Celebrating The Word Made Flesh

Celebrating-the-word-made-flesh

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us; and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” – John 1:1

This is the story of Christmas, in the shortest possible form. The Word became flesh; God became man; heaven came to earth. Christ came, and He brought with Him all of God’s glory, but veiled in flesh, so that we could stand to look at it.

Once again, the Word spoke into darkness, and light came. The first time was the Creation of the world, where, John writes, “He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made” (John 1:2-3). The Word created all things; the Word spoke light from darkness; the Word brought about the very beginning of all things.

And now, the Word recreates us, and will recreate all things (2 Corinthians 5:17); the Word speaks light into our spiritual darkness, and the darkness cannot overcome Him any more than it could when the first shaft of light rent the darkness of the world in the Creation; the Word brings about new beginning- a rebirth- for all those who receive Him (John 1:12). The very Word, who was with God and who is God, Who created all things by simply speaking, has spoken into our dark world, and brought light and life.

When God first spoke the world into being, His words carried consequences: He spoke, and what He spoke became reality, never to be removed except by His word. In the same way, when the Word was spoken into our world, there were lasting consequences: the Word came, and dwelt, and remains. Christmas celebrates a moment in time- when Christ was born; but it also celebrates that God is now with us, far beyond that day in Bethlehem. And it celebrates not just the birth of Christ, but the reason for His coming: that all of us, sinners held back from a relationship with God, might have the opportunity to know Him. That we might behold His glory, His grace, and His truth. And that we might be changed, from dead to living, from far from God to near to Him, from living in darkness to living in marvelous light.

Dads, if you do nothing else this Christmas- if you give your children no other gifts- make sure they understand this: Christmas is very literally the celebration of God communicating Himself to us through Jesus Christ. It is Him interrupting our aimless wandering, our searching for reasons to celebrate and hopes to cling to, and setting before our eyes the only true Joy, the only hope that does not disappoint: God made man, Christ taking on flesh. God with us. May you rejoice in Him today; may your words celebrate the Word that told the grace of God.

Happy Christmas!

Step Up: Serve

Step-up-serveLet’s face it: we men have difficulty serving.

I work hard to provide for my family. I pay the bills, and I keep the cars maintained. I change light bulbs and fix leaky toilets. I make sure the trash is taken out. I wash dishes fairly regularly. I even get the kids ready for bed most nights.

But do my boys see me serve in church? Do I tell them I serve my Lord and Savior, but only in words and not in deeds?

I came across a website that included some interesting facts about men and their service in church. There are quite a few statistics, and feel free to go to the website (click here) to get all of them, and see their footnotes. I will include just a couple:

  • This Sunday almost 25 percent of married, churchgoing women will worship without their husbands.

  • Midweek activities often draw 70 to 80 percent female participants.

  • Over 70 percent of the boys who are being raised in church will abandon it during their teens and twenties. Many of these boys will never return.

  • Fewer than 10% of U.S. churches are able to establish or maintain a vibrant men’s ministry.

  • A study from Hartford Seminary found that the presence of involved men was statistically correlated with church growth, health, and harmony. Meanwhile, a lack of male participation is strongly associated with congregational decline.

Even more than attending church, we need to serve. I find it a little funny how we refer to our Sunday morning gathering as a “Church Service,” yet so few of us serve there. I am challenged to look at the “Service” as a verb and not a noun. How I serve others in the church body is a response to how I understand the heart of Jesus Christ. On his final day, before He was crucified, Jesus served.

Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. John 13.3-5 (NIV)

Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them. John 13.14-17 (NIV)

What a great picture of the master serving others! Our sons need to see us serving. Maybe it is serving as an usher. Maybe it is serving as an elder. Maybe it is serving as a janitor. Maybe even serving in the nursery (doesn’t sound very manly, does it?), but we need to serve. We are called to serve. We need to validate our words.

If possible, find opportunities for you to serve with your children. Let them see you actively serve, and give them a chance to pattern their lives after yours, and find the joy in serving your church as a family.

Is God worth serving? Or do I have other things in my life that I would rather serve, that take priority over God’s command to me to serve? Our sons will see right through our words, and either they will believe us when we say we serve the one true God, or they will see us serving something else.
It is not easy. It may even seem awkward. But it is time to step up, and serve.

A Legacy of Faithful Obedience

Christmas boydad

Typically at the end of a year, it is easy to become a little pensive as we ponder all that has happened over the past twelve months and realize how fast time is flying by. As I look at last year’s Christmas card while choosing pictures for this year’s card, that truth is driven home in a fresh way this Christmas. And with that truth comes the question: “What kind of legacy am I leaving my sons?” There will come a day, all too quickly, that my time is done and they will carry on without me. What images will be burned into their memories? Matthew paints for us a picture of a dad who left the kind of legacy that I want to be true of me. In 1:18-2:23, Matthew gives us his account of Jesus’ birth and all the events that surround it. The story starts with a bit of scandal as Joseph finds that his fiancée is pregnant, and as he was getting ready to end his relationship with Mary, he received a visit from an angel via a dream; the angel said to him, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 1:20b – ESV).

Stop and grasp that for a moment. Try to wrap your mind around what Joseph was being told (as if the visit from an angel wasn’t mind-blowing enough!). Joseph, you need to get married to a girl who is carrying a baby (you are going to be a dad way sooner than you thought) and this kid is the direct result of God’s hand. Talk about life-changing truth! And so Joseph had a choice. Would he obey the angel’s directive or would he proceed with plans to separate from Mary? A few years later, Joseph has another dream and gets another visit from an angel. The news delivered this time is just as life altering as the first: “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” (Matthew 2:13 – ESV). Someone is out to kill your son, Joseph; you have to move- and not just to another city, but to another country, and you have to go now. And so Joseph faced another choice: would he obey the word of an angel and move to a different country with his young son and wife?

Some time later, Joseph has a third dream and another visit from an angel who told him to, “Rise, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child’s life are dead.” (Matthew 2:20 – ESV). And so Joseph was faced with another choice: would he trust what the angel told him, that the danger was indeed over, and move Mary and Jesus back to Israel? Three dreams, three visits from an angel, three commands, and one response from Joseph: Faithful obedience. It was faithful obedience that caused Joseph to go ahead with plans to getting married to a girl who was already pregnant. It was faithful obedience that caused him to move his family to another country in the middle of the night. It was faithful obedience that caused Joseph to move his family back into the “lion’s den.”

It is this kind of faithful obedience to the words of God that you and I are called to leave as a legacy for our sons. But I don’t want you to think that it is now up to you to muster up the will power to force yourself into faithful obedience. That will never happen. The way that you and I are capable of faithful obedience is the same way that Joseph was able: because we have a God who is faithful to His promises.

The main point of Matthew’s birth narrative is that God is faithful to His word. In these 31 verses, Matthew shows us five different Old Testament texts that were fulfilled, which screams to us that we can be faithful in our obedience to God because He was faithful to His promises. Joseph obeyed because he believed the promises of God. The secret to our obedience is the same… belief in the promises of God. This is what Christmas is about: God’s faithfulness to his promises made visible, the word becoming flesh, that we might believe in His promises and live lives of faithful obedience. This is the legacy we are called to, dads. Is this the legacy your sons will remember?

The Tree that Keeps Growing

Last month, I went on my first mission trip. It was a great experience. (Why did I wait until age 30 to try this?!) I went to Kolkata, India, for two weeks with a group of 15 people from my church, and we worked together with Bengali Christians at the Grace Community Centre in Kolkata. We taught computer and English classes. We helped run a daycare and VBS. We went on a boat to the Sundarban islands where we acted out Bible stories, sang songs in Bengali, and preached Jesus to people who have never heard of Him.

Our trip allowed several free days, and our hosts graciously drove us around the city to for some shopping and sightseeing . We saw everything from Mother Teresa’s hospital to the Kali Temple, where people still make goat sacrifices to the Hindus’ gods.

We also went to the botanical gardens to see The Great Banyan Tree. This 250-year-old tree holds the world record for the largest canopy of a single tree, covering almost four acres. It spreads as the high branches send shoots downward, which take root and eventually become supporting trunks. A road was built around the circumference of the tree, but branches have since reached across the road and grown new trunks in an ever-widening circle. Today there are about 3600 interconnected trunks, all supporting one broad, leafy canopy.

The Tree that Keeps Growing

The growing Banyan tree reminded me of the reason we went to India: to share the gospel with new people and help make disciples for Jesus. This is how God works. Slowly but surely, the gospel is preached, churches are planted, and people find true life as God’s plan for the world unfolds.

Sadly, the original trunk in the center of the Banyan tree was removed due to disease almost 100 years ago. But the tree keeps spreading in all directions, thanks to the new roots and trunks that keep on growing.

In a way, this reminds me of how God can work through faithful parents. One father who loves his children and points them to Jesus can have a huge impact on future generations. You and I will be long gone 250 years from now, but God willing, there will be thousands of Christians in the world who can trace their heritage back to us and see fathers who loved Jesus and faithfully made disciples of our children.

A letter to New Dads, Old Dads, and New Dads That Feel Old

A-letter-to-new-dads(Note: This is really a letter to new fathers, but if you’ve been a dad for awhile, I hope this will have some meaning for you as well.)

Dear New Dad,

I know, I know. The baby is finally quiet and the last thing you want to do is read this letter. You want to sleep. Actually, you might be too tired to sleep, so collapsing on the couch in exhaustion may be more like it. Relax, it could be worse: You could be the new mom!

But, while you have a minute I wanted to write you this note. I remember so well the day my first son was born. I had no idea the impact him coming into the world would have on me. Looking back, I want to give you 4 things to tuck away and remember. Even with 4 boys (ages 10, 8, 6, 4) these are things I still need to hear too. I hope you find them helpful.

1. Pursue God more now than ever – Don’t lose sight of the fact your most important relationship still needs be with God and His son, Jesus. In fact, now that you have a child of your own, I bet John 3:16 (…his only begotten son…) looks a bit more real to you. You understand how much God must love you to put His son on the cross to die for you. Remember, He doesn’t want your money. He doesn’t want you just going to church. He wants a relationship with you. As a new father, you are going to need His strength now more than ever.

2. Love your wife – It’s so easy to get in the habit of raising kids that, if I am not careful, I can begin to interact and treat my wife as a business partner. No doubt sometimes it feels like Kaehr, Inc. instead of The Kaehr Family, but I want to be married to my best friend, not a business partner. Create space for just you and your wife. Create moments where you can be close to her, talk with her, and spend time with just her – remember, loving her means leading her. Now more than ever, she needs you to step up as the Godly leader in the home!

3. Check your blind spots – There are going to be areas of your life that were never an issue before and now that you have kids, those areas may become blind spots (things that are affecting you that you just don’t see). You need to be meeting with other men in discipleship/accountability to keep your life in check. You also need to have a mentor you can lean on for wisdom. If you don’t have these men in your life, now would be the time to get them. You are going to need other men to share with and help you down this path.

4. Enjoy it – Children are gift from the Lord. Enjoy the new blessing in your life. Remember, don’t just enjoy them now (when they are sleeping). Enjoy them in the middle of the night when they are screaming. Enjoy them when they throw up all over you. Enjoy them when they begin to walk or say “da da”. Enjoy them when they poop out of their diaper all over your jeans at the restaurant. Don’t ever stop looking at them like the miracle you keep saying they are right now. Believe me, that is SO much easier to write than say, but it’s true!

I could probably go on and on, but I won’t. Enjoy the quiet. Give your wife a back rub. Rest. You are going to need it.

But, let me tell you: If you will be an engaging husband and father, if you will pursue God, love your wife, share the experience with others, and enjoy the moments…there is no greater job or reward this side of Heaven. Absolutely nothing!

To quote a PBS legend, “Red Green”…Remember, I’m pulling for ya’. We’re all in this together.

Congratulations!
Dustin

Prayer Day

There’s no better way to start the month of December than with a Prayer Day. We’re all in different places, with different struggles- some of us are excited for the holidays, and some dreading them. No matter what you’re facing, dads, we want to consistently offer the opportunity to bear each other’s burdens and joys, because everyone needs a safe space to come and ask for prayer. It’s an honor and a privilege to stand together as men in this journey of fatherhood.

Prayer Day for Boy Dads. Know any dads who need prayer? Point them this way!

Take some time today to pray over this Advent and Christmas season- to rest in the fact that, because of Christmas, we have a Savior, a high priest, who can sympathize with us and who prays on our behalf.

Leave your request in the comments. Then, if you have the time, leave another comment with a written prayer for the person right above you. Let’s support each other, holding up each other’s arms in this battle to raise godly men.

Let’s pray. 

(Photo Credit)

 

The Path to Self-Control

I’ve been enjoying and old book called The Children for Christ, by Andrew Murray. Being over 100 years old, these daily readings on godly parenting are sometimes slow going, but I’m also discovering some great nuggets of wisdom.

These words on the fifth commandment are especially relevant to our day:

“Man was created free that he might obey; obedience is the path to liberty.

“On this point parents often err; they often say that to develop the will of the child the will must be left free, and the child left to decide for himself. They forget that the will of the child is not free—passion and prejudice, selfishness and ignorance, seek to influence the child in the wrong direction…

“But are we not in danger of repressing the healthy development of a child’s moral powers by thus demanding implicit submission to our will? By no means. The true liberty of the will consists in our being master of it, and so our own masters. Train a child to master his will in giving it up to his parents’ command, and he acquires the mastery to use when he is free. Yielding to a parent’s control is the path to self-control, and self-control alone is liberty.

“The child who is taught by a wise parent to honour him and his superior wisdom will acquire, as he gives up his own way, the power over his will, as he never can who is taught to imagine that he need do nothing unless the parent has first convinced him of the propriety of the act, and obtained his consent.”

Andrew Murray, The Children for Christ, p. 111-112.

This inspires me to recommit to requiring first-time obedience from my little ones. Besides learning obedience to both their earthly and their heavenly Father now, my children are acquiring the tools needed to make their own decisions and live in obedience to God long after they have left my home.

From Obedience to Passion

From-obedience-to-passion

It seems that, at least in my generation, there is a very strong emphasis on passion: on living sold-out, in love, passionate about a relationship with Jesus. It’s not about rules or religion: it’s about a relationship.

There is, no doubt, a great deal of truth to this. Many current books have been written, songs released, sermons preached on the importance of clinging, not to an ideology, but to a Person. Relationship, passion, love.

To be honest, though, I struggle with this concept of faith. I butt up against this image of a Creator who wants us to just be passionately “in love” with Him, and passionate about seeing others in love with Him. As a man not given often given to strong or enduring emotions, I find it difficult to come to that place of passionately pursuing God, of desiring only Him and His word.

Don’t misunderstand me: I love the Lord and want to know Him and His word. But it seems that, perhaps, in our Christian culture, sometimes we may put a new face on legalism, based not on a set of rules, but the strength of a person’s emotions regarding their faith. We venerate those who become visibly excited, who speak of being in love with Jesus, who want to go “all out” or live “sold out,” who want to make a bold and courageous demonstration for the sake of Christ.

What I want to postulate, though, is that perhaps our energies are misdirected when we seek to live passionately for God. Perhaps we are missing some of what it means to be a follower of Christ when we focus primarily on being in love with Jesus. What about those, like me, who struggle to even maintain a regular quiet time and active prayer life? I’m not suggesting that we do away with passion, or with seeking to fall “in love” with Jesus every day; I’m merely suggesting that it is not the place to start.

C.S. Lewis used to encourage new believers who wrote him letters regarding the emotions that they thought should surround their conversion experience. Many did not experience the joy or surge of love for the Lord that others had found so readily. His advice, I think, applies not only to the new believer, but also to those of us who sometimes feel like we’re just plodding along, seeking the Lord but not feeling “on fire”: he told them, only obey. Obey what Christ commanded, and if God wills for special joy and emotions to follow, then they will. If not, remember, we are called only to heed His voice and follow.

And that, I think, is perhaps where the mark is missed. I’ve read, and heard, often that obedience should not be cumbersome or difficult because of the love we should bear toward Jesus. But what if our love for God, for His ways, grows out of our obedience, not the other way around? What if, instead of seeking first to feel the way we should toward God, we seek first to act the way we should toward God?

In 1 Thessalonians 4, Paul reminds us, “Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more… For this is the will of God, your sanctification.”

God is not concerned that we first feel like loving Him, and feel like serving others or sharing His gospel: God is first concerned that we choose to obey Him, knowing that, as we follow step by step in obedience to Him, we grow to understand that, as for God, His way is perfect (Psalm 18:30), and He is not slow in keeping His promises (2 Peter 3:9). When we follow first in obedience, then we experience His joy,  because we see that the results are just as He promised. And our love grows, our passion grows, our obedience grows.

So pursue God wholeheartedly. Live with passion. Seek Him first in all things. But remember that zeal for His name, for His house, for His heart, for His word, come first through obedience.

Boys and Integrity

Boys-and-integrity

The evening was coming to an end and so were my wits. My oldest was crying in her room. As I went to see what was wrong, my son scurries out of the room avoiding eye contact with me, leaping into bed with guilt dragging behind him. I ask her what he did and in between gasps of air she belts out, “He’s exasperating me!” I ask her how he’s exasperating her and she proceeds to explain he sold her a pen for a dollar and now wants another dollar after she had already given him the money.

I call him into the room.

He peers ever so slowly from around the corner. His head is down. Our eyes barely meet.

He tells me this is true of what happened.

He’s hardly remorseful and more concerned that he didn’t get more than what he sold it to his sister for.

The words, “You need to give your sister back the money she paid for the pen…and she’s keeping the pen too,” rolled off of my tongue.

You would have thought I took all of his toys and burned them with the look I received from him.

I explained the meaning of integrity and what it means to keep your word. I explained there are few men who have it and having integrity is a noble characteristic.

I want him to know what integrity is. I want integrity to be his best friend. I want it to be my best friend too. I turn to him and give him permission as man to man that he can call me out on anything that I’m not doing with integrity.

It’s a two-way street.

I have seen men fall from high places from a lack of integrity. And no man is above falling.

I want my son to know I have his back. And I want him to have mine.

If he loses everything and has God and integrity, then he really hasn’t lost anything at all.

Holidays + Families = Fun?

Finding-joy-in-holidaysI know that having a family with young kids can be both wonderful and stressful at the same time. Add the joys of all the holiday reunions and “wonderful” goes way down…and “stressful” goes way up!

As dad and husband, we have a major responsibility to lead our families well through this season, no matter what it brings! With the Holiday season ready to hit full stride, and stores already full of Christmas music, here are 3 suggestions to think about as you plan your “over the river and through the woods” trips this season:

Family First

For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. Genesis 2:24

Your first priority needs to be your wife and children. You need to work to create and preserve your own family time during the holidays. It’s OK to tell that family member (your mom, her mom, your grandpa, etc.) that the way you have always celebrated the holidays may not be how you celebrate them now that you have kids. I promise there will be some initial push back, angry looks, and even guilt cast upon you. That’s OK. Your wife and kids need to be the most important focus.

Now, remember, you are called to honor your father and mother, so you need to work with them so you can enjoy the holidays with them, but only children are called to obey their parents. You are not a child. You are grown man with a family. Stand up for them (and for yourself) to make sure you put them first!

Traditions

Christmas traditions are great! Singing your favorite Christmas song. Watching Christmas Vacation. Hot Chocolate on the first day it snows. Those amazing peanut butter balls!

Be sure to pass down some of your (and your wife’s) favorite traditions. It’s a great chance to share with your kids about what you enjoyed growing up and the blending of your traditions with your wife’s will build some great, lasting memories for your kids.

But…don’t forget to create some new traditions unique to your family as well, so your children can pass them down when they are older!

Focus

More than ever, it is so easy to get wrapped up in materialism this time of year. It seems our mailbox is filled everyday with a new toy catalog. It’s easy for kids to think Christmas is only about getting presents and running from family member to family member to see what they get.

It is important to lead your family closer to Christ. Tell them the real “reason for the season” and then make sure you live it out in your own life! So here’s a question: What do you do with Santa? That’s a tough one.

There was a real Saint Nicholas from which the legend of Santa Clause grew. Don’t be afraid to talk about St. Nick, who he was, what he did, and how the story of Santa Claus came from this real person.

This year, we are planning to have gifts “in memory of St. Nick” instead of “from Santa”.

Now, all that being said…I don’t get too worried about it right now. Why not? Well, let me ask you something: How much can you remember from when you were 5 years old?

Exactly.

So, for my 6 and 4 year old, I’m not going to freak out if they get excited when they see deer tracks in our yard and think that Dasher, Donner, and Blitzen have been spying on them.

But, as they get older, we talk about it more and make sure they understand Christmas is God’s plan of Salvation put into motion, and ends with an empty tomb come Spring.

Ultimately, celebrating Christmas with your kids should be an opportunity to share the Gospel with them. That should be the focus!

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The holidays can be a great time of family bonding you wish would last a bit longer. They can also be pure misery that can’t be over with soon enough. The great thing about them though? You are absolutely in control of how wonderful (or not) they are.

Let me be the first to wish you and yours a Happy Thanksgiving, Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year!