Love Without Fear

The ancient Israelites loved God. All you have to do is read the scriptures. Check out the psalms! The love is obvious. God loved them and they loved God.

We still treasure the Old Testament. It’s the holy word of God! That’s why it’s in the Holy Bible.

We also read in the Old Testament about all the rules the ancient Israelites had to keep. We can see that they had to make sacrifices to atone for the times they fell short or messed up. When there are a lot of rules, and a lot of people judging you, it can make you fearful. It can even make you start to fear God, no matter how much you love Him.

That’s why I think God said, “This has to change. I’m going to change my relationship with my beloved children. I’m going to make a new covenant with them. I will send my Son to pay for every transgression of every rule, ever. Then my children will be free to love me out of respect and gratitude. There will be no more  fear.”

That’s why my love for God is respectful and reverential. I love Him because of what He did for me, but I am not afraid of Him. I know I am forgiven.

That’s the change. That’s the New Covenant. Our love has changed, so for the New Covenant Christian, the way we do things has also changed.

We see an example of this in the Book of Acts. There was a dispute about circumcision. Peter was preaching in favor of requiring new male converts to be circumcised, and Paul emphatically disagreed, so they went to the council for a decision. The council consulted and then said, “It seems good to us, and it seems good to the Holy Spirit, that it does not matter what you do to your flesh. It’s about the heart.”

This is the New Covenant Christian. We don’t consult a list of rules. We go to the Holy Spirit and then trust the wisdom we receive.

This is what I’m trying to accomplish with my own children. I don’t want fear of me to get mixed in with their love. I don’t want them to fear my anger, or fear reprisals when they mess up. When they make a mistake, I don’t want their first thought to be, “My dad’s going to be so mad at me.”

That’s not at all how I want my children to look at me. That’s why I tell them, “When you mess up, I’m going to be embarrassed on your behalf. I’m going to take that on me so you won’t have to. You should never have to fear me, because I love you. And I’m hoping you’re going to learn from your mistake. Maybe you’ll do things a little bit differently next time. Maybe you’ll see what I do, and you’ll be inspired to do better.”

When they see me take their shame and embarrassment for them, hopefully they’ll respect me for it. I think they will. I think they’ll say, “That’s my dad. He protects me because he loves me.” They’ll respond to me with love because of what I do for them, just as I love God because of what He did for me. This kind of love changes everybody, because this is the love that changes hearts.

See you Saturday.

The Love We Give Our Children

Then Jesus answered and said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner.”  (John 5:19)

It is the duty of every Christian man to replicate, to the very best of his abilities, everything that he sees Jesus do. John’s Gospel expresses it perfectly here. Just as Jesus does what He sees His Father do, so our children will do what they see us do. In other words, what we do is really important. We are called to be just like Jesus.

What does that mean? What does it mean to be just like Jesus? To begin with, Jesus did not judge us. Instead, He loved us. He stood up for people, no matter how different they were and no matter what social status they had.

If He got angry with anybody, it was the Pharisees, because they were the religious leaders of the time. They were like the presidents of our seminaries, or the pastors of our large churches. People looked to the Pharisees for moral wisdom and spiritual guidance. And what did they do with that leadership? They went around condemning people for their sins. “This is not how it’s supposed to be done,” they said. “You’ll have to pay!”

Jesus thought this was a terrible way to set an example. “You’re embarrassing our Father!” He told them. “You’re embarrassing everything that we stand for! You are whitewashed tombs, beautiful on the outside, but filled with rot and decay!”

Jesus was angry with the Pharisees, but He never judged sinners. Ever. He didn’t judge them because He knew, 100%, that when He went up on that cross, He would be taking their shame. He knew it! He said to the prostitute who was about to be stoned, “Go on, I do not judge you. Stop doing what you’re doing, sure, but just go. You are forgiven.”

He was prophesying to her! He was saying, “Look, when I get nailed to that cross, and that blood starts dripping from my body, and I get whipped and beaten, I will be doing it for you. I know you feel shame over what you do. I know you are vulnerable and persecuted. These people want to stone you! But I’m going to take away your shame. In fact, I will die for you! That’s how much I love you.”

I don’t think the Pharisees understood love. To love like Jesus, they would have had to become servants. That would mean changing how they looked at everything. They would need to forgive sinners. They would need to be kind to them, serve them, and love on them.

But that isn’t how they looked at things. They could only imagine making sinners pay.

Jesus came among them and said, “No, no, no, no, no! That’s not how it goes! I’m going to pay, not them. I’m going to take all of this on. I’m going to die. My Father will turn his back on me so that I can take all the sins of the world upon my shoulders. Why would I do this? Because I love the sinners that you condemn. I love everyone! When I resurrect from the dead, everyone will be redeemed. No one will have to live in shame. No one will have to live in guilt. No one will be condemned to death. Everyone will live in freedom!”

This is the love we should give our children. When they see that they are loved this deeply and this purely, they will respond. They will love you back. They will love you and God so much! They will become filled with love, and love will raise them into beautiful adults. They will be such good people. They will know how to lead by serving, because you will have shown it to them in your relationship with them.

It’s a duty and a calling, but it’s an honor and a privilege.

More on this next time. See you Wednesday.

The Job of a Christian Dad

My job is to be the best replication of Christ that I can possibly be.

With that in mind, I ask myself what it means when the scripture says that a husband is to be to his wife as Jesus is to the church. For me, it comes down to one thing. As Jesus stands in the gap for us, I stand in the gap for my family. I take my family on my shoulders and I will never put them down. How is my family viewed in the community? That is on me. How is my marriage going? That is on me. How are we raising our children, and what decisions do they make? All that is on me.

Here’s an example. Maybe someday my son will get in a fight at school and he’ll punch somebody. I’ll get called into the office and they will say, “This is what your son did.” On that day, I’ll look first at my son and then at the school principal, and I’ll say, “No, this isn’t what my son did. This is what I did. This is on me.”

I’ll take full responsibility for it, and I’ll address it. I’ll deal with my son directly. I’ll teach him to take responsibility for his actions and to apologize for his mistakes. But first, I will go to the other child’s father and apologize. I’ll make sure that the child, the one my son hit, will know that it was my fault. As the head of my family, I’ll apologize for it.

After he sees me do it, I think my son will do the same thing. He’ll take responsibility and apologize. Our children learn from our actions, and I want to inspire my sons to replicate Jesus with me. If my son hurts someone and sees me, his father, literally turn to that person and say, “I’m so sorry, this is on me,” then he’ll want to do the same. When my son sees me accept shame and embarrassment because of his decisions, he’ll want to make better decisions.

That’s why my son won’t see me yell at him or say, “This is your fault.” My son will see me say, “This is my fault.”

Anyone who sees that would say, “I need to make better decisions.” Think about it. What would it feel like if someone is always being embarrassed because of you, but they never embarrass you back? They never blame you or call you out in front of people. Instead, they take the embarrassment for you. Always. How would that make you feel?

You’re going to want to change!

This is what Jesus did on the cross. He took our shame and embarrassment. We respect what He did, and His sacrifice inspires us to be different. Because of Him, we want to be better people. We’re not always going to make the right decisions, but we want to be better people.

I think that’s how our kids will respond to us, if we do the same. They’ll want to be better because they will see their fathers say, “It’s on me. This is my fault. And I’m sorry.”

I really believe this. If this is the choice a man makes, then his wife and kids will respect him for it. Because of it, they’ll be inspired to be better people. Any family will be better because of this.

There are too many men who aren’t willing to accept this job. I say, if they are not willing to accept it, then they are not willing to be husbands and fathers.

See you Saturday.

Why Are Churches Against Drinking?

Doing anything to excess is bad for you. If you eat too much it’s bad for you, because you’re going to get fat. That’s how eating becomes the sin of gluttony. But we don’t say eating is a sin. We say gluttony is a sin. That’s why we don’t say, “Christians are not allowed to eat.”

So why do churches say we can’t drink?

A lot of churches have a rule that drinking alcohol is not allowed if you’re a member of the church’s staff. I don’t agree with that. They are saying that if I’m a pastor, or a youth pastor, or some other member of the staff, then I’m not allowed to sit at my dinner table and have a glass of wine with my wife. Why shouldn’t I? Why do you think anyone should be reprimanded for that?

Of course if the pastor has a drinking problem, then his church is going to take some flak for it. And as James says, he’ll to be held to a higher standard. But the “higher standard” is not whether pastors should drink or not. Jesus is the higher standard to which we are held. Jesus is the highest standard! Jesus, who drank wine.

Some people say drinking is a sin because of what it represents. They say that drinking a glass of wine at the dinner table misrepresents the church.

Does that mean Jesus misrepresented God when He drank wine?

People also talk a lot about avoiding the appearance of evil. But why is it evil to have a glass of wine at dinner with my wife? There’s no “appearance of evil” in that. If I’m drinking wine and standing on the table acting like a hoodlum, then that’s different. That’s the appearance of evil.

Enjoying an alcoholic beverage with my wife over dinner has nothing to do with evil. That’s just your judgment, and it’s not appropriate for you to judge me. I’m doing nothing wrong.

I am only expressing my personal opinion here, but I think that when churches make a rule against drinking, they are living in fear of man, not God. They are too afraid of their reputations. They’re afraid people are going to think bad things about them. They’re afraid if someone on staff has a glass of wine, people will say, “Oh, those aren’t good Christians.”

But why would anyone say that?  No one is doing anything wrong.

Well, they say, the nonbeliever will think that you’re sinning. Again, I have to ask why. Why would nonbelievers judge me for drinking? They wouldn’t. They are nonbelievers. They don’t believe in sin!  Suppose a nonbeliever sees me having a beer and says, “Aren’t you sinning?” If that happened, I would ask, “Well, do you think it’s a sin to drink?” Obviously they would say no. So then I would ask, “Then why do you think I’m sinning?”

There’s no reason to say that drinking alcohol legally, responsibly, and in moderation is a sin. This is a judgment. If you’re not living in sin through drink, then you’re not giving any kind of appearance of evil. You’re not doing anything wrong.

Jesus is the highest standard there is, the King of Kings, God in human flesh! His appearance is the appearance we should reflect, in all our words and deeds. His appearance is the only one that matters. Let’s reflect Him into the world without fear!

See you Wednesday.

Don’t Hide the Beer

What do you suppose your children think when you hide alcohol in the house?

Dad must be hiding it because he doesn’t want anybody to know it’s there. Why? Is it wrong? Maybe we should try it.

That’s why in my home, my sons know where the beer is. I tell them, “The beer is in the refrigerator. You can’t have it because you’re not old enough. But it’s right there. In fact, I’ll tell you what. Why don’t you go get me a beer? I’m old enough to drink, so go get me one, please.”

I want them to be able to go and get it, and hand it to me. I’m not going to hide the fact that there’s alcohol in the house. I want my sons to think, “Dad is being honest with us. Dad loves us and trusts us to know that there’s alcohol in the house. He’s not hiding anything.”

Sometimes kids have issues because their parents don’t want to address the reality of drinking. Instead of teaching their kids self-control by talking to them about drinking, parents use guilt or fear to control their kids. That creates a problem. It creates situations where kids only respect their parents out of fear or guilt, not love. That’s not how I want to raise my children.

I want my children to respect me. I’m hoping they respect me enough to know that they’re not allowed to drink. If I do catch them drinking, there will be some disciplinary action. Will I have to take the alcohol out of my house? I hope not. I would, if they’re not making wise decisions. But I’m not going to begin my relationship with my sons by hiding things. I won’t do it.

I don’t want my sons to look at me and say, “That’s my Dad. I respect him. I’m scared of him! I would rather obey him than feel guilty.”

I want them to say, “That’s my Daddy. I love and respect him because he loves and respects me. He’s honest with me. I know I can talk to him any time, about anything. He won’t fly off the handle and yell at me. He won’t guilt me into doing what’s right. We’re going to talk things out and I’m going to feel calm around him. I’ll do what’s right. I want to.”

It’s the same way with Jesus. Some people say they love and obey Jesus because He’s God, but that might be putting it backwards. It’s because He loved me and died for me that I obey Him. Put another way, I don’t obey in order to be saved. I obey because I’m saved.

That’s the relationship Jesus wants to have with us. That’s the relationship I want to have with my children.

I don’t want my sons to look at me and say, “I respect you because you’re the father figure of our home.” I want them to say, “Dad, you take care of me and nurture me. Thank you! I respect you. I’m not obeying you because I’m afraid of you. I’m obeying you because you have done so much for me. You care for me, and I love you.”

That’s the reality that I want for my family.

I’m going to wrap up this short series on drinking with a few words for the churches. You won’t want to miss that.  See you Saturday.

Drinking and Driving

Never drink alcohol to the point where you’re no longer sober-minded. My sons are going to know that.

When they ask me if it’s wrong to drink, I will say, “No. It’s not wrong. If you drink to drunkenness, son, that’s when it is wrong.”

I won’t tell them it’s a sin to drink because it’s not true. But it is against the law for them to drink. They can’t legally drink until they are twenty-one. I’ll make sure they know that!

When my sons turn sixteen, they might ask me, “Why can’t I have a beer?” I will tell them, “In this country, it’s not legal. The Bible says to obey the government, and this government doesn’t want you drinking at sixteen years of age.”

Why do I think they’ll ask me at sixteen? It’s the age when they will start driving. Do you remember driving at sixteen? It’s a challenge. You have to build your confidence. Sometimes you don’t know whether to make a left turn or a right turn. You’re not even confident enough to know whether to speed up or slow down at a yellow light. It’s really easy to make a wrong decision.

It’s against the law to drink and drive because the consequences of a wrong decision can be huge. You can kill someone. And teenagers are especially vulnerable to making poor decisions.

I’ll invite them to think about how hard it is to be sixteen and drive. And then I’ll ask, “What makes you think that you’re going to make the right decision at the wheel when you’re sixteen and drunk?”

The government says that when you turn twenty-one, you make adult decisions. An adult decision is a decision that can influence another person’s life. So at twenty-one, you can go ahead and drink. But if you drive drunk and someone dies, you can be jailed with adults, and you can be punished as an adult.

I know young people will argue. They’ll say, “I’m eighteen years old, so I should be able to make my own decisions.” Right. Because you’re good at that. At sixteen, seventeen, eighteen years old, you’re telling me that the decisions you make are made with a lot of wisdom. You’re telling me that you’ve been through life. You know exactly what you’re doing and why you’re doing it.

Well kids, I know you think you know everything. But you know what? You don’t! I know, because we all thought the same thing when we were sixteen. Or eighteen. I thought I had it all figured out too. I get it! I understand. But it’s not true. And when it comes to alcohol, too much of it can cause you to lose self-control, and this can be dangerous. It can get you or someone else killed.

That’s what I’ll tell my sons. I’ll tell them, and I’ll keep dialoging with them about it. Because when they turn twenty-one, they will no longer be in my control and I won’t be able to help them. They will be adults. They will be making adult decisions. I will still give them wisdom. I will still help them. But I can’t sit there and slap their hands if they have a beer or an alcoholic drink at twenty-one. They can do what they want, and I can’t go to battle for them.

That’s why I have to protect and prepare them now. More on this next time. See you Wednesday.

The Sin is Drunkenness

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23

Drinking is not a sin. The sin is drunkenness.

When you get drunk, you lose self-control. And when you lose self-control, a lot of bad things can happen.

Think about the connection between alcohol and homicide. If you drive drunk, you can kill another person. You can actually take the life of another human being. You become a murderer.

Think about the connection between alcohol and rape. College kids drink and girls get raped. Sometimes boys get raped too. Young men’s hormone levels are very high, and if they are drunk, then they’ve lost self-control. They don’t understand what “No” means. They don’t think clearly enough to get a “Yes.” Young people get raped.

Think about the angry drunks. They beat their wives. They beat their girlfriends. They beat their kids. They commit all that violence because they can’t contain their anger when they’re drunk.

It’s way too easy for a loss of self-control to cause pain. And drunkenness leads to loss of self-control. What’s worse, in these scenarios, we don’t only see sin. These are crimes, and crime means jail time.

Nothing good can come from drunkenness. Self-control is a fruit of the Spirit. You can’t do good things without self-control, and when you’re drunk, you don’t even control your own body. You’re falling down. You can’t walk straight!

You can’t make clear decisions. Without self-control, you don’t control your thoughts. You don’t control your words. You don’t control your own tongue! I’ve been around drunk people that just blurt out whatever’s on their mind. They have no filters. Some things aren’t meant to be said, so getting drunk sets you up for saying really painful things. You can cause a lot of pain.

The fear of the Lord brings wisdom. That’s what it does. When you represent Christ, you represent wisdom. You represent peace.

But when you’re drunk, you’re causing chaos. You can’t make peace when you can’t control your mind, your thoughts, your words, your tongue, your decisions, or your body. How is this representing Christ? It’s not. It’s causing chaos!

Drunkenness is a sin because when you’re drunk, you can’t live wisely. The Bible says those that hunger and thirst for righteousness will be filled. If you want to live a life that is fulfilled and fulfilling, you have to be sober-minded.

Make a decision that’s wise. Don’t drink to drunkenness.

Parents, churches, and governments have to help young people understand this. I’ll pick this up next time.

See you Saturday.