Father’s Day Resolution

Father’s Day Resolutions

Matthew 5:1-12

Dr. Jim Denison

Three boys were bragging about their fathers. The first said, “My dad writes some words on paper and calls it a lawsuit, and they pay him for it.” The second said, “Yeah, well my dad writes some words on paper and calls it a prescription, and they pay him for it.” The third said, “Well, my dad writes some words on a paper and calls it a sermon. And it takes eight guys to collect all the money!”

Dads need respect. Sonora Smart Dodd of Spokane, Washington, knew it was so. Listening to a Mother’s Day sermon in 1909, she thought of her father. He had raised her and her five siblings after their mother died. So she spoke to area ministers and YMCA members, and they began the next year. They selected roses as the flower of the day: red if the father was living, white if he was deceased. Interest grew until President Calvin Coolidge made Father’s Day a national holiday in 1924.

I’m glad there’s a Father’s Day, selfishly and spiritually.

We need to remember what God wants us to give our fathers, on this day and each day. 12,600 miles of ties will be given today. What else do fathers need?

And fathers need to remember why we were blessed by God with this privilege, and how to fulfill it well.

Graduate from Fatherhood 101

Unfortunately, children do not come with owner’s manuals. No Chilton’s car repair books or operating instructions. But their Creator has told us what we need to know to do this job well. Let’s review Fatherhood 101 in the word of God.

Your first responsibility is to lead your family spiritually.

“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church” (Ephesians 5:25). How did Jesus love us? Unconditionally, selflessly, sacrificially. Love her the same way.

“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Ephesians 5:21). Serve each other, meet each other’s needs.

Live so that your wife can fulfill her spiritual responsibility as well: “Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:22). Be the spiritual leader, example, model in your family and home. Live and lead so that they follow Christ because of you.

A survey conducted by the National Study of Youth and Religion has concluded that adolescents raised in religious households are far more likely to admire their parents and live in healthy families than those who are not. So lead your family spiritually.

Next, provide for your family financially.

We are to meet their physical as well as spiritual needs: “…Children should not have to save up for their parents, but parents for their children” (2 Corinthians 12:14).

Freud said, “I cannot think of any need in childhood as strong as the need for a father’s protection.” Provide financial and physical security and stability for your home.

Third, teach your children biblically.

Describing the principles of Scripture, we are commanded to “Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up” (Deut 6:7).

We are further instructed, “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).

Do you have a time in your home for Bible study and prayer? A time to teach your children what you know of God’s word? You are their first pastor, their spiritual guide. The church has your kids one percent of their time, the schools 16%; you have them 83% of their time. So teach them biblically.

Fourth, be what you want your children to become.

A godly father “must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect” (1 Timothy 3:4).

It’s been observed that “Till a boy is fifteen he does what his father says; after that he does what his father does.”

Here is Fatherhood 101: lead your family spiritually, provide for them physically, teach them biblically, be what you want them to become. Now, let’s focus on the last principle. How can we be the people we want our children to become? What does it take to be godly fathers?

You’re familiar with New Year’s resolutions. Today I want to offer some Father’s Day resolutions. Eight, in fact. Eight gifts to give our children, and our souls as well.

Adopt these Father’s Day resolutions

Jesus’ familiar beatitudes begin: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3).

To be “poor in spirit” means to know our need of God, that we cannot live and succeed without his help. It means to admit that he is the I Am and I am the I Am Not.

Our culture stands on self-sufficiency. We can meet our needs if we just put in enough hours, take enough classes, consult enough experts.

God knows better. He knows that our children are eternal souls entrusted to our care. So here’s the first Father’s Day resolution: “I will seek the help of God daily.” Will you make this commitment now?

The second beatitude states, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted” (Matthew 5:4).

The “mourning” to which Jesus refers is primarily spiritual. Mourning for sin, failures, shortcomings before God. It means to admit that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23), myself among them.

Our culture stands on self-assurance. We’re good fathers if we provide financially for our families. Pete Rose heard that his daughter had told a reporter he was a terrible father. He responded, “That’s not true. I’m a great father. Why, just the other day I bought her a new Mercedes.”

God knows that our children will become what we are, so that we must spend time every day confessing our sins, staying right with God. Here’s the second Father’s Day resolution: “I will confess my sins daily to God.” Will you start today?

How To Live In The Now

How to Live in the Now

Matthew 6.28-34

Dr. Jim Denison

A friend sent me some interesting facts about the class which recently graduated from high school in America. They have no recollection of the Reagan era. There has been only one Pope in their lifetime. They were five when the Soviet Union broke apart and do not remember the Cold War. Tianamen Square means nothing to them. Atari predates them, as do vinyl albums. They have never heard of an 8-track. The Compact Disc was introduced before they were born. They have always had cable and VCRs. Popcorn has always been cooked in the microwave. They have no idea that Americans were ever held hostage in Iran. Kansas, Chicago, Boston, America, and Alabama are places, not bands. They don’t have a clue how to use a typewriter. And Jay Leno has always been on the Tonight Show.

Speaking of Mr. Leno, I once heard him say that his father complained about walking five miles through the snow to school. “What will we complain about to our kids?” he asked. “We had to get up to change the channel.”

Tomorrow comes so quickly that we worry about it today. But Jesus says that we should not: “Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (v. 34). How do we do this? A psychologist once said that 90% of his patients live in fear of the future or guilt over the past. Wouldn’t you like to refuse both? How do we live in the now?

Choose to live in the now

“Do not worry,” our text begins, translating a present tense imperative. Literally rendered, Jesus said, “Stop worrying, every time worry starts again in your life.”

“About tomorrow”—specifically, about anything having to do with the future. No exceptions, no qualifications, no loopholes.

Why? “Tomorrow will worry about itself”—it will take care of itself. You cannot. You can’t do anything about tomorrow, today.

Instead, focus on now, for “Each day has enough trouble of its own.” The word describes damage done to a crop by hail, the normal problems of living in this fallen world. You have enough to think about for today without borrowing from tomorrow.

The upshot: live in the now. Stay in the present. But that’s hard.

So why live in the present? For three reasons. First, worry over the future is pointless. A survey regarding worries revealed these facts:

40% of things most people worry about never happen.

30% of what we worry about has already happened and cannot be changed.

22% of what we worry about regards problems which are beyond our control.

Only 8% of what we worry about involves situations over which we have any influence.

Mickey Rivers, former New York Yankees outfielder, was right: “Ain’t no sense worry about things you got control over, ’cause if you got control over them, ain’t no sense worrying. And there ain’t no sense worrying about things you got no control over, ’cause if you got no control over them, ain’t no sense worrying about them.” Any questions?

A wise man once said, “The biggest troubles you have got to face are those that never come.”

It has been observed that the bridges we cross before we come to them are almost always over rivers that aren’t there.

Winston Churchill once quoted a man on his deathbed who said that he had a lot of trouble in his life, most of which never happened. Don’t live in tomorrow, for such anxiety is pointless.

Second, refuse to worry about the future, because tomorrow doesn’t exist.

The Greeks pictured history as a line, and made five-year plans. The Jews knew better. They saw time as a dot, the here and now. “Yesterday” is gone, and “tomorrow” doesn’t exist. It’s just a word with no substance. We live in the past and the future; they lived in the present.

Take Paul’s experience on his second missionary journey. He thought he was to turn back East when God called him West. The result was his ministry in Macedonia and Europe, and the movement of the gospel to the Western Hemisphere. The apostle had no idea this was his future; he was simply staying faithful in the present.

Third, choose to live in the now, because it’s the only way to know God. All of God there is, is in this moment. He is the great I Am, not the I Was or the I Will Be. He cannot help you with the future, for it doesn’t exist. If you want to know God, you must live in today.

Jim Carrey’s comedy Bruce Almighty has caused significant problems for Dawn Jenkins, and she isn’t even in it. The character of God leaves his phone number on Carrey’s pager. But instead of the usual 555 prefix used by most television shows and films, God’s number is a common exchange—it’s Dawn’s cell phone number. She’s been getting about 20 calls per hour, with callers asking for God before hanging up.

The only way God can answer your call is when you make it about the present. He’s already forgiven every sin you’ve confessed to him from your past; he will guide every step you’ll trust to his will. So live in this moment, and you’ll find God there.

Learn to live in the now

So we choose to live in the present, in this moment, in the now. How do we do this? I have been helped much this week by rereading Thomas Kelly’s classic A Testament of Devotion. This Quaker missionary was a scholar in philosophy of religion, but even more a student of the soul. He suggests these principles, which I endorse to you.

First, invite Christ to dwell in your soul. Make him your Savior and Lord.

When you do, your body becomes the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19) and Jesus himself comes to live in your heart.

When You Fear The Future

When You Fear the Future

Matthew 6:28-33

Dr. Jim Denison

A little girl was attending a wedding for the first time. She whispered to her mother, “Why is the bride dressed in white?” Her mother answered, “Because white is the color of happiness, and today is the happiest day of her life.” The child thought about this for a moment and then said, “So why is the groom wearing black?”

Where is your soul wearing black today? There’s plenty to worry about in the news, with SARS, global terrorism, economic concerns. Nonprofits and churches have been especially affected financially. A recent Christianity Today article documented that private donations to colleges and universities dropped last year for the first time in 15 years; the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association has experienced a $20 million giving decline and plans to lay off 20% of its staff; World Vision’s budget fell short by $2 million last year. Our own giving is some 10% under budget, causing us to reduce our ministries significantly.

What most worries you about today? What about tomorrow? It’s been said that “Worry is a stream of fear trickling through the mind. If encouraged, it cuts a channel into which all other thoughts are drained.”

Thomas Kelly, the monk and author: “Over the margins of life comes a whisper, a faint call, a premonition of richer living which we know we are passing by. Strained by the very mad pace of our daily outer burdens, we are further strained by an inward uneasiness, because we have hints that there is a way of life vastly richer and deeper than all this hurried existence, a life of unhurried serenity and peace and power.”

What about tomorrow most worries you today? How do we find God’s “unhurried serenity and peace and power” in the midst of such fear about the future?

Claim the promises of God

Our text begins, “consider the lilies of the field.” “Consider” means to observe well, to learn thoroughly. The “lilies of the field” were flowers ground around Jesus and his followers on this beautiful hillside near the Sea of Galilee.

Note that “they do not labor or spin.” “Labor” means not work but the weariness which it can produce.

Despite the fact that they don’t worry about the future, “Not even Solomon in all his glory was dressed like one of these.” The scarlet anemone was more beautiful than Solomon’s royal robes; the pure white lilies more brilliant than his white garments. The flowers of the field have a beauty bestowed by God which the richest man in history cannot begin to match.

Even “the grass of the field” is similarly blessed, weeds which were grown to be mowed and used for fuel or to thatch roofs. Such grass had only a few days to live, yet God clothes even this part of his creation with a beauty we cannot reproduce. What he does for flowers and grass, he does for us. So remember his blessing, his grace, the provision of our loving Father.

He provides for everything that worries us about tomorrow: “the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them” (v. 32). God’s word promises, “My God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19). Jesus taught us, “Your Father knows what you need before you ask him” (Matthew 6:8).

So trust the provision of God for tomorrow, today. He’s already there. He will care for you. He provides for all who walk in his purpose: “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (v. 33). This command means to make God your king. To become his subject. To yield your plans, dreams, ambitions, future, hopes, life to his will and word. To become fully his.

When you make this unconditional surrender to him, you are in position to receive all that he wants by grace to give. Then you can trust the provision of God for tomorrow, today.

God’s word to Jacob has encouraged my heart this week: “I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go … I will not leave you until I have done what I promised you” (Genesis 28:15). The Psalmist was assured: “…he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep” (Psalm 121:4); “You give me your shield of victory, and your right hand sustains me; you stoop down to make me great” (Psalm 18:35). The Lord assures his people: “…I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you” (Isaiah 46:4).

God provides for tomorrow, whenever we walk in his purpose today. This is his clear and consistent promise. Claim it this morning.

Consider the provision of God

But why should you have such faith? Your fears are real, your worries substantial. Tomorrow is a very real problem. So consider all the ways God has provided for you already.

I’ve been reading Bill Bryson’s, A Short History of Nearly Everything. Here he reflects current scientific thought to say, “Consider the fact that for 3.8 billion years, a period of time older than the Earth’s mountains and rivers and oceans, every one of your forebears on both sides has been attractive enough to find a mate, healthy enough to reproduce, and sufficiently blessed by fate and circumstances to live long enough to do so. Not one of your pertinent ancestors was squashed, devoured, drowned, starved, stranded, stuck fast, untimely wounded, or otherwise deflected from its life’s quest of delivering a tiny charge of genetic material to the right partner at the right moment in order to perpetuate the only possible sequence of hereditary combinations that could result—eventually, astoundingly, and all too briefly—in you” (pp. 3-4).

Your Maker has given you a heart which pumps enough blood through your body every 24 hours to fill a railway tanker. Every day it exerts as much effort as it would take to shovel 20 tons of gravel onto a platform as high as your waist.