Monday, March 16, 2015

Parenting and the Cross

Being a parent forces you to focus on priorities.   Every moment of every day is limited.  And this is especially true when your kids are still quite little.  You blink and another year has passed.  Just the other day, my wife and I had lost track of the time and realized that we were about an hour behind on starting the bedtime routine.  Clearly this made for a relaxed evening of well-behaved children……

Success means knowing what is and isn’t important and not compromising on getting those most important priorities accomplished.  It is easy to get distracted by the non-essentials and miss out on key moments.  A five year old needs to learn to pick up their own room, but it is more important that they know they are loved than they have a clean room.  And it is vital that they don’t confuse being loved with a result of the cleanliness of their room!

Well-meaning parents will sadly sometimes miss the most important priority in what it means to be parent; Love.  Nothing else matters if your parenting isn’t driven by love.  A child who doesn’t feel like their parents instructions are coming from a place of love is a person who will grow up to be resentful of the behaviors and habits they were unfairly “forced” to have.

“If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is useless, and so is your faith” -1 Corinthians 15:14

Being a follower of Christ I have one priority.  Christ crucified and Christ risen.  As the Apostle Paul points out in 1 Corinthians, our faith begin and ends with the message of the Cross.  Everything else hinges on that.  It is easy to focus on the peripherals first.  What I like to call the behavior modification aspects.  But Christ didn’t come to help us behave better, but to die for our sins, defeat sin and death, and offer, through HIS finished work, hope for eternity. 

The power of whatever I do as a preacher is sourced from one place.  The unconditional love offered at the Cross.  The people in our lives don’t need a better approach to achieving some sort of “better life” goals.  They need to hear the Gospel of the Cross. 

My kids need to know that they are loved deeply before what I teach them, hold them accountable to, and expect from them, makes sense.  And they need to know that their success and/or failure at achieving these standards is not the basis of whether their daddy loves them.  The love is unconditional, which gives them the freedom and hope to get back up when they fall. 

We need to know that we are deeply loved BEFORE we are equipped to pursue the Holiness that Christ calls us to.  And the Cross tells us that this love is not dependent upon how well we are currently doing at running hard after Christ.  People change because they are loved.  They can’t change so that they can get loved.

Some of us need more help as parents than others.....

Monday, March 2, 2015

Trust and Belief

With great confidence I am going to claim that none of my regular readers are PhD's in the field of Astrophysics.  Though none of us have spent the better part of a decade doing the indepth and challenging work associated with becoming an "expert" within this field, there are a number of facts that we will all confidently regurgitate;  Size of the sun, size of our galaxy, distance between planets, the movement of stars and comets, the speed of light, etc.  When we make these fact claims we do so with the utmost confidence that we believe that what we are repeating is true.  Why?  Because we implicitly trust the individuals and organizations that have told us so.

There is a virtually limitless amount of "knowledge" that the modern man possesses that has little to do with personal study and observation.  Though we can quote verbatim a Wikipedia article on the personal feelings of Robert E. Lee during the civil war, few of us have ever actually held in our hands and read physical letters penned by the general.  There is just too much important knowledge and information that we utilize in our day to day lives for us to do the necessary work to prove the veracity of our claims personally.  We believe the work of those we trust. 

But what happens when two honest people have wildly differing positions on a particular issue?  How is it even possible?  It has to do with who you choose to trust. 

"For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine.  Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear"--2 Timothy 4:3

Thanks to the internet whatever your personal values, thoughts, opinions, activities, etc, are, you can find plenty of people to support you.  Not long ago I was reading about the growth of "fetish" communities.  Thirty years ago if you were a pedophile, you tried to get help, covered it up, tried to deal with it, or, acted on it and went to prison.  But what no one ever said, or, accepted, was that the proclivity towards pedophilia was "normal" or, "ok".  Now there are entire online created communities of predatory pedophiles who support each other, give tips and advice, and even plan international trips to countries with laxer child protection laws. 

While a pedophile in 1970 could still do some horrible damage, it was very limited in scope, and many potential predators never became predators because they didn't have anyone egging them on.  Today, if you are a potential predator, you are just a click away from people all over the world affirming your feelings and encouraging you to find ways to act on it.

Our human and self-driven desires cause us to seek out the "expert" advice of those who affirm what we already want to believe.  We start with a premise that whatever I "feel" must be right because I feel it so STRONGLY.  In some instances, there is natural internal and/or public aversion to such feelings.  Instead of responding to that natural aversion we instead look for someone to encourage the behavior or belief.  We TRUST that person BECAUSE they tell us what we want to hear, so we then integrate their affirmation as the foundation of our BELIEFS. 

Let me avoid putting a specific example within Christianity today in the cross hairs.  But ask yourself, what do you(and others) believe today compared to 20, 30, 50, 2000 years ago.  The rapidity in which these consistently believed Biblical positions are being reshaped has been breathtaking.  Why?  Because it is becoming easier and easier to gather around us teachers that tell us what we want to hear.

In contrast to what some "theologians" will argue, 2 Timothy 4:3 has a basic understood assumption built into it.  That there IS a sound doctrine.  And the second truth is that sound doctrine is in direct contrast to peoples natural desires. 

Theology today is crafted by a simple formula;  1- I feel or experienced "x", 2- I want to feel good about myself, not bad,(you can replace "myself" with "others") so I don't want "x" to cause me discomfort.  3-  I therefore subvert plain reading of scripture to be primarily interpreted by what makes me the most comfortable. 

Biblical theology has historically been crafted by; 1- Reading the Bible  2- Feeling or experiencing "x", 3- Shaping my response to "x" by what the Bible says.

We place our trust in what, or, who, makes us feel the best about ourselves.  Or, we put it in whatever or whoever says exactly what we have already decided.  And that becomes our belief. 

At the heart of everyone who rejects the Biblical teachings on any issue is that they are placing their trust in someone who has given them a way that makes them feel more comfortable.  And this happens with virtually zero cross examination.  They said what I was hoping to hear, I will just assume they are telling me the truth.  While they respond to teachers that disagree with their new position by immediately questioning everything, or, outright rejecting it because they don't like their response.  Again, with zero cross examination.  You said what I didn't want to hear, so you must be wrong/lying.

Your beliefs will be the result of who you trust.  Do you trust God's word?  Or, do you trust yourself and others first.

We want the candy so much we ignore important details.....