I’ve heard stories about children who hold their breath to get what they want. Thankfully none of my kids have ever done this, so I’ve never seen it happen. But my wife has.
She used to babysit for two boys the youngest of which would cry to get what he wanted. He’d cry so much, that he wouldn’t take the time to breathe. So when he decided that what he wanted was more important than air, he would turn blue and pass out for a few seconds then wake having forgotten what he wanted.
As a dad of 4, soon to be 5, the practical side of me doesn’t think that’s a bad trade off. Let my kid pass out if it gets him through throwing a fit? Sure! But then, it’s probably not very good for his brain if he’s deprived of oxygen. As I think it through, I’m very sure his mother wouldn’t believe it’s good either.
So I officially advocate for breathing. We must breathe. Glad that’s settled.
Believers in Christ are no different. The Church, Christ’s body, must breathe. But as rule, it appears America’s model for the Church is that it inhales “Christian stuff” but exhales far less items of redemptive value.
Let me tell you what I mean.
Christian retail distribution and online sales are a 4.63 billion dollar a year business. The majority of these are items are produced so that Christians can purchase and use them to learn more about God, Jesus Christ and His Church. The Church’s #2 “thing we do” next to Sunday worship, is Bible Study. These are not bad things right?
However, they are bad if all our consuming leads to nothing. No life-change, no other lives changed as a result.
Jesus’ Church is on the earth for one purpose and it isn’t to study the Bible in perpetuity, read popular theological books, enjoy Thomas Kinkade or to feel self-actualized. The Church’s purpose is to accurately represent Christ to the world and share the truth of Jesus so the world can be saved.
If all we do as Christians is receive Sunday sermons, study the Bible and buy “Christian stuff”, we are in serious danger of turning blue and passing out.
So what should we do? Exhale. And then inhale, and then exhale some more. Feels more healthy already doesn’t it?
Pour it out. Pay it forward. Give some back. Deny yourself, pick up your cross, follow Him. However you’d like to say it. Do not become a warehouse for information or stuff. But use all that God has breathed into you to breathe out to others. This doesn’t just mean Bible information or theology, but effort, comfort, peace, kindness, joy and gentleness. All of it.
If you’ve received salvation from God in Christ, then you must return that salvation to the world on behalf of the One who gave it to you. May we hold each other to this standard as we struggle onward.
If you’d like an opportunity to “breathe out”, the Schuyler County (Illinois) Ministerial Association(SCMA) has scheduled this year’s “Together for Rushville” community service workday for Saturday October 3rd. Please find the event on Facebook.
 Phillip J. Clements and Sharon Nolt, Christian Retail Industry Research, (New York, NY: Cathedral Publishing Group, 2008)
Christians use this phrase a lot. We use it when something hasn’t happened in the time period we’d like or in the sequence we’d like. It’s a phrase that helps us bolster faith when our expectations of God aren’t fulfilled.
It’s a useful and encouraging phrase; but is it true?
We focused on 2 Peter 3:1-14 as our core text which teaches Christians how we should conduct ourselves until the 2nd coming of Christ. I believe that Peter’s teaching in this text has far more practical meaning in the daily lives of believers than predicting (or arguing about) the sequence of events that happen before or during Christ’s return.
A few verses in that section of scripture make statements about God’s timing that can have great effect on how Christians should expect to experience life on earth. Peter writes:
“But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” 2 Peter 3:8-9 (ESV)
First, “Timing” Has a Godly Perspective
My days feel as though they come and go at a break-neck pace. I’ve noticed that everything seems to move faster as I get older. I gulp down blocks of time. Instead of counting minutes, I count hours and days. Life appears to spin as these spans pack on top of one another.
When Peter says the Lord’s single day is like 1000 years to us it creates two thoughts for me. Initially it makes my life feel like it’s spinning even faster. I think maybe I’ve prayed like the Psalmist:
“O Lord, make me know my end, and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am!” Psalm 39:4 (ESV)
Our lives are truly fleeting. Our time on earth doesn’t just move fast. It’s a single strobe flash in a dark room to the Lord. In this light alone our lives aren’t just microscopic and swift, they are inconsequential and meaningless. How relevant could Jesus hold lives that happen so fast from His perspective?
Yet, I think there’s a converse thought here. In order to fully collect this thought, we have to try to combine our perspective with His. This is something most effectively done by faith in Him.
I realized the Lord’s movements in our “real time” seem especially slow and deliberate. I see that God may have only a few, if even more than one, milestone interactions with us in our lives. And these interactions with Him are anything but inconsequential or meaningless. God’s break through intersections in our lives change us forever. I’ve only had a few of these experiences, yet I know two things: 1. They were undoubtedly of God 2. They transformed my life forever.
If 1000 years is like a day to God, He’s had an extremely busy “few days” since Jesus ascended, not withstanding the amount of time since creation. Amazing to me is that inside God’s “days” are actually billions of people who’ve known or experienced Him. These are billions of lives revolutionized forever!
Second, God’s Motivation is Good
Peter is clear that God is not slow concerning what He’s promised us in His Word. God isn’t disorganized or emotionless. The Lord has a plan and He’s working this plan through the engine of the Gospel.
The goal of the plan is simple. God isn’t willing that any should perish. He wants everyone everywhere to have an opportunity to experience and know Him. He doesn’t want anyone to meet the finality of death.
God’s motivation for interacting and moving the way He does; for appearing slow and deliberate, is the salvation of souls. This should elevate Him from our viewing angle, because He’s behaving in the most excellent way with the highest degree of love.
He is a father who’s watching His children vigilantly. He knows their hearts and tendencies. He’s perfectly planning the appropriate time for each child to uniquely hear His voice the clearest and loudest. Why? For each child’s ultimate good.
All through Christ’s sacrifice. This is love.
Does God have timing?
From our point of view and in the way our brains understand timing; I think He does. Yet, we must understand that timelines and simple linear thinking are severely limited.
God intercepts us with great compassion. He steps into our lives with peace and wisdom we cannot wholly understand. He is brilliant; adept in the way He works. This transcends a timeline.
Gladly, His work will continue, in the same way, through His Church until Jesus returns. When that time comes, no one who’s ever lived will be able to say they don’t know the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.
All will say, that Jesus is the Lord to the Glory of God the Father. They will all recall the times when God intersected their lives. All will celebrate or mourn at their response to Jesus. (Romans 14:11-12, Philippians 10:9-11)
Peter’s teaching is for the Church to wait, patiently, for the Lord to finish His narrative. We are to conduct ourselves in tribute to Christ alone, watching the signs and expecting His coming until this timeline ends.
“A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling.” Psalm 68:5 (ESV)
In 2003, the Idaho Observer cited statistics in an article that said children from fatherless homes account for:
- 63% of youth suicides. (Source: US Dept. of Health & Human Services, Bureau of the Census).
- 71% of pregnant teenagers. (Source: US Dept. of Health & Human Services)
- 90% of all homeless and runaway children.
- 70% of juveniles in state-operated institutions. (Source: U.S. Dept. of Justice, Special Report, Sept 1988)
- 85% of all children that exhibit behavioral disorders. (Source: Center for Disease Control).
- 80% of rapists motivated with displaced anger. (Source: Criminal Justice & Behavior, Vol. 14, p. 403-26, 1978).
- 71% of all high school dropouts. (Source: National Principals Association Report on the State of High Schools).
- 75% of all adolescent patients in chemical abuse centers. (Source: Rainbows for all God’s Children).
- 85% of all youths sitting in prisons. (Source: Fulton Co. Georgia jail populations, Texas Dept. of Corrections 1992).
These statistics terrify me. They are so stunning and disheartening that instead of having my eyes opened by them I just want to close my eyes, my ears and my mind. I want to pretend they aren’t true; that I cannot feel the truth of them all around me.
I believe many of us feel the same way. We cannot feel the sharp certainty of these statistics without feeling the hopelessness of being part of them. How many of us are single parents? How many of us live at the center of raising children without fathers or have been raised fatherless ourselves?
So many of us want to say it doesn’t matter. While the fatherhood crisis continues in the world we do not want it to become a personal crisis of fatherhood. We want to say the presence of trustworthy, tender, strong and real adult men in the life of children just isn’t that important. We say this especially when men engage in the reproductive process, but run away from real fatherhood. Many of us find assurance in the quotes and quips of our culture like, “Mother is the name for God on the lips and hearts of little children.” Yet, isn’t God a Father? Isn’t he a good Dad that gives good gifts to His kids? It’s too serious a set of circumstances for us to bear if just a handful of these statistics are true. So we look for alleviation by closing our eyes.
I’ve recently overcome the arc of denial in this area. God is calling me to see the truth; to lean in and to react. I want you to know that I personally feel and have felt the weight of fatherlessness and fatherhood in my life. I have four mind-blowing children that I don’t deserve. They are 24 hour a day source of joy and fear because I am their dad. I am less than ideal for all of them, yet God, in His grace, in His fatherhood, gave them to my wife and me.
I am sure you feel that same way; less than ideal, less than equal to the task. When we turn our eyes to the raging fire of fatherlessness in our world, that feeling magnifies as we see all that is happening. We see the single moms struggling, courageously, to raise their children well. We see broken-hearted and lost children, acting out and searching because men haven’t contributed selflessly into their lives.
Whatever we see in this crisis and no matter how this makes us feel, I believe we are called by God to overcome fear, lean in and respond. Where the ideal is lacking, God’s grace abounds. While we aren’t the answer, we are called to answer. If you are ready to see and respond to the fatherhood crisis, here are some resources that may help:
The Mentoring Project:
The National Fatherhood Initiative:
The National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse:
The National Center for Fathering:
 Cited in “The Future: Set Adrift on a Sea of Fatherless Children,” Idaho Observer, July 2003.
 William Makepeace Thackeray, taken from brainyquote.com.
 Matt Chandler, from the Village Church sermon series, “A Beautiful Design”.