1 “How do I Measure Up?” June 20, 1010 Father‟s Day Amos 7:1-17 Intro Happy Father‟s Day! Today we give thanks to all the fathers… those men in our lives that have been the strong tape which binds us together. For as we saw in the video… one of man‟s best tools is duct tape. We can find a use for it for just about anything, right? It‟s apparent …guys tend to like things like duct tape and levels. (Because) they‟re tangible and practical. Something you can put your hands around or visually see. Well on this Father‟s day in this scripture we are also posed with a practical and tangible question. And the question is this: How do I measure up? John Eldridge the author of „Wild at Heart‟ (which the men‟s retreat in August is based on) poses the question this way “Do I have what it takes?” It‟s a question we all face, but particularly men and fathers can wrestle with it. And to answer this question this passage in Amos gives us a concrete image. We can wrap our mind around the picture of a plumb line. Now today with levels and squares and other technological devises, builders (at least in the states) may not use a plumb line. But any builder still knows how important it is to have things measure up horizontally and vertically. And that‟s what a plumb line was for to make sure the building was vertically straight. Well, in the same way the image of a plumb line is set before us today to address the question of „how do we personally measure up?‟ In other words what does it take to build a strong foundation with our family? I know there are some contractors in our church who might need to correct my terminology on building metaphors. They have a great deal more experience than I. I admit I‟m not the best person when it comes to working on a building project. And on this Father‟s day I might mention that part of the reason why could be because of my dad. For while my dad is a wonderful father – he would acknowledge that he is also not Mr. Handyman. And when it comes to those kinds of things the experience (or lack of experience) is often passed along. I have gotten a little better over the years because I picked up a few tips on fixing things from other men who have shown me along the way…. Guys like my father-in-law and other men as I worked alongside them on church mission projects. Sometimes it‟s your dad, sometimes it‟s a fill in dad who teaches you. For one thing a Father can be known for is that he often passes along what he has learned… whether it‟s learning to fish, how to hunt, or being trained in building things. Well as we look at the scripture today it relates to what we practically know about properly building a structure and relates to what it takes to build a strong family…faithful fathers, mothers and children. Practically speaking, “ are my relationships level?… are they on solid ground? As a Father, is there a strong foundation to build upon? And so the question arises and we wonder if we measure up? And also what happens when we fall short? Is it possible to start over if we completely miss the mark? (Falling Over from being crooked) And here is where we begin in this scripture. Because the fact of the matter was, the people of Israel were just plain messed up. (And not even duct tape could fix it.) There was no other way to view the situation. You looked at their lives and it was crooked. The community around them was off kilter. Nothing was straight. Nothing was level. Next to the plumb line they were shown to be falling over. If the people of Israel could be described as a building they would be leaning more than the Tower of Pisa. Can you get the clear image in your mind? Understand when we come to Amos 7 the situation in Israel had become grim. We need to see it clearly, to realize why God is declaring judgment upon them. It was out of control. This is the situation. God‟s own people had become materialistic and complacent. Instead of following God‟s ways they fell prey to worshiping the false idols around them. While many prospered materially, all of society had become morally bankrupt. Just picture this… There are those sitting in their mansions eating and drinking, laughing it up while their very brothers and sisters were outside knocking at the door just pleading for a little morsel to eat to save them from death‟s door. The prophet Amos even mentions that many of them resorted to selling their own fellow poor countrymen into slavery to get richer. They were buying and selling God‟s own people for more material goods. 2 And into this picture God sends the prophet Amos. Now Amos is a simple shepherd. He‟s not a priest. He‟s not a leader. He‟s just your everyday common working man. And the prophecy God gives him to speak is not well received …. afterall, they figure he‟s just a simple guy why should we listen? But what they don‟t get is that Amos is sent by the Almighty... so, they are actually rejecting God. Understand it’s not Amos who is doing the measuring, it’s God. And God is the master builder. The people forgot that. And sometimes we forget it too. You see, we like to measure ourselves against others. We try to determine if we are good enough by whether we are better than the person next to us. We look to answer the question of how do I measure up by looking at our neighbor and seeing if we are just a little longer or deeper than they are. And to the untrained eye we may look fine on the outside. To a non-crafty person like myself the building can seem firm, the wall can seem straight, but to a master builder they know whether it‟s off or not. Builders know that if you begin with as little as half an inch off on the foundation what‟s going to happen? It‟s not going to be solid. And the more you keep building on it the more it‟s going to be messed up. And like the culture in Amos day, we too struggle with any kind of measuring. Today we even question whether there is any standard at all to measure against. The Christian apologetic Robbie Zachariah in his radio ministry was speaking about this. He spoke about the tragic life of the philosopher Niche who during his life declared “God is Dead”. The scary thing is that at the end of Niche’s life he lived in an insane asylum due to deep depression. Robbie pointed out that his life demonstrates a scary truth …that without God there is no moral law– and therefore there is nothing to measure society by. When culture goes against God there is no ability for us even to determine right and wrong. The Chinese society has begun to learn this too. What’s interesting is that they tried to live in a Godless world and have come to the realization that it cannot be successfully done. And while much of the Western cultures of today are turning away from God, the Eastern cultures are now turning back to God because they’ve tried that path and seen that it leads to destruction. Robbie goes on to say that as he’s traveled throughout the U.S. in many Universities the main question someone always poses is this. “How can God exist if there is evil in the world?” And Robbie Zachariah often simply points out that the concept of evil itself presumes the notion of good. It presumes that there is a moral law. It presumes there is a standard by which we measure right from wrong. Notice when we try to measure morality ourselves the measurement becomes more and more skewed. Just a few degrees off and you have a huge problem. We start off with a little error and we overlook it. Then we make the mistake of using that incorrect piece for the next template to measure the next. And so on and so forth. Now, what used to be determined as error and sin has become the norm. Until finally when we are put up against not our own standards but God‟s … we see how far off the mark we truly are. We are then caught wondering “How did they get to this point? How did God‟s people fall so far?” We find ourselves having to go back over each step in reverse to see where the error occurred. Where did they slip up? And often when we look back we find it‟s just something small that slowly caused a gigantic mess. It‟s true in building and it‟s also true in our lives and in our families. Take a look at this music video from Casting Crowns called “slow fade” to see where that dangerous road can lead… You tube video Slow Fade by casting Crowns Song 5:25 (A fresh start – starting over) It‟s interesting that it‟s actually at the end of the video when we see where the first decision began. Because now, in reverse, the father has the opportunity to have a fresh start and to make the right choice. That‟s a great gift to go back to the beginning and see where things started to fall apart. For instance I‟ve had occasion to put together a desk or a canopy and at the end been frustrated because I didn‟t follow the directions correctly. Fortunately in situations such as these, one 3 can go back to the beginning and make it right. I‟m sure many of us have been in similar situations in life, where you thought “if I could have just go back to that first step and do this differently.” When we are standing in a heap of a mess we can see how wonderful a fresh start would be. After all, you‟re there facing a structure that is about to crash down …one of the things you have to do is completely reevaluate it. You have to ask the questions … “what went wrong? Can I do a patch up job on it? Will a little duct tape solve the problem? Or is it gone so bad that I just need to rip it out and start all over again?” Well if it was a major building project we‟d see the importance of each step. But even more so the scripture points out this goes way beyond any physical structure. In fact it‟s not only about the decisions that affect you personally. It‟s about the whole foundation of your family and those who look up to you. As the song stated “Be careful little feet where you go for it‟s the little feet behind you that are sure to follow”. A man and his young son were climbing a mountain when they came to a place where the climbing was difficult and even dangerous. The father stopped to consider which way to go. He heard the boy behind him say, “choose the good path, Dad; I‟m coming right behind you.” So especially on this Father‟s day we are reminded of seeing the importance of those daily decisions we make in our family, just as we would if we were trying to build some big physical structure. Practically we know that having a solid foundation is of crucial importance, not only for us but for future generations to come. So where do we go when the foundation we built is crumbling? What do we do when the measurement comes up short so much that everything is in danger of destruction? Is there any hope for starting over? The answer is yes… but first here is where the scripture confronts what we have built our life upon. Have we built our lives upon God‟s firm foundation? Unless the foundation is solid everything else will collapse. So are we willing to start at the beginning again? Will we allow God to give us a fresh start? God desires to knock it all down and start again. Now here is the dilemma though. It requires judgment and tearing stuff down … the measurement had come and the people were deserving of total destruction. But if we are talking about people and not a building how do we start again without destroying everyone? Here is where Amos pleads for God‟s mercy. He prays “Lord forgive. How can Jacob survive? Will all your people be destroyed?” Take note Amos stands in the gap and intercedes on behalf of the people. He prays that God would turn away from His full judgment for the sake of preserving them. And God hears his pleas and turns away from His complete wrath. Understand, God would have been just in destroying all of them completely but he decides not to in light of Amos‟ pleas. A remnant will remain. In the midst of judgment though, ultimately we need to see what hope this scripture is pointing us to. For Amos is a model of what is to come. Though Amos speaks God‟s judgment, he also pleads for mercy. And, though Amos pleads for them…. notice the leaders unjustly blame Amos himself for the punishment the people are about to get. In this light Amos points us to how Jesus can save us. For Jesus intercedes for us so that we might have mercy, yet he also takes upon himself our sin and blame that we might be forgiven. You see, here is what’s so incredible about Jesus – he can take a person – someone who has utterly missed the mark – someone who would never measure up – and transform them to someone completely new, without destroying them. We might put it this way, a builder knows that there comes a point in time when it becomes just easier to tear it all down and start over from scratch…(if the material was completely warped… and the measurements of the foundation were all wrong… so much so that the building needed to be condemned). I‟ve worked on ASP mission projects where we‟ve said how much easier would it be to just tear everything down and start over again. And God could have done that. And God would have been justified doing so. But God knows this is not wood we are talking about but people. So what is so amazing is that in Jesus Christ, God can take us – destroy the sin inside of us and our warped condition without destroying us? And that‟s grace…a new person in the same body, the same material but with a brand new start. 4 (Father family building) For it‟s one thing to have a fresh start with a building project … but how much more is it when it‟s actually a person like you and me who gets the fresh start. For ultimately while the scripture uses images related to building a physical structure … its true focus is upon building people. It‟s about investing in the lives of people and seeing them be made new in Christ. For you see, There are many Fathers who are good at good at building with physical wood and bricks… but more importantly how are they at building up people? And there are fathers like my dad who are not so good at building with mortar and bricks… but are great at building people. And there are also fathers who are great at both. It‟s good to have both, but it‟s most important to build up your family. Having Jesus Christ in their lives is the greatest legacy a Father can give his children. The famous American hero Patrick Henry put it well when he said "I have now disposed of all my property to my family. There is one thing more I wish I could give them and that is faith in Jesus Christ. If they had that and I had not given them a single shilling, they would have been rich; and if they had not that, and I had given them all the world, they would be poor indeed." Patrick Henry. So what are you teaching your child? And are we honoring those men in our lives who have taught us what‟s most important in life? For how we lead our life is the measurement that matters most….it helps to build those who follow afterwards. That‟s the best thing a father can do. This is the measurement that matters the most. Will our families look to us and see that we know the way? It‟s like this story of a man who said “When I was a small boy growing up in Pennsylvania we would often visit my grandparents who lived nine miles away. One night a thick fog settled over the hilly countryside before we started home. I remember being terrified and wondering if we shouldn‟t be going even slower than we were. Mother said “Don‟t worry Your Father knows the way.” You see, dad had walked the road when there was no gasoline during the war. He had ridden that blacktop on his bicycle to court Mother. And for years he had made those weekly trips back to visit his own parents. How often when I can‟t see the road of life and have felt that familiar panic rising in my heart I have heard the echo of my mother‟s voice: Don‟t worry your father know the way.” Would the same be true of you? How do you and I measure up? Well the answer the scripture gives is two- fold. First none of us truly measures up. When it comes to God‟s standards we all miss the mark. The scripture says all have fallen short. But secondly and this is the good news … even if we are a father who does not know the way … there is a Father who does know the way. It is God himself. God shows us what a perfect Father is. God is the ultimate standard. All notions of righteousness are measured against him. And God has walked the path in Jesus Christ. He has conquered sin. And so when we realize we don‟t measure up we can turn to Jesus and he can make us new. Even though we often fail, as father‟s or wives or children, the good news is that Jesus never fails. And when we turn back to him he can show us what it means to be a good father, he can show us what it means to measure up. And not only that, Jesus actually give us the strength to be that Father, he gives us his power to live as God desires. So how do I measure up? Well in Jesus Christ you and I have what it takes, for in him we measure up perfectly. So will you pray with me and ask Jesus for that fresh start?