A Father’s Day Sermon

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(This is a repost.)

I had not planned on this post. But there were enough requests to get me thinking. A few guys were encouraged by the Mother’s Day Post so they wanted one for themselves. But I just wasn’t sure. I didn’t want to do one for Fathers that was unpopular. Or worse, was seen as  trying to capitalize. And to be honest doing one for Fathers felt self-serving.

And then it turned out to be so.

For whenever I lacked imagination, I just inserted myself in, and voila. I’ve been doing this whole preaching-the-good-news-to-myself thing for so many years – as my pastor asked me to so long ago – that I figured I might as well do so here.

Further, as I thought about this, an irony struck me. It is less acceptable to feel condemned for men than for women. (I could be wrong about that, sure. But I’m gonna err on the side of being right here.) It reveals weakness. And weakness is social kryptonite for men.

Then you must add this overlooked reality – failure has a weight, a weight with all the pressure of a culture which pushes relentlessly against the soul of a man. The net effect of wanting to be Superman as a boy is not just dusty comics in moldy cardboard boxes pushed into the corner of attics. There is also the failure to become one. Whether unconscious or not, the reality is Fathers want to be super and seen as being so, if only by those citizens, plucked up out of harms way, residing within his own home. But deep down, the weakness is known to be there, like a scar needing to be covered up.

Fathers are more likely to brag on the scar than confess their displeasure with it.

I’ve no wish to create a movement of weepy men, though Jesus did weep over a friend. And I’ve no wish to guilt Fathers into being more in tune with their weakness. To share it, even. Mainly because the guilt is already there, residing. It’s feet are propped up on the coffee-table and it knows where the silverware is in the drawer.

I’m calling it. The guilt is real and it’s there whether I say anything about it or not. It gnaws like mice and slithers through veins like an asp. It feels like poison. It feels as if it’s thieving life from under your very nose. And sometimes the taking of a deep breath is as the death rattle.

And when the dust settles and the echo ceases to bounce around inside your skull and the night is still, more than anything the Christian Father is faced with the specter of condemnation. An accusing finger rises up and points at his heart and says “condemned” for one thousand failures. Or worse, one in particular.

So Fathers need to also hear the message that in their God-given calling, they are not condemned. The following is not the only sermon that could be preached for Fathers. But it’s one.

Romans 8:1

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

Thesis: Fathers, if you are in Christ Jesus, you ought to have no fear of condemnation because of your standing of righteousness because of Christ’s work on your behalf on the cross.

Fathers, even though you may feel you are…

You are not condemned because you cannot take your family on a dream vacation. Or on any vacation at all.

You are not condemned by the sins in your past which haunt like unsatisfied ghosts.

You are not condemned by your need for rest.

You are not condemned by your inability to fix all the broken things.

You are not condemned by your lack of promotions.

You are not condemned by your child’s lack of abilities in comparison to others.

You are not condemned by the obscurity of your job.

You are not condemned by the check engine light.

You are not condemned by a dwindling savings account.

You are not condemned because you are divorced.

You are not condemned by your son’s lack of interest in what interests you.

You are not condemned by a lack of desire to play with the kids after work.

You are not condemned by your failures as a father, that repeat themselves like the days, themselves.

You are not condemned by your wayward daughter.

You are not condemned by being fired or laid off.

You are not condemned if you find it difficult to talk to your children.

You are not condemned by not being able to afford to throw the birthday party of the year for your kids.

You are not condemned by the size and state of your home.

You are not condemned by your introverted personality.

You are not condemned for not living up to the standards of your Father or Father-in-law.

You are not condemned by the debts hanging over you like death itself.

Fathers, even though you may feel condemned, if you are in Christ, you are not condemned. This is the real reality.

You are not condemned, because if you are in Christ, your identity…your righteousness is Christ alone. Therefore, enjoy the unending love and affection and acceptance of being a son perfectly loved with an unwavering love that flows from your Father in Heaven.

And to all those who are not Fathers…do nothing to diminish this reality. Nothing.

Thursday’s Random Thoughts

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1. “Thank you for your outrage.” – the media outlet$

2. I’ve seen a few articles lately that are critical of the modern-day worship movement. I saw it coming years ago, was worried about it, tried to embrace it and now find myself detesting it for the money-making machine it was and is. There are lots of good hearts making this awful music. That said, I’m glad to see these articles. Hopefully, the equating of worship with music will die quickly along with the movement.

3. Banking is not a great job when your favorite customers have very little money. The ones with money are the least favorite.

4. Jayber Crow has become one of those books I’m reading yearly. I call them blanket books because they make me feel I’m slipping into comforting warmth in December when the cool air is still enjoyable.

5. There aren’t many things I feel l’m created for, but tucking in my kids and kissing them goodnight is one of them. Kissing my wife too.

6. The Apostles spilled no ink, that we know of, on the systemic racially motivated injustices of the state or culture at large. Philemon, maybe. But they did speak out against false-teachers and those who persisted in their sins. I’m not sure I can say we *should* not speak out against injustice outside the church. But it seems evangelicalism is far more willing to go after the sins of an ordinary cop than the sins of its leaders.

7. A friend pointed out to me the other night how church makes no sense apart from the Holy Spirit. That’s a profound thought I’ve been swimming around in since.

8. We also talked about me picking up the guitar again because of my love of music. Now I just need a guitar.

9. I can think no album I’d want to see a biopic made around than Pet Sounds.

10. Matt Chandler and The Village Church’s public apology and repentance is such a rare thing. Think about it. They apologized AND dignified Karen’s choice of annulment. They didn’t just apologize for not handling it incorrectly. They apologized for that and for not acknowledging her decision was right and good. And they gave no defense. we may be witnessing something so unique and powerful that we will be talking about it for a generation or more. I worry that there will be no ripple effect because I have heard nothing from those who defended the actions of The Village Church. Regardless, let me to say young men, if you are going to be part of the neo-Reformed movement, then follow Chandler’s lead here. Public repentance of sins against another will mark you as being the real deal as we watch our culture’s waning acceptance of principled Christianity disappear in a mist of tolerance.

Random Thoughts for the Weekend

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1. There is nothing not stupid about the Jenner story.

2. The Blues, whether they are manifest in song, poetry, autobiography or fiction, help us know we are not alone in hard times. They are the opposite of those awful tinny voices who want us to be positive and cheer up. The Blues are a thick echo of grace. The others? A clanging echo from the dungeon of law.

3. Put no hope in a politician.

4. The other day I remembered the utter confusion of struggling through writing a paper on a Greek tragedy while simultaneously being full of wonder. A good preparation for adulthood, I suppose.

5. I think the evangelical subculture is wrong to focus on the Bruce Jenner and think it is about sexuality and gender. It is primarily about words and language and the belief in the sovereignty of self.

6. Put no hope in a movement.

7. Once again I saw a young white pastor talk about how Christians need to interact with people who are different than them on a regular basis. I looked at the staff at his church and everyone was white and seemingly middle class like him. Most people who work in the “secular” world are already doing that big guy.

8. Wendell Berry’s poems are most likely the best $20 I’ve spent in a long time. That’s about a dime per poem. They are worth far, far more.

9. I tried to watch and fully enjoy the show Daredevil, but I couldn’t handle the violence. It’s gratuitous and pornographic.

10. Celebrity Christianity has made it nearly impossible to evaluate teaching and it has created an atmosphere where an abuse victim is a pariah who is unwilling to suffer quietly.

11. Last night I was sitting with my lovely wife at the neighborhood pool, the kids were swimming, the weather was perfect, and there was that “stab of joy” and the realization of being sustained by grace. Life is hard, but there are moments when your eyes open and a veil is lifted and His goodness is seen in a moment.

12. I cannot help but believe poetry and our need for it is part of our created-ness. The Scriptures themselves are shot through with poetry. The Prophets and Psalmists were poets. Why would God speak to us in a form for which we were not hard-wired? When our prose and the song lyrics we sing along with get close to poetry and field echoes of the craft, we can feel the electric joy, that magic of words, which can cause us to stare into the night sky and sometimes punch a hole in the very same.

13. It is hard to give things away but once done, there is an inexplicable freedom. Maybe it’s a reverse echo of the death we will all one day face. And every time we let go of something here we are dying a little in the best possible way and taking one more step into the land for which were created.

 

Thursday’s Random Thoughts

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1. i’ve been reading Surprised by Joy by C.S. Lewis. This is probably my fourth or fifth reading of his memoir of his early life. But it’s the first time I’ve really felt the power of his discovery of joy. I get it now. The stab. The inconsolable longing.

2. No one sits around and talks about great literature. They sit around and talk about TV shows. And we wonder at the trajectory of our culture.

3. If we are going to use the phrase “the binding of conscience” in the church, it must have some meaning in our criticism of the phenomena. It must mean a believer has a conscience totally separate from that of the leaders or peers and should be respected in matters where there is no sin and liberty is given. Without this, it has no teeth.

4. The older I get, the more I look for beauty in the things that will occupy me. Beauty like Auden. Not red carpet beauty.

5. Will the Flannery O’Connor stamp be sold as wallpaper? What about a mug?

6. It is amazing how we expect people who have been abused to act. We criticize their tone as shrill, bitter. Require them to act rationally when challenging those in power. All the while, believing the worst of them and the best of those with the power who have abused them or shielded the abuser.

7. When power, acclaim and, influence coalesce onto one person or one institution, “service” can turn into control very quickly.

8. After all these years, I still foolishly look at my wife and her wisdom with amazement.

9. This morning I’ve been struck by how much The Village Church trusts the decision-making abilities of a confessed pedophile but not the wife who he admittedly and succeesfully deceived for years.

10. There are a lot of problems with social media. But giving a voice to the voiceless, when before only the powerful and influential had a voice, is not one of them.

The Red Pill and The Village Church

 

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“You take the blue pill, the story ends. You wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill, you stay in wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.”

There are a few of you who attend one of the campuses of The Village Church in the Dallas area. Some of you are Acts 29 pastors. Some of you attend an Acts 29 Church. Some simply idolize Matt Chandler.

Once you take the red pill and read the links below, there will be no going back. You will try and deny it all but you will not be able to un-know what you know down to the depths of your soul. It is all broken.

Or you can take the blue pill and move along.

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Karen’s response to a letter sent to 6000 members of The Village Church.

Karen’s Story: Part 1

Karen’s Story: Part 2

The One Simple Reason The Village Church Is Wrong

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The Village Church is wrong to not allow a woman to divorce ( or get annulment) after she discovered her husband is and has been a pedophile since before their marriage.

And they are wrong for one simple reason.

There is no verse in the Scriptures that says a woman or man must get permission from the elders of their church to get a divorce (or annulment) in the case of adultery.

Go ahead and look.

You done? Good.

Therefore it is not a sin to not get permission from them if the spouse is justified in doing so.

Therefore, there is no basis for church discipline based on the Scriptures. Of course, according to the church “covenant” she did break their rule.

Any church covenant that requires such permission to be granted is a binding of conscience and is in fact, sinful.

They need to apologize and let her resign her membership. But they will not.

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One other thing. I keep hearing “there is more to the story.” There always is. But the critics of TVC are working off the narrative TVC has emailed to its members. If they are disciplining Karen based on a different narrative with some other sin involved, then they are being dishonest with their members. When Matt Chandler said there was more information that he was not able to release publicly, he left all who read that statement to believe it would be information that would cause the critics of TVC to reconsider their criticisms. That would have to be information that is damaging to Karen, right? What else could it be? If there is further information about Karen that would legitimize her being disciplined, shouldn’t that information be part of the information sent to members? But if there is no further information that would justify their actions, TVC needs to simply deal with the information they have made public.

Some Thoughts on What Is Happening at The Village Church

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If you do not know what is going on, you need to go read the documentation.

1. At this point, there are very few facts to debate. The story comes from official documentation from The Village Church and the missions agency, SIM. To ask for another side of the story is to simply bury your head in the sand and not want to deal with the uncomfortable facts of the actual story.

2. A church (and its leaders) that places itself in the position of teaching and instructing men and women all over the world through conferences and resources will not be and should not be able to enjoy the luxury of avoiding criticism in its practice of discipline, especially when some of that instruction is on the subject of discipline itself.

3. One question The Village Church and its defenders will have to answer is, “Why is this not a biblical grounds for divorce if they do in fact have the biblical grounds to remove him from ministry indefinitely and feel the need to warn the parents of the church about this man and his exposure to children?”

4. If the use of child pornography is in fact pedophilia, then Karen, the wife has the biblical grounds to divorce/annul the marriage according to most evangelical position papers. The job of the elders is not to validate that decision but to support her.

5. The Lead Pastor of The Village Church is Matt Chandler, is also the President of Acts 29. To assume this kind of thinking has not and will not be exported to other Acts 29 churches is naive. If you support what The Village Church is doing to Karen, then you will think it is a good thing. If you do not, then this should worry you.

6. What I cannot understand is why they would be so clear in their communication about the pedophile husband not being under discipline and how the wife emphatically is under discipline.This would have to assume the best about his repentance and then assume the worst about her motives.

7. There will be many voices calling for “grace” for the husband caught in his sin. I agree with those voices. But I do not agree with all the addendum to that call for grace that would deprive the same for the wife/victim. Grace for him does not mean she, the church, and law enforcement have no recourse for action against him.

8. In the end, I cannot imagine anyone at The Village Church admitting they blew it. I hope I am wrong. I want to believe the best about them. But they have no real outside accountability since they are a SBC church and they are now the flagship of Acts 29. Matt Chandler is among the elite of the celebrity preachers in the Evangelical Industrial Complex. He and his fellow pastors will not have to worry about being marked by this. That is, until it happens again.

9. And it will happen again. And again and again. The dude-bro will get a pass and his wife will be expected to fall in line. This is exactly what happened with SGM. The wife was expected to stay with the pedophile husband and if they did not, the wife was disciplined. And it kept happening.

10. I think it is a good thing when husbands and wives can reconcile after adultery. But the most cynical part of me thinks the desire of churches to see husbands and wives reconcile in situations like this is marketing. I may need to repent of that but I fear also I may be right.

11. Many will ask, “Why do you care?” The short is answer is that I was once on staff at an Acts 29 church.

“Another Good Lie Coming Down On Your Daddy’s Soul”

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Another Good Lie

Darling when I was your age 
I could do anything 
There were days of rock ‘n roll 
And lunar strolls and friendship rings 
And baby I told myself 
I’d follow my deepest dreams 
Knowing if I did my best 
Success would always follow me

It was another good lie 
Coming down like a freezing rain 
From a hot blue sky 
Another good lie 
Coming in like a crosstown hurricane on fire 
Another good lie 
Coming down on your Daddy’s soul 
‘Til it made him old 
Another good lie

Darling they all told me 
That they would do anything 
Climb the highest mountain 
Swim the ocean 
Do the damnedest things 
And baby then they took my heart 
And vanished like a memory 
Leaving it to time and circumstance 
To come deliver me

It was another good lie 
Coming down like a freezing rain 
From a hot blue sky 
Another good lie 
Coming in like a crosstown hurricane on fire 
Another good lie 
Coming down on your Daddy’s soul 
‘Til it made him old 
Another good lie 

Baby I’m just one man 
And my world fell apart long ago 
I guess I’m still in shock 
It shouldn’t have been like that 
I guess I still hope for deliverance

Darling when I was your age 
I could do anything 
I could be a restless heart 
A social force 
Or just genuine 
And baby don’t our dreams die hard 
In the ashes of destiny 
I wish that I could lay to rest 
The bitterness that keeps telling me

About another good lie 
Coming down like a freezing rain 
From a hot blue sky 
Another good lie 
Coming in like a crosstown hurricane on fire 
Another good lie 
Coming down on your Daddy’s soul 
‘Til it made him old 
Another good lie 

– Mark Heard

Thursday’s Random Thoughts

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1. Every news story you hear should be listened to with ears attuned to the story of Redemption.

2. My new glasses are a pain behind the ears.

3. I don’t like the protest culture of the left or the boycott culture of right.

4. I miss being at the beach surrounded by friends and food.

5. There is something to be said for listening to artists/musicians you can personally communicate with.

6. I love how much Flannery O’Connor leaned on C.S. Lewis’ writing as she was dying.

7. I see you not caring about Baltimore any longer…

8. I’ve never thought of myself as a magician but when I think about how many applications for jobs I’ve sent into the ether only for them to disappear, I think again.

9. What if the signs of the decline of our culture are just as much about how much we spend on TV as sexual ethics? What if we ushered it all in by preferring sitcoms to books?

10. I’m sitting outside listening to Sandra McCracken’s new album Psalms, waiting on my wife to get home. The air is pleasant. The Privet is fragrant. A few stars flicker gently. The crickets sing in time and I wonder how such grace is mine.

Thursday’s Random Thoughts

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1. Baseball is poetry.

2. (unmentionable thought about my wife on her birthday)

3. Allow me to say it again, when you hear someone say “Every Christian needs to read this book,” you are dealing with a legalism, expressed in hyperbolic marketing. There are no must read books.

4. I can truly say, “my wife makes the world a better place.” Through unnoticed and often unappreciated (by me) deeds done wholly for others.

5. I’m reading Law & Gospel again. And in the midst are the shootings of police officers and a lot of negative feelings towards them. And I’m wondering who they’d call for help. What about me? The very law I despise I will use against others.

6. (Looks forward to seeing wife in bathing suit at the beach)

7. If you pay attention, the marketing of Christian books has a certain legalism and optimism built-in. Add the celebrity endorsements and…

8. Listening to Bethany laugh till she can’t breath and/or snorts is one of my absolute favorite things.

9. On vacation I plan to eat all the shrimps.

10. Everyone is marching all over the world trying to have all these incredible experiences because they’ve never sat next to my wife in our front yard just before dusk and watched the sunlight push through her hair and seen the reddish hues.

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