Each and every time I set out to do the right thing, doing the right thing becomes elusive as I'm faced with one unforeseen roadblock after another beyond my control that prevents me from even getting started in the right direction.
As a result, it becomes much easier for me to just stop trying than it is for me to just keep persevering.
I mean, it's tough enough most days trying to live by God's grace in response to the O-N-S-L-A-U-G-H-T from the devil, the world, and the flesh, but it's especially difficult when it comes to trying to live by God's grace in fulfilling my God-given vocations as a Husband and a Father, and it's next to impossible to fulfill any of them when I choose to continue to live like a "Spiritual Island Unto Myself" particularly when the Lord expects more of me.
I know I just throw a lot at you in that run-on sentence, but that's because I have a lot on my mind!
Deuteronomy 6:6-9 (ESV) And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
Proverbs 22:6 (ESV) Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.
We Lutherans confess this in the Catechism where each of the Six Chief Parts of Christian Doctrine has the heading: "As the head of the family should teach it in a simple way to his household."
"In a simple way to his household," huh?
Um, ok, then why is it not so simple!?!
Plus, just when I couldn't think my feelings of inadequacy couldn't get any worse, I come across a piece like this...
I would like to thank Pastor Scheer for this opportunity to contribute to Steadfast Lutherans. The topic of Christian fatherhood is always a vital one, and this is so especially today in the midst of confusion -- also among Christians -- about what fathers, mothers, and families are.
The first duty of Dad is to know who is boss. No, it’s not you. And it’s not your children. It’s God the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth. “I believe that God has made me.” In making you he has defined for you what you are all about. The fatherhood of God determines for us Christian fathers what fatherhood is all about.
Fathers, you don’t need your children’s permission to be their father. God made you their father. God decides what you are to do. Your children don’t decide. You don’t decide. God decides.
God has given to fathers and mothers the responsibility of teaching God’s word to their children. We Lutherans confess this in the Catechism where each of the six chief parts of Christian doctrine has the heading: “As the head of the family should teach it in a simple way to his household.” Ordinarily, the father is the head of the household. Sometimes the mother becomes the head by default. When God spoke through Moses to Israel (Deuteronomy chapter 6) to give his chosen people their duties as his children, the first thing he commanded them to do was to keep his word in their hearts. The second thing he commanded them to do was to teach it to their children. What do you love? What is precious to you? That’s what you give to your children.
But how do we give God’s Word to our children? The task seems daunting to fathers who are not sure that they know God’s Word well enough to teach it. We will discuss the teaching of the children at home in a future article, but first things first. The first thing is what we do on the first day of the week. It has been a custom for nearly two thousand years now for Christians, on the first day of the week, to go to see Jesus.
I was a boy growing up in a Christian home for about eighteen years and I have been a pastor for going on thirty two years and I can testify to the fact that a child’s upbringing at home is by far the greatest influence over whether or not he will attend the services of God’s house as an adult. In the home in which I was raised it was inconceivable that we would skip church. I remember attempting to do so one day when I was about sixteen years old. I had stayed out late the night before, got up on the wrong side of the bed, was tired and irritable and did not want to go to church. I wanted to sleep. I told my father I was not going to go to church. He told me that that was my decision. And it was his decision whether or not to let me eat his food. He made it clear that going to church would be required if I wanted to eat his food. I decided to be fed. Thank God for faithful Christian fathers! My father had two doctor’s degrees, but it was not advanced theological education that guided him. It was basic meat and potatoes Lutheranism. We bring our children to church. We bring our children to an orthodox Lutheran church. We teach our children to behave in church and to participate in the service. There is nothing we do as fathers that is as important. There is no greater gift we can give to our children. The first duty of Dad is to bring your children to church. This is bringing them to Jesus, and Jesus loves the little children, takes them up in his arms, and blesses them!
The risen Lord Jesus appeared to his Church on Easter Sunday with salvation to give. He won forgiveness of sins for us and our children by suffering and dying on the cross. On Sunday he gives this dearly purchased treasure to us and to our children. Since we daily sin much and indeed deserve nothing but punishment, we need the forgiveness of sins that God gives to us in the Divine Service every Sunday. We belong in church with our children every Sunday morning without exception. We as a family need what God gives us there.
That commentary is one from a series titled "Steadfast Dads" that was published in 2012.
I strongly encourage fathers to bookmark those articles so that you can return to them over-and-over again through the years as you need to for encouragement and support.
Now, as lovely as that was to read, what if you're the husband and the father of a family that struggles to get out the door and to church each and every week for any number of reasons (some legitimate reasons and others poor excuses)?
What happens is that was meant to be an encouraging read from a Pastor for men like me, ends up being yet another reminder of how I'm failing in my vocations.
I really hope I'm not alone when it comes to experiencing this, but being a faithful witness who sticks to his convictions and confesses Christ crucified for the sins of all mankind is not that easy for me when it comes to doing so in my vocations as a Husband, a Father, a Son, a Son-In-Law, a Brother, and/or a Brother-In-Law.
They say "Home Is Where The Heart Is" and that "Blood Is Thicker Than Water" so you'd think that it would be true, but it's not. In fact, for me, it feels like a never-ending battle sometimes, and I don't want to battle with my family over things we should be able to agree on if we call ourselves Christians when all I'm trying to do is love them by teaching them to love Christ and His Word and Sacraments.
One of my greatest struggles as a Christian since becoming one (which still continues to this day!) is making sure I'm not just learning God's Word on my own, and that I'm actually taking the time to consistently and intentionally teach my wife and kids what I've learned instead of just assuming that we will all end up thinking alike when it comes to spiritual matters thanks to some kind of "Divine Osmosis" or something.
Within the context of a traditional family, teaching the basics of Law and Gospel is the primary responsibility of the "Head of the Household" or the Husband and Father.
I get that.
What I don't seem to grasp is the fact that I'm equipped to do this by the grace of God and with His help through the power of the Holy Spirit despite how I might feel.
What I so often end up doing instead is just enough to make sure I don't feel guilty about shirking my responsibilities while telling myself over and over again, "Well, God's the one Who gives us faith, so there's not much I can do about it anyway!"
This defeatist attitude and outright rejection of my calling is sinful and it's directly responsible for the situations I now find myself in!
I understand that too.
So, for me to sit here and criticize my immediate family and even my extended family for their "unwillingness" to follow my lead (or to merely listen when I try to teach them anything even remotely spiritual), would be a sin whether it's true or not.
I am called to be faithful to my calling. God will be faithful to His Word and He is ultimately responsible for what happens (if anything) from what I choose to do in honoring Him in this way (1 Corinthians 3).
Still, how does someone like me sort through these extreme feelings of doubt, failure, and hopelessness as it pertains to wanting to be a faithful Christian in a family where being a Christian is an entirely new and foreign concept to everyone else?
To hear some loved ones describe it, you'd think I was attempting to viciously break the limbs off of the Family Tree one-by-one until we got to a point where the entire tree needed to be chopped down, thrown into the fire, and replaced by a new Family Tree that barely resembles the original let alone one that any of them would recognize or even want growing in their lives in the first place.
To them, the Family Tree is everything, it's the most important thing there is in this life, and leaving the Family Tree alone is a given.
What they fail to realize is that I'm not trying to change them as much as I'm trying to communicate to them that I've changed myself. I've been "pruned" and now "abide" in the "True Vine" (John 15:1)!
Such a concept is offensive to the world, and yes, sometimes it's even offensive to our dear loved ones and those closest to us.
John 15:18-25 (ESV) If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: 'A servant is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin,b but now they have no excuse for their sin. Whoever hates me hates my Father also. If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin, but now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: 'They hated me without a cause.'
I know that passage is an account of Jesus talking about Himself and talking to His disciples there at the time, but boy if those words "they hated me without a cause" don't resonate with me these days!
Again, I know why it's this way, but that still doesn't make it any easier to take. Some days you feel like you're all alone and like there's not a single person on earth that you can talk to who knows what you're going through because they've gone through it (or are going through it) themselves. Of course, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, knows what it's like! Thank God we can rest in Him!
Even so, why such an aggressive response and fierce resistance from one's own family?
In my case, apparently, it's all because I have the "audacity" to ask them to go to church with me each Sunday. Or maybe it's because I have the "nerve" to take five minutes to talk about a Bible passage I read that morning when everyone else wants to be on their mobile device crushing candy instead. Perhaps it's my "taking it the wrong way" when I get offended whenever the unmarried, male next door neighbor makes an inappropriate sexual comment in front of my wife and kids. Come to think of it, it's gotta be my "self-righteous" attitude whenever someone asks me for my advice and opinion about something going on in their life and I decide to give them godly counsel based on God's Word instead of affirming their sinful behavior and choices.
"Why do we have to go to church again this week!?!"
"I don't want to hear that since it's so boring! Do we really have to talk about this now though!?!"
"Why are you overreacting when that's just how he is and it was just a harmless joke!?!"
"See, this is why I knew I shouldn't ask you for your advice and opinion because you always make it about God and His Word!"
It never ends it seems.
"They hated me without cause" (John 15:25).
To reiterate, none of this is quite unexpected though.
If divisions occur within a family, let it be due to our confession rooted in 1st Commandment, and not due to our sins (i.e. lack of love).— LutheranLayman (@LutheranLayman) October 9, 2016
No, it's not unexpected that something like this *could* happen, but it's always unexpected when it happens to you so suddenly and out-of-the-blue if not also at the most inopportune time.
Matthew 10 tells us about Jesus sending out His Twelve Apostles and the persecution that they will face. No, Christians alive today are not apostles, but Christ's words to them also resonated with me the other day.
Matthew 10:21-22 (ESV) Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.
Matthew 10:24-25 (ESV) A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household.
Matthew 10:34-39 (ESV) Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
In the past, I always found these words hard to believe since they seemed so absurd so I just accepted them on blind faith.
Then I became a Husband and a Father and had a family of my own and began trying to put into practice what I said I believed, taught, and confessed and that's when these "unbelievable" words made perfect sense to me!
I know that the Christian response to such animosity, indifference, and personal attacks is prayer and that I should rejoice in the face of such harsh and unexpected persecution from family and friends, but it's still tough even if such so-called "persecution" to a believer like me here in America is only being criticized, marginalized, and shunned from the ones we love.
There are those brothers and sisters in Christ in other parts of the world who are enduring a type of persecution that can lead to physical death.
So how should I start to train my mind to think about this when it happens again in the future (because it will surely happen again!)?
Yet Jesus clearly states the difficult truth that sometimes a Christian's enemies will be members of his own household.
What does He mean by that? Jesus gets very personal here. He is saying that the love of God for you, and your love of your family, compels you under certain conditions to draw your sword and do spiritual battle within your own family. (Man against his father, daughter against her mother). From our Lord's perspective there can be no real true Godly peace within a family until all are His people, saved by grace through faith in Him alone. Though Jesus is the Prince of Peace, He knows that if you are truly following Him according to your new nature given to you in your baptism, then you will sometimes have to pay the price of conflict even with those you love the most, and that's not easy.
Most of us seek peace at all costs in our home and relationships. We have had to compromise many things to live together in peace. Some of us, therefore, have remained safe yet sorry for years that family members and old friends remain lost and headed to an eternity without God, because we don't want to upset whatever delicate relationships we live within. Jesus teaches against that attitude in the Gospel today. Better that there be conflict so that at least some would be saved. We cannot live in peace with Satan or sin or even indifference. We must not just sing, "Lift High the Cross" in the safety of our sanctuaries, but we must lift that wonderful cross high in the dangerous, real world of a thousand different opinions on that subject -- in our businesses, schools, and social gatherings; and yes, especially in our homes.
Jesus forces the question upon us: "who do we love the most? And how do we love the best?" Jesus is reminding His disciples that you really can't love anyone else in the right way until you love Him first and most. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life for everyone, and if you truly love your family and friends, you will take the risk to direct them to Him because no one comes to the Father but through Jesus, no matter what that may cost.
The cost often involves pain. You stand toe-to-toe with people who are known to you and who know you, warts and all. You see fear in their eyes as you yourself are afraid because you are both so vulnerable. If there is rejection or a challenge to the authority of God's Word, you hear and feel the clash of the Sword of the Spirit as you and the one you are seeking to love into God's Kingdom both advance and defend. And even if you win the battle and the Good News of salvation in Christ is received, you may first have to experience the pain of your loved one slain by God's Law, dying to self, revived by Christ.
We lose our life to find it. We take up our cross and follow Him. We die to sin and rise with Christ to newness of life. Galatians 2:20 says, "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me." We draw the Sword of Jesus because He loved us and gave Himself up for us. It is the only honorable thing to do. Because He so first loved us, we simply so must love others to Him, instead of just hoping and wishing that something will happen somehow, someway, to move that person we know needs the Gospel to Jesus Christ. We draw the sword. We draw the Sword of Jesus in honor of His Gospel even though it may forever change our relationship with the one we care enough about to risk it. It is sin to keep the Sword Jesus speaks of in its sheath because we seek peace at all costs, even if that cost is our loved one's eternal destiny. God forgive us our lack of honor in this most important mission. God sends people into our own family, our schools, our businesses, standing there right in front of us. We draw the sword.
And you see, the pain is worth it. It's like major surgery, like an operation in the hospital. I used to work as a supply clerk in a VA hospital while I was going to college. I'd watch in amazement as the surgeons first had to cut and open and pull apart before they could take out whatever was sick and fix whatever needed fixing in there. They had to cause some pain to heal.
The Bible says the same thing about the Sword of God's Word in Hebrews 4:12-13: "For the Word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him to whom we must give account."
God loves us enough to open us up and pull us apart with His Word that reveals the truth about ourselves. This may cause us some pain when we see how far we are from what God calls us to be. But then once everything is open and laid bare before Him, He takes our sin out from us, removes that guilt and sin that has made us so sick, He takes that fatal disease called sin upon Himself and then He repairs our heart and soul with His blood transfusion of love, and grace, and mercy, forgiveness, and the promise of everlasting life in His name. He then sews us back up again with the Gospel. Jesus, the Great Physician, has died to heal us of all our sins, no matter how awful or helpless we may feel that we are. Jesus has won the ultimate battle over sin and death on the cross on our behalf, and now the victory of the resurrection is ours forever.
Truth is, these verses from Matthew 10 echo Micah 7:6, in which strife in families is a symptom of life in an apostate, fallen world.
So, I must continue to pray for the ability to show forgiveness, grace, love, patience, and peace with my dear family members and friends as I continue to make Jesus preeminent in my life even if it means continued and persistent rejection by my loved ones and a loss of endearing relationships.
In a Lutheran layman's terms, my calling in my vocations as a Husband, Father, Son, Son-In-Law, Brother, Brother-In-Law, Friend, and Neighbor is to understand that I am to remain faithful and steadfast in my confession of faith even though I know fully well that the hearts and minds of the people I love won't be changed by my unique ability to communicate God's truths, or by some kind of "Divine Osmosis" either, but by the Lord and the Lord alone as He wills, and sometimes He wills to do so by dividing families.
NOTE: Please understand that I'm not a called and ordained minister of God's Word and Sacraments. I'm a layman or just a regular Christian, Corporate Recruiter, Husband, Father, Friend who lives in the "City of Good Neighbors" here on the East Coast. As another Christian Blogger once wrote, "Please do not see this blog as me attempting to 'publicly teach' the faith, but view it as an informal Public Journal of sorts about my own experiences and journey, and if any of my notes here help you in any way at all, then I say, 'Praise the Lord!' but please do double check them against the Word of God and with your own Pastor." To be more specific, and relevant to the point I want to make with this disclaimer/note, please understand that I'm a relatively new convert to Confessional Lutheran who recently escaped American Evangelicalism a little more than 3 years ago now. That being said, please contact me ASAP if you believe that any of my "old beliefs" seem to have crept their way into any of the material you see published here, and especially if any of the content is inconsistent with our Confessions and Lutheran doctrine (in other words, if it's not consistent with God's Word, which our Confessions merely summarize and repeatedly point us back to over and over again) so that I can correct those errors immediately and not lead any of His little ones astray (James 3:1). Also, please be aware that you might also discover that some of the earlier/older pieces I wrote for this blog back in 2013 definitely fall into that "Old Evangelical Adam" category (and they don't have a disclaimer like this) since I was a "Lutheran-In-Name-Only" at the time and was completely oblivious to the fact that a Christian "Book of Concord" even existed (Small/Large Catechism? What's that!?!). This knowledge of the Lutheran basics was completely foreign to me even though I was baptized, confirmed, and married in an LCMS church! So, there are some entries that are a little "out there" so-to-speak since the subject matter was also heavy influenced by those old beliefs of mine. I know that now and I'm still learning. Anyway, I decided to leave those published posts up on this website and in cyberspace only because they are not blasphemous/heretical, because I now have this disclaimer, and only to demonstrate the continuing work of Christ and the Holy Spirit in my life (Hebrews 12:2; Philippians 1:6). Most importantly, please know that any time I engage in commenting on and/or interpreting a specific portion of the holy Scriptures, it will always closely follow the verse-by-verse footnotes from my Lutheran Study Bible and/or include references to the Book of Concord unless otherwise noted. Typically, I defer to what other Lutheran Pastors both past and present have already preached and taught about such passages since they are the called and ordained under-shepherds of our souls here on earth. Finally, I'm going to apologize ahead of time for the length of most entries (this disclaimer/note is a perfect example of what I mean! haha). I'm well aware that blogs should be short, sweet, and to the point, but I've never been one to follow the rules when it comes to writing. Besides, this website is more like a "Christian Dude's Diary" in the sense that everything I write about and share publicly isn't always what's "popular" or "#trending" at the time, but is instead all the things that I'm studying myself at the moment. For better or for worse, these posts tend to be much longer than most blog entries you'll find elsewhere only because I try to pack as much info as possible into a single piece so that I can refer to it again and again over time if I need to (and so that it can be a valuable resource for others -- if possible, a "One-Stop-Shop" of sorts). Thank you for stopping by and thank you in advance for your time, help, and understanding. Feel free to comment/email me at any time. Grace and peace to you and yours!