Loving Your Neighbor

~ Radical thoughts to follow. ~

So many Christians these days are stuck in thinking of God as the almighty Creator of the universe, the final judge and authority on everything good, and they fear this powerful deity enthroned in unfathomable power.  They get so caught up in the God who utterly crushed Sodom and Gomorrah, caused the ground to swallow up disobedient men whole, and sent bears to maul dozens of “youths” in response to a curse by His prophet after their “teasing” of him.  If that is the God you know, you are missing Him… essentially in a forest for the trees moment.

Now let me get this straight – the God I’m talking about did all of those things, but He is so much more.  The God I’m talking about is not vengeful and destructive – He is creative, He is merciful, He is loving.  He is not hovering somewhere up in space ready to cast down lightning and hurl giant hailstones at you if you stumble and fall in trying to serve Him.

This is why the concept of God the Father is so important.  Think to your own children if you have them.  As a father, we only want the very best for them.  We teach them, guide them, influence them, discipline them, and love them as much as we can before we turn them loose on the world.  God the Father is no different, except that He doesn’t want us to ever get turned loose, but rather to turn back to Him – to love Him in return and to become not just His child, but rather also His friend.

Few men in the Bible were ever credited as friends of God – Abraham, Moses, David. These men didn’t go on and do measly things either. Abraham is the forefather of two great peoples – Jews through Isaac (by extension Christians) and Muslims. Moses became the first civil rights leader the world has ever seen – he led an entire nation from slavery to freedom.  David established Israel as a nation-state and also provided the family lineage for the Son of God to be born with a royal bloodline.  These men also give us a stark contrast though because of their friendship with God – Moses talked God out of destroying the idol worshiping Israelites, but He also repeatedly angered God as well to the point where he was forbidden from entering the Promised Land at the end of the decades-long journey to freedom.  David had a man killed because he thought his wife was smoking hot and wanted her for himself.  Neither of these men were perfectly moral, but they sought and loved God for who He was and unconditionally on their parts.

It is friendship with God that brings with it God’s unconditional mercy.

Instead of fearing God because of His righteousness, power, and judgment, we should strive to befriend God because He is right there waiting for us to do just that.  It’s all that He wants as our Father…. the absolute best for us.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.

Matthew 22:37

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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

 

 

Football

My oldest son, being nearly four, loves playing football (ok, more like picking up a football and running into me as hard as he can and then playing “tackle”) and has recently learned to cheer for the teams that I like to watch.  “Go Browns” and “Go Bucks” are commonly heard emanating from him as he plays with any number of toys while a game is on in the background.

A few weeks back, my high school held it’s Homecoming football game.  In the past I haven’t bothered taking him with me when I’ve had the chance to go watch the game because the weather has been notorious every year for this game.  This year proved no different, but I still decided that we would brave the cold and rain and go.  We had a great time in spite of the weather.

There is something magical about high school football to me.  The team camaraderie, the support of the community, the sportsmanship showed by both teams to each other.  The lack of cursing.  The beautiful sung a Capella National Anthem by an Alumnus who happens to be a Staff Sergeant in the United States Army currently.  The hope and promise of a night out with the family.  The public prayer that opened the game.

Yes, a public prayer.  No one was forced to pray.  No one protested.  No one’s rights were trampled.  The prayer was a quick, humble appeal for protection for the opposing team and their fans.  How dare we impose our religion on those poor boys and their families.  I’m sure that they were horribly offended at being exposed to a prayer for THEIR protection.

By now you probably have caught on that I graduated from a private high school where public prayer is not just permitted, it is encouraged.  I myself am not one for public prayer as I would rather spend my time in prayer quietly, humbly, and without pretense before my God, but there is a place for it.  To lead off a football game between boys that are becoming men is one such place.  To remind them of their proper place in the universe before their God means that the game will be played with more sportsmanship and respect between the teams, the parents, and the fans than games where such a prayer is not initially given.

I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people.

1 Timothy 2:1

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