How Do We Respond?

There is a lot going on in our world today that is demanding a response from us. If your facebook feed is anything like mine than you have been inundated with status updates sharing various opinions about bathrooms and Target, as well as related links to various blog posts or memes.

I’ve been surprised, not surprised, and disappointed with the things I’ve read. But today, after having a real live in person face to face conversation with friends about the whole issue I figured out what my response is.

Ready to hear it?

Here you go.

No matter whether we boycott Target or not I pray that we respond with a sense of what God considers just and not some red neck rambo reaction. I pray that how we, as God’s people, respond is governed by the love of kindness that He has shown to us while we were yet enslaved and held in bondage by our sin so that we may continue to walk in humbleness along the path He has set before us.

To Live Is Christ

It would be foolish to assume an easy answer.

In some ways it’s a very complicated issue yet the longer I have twisted and turned it over in my head the more I have come to conclude that the answer, while certainly not easy, is rather simple.

There are nuances and shades of all sorts of stuff that I will never even begin to understand. I am, however, smart enough to know that it is not just women and children seeking asylum. There is a potential threat in allowing refugees to enter our country. I am also smart enough to realize that not everyone of them are terrorist in waiting. Islamic? Yes, but not radical terrorist. No more than everyone who uses the name Christian is of Westboro. The vast majority of them are desperate people literally running for their lives.

Just as I want to do all that I can protect my children I cannot help but imagine the peril these mothers have faced. First to be hunted down and forced to flee their homes and then to make such an exhausting and terrifying journey, all in the hope of keeping their children alive. The fathers and husbands who have done all that they absolutely can and given up everything to protect their families.

I take it back. I can’t even begin to imagine what they have lived through.

There are people who will be making decisions and deciding for us as a nation how we will handle the refugee crisis. We can all be as involved as we can and should be in the process of making that decision but in the end it will be our task to accept whatever the general consensus is and act accordingly.

And this is the simple conclusion I have come too.

May God grant me the opportunity to reach out my hand to the needy.

May He give me the opportunity to offer peace in His name.

May He grant opportunity to declare His goodness to those who do not know Him.

May I be light in a world dark with fear and uncertainty.

Because He took on flesh to meet my need.

Because Christ died to bring peace between God and man.

Because He spoke into time and history and called my name.

Because He is the light of the world.

Because we are to imitate Him.

And may He grant me courage to stand in the face of whatever evil or threat that could possibly come. Because I want my children to see me follow after the way of the cross and not the media induced fear of the world.

I would rather die offering the love of Christ than live having withheld it.

“And the King will answer them, 
Truly, I say to you, 
As you did it to one of the least of these my brothers,
you did it to Me.”
~ Matthew 25:40

I Am His, He Is Mine

It was an article that briefly trended in facebook news yesterday that caught my eye.

Some actress, I sort of recognized her face but didn’t know her name at all and can’t even remember it today, was all in a dither during an interview about how much she hated to see a man put his arm around a woman. It was some kind of show of ownership and made her furiously angry every time she saw it.

And I thought, how stupid. It does not.

But then I thought about it for a little longer and realized I totally agreed with her even though my response is obviously completely different from hers.

When Rob places his arm around me he is making a declaration to friend and foe alike.

He is saying that I belong to him.

That I am under his care and protection.

That he makes provision for me and will keep me,as much as humanly possible, free from harm.

And I love it. It thrills me when he slips his arm around my shoulders and pulls me to his side or puts his arm around my waist. I delight in feeling his hand at the small of my back when we’re walking somewhere. It’s gives me a sense of well being.

It is a declaration of ownership but not that of a slave owner. Rather it is of a man who would willingly lay his life down for the woman he loves. It’s the,  “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine,” kind of declaration.

I’ve only ever entertained the idea of one tattoo…his name on my ring finger. But since I can’t quiet convince myself to do it (and he would hate it if I did) I will take the statement that his arm around me apparently makes, the assertion that his ring on my finger makes, and the mark that his love leaves on my soul.

I’ll take all of that, however much it is disdained and held in contempt by the world, over the empty promises of self ownership that lead to a culture where woman can possibly believe that the baby in her womb should die for the freedom to not be “owned” by a man.

If ownership is this thing that he and I have, then I am all in. Shackle me close because what she holds in derision I have found to be a glorious delight…and as much as I belong to him…he belongs to me.

It is fitting, good, and right.

How We Fight

Maybe, just maybe, we haven’t shown the world what marriage truly is.

Maybe we haven’t lived our marriages in such a way that it is more than a legal transaction that grants certain rights and privileges. Maybe that’s all it is to the world because we haven’t shown them that it is holy and sacred…that it mirrors a holy God and His bride.

Maybe the world doesn’t view marriage differently because, statistically speaking (or so it seems), there isn’t much difference in pre-marital sex, abortion, adultery, and divorce inside the church as outside the church.

Consider that young man, the next time you behave less than honorably toward a young woman.

Consider that young lady, the next time you put on that push-up bra and low cut shirt and buy the short shorts that are just tight enough across your bum.

Consider what picture you are giving of marriage when you lay down beside one who is not your spouse.

Consider that husband when you choose yourself and what you want or what’s easiest for you instead of laying down your life for the one who you’re supposed to lay your life down for.

Consider what your actions are really saying despite any words you may utter wife, when you disrespect your husband and belittle him.

Obviously how we got here is much more complicated than that. But it seems like a good place to begin fighting back, doesn’t it? A better way than any pithy Facebook status or quippy little meme that just stirs up strife and contention.

We are told in Scripture to not answer a fool according to his folly so we don’t fight the way the world does. We don’t rely on just persuasive speech and political change.

We live relationships that reflect the glory of God. We love each other in a manner that brings honor to the One who has called us to be His Bride. Let our children and the world around us see the Gospel lived out flourishing in grace and restoration.

And when we do have opportunity to speak about why we believe what we believe about marriage and mankind and sin and grace and restoration may we do so with something more than bumper sticker slogans. May our words be winsome and wholesome, beautiful in that they point to Christ.

What happens after that is not ours to know or finagle an outcome. We are called to be faithful no matter the outcome.

May it be so.

wedding_rings_biblical_marriage_Christian_marriage

Until He Returns

Rob had jury duty a few weeks ago. It was a major inconvenience with him having been out of town the previous week and him directing the school play.

Rob, convinced by conscience as well as having been admonished by the courts, did not discuss the matter with me or anyone else while it was taking place. But it was a hard case and it was clear that he was disturbed by it. When it was finished and his role as a juror was completed he still did not go into detail but briefly explained what kind of case it was. It was the kind of gross ugliness that, thankfully, falls outside of our normal everyday lives. The kind of gross ugliness that happens somewhere else but not here. Not where I live.

But that kind of ugly does happen in my town. In the city where I live people do horrible things. And horrible things are done in the city where you live. Probably in our own neighborhoods and right down the street from us.

We live in a fallen world.

We live among sinful fallen people.

We are fallen sinful people.

God’s timing and providence are amazing and I marveled at Rob being selected for this particular case after the sermon he preached on the eighth day of Easter.

John 20:21 “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.”

That was his main point of text. The Great Commission in sixteen simple mind blowing, life changing words.

He granted peace, gifted it, because He knew what we would encounter. The perfect, holy son of God had come and dwelt among us, the dirty sinful and wicked humanity that would demand His death.

Peace be with you.

The Father sent Him to bring light to a dark world.

Healing to a broken people.

Death so that life would come.

As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.

We are to bring light to a dark world.

Healing to a broken people.

Seek the death of our own comfort and naivety so that life, true life found in Him alone, can come.

That means sometimes we have to see the gross ugliness of humanity. Sometimes we have to know about the horrible things people do to themselves and each other.

It’s not enough to be horrified and sickened by the things that go on in our cities and neighborhoods and down the street. Wringing our hands and crying, “Lord Jesus come quickly” sounds great but it doesn’t really accomplish much.

We don’t live the Christian life so we can avoid the worst of the suffering brought about by the worst of the sins. We don’t live the Christian life so that we can avoid hell and go to heaven when we die.

We live this Christian life, if it is to be lived at all, so that we can declare with Him that His Kingdom has come. That there is forgiveness and healing. Restoration and reconciliation are what we have been called to do until He returns.

I recently read this quote on a friend’s facebook page: “We will feel our fallenness until the day we die. But the key is this: you and I keep coming. We keep fighting. Forgiveness is real, and grace is more powerful than anything in this universe.”

Would that we would boldly believe this…live this…in our families and in our communities.

Something On My Mind

It seems like the whole world has gone nuts lately about models, plus size models, photoshopped superstars and non photoshopped superstars. Lane Bryant is the latest retailer to jump on board with their new ImNoAngel hashtag campaign…a direct push back to the  rail thin Victoria Secret model line of under garments.

Can I tell you what I think about all this hullabaloo?

I don’t care what size you are…just put some clothes on.

Seriously, I don’t want or need my son to see billboards or life size posters of half naked women no matter if you’re a size 00 or 18. And my girls probably wouldn’t ever think to have body image issues if advertisers would stop putting images everywhere of practically unclad totally photoshopped bodies, again no matter the size, on display for them to compare themselves to.

And ladies, please. Let’s stop talking out of both sides of our mouths – claiming that men objectify us and reduce us to sex objects but insist on dressing and carrying on in a way that shows we only mind being objectified when someone else is using that power against us instead of us using it against them.

This past summer there was a mega hit song for the debuting country duo Maddie and Tae that people just loved. Critics praised it for mocking the good ol’ boy bro country voiced by a girl who is tired of always riding shotgun and not getting to drive the truck, and always being scantily dressed.

Well I wish I had some shoes on my two bare feet. And it’s getting kinda cold in these painted on cut-off jeans. I hate the way this bikini top chafes. Do I really have to wear it all day?
Actually, honey, you don’t. You can choose to put on a pair of shorts that have an inseam longer than 3 inches and you can wear a shirt that completely covers your chest and midriff. Don’t blame the boys for liking to see you half naked when you let them talk you into taking most of your clothes off in the first place.
Here’s the thing. We’re glory makers. That is the job God created women for…we are to make things beautiful. And there is power in that task. World-altering, life-changing, life-giving power. So don’t be surprised that the enemy seeks to warp it and twist it into something less than what it is by deceiving you into thinking it’s something that it’s not.
Being beautiful, being comfortable with who you are, isn’t about being okay with the size of your body and how much of it you’re willing to publicly flaunt. Every body does count because. no matter the size, it is a human being who is made in the image of God. True lasting beauty will only be found, recognized, and appreciated when that truth becomes the defining starting point for all of our conversation about human beauty.
Until then – for the sake of modesty, my long legged daughters, and their father’s sanity – can we please lower the hem lines a few inches?

To Share Or Not To Share

That seems to be the question of the day since an article discussing the topic has been bouncing around facebook for the past week or so. Normally I don’t offer rebuttals to things I see or hear on the WWW, but I keep getting asked about this so here’s my thoughts, for whatever they’re worth.

To be fair, I agree to a certain extent with the author’s position that we aren’t doing our children any favors by teaching them that they can have something someone else has simply because they want it. But I think this becomes an issue because we’re focusing on something that really isn’t the point.

The point isn’t really whether or not we should be teaching our children to share. The point is are we raising children that value others over themselves?

Are we cultivating a heart that is learning from an early age to eagerly and joyfully seek the well being of others?

Are we training our children to know how and when they should choose someone else’s happiness and wants over their own?

I think there is a big difference between teaching them to share for the sake of sharing and teaching them to enjoy what they have but also be willing to let others have a turn enjoying it as well.

One reinforces the idea that my wants are priority, and one teaches the idea that our joy and delight is made fuller when we include others.

Is there ever a time when they don’t have to share? Maybe. Probably. I mean just getting the best ever gift for your birthday and having it for all of five seconds before having to let others share in the joy doesn’t seem right or all that fun.

So it would seem that wisdom would dictate whether a certain toy should be brought into group settings. Why put the child in a position to choose their stuff over their friends? Their wants and happiness over that of others? Why place other children in a position to covet what another has?

Our personal policy was no sharing no taking. Of course we also taught our kids that if a friend had something and wasn’t letting them play with it they needed to find something else to play with. Hardly seems fair unless of course they were playing in a community where everyone was teaching their child the same thing. And sometimes we were in a place full of like minded people and sometimes we weren’t. Valuable lessons were learned either way.

Is there a time when you should force your child to bring out the best ever birthday present and share it? Absolutely, you don’t want them to be hoarders or miserly.  But we made that happen in situations were there was less risk to the treasured toy being abused or broken.

Is there ever a time when you should teach your child to just be happy that a friend has been blessed with something wonderful? Yes, of course.  There are always going to be times in life where one person has and another has not and we want our children to rejoice sincerely in either of those times.

But these are lessons that aren’t learned in a vacuum apart from real life. They happen in community where, hopefully, they learn more than whether they should have to share or not. It’s a community that should be teaching them the value of another human being over material stuff. And that the feelings of others should be considered before their own.

Baby Wise

We’ve had a bunch of new babies born into our church family in the last several months. I’m talking one a month since September (and two in October!). And that’s just at our church, if you factor in school life there have been even more. It’s been a tremendous and beautiful blessing.

There is nothing quite like the joy a new baby brings. That precious bundle of life and hope and mercy and grace. But if we aren’t careful we can end up despising that gift.  This sort of despising is crafty and masquerades itself as true affection but in the end only leads to destruction. Since the beginning of time the cunning one has sought to distort a God-centered love, be it between husband and wife or parent and child.

As all of these little ones have come into our community I’ve had time to consider what it is to not despise the gift of life that God gives to us in our children. It’s advice that I’ve gleaned over the years by raising my own children but also from watching and heeding the wisdom of those who have gone this path ahead of me. I think it’s perfectly applicable for first time parents of newborns and also completely adaptable for parents of toddlers and older children.

Don’t be afraid to let your baby cry. They need to know that they are a big part of your world but not the center of your world, Christ is.

Expect obedience from the very beginning and teach it to them. It doesn’t come naturally to any of us but if they learn to obey in simple age appropriate matters they will continue to grow in their obedience to you and others and it will be easy for them to obey in the times when it is really important and possibly really difficult to do so.

Don’t be afraid to let them fall down and get the occasional boo boo. Kids need to be tough. If you teach your child from the very beginning that they are strong then they will grow up and be strong.

Don’t be afraid to let them get dirty. Often times hard work is dirty work and you want to raise good workers who aren’t put off by the hard work.

Resist the urge to always make life perfect for them. Real life is seldom perfect and they need to 1) be able to cope with that and 2) know how to think and figure out a different way when things aren’t going perfectly.

Give them chores and responsibilities at a young age. There is so much they can and will learn from these simple tasks. If nothing else it will teach them to appreciate and care for what they have.

From as early an age as possible teach them that they have nothing in their possession that is more important than the people in their life. “Special” toys and things are fine and not everything has to be communal property, but they should be encouraged to know and understand that more joy comes from sharing those special things then keeping it only for themselves.

Keep your word count low as you seek to teach or train your child. It’s very difficult to teach them to have a quiet heart and mind so they can listen if you are bombarding them with  an avalanche of words. What you expect from them should be clear and precise. So should your correction. Think about the book of Proverbs. God’s words to us are few and simple and to the point. Don’t over explain.

Know the difference between a teaching time and a correcting time. Sometimes they will just need to cease and desist whatever they are doing no questions asked or explanations given. Other times there will be an opportunity to teach them through why they need to stop what they are doing. It’s important that you know the difference.

There is a difference between teaching and training. You want to teach your child to sit quietly with you in church (that’s the concept) but you train them by practicing quiet time at home. Be deliberate in what you want to teach your children so that you can be very clear in how you train them.

Don’t hide your mistakes and failures from them. They need to know what it looks like to mess up and try again.

Don’t try to hide your sin either. They need to see what it looks like to be genuinely repentant. And let them be sinners. What I mean by this is you need to recognize that they are precious little adorable sinners. It’s not always the other kids fault and your child is not always “just tired.” Help him to own his sin so that he can honestly deal with his sin as an adult.

As much as possible remind them that everything they have is in some way given to them by their father. Whenever my kids thank me for some thing, be it a new pair of shoes or a trip through the drive thru, I always find a way to remind them to thank their Dad for it. Not just because in our case he has made the money that provided whatever it is but because in a small but very real and profound way it prepares their heart to recognize that all they have comes from the hand of their Heavenly Father.

You are not just raising hard working good adults. Want more for your child than his own happiness.

Raise them to protect the weak and care for the poor. Raise them to go out under the banner of Yahweh and wreak havoc on the enemy for, and in the name of, Christ.

Raise them to die to self and sin so that they can truly live.

Titus 2 Tuesday    Tending Home

The Great Autumn Debate

It’s that time of year. Leaves are beginning to change colors and fall from their trees. Sweaters and fuzzy socks are closer to becoming the reality than sunscreen and swimsuits. The cooler weather brings about what I call the great Autumn debate and it isn’t whether you want a tall or venti pumpkin spice latte. In a few weeks there will be laughing and squealing children in all manner of attire running up and down the street knocking on doors and asking for candy.

That means it is also time for finger pointing and lines being drawn in the sand, pronouncements of self-righteousness and mission mindedness or heaps of condemnation thrown in for good measure.

Trick or treating.

Halloween.

Do we or don’t we?

A mockery of a defeated foe or a night belonging to the devil?

We’ve been on every side of the issue. We’ve just done it because that’s what we’ve always done. We’ve turned the lights out and pretended to not be home. We’ve only passed out candy. We’ve let the kids dress up but not as anything scary and headed to the local church “Hallelujah” night. We’ve dressed up and gone around our neighborhood like a Charles Dickens’ beggar.

Have I forgotten any position on the subject? We covered them all I think. And you know what I also think?

Who cares?

Now, I know there are people who say it is a big deal and that it should matter. That this is hill worth taking a stand on; one that possibly alienates people and breaks friendships over at worst or at the very least sets up some serious boundaries and restrictions on those relationships. I know others that say get over it already. It’s no big deal and harmless; let the kids have some fun and eat candy for crying out loud.

Want to know what else I think about all of this? If you’re still reading I am going to assume so and tell ya.

“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

Say what?

If you do indeed feel that it is not right to participate in such festivities then please, by all means abstain. But know that there is a right way and a wrong way to abstain. Imagining that you are somehow more spiritual or holy because you disdain such nonsense certainly gives no glory to God. He is honored by your obedience that is faithful and humble.

If, however, you feel that there is nothing wrong with costumed panhandling for sweet confections then by all means knock on those neighborhood doors. But know that there is a right way and a wrong way to take part. Do not assume that you are somehow living a more enlightened missional calling because you’re dressed up like Glenda the Good Witch passing out Snicker bars. God is honored when you enjoy the simple and good things with thankfulness as coming from His hand.

In the above mentioned passage the Apostle Paul exhorts his readers to not seek their own good but that of their neighbor. I’m convinced that whether you abstain or take part you can be a blessing to those around you if you are choosing to abstain or take part for His glory and not your own.

As for our family?

We’ve chosen to see this time as an opportunity to practice some neighborhood hospitality. We invite any of

our church members to come and eat hots dogs and macaroni  & cheese with our family. Their children are welcome to dress up and meander up and down the street with our own, knocking on doors and getting candy.  While that’s happening I’m standing at a table at the end of my driveway passing out cups of hot cocoa and chocolate dipped jumbo marshmallows and chatting it up with people that normally I just wave to in passing. It’s what we have discovered through the years that works for us and we believe is a small way that we can display God’s great hospitality and generosity to us.

Dear Melissa Harris-Perry

I am not interested in an apology from you over the statement you made in a recent ad in which you said, “We have to break through this private idea that kids belong to their parents. We have to recognize the collective idea that kids belong to the community.”

Actually I think the American Church should offer you an apology. How are you supposed to know that the belief system you hold to is so contrary to what we say we believe when we don’t hold to it with the same faithfulness and fervency that you do to yours?

We undermine what we say we believe by what we actually practice.

We make big statements about God and who He is; we say that the earth belongs to Him and is His creation but that doesn’t make much of an impact on how we are raising our children.

We educate them the same way you do. We send them in droves to a public state institution that has made God completely irrelevant but somehow are horrified when you actually say that our kids belong to the same state.

We are equally horrified to hear the callous disregard you have for the beginning of human life and we’re disgusted to hear it reduced down to a question of economics and choice. But last year a video released by the National Association of Evangelicals said that 80% of church going teens are having premarital sex and one third of their unintended pregnancies also end in abortion. No wonder you roll your eyes at our hypocrisy.

We allow our children to date and enter in and out of relationships the same way and allow our daughters to dress just as provocatively and expect different results. Our marriages look no different, our families are just as likely to fall apart and end in divorce.

Instead of being an enemy to our sin, which is also the same as your sin, we’ve dressed it up and tried to make it look different but our words are a fragile glass wall that cracks easily under the weight of honest soul searching repentance.

But some of us are eagerly shattering that wall. Some of us want you to see the life changing difference between the community you live in and want us to give our children over to and the one that is ruled by and subject to Christ and His word. We want to show you a living breathing Gospel centered community and not the one that has pretty religious words as decorations but still looks a lot like yours. It’s a community that looks a lot like what Tim Keller talks about.

Take moralistic religion into the center of your life, and you’ll feel superior to the secularists. Take secularism into the center of your life, and you’ll feel superior to all those stupid religious people. Take the Gospel into the center of your life, and you’ll be humbled before people who don’t believe what you believe, you’ll seek to serve the people who don’t believe what you believe, and you’ll know that a Man who loves people who don’t love Him is what your whole life is built on.” 

You think our children belong to the community but the truth is that the community belongs to our kids. It belongs to us. And it is our responsibility and honor to create and shape one that accurately reflects God. You won’t like it. Not even a little bit. But that’s okay.

Because that kind of community isn’t just for our good. It’s also for yours.