There’s a new cult in town and you probably don’t even know about it. Even worse, you might even be a member of it.
Unlike most cults, this one doesn’t really have a charismatic leader with a funny name who preaches about the end of the world.
And while you can pay a small fortune as a devotee to this cult, you don’t necessarily have to.
Knocking on doors early on Saturday mornings and handing out promotional materials isn’t necessary either. In fact, that would be frowned upon. But you do have to talk about this new cult. Well, you don’t really have to. It’s not like you’ll get kicked out if you don’t. It’s just that people who belong to this cult usually do talk about it. A lot. Social media is the primary tool. You have friends on Facebook who are members of this cult. Hardcore members. And, like I said, you may even be a member too.
There isn’t one god at the center of this cult. There are many. But each member worships his own god. That god is your own body.
The required sacrifices have nothing to do with animal killing, feasts or fasts. All that is required is several hours a day appeasing your body in a gym or on a track, trail or road. These are the places where regular worship services are held.
Worship is a big part of this cult. But it doesn’t require music, standing, sitting, standing again and then sitting with heads bowed and eyes closed while someone with a guitar sings. The primary act of worship in this cult is the selfie. That isn’t to say that everyone who takes selfies is a member of The Body Cult. However, if you can’t workout without taking a few pictures or videos of yourself for all of the world to see, you just might be a member.
You might say that I’m being too harsh. After all, it’s just working out. And working out is just taking care of your body. And God only gives you one body. What’s so bad about that?
Working out is good.
Taking care of yourself is smart.
But only when those things are done as acts of worship to the Creator who gives and takes away as he pleases. Working out and taking care of yourself, just like a host of other good things, become dangerous when they become our life’s ultimate things. And for many people, nice abs and a 600 pound deadlift have become ultimate things.
I know. I know. You’re a Christian. You’re no cult member.
But here’s a question.
When was the last time that you missed two solid weeks of working out because you were, “too busy?”
When was the last time that you went two weeks without reading your Bible or going to church for the same reason?
The answer can be telling.
Not because reading your Bible regularly and going to church make you right with God. They don’t. The answer is telling because worship and commitment go hand in hand. They always do. You will always be committed to what you worship. And you are committed to what you love.
The Body Cult promises a nice, healthy body just in time for the all important beach selfie. Again, the nice healthy body isn’t the problem. A nice, healthy body is a good thing. It’s the heart that puts the one true God on the shelf while the false god of the body is appeased that is the real problem.
The promises of The Body Cult come with a higher price than a tweaked shoulder from last night’s bench press or sore knees from last weekend’s ultra marathon. When your body becomes your god, your body becomes your burden. And the body is a burden that is too heavy for even the fittest athlete to carry. You could always be stronger. There will always seem to be a little bit of fat around your obliques that you would love to get rid of. There is always someone at the gym who is stronger or at the beach who looks better. The false god of the body is never appeased.
Jesus came to free us from burdens like this one.
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30 (ESV)
Jesus spoke those words to a culture of people who were weighed down by the overbearing rules of religion. But his words apply just as much to a culture of people who are weighed down by the burdens of performance, perfection and appearance.
If you really care about taking care of yourself, don’t neglect the eternal importance of a heart that is right with God for the temporary pleasure of a body that wins the approval of people.
Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. 1 Timothy 4:7-8 (ESV)
Run in that race this weekend and try your hardest to win it. Work hard to reach your weightlifting goals. But do it all to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31). His love for you and approval of you is unlike anything else in the world. He doesn’t love you because you can still fit in to the jeans you wore in high school. He doesn’t approve of you because you’re so athletic for someone your age. His love and approval are based solely on his grace and the work of Jesus Christ on the cross.
It’s not too late to renounce your membership in The Body Cult. Come to grips with the fact that you will never win this way. Open your eyes to the fact that the burdens of The Body Cult are more than you can carry.
For once, let someone else do the heavy lifting for you.
And go to sleep tonight with a body that is tired from a lot of lifting but a soul that is well rested from trusting in Jesus for your ultimate satisfaction, identity and approval.
We’ve been taught to respect it from an early age.
I’ve seen older men sternly correct young men for not respecting it.
I’ve heard of people who have wept when it wasn’t handled properly.
Many fights have started when it was openly ridiculed.
Times have changed. But the message is still clear. Respect the American flag. That’s a good message for how we view the flag. It’s a terrible message for how we handle the Bible.
My fear is that many of us treat our Bible just like we do the American flag.
We respect it. After all, it’s what we put our hand on when we take an oath in court. We don’t go outside and throw it around. Once I thought that my mother was going to have a heart attack when she saw me put a glass of sweet tea on top of my Bible. In the south at least, respecting the Bible is serious business. Just like it is for the American flag.
Here’s an important question.
Can you remember the last time that you actually used the American flag?
Sure, you look at it. You pledge allegiance to it. You have a problem with the people who burn it and walk on it. But do you ever really use it?
Of course not.
Flags aren’t really meant to be used as much as they are to be looked at and respected.
The Bible is different.
Preachers preach sermons about how important the Bible is without ever even referencing it. Politicians fight to have excerpts of it hung in court houses without even knowing what those excerpts mean. And Christians like me can rattle off verse after verse without ever giving a second thought to how those verses should play out in our lives.
We are very good at respecting the Bible.
We like to talk about it.
We even know a little bit about it.
But that’s not what the Bible is for. That’s what flags are for. The Bible is not a flag.
It is a sword.
It is a sword for fighting against Satan’s schemes.
In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Ephesians 6:16-17 (ESV)
And it is a sword that exposes the phony faith that likes to take up residence in our hearts.
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. Hebrews 4:12 (ESV)
There is nothing sacred about the genuine bonded leather that forms the cover of your Bible. If you want to sit a glass of sweet tea down on it, that’s between you and my mother. Good luck.
The sacred part is the message. And that message does us no good when we admire it, respect it and talk about it from afar. We must allow it to slice us open, separating our cheap talk from genuine faith. We must use it daily to kill the sin that so easily deceives us.
Father, grant us the grace that we need to stop merely respecting your word.
Help us to actually live it.
In recent years there has been a lot of talk about young adults leaving the church. A lot of experts have given a lot of reasons why.
The church is known more for what it’s against than what it’s for.
The word baptist is in the name.
The music is boring.
The preaching is long.
So, in response, many churches have tried to change. They’ve started to look more like coffee shops or Apple stores than traditional church buildings. They’ve changed their name from Shadybrook Memorial Baptist Fellowship to The Journey at Crosspointe. They made their music sound more like U2. And then Coldplay when U2 got played out. And then Celtic hymns from the 1500s. And now back to U2. Finally, some churches abandoned the sermon for more of a conversation about Jesus.
Whatever it takes to keep that ever-important demographic from leaving.
But in all of our soul-searching and self-relfecting, which is really important, we’ve forgotten something. Maybe young adults leaving the church has nothing to do with the Church.
I get it. There are plenty of bad churches out there. There are places where pastors and other leaders fight to establish their own kingdoms. There are places where engaging the community means leaving a gospel tract and a dollar tip at Luby’s after church on Sunday morning. There are places that are two or three points below a funeral home on the scale of life and vibrancy.
No one should be a part of a church like that. But does one bad church justify nuking the entire institution? Does it make sense to give up on the very body for whom Jesus died because of a few bad experiences?
If we are truly committed to Christ, the answer should be no.
So what if the Church as a whole isn’t really the problem? What if at least some of the problem is with the people who are leaving the church? When you approach a church setting looking for only what you can get out of it, you will do what any other consumer would do when you are disappointed with the product. Find a new one. Or just quit all together.
And in an effort to stop the bleeding, maybe some churches have lost something. Something important.
If your church looks like an Apple store and smells like a coffee shop, great. Church sizes, layouts and appearances don’t matter that much. But many churches have, in an effort to reach people, abandoned the very thing that they are supposed to be reaching them with. The gospel.
The gospel makes people uncomfortable.
The gospel sometimes turns people away.
The gospel is offensive.
Every committed church member I know has been, in some way, hurt by the church. I have counseled people who have been hurt in ways that I never before would have imagined. And while they didn’t hesitate to leave a particular church setting, they still didn’t give up on the Church. That’s because they knew that commitment to Christ doesn’t make much sense apart from commitment to the body that he leads and died for.
Sitting around in your living room and watching Joel Osteen isn’t the answer to your problem. Neither is convincing yourself that you can do plenty of good on your own without a church.
And because every church is filled with sinners, you’re going to need grace to persevere in your commitment.
We all need that grace.
But no matter how bad a church has let you down, don’t give up on the Church as a whole.
Jesus knows what it’s like to be hurt, even killed, by people who claimed to love him. But he still loves his Church. He still loves his people. He doesn’t give up on us.
And we would all do well to follow that example.
And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. Colossians 1:18 (ESV)
Alex was excited when he got off the plane. It was his first time in the United States. Everyday of his 60 year life had been spent in Italy. It was home for him. But sometimes it’s good to leave home for a little while.
Jon and Alex have been friends for a while. A few years back, Jon was able to visit Italy. Alex took him to all of the expected places. Jon was ready to return the favor. He was just as excited to introduce his Italian friend to American culture as he was when he experienced life in Italy.
Madison Square Garden was the first stop on the tour of America. Basketball was big in Italy and Jon couldn’t wait to show Alex where it all started. It was a packed house for the Knicks and the Hawks. As usual, the Knicks lost.
As the week went on, there were more stops. All of the usual suspects on the east coast. Boston. Philadelphia. Washington D.C. Alex was overwhelmed by what he experienced. He had seen America on television shows. He had read about it in books all of his life. But now he was getting to see it, smell it and taste it for himself. His joy was evident. He still loved his home but a part of him was sad to leave Jon’s country.
As Jon saw it, Alex hadn’t seen anything yet. He was saving the best stop for the last night of the trip. The two old friends headed out for a dinner that the American knew would be unforgettable for his Italian friend. Alex knew great food. He had grown up around it. His family was in the restaurant business back in Italy. And he had already enjoyed a few American staples. Hot dogs at the Knicks game. Cheesesteak in Philadelphia. He knew that whatever food had gotten Jon so excited to share must be great.
Finally Jon and Alex arrived at their destination. Jon had already made reservations. They walked right past the crowd waiting outside. Table for two.
At the Olive Garden.
Jon couldn’t contain his excitement when the breadsticks arrived.
“This, my friend, is sure to remind you of your homeland.”
When the overpriced spaghetti came, Jon couldn’t wait for Alex’s response.
It wasn’t what he expected. Alex could not manage to eat hardly anything. His enthusiasm for Italian dining was not quite what his American friend had hoped that it would be.
On their way out, Jon interviewed Alex.
“What was wrong? Why didn’t you eat anything? Come on. You’re Italian. This is an Italian restaurant. What’s the problem?”
As nicely as he could, Alex explained himself to his American friend.
“Just because you call it Italian doesn’t make it the real deal.”
Jesus says something very similar to us.
Just because we call it religion, doesn’t make it the real deal.
“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.” Matthew 6:1-4 (ESV)
There’s good religion and there is bad religion. Bad religion needs to be seen by men. It does what it does for the approval of others, not the glory of God. And, no matter how orthodox it may appear, Jesus doesn’t like it.
Genuine religion is different. It isn’t concerned with the approval of man. It doesn’t even exist to try to earn the approval of God. Rather, it exists because of God’s approval. Those who are genuinely religious pray because they love to talk to their Father and they know that they need him. They give because they know what their Father has given to them. They fast because they desire Christ more than the finest meal.
What if no one ever complimented you for your religious efforts?
No words of encouragement for that great sermon that your worked so hard on.
No comments about how angelic you sound when you pray.
No awe that you would care enough to actually fast.
No pins for 30 years of perfect attendance in Sunday School.
What if the only reward you ever received for your religious activity was a deeper understanding of Jesus and his love for you? Would that be enough for you? Or would you feel empty without the approval of man?
You can pray all you want and still miss Jesus. You can give to the poor and care more about what it does for your reputation than you care about the glory of God and the good of your neighbor. You can fast and simmer the whole time in the hopes that someone will notice your superb spirituality. You can even keep all of your religious activity private and still pat yourself on the back for keeping it private.
Jesus isn’t concerned with that kind of religion.
In his eyes, it is bad religion because it has man as its center and its objective instead of him.
Bad religion makes people fly airplanes into buildings.
Bad religion makes people knock on your door at 7:00 on Saturday mornings to tell you about Jehovah.
And bad religion makes good Southern Baptists carry on with their religious activities without Jesus.
Jesus is not concerned with your religion, no matter how faithful and passionate it may be, if your religion is not concerned with him. He must be the cause of your religion. He must be the center of your religion. He must be the reward of your religion.
Anything less is a cheap imitation of the real thing.
Have you heard about the latest fad in our country? It has nothing to do with hairstyles or clothing. This fad that seems to be sweeping the country actually has something to do with our country. More specifically, the flag.
At Louisiana State University, a few students planned on burning an American flag until their display was interrupted by several hundred cajuns who made them think better of their plans. Students at LSU haven’t had anything to scream about, other than firing their football coach, in years so they had no problem yelling down a few protestors. America 1, Flag Haters 0.
At a school in South Carolina, a student was told to remove the American flag that was flying from the back of his truck. School administrators thought better of their decision when several parents showed up with flags of their own. If you’re a principal and you want more community involvement in your South Carolina high school, make a kid take down the American flag from the back of his truck. America 2, Flag Haters 0.
And at Valdosta State University, a student organized a flag burning on campus but, again, had a change of heart when a female Air Force veteran stopped the insanity. I’m not sure how you explain that one back at terrorist headquarters.
“How was the flag burning, Che?”
“Not good, comrade.”
“It got busted up by some part-time model who used to be in the Air Force.”
I must have missed something. Maybe it’s because I’ve given up on talk radio and televised news. But at what point did it become fashionable for people to walk all over the flag and burn it and make high school kids take them down from their trucks?
Look, I know that America isn’t perfect. We certainly have our share of problems. You might even say that we get a new set of problems with each new day. But what exactly does hating the flag do to help all of that?
If you don’t like the flag, why can’t you just ignore it and move on? Why create a scene? There’s a classroom in my church where a Georgia Tech mug is on display for all to see. Well, I hate Georgia Tech. Any God-fearing man should. But I’m not planning on burning that mug anytime soon. I am however still searching for Bible verses to support my theological position that Georgia Tech and the Philistines were somehow related. I’ll get back to you on that one.
As much as I hate it, people in our country have a right to walk on the flag or burn it. But before they fire up the protest, here are a few steps that I think should be required before the big event.
1. Exactly one week before the flag burning, the angry protestor is required to inform the nearest gang of Vietnam and Gulf War veteran bikers where and when the festivities will take place.
I’m all for the angry protestor’s right to free speech, even if that means he’s burning the flag.
I’m also all for the angry biker gang’s right to free speech, even if that means that they have to use a few Old Testament tactics on the flag burner.
By my estimation, this would reduce the amount of flag burnings in this country by 93%.
2. Anyone wishing to burn or desecrate the American flag must also burn and desecrate any benefits or handouts they are receiving from the government.
If you hate America enough to burn the flag, you should hate her enough to not receive the free money that she so loves to hand out. When you have to burn the flag to prove your point, most rationale people tune you out. When you decide to burn the flag while talking on your government provided smart phone and munching on WIC approved Ramen Noodles, you really lose the rationale crowd.
Now our flag burnings are down by about 98%. We’re on our way.
3. All flag burnings must take place at the National Guard Armory during professional wrestling matches.
Preferably this will happen somewhere within a 100 mile radius of Thomaston, Georgia. And preferably it will all go down just after an aging Rock and Roll Express loses their Mid-Atlantic Cruiser Weight Tag Team Title to Southside Trash and somewhere around the time that Tommy Rich has to shave his head because he lost to Arn Anderson due to the fact that Tully Blanchard hit him from behind with a folding chair.
I only saw my sister lose it one time in my life. That was when Stan Hansen beat Tommy Wildfire Rich and got to shave his head. My sister threw her bowl of boiled peanuts at the TV. My mom wouldn’t let her watch wrestling for a month after that. Somehow, I don’t think that kids in other parts of the world get in trouble for that sort of thing. Ah, the south.
Anyway, I don’t think that there will be much flag burning happening at the Armory when a bunch of disgruntled 40 somethings file out into the parking lot only to find out that some disgruntled hipster in skinny jeans is trying to make it even more difficult to get to the Huddle House. Those wrestling fans may not ever be able to get even with the ones who assaulted Tommy Rich’s hair but they’d be more than happy to take out their frustrations on a flag burner.
It sure is hard to burn a flag when a couple of hundred people are throwing bowls of boiled peanuts at you.
So that brings our flag burnings down 100%.
America 3, Flag Haters 0.
America wins again.
And somehow, so does Tommy Wildfire Rich.
There’s no question about it. You are going to sin today.
Here’s the real question.
What are you going to do about it?
My son asked me a good question the other day. His soccer game was about to start and we were talking strategy.
“But dad, what do we do if the other team comes up with something that messes our plan up?”
That’s when I explained to him that any good strategy always takes into consideration what should happen if that strategy falls apart.
You should always have a strategy to avoid sin. You should have a plan for what to stay away from and how to do it. But Satan is pretty good at messing up that plan. Even if Satan left us all alone, we would still find a way to mess things up all by ourselves. One way or another, weaknesses in both your strategy and your flesh will be exposed. You will sin. What then?
You can cover it up by comparing yourself to others who you figure are much worse off than you are. You can say along with the Pharisee in Luke 18, “God, I thank you that I am not like other men. I’m not gay. I’m not an adulterer. I don’t do drugs. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.” And you’ll start to feel pretty good about yourself. Maybe even real good. Good enough even to forget that you have a sin problem.
When you forget that you have a sin problem, you also forget about the One who came to remedy that problem. Sure, you’ll talk about Jesus a lot. You may even pray to him and sing about him. But he’ll always just be your buddy and never your Savior. Only sinners need a Savior, remember?
That’s the problem with self-righteousness. It’s always based on your standard of righteousness and your standard always has something to do with how much better you are than someone else. But no matter how much better you are than the rest of the world, you’re still not good enough to meet God’s standard. Jesus told us what that standard is.
“You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matthew 6:48 (ESV)
If you feel like you’ve somehow met that standard on your own, please stop reading now and go ask God to have mercy on your soul.
Self-righteousness isn’t the only way to react to the sin that will inevitably come your way. You can embrace your sin. You can even build an identity around it. And all the while you’ll tell yourself that you’re just being real. So when you stay up all night looking at pornography, you don’t really have a lust problem. You’re just being authentic. And in your own self-righteous way, you’ll thank God that you are not like other men who are, well, self-righteous.
While you’re busy being so authentic, you’ll forget something. Sin is never authentic. At it’s core, sin is always built on a lie. We saw it in the first sin where Satan convinced Eve to question God’s command (Genesis 3:1). And you see it today when a man believes the lie that there is somehow more fulfillment in having sex with his secretary than with his wife. It is impossible to live an authentic life that is at the same time devoted to sin.
Real authenticity means that you come to grips with your sin. You acknowledge it. But instead of building your own little kingdom around it or covering it up, you confess it to Jesus and ask him to help you to make war against it.
Following Christ is an act of spiritual violence. It involves continually putting to death the sin that you would rather cover up or embrace.
Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. Colossians 3:5-7 (ESV)
A strategy is important. But it is only as good as its reaction when things start to unravel.
Before one of his fights, reporters were asking Mike Tyson about his opponent. They wanted to know how Mike would respond to the other fighter’s speed. They wanted to know Mike’s plan for winning the fight. That’s when Mike Tyson rattled off this gem.
“Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”
You will get punched in the mouth today.
Please don’t pretend that you’re not getting hit.
And please don’t build your identity around the fact that you get hit a lot.
By the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit, fight back.
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Ephesians 6:12-13 (ESV)
I was introduced to it when I was a kid.
Before then, I thought that grown ups just knew things about Jesus and Moses and Abraham. I can still remember my mother opening up a Bible to the part where Jesus died on the cross. It was revolutionary for me to find out that you could read about that and not just hear about it around some campfire. That was over three decades ago. I’ve walked away from it at times. I’ve disobeyed it. I’ve ignored it. But I’ve never been able to get away from the Bible.
It was a comfort to me as a kid when I read what Jesus had to say about the family.
It was a rock for me back then too when I would get scared in the middle of the night.
It was the textbook many of my mentors used to train me.
I’ve seen it transform marriages.
I’ve seen it change churches.
It changes me each week that I open it up to prepare my next sermon.
But I hear some church leaders today talk about the Bible with embarrassment. They’re ashamed of the unusual stories of giant fish, giant madmen and giant pathways through a raging sea. They blush at the parts that have grown culturally unacceptable. They water down the offensive parts.
I’m no church historian but I’d like to know when this happened. When did it become acceptable for people who call themselves Christians to not like Christianity very much? One time I heard a comedian make a joke about an organization named RAD, Rockers Against Drugs. He said that rock and roll musicians against drugs was sort of like Christians Against Jesus. I don’t think that RAD is around anymore but Christians Against Jesus seems to be alive and well. Jesus himself isn’t the problem. Many of these leaders love to talk about Jesus. Their Jesus. Just not the Jesus that’s in the Bible. Just not the real Jesus.
Paul saw flashes of this in his day. The Bible has never been hip. It has always had its detractors. Sometimes the very ones who claim to love the man at the center of it the most, are its loudest critics (2 Timothy 3:1-9). But Paul didn’t then tell his readers to abandon the Bible for something more culturally acceptable. No, he reminded Timothy that the Bible is God’s message (2 Timothy 3:10-17). And then he told Timothy to preach it (2 Timothy 4:1-5).
In a culture where hardly no one, even church leaders, wants the Bible, the Bible is still what we need. Anything less is pointless.
I’ve been made fun of all of my life. Most of the time, I was asking for it. I was a C+ student, and a C- athlete with a funny haircut and an even worse complexion. That used to bother me. But it hasn’t for a while. I think that some church leaders are still bothered by the fact that they don’t get to eat lunch at our culture’s equivalent of the high school cafeteria’s popular table. But the very core of our faith is foolishness to the world. If we take out what the world finds absurd, we are left with a good man who said good things but who is still lying in a tomb.
As I’ve grown older and spent more time reading and trying to obey the Bible, I’ve come to a conclusion. I’m just going to take God at his word. I’m going to believe what he says. The Bible says that if I ask for wisdom in faith, God will give it to me. So I’ve been asking. And God’s been giving it to me. The Bible says that Jesus prays for me and never leaves me. So I’ve been living my life based on those realities. And it has helped me.
A lot of people who claim to be Christians, if they were honest with themselves, don’t like the Bible. They don’t like what it says, stands for or points to. They prefer what they wish that it said, stood for and pointed to. To put it another way, they’re okay with the Bible as long as the culture is okay with the Bible. And, inevitably, as the culture gets less okay with the Bible, guess what happens next?
I don’t know everything there is to know about the Bible. I certainly don’t obey everything that the Bible says at all times. But I’m trying.
Too many pastors have become content with acting like CEOs instead of, well, pastors. And it is really harming the church. Pastors who act like CEOs never really bring lasting change. The Bible does. So when we abandon the Bible, even while still talking about Jesus, the church quickly becomes just another organization where people are nothing more than numbers and relevance is the bottom line.
I’ve seen the power of the Bible on display.
As best as I can, by the grace of God, I’m living it.
So please read your Bible. And as you do, pray for the Holy Spirit to help you to understand it. Don’t let the culture interpret it for you. Use it to interpret the culture. If you read the Bible with a humble heart, at some point, you’ll know that it’s more than just a book. It’s a message from God. It’s a message that you may want to ignore at times. It’s a message that you will definitely disobey.
But by God’s grace, that message will never leave you alone.
But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:14-17 (ESV)
Face it. Your kid is weird.
She’s the only one in her class without an Instagram account. She’s begged you for one for a few months now. You always tell her no. You feel bad for it. It seems like all you ever say to her is that simple little sentence.
You fear that she’ll grow to resent you for it. But you know that no is the best answer for now. So your daughter is the only one in her class without an Instagram account. For that, the rest of the class thinks that she’s a little weird.
It doesn’t stop there. She’s been wanting her own phone for a few years now. And again, you’ve been saying no. Her friends have phones nicer than yours. As your daughter’s friends see it, the phone is an extension of the body. To be without one is to be handicapped. Or just weird. And that’s what your daughter is.
There’s this boy at your daughter’s school. You don’t know much about him. But he knows a little bit about your daughter. He’d really like to take her out on a date this weekend. And she would really like to go. But, once again, you say no. This pretty much closes the deal on your daughter’s reputation in her class. She’s one of the only girls without a boyfriend. She’s one of the weird ones.
And then the clothes. Girls your daughter knows dress like some combination between Daisy Duke and an Olympic beach volleyball player. And that’s in the winter. But not your daughter. She has to go through a thorough process of parental examination before buying any clothing and again before wearing it out of the house. She really doesn’t like that thorough process of parental examination. You remind her that the cheapest cars have the loudest commercials while the finest automobiles never advertise. She just rolls her eyes. And goes on to school where she is the weird girl in the weird clothes.
Face it. Your daughter is weird. No skimpy outfits. No Instagram account. No dates. No phone. Her social life is dead. And you killed it while she’s still in the fourth grade.
You should be proud. Her weirdness means that you are doing it right.
More and more, kids today are acting like adults. They play more baseball games in a week than their professional heroes. They have every gadget that they could possibly ever need. They dress like adults. Their parents give them the freedoms of adulthood without the preparation that can only come with years of training and instruction. It’s ironic really. In an effort to give their kids everything, some parents have robbed their kids of something far more important than any gadget or social life.
They have robbed them of their childhood.
But that’s normal today.
The point is not that you make your daughter wear long skirts all the time and wait until she’s 65 to wear makeup or date. Rigid rules do not offer her the protection that she needs. If anything, they put her in more harm. What your daughter really needs is your love. And quite often, love says no. Even when it means that people will think that your little girl is weird.
So the next time your daughter rolls her eyes when she hears you say no, don’t let it get you down. The next time that she complains about being weird, take it as a compliment. All of that means that you’re doing your job right. Keep it up. Keep on loving.
The smart phones belonging to the other fourth graders in your daughter’s class will one day break. The parents of those kids will buy them another. And another. And another.
The budding relationships between the dating fourth graders in your daughter’s class will one day break too. Those kids will find another. And another. And another.
During that time, your weird little ten-year-old girl will miss out on the fun that comes with smart phones and dating. And she’ll miss out on something else that comes along with those things at too young of an age.
She’ll really be weird then.
And that’s probably about the time that she’ll stop rolling her eyes at you and, instead, tell you a simple sentence of her own.