Five Birthday Wishes (Hopes) for My Son

My little boy turned four years old today. I am so proud of him and am overjoyed that God has entrusted him and his big sister into my care as a father. Simon and I sometimes have a rocky relationship. He loves his mommy fiercely (so do I), and sometimes doesn’t want me to help him with things. I’ve learned not to take offense when he doesn’t want my hugs or kisses, and have learned to love the times when he dresses up like Spider-man, because I know it means he is ready to wrestle and I am always the villain.

When I look at my son I see a little boy with a wonderful personality, who is learning who he will be. But when I look at him, I also see me. I know some of the struggles he will face and some of the joys he will experience. We are so alike in some ways that I can even guess how he will feel about and react to certain life events. And so, on this special day, I want to make a few birthday wishes (hopes) on my son’s behalf.

1. No fear

My first wish for my son is that he would live a life devoid of fear; fear of death, fear of failure, fear of loss, or any other fear. We are constantly reminded by Scripture that we should not be afraid. We live with a hope and a peace that transcends fear and that expresses itself in fear’s antithesis: joy.

2. Joy

And so my second wish for my son is that he will experience a life of joy. I’m not merely talking about a life of temporary, passing joy that we sometimes experience at life’s special moments. I want his to experience that joy too, but also something much deeper. My wish for Simon is that he will experience an abiding joy that can only be found when one comes to know that he/she is a beloved child of God, in whom the Almighty delights.

3. Patience

I have been very impatient at various times in my life. In fact, it is something I would say I have struggled with on a deep level. Sometimes this patience has manifest as anger or sarcasm or grief. But most often when impatience takes hold it quickly turns into deep-seeded bitterness. My son is like me, and I know he will wrestle with impatience as he is figuring out who God has made him to be and what he will do with his life. It is my wish for him that he will learn patience early, that he will trust fully in God to act when the time is right, and that he will never allow bitterness to enter his heart, where it can so easily take root and grow.

4. Faith

My fourth wish for Simon on his fourth birthday is that he will become a man of faith. As he grows, he will meet with so many challenges. For much of my life I had what I would call a very rudimentary faith. I believed that Jesus is the Son of God and that he dies for my sins. But beyond that, I had very little faith that I could be a better me, or that God would ever see much value in me. It is something I struggled with into adulthood, and I would wish with all my heart that my son never experiences that struggle.

My wish for Simon is that he will never doubt his value to his Heavenly Father. I want so very much for him to know and love Jesus with his whole heart. I want him to be unashamed of this love and faith. I want him to experience the joy and peace that come from knowing that our Father in heaven loves us and is pleased with us. I want him to experience newness of life through Jesus Christ. I want him to devote himself and all that he chooses to do to God and his glory.

In other words, I want him to remember always that he is a beloved child of the living God, and a co-heir of glory with Jesus Christ.My wish for him is that he will live the words of Paul to the Philippians, when he said:

7But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. 10I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.”

5. Love

My final wish for my son on his birthday is this: that he would learn to love extravagantly. Simon has a sensitive heart. I can tell you from experience that it will bring him heartache in a number of ways, but it will also give him great capacity for loving others. My wish for him is that he will not lose this, for it is worth all the suffering of this life to be able to show true and extravagant love to others in the name of Jesus. And only Jesus can take the heart that God has given Simon and cause it to overflow with love. A sensitive heart left to its own devices slowly turns in on itself. It seeks ways to hide from hurt. It becomes jaded, scarred, withered, and finally corrupt.

I nearly lost the battle for my own heart to corruption, until Christ stepped in and rescued me. It is my wish for Simon that he early on (even now) gives over the fight for his heart to Christ. That he will allow the Spirit of God to live in him and take this sensitive heart of his and use it to lavish others with the extravagant love of a father for his children. This is the legacy I would have him leave.

I have become a lot more introspective these last few years, as I have watched my kids grow. I have wrestled with the knowledge that they will experience both pain and joy, that they will make good decisions and poor ones. It has been my prayer that they will not wrestle with the sins I have wrestled with and that they will always put their trust in God through Jesus Christ.

It is my greatest wish that they know Jesus intimately and walk with him always. And it gives me great comfort to know that God never stopped pursuing me, and he will never stop pursuing them.

Happy Birthday, Simon! I love you, and I am proud of you. May all your wishes and the ones I have made for you come true.

Reflections on Being a Daddy, or Why I Don’t Need to be Right All the Time

Pumpkin Carving with the Kids

Pumpkin Carving with the Kids

It seems like there are a lot of babies being born lately, and it has got me thinking about what it means to be a Daddy to my two bright and wonderful children. Our daughter turned 6 this past April and our son turns 4 in August, and in the last six years I have learned a thing or two that challenged what I might have thought before having kids. I have compiled a very short list of these life lessons for your encouragement/amusement/reflection.

 

 

 

20 Things I have learned / am learning about being a Daddy, presented in no particular order:

1. After feeding, clothing, and sheltering my children, there is no more important task that I have in life than to introduce them to Jesus. Why don’t I follow the Sunday School answer to everything and put Jesus first here? Because God has given my children to my care, and caring for their needs in a loving, self-sacrificial way is one of the most prominent ways that I can show my children who God is and how much he loves them. This, in turn, helps me to communicate with them how Jesus is the ultimate image of God’s love.

2. Play is the great bridge that crosses all other barriers between a father and a child.There have been times, especially with my son, where the kids don’t want much to do with Daddy. This most often happens when I am researching/working long hours or after I have taken a long trip. There are some hurt feelings upon my return, that I wasn’t there when they wanted me to be. There are also those times following discipline, or hurt feelings, or booboos when a child is especially hard to talk with. It is at these times in particular that the act of playing can bring a child out of gloominess into the joy of life. More than that, play is one of the greatest ways to bond with your children. It shows them that they are important, that their Daddy (or Mommy) wants to spend time with them, that their imaginations are good and wonderful, and that family time is some of the most enjoyable time of our lives.There have been many times when I did not play with my children, because I was distracted or feeling unwell. I regret every missed opportunity to play with them, and pray that God will give me the energy and “funlovingness” to play with them at every future opportunity.

3. Being right is less important than being real. I am an ‘answer man’. I like to figure out why things work, how they came to be, and why it matters. Its what makes me enjoy my research. However, I have found that when it comes to my children there are times when an answer man is needed (like when my son asks me what various animals eat), and there are times when I should keep my mouth shut, even when my urge is to correct something that is wrong. For a child who is growing and learning it is more important that they know their Daddy is listening to them and learning with them that they have all the right answers.

4. Discipline should always be conducted out of love, and never in anger. Discipline given in anger damages relationships. It is often too harsh (uncontrolled), too swift, and too dismissive of your child. Loving discipline has at its heart the well-being of your child. Discipline doled out in anger is more often seeking retribution.

5. Saying sorry isn’t just for kids. I tell me kids when I am wrong, and I ask their forgiveness when I have wronged them. I had a talk with my daughter last night about the wrong way and right way to deal with disappointment; one way can lead us to sin in anger, while the other leads us to patience and contentment. I openly used an example of my own sin of losing my temper as a way to talk about what God would have us do, and what we can and should do when we have taken the wrong direction. You are your child’s most important role model. How can they model you well if you don’t ever talk about your failures?

6. Say “I love you” often, and mean it every time. You simply cannot say ‘I love you’ too much to your children. They will have many voices vying for their attention as they grow. Let the dominant voice be your’s, echoing our Heavenly Father: ‘You are my beloved child, in you I am well pleased.’

7. It is OK to let your daughter paint your nails and brush your hair. Dads, get over yourselves. If letting your little girl paint your nails makes you question your masculinity, you have much bigger problems to deal with. Let your daughter lavish you with her love the best way she knows how.

8. Answer every question your children ask with utmost seriousness. One sure way to tear down a child is to treat them as though they are not important. If your child asks you a question, do everything in your power to not only answer it, but to answer it well. This shows your kids that they are important to you, that the things they have to say are worthy of your attention, and you might just learn something along the way.

9. Don’t shy away from talking about “big things” with your kids. Some of the most challenging conversations I have ever had with any person (adult or child) I have had with my daughter and son. We have talked about death, heaven & the resurrection of the dead, the Trinity, the Crucifixion, you name it. Don’t underestimate your child’s capacity for understanding. Talking to your children about important things will challenge you to communicate well, using language that is accessible without diluting the content. And who would you rather they hear this stuff from? Society is telling already what they should think about big questions. Are you?

10. Be your child’s biggest fan. I am unashamed in my overwhelming support of everything my kids do. We try to praise all of our kids’ accomplishments, big or small. I’ve heard the argument that this makes praise cheap. I disagree. I think it makes praise a precious commodity. When we praise our children often, we not only instill in them a sense of confidence, but we show them the proper source of affirmation is the family. They will be less likely to seek that affirmation elsewhere in destructive relationships or behaviors if the receive it adequately at home. There is a caution that comes with this, though. Praising your kids for their accomplishments does not mean giving empty praise. That leads to the phenomenon of the American Idol generation where people with no talent whatsoever can’t understand their failure, when their mom has always told them they were the best at whatever they pursued.

11. Embarrass yourself often. My kids will come to loathe this, I am sure, but I have no qualms whatsoever about embarrassing myself for their sake. If I can do something ludicrous (but safe and legal) that will get a smile out of them and endeer me to them in any way, you  better believe I will do it.

12. Fight for your kids (and their mother). Never allow anyone or anything to come between you and your family. If there are other things vying for their attention that cause stress in your relationships to one another, fight with all your might against those things. Part of fighting for your family is loving them extravagantly. Part of this fight is also waging war against those things that can tear a family apart. Dads in particular, this means workaholism, sexual misconduct (including pornography), friendships with the opposite sex, sports fanaticism, etc. If what you do threatens your family in any way, flee from it!

13. Be present for what matters to your kids. (i.e. Birthday parties, concerts at school, etc.). I have had to learn this lesson the hard way. At the end of my life, my children will not remember or care all that much about the things I have accomplished. They will not care how much money I made, how many letters I have after my name, what my research focus was, or how good my golf game was. They will care about and remember the time I spent with them. Be present for every important event in your child’s life, if at all possible. And when you miss such an event, make it up to them by spending extra time with them, doing something you both love. There were times growing up when I told my parents I didn’t care if they came to this or that event. No matter what your kids tell you, they notice and care if you aren’t there.

14. Learn to dance, especially if you have a daughter. For many Dads (myself included), this goes hand-in-hand with #11 above. I don’t know why this is so, but believe me when I tell you that your daughter (and probably your son) loves to dance with you. Dancing always leads to joy and laughter.

15. It is OK to cry in front of your kids. If you never cry in front of your kids, they won’t think you are strong and powerful, they will think you are careless and cold. Teach your children that there are things so important to you that they bring you to tears. But make sure those things are really worth it.

16. Don’t hold on too tight, but don’t let go too quickly. The catch-22 of parenthood. Work hard to raise your kids in such a way that they can make good choices on their own and live healthy lives dependent on God. But never, under any circumstances, let them think that they are no longer your baby girl or boy. I want my children to always feel safe when they return home.

17. Learn about your children’s favorite things. Want to really strengthen your relationships with your kids? Get to know what they love and learn to love it too. This is not in any way disingenuous, rather it shows how important they are to you. I don’t feign interest in the things my kids like. Instead, I cultivate genuine interest in those things by spending time doing them. For example, my daughter loves to play board games. At her age, most of these games don’t pose a huge challenge to parents. But, because I love her, I spend time playing those games with her, and have done so enough that I now love to play them with her.

18. Splurge on your kids to teach them responsibility. (i.e. family is worth splurging on, good behavior gets rewarded, our treasures are in heaven). Don’t be a tight wad! Not all fun things cost money, thank goodness. But sometimes they do, and you should occasionally splurge on your kids, even if it means putting off the purchase of something else you think you need. Doing this teaches them that they are important to you, that good behavior should be rewarded, and that God has called us to lives of generosity. Along with the occasional splurge, if you are going to eat out at restaurants, make sure you tip well. Few things damage our witness for Christ (for our families and others) more consistently than stinginess, and believe me, when you go out to eat after church and leave a 10 cent tip on a $50 bill, the servers are equating your tight-wadiness with your Christianity.

19. Being a Daddy is more important than anything else you will ever do in life. If you think your main legacy should be anything other than raising your kids to love Jesus and experience confidence in who he created them to be, then you are wrong.

20. Pray with and over your children. If you have any hope of all these other things, then your first step should be to pray regularly with and for your children. Commit their care to God, ask him to guide you as a parent to be Christ to them, and teach them to speak with their Heavenly Father often and intimately. God will answer these prayers and will bless your family abundantly for the asking.

Are You Too Content?

As a father of two (5 & almost 3), I find myself regularly reminding my children that they should be thankful for and content with what they have, not always looking for the ‘next thing’. In my daughter’s case, this particularly means not looking toward the next sugar fix, when she is already actively eating a piece of candy. Happiness, after all, is not to be found in things or activities, but in God himself, right?

If we are to be good Christians, we should just be content. Isn’t that what we are often told in church?

Yet, while the source of all our hope and joy and love and fulfillment should be God as he has been revealed in Jesus and witnessed to by the Holy Spirit, is recognition of God as the ‘source’ off goodness and happiness all that we as Christians should desire? Is it wrong to seek for more than contentedness in our knowledge of God, even our experiences of Him?

Or are we in danger of becoming too content?

Let me explain by way of an illustration from the Hopper Household last night. Our son will turn 3 in just a few days, and for pretty much the whole of this last year he has refused to eat any food that is a) not chicken nuggets, b) not crackers or c) not sugar. After thinking about this for quite some time, I made the executive decision last night that it is time for him to try something new. I took my stand with one of Sarah’s favorite dishes – chicken and dumplings.

Now, this particular dish is not very nutritious. I wold much rather have him eat a green bean or some broccoli, but I’m picking my battles carefully, and I thought 1) it isn’t a weird color, 2) it isn’t a vegetable, 3) Sarah likes it so it must not be too spicy, and 4) Its what I made, and I am tired of making multiple meals each night for dinner.

While all of these reasons made the choice rational in my mind, none of them accounted for the fact that my son would take one look at it and immediately throw a fit. Nonetheless, I was resolved, so Sarah and I calmed him down then offered him a compromise, since this was a foray into new and scary things for him. The compromise was simple, and completely loaded in his favor:

“Take one tiny bite of a dumpling, and if you don’t like it I will make you something else that you want.”

Simple, right? I mean, I could eat pretty much anything if I knew I only had to take one tiny nibble. Especially if it means getting anything I want to ea afterward. To the mind of a nearly-three-year-old, however, I might as well have declared war. I had declared my intentions, and he was going to stand and fight to the death.

After a 45 minute battle with increasing threats by me about what would happen to him if he didn’t take a bite (no other food, no desert, no movie before bed, early bedtime) he still refused to take a bite of dumpling, so there was only one thing left to do. Give in. PSYCHE! We followed through. We gave him a bath and put him straight to bed, all the while letting him know that he could change the course of his near future by simply taking a bite of dumpling.  He never gave in. He chose to go straight to bed with no dinner than take a bite of something new.

Fast forward to this morning. When I got out of bed, he wasn’t feeling good. In fact, he was sick to his stomach. Since he hadn’t eaten dinner the night before, and probably didn’t eat lunch at school (he is finicky there too), I said to Sarah that he was probably just really hungry.

When I said this, he turned to look at me, folded his little arms over his chest in a defiant manner, smiled broadly, and said, “I still didn’t eat a dumpling.”

Having lost his chicken nuggets, his desert, his play time, his before-bed cartoon, and gaining a sick tummy, he believed he was still victorious. He was content. He was so satisfied with his position that he couldn’t conceive of the good things I had prepared for him.

Isn’t this how we sometimes react to God when he offers us something more? Now, when I say “more” I’m not talking about more things, or more money, or more time.  I am talking quality, not quantity. How often have you or I rejected the notion that we can be better than what we are now, emphasizing that simply knowing Jesus is enough? How often have you or I stayed home and watched TV instead of getting involved in mission or service or WORSHIP, all the while making a mental note that it doesn’t matter anyway, because we ‘made a decision’ to follow Jesus?

Are you and I content with the bare minimum of calling Jesus Lord and asking him to save us?

In the person of Jesus Christ, all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, in order to reconcile all things to himself (Col 1:19-20). God was not content to leave things as they were. Why are we so anxious to do so, when God has promised us so much more?

Christians are called by God to be a holy people. We are called to live lives that reflect the love of God shed abroad in our hearts. We are promised that when we turn over all that we have to God’s authority, he will make us new creatures, capable of such love and holiness.  Only when we allow God to work in us to create new life can we truly love others as he intends.
Do you want to truly live, experiencing genuine hope and freedom from sin? Seek Jesus!
Do you want to have an impact on the world? Surrender your will to Him!
Do you want to see lives transformed by God’s love shed abroad in you? Seek your own transformation!
Do you want to hear the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”? Seek holiness!

Are you content with calling Jesus Lord, or are you ready to bend the knee to his authority? Are you content with the idea that you are safe from hell, or do you desire to see the whole world saved? Are you content with living as a saved sinner, or are you ready to become a loving, obedient child of the Living God?

Are you ready to experience the fullness of a life lived in Christ?

Or are you, even now, folding your arms across your chest, smiling broadly, and saying, “I still won’t eat the dumpling”?

Evangelistic Hearts

Anyone who has read this blog for a while will notice how often I talk about the lessons of parenthood.  My children are two of the greatest teachers of what it means to love Jesus, and I am often humbled by the lessons I learn from them.

Last night, as we were sitting down to supper, my son (2 1/2) was playing with his favorite cup, which was filled with milk at the time.  I have to admit that this particular cup is pretty awesome.  It is shapes like a cone filter with bright colorful pictures of Lightning McQueen from the Disney movie Cars on it.  At the base of the funnel is a clear ball that spins when you play with it, and inside the ball is a tiny little replica of the Lightning McQueen car.

My son loves this cup!  He loves it so much, in fact, that last night at the dinner table he began to tell the little Lightning McQueen about Jesus.  At first I thought he was singing Jesus Loves Me, which would have been astounding enough (I’ve not heard him sing it so clearly before), but then I realized that he was talking to the car, saying “Jesus loves you.”

Fast forward to this morning.  As I was prepping some things for the day in our kitchen, my daughter (almost 5) wandered past with Sarah (my wife) and said to her, “If we don’t praise God, even the rocks and the wind will praise Him.”  It was a very simple, yet profound rephrasing of Luke 19:39-40.

Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!”
“I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”

 

Through my children, I am beginning to understand more and more what Jesus was talking about in Matthew 18:

1 At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”
2 He called a little child and had him stand among them.3 And he said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.4 Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

 

I have heard it said many times that Jesus is here indicating that we must have a child-like faith in that it is unquestioning, non-judging.  I don’t think this understanding does justice to the faith of children, who, while trusting, are also very discerning.

When I read this passage now, what I understand Jesus to be saying is that we must all become like children in that our faith cultivates in us a focused enjoyment of God and a sure trust in Him, not based on a non-judging, whimsical hope, but founded on a confidence that God loves us and draws us to himself.  It is a faith that cannot remain self-referenced.  It is a faith directed toward God, and as a direct consequence it is a faith that cannot help but pour out love upon those around us.

My children understand that Jesus loves them.  Their response is an unrelenting love in return; a love that doesn’t stop with God-talk, though there is plenty of that in our household (praise God), but continues into a sharing of that loving relationship with others through evangelism and proclamation.

Before anyone begins to dissect this too much and begin quoting evangelism strategies to me, let me say this.  Evangelism is telling others about the Good News of Jesus Christ, plain and simple.  It implies proclamation of the Word, which is the witness of God’s mighty acts in Christ.  When children tell others that Jesus  loves them and quote Bible verses like they are a natural part of their vocabulary (something I wish I did more often), they are engaging in one of the purest forms of evangelism there is.  They are sharing their evangelistic hearts, transformed by a loving God.

Would that we all learn to live with the faith of little children.

Ash Wednesday

Psalm 51:1-17

1 Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions.

2 Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin.

3 For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is always before me.

4 Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you are proved right when you speak
and justified when you judge.

5 Surely I was sinful at birth,
sinful from the time my mother conceived me.

6 Surely you desire truth in the inner parts;
you teach me wisdom in the inmost place.

7 Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.

8 Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones you have crushed rejoice.

9 Hide your face from my sins
and blot out all my iniquity.

10 Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

11 Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.

12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
and sinners will turn back to you.

14 Save me from bloodguilt, O God,
the God who saves me,
and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.

15 O Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth will declare your praise.

16 You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.

17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart,
O God, you will not despise.

Ash Wednesday commemorates the beginning of the 40 days of Lent, during which Christians remember the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and recall his 40 days of fasting in the wilderness.  Ash Wednesday, in particular, is a time when the church is called to repentance and to acknowledge the fleeting nature of human life.  Common practices include the smearing of ashes on one’s forehead as a sign of penitence and mourning, and the initiation of 40 days of fasting (from meat, traditionally).

Lent is not intended as a time to remember sins of the past (unless they are unrepentant ones), or to dredge up things that have already been confessed to God.  However, it is a time to reflect on our still-marred state, repent of any ongoing sin that has not yet been purged from our lives, and give thanks for God’s mercy.

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I find it very hard to repent; to say that I am sorry and to press on, through the help of the Spirit, toward new life.  To make a u-turn away from self toward God.

This morning, as Sarah and I were getting the kids dressed for school, our son (2) began to throw a full on tantrum, because he didn’t want to get dressed. After trying to calm him and give him some space, the tantrum continued, and I gave him a warning that discipline would follow if he didn’t change his actions.  As the tantrum escalated to all new levels, I followed through on my warning and disciplined him.  After allowing this all to sink in, I sat with him, told him that I love him, and explained why he was disciplined.  I then asked for him to tell me he was sorry.  He looked at me, and said “No!”.

I put him in time out and told him that I would return in a few minutes after he had a chance to reconsider.  He then launched into a tantrum even worse than the first.  I returned to him a second time, explained that I love him and why he was in time out, and then asked him to apologize.  Once again, he refused and I returned him to time out for a third round.

When I returned to him the next time, I again explained that I love him, why he was being disciplined, and asked him to apologize.  This time, he nodded his head and said “sorry”.  To my great relief, he then hugged me, and we resumed our morning.

Now, I tell you this story, not because I think I am like God and that my son needed to repent.  I tell you this to illustrate just how hard it can be to own up to our mistakes, even to a Father who loves us beyond measure.

I love my son and I want only what is best for him.  I don’t like to discipline him, but I do it for his own good, so that he learns what is right and good; to set him on a path for a successful life lived as a testimony to God’s goodness and grace.  Likewise, God disciplines his children and calls us to repentance when we have strayed.  He calls us to remember who we are, created in his image, and teaches us to live in the light of his righteousness and love.

When I put on ashes this morning, when I fast during Lent, when I carry on conversation with God in prayer, I expect there to be painful moments.  I expect to be corrected.  I expect to feel ashamed for the sinfulness that still shows in me on occasion.  But I also expect that my Father in Heaven will continue to remind me: “I love you.  You are fearfully and wonderfully made.”

As we reflect on the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, may we find mercy and love at the foot of his cross.  My sin put him there . . . Forgive me Father . . . His blood covers me.

Thanks be to God!

Revelation Song

I had a strange dream last night, and while I don’t wish to go into all of the details, this particular dream did feature a song that I can’t seem to get out of my head this morning.  I vaguely remember singing this once at church, though I didn’t know the name of it until last night when the title was scrawled across a scene in my minds eye.  The song is called the “Revelation Song” and if you know it you probably heard the versions by either Hillsong or Philips, Craig and Dean.

I decided to blog on this in part because I want to share the song with you.  It is beautiful and vivid in its imagery.  The other reason for posting this here is that I was shaken to the core this morning by the simplicity and power of the Biblical passage cited in the words of the song.  Hear the word of the Lord, from Revelation 4:8-11.

8 Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under his wings. Day and night they never stop saying:
“Holy, holy, holy
is the Lord God Almighty,
who was, and is, and is to come.”

9 Whenever the living creatures give glory, honor and thanks to him who sits on the throne and who lives for ever and ever,10 the twenty‑four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne, and worship him who lives for ever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say:

11 “You are worthy, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
and by your will they were created
and have their being.”

It has become commonplace in the evangelical church to emphasize the love of God in theological discussions.  While this is a good thing in many ways, my fear is that an emphasis on the love of God without an equal emphasis on the holiness of God quickly leads to a diminished view of the Godhead and of Christ.  Though God is truly a God of love, it is not an earthly sort of fleeting love.  God does not love us like brothers, for we are his good creation.  God does not love us as a lover, for we are not his equals.  As infinite, matchless, and perfect, God loves us with a holy-love, and indeed is holy-love.  And so if we are to properly speak of the love of God, we must also speak of his holiness, his majesty.  We must speak of him as God.

When I read the words of the passage above, I find such incredible hope and grace.  It is precisely because God is holy, holy, holy that he loves us so deeply as to send his Son.  And this gift is not some fleeting singularity in the history of humanity.  His atonement and his resurrection are eternal as he is eternal…who was, and is, and is to come.

So, what is our proper response to God’s holiness and grace?  I think we would do well to follow the lead of the 24 elders and fall on our faces proclaiming “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.”  Or as a common doxology reminds us, ‘Praise him from whom all blessings flow.  Praise him all creatures here below.  Praise him above, ye heavenly host.  Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.  Amen!”

If you are unable to see the video below and would like to hear the Revelation song you can do so here.

Who do you see in the mirror?

This weekend, Sarah took the kids to Cincinnati to visit her family. While they were there, they decided to stop and see Sarah’s grandmother, who just recently moved into a nursing home. The kids are young enough (3 1/2 and 15 mo.) that they have not previously been exposed to an environment like that, so Sarah wanted to make sure that they were protected form some of the things they might see. She decided it would be best for them to meet with grandma in the waiting area, rather than in her room.

This particular nursing home is affiliated with the Catholic Church, so there were some nuns working there. Janna’s only prior experience with a nun was when she was 3 months old. We were visiting the Cincinnati zoo when a couple of sisters commented on how cute she was and asked to hold her. We obliged (they were nuns after all), and no sooner did we hand the baby over than she decided to throw up all over the sister’s habit. We have kept our distance from the convents since…

So, as Janna watched a nun as she worked in the nursing home reception area, she was doing so without any background understanding of who these people are. She was observing things entirely on her own, and her reaction was somewhat startling….and profound.

As the nun answered phone calls and went about her business, Janna pointed at her and said, “Mommy, is that God?”

Now our natural reaction is to chuckle at a question like this and explain who nuns are, but I don’t want to pass over the significance of what our 3 year old has just said. In just a few moments, as she watched an older lady in plain clothing going about her daily tasks, Janna witnessed some special, something peculiar. She witnessed the very presence of God.

So often we get caught up in all of the things that we think we have to “do” for God. While those things are important, I wonder how many of us regularly take time to consider all of the things that God wants to do in us, and for us? How many of us are content to let God direct us from a distance, rather than move us from within.

Are you allowing God to so fully rule in your life that his face is the one that shows when you look out on the world? Is it his hand that reaches out to show love to others? Is it his presence that other sense when you walk into a room? Does the love of Jesus fill you up until it overflows and spills out on those around you?

If a child were to witness you going about your dullest daily tasks, would she ask, “Mommy, is that God?”