Father’s Pure Joy

I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God. – Isaiah 61.10

I come from a faith tradition with a high view of baptism. As a child, the richness and beauty of baptism was both explained to me and modeled for me in our church. For that, I am thankful. Now, as a parent myself, whenever I seek to share my faith with my children, baptism is inevitably a part of the discussion.

Abby Kate baptismAll of this made today a really special day for our family. This afternoon, with a host of family and friends looking on, Abby Kate was baptized into Christ. I reminded her of her name – Abby Katherine – which means “father’s pure joy.” The name is a fitting one. When I learned that were having a daughter, I literally jumped out of my seat and yelled at the top of my lungs. And being the father to this beautiful young lady has been nothing short of a joyful experience for me.

Prior to each child’s birth, Sunny and I selected a text that best represented our prayers and hopes for that particular child. Abby Kate’s passage was Isaiah 61:10, a text that hangs on the walls of her room so that it might be written in the halls of her heart.

This has long been our prayer for our daughter. Not only does she bring us great joy, but more importantly, we’ve wanted her to delight greatly in her Creator. And today, our prayers came to fruition. Our daughter professed her faith in Jesus by declaring His lordship over her life.

And this father couldn’t be more joyful.

Abby Kate, today you lived into your name. I can’t imagine how your Father in heaven could love you more than I do, but I believe this to be true. On behalf of both of us, you bring us such great joy. Go to peace, my dear. You are loved deeply.

Posted in Blessings, Faith, Family, Gospel, Jesus, Kids, Sunny | 3 Comments

The Path to Wisdom

We have at our disposal today more knowledge than at any time in history. They say that more information has been produced in the last thirty years than in the previous five thousand. Today information doubles every four years. Since the advent of the Internet we have more knowledge at our fingertips than we can possibly process.

But knowledge and education is different than wisdom. What is the difference? I like this comparison: Knowledge is gathered from learning and education, while wisdom is gathered from day-to-day experiences. That means knowledge is information of which someone is aware, whereas wisdom is the ability to make correct judgments and decisions.

Our world has plenty of knowledge and education, but that doesn’t necessarily translate into wisdom. In fact, wisdom can often be learned from those who are uneducated. Take children for instance. A recent interviewer asked a group of children to give an example of wisdom. Here’s what they said:

  • Patrick, age 10, says, “Never trust a dog to watch your food.”
  • Michael, age 10, says, “When your dad is mad and asks you, ‘Do I look stupid?’ don’t answer him.”
  • Randy, 9 years of age said, “Stay away from prunes.” One has to wonder how poor Randy discovered that bit of wisdom.
  • Eileen, age 8 says, “Never try to baptize a cat.”

So, there’s a big difference between knowledge and wisdom. The Bible has much to say about wisdom. More than any other place in the Bible, the book of Proverbs is God’s guidebook to us for how we should go about acquiring wisdom.

Let’s think about three principles, three essential steps on the path to wisdom from the book of Proverbs:

  1. Step 1: The Fear of the LORD
    1. 1.7, The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.
    2. The quest for wisdom begins with fear of the Lord. What does this mean? Here are some of the key elements:
      1. Reverence – comes from understanding God’s character. Respect for God’s “otherness”. He is holy; I am not. A major point of discussion in our country right now centers around reverence and the singing of the national anthem. But what about reverence for God? The fear of the Lord produces reverence.
      2. Submission – understanding who I am in light of who God is. Knowing that He is God and I am not.
      3. Humility – closely related. The reason we don’t like submission is because we don’t like humility. But the fear of the Lord produces a sense of humility – born from knowing who God is.
      4. Moral training
        1. In the 1950s, two doctors (one, a psychologist and, the other, a psychiatrist) shared the belief that crime was primarily the product of environment. So, they embarked on a 17-year study involving thousands of hours of clinical testing of 250 inmates in DC. To their astonishment, they discovered that the cause of crime cannot be traced to one’s environment, poverty, or oppression. Instead, they realized that crime is the result of individuals making, as they put it, “wrong moral choices.” In their 1977 book, “The Criminal Personality”, they concluded that the answer to crime is a “conversion of the wrong-doer to a more responsible lifestyle.”
        2. And the Proverbs echo somewhere in the distance: The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge. Ultimately, the fear of the Lord produces a lifestyle of faithful obedience.
        3. Importance of training and educating our children at an early age:
          1. Deut. 6 – Shema Israel – and the practical application is that these commands are to be talked about at all times, all circumstances.
          2. Prov. 22.6 – Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.
        4. Fear of the Lord manifests itself in a life of obedience. That’s the path to wisdom.
  1. Step 2: Mentoring
    1. Remember our definition of wisdom: it is gathered from day-to-day experiences, which leads to the ability to make godly judgments and decisions. That means life is probably the best teacher. There are certain lessons I’ve learned in my 40 years that have been invaluable to me.
    2. But it also means that the younger we are, the less wisdom we have. It just stands to reason. The fewer experiences we have, the less wisdom we will possess.
    3. But that means that we need older, wiser voices to mentor and coach and teach us along the way. This morning – looked at Deborah. Much of the book of Proverbs operates in this same way.
    4. Proverbs 1-9 is written in the voice of a father talking to his son, imparting wisdom to him for godly living. Just listen to some of these verses and the mentoring / coaching / teaching that takes place:
      1. 1.8 – Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching…
      2. 2.1, 5 – My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you…then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.
      3. 3.1, 2 – My son, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments, for length of days and years of life and peace they will add to you.
      4. 4.1 – Hear, O sons, a father’s instruction and be attentive that you may gain insight
      5. 4.10 – Hear, my son, and accept my words, that the years of your life may be many.
      6. 4.20-21 – My son, be attentive to my words; incline your ear to my sayings. Let them not escape from your sight; keep them within your heart.
      7. 5.1 – My son, be attentive to my wisdom; incline your ear to my understanding, that you may keep discretion, and yoru lips may guard knowledge.
      8. 5.20 – Why should you be intoxicated, my son, with a forbidden woman and embrace the bosom of an adulteress?
    5. This is just the tip of the iceberg in Proverbs, coming from the first five chapters. I want to be that Dad that’s writing these Proverbs. Full of wisdom to impart to the young.
    6. We live in a youth-obsessed culture. Young athletes are given million dollar contracts before they ever touch the court / ball field. From hair dye to Botox to Viagra to wrinkle cream to plastic surgery, the race is on to be, as Rod Stewart sang, “Forever Young.” It’s hard to believe that some of our founding fathers powdered their wigs gray in order to appear older and wiser. Being “old” was “in” back then!
    7. But the church stands as a place where all people are valued, regardless of age, status, gender, etc.
      1. Older generation – you have a responsibility to mentor & teach
      2. Younger generation – you have a responsibility to listen & learn
      3. But we can’t accomplish these responsibilities without each other.
  1. Step 3: Discipline
    1. Nobody likes discipline. But it’s necessary. Whether you’re training dogs or raising children, discipline is necessary.
    2. We live in undisciplined, unrestrained times. For 40 years, Burger King’s slogan was “Have It Your Way” and that’s a good description of our culture. But this seems to be something that’s always plagued humanity. Throughout the book of Judges, there’s a line that comes up repeatedly: And everyone did what was right in his own eyes. With that phrase, the Bible paints a picture of an undisciplined, reckless people.
    3. To be a Christian is to live a disciplined life. Disciple is literally one who disciplines himself / herself under the teaching of another. To be a disciple of Jesus is to subject yourself to his instruction, his leadership.
    4. He who heeds discipline shows the way to life, but whoever ignores correction leads others astray. – Prov. 10.17
      1. Simon Peter – Seems predisposed to be able to withstand the Lord’s discipline. Matt. 16, Confesses Jesus’ identity as the Son of God. The very next episode, he receives the rebuke, “Get behind me, Satan!” Needed to be disciplined, corrected. That’s not harsh – in fact, Simon Peter would say, “I’m glad the Lord loved me enough to discipline me!”
      2. Some could be said of Paul – on the road to Damascus, the Lord gets his attention. Disciplines him, but graciously re-directs him to become an evangelist.
    5. James Packer, “The opposite of wisdom is folly, meaning the short-term self-indulgence which marks out the person who doesn’t think about long-term priorities…but lives on a day-to-day basis asking, ‘What is the most fun thing to do now?’”
    6. The disciplined life asks a fundamentally different question: “What can I do for the Kingdom of God right now?”
    7. 3.11, My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the Lord reproves him who he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.
    8. 6.22-23, The iniquities of the wicked ensnare him, and he is held fast in the cords of his sin. He dies for lack of discipline, and because of his great folly he is led astray.

 

Posted in Culture, Devotional, Faith, Proverbs, Scripture | Tagged , | Leave a comment

The Santa Claus Break-Up

The other day I was at the pool with our youngest, age 10. While Jackson was swimming, a little girl lost a tooth in the pool. For about 10 minutes, every kid in the pool was putting on their goggles and diving down to the pool floor in the hopes of finding the lost tooth. I bet Jackson dove down two dozen times as part of the search party. But in the end, nobody ever found the tooth. For all I know, it’s still on the bottom of the pool.

As Jackson and I were leaving, the girl’s mother had her arms wrapped around the child, trying to console her. “Maybe the Tooth Fairy will still come and see you tonight,” she said desperately. Since I was the only adult within earshot at the time, the Mom looked up as she was talking and gave me one of those knowing raised-eyebrow-head-nods as if to enlist me to the cause as well. Realizing that I suddenly had a part to play, I said, “Yeah, I hear the Tooth Fairy doesn’t even take your tooth anymore; she just leaves money.” Not great, but the best I could do on short notice. The little girl didn’t even look up at me, so I quickly looked to the mother with my own raised-eyebrow expression, silently asking, “Good enough?” She thanked me with a smile and I walked to the truck with the satisfaction that I had played such a key role in helping to maintain the child’s innocence.

When we got in the truck, Jackson casually announced, “Dad, I don’t believe in magic anymore.”

“What are you talking about?”

“You know, magic stuff like the Tooth Fairy.”

“Really?”

“Yeah, that’s just the parents giving money to their kids.”

For years, we’ve encouraged our kids to ask us anything and we promised that our answers would be as honest as possible. Our older children have taken us up on this and we had some version of this conversation with each of them independently. But neither of them ever declared their lack of faith so brazenly. Jackson, being the youngest, wasn’t exactly asking me anything. He was telling me.

I said, “Well, that’s an interesting theory.”

Jackson rolled his eyes. “Dad. It’s not a theory. There’s no such thing as the Tooth Fairy. Right?”

There it is! I thought. There’s still that little bit of doubt. He still has to ask in order to be sure. But we promised honesty. So I gave him an honest answer. “Right,” I said. “There’s no Tooth Fairy.”

“Good,” he replied. “I always thought it was creepy that somebody else was coming into my room at night anyway.”

That’s a really good point, I thought.

But Jackson continued. “I don’t believe in the Easter Bunny either. That’s just parents, too.”

I sat there silently.

“Isn’t that right?”

Again, an honest answer for an honest question. “Yes, son. There’s no such thing as the Easter Bunny either.”

We sat in silence for a long moment. This is the sound of his childhood dying, I thought.

Finally Jackson took a deep breath and said, “I also don’t believe in Ollie.”

This photo provided by CCA&B, LLC, shows “The Elf on the Shelf: A Christmas Tradition,” with the Elf for the shelf. There is one hot item this holiday season that won’t be resting under the Christmas tree. It will be on a shelf _ watching you. (AP Photo/CCA&B, LLC)

Ollie is the name of our “elf” who visits us every year in the weeks leading up to Christmas. For as far back as I can remember, Ollie comes to our house the first night our Christmas tree is up. By day, he looks like an ordinary doll, one you might find on the shelves of your favorite department store. But at night, Ollie comes to life and magically teleports back to the North Pole to report all your deeds, either good or bad, directly to Santa Claus himself. Or something like that. After giving his naughty-or-nice report, Ollie rides a wave of magical pixie dust to arrive back to our house by sunrise. Our proof of this 10,000 mile roundtrip adventure is that Ollie is in a different location in our home each morning.

I said, “So, how do you think Ollie moves around the house? You don’t think he flies to the North Pole each night?”

Jackson said, “I saw the box that y’all keep him in. Mom keeps it hidden in your closet.”

I sat there silently, thinking to myself, When were you going through my closet?

“Ollie’s not real, is he, Dad?”

“Nope. Not real.”

Another long silence ensued.

“So, that’s it,” I said. “You don’t believe in the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny, or Ollie. Is there anything else you want to tell me?”

Jackson paused. “Well…I guess that just leaves Santa.”

“Yep,” I said. “Just Santa.”

We had come right here to the brink and yet Jackson was still a bit hesitant. It’s like he was trying to break up with me about Santa, only he couldn’t find the right words. Finally, he just went for it.

“Dad, Santa isn’t real. Is he?”

“Nope. He’s not.”

That’s when I told Jackson what I told his older brother and sister: Santa Claus is just a game that parents play with their kids. When the kids are really little, it’s a lot of fun because of that sense of “magic.” But as the kids get older, the game gets harder and harder. I told him it always bothered me that “Santa” got credit for all the cool gifts anyway. “Honestly, I’m glad you know now,” I told him. “It’ll make things so much easier on your mother and me this Christmas.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, now that the cat’s out of the bag, I don’t have to buy you all those Santa presents anymore!”

“Oh,” Jackson said.

Another long pause.

“Dad?”

“Yes, son?”

“We can still play the game, can’t we? Even though I know? I mean, it’s still a fun game.”

And something just felt right about the idea of knowing and yet still playing the game. I wanted to tell my son that I don’t believe in magic anymore either, but I still believe in wonder and I still believe in hope. And that’s what the game has always been about for me anyway.

“Absolutely, son. We can still play the game.”

Jackson smiled.

“Besides,” I told him. “Your older brother and sister still think Santa is real.”

I know, I know. But don’t tell him yet. It makes the game so much more fun.

Posted in Christmas, Faith, Family, Hope, Kids | 1 Comment

The Fear of the Lord

Whether it’s television, movies, or literature, the oldest trick in the book is the surprise ending, the twist at the end that changes everything. You know how it works: the character you thought was the hero actually turns out to be the villain or the twist at the end makes you question everything you’ve seen and heard up to that point.

The end makes all the difference.

I guess we could say that idea originates in the Bible. The book of Ecclesiastes ends with a “twist” that puts the entire book in perspective.

One commentator writes, “Ecclesiastes is one of the most puzzling books of the Bible. The theme of the book appears in the prologue: ‘Meaningless! Meaningless! Everything is meaningless!’ The general conclusion comes in the epilogue, which speaks of fearing God and keeping his commandments because we must one day give account to him. The meaning and purpose of the book must be discovered within this framework.”

Ecclesiastes 12:13-14

Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.

Ecclesiastes has traditionally been attributed to Solomon. Solomon says that the whole duty of man is to fear God and keep his commands. This is life’s meaning, purpose; but the twist is that Solomon has been crying out about the meaningless of life up until the very end!

Fear – Hebrew scholars say that the word is used two different ways:

  1. The anticipation of harm – a sense of dread. This is the typical way we think of fear. In 3:10, Adam says to God, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.” Obviously there are times when “fearing the Lord” includes this kind of fearful anticipation.
  2. The positive feeling of awe and reverence for God, which may be expressed in piety or formal worship.

The children of Israel feared God – they feared being harmed, feared that God would “break out against them” (Ex. 19). But their fear never moved to the positive sense of awe and reverence for God, because it wasn’t too long afterward they were bowing down before a golden calf.

The Pharisees were guilty of this same fear-based religion. Second Temple Judaism was marked by a tremendous amount of fear – fear of exile led to the stringent practices we see in the Pharisees of Jesus’ day. In Matthew 23, Jesus says that the Pharisees “preach but do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger.” The Pharisees used fear to keep people in line, which is one of the reasons they had such a problem with Jesus. He wasn’t afraid of them.

Should we have a healthy appreciation for God’s holiness? Absolutely. But the fear of the Lord doesn’t mean that we live our lives quaking with fear. That is not the best motivation for being a Christian. God desires that we have an understanding of His love and that we come to Him in love. That is the best motivation for following Him.

So what, then, does it mean to fear the Lord? The Bible uses the word “fear” over 300 times in relation to God, so we make a huge mistake if we downplay it. What does it mean?

Put simply, it means to trust Him.

One resource puts it this way: “The fear of God is an attitude of respect, a response of reverence and wonder. It is the only appropriate response to our Creator and Redeemer.”

And this is Solomon’s big twist at the end of Ecclesiastes.

The book of Ecclesiastes is a systematic attack on the meaningless of everything if one does not first fear and obey the Lord. Or as we sing sometimes, to trust and obey Him.

Ecclesiastes 1:2

“Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher. “Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.”

Solomon begins with a pretty bold statement, one that is depressing apart from the ending. Everything is meaningless! Solomon doesn’t offer up any explanation at the beginning of this sermon, he just states the fact that everything is completely meaningless.

And the rest of the book is a deconstruction of the things that typically give meaning to life.

Skipping ahead, Solomon says that the pursuit of wisdom is meaningless.

Ecclesiastes 1:12-14

I, the Teacher, was king over Israel in Jerusalem. I devoted myself to study and to explore by wisdom all that is done under heaven. What a heavy burden God has laid on men! I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind.

He goes on to say that he devoted himself to acquiring wisdom, but he calls this meaningless, chasing after the wind.

(I used to think about this verse when I was learning Greek and Hebrew in school. Meaningless!)

Have you ever tried to learn some new skill?

Had to learn something new in business, some new strategy that you needed to implement to grow your industry?

Have you ever tried to figure something out, worked hard to study something in school?

How about studying God’s Word to try and learn and grow to become a better Christian?

Solomon says that is all meaningless, unless we fear God and learn to obey Him.

Then Solomon goes on to say that the pursuit of pleasure and happiness, even laughter, is meaningless.

Ecclesiastes 2:1-2

I thought in my heart, “Come now, I will test you with pleasure to find out what is good. But that also proved meaningless. “Laughter,” I said, “is foolish. And what does pleasure accomplish?”

Medically, we know laughter is really good for us. Have you heard the phrase, “Laughter is the best medicine?” The reason that’s a popular saying is because there’s some truth to it. Laughter strengthens your immune system, boosts mood, diminishes pain, and protects you from the damaging effects of stress. Doctors say that nothing works faster or more dependably to bring your mind and body back into balance than a good laugh. It lightens your burdens, inspires hope, connects you to others, and keeps you grounded. It also helps you to release anger and be more forgiving.

Laughter is really, really good for us. It’s hardly meaningless.

But again, the ending is essential. Laughter IS meaningless unless it is accompanied by the fear of the Lord and the desire to live in obedience to Him.

Solomon then turns his attention on work and labor.

Ecclesiastes 2:17-21

So I hated life, because the work that is done under the sun was grievous to me. All of it is meaningless, a chasing after the wind. I hated all the things I had toiled for under the sun, because I must leave them to the one who comes after me. And who knows whether he will be a wise man or a fool? Yet he will have control over all the work into which I have poured my effort and skill under the sun. This too is meaningless. So my heart began to despair over all my toilsome labor under the sun. For a man may do his work with wisdom, knowledge and skill, and then he must leave all he owns to someone who has not worked for it. This too is meaningless and a great misfortune.

At this point, we might start thinking that Solomon needs a hug. He says that even work and toil are meaningless. And his proof of this is that one day we have to turn over all of our projects to someone else. We have to turn over all that we’ve worked for and give it to someone who might be wise or might be foolish!

This proves the danger of proof-texting, of grabbing a passage of Scripture and reading it outside of its context. If you just opened up your Bible and read this passage, it might lead you to quit your job, to lay around the house all day and do nothing — which are the kinds of things that are condemned elsewhere in the Bible!

So, what is Solomon saying? Again, the ending is essential. His argument only makes sense when you hear it in totality. He’s saying that work and toil isn’t a sufficient goal for human life. Unless accompanied by the fear of the Lord, a life of work and toil is essentially meaningless.

So, what does it mean to fear the Lord?

Again, it means to trust and obey Him. To trust Him so much that nothing else matters; to trust Him to the degree that everything else is absolutely meaningless, a chasing after the wind.

 

And this life of trusting obedience is demonstrated in the NT church:

Acts 9:31

Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace. It was strengthened; and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it grew in numbers, living in the fear of the Lord.

This morning, one of our members talked to me after church, talked about fear. He said, “You know what I always tell myself about fear? I’ll say, ‘Fear God and nothing else.’ That’s the good kind of fear.”

Indeed.

Posted in Devotional, Faith, God, Obedience, Scripture | 2 Comments

The New Sound of Nashville: Jason Isbell

A few weeks ago, I lamented that so much of the mainstream country music coming out of Nashville these days simply isn’t country music. Pop music sung with a twang and a drawl is still pop music. And for longtime country music fans like myself, this is a problem.

But thank goodness for guys like Jason Isbell.

Isbell made a name for himself 15 years ago as a member of the Drive-By Truckers. Since leaving the band, Isbell went solo, went through rehab for substance abuse, and has emerged as one of this generation’s best singer-songwriters. Although most of his songs are not autobiographical, it feels like they are, as if he’s lived the stories he sings. Call it believability; call it street cred; call it masterful storytelling; whatever it is, it makes for a more full-bodied, “authentic” country music experience.

Take Isbell’s 2013 masterpiece, Southeastern. Following Isbell’s 2012 rehab stint, he emerged clear eyed and focused with a work of art borne out of a period of life he compares to a “dungeon.” And this liberated perspective sustains Southeastern though some of its bleaker moments. I still contend that album opener “Cover Me Up” is the most romantic song I’ve ever heard. And “Traveling Alone” sounds like the fog lifting. When the album closes with the line “My lonely heart beats relatively easy”, you find yourself hoping it’s one of those autobiographical lines.

Even though Isbell cut his teeth as part of an alt-country Southern rock troupe, his artistry embodies the new sound of Nashville’s indie country scene. That’s the not-so-subtle message of his newest album title, “The Nashville Sound.” After sweeping the Americana Music Awards with his past two solo recordings, Isbell has returned with his backing band, the 400 Unit. In fact, “Americana” may be a truer label for Isbell than “country”, given the amped up sound on several of the album’s tracks. But Isbell largely stays in the narrative-driven roots-country lane he’s been in for the past five years. I dare you not to get a little misty-eyed when listening to “If We Were Vampires.”

Just don’t expect to hear anything so heartfelt or affecting on mainstream country airwaves.

 

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Better Angels: Flag Day 2017

The lesson my kids learned today in D.C. — “As Americans, we don’t shoot one another over our political differences.”

Today we were scheduled to tour the White House with Martha Brooks, the wife of our congressman, Mo Brooks. She arrived and apologized for being a few minutes late. She had just learned about the news we’ve now been following all day: a gunman opened fire at a baseball field in Alexandria, VA early this morning, injuring House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, several congressional staffers, and two Capitol police officers. Mo was among the group of GOP congressmen the shooter allegedly targeted. Thankfully, Mo was unharmed and he was even able to give aid to the injured.

A half hour after all of this went down, Martha met us at the Visitor’s Gate at the White House.

We told her that we’d be fine, that we totally understood if she felt she needed to be elsewhere. Instead, she graciously stayed by our side for the duration of our tour, offering insight and remaining especially attentive to our children’s questions while her phone blew up with texts and calls. Honestly, I don’t know how she was able to do it. Her composure was something wondrous to behold.

One of the Secret Service agents stationed in the East Room recognized Martha and came up to console her. She thanked him for his concern, saying with a smile, “Other than the fact that someone tried to shoot my husband this morning, I’m fine!”

The Bybee family with Martha Brooks, Flag Day, 2017

At the conclusion of our tour, we snapped this picture with Mrs. Brooks. Yesterday, she hosted us on an amazing tour of the Capitol. Mo took the kids with him on the House floor and they even had the chance to cast a few votes and rub elbows with some other congressmen. By this morning, Mo Brooks was a trending topic on Twitter, his quick thinking and heroic action one of the bright spots in an ugly news story that says much about our current political climate.

You hear about these kinds of things from time to time, but it was surreal to be so close to the situation, to see the “real” people being impacted by the events that make headlines. It was also difficult to see our children confronting the reality of evil in such a visceral way. It didn’t make sense to them. “Why would someone want to shoot our elected officials?” Not exactly the kinds of conversations we were anticipating when we planned this family vacation to the nation’s capital. Try explaining this kind of garbage to a nine-year-old.

But in the end, as the better angels of our nature prevail, we remember that our fellow citizens — even the ones with whom we most strongly disagree — are just that: fellow citizens. They are fellow sons and daughters, sisters and brothers. Today I’m grateful for people like Mo and Martha Brooks, individuals who not only represent me as a North Alabamian, but more importantly, as an American. Mo, your dedication to your country and your fellow citizens is evident. Thank you for your service. And, Martha, my children will not soon forget your strength and dignity in adversity. Nor will I. People like you renew my hope in the national ideals we hold so dear.

Praying for you all and for all those injured in today’s shooting.

Posted in Family, Kids, Politics, Terrorism | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Back Porch Eschatology Is The Best Eschatology

While grilling some chicken last night, Jackson brought me his Bible. (He wanted a “real” Bible the other day, rather than a “kids” Bible, so we stopped and let him pick one out.) He had been reading Genesis 1 and he had a question about creation. Our conversation about creation prompted an exchange about eternity and Jackson said, “I think heaven will be like going back to the Garden of Eden.” I said, “Well, in many ways, there’s some truth to that. Things will probably be something like they were in the Garden. But God says that the end isn’t a return to the Garden but instead it’s life in the eternal city, the new Jerusalem.”

Jackson sat there blinking at me.

So we read through Revelation 21&22 and did a little “new heavens, new earth” theology together. I told him that heaven wasn’t some far away disembodied existence where we float around on clouds and ride raindrops and all of that stuff. Instead, God promises to renew and redeem the earth, to restore it back to its originally good purposes. So when humanity made a mess of the creation God deemed to be “good”, He didn’t give up on those purposes. Rather, He’s working toward the achievement of those good purposes once more. That’s eternity, the place where things are “good” once again. The new heavens, the new earth, and the new Jerusalem all point to the work of God who will make “all things new” (Rev. 21:5).

Jackson said, “I like the sound of that.”

I do, too.

Back porch eschatology is the best kind of eschatology.

Posted in Eschatology, Faith, God, Kids, Scripture, Theology | Leave a comment