Saturday, July 18, 2015

Regardless of what Planned Parenthood (may have) Done

                There are many ways to skin a cat, and to best approach the question of abortion in general, and specifically(perhaps) Planned Parenthood, it is important to define and explain the two general approaches to addressing it. 

                One, there is the Christian/Biblical viewpoint that must be explained and defended.

                Two, the pluralistic/agnostic/scientific/sociological viewpoint that must also be explained and defended. 

                I would contend that these positions can, and do, point to the same conclusion.  And I hope to make a compelling case to that end. 


The General Christian Argument Opposing Abortion:

  1. Murder is ALWAYS wrong. 

  2. Life is defined by God

  3. God is the one who breathes life into us and knows us in the womb

  4. Therefore, willfully taking of an innocent persons life is murder and a sin against God


It may be difficult to “scientifically” define when a child in the womb moves from non-life to life, the very fact that we are currently unable to truly “know” at what point that threshold is crossed, our responsibility would be to err on the side of life.  If murder is a sin, and at SOME point there is a life that bears the image of God inside the womb, it is of great and unnecessary risk to accidentally, perhaps, murder a life because your “guess” on the timing of when this threshold has been crossed was incorrect. 

If you were to indiscriminately shoot at a building where people were inside, regardless of your claims to not intending to actual kill someone, you would still be culpable for murder if you did “accidentally” hit someone.  In the same way, it is the height of irresponsibility to play Russian Roulette with children in the womb hoping that it might not actually be a life at the time you destroy it. 


Therefore, the risk of murder is so great, and the knowledge, scientifically, is so limited, faithful Christians should indeed advocate for the elimination of abortion.


The General “Secularist” Argument Opposing Abortion:

  1. Murder is always wrong

  2. Life is defined by a few narrow parameters, generally speaking, heartbeats and brainwaves

  3. Brain waves are an indication of life and an individual who is known and can be known

  4. Therefore, willfully taking of an individuals life(those who can think and feel) is always wrong


With the general concept that brain waves are indication of life the secularist argument rests in the “threshold” of the time at which these are observable.  Brain waves are first detected at 6 weeks.  While a secularist argument has a more defined “threshold” moment, there is still one. 

Therefore, abortion past the time of brainwaves is the willful taking of a life. 



Possible Disagreements and My Response: (Christian views)

  1. Rape

  2. Incest

  3. Life Endangerment

  4. Well Being of the future life(poor mothers, bad home environment, etc)

  5. We are a pluralist society we can’t advocate for our religious beliefs.

For each of my responses there is one foundational premise that I will state here, and not restate.  If we believe that God breathes life into us and knows us in the womb and He alone is the Author of life, regardless of the tragic circumstances surrounding any specific pregnancy, the life that DOES exist is an image bearer of God and the willful murder of that life is not justified by any degree of tragedy associated with its creation.   The argument against abortion are not reliant, or, related to, the reasons for the abortion.  


The Christian response to a victim needs to be “weeping with those who weep”.  And admittedly there are too many stories of victims who were not lovingly cared for in the aftermath of their situation.  Studies have shown that women who choose abortion after a rape are nearly 80% likely to regret the decision.  70% of women actually choose not to have an abortion, and not 1% of those have stated that they regret the decision. 

The sad reality is that many rape victims are not given the opportunity to know that there is  light on the other side.  While most who are led to believe that abortion will mitigate their suffering find that it increased it. 

While there are obviously those who had an abortion and are “glad” of it, it still doesn’t address the fundamental premise.  Is the value of an individuals life defined by the circumstances related to their creation define their value? 

I hope it is clear that creating an ethic that accepts that some lives are less valued than others by no fault of their own is a dangerous and completely unbiblical position to have.



Much of this is similar to my response to the rape exception.   The additional point is related to WHY we would contend for abortion in the case of incest.  This is generally presented as a protection against severe defect due to close relatives. 

By accepting this premise we are allowing for differentiation of objective value being ascribed(by our own opinions—not Gods) upon lives who are “not” defective and those who “are”.  I hope that we would weep if we became a nation that began to advocate for the abortions of every child in the womb whose tests have shown defective genes.  The child who is deformed due to incest is no less valuable than the child who is deformed due to other reasons. 


Life Endangerment: 

This is obviously a much more difficult question to deal with.  I will say that historically, pre Roe, women who came into the hospital and were literally dying due to their pregnancy DID receive medical help to save their lives.  Doctors did not just sit there and watch them die because they were opposed to abortion.  Extreme, and TRAGIC, medical procedures have generally always been accepted as a necessity. 

A choice of who to let live is thankfully EXTREMELY rare.  To advocate for abortion in general when this accounts for an almost too small to account for percentage of total abortions is disingenuous.  I think a Christian can support the heartbreaking realities of these extreme events without it also including other forms of abortion.


Well Being of Future Life---Generally Related to Financial/Life Situation of the Mother

Luckily, for all of us, what is true today, is not guaranteed to be true tomorrow.  The tragedy of this position is that it is advocating for murder for the sake of financial benefit(in reductionist terms).  While it may feel too “hard” today, what if two days later they get a raise.  What weeping should there be?

This position also fails to take into account the literally millions of Christians and millions of dollars that ARE poured into private charities to support these young women and families.  My wife and I personally support and work with our local Pregnancy Crisis center.  They provide clothes, education, formula, parenting classes, babysitting, home placement, etc.  We have even personally offered our home to young women who had no where else to go. 

I am not exaggerating when I say that, due to my communities and connections, that we could find a place and resources for virtually any young woman you could send our way.  If someone’s argument is that they don’t know what to do, I would say, “Who have you talked to???”  In the dozen cities and towns I have worked in EVERY single one has places that provide everything I just mentioned. 


We Are a Pluralist Society:

It is true we cannot force our views on anyone, nor should we, this does not change the fundamental reality that a life is a life is a life.  Therefore, should a good society NOT defend and speak up for the most vulnerable lives?  When a culture begins to devalue ANY of its citizens lives for ANY reason, it will begin to rot from the inside.


Possible Disagreements and My Response: (Secular)

  1. Life isn’t a brainwave

  2. Murder isn’t always wrong

  3. It’s better for society

  4. “Viability” is a more appropriate barometer for life


Life isn’t a brainwave:

This would be in direct contradiction to nearly every other medical standard we hold to.  We know that in the womb children; dream, feel pain, laugh, think, learn, etc.  While the degree to which they can do that is not clearly defined by the “amount” of brainwaves, we do know that these are true neuro realities of the unborn.  And even if they can’t “learn” as much as a Three year old, or, a 33 year old, we obviously do not place value on an individuals life by their degree of relative intelligence. 

And if we do not use brainwaves to define life in the womb, by what scientific method shall we then use?


Murder isn’t always wrong

Obviously this is a rare argument.  But historically there have been individuals, and whole societies, who contend for the value of eliminating those with “less” value.  Every healthy secularist society rejects this notion.  Though we should always be on guard for the voices that try to slip in from time to time to advocate for such.


It’s Better for Society

This is in relation to generally 2 broad thoughts; 1- Better life for the mother/family therefore, better communities, 2- We don’t need more poor uneducated people. 

Communities where abortion is more frequent are NOT better off.  Not that I am saying they are doing poorly BECAUSE of abortion, but, it reveals that abortion is not a catalyst for healthier families and communities. 

This ultimately boils down to a value being placed on someone’s life by the value you perceive them providing for you, directly and indirectly.  To repeat an earlier point let us pray that this type of cultural ethic never gains prominence. 


Viability is a better barometer of life

The problem here for a secularist, and especially a Christian, is that this is a moving goal post.  What was viable 50 years ago is radically different to what is viable today.  As medical science continues to progress that “threshold” continues to move ever farther back.  To use the term, “extreme” measures, when evaluating legitimate life sustaining procedures is itself very unhelpful.  A child at 38 weeks could have complications in the womb that means extreme steps post birth are necessary.  Extreme steps that are similar to the steps for an extreme premature birth.  If the degree of effort necessary to sustain life becomes a defining characteristic, does that mean a 38 week child is no more a “life” than an 18 week old one? 

Once we accept that extreme steps to provide viability is not a satisfying standard to define life, we will conclude that is practically a completely unusable one.  And, as technology advances does that therefore change moral standards.  For example, it wasn’t murder to abort a baby at 30 weeks 50 years ago, but it is today….?  A moral standard is not dependent upon technology.  If technology defines morality, than morality means nothing at all.
So, those are my thoughts.  Where am I wrong?  Where am I right?  Let me know!

Friday, July 10, 2015

Prosperity Gospel, Shifting Cultures and a Theology of Suffering

My son thinks I am a bully.  I know this because he told me so.  After punching him a few times and taking his lunch money I was shocked to hear him express this sentiment......Well, that isn't exactly what I did.  What happened was, and you can help me judge this decision, he had not eaten his vegetables at dinner so he couldn't have a sugary snack.  Therefore...BULLY. 

There is a tendency in all of us to desire things that aren't good for us.  At its heart this is simply a way of saying "sin".  We are image bearers of God, and that indicates that we are therefore designed as a reflection of the character and nature of God Himself.  When He gave His law to us it wasn't just a random list of do's and don't's, but instead a reliable witness and testimony to His very character and the outflow being our design parameters. 

The nature of sin is such that we are in constant conflict with our divine design.  Scripture tells us that our "flesh" is at constant war with God.  Our very deepest felt and innate desires too often betray this truth; We are broken.  And this brokenness, by its very definition and character, separates us from God. 

So what do we do when confronted with the reality of our brokenness?  We do two things that seem radically different, yet are different sides of the same self-centered destructiveness.

1-  We become legalists who take the Law as a personal challenge.  The promise and the goal of being a legalist is that we will; 1- Make ourselves right before God, and, 2- Be greatly blessed by temporal rewards because we are doing everything right.  This second part is most easily associated with what is called the prosperity gospel(notice the purposeful lower case g). 

Both practices of legalism are just different versions of prosperity teaching.  You do this, you get that.  If you DIDN'T get that, you are just not trying hard enough.....God finds your lack of faith....disturbing.....

2- We become Grace Abusers who reject the conviction of God's truth and place personal satisfaction and fulfillment of felt desires as the highest achievable standard because if, "God is all about love and Grace, he obviously wants me to be happy...."

Grace Abusers are just prosperity gospellers without any effort. 

It is of no small coincidence that as the 20th Century saw the growth of the prosperity gospel we also saw a rapid change in the moral compass of western civilization, and particularly America.  As we elevated personal satisfaction and happiness to a sacred place it is no wonder that the greatest modern heresy and bigotry is apparently practiced by those who say, "No!"

The Gospel of Jesus Christ has been co-opted as the get rich scheme of eternal self-pleasure.  If something makes you uncomfortable, calls you to reject something you enjoy, deny yourself and pick up a cross, it must be, by definition, wrong.  Mean.  Sinful. 

A gospel that promises temporal pleasure, whether materially, emotionally, relationally, or otherwise, is a gospel that will not sustain or survive. 

The truth of the Gospel is not found in the measurable and quantifiable "blessings" experienced by those who have put their faith in Christ, but it is instead found in the place where suffering and pain are met with joy and peace.  In John 16 Jesus makes a clear promise to his disciples, and to us as well. 

"I have told you these things, so that you may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart.  I have overcome the world!"-- John 16:33

The context of John's 16th chapter is that those who are following Jesus can expect there lives to be more clearly marked by suffering than by personally experiencing victory.  Phrasing is everything.  Jesus does not end this warning with, "Do not worry, you shall totally overcome".  Instead he points to Himself and the ultimate hope and victory that is ours beyond this life because HE HAS already overcome.  He does not give ANY indication that this secured victory will translate into temporal successes. 

The modern Church has lost an essential theological bulwark.  A robust Theology of Suffering.  By this I do not mean some sort of wallowing and depressing resignation to be miserable.  The theology of Suffering is a recognition that life is broken and the World is in opposition to God, and those who follow Christ will not only still experience the temporal struggles that affect all people, but they can also expect spiritual challenges. 

But what did Jesus says in John 16:33??  He has overcome.  Our hope, the Gospel, is that even in the midst of great suffering, whether emotional, physical, relational and otherwise, God has come down, Jesus has carried that pain and the Holy Spirit dwells within us as a deposit of our faith and the source of our strength to face all things with Joy.  To, as Paul put it, count all our losses as gains for the sake of Christ! 

When we elevate personal comfort than all manner of things will not only become accepted, but, even advocated for as being "good".  That which was once evil is now contended for as good....When you or I believe that Christ's purpose was to make me comfortable today I have laid the groundwork for exactly that. 

Christ told us to count the cost.  And many walked away, because it cost them too much they thought.  But let us remember, "But to who else would we go, YOU have the words of eternal life"-- John 6:68.


From a good read on a Theology of Suffering


Tuesday, June 2, 2015

You Aren't How You Feel

My daughter is not a bear.  In case any of you have ever been confused by some of her actions, growling, and "claw" attacks, she is not actually a bear.  Just a funny and precocious three year old with a propensity for imagination and ridiculousness.  It is quite fun to play "bear" with her, and I will sometimes even initiate it by growling at her.  The best part of being a bear is that the game usually turns into the bears going to "sleep" and snuggling together.

Even with all that fun, I have never sent her off at night to go sleep in the woods, nor have I encouraged her to climb inside of the bear exhibit at the Zoo so she can take her fun to the next level.  She is still a three year old girl who needs her mommy and daddy to remind her to NOT pick up dead squirrels off of the road(true story....).  There is a logical and reasonable approach we take to raising our children;  There are immutable and intractable facts about WHO they are.

In culture today we have accepted and promoted the idea that we ARE how we FEEL or what we DO.  

This is in direct opposition to reason, logic and reality.

It is also destructive and dangerous.

Think about this simplistically.  If how we felt was the best arbiter of what was best for us we would all eat healthy well balanced diets, exercise, never procrastinate, never act towards people with anger, purposely hurt other peoples feelings or act selfishly to the damage of others.  Virtually all of the problems in the world are a testament to people following their "feelings".

Don't get me wrong, feelings are great.  I like to get allll the feels...when appropriate.  And NOT when they are counterproductive to truth and reality.

Have you ever been mad at someone for something they did?  Like really really mad?  And that anger caused you to act towards them in a way that reflected that you were angry?  You have???  Hey, me too!  Welcome to humanity.  But what if you found out that what you thought they did to you did not really occur?  And you had been completely wrong?  What do you do?

You might say that you of course would change your ways.  But you know what is interesting...we often have become so invested in the way we are feeling that we invent, or search for, reasons to justify how we have been feeling.  We begin to process how we feel through a psychological behavior known as "confirmation bias".  In a nutshell, it simply means we seek out any justification or support for what we already have chosen to think/feel and refuse to acknowledge or address any information that is counter to our already established perspective.

So how do we counteract this?

So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.--Genesis 1:27

The very foundational reality of our immutable selves is that we are created as reflections of the very nature of God.  In our unique and beautiful creation we are the most truly "US" when we seek to emulate and reflect that reality.  Everything, and anything, else is a distortion of that Truth.  And this is not some amorphous flexible concept that says, "However I feel is the way God made me so therefore that is who I am and no one can say differently".

The wonderful thing about God is that He is not some unknowable floating cloud of ephemeral smoke that is impossible to know and be known by.  He has revealed his Nature, his Character, and his good Design in Scripture and the person of Jesus Christ.  We are not left wondering, "Am I really a bear?"  We instead told in no uncertain terms that we are image bearers of the Most High.  And, that His character that we made to reflect is clearly described and we are called to live in alignment with.

Our "flesh" and feelings can be powerful.  But they are not ultimately true.  Courage and bravery is not succumbing to how you feel, but instead having the willingness to say, "Not what I feel, but what is true about God and therefore about me".

Adorable and sweet until he thinks he can do this off of a tall building......

Thursday, May 14, 2015

It's The End of the World and I Feel Fine

Once upon a time there was a little chicken, and everybody called him-- Chicken Little.

And one day while he was out walking, up in the sky a bird flew over and it dropped an acorn, and the acorn fell down and-- bip-- bopped him on his head. Chicken Little said “AWK! ” and looked up, and didn’t see anything, and he looked down and didn’t see anything.

So he said “Help, help the sky is falling! Help, help the sky is falling! I have to tell the King!” And he went running down the road, looking for the King.

Did you know that Christianity is dying?  While Time magazine asked the question about God's death a bit early(1966) , it seems that we we have finally caught up to their prophetic words...well not prophecy if these isn't a God, guess???..... This past week the Pew Forum published the results of their survey concerning the religious affiliations of Americans.  The big take away?  Self-identified Christians have shrunk as a representation of the population quite precipitously.  

If you are a believer, the sky seems to be indeed falling.  If you, on the other hand, have been praying(I mean wishing to science) that religious sentiments would go the way of the DoDo bird, the report was an encouraging affirmation of personal bias and hopes.

Is the sky really falling?  Are we on the precipice of the end of Christianity as we know it?  

Not exactly.

Ed Stetzer wrote a response to the Pew data and points out a glaring missing point.  Evangelical Christianity has GROWN nearly 3 million during the time period of the survey.  What the Pew survey shows is not actual numbers, but the share of the population.  During the time of the survey we have seen a rapid population growth from many regions of the world where Evangelical Christianity is far behind Catholic identification(though Catholocism shrank noticeably within their survey data).  And so while Evangelical Christianity clearly grew, it didn't grow as fast as the total population growth...THEREFORE...they shrunk as a portion of the population.

Something DID land on our heads.  It just wasn't the whole sky.  

What are we supposed to make of all of this?  How should we respond?  Should we be worried.

Let's make a couple of important broad points clear;

1- Truth is not a popularity contest.  Even if Evangelical Christianity was shrinking, that doesn't prove anything one way or the other about its veracity.  Conversely, its growth, in and of itself, doesn't prove anything either.  

2-  The goal of the Gospel is not to have the largest voting bloc and strongest political influence of other groups.  If anything, that is a distraction that has lead, historically, to terrible compromises and destructive behaviors.  

Within this there is something that we SHOULD be glad of.  And let me be clear, I don't mean glad in the sense of this being something great because of what it means in an eternal sense.....  


For a long time Christianity has been synonymous with social/political order.  Meaning, without any personal thought or conviction, people would just identify as Christians without any concern of whether or not it really meant anything.  As the cultural pendulum has swung away from this there is no longer artificial social pressures to continue to identify with that which you do not really take seriously.  

Look at the "mainline" denominations today and you will see what the results of generations of nominal Christians have created.  One of the largest historical denominations in the US is the Presbyterian Church of The USA.  About a decade ago guess what they took out of their doctrine?  That Jesus Christ is the only way to heaven.  He is now listed as "unique to our faith tradition".  

For those who are not nerds for etymology like myself....the term, "Christian" is rooted in identifying with, and proclaiming, Jesus Christ(hence Christian) as the Son of God and the one and only hope for Salvation for all man kind.  You may disagree with this statement, BUT, that is the definition in a nutshell of what a Christian is and believes.  

Why do I think the mainline denominations are hemorrhaging members over the last decade?  Because they have become social clubs that don't make any claims to Truth, nor claims that that Truth has a claim on YOU.  At the end of the day, if what we do in "this" group is interchangeable with any other group, it becomes easy to become disengaged.  

The modern church has become what we were warned about in 2 Timothy 4:3---people gathering around teachers to tell them exactly what they want to hear.  And lets be honest, deep down inside, we don't really want(or NEED) an echo chamber affirming our self-centerdness.  We are desperate for Truth. We are desperate for conviction.  Accountability.  ETERNITY.  And talking about things that are nothing special, just "unique" to us, ain't cutting it.

So they sky IS falling.  But not in the way some people are going to tell you.  And before your sky starts to collapse on you make sure you are building towards eternity in Christ and Christ alone, because that is the foundation that will never fall.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The Virtue of Intolerance

If the zeitgeist of popular culture is to be believed, Tolerance is the highest ideal society must strive after.  And not just any old type of tolerance, but affirming, encouraging, never disagreeing with tolerance.  A common refrain one hears is the old canard, "we aren't supposed to judge". 

Is this sensible?



Of course not!

Follow the general amorphous blog of undefined tolerance to its inevitable conclusion;  No laws, no rules, no justice, total anarchy.  We do not tolerate bad behavior.  Nor should we. 

My son has a natural tendency to hit his sister over perceived slights and annoyances.  For the sake of my daughter I do not tolerate this behavior.  I correct it.  It brings about consequences for my son.  Not because I just arbitrarily decide to punish him, but because for his own sake he needs to be corrected and taught what is and is not acceptable behavior. 

Clearly when tolerance is preached from the steeples of cultural trend setters they do not surely mean that good and loving fathers must tolerate their child's inappropriate behavior?----well, perhaps some do---but they will never admit to it.

Tolerance has virtually no meaning when it is divorced from the immeasurably important value of intolerance.  And this immeasurable value is found in the basic logically consistent reality that there truly are things that are good and right and there are other things that are truly bad and wrong.  While defining the standards of either may at times be a challenge, it is not an impossible one.  If one is willing to use their brains.

If everything I have just indicated is True at all times for all people in all circumstances....Why is there such a preponderance of cries for 'tolerance', and a tolerance that seems to be void of all definable meaning and parameters?

Because it is not being used in the classical sense of the meaning of tolerance at all.

Tolerance is being patient and kind with someone even if they are wrong, or, they have offended you in some way.  And, tolerance only makes any sort of sense if it is being defined as a reflection of an active verb contrasting that you are tolerating something that is intolerable.  If it is not intolerable, than no tolerance is necessary.

I do not 'tolerate' my children's hugs, because they are not intolerable. 

But modern tolerance demands that one must not only accept what another is doing, but, that we must call it good.  To say different is to cross the unacceptable line into 'intolerable' behavior.  But again, it is impossible to BE tolerant if what you are tolerating is not intolerable originally.  And if you are not even able to express that something is indeed intolerable, how can anyone even know you are being tolerant.

It is a conundrum.

“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet. “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
-Matthew 5:13-16

Do not fall victim to this worlds illogical and convoluted reasoning.  If you have been called by Christ, bought with a price, and belong to Him, you have a responsibility.  To speak truth.  To live truth.  And to do it with grace and patience. 

In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.
Titus 2
It is sad that it doesn't go without saying.  But, even as we recognize the absurdity of the world around us.  Do not tolerate yourself, or others, dealing with it in a way that lacks grace, integrity and goodness.  No one will care about your scintillating logic and brilliant argumentation if you are a jerk. 
Be virtuously intolerant. 

Monday, April 27, 2015

No Matter Where You Go

My wife called me out the other day.  Yes, she calls me out quite regularly on any number of things because she is good for me like that.  This one really struck me.  She said that she could tell I have not been spiritually focused. 

As usual she was right.

Before baby number three arrived last fall I had found a really great life pattern with our little family of four.  Each day was deliberately managed with clear goals.  Professionally and personally.  I was in complete control of my schedule and was always able to cut out plenty of time for personal devotions. 

As a surprise to no one, a new baby messed up all my well thought out plans.

Then, right after the baby arrived our church made the decision to move towards closing/merging.(which will soon be its own post) Then I started a "new" job in our newly merged with church a few months later with a whole new set of priorities, people and schedules. 

God has been so good throughout it all, and we love where God has led us and our wonderful community at Mt Pleasant church to join with our brothers and sisters at Calvary Evangelical Church.  But in the midst of the whirlwind of all this new stuff I got frazzled and unfocused. 

I have gained 15 pounds(sad face) haven't been committing enough time to just 'being' in God's word and to the chagrin of the 10's of you, haven't been focusing my thoughts in written form on my internationally read blog(big in Asia.....for some reason...).

Sin starts sneakily.  Not that I am currently out trying to score drugs and beating up widows for their social security checks.  If sin was going from being solid to being a criminal overnight we would all recognize it before it got a hold of us and avoid it.  But it doesn't work that way.  Bit by bit, tip toe by tip toe, we sloooooowwwwllly lose focus and wake up one day, weeks/months/years later and wonder, "What just happened???"

When we do wake up and see that things just aren't the way they are supposed to be what do we do? 

Too often you know what we do?  Beat ourselves up about it.  Get down on ourselves.  Perhaps even double down on the previous mistakes, dig in our heels and throw up our hands in defeat.

That's ok.

I mean, not really.  Stop doing that. 

But it is ok because of Jesus.

In Luke 15 Jesus tells three parables.  The lost sheep, the lost coin, and, the prodigal son.  What is the message in each of those.  It doesn't matter how what was lost was "lost" HE wants you back.  He will take off your filthy clothes, carry you on his back, and bring you home.  You belong to Him.  And even if the whole reason you are far from Him right now is your own doing, He is calling you. 

Without condition. 

He doesn't lecture the poor sheep when he finds it.  He doesn't tell the returning son, "told you so".  He says, "Rejoice, celebrate and be glad!  You have returned!"

We enslave ourselves with chains that God has not put upon us.  Someone once said that you can run 1000 miles from God, but when you turn around, He is right there as if you never left.  My wife reminded me that I was distracted.  So I turned back around.  Don't be a slave to the last mistake you made, it is not how God sees you.  Don't see yourself that way.  

Apparently it was a maze keeping him away the whole time.....

Monday, March 16, 2015

Parenting and the Cross

Being a parent forces you to focus on priorities.   Every moment of every day is limited.  And this is especially true when your kids are still quite little.  You blink and another year has passed.  Just the other day, my wife and I had lost track of the time and realized that we were about an hour behind on starting the bedtime routine.  Clearly this made for a relaxed evening of well-behaved children……

Success means knowing what is and isn’t important and not compromising on getting those most important priorities accomplished.  It is easy to get distracted by the non-essentials and miss out on key moments.  A five year old needs to learn to pick up their own room, but it is more important that they know they are loved than they have a clean room.  And it is vital that they don’t confuse being loved with a result of the cleanliness of their room!

Well-meaning parents will sadly sometimes miss the most important priority in what it means to be parent; Love.  Nothing else matters if your parenting isn’t driven by love.  A child who doesn’t feel like their parents instructions are coming from a place of love is a person who will grow up to be resentful of the behaviors and habits they were unfairly “forced” to have.

“If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is useless, and so is your faith” -1 Corinthians 15:14

Being a follower of Christ I have one priority.  Christ crucified and Christ risen.  As the Apostle Paul points out in 1 Corinthians, our faith begin and ends with the message of the Cross.  Everything else hinges on that.  It is easy to focus on the peripherals first.  What I like to call the behavior modification aspects.  But Christ didn’t come to help us behave better, but to die for our sins, defeat sin and death, and offer, through HIS finished work, hope for eternity. 

The power of whatever I do as a preacher is sourced from one place.  The unconditional love offered at the Cross.  The people in our lives don’t need a better approach to achieving some sort of “better life” goals.  They need to hear the Gospel of the Cross. 

My kids need to know that they are loved deeply before what I teach them, hold them accountable to, and expect from them, makes sense.  And they need to know that their success and/or failure at achieving these standards is not the basis of whether their daddy loves them.  The love is unconditional, which gives them the freedom and hope to get back up when they fall. 

We need to know that we are deeply loved BEFORE we are equipped to pursue the Holiness that Christ calls us to.  And the Cross tells us that this love is not dependent upon how well we are currently doing at running hard after Christ.  People change because they are loved.  They can’t change so that they can get loved.

Some of us need more help as parents than others.....