Becoming a father is one of the most transformative events of a man's life. You watch your life transform from being self-focused, to being focused primarily on the needs of other people. With every decision you make, you weigh the kind of impact it will have on your children. You protect. You provide. You mediate disputes. You offer counsel and correction daily. You try to prepare your children to gradually navigate life without your help. And you pray in desperation for the Lord's intervention in the lives of your children.
Many latent instincts get triggered in your mind when the Lord gives you children. The first time I purchased life insurance was once we had kids. If something unforeseen happened to me, I wanted to make sure they could be provided for even after my death. Every day from the moment your kids are born, you begin making both small and large sacrifices together with your wife for the long-term benefit of your children.
I have often said that becoming a father has given me new insight into God's loving and sacrificial heart toward His children. I understand His love a little better than I used to. I identify with His willingness to sacrifice for our benefit more clearly. I have even come to appreciate His willingness to discipline us for our own good in a new way.
Scripture reveals many things to us about God the Father, and today we're going to look at His role, His work, His relationship to us, and how we can reflect His heart as we interact with others.
I'm guessing that each of us probably have a list of people in this world that we would like to get to know. I'm sure that list includes plenty of people that we know about, but there's a big difference between knowing about someone and knowing them personally.
I had the opportunity the other day to look through hundreds of old family pictures. In the midst of the stacks of pictures, I came across a picture of my Great-Grandfather, Joseph Lewis. He was a coal miner in Wilkes-Barre, PA and he died tragically in a mine accident many decades before I was born, but when I was a child, my Nana, his daughter, used to tell me a lot about him. Through her, I learned that he was a kind man. I learned that when he would have to punish her brothers, he would often sit and cry with them afterward. She told me that he was adored by the neighborhood children because he would frequently join them in playing games in the street in the evenings.
Many people in this world claim to believe that God exists, but if you ask them to give you specifics about what He's like and what He does, you're likely to be given a lot of opinions, but very little biblical evidence to back those opinions up.
God desires a deep, personal connection with His creation. He isn't disinterested and uninvolved with what He has made. He doesn't ultimately desire to be disconnected or distant from humanity. For these reasons, He has intentionally made Himself known to us. Creation itself testifies to His existence, but in addition to that, He has intentionally and progressively made many specifics about Himself known to us over the course of history.
At present, does God seem distant and unknowable to you? Would you like to get to know Him better or more deeply? Likewise, God has revealed Himself to us as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Typically, we refer to these three Persons as the Trinity, but do we truly understand this concept?
One of the joys of being a follower of Christ is the privilege that He grants you to likewise be part of His family, the church. In Christ, all believers are united to Him as the head of the church, and to one another as the body. We were created by the Lord to operate in community, and we have the privilege to be a vital and beneficial part of one another's lives.
But living in community with your brothers and sisters in Christ isn't always an easy thing to do. Sometimes, our preferences or selfish tendencies can get in the way. Sometimes, as the result of an offense, it can be easy to pull away from others while you brood over what has you upset. Other times, it can be easy to lose sight of what's really important in this world, and as a result, we invest our time elsewhere instead of investing it in Christ's people or allowing them to make investments in us.
Thankfully, we have multiple examples from Scripture that show us a glimpse of the attitude Christ wants us to foster among one another. As we look at some of these examples, we can learn more about what it would mean for us to recapture the heart and mindset of the early church.
When you become a parent, a curious change takes place in your life. You begin thinking about yourself less, and a large percentage of your time and emotional energy is invested in the care and well-being of your kids. It's a healthy, but difficult process to endure because along the way, you also go from being their hero who can fix everything and can do no wrong, to being the target of a decent amount of complaints and critiques. Somewhere along the way, however, I'm told that your kids start liking you again, primarily when they start having kids.
I regularly tell my children that I'm praying for them. There isn't a single day of their lives that I haven't prayed for them, not because I'm being forced to, but because the Lord compels my heart to do so. The Lord has blessed my wife and me with two daughters and two sons, and we frequently pray about their spiritual growth, physical safety, and future marriages. Along the way, we do our best to impart biblical wisdom to them in the hopes that they will receive it and adopt it as their own.
When I look at Scripture, I see many examples of people who trusted in Christ and used their lives to serve and worship Him. Many of those examples are godly women that we would all do well to learn from. One such example is a woman who was part of the early church and partnered, along with her husband, with the Apostle Paul in his church planting ministry. Her name was Priscilla, and when I look at what Scripture tells us about her, I see the kind of woman that I would like my daughters to copy and my sons to marry.
Each week, I spend a good chunk of time working on the sermon that I'll preach on Sunday. When it's all said and done, my notes are about the length of a 10-page term paper, and I typically speak between 45-50 minutes. But last night, I had the privilege to preach a sermon that was one second in length.
I left the church later than normal last night. Right around 7:20pm, I started walking to my car when I noticed a woman and her three young grandchildren playing on our church playground. I said, "Hello," and then I asked her, "Do you or the kids need to use the bathrooms or anything before I go? I can wait to lock up if you need anything inside."
Think for a moment about something that made you sorrowful. I realize that's not always the kind of thing we prefer to think about, but since it's also not wise to deny ourselves the opportunity to grieve when we need to, let's think about something in that category for a moment.
How profound was your sorrow? Are you still in the midst of it? If not, while it was fresh, what did you do? How did it impact your daily life? How did it impact the nature of your prayers? Did you ask God for relief or did you find yourself feeling somewhat angry at God for allowing that grief to come into your life?
If your sorrow was a while ago, can you identify anything good that came from it? Truthfully, it's often our most difficult seasons that do the best job of making our hearts tender, our arms powerful, and our faith strong. Many of us can testify to the fact that even though we didn't enjoy our earlier seasons of sorrow, we don't regret them now because we're grateful for what we learned. And something else the Lord teaches us from those sorrowful experiences is that they don't last forever. For those who are in Christ, our sorrow lasts only a season and we see that very fact displayed in Jeremiah 50.
Are there people you have to interact with regularly that you don't really trust? I have an acquaintance that I have to interact with periodically throughout the year, and the longer I have known him, the less I feel I can believe what he says. I'll think he's speaking plainly with me, then discover that what he said is the opposite of what is true. It's hard to function or work with someone like that. In fact, I consider it nearly impossible.
Generally speaking, do you tend to believe others when they tell you something or do you take what they say under consideration until you have the opportunity to do a little research yourself? What about the Lord? When He speaks, are you primarily skeptical or are you trusting of what He says? To what degree do you value what He has made known in His word?
In the portion of Scripture we're looking at today, we'll be shown various signs of unhealthy skepticism and how God chooses to ultimately address the fruit of this form of unbelief.
Tonight I had an experience that was both unique and uncomfortable. On Sunday evenings, I regularly preach for the service at BlueStone Church, our sister church in West Conshohocken. Because the weather was so beautiful tonight, we left the windows and the front doors open during the worship service to let the evening breeze into the building.
The front of the church is very close to the edge of the road, and while I spoke this evening about the sacrificial love of Jesus and how Jesus calls us to love one another with that same kind of sacrificial love, I noticed that a man pulled his car up to the entrance of the church and he sat there during the course of the message for over 35 minutes. At first, I assumed he was waiting to pick someone up from one of the nearby homes. Then I wondered if he was planning to attend the service, but wasn't sure where to park. But soon it became clear that he wanted to hear the message from his car, so he parked in the fire lane outside the church and listened. It seemed a little curious to me, but didn't immediately strike me as alarming.
A few years back, I was talking to a friend of mine. His daughter had recently moved to a different country and taken a job there. He wasn't happy about it though. In addition to missing her, he questioned her motivation for moving. Their family had experienced a high degree of conflict and disfunction during the years prior and he was convinced that she had moved far away, particularly to avoid having to interact with her mother. He described what she was doing as "running."
Have you ever felt like you were trying to run from something? Has there ever been a season of your life when you may have been running from God? I know that in my life, there have been a few occasions when I was trying to run from Him. I'll let you in on a little secret. It doesn't work.
Sometimes, God tells us things we don't want to hear. Sometimes He asks us to be obedient to Him in ways that conflict with our preferences or personal goals. Sometimes He confronts the prevailing logic of our generation and asks us to go in a different direction. How do we respond to Him in those moments?
In Jeremiah 39, we can see an example of someone who spent plenty of time ignoring the voice of God. His heart spent years running from the Lord, and then his legs attempted to do some running as well. What do you suppose the Lord wants us to learn from a passage like this? What kind of questions should we be asking ourselves as we look at this sad season in King Zedekiah's life?