Fatherhood Before the Foundation of the World

A Father’s Day sermon. Cross-posted from Eastland Church of Christ.

Passage: Malachi 4:5-6

This centrality of fatherhood should not really surprise, because the relationship between the Father and the Son is the central relationship of the gospel itself. God the Father sends his only Son, and the Son obeys the Father. The Father gives the Son honor and recognition, while the Son is the perfect image of the Father, imitates the Father, and points others to His Father.

And make no mistake. When I say that the relationship between God the Father, and Jesus the Son is the cornerstone of the gospel, I don’t mean it’s the cornerstone of what we practice here in this building…though it is that. I don’t mean that it is the cornerstone of our personal ethics…though it is that. I also don’t mean that it is the cornerstone of our personal salvation…even though it certainly is that.

When I say that the relationship between God the Father and God the Son is the cornerstone of the gospel, I’m saying that it is the cornerstone of creation itself. Of the cosmos. Of the very fabric of reality. The pew you are sitting on holds together because the Father loved the Son. It all goes back to that fact.

The world was created, God spoke us into existence, so that He could send His only Son to be slain. The world was created, God spoke us into existence, so that his Son would be glorified. Reality itself is founded on the desire of the Father to enthrone His Son with all authority in heaven and on earth.

And this Father, who is source of all life, who is the source of all love, gives us, His creatures the same name that He has given Himself. The name that we are taught to call Him in His infinite glory – Father – is the name he requires us men to bear. Just dwell on that for a second.

This is a great privilege. But it also represents a heavy responsibility.

Princess Hiccup – Fearsome Feminine Strength

So I wrote a children’s book, based on a request made by my daughter, and I need your help to make it a reality. I wanted it to be light and fun and silly. And it is all of those things. But I believe it is also true, with a certain gravitas in some scenes, colored by Scripture. This was not my intention, but rather the tones bled into the story as I was writing and editing.

These two verses will be in the back of the book in the acknowledgments section, noted for their inspiration:

“Who is she that looketh forth as the morning, fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners?” Song of Songs 6:10

“Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy; then they said among the nations, “The LORD has done great things for them.” Psalms 126:2

The latter is pretty obvious. Ultimately, the Lord is the source of all laughter, the Prime Comedian, the One Author. Satan (that dragon of old) seeks to disrupt it. When you lose joy and laughter, you lose your thankfulness, and your faith will follow close behind them.

The verse from Song of Solomon, however, is a bit odd, and it has been translated in many ways. This is said by queens and other maidens, in praise of the woman who is being pursued. It speaks of a special kind of feminine strength, one that is finely honed and directed. It is not the brute, raw strength of masculinity, but it is a true strength. Helen of Troy inspired the launch of an armada, but the woman of the Song can stop an army.

Woman is the glory of man (1 Cor. 11:7), and as such a Biblical woman makes possible her husband’s coronation as a king. She helps lift him up so that he might go and do battle. A kingdom, a city, a household with a Biblical queen on the ramparts is a beacon of strength to her king, and a terrible visage to her enemies.

One of my favorite authors has been known to say that the point of the Bible is this: “Kill the Dragon, get the girl.” The lad in Princess Hiccup is a carpenter’s son. You are free to make the connection yourself.

So not only is this a fun little book that can be read to all ages, its also a little subversive to the culture at large. If you can donate and help make this book a reality, I would really appreciate it. If you can’t donate, you help out tremendously just by sharing the Kickstarter page.

Betty Jo Crass – My Grandmother

Betty Jo Crass My “Granny Jo” gave me my first taste of an Oreo Blizzard from Dairy Queen. That alone would place her in the annals of the earth’s finest. The eulogy my cousin gave sums up her life and impact nicely, so I won’t add anything else to it. The church building was standing room only, a testament to how much she was loved, and I was honored to give the opening prayer, the text of which is below.

Our Father in Heaven,

Creator of all things in Heaven and in Earth, we praise you for your mercy, for your grace.

Be with us today as we mourn the passing of a woman who spent her life in the service of others. And above all, spent her life in the service of her family. As we commemorate her memory, be with us. Comfort us.

And while we mourn, help us to remember that we do not mourn as those who have no hope. As you told us through your apostle:

“Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Yes,” says the Spirit, “they will rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them.”

So may our Granny Jo find rest from her labor. May her good deeds follow her, and clothe her with honor. May she drink rich wine in your kingdom forevermore. And may her legacy live on in us, her children.

We pray all in the name of Jesus.

Amen.

The Weight of a Kingdom

My daughter owns a tea set, made of molded plastic. Included is a small, pink plate. One night, after digging under the couch for a few seconds she pulled this pink plate from under the darkness and held it out in triumph. One of our dogs promptly relived her of the plate, and trotted away with it hanging from his mouth.

She was confused, but not upset. She waddled over to the dog, wearing a curious expression.

I took the plate from the dog’s mouth and gave it to its rightful owner…who then put the thing in her own mouth and raced off, with a look back, hoping the dog would take chase.

That was pretty much the highlight of the night, up to that point. My daughter’s desire to do what the dog did and see how it worked out caused a break out of the giggles.

It also scared the crap out of me.

Not immediately, of course. True laughter and joy demands the whole man in the moment of experience, not allowing the moment to be wasted by second guessing. But introspection can come later when the breath is caught.

One time. She saw the behavior just one time before she imitated it. Imitated a dog being a dog. She is a sponge ready to soak up anything.

And so she will imitate me. For better or worse, whatever I do, she will do.  Whoever I am, she will be a version of that person, in some way. I am one of the first instruction manuals she will read about what it means to be a human, and the lessons will stick with her forever, tattooed in permanent ink. Some days I wish they were just those cheap little tattoos that you lick to stick, and then they come off after a few baths. I don’t want her to learn those lessons.

Paul: “Imitate me, as I imitate Christ.”

Me: ….

I can’t repeat that and be honest. But I don’t get to pull myself out of the game. There are no timeouts. There are no substitutions. I don’t get to rest on the bench. She will look where I am going…and then follow.

A realization like that should make you want to beg for God’s grace and mercy, that you will imitate Christ, not just for your own sake, but for the sake of your family. And so I do. Sometimes. My prayer life isn’t exactly Christ-like, after all. Not yet, anyway.

Solomon: “I am but a little child: I know not how to go out or come in. Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and bad: for who is able to judge this thy so great a people?”

Amen Solomon.

But go on further. Who is able to govern even the littlest of His children? A single one?

It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were cast into the sea than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin. (Luke 17:2)(ESV)

As fathers, we each have the weight of a kingdom on our shoulders. We are responsible for those we are given, and that should get our knees to knocking a little bit. Thankfully, we can ask for the same thing Solomon asked, for who is able to govern, even over the least of these? Because as the king goes, so goes the kingdom.

May we rule wisely, like the High King. May we imitate Christ.