I couldn’t believe my ears. I tried not to look shocked.
When I was in ShopRite this week, a toddler–a cute, little girl full of personality–walked up to her mom and was asked a question meant to be funny to the adults within earshot.
“Where’s your sperm donor?”
Impressive mother, eh?!
My guess is that the father probably wasn’t all that impressive either. After listening to his wife (I’ll assume for the sake of argument that they were married), I am already questioning his discernment.
What kind of “Father” is he? Hopefully he is indeed far more than a “sperm donor.”
Being a father is a serious endeavor–a commitment which requires my effort on a daily basis, an effort I am willing to put forth. And I plan to put forth that effort today–even being a bit under-the-weather. Every genuine father needs to keep his suck-it-up reservoir filled.
Allow me to close by sharing the following from Max Lucado. The link to where I know the full resource–one worth reading–is given below. It explains why I jumped into the pool yesterday with my kids. Max writes,
Here’s a Lucado hunch about parenting: fathers and mothers enter the child-rearing business at two different times. Mothers decide to be mothers long before dads do. A mother carries a baby for nine months, giving her an opportunity to grow content with her decision to parent the new family member.
Dad, however, goes about his daily routine, pretty much unaffected by what’s going on inside the womb. Oh, he’s supportive and excited, but compared to Mom, he’s an observer. Until delivery time. Then Dad’s world takes on new meaning. He looks into the face of the new life and is faced with the realization: “I’m the father of this child.” You might call it a “delivery room discovery.” At this point a good dad makes a big decision. He has to decide to become a father. And that decision sets up dominoes of decisions he will make for the rest of his life. It’s a rational choice to alter his life, schedule, direction, and priorities in order to be a good dad to the tiny life in his arms.
Fathering a child is, for many, not difficult. But being a father is! It’s the first and most important decision of fathers: to make a conscientious choice to be a father.
The decision to be a father is not just a delivery room decision, though. It is a daily decision. A century ago, dads were on-site parents, working the farm or running the family store. Children spent a great deal of their time alongside their parents, working together. But in our modern culture, employment distances most dads from their kids. Some dads leave home before the children are awake. Others arrive home long after the kids are home from school. Consequently, it is possible, even common, for a father to forget about fathering—to emotionally disconnect himself from his children. Throughout the day, every day, dads need to renew their “dad” decision. “Will I attend this convention?” “Is this meeting essential?” “Can I rearrange these appointments to get home earlier?” On the way home from work, dads have to decide to take off the work hat and put on the “dad” hat. It’s a decision to manage his time, carefully reconciling work with the priority of family.
Being a good dad means making tough, sacrificial decisions. Decisions that tell our children what is important to us.
In his book, Achieving Success Without Failing Your Family, Paul Faulkner describes the decisions of an insurance executive. Speaking at a businessmen’s convention, the man stressed the importance of being a father first. The man’s daughter was in the audience.
…in the middle of his talk he had turned to her and asked, “Sweetheart, do you remember the time I won the million-dollar roundtable three years in a row?”
And she said, “No, Dad, I don’t guess I do.”
And then he asked, “Well, do you remember when we used to have those Dairy Queen dates?”
And she said, “Oh, yes!”
And then he turned to the audience to make the point that daughters don‘t remember when you sell a million dollars worth of insurance, but they do remember your special dates.1
This particular blog entry only makes sense if you read the original BEND LOW – BUILD HIGH article on June 1, 2013.
“Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and curse not. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation. Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men” (Romans 12:9-18).
BEND LOW – BUILD HIGH is our family’s theme this summer. As a result, that phrase has been heard quite a bit in our home over the past ten days. In order to help us to consider others needs before our own (BEND LOW) and speak words which edify (BUILD HIGH), each of the children is engaged in a project. Celena already made a coffee cup with the phrase on it (see the photos below). TJ is writing a story. Dayton is making a poster. And Cascade is writing a song. I rejoiced to see their enthusiasm as they embarked upon their specific projects! I will rejoice even more if long-term change is seen in their lives. In other words, I am hoping to see the Bible applied consistently within the confines of our home and as they go out into the world. However–I must never forget a very important axiom.
More is caught than taught.
My example is paramount in this process. I must consistently apply the Bible within the confines of our home and as I head out into my world. Thankfully, I am not left clueless as to how God desires me to live. The passage above is just one of many. Written by the theologian of the New Testament, the Apostle Paul made it very clear how Christians are to function within community. BEND LOW – BUILD HIGH is plastered all over those verses! Both humility and practical ministry are commanded.
Authentic love has legs.
Pure and undefiled religion blesses people. Christianity is much more than a set of truthful propositions to be believed. It is that, but it is–at least it should be–truth applied. May that accurately describe my children as they transition into adulthood in a few short years. May that be said now of their parents!
And now–Celena’s project:
Important Questions for My Children
I recently asked my two eldest children the questions listed below. Most are adapted from The Bible, the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene Creed and the Athanasian Creed.
- Do you believe that there is a God?
- Do you believe that the Protestant Bible—the sixty-six books spanning from Genesis to Revelation—is the written Word of God given to men that they might know God and know how to live to honor God?
- Do you believe that God is the holy, holy, holy Lord–perfect in all of His character and in all of His ways?
- Do you believe that you—a human—are a fallen creature, prone to sins of every kind?
- Do you believe that there is one Savior—one Perfect and Successful Savior—Jesus Christ?
- Do you believe that Jesus was God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God?
- Do you believe that Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary yet always remained the Son Eternal?
- Do you believe that Jesus lived a perfect life, fulfilling all righteousness?
- Do you believe that Jesus suffered under Pontius Pilate?
- Do you believe that Jesus died, was crucified and buried, not for His own sins, but for the sins of His people?
- Do you believe that Jesus rose again on the third day according to the Scriptures?
- Do you believe that Jesus appeared to more than five hundred witnesses?
- Do you believe that Jesus ascended into heaven and now sits on David’s throne at the right hand of God the Father Almighty—a glorified and reigning King of kings and Lord of lords?
- Do you believe that Jesus will come again in glory to judge the dead and the living?
- Do you believe that the Apostle John was correct when he said that those who receive Jesus—those who believe upon His name—are adopted by God and made His children?
- Do you believe that God’s children will prove to be His children by their faith and their fruit and—as a result of their faith with fruit will go into life everlasting?
- Jesus is THE Lord and THE Savior. He is your Lord. Is He your Savior? Have you repented of your sins and asked Him to forgive you?
- Do you want to love God and hate sin?
- Do you desire to get to the point in your life that you love God more than anyone or anything?
- Do you desire to get to the point in your life that you hate your sin more than the sins of others?
- Do you desire to get to the point in your life when your supreme passions include the glory of God and the blessing of others?
- If you died this day and God asked you: Why should I allow you to enter heaven? How would you respond?
- Should we trust in our good works, or should we trust in Jesus’ good work for us?
Their answers encouraged me. However, I am not convinced that they have fully appropriated the truths. Of course, that is my intense prayer–that they might believe and cherish that which is truth and that their believing truth and their cherishing truth might be easily seen by others.
If you have the time, meditate upon your answers to the above questions. Since truth isn’t relative, there are correct–right–answers to the questions. Answer them honestly. And–if you are curious–see if your answers are in line with the teachings of Scripture. It is definitely worth your time.
Allow me to explain.
BEND LOW – BUILD HIGH is our family’s theme for this summer. It’s our mission.
BEND LOW means that we all need to be on a mission to serve one another. I illustrated the concept during our family meeting by washing Jodi’s feet–something I did many years ago when I made our relationship “official.” Last night we read the account of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet. I informed the children of the significance of the event and how the principle remains to this very day. We need to serve one another. We also read Philippians 2:3,4. Paul wrote, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit; but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others” (NIV). Each of us will be looking for ways to practically bless one another. When we struggle, we will remind each other with the words, “BEND LOW.”
BUILD HIGH means that we will consciously make attempts to encourage each other with our words. As you know, this can be challenge for siblings! We read two verses of Scripture last night. Romans 15:2 reads, “Each of us should please his neighbor for his good, to build him up” (NIV). 1 Thessalonians 5:11 states, “Therefore encourage one another, and build up one another, just as you also are doing” (NIV). The exhortation of this verse stands as binding today as when it was written by the Apostle Paul. Each member of our family must be on a mission to encourage. We are to find ways to build one another up through our words. The verse ends with a statement which cannot yet be said of our family – “just as you also are doing.” Hopefully at summer’s end that can accurate describe us! I trust that two words will often be heard in our home this summer: BUILD HIGH.”
That’s our plan for the summer! We’ve got other things on the list as well–some pretty fun stuff as well as some spiritual goals. We know where we are headed. We’ve got a roadmap so that the next three months are purposeful.
What about you? What’s your plan for Summer 2013. BEND LOW – BUILD HIGH applies to all of us, doesn’t it? That’s good place to start! I’d encourage you to make a list to help you be productive over the next three months. Is there a particular area in which you want to make progress? Is there a project you’ve been meaning to start or one needing your attention so that you can finally mark it as “Completed”? Go for it!
Have a great summer!
I do not need a lot of examples to prove to me the reality of the power and presence of sin. All I need to do is read God’s Word and examine my own heart. God is perfect. His Word is perfect. I am not. And–because this world is filled with fallen individuals like me–examples of sin surround us. I was reminded of that tonight as I scrolled to the bottom of the Fox News homepage. If you could click on all of the links I found and read them without either being discouraged or saddened, your are probably “absolutely fine.” If your reading would cause you to act out irrationally, you could also claim to be “biopolar.” But don’t worry, the Department of Justice will “affirm” you.
This is what I read:
I am a veteran, but I am no hero. I faithfully served in the US Army from 1984-1987. And although I am proud of my accomplishments from my time in uniform my, family knows well how uncomfortable I am with applause. I do not deserve it.
Richard Arvine Overton does.
Have you seen any information about Richard this week? He is 107-years-old–America’s oldest living veteran. He served from 1942-1945, spending time in Hawaii, Guam, Palau and Iwo Jima.
His plan for Memorial Day is simple–relax, smoke a good cigar, drink a few whiskey-stiffened coffees and remember.
Fox News reports, “He wished he could spend a few hours this Memorial Day reliving war stories with fellow veterans.”
The problem–as you know–is that there are very few WWII veterans left. He sits in an elite category: A generation of heroes all but gone. Thank you, Richard, for your service!
But another generation has reached the twilight of their lives–the veterans of the Korean and Vietnam Wars. Those wars may not be as “glamorous” as WWII where America stood toe-to-toe against Hitler, Mussolini and the Empire of Japan, but they were indeed wars, and hundreds of heroes emerged. The same can be said of the men and women of our war against Islamic extremism who went above and beyond the call of duty, many of whom lost their lives.
Memorial Day finds me thankful for more than another day away from the office. Extra time with family is a good thing. BBQ’s are always awesome. But these simple blessings are not possible apart from God’s grace and men and women willing to put their lives on the line that I might live free. Although my heavenly citizenship trumps my American citizenship, I can promise you that this holiday I will once again bleed
Thank you for pausing to “remember.” Celebrate in Richard’s honor!
Happy Anniversary! Twenty-two great years!
Much of life is unexpected. The journey is filled with obstacles. The trip is a lot more difficult than any of us anticipated. However, one experience has proven to be exactly as I envisioned. Our marriage has been a piece of cake. It’s been easy. How rare of a story is that?!
Two have truly become one.
That unity isn’t the only mystery. I am confused about a couple of other issues. First, how is it possible for our friendship to be deeper today than it was in 1991? You were my best friend that hot and humid day at New Union Baptist Church. Now the term “best friend” seems trite as I apply it to you. You are my bestest friend! Second, how can it be that I love you more now than I did the moment you walked down the aisle with your father? Yet I do! My love for you is “immeasurable.” I truly am head-over-heels in love with you as we both rapidly approach “midlife”!
How does this happen?
Surely this is a work of God. But I also think another simple explanation presents itself. Our friendship has deepened and our love has grown because you are you.
You are a delightful person possessing a long list of positive attributes, strengths which continue to bless me, our children and others. Jodi, I really like you. I not only love you, but I genuinely like you. God has been exceedingly kind to bless me with someone who completes me. You are my perfect “other half.”
I am grateful today for God’s grace. In you, He has given to me far more than I deserved. Thank you, Jesus. And thank you, Jodi, for being you and for all you do!
To celebrate, let’s work outside all day!
Mom passed away this morning. She was eighty-one years old. Several of my siblings were with her as she passed. My mother was an interesting individual–almost a polarizing figure. I think very few people who truly knew her were ambivalent. She either liked you or she didn’t. People either liked her or they didn’t. For the most part–save for only a couple of incidents throughout my life–my relationship with my mother was healthy (I think it was a lot easier being a boy in our family than being a girl). And I always knew–even when she was irritated with me–that she loved me and was proud of me.
I thought it might be helpful for me to sit down and draw up a list of things I appreciate about my mom. She was not a perfect mom. But she did more than a few things right. In her honor, I’ll share my list (I stopped at twenty).
- Was always there for me as I grew up.
- Deeply loved my Dad, proving to be his best friend and lover through life.
- Worked hard to help Dad provide for our family.
- Trained me that a clean house is more enjoyable than a dirty one.
- Enabled me to see that a good day of fishing doesn’t require catching a lot of fish.
- Patiently proved to me that a tacky tree painted on a kitchen wall was actually cool.
- Spoke the truth, even if it wasn’t always seasoned with grace.
- Taught me that a hard life should be salted with fun activities.
- Introduced me to good food–surf and turf (lobster, shrimp & steak)!
- Helped me to see that the mentally-disabled are people deserving as much kindness as those self-described as “normal.”
- Never ridiculed my conversion to Christianity.
- Never judged my present or my future based upon my past.
- Loved my wife as if she were a daughter.
- Supported me in my educational pursuits.
- Celebrated my seminary graduation–stuffing her own emotions as she was informed earlier in the day of her mother’s passing.
- Was generous–even forcing me to take gifts from time to time.
- Encouraged me as I served in my vocational roles as pastor, principal and professor.
- Listened intensely whenever she heard me preach God’s Word.
- Complimented me in my role as husband and father.
- Illustrated–through quality time–that being a grandparent could be a blast.
My study in God’s Word the other day led me to Ephesians, chapter six. I found myself flying through the familiar verses of the chapter only to slam on the brakes as I reached the last sentence of the letter.
“Grace be with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an incorruptible love.” Ephesians 6:24
The gifted commentator, Matthew Henry wrote, “The words may be read, Grace be with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ in incorruption, who continue constant in their love to him, so as not to be corrupted out of it by any baits or seductions whatsoever, and whose love to him is uncorrupted by any opposite lust, or the love of anything displeasing to him. Grace, that is, the favour of God, and all good (spiritual and temporal), that is, the product of it, are and shall be with all those who thus love our Lord Jesus Christ” (eSword).
Baptist theologian John Gill defined this as believers who prove to be “sincere and hearty lovers of Him” (eSword).
And Adam Clarke correctly connects love for Christ with obedience to Christ. He wrote that this concept of incorruptible love is possessed by “those who show the genuineness of their love, by walking before him in holiness of life. Many profess to love our Lord Jesus who are corrupt in all their ways; on these the grace or favor of God cannot rest; they profess to know him, but in works deny him. Such can neither expect favor here, nor hereafter” (eSword).
Are you convicted yet?
I wonder if the believers in Ephesus were convicted when they first read these words. I find it very interesting that several years later, the Apostle John would reprimand them for their lukewarm love for Christ (Rev. 2:4). Perhaps many in the church did not take Paul’s words to heart. Their love became corrupted. Their once-upon-a-time passionate love for Jesus had grown cool.
It’s a sad statement. And, it is sobering to think it could be true of us as well.
How thankful should we be for the final verse of Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus?!
Allow me to close with a great exhortation from a sermon preached by Jonathan Edwards:
“Seeing that Christ is your all, give Him your whole heart. Let Him be the object not only of your highest esteem, but your supreme affection. Let Him engross your heart, and let all your powers and faculties be taken up and employed in loving Him. Love Him with all your heart and with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength. Let Him be the great object of your longing desires. Let Him be your exceeding joy, your only delight. Take your full contentment in Him.”
Christ is the Christians All, The Puritan Pulpit: Jonathan Edwards, Soli Deo Gloria Publications, 2004, p.204.
Mind if I share a devotional I gave to a group of students this week?
- We are called to bear fruit.
- Jesus is the Source for our fruit-bearing.
- Apart from Jesus, we cannot produce fruit.
“‘except ye abide in me’ - which strongly expresses the necessity of abiding in Christ by fresh repeated acts of faith” (John Gill)