Dear Mom

It was 1980.  Your life would forever be changed.  You were just a teenage girl with an entire life ahead of you.  I can’t imagine the thoughts or temptations you faced in those first months after finding out you were pregnant.

I am grateful you decided to be my mom.

Sharon Joan and JustinOur early days were simple and complicated.  We didn’t have much.  We did have each other.  You and dad made ends meet and kept the peace.  We bounced from apartment to apartment as you worked two or three jobs to support me.  The most memorable were Zayres and St. Luke’s.

You were a hardworking and strong woman.  Still are.

We grew and matured together.  You as a woman.  Me as a boy.  You had to grow up faster and make many hard sacrifices as a single mom compared to your friends.  You didn’t have to, but you included me in your social life and friends like Linda were like surrogate mom’s too.

I didn’t make it easy on you.  I suppose that’s why there is at least twelve years between me and Samm and my three other siblings.  You fought hard with the school counselors and psychologist to keep me moving forward.  Some would say I was a challenging young boy.  I’d agree.   It wasn’t that I didn’t have a loving or caring family.  It was that I was ungrateful and selfish.

I am beyond thankful for you!

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Being able to watch you care for my other siblings gave me a different perspective on you.  Again you worked hard (sometimes too hard) at giving us a good life.  Not spoiled.  Although you did get me a pretty sweet laptop before heading off to college.

Your independent and driven nature rubbed off well on each of your children.  You encouraged responsibility and creativity.  When I got my first job at fifteen at Schmidt Sporting Goods I thrived in sales and PR.  Those are qualities I inherited from you.

You are a picture of perseverance.  You are bluntly honest.  You are exuberant.  These are all qualities we as your children have learned to adore about you.

After we moved to Wausau, we started attending Wausau Bible Church.  It was weird and different at first.   You had this fetish with Noah’s Ark stuff.  That was weird.  I still remember going to Sam’s Club with you and you bought Bibles for us.  I still have that Rainbow Study Bible today.

That is when my faith journey began.  I was hugely influenced by the new faith you were living and owning as a family.  It was genuine and raw.  You didn’t push it on me, but didn’t discourage it either.  A special day I will always remember is when we were baptized together on the same day.  Not many mothers and sons have that in common.

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Now you are a grandmother to my four children.  A good one at that.  Again you are making many sacrifices as we live half-way around the world in the desert of Africa.  A normal grandmother gets to see her grandchildren more often.  You don’t complain even though I know you’d prefer otherwise.

I love you, mom.   Everyday.

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daughters, daddy’s, and God’s glory

daughters

I have three little jewels. They came to me as blessed gifts from above.  Each jewel has unique facets and glimmer with unending beauty.  Their beauty rises from within and shines throughout, mixing the temporal and eternal.  I simply enjoy holding my jewels and can look at them for hours upon hours.  I cherish them.  I take time to let them know how much I adore them and do whatever it takes to help them keep their beauty.  For their beauty reflects a greater beauty to a beauty-stricken world.  My jewel are my daughters.

Dads and daughters. It’s a uniquely special relationship. I know, since I have three daughters. Truth be told, I wouldn’t trade my daughters for any son. My daughters are my pint-sized princesses. They were born with a natural ability to pirouette, a spirit bent on loveliness, and contagious giggles. I delight to watch my girls be girls and crush them with squeezes and douse them affectionate words like “Sweetheart,” “Snuggle Bums,” or “Beautiful one”. I even have special, silly songs for them that I like to sing only over them.

Where does the delight that daddy’s have for their daughters originate? It is eternal.  It came before time began.  It originated from another Father.  You see it first in his love for the eternal Son.  But it spreads to his creation which he lavishes with his embrace, pours out affectionate words, even sings overs.  There are many songs God has written for his children.  Zephaniah 3:14-17 is perhaps the most enchanting.

14 Sing aloud, O daughter of Zion; shout, O Israel!
Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter of Jerusalem!
15 The Lord has taken away the judgments against you; he has cleared away your enemies.
The King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst; you shall never again fear evil.
16 On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem: “Fear not, O Zion; let not your hands grow weak.
17 The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness;
he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing

God has a daughter?

Did you know God had a daughter too?  Did you think God only had a Son?  It might come to you as a surprise, but God’s daughter is Israel (v.14).  God calls an entire nation his daughter.  He chose Israel from among all nations of the world and adopted her as his own.  He favors her, treasures her, sings to her, and loves her deeply.  Israel is the apple of his eye.  His heart melts for her, even when aa Zephaniah tells us how bad his daughter had become (see 3:1-5).

God is his daughter’s keeper

Daughters are precious jewels and there is within a good father a God-given inclination to protect her and keep her from evil (v.15).  Most daughters do not like this about their fathers at first or at all because some father tend to be either passive or overprotect.  However, good fathers are aware of the enemies that steal and destroy the hearts of daughters such as vanity, seductiveness, and self-image.

The enemy and the world are clever at redefining and distorting beauty and says, “This is what beauty looks like. Follow this way, and you will be known and liked and loved.”  Most daughters or women will tell you that  way is shallow and is an endless pursuit leading to much frustration and regret.  Therefore good fathers go to great lengths to remind their daughters where the well of beauty is found and strive to lead them there.

God warned Israel over and over, “Do not turn away from my voice and follow other gods (or faux-fathers).”  He is jealous for his daughter.  He delights in his daughter as the apple of his eye, but knows they were a surrounded by rotten apples.  Yet God assures them that though there was much to fear around them they had nothing to fear because God was with them.  God is his daughter’s keeper (vs.15-16; cf. Psalm 91:14ff; 59:1-2).

I remember when I first brought my girls to Chad, Justus in particular, was afraid and intimidated to talk to people. She was surrounded by many new faces she did not know.  There was so many new fears.  She would cling to her mom or me.  Sometimes when I would lead her outside the gate for a walk she would ask for me to hold her and she would hug my neck tight.  She thought is was safe to be near to me.

The safest place for you to be is with your Father.  Cling to him.  Hear his words.  Trust he is near.  Clasp onto his strong hands.  Do not fear.  He is your protector.  He will keep you.

Fathers, keep your daughters.  Teach them about the love of God.  Guard them from enemies and teach her his lies.  Stand in the line of attack so that your daughter sees how you fight against the enemy when the day comes when she doesn’t have you nearby to protect her.

No father wants to see their daughter fall or get hurt because they walked outside the umbrella of your counsel.  That’s when it becomes a temptation to overprotect, but an overprotective father is not a loving father.  Overprotection seeks control your daughter.  A father cannot control everything.  And when you do you play god, but don’t play god very well.  The intended result of overprotect is often the opposite.  Instead of your daughter running to you for counsel, they will be repelled by it.

Fathers, trust God to protect your daughters when they venture out on their own.  Pick them up when they fall and embrace them when they return to you.  Remember, even Israel became a harlot and shamed God, but she was still God’s daughter and he keeps all his promises to her and loves her deeply.  God is like the father of the prodigal, full of grace and love.

Daughters, maybe your view of God the Father is tainted because you’ve had an abusive or passive earthly father.  This happens.  But God the Father is not like this.  He is a good Father.  Yet if you have an earthly father, trust him as he seeks to protect you.  He might not always be the best at it.  He may have many holes in their armor.  He might miss an enemy or two, but God has called them to protect you.  If you step outside their protection the enemy has better aim at you.  For your own protection heed the words of your father and your God and learn how to fight the enemy from him.  There is nothing to fear.

God is his daughter’s warrior and songwriter

God often fought many battles for Israel, but sometimes he let her go out to battle alone.  This was a test to her faith and resolve.  Sometime Israel would fear and flee.  Sometimes she would call on the Father for help and he would rescue.  Sometimes she would make an alliance with the enemy and not listen to the Father’s words.  But always, God was there with her.  He was with her on good and bad and ugly days. Loving her, soothing her, holding her, rejoicing over her, and singing over her (v.17).

When are daughters most afraid?  I find that my daughter is most afraid when she feels alone or unsure or she has done wrong.  In those moments, my daughter is looking for a warrior, a fighter, someone to champion her fear.  It is then that I remind her that I love her (even if I must discipline her) and sing over her.

Fathers, rejoice over your children.  Sing praises over them.  For real!  Even if you sound silly or think you look stupid or sing severely out of tune.  As God sings over you with loud frivolous exultations, mirror that to your daughters.  Your daughter will remember this the rest of her life.  These will be her battle songs.

Daughters, encourage your father to be a strong warrior.  He needs to hear this from you.  Ask him to help you, pray with you, and advise you through your battles.  Also, don’t be embarrassed when he sings silly songs of praises over you.  He loves you because you are his jewel. the apple of his eye.  He cannot help but sing over you.

God quiets us with His singing, its a singing that drowns out all other competing noises of life that clamor for our attentions and do what they can do to distract us.  He is drowning out the noisy lies of the enemy and quieting our raging heart with his beautiful songs of praise.

What does God sing over us?  He sings songs of truth.  He sings his promises over us.  He reminds us of his faithfulness, that as we abide in Him, He abides in us and keeps us in his love.  He sings to remind us that as we draw near to him, he will draw near to us.  He is for us and not against us.  How wonderful it is that our good good Father sings over us.

Sons and daughters of God.  Run into your Daddies arms.  Listen for his songs of praise over you.  Know that you are his precious jewel…

“See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.” – 1 John 3:1-3

Lessons for parents from Jesus’ parents

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We don’t often think of Jesus being a child, teenager, or even a tween, but He was one. I suppose the reason is that there isn’t a lot of material written about Jesus’ childhood between His birth and late-twenties. What was it like to parent a young Jesus? Perfect right? No tension, no discipline, no disappointment. Well, not exactly. Jesus had a moment of tension, but the tension was only there from the perspective of His parents.

The situation occurred following a family trip to Jerusalem (Luke 2:41ff). Jesus’ family annually observed the Feast of the Passover. It is here that we see some valuable lessons for parents from Jesus’ parents.

1. Godly parents’ obey God first (Luke 2:41-42).

In celebrating Passover, Jesus’ parents were not just taking a fun trip to see local attractions, they were showing their appreciate for the Law and their love for God. Mary and Joseph were living their faith openly before Jesus. This is not the first time we see this young couple loving God and obeying Him (cf. 2:22-24, 39).

Parents who obey God first will often have children who follow closely behind. Children learn by what they see, not just what they hear. Parents who allow their children or society dictate their mode of parenting will be frustrated and disillusioned as will be their children. Put God first before your children. Even when you blow it, let your children see you bend your knees back to Him.

“You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 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.” (Deuteronomy 6:5-9)

Note Jesus’ timing in Jerusalem. He is 12 years old, the age that marked the final year of preparation for a son before he entered full participation in the religious life of the synagogue. Up until this point his parents, especially his father, would teach him the commandments of the law, which were completed with a ceremony where he formally became a “son of the commandment” (bar mitzvah). It was this moment Jesus chose to stay behind in the temple. Perhaps, He wants to demonstrate that He is more than an ordinary Jewish bar mitzvah.

2. Godly parents entrust their children to God early in their childhood preparing them for adulthood (Luke 2:43–50).

Jesus’ family likely traveled in a large group with other relatives, friends, and neighbors. “And when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it, but supposing him to be in the company they went a day’s journey.” (vs.43-44) Now the journey from Jerusalem to Nazareth was 153 kilometers (95 miles), and traveling by foot was probably more than a day trip.

Then it happened—a Home Alone moment. In the commotion of leaving the celebration Mary and Joseph didn’t account for their most precious cargo: their son, Jesus. Think about that moment as a parent. Immediately they check every person for details, “When did you see him last?” No quick flights. No cellphones. No 911 or Amber Alert. Quickly they traced their steps back Jerusalem probably checked every town and wayside along the road back.

Do you feel Joseph and Mary were neglectful to leave Jesus behind? There are two interesting things happening here that seem inconsistent. First, Jesus’ seems to disrespect his parents’ time and feelings. Second, there seems to be an implicit faith Mary and Joseph have in their young son. He was not an irresponsible boy nor was He rebellious. They trusted Him and knew He had wisdom. This suggests that Jesus’ motive in staying behind was not carelessness or disrespectful, rather it was purposeful.

After 3-days in Jerusalem, Mary and Joseph finally find Jesus. Where was He? He’s in the temple of all places talking, listening, and asking question of the teachers. He was not like other 12-year old boys who’d probably be at the pool or arcade! Joseph and Mary were beside themselves, frustrated at the circumstances separating them from Jesus. They responded as most parents would, “Why would you do this to us? We’ve been worried sick!”

Jesus’ response is astounding. No doubt this is the point to Luke’s inclusion of this story in his gospel, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house (or doing my Father’s business)?” And they did not understand the saying that he spoke to them.” (Luke 2:49-50) Mary and Joseph’s human emotions clouded their understanding that Jesus is God and Savior. They saw themselves as parents and Jesus as their son. And the lack of understanding Jesus’ word showed that there was more going here than meets the eye (cf. Luke 18:34).

Jesus chose this crucial stage in his life, on the brink of manhood, to tell his parents in an unforgettable fashion that He now knows whom His real Father is and what His mission is. In a real sense Simeon prophecy to Mary and Joseph in Luke 2:33-35 was already coming to pass, “a sword will pierce through your own soul also.” The time will come when Jesus will be killed in Jerusalem, 3-days rise from the dead, and that will be a great pain to Mary. And the past 3-day for Mary and Joseph foreshadow that pain.

Joseph and Mary probably saw their parenting role in transition that day. Sometimes the biggest pain in parenting is the pain of having to cut the strings of ownership over the lives of your children. Yet that is the goal of parenting. From the very moment your child enters the world, you are preparing them to live outside your roost and walk in loving obedience to God’s commands. As painful as it is to cut the ties it is even more hurtful to keep them tied. Godly parents entrust their children to God in childhood preparing them for adulthood.

3. Godly parents help their children learn to be obedient to God and to them (Luke 2:51–52).

Following this tense situation Jesus “went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them. And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.” (Luke 2:51-52) Jesus understands who He is in God (the Son of God), and man (submissive to His parents). Jesus continued to be under the authority of His parents, but He also recognizes His unique sonship to God and that His mission will require of him a devotion to God’s purposes even if it brought pain and misunderstanding from those closest to Him. In the end, Mary rejoices and treasures this situation in her heart.

Luke now sets the stage for Jesus’ adult ministry as the Son of God. 18 years later, when perhaps some of these very same teachers who marveled at Jesus’ understanding would mock and murder Him. He came to do His Father’s business even if it cost Him His life.

Parents, when teaching your children obedience it must first be modeled by your obedience to God and other authorities over you. I’ve counseled many parents with rebellious teens. Rather than dealing with their children right away I usually have a few questions for the parents, “How do you talk about your boss at the dinner table? How do you talk about the President while watch the news? Or what do you say about the pastor after the service in the car on the way home?” It’s then that the light bulbs turn on for the parents.

Obedience to authority is a milestone of maturity first modeled in parents then followed by their children. When disciplining your children to obey authority it is important to discipline rebellion against it rather than immaturity in it. This teaches children that maturity is a process, but rebellion is direct disobedience that not only has consequences in childhood that if not dealt with will have even severer consequences in adulthood.

thumb licks [9.3.12]

Is Proverbs 22:6 a guarantee?

How the 50 States got their names.

Ministry: it’s not about you.

Sin wants to be your friend.

If snack labels told the truth.

Somethings we can learn from suffering.

10 happiest jobs. I knew it!

What is a Sikh?

Why is love so stupid?

Warsaw remembering the Holocaust:

bringing the gospel home (book review)

I ordered this book out of curiosity.

Sharing the gospel with family is tough!

First, I have unsaved family members that I really desire to share the gospel with, but direly fall short of doing regularly. I really love and care for them and want to see them in heaven someday too. This is a book on evangelism that hits close to home.

Second, there are not many books out there on the subject of evangelize friends and family, but never have I read one quite like this. I am certainly surprised by what I am reading. It is not your ordinary book on evangelism with step my step or play by play approaches for witnessing to different kinds of people. It is not methodological or programmatic. It is simply a book about the gospel and it’s ramifications on me and my family. The illustrations are refreshingly honest and easy to relate to. I heavily recommend it to anyone interested in sharing Christ with their loved ones (which should be everyone).

Third, the book has a beautiful explanation of the gospel. Although I wished the book explained the gospel clearer the implications of the gospel could not have been more clearer. That is the beef of the book. And it is good to eat!

The chapters flow is unexpected, but once immersed you quickly see how they flow in a biblical and natural sort of way:

Chapter 1: FAMILY, a beatitude and yet a burden. All here in this chapter is a theology of the family from the Scripture. THe theology of the family includes two opposing angles; God and Satan. Both have their strategy and purpose for your family. It is good to understand both since one strategy is established before time the other is to destroy what’s always been. And there is hope to redeem what’s been destroy.

Chapter 2: GRACE, Amazing and yet breaking. A very important chapter on putting yourself on the same plain as your family in need of grace, rather than letting pride put you above them. Grace is one of the most neglected components when sharing the gospel, but one of the key components to understanding the gospel.

Chapter 3: TRUTH, liberating and yet narrow. In Acts 17, Paul is communicating with intelligent and religious people. People who are proud and think they’ve nailed the meaning of truth. That is until Paul introduces them to the gospel of truth. Some mocked, but some believed. Is that a familiar response in your family? In a truth starved world we need to understand where it went wrong and rightly meet it with the gospel. That’s where this chapter begins.

Since gospel truth has substance, we should think deeply about it. Since it draws lines, we should stand boldly in it. Since it illuminates all of life, we should celebrate its fullness. Since it prompts a response, we should ask for one. Since it’s easy to get wrong, we should reflect carefully about how to communicate it. (102-103)

Chapter 4: LOVE, always craved and yet seldom conveyed. Love is a mysterious and romanticized word. Defining love can be hard, but the Bible makes it easy. Learning to love your family with a gospel-love will help them see the initiative and sacrifice of Christ in action. This chapter helps you not only with the content of the gospel message but your context of sharing it.

Chapter 5: HUMILITY, divinely modeled and yet difficult to find. I can extend grace, truth and love to my family, but humility? Are you serious? Yes. And so is Jesus. He had humble holiness. This chapter helps you not only dish your pride and eat humility, but serves up Christ on a silver platter.

Humility us to see ourselves as God sees us in Christ–hopelessly sinful but graciously saved, rebellious yet redeemed, incapable of producing any righteousness on our own yet empowered to do all that God calls us to, appropriately bold yet taking no credit for the basis of that boldness. (136, Titus 3:3-8)

Chapter 6: TIME, freeing and yet fleeting. What time you ask? With eternity as our deadline we feel the pressure to dump the gospel on those we love and press them for a decision like life insurance agents. Sometimes the simple yet so heavy truths of the gospel need time to settle and marinate. This chapter helps us not to rush, but let God do His work in His time.

The God who calls us to live in time lives outside of time. We feel the burden of deadlines, but He never does. We grow impatient, while He knows nothing of that weakness. (155) Witnessing to family takes wisdom…and all that takes time.

Chapter 7: ETERNITY, comforting and yet terrifying. 100% of the people reading this will die. That truth can either cause your jaw to drop or draw you into unfathomable joy. Death is not the end only the beginning. This chapter touches on lives reality while giving you hope in the gospel as you share it with those you love the remainder of their days.

The distinct nature of the finished work of the gospel delivers people from fear, denial, and false hope. When we point people to Christ, we show them a way that takes the sting out of death, thus making it something to anticipate instead of dread. As Dietrich Bonheoffer once preached, “Death is grace, the greatest gift of grace that God gives to people who believe in Him.” (182; John 3:16-18)

Two dominant world views vie for our affections: One sees this life as all there is. The other sees life as preparation for the next. One thinks only in terms of the temporal. The other values the temporal because it sees it in light of the eternal. The first way does all that it can to avoid thinking about death. The other faces death squarely. The first speaks only of people “living in our hearts” after they die. The other envisions Revelation 7:9-10. (205-206)

for men, fathers, and future fathers

Us men always need words to build up and cheer us on towards godliness and manliness. Here are a list of articles and books I’ve enjoyed reading or studying:

No more ties, please!

For dads and granddads.

A brief guide to biblical manhood.

5 dangers for young men.

Where have all the good men gone?

Walter on being a dad & how men look.

Real men don’t complain. They fix.

4 phases of raising boys.

Dads 1:7 – Defusing Anger.

A Civil War soldiers letter to his wife.

6 ways fathers pursue Christ in their fatherhood.

FREE BOOKS FOR DUDES!!

thumb licks [4.9.11]

Parenting: how eternity shapes the mundane.

Not so fast. The sometimes slow and steady process of sanctification.

The importance of writing letters.

Praying past our preferred outcomes.

Forget Kevlar, use liquid armor. This stuff is sweet!

15 grammar goofs that make you look silly.

Love is… (for you married folk)

Lottery is a suicidal craze.

Funny comments to the mega millions winner.

Dirt. Not your ordinary music video.

I need a job

Q: My job offers are falling through. So I might have to move my wife and kids in order to get a job. What should I do?

Here is my encouragement to you as the man, husband, and father of your home:

First, lead your family to a season of fasting and prayer. Maybe set aside a meal, a day, a game-time, a TV show or movie, or evening to do nothing but seek God’s face. Preferably together. Nothing pulls a family closer together and close to God than prayer.

God wants you more than He wants you in a career or a better place.

Second, make a career choice and own it. Even if you or your wife do not like it at the moment. Live by the principle: love God and do what you want. [Emphasis is on loving God first. I can explain that in detail more if you would like.] There are probably a half-dozen excellent choices for you to pursue. Pick one and own it. If it’s not working pick something else and own it too.

God wants you serving for His namesake and you can do that anywhere whether plumbing or preaching.

Third, put your marriage and family above personal ambitions. Even when you don’t have a job you got them. They need you. Your kids need a God-fearing dad. And your wife needs a Jesus-styled-husband. Whatever you do, don’t sacrifice your family at the altar of personal ambitions.

God wants you to pour yourself into your most important job, your woman and your chitlins.

Fourth, when you get a job, praise God and work your keaster off as if God is your boss. In reality, He’s your undercover boss. Thank God for His grace and goodness. Worship Him. He is the giver of all good gifts, even your work. In turn as an act of worship work hard for Him. And know that as you work for Him you will shine.

God wants you not to work to please man, but Himself, which takes a lot of stress out of the job.

for dads and granddads

Watch your average TV sitcom and you will see dumbed down dads on display. I can think of Homer Simpson, Al Bundy, Ray Ramone, and half-dozen others who fit the role. Today expectations for men are at an all tie low. The average man—including dads and husbands—are expected to be nothing less than a remote-holding-couch-glued-family-forsaking-caveman. That might be the way of some men, but certainly not all men. Our world craves and aches for real men.

Some will say the church is too girly. Sure. Whatever that means. I suppose it is because too many men run home to the lazy boy and hide behind the TV. Or they make their wife do all the spiritual heavy lifting in the house. That’s sad. It’s sad because the Bible places great responsibility upon men. In Genesis, we’ve already seen this:

The Bible calls men today to rise up and lead their families. It calls fathers and grandfathers to pass the spiritual baton to the next generation. It is their role to pass the blessing onto their children and their children’s children. Here in the closing portions of Genesis and Jacob’s life that kind of role is rolled out before our eyes. It begins with a beautiful scene between an old man and young boys.

Speak Blessings your Grandchildren [Genesis 48:1-22]

Jacob is old. He’s now a grandpa. He’s got the gnarly white hair and weathered skin to prove it. He’s got shortness of breath from chasing the grandkids around the barn. He spends most of his time sitting with his grandkids on his lap telling them long stories about the old days on the farm and how he thought he lost a son to ravenous wild animals. The grandkids listen, even though they have heard the stories hundreds of times.

By the time we come to Genesis 48, Jacob’s life is coming to an end. He is ailing. Joseph gathers his sons Manasseh and Ephraim to visit their grandfather, possibly for the last time. Jacob musters up strength, sits up in bed, and shares with his son and grandson of how God[1] appeared to him in Luz (Bethel) and blessed him with the covenant of promise spoken to his grandfather Abraham. Grandpa Jacob gives them some real spiritual steak to chew on.

What Jacob is doing is passing the spiritual baton to his son and grandsons. He is charging them to continue the faith so that the covenant family would prevail long after his death. It’s as Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”  Therefore Jacob brings in his two grandsons (Manasseh and Ephraim) to replace his first two sons who had fallen out of favor with him because of their sins.[2] In a final blessing, Grandpa Jacob purposefully reverses his hands in order to bless the younger (Ephraim) over the older (Manasseh).[3] Jacob then blessed his son Joseph and prayed over his grandsons, asking God to covenant with them, as He had been with him, his father Isaac, and his grandfather Abraham.

What we see and hear from Jacob is unique. He’s a manly man. He’s God’s kind of man. He’s not afraid to admit his dependence on God. He’s not too busy or tired to tend his children’s needs, particularly their spiritual needs. He’s not too proud to miss an opportunity to point his kids to God. He fears God first. Proverbs 14:26 says, “In the fear of the lord one has strong confidence, and his children will have a refuge.”

Blessed is everyone who fears the LORD, who walks in His ways! You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands; you shall be blessed, and it shall be well with you. Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house; your children will be like olive shoots around your table. Behold, thus shall the man be blessed who fears the LORD. The LORD bless you from Zion! May you see your children’s children!  [Psalm 128:1–6]

According to this song, the blessing from God is man’s highest goal. That blessing includes fearing God, walking in His ways, working hard and honestly to provide for his family, enjoying his godly wife, eating dinner around his table surrounded by his children, and living long enough to see the fruits reproduce in his grandkids.

It is important for men to spiritually lead their families and pass on words of blessing and spiritual direction. If fathers and grandfathers expect their children to live for God they are best to speak them to their children and grandchildren, and intentionally pray over them. Do it out loud, so they can hear it and see you do it.

I will never forget the day my dad spoke at my wedding ceremony. He called me to live righteously like Christ, and blessed our marriage. Equally, I will not forget when grandfather with tears in his eyes on his deathbed spoke blessings over my family and ministry. Though both are not the most spiritual men, their words still ring clearly in my ears. I long to retell them to my children and grandchildren.

Speak Future Altering Words to Your Children [Genesis 49:1–50:14]

Last words often are lasting or life altering. As Jacob nears his last breath he gathers his sons around him and they are baited upon every word. As father and grandfather he blessed them, but now he takes the role of a prophet revealing to them their futures. As with most messages from prophets, his message has both blessings and curses. It’s an unforgettable tell-it-as-it-is ceremony of sorts for the entire family.

Jacob begins by cursing Reuben for having sex with his father’s concubine [cf. Genesis 35:22], and Simeon and Levi for being violent men [cf. Genesis 34]. He blesses Joseph. He then appoints Judah as the son of the promise. Throughout Genesis Judah has transformed from godless to godly man, much like his own father. And, his father, Jacob prophesies a coming king from the line of Judah [Genesis 49:10], which included David [2 Samuel 7] and ultimately will be fulfilled by a greater King—Jesus Christ—the King of Kings.[4]

Jacob’s last request is to be buried next to his favored wife Rachel and his father Isaac and grandfather Abraham, which was the Promised Land. It’s his final act of faith trusting that one day God would allow his family to return from Egypt just as God promised. After he passed Joseph and his brothers honored their fathers requests.

If Genesis 48-49 were a TV sitcom or modern day movie it would stand out. It might be ridiculed because modern media has castrated the manliness right out of men. But these last words from Jacob are heroic. They are words that pack a punch, much like William Wallace commanding his Scotsmen or Maximus proclaiming to the spectators in the Roman arena. Jacob calls fathers and grandfathers everywhere to stand with him and pass the spiritual baton to the younger generations. And if you wont who will?

What kind of grandfather do you want to become? What will you be remembered by as a father? Proverbs 17:6 points you to the future, saying, “Grandchildren are the crown of the aged, and the glory of children is their fathers.” In order to be a godly man, good father, and unforgettable grandfather, you have to be a good Christ follower. It takes grace and guts to mimic the God-Man. True manhood will only be found inside the Body of that One New Man—Jesus Christ—the Son who joyfully obeyed the words of His Father. I charge you, men, follow Him.

Must Read Resources for Men who are or hope to be Fathers and Grandfathers:


[1] The name for God used here is El Shaddai. It is also used five times previously in Genesis.

[2] Reuben in Genesis 35:22 and Simeon in Genesis 34:25, 49:5-6.Therefore the rights of firstborn were passed onto Judah and Joseph (Genesis 49:8-12, 22-26), and Joseph’s two sons replaced them as the heads in the twelve tribes of Israel.

[3] This happened throughout Genesis. It happened to Jacob himself when his father Isaac blessed him over his brother Esau.

[4] The remainder of the Bible following Genesis points us to and gives more understanding towards who this promised coming king will be. According to Matthew 1:1-3, 2:6; Luke 3:30-33; Hebrews 7:14; and Revelation 5:5 Jesus is the promised descendant of Judah. And, according to Numbers 24:17; Hebrews 1:8; and Revelation 19:15-16 Jesus Christ is the King of Kings who is coming again to rule all nations of the earth in fulfillment of Genesis 49:10.

thumb licks [1.27.11]

5 Ways Wives Can Encourage Their Husbands.

An Open Letter to Christian Wives with Unbelieving Husbands.

20 Things a Husband Could Say to Defuse an Argument with His Wife.

Don’t Know How To Act When Someone Corrects You? Your Worries Are Over!

How to Honor your wife. Treating your woman like a queen.

Parenting Wisdom 101. Straight from Proverbs.

What Does God Want From Me? Some Important Thoughts For Children.

Why pray? Learning from the lips of Jesus.

Tom Hanks and Toddlers & Tiara’s:

consider adoption

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.—James 1:27

Considering adoption? [great sites to start your search]

Adoption 101: God’s heart and our call

A biblical view of adoption

Q&A on Adoption: Countries and More. Where should I adopt?

Love Basket

America World Adoption

All God’s Children

Adoption Advocates

Lifesong for Orphans

The LYDIA Fund

ABBA Fund. On funding adoptions.

Unveiled Face

Five Reflections on Evangelicalism and Adoption

Friends of adoption

Whipple Words

Mandy Joy. Echoes of Mercy.

Mag News

One thankful Mom

joyful Justus

Today my baby girl surprised us all by growing way too fast. As of 4:30am this morning she has breathed 365 days on this earth. Each of those days have been a joy and blessing. Here is a letter Justus’ mom and I wrote for her today,

Dear Justus,

We are so glad that you are our first baby girl.  God has used you to teach us about Himself, and He has blessed us with joy through you.  We pray often that you will come to know Him and that You will love His truth. This last year has gone by really fast, which is a simple reminder that you’re going to be an adult before we know it. Some of the characteristics that God is shaping in you even now are: a gentle spirit, a love for His creation, and an obedient heart. Your smile blows us away.  We hope these things continue to shape your life and are culminated by God’s Spirit in your salvation.

The last three months have not been easy for you since we’ve been traveling on the road and introducing you to  alot of strangers.  You’ve slept in so many places, and we hope you understand that as we prepare to raise you in a strange land, it is God’s power that we depend on and He will accomplish His purposes.

Some of the fun memories with you this year have been: flying to North Africa and taking a bumpy car ride,  going to the beach with Gramp, Nana, aunts, uncles, and cousin Lyla, visiting the zoo in Indy and Green Bay, and seeing you take your first steps at the Ristau’s house.

You have done turkey calls, learned to give kisses, and become obsessed with ducks (first at the Houchen’s house) this year.  We found out some special news on your special day. We can’t wait to see what God will do next year! Happy first Birthday!

Love,

Mom and Dad

parenting is sanctifying

I am only 11-months into being a parent. Already my little girl is teaching me many things about God:

1. Giving up rights of sleep and other freedoms are just temporary sacrifices but big opportunities to invest in a new life.

Parenting is a temporary stewardship, which I think also means a temporary loss of sleep. I remember the first few days when we brought her home from the hospital and she would cry through the night. Sarah and I would take turns rocking her to sleep. In those frustrating moments God would remind me how dependent and needy I was, just like my little balling baby girl.

2. The work does not end when I get home from the office, it just begins.

The most important work is when I get home with my family. I do not have the right to take it easy or have a break. Passive homes lead to passive kids.

3. It is a joy to watch my wife morph into a mom.

She is becoming the most beautiful mom in the world. I love watching her teach, sing, and disciple one daughter, who now thinks she’s cool with her new tooth.

“Only take care, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. Make them known to your children and your children’s children–how on the day that you stood before the LORD your God at Horeb, the LORD said to me, ‘Gather the people to me, that I may let them hear my words, so that they may learn to fear me all the days that they live on the earth, and that they may teach their children so.’” – Deuteronomy 4:9-10

thumb licks [9.25.11]

Baptizing Heathen Words. What words have Christians redefined?

How to Get the Most Out of Your Pastor’s Preaching.

50 Rules for Dads of Daughters. As a new father for a daughter these perked my attention.

Acts and Baptism: Implications for Parents. Before baptizing your children consider this.

Four Steps to Kill Sin. Sinclair Ferguson tackles the mortification of sin.

Homeschooling Blindspots. Some interesting insights as we consider homeschooling overseas.

Love Tap. Encouragement for the timid [watch video below].

thumb licks [9.18.11]

10 Questions Leaders Should Be Asking. Great for leaders and anybody for that matter.

Without the Gospel, It’s Not Missions.

Why Doesn’t Anybody Talk About Sin? A good question with good insight.

Who is Responsible for a Child’s Education? Is it the parent or the school?

Lonely Me: A Pastoral Perspective

Is Patience Dangerous?

Jacob: coming home [part 1]

Have you ever been away from home for more than a few months? Or long enough that you miss home sweet home? I have. I remember going to college in West Virginia and being a long way from my family in Wisconsin. I did not get home other than Christmas or summer breaks. After final exams, I would hop into my car and sometimes drive through the night to get home. The last hour always seemed the longest. I was so close, but not there yet.

Jacob must have felt the same way. He had just met his brother on his way home. He reconciled their relationship, which was mangled by lies and deceit. Now after 20 years away from home he can almost see it. He can taste in his mind his mothers home cooked meals. He can smell the farm. He can hear the breeze that carries his father’s voice. Jacob was so close, but not home yet. He decided to settle in Schechem. However, his decision to stay there was as devastating as Lots decision to stay in Sodom rather than traveling on to Bethel [cf. Genesis 13-14].

Jacob’s journey of faith has not ended. The last hours before coming home are still yielding lessons of faith. It is a reminder to all that God is not done with you until He is done with you.

Jacob’s faith has dramatically changed [cf. Genesis 32–33], but his son’s faith would remain nonexistent [Genesis 34]. They were deceitful [34:8–24], murderous [34:25–26], greedy [34:27–29], and proud [34:31]. There were probably characteristics passed down from their parents. However, despite Jacob’s new faith, new name, and found distress over his son’s bad behavior [34:30], Israel could not change his boys. God would have to bring them to a crisis of their own, as we will see later.

Jacob had eleven sons and only one daughter named Dinah. One day Dinah went out to visit other women in the region her parents lived. While out and about the son of the man who ruled that area saw her. He wanted her, but could not have her legitimately. Therefore he raped or seduced her. His act defiled and took her virginity dishonorably. To make matters more complicated he was pagan and he desired to marry her. Intermarriage between believers and unbelievers is condemned throughout Scripture.[1]

Jacob kept the situation a secret until Dinah’s brothers came home. Like protective brothers, they were grieved, disgusted, and furious over the vile action done by an idolatrous man. Dinah’s brothers devised a plan to seek revenge by creatively using the covenant of circumcision [cf. Genesis 17]. Like father like sons these boys learned to be tricksters. They told the men of Schechem a strategic lie, “You can happily intermarry our women and share our great wealth, but you will need to be circumcised.” The men were determined to get beautiful foreign women as brides that after three days all were circumcised.

Two of Dinah’s brothers, Simeon and Levi, were perturbed by men’s swift response. They were certain they would not buy into their plan. So out or rage and intensified revenge they strapped their swords to their sides and entered Schechem to slaughter every man and deliver their sister home safely all the while they looted the entire city, taking all the women and animals. Seeing what his sons had done, Jacob rebuked them for putting his family in danger of attack from the surrounding Schechemite allies. However, the brothers replied praising their heroics and took sides with their sister saying, “Should he have treated our sister like a prostitute?”

Why didn’t Jacob do anything? Is he a passive father? First, it is clear that Jacob hated his wife Leah, and Dinah was the daughter of Leah [30:19-21]. Jacob’s silence and indifference during her defilement indicates that he was not much of a loving father. Second, Jacob’s leadership was filled by the devious plans of his sons. Third, Jacob’s response to his son’s question has a selfish overtone that states on only “me” and he makes no mention of his poor daughter. Like his forefathers we see his imperfection after transformation—we see yet another mini-fall not unlike Adam, Noah, and Abraham. However, in God’s gracious sovereignty He uses Jacob’s sin for His purposes and preserves the line of the covenant family from intermarriage with the Schechemites through the murderous actions of Simeon and Levi.

Faith is not inherited paternally, but only through a decision personally.

Also, this is a reminder that faith—unlike the temporary blessings that passed from Abraham to Isaac to Jacob, and then to Jacob’s sons—is not passed down genetically. You cannot be born a Christian. Even though you may have godly parents, be part of a great church, and have good Christian friends you still have to encounter Jesus yourself. God encounters people individually, and people must place their faith in Him individually. Like their father, Jacob’s sons committed their own sins and like Jacob they would have to make God their own God. You cannot inherit faith; you must get it from God. There is no other way.

This journey home for Jacob is a rough road that paves the way for a future of faith in God’s promises. He is not there yet. Likewise God is not finish with you either. The pressures of life and family struggles are opportunities for you to trust in the promises of God. Next week we will see more about how God keeps His word and journey with Jacob to his home sweet home.


[1] Abraham was worried that Isaac would marry outside of the covenant as Ishmael had (Genesis 21:21, 24:3-4), and Esau’s intermarriage with the unbelieving Hittites which was a source of great trouble (Genesis 26:34-35, 27:46, 28:8).