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My Life Sucks, and Yours Does Too

realityWell, it doesn’t suck ALL the time. Just sometimes. But I don’t share about the crappy parts online. I only share about the good times – the times that make life seem good, happy, and perfect.

We don’t share about the times our kids having fits and making us want to pull out our hair or send them to boarding school. We don’t post about the times we aren’t getting along with our spouses. And when people DO share those things, often they’re looking to get sympathy or to control public perception. And THAT’S the real issue.

We only  share those things that will  create the public persona we want out there.

We don’t share the things that we think will reflect negatively on us. I’m not the first one to write on this topic. My brother shared an article with me some time ago about the same theme. There’s probably even an official name for the phenomenon – I just don’t know it.

What I do know is that we do this because we gain a sense of self-worth and value through our public image. Yet Jesus wants us to forget the idea of shaping our public image. One time Jesus was teaching:

Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

We do this kind of thing all the time. We want others to see the best part of us, the most generous part of us, the super-parent us, the philanthropic us, the Ubermensch us. But the great things we do don’t amount to a hill of beans. They don’t affect the way God sees us. He sees us when we do things in private. He loves you not because of how great you look to the world, but because he loves unconditionally.

It’s hard to do good things in secret. There’s a part of us that wants credit for doing things when we do good things or when we excel at something. Jesus says we ought to do good for the sake of doing good even if we never get recognition.

I remember one time I was on tour with my college music group. We got off our bus to have lunch one day in San Francisco. I was hanging out with the drummer, and as we exited the bus, the team went off to the left, but the drummer turned right. I asked him where we were going. He said, “I’m not hungry so I’m going to give my lunch to a homeless person, but I don’t need the rest of the group to see it.”

He felt called to do good but didn’t want recognition from others.

I ate my lunch (in a post about doing things without recognition, I’m not going to let you think I was so high-minded)!

But we can all learn from Jesus’s words. Humility ought to be our norm. We should do good just BECAUSE it is the right thing to do. Don’t worry about shaping public opinion of yourself – do what you should do! So here’s your challenge – this week don’t post anything online that would make you look good. It’s okay to build others up, but practice humility this week and change your social media habits.

Your value comes from God, not what others think of you – so practice intentional humility.

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What do you think? Have you seen yourself posting things that make your life look fabulous?

Evangelicalism’s Golden Calf

There’s a sound of discontent among Christians this week. Oh, come on – we’re ALWAYS discontent about something. So what is it this time? This time it’s because of First Baptist Church in Dallas. They held a “Celebrate Freedom Rally” during 4th of July weekend.

And during this 2-hour glut fest of raw patriotism and nationalism, the choir unveiled a new anthem called “Make America Great Again.” That’s really not what has people so upset – churches do patriotic services ALL THE TIME. I think what really got people’s knickers in a twist was how fast the song was copyrighted and listed on CCLI (Christian Copyright Licensing International), the organization that “provides information and resources for churches and copyright owners around the world, relating to copyrights of Christian worship songs” (THEIR WORDS, NOT MINE).

Their launch screen is all about worship!

CCLI Home Screen

Worship planning starts here? Really? But “Make America Great Again” is not about God.

Like, not at all. It’s only about the country and restoring its greatness and glory.

MAGA

In a word, it’s idolatry. Any time you elevate something and worship it as equal to or in place of God you’re committing idolatry. Sure, it wasn’t a “worship service.” Well, it was, just not a worship service where God was the object of worship. Evangelicals have a bad habit of conflating patriotism and faith. Loving America does NOT make us better Christians. Loving God does NOT mean we’re going to love America (otherwise, Christians all over the world in foreign countries are in for a WORLD of disappointment when they reach heaven).

America has become our Golden Calf.

And, sadly, this is not new. A quick search for the word “America” on CCLI and I have a results list of 192 songs.

Really? This is supposed to be our worship archive, guys! The Bible is pretty clear that our worship belongs to God and God alone. He got pretty ticked with that whole calf in the wilderness incident. And if this idolatry has become the norm for Evangelicalism, then I am ready to call American Evangelicalism a dead religion. I’m done with it and all of the garbage that comes with it.

Jesus transcends nations. His worship demands WE transcend nations. I’m not saying we shouldn’t be patriotic. I’m saying we’ve lost the ability to see the line between patriotism and idolatry.

And that’s not okay.

golden-calf

Strong Black Christian Women: A Brief Response to Kyle Howard

woman-590490_1920Last week I read an article from Kyle Howard, a fellow contributor at Theology Mix. His piece was titled: When Churches Colonize Femininity, and looked at how the Western church (read white Protestant church) views femininity and how women who do not fit that view are regarded as unfeminine.

Mr. Howard’s article resonated with me not just because I am married to a strong black woman (SBW), but because there is a biblical foundation for his position that femininity is culturally based rather than biblically based. He writes:

The paradigm for femininity in most (if not all) majority culture churches is the model of the “white soft-spoken woman.” She has with her certain traits that are referred to as marks of piety when in reality they are elements of white culture. It’s not that “soft-spokenness” is inherently “white,” but the version of it that is expected to be expressed is often an idealized version of a white woman, typically akin to a white southern woman from the antebellum era. Men of color are told that this is the kind of woman they are to pursue if they desire a godly woman and to be considered relationally wise. Women of color are told that this is what they must be and that they are godly to whatever degree they reflect this image and immature to whatever degree they don’t. If they are opinionated, they are considered ungodly. Expressive or “loud,” ungodly.

Part of this problem is the continued misapplication of 1 Timothy 2, where tells Timothy that he does “not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet” (1 Tim. 2:12). While my piece is not going to be a deep dive into biblical egalitarianism, let’s just say that I believe Paul was not speaking for all women for all time and that the Bible is replete with examples of women in positions of authority and leadership (and many of the Evangelicals who hold tightly to Paul’s words about silent women ignore Paul completely about other issues that might affect them personally).

Still, this is the model that remains for much of the modern “majority church.” But it is culturally bound. Church across the world and throughout time have seen strong women step up to lead the church, the community, and the family. In black culture, it is not uncommon to find a female pastor leading a congregation. And she STILL preaches the gospel of Jesus. Imagine that!!!

I am married to a strong black woman who has multiple degrees in biblical studies, who has been a ministry leader, and who has preached gospel on the United States and abroad. The strength of her character or her willingness to voice her opinions DOES, in fact, intimidate people who are not accustomed to the SBW personality (when, in fact, my wife is quite tame compared to others). I’ve seen white women get teary admitting they are intimidated by my very kind and polite wife. Our majority culture embraces the idea that women ought to be passive. Any aggression or expressed opinion is seen as unseemly. A strong man is a leader. An equally strong woman is a…well, we have unkind words for her.

But biblically I think we are wrong to pigeon-hole women. Look at the ideal woman pictured in Proverbs 31:

An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels. The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life. She seeks wool and flax, and works with willing hands. She is like the ships of the merchant; she brings her food from afar. She rises while it is yet  night and provides food for her household and portions for her maidens. She considers a field and buys it; with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard. She dresses herself with strength and makes her arms strong. She perceives that her merchandise is profitable. Her lamp does not go out at night. She puts her hands to the distaff, and her hands hold the spindle. She opens her hand to the poor and reaches out her hands to the needy. She is not afraid of snow for her household, for all her household are clothed in scarlet. She makes bed coverings for herself; her clothing is fine linen and purple. Her husband is known in the gates when he sits among the elders of the land.

She makes linen garments and sells them; she delivers sashes to the merchant. Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come. She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children rise up and call her blessed;  her husband also, and he praises her: “Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.” Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates.

This is not a passive woman. No! This is a hard-working caretaker and entrepreneur! The Proverbs 31 woman is one who gets things done. And since were looking at a passage that comes from the Middle East, we’re literally talking about a Strong Brown Woman (SBW).

So when it comes to women in the church, we ought to discard the idea that outspoken, type A women are less feminine and desirable than those who are quiet and submissive. Let us look beyond culture norms of femininity and recognize that God has gifted women of all personality types to be part of His kingdom.

Besides, who knows when you’ll need a Deborah to come rescue your butt from the enemy?  😉

It’s Okay, They’re Just Indians

I know, I know. You don’t have to tell me.

sitting-bull-394471_1280That title is offensive on several levels. First, the culturally appropriate word for them is Native Americans. Second, the idea that “they’re just” is a pretty odious sentiment. It conveys they idea that how we treat people can be based on who they are rather than on who WE are or on an intrinsic value that lies within all humanity.

Unfortunately, this seems to be precisely the sentiment many people are taking towards the Standing Rock Sioux and the Dakota Access Pipeline. In case you’ve been living under a rock:

The pipeline is currently under construction by Dakota Access, LLC, a subsidiary of Energy Transfer Partners, L.P. The minor partners involved in the project are Phillips 66, Enbridge, and Marathon Petroleum. The route begins in the Bakken oil fields in northwest North Dakota and travels in a more or less straight line south-east, through South Dakota and Iowa, and ends at the oil tank farm near Patoka, Illinois.

The Sioux are protesting the pipeline, saying “that the pipeline threatens the Tribe’s environmental and economic well-being, and would damage and destroy sites of great historic, religious, and cultural significance.”

I’m not particularly concerned with environmental issues in this post (that’s a conversation for a different post). What I am concerned with is how we treat people. Christians have a biblical mandate to treat people well. In fact, we’re called to treat people well even when people mistreat us (one of the Bible’s most difficult teachings regarding suffering under evil rulers and masters). Additionally, people of faith are called to be honorable in how we deal with others.

Do you remember the last time someone broke a promise to you? How did it make you feel? The Bible refers to vows or promises and that God’s people are supposed to known as vow keepers.

If a man vows a vow to the Lord, or swears an oath to bind himself by a pledge, he shall not break his word. He shall do according to all that proceeds out of his mouth. ~ Numbers 30:2

Since God himself is a covenant maker and covenant keeper, we are also supposed to be like that. Yet our government has been notoriously bad at keeping covenants with Native American tribes. Historically, when we have desired something that was on Native American land, we would break treaties, take what we desired, and relocate the people to new land and/or new promises.

I’m reminded of the words of the prophet in Hosea 10:4:

They speak mere words, With worthless oaths they make covenants; And judgment sprouts like poisonous weeds in the furrows of the field.

You don’t have to agree with the politics of the thing, but when it comes to honoring covenants and how we treat people, I believe Christians ought to be the first to stand with the Standing Rock Reservation. Here’s a page outlining 10 ways you can help support the Standing Rock Sioux.

It doesn’t matter who the people are – we are called to treat people well. The Bible says that we’re supposed to treat others as BETTER than we treat ourselves. Unless the covenant is an immoral or ungodly covenant, we are called to be covenant keepers just as God is a covenant keeper with us.

White People, You’re Still Not Listening

kids-churchI know there are quite a few who don’t believe it, but racism is still alive and well in the USA. I’ve seen people flat out deny it. The racism-deniers are, in my experience, always white. And all day today I’ve seen white people CONTINUE to act in racist ways.

Former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke is calling Donald Trump’s electoral victory “one of the most exciting nights of my life.”

In North Carolina, people of color had been called the n-word while trying to go into a store.

I’m not saying that racism is back on the scene in a new way. I AM saying that the current climate in the USA has created a place where racists feel free to express their views. Go read the comments section on ANY social media site or News story and you cannot avoid the racist comments, slurs, and insults.

hillary-41775_1280And this is NOT to say that everyone who voted Republican is racist. Not at all. I know good Christian men and women who are Republicans and regularly vote that way. But we cannot deny that the Republican Party has become the landing zone for terrible attitudes, thoughts, and actions. These are the kinds of people Hillary Clinton infamously put in “a basket of deplorables.” Not every Republican – just the deplorable ones.

The problem is that many Republicans approach the current issue of racism from their own lens and say, “I’m not racist, and my family members aren’t racist, so people who complain about racism are just inventing problems.” White people are STILL not listening.

The Bible uses the word “listen” over 600 times. There’s something to be said about hearing – really listening and not missing out on the conversation. For example:

  • If you listen for Lady Wisdom, attune your ears to her, and engage your mind to understand what she is telling you… (Proverbs 2:2)
  • All who have ears to hear, let them listen. (Mark 4:9)

And what conservative whites need to hear is that people of color are genuinely concerned. The safe space created for racists to speak openly is a threat to brown-skinned people. I cannot tell you (literally) how many times I’ve seen people talk or write about “white genocide” and that we need to save the white race. But behavior that pushes away and harms people of color is NOT a biblical attitude or characteristic. The Bible IS filled with words about helping outsiders and loving the outcast.

He enforces His justice for the powerless, such as orphans and widows, and He loves foreigners, making sure they have food and clothing. (Deuteronomy 10:18)

It’s time for white Christians to ACTUALLY listen. It’s time to recognize that we have for too long been dismissive of the thoughts and feelings of anyone who is different – the outsiders. Then it’s time to act in solidarity and say, “We have heard your voice, and we stand in solidarity that this is not acceptable.”

  • Denounce white pride/white power movements.
  • Look for ways where we can actually listen to the voice of the “other” and not be dismissive.
  • Be an active participant in bringing reconciliation between all people.

What do you think? Have you heard any of these racist remarks or seen any racist behavior? Share your story! Just be polite – I will not tolerate rudeness.


** Author’s Note – the original post mentioned a KKK march in North Carolina. Those reports have been debunked – it was a pro-Trump group participating in the “Flagging 40” event. There was no connection there to the KKK.

If You Don’t Read the Bible You Don’t Have to Live By It.

Today I read an article titled, “Less Than Half of Christian Americans Read the Bible.” In fact, only 37% of self-proclaimed Christians pick it up on a regular basis. This is a real problem for Christian culture – a culture that is dependent upon sacred Scripture. More and more, our contemporary culture is turning away from the text as THE authority for a Christian’s life and thought.

american-football-referees-1476038_1280In his article, “Inerrantism as Narcissism: Biblical Authority as a Cultural Problem,” James Moseley points out that authority is a term of relationship and not of some special property. That is to say, whenever one claims authority, the people under that claim must agree, even if silently, that the claimant does indeed have authority! In a football game, if the players refuse to do what the referee says, does the referee have any actual authority? No – the players and coaches agree to the idea that the referees are in charge of enforcing the rules.

Authority, then, is the ability to influence the thought and actions of others when those particular others have agreed to submit to the influencing agent. This is especially true regarding matters of faith. The term Christian carries with it (or should carry with it?) the notion of one who lives under Scriptural authority.

The conservative and liberal camps often argue how the Christian Scripture is authoritative, but I would venture to say that the average Christian acknowledges some manner of Scriptural authority. Scripture does not contain any authority in and of itself. It is authoritative because of the authority which backs it up. That is to say, the authority of God is exercised through Scripture. Technically, then, God is ultimately authoritative Scripture possesses a secondary or delegated authority. Scripture, though, pushes that authority upon the believer. There is a relationship between text and disciple and authority is given and received when the believer confesses that Scripture is the Word of God. This is the crux of the matter for the Christian and Scriptural authority. Scripture is only authoritative through faith. One cannot prove Scripture’s authority to a non-believer using rational arguments.

Any confession of faith that results in authority yields both a sense of identity and a set of norms for faith and practice. It is the sense of identity that allows one to claim the title Christian, Muslim, or Jew. But with that confession (and thus the title) comes a set of norms for thought and action, i.e. any claim must be accompanied by life characterized by the claim. The confessing Christian acknowledges that the one true authority is God, yet the confession also acknowledges that God has revealed himself through human words. These human words form the norms and standards for that confession.

child-945422_1920
Bible Study

But when people claim the title “Christian” and accept the sense of identity without accepting the set of norms we speak of them derogatorily as “nominal Christians.” This nominalism has led many biblical scholars, theologians, and pastors to proclaim a modern crisis of biblical authority. The expression “crisis of authority” assumes that Scripture should be normative for Christian thought and behavior. Indeed “Christian praxis” without the “Christian” is merely social action or moral behavior. “Christian praxis” without the “praxis” is merely mental assent to the possibility of the Christian God without allowing God to possess any practical power or authority to influence believers.

We know more about the Bible than ever before yet there is a disconcerting lack of use of the Bible in everyday life. Scripture holds a special place in the Christian heart but sees little real function in terms of influence. Lutheran theology in particular seems to emphasize the influential and functional use of Scripture a mainstay of their theology, thus combating this lack of regular use. Scripture is not simply a repository of past revelation but is a current Word of God for the church with immediate authority.

The application of this theology could be one of the most difficult aspects of Scriptural authority. While most Christians acknowledge the theoretical functionality of Scripture, allowing Scripture to be the major influencing force in life and thought is difficult. When we flat out refuse to allow our lives to be molded by the text, we have rejected the authority of the text.

Yes, Christianity exists beyond the text. People followed God before it was written. Cultures without a written language still follow Yahweh. But the Christian faith was born into a textual relationship, understanding that God revealed Himself through the Old Testament and continued to reveal Himself through the inspiration recorded in the New Testament. A Christianity devoid of Sacred Scripture is not an authentic Christianity at all, but a cheap replica that desires to hold to the “nice” elements of faith without being accountable to the Word of God.

And that’s not okay.

Locker Room Talk and Christian Feminists

Words are a funny thing. We use words to label people. We use words to label ourselves. Me? I label myself as a moderate conservative. In terms of religious beliefs, I tend to be conservative on issues of personal morality yet progressive on issues of social justice and care. Extremists on both ends miss the big picture. Those on the FAR RIGHT  like to focus on personal piety and responsibility. Those on the FAR LEFT like to focus on social issues and justice but neglect personal righteousness and holiness. From my perspective, the middle ground is the place where the Church is supposed to live – caring about piety, personal righteousness, AND social issues and justice.

My belief that the Church should occupy the middle ground is what drives my concern with the current issues brought up around the presidential race. Well, words are a funny thing. “Concern” is not the right word. I’m deeply troubled and bothered. No, this is not a post about politics. Rather, it is about issues brought up in the race and that are now part of the national conversation. So let’s talk about sexual abuse and the treatment of women.

First, sexual abuse is NEVER okay.

That seems like something we shouldn’t have to say, right? I do not know of anyone who says, “Well, sexual abuse is okay in some cases.” It doesn’t happen. So we’re all on the same page that sexual abuse is NOT EVER acceptable. But now it seems we have to take it one step further in our conversation. Let’s add:

“Joking and/or fantasizing about sexual abuse is NEVER okay.”

lockers-932113_1920This is where the nation has split recently. I am grieved by the number of self-proclaiming Christians who brush off such language as “locker room talk.” While it may be the way those outside the Church talk about sexuality, it is NOT supposed to be the way Christians talk. It’s not just about behavior, but it’s also about thought. It’s not me saying this – it’s Jesus.

Jesus liked to take Old Testament law that was based on behavior and revamp it to bring in motive and heart issues. In the gospels we see Jesus say repeatedly, “You have heard it said _________, BUT I SAY TO YOU _____________.” The law forbade murder; Jesus forbids hate. The law forbade adultery; Jesus forbids lust. It’s not just the action – it’s the heart.

“Locker room talk” is a heart issue that grieves Jesus. Such talk demeans the Imago Dei, the Image of God, within our community. It doesn’t matter if it’s men talking about women or women talking about men – it has no place in God’s Kingdom. If the Church belongs to Jesus, then we ought to take a stand against such talk. This is where we return to my opening statement about living in the middle between personal piety and social justice.

As a matter of personal piety, we should refrain from course and abusive language. Do not mistake “locker room talk” for anything other than abusive language. The idea of going up to a woman without consent and accosting her is sexual assault and abuse. Our righteousness should shudder at the very thought. On the flip side, our sense of social justice should cause us to rise up and defend those who are on the receiving end of this kind of abuse! Christian, we have a holy obligation to stand against the sexual abuse of our brothers and sisters. Yet too often we are silent. Time and time again we see the Church being a place where abuse is not dealt with. We may say that it is not acceptable, but we do not do anything to defend the abused or to make sure that the Christian Community is a place where abuse does not happen.

I have some online interaction with Christian feminist and pursuer of Christian equality Jory Micah. You may not agree with everything she talks about, but her passion for protecting women from abuse and abusers is admirable. In her passion and zeal, she even told women that, if their church is not a safe place, then it’s time to move beyond the walls of their church and out among the marginalized where it’s safer. Yes, that’s a paraphrase from my memory, but that was the gist of it. And she set off a horde of detractors calling her “Jezebel,” “heretic,” and other nastiness.

While her words seem abrasive, please hear the motive behind it. As a minister, I would never tell an abused spouse to stay with the abuser. Even though I don’t suggest divorce, I do NOT tell people to remain in abusive settings. I counsel people to get out of the abusive home and find safety. Likewise, if the system is abusive, why do we counsel abused people to stay and keep getting abused? This is a condemnation on the Universal Church, but on local churches that do not protect abused people or seek to create a safe community.

I had a chance to talk with Jory and ask her some questions about faith. She is part of a church planting team. She believes in the One true God and the Deity of Jesus. She fully affirms Acts 4:12 that “salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to humanity by which we must be saved.” No, this isn’t heresy she’s promoting – it’s an attempt to move people out of harm and into a safe community.

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8)

Allowing abusive language and behavior to remain in our midst does not do justice or love kindness. All Christians should denounce “locker room talk” for what it is – it is ungodly and abusive language. We should NOT be making excuses for it, nor should we diminish the weight of the words, no matter who it comes from.

 

Jesus Says, “No, America, You Won’t Be Great Again.”

For what it’s worth, I’m not now nor have I ever been anti-American (as even close friends have been accused of behaving). I LOVE my country and and very glad that I live here, serve here (though my opinions do not reflect the Navy, the Department of Defense, or any government agency), and raise my family here. For all our faults (and we can point to quite a few), there are places in the world that are FAR worse off. So I’m not here to bash America. I’m here to talk about Christians who have jumped on the “Make America Great Again” bandwagon.

You see, the expression implies that America WAS great but somehow lost its greatness. It now needs to regain what we once had. So I want to know what it is we’ve lost and what we need to get back. My friend Harry said it very well when he responded:

I believe the more specific definition is “great for who(m)”? In a land of such diversity greatness is defined by any individual group to suit their own needs and desires. It’s a dandy catchphrase but is it also a balance scale. Does “greatness” for some come at a sacrifice to others?

I think that’s a big part of the problem. Going back to greatness for one group doesn’t look so hot for another group. It’s a matter of perspective, depending on which side of history you fall. But my BIGGEST problem comes from Christians who eagerly (sometimes humble-732566_1920overwhelmingly so) desire to be part of the “Make America Great Again” movement. I expect such behavior from non-Christians. But Christians are supposed to approach issues like this from a different perspective. Jesus addressed greatness several times.

He said:

The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted. (Matthew 23:11-12)

and:

And when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you discussing on the way?” But they kept silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest. And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” (Mark 9:33-35)

I’m not talking about pursuing excellence. If we follow the Apostle’s advice and do everything we do as doing it unto God, we’re going to pursue excellence. But the idea of greatness runs contrary to the idea of humility. Greatness is a comparative quality – it’s being set apart from the norm or average. It’s saying, “I’m more special than ________.”

GreatI fail to grasp how a commitment to Jesus, one who epitomized service to others, allows us a Christians to say, “We desire to be better than everyone else!”

I recognize that it’s impossible to lump everyone who says, “Make America Great Again” into a single group. But my observation is that the slogan, and many who promote it, embrace an “us vs. them” mentality that is at odds with the Gospel of Jesus.

Real humility doesn’t say, “I desire to be great!” Real humility says, “What can I do for you?”

So be patriotic. Pursue excellence in all you do. There’s nothing wrong with that! But be humble. Embrace serving others. Reject the pursuit of greatness as a goal. Let greatness be the result of a life of serving others and seeking to build others up. Remember Jesus’s words I mentioned earlier:

“Whoever exalts himself will be humbled.”

Inappropriate Parents & Kids

1297856847128_ORIGINALThis last week Victoria Beckham posted a picture on Instagram of her kissing her 5 year old daughter on the lips.

And the digital world EXPLODED.

Many criticized her and called her ugly names. Many defended her, posting picture of them kissing their own kids. C’mon, people, is this really what it’s come to? Do we have nothing better to do than debate the parenting style of people we don’t know and will never meet?

Sigh – it seems that distance criticism is what we do best. So let’s talk about the actual issue here – appropriate vs. inappropriate affection between parent and child.

Our society is quickly taking up a position that all sexuality is okay as long as no one is hurt. Not just okay – but encouraged. Media floods our brains with images of same-sex couples kissing at pride events. Celebrities bounce from partner to partner and nobody bats an eye (plus it gives Taylor Swift more song writing material). And I think this oversexualization of society is the root of the problem. We’ve come to the point where many cannot see a kiss between a parent and child without reading sexual content into it. It’s not the parents who disturb me – it’s the people who read into the behavior who disturb me.

Much of what we consider to be appropriate physical behavior is culturally conditioned. Citizens in some countries greet each other with kisses on the cheek. It’s not romantic. In some cultures you sill see two men, best friends, walking down the street holding hands. It’s not romantic – it’s a sign of solidarity and friendship.

How far can a parent go to show affection and love to his/her child? I’m willing to look foolish for the sake of my kids. It reminds me of the story Jesus tells in Luke 15 we sometimes call “The Prodigal Son.” The basic premise is that the young son bails on his family, takes part of the family fortune, and blows it all in a way that would bring shame and dishonor upon his family. So he decides to go home and ask his father for a position as a servant, since he doesn’t deserve to be part of the family any more (but he still needs a job, you know?!) Jesus picks up the story and says:

And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.

The father saw his son from a long way off and ran to him. In the Ancient Near East, men didn’t wear blue jeans. They had tunics. Running would have meant pulling up his tunic. It would have meant exposing part of his legs to the public so that he could run freely. But getting to his son was more important than what society thought. So he hitches up his tunic and runs to his son. He hugs his son. He kisses his son.

Jesus is trying to teach us something about how God, our heavenly Father, cares about us. There’s also something to be learned about a love so fierce that we’re willing to demonstrate it in front of the whole world. It also says something to our kids when we’re willing to show the affection we feel.

So last night as I was putting my kids to bed I kissed each one of them – my daughters and my son – on the lips. I told them I loved them. Then I said good night.

And I’ll probably do it again tonight, too.

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My and my baby girl 🙂

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