Saturday, June 18, 2011

Why My Father's A Paradox (And Why I Love It)

I’m the type of guy who likes to figure people out. I like knowing what motivates people to do what they do. But there’s one person I’ve never been able to put into any sort of box. It’s my father.

I’m told that when my parents were engaged, my mother made the comment that she just couldn’t figure Dad out. My grandpa, was present, said that they’d been trying unsuccessfully for nineteen years. And while I can’t quite figure him out, I’ve come to love, admire and respect the God-honoring paradoxy of my father.
Here’s a brief examination of that paradox:

Hands-on scholar: The same person who gave a huge stack of commentaries for my graduation barely reads at all. If I see my dad reading anything other than the Bible I know it must be a pretty amazing book.

In one sense, Dad’s not a scholar. He doesn’t like systematic theology, books by Doctor Reverend _____, PhD hold no interest to him and “much study is weariness” is his education motto. But he’s very much the theologian. While he would never use these terms, my father was the first to introduce me to soteriology, eschatology, anthropology and so on. For as long as I can remember, I’ve seen my dad start every morning with long, intense study in the Word. In short, he’s a Proverbs theologian. He likes things that are practical and real. No fancy hypotheticals or long winded speeches about stuff that’ll never help you in life.

What it’s taught me: As someone who does like systematic theology and books by Doctor Reverend ________, PhD, my dad has helped keep me balanced. He taught that it’s all about the Bible. He taught me to reverence, love and apply God’s Word in a way that really mattered.

Laidback perfectionist: My dad’s a very laidback person. He’s the type that’ll do things at the last minute and then even if things don’t go quite right he’s not one to get upset about. But, he’s certainly not some chair rocking ho-hum couch potato.

My father likes things to be done right. For him, right doesn’t necessarily mean by the book. Right means that it works and works well. He’s practical remember. As a kid, making something dad approvable was one of the biggest motivates for excellence. Yet, Dad’s not one get all bent out of shape if something isn’t perfect.

What it’s taught me: Unlike the first paradox, this is a trait I shall with my dad. Follow his footsteps in this area has taught to do the best with what I have; to strive for excellence without fretting about the results.

Romantic rationalist: There’s been very few times that I’ve seen my dad display a large amount of emotion. He’ll chuckle rather than roar with laughter; smile rather than giddily grin; frown rather than yell; tear-up rather than sob. Remember, I’ve already established that he’s laidback and practical.

Yet, he’s very passionate about certain things. He’s passionate about God and how awesome He is. He’s passionate about righteousness and justice. He’s passionate about seeing God exalted and the Bible lived out in every areas of life, from work to politics. He’s passionate about serving other and teaching people the Truth.

The only times I’ve ever seen my dad cry was when he was talking about the love of God. So, while he can be reserved and non-sentimental, my dad still gets excited about good and holy things. The result is a passionate devotion to godly thing without the weight of emotionalism and sentimentalism.

What it’s taught me: I’ve learned that there are things that should excite and thrill me. These like the Gospel and God’s character ought to initiate an emotional response. But this thrilling doesn’t have to be about feelings and emotionalism. Rather, these emotions are about a deep and devouring love for God.

In short, I love my father and I’m so very grateful that God gave me dad who loves Him and was devoted to teaching me from the Word. My prayer is that one day I will be such a father.

Happy Father’s Day!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

3 Reasons Not to Go to Church

1. Because there's good preaching, music and fellowship.

So, it's Sunday morning. You've had your coffee; you're dressed up with your Bible in hand. You're ready to go. But what exactly is that you're looking forward to?

Lately, I've been rather convicted about my own attitude toward church. Though I don't normally think of it this way, my motives are really quite selfish. It certainly sounds spiritual to love good preaching, good music and good fellowship. After all, aren't we supposed to like those things?

But what's at the heart of this attitude? A consumer mindset. An idea that the local church is about what I can get out of it and how it helps me. It's about what I can get out of it rather than what I can put into it. But is this really the biblical function of the local church? To be a spiritual filling station where believers come to get fueled, washed and pampered? Hardly. The local church is where the mission of the universal Church and the mission of the individual believer come together and work themselves out practically. In short, it is at the epicenter of the Christian life and mission.

2. To be blessed.

Now, don't get me wrong. I believe that if our approach is proper we will be blessed and spiritually nourished. However, I don't think that should be our primary goal. Scripturally, we are continually commanded to look out for the spiritual wellbeing of our brothers and sisters.

When we go to church, our goal should be to see to it that others are spiritually blessed, become closer to God and are edified. I believe that if we make that our goal and priority then we too will be blessed, edified and brought closer to God. The main difference is emphasis. On the one hand it's about what I can get out of church. On the other hands, it's about glorifying God by serving other in the context of the local church.

3. To listen and leave.

But here's the most common one. We all have a tendency to come into church, listen to the sermon, shank a few hands and then peel out. The local church is seen as a Sunday (and maybe Wednesday) thing. But if you look at the Scripture you'll see that the Church, and therefore her local embodiments, are central to God's plan and mission. So shouldn't it be central to ours?

If the local church is primal to God's mission, should it also be a central theme of our prayers, efforts, ministry, time and energy?