Live For The Moment: 5 Moments That Every Father Should Live For

Last year we went on a family vacation to one of our favorite beaches.  We stayed at a quiet place way down the beach, away from where all the action is.  It’s more family friendly that way, but sometimes we venture down where the action is for dinner.  We happened to be there last year during spring break, and it was very crowded where the action was. One particular thing caught my attention; everywhere I looked there were t-shirts, hats, sweatshirts, and various other items with the letters YOLO plastered on them.  I asked a kid I saw what it meant, and he laughed at me.  So I did what any self-respecting man in his mid thirties does when trying to figure out what the kids are up to these days…I Googled it.  Turns out that YOLO means, “You Only Live Once”.  A predictably popular slogan for spring breakers grasping for a justification to do whatever they wanted.  I saw the appeal, but here’s the problem:

YOLO is a lie.

You don’t only live once.  You live everyday.  True, we aren’t promised tomorrow, so we should make the most of today.  But it’s probably a good idea to make the most of today in a way that doesn’t put tomorrow in serious jeopardy.  Just a thought.

Everyday is composed of moments that come and go.  It’s true that Jesus has called us to live  life to the fullest.  Life in Christ is rich and meaningful.  The Bible describes it as abundant life.  But this is not a justification to make as many reckless choices as possible in the shortest amount of time.  This is a call to find lasting joy in living for the deeper things in life, not to seek fleeting entertainment the shallow things.

As a Dad, part of my God given responsibility is to help my family find joy in the more significant moments of life.  Sometimes that means recognizing and seizing certain moments and making them significant.  We must not just “take life as it comes”, we must come to life and take it for the glory of God and the benefit of our families.

Here are 5 moments that every Father should live for:

Teaching Moments

Teaching moments come all the time.  Rarely do they come with a 2 minute warning so that you can be ready.  Taking advantage of teaching moments requires thoughtful preparation.  If you haven’t thought through what you want to teach your family, you won’t recognize the moments when opportunity strikes.  Spend time in the scriptures and reading books that inspire intentional parenting and discipleship.  Pray that the Holy Spirit will make you sensitive to teaching moments.  Often, dads miss out on teaching opportunities because they look a lot like hard work.  Pouring your heart into your family on a daily basis isn’t easy, but things that are eternally meaningful rarely are.

Serving Moments

Being a man of God doesn’t mean having a family that serves and worships you.  It means sacrificially serving them.  In a display of God’s grace, often sacrificial service will inspire your family to honor you, but that’s not the point.  Jesus set the example for us as a sacrificial servant; not only washing his disciple’s feet (he considered anyone who did the will of God to be family: Mark 3), but by serving them all the way to the cross.  Look for moments when you can display Christ’s sacrificial love to your family by putting their needs and joys first.  Model it, then humbly teach it.  Create a culture of selflessness and others-centeredness in your home, not a culture of selfishness.

Comforting Moments

There will be moments in your family’s life when the brokenness of the world crashes in, and the people you love are hurting.  The Bible teaches us that God is near to the brokenhearted.  We model our Heavenly Father’s love when we compassionately care for our families in times of pain.  If there are people in your house who are hurting and you are not making your presence felt as a comforter, stop reading this article and go do what needs to be done.  Ask God to help you see the hurts of your family with His compassionate eyes, and show his strength by being there for them.

Worship Moments

clouds

Yesterday I was walking into the grocery store and I was struck by the beauty of the evening sky and an approaching thunderstorm.  I stood there for a while and worshiped in quiet appreciation.  Then I took a picture, found this scripture and went home to share my experience with my family.  “He makes clouds rise from the ends of the earth; he sends lightning with the rain and brings out the wind from his storehouses.” Psalm 135:7 Perhaps the moment will come as God miraculously meets a need in your life.  Perhaps the worship moment comes through a song on the radio, or a word of wisdom from a friend.  Marvel at God in your heart, but share the wonder with your family… make the most of it.

Blessing Moments

Determine in your heart that you will regularly, and often, communicate to your family how they are a blessing from God to you.  Thoughtfully express to each person, individually, how they bless your life.  Let them feel the joy they bring you.  It may take some effort and courage, but the alternative is having a family that never knows how much they mean to you.  Young people treat themselves carelessly because they don’t feel valuable.  Wives struggle to feel confident because husbands don’t make the effort to show them their great worth.  I try to tell my children on a regular basis that they are my treasures.  I treat them with thoughtful care because they are worth so much to me.  My hope and belief is that they will grow to see themselves as people of great worth and value, and make life choices accordingly.  Interestingly, the more we teach our families what a blessing they are to us, the more of a blessing we are to them.  Parents should strive to be a blessing to their children at all stages of life, and children should likewise always seek to honor their parents.  Be a blessing, and leave it to God to inspire them to honor you as you have honored your Heavenly Father.

Missing the Point of Marriage

As I have read articles outlining the current debates about marriage, and seen my friends’ comments on Facebook and Twitter I have felt a growing concern that we are all missing the point. I’m certainly not saying that I get the point and no one else does, but I am saying that I feel burdened that there is a deeper, more meaningful discussion about marriage that hasn’t happened yet. My goal here is to share a few of the thoughts that are on my heart in such a way that a respectful, and more meaningful dialogue might be encouraged.

As a minister, I have been privileged to officiate in a few weddings. In each, I have been reminded that there are two sides to the coin of marriage. A great deal of time and energy is invested in the ceremony itself. The minister shares a word about the importance of marriage. Vows are made before God and witnesses. Rings are exchanged. All are physical expressions and symbols of spiritual significance. And at some point after the service the couple will sign the marriage license. This however is not of spiritual significance. It’s of legal significance, and even though the wedding may be over, the couple will not be married in the eyes of the law without it.

One of the problems in our public dialogue about marriage is that we are not all talking about the same issue. We’re talking about the same coin, but some are concerned about the legal side and others are motivated by the spiritual. In many cases neither side understands the other. Some are trying to argue for the legal side by using spiritual language. Some argue for the spiritual side using legal language. Neither approach is very effective and both sides end up feeling misunderstood and threatened.

Too often, Christians appear more calloused, narrow-minded, and judgmental than anything else. The motivation is to defend the spiritual significance of a sacred institution, but the problem is that most don’t understand that spiritual significance enough to be persuasive; and so they default to attempts at legal logic. Pride gets involved, people feel threatened, and pretty soon more people are hurt than heard. It’s hard work to dig into God’s Word and discipline ourselves to thoughtfully and compassionately engage people with love. Instead, we abandon the value of any spiritual perspective, and allow the issue to be reduced to one of legal and logical reasoning. It’s like a doctor trying to talk his patient into getting heart surgery by discussing his insurance coverage, rather than his physical concerns.

I am not going to attempt to make a legal/logical case for traditional or biblical marriage. There is plenty to be read on that perspective in other places. I am concerned with the spiritual significance of marriage. Marriage is a complex and compelling display of God’s nature and love for mankind.

Christians ought to advocate a biblical understanding of the gospel more than anything else. The truth is that if we understood marriage correctly, our public debate about marriage would be more about the beauty of the gospel than anything else.

I truly believe that Christians ought to advocate a biblical understanding of the gospel more than anything else. Too often we fancy ourselves making forays into the world of law and politics, driven by morals and values alone. Of course Christians have a place in politics, law, and in every field of work. However we must remember that there is no such thing as moral or ethical issue apart from the gospel. For the Christian, everything is about the gospel. If I am passionate about an issue because of moral and ethical concerns, it should be because I am persuaded that by expressing my position I can show a broken and hurting world the grace of God. I might also aspire to offer solutions that display God’s priority of justice or that solve problems which individuals cannot solve for themselves. In this way the love of Jesus is the solution which we apply to the problems of the world. Such is the case with the issue of marriage. If we fail to make the case for a biblical understanding of marriage by telling the world about how much Jesus loves people, then we have lost sight of our most precious priority.

The Apostle Pauls explains in Ephesians 5,

22-24 Wives, understand and support your husbands in ways that show your support for Christ. The husband provides leadership to his wife the way Christ does to his church, not by domineering but by cherishing. So just as the church submits to Christ as he exercises such leadership, wives should likewise submit to their husbands.

25-28 Husbands, go all out in your love for your wives, exactly as Christ did for the church—a love marked by giving, not getting. Christ’s love makes the church whole. His words evoke her beauty. Everything he does and says is designed to bring the best out of her, dressing her in dazzling white silk, radiant with holiness. And that is how husbands ought to love their wives. They’re really doing themselves a favor—since they’re already “one” in marriage.

29-33 No one abuses his own body, does he? No, he feeds and pampers it. That’s how Christ treats us, the church, since we are part of his body. And this is why a man leaves father and mother and cherishes his wife. No longer two, they become “one flesh.” This is a huge mystery, and I don’t pretend to understand it all. What is clearest to me is the way Christ treats the church. And this provides a good picture of how each husband is to treat his wife, loving himself in loving her, and how each wife is to honor her husband.” The Message

The message of marriage is that in ordaining this mysterious bond between a man and a woman, God is teaching us something about how much Jesus loves people. In living out the sacrificial service of the husband, and experiencing the paradox of strength and submission in a wife; we become intimately aware of the nature of God and the radical love of our Savior. What is more, when men and women live out this mandate faithfully, we demonstrate the love of Jesus to the world. This is not political activism or legal maneuvering. It is not even promoting Christian culture. It is nothing short of evangelism.

Marriage does not matter because it is an ancient tradition to be honored. The significance of marriage between a man and woman is not a that it is a notion the Bible puts forth to oppose gay people. Such simplified suggestions are indeed narrow minded and calloused. The Biblical model of marriage matters because it is a beautiful display of the love of Jesus Christ.

Tim Keller, in his book The Meaning of Marriage, writes “It is the message that what husbands should do for their wives is what Jesus did to bring us into union with himself. And what was that? Jesus gave himself up for us. Jesus the Son, though equal with the Father, gave up his glory and took on our human nature (Philippians 2:5). But further, he willingly went to the cross and paid the penalty for our sins, removing our guilt and condemnation, so that we could be united with him (Romans 6:5) and take on his nature (2 Peter 1:4). He gave up his glory and power and became a servant. He died to his own interests and looked to our needs and interests instead (Romans 15:1-3). Jesus’ sacrificial service to us has brought us into a deep union with him, and he with us. And that, Paul says, is the key not only to understanding marriage, but to living it.” (p.46)

If one is only concerned with the legal side of the marriage coin then this spiritual reasoning will make little sense. But I believe that the message of the gospel is compelling and that through it God speaks to the hearts of mankind. Like Jesus, it can be denied or embraced but it cannot be ignored. As Christians, we can afford to let the beauty of the gospel, on display in marriage, speak for itself. What we cannot afford, is to make a case for marriage that leaves the gospel out entirely.

Who are you anyway?

A mirror, reflecting a vase

Image via Wikipedia

Today when I was at home for lunch I had the bright idea to do a fun little experiment with the kids.  It all started when I made a crack to my son about his shorts and he looked down like, “I have shorts on!?”  My wife and I were eating at the table and the kids were playing in their rooms.  I decided to call them out one by one, tell them to close their eyes, and ask them what clothes they had on.

I called my son out first.  He closed his eyes just as he was asked and I said, “Describe what you are wearing.”  He kept his eyes closed but this incredulous look came over his face like, “You expect me to know that!”  I restated the question as he stood there in his brown t-shirt and grey shorts.  He stuttered a bit and then said in a questioning tone, “Blue shirt?”  Ha!  Wrong.  He opened his eyes, rolled them at his brown shirt and took off.

Next I called out my  8 year old daughter.  I gave her the same instructions and posed the question.  She stood there in stunned silence as my wife and I died laughing.  Finally she said, “What?”  She was stalling for time to think.  She brought her hands up and had to feel her night gown before she remembered.  Cheater.  We sent her off laughing.

Finally I called out the 3 year old.  I told her to close her eyes and she did.  (She had her hands full of puzzle pieces if you want the complete mental picture.) She was wearing a white t-shirt with some incriminating red Kool-aid stains on the sleeves.  I said, “What are you wearing?”  She squinted one eye, and peeked down with the other.  Even staring at her shirt she said, “White shirt?”  She was suspicious it was trick question.  “Good job!” we applauded!

I recently read that the gospel is so much more than a plan of salvation for the lost. It is the water in which a Christian swims everyday.  I have often been guilty of thinking of the Gospel as the diving board into the pool of Christianity.  But the reality is that the Gospel is the pool itself.  The beauty of this truth is that the deeper I swim into the Gospel the more I understand about who I am in Christ.  I realize that I am more sinful than I ever dared think, because my only possible remedy required God the Son sacrificing himself on my behalf.  In the wake of that terrible reality I realize that I am more loved than I ever dared dream, because Jesus did exactly that.  2 Corinthians tells us that “God had Christ, who was sinless, take our sin so that we might receive God’s approval through him.”

If you want to see yourself as you really are, take a look at yourself through the lens of the Gospel.   What you will see may surprise you, but it will be a surprise that will heal your heart. 

James 1 says in vs. 22-24 “Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you are a listener when you are anything but, letting the Word go in one ear and out the other. Act on what you hear! Those who hear and don’t act are like those who glance in the mirror, walk away, and two minutes later have no idea who they are, what they look like.”

How many times have we heard God’s word taught, or read it ourselves telling us how we could find deep meaning in life through the message of the gospel; only to go on living  in frustration and confusion?  The only right response to the message of the scriptures is to embrace the love of Christ and allow it to shape us into the men and women God would have us be.   Otherwise it’s like wandering around not even knowing what kind of clothes you have on, or who you really are at all.

“The War on Christmas”

In the car on the way to a large retail store you hear on the radio that there seems to be a trend this holiday season that has many Christians unsettled.  It appears that there are numerous stores and communities which are removing the phrase “Merry Christmas” from their signage and customer greetings this…Christmas.  You roll your eyes and mumble something about political correctness…but in your heart there rises a tremor of indignation.  They can’t take Christ out of Christmas.  How dare they.

You shop for a while and, because you heard the news report, notice that there are indeed no signs that say “Merry Christmas”, but the “Happy Holidays” phrase is everywhere.  That tremor of indignation evolves into a rumble of self-righteousness.  This pagan culture is trying to ignore the baby in the manger, or so the thoughts go.  As you check out you’ve been simmering for a while.  Your pulse is quick and for the moment you feel that you are on the front lines of a culture war, the lone defender of the true meaning of Christmas.  As the 19-year-old cashier hands you your receipt she utters the words you have been bracing yourself against, as if they were a personal threat.  “Happy Holidays”, she says with what you are sure is a patronizing smile.  And you react.  “Merry Christmas”, you spit at her.  Take that!  I will not be robbed of the significance of my savior’s birth!

While this may seem funny, it’s real.  It is happening every day.  Pastors are mounting crusades to publicly shame retailers who “leave Christ out of Christmas”.  Sunday School teachers warn of the culture’s threatening intentions regarding this sacred holiday.  From pulpits, articles, and pamphlets to Fox News, the finger has been pointed.  Conspiracy theorist Christians are all up in arms.  We have all been warned, there is a war against Christmas.

And when Christians decide that they will take up arms and fight this war, they make a mistake far worse than those few who really might want to leave Christ out of the holiday.

We are not loyal to Christ by being rude and mean to those who would leave Him out of Christmas.

Sometimes I wonder if those who seem most threatened by this trend feel more of a fierce loyalty to Christmas or to Christ.  In “setting the pagans straight” for leaving Christ out of Christmas, some are leaving the love out of Christ.

For those of you keeping score at home, that is a whole lot worse than someone who is far away from God acting like someone who is far away from God.

It is always fascinating to me how shocked and offended Christians can be when people who don’t know God act like people who don’t know God.  What did you expect?  The kid whose parents are divorced and is working at that retail store to help pay the light bill because her now single mother has cancer…the one who just checked your $200 worth of stocking stuffers out and is wondering how she might buy her baby brother a new pair of shoes…the one who constantly gets judged by Christians like you instead of loved and helped…did you expect her to cherish that baby in the manger you just used as a weapon against her?

1 Corinthians 13 has a nice reminder for us, ” If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing. If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.”

So the next time we get tempted to be culture warriors defending Christmas, may we remember that graciousness is more loyal to Christ than gracelessness.

Jesus never shamed anyone into following himself.  Why should we?

Happy Holidays.