This is a blog post written by Dr. Eric Mason who is the lead pastor of Epiphany Fellowship in Philadelphia and originally featured here. This subject is very near and dear to my life as we try to model this to others in our spheres of influence.
“A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling.” – Psalm 68:5
A few years ago I was given a book by my best friend and it blew me away. The book is called “Church for the Fatherless: A Ministry Model for Society’s Most Pressing Problem” by Pastor Mark Strong. The book itself served as no surprise to me but as I dug deeper I found myself trying to better understand the Churches role in the remedy. Here are the stats
- According to 72.2 % of the U.S. population, fatherlessness is the most significant family or social problem facing America.
- An estimated 26.63 million children (33%) live absent their biological father.
- Of students in grades 1 through 12, 39 percent (17.7 million) live in homes absent their biological fathers.
- Currently 57.6% of black children, 31.2% of Hispanic children, and 20.7% of white children are living absent their biological fathers.
- The 1997 Gallup Youth Survey found the following among U.S. teens:
- 33 % live away from their father
- 43% of urban teens live away from their father
- In 2010 over twenty million lived with no father (biological, adoptive, or step).
Looking at this epidemic is seriously overwhelming. The question I have is how do we equip communities to bring healing and change to the fatherless landscape in our cities?
This is not something that the Bible is quiet about yet at all. As I read through the Bible God speaks about the orphan with great care and HE also charges us with engaging them. Throughout history Christians have spearheaded movements in this arena and we have a distinct opportunity to do it once again. The question is simple, how? How do we engage a culture so different the the one we have built our churches around? How do we respond to this with the heart of the One who says, ‘Father, He is father to the fatherless?’ You see this is a theological issue, it’s not just a social issue that the government has to take care of kids, because God Himself calls Himself Father to the fatherless. Our response is that we have to be reconcilers—that we have to enter the shame and suffering of a generation. We have to step into their lives with the same intimacy in which Christ stepped into ours at the incarnation. This a messy process but one that we must be engaged in to affect our communities and reflect our God.
[update] I saw this video and it broke my heart, yet it fits right in with this subject.
“It frustrates me how church people discern truth using their politics instead of their Bibles, and it frustrates me that they don’t know the are doing it.”
– Reverend Dr. Derrick Lynch, Blue Valley Baptist Church
As an American and also as an evangelical Christian, I can hardly bear to watch this nightmare unfolding. It’s bad for Christianity, heck it’s bad for America. Here is my take on the sorry spectacle of Christian politics — and how to fix it.
- “… but they did it to President Bush”. Again, I don’t know about you but my kids would get into trouble for making an asinine excuse like this.
- “[Political Party] is just the lesser of two evils”. Just remember that you are still advocating for evil.
- “[Political Party] is closer to my values”. Yes, and they are trying to setup there own [Political] kingdoms that compete with God’s.
- Rush Limbaugh hates Jesus.
- Sean Hannity hates Jesus.
- Rachel Maddow hates Jesus.
- Mark Levin hates Jesus.
- Kieth Olbermann hates Jesus.
- Piers Morgan hates Jesus.
- Anderson Cooper hates Jesus
- Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, NPR and whomever else I missed all hates Jesus.
- Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, and [fill in your political party if it was not mentioned] parties are ALL antithetical to the Kingdom of God.
I know you agreed with some of the list and others you disagreed but I want to ask you this, What kingdom are they fighting for? When you listen to them talk/ advocate for their position who are they talking about? A Political party, an ideology, or Christ? Better yet if someone were to listen to you talk/ advocate who would they say you are talking about? Unfortunately, we have sold out to these fiefdoms while the Kingdom of God (you know the one that Christ died in establishing) loses ground. Do not allow your voice to be co-opted by your allegiance to an earthly kingdom or party. We have prostituted ourselves out so much that the outside world does not know the difference between Christ many political parties and that is a shame.
“It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would strongly be tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal.”
– “The Weight of Glory” by C.S. Lewis
Today read Luke 15, it will not take that long. No seriously do it now and then finish the post… I’ll wait….
What is so unique about this chapter is that it is the only time in the Scriptures that Jesus told three (3) parables simultaneously about the same exact subject. Here are some similarities in all three stories, lets see if you caught them
- Something was lost. As a matter of fact we live in a world that is lost and without hope because they do not know Christ. This should cause us as much if not more concern that the characters at the center of each of the parables.
- A passive attitude was NOT taken towards what was lost. In fact, in two of the three stories an all out search took place, and in the third the father was watching for his lost son to come home which in the original language is not passive but an active looking. As followers of Jesus what is important to Him must be important to us, yet the exact opposite seems to be true. We are content to be passive towards people who are far from God yet happy to celebrate our Fathers apparent active searching and beckoning for our souls. Many days it makes me wonder to what kingdom may of us are called given the passivity in our lives.
- When what was lost was found a party/celebration took place. When people receive Christ the church should absolutely lose their minds! It bothers me to no end that someone can walk down the aisle in a church with soft music playing in the background like funeral parlor. They are submitting there life to Christ, let’s CELEBRATE!!!! Someone literally crossed over from death to life! If heaven rejoices when someone meets Jesus then we, as His followers, must learn to do the same.
If we are truly found people then we will find people. There really is a Heaven and there really is a Hell and people really do go to one or the other! We can’t make excuses any longer, we have to be willing to do whatever it takes to reach these people and tell them about Jesus. If you choose not to say anything about the message you have been given then you are passively saying, “Go to Hell!” It would much more honest if you went all Westboro on them and told them to there face. I know it seems harsh but it’s the truth and I think we should face it.
So where do you stand?
Passively watching the world sink into Hell or actively seeking [along with the Father] those who would come to Him?
By “give my life for,” I mean two things. First, I give my life “for” them by giving my life to them. The life that I now have the privilege of living, I endeavor to invest in these things. That investment amounts to a slow dying for. Second, I pray the Lord would strengthen me in any moment where I might be called upon to give my life “for” these things by dying more quickly, perhaps violently for them. In those two senses of the phrase, here are eight things I would give my life for:
- God: The revelation of God as the only God, eternally Triune in nature and yet one, deserving all glory, honor, praise, and submission from His creation (Ex. 15:11; John 10:30; Acts 5:3-4).
- Scripture: The Bible as the inerrant, infallible, inspired, authoritative, sufficient, nourishing, life-giving word of God (Rev. 1:9).
- Jesus (okay I admit, this is a little redundant) : Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, fully God and fully man, in whom dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily, the exact representation of God’s being and the radiance of His glory, apart from whom there is no salvation (Col. 2:9; Heb. 1:3; John 3:16).
- The Gospel: The good news that sinful man is saved from the justly deserved, holy, eternal wrath of God by God’s grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, who in His perfect life and His substitutionary, penal atonement provides both our righteousness before God and satisfaction to God’s wrath, and to whom we are forever united by faith unto eternal life (Rom. 3:21-26).
- Missions: The call and work of going to all the world to make disciples of all nations and to teach them to observe everything Jesus commanded so that the glory, honor, praise, and worship of God through Christ would fill the earth and so that the joy, comfort, salvation, and hope of all peoples would overflow in Christ (Matt. 28:18-20; 2 Cor. 11:23-29).
- Discipleship (which includes Evangelism): My own personal profession of faith in and loyalty to Jesus Christ, the Son of God, God the Son, my Lord and Master, to whom I owe everything, for and in whom I live, breathe and have my being, and Who lives in me, completing the work He began until the day of His return, who will be perfectly and now is imperfectly my greatest and highest Delight and Satisfaction (Luke 9:23-26; Gal. 2:20; Acts 17:28; Phil. 1:6; Ps. 17:15).
- My Family (surprised they aren’t higher?): The good thing and obtained favor of the Lord, my wife, who satisfies me with her love and comforts me with her presence, who is constant encouragement and whose virtue has made me known among the elders at the city gate, with whom I am an heir to life and a partner in the gospel of our Lord, and the arrows in our quiver, entrusted to us to raise as a godly offspring to the Lord, not to provoke but to bring up in the fear and admonition of the Lord, through whom we have no greater joy than to see them walking in the truth, who we pray represent one in what will be generations of godly Nelsons living for the Lord (Prov. 18:22; 5:18-19; Prov. 31; Ps. 128; Mal. 2:15; 2 John 4; 2 Tim. 1:5).
- The Church: Those bought by the blood of Christ, granted eternal life and the gift of the Holy Spirit, adopted into the family of God, joined together by covenant love, journeying as pilgrims to the Heavenly City, entrusted by God’s grace into mutual care and leadership to deliver as a chaste bride awaiting her groom (John 10:10-15;Col. 1:28-29; Rev. 21).
These are just the 8 I came up with off of the cuff while borrowing so language that is much better than mine. Do you think that I missed any? Let me know below in the comments.
Friday morning I found myself in a similar place to many people, speechless. “an Unspeakable horror” is the phrase that best captured the events at Sandy Hook Elementary School last Friday. We all know the facts 27 people killed, 20 of who were only 6 or 7 years old, 6 school teachers/ administrators and a [forgotten] mother murdered at her own son’s hands.
There are no words to say.
It seems as if Christians both liberal and conservative do not understand this, there are no words to say. My Liberal friends yelling about gun control, and my Conservative friend’s outcry over God not being in public schools is equally as loud. Though I think both side of this discussion must be heard, and I agree with both to some extent, I’m just not sure that this is the time for it.
The problem lies in everyone’s opinion being propagated on Facebook and other social media streams as if this kind of sin and horrible loss is not absent in the pages of Scripture. Therefore my “Christian” friends that choose to spout there opinions instead of reflecting on what God has said and acting on it is troubling to say the least. It reflects how much we actually hold on to this world instead of living as citizens of God’s Kingdom.
In the book of Job, Job’s family was murdered by the devil, and Job responded with a heart of faith: “The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” Next his three friends arrive after Job suffers his “Unspeakable horror”. The Bible says that his friends “began to weep aloud…Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was” (Job 2:12-13).
Additionally, Job asked “why?” as we are prone to do in this time. God never answered Job’s why question, nor did he permit Job to question His wisdom. Instead, God simply pointed Job back to His own glorious character, sovereignty and wisdom. Job found a place of respite when he rested there. I think we want answers, but God does not give us answers. Instead, he reveals his character and glory, and that is faith—leaning on the sovereign hand of God, not knowing why, but knowing who to lean on through the loss. God does not answer our questions; He IS our answer.
Finally, this sickening situation should open our eyes to the opportunity that this is. National crisis like this provide Christians an opportunity to do what we are called to do, to bear witness to the truth. Not in a glib way, not in a dispassionate way that is unaffected by grief, and certainly not in a self-righteous way. As we grieve with the victims, as we mourn the loss of life, we don’t do so without hope. There is an answer to evil and it is the cross of Christ, Christ who came to put away evil and to set all things right.
In suffering, the purpose of God is to lead us to Himself and His sufficiency in Christ. God pointed Job to His revealed glory in creation, yet we have so much more. Job did not know about the cross where God would reveal His glory, grace, and character as He had not done previously. He crushed his Son for [us] sinners. He demonstrated His love in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ is the ultimate revelation of the character of God. Death is not the end of the story for those who turn to Christ, but eternal life in the Son is. So in this we pray for the victims, their families, the shooter’s family, and all those affected. We grieve with them.
God invites us to be silent before this massacre, acknowledging the severe limits of our understanding.
Our God is good. He is alive on the earth hidden amid all of history’s “Unspeakable horror”.
Let’s remember the three friends who got themselves in big trouble once they started talking, poorly applying Scriptural truth in an attempt to “help” Job and “defend the integrity of God.”
Let us lament and [please] let us be silent.