it. Why? Was it because some part of him screamed that he didn’t deserve it?
  4. But the death of Jesus Christ changes how we look at death. His death was infused with purpose and meaning. Every facet of his death throes we examine in detail looking to uncover fresh meaning. From the significance of the promise of paradise to “it is finished” we keep finding new ways to see this very old story. Why do we do this? Because I think it helps us understand why our grandmas pass away, and our grandpas. Our moms and our dads, even our children and grandchildren. We need the death of Jesus to mean something powerful and significant to bring meaning to the deaths of those we dearly love. We need this story to be true. The world tells us we are pinning our hopes on fairy tales, but I don’t remember Cinderella dying for me, or Rapunzel’s grave to be found empty, or the seven dwarves testifying to their dying words that Snow White is risen. We find the faith in Jesus Christ tested and tried and found true. We find that meaning plastered all over the New Testament, both for him and for us. Each and every death isn’t an end, but a portal to a new and eternal beginning. Through Jesus’ death and resurrection, we find hope for our own loved ones who have passed on, and an urgency to declare Him to those who haven’t accepted Him. Perhaps we are better informed than the lost for those who die without Jesus, and ought to grieve more.

Do you see? As the gospels show us the death of Jesus, which we can relate to and understand, the New Testament show us its meaning, which we cannot know without the Bible. Each baptism is a reenactment, each death a harsh reminder, but each day we live in Christ, a new creation and a joy to know we have our hope in Him. It is a hope that we will hear these words, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful with a few things. Now you will be faithful with much.” The death and resurrection of Jesus make it possible for us to believe that death, though harsh, isn’t the last word.

Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death–that is, the devil– and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.

(Heb 2:14-15)

Tangled Webs

“What a tangled web we weave . . .”

Children are a blessing from God, in their proper context. “Sons are a heritage from the Lord, children a reward from Him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them.” (Psalm 127:3-5a) Especially grandchildren, for “Children’s children are a crown to the aged, and parents are the pride of their children.” (Proverbs 17:6) Now that the Mrs. and I are expecting our fourth child, I see the worth of this little passage. Our prayer is that the next one, a boy if the SONAR is right, is born healthy like his brother and sisters.

Call me old-fashioned, but I thought kids were to follow marriage, not precede it. (I can hear you thinking, “here he goes again”) Now if anyone is keeping track, no one yet has taken me up on my offer to marry for free. Although, I have heard rumors that I’ve been pretty mean to unmarried couples. I’ll admit, my bark is worse than my bite. But have you stopped to consider that maybe we’ve been too easy on these kids having kids?

That’s really the shame of our permissive society, when the words “I’m pregnant” are not given in joy, but as a threat. When are children a threat? When free-living and irresponsibility comes to a screeching halt. Children are the end of fun, the end of happy-go-lucky. They are the beginning of responsibility: midnight feedings, trips to the doctor and the teacher, more groceries, more bills, more heartache when they stray.

We’ve already had three, so it’s not like we don’t know what to expect. Babies cry, smell, spit-up, and my personal favorite, the single-most eye-opening sound they make, bleegch! I have been sound asleep, but when the little one makes the “Bleegch” sound in the middle of the night, I have been known to instantly spring into action. I’ve seen a lot of stuff, but having upset stomach spill out over the sheets wakes you up faster than a pot of coffee.

The adults who spawn a child have to make hard choices. It used to be when the girl got pregnant the man responsible was obligated to marry her, so that that child would grow up in a two-parent family. Sometimes I long for those days, for those and for the days when a man established himself, by getting a job and a house, before he proposed to his fiancé. These are standards people used to grow up with, because then, the focus was on stability, security, and having a strong family for a strong nation. Nowadays, kids are often passed off to grandma, or to friends, so that the fun and the parties and the sex never stops. Shame on anyone who treats his child like yesterday’s newspaper. And the Bible warns that that kind of attitude will come back to you ten-fold. A child who is rejected by his parents can’t cope with it. They seek anyone who will listen to them, and often find the wrong friends. End result? They become more foolish than their parents. And this is where the real heartache begins. The Bible says:

“To have a fool for a son brings grief; there is no joy for the father of a fool. . . . A foolish son brings grief to his father and bitterness to the one who bore him.” (Proverbs 17:21, 25)

“A foolish son is his father’s ruin.” (Proverbs 19:13)

“Discipline your son, for in that there is hope; do not be a willing party to his death.” (Proverbs 19:18)

This proverb is a reply in a way to God’s Law – “Anyone who curses his father and mother, he must be put to death. He has cursed his father or his mother, and his blood will be on his own head.” (Leviticus 20:9) It may sound harsh, but God knows that the stability of any society relies wholly on the ability of parents to teach their children respect for their authority, and thus for all authorities. Any child who curses his father or mother will be a threat to the whole, and must be dealt with severely, as both example and as prevention. Children may seem like an inconvenience now, but someday they will be a doctor, or a lawyer, making policy and law while you are sick, old, and frail. Is it any wonder that the current generation in power is considering euthanasia as a possible way to “dispose” of the elderly? Where do you suppose that attitude came from? From the parents who were too busy to play with their kids because they had to make all the money to buy the big house and fancy car. They “disposed” of their kids with the Daycare, or somesuch. Kind of makes you think, doesn’t it? If your kids are a “burden” to you, just remember, someday they will make the decision whether or not to pull the plug. Someday they will be president, or they will be making the car you drive. Do you want to drive a car built by a kid who has no respect for his boss?

Children are the wealth of a home, and the Bible clearly teaches this. A man with many children can count himself blessed. We are breaking down our society with every child born out of wedlock. God bless those men and women who marry into families with children and make it work. We witness the destruction of our nation when children don’t know who their fathers are. For what ties do they have to the past, to patriotism, to anything, if they have no ties to their own fathers? Let’s make sure that doesn’t happen.

If you know a young man or young woman who is lost, without a father or a mother, then can I ask you to step in and take some responsibility for that child? Your future depends on them, whether they are yours or not. They need you, because they need a godly man or woman to show them what God is like. Consider it a mission to bring that person to the Fatherhood of God and Brotherhood of Christ, but be the living example for them too. Show them the love that they are desperate for.

Taming a Father

I think we feel a bit of empathy for Richard Gere’s Lancelot in the film, First Knight. Lancelot isn’t tied down, has no obligations, goes where he wants, and lives by his sword and his wits. He is what all men wish they could be, free to roam. It is built within men to crave wanderlust. This is why men don’t ask for directions. They want to feel that rush of excitement of being in a new place, a place they’ve never been before, an undiscovered country. As John Eldridge’s book is titled, men are “Wild At Heart”. When you watch boys playing, there is always some conflict involved, an enemy to overcome, a villain to defeat. Boys crave the wildness of it, the thrill of conquering it, and to receive the adulation for their victory. Boys would echo Alexander the Great’s famous lament, “are there no more worlds to conquer?” if they couldn’t express this wildness of their soul.

Eldridge bases this idea on the pattern in which Adam and Eve were created. Genesis 2 says that when God created Adam, he breathed his own breath into him, the Breath of Life. Then God placed Adam in the garden, in order to work it and keep it. Notice this: Adam was created outside the garden. Adam wasn’t created in the orderly and well-groomed garden, but in the wild and savage world. Eve was created in the garden, from one of Adam’s ribs, in God’s beautiful, civilized garden. The difference he points out is this: Adam was created in the wild, while Eve was created in the subdued garden.

A look inside the DNA of men and women can tell us something else. Inside the DNA of women is the marked difference from men. Women possess a double-X chromosome, two homogenous genes. Men possess an XY chromosome. Even in the DNA, men don’t have two well-behaved genes that have everything in common, but two different chromosomes, that don’t agree on anything. It is built within the very DNA of a man to be disagreeable.

But there is a second element in Eldridge’s book. Though every man is wild at heart, he yearns for a princess to save, a princess to pursue, and yes, a princess to “conquer” and claim for his own. For there is one force powerful enough to bind a man to a place and responsibility, and that is the love of a woman. It is this force which will bring to a man the responsibility that his heart dislikes, which would bind the man to a home, a job, and a family. It is this force which will bring a man to fatherhood.

What is the difference between a man and a father? Though many men have fathered children, not all are truly Dads. A father strikes the perfect balance his wild nature and his marital responsibility. He is still wild enough to lead his family into the adventure of living, but responsible enough to provide, love, and discipline. But a man cannot keep this balance on his own, if he doesn’t know the Lord, only a man of iron will be able to succeed.

We know what the wreckage of lives look like when men weren’t strong enough, or had no God to hold their hand.

This month we applaud the fathers. Those are the men who have put aside their wanderlust for the love of a good woman and raised his children with honor and respect. We salute the fathers that stayed home, resisted their natural impulses, forbade their eyes or feet to stray, to give in to all the things that would pull them away from the children they have fathered, these all who have resisted temptations so that their children would know the Lord.

Do you have to know Jesus to be a good father? No, but he helps. It helps to have a better answer than, “because I said so.” We all know fathers who fail, fathers who don’t know Jesus. We could even be married to them. Pray for our fathers this month. Let’s help our fathers know the Father, who our best example of what a Father is.