A Father’s Day Sermon…If I Had to Preach One

 

(This is a repost of one from three years ago.)

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. The Mother’s Day Sermon post is my most popular post. It went all over the world and was used in pulpits everywhere. 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.

Pray for the Victims Appealing the Dismissal of the Suit Against SGM, CLC, and Mahaney

Just over a year ago the Second Amended Complaint against Sovereign Grace Ministries, Covenant Life Church, C.J. Mahaney, et al was dismissed by a judge due to the statute of limitations. It was not the evidence itself but the success of the guilty causing the suit to be dismissed. The suit alleges the cover-up of sexual abuse. Grant Layman, who is named in the suit, has already admitted he and the other pastors should have but did not alert the authorities to the crimes of sex abuse against children committed by Nate Morales. The goal was to keep victims and their families quiet. The guilty were so successful the case was dismissed due to the statute of limitations. An appeal was filed soon thereafter.

On Monday, June 9th at 9 am, the appeal made by those represented in the civil suit as outlined in the Second Amended Complaint will be heard.

Please be in prayer for the victims, their families and those representing them. Pray the judge will rule in favor of the victims and hear their case, let evidence be presented and justice prevail. Pray the guilty would repent and that God would be glorified no matter what.

Family Photos and A Need for Good News

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Ask my wife. I hate having family pictures made. They always make one of us mad or frustrated at the kids. The smiles and laughter and beauty of the kids captured is only part of the story of those moments. Behind the scenes there is bribery, threats, and more threats of punishment.

Last night I was looking at some pictures my wife took on a short family vacation with some friends. In most of the pictures we are smiling in front of monuments and have our arms around each other.

There were a few times smiles were hard to come by. My daughter got sick because of some medicine she is taking that aggravated anxiety. The boys fought. Tempers flared. Mine especially. We were all tired. Sometimes , I couldn’t tell the difference between being upset because my kids were being disobedient and being just embarrassed of their behavior in front of friends and strangers in public.

You’ve probably seen all the posts on Facebook of awkward family photos. Some are disturbing. Some are just plain disgusting. All of them make us laugh. Sometimes I’ve laughed to the point of tears.

Why do I laugh at them? Why do I keep going back to these familial train wrecks? They make me feel a little better about my own family and the issues we have. It’s the parental version of the story of the Pharisee and the tax collector. “We may have out moments, but at least we aren’t like THEM.” It’s a self-righteous moment in which I feel a little better in comparison to those I can laugh at.

There is another kind of family photo that ends up on Facebook and Christmas cards. It’s the photo we try to take ourselves and many pay really *good* money for. It’s the picture perfect family photo. Everyone looks happy and tan and clean on the beach. You cannot see a blemish. Those photos look like joy.

I hate those photos.

Honestly, jealousy tends to raise its head. They are at the beach. Too expensive. Professional photos. Too expensive. Matching white outfits. Too expensive. They are probably about to go out to eat a nice seafood dinner when done. Too expensive.

But really it’s just me condemning myself with laws I’ve either borrowed from the world around me or I’ve made up myself. The law of looking good. The law of good vacations. The law of wealth. Laws we all look at and then despair of keeping. It is hard for me to look at these photos and not compare and feel like we aren’t measuring up.

Both self-righteousness and self-condemnation will eat away at the soul. We all know it. So we then look for some good news. Facebook will certainly unveil the cruelty of self-righteousness and the despair of self-condemnation. But one good thing it has done is show us we are not the only ones. Sure some people use it to show off and brag and get as many likes as they can for being a good parent (I do too). But there are those refreshing moments when parents are honest about their struggles. Some are funny. Some are raw and painful. But they all help us feel better. Knowing you are not alone is good news. And it feels like a kind of justification.

But it’s not. Misery loves company. True. It’s true. We all know it is. But that self-justification, while more respectable, is not really any better that self-righteousness or self-condemnation. All of them are reflections of a false gospel – good news that is false.

The good news of you’re family not being as awkward as other families.

The good news that holds out the hope of a better looking family.

The good news of others having the same parenting problems as you.

What we need is good news that humbles us so we will not be self-righteous when confronted with other peoples parenting issues. We need a gospel that gives us a real and lasting hope when we fail as parents. And we need good news that encourages us when the suffering.will.not.stop.

The good news of what Christ has done for us in his life, death, and resurrection is the gospel our souls are looking for. His righteousness has been credited to us, we do not need another righteousness. And “there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” – even though we don’t always feel that to be the case. We have been “justified by his grace as a gift, through his redemption in Christ Jesus.”

When I don’t believe these things as a parent, I loss my temper, grow impatient, and parent as one who wants to stand justified before God and all those I imagine are watching, justified because of my abilities…my kid’s abilities. But when in those rare moments I parent as a “justified sinner” (simul iustus et paccator), I can love them as they are and not in comparison to other kids. And I can then parent them without comparing myself to other parents.

There is nothing intrinsically wrong with all the other “pictures” of family we will see on social media. But my heart is shot through with the desire to take them as the gospel truth and then live accordingly.

But really, the truth of the gospel is so much more for us.

And our kids.