Monday, August 17, 2015

Recently, I delivered a couple of messages from Philemon, Paul's Post Card. Paul is seeking to bring out the best in his friend, Philemon, asking him to forgive a runaway servant named Onesimus, whom Paul recently led to Christ. It is a letter that is pregnant with instruction on how to bring out the best in one another. Part of becoming a growing community of grace is that we think hard about how to stir and inspire one another to love and good deeds (Hebrews 10:24). The points from the messages were to engage each other's hearts following certain principles: Practice Humility Prioritize Prayer Show Respect Communicate Love Express Affirmation Model Selflessness Promote Vision Inspire Execution Exercise Faith You can listen to these messages here: One of those elements we can all seek grace from God to apply is to Express Affirmation. Our God is the abundantly affirming God! Hebrews 6:10--God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love that you have shown for His Name in serving the saints. I happen to believe that most of us don't see God as the Supreme Affirmer. I fear that most of us see God as The Reprimander. The Corrector. The Fault-Finder. Of course, if He were that, there would NEVER be a moment He could not find something to reprimand us for or correct us over and find fault with us about. And, of course, that's how many of us indeed see Him...and experience our own imaginations. I read a letter to the congregation that has been widely circulated over the years. It's called, "Father Forgets." It's written by a father to his son. It exposes our own fault-finding ways. But, I hope, it will also expose the low view we tend to hold of God...we tend to see our Father in heaven as this fault-finding dad. He. Is. Not. That. Sure, sin is a reality. Of course, God doesn't condone sin. But what if...God is more patient and more affirming of His children in union with Christ than we give Him credit for? Just. What. If?? Here is the letter: W. Livingston Larned—Father Forgets—a piece that has ended up being reprinted in every type of magazine that’s been published. One reason so impactful is b/c of the way it nails us on our tendency to criticize and condemn before we affirm and appreciate. Listen, son: I am saying this as you lie asleep, one little paw crumpled under your cheek and the blond curls stickily wet on your damp forehead. I have stolen into your room alone. Just a few minutes ago, as I sat reading my paper in the library, a stifling wave of remorse swept over me. Guiltily I came to your bedside. There were things I was thinking, son: I had been cross with you. I scolded you as you were dressing for school because you gave your face merely a dab with a towel. I took you to task for not cleaning your shoes. I called out angrily when you threw some of your things on the floor. At breakfast I found fault, too. You spilled things. You gulped down your food. You put your elbows on the table. You spread butter too thick on your bread. And as you started off to play and I made for my train, you turned and waved a hand and yelled, “Goodbye daddy!” And I frowned, and said in reply, “Hold those shoulders back!” Then it began all over again in the late afternoon. As I came up the road I spied you, down on your knees, playing marbles. There were holes in your stockings. I humiliated you before your friends by marching you ahead of me to the house. Stockings were expensive—and if you had to buy them, you would be more careful. Imagine that, son, from a father. Do you remember later, when I was reading in the library, how you came in timidly, with a sort of hurt look in your eyes? When I glanced up over my paper, impatient at the interruption, you hesitated at the door. “What is it you want?” I snapped. You said nothing, but ran across in one tempestuous plunge and threw your arms around my neck and kissed me, and your small arms tightened with an affection that God had set blooming in your heart and which even neglect could not wither. And then you were gone, pattering up the stairs. Well, son, it was shortly afterwards that my paper slipped from my hands and a terrible sickening fear came over me. What has habit been doing to me? The habit of finding fault, of reprimanding—this was my reward to you for being a boy. It was not that I did not love you; it was that I expected too much of youth. I was measuring you by the yardstick of my own years. And there was so much that was good and fine and true in your character. Your little heart was as big as the dawn itself over the wide hills as evidenced by your spontaneous impulse to rush in and kiss me good night. Nothing else matters tonight son. I have come to your bedside in the darkness, and I have knelt here, ashamed. It is a feeble atonement; I know you would not understand these things if I told them to you during your waking hours. But, tomorrow I will be a real daddy! I will chum with you, and suffer when you suffer, and laugh when you laugh. I will bite my tongue when impatient words come. I will keep saying as if it were a ritual; “He’s nothing but a boy—a little boy!” I am afraid I have visualized you as a man. Yet as I see you now, son, crumpled and weary in your cot, I see that you are still a baby. Just yesterday, it seems, you were in your mother’s arms, your head on her shoulder. I have asked too much, too much.