The Joy of Glory

Discovering endless joy in the boundless glory of God…

Tag: father’s day

Father’s Day Encouragement…

At Shades Valley Community Church, where I pastor, we believe that one of the amazing ways God speaks to our faith family is through one another. This past Sunday (Father’s Day), God used Grace Wolnski to speak a powerful word of encouragement to all the Father’s in our church. I was so blessed by the Holy Spirit working through her that I wanted to share it with all of you.

I also shared a brief word of encouragement for everyone who struggles with Father’s day. Perhaps you had a bad father, no father, or you are a single mom with children bereft of a father… and Father’s day is always a struggle for you. I want you to know that there is hope in our heavenly father.

You may listen to both words of encouragement below and share them with anyone you would like. I pray God uses these words to continue encouraging his church all over the world.

A Word for Father’s Day…

*To listen online, simply click the link above. To download the file, right click the link and select save/download. To get this file as a podcast in iTunes, click here.

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A Nagaland Father’s Day…

*In 2010, I was on mission in India during Father’s day. The following is a reflection I wrote shortly after what I experienced that morning…

Being away from your family stinks. Being away from your family on Father’s Day really, really bites. Thus, I found myself throwing a pity party as I sat down on the back row of Naga Christian Fellowship in Pune, India… nearly half-a-world away from my beautiful wife and two, precious, little ones.

It was hot and humid inside the old church building. The sound of the worship leader was being pumped through a system that was not fitted for the room we were in, and, as a result, I couldn’t really understand anything that was being sung or said. I found it hard to focus, so my mind occupied itself with thoughts of my family.

I was completely oblivious as to what was happening when the Pastor called for all the fathers to come to the front in order to be recognized. My friends immediately began encouraging me to go forward, but I declined… of course this was nothing more than a sulking expression of my self-pity… in which I was wallowing.

Then, Eddie Aldape, the father of the missionary family with whom I am staying, motioned for me to follow him down the center aisle. What choice did I have now? I hobbled out of my row and began the long, dreary walk to the front of the room. Each step was fraught with agonizing pain as I had just completed a fundraising 100km-walk-a-thon the day before. Further, I was embarrassed to be standing in front of complete strangers… I simply felt out of place.

Then everything changed…

Naga spearsA young Naga girl approached me with a pin of some type. I thought to myself, “Great! A stereo-typical Father’s Day flower.” Yet, as she pinned it upon my shirt I could tell that this was no flower. There, attached to the top of my shirt-pocket, were two decorative spears fastened across one another. Eddie leaned over and whispered in my ear, “Those are Naga spears.”

“They’re what?” I asked. Eddie repeated himself and began to explain to me the meaning behind the small pendant that was resting upon my chest.

Nagaland is a state of Northeast India. The Naga people were originally tribal headhunters and were greatly feared. In the late 1800’s there were a number of missionaries trying to travel into China, but were prevented for one reason or another. Instead of giving up, many brought the gospel of Christ to the people of Northern India.

Some of these missionaries set their hearts upon the headhunters of Nagaland. Without regard for their own lives, these men and women of faith took the Gospel to people who normally removed the heads of outsiders. They shared the love of Christ and the message of the Gospel… many Nagas believed.

As I stood at the front of that church, hearing that story… my eyes were slowly opened to what was truly happening in that room. There I stood, before a gathering of nearly 400 Naga believers lifting their hearts to the one true God… and the reason for it all was pinned upon my chest.

Because faithful men and women of God took the gospel into the midst of danger… because they did not count their lives to be of greater value than the furtherance of the gospel… because they abandoned all this world has to offer for the sake of Christ… because they did not fear the spears of the Nagas… because God worked through them by his power to bring many Nagas to faith… because of all of this, I was in that place… over a hundred years later… caught in the midst of rapturous worship with Naga spears, now a symbol of friendship, fixed over my heart.

I began to fight back tears as I heard a chorus playing softly in the background… “Thank you for the gift you gave.” This song had been playing since I left my seat, but I had not noticed its lyrics until that moment. My heart cried out to the Lord… “Yes! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you for the gift you gave! Thank you for the gift of your Son, Jesus, whom you gave for the world! Thank you for the gift of the missionaries you sent to the Naga people! Thank you gift of my brothers and sisters with whom I am worshipping right now! Thank you! Thank you!”

My attention was brought back down to earth for a moment as I heard the Pastor read from Psalm 22:4, “In You our fathers trusted; they trusted, and you delivered them.” He began to talk about how great of a testimony it was for David to be able to proclaim such words about his forbearers and we should desire that our children be able to say the same of us.

While I greatly appreciated the thoughts he was sharing, my mind journeyed in a slightly different direction. I began to praise the Lord for my faithful fathers in the faith. For those who have taken the gospel in to the deepest, darkest, and most dangerous places on earth. I stood among a church whose very existence testified to the faithfulness of my spiritual fathers… and more importantly… their presence testified to the faithfulness of my heavenly Father.

He is faithful to use his Gospel to transform people… He used it to transform Nagaland… and He has used it to transform me.

In that moment… I realized that I was not away from my family on Father’s day… I was standing in their very midst. I am nearly brought to tears now, in the midst of typing, as I think about the astounding reality that I am eternally bound to these believers through the one Savior of all mankind, Jesus Christ. I have never felt the bond of spiritual brotherhood so strongly as in that moment. Jesus’ words from Matthew 12, which I had read that very morning, flooded into my mind…

“‘Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?’ And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.’”

I was completely overwhelmed by the sense of family in that room. I still missed my wife and children, but now I missed them for a new reason. I did not miss them because we are bound together on some molecular level by DNA… no. Now I missed them because the very blood of Jesus Christ has cemented our hearts together as part of a world-wide spiritual family with one Father over us all. My heart longed to share this moment, this reality with them.

The Pastor prayed for all of the fathers standing before him and we headed back to our seats. I found that I couldn’t quit looking at the two small spears resting upon my shirt. In them I saw an eternal bond that I shared with these people I barley knew… and I now felt a new, deeper bond with those to whom I am the closest.

I walked all the way back down the aisle, but now I had forgotten the pain in my feet… my mind was occupied with thoughts of my beautiful wife and two precious children. I felt as though my love for them had grown deeper in ways that I did not think possible. At the same time, I was overwhelmed by the fact that this newfound love seemed to be spreading outside of biological boundaries and engulfing all of my brothers and sisters in Christ.

I shuffled down my row… no longer thinking of myself, for my pity had been replaced by joy. With my stereo-typical smirk, I sat down… surrounded by my family.

 

Dads of Steel

*Disclaimer: I am by not a perfect father! Far from it! In the post below, I do not mean to portray myself as the perfect dad or even as an expert on fatherhood. These are thoughts from one broken father to others.

fathers-day-2011I’ve been thinking about fatherhood a lot lately. And that makes sense…I mean my third baby just entered the world! On top of that, father’s day is just around the corner (June 16).

Growing up within the church, father’s day was always somewhat confusing for me…especially when compared with mother’s day. Perhaps it was my own limited experience, but it always seemed like mother’s day was devoted to the praise/encouragement of mothers…while father’s day was equally devoted to pointing out the failures/scolding fathers.

Even as a kid I felt like this was little unfair. Something was amiss and needed to be rectified. I honestly do not believe the remedy to the situation is simply to turn father’s day into a time to praise/encourage fathers in the same way we do for mothers. When it comes to time the gathered church spends together, our focus should always be Christ!

I’ve seen way too many mother’s/father’s day services (and many other holidays for that matter) that were void of Jesus! I am not saying that we do not even acknowledge holidays, but we should do so in a way that points people to Jesus. We need to point mothers and fathers (and everyone else present) to the sufficiency of Christ in all things, including parenting! Jesus must remain the center of our worship!

I think this is the real problem with father’s day…we have put fathers in the place reserved for Jesus, and whenever we do that they will always fail and we will always feel the need to scold them!

We have come to expect dads to be the hero when there is only one hero…Jesus!

man-of-steel-logoI do not believe it is a coincidence that the highly  anticipated summer blockbuster “Man of Steel” is releasing on June 14th…two days before father’s day. A fun movie about the superhero of superheroes…superman. This is just the kind of movie a dad might take his kids to see (depending on their age of course), and there has always been an emphasis on father figures in the superman mythos via Jor-El and Jonathan Kent.

The real irony of this movie’s release coinciding with father’s day is that, I believe, it highlights the problematic “Christian” view of fatherhood. We expect dads to be supermen. They are to be their kids hero! Perfect men of incredible spiritual stature!

We expect dads of steel!

Most kids naturally look up to their dads as if they are superhuman and, all too often, the “Christian” version of fatherhood only feeds this notion. Yet, all fathers are far from perfect and so having “superman” expectations only sets them up for failure. So what can be done? What should dad’s do? And, what should we do? What should the church be encouraging and calling fathers toward?

The true calling of fatherhood is not to be a hero, but to point to the only hero…Jesus.

I try to consistently acknowledge my shortcomings to my children, be honest when I fail, ask for forgiveness, and then point them to the one who will never fail them! Father’s should turn the shortcomings into opportunities to point to the one who never falls short! This is truly fathering your children towards the perfect heavenly father.

We need to tell our fathers…you don’t have to be a dad of steel! Just be a dad who is real! Real about who you are and who Jesus is!

I think that if  men heard the message, the call (on father’s day and everyday) that you’re not to be the perfect hero for your kids, but you are to point the one who is, then we would see fathers move from feeling discouraged and defeated to energized and empowered! Fathers need to hear that they are not supposed to rely on their own strength to be dads of steel, but that God has provided his strength, through the Holy Spirit, for them to be dads who are real.

IMG_0786Through his power, they can be fathers who really love Jesus, fathers who really love their kids, fathers who really admit when they’re wrong and ask for forgiveness, fathers who really love their wives, fathers who really are committed, fathers who really show vulnerability, fathers who really pray, fathers who really know that true fatherhood is not perfection, but pointing to Jesus.

Be encouraged fathers! We don’t need dads of steel…we need dads who are real.

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