Pastor's Blog - Norm Byers
Fatherhood help

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

I will never forget Mother’s Day 1997. Ironically, it was the first day that I took responsibility as a father.  My oldest son, Jared was born two days previous and now it was my role to safely transport both babe and mother home.

As we gathered up all our stuff that day, checked out of the hospital and then piled into the car, a heavy weight came over me. As I was driving, slowly and carefully, this huge obligation to look out for and take care of this little guy hit me like a ton of bricks. I came to the sobering reality that if things did not go well, it would be my fault!  It was a tense and nervous drive the whole way home that in some ways has continued to this day and two other kids later.

Maybe you understand exactly what I am saying. How do I lead my kids in a way that will make a positive impact upon their lives? You may be a father now who did not have a good example growing up and you feel like you are out there on your own. Perhaps you are not a father but a mother with the same question, how do I raise these children myself? It could be that you do not have children but hope some day to raise a brood of kids in a successful way.

In Deuteronomy 6:4-9, we find a passage that was designed to give fatherhood help, “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.” This passage is the Jewish “Shema” and is a prominent one in the Old Testament of the Christian Bible as well. It communicates foundational teachings of Judaism and Christianity and the importance of passing along these sacred truths to those little ones in our lives.

“Impress” these vital teachings “on your children.” Impress means to tell, repeat, or teach diligently. Parents need to make some things clear to understand. As the old proverb says, "As the twig is bent, so grows the tree." And in the same way, Francis Xavier, the great Catholic educator once said, "Give me a child until he is 7 and anyone else can have him for life." Children at a young age are impressionable and fathers and mothers need to take the initiative in what impresses these precious little ones.

According to the Holy Bible, what do we impress on our children? Deuteronomy 6:4 says that, “The LORD is one.” The LORD is the one and only God, there are not many but one. There is someone so important in our universe that he demands our acknowledgement and reverence.

Impress them to “love the LORD” with every part of their being, heart, mind and soul. This is the first and greatest commandment. There is one so important that as we grow to know him, we should trust him more and more and relinquish control of our lives to him.

How do we impress these teachings on our children? The LORD directs us in this passage that these foundations are to be the subject of conversations at all times in our relationships. Talk about them when you sit at home, when you are on a stroll, on the road, and at breakfast and bedtime. It is so true that we impress when we least realize it, as most of what we convey is “caught not taught.”

Fathers, there are many things in our world that can lure us away from influencing our children to know God and love him. I love to work, but if you and I are working so hard because we are trying to make enough money to give our children all the things we did not have and we are completely exhausted, then most likely we are neglecting the above foundational issues and are missing the boat. I love to see my kids participate in sports, but if sports are a top priority and trump most others things in life, including time to worship God, then we have developed a type of “idolatry.” In other words, we are putting something other than God in the most prominent place. As a parent, what do you stand for? Better yet, what would your children say that you stand for?

Taking God seriously here and cashing in on fatherhood help is going to require fathers (and other parents) to cultivate a deeper relationship with the Lord. Are you up for the challenge?

From oblivious to obvious

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

A few months back, I decided to start cutting my hair really short. Now, when I say “I started,” I literally mean it. I took the clippers, set them to the lowest setting and then started clipping! About the second time after having started my “self-haircut” endeavors, one of my colleagues at Genesis came up to me and said, “You missed a big spot right here.” And so I used my fingers to feel the spot, and sure enough, there was a patch of fur there! Oops!

I am sure I am not the only one who has been oblivious to something that was obvious to others. Maybe you have been unaware of the recycling box at the end of the driveway, crashing into it and sending cardboard and plastic jugs all over the place as you left for work. It could be that you did not realize that your zipper was in the down position as you walked around town. It might be that you used an impolite expression that did not register to you as such. Sometimes we need others to help us see what we can’t on our own.

Moms and dads, spouses, friends, etc., can help make us aware of something that is off our radar. But sometimes we need a more high-powered insight than even our closest friends can muster. We need insight from above to make sense of what is going on in our world. Our minds need big time help to be informed of why we do the things we do.

King David from ancient Israel shares through Psalm 139 in the Holy Bible that the Lord is the one fit for the task of helping us understand ourselves better. In verses 1-4, David expresses, “You have searched me, LORD, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, LORD, know it completely.” Something important is being relayed to us here: Everything is obvious to the Lord.

David confesses that God knows his outward activities like sitting, rising and lying down and he also knows his inner thoughts like “before a word is on my tongue you, LORD, know it completely.” David asserts the claim that is time and time again presented in the Bible, that God knows and everywhere present. But his knowledge is not just trivia or trivial, his insight is practical and relational.  Think of it this way, the Lord personally knew David and he knows you. He knows your favorite food, your personality, and he knows the good, the bad and the ugly.

How did God have such intricate knowledge of David then and of us now? David writes in Psalm 139:13-14, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” It is proclaimed here that God made us. I like to say it this way, that the Lord wrote the owner’s manual on us. He is not a “far away Lord,” he is an involved God who understands our ins and outs. Not only does this passage assign personhood to the one who is in the womb, but it also demonstrates the deep intimate knowledge that God has of his created beings.

The value of God’s knowledge is expressed by David in Psalm 139:17 where he states, “How precious to me are your thoughts, God!” He is testifying that the Lord’s knowledge is insightful and helpful. The Lord’s thoughts can bring about healing. As God helps us to dive below the surface, he makes us aware of the way things really are and the way we are. When we are facing reality with God, we are able to move forward in life.

David desires to know what God knows, as expressed in Psalm 139:23-24, “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.

See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” David invites God to search him and make known what is really going on. He says test me and point out any offensive ways in me.

What does it look like to have God search your life? I suggest a quiet time set aside to hear God by reading and meditating on a key Bible passage or two, praying and journaling. If you are interested in a personal moral inventory description that I have developed, please contact me.

Things can be oblivious to us in our lives but God know us and he knows what we struggle with. The Lord can help us understand what is below the surface and help us overcome whatever challenges we face. Aware instead of oblivious!

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