"But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give a reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect." 1 Peter 3:15

Thursday, January 26, 2012

A father's blessing

I'm excited for the Courageous movie and bible study we will be beginning at our church Feb 12th. For those not familiar with the movie, the premise is a challenge to fathers to step into the role God has called them to in courageously leading their families.  It thrills me to think that this challenge will be raised to so many fathers in our community.  I am not yet a father myself, but one thing I am…is a statistic—a statistic that continues to become more and more rare.
I am a son that grew up in a home with a father who was present and active.  I have a father who loves me, and tells me he loves me.  I have a father who encourages me in my decisions, and is supportive of what I do.  I have a father who affirmed my talents, and provided for me opportunities to use them.  I have a father who loves the Lord, and raised me up in His truth.  I have a father who read to me God’s word EVERY night throughout my childhood!  My father walks by the leading of the Spirit so that he can lead by example.  I am an advocate for courageous fatherhood, because my life is a testimony of the impact of courageous fatherhood!  If it weren’t for my dad’s leadership and the leadership of other godly men in my life, I most likely wouldn’t be walking with the Lord the way I am today. 
I want to share with you one of the most valued gifts I’ve ever been given.  My dad and I went to Men’s retreat at Trout Lake camp one fall.  That year the speaker was sharing on the value of a father blessing his children.  The blessings of Fathers are prominent throughout scripture.  Isaac blessed his sons, Jacob and Esau, and his blessings were prophetic to the lives they lived (Genesis 27).  Jacob blessed all twelve of his sons (Genesis 49:28), and his grandsons (Genesis 48:9).  King David, on the day the Ark of the Covenant was restored to the tabernacle, blessed his entire household (2nd Samuel 6:18, 20).  The Heavenly Father himself, on the day Jesus was baptized into his ministry, spoke his own affirming blessing upon his son (Matthew 3:16-17).  My dad decided that he too would write for me a blessing.  For a day or so, he worked out what he wanted to say, and then one afternoon he handed me these thoughtful words written out on the back of an old bulletin he had in his bible.
Heavenly Father, may Tyler become a man after your heart.  May he live out the values of creativity and integrity in boldness.  May he motivate others to Godliness through his gifts of art and proclamation.  May he never grow weary of serving you.  May he always reflect your glory.  May his life be a pleasing act of worship to you.  Amen.”
And then he left me with these words from  Jeremiah.
23 This is what the LORD says:
“Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom
or the strong man boast of his strength
or the rich man boast of his riches,
24 but let him who boasts boast about this:
that he understands and knows me,
that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness,
justice and righteousness on earth,
for in these I delight,”
declares the LORD.

When I finished reading what my dad wrote for me, he said.  “You should give that back.  I’ll type it up at home; we can make it look nice and frame it for you.”  But already, that old bulletin scribbled upon with carefully planned out words had become precious to me, I didn’t want it any other way!  I took it and cherished it.

Fathers, your words are powerful.  They have the power to literally shape the future of your children.  As I look at the words my father wrote and my heavenly father inspired, there is nothing I desire more greatly than to honor both my fathers in developing into the man described in my blessing.
Be strong and courageous fathers!  Bless your children!  Here is a great place to begin. 

This site pointed me to the scriptures I shared as well as many others.  It also has testimonies of the impact of blessings.  Be encouraged and inspired!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Meeting God's Glory

We all have those moments when gravity seems to pull a little stronger; when a weight presses down upon our shoulders and we are left weary.   Christ’s words in Matthew 11:28 bring us great peace.   “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. “  How comforting to know that our savior and creator desires for us to find rest in his arms!  If we want to experience the full joy of this promise, it is important to recognize the context in which these words were spoken.  In Matthew 11:20, Jesus denounces the cities in which he had performed his miracles—he revealed His glory—and yet they did not respond.  They saw the glory of Christ…and chose to continue sinning rather then follow him.  The burden Jesus has come to relieve us from…is our sin.

I desire to show this to be true: it‘s when we recognize the devastation of our sin in the light of Christ’s glory that Jesus relieves our burden…and invites us to participate in His mission.

As Jesus continues to speak in verses 21-24, he mentions the cities of Tyre, Sidon and Sodom—cities of intense wickedness.  Tyre was so wicked, the prophet Ezekiel used the king of Tyre as an analogy for Satan!  Sidon so evil, God refers to them as his enemy (Ezekiel 28).   Both these cities where destroyed by their enemies.  Sodom was such a corrupt city that God wiped it off the face of the earth with fire and brimstone from heaven!  And yet, he said these cities would be better off than Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum on the day of judgment.  Why?  The later had witnessed the works of Jesus…and didn’t respond.

In verses 25-27 Jesus prays.
“I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. 26 Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do.
   27 “All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

I wonder if these cities refused to lay down their sin, because they couldn’t see it as the burden it truly was.  Children willingly share their burdens…they have no choice—so much reliance and trust in their parents!  But as we grow older, we become a bit more independent; we like to try to handle things on our own.  We even try to handle our own sin; managing our burdens rather than releasing them.  Does this sound familiar?  “I know I shouldn’t do this….I know this is wrong…but no one has to know.  I can manage this.  I can keep this hidden.”  Or how about, “It’s not gossip if it’s true…my tongue is burning, I just have to share this!”  Or maybe, “She makes me SO ANGRY!  I refuse to talk to her…it’s her fault, not mine anyway!”

The burdens Christ invites us to lay at the cross, we instead hoist to our shoulders.  We have no comprehension of the burden we carry and the freedom we lack!  Who does Jesus choose to reveal himself to?  To childlike hearts willingly dropping their burdens at the foot of the cross.

           And so, verse 28: “Come to me all who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.”  No longer do we have to hold on to these weights that wear us down.  We can be free!

There are two lies I tend to buy into when it comes to my sin: either that it’s not that big of a deal, or that I’m damaged goods…God couldn’t possibly want or use someone like me.   God’s word addresses both these mindsets.

In Isaiah 6, Isaiah witnesses the glory of God in a fantastic way— He sees the Lord, the train of his robe filling the temple.  There are awesome heavenly creatures singing praise with such power the ground shakes.  Smoke fills the temple.  It is in this place Isaiah has a “Woe is me” moment! 

“Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.” Isaiah 6:5

Have you ever had a “Woe is me moment?”  It’s like a car accident that can’t be prevented.  Isaiah, clothed in sin, was on a crash course into the blazing glory of God.  He sees his sin in the light of God, and knows he’s a dead man.  And yet, Isaiah’s lips are touched with a coal from the altar—his guilt is taken away, and his sins are atoned for.  He is made right!  God says, “Whom shall I send?  Who will go?  

It’s in this place that Isaiah says, “Here I am!  Send me.”

I have begun meeting with a few guys weekly for prayer, encouragement and accountability.  They have become a reminder of God’s glorious presence in my life.  He is watching me.   I may quickly forget God’s watching eye, but it’s much harder to forget that my brothers are going to ask me how my week has been.   Sin I brushed off before, I now see in the light of Christ’s glory.  I rejoice in the freedom of laying down those burdens so that I can respond to God, “Here I am!  Send me!”

Perhaps you are in a place where you recognize the seriousness of your sin.   Words like “fake” and “hypocrite” constantly ring in the back of your mind.  You wonder how God could ever use someone like you.  I think Peter may have wondered the same thing.

Jesus asked Peter to drop his nets on the other side of the boat one morning, but Peter was a bit hesitant.  He was a professional.  He’d been out all night and hadn’t caught a thing…what pointers could this rabbi give him?  But he did anyway—and so many fish filled the nets they began to break, and two boats were filled with enough fish that they were on the verge of sinking!

When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” Luke 5:8.  Peter saw his sin in light of the glory of Christ.  Maybe he remembered  a coarse joke he shared with the other fishermen the night before.  Perhaps he remembered the face of a person he had cheated in business.  Maybe he thought of the temper that sometimes got the best of him.  All we know, is Peter recognized that he was in the presence of overwhelming glory.  Jesus met Peter where he was at…and called him.  “Don’t be afraid!  From now on, you will be a fisher of men.”  Peter found the glory of God while sitting on his knees amongst a bunch of slimy, flopping fish.  Jesus will meet each  of us wherever we are at too.

I love that Jesus doesn’t end with, “Come to me all who are weary and carry burdens, and I will give you rest.”  He goes on to say, “Take my yoke upon you.”  That’s an instrument of work!  God has a duty for us to do.  But it’s not a burden…the burden has been taken away—it’s a joy! 

When we recognize our sin in the light of Christ’s glory, we see ourselves for who we are…and God for who he is.  We begin to see the depths Christ stooped to make us holy in the eyes of the Father, and our only natural response is to cry out, “Here I am! Send Me!”