Monday, June 26, 2017

Hiding Behind the Technology

PCUSA Book of Order F-3.0105:  “… we also believe that there are truths and forms with respect to which people of good characters and principles may differ.  And in all these we think it the duty both of private Christians and societies to exercise mutual forbearance toward each other.”

Sometime between the early and mid 1990’s, email became a widespread communication tool.  Businesses, schools, churches, and individuals all quickly embraced this wonderful technology, and email became the major method for business and personal communication.

At the same time, email users quickly learned some lessons the hard way:
  1. Once an email is sent, it is VERY difficult to get it back if you change your mind about its content, tone, or destination.
  2. Email can be extremely embarrassing if it is forwarded to recipients that you never intended to read it.
  3. Unless the email is sent from your home computer, any email sent by a church, business or school is property of that entity.  Just because you work there doesn’t mean you own the emails you send.
  4. A mistake in an email can have unintended consequences, especially with the invention of “auto-correct” additions to email software.
  5. What is written on an email can be used as grounds for legal action, personnel decisions, and even admission to colleges!

Before the advent of electronic communication – email – human beings communicated by letter, phone, or face-to-face.  Each was an efficient form of communication that usually forced a rational participant to slow down and think about what was being said or what was being heard.

Email changed all the rules!

Electronic communication is so fast that often the sender does not take the time to review the message and think about what is being said.  It is easier than ever to “hide behind the technology” and not really deal with the other person who is receiving it.  New email users were often cautioned to “be careful and thoughtful” about the emails they sent; this warning was often ignored or quickly forgotten.

Hard lessons have been learned by scores of people who had negative email experiences.  Hurt feelings have been caused which could have also been avoided – or at least softened – if the two people had met and talked face-to-face. 

Personally, I have received hateful and hurtful emails from other Christians who thought email was the perfect form to use; I have often wondered if those conversations would have been the same if they had occurred face-to-face or in a phone conversation.  Hiding behind the technology is a poor way for Christians to act!!

A good rule of thumb for email users – whether they are Christians or not – is to remember that old Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

And perhaps remember that our Book of Order reminds us to practice “mutual forbearance” toward one another; in other words, be kind.

Write and send emails as if Jesus is looking over your shoulder as you type.


Monday, June 19, 2017

The Dads of God

June 18, 2017 Father’s Day
Sermon: “The Dads of God”

Scripture reading:  Genesis 18: 1-15; 21:1-7

Abraham and Isaac
Isaac and Jacob
Jacob and Joseph
Jesse and David
David and Solomon
Elijah and Elisha
Zechariah and John the Baptist
Joseph and Jesus

In each case from Scripture, you had a righteous father and his righteous son.  Is this just a pattern?  Does it just…happen?  Is it something arranged by God and then left to chance?  I think not.

It would be just as easy to share a totally different pattern, one that shows the non-righteous father and his non-righteous son.  In fact, even using Scripture as a source, it is much easier to find this type of list than the righteous one; the books of Kings are ripe trees full of the rotting fruit of the non-righteous fathers and their non-righteous sons:
Rehoboam and Jeroboam
Baasha and Elah
Zimri and Omri
Ahab and Ahaziah
The last nine kings of the Northern Kingdom of Israel

And from the New Testament: King Herod and anyone in his entire family!

In our world, it is not so cut-and-dried as it is in the Bible.  We have fathers who are good, some that are bad, some that are weak, some that mean well, and all kinds of others…just like the general population.  But it would also seem that the role of fathers is being diminished in some parts of our culture.  This is obvious to any teacher; we may hear about fathers in the lives of our children, but it is the mothers who usually show up at the parent-teacher conferences.  Back in my teaching days, it became a pattern that I was surprised when I got to meet any of the fathers of my students; this was true for 29 years.

But our culture is also guilty of sending mixed messages.  On the one hand, we have any expert in family dynamics, or children’s mental health, or in education telling us the importance of the role of fathers in the lives of their children; then on the other hand, we have TV shows on virtually every channel showing us what idiots fathers are.  In the past, we had “Father Knows Best”, “Leave It to Beaver”, “Andy Griffith”, “The Nelsons”, “Make Room for Daddy”, and even “Bonanza”; now we have “The Simpsons”, “Family Guy”, “American Dad” and just about any show on My20.  

What happened to the dads?

Maybe nothing happened at all.  Maybe some are just making fun of an institution because it is secretly funny to do so.  Or maybe some are just laughing at something that is so foreign to them that we can’t recognize it.  Or maybe women have done such a magnificent job stepping up as parents and bread-winners that dads are in danger of becoming irrelevant.

Being a father of two children, a grandfather of one, an uncle to eight, and even a grand-uncle of six myself, I have a problem with this whole group of weak, dumb, clueless, useless dads.  I am not dishing out any blame at all.  But I am still asking the questions.

All I know today is that I am extremely blessed when it comes to dads.  My own dad was and is a very important figure in my life.  What I know about honesty I learned from him because the only person my father ever lied to was himself.  I also had my grandfather who taught me about not just being a Christian, but the uniquely central Texas Presbyterian form of it.

But it didn’t stop there.  I had beloved uncles, neighbors, family friends, church fathers, teachers, mentors, and my own father-in-law.  All these men served me as Dads of God.  They showed me how to live, how to accept what I can and how to fight against what I cannot.  I would not be here today except for them.  I stand on their strong shoulders, and I love and respect them all.  I’ll bet many of you feel the same way about various men in your lives.

I even know of dads who are fathers to children that are not even their own.  They are step-fathers who inherit children when they marry the mother; in many cases, these Dads of God get rid of the label “step” because those children belong to his heart unconditionally.  I have officiated weddings in which the step fathers take a much larger role than the biological fathers, but the children of those dads don’t seem to care.  They know their own dad of God.  The same can be said of adoptive fathers and foster fathers who choose children to be in their households out of love and compassion.

One of my favorite dad stories involves Senator John McCain.  His wife came home from an overseas mission trip in Bangladesh with a small orphan girl.  The little girl had such a severe cleft palate that it was feared she would starve to death because she had such difficulty eating.  When McCain met his wife at the airport, he asked her, “Where is she going?”  Mrs. McCain replied, “To our house.”  Senator McCain later reported that he knew better than to cross his wife when she had that look in her eye.  Senator McCain’s aide later reported, "I remember John's face. That day he was not the tough war hero senator. He was like every other new father, full of love and emotion."  And it didn’t take long before McCain fell in love with that little girl who is today his daughter, Bridget McCain.

Because in this case, McCain was a Dad of God.

I have two children of my own that I love more than I can put into words.  I need them…but whether they know it or not, they also need me.  I had hundreds of students who were in my various school room classes; to many of them, I was their dad because I was the only male in their lives…that was a responsibility I took very seriously.  And I know of dozens of others who serve as role models, substitute fathers, and surrogate fathers to children who would otherwise go without their love and example.

But just as the Lord’s anger burned against those kings of Israel and Judah who turned against him and did evil in his sight, I think the Lord’s anger also burns against those dads who shirk their responsibilities and neglect or hurt their own children.  Far too often, this scenario appears in our society; often it makes the news in the form of dreadful, lurid lead stories in the headlines, or the sad, pitiful stories of children who lacked firm, loving care during the times of their lives when they truly needed firm and loving care.

What should we do about this?  What should we even think about this?

I can only imagine how disappointed our heavenly father would be if we ignored our responsibilities to be Dads of God.

I can only imagine the face of the Lord on Judgment Day if we have neglected one of our own children.

I can only imagine the need of a child who has no father to love him or her.

That’s why I praise the Lord so strongly and so loudly for those fathers who show up, step up, and act as dads of God for the children of the Heavenly Father.

They are truly blessed…and so are their children.


Pay Attention When The Game Is On...

"For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night." 1st Thessalonians 5:2 ...