Killing the Father

The world of today is the world of yesterday and Scripture. We too sacrifice our children to our own gods of autonomy, self-determination, convenience, and choice.

Cannot the church bring herself to see this as an evangelistic opportunity? A gospel-centered and missional gold mine? The Fatherhood of God is the most potent doctrine in theology for Christian witness today. The father-hatred and father-hunger of our culture are such fertile soil for the gospel, and what an unbelievably tender introduction to Christian faith is found in the love of the Father for His only-begotten Son and the only-begotten Son for the Father. This is pure doctrine just waiting to be used by the man or woman of faith today.

The submission and obedience of the Son toward His Heavenly Father, that obedience which ended with Him naked on the cross pouring out His lifeblood for those made in the image and likeness of their father Adam—this contains a potent message for those in bondage to rebellion because their fathers abandoned them and left them naked and bloody and alone in the wilderness.

The 2012 ClearNote Summer Conference was titled I Believe in God the Father Almighty. Here is the opening sermon by Tim Bayly, preached July 6, 2012 and titled Killing the Father.

(This is sermon 1 in a series; see also sermon 2, sermon 3, and sermon 4.)


Outline

Introduction: They wouldn’t give me painkillers
Father hunger is all around us, and masking the pain will not heal us
You are not alone
1. God is the Father from whom all fatherhood gets its name
1.1. The confession of faith of the modern world: “God is dead.”
1.2. Adam, our father
1.3. The killing of fatherhood is continually passed from generation to generation
1.4. Who needs a Father?
2. The fruit of the Fall: rejecting responsibility
2.1. Cain
2.2. The wickedness of man prior to the flood
2.3. Righteous Lot
2.4. Moses and to the sons of Israel
2.5. The kings of Israel and Judah
2.6. The New Testament
2.7. “Don’t lump us in with them! We’re different.”
3. The fruit of the Fall is pervasive and tragic today
3.1. “It must have been happening in our churches, but we as pastors and elders were clueless”
3.2. This is the exception, not the rule! you say
Conclusion
Willful blindness
Will you hear? Will you see?


Introduction: They wouldn’t give me painkillers

One evening I left an elders’ meeting, and it was very embarrassing, because it was the first elders’ meeting of a church I had just been called to serve. That particular church held their elders’ meetings starting at 4 and going from anywhere from 7 to 1 in the morning, every week. (Wednesday, if I remember correctly.) I had preached one Sunday and then had an elders’ meeting three days later, and the moderator of the elders’ board had called me earlier in the day and asked me whether I would object to them beginning every elders’ meeting with a critique of my performance the previous Sunday. (The elders had been opposed to my coming, they’d stood up and told the congregation not to hire me and I’d gotten 76% of the vote, and Mary Lee and I were confident God was calling us there) — and you know, being magnanimous in my pride I said to him, well, sure, you know, if you’d like to begin criticizing my performance, have at it!

And sure enough, they did. The first question that was asked by a man that worked for Kenneth Gros Louis at the time, some of you know who Gros Louis was, and he said to me, Timothy, why did you have a black suit on Sunday? And he was sitting there in a Harris tweed with leather elbow patches, and I said, well, a black suit for a pastor in the pulpit Sunday morning is much like a Harris tweed with elbow patches on the campus. It’s the uniform.

Well, then the next man said to me, Tim, why did you make such a clear statement of the authority of Scripture your first Sunday here? And I said, well I wanted it to be clear from the beginning what the benchmark for the ministry of the Word would be in this church. And he said, well, aren’t you aware that there are people in this church that don’t have the same presuppositional basis as you? And I said, yes I am aware, and that’s why I said what I said.

At that moment, all of a sudden, my guts exploded. So picture it, it’s my first elders’ meeting and I’m in the kitchen and it’s hot (that’s a way of speaking). And all of a sudden something happens down here. I have no idea what it is, but it’s unlike anything I’ve had before. And I know they’re all going to think I’m a malingerer. But I look at them in the middle of that examination, that criticism, and I say, men, I’m sorry but I have to leave. I’m sick! So halfway into my first elders’ meeting I get up and leave. And I know what they’re all thinking.

So I go out and I think, I’m going to get in my car and drive home, so I go out into the parking lot and I realize I’m not driving home. And so I call my wife Mary Lee, she drives over and I get in the car. It’s all I can do to sit down.

On the way home, if you’ve ever been on College Mall Road, you know that there are joints in the pavement that often have tar sealing them, so they’re very smooth—almost imperceptible as you drive over—every single one of those joints I would stiffen my body and hoist myself out of the seat, because they were unbearable.

When I got home I went up to the bedroom and I was about to sit down on the bed and go to sleep—because that’s what you do when you’re sick: you lie down in bed and you go to sleep, and in the morning it’s done, right? And as I was sitting down, this voice—there’s only a couple times in my life this voice has spoken to me, but it didn’t speak, it yelled—and it said to me, “TIM! THIS IS NOT THE FLU!”

Well I had a friend who was a doctor in Iowa, he was a dear friend, Duane Keillor, and I thought, well I’d better call Duane and ask what on the earth is going on? So I picked up the phone and I called Duane, he was in with a patient, and I said, would you go ahead and put me through anyhow? And so if you were the patient I’m sorry I interrupted you. And so he took the phone call and I said Duane, I don’t know what’s going on but it’s, like, agony. And he said well take two of your fingers and put them down here and push them hard, and then when you get them in deep, let go. And so I let go, and he said, did that hurt? And I said no. And he said well I have no idea what’s going on, but you better get some help.

So we got back in the car, we drove over to the hospital, we got to the hospital as a bunch of sirens came to the hospital. And we found out there had been a terrible wreck on the road to Crane and somebody was dead, other people were severely injured, so we got there just as people that really needed help got there, and so I went into a cubicle in the emergency room at Bloomington Hospital and I sat in a bed, and I was in agony. Mary Lee sat next to me and the doctor came in and examined me and sure enough, the normal diagnosis didn’t work with me. Well they weren’t going to give me any painkiller because they had no idea what it was. And so I had no painkiller, I was in agony, and I just started crying. I didn’t make any noise. (There was a little boy on the curtain right next to me and he took care of the noise. He had something in his ear and he screamed nonstop, bloody murder.) And I lay there in agony, and I just had tears coming out of eyes, it was so horrible. And that went on for hours.

Finally I think they did give me something for my pain and I went to sleep, and the next morning they did exploratory surgery and they found out that my appendix wasn’t where most are, it was up here. And that’s why the diagnosis didn’t work. And it was almost ruptured, and I was healed.

Father hunger is all around us, and masking the pain will not heal us

Now I want you to think for a second about the fact that they wouldn’t give me painkillers. Generally people in pain are impatient—they just want to take something for it. But pain is given to us by God to tell us something, and if we remove that pain before we’ve learned the origin of the disease, we cannot be healed.

The same is true of nonphysical pain. The terrible pain of father hunger is all around us today. It’s shared by men and women alike. Almost everyone in America suffers under it, and comedians are often the guys most willing to be honest about that pain. So I’ve developed a habit of listening to their life stories, because I know somewhere, either in their comedic spiel or in a profile that’s done on them, the comedian will vomit the pain of his father hunger onto his audience. And I say vomit because listening to stories of fathers abandoning their sons is like examining puke. The pathology of the disease is written and it’s bloody and it’s awful pus.

For instance, this is David Spade. He’s being profiled by a magazine, and the writer says,

There were all the ingredients [for David Spade] of a potentially happy childhood: two parents, Judy and Sam; David and two older brothers, Brian and Andy, all evenly spaced two years apart; and a nice home in Birmingham, Mich. What went wrong?

“I was playing football with my dad,” Spade explained in his best deadpan, mock-serious manner. “He told me to go out for a pass. He yelled, ‘Go deeper! Deeper!’ Then he jumped in his dune buggy and drove away.”

He waited a split second—perfect comedic timing—and then added seriously: “One day my dad just split. I was 4. It was too much pressure—three kids, a wife and a job.” He paused, then added, “He would come around once or twice a year, but that was it.”

The most astute observers of fathers’ failures cope by telling wryly piercing jokes. If they’re good enough, they can make a living out of it. The rest fall into irony and sarcasm. Cynicism and bitterness may not be the only way to mask the pain of father hunger, but it does an ok job for hundreds and hundreds of millions.

But masking the pain will not heal us. We must first do the hard work of diagnosis. Pain must direct our attention to the underlying disease.

Assuming God designed father hunger to tell us something and to lead us somewhere, what is God telling us, and where is He leading us through this?

You are not alone

Father hunger is never new. It’s as old as time. Father hunger is the result of fathers’ sin, and the sin of fathers lies at the center of the history of man. It goes back domino-like to the very beginning. It’s critical to see how pervasive the failure of fathers has been across man’s history.

In short, you are not alone. You are not the sore thumb of history, solitary and splendid in your pain. The pain and loss you have experienced, the cloud that you live under today, is not an indication of some exotic failure. You can’t deal with it by the normal means of self-medication. That will only dull it, it will never heal it. You may escape it for the moment through drink, through video games, through fantasy football drafts, but it will still be there in the morning.

Now here’s a necessary warning: this message on killing the father is not going to give you relief. Doctors of the soul do not traffic in painkillers—or we ought not to. Healing begins by looking, listening, considering, and studying the pathology—we have to examine our pain to overcome it. And our pain begins with our federal head, Adam.

1. God is the Father from whom all fatherhood gets its name

But before Adam we start with this truth: God is the Father from whom all fatherhood gets its name.

In 1 Corinthins 8, the beginning of verse 6, we read,

for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him

Ephesians 4:6 says there is

one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.

And then the classic location, Ephesians 3:14-15, which unfortunately is not translated properly. Let me explain it to you. The text you see here is,

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name

But if I tell you that the Greek for the word Father there is pater and then I tell you that the word “family” in “every family” is patriapater and patria—it should be translated,

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom all fatherhood in heaven and on earth derives its name

and that’s a marginal reading in the old NIV.

Regardless of how you translate of that verse, God is the Father from whom all fatherhood gets its name.

The novelist and friend of C.S. Lewis, George MacDonald, wrote in his dedication of his first book to his own father, this. He said,

Yet most I thank thee, not for any deed
But for the sense thy living self did breed
That fatherhood is at the world’s great core

God is the Father from whom all fatherhood gets its name. But Scripture tells us that naming God Father is the sign of a regenerate heart–that the Holy Spirit lives within us.

In Galatians 4:6 we read,

Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”

What a precious testimony when we find that witness in our hearts.

God is the archetypal Father. He defines fatherhood, and thus the apostles began their creed with the words that provide the title of our conference:

I believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth,
And in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord

Is this your confession: “I believe in God the Father Almighty”?

1.1. The confession of faith of the modern world: “God is dead.”

The existential philosopher Nietzsche declared, “God is dead,” and this declaration is the confession of faith of the modern world: “God is dead.”

Let me read a little bit from Nietzsche. He writes,

Where is God? I shall tell you. We have killed him, you and I. All of us are his murderers. Are we not plunging continually backward, sideward, forward, in all directions? Is there any up or down left? Are we not straying as through an infinite nothing? Do we not feel the breath of empty space? Has it not become colder? Is not night and more night coming on all the while? God is dead.

God remains dead, and we have killed him. How shall we, the murderers of all murderers, comfort ourselves? What was holiest and most powerful of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives. Who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must not we ourselves become gods, simply to seem worthy of it?

Commenting on this statement, the 20th century German philosopher Martin Heidegger writes,

“It is clear that Nietzsche’s pronouncement concerning the death of God means the Christian God.”

We have killed the Father from whom all fatherhood gets its name, and this is our world. There’s no place God’s authority is permitted to stand.

We don’t have to go far to find examples:

  • The attack on the husband’s authority over the wife in the form of egalitarianism;
  • The attack on the father’s authority in the form of bans on corporal punishment;
  • The attack on the foreman’s authority over the workers on his assembly line in the form of elaborate and progressive disciplinary procedures that only with much difficulty can end in the termination of an employee;
  • The attack on lawmakers’ authority to legislate according to God’s moral law and standards that takes the form of Supreme Court of the United States decisions like Lawrence v. Texas that forbid morality from being the sole justification for a law;
  • The attack on the responsibility of men to lead and fight and defend their own in war and to police their communities, in the form of promotion of women to positions of military and law enforcement authority;
  • The attack on a judge’s most basic duty—to render judgment—in the form of a dizzying array of laws and regulations and code that is almost impenetrable;
  • The attack on the church’s officers, in the form of threats of lawsuits for defamation and of revocation of charitable 501(c)(3) status;
  • The attack on teachers’ authority to remove rebellious students from the classroom or the school bus, in the form of elaborate progressive disciplinary procedures that are more focused on helping the offending child, with the result that teachers and students and bus monitors and drivers have to suffer through the child’s disruptive behavior;
  • The attack on man’s responsibility to lead, in the form of ubiquitous “Dad is doofus” beer commercials, sitcoms, and Berenstain Bears books for children.
  • The castration or infantilization of men through video games and pornography.

In each of these areas, we see man casting off and suppressing the authority that God has delegated to man. And it’s all properly laid at the feet of Adam.

1.2. Adam, our father

In Genesis 3:7, we read,

Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, “Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’?”

Satan struck at Adam, and thus at God, by approaching Eve. Eve was deceived. She took the fruit, ate it, and gave it to Adam, who also ate it. Immediately the man and his wife felt shame.

We read later,

Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings.

Before sin, the man and his wife were both naked and unashamed. After sin, the man and his wife were both naked and they covered themselves because of their shame.

This is tragedy. Husband and wife must conceal themselves, not from the prying eyes of strangers, but from each other. They can no longer be with each other without suffering shame. But infinitely worse than their shame in the presence of each other was the shame that led them both then to hide from God the Father. We read,

They heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden.

Now then, note carefully that God the Father goes directly to the leader, Adam. He goes to the father of the race and He says this:

“Where are you?”

And the word you there is masculine singular.

So Adam answered,

“I heard the sound of You in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself.”

And God responded,

“Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?”

And Adam answered—now listen carefully to this, Genesis 3:13,

“The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate.”

Now men, I hope we recognize ourselves in Adam’s response. And I hope you find his reponse utterly repulsive. God made Adam head of this precious woman taken from his side. God placed on Adam the obligation and authority to tend and protect His creation. But here, after Adam sins and God calls him to account, Adam blames the woman. He blames his wife.

1.3. The killing of fatherhood is continually passed from generation to generation

Do we ever do this? Do we blame our failures on our wives? Of course we do. We choose to sin rather than heed God; called to account by God for our sin and the destruction it causes in our marriages and homes, we blame our wives. Thus the killing of fatherhood is continually passed from generation to generation, beginning with our first father, Adam.

But go back to Genesis and see what Adam says next. He doesn’t stop with blaming the woman, but then what? He moves on to blaming God. He adds to the blame he casts on Eve, “the woman You gave to me.”

Adam is saying in effect,

Look, God, I’m not responsible, the woman did it. She gave me the fruit of the forbidden tree and yes, I ate it, but while we’re on the subject, if you hadn’t wanted this and if you’re so concerned about it, why did you give her to me? She’s responsible for my eating the fruit, and you’re responsible for giving her to me, and thus implicitly you’re responsible for my sin.

Do you see what happened there in the garden? First, in Adam’s rebellion, God’s fatherhood over Adam was repudiated. And then, having severed himself from the Father, Adam went on to repudiate his own fatherhood by accusing his wife rather than protecting her.

Adam thus became an entirely too-familiar father of the human race. His passive-aggressive abdication has become the tale of man’s fatherhood. And this is where man has killed the fatherhood of God, and this is where man has killed his own fatherhood, his own responsibility before God for his wife and children.

Brothers, we must face the Fall if we are to understand the death of fatherhood and the ongoing fruits of that death suffered by us all.

God then turns from Adam to Eve, and we read,

Then the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” And the woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

Now what was the ground of Satan’s deception? Well, Satan whispered in Eve’s ear,

Listen, my dear woman, the man may say you will die, but the truth is otherwise. Far from dying, when you eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, your eyes will be opened and you will be reborn as God’s equal!

We can imagine Eve talking to herself after the serpent tells her that God is jealous for His own glory. She might say to herself,

Satan says I will not die after all! He says God is being autocratic and domineering! Should I listen to him? Can it be true? Is God working to protect me, or is He really just protecting His own prerogatives by keeping Adam and me subservient?

Conceiving the possibility, Eve is doomed to follow the logic, and her thoughts may have gone on,

Well I’ll show Him! I’ll strike a blow for liberty and self-determination! I do not need to be bound by this constraint God has forced on us. Why should I obey him when I stand to gain so much? Didn’t Satan say that my eyes will be opened and I will be like God, knowing good and evil?

The order that God established was this: God commanded Adam; Adam by his trusting obedience to his heavenly Father, would safeguard his wife, Eve, and the children God would give them from Satan’s wiles. By this means, Adam and his descendants would live in perfect fellowship with one another and with God forever.

The serpent flipped everything upside down by approaching Eve, who in turn appealed to Adam, who in turn listened to the voice of his wife, ate the forbidden fruit, and rebelled against God. God’s progression is straightforward: God commands Adam; Adam himself obeys and he leads his wife into obedience; together they honor the Father through obedience to His Word, and Satan is defeated.

Satan’s progression reverses this order. In his conversation with Eve, Satan’s suggestions are posed against the Father’s commands; and deceived by Satan, Eve disobeys and urges Adam to do likewise. Adam follows Eve’s instruction and example. He listens to the voice of his wife—that’s what God says when He faults Adam, “You listened to the voice of your wife”—and he follows her and ends in rebellion against God and in disobedience of God’s Word. One progression is right-side-up and the other is upside-down.

What does this have to do with fatherhood?

1.4. Who needs a Father?

We live in a day when everything is upside-down and fatherhood is despised, both the fatherhood of God and man. We think nothing of children being bastards. The word is almost dead, and the concept is completely, utterly foreign to our minds. Single women and lesbians adopt children and get artificially inseminated with not a care in the world about their child growing up without a father:

Who needs a father? Isn’t a mother enough? Can’t the child take her mother’s name instead? What are fathers good for anyway? They divorce your mother, they sit and watch television, they play video games through the evenings and weekends, they beat your sons, they molest your daughters—who needs a father?

But it doesn’t stop there—it continues inexorably on to God, because fatherhood descends from Him and points back to Him:

Who needs God? What’s He done for me anyhow? Did He give me a father who loved me? Did He give my mother a husband who was faithful to her and provided for her and her children? Did he protect me from my stepfather? Did he keep my father from walking out on my mother? What has he done for me anyhow? In fact, what has he done for anyone lately? And I’m expected to believe in God the Father? No way. I won’t go back there ever.

And so too, women see no need for husbands. A butch-dyke does just fine. And wives who actually have no need for their husbands’ protection or for their authority. And so Adam sowed the wind and every generation since has reaped the whirlwind. Adam refused to submit to God the Father, instead submitting to his wife, who herself had submitted to Satan; and ever since, fatherhood is dead and rebellion reigns.

We don’t believe in God the Father. In lockstep solidarity with our first father, Adam, we choose rebellion because we reject our Father in heaven. And by rebelling against Him we despise our own calling of earthly fatherhood.

Fathers who despise God’s fatherhood inevitably abdicate their responsibilities as fathers. They do not provide. They fail to protect. They do not lead their wives and children into the safety of righteousness. And what happens? Women pick up the pieces left helter-skelter by husbands running from their God-given fatherhood.

But it’s hard for woman to do the work. It’s hard for woman to bear the responsibility God delegated to man. By divine design, woman is unsuited to the authority and responsibility God’s placed in man by the order of creation.

And now where are we? Man is in rebellion, woman is deceived, and children, if not murdered in the womb, are left defenseless in a world of wolves.

God? God who? Where is God? Why is God? Who needs God? No, I won’t pray to Him, and certainly I will not pray to Him as Father. I don’t need a father! I won’t be fooled again. I had a father once, and that was enough.

In the garden, Satan sowed rebellion. Approaching Adam through Eve, Eve listened to Satan and was deceived, Adam listened to Eve and rebelled against God the Father Almighty, and that has made all the difference. Adam traded the Fatherhood of God for the fatherhood of Satan. And since his fall, every man is born into slavery to his father the devil. This is the meaning of King David’s declaration,

In sin my mother conceived me.

Since Adam’s fall, the only way for God to be restored as our Father is for us to be born again of the Holy Spirit, and thus become an adopted son of God, whose heart cries out, “Abba! Father!” Thus and only thus is fatherhood restored. First God is restored as our Father, and then we are restored as fathers ourselves.

Sadly though, most of us are blind to our condition. Take for instance the Scribes and the Pharisees. When the Jewish religious leaders attacked Jesus, He denied their precious certainty that blood lineage and the ceremony of (should I say baptism?) circumcision made them, the leaders of the church, the sons of Abraham and therefore sons of God; and Jesus said this to them:

“I speak the things which I have seen with My Father; therefore you also do the things which you heard from your father.” They answered and said to Him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus said to them, “If you are Abraham’s children, do the deeds of Abraham. But as it is, you are seeking to kill Me, a man who has told you the truth, which I heard from God; this Abraham did not do. You are doing the deeds of your father.” They said to Him, “We were not born of fornication; we have one Father: God.” Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and have come from God, for I have not even come on My own initiative, but He sent Me. Why do you not understand what I am saying? It is because you cannot hear My word. You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies. But because I speak the truth, you do not believe Me. Which one of you convicts Me of sin? If I speak truth, why do you not believe Me? He who is of God hears the words of God; for this reason you do not hear them, because you are not of God.”

And brothers, here we are still today, you and me. We are born, and we have lived, as murderous and lying rebels, lovers of Satan rather than lovers of God the Father. We have preferred Satan’s fatherhood to God’s Fatherhood. We have walked in lockstep solidarity with our federal head Adam and doing the things we have heard from the devil and hating those who tell us the truth from God. We say we have one Father: God; but we do not love His Son Jesus, and we will not listen to and obey His Word. There is no truth in us. We refuse to hear the Son because we are not of His Father. We, you and I, have killed the Father, and sin reigns.

2. The fruit of the Fall: rejecting responsibility

What then is the fruit of the Fall? Well here’s one summary from Scripture. Romans 3, beginning with verse 9, the second half:

“THERE IS NONE RIGHTEOUS, NOT EVEN ONE; THERE IS NONE WHO UNDERSTANDS, THERE IS NONE WHO SEEKS FOR GOD; ALL HAVE TURNED ASIDE, TOGETHER THEY HAVE BECOME USELESS; THERE IS NONE WHO DOES GOOD, THERE IS NOT EVEN ONE.” “THEIR THROAT IS AN OPEN GRAVE, WITH THEIR TONGUES THEY KEEP DECEIVING,” “THE POISON OF ASPS IS UNDER THEIR LIPS”; “WHOSE MOUTH IS FULL OF CURSING AND BITTERNESS”; “THEIR FEET ARE SWIFT TO SHED BLOOD, DESTRUCTION AND MISERY ARE IN THEIR PATHS, AND THE PATH OF PEACE THEY HAVE NOT KNOWN.” “THERE IS NO FEAR OF GOD BEFORE THEIR EYES.”

It isn’t pretty, is it? And these words of God are truly inclusive.

Some of you remember the scholar Jacob Bronowski who had a bestseller a couple decades ago titled The Ascent of Man. And his title spells the conceit of modern man. The world religiously believes that man, descended from apes, continues evolving (which is to say progressing or ascending) to this very day.

This is the opposite, though, of the history that is given us in the Word of God: Adam refused to take responsibility for Eve; instead of leading he listened to her rebellion and took the fruit she offered, failing thereby to exercise the sole responsibility God had given him for the protection of his family from sin and death; instead of quelling rebellion and defeating sin, he listened and he joined; when called to account by God he refused responsibility for his own sin; he cast the blame on Eve, and even seemed to suggest that God was to blame for giving him Eve.

I am reiterating this theme of rejecting responsibility because responsibility lies at the heart of husbandry and fatherhood. At the heart of manhood, at the heart of fatherhood lies responsibility. Masculine man, man as opposed to woman, was made by God to tend the garden, protect his wife, and guard every one of his descendants from the wiles of Satan.

2.1. Cain

We look at Adam and then we look at his son, and the apple does not fall far from the tree. Cain follows his father’s path by attempting to cover his sin by denying responsibility for his brother. Remember what he said to God when God came and asked him where his brother was? He’d murdered his brother and his response was, what? “Am I my brother’s keeper?”

2.2. The wickedness of man prior to the flood

Two chapters later in Genesis, God records for us the wickedness of man prior to the flood, and who can ever forget this summary of man’s condition, found in Genesis 6:

Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. The LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart.

Did you hear that? Every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. This is God’s judgment of unregenerate man.

Listen. No Facebook update, no tweet, has ever been more truthful. Man’s wickedness was so great that God regretted making him and took action to blot every man, woman, and child save Noah and his family from the face of the earth. Because of his horrendous wickedness, God wiped the race of man off the face of the earth. Fathers died, taking their households with them. They were all under God’s curse. But righteous Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord, and he protected his household from judgment. Into his ark they went and were safe.

2.3. Righteous Lot

Let’s move on to Sodom and Gomorrah. In Genesis 13 we read that Abram’s nephew Lot moved his household to Sodom, and the very next verse reports something that Lot obviously knew when he moved there. The very next verse says,

Now the men of Sodom were wicked exceedingly and sinners against the LORD.

And then a couple of chapters later, we read,

And the LORD said, “The outcry of Sodom and Gomorrah is indeed great, and their sin is exceedingly grave. I will go down now, and see if they have done entirely according to its outcry, which has come to Me”

And so we read that God sent two angels to investigate, and coming upon the angels in the city square at nightfall, Lot took them into his house to provide them shelter, but then as night fell we read this: The men of the city

called to Lot and said to him, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us that we may have relations with them.”

The men of Sodom were hell-bent on raping the angels. They stormed Lot’s door and had God allowed it, what would have gone down there that night in Sodom’s plaza would have been sodomitic rape.

Every father recoils in horror at what comes next. Seeking to protect his guests, Lot offers the sodomites his daughters to sate their lust. He says,

“Now behold, I have two daughters who have not had relations with man; please let me bring them out to you, and do to them whatever you like; only do nothing to these men, inasmuch as they have come under the shelter of my roof.”

Did you know that the Apostle Peter refers to “righteous Lot” in his second letter, and that the people of God consequently have often had great difficulty with those words. They have wondered if Lot’s offering of his daughters for rape by the Sodomites is part of Lot’s righteousness. No. Never. No more so than his choice of Sodom as a home. Lot’s offering of his daughters was tragic sin, and it demonstrates a truth about the fruit of the Fall that is imperative for us to learn today as we live in western culture, and as our culture descends more and more into the pride, wealth, cruelty, and sexual perversion that led to the abominations of Sodom and to its consumption with fire and brimstone from God.

Lot should have preferred a thousand deaths above offering his daughters to appease the Sodomites, but none of us lives above the corruption of the Fall. Lot was righteous, and Lot was fallen. Lot was righteous and Lot offered his daughters to the Sodomites. Lot was righteous, yet this was Lot’s fatherhood. This was how he took responsibility for those in his household, his guests and his daughters.

But we’re not yet done with the Sodomites, with righteous Lot, with his wife and daughters. First the Sodomites: God rained fire and brimstone on them from heaven. He removed them and their city from this earth immediately to the eternal torments of hell. Again, households were carried into hell along with the head of the household, the father. There were babes-in-arms along with wizened old men—and all the wickedness was and is properly laid at the door of Adam through whom sin and death entered the world.

And Lot’s wife: although expressly commanded by God not to look back as she and her husband fled Sodom, she did look back, and God struck her dead, turning her into a pillar of salt.

And Lot’s daughters. Because of their righteous father, they escaped; but subsequently, despairing of fruitfulness in the mountain lair they had escaped to, they conspired to get their father drunk and take turns having sex with him. Just as they hoped, from those unions, both of them gave birth to sons, one of whom became the father of the wicked Moabites and the other the father of the wicked Ammonites.

Brothers, this is the biography of righteous Lot. And it is the biography that is inspired by the Holy Spirit and given to us, and it is profitable.

Do you see the fruit of Adam’s fall?

2.4. Moses and to the sons of Israel

And so what’s the point? Am I just trying to depress you? Don’t I know this is the sort of wacko stuff found throughout the lives of the patriarchs and that it goes away when God gives the sons of Israel His moral law, the Ten Commandments? Yes, Lot had sex with his daughters; yes, Abraham passed his wife off as his sister twice; yes, Isaac passed his wife off as his sister just as his father had before him; yes, Jacob was a deceiver, and Jacob’s sons sold their brother Joseph into slavery, but man improves. He progresses. He evolves. He ascends. The Law of Moses refines him. Let’s move from such misery to Moses and to the sons of Israel.

And so new and improved man no longer falls into such sin? The Law preserves him from idolatry, from immorality, from the wrath of God? This is why He condemned an entire generation to death in the wilderness, because they loved Him wholeheartedly and obeyed Him unstintingly? Because they rejected idolatry? Because they steadfastly refused to be led by golden calves and images of Baal?

Did paternal neglect in opposing the sins of sons stop with the giving of the Law? Do we no longer remember the sons of Eli and of Samuel? Honestly, as the young messenger who delivered God’s summary judgment on the sons of Eli to their father, you would think the need to restrain the sins of sons would be emblazoned across the mind of Samuel. And yet Samuel’s sons followed this same path of wickedness Eli’s sons had followed. And Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu had followed before—and so judgment fell on them as well.

2.5. The kings of Israel and Judah

So how about the kings of Israel and Judah? Well obviously the northern kingdom was a mess with the likes of its Ahabs and Jezebels. But what about the southern kingdom, where the line of David remained?

Manasseh?

Hezekiah, the king who was happy that judgment on his sins would fall from the hand of God on his children after he was gone. Are those the “Happy days are here again” we’re looking for?

Finally, what about that man after God’s own heart, King David? Was he righteous? Didn’t he preserve his line from this form of corruption descended from the Fall? We must face the fact that this man David was indeed a man after God’s own heart, and this man David committed adultery with Bathsheba and to cover it up murdered her husband. That is King David.

And what of Absalom, who solicited rebellion against his father? And what does Scripture record concerning King David’s fatherhood in relation to his son Adonijah? Well, this is what it says. 1 Kings 5:6,

His father had never crossed him at any time by asking, “Why have you done so?”

2.6. The New Testament

Now surely when we come to the New Testament things are different, more like our scrupulously clean Reformed churches today. The gospel must certainly leave behind all that horror of wicked fatherhood recorded throughout the Old Testament. Isn’t that the promise given at the end of the Old Testament in Malachi, that One was coming who would turn the hearts of fathers to their sons and the hearts of sons to their fathers? Is this not Jesus, and has He not come? Have hearts not been turned?

Yes and no.

We can’t pretend that the coming of the Promised One has put a stop to sin or an end to the sinfulness of God’s children. After all, in 1 John 1:8 we read,

If we say we are without sin, we are liars, and the truth is not in us.

And so the coming of Christ and the giving of the Holy Spirit give us unique power to overcome the stain of Adam’s sin. But as with all things of faith, this power is found through the exercise of faith and obedience, not by clicking our fingers three times and declaring victory. And so in the New Testament as in the old, incest remains (1 Corinthians). And fathers lead families into sin and death (Ananias and Sapphira).

2.7. “Don’t lump us in with them! We’re different.”

Now at this point, I know that many of you would like to take me aside and explain to me how different Bible-believing Christians are today from Cain and Abel, Noah and the patriarchs, the people of God addressed by the Old Testament prophets, and those first Christians who received the New Testament epistles, particularly the Corinthians. You may be tempted to respond,

“Don’t lump us in with them! We’re different. We don’t have that kind of sin in our church. You seem to have an awfully negative view of the redeeming effect of the gospel. Perhaps you’re deficient in your understanding of the grace of Jesus. Perhaps you’re unaware that we’re no longer under law, but grace. That the only way to be acceptable to God is to trust in His grace and come to Him through His Son, Jesus Christ. Yes, of course we fail, we sin, we make bad choices. But we live by grace through faith, and the answer to failure isn’t guilt, but to view ourselves as God sees us! Of course all you say about the sinfulness of man is true, but what’s the point if we’re not under the law?

Now let me take a stab at an explanation. The point is, none of us wants to be reminded of all the sin and pain and horror that surrounds us. We want to make as quick an exit from such unpleasantness as possible and get back into the mindset of grace that pervades “Bible-believing” churches of our decadent age.

Don’t worry. Be happy! Jesus has done it all, and the only thing you need to do is trust His grace. We’re much worse than we could ever imagine, but God’s love and grace are much greater than we could ever dream! So eat, drink, and encant the name of Jesus over it all, for today we’re under grace and tomorrow we go to heaven.

Well, if the biblical account of the Fall and its fruit does not apply to God’s people across all ages and denominations revealing the sins we struggle with and how we lie to deny our defeat by them; if the Bible is wrong in pointing out how central to all these sins the denial of God’s Father-authority is and how utterly rebellious we are today against every manifestation of God’s fatherhood wherever we encounter His authority, then by all means stop listening and pleasant dreams.

My brother David and I grew up with a Dad who constantly quoted Scripture to his children and perhaps above all, this verse from the prophet Jeremiah:

The heart [is] deceitful above all [things], and desperately wicked: who can know it?

This simple declaration of God’s truth was a constant warning to each member of my father’s household as we grew up. Father disciplined us through the repetition of these words from the Bible, repeating them so often that we grew up well aware of the depravity of every human heart, particularly my own. What a blessing! What a father!

And so this marked the beginning of my understanding of the human heart. But now I have had 29 years as a shepherd of God’s flock, during which I have been privileged to hear many confessions of sin, and in my own limited ability and compassion, to help bear sin’s awful pain—to join sinners in prayers of repentance and faith—to listen to petitions for healing and an end to bitterness, for submissive hearts and restoration of individuals’ marriages and families. Paul describes his work among the Ephesians as consisting of prayer, counseling, teaching, preaching, and visiting night and day from house to house, with tears. All this is the work of a pastor feeding and guarding his flock, and from such experience flows my knowledge of the fruit of the Fall today.

3. The fruit of the Fall is pervasive and tragic today

Let me give you several examples. They are not selected carefully; they’re simply fathers and families that came immediately to mind as I was writing this, and they demonstrate how pervasive and tragic the fruit of the Fall is right now, both outside and inside the visible church:

  • Two junior high school boys wandered into my office one day, I’d never met them before and they had no previous experience with the church that I served at the time; it was a small town and they wondered what was inside. I greeted them, and we began to talk. After several minutes of small talk, I began to speak to them of God. Both boys responded that they didn’t believe in God. Even 29 years ago and wet behind the ears, I knew enough to respond, “So neither of you have a father at home, do you? And I’ll bet you’re angry at your dads.” One of the boys turned to the other and said, “Wow! How did he know that?” The lives of this age are defined by father hatred and father hunger, both at the same time.
  • There was a college freshman who came into my office and asked me what to do when he went home for Thanksgiving, an adopted child, throughout his childhood his older brother raped him. Going to college had provided relief, but now he was headed home for Thanksgiving, and he was terrified that he’d be sodomized again.
  • There was the sophomore active in Campus Crusade who went home for Christmas pregnant (and I’m not saying this because it’s a negative reflection on Campus Crusade. I’m saying it so you understand: these are evangelical minstries). She’d had sex with a man who was also active in Cru, and neither of them wanted to murder their baby. The story of her journey home came to me weeks later in February, after she’d finally been allowed to return to school from Christmas break. She set up an appointment with me and entered my office with a friend, and she was sobbing. She confessed the sin that she had confessed to her father and mother when she arrived home for Christmas, that she had committed fornication and become pregnant. Between sobs, she recounted how her father and mother had responded by telling her they would not allow her to have her baby. She was to abort it. She refused. Throughout Christmas break she suffered constant threats and enticements pressuring her to murder her little baby. Finally her Dad told her he would not pay for any more college until she had the abortion, and that he would not allow her to return to college until her baby was dead. After weeks of resisting her Dad’s commands to sacrifice her child to Molech, she finally gave in. “And now my baby is dead. I killed my baby.”
  • There was a family whose father browbeat and intimidated his wife and children. He was gentle and softspoken in public, but at home he was a psychological and emotional manipulator par excellance, and a sexual monster to boot. At least one of his children grew up being raped by him day after day, month after month, year after year. At church he waged a sort of friendly battle with me having theological objections to most everything I said. And yet at home, he conducted the family business fraudulently and depended upon the earnings his wife brought home from her full time job.
  • There was the father who became depressed when new owners took over the business he worked for, so he killed himself, leaving two teenage daughters fatherless and leaving his dismembered body for his wife to find and clean up.
  • There was the grandfather who visited his children and grandchildren frequently, and during those visits it was his habit to go to his children’s home and pick up his grandchildren, taking them back to the hotel, where he would molest them. He did this to most of his grandchildren, but it was years before it came out into the open. When it did, all he could talk about was his desire to have a good relationship with his family. He went on and on, telling them how Jesus had forgiven him. He knew this beyond any shadown of doubt, he said. And then he’d explain that they and their children needed to recognize their bitterness as the sin it was, repent and forgive him. He was an upstanding member of his Evangelical Free Church, and he held a very responsible position in society working with society’s children.
  • There was the father who did not love his children and so he didn’t discipline, despite years of exhortation and admonition from his pastors and elders calling him to lead his wife and to discipline—in other words, to love—his children. He remained proud, and he was completely unteachable. Instilling the same spirit of rebellion in his children, he proudly led them away from their shepherds into his own wicked world and thus gave them over to physical and spiritual death.
  • And then there are those fathers whose abdication and sin produce sons who despised them and embraced effeminacy: there was the father whose wife wanted a daughter, not a son. And when she gave birth to a son, the father allowed his wife to raise the son as if he were a daughter. When he was a boy, the mother made him wear frilly dresses. Is it any surprise then that by the time I knew him in his 40s he was driving into the city where he would pay young boys to let him sodomize them? And this was 33 years ago. He was yet another upstanding evangelical church leader holding a responsible position caring for the children of society.
  • There was the man whose son had been raped by older boys in the neighborhood who responded by doing nothing (the father, that is). He did nothing when his son told him. Did nothing! He was a seminary professor—he did nothing! He was a Reformed seminary professor, and he did nothing! He was a PCA church planting Reformed seminary professor, and he did nothing! Is it any surprise to learn that the son became a man who molested children himself.
  • And then there was the woman who would show up at church Sunday morning with obvious marks of having been beaten by her husband. She would sit in church with obvious bruises on her face and during worship, including the sermon, her children would defy her, sometimes playing catch with various toys, tossing them to one another over her head and laughing at her as they did so. She was helpless in her multiple humiliations and not one elder in the congregation did or said anything to help or to protect her.
  • That same church had obvious adultery at the center of it. It was so very obvious that my wife Mary Lee and I saw it the very week we arrived, and yet everyone pretended not to notice. The whole world knew! but not one father in the church where it was going on admitted it, let alone confronted it, rebuked it, or disciplined it.

I’m not telling you the ends of these stories. I’m leaving things out. If you want to ask me afterwards, feel free.

3.1. “It must have been happening in our churches, but we as pastors and elders were clueless”

I could go on and on, but one last word, this one from a pastor dealing with incest in his home who recently said this to me. He said,

I have been in elders’ meetings for almost ten years, and there has never been a single mention of child molestation, abuse, or incest. Not one. Now that my own children have been molested and I’ve learned the truth of how common this is, I’m horrified. It must have been happening in our churches, but we as pastors and elders were clueless.

I’m preaching through the book of 1 Corinthians now, and as we work our way through the book we’re not far beyond 1 Corinthians 5, where the Apostle Paul rebukes the Corinthians for being proud while tolerating incest in the midst of their congregation. Paul calls the sin they overlook a sin so awful, pagans would be embarrassed to mention it.

Like Corinth, our churches contain incest. It’s inside our homes and our churches. All Scripture is profitable! and that includes the written record of the Corinthian church being complacent and proud while everyone knew that one of their outstanding members was going to bed with his father’s wife.

Do you see the misery?

3.2. This is the exception, not the rule! you say

Perhaps you’d rather not, and this isn’t normal, you say. Most children grow up in nice families with good fathers and mothers and siblings who treat them with respect.

Really? And so the Bible’s accounts of the homes of the patriarchs, of Israel’s kings, the Corinthian church, are there to illustrate exceptions to the rule?

I’ve now been in pastoral ministry 29 years. Before ordination my wife and I lived and worked in three college communities, Madison, Boulder, and Boston, and now we’ve been serving in Bloomington, Indiana, another university community, for almost twenty years.

If they love Jesus by feeding His sheep, do you know what pastors and elders and college and university communities spend their time doing? We spend our time hearing the confessions and bearing the pain and shame of young men and women who have just escaped their evangelical homes for the first time and are finally free to talk to someone about what they suffered in those homes.

I’ve heard countless confessions from souls who grew up in homes similar to the incestuous home at the center of the Corinthian church. More often than not they are homes that claim to be Christian, even with the ESV and NASB Bibles sitting on the dining room table. Homes where mother teaches Sunday School and father’s an elder or deacon; homes where the entire family went to a church every Sunday, the pastor preached a happy gospel sermon on grace, and everyone in attendance smiled, smelled good, and dressed tastefully. Christian homes, Christian fathers and mothers, the children all baptized, taking Communion and writing relatives for support for their short-term mission trips. But sneak into a subset of those homes under cover of darkness and what you’ll find will scar you no less than it scars those suffering.

Conclusion

Now, my conclusion.

Willful blindness

You say you don’t want to hear about it. Well of course not. Who does? Certainly not I. Certainly not my wife. And not my elders. And at seminary, no one ever, ever explained to me what love for the sheep would actually look like. I was never warned that the great wickedness recorded in Scripture was still going on today. But then I began to shepherd God’s sheep and to hear their confessions. And at this point you’re tempted to sympathize with those elders who have responded in some of my elders’ meetings that any discovery of wickedness their pastors bring to the elders’ meeting should just really be left alone. Often we’ve heard a statement like this: “Tim, do we really need to hear about this? Can’t you guys” —meaning the pastoral staff— “Can’t you guys handle this?” Right, Andy? Right?

The stench is invasive. Who wants it? Who can stand it, the sinfulness of sin? Who wants sinners in their homes and churches?

A young woman came into my office, and she would not sit down, and she stayed by the door. It was obvious she was in terror, and she told me a story of her brother molesting her for years. Encouraged by an aunt to speak to someone, she went to her priest. And what was his response? She went hoping for a shepherd to oppose the wolf, and found instead a more ravenous wolf, a man who responded to her plea for help by propositioning her to have sex with him.

This is the world we live in, and if you think such men are unusual, that it’s the rare Christian man who like Jerry Sandusky, starts a ministry to gain access to trusting boys and girls, if you think that the blind eyes turned by authorities are the exception rather than the rule—if these are your thoughts, you’ve simply chosen to live in the land of the blind. You and I, every last one of us, lives on this side of the Fall’s corruption, and that corruption really is bloody. It is terrible. But God is the Father who will stand with His children in the midst of the bloody mess of their lives, and for those willing to see and hear it—to love their neighbors—these bloody messes represent the most splendid opportunities to be fishers of men.

In His teaching, Jesus often stated that only those with ears to hear would listen, and the same is true today. Many of us choose to be blind and deaf to the casualties of the Fall that surround us. Note that it is a choice that we make.

Some years ago I was visiting an old farmer and his wife in their very old farmhouse. They were both in their 90s. After introducing myself, I sat with the husband in the living room and talked comfortably. He was sharp as a tack. Despite being in his mid-90s, I was able to easily talk with him. But then when his wife walked in, I began to wonder what was going on. Though I heard her clearly and though her husband heard me clearly, all he could say to her was, “What? What? Speak up, would you, I can’t hear you!” He and I had carried on a normal conversation, yet his wife was unable to make him hear the first thing she said. Did my voice carry better? I hadn’t even raised my voice! I was mystified. After several visits to the couple, I realized the problem was more a matter of will than ability. The man of the house wanted to hear the new preacher; his wife, she was a different story. In 60 years of marriage, he’d gotten to the point where he had little desire to hear anything she had to say.

There’s an old proverb, “No one’s as deaf as the man who doesn’t want to hear.” Jesus called attention to this truth by prefacing or concluding life-giving words with the statement, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

Some today don’t want to hear the biblical account of the Fall. Others may be willing to understand the Fall theologically, but they don’t want to face its practical implications and the catastrophic fruit of the Fall recorded throughout Scripture.

In the end, few of us want to look the Fall fully in the face, because few of us like the mirror it holds up to our own lives. Preferring ignorance to truth, we deny Scripture by deeming our hearts and the hearts of those we know, free from the desperate wickedness and deceitfulness imposed by the Fall. We live externally affirming, but inwardly denying, the central truth of man’s existence: that there is no man or woman who is righteous. Not one.

Rehearsing the failures of our fathers recorded in Scripture is one thing, but calling attention to the failures of fathers today is something else entirely, and so we refuse to talk about it. We shut our ears, we cast away memories of our own childhoods, we refuse to minister to others as they grieve. But then what does God mean when He calls us to bear one another’s burdens, to rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn?

“In Adam’s fall, we sinned all.” The fruit of his rebellion against God the Father is woven through the pages of Scripture and equally through the pages of our lives today. We malign the Father by rejecting fatherhood. We turn from fatherhood to embrace rebellion, knowing nothing of the Heavenly Father, who loved this suffering world so much that He gave us His only-begotten Son. The world of today is the same fallen, father-killing, father-hating and father-hungry world of yesterday and the New Testament and ancient Rome and Athens and Assyria and Canaan.

Remember the Canaanite fathers who placed their own sons and daughters in the fiery mouth of their idol Molech to be burned up as a child sacrifice.

Remember how the Israelites eagerly joined their Canaanite neighbors in this religious ritual, so very evil that God said it had never entered His mind.

The world of today is the world of yesterday and Scripture. We too sacrifice our children to our own gods of autonomy, self-determination, convenience, and choice.

Cannot the church bring herself to see this as an evangelistic opportunity? A gospel-centered and missional gold mine? The Fatherhood of God is the most potent doctrine in theology for Christian witness today. The father-hatred and father-hunger of our culture are such fertile soil for the gospel, and what an unbelievably tender introduction to Christian faith is found in the love of the Father for His only-begotten Son and the only-begotten Son for the Father. This is pure doctrine just waiting to be used by the man or woman of faith today.

The submission and obedience of the Son toward His Heavenly Father, that obedience which ended with Him naked on the cross pouring out His lifeblood for those made in the image and likeness of their father Adam—this contains a potent message for those in bondage to rebellion because their fathers abandoned them and left them naked and bloody and alone in the wilderness.

Will you hear? Will you see?

Christian, will you hear? Will you see? Will you live by faith and do everything in your power from the Holy Spirit to love those squalling children, abandoned by their fathers? Will you lead them into the peace of sonship, of obedience to our heavenly Father through faith in His Son, who calls,

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

Let’s pray.

O Father, restore to Your church the proclamation of the Fall and of sin and of righteousness and judgment. Send Your Holy Spirit to us that He may convict us that we may be saved. And Father, give us love. Give us love for the perishing, that we will not be ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ. We pray in Jesus’ name, amen.

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