Worshipping With Fred Phelps

Image courtesy of Sira Anamwong / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Sira Anamwong / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

If you’ve been around the news today you might have heard that Fred Phelps, the founder of Westboro Baptist Church, has passed away.

Even CNN did a piece on it.

While the media outlets are trying to report the “news” of it, the reaction of individuals is (so far) pretty slanted towards hate. It’s amazing irony. People loathed Phelps for his hate and, now that he’s gone, they are expressing their own hate. I call shenanigans.

Humanity really is broken.

Here’s the thing – hate and loathing is never okay. When we see people fail and do things we know they ought not to do it should break our hearts, not fill us with our own hatred.

Here’s the kicker for people of faith: Was Phelps saved? In an Evangelical Christian sense, saved simply means that, because of faith in Jesus as God-incarnate and his propitiatory work on the cross, we will spend eternity in the presence of God.

Did Phelps have that faith? He said he did. If he did, does God’s grace cover Phelps’ failings? That’s the whole teaching of grace. What we lack and cannot make up on our own, Jesus covers on our behalf.

If Phelps did have that faith that brings salvation then when we reach eternity we’ll be worshipping God alongside of Brother Fred.

So what’s our take-away from all this?

Ultimately God is the judge of our souls. Rather than waste our time judging the condition of other’s souls and stewing in our own hate, let us strive to embody Christ’s character as best we can.

That means even loving those the world believes to be the least-lovable.

You’re Not Really Saved!

salvation

So it started like this: an Anonymous friend of mine in an online group I’m part of made a comment that he was going to go watch a Dexter marathon.

I jokingly said, “You say you’re a Christian but you watch those terrible shows. You must not really be saved.”

Then it hit me. Let’s play a game! Let’s come up with all the ways Christians downplay the salvation of those who don’t fit the mold. Let’s face it ~ we’re masters at belittling the salvation and faith of those who don’t fit our own mold of what it looks like to be a Christian.

I called it: Not Really Saved

Then the game took off like wildfire. Dozens of people jumped in and came up with hundreds of ways we belittle others’ salvation. Here’s but a small sample of some of the things we came up with.

You say you’re a Christian but:

1. you like beer? You’re not really saved.
2. you like R-rated movies? You’re not really saved.
3. you struggle with addiction? You’re not really saved.
4. you have tattoos? You’re not really saved.
5. you got pregnant out of wedlock? You’re not really saved.
6. you got divorced? You’re not really saved.
7. you voted Democrat? You’re not really saved.
8. you don’t have a home church? You’re not really saved.
9. you don’t read the King James Bible? You’re not really saved.
10. you smoke cigarettes? You’re not really saved.
11. you smoke weed? You’re not really saved.
12. you enjoy sex? You’re not really saved.
13. you don’t listen to Christian music? You’re not really saved.
14. you think the earth is more than a couple thousand years old? You’re not really saved.
15. you don’t pray before every meal? You’re not really saved.

The list went on and on. Some were jokes (and quite funny). Some were serious. It was clear to me that many people have been hurt by others who claim to be Christian but, for whatever reason, don’t allow certain behaviors to be part of their theological circles.

Most of the list really comes down to this:

You disagree with how I interpret the Bible and live a Christian life? You’re not really saved.

And that’s a shame. The Bible is actually not as black-and-white about all of these side issues as Christians are. Salvation really comes down to faith in Jesus. Can you smoke weed and have a saving faith in Jesus? Can you vote a certain political party and have a saving faith in Jesus?

I think so.

In the end the “You’re not really saved” lists that we all have come down to us – what we dislike or disapprove of. Don’t get me wrong – the Bible does talk about sin and Christian behavior. But we seem to add a lot of things to the lists.

Won’t we be surprised when we reach eternity and find people who didn’t live the way we wanted them to live?

If you’ve ever had your salvation doubted because of this or other issues – I’m sorry. Christians mean well (usually) but we have a horrible way of judging anything that doesn’t fit our mold.

And if you’ve ever doubted or questioned the salvation of someone else because of some behavior you disapproved of it’s time to repent. The condition of someone’s salvation is really up to God.

When Science and Faith Collide

Image courtesy of ponsulak at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of ponsulak at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Yesterday I saw a headline that really grabbed my attention:
400,000 year old human DNA adds new tangle to our origin story.

It’s not really as big a tangle as the headline would have you believe – it seems that the DNA of Neanderthals in Spain is similar to a different ancient population from Siberian known as the Denisovans.

The family tree is more webbed than science originally thought.

Okay.

That’s fine.

The idea that remains in Spain are genetically connected to remains in Siberia doesn’t bother me. To me it speaks of a single creator and a common ancestor to all of humanity. Hmm…even the Bible talks about that.

Where many Christians will take issue with the article is the age assigned to the remains and DNA. If the remains are 400,000 years old then the stories in the Bible can’t be right…right? But if the Bible is right then the science must be faulty…right?

And once again science and faith collide.

The problem comes when we insist on a rigid, literal reading of the biblical stories. We get lost in the nitty-gritty details rather than step back to see the big picture of what is being communicated.

Simply put – the Bible is not (and never was) intended to be a science textbook. It is a book of faith. It doesn’t teach us how to be forensic experts. It draws us into relationship with God, the Creator of the universe.

The idea of an “Old Earth” doesn’t bother me. Even conservative theologians like Millard Erickson concede that the Hebrew creation stories don’t have to mean a literal six days but could refer to epochs or long periods of time (you can see Erickson’s Christian Theology for his detailed presentation).

So we can go with an Old Earth – but what about humanity? The Bible is clear that humanity has an origin in God, not a spontaneous arrival. Ancient genealogies were not exact for the purposes of record keeping like Ancestry.com is. Genealogies are as much of the storytelling process as any of the narrative portions of the story. They inform the story, but are not intended to be scientific records for all posterity.

In the end I look at it like this: does the Bible fit science’s understanding of an Old Earth? Yes, it does. If humanity is older than a literal reading would have us believe – if there are massive gaps in history that the genealogies don’t cover – is my faith ruined? No, it is not.
The story is till the same. Everything has value because it has been made by God. Out of nothing, God created everything. Does it matter how long He took to do it? Not to me.
In the end the clash between science and faith is not as big as many would try to trick us into believing, and faithful Christians can fully embrace their faith and scientific discovery.

Because the world that God has made is a unique and marvelous thing – and we should learn as much about it as possible.

Related Post:
Jesus Loves Dinosaurs

They Imprisoned the Wrong Man

Image courtesy of sakhorn38 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of sakhorn38 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), or Mounties, have the motto, “We always get our man!” But it’s not always easy to get the right man. Sometimes authorities get the wrong man. In the United States, it is believed that .5% of all major crime convictions are wrongful convictions. While .5% may not seem like much, we’re talking about 10,000 men and women wrongfully accused, convicted, and imprisoned. Perhaps some of you know what it is like to be on the receiving end – to be wrongfully accused, criticized, or attacked.

Jesus was the wrong man. We pick up Jesus’ story in Mark 15.

6 At the festival it was Pilate’s custom to release for the people a prisoner they requested. 7 There was one named Barabbas, who was in prison with rebels who had committed murder during the rebellion. 8 The crowd came up and began to ask Pilate to do for them as was his custom. 9 So Pilate answered them, “Do you want me to release the King of the Jews for you?” 10 For he knew it was because of envy that the chief priests had handed Him over. 11 But the chief priests stirred up the crowd so that he would release Barabbas to them instead.

12 Pilate asked them again, “Then what do you want me to do with the One you call the King of the Jews?” 13 Again they shouted, “Crucify Him!” 14 Then Pilate said to them, “Why? What has He done wrong?” But they shouted, “Crucify Him!” all the more. 15 Then, willing to gratify the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. And after having Jesus flogged, he handed Him over to be crucified. (Mark 15:6-15)

They Imprisoned the Wrong Man. We see a striking contrast between the prisoners of this story. On one hand you have Jesus, whom was accused of being a rebel and a threat to Rome. His real crime was that he was a threat to the chief priests. They couldn’t allow this “Messiah” to continue to go around and make trouble for them. So they accused him of being a rebel. On the other hand you have Barabbas, a revolutionary fighter who was arrested with an actual group of murderous rebels! But the irony goes even deeper.

Barabbas’ name is Aramaic and literally means “son of the father.” Here stands Jesus, the real Son of the Father, and Pilate asks, “Shall I release this Son of the Father?” and the crowd cries out, “No! Don’t give us that Son of the Father – the one who brings peace and gives life. Give us Barabbas, the son of the father, who is murderous rebel!” In the most cruel of ironies, they imprisoned the wrong man. And so Jesus is handed over to be crucified.

32 Two others—criminals—were also led away to be executed with Him. 33 When they arrived at the place called The Skull, they crucified Him there, along with the criminals, one on the right and one on the left. [34 Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, because they do not know what they are doing.”] And they divided His clothes and cast lots. 35 The people stood watching, and even the leaders kept scoffing: “He saved others; let Him save Himself if this is God’s Messiah, the Chosen One!” 36 The soldiers also mocked Him. They came offering Him sour wine 37 and said, “If You are the King of the Jews, save Yourself!” 38 An inscription was above Him: THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.

39 Then one of the criminals hanging there began to yell insults at Him: “Aren’t You the Messiah? Save Yourself and us!” 40 But the other answered, rebuking him: “Don’t you even fear God, since you are undergoing the same punishment? 41 We are punished justly, because we’re getting back what we deserve for the things we did, but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom!” 43 And He said to him, “I assure you: Today you will be with Me in paradise.” (Luke 23:32-43)

They Crucified the Wrong Man. As Jesus hangs on the cross between two criminals, one starts to ridicule and mock him. But the other stops the first and says, “We deserve this – this man does not.”  They crucified the wrong man. It’s the story of Third Day’s song Thief.

50 There was a good and righteous man named Joseph, a member of the Sanhedrin, 51 who had not agreed with their plan and action. He was from Arimathea, a Judean town, and was looking forward to the kingdom of God. 52 He approached Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. 53 Taking it down, he wrapped it in fine linen and placed it in a tomb cut into the rock, where no one had ever been placed. 54 It was preparation day, and the Sabbath was about to begin. 55 The women who had come with Him from Galilee followed along and observed the tomb and how His body was placed. 56 Then they returned and prepared spices and perfumes. And they rested on the Sabbath according to the commandment.

1 On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came to the tomb, bringing the spices they had prepared. 2 They found the stone rolled away from the tomb. 3 They went in but did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men stood by them in dazzling clothes. 5 So the women were terrified and bowed down to the ground. “Why are you looking for the living among the dead?” asked the men. 6 “He is not here, but He has been resurrected! Remember how He spoke to you when He was still in Galilee, 7 saying, ‘The Son of Man must be betrayed into the hands of sinful men, be crucified, and rise on the third day’?” 8 And they remembered His words. 9 Returning from the tomb, they reported all these things to the Eleven and to all the rest. 10 Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them were telling the apostles these things. 11 But these words seemed like nonsense to them, and they did not believe the women. 12 Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. When he stooped to look in, he saw only the linen cloths. So he went home, amazed at what had happened. (Luke 23:50-24:12)

They Buried the Wrong Man. There’s an age-old joke that asks, “Who’s buried in Grant’s tomb?” The answer is that no one is buried there. You don’t bury in a tomb – you entomb them. But it’s the same purpose. It’s the final resting grounds for the deceased. But they entombed the wrong man! You see, Jesus never was gonna stay dead. It was never part of the plan. Jesus even tried to tell his disciples: The Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of men. They will kill Him, but after He is killed, He will rise three days later.” But they did not understand this statement, and they were afraid to ask Him. ~ Mark 9:31-32. So when the women go to look for Jesus in the tomb the angel asks, “Why are you looking for the living among the dead?” They buried the wrong man.

So here is Jesus. Wrongfully imprisoned. Wrongfully crucified. Wrongfully buried. This is not supposed to happen to an innocent man. This is not supposed to happen to the Son of God. It’s just not right – at least not from our eyes. But it had to happen this way.

Because, in actuality, Jesus was the right man.

They Imprisoned the Right Man. Jesus was imprisoned so that you and I might have freedom. He became a captive so that we might escape. No one else could take our place. Jesus was the right man.

They Crucified the Right Man. He died as the ultimate sacrifice for sin. He was crucified in our place. When we look at what our sin deserves, it should have been us on the cross. Left to ourselves our paths will lead us to destruction. Jesus paid the price for our sin so that we could be reconciled to God – so that we might have a living relationship with the creator of the heavens and the earth. Buddha didn’t die on your behalf. Mohammed didn’t die on your behalf. No, they crucified the only man who could take the penalty for our sin. Jesus was the right man.

They Buried the Right Man. It was necessary for Jesus to die and then be raised again. The Apostle Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15 that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day…and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. But Jesus defeated death, and now we have no fear in death. Jesus’ resurrection points to the day when those who believe will be resurrected and live with Him forevermore. Death has been swallowed up in victory. O Death, where is your victory? O Death, where is your sting? Thanks be to God who give us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ! No, Jesus was the only one who could defeat death once and for all, paving the way for the new life we will one day live. Jesus was the right man.

There was no one else – there is no one else – there never will be anyone else – who could do what Jesus did for you and me. Peter declares in Acts 4:12: There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to people by which we must be saved.

2 Corinthians 5 tells us:

21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Maybe you’ve made the decision, but you haven’t really been living up to the person that God has intended you to be. Jesus paid the price – are you living up to your purchase price? Are you living in light of the cross? In your personal life? In your relationships? Jesus was the right man. He died so that we could live in freedom. Do not take the cross for granted. Don’t let His death mean nothing to you. My grandma always used to say, “Never put off ‘til tomorrow what you can do today.”

Choose Jesus.

Related Posts:
~ Breaking G.I. Joes

Breaking G.I. Joes

Yo, Joe!
Yo, Joe!

From the beginning of history, we have lived in a broken world. What does it mean when something is broken? It doesn’t work the way it is supposed to work.

When I was a kid I was playing G.I. Joes with my younger brother. He started teasing me and laughing at me. I can’t even remember what he was laughing about, I just remember that he was making me mad! The more he laughed, the angrier I became. I was holding a G.I. Joe in my hand. I became so angry that I threw it at him as hard as I could!

The Bible tells us that all of us do things that break our connection to God. Even if we try really hard to be good, we still do things that damage our relationship with Him. Anything that breaks our connection to God we call “sin.”

So as my G.I. Joe goes flying through the air, my brother ducks and the Joe sails over his head…and crashes into the window. CRACK! I broke the window! My dad came into the room and asked, “What’s going on in here?” So I confessed. I said that Kevin made me so made that he made me throw the G.I. Joe and it hit the window and the window broke. But my brother didn’t MAKE me do it, did he? I did it myself. And when someone breaks something, who should have to pay to fix it? The one who broke it. So my dad drove me down to the hardware store to buy a new window.

But remember – God says that we ALL do things to break our connection to him. Buying a window is hard enough – who is going to pay to fix our broken connection to God? You don’t have enough money. You can’t do enough good things to fix it. So God said, “I will pay the price to fix it myself.”

When you do something bad, what is the price you have to pay as punishment? If we are left to ourselves, we do bad things and we break that connection with God – the punishment is death. That’s a pretty steep price! And God said he would pay it himself. So God became a man, and his name was Jesus.

John 3:16 says: “This is how God loves us – that he gave us one of a kind son, so that anyone who believes in Jesus would not die but would live with God forever.”

Jesus came to pay the price we couldn’t pay – death.

So they put Jesus on a cross and he was punished so that we wouldn’t have to be. It hurt a lot to be on that cross. It even felt that God had forgotten him. And when it hurt the worst Jesus yelled out, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani” which means, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”

And then Jesus died. He died so that he would fully experience life and pay the biggest price anyone could pay. And, just to make sure he wasn’t pretending, a soldier took a spear and stabbed Jesus through the side, and blood and fluid came out. As the final act in his death they put him in a tomb carved out of rock and they closed it off with a huge stone.

So What?!? The cross makes a difference.

How do we respond to the story of Easter? This is a REALLY important question! God took the first step. He says, “Here, I want to give you a present!” If someone wants to give you a present you can choose to ignore it. Or you can choose to respond and to accept the gift. God’s gift is Jesus, who paid the price for what we broke.

How will you respond to Jesus? C.S. Lewis said that there are only 3 options for how we respond to Jesus. #1 – we can call him a lunatic, a crazy person for saying what he said and doing what he did. And then we ignore him. #2 – we can call him a liar, a person who wanted to trick everyone. And the new ignore him. Or #3 – we call him Lord (which means the boss) and we admit that he is who he says he is. And is Jesus wasn’t a lunatic, if he wasn’t a liar, then he must be Lord – and if he is Lord then we can’t ignore him but need to follow him.

Romans 6:4 says, “Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too may walk in a new way of life.”

The cross makes a difference.

Everyone who hears the Easter story needs to make a decision: how will you respond to Jesus? Is he a lunatic? Is he a liar? Or is he Lord? If he’s Lord, it’s time to tell him and time to start living the new life God wants us to live.

What’s your decision? Are you willing to say, “I believe Jesus paid the price for me”? Are you willing to say, “I want the cross to make a difference in my life”? Are you ready to say, “I will follow Jesus”? The cross makes a difference. Are you ready to say, “I believe, and I want him to make a difference in me”?

A prayer for you:

I believe that Jesus paid the price for my brokenness.

I believe that the cross makes a difference.

God, I want you to make a difference in me.

Change me.

Make me more like you.

Amen.

Related Posts:
~ They Imprisoned the Wrong Man

Living as an Underdog

underdogWhat do we call someone who is at a disadvantage and expected to lose? UNDERDOG! Underdogs are determined by outward appearances. Nothing about them says winner, and when you compare them to everyone else, it’s obvious that they don’t really stand a chance. One of the most famous underdog stories in the last few years was about a woman named Susan Boyle. Remember her?

She’s a little kooky. No one expects her to be a winner, and you can see it on their faces. Then she starts to sing, and the crowd goes wild! Well, there are spiritual underdogs, too. Sure, it’s easy to see the obvious spiritual winners: The Pope, Rick Warren, Billy Graham, Joyce Meyer, T.D. Jakes. That’s what a spiritual winner looks like. God is obviously going to use and bless people like them. If we are really honest I think we all have areas and moments in life where we feel like underdogs. But Jesus comes along and, like he often does, shakes things up and offers up some shocking words about underdogs.

These verses come from a section of Jesus’ teaching commonly called “the beatitudes.” That’s an old-fashioned way for sayings how someone is “blessed” or “fortunate.” It’s hard to translate into modern English though. “Blessed” doesn’t quite cover it – it’s more like telling someone “congratulations” or “You are so fortunate!” When we understand this, a modern version of what Jesus is saying here could sound like this:

v.3 Congratulations when you’re at the end of your rope, when you’re a big fat zero and are on the verge of giving up hope! God welcomes you into His kingdom.

v. 4 Congratulations when you suffer loss and sorrow and there is no joy! God will comfort you.

v. 5 Congratulations when you are powerless with no chance of making anything of yourself! God is going to give you everything.

v. 6 Congratulations when the world is against you and there is no way to fight for what is right! God will give you justice in the end.

Do these seem like qualities of people we would envy? Is this person someone we would consider fortunate? When we see people like this we say, “Man, there’s just no chance. He’s toast – a loser. How could such a person be part of what God is doing?” But, Jesus radically changes our ideas of who and what is important in the kingdom of God. Let’s look at these a little more closely:

v.3 Congratulations when you’re at the end of your rope, when you’re a big fat zero and are on the verge of giving up hope! God welcomes you into His kingdom.

Has this been you? Is this you? Do you feel as though you’re at the end of your rope and on the verge of giving up? Do you need to be rescued from your life? When I was a college sophomore, I knew this really nice guy. Let’s just call him Joe. Joe was a quiet guy, intelligent, sense of humor, and seemed to have everything going for him.  You know that you might look like you have everything together but inside there is an area where you know that you are at the end of yourself. One afternoon after class I walked into his room and Joe is sitting on the bunk facing the door. As I stepped into the room he said, “I need to tell you something.” Then he pulls up his sleeves and I see dozens of cuts on his forearms, and he tells me that he cuts himself and that he needs help. He was at the end of his rope, feeling like a zero, and on the verge of giving up hope. But Jesus says, “You are important, you are invited to be in relationship with me!”

v. 4 Congratulations when you suffer loss and sorrow and there is no joy! God will comfort you.

Those who mourn are helpless to change their situation. We mourn because of a loss that has already happened and we can do nothing to alter it. Often times those who mourn are those who find no cause for joy. What we can do wait on God for comfort, and Jesus promises that comfort will come. Psalm 30 declares that sorrow may remain for a night but joy comes in the morning! Take comfort, for joy will come again. In God’s kingdom we find comfort because God is in control, God gets the last word! Life may be full of sorrow here, but the big picture belongs to Him. Then Jesus says:

v. 5 Congratulations when you are powerless with no chance of making anything of yourself! God is going to give you everything.

In the OT there are two major themes: the Exodus (when Moses led Israel out of Egypt) and the Exile (where Israel was conquered and carried off by other nations and waited to return to their homeland). Both themes are about slaves and captives receiving promised land where God brings about a reversal and gives life where there was only suffering and death. Jesus is talking about the same thing, people who are powerless on their own, at the mercy of the powerful people around them who control them. How often do we feel like we are at the mercy of others – we have little control or power into what is happening to us. In the game of chess, the front row of pieces are called pawns. They are the smallest, weakest pieces that have little value and are quickly sacrificed in order to save the bigger, more important pieces. Have you ever felt like a pawn in someone else’s game of chess? Yet Jesus says God does not see us that way. In His view, the powerless are now regarded as fortunate because they are going to receive what they have had coming to them all along. The main point is not that God is going to reward those who exhibit the virtue of meekness, but that when God rules, the weak and powerless will receive what God wants them to have. Similarly, Jesus finishes up these four beatitudes by saying:

v. 6 Congratulations when the world is against you and there is no way to fight for what is right! God will give you justice in the end.

Sometimes we are so powerless that we are not even able to stand up for justice. Injustice abounds in this world, in our lives and the lives of people around us. People need rescuing. A few years ago there was a story in the news about a Tampa mom whose husband was deployed in Afghanistan. She had been abusive to her teenagers for a while and finally something snapped and she shot and killed her two kids. Where is the justice for those children? They needed to be rescued. Too many of us need to be rescued from injustice.

Underdogs are determined by outward appearances. People who are have no hope. People who have no joy. People who have no power. People who fight against the world and never know justice. These are not the kind of people the world looks at and says, “Here’s a winner!” But the words of Jesus reflect Isaiah 61:1-8:

The Spirit of the Lord GOD is on Me, because the LORD has anointed Me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and freedom to the prisoners; 2 to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor, and the day of our God’s vengeance; to comfort all who mourn, 3 to provide for those who mourn in Zion; to give them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, festive oil instead of mourning, and splendid clothes instead of despair. And they will be called righteous trees, planted by the LORD, to glorify Him.

Underdogs to the world, but Jesus speaks of a reversal of circumstances for those who are unfortunate. These are undesirable conditions that God will one day make right. There is a song by the band Third Day that talks about people who are living an underdog kind of life – broken and hurting people. And the simple answer for the underdog is this – “Cry Out to Jesus.”

There is hope for the helpless, rest for the weary, love for the broken heart
There is grace and forgiveness, mercy and healing, He’ll meet you wherever you are Cry out to Jesus, cry out to Jesus

Is this you? Are you an underdog today? Are you at the end of your rope? Do you feel like a big fat zero, or on the verge of giving up hope! Do you suffer loss and sorrow and have no joy! Are you powerless and at the mercy of other rulers and masters? Is the world is against you and you just can’t find justice? You are not alone. To all of us underdogs, Jesus says, “I welcome you to be with Me!” To the rest of you who feel on top of the world – look around. Jesus calls you to take care of the underdog. How will you help people find the rescue they need? As God has blessed you, now be a blessing to others.

 

You’re Not Raising Your Kids Well

kids-church

In our family we have found that singing is a useful tool for helping the kids with certain tasks. We have a bedtime song. We have a teeth brushing song. The teeth brushing song is one of my personal favorites. It’s a Christian version of the ABC’s that I remember learning from my mom. It’s a catchy little tune, teaches kids the basics of faith, and happens to be a good length of time for an adequate brushing.

Not too long ago I was singing the song while helping our middle child brush his teeth and I got to a line that says, “Jesus died for sinful men.” My daughter (our oldest) was listening in and promptly responded, “He didn’t just die for men you know, women too.” While I taught her that the use of the masculine was (in the past) used to represent masculine and feminine and that “men” meant “humanity”, I affirmed her correctness. “That’s right, Sweetie. Jesus died for men and women. He died for everyone.”

The lesson ended right there as she was finished with her bathroom routine and turned and walked away. Not a “deep” moment, but a moment nonetheless. It reminds me of Deuteronomy 6, one of the most (if not THE most) repeated lines in Judaism – the Sh’ma.

Here, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. These words that I am giving you today are to be in your heart. Repeat them to your children. Talk about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Bind them as a sign on your hand and let them be a symbol on your forehead. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

In Western culture today I hear a lot of people complaining about kids, teens, and the younger generations. “Kids today…blah, blah, blah!” But we can’t blame the kids. Kids do what kids do. The ones who should be accountable for the decline of society (or however else you care to phrase contemporary problems) are the adults. Yep – you and me. How can we expect future generations to hold dearly to our values if we have not been regularly and consistently imparting and teaching our values and faith to our kids?

Proverbs tells us:

Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.

The other day on the radio I heard an interview with a clinical psychiatrist who told the interviewer that children are pretty much set on their course by the time they hit seven years old. That’s it. After seven the groundwork is laid and everything else in life will (usually) rely on default – the automatic responses set in place from our first seven years of life. Of course people can change – but usually we don’t. Our fall-back; our default, is already there. It’s no wonder we have difficulty reaching kids in middle school or late elementary. They’re default is set by 1st and 2nd grade.

We – the parents – have to do better at reaching kids when they’re young. If we want them to be responsible and moral citizens we need to work on those values early on. If we want them to be people of faith we need to plant those seeds so that, when they are out on their own, their default setting is a righteous and godly setting. Don’t pass the buck. It’s easy to complain about kids while never doing anything to solve the problem.

If you have no kids become a mentor to little ones, a surrogate parent or grandparent.
If you have kids don’t let them free to run their own lives. Kids running themselves only end in chaos. Teach them. Train them. Mentor them. Disciple them. Give them the foundation for a healthy adult life. And when we do what we’re supposed to be doing we can have confidence that the generations to come will be wonderful, caring people.

So let me teach you a little song that we taught our kids; that my momma taught me ~ I think she got it from the Gaithers:

ABCDEFG – Jesus died for you and me
HIJKLMN – Jesus died for sinful men, AMEN!
OPQRSTU – I believe God’s Word is true
V and W _ God has promised you
XYZ – a home eternally.