Practice Proves Parentage

A son’s deeds demonstrate the son’s dad. Sons do what their dads do not only because they share the same nature, but also because they watch their father from the front row. Sons take on the mannerisms, values, habits, and sins of their dads. So we can connect sons to their fathers by their behavior.

Many sons don’t like this. Many sons see the sins, or just the shortcomings, of their dads and vow never to do the same. Some sons are more successful in shaking off the patterns, but most find themselves in the same sorts of struggles as their father. Apart from some outside influence, behavioral DNA betrays our paternity to the world.

It is trendy to blame our fathers looking back rather than to take responsibility as fathers and establish new standards looking forward. What our fathers did or didn’t do can’t be ignored, but what they did does not let us off the hook. Our sins may be similar, but they are our sins. We always sin because we want to, even if we inherited our wants from our father.

In the spiritual realm, it is evident who are the children of God and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother (1 John 3:10). Practice proves parentage.

As God’s sons and daughters, we ought to be behaving like our Father who art in heaven, not the one who art in hell. When we see attitudes and actions that are not consistent with our Father, we should repent and learn to follow the obedient example of the Firstborn among many brethren.

Our Own Orphan Sunday

November 4th was Orphan Sunday. We planned to have Andrew Schneidler speak about The Children’s Law Center of Washington at TEC that day until I realized that I would be out of town. I’m glad we waited. For that matter, while I’m thankful for the Christians who have coordinated a campaign to raise awareness about the global need for fathers to the fatherless, we aren’t limited to raise awareness on one Sunday only. Not only that, we aren’t limited to raise awareness about only one issue. We ought to love all the things that God loves, but we can’t give attention to each one at the same time. Likewise, we ought to lament all the sins that God laments, the myriad of ways His heart is ignored. Again, we can’t do it all at once.

So we had our own orphan Sunday and, in some ways, every Sunday is. We were all orphans, all of us. We were born by a father who hated us from the beginning. He gave us his nature, his murdering, lying nature. Then he abandoned us to face the wrath for ourselves. Yet because his heart is so twisted, he loves to watch us act like him, because he knows it is the worst thing for us.

Then the heavenly Father sent His Son to earth to find and deliver many brothers. The Lord Jesus Christ is the ultimate adoption advocate, the ultimate adoption attorney, the ultimate adoption donor. He knew the legal requirements and fulfilled them. He paid the cost so in full so that we could be sons and daughters of God. He saved us and brought us into His eternal family and now no one can pluck us out of His hand. He’s given us new names, a new nature, and a new future. The Lord’s Table is full of the Father and Son’s food, and we’re invited as His adopted children.

Take It to Heart

God wrote through the apostle Paul, “Believe the gospel.” God wrote through the apostle James, “Prove your belief.” In chapter one of his letter, James exhorted his readers to be doers of the word and not hearers only (1:22). He addressed three doings of doers in the very next paragraph, three works to watch to discover if one’s walk is worthless or worshipful.

First, “if anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless” (v.26). Second, on the positive side, “religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction” (v.27a) And third, God pleasing religion is also “to keep oneself unstained from the world” (v.27b).

The initial talking point is our talking. Whether or not we control our tongues matters. If we use our tongues to bless the Lord but curse men who are made in God’s image (3:9-11), there’s reason to be concerned about the source of the spring.

The third comment is about worldliness. Being stained by the immoral, unmerciful, bickering, self-centric codes of the world is a sign of spiritual adultery. It does not match a life of faith.

In between, James clarifies that we have immediate, temporal responsibilities to take care of those who cannot take care of themselves. Saying, “Be warmed and filled” comes out of dead-faithed mouths (2:15-17). So every Christian would-be-doer-of-the-word must care for orphans and widows if they want to be blessed. It doesn’t mean that every person must adopt a child or take home a widow, but it does mean that we must take to heart our responsibility to give ourselves and serve those in affliction. Otherwise, our words about obeying the Word are worthless.

The Larger Conflict Arc

Last Sunday was Veterans Day in the United States. This national holiday was established by President Woodrow Wilson in 1919, one year after the end of World War I (in the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month) to celebrate the soliders who served during the war.

To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations. The History of Veterans Day

Unlike Memorial Day which commemorates all those who died in service, Veteran’s Day commemorates all those who served in any capacity. We are thankful for those who sacrificed in a variety of ways to protect our liberties.

Wars between nations are part of a larger conflict arc. The Great War was established by God in Eden between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent. The serpent, or dragon if you prefer, still slithers about as an adversary. The battle and casualties and consequences are real. And while many soldiers have served in this conflict, they first had to be saved from serving in the rebel army.

At the Lord’s Table we remember that we were enemies but are now reconciled by the sacrifice of Jesus. We remember His perfect service of righteousness on our behalf. We remember a battle won by His death and so that we can live in His resurrection. We remember that blood is really red and was really shed so that we could serve in His strength and for His glory.

We are still in a battle. The dragon is still lying, still fighting, still seeking to devour. Together, at this Table, we are still looking to Christ and thanking God for His service.

Raking Face

I was listening to a message a few days ago that dealt with our need to repent from sin rather than adjust our definition of sin in order to protect our sin. I paused my run, got off the treadmill, and gathered all the kids together, along with Mo, for a confession.

I know that it’s important to show our kids how to respond, not merely tell them how. I know that yelling at them to stop yelling is an ineffective, let alone ironic, approach. The anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God, yet we keep trying to paint pottery with sledgehammers. Sledgehammers do do something.

Earlier that morning I was in my study preparing the liturgy for our worship service–obviously a very important job–while the oldest three were playing outside in the leaves near that end of the house. Within a few minutes I heard loud, long wails of blood-curdling catastrophe. I pushed myself out of the chair, marched outside, and convened a meeting to find out what could possibly be so terrible.

Apparently there had been an accidental raking of someone’s face. One wasn’t paying attention, one got in the way of said leaf rake, and one gave a muttered explanation of the sorry event. It was all quite inconvenient (to me), quite a big problem (to me), and quite an inappropriate response (from me).

Yes, leaf rakers should pay more attention, and so should I when I approach a situation of little people who are learning how to live with each other, even when one of them hurts another one. Yes, there is no need for dramatic, excessive crying for a small scrape on the face, just as there’s no need for my dramatic, excessive anger about the crying. Yes, explanations should be clear and to the point, and I should show an eagerness to listen.

So I gathered the troops and asked for forgiveness for reacting wrongly to their wrong reactions. None of them had sinned; that was me. I was not loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, or gentle, which means that I was parenting in the flesh. The family granted forgiveness, and we learned that we don’t tolerate bad attitudes because we’re parents/fathers, we confess sin. By God’s grace, hopefully our kids will learn to do the same.