Monday, February 23, 2015

What my Kids Taught me About the Apocalypse

One of the tough things about having kids is that the ever present march of time is forever drawing attention to itself.  In my early 20's life was always "coming later".  Every day was fairly similar.  What you saw in the mirror in January is what you saw in the mirror in December.  There was always more time to accomplish something, to turn the corner, to get on track.  The rapidity with which life is now flying at me is frightening.  My infant daughter was happily chewing on teething biscuits, while sitting up in her bumbo chair, all afternoon.  I believe it was just a few weeks ago when my five year old son was doing the same thing. 

Instead of a virtual endless supply of "tomorrows" I am constantly wishing yesterday lasted juuussst a bit longer.  This oncoming rush of the inevitable future changes every moment of every day.  This evening I had to take all three kids to my three year olds dance class at five. 

What it would have looked like if it was just me going somewhere at five:

4:00--  Eat a snack
4:15-- Read something on the internet
4:30-- close my eyes for a  few minutes---the afternoon "sleepies" always get me
4:45-- Look for my keys
4:50--Drive to where I need to be

What it looks like taking three kids ages; 5 months, 3, and, 5 somewhere at 5
3:30-- Try to get a snack around so they don't melt down before we get back home around 6
3:45-- change a diaper
3:50-- argue with the three year old about going to the potty
3:55--  Find the multiple clothes that have been thrown in different rooms of the house instead of staying on
4:00-- Fill milk cups
4:05--  Get a bottle ready for the baby
4:10-- Find shoes
4:15-- Spend five minutes anxiously looking for keys that "someone" moved
4:20-- change a diaper
4:25-- Try to find coats
4:30-- Get baby in car seat
4:35-- start getting kids in car
4:40-- run back in house for forgotten NECESSARY items
4:45-- run back in house for sippy cups
4:50--leave while yelling at everyone to just be quiet

If you have kids this probably looks very familiar.

Having kids has taught me an essential life truth.  Tomorrow is going to sneak up on you whether you are prepared or not. And if you don't get prepared for it, it will go verrrrryyyy poorly for you.  Things are going to happen.  Much of it out of your control.  Once we realize that, come to terms with it and accept it, we HAVE to start preparing for it. 

In 1 Thessalonians chapter 5 Paul is speaking to the Church about the reality that the One who has risen WILL return.  And we should not let it, "surprise us like a thief in the night."  So much of life is living as if tomorrow won't come.  Then, it does.  Which often means being woefully unprepared. 

Being a good parent means accepting that every day  I have to stay one step ahead of my kids.  There are NO breaks.  After a while you can even begin to sense problems minutes ahead of time and cut them off at the pass.  Ever vigilant is the only way to succeed in parenting. 

Living this way can seem exhausting.  Especially if you are one of those poor uninitiated innocents without kids yet.  But it is worth it.  One, because staying prepared makes our lives so much easier and more enjoyable, and, two, because there is nothing in my life that is more satisfying than being a parent and loving, and being loved, by my kids. 

Paul's point is similar in value and purpose.  We can pretend all we want that tomorrow isn't going to come, but it won't change that it will.  So what are we doing about it right now?

It is too often that many of us live out our faith with an attitude of, "eh, we will figure it out when it's time".  Paul shouts at us, "Wake up, it's coming, be faithful, encourage one another, stay sharp!"

Whether Jesus comes back tonight, or, in 1000 years, are you living your faith awake and sober?  Or, are you drunkenly sleeping away the day?

You will have an End, and they always come earlier than expected

Monday, February 2, 2015

It's a good thing that the "American" church is dying!

Being a parent is tough.  Disciplining your kids is tough.  Our family has reached the stage where my oldest two have at least a dozen altercations a day.  A lot of the classic, "she's sitting to close to me!!!!!" fights to break up.  What can be extremely frustrating for us is dealing with fake "I'm sorry's".  You know what I am talking about.  Sibling gets mad and hits their brother or sister.  You tell them to give them a hug and say that they are sorry.  They slowly walk over, don't make eye contact, mumble out a forced, "I'm sorry", look at you and say, "I did it".

We all know that they really don't mean it.  But you have to start somewhere.  One day they will no longer be under my care(and control) and I pray that they grow into people who don't have to be forced to say that they are sorry when they mess up.  In this stage of their development, we recognize that my five year old is not prepared to make his own life decisions and go off on his own.  Will he be prepared to one day live without dad guiding him?  I can guarantee one thing though, if I infantilize him from today until he is 18, he will really struggle making decisions on his own. 

In our lifetimes we have seen one of the most radical cultural and sociological shifts to have ever occurred in such a short window of time.  Only 50 years ago it would have been virtually unheard of for someone to not at least claim some sort of allegiance to Christianity.  And membership in at least some sort of denomination was a given, especially if you were going to be "somebody" within your community.  Today, the fast growing segment of the "religious" population are the "nones".  This means that people who have ZERO religious affiliation are rapidly outgrowing an ever shrinking involvement by the populace in churches.  Only around 50% of Americans even go to church consistently.

Now, before this motivates you to go posting some sort of viral meme on Facebook about how if we let kids in school have bibles there would never be a school shooting EVER EVER EVER again....let me tell you something.

This is a good thing! 

This might be a great thing!!

For centuries involvement in a church and self-proclamations of a Christian faith was a non-negotiable.  Like a five year old following rules they didn't care about, many people went through the motions because they had no choice.  Charles Spurgeon, the Prince of Preachers, was arguably one of the most famous pastors in the 1800's.  To this day his wealth of teachings and sermons are inspiring future generations of church leaders.  And he estimated that less than half of his congregation was really saved.  And that is why he made a point to regularly preach the gospel. 

Back in the 1800's.....

When everyone claimed they were a Christian....... 

One of the most influential pastors of the past  two to three hundred years, was fairly confident that half the people who called him their pastor didn't really get the Gospel. 

The Church in the West, and particularly America, has been co-opted by interests and motivations that are not generally in alignment with scripture and the Gospel.  It was the nations biggest country club.  If you wanted to get ahead, you better get on the board at your local "First Baptist Presby Methodist Church of Christ Redeemer" so that you could make friends with the other movers and shakers in town.  Presidential hopefuls had to make pilgrimages to make nice with famous church leaders so they could signal to everyone that they were just like them.....Nominally into that Jesus fellow.

What was the result of the Church being hand in hand with power?  People who care about power running the Church.

With the growth of the internet, more and more stories are popping up about horrific leadership abuses, coverups and church implosions.  There are even compelling(and damning) research papers that delve into why the pulpit attracts people with Narcissistic Personality Disorder at an exponentially higher rate than they exist in society in general.  As long as the Church can be seen as a gateway to power and money, people who want power and money will gravitate towards the Church.  Which only leads to more and more people saying, "I'm done with this".

Ok.  Enough of the bad...

Christ did not come to establish an Earthly kingdom where all of his buddies got to be in charge of everyone else.  Jesus had to even correct one of their moms in Matthew 20:20 when she specifically asked that her little special angels be given cushy roles.  Instead, Christ established His Church for the purpose of proclaiming the good news and to make disciples of every nation.  And in practice it was to be accomplished through serving others sacrificially(Matthew 20:16--First last, last first passage), while knowingly accepting persecution(Matthew 24:9---you will be persecuted and the nations will hate you because of me passage). 

Does this sound like many of our churches or leaders today? 

We are a lazy Church in America today.  We have had it so easy for so long we just want to believe that everyone should just see it our way.  And, if we face even a modicum of "persecution" we raise millions of dollars to politically fight our enemies and elect people who give us just enough lip service that we think they will at least vote the way we want them to. 

When the Church in America stops worrying about losing its power, or its perception of prestige in our communities and nations, THEN it can get focused on what it exists for.  Proclaiming Christ crucified!  And when that becomes the heart beat or our churches, they WILL have less political power, and perhaps even less money.  But guess what?  Then we will stop finding ourselves led by people who were there for the money and power!

I don't want people coming to church just because they have to.  No more than I want my son to only say he is sorry because I told him to do it.  We should all desire that people have their lives radically, and permanently, changed by the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  When we stop relying on power and control to get people to act "right" we can begin to do the real work of letting the Gospel change them from the inside out.

You will be shocked to know that signs like this are not turning around the
fortunes of the American Church