A Father’s Blessing, Part 2

All of chapter 49 of Genesis records the individual blessings Jacob gave his sons. Each one is an example of a father’s careful observation of his son’s character and potential.

“These are the twelve tribes of Israel, and this is what their father said as he told his sons good-bye. He blessed each one with an appropriate message.” Genesis 49:28

Blessings were serious business in Old Testament families. What about today? Could we make a huge impact on our children if we made it a point to voice a parental blessing as part of our regular family life? Authors Gary Smalley and John Trent have written extensively on this subject and their books have a lot of practical suggestions.

One change we can make in our family thinking is to expand the way we treat occasions like birthdays, graduations, holidays, weddings, and other special events. How can we add to these occasions an intentional moment of blessing? Can we find a way to include an “appropriate message” and if so, where can we start?

Some blessings involve tangible gifts (that’s probably where the idea of giving gifts originated), but most blessings are precious, thoughtful and truthful words. A parent’s heart speaks into his or her child’s heart. We often subconsciously attempt to do this by the cards we choose to give. We find one with a message that seems to “fit” how we feel or what we see in our child. These messages can become blessings.

I read about a father who decided that he wanted to influence his kid’s lives on the occasion when each one left home. In his case one left for the military and the other two left for college. In the days before each child’s departure he wrote a small note where he told them it was his “wallet blessing.” On the paper he wrote out his observations regarding their character qualities, his hopes for their future, and a verse of Scripture that reminded him of them. He gave them with little fanfare; and in the middle of all their departure details, he wasn’t sure if the notes had made any impact.

Almost a decade after giving out these blessings, he asked his sons about the notes during a lunch together. Each boy immediately produced his note from his wallet. One had a Xerox copy because the original had gotten worn from use. The men shared a bonding moment around the table that day. Blessings make a difference in our kids’ lives. They are valuable expressions of a loving parent’s heart.

This summer I intend to introduce a letter writing process called, “Letters from Dad” where we will write four intentional letters; one to our wife, children, parents and one for after we depart this world. I hope to include dozens of men from the church and our friends in the community. Imagine the impact we can have on our families.

Then in the fall, we will have a special emphasis called, “To Save a Family.” There are a lot of great things happening at KGBC, hold on for a wild ride.

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Only 40 Days to Live

At the Men’s Breakfast last weekend, Terry Rae, Executive Director of Africa for Christ, gave a challenging talk, hitting the hearts of men. He asked a blunt question, “What would you do if you knew you had only 40 days to live?” I thought a hard sell evangelistic message was on the way, but I really appreciated the insight he shared directed toward men. He pointed our attention to Jesus, between his resurrection and his ascension… 40 days, and what Jesus did with the time he had left.

Jesus expressed love to people: he found Mary at the tomb and expressed love for her and the others. She did not recognize him at first; she thought he may be the gardener (John 20:14-16). How often do we not see those around us who are in need of an encouraging word, a thoughtful deed, or a random act of kindness? Men need to express love to those around them, especially to your wife and children. Rae said that the essence of love is giving. If we open our hearts to God’s love, then we will be able to receive it and share it with others.

Jesus healed broken relationships: Peter had denied Jesus in the temple courtyard, something he strongly denied he would ever do. Once the predicted event happened, Peter was in turmoil over what he had done (Matthew 26:33-34). After the resurrection, Jesus finds the disciples fishing and invited them to the shore for a little breakfast in Galilee. Peter was asked if he loved Jesus, three times, and he was able to be restored into good relationship with his Savior (John 21:15, 16, 17). What relationships do you have in our life that need extra attention and reconciliation?

Jesus left a memory box: As the two men were on the road to Emmaus, Jesus caught up to them and asked the topic of their discussion. They did not recognize Jesus all day, until the time of the evening meal, when Jesus took the bread and blessed it. Then they recognized their guest to be Jesus. The memory box was the Lord’s Supper, to be done as often as we remember the sacrifice of Christ (Luke 22:19, 1 Corinthians 11:24, 25). It is a memorial. For men, husbands and fathers… what will you leave to your family? What legacy are you building in your children? For what will your family remember of you after you’re gone? May I recommend a letter? This summer I intend to challenge each of us to become letter-writers; one each to your wife, children, parents and finally one to be left behind when you leave this world. I’ll share more about writing letters this spring.

Jesus spoke about the kingdom: He had a message of life after death, and he spoke about declaring this message throughout the whole world… it is called the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20, Acts 1:8). We must also ask how we are personalizing this final word of Christ, and how we might help others to understand the reality of the Christian faith.

Jesus paid out debts: On a spiritual level Jesus sacrificed himself in order to bring salvation to a lost and dying world (2 Corinthians 5:20-21). Practically, how can we make sure what we leave behind to our family is debt free? I dare say this will also involve sacrifice of our personal desires for more toys and pleasures. We need to also pass on to our kids the passion to stay out of debt… a worthy goal having been through Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University! (see Proverbs 22:6, 7)

Next time I intend to address the issue of a father’s blessing on his children. Have a great week, our next get together is on Saturday, March 27 at 7:30.

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A Warning From the Past

During the Exodus, Moses and the children of Israel escaped the slavery of the Egyptians. As they traveled toward the Promised Land, they witnessed a lot of miraculous things.

  1. God parted the waters of the Red Sea and the Egyptian army was wiped out.
  2. God guided them with a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night.
  3. God directed their path as Moses was out in front of them, leading.
  4. God provided food to eat; manna from heaven and water from a rock.

They were surrounded by unmatched privileges. God was constantly in their presence. His working in their midst was evident. In fact, I think these people should have been the epitome of godliness, if for no other reason than out of gratitude for what God had done for them, but they weren’t. The apostle Paul wrote about these people, “Yet God was not pleased with most of them, and their bodies were scattered in the wilderness” (1 Corinthians 10:5). As they journeyed from Egypt to the Promised Land, they played games with their lives and with their God.

I believe this is dangerous business.

Just what happened to God’s own people? What caused their bodies to be scattered in the wilderness? Paul tells us the reason for their tragedy and downfall, “The people celebrated with feasting and drinking, and they indulged in pagan revelry” (1 Corinthians 10:7). Many of you were in college; doesn’t this sound like a fraternity party?

What was the real problem? I submit to you that:

  1. They lost their sense of wonder and awe in God’s presence.
  2. They lost their wonder; the supernatural became commonplace.
  3. They were good at God-talk (which was plentiful), but they lacked a reverence and respect for God.
  4. They became calloused to the divine.
  5. They became indifferent in their values.
  6. They compromised their religious beliefs.
  7. They forgot their heritage.
  8. They were apathetic about spiritual matters and God’s Law.
  9. They did not mean business with God.
  10. They had a relationship with God that became a farce.

Never in the history of the world has one country been so blessed. Sound familiar? Now take a look at America. We are inundated with churches, Christian radio and television programs, Christian magazines and books, Christian schools, Christian conferences and seminars. Never has the potential for religious instruction been so prominent. Our churches should be overflowing with godly men and women intent on fulfilling the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20) and the Great Commandment (Matthew 22:36-40). We cannot blame it on the government for taking God out of the public school; remember that we are the ones who should be salt and light in the world, making a difference in our society.

But are we? All too often, Christians walk down the same paths of carnality as these ancient Israelites. Non-believers can’t tell the difference between church people and anyone else in society. We make light of what we should honor. We wink at that which we should weep. We play with what we should take quite seriously. And our families suffer the effects of our shallow faith.

The children of Israel serve as a warning to every believer. Heed the warning of Paul who tells us that God was not pleased with them. Pleasing God should be the desire of each follower of Christ, to please the author and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). Let’s take God seriously.

What’s Your Epitaph?

I’ve just started reading a book by Bob Buford, called Halftime. Here are some introductory remarks:

 

The subject of death is never a fun one, but I wanted to ask a probing question. When it’s your time, and you’ve left this life, what would you want on your tombstone? What would you select as your epitaph? As we look into this question, let’s put it in the context of Matthew 13:3-9.

 

The seed that fell on the good soil grew and produced a crop one hundred fold. In business, that would be considered a pretty good investment! St. Augustine said that asking yourself the question of your own legacy (what do I want to be remembered for?) is the beginning of adulthood. An epitaph is more than a fancy slogan or wishful personal motto. It says something about who you are, down to the essence of your personality and your soul.

 

We are spiritual beings, not merely machines or animals. God has set eternity in our hearts (Ecclesiastes 3:11) and it tells that we can have purpose and leave a destiny. For believers, we exchange this life for something much greater.

 

In today’s parable, which soil do you desire to be? Only the good soil is free from mediocrity and apathy. The desire is to have this life count for something, and to pass it on to the next generation… to our kids. When we look at life as an adult, it’s almost as if we are at halftime. Halftime is many sports is when we get to rest a bit, but more importantly we evaluate the first half and strategize for the second half. The first half of life we don’t have much time to think about how we will spend the rest of our lives. We rushed through college, fell in love and got married, started a career, climbed upward, and acquired stuff that made life more comfortable.

 

You played hard during the first half, and might have been winning, but the older you get, keeping score does not offer the thrill it once did. You’ve taken some hits, and you have come to halftime with some pain: serious pain, like divorce, disappointment, too much alcohol, not enough time for your kids, guilt, loneliness, trapped in bad habits. You started with good intentions but got blindsided along the way.

 

Even if your pain is slight, you’re smart enough to know that you can’t play the second half the same way you did as the first half. We don’t fear the end of the game, but you want to make sure you finish well. The first half is your quest for success; the second half is your search for significance. It’s the second half of life that causes us to ask questions about legacy.

 

Athletes will tell you, the game is won or lost in the second half. It’s possible to make first half mistakes, be down at halftime, and still come out a winner, as long as you make changes in the second half. You won’t win by playing the same way as the first half.

 

Some people never get to the second half; they never grow up. Some don’t even know the second half exists. Once you turn 35, your life is not set toward aging and decline. Life is not over at 40. There are still things that you can do to leave a legacy worth remembering. You can move from success to significance. I trust that the Men of Steel can help you create an epitaph for your life, and a legacy for your family.

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Living in the Tombs

In Mark 5, we are told a story about a man living among the tombs, with an unclean spirit (Mark 5:2). He was a danger to himself and others, no one could bind him (Mark 5:3). No one was able to subdue him or bring him under control (Mark 5:4). He was day and night in the tombs, constantly crying out and gashing himself Mark 5:5). This guy was in a mess. No one cared about him; just chain him up somewhere out of sight. Out of sight, out of mind.

When you really think about it, we are not much different. We are all bound by something that’s killing us. We drink too much, smoke too much, eat too much, play to much, are entertained too much… name your vice. Men today have all the toys they can afford (and lot of stuff they can’t afford) and often play games with their lives and families. I’m convinced that countless men today are living in the “tombs” and need to be set free. I’m talking about living in an inner world that leads to death; the world that is just behind the mask that we put on.

You can kill a person with your words, your attitude, and even your absence. You can kill a relationship without any other weapon than your mouth. You can destroy it without exploding a bomb; you can destroy relationships by neglect.

If we are a people living among the tombs, then we are surrounded by death, and much of it is death that we have inflicted upon ourselves (Mark 5:5). We have made poor choices and have not invested our time into our families. We have pulled back from our wives and sought for intimacy online. We have gotten into the habit of gambling, or drinking, or pornography, or spending… thinking these are what real life is all about.

How many women are in counseling offices every week because of what husbands have said or something they did; broken promises, betrayed trust, devastated dreams, broken lives?

  1. How many men do you know who are out of control?
  2. How many chains have you broken (Mark 5:4)?
  3. How many people are bleeding from wounds that you inflicted?
  4. How many of your children are going to need serious pastoral counseling?
  5. How many people are suicidal or messed up in their minds because of the lies you told?
  6. How much death and destruction have you caused in your own life?
  7. What tombs are you living in?
  8. What steps can you take to make things right?
  9. Commitments with which are you finally going to follow through?

The only way to combat death is to bring something back to life; resurrection. Just as it happened with Jesus, it can happen with every area in your life. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). In Christ we can have the life Jesus promised (John 10:10). Trust Him to bring you back under control and restore your life, your family, your kids, your marriage.

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