God’s Not Done with Your Dad

Father’s Day isn’t a holiday that I get to celebrate with quite the same gushy giddiness as my friends.

My father and I have been estranged for…gosh, it’s been 16.5 years now. The reason isn’t important at the moment. Over the years, there have been halting efforts at reconciliation; the last couple years have been mostly good. We had a nice conversation last night that highlighted how good God has been to both of us in the last year.

And that’s the thing – God’s gone right on being good to him.

You see, Level One of Father’s Day blog posts is to talk about how great your dad is. Level Two is to talk about how to handle things if your father perhaps made some mistakes, to extend sympathy, to make sure the fatherless are not left out of the blog audience, and to glorify God as an unfailing father. It’s important to let the fatherless know that their pain and lack is seen and cared for by God.

But Level Three – to which God has leveled me up in the last few years, somewhat against my will – is recognizing that God’s grace extends to your father.

That can be a gigantic stomp on our pride. When we feel our fathers have not done right by us, we retreat to a place of safety in which God is on our side. There is good in that, at first. God does take umbrage over this stuff.

But eventually, God turns his eyes on us. He starts asking whether we have forgiven. And we must ask ourselves, what right do I have to hold against my father a sin that God has forgiven?

That was a difficult moment for me. I preferred my safety and injured pride. There was a moment when I thought I’d never speak to him again.

But I saw God working in my father’s life. He was continuing to bless him (though his life was not perfect). He was gaining wisdom. He was fiercely committed to God’s Word. He was even using his experiences to counsel others. He’s still a good man, in many ways. It was humbling – and awe-inspiring – to see that God was not done with my father. I couldn’t ignore it. I had to respect His work. God was being generous, and I had two options – get with the program and learn about God, or walk in ignorance and be the lesser servant.

It’s hard to know what our future relationship will look like. Obviously, it will never be quite the same. But things are looking better.

Most importantly, my perceived horizons of God’s grace have widened, stretching across the Montana sky. He is truly amazing.

When Good Theology = Good Feelings

SAMSUNG CSC

SAMSUNG CSC

One thing I’ve discovered about God: he’s offering a great deal more “good feelings” – more joy, peace, serenity, and even enthusiasm – than most of us are experiencing.

The explanation for the disconnect is this: we are not receiving it.

Why not? Possibly because we’re never told it’s available.

Discernment bloggers love to tell us that good theology isn’t about good feelings. I appreciate their vigilance. Good feelings can come from bad sources – promises of earthly wealth, skewed talk of miracles, or even just an unhealthy focus on good feelings – and we must be aware of such deer trails. It’s a cross, not a bed of roses.

But what about Philippians 4, which promises “a peace that transcends all understanding”? Or the repeated command to “rejoice” in our sufferings? Or God’s offers of inner healing (Psalm 34, Isaiah 61)? Or, oh, I don’t know, the promise of heaven? David seemed stoked out of his mind by, of all things, God’s commands. That’s almost weird. My generation prides itself on being more drawn towards God’s compassion and love than his commands. Yet Psalms 119 shows a man absolutely head over heels in love with God, giddy, intoxicated, elated.

There’s more to this “Christianity” thing than some of us know, methinks.

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To the Mother Who Second-Guesses Herself

mother-and-son-1256829_960_720 (1)Humility requires me to speak respectfully, even in awe, when it comes to motherhood. I have not yet been a parent, and I will never be a mother.

But I have learned this, mothers, thanks to my years in youth ministry: you have regrets. No matter how well your children have turned out, as they cross the stage and flip their tassels, all smiles with relief, you think of their flaws (as if there weren’t supposed to be any) and long to have some days back. Even when I’m thinking, amazed, “Are you kidding? I’ve known your kid for years. They’re awesome!”

The longing is legitimately greater in some mothers. But the mammoth task of motherhood is bound to leave holes. A mother can find the tiniest flaw in her own mother-work, as surely as she can spot a speck of dust on a table.

I want to encourage today. Yet I will never been a mother. I speak better than I know.

But I have been a child.

And I can say this with great certainty to many mothers: your children are probably thinking far better of you than you are.

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Boasting in My Weaknesses???

wreckI hate my brokenness.

I want it to end.

It’s been a tough week at work. The kind that leaves you feeling like a rusting wreck in the desert. Ever found yourself dreading going to work and finding out what little mistake is coming back to bite you this day? You’re breathing, so yes.

I know my weaknesses well. We’re old acquaintances. Not friends, though. I want them out of my life.

Tonight, though, I have to deal with the fact that they’re not conquered yet, that tomorrow hasn’t come yet, that the next opportunity to win hasn’t come yet. I have to deal with the shame and inadequacy that swarm toward this vulnerable chump like flies toward a carcass.

I’m reminded of a familiar saying.

God does not call the qualified; he qualifies the called.

But…there’s a but in my heart.

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The “Foolish” Cross

I used to scratch my head wondering why the world would call the gospel of Christ “foolish”.

“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (1 Cor. 1:18)

I could see the world hating God for requiring something of them morally (even though his yoke is easy and his burden is light).

I could see the world hating God for people undergoing eternal punishmentcross (even though he offers a way out, paid with his Son’s blood).

I could see the world hating God for allowing or seemingly ignoring, in the Bible, things that don’t match up with my 21st century Western worldview (like war or slavery).

I could see all that. I wouldn’t agree with it – he is beyond our accounting – but then again, I hardly expect the world to understand (yet) things that are only revealed by the Spirit they reject. From their limited standpoint, their hatred of God makes sense. I pray for their eyes to be opened.

But why would they think of God, or anything from God, as foolish, as 1 Corinthians 1:18 says? Judgmental, callous, unfair in their eyes, maybe, but foolish?

Then I started thinking, “Well, what does the world want from God?”

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Easter 365 Days a Year

Holidays are weird.

We say to ourselves, “Here’s a wondrous, momentous person or fact that has improved the lives of everyone around us, but…let’s only celebrate it once a year.”

Easter is a little different. We actually kinda celebrate it weekly, when we go to church. At least, that’s the hope. We hope our hearts are filled with reverence and joy as we sing all those songs acknowledging what God accomplished through the cross and the empty tomb.

But we all know once a week isn’t enough.

Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian. His grace does.

And when we obey him, we don’t do it to earn his grace, anymore than our setting off fireworks is what turns the Fourth of July into a holiday. It’s a holiday because of what already happened; we’re simply commemorating.

Instead, we obey in order to “walk in a manner worthy of the calling you have received” (Ephesians 4:1).

Every time we obey, we celebrate the cross and the empty tomb. Easter is the one holiday we can and are commanded to celebrate 365 days a year, by surrendering our lives in obedience to God.

I pray Psalm 51:12 for us this week – “Restore unto me the joy of my salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.”

I’ve had to pray that for a long time just to get my apathetic heart to care. But the prayer worked. More each year, I find that much more joy in knowing that I have an entry in the Book of Life, that the gates are opened to me, far down the road it might be. Don’t just let life sap that joy.  Fight for it in prayer. Ask God to restore it.

Have a great Easter.

He Runs to Us

walkingIt’s funny – in reading your comments, I’ve seen many of you looking forward to this part of Luke 15 as much as I. We know it by heart. Reaching verse 20 is like arriving at your favorite line in The Empire Strikes Back or hitting that favorite song in your old Newsboys album. But better. Chills of delight. (And I’m talking the Newsboys good ol’ days – Entertaining Angels at the very latest.)

(While I’m at it, God, can’t we have just one more DC Talk album? Pretty please? Asked another voice in the throng, never to be satisfied…sigh…)

ANYWAY…

Part 1: Be Careful What You Ask For

Part 2: Sex Isn’t Making Anyone Happy

Part 3: All The Wrong Reasons?

Part 5: Goodies and Godliness

“So he got up and went to his father.

But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.” (Luke 15:20)

Oh.

Oh.

Tears tonight.

I need this.

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