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A Post for Dads

randomlychad  —  September 2, 2014 — Leave a comment

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This post is for dads (or dads to be). It’s okay if you moms, wives, sisters, daughters (cousin’s former roommates) read it, too. Because what I’m going to share (I know, I’m sounding like an informercial here) has the potential to change. Your. Life, too.

I didn’t come up with it. A guy named Greg Vaughn out of Lubbock, Texas did. In a nutshell: Mr. Vaughn was one day cleaning out his garage, and came upon an old, worn out, rusty tackle box that had been his dad’s.

It was literally all he had from his father. There were no no notes, no letters, nothing to remind him of his dad’s love. Mr. Vaughn got angry. He was upset that all he had was this worthless tackle box. It was then that he heard God speak in his heart: “What do your kids have, Greg?”

Convicted by this, Greg Vaughn got together with a group of friends, and like the old shampoo commercial, they told two friends, etc.

Thus Letters From Dad was born. In the last 10 (or so) years it has gone quietly viral. What it is is a series of meetings (five in total), where men gather to learn the the lost art of letter writing. These letters are tokens of faith, hope, and love poured out upon the page for our families. It’s about not just writing well, but living well–backing up those words. Let’s face it: words are powerful. Why not use them to powerfully speak into the lives of those we love the most?

The program starts with us guys writing a letter to our wives (we wouldn’t be dads without them), proceeding through our children–eldest to youngest–and then our parents. Writing all this down gives us guys an opportunity to say the things we often mean, but forget, to say. We get to express our love, our gratitude, our hopes and dreams for our kids.

We get to leave a written record of what was most important to us. One that will live on after we are gone.

Again, I know this sounds like an informercial, or something, but I believe in it (Letters From Dad) so much that I wanted to let you, my faithful readers, know.

Look up Letters From Dad on the Internet. Ask your church to host it. Get your friends and neighbors together. It will really change your lives, men. And more importantly, it will change the lives of those that mean the most to you:

Your families.

(Ladies, if you read this far, I would encourage you to order the materials for the man in your life. You’ll be glad you did).

If we learn anything from history, the Bible, culture, we are, by and large, an idolatrous people. Wars have been fought for lands, possessions, people. Helen of Troy is said to have had a face that launched a thousand ships. The litany goes on and on.

Point is, we’ll make an idol of anyhting: beauty, our cars, our T.V.s, our summer homes, what have you. Sure, we’re much too enlightened for that these days–we don’t call them idols anymore.

But idols they are. Come on: we idolize celebrities, needing to know every minute detail of their lives, while decrying the presence of those rags at all the supermarket checkstands. Fact is, if we didn’t buy them, if there weren’t demand, those magazines wouldn’t be there. The publishers just give us what we want. So, too, Hollywood with its movies and T.V. shows: whatever sells tickets, and generates ad revenue, is what it will keep churning out. Ad nauseum.

It’s all fine and dandy to lay the blame at another’s feet–when the problem lies about eight inches beneath the head, and in the center of the human chest.

It’s a heart condition.

And the worst of all the idols we put before God is the one we fashion in our likeness. (Look no further than our iconography: every people group wants to claim Jesus as their own. There’s white Jesus, brown Jesus, black Jesus, yellow Jesus, etc. When all we know for sure was that He was a Semitic man, “without form or comeliness”). Instead of letting Him claim as His own…

Just as the God who hates everything/everyone we hate is likely one who we have created in our likeness, so, too, is the God who approves of everything we do. Who likes everything we like.

If God (if Jesus) we serve doesn’t offend our sensibilities, He’s a poseur, an impostor.  A fake. Because the real one is an iconoclast: someone who defies labels, will not be pigeonholed.

Just like nobody puts baby in a corner, so, too, no one puts God in a box. Oh, we try. How we try:

There’s conservative God, who wants to close the borders, and doesn’t care about the aliens and strangers among us. There’s the gay God, who wants to just tastefully redecorate our souls (and His son is coming back clad in rainbowed-colored robes, bestride a unicorn). There’s also the social justice God, who only cares about hot button issues, about righting this world’s ills, about making a heaven on earth. But from Him one never hears the Gospel, of the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. Cause he’s too busy trying to make a heaven on earth now. When the real God says nothing about doing that; rather, He says He’s going to make a new heaven and a new earth. (This is not to say that there are not worthy causes–there are. But the Gospel is the cause).

Lest we forget, in addition to the Gods, the Jesuses, detailed above, there’s also Focus on the Family God–whose focus is indeed upon the family. Families are good, for sure.

But can you imagine that God saying:

“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household.” ( Matthew 10:34-36 ESV).

That’s not very family friendly, folks.

The point of all of this, in case you hadn’t guessed, is to simply state this:

It’s a slippery slope, folks, when the God we serve shares all of our values. And not the reverse.”

Jesus didn’t die just to tastefully redecorate, but rather to knock the whole building down, pour a new foundation (Himself), and start afresh.

He came not to make us nice people, but rather new people. People fashioned after His image and likeness. Anything less, or else, is idolatry. It’s Jesus-and–which, as we know from Galatians, is not the Gospel. He tells us come as we are, but he doesn’t leave us there.

Because an encounter with the real Jesus will always leave us fundamentally changed.

Always.

So, which God–which Jesus–do you serve?

We Lost the War

randomlychad  —  May 30, 2014 — 3 Comments

For decades it seems the American church has been fighting a war on culture. Well, we’ve lost. I don’t say this lightly, but it also seems pretty clear that we marched into battle under faulty premises. I mean when are we ever  mandated to convert the culture in which we find ourselves to some semblance of Christian conduct?

Is it even reasonable to expect Christian conduct, or morals, from culture? From the world? I submit it is not. Moreover, we’re not even on the same page when it comes to values.

So we’ve fought a war, which we’ve arguably lost, and awoken in a world we don’t recognize… Because we didn’t fight biblically. Pop quiz:

Where was the Apostle Paul most effective–on Mars Hill, where he tried to be culturally relevant, or with the Phillippian jailer? How about Jesus? Was He after the masses, or the individual? You see, those of us who believe serve a God Who isn’t all about efficiency. He wants the one lost sheep who’s strayed, scans the horizon for signs of the prodigal son, tells the woman with the issue of blood that her faith has healed her… Or the woman caught in adultery to go, and sin so more.

Was the command to go into all the world and save the culture, or rather was it to make disciples? You see, it’s easy to lionize Hollywood, or lambsaste the gay agenda.

But it’s hard to confront the sin in our own hearts, check our motives, and then go forth with the message of God’s love.

For individuals.

It’s easy to write off entire segments of the populace. It’s far harder to love those souls for whom Christ died.

Changed lives don’t happen culturally, or societally, but rather face-to-face, one-on-one.

But we’re afraid, hiding in our holy huddles. It’s no wonder we’ve lost the war.

But it’s not too late.

Wake up, church: the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God.

Dr. Karl Meninger wrote years ago, asking Whatever Became of Sin?

Good question, doc. Because that line keeps getting pushed further and further out. Things, only a generation ago, which were considered sin are now not only not, well, sin, but are approved of, applauded.

The collective consciousness (and conscience) it would seem have been given over. This shouldn’t surprise us. It’s there in the scriptures: Romans chapter one: “And God gave them over…”

I’m not here calling out any one particular sin, but a general trend in what is arguably a post-christian society. We (at least we here in America) can’t even agree if this country was ever a “Christian nation,” whether–or not–it was founded on biblical principles.

No, everbody–left, right, centrist, liberal, conservative, progressive–is too busy planting flags, claiming territory. Everybody is saying that God is on their respective side in this cultural divide. (I write here of those who particularly claim to be in the church).

But what does God say?

Matthew 13:24-30 ESV

“He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. And the servants of the master of the house came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?’ He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ So the servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ But he said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’”

Yes, I know the scriptures tell us that we shall know them by their fruits. I’m just sick of arguing. So I’m going to propose a new tack:

Instead of going out on tare patrol, I’ll instead leave the question of who’s in, or who’s out to God. Apparently, He has plan. I have sneaking suspicion that we’ll all be shocked on that day as to who are actually wheat, and who are tares. And the simple fact is that all that each of us can do is reflect Jesus to the best of our abilities.

We never win by arguing. Because people are no longer persuaded by logic. No; they’re looking for love, looking to be heard and understood. They’re looking for a shared connection via a shared story. Let us not forget that the Bible is first a story: God’s story. It’s a story of how He, Creator of all that is seen, and unseen, wants a relationship with each one of us.

It is love which will persuade hearts–not carefully crafted persuasive arguments. Or vitriolic vilifications. First, folks want to know how much we care–before they can even begin to care about what we know. We’re not even on the same page regarding what is, and what is not, sinful. There isn’t a common morality to come to any consensus upon.

There’s just this:

Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.

I’m not here talking about being soft on sin; rather, it’s about being soft on the hearts of folks who don’t even know they’re sinners in the first place.

As Jesus was…

Live a life of love, and let God sort it out, my friends. He knows who’s wheat, and who’s a tare.

We have a problem here in the modern American Evangelical church. The problem isn’t the Bible, or Jesus; it’s us. We, by-and-large, preach a gospel of behavior modification. We tell people, “Come to Jesus,” but don’t accept them until they look like us.

The problem is that instead of making disciples, we’re trying to make clones. We forget that we were once sinners in need of a savior; consequently, we say we’re down with grace,  but either explicitly, or implicitly, tell folks to come to Jesus.

But only after they’ve cleaned themselves up.

The irony here is that who among us can even do that: clean ourselves up? As if. Else why would we need a savior?
We take God’s free gift of life, and make the price of entry too high. Much like the Pharisees of old. We take the Gospel, and turn it into rules of the road. Rules that we ourselves, if we’re honest, can’t often attain to. I mean Jesus said that He didn’t come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. Meaning that it’s our duty to proclaim this message–not worry if it’s been received. Or try to change the mores of a fallen world. We say: “Come as you are.” But do we really mean it.

Come as you are… but not if you have some sin we don’t approve of. Jesus might accept you. But we don’t. We’re the gatekeepers of orthodoxy, of faith and practice. And you can’t come to our party if ______. You change your behavior first, and then we’ll talk.

It’s as if we don’t believe in the Holy Spirit anymore. And his ministry to “convict the world of sin, righteousnes, and judgment.”

If the Parable of the Sower is in any way a reliable guide, ours is to proclaim the message. Not make the hearts receptive. That’s between others and God. Further on in that chapter in Matthew 13:30, it says:

“Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.”

The point being that the tares (weeds) and the wheat were to grow together, and that God would do the reaping. He knows who’s His, and who isn’t. Our business is to proclaim, make disciples (but not clones), and trust Him with the outcome. A tall order, I know: to trust.

Who among us can even change our own heart? Why do we think we can change another’s?

The Gospel of Behavior Modification needs to die. Because it’s not a message of imposition: of enforcing change from the outside. It’s about lifechange,  about transformation from the inside out.

What do you think? What do you have to say?