A Letter to My Sons

Even though you are both still young, there is so much you know and understand.

I enjoy watching you take in the world one amazing thing at a time with joy, astonishment, and apprehension.  You have so many firsts still ahead of you, that I look forward to experiencing and guiding you to and beyond.

Sometimes being a father is hard work.  There is doubt if you are doing things right.  There are so many things out of my control that can impact you forever.  There are points where we do and will disagree and butt heads in the future, but even knowing these days will come I will love you through them.

There are so many things I want to and need to teach you in the few short years where I get to influence you: the nature of God, Christ, the ways of the world, the importance of family, the nature of truth, the importance of justice, the source of liberty, and the responsibilities that go with all of that knowledge.

Today is Father’s Day.  God put you here to do mighty things for Him and I cherish the opportunity to lead you to Him and then set you loose to do those things.  It is a father’s greatest responsibility, but also a father’s greatest joy and blessing to be granted that opportunity and blessing.   Through you both, I have come to understand the nature and heart of God much more clearly as he is both my and your Father as much as I am your father and the love and joy that you bring me, I know he feels toward me.

I know there will be times where my words come up short, but your heavenly Father’s words never will.  I know there will be times where you and I fail each other, but I will always ask you to forgive me and forgive you in the same way when it happens.

Regardless of those small happenings in everyone’s life, I will never cease loving you because you are my sons, and that is how God loves us – regardless of how often or how terribly we abuse His love, He will always forgive us and welcome us back to Him.  In fact, He will pursue US.  He will find us hiding in the dark, afraid to come out because of shame, guilt, or whatever is holding us back and bring us home to Him if we just ask.

Today on Father’s Day, I wanted to write something for you… words from Our Father that I hope one day make sense to you as they now do to me.

The father of a righteous child has great joy;
    a man who fathers a wise son rejoices in him.

Proverbs 23:24

My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline,
    and do not resent his rebuke,
because the Lord disciplines those he loves,
    as a father the son he delights in.

Proverbs 3:11-12

You saw how the Lord your God carried you, as a father carries his son.

Deuteronomy 1:31

Children are a heritage from the Lord,
    offspring a reward from him.
Like arrows in the hands of a warrior
    are children born in one’s youth.
Blessed is the man
    whose quiver is full of them.

Psalm 127:3-5

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.

Joshua 1:9

 

 

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Easy

Do not pray for easy lives, pray to be stronger men.

President John F. Kennedy

Blessed is the one
    who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
    or sit in the company of mockers,
but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
    and who meditates on his law day and night.
That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
    which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
    whatever they do prospers.

Psalm 1:1-3

Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong.

1 Corinthians 16:13

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.

Joshua 1:9

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.

Ephesians 6:10-11

While I am not Catholic, I pray for Pope Benedict and for the wisdom of the Cardinals in their selection of the next Pontiff, that it not be the wisdom of men, but that of God.

Arrows

Like arrows in the hands of a warrior
are children born in one’s youth.
Blessed is the man
whose quiver is full of them.

Psalm 127:4-5

He shot his arrows and scattered the enemy,
with great bolts of lightning he routed them.

2 Samuel 22:15

arrow2

Children are like arrows.  Mine are young right now, but one day I will send them out into the world to do battle with it.  Will they be well-made – hewn from stout wood?  Bound strongly and tempered to flex, but not break?  Will I fletch them correctly to guide them on their flight?  Will their sharpened warheads pierce the evil they are sure to encounter?

War

Blessed be the Lord my strength which teacheth my hands to war, and my fingers to fight:

My goodness, and my fortress; my high tower, and my deliverer; my shield, and he in whom I trust.

Psalm 144:1-2

War.  A terrible concept.  Hell visits Earth in battle.  Men kill.  Men die.

What is the Psalmist saying though here?  He isn’t exalting God for keeping him out of war, but for preparing him for it.

In that day, wars were fought up close and personal with sword, spear, ax, and club.  They were fought at throwing range with slings and javelins.  They were fought at slightly longer ranges with bows.

Wars were dirty business, just as they are today.  They required athleticism, just as they do today.  They required mental discipline, just as they do today.  They required a stout heart, a steady hand, and a discerning judgment, just as they do today.  Those truths are eternal and they hold true whether we are speaking about physical human war or spiritual war, like those we fight continually day-to-day just living on this Earth.

I know that I have been particularly laser-like in my focus on the current push for greater gun regulation.  I also know that it is a temporal issue, not an eternal one, but I also know that the Psalmist (whom I presume is David, the man after God’s own heart) wrote this Psalm.  I firmly believe that scripture speaks on multiple levels and while it is able to be interpreted that we also must not ignore the plain speech.

I hope that the next time you read scripture, you are shown not only the hidden deeper meaning to it, but also the bold plainly written one right in front of you.

If you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one.

Luke 22:36, NIV

He that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one.

Luke 22:36, KJV

Let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one.

Luke 22:36, ESV

He that hath none, let him sell his coat, and buy a sword.

Luke 22:36, 1599 Geneva Bible

et qui non habet, vendat tunicam suam et emat gladium. (roughly translated: and who does not have, sell your tunic and buy sword.)

Luke 22:36, Vulgate

 

Lord, make me fast and accurate.
Let my aim be true and my hand faster
Than those who would seek to destroy me.
Grant me victory over my foes and those that
Wish to do harm to me and mine.
Let not my last thought be if I only had my gun.
Lord, if today is truly the day that you call me home,
Let me die praising your name and in a pile of empty brass.

 

 

Thirst

Are you thirsty today?

My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When can I go and meet with God?

Psalm 42:2

My oldest son is being used by God to show me something and it’s not subtle.  Everyone is born with fundamental questions within their soul that need to be answered.

Where do I come from?

Why I am I here?

Where am I going?

Why is there something rather than nothing?

Why is the world like this?

Is there a God?

What is good?

What is evil?

What is truth?

How can I be happy?

When you boil down every world religion and philosophy, they are all attempting to answer these questions.  There is a thirst for knowledge and truth within us all and the driving element in our life is our attempt to answer these questions.

You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you;
I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you,
in a dry and parched land where there is no water.

Psalm 63:1

My oldest son has an intense focus on books and puzzles. Being four years old, he studies things incredibly and remembers the smallest details about these things that capture his interest.  He will spend hours in his room quietly playing with a single puzzle, memorizing every single piece to the point where I believe he could assemble it in the dark if he really wished to do so.  My son’s thirst is well-developed and he is attempting to quench it.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.

Matthew 5:6

For Christmas, my son received a gift to help quench this thirst and encourage it to grow within him.  He received a bible for Christmas (mind you, he is not quite four years old yet).  Most kids would put the bible aside and attack the toys still waiting under the tree or already unwrapped.  He on the other hand promptly sat down and started to read.  It has only been a few short weeks since he received this gift, but he is addicted.  If this is the addiction (and we all have one) he suffers from in his life, praise be to God.

Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.

John 7:37-38

My son truly clings to the Word.  He wants to know where it is always.  He wants to bring it with him to everything we do (eating dinner, playing with cars on the floor, to the gym, or to Nana’s house).  He wants the Word close to him as often as possible.

Shouldn’t we all feel that way?  When the trials of life hit us, we may turn to the Word for reassurance, but do we do it daily?  Do we cling to it?  I thought I understood what Christ meant when he said the following.

Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.

Matthew 19:14

Children are able to put such amazing faith into things.  They believe them fully – Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy, Spiderman, and untold numbers of other completely fictional creations, but there is something else… children are not yet corrupted by pride or personal success, they have a thirst that seems so unquenchable that when they are exposed to the Wellspring, they fear to leave it behind as it is exactly what their souls need – knowledge, truth, strength, courage, faith, righteousness, perfection.

My son CLINGS to the Word at just shy of four years old.  Do I?

Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters.

Isaiah 55:1

Whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.

John 4:14

spring-water

 

For His Glory

Have you ever looked at nature?  Really looked at it?

What is it saying to you in that moment?

Have you stood on the shores of the ocean and admired it’s power and vastness?

Have you ever stood and watched the incredible power of Niagara Falls?

The destructive, yet creative power, of a volcano such as Mauna Loa?

Have you ever admired the incredible array of colors in a coral reef that is teeming with life of every kind?

The world around us proclaims the glory of God at all times.  It is found in the whisper of a hummingbird’s wings, the rustle of wind through crisp spring leaves, or the softening of the world under a blanket of freshly fallen snow.  It is found in the roaring crash of the tides against a shoreline and the cry of the eagles high in the sky.  It is apparent the beauty of a summer sunset as the entire sky is painted red, pink, orange, and purple.  It is heard in the song sung by a child as they play and expressed in each hug and kiss they give.  It is evident in the sparkle in their eye when they see something new and amazing.  They are basking in His glory.

John Calvin called creation the theater of the glory of God.

You know what’s even more amazing though?  You, as a likeness of God Himself, can partake in this glory.  You can help create it.  Glory, from Christ, abounds in the human heart and we are capable of amazing things.  So the next time that you lean over to hug your toddler or accept a kiss from your son or daughter, remember that is in expression of love, of glory, of the majesty of creation expressed through human action.

The next time you witness something incredible in nature, understand that you are witnessing God’s glory poured out on creation and reflecting not only for us to see and witness, but also for us to admire and praise Him.

The created universe is all about glory. The deepest longing of the human heart and the deepest meaning of heaven and earth are summed up in this; the glory of God. The universe was made to show it, and we were made to see it and savor it.

John Piper

We are all starved for the glory of God, not self. No one goes to the Grand Canyon to increase self-esteem. Why do we go? Because there is greater healing for the soul in beholding splendor than there is in beholding self.

John Piper

A man can no more diminish God’s glory by refusing to worship Him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word, ‘darkness’ on the walls of his cell.

C.S. Lewis

Ascribe to the Lord, you heavenly beings,
ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name;
worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness.

Psalm 29:1-2

In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

Matthew 5:16

 

 

Covering

Have you ever found yourself in grave danger?

One wrong step and you could die.

That is existence for mankind.

At creation, God was our guarantor of safety and security.  His righteousness held at bay the danger that we now face daily.  Have you ever considered that sin is a result of man attempting to provide for his own security and safety?

We thrust our hand out and took the crown that God alone is worthy to wear and tried to put it on.  We took responsibility for our lives at that moment in time.  The simple act of trying to cover their nakedness in the garden was an act of trying to construct a covering for a perceived weakness.  We crave security and safety.  It is one of our fundamental needs along with food and water.

It is this craving that drives us to pursue safety at nearly every cost.  You see it in the rise of gangs in violent areas, in the demand for stronger social safety nets such as Medicare, Social Security, and Welfare, in the absolute focus on improved safety features for new automobiles, in the intense focus and scrutiny given to mass killings and tragedies from natural disasters to the horrors of war.  Being safe and protected is an obsession for us.

Isn’t each of our reactions to a threat to our safety, whether physical or spiritual, just us trying to sew fig leaves together while we believe we are naked and vulnerable?

Let me break it to you.  Nothing you do will ever convey ultimate safety and security to you.  It does not matter if you live in a bubble and never do anything dangerous, or if you walk around wearing a bullet-proof vest every day of your life.  It does not matter if you move to the safest community in your state or to the most rural part of the country.  It does not matter if you drive the most state-of-the-art car with every safety bells and whistles.  Your life can be snuffed out in a heartbeat.

Stop trusting in mere humans,
    who have but a breath in their nostrils.

Isaiah 2:22

A prayer that I have tried to say daily since I came across it, in a work of historical fiction, is one that has me abdicate my claim to my own safety. This is a hard thing for me to do.  I have a family.  I care for them and wish to provide for their safety and believe that God wants me to do so, but ultimately, we are ultimately dying embers from the moment we are born just waiting to be snuffed out.  I don’t say this to depress you or discourage you, but to encourage you to abdicate the crown that was stolen.  Throw your safety and security at the feet of the Almighty.  Taste true liberty.

Rescue me, Lord, from evildoers;
    protect me from the violent,
who devise evil plans in their hearts
    and stir up war every day.
They make their tongues as sharp as a serpent’s;
    the poison of vipers is on their lips.

Keep me safe, Lord, from the hands of the wicked;
    protect me from the violent,
    who devise ways to trip my feet.
The arrogant have hidden a snare for me;
    they have spread out the cords of their net
    and have set traps for me along my path.

I say to the Lord, “You are my God.”
    Hear, Lord, my cry for mercy.
Sovereign Lord, my strong deliverer,
    you shield my head in the day of battle.
Do not grant the wicked their desires, Lord;
    do not let their plans succeed.

Those who surround me proudly rear their heads;
    may the mischief of their lips engulf them.
May burning coals fall on them;
    may they be thrown into the fire,
    into miry pits, never to rise.
May slanderers not be established in the land;
    may disaster hunt down the violent.

I know that the Lord secures justice for the poor
    and upholds the cause of the needy.
Surely the righteous will praise your name,
    and the upright will live in your presence.

Psalm 140

The beloved of the Lord shall dwell in safety by Him,
Who shelters him all the day long;
And he shall dwell between His shoulders.

Deuteronomy 33:12

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