When our first son, Joshua Jr., was born on January 2, 2008, I wrote him a lullaby. I was overcome with God’s goodness to me. I couldn’t then and I cannot now believe that I am father and daddy. I most certainly do not deserve all the blessing in my life. God is good to me. I have memorized that lullaby, and I sing it now to all of our children. I had thought that I would be able to write each of them a lullaby, but I have just adapted this one to fit each of them. It is pretty much the same lullaby, but I did have to change more this time since she is a girl. Either way, it expresses my heart in life and in fatherhood.
I will never forget that day in my front yard as a little boy when a friend from the neighborhood made me mad, and I called him something that I should not have called him. My mother heard me say it. She grabbed me by the arm; took me inside, into her bathroom in her bedroom; reached under the sink; pulled out a fresh bar of Dial soap; and crammed it into my mouth until I got the point.
She did not want me to talk like that ever again! I am thankful for a mom like that. It is because of her teaching me in moments like that one (I have never forgotten that!) that I have always tried to speak well and not have a foul mouth.
Well in the Bible in Proverbs 31 we have an awesome passage where another Godly mother is talking to her son. Many people are familiar with verses 10-31 about the “Godly woman.” But far less people are familiar with the first 9 verses of chapter 31 of Proverbs. King Lemuel says these 9 verses are an oracle that his mother taught him. It is so profound!
Verse 2 expresses how concerned she is for her son. She knows his potential. She knows that God has a calling and purpose on his life. She is burdened that her son not waste his life and throw his life away. And so she gives him, her son, this great advice.
Her advice is so fitting for today, Here it is:
- Don’t let women distract you!
- Stay away from Alcohol!
- Stand up for those who cannot stand up for themselves!
31:3 speaks to the danger that women can be. Bad relationships can destroy people. Don’t let women distract you. (Obviously, men can distract women too. I am not meaning this to be one way. Relationships can be distracting.)
31:4-7 speaks about alcohol and what it can be good for. But it also speaks about how it distorts one’s focus and concentration. And if one plans to be a leader and difference maker, they need to stay away from Alcohol. Lemuel’s mother says alcohol may be cool for some people, but for those with a vision and a calling and a purpose Alcohol is not for them. Alcohol misleads people, and so – stay away from it.
Then 31:8-9 speak about the poor and the needy and those who cannot speak up for themselves. This godly mother in the Bible tells her son to make it his responsibility to stand for those who cannot stand for themselves. In other words, she is telling her son to make a difference in people’s lives. Success or significance is greater when you are not content on making your life better, but on making the lives of others better.
Notice that she is not telling her son to be the best or smartest or fastest or best looking. Certainly she may desire those things. But in the end, success is not determined by those things. This godly mother knew that. In the end, the way we impacted people is what counts. The lives that have been touched is what really matters!
May we all hear these 3 wise words from this Godly mother!
This past week I became very sick with a stomach virus that I had heard had been going around. This terrible “bug” left me depleted and in bed for several days. Cold, shaky, and weak, I did not leave my bed for nearly 48 hours. (Thanks to Lance Armstrong and Manti Te’o, I was not bored out of my mind.)
But as I laid there all that time, I was able to reflect on my life. (Now I certainly understand that a 48 hour stomach virus is not a very big deal. This is not at all to put me in a category as someone who is very sick or in the hospital.) There is so much that goes through your mind when you are sick. Every time I get sick, I go through this phase of wondering if I will ever get better. What if I don’t? Anyways, I always do. And here are some of my observations that I would like to share:
- Health is important. I cannot do all the responsibilities God has given me if I am not healthy. Therefore, I must prioritize my health. Some exercise is important! Like Paul says, “Bodily training is of some value.”
- My wife is a blessing. Proverbs says “He who finds a wife, finds a good thing.” I have never known that to be more true than this week. As I lay in bed sleeping and moaning, she took care of everything including me. She is 38 weeks pregnant. Due any day. We have 3 little boys running around the house. And she still managed to keep me supplied with toast, chicken noodle soup, and gatorade in bed. She’s amazing!
- Focus on where you are. Jim Elliott once said, “Where ever you are, Be all there.” As I was down and out, my sons must have come in to check on me a hundred times. They wanted me to play with them, read to them, wrestle with them, but I was unable to. I found myself thinking. As soon as I feel better, I am going to focus on my sons.
- Laziness is awful. As I began to feel somewhat better, my mind began to go over all the things that I could be doing. Things that I would have rather been doing. I began to get mad. Really frustrated. I didn’t want to watch another episode of Family Feud or SportsCenter. I wanted to get up and do something. As the Bible says “Go to the ant, you sluggard, and consider his ways.”
- I have a good God, good friends and a good church family. I do not deserve the love that I am shown on a daily basis. The people that God has placed around me are so good to me. I thank God for them. The calls and texts were thoughtful. The help was so on time. I even had two different dear friends conduct funeral services for me in my absence. What a blessing! I am not 100% yet, but I sure do feel better. I thank God that He has healed me.
Here is a video of Drew Dillman being interviewed after he finished 2nd place in Nationals for Under 23 Cyclocross.
At the 2:30 mark he speaks about his church. First Baptist Fairdale.
This past Sunday one of our dear church members, Fairdae boy and Marian University student Drew Dillman, was riding for Team USA in Belgium. While he was racing there, his mother and sister were being baptized here.
Here is a recent article on Drew and how he is using cycling to magnify Christ!
We are so proud of him!
During the month of December, we took a break from our usual sermon series from the Gospel of Luke. For the 4 Sundays leading up to Christmas, I preached 4 different sermons on Reactions to the Christmas Message. (Our church found this series to be such a blessing. We would recommend it for any future Christmas sermon series.)
Week 1: December 2nd = Joseph’s reaction to the Christmas message from Matthew 1:18-25. In one word, Joseph’s reaction to the Chrismas message was Obedience. You can listen to that whole sermon here.
Week 2: December 9th = Mary’s reaction to the Christmas message from Luke 2:26-38. In one word, Mary’s reaction to the Christmas message was Submission. You can listen to that whole sermon here.
Week 3: December 16th = The Shepherds’ reaction to the Christmas message from Luke 2:8-20. In one word, the Shepherds reaction to the Christmas message was Rejoicing. You can listen to the whole sermon here.
Week 4: December 23rd = The reaction of the Wise Men to the Christmas message from Matthew 2:1-12. In one word, the reaction of the wise men to the Christmas message was Worship. You can listen to the whole sermon here.
The Chrismas message is something that most Americans are quite familiar with. God made the virgin Mary pregnant. The baby was God and would be the Savior of the world. However, we are often not responsive to this powerful, truthful message. We pray God would stir in your hearts that the message would cause you to be Obedient, Submissive, Rejoicing and Worshiping.
Someone once said that ‘a picture is worth a thousand words.’ This old and familiar phrase means that a complex idea can be conveyed with just a single still image. In many ways, I learned this on my first trip to New York City. I had often heard that New York City was so big, so fast-paced, and so diverse. But I wasn’t able to fully grasp it because I had never been to see it. Well, once I finally went I understood. That city is incredible. It really is so big and so fast-paced and so diverse. One might say you just have to be there to know what its truly like.
In many ways, God is like this. God is the most interesting and familiar subject in the world. All people everywhere think about God. They have thoughts on God, beliefs about God, opinions about God and so on. But all the different thoughts and opinions vary about God quite a bit.
One of the reasons why God is so misunderstood is because “no one has ever seen God” (John 1:18a). Therefore as sinners, humans don’t understand God properly. This is what leads to many people saying things like ‘if god was real he could just come prove himself to everyone.’ And many people say they would believe in god if they ever saw him. Well, they wouldn’t, but that is for another time and discussion.
This thought is what makes Christmas and Christianity so unique and valuable. It is unlike any other religion. Its truly different. It is not people trying to figure out God. It is God showing and explaining Himself to people. God came to us.
In John 1:1-18, John says that God became a human and that human is Jesus. Jesus is God and man. Jesus is the answer to all the worlds questions, confusions, and misunderstandings about God. Jesus Christ the God-man is the picture that is worth more than a thousand words. But He is even more than a picture. He is real life. He is a person. He is just like us. And He is God, so he is just like God. In fact, Hebrews 1 says Jesus is “the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature.”
John concludes this prologue (verses 1-18) by saying at the end of verse 18 that “he (Jesus)has made him (God) known.” The New American Standard version says it like this “he (Jesus) has explained him (God).” Jesus has made God known to the world. If you want to know what God is like, look to Jesus or look at Jesus. Jesus is the explanation of God. He is God in the flesh. He is God in a picture. As John MacArthur says “All that Jesus says and does interprets and explains who God is and what he does.”
Christmas is the culmination and fulfillment of this beautiful truth. The birth of Christ is the very moment that God became man. Galatians 4:4 says “when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His son, born of a woman.” And as Christ lived and taught our understanding of God was becoming more clear. Jesus explained Him. God in Jesus makes sense. He is no longer confusing.
This Christmas take heart that all of God and his promises have been fulfilled… in Jesus. Christmas is about God clarifying God. When the virgin Mary gave birth to Jesus the world received the greatest gift ever. God was blessing the world. God was explaining Himself to us. God was clearing up any confusion about what He is like. No other religion has anything like this. No other god is like our God, the true God. He makes sense to us now. He is great and He has people everywhere. If you this Christmas believe that Jesus is God coming to save us, then you are God’s child. If you will believe this, then you can be God’s child. As 1:12 says “to all who did receive Him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.”
I just finished reading Kevin Deyoung’s book The Hole in Our Holiness. I found the book to be very good. I was blessed by it.
On the second page of the book, Deyoung states his purpose “The hole in our holiness is that we don’t really care much about it.”
This purpose in writing is very necessary. Sadly, Christians and non-christians alike are not very concerned or even interested in being like God. The remainder of the book does a good job addressing this “hole.”
I loved the book. For the many, many on-fire young Christians coming up in the church today, I would highly recommend you read this book. Read it so that it sinks in. So that you get it. And for the hundreds of Bible verses he quotes, make sure you get those too. This book is about what God is saying to us.
Here are some of my favorite quotes from the book:
Chapter 1: “No matter what you profess, if you show disregard for Christ by giving yourself over to sin –impenitently and habitually– then heaven is not your home.” (14) “You would not be happy there [in heaven] if you are not holy here.” (15)
“The Great Commission is about holiness. God wants the world to know Jesus, believe in Jesus, and obey Jesus.” (16)
Chapter 2: J.I. Packer “In reality, holiness is the goal of our redemption.” (24)
“To find acquittal from God on the last day there must be evidence flowing out of us that grace has flowed into us.” (26)
Chapter 3: “In other words, sanctified is what we are and what we must become.” (33)
“Or to put it another way, worldliness is whatever makes sin look normal and righteousness look strange.” (37)
“If you want to know what holiness looks like, look at God.” (39)
Chapter 4: “Let’s not be afraid to land on law– never as the means of meriting justification, but as the proper expression of having received it.” (54)
“Preachers must preach the law without embarassment. Parents must insist on obedience without shame.” (55)
Chapter 5: “The truth is God’s people can be righteous– not perfectly, but truly, and in a way that genuinely pleases God.” (64)
“Love does not equal unconditional affirmation. Love entails the relentless pursuit of what is for our good.” (73)
“When we sin, our union with Christ is not in jeopardy. But our communion is.” (74)
Chapter 6: John Owen “from a self-strength, carried on by ways of self-invention, unto the end of a self-righteousness, is the soul and substance of all false religion in the world.” (80)
Chapter 7: “Christ justifies no one whom he does not also sanctify.” (99)
“Do not strive after holiness because you cower in dread of God. Strive after holiness because you are confident you already belong to God.” (102)
Chapter 8: “In moving from darkness to light, one of the first things new Gentile converts had to accept was a radically different sexual ethic.” (109)
“Don’t reason with sexual sin, just run.” (111)
Chapter 9: “The man who attempts Christianity without the church shoots himself in the foot, shoots his children in the leg, and shoots his grandchildren in the heart.” (132)
Chapter 10: (This is one of the best chapters that I have read in a book in a long time. Very good!)
“when it comes to sanctification, it’s more important where you’re going than where you are. Direction matters more than position.” (138)
“Remember, it’s the testimony of all saints that as they get closer to God they see more of their ungodliness. It’s normal to feel less holy as you become more holy.” (139)
“Repentance is a way of life for the holy child of God.” (140)
“It’s one thing to sin your heart out, mumble a few sorrys, and get on with life. It’s quite another thing to hate your sin, cry out to God, and make a spiritual U-turn. Real contrition is hard, painful work.” (140)
“[Repentance] means admitting specific wrong, recognizing your offensiveness to God, changing course, turning to Christ, and wishing with all your heart you had never made the mistake you now despise.” (141)
“Godly grief doesn’t blame parents or the schools or the government or friends or the church. Godly grief says, “Have mercy on me, O God”” (143)
I remember those Saturday mornings as a teenager. The ones that came after late Friday nights from a hard-fought high school basketball game that left me drained. The ones that came at the tail end of a tiring school week full of tests, papers and homework assignments. Those Saturday mornings when nothing sounded better then being able to sleep until about Noon. But instead I was woken up by my father’s loud voice telling me to get outside and help rake leaves. Yes, I remember those mornings when I felt like I needed more sleep, and my dad knew I did not. Sleep is like that. Sometimes you need it, and sometimes you don’t. And then sometimes you think you need it when you don’t. And sometime you don’t think you need it when you actually do.
Well recently, I ran into both of these verses from God’s Word:
“It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep.” -Psalm 127:2
“Do not love sleep, lest you come to poverty.” -Proverbs 20:13
I think it is remarkable that God says both of these things. The Bible really does address so much of life.
Sleep in our lives is about balance. If you need sleep and you are depriving yourself from sleep because you are worrying so much, then you need to take a deep breath and go to sleep. God has given it to you. So do it, rest up!
But if you sleep all the time or too much and end up neglecting duties and responsibilities in life like work and bills and house chores, then you need to get up and get busy and stop sleeping. God has told you to be faithful to your responsibilities. So, don’t love sleep and become poor.
There is a balance there. Worship God in everything you do- even your sleep!