Saturday, December 26, 2015


It is my own fault, I suppose.  I should have known better.  But if you are a parent you can forgive me my blindness.   I am sure you've suffered the same blindness from time to time.  Let me confess from the start that I consider myself a fairly terrible parent.  I won't go into details, but let's just say I have no illusions concerning my parenting skills. If it wasn't for my wife I think things would have been many times worse.  But that out of the way I have always tried to raise my children in the way they should go.  I've also tried to live the life God calls me to live.  Not perfectly, but I think with a fair amount of integrity.

I thought, wrongly I see now, that if I raised my children reading, studying and living the Word of God; if I prayed for them and our family, taking them to church with me and raising them in a godly environment (we even home-schooled all six of them) that they would just follow Christ themselves.  I realize that some interpret Proverbs 22:6 to mean "raise a child into what they are gifted for and tend towards and they won't depart from it".  To clear the air let me state in unequivocal terms that such and interpretation is a great example of terrible exegesis.  Not even the context supports such and interpretation.  The fact is the passage leads one to believe that doing the right thing results in the right outcome because that is precisely what the passage seems to be saying.  I know now that this isn't true.  At least not a lot of the time (and in all fairness Proverbs was never meant to be read that way).

I am sure now it was a self imposed, but I was blind to what the Scriptures was really telling me.  Jesus told us that because of him the children would turn against their parents.  We were told by the apostle that in the last days children would be haters of their parents.  I grew up in the "focus on the family" era in which child psychology guided our exegesis so I can't be faulted entirely for my mistake.  But regardless of who I blame, the fact is the Scripture makes it clear that the "normal" outcome will be non-christians hating true followers of Christ.  And in some cases this will be a battle between children and their parents (in both directions).

This doesn't mean that we as parents are exempt from doing everything we can to raise our children in the right way.  But it does mean that we need to be honest with ourselves up front.  We need to brace ourselves for the very real possibility that our children will choose to not follow our Savior and rebel against us as they continue their rebellion against God.  I've watched too many parents (mostly mothers) have meltdowns when it came to their children.  Their spiritual walk either ceases or becomes some tragic, desperate spiritual parody as they enter a lifelong grieving for their wayward children.  I am not saying that grief is wrong or that we should not do what we can to rescue our children, but the fact is we are called to follow Jesus unto our own salvation.  Yes, we must evangelize, but in the grand scheme of things our children may not be the priority we thought they were.  Jesus even rewards those who forsake their wives and children!
And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name's sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life.
(Matthew 19:29 ESV)
I think we American Christians need to take a serious look at our theology and instead of asking "How should I worship God?" ask, "How does God want me to worship Him?"  These are slightly different questions but different in a very important ways.  Too often we construct our theology around how we are most comfortable interacting with God.  Sometimes we go so far as to construct a completely new god.  Other times we have the right God but we decide how to interact with him on our terms.  Either way the results are turning out to be disastrous for the modern Church.

How does God want us to worship him?  How does he want us to follow him?  These questions are answered in Scripture but also in history.  Simply look at the first thousand years of the church and you will (as I have) come to the startling realization that the pre-reformation and premodern church was very different than the church we see today. You will see over and over again parents choosing to follow Jesus and the children refusing to do so (as well as the other way around).  But instead of continually trying to build little christian kingdoms out of their families as we seem to be all about today, these individuals had a laser focus on the lamb who was slain almost to the shunning of everything and everyone else!  Oh they loved others, but never more than their own Savior.  Their salvation was more than just avoiding hell (again, a modern construct), salvation was about being filled with and saturated with the God whom they loved with all their heart, mind, soul and strength.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Bring it!

[Note: this post is directed to my brothers and sisters here in America.  In other countries where persecution against Christians is a fact of life the words here are almost meaningless]

I am glad Christianity isn't popular any more and getting less so by the day.  I'm glad it is no longer the status quo. I'm glad there are people who hate Jesus and hate his followers.  I'm glad people have no idea who Jesus was or is (even when they claim they do because their claims and their lifestyles demonstrate their ignorance of him).  I'm glad people hate the Christian hell, the Christian heaven, the Christian God, and the Christian church. In my humble opinion nothing is really worth having unless you're required to have it with all your might.

What we are starting to see is what true followers of Christ and even Jesus himself saw.  What we have had in America has been, for the most part, artificial.  Jesus said the world would hate his followers because the world hated him.  He said we should expect persecution as normal.  He said we should take warning when people love us and speak well of us.  He said we must (must!) take up our cross and follow him.  Have you never read what they did to him?

While we were busy focusing on the family we were forgetting Jesus' words that our families would turn their backs on Him and on us.  The Scriptures make it abundantly clear that family is important and we, as believers, are to provide for them materially and spiritually. If we don't provide for them the Bible calls us worse than unbelievers.  But that doesn't mean at all costs.  Jesus didn't mince words.  Our enemies will be the members of our own household.  So why are we surprised when they turn their backs on us and our Savior?  Why do we make our children the focus of our efforts and our dreams to the apparent exclusion of our Savior and his lordship?

What we are seeing today is separation of the chaff from the wheat and the sheep from the goats.  No longer can people hide behind the name "Christian".  True Christians will not only wear that name but they will become that name and nothing anyone says or does to them can change that. Not because we are strong or smart or powerful but because greater is he that is in us than he that is in the world.

People all the time romanticize about the early church.  "I want to find a church that is like the first believers" they say.  "I want to live like the first believers lived" they opine.  Really?  Are you sure? The early believers not only died for their faith they literally ran to their deaths.  They not only said, "I will suffer for the cause of Christ" they said, "Bring it on!"  They laid themselves upon crosses, they volunteered to go to the lions, they declared their allegiance to the one true God before their judges and executioners.  Given opportunity to recant and be saved from death they instead declared their love for the lamb of God who could save their souls and then they died, some of them singing while the lions ripped them and their friends and families to shreds or the flames choked their voices.   So think long and hard before you ask God to help you live like the early believers.  They didn't live.  They died.  Are you ready for that?

If you want to know what the early church was like look around you. Open your eyes. You will see it soon enough. If you aren't seeing it then perhaps you are asking the wrong questions.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Christmas wish list from the University of Tennessee

Guidelines for celebrating the day formally known as Christmas a la University of Tennessee.  The university revised the guidelines to a minimalist three paragraphs after receiving substantial negative feedback from Republican lawmakers, but not before the Washington Times snagged a copy (I'm copying it here because the click bate on the WT site is so prodigious that the page barely loads).

I particularly like #1.  Got to watch out for those tricky Christians who have nothing better to do than seduce unsuspecting party-goes into attending a Christmas party in disguise.  Also notice how #1 and #5 contradict each other.   Did anyone even edit this thing before it went up?  The university insists they were only trying to be inclusive and not bar anyone from publicly celebrating Christmas according to their own cultural and religious preferences.  But again I must ask, did anyone edit this list before it went up?  Indeed, did anyone even read it before it was published?

This is the same university, mind you, that made suggestions for the more  inclusive pronouns  “Ze, Zir, and Xyr”.  So in keeping with their track record of the absurd here is the list and a very Merry Christmas to you.

  1. Holiday parties and celebrations should celebrate and build upon workplace relationships and team morale with no emphasis on religion or culture. Ensure your holiday party is not a Christmas party in disguise.
  2. Consider having a New Year’s party and include décor and food from multiple religions and cultures. Use it as an opportunity to reinvigorate individuals for the new year’s goals and priorities.
  3. Supervisors and managers should not endorse, or be perceived as endorsing, religion generally or a specific religion.
  4. If an individual chooses not to participate in a holiday party or celebration, do not pressure the person to participate. Participation should be voluntary.
  5. If a potluck-style party or celebration is planned, encourage employees to bring food items that reflect their personal religions, cultures, and celebrations. Use this as an opportunity for individuals to share what they brought and why it is meaningful to them.
  6. If sending holiday cards to campus and community partners, send a non-denominational card or token of your gratitude.
  7. Holiday parties and celebrations should not play games with religious and cultural themes–for example, “Dreidel” or “Secret Santa.” If you want to exchange gifts, then refer to it in a general way, such as a practical joke gift exchange or secret gift exchange.
  8. Décor selection should be general, not specific to any religion or culture. Identify specific dates when décor can be put up and when it must come down.
  9. Refreshment selection should be general, not specific to any religion or culture.
  10. Most importantly, celebrate your religious and cultural holidays in ways that are respectful and inclusive of our students, your colleagues, and our university.