Why Your First Impression of Your Father Matters

2017 Messages

While Father's Day is a day of celebration for many, it can also be a day of sadness and hurt. Wherever you are and whatever Father’s Day means to you, Todd reminds us that our earthly fathers are not a perfect reflections of our Heavenly Father, but that our Heavenly Father is a perfect example of what our earthly fathers should be. He loves you, and He wants you to ask Him for His advice every day, not just on Father’s Day.

Todd WagnerJun 18, 2017Revelation 3:20; Ephesians 4:26-27; James 1:19-20; Psalms 101:1; Psalms 1:1-2; Psalms 2; Psalms 3:3; Psalms 4:8; Habakkuk 1:1-5; Psalms 40:1-3

Good morning! How is everybody doing this happy Father's Day? Father's Day can be a time of great joy and celebrating a good father or, frankly, a reminder of how we feel a little bit more than cheated because we didn't have a great father. Father's Day can also be a time when those of us who are fathers deal with some sense of guilt or shame in that we have not been the dads that in our deepest heart of hearts we all want to be.

Wherever you are in that spectrum or that continuum in your life, I want to encourage you this morning to stay locked in. As I tell my kids, who I'm privileged to get to be a father to, "Listen, I am not a reflection of your heavenly Father. He is the perfection of what I should be. Anytime I'm not a good reflection of his perfection, I'm going to seek your forgiveness. I want to own that. I want to get out of the way, because I know that, as a dad, I am the very first impression of a father you're going to get."

For so many of us, we have a very difficult time with the concept of God whose favorite way to reveal himself is with the term father. We have a hard time with that, because our first impression of what a father is like has been exceedingly painful. In fact, there's a gentleman by the name of Paul Vitz, who is a psychologist at New York University, and he wrote about this. He actually wrote a book called Faith of the Fatherless.

Paul Vitz was a guy who had an understanding, because of his upbringing and his nonbelief, that psychological factors and not natural reality are what push us toward the concept of God. Let me say that again. The prevailing view within certain educational circles, certainly psychological ones, is that psychological realities and not natural realities create in us a God space and a longing for a sense of something to provide for us, protect us, point us to a way that is life giving beyond what we can ascertain ourselves.

What's interesting is that is in direct contradiction to two things: Scripture and science. Why do I say that? Because Scripture says that God's divine nature, his eternal power, his invisible attributes have been clearly seen through that which has been made. Science would say the exact same thing. When you look at our world, there is no explanation. There is a theory that, frankly, has intimidated people for the last 150 years that we evolved from time plus nothing plus chance that many people think is science.

It's not science; it's a theory suggesting an explanation that is contradictory to what science has said statistically would need to happen for our world to exist the way it does today. There's not enough time… Even the people who date our world and universe at the most extreme ends of the spectrum would say there's not enough time that has gone by for the statistical probability to happen to create life as we know it today.

The more we go inside a human being, the more we go inside the smallest forms of life we know…quarks and atoms and other small, miniscule, microscopic forms of life…we see design and order. The farther we go out into the universe, we see design, and what we see is that design demands a designer. We see this need for something to explain why we're here, and the big bang, which is another prevailing theory about how we got here, is inconsistent with what we know.

Now none of us here are part of the ATF (alcohol, tobacco, and firearms). We're not explosive experts, but we know when there is an explosion, the farther away you get from that explosion, the more chaotic and disordered all of the elements are. What we're seeing is the farther you get away from where we think order currently exists, we see nothing but further and further evidences of design, not evidences of an explosion.

Psychological factors, many people have pontificated for a long time, are why men believe in God, not natural realities. What I would tell you is the Scriptures make a different claim, and so does reason. Let me just talk about what Paul Vitz did. This psychologist, who later in his life actually came to faith, started to go back and look at the men who made these presuppositions and developed these psychological theories about humankind's understanding of God. What he found was not that psychological realities create in us a desire for God, but more often, psychological realities are what force many to deny the existence of God. Just the opposite.

He went back and looked at some of the most famous atheists, philosophers, and psychologists the world has ever known. Friedrich Nietzsche, who's rather famous for saying "God is dead," had a believing father, but his father was sickly from the time he was born, and he was actually raised by a very dominating mother and sisters who maybe were doing the best they could, but they were, in a sense, abusive to young Friedrich, and his father was never there for him.

He resented the fact that he didn't have a father figure in his life, so he had kind of a machismo response, which was, "Hey, listen, man. You have to pick yourself up, and you have to do more for yourself than the world will do for you. God is dead." His nihilistic, fatalistic worldview came out of, "I'm going to make something of my life and not be beaten down by domineering others or angry that my weak father couldn't provide for me something. There is no God. I will be my own." "Make the most of yourself." That's Nietzsche.

Sigmund Freud, who was a guy who despised his weak father… He claimed his father was a pervert. Most of his psychoanalytical theory was all about his father hatred. He was one who was famous for making the case, basically, that psychological realities are what create in us this need for this God space. Karl Marx rejected God. He came up with a system that said all of mankind's motivations can be explained by economic forces. Why?

Because though he was born in Prussia to a Jewish family and had rabbis immediately related to him, his father made the decision that, because Lutheranism was the primary religion of the masses and society in Prussia and Germany, they needed to go to the Lutheran church, so they abandoned their faith so they could prosper in business. He took young Karl to a Lutheran church and had him baptized. Marx later went on to study in London, full of bitterness and a lack of respect for his father, and wrote Das Kapital.

Joseph Stalin embraced this idea about communism, and when you understand that his father was abusive to him and beat him, it's not difficult to understand why he embraced Karl Marx's idea that there is no religion out there. Existentialist Jean-Paul Sartre, who rejected the idea there was a God, was abandoned by his father at an early age. When his mother married a distant and abusive stepfather, he just said, "God doesn't exist. There's another way to make sense of who you are."

Paul Vitz went through and in his book said, as an intellectual, there is more evidence that the psychology of those who suffer from an absent, abusive, or emotionally distant father creates in us a difficulty with the idea of God who identifies himself as Father much more than our need to create something comes from our psychology. It's really interesting. I read an article this week both in Harvard Business Review and also in Wired magazine about Google's effort to help its human resources department in hiring managers from falling prey to what is called confirmation bias.

Anybody who has ever studied anything about hiring and interviews will tell you that there are volumes that are written about how what happens in those very first five minutes of an interview is the most important part of an interview. In fact, Google even went further and said they found out that the judgments their managers made in the first 10 seconds affected everything else about the interview.

So much so that they developed a very systematic way to train people to not make a judgment quickly and then have confirmation bias, have them spend the rest of the time trying to fit everything they learn into what they've already decided. First impressions are huge. As a father, I tell my kids all the time, "Hey, listen. You only get one chance to make a first impression." Have you ever heard that? I tell my kids one of the things they want to be and should be is an individual who when they walk into a room…

There are two kinds of people in the world: those who kind of walk into the room and go, "Here I am!" kind of like, "World, stop and notice me; I'm a big deal," and then "There you are" people, folks who walk into a room and go, "Man, there you are. How are you? It's so great to see you," who are lovers, who are others-centered. Some "Here I am" people are people who walk into a room and go, "Here I am," not in an arrogant way but like, "Will you validate me? Will you love me?"

I read another study this week, and I've read dozens like it before, about how sociologists have seen that especially young women who don't have strong bonds with their fathers are more likely to be thrust into both emotionally and physically intimate relationships well ahead of their maturity, because they walk into a room not knowing that they're valuable, and they kind of go, "Here I am. Is there anybody here who will love me? Anybody here who will validate me?" That's why I taught my little girls…

The very first thing I said to them was, "Hey, you need to know something. Seek God first. Never buy the lie that anyone or anything other than Jesus Christ can satisfy you. I want to be a very present father to you in the best way I can to tell you that I love you, that you're valuable. You don't need some guy to validate you. I'm going to validate you, and even more, I'm going to be a picture (I hope), an imperfect one, of a loving Father who tells you you're dignified and beautiful.

You don't need a prince, princess. You're the daughter of a King already, and you'll be fully satisfied in him. Maybe someday you'll choose to share your life with somebody because you go, 'There's another godly person who wants to honor my God with me. There you are. Let's do this together,' not 'Here I am. Will you accept me? Will you make me feel loved?'"

Sociologists have done study after study after study that will tell you that your academic performance, your likelihood of graduating, is directly tied to the kind of relationship you have with your father; that your antisocial behavior goes up, your immorality goes up, your likelihood for incarceration goes up, your likelihood for depression goes up, your likelihood for drug use goes up, your likelihood to be impoverished goes up when your relationship with your father is weak, defined by abuse or absence.

Think about that. Think about the humility of God, that he would allow the very first impression everybody in this world has of him tied directly to guys like me. There has never been a perfect earthly father. Earthly fathers are not a reflection of our heavenly Father. Ultimately, the heavenly Father is a perfect picture of what an earthly father should be. You have to give grace to one and find grace and meaning from the other.

Dads, the greatest gift you can give your kids is a heart of devotion that runs toward your perfect heavenly Father and does everything you can to reflect his kindness and goodness, and when you blow it, to just say, "Hey, I need to seek your forgiveness. What you just saw right there is what happens when a man tries to find his way apart from a father who does care for him and points the way to what is right and true. That was my anger. That was my insecurity. That was my desire to control. That was my flesh. Don't let my flesh push you away from what you need more than anything else, which is an intimate relationship with your heavenly Father."

Can I make a case that drug use goes up, incarceration goes up, immorality goes up, depression goes up when you have a wrong understanding of who your heavenly Father is? There are some things that happen sometimes on this earth that are really difficult for us, just like my kids had a hard time with me. You think about the difference between an 18-month-old or a 2-month-old who hasn't even formed the ability to process language yet, who can't communicate…

When I'm a 20-something-year-old father and I try and help that 2-year-old understand why I'm doing what I'm doing, even more when that's an 8-year-old and now I'm a 30-something-year-old father or when they're a 15- or 18-year-old and now I'm a 40- or 50-year-old-something father… You think about how they just can't understand yet all that you know in just your four and five decades of living.

The difference between the understanding of a 2-year-old and a 20-year-old or an 8-year-old and a 30-year-old (you get my point) is infinitely smaller than the difference between me, a finite, broken, imperfect man, and an infinitely perfect, eternal God. I can remember times that my kids… Like when my oldest son Cooper had a splinter in his foot. He was maybe 6 years old. I tried to help him. I watched him walk with a limp, and I just said, "Cooper, let me help you."

He goes, "No, you're not going to touch my foot. My foot hurts." I go, "I know your foot hurts, and I think it's from that splinter on the dock we were just on. Let me help you get it out." He goes, "You're not going to touch my foot, Dad. My foot hurts." But eventually the pain got so intense he just goes, "Dad, look at my foot." I could hardly touch his foot. It was a major splinter that was in there, and it was deep. I said, "Okay, buddy. Let me try."

Eventually, I got him to trust me a little bit to where I could look at his foot, but I could tell that wasn't going to work, so I said, "All right. This is going to be a two-man job." So I got Mama and said, "Put him in your arms with all the tenderness of a mother and hold him, and I'm going to go to work." I realized that was not going to work right away, so we reversed roles. Then with all the firmness of a father, I held my son and let Nurse Mama go to work. I'll never forget what it was like to hold my son on that bed and have him look at me with fear in his eyes.

He kept yelling throughout the minor surgery that was happening on his foot. He was going, "You're so mean!" He kept saying that to me, like, "What are you doing? You're abusing me. You're so mean! You're so mean!" Then all of a sudden, that splinter was out and he could run again. We put ice on his foot and ice cream in his mouth, and we sat down and said, "I'm not mean. Here's Rocky Road. Here's Dutch Chocolate. I'm not mean. I love you. I did this because I love you, but I get it. I get it."

One of the great things about being an earthly dad is you understand so much more about what you do to your infinitely perfect, wonderful heavenly Father. There are some things that go on sometimes that your heavenly Father does, and you go, "It doesn't make sense to me." I think about a pastor I know, Randy Butler, who loved his teenage son deeply, and he lost his son tragically. He said for three to four months he woke up every morning and did the exact same thing.

He cried out to God. "What were you thinking? Is this the best you can do for me?" Every morning. "You really want me to stand up before other people and tell them that you are good? Are you crazy? What are you doing? You're incompetent. You're not good. I don't know what you are. This is the way you thank me? What are you thinking? Is this the best you can do? You want me to tell others you're a good, good Father?"

I think about the kinds of things we've experienced here. Not just some friend from a distance, but my friends David and Suzanne Silva, who 12 short days ago took their son in for a routine surgery to have his wisdom teeth removed. I've known David and Suzanne since they were part of a ministry I was leading to young adults, much like The Porch. They were leaders. I discipled them. I watched them grow in their faith. I watched them meet each other. I watched them fall in love.

When we started Watermark 17 years ago, I watched them being the first people who lined up and said, "Let's go. Let's serve this city together. Let's make Jesus more famous." I watched God give them the joy of a son, Austin, and then 12 days ago, as Austin walks into an oral surgeon's office, I get word that something has gone terribly wrong and that Austin is unresponsive and unconscious. For 12 days, we sat over Austin's bed and prayed and sang hymns. We worshiped our good, good heavenly Father, and we just went, "This doesn't make any sense to me."

This is a picture of beautiful Austin who just yesterday was supposed to board a bus with several hundred other Watermark kids to go up to Purdy, Missouri, to Camp Barnabas, which is a camp for special needs children who are dropped off for a week to be loved on by kids like Austin who love Jesus and want to pour into them and give families a respite and some rest, but Austin didn't get on that bus, because Austin on Saturday went to be with the Lord, never coming out of that unconscious, nonresponsive state, because he had been denied precious oxygen to his brain in a tragic way.

The morning before Austin went in for his surgery, he spent some time with the Lord. We know from his journal he was spending time that morning… Mom and Dad didn't make him. He just got up, because he had a relationship with Christ. Austin, who loved God, sat down and opened his Bible, apparently to Philippians 4, and he was observing Paul's comments about Paul's contentment in whatever circumstance came to him in life.

He said, "This is crazy, Lord, that I want you to change my circumstance and I'm obsessed with making more money, that I'm obsessed with being perceived a different way by my peers. Lord, I want to find what Paul is talking about. I want to know more of you in that way. I let go of those things. I know the Lord will take care of me," he wrote. Then he wrote an amazing prayer. "Lord, help me to love my brothers and my sisters. Help me to lead my family. Help me encourage my community. I want to help others. I want to show others the love you have shown me. Amen." Into surgery, into the presence of the Lord who took care of Austin.

I wish you would have had the privilege of being by Austin's bed with me as his parents worshiped their good, good Father, saying, "Lord, I don't understand what you're doing right here. It doesn't make any sense to me, but I'm going to remind myself of what I know to be true." They sang hymns and prayed, and they spoke to others who were on the twelfth floor of Children's Hospital, the intensive care unit, who didn't have community and faith around them.

They talked about the goodness of God, not knowing what would happen to their son. They yesterday held Austin's hand and sang a hymn over him as they let him move away into a team of surgeons, who then had Austin's body become an answered prayer for eight different families who were looking for organs that people they loved needed to live. You go, "Is this the best you can do? What are you thinking? You want me to tell other people you're good?"

Here's what's so amazing. Sometimes you run up against an enemy who's a liar. The very first time God is spoken about in Scripture, apart from the revelation of him and his presence, is from a liar. The Bible starts with God saying, "Hey, listen. I'm going to create man in my image." The Bible actually tells a story that happened before that. There were angelic beings, created to be in his presence and enjoy him, and there was a rebellion, where one basically said, "I think I can do better than God. I will exalt myself above him and other angels. I will get them to worship me."

God judged those angels. He banished them and threw them into chaos, darkness, void, and judgment, separate from God and, therefore, separate from all that was beautiful, right, and true. Into that, God then creates some order and beauty, and he creates people in his image and places us in this beauty and calls it Edenic, paradise. He gives evidence and everything that our forefathers, our original mother and father, Adam and Eve, needed to see that God was good. It was beautiful. It was perfect. Every provision was made. God was there. They enjoyed him.

God said, "I'm not going to make you love me. I'm going to show you who I am. I'm going to let you see that I am your provider, your protector. I point the way to life, and the way of life is me, but if you don't want me, if you want to live without me, then there's that tree over there where you can have the knowledge of good and evil, but you need to know this: having the knowledge of good and evil is not the same as being good. I alone am beautiful. I alone am perfect. I alone am good. I am the good, good Father. You are my creation. You are not good apart from me. When you look to me and walk with me, you will experience my goodness. Enjoy me."

But there is a liar, and that liar came to humankind and said, "God isn't good. He doesn't have your best interests in mind. Do you know why he doesn't want you to eat of that tree and know good and evil? Because he doesn't want you to run for mayor against him here in this garden. Go your own way. Do your own thing. Live and let live. Know what he knows." Here's the deal. When we know what God knows, we don't do as God has done, because we are not good.

We are people who are created to live in relationship with God who is light and life and love, and when we leave that God, we get darkness, death, and hate. We leave ordered beauty and get chaos. We get the world we're in. The Enemy always wants to tell you that God's Word isn't true, that God himself is not good, that you can't trust him, that he doesn't have your best interests in mind, that disobeying him is not that big a deal.

I am here to tell you this Father's Day that that's a lie from the Father of Lies and that you serve a good, good Father. We talk a lot in here about how we observe people and what shocks us is how much people change. What else shocks us is how some people never change. Can I tell you the number-one determining factor I consistently see on why people change or don't change? It always comes down to their view of the Father.

When people understand that God is good, that his Word is true, that he can be trusted, that God has their best interests in mind, that disobeying him is a huge deal, they live in the fear of the Lord. Not like they're scared of him, but they're like, "Why would I want to separate myself from the God of blessing, who is a sun and shield, who gives grace and glory, that no good thing does he withhold from those who love him? I want to know more of that Father. I want to walk in his ways, not turn to my right or turn to my left."

When people are convinced not of judgment that is to come but grace that is here and lovingkindness that is present and when they run to that good Father, it radically changes their life. When they say no to the lie that God isn't good, that his Word can't be trusted, that disobeying him is not that big a deal, and they start to fear him and are sanctified by the knowledge of their loving, perfect Father, they radically change.

Not religious people who are performing for him but people who have realized the evidence God has given them to trust him. It changes you, and nothing will hurt you more than having a wrong view of God. It's why so many of you struggle: your first impression of God was a weak, absent, or abusive daddy.

In the midst of losing Austins and being betrayed by people who made a covenant commitment to you that they would share their life with you or maybe being in your 30s or 40s and never having been given somebody you could share your life with or maybe you had a weak or an absent, abusive dad, and you're trying to make sense of this world, and you have nobody to provide for you or protect you or point you to the way…

I just want to remind you of this application of this Book in your life. Go ask Dad. It's why when young Timothy was leading a ministry in a town like Ephesus, Paul looked at him and said, "I know you're going to be overwhelmed about this assignment, but, Timothy, you who are a son of a widow, who never had a father… I've been like a father to you when I showed up in your life in your teen years, but all I did was remind you that even though your father was absent, you have a good, good Father.

So, Timothy, just by your life, your speech, your conduct, your love, your faith, and your purity, show yourself an example among those who believe. Let people in Ephesus see your life, and when they ask you where you learned to live that way, remind them it was because you asked your Father how to live and how to reconcile the pain and brokenness in this world. Remember the words that Jesus, who I told you about, has said, that this world isn't as it should be.

'In this world you're going to have trouble, but take heart, because you'll overcome the world.' He's your Father, your loving heavenly Father, who has made himself known to you, and that loving heavenly Father who has made himself known to you has said to you in Revelation 3:20, 'Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with me.' 'I will feed him. I will instruct him in the way he should go.'

So, Timothy, do you want to know what you should do when you're in Ephesus and you're leading people? Don't let them look down on your youthfulness. Until I come, as an older, wiser, more seasoned brother who knows the Father better than you do, if you don't know what to do, give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. Let them hear from Father, because they're going to hear in this world all the time that their Dad is mean, he doesn't know what to do, he's asleep, and they're going to get angry at him."

There are an amazing couple of verses in your Bible that, frankly, we misapply in terms of their primary purpose. Ephesians, chapter 4, verses 26-27, says, "Be angry, and yet do not sin. Don't let the sun go down on your anger, lest you give Satan an opportunity." That word opportunity in the Greek is the word topos. It's where we get topographical map from. A topographical map is a geographical area that is marked at a certain elevation.

What happens is when you give Satan a foothold in your life, when you give him an opportunity, when you give him any ground, what he's going to do is try and grow it. I saw a long time ago on some marquee at some little Baptist church in some drive-through nowhere a little thing that said, "Beware: Give Satan an inch, and it won't be long before he's a ruler." I thought, "Oh my gosh, that is incredibly corny," but that's Ephesians 4:27. Don't give him an opportunity.

Well, how do you give Satan an opportunity? Here's how. You're angry and you sin. If you're not angry when a healthy 17-year-old boy, who loves God and wants to serve God and only wants to show others what he has been shown about the kindness of God, through a tragic set of circumstances, is no longer here to be a good big brother to Sam and sweet Charlie and not be there to be held by David and Suzanne, to serve Christ… If that doesn't make you angry, you're not paying attention. You're a spore. You're like some mold, some fungus with no feeling.

You ought to be angry at that, but don't sin. It's explained a little bit more in James, chapter 1. James, chapter 1, is a series of verses that talk about trials and troubles in this life, that things aren't going to go the way you want them to go. Then it says this, and here's another verse that goes with the one in Ephesians 4 that is misappropriated. We usually use it in some form of marital counseling, just like we do the one in Ephesians.

Like, "Hey, if you guys are crossways with each other and get angry at each other, be careful. Don't let the sun go down on your anger with one another, because in the morning you'll wake up and start to learn to live apart from each other, and it won't be long before you guys are miles apart and isolated, and the next thing you know you have trouble." That's true, but Ephesians 4 is really talking about anger at God.

James, chapter 1, says, "But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak…" That's good advice in a marriage. Proverbs 18:2 says, "A fool does not delight in understanding, but only in revealing his own mind." I have made so many mistakes with my wife. Instead of listening to her and understanding how she's feeling, I declare to her how I'm feeling, how I want her to think. So it's really good advice to be quick to hear and slow to speak. There's a reason God gave you one mouth and two ears.

But that's not what James 1, Ephesians 4, and even Proverbs 18:2 are talking about. James 1: "Be slow to speak in the midst of trials and tribulations, slow to anger, quick to hear." Why? "Because the anger of man does not accomplish the righteousness of God." In other words, when you ask God, "What are you doing? What are you thinking? Is this the best you can do…?" God has already answered the question.

"No. This is not the world I meant to create. This is a world that happens. When the world leaves the God who is light and life and love you get darkness, death, and chaos. The reason hatred is all around you is because you live in a world marred by sin. This is not the world I designed. I've told you, 'In this world there is trouble.' I hate sin, and I have judged sin, and I am coming to reign on the earth, but the reason I haven't eradicated all sinners yet is because I love men. I am full of lovingkindness, and I want those who don't know me yet to not perish but to come to everlasting life.

Those who think I'm not good, that I don't have their best interests in mind, that disobeying me is not that big a deal… I want you to tell them of my goodness. I want them to be reconciled to me, so that when I come to judge evil they won't be judged but will find mercy and grace and provision in the love I have provided for them in my Son, who though he knew no sin, nor was any deceit found in his mouth, I made to become sin on your behalf, that you might become the righteousness of God in him, that you might see my lovingkindness and grace and glory and mercy, even as my justice is made known."

There's really only one sin you need to be concerned about, and that is a sin that says, "God, you're not good. God, you don't love me. God, you're not worth following." Everything else you do is a derivative of that one choice that rejects the character and nature of the immutable, perfect, loving Father. The reason we all choose to try and find life somewhere else is we deny the fact that life can be found only in God and that he is good and beautiful and that all of his ways are true.

Sometimes you see some things and go, "You're so mean," and he just says, "Shh, I get it. I've been on that earth. I've done something about the earth that is not as it should be. I've made way for you to know me." I want to give attention to the public reading of Scripture. I want you to hear who your Father is. I want to stand before you today and tell you you have a good, good Father. He loves you.

With my kids… We memorized Scripture together. We're learning things. One of my favorite psalms, one of the very first psalms all of my kids memorized, is Psalm 101. I call Psalm 101 the "psalm of a king." Psalm 101 is a psalm about how a king conducts himself, chooses friends, avoids evil, and does what he should do as an instrument of God to get rid of evil in the land, that people might flourish, because we are made in God's image, and we should love what is good and eradicate what is not so people might flourish.

A king, before he can lead others, has to lead himself. Psalm 101 starts this way: "I will sing of lovingkindness and justice…" In Hebrew poetry it doesn't rhyme. It's just a parallel thought. He says something in the second part of verse 1 that just echoes. When he sings of lovingkindness and justice, he says, "I will sing praises to you forever." Why? Because God is the picture of lovingkindness and justice. There is no lovingkindness that is not found fully in God. There is no justice that's not found fully in God.

That is why when Jesus came he was full of lovingkindness, grace, truth, and justice, because he's the visible image of the invisible God. The king said, "The most important thing I can do is every day wake up and remind myself, 'O God, you are good. God, you are righteous and true. All your ways are peace. This is the love of you: that I keep your commandments, and your commandments are not burdensome.'

Before I get out of my bed, before I begin to rule, before I make any decision today, let me remind myself that I have a perfect heavenly Father who has my best interests in mind, and if I miss out on any opportunity to go ask Dad, I am bringing trouble into my life and the lives of those who are underneath me."

I started my day that way today. I try and start every day that way. I laid in my bed this morning, as I do every morning that I come to my senses before I start moving, and I just said, "O God, I sing of your lovingkindness and justice. I'm going to sing praises of you all day long, no matter what I see that wants to anger me and tell me that you don't know what you're doing, that you're asleep, that you've forgotten me. I repent of that, and I want to be reminded that you love."

Here's what I did this week. I just spent a lot of time with my Father, looking at the one place that most folks who don't know much about their Bible go to. Whenever we're hurting, there's one place… You know if you open your Bible up to the middle you're going to almost always open up to Psalms. It's the largest book. It's right there in the middle of your Bible. Because at the middle of the heart of God is a desire for you to know who he is and how to be comforted in the time of trouble and be led back into the refreshing presence of a God who wants you to know he loves you.

I just started working my way through the Psalms and seeing how many times what is said in Psalm 101, Psalm 108, Psalm 105, Psalm 100… I just went, "I'm going to go back to the beginning, and I'm going to see, Lord, again and again when you speak, when I give attention to what your Word says, what it wants me to know." He says, "It's okay to be angry. It's okay to go, 'What in the world?' But let me remind you who I am. My ways aren't your ways. My thoughts aren't your thoughts. Just like your little 6-year-old boy didn't know you were trying to help him run again, you're not going to understand everything I'm doing. Trust me."

Listen to the way the hymn book of Psalms starts. "How blessed is the young man who doesn't hang out with a bunch of folks and give into peer pressure and think like other people just like him, who think their old man is out of touch and doesn't know what it's like to live on this earth." In a much more noble way, Psalm 1 says, "How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked…" Other ignorant men, other teenagers, other 6-year-olds, who think they know better than their father.

"Who doesn't stand in the path that humans who don't think about an infinitely good God live in, who doesn't sit in the seats that those who believe God is not good, his Word is not true, and disobeying him is not that big a deal sit in." No. Do you want to know who's blessed? The man who delights himself in the fact that his Father really knows him and cares for him if he'll just go ask him.

He has already told you, "In this world you're going to have trouble. I have been in this world. I have been a teenager. I have been tempted in every way that you have been tempted, so come to me, and let me give you insight into what I know." "Things that eye hasn't seen, ear hasn't heard, things which haven't entered into the hearts of men," Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 2. "All of these things I want to show you, stuff that teenagers can't know unless they have a loving father." That's Psalm 1.

Psalm 2 is a psalm that talks about the rebellion of the nations against God. It starts with, "Why are the nations in an uproar and the peoples devising a vain thing?" Which is, "We don't need God. We'll go our own way." Psalm 2 talks about the arrogance of those who parade the tongue against the anointed of God and his people. Then it just sees that God laughs at them, just like you laugh at a little 2-year-old who throws a tantrum and takes his vegetables and flips them off the tray and, if he could and knew it, would flip Mom off too and say, "I'm not going to eat that stuff."

You just look at him and go, "You're just 2. I did the same thing." You clean up the mess, and you're tender, and you keep providing nourishing life to him so he can be strong and healthy and free. Psalm 2 just basically says at the end of that psalm, "I'm not going to be like all of these people who parade their tongues against the earth. I'm going to worship the Lord with reverence. I'm going to rejoice in who he is, his character and his nature, with trembling. I don't want to miss any of the goodness of God." That's Psalm 2.

Psalm 3 is a morning song. Psalm 3 talks about how things are going to happen throughout the day that are going to make me go, "Oh, this world is too hard. I can't make it." Psalm 3:3 says, "O Lord, you're a shield around me. You're my glory and the lifter of my head." I love the proverb that talks about the fact that the glory of young men is their father, that they love to talk about their dad.

The psalmist is saying, "When my world is hard, I'm going to remind myself that my Dad is sovereign. He is good. He is true. He knows this world is not right. He has done something to make it right. He has given me assurance and peace. I'm going to grieve in this world. I'm going to be angry, but I'm not going to be angry and sin. I'm going to grieve, but I'm not going to grieve without hope." That's Psalm 3.

I'm going to focus on my Father. I'm going to go ask Dad, "Remind me." He's going to lift my head, and he's saying, "I know, man. This is earth, Todd. You're not home yet, but you can trust me." Psalm 4 is an evening psalm. It says, "In peace I will both lie down and sleep, for You alone, O Lord, make me to dwell in safety." I told David and Suzanne this the very first night we were together when we didn't know exactly what was going to happen with Austin.

I just said, "I'm going to pray that you sleep. The Lord says in Psalm 127, 'He gives to his beloved even in their sleep.' Sleep is a sign of faith. You don't need to stand up and wring your hands. We have the best care in the world doing everything they can for Austin. You need to rest so that tomorrow you can be what God wants you to be as a mom and dad, as somebody who is to declare the kindnesses of God to others who are watching you in the midst of this. I'm going to pray that you sleep and rest."

I reminded them, as Corrie ten Boom said, suffering at the hands of abusive, fascist, Nazi men, "'Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow; it empties today of its strength.' You can see the size of your God by the size of your worry list. Worry is believing God is not going to get it right. Depression and despair is believing that God got it wrong. Be angry, but don't sin, because the anger of man will not accomplish the righteousness of God.

The righteousness of God is angry toward sin. He has done something about it. This world is not your home. Your son told you today, 'The Lord will take care of me.' He will take care of you. We don't know what he's going to do, but we know all of his ways are peace, and he is good." We sang psalms to one another and sang hymns over Austin. We didn't trust that God would get him up out of that bed and have him walk again. We knew that his Redeemer lives whether he lived again, and we grieved, but not without hope.

Do you know that Father, that when he's digging deep into your flesh to pull out a splinter you can go, "I don't know what you're doing, but I know you're good"? "It's okay to say it hurts, but hold me firmly, Father. Hold me tenderly like a mom, and let me not fight you." That's Psalm 4. Psalm 5 is a morning psalm. It's the same thing. "In the morning, O Lord , You will hear my voice; in the morning I will order my prayer to You and eagerly watch.""I don't want my eyes to come off you."

I could keep working my way through all of the psalms. I didn't even mention Psalm 23. He's our shepherd. I don't need to worry. He has me by green pastures. Psalm 84: "The Lord is my sun and shield." Psalm 27: "Whom shall I fear? One thing will I seek." I'll just fast-forward you to Psalm 40. Psalm 40 says, "I waited patiently for the Lord; and He inclined[his ear]to me and heard my cry. He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay, and He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm."

Thank God for Bono and U2. Some of you know this lyric. Thank God for David and the Spirit of God that is perfect who gave it to us. That's what he does. He brings you out of a pit of destruction, out of the miry clay, and sets your feet upon a rock, making your footsteps firm. He puts a new song in your mouth, a song of praise to God. Even in the middle of crazy things, you can have a firm footing. I've seen that again this week in people of faith, because they know they have a good, good Father.

I want you to know that this day. I know it's hard. I know sometimes it looks like your God is weak. He's not. I know it looks like he's absent. He's not. I know it looks like he's asleep, that he has abandoned you. He hasn't. That's the Enemy who's telling you he's not good. He's a liar, and he wants you to give him just a little bit of ground so you will go hang out with others in a foreign land, and he wants to grow that bitterness and lack of faith in your life. Pay attention to the Word of God and cling to him.

Let me show you how all this wraps up beautifully. Most prophets in Scripture are guys who speak to men for God, but there's one prophet who really spoke to God for men. His name is Habakkuk. Habakkuk was wanting desperately for God to know his frustration with what he was doing, because Habakkuk looked around his world, and he just said, "How long, O Lord, are you going to let this world go like this? I call for help, and you don't hear me."

He goes on to say, "This is what's going on. There's violence everywhere, yet you're not saving me from it." Habakkuk saw a corrupt nation. He said, "Why do you make me see sin? Why do you make me look on wickedness? Yes, destruction and violence are all around me. Strife exists. Contention arises. The law is ignored. Justice is never upheld. The wicked surround the righteous. The wicked are prospering, and justice is perverted."

That's Habakkuk. That's the way he starts his prayer to God. Look at what God says in verse 5. "Habakkuk, in your anger at what I'm not doing, don't sin. Just, shhh. Pay attention. Be astonished. Look among the nations. Wonder! Because I'm going to do something in your days that if I told you what it was you wouldn't even believe it. It's that good and that amazing." You might go, "Well, what is he going to do?" Here's the answer.

It would be like if I was crying out, "God, when is injustice going to stop in this country? When are sin and violence going to stop in this country?" and he said, "Todd, here's what I'm going to do. I'm going to bring ISIS over to America, and I'm going to bring America to its knees. I'm going to teach America to do more than just put 'In God we trust' on the coins and say 'We're one nation under God' when they're not a nation under God at all. I'm going to slap the dead religion right out of their mouths. I'm going to teach them their desperation for me, and I'm going to use ISIS to do it."

What do you think I'd say to that? I'd go, "Whoa, whoa, whoa! I know we're rotten, God, but we're not that rotten. We're not beheaders. We're not terrorists; we're just bringing terror on ourselves. So I was thinking maybe what you'd do is just give me a really good message to preach and everybody would repent." "No. What I'm going to do, Todd, is raise up…" He says to Habakkuk the Chaldeans.

If you read the definition of the Chaldeans in the rest of Habakkuk, chapter 1, it says that their justice and authority are in themselves. All of them come for violence. Their strength is their god. They mock God. They mock the God of creation. "I'm going to use them to bring Israel to its knees. When they see that they don't walk with me, that they don't have the protection of me… I'm going to let them have their own way and get the fill of it, and they're going to find out their own way is not something they want.

They're going to finally turn back to me, and I'm going to welcome them home, and, Habakkuk, I'm going to give them peace again, but they can't have peace apart from me. The reason there's violence is they don't walk with me. So I'm going to let them have the fill of their ways, and then I'm going to be a tender father with my toes at the end of the ranch, and when the prodigal comes home, I'm going to run to them and embrace them, because I'm a good, good Father."

This is how it all comes around. The very first time the message of the gospel was preached to a pagan people in Galatia, Acts 13… Do you know what the primary text was that Paul used? He walked them through the history of the nations. He walked through how God revealed himself to the Jewish people and what God had said to the Jewish people. He said, "This is who God was, working in the context of history, and here's something else you need to know about God: he has revealed himself through this person named Jesus, who said, 'I'm going to come and live my life and be an evidence of God's kindness.

I'm going to deal with the brokenness in this world. I'm going to deal with situational evil, and I'm going to tell you that I'm here ultimately to deal with moral evil. I'm going to live a life that doesn't deserve judgment, and yet I'm going to lay my life down, and I'm going to let fallen, sinful men whom I created nail me to a cross, but they won't take my life. I'm giving it, and I'm going to take it back up again as evidence that the wages of sin, which is death, has been paid. Then I will offer to you eternal life.'"

Paul says, "That just happened a few years ago, not far from here. God has come, and he's offering mercy both to you who are stuck in dead religion and you who are pagans." He quotes Habakkuk 1:5. "Look among the nations. Wonder and be astonished. Your heavenly Father is not asleep. He has come to redeem your life from the pit. You can trust him." "What are you thinking? Is this the best you can do? You want me to tell other people you're good?" Oh, you bet. I want to tell people God is good and he's full of lovingkindness and justice. Trust in him.

There's another story you ought to go watch (it was on WFAA this week) about a family here at Watermark, about a mom and dad who are members here. Fifteen years ago, in the midst of their little girl being born, there was a tragedy, and some blood flow was cut off to her brain as well. She was later labeled with what is called cerebral palsy, which is that her brain cannot send a message because of a lack of oxygen. The part of the brain that forms muscle control was damaged, so she can't control her body. For 15 years, her entire life, she suffered.

Our sweet members talked about their anger at God and anger at one another, and then they learned to trust in him. It was such a story of blessing that Channel 8 wanted to hear about it this week, especially because Claire, their little 15-year-old daughter, for the last two years has been suffering from kidney failure, and today, right now, Aaron is down at Children's Hospital giving his kidney for his daughter. Channel 8 said, "This is a father's love."

Let me just tell you the Father's love doesn't just give a kidney; the Father's love gives his life so that those who deserve judgment can be set free. Interestingly enough, it's around cerebral palsy. Several decades ago, a guy by the name of Dick Hoyt had a son, Rick. His umbilical cord was tied around his neck, so oxygen flow was cut off from his brain, so this son, from the moment he was born, was not able to walk or talk.

Later, they got a computer in front of young Rick, and he was able to communicate with his father. When Rick was 15, he told his dad, "Hey, Dad, I heard in the news about this lacrosse player here in Boston who was just paralyzed. There's a 5K race for him, and I want to run in it. Will you push me?" Dick Hoyt had a heart condition, but he said, "If you want to run in that, son, I'll push you."

He pushed him in that little 5K fund-raiser for somebody else who was suffering. Rick wanted to bring some relief into his life. When he got done, Rick said to his dad, "Dad, I've never felt so alive." His dad said, "If you feel alive when that happens, son, we're going to run some more." Seventy-two marathons, two hundred fifty triathlons, and six Ironmans later, Dick and Rick Hoyt's story has become a model of what a father will do for his son to let him experience life.

I want you to see a picture of what a father's love can look like with a son who's completely unable to be alive with movement, what a father is willing to do so that son can experience life, but I want you to see and hear around it an even more beautiful story about a redeemer whose name is Father who wants you to live. He has given his Son for you, that you can cross an ocean of sin back to the land of peace. He's running this earth for you without sin, that you might be free.

I hope in the Psalms, I hope through the Scriptures, I hope through the story you see when you ask Dad, he's there. He wants to tell you, "I love you. I know you so well." He wants to adopt you into his family. He wants you, if you're in his family, to take advantage of him. "The steadfast in mind he keeps in perfect peace, because his heart is set on the Lord." We want to give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching.

In our anger, we rightly can sometimes want to be quick to speak and say, "What are you thinking? Is this the best you can do? You want me to tell others of your goodness?" Then we want to be quick to hear, "Yeah, I want to tell people of his goodness. I don't know what he was thinking when he died for me. I don't know what he was thinking when he came as a child, when he let men he created curse him, when he let men he gave power to use that power to abuse him. What was he thinking?"

I think he was thinking that he loves you and he wants you to come home. Your sin has been paid for. Some of you guys maybe have been around God for a long time. You're like that brother who was there, who didn't ever really enjoy the father, didn't know the father. The kind of love the Father offers to prodigals who come home to you, stuck in dead religion and church attendance, has been, "Enjoy me. You're here. Know me. Meditate on who I am. Be my son whom I love."

But especially, if you're here and you think God is weak or abusive or has forgotten you, I pray that today you would know that God is very present, and he wants to deliver you from the anger of your confusion and wants to be your God. Because he's full of lovingkindness and because he won't deny his justice, he has made a way for you to be reconciled.

He made him, Jesus, who knew no sin, who was the visible image of the invisible God, to become sin on your behalf, that you might become the righteousness of God in him. "I will sing of your lovingkindness and justice. I will sing praises to you, Lord, forever." I just ask that you'd come back home to your Father.

Father, if there is somebody here who has never trusted in your goodness and kindness, who has seen the way you have made for them, would they this day cry out, "Lord, I'm one of those sinners. I'm one of the reasons you were on that cross, because I was separated from you by my anger and my confusion and my choices to dishonor you. Lord, I've seen the pain it creates in my own life, and I've come to the end of myself. I've seen your beauty, and your kindness is leading me to repentance. I thank you for your tenderness to take one such as me and your provision through your Son to make it possible.

Oh, I need a Savior. I thank you that you're the one. Lord, forgive me. Help me now to live by faith in relationship with you, to surround myself with other brothers and sisters who know you better than I, who can drive me into a deeper intimacy with you, who can encourage me and exhort me and teach me the ways of our loving Father. Thank you that by grace I'm grafted into your family. Lord, help me now be grown into a full son, a full daughter, who can show others the kindness you have shown me."

Father, I pray if anybody has made that declaration today that they wouldn't leave without telling other members of the family. For those of us who are already a member of the family, would you help us go and sing of your lovingkindness and justice to a world that doesn't know they have a good, good Father, that they would come before you come to judge the quick and the dead. Lord, in this world full of trouble, thank you that we can be reminded again today that you've overcome it, the Father who provides and protects and points the way. We thank you that our Redeemer lives. May we walk with him and serve him. In Jesus' name, amen.