No Father’s League

dad-football-2004-webDuring the NFL Draft last night someone vocalized what was on my mind most of the night. I only watched half of it, but for most of these men it was an emotional time in which they hugged their family members and thanked their mothers. They cried as their dreams were realized along with the realization that a big payoff was coming their way. Some could now provide for their families, while others saw it as an opportunity to prove their ability on a higher level.

They’ve worked hard and pushed themselves all seemingly without a father, at least that’s how it appeared. Someone even drew the distinction that it was the opposite of the motherless Disney Princesses. Here are the fatherless pro-football players. The sad thing about it all is that in a generation or rather a world that desperately needs not just okay but great fathers, we hope along with these athletes that somehow the realization of their dreams would make them good providers/fathers/people. The reality is, a hefty paycheck and a chance to play a manly sport at the highest level won’t create good fathers. What creates good fathers is having ones that affirm you not on the basis of your performance but your identity.

That’s why the tears, though sincere, concern me. Their dreams realized, but on the basis of someone saying you made it, you made the money, you got here because you are good enough. That’s the job of a coach not a father. They feel the emotion of someone finally saying again you’re good enough in the face of all your obstacles. We picked you first! But a father delights in his child on the basis of identity. He picks you first because you’re his, and He knows what you’re created for.

Unfortunately the church world isn’t much different from the NFL or any other competitive position. We turn churches into coaching platforms and many young pastors are not fathered but coached. Get better and prove your worth, grow this youth ministry and earn your keep. I have friends who face that even as I write.  Thankfully this will change. The last verses in the Old Testament points to it, the New Testament promises it in the incarnation of Christ and both the Church and world are groaning for it.

The disintegration of the family unit, an out control pornography and sex trafficking epidemic, an exaltation of entertainment over relationship, and powerless churches are to me all indications of father’s abandoning their identity for something else. Read the epistles for qualifications of church leaders and see what it says about a leader’s lifestyle and how they manage their household and how their kids behave. Their qualifications are mostly based on chracter inside the home. Titus 3:6”An elder must be blameless, faithful to his wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient.” Do you know how many times I’ve heard stories of pastor’s kids accused of being the most rebellious? That’s scary and a sign that something seriously unhealthy is going on yet we eat it up like candy and don’t question character on the basis of charisma.

The good thing about the NFL is we don’t watch it and say I want to be a father just like these professional athletes. Even Tim Tebow will have to explain to his kids one day why he posed shirtless with his body poised like Christ on the cross when his kids ask him, “Did you do this for the men? (They don’t care) Women?  (They might but for wrong reasons) for money? (don’t you have enough) for God? (I can think of thousands of better ideas none of which having to do with your outward appearance) NFL athletes have a lot of choices to make when it comes to sponsorship so he probably will be able to laugh it off later so it’s not that unfortunate. But what would be unfortunate is if we couldn’t or can’t walk into churches and say, “I want to be a father/mother like these professional pastors.”

Pain, Pain Go Away

Job 14:18-22window-and-raindrops-

“But as a mountain erodes and crumbles
and as a rock is moved from its place,
 as water wears away stones
and torrents wash away the soil,
so you destroy a person’s hope.
You overpower them once for all, and they are gone;
you change their countenance and send them away.

If their children are honored, they do not know it;
if their offspring are brought low, they do not see it.
They feel but the pain of their own bodies
and mourn only for themselves.”

You can’t control the rain; it rains on the just and unjust alike. For that reason rain shares a similarity with pain. You’ll find if you haven’t already you can’t control what hurts. You can avoid pain the same way you avoid the rain; go indoors, go to sleep, use an umbrella. And much like rain is essential for growth, I am convinced that because of a fallen world and sin, in order for us to grow in Christ we must be acquainted with grief and pain. Sure some of which can be avoided, but C.S. Lewis had it right when he said  that, (paraphrased) to love someone to be vulnerable with someone comes with it an invitation to experience pain.

Now don’t get me wrong, that’s not the good news of the gospel. Nobody would respond to the gift of salvation or faith if the only thing on the table was pain and suffering. Yet somehow in the midst of it God believes I am capable of learning how to take joy in trial. He also says in those times of deep mourning and sorrow (most days I don’t even understand why I feel it), if I mourn, I will simultaneously receive His comfort.

It rains a lot here in PA or at least it rained a lot for the past 7 months I’ve been out here. Today it is not. Yet today I woke up and still had the sense of pain and loss with me. My hope still seemed crumbled in my hand despite a list of good things in my life. (Hope that is seen is not hope) Even more frustrating is there are people with much less, happier than me and people with a lot more, sadder than me. But Job 14:22 gives a good indication of what depression feels like and why it is not becoming of us. “They feel but the pain of their own bodies and mourn only for themselves.”

That’s why this type of pain must go away. Sometimes mourning is fine, tears are fine; we can bear someone else’s burdens with joy but when you’re stuck in yourself and feel that grief or anxiety has its hold on you rather than you holding onto anxiety it’s easy to panic. It’s easy to call a dozen people and out to God for help because the last thing you want is more of yourself. You become aware that what you need is help and you are trying to claw outside of a pit to get to a place where you can declare with faith love for God and the joy of His salvation.  Jesus my Lord and my God, you stopped the sun, you can stop the pain but even if it doesn’t go away, let our love for you, our first love remain.

The Day of No More Tears

There is a promise in Scripture that God makeTearss to those who are victorious in Christ at the end of the age about a world I cannot imagine. Revelation 21:4 says, “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” I picture a tender father wiping away a child’s tears then saying, “this is the last time you will ever experience tears, pain, or the sense that something has died within you or around you.”  Once that last tear is wiped away what else could come but a flood of joy that cannot be contained.

It’s interesting, because we like hearing about Jesus weeping. Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted. Psalm 56:8 gives an indication that our tears are bottled or remembered by God. Jesus was acquainted with death and pain and can relate to us in our suffering. Despite all of this, God’s idea of a perfect world is tearless. Whatever one may claim about “tears” of joy is dandy but I’ll take my joy without tears. Tears are vastly misleading anyway. Esau sought repentance with tears yet did not find it. Judas was remorseful for betraying Jesus but hung himself. Tears and pain are reminders of the old order of things, things of the past.

In Jesus’ case, for a moment it appears he even wept over the future. Luke 19:41-44 shows us Jesus weeping over Jerusalem. He then describes how Jerusalem will be invaded and how they missed their visitation from the Lord.  Jesus is weeping over what they’re missing out on. Jerusalem’s destruction was a result of their failure to recognize/ welcome their savior. The beautiful thing about Jesus is only in His death did he leave people in tears. It was only for 3 days. In every other encounter Jesus has with people He leaves them tearless. He may come to them in their brokenness but when He has done His work the tears are stopped which is evidence that His kingdom has come.

I Can’t Accept it but Should I Accept it?

Ironically the two individuals in the Scriptures, who have the most to say the most about marriage, are historically considered to never have been married (Jesus and the apostle Paul). Yet people asked them about marriage often enough to make the cut in the Bible. They didn’t use lack of experience as an excuse to not share their thoughts. Consistent with one another Jesus and Paul said/implied a few things when speaking about marriage. 1) Marriage is between a man and a woman because it is symbolic of the mystery of Christ and the Church. (It’s more complex than a right yet not quite a sacrament because people outside of Christianity who marry are still regarded by all to be married) 2) Marriage is difficult and without a heart faithfulness to the end it would save you a lot of trouble and heartache to never marry at all, and 3) If you have a sex drive it would save you trouble and from sin by embracing the gift of marriage.weddingphotoplaymo

Without debating about whether the world or the church holds to any of these opinions currently this is what Paul and Jesus said. It’s as simple as if you honor scripture and what Jesus says than there isn’t much to argue. What is worth commenting on is how the world and religious minded set traps for Jesus and perhaps even Paul to get them to say something not founded in Truth and love. They did however want confirmation through a legal system for their actions; laws developed as a result of sin which further shaped a worldview which led them to ask a question in Matthew 19.

A group of Pharisees came to test Jesus by asking him about whether divorce is lawful. Jesus very gently sets them straight by recounting the simple and beautiful truth of God’s design for matrimony. He doesn’t address the divorce question because Jesus is sensitive about separation and doesn’t want to entertain thoughts about it. They press him, “Why then did Moses command that man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?” Jesus says still gently, “… your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning.” In other words a hardened heart looks for a way to do something with God’s gifts without conforming to God’s will. He goes onto explain the implications of divorce except in the case of one spouses immorality further driving home the point that He values faithfulness.

The disciples were there reflecting about this conversation and conclude that it’s better to not marry at all then to deal with the trial and temptation of divorce. Peter who was married at the time managed to endure being a disciple and stay married. Jesus concludes by no longer addressing the hard of heart but addressing those who followed Him that had hopes for contentment in their marital status. He says that desire or lack of desire for marriage and its benefits are gifts. After listing off the reasons as to why one does not marry Jesus says, “The one who can accept this should accept it,” without making any further clarifying remarks.

With one statement he leaves His hearers with a question to figure out in their own hearts. Whatever your desire receive it as a gift so long as I’m the gone giving it to you. Don’t try and take it in your own time because you’ll be spinning your wheels and don’t go about it some other way and don’t let your heart get hard. Regardless of abuse, family history, perverted worldview, disappointment; He wants to give us a tender heart towards His will, another gift. For His soon to be bride Jesus faced shame scorn nakedness while she was still steeped in sin. He could have had a hard heart easily on His way to the cross, but he obeyed His Father’s will and the promise that His betrothed would get herself ready for a wedding in light of His resurrection. This, not so ironically, is easy for me to accept.