Jesus Didn’t Die For A Christian School

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When I first became a pastor, there was a problem that I had to address. It wasn’t a new problem. For years, ministry leaders have been fighting against the idea that simply joining a church will make you right with God. But recently, I’ve noticed another issue rising up from the opposite end of the spectrum. It’s the idea that the church isn’t really all that important.

There are people who have replaced any involvement in the local church with charity work. They reason that they can do plenty of good work on their own without being tied down by a local church and its drama.

Others use Christian schools as their alternative. Why would someone need to go to church on a Sunday when they spend all week studying the Bible at school? This argument can be heard from pre-kindergarten all the way through seminary.

The people making these arguments don’t claim to be against God. They aren’t atheists. They just don’t care for the church.

While their reasoning may seem sincere enough, it goes directly against what the Bible teaches.

Imagine a wedding ceremony. The groom repeated his vows to his bride. It was a beautiful moment. Tears filled his eyes as he expressed his love and commitment to his soon to be wife. But when the bride’s turn came, she went rogue. Rather than repeating what the minister said, she made up her own vows.

“I love your head. I love the way that your eyes look when you smile. I love your hair. I love the way your mind works. I will follow your head wherever it goes and I will love it forever. But it’s a different story for your disgusting and completely useless body. I have issues with it that I’d rather not deal with at the moment.”

How romantic!

This would never be accepted at a wedding ceremony but, somehow, we’ve convinced ourselves that it’s okay in our relationship with Christ and his body.

Jesus is the head of the church and the church is his body.

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)

When we claim to be devoted to Christ but completely disregard his church, we are claiming the impossible. Either you love someone as they are or you don’t. You can’t just love the head of your spouse and you can’t just love the head of the church. It’s a package deal. If you really love Jesus, you’ll love what he loved enough to die for.

Jesus didn’t die for your Christian school and he didn’t die for your favorite charity.

Jesus died for the church. His church. His body.

I love Christian schools. I have spent a significant portion of my life associated with them and I hope for that to continue. But I cringe when I hear a parent excuse their lack of commitment to the church because they send their kids to a Christian school, as if walking with Christ is about nothing more than raising kids with a good Christian education. One sure way for parents to raise kids with a lukewarm faith is for their own faith to be lukewarm. And lukewarm faith is about as good as you can expect from yourself when you’re not committed to a local church.

The New Testament was not written to non-profits or Christian schools. Most of it was written to specific local churches. Philippians, for example, was written to a church in Philippi. That means that when Paul tells us to rejoice in the Lord always and to put away anxiety (Philippians 4:4-7), he’s telling us that in the context of the local church. There are a significant amount of New Testament commands that are impossible for an individual to obey apart from the local church.

A while back I was talking to a group of ten or so Christian school students. It was a pretty casual conversation covering everything from music to history to, you guessed it, church. I asked them if they went to church every week.

One kid said yes. One out of more than ten students.

So I asked how many go once a month.

No one.

Every six months?

Crickets chirped.

Once a year.

Tumbleweed blew through the room.

It’s been said that if you want to find a really large collection of lost people all you have to do is look on a church’s membership roll. I agree but I think that we can add the Christian school to the mix as well. If you work at a Christian school, you’re in a bigger mission field than you think you are.

Yes, we can do good deeds through a charity instead of the church.

And yes, we can learn about the Bible at a Christian school and remove the church from the equation.

But there’s one thing that we can’t do apart from commitment to a local church.

Follow Jesus.

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Hebrews 10:23-25 (ESV)

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The Witch Hunt Of Chip And Joanna Gaines

And so the witch hunt of Chip and Joanna Gaines begins.

What is their crime? They have committed our culture’s unpardonable sin of belonging to a church that teaches that homosexuality goes against God’s standard. And the good people at BuzzFeed seem intent on making them pay for their crimes.

Now keep in mind, Chip and Joanna have never publicly stated anything regarding homosexuality. No one has uncovered a John Rocker moment from their past where they went off the rails saying all kinds of mean things about gays. No, they simply take their family to a church each week that teaches that homosexuality is a sin.

Gasp!

The article’s author, Kate Aurthur, puts forth this question.

“So are the Gaineses against same-sex marriage? And would they ever feature a same-sex couple on the show, as have HGTV’s House Hunters and Property Brothers? Emails to Brock Murphy, the public relations director at their company, Magnolia, were not returned. Nor were emails and calls to HGTV’s PR department.”

A generation ago, the $64,000 Question was, “Are you now or were you ever a member of the Communist Party of the United States?”

For Chip and Joanna Gaines, the question appears to be, “Would you be willing to flip a house for a gay couple and if not, when can we send the Sensitivity Trainers over to flip your home?”

Make no mistake, it’s not equality that is at play here. The prophets of the false church of LGBT care nothing about fairness or equality. No, their concern is dominance. And all of their talk of tolerance is a trick. The only tolerance they care about is everyone else tolerating whatever sexual appetite is en vogue at the moment. And they’ll stop at nothing to carry on with their bullying.

Part of the appeal of Chip and Joanna is that they’re like us. They’re regular people who are good at what they do. Chip is one of your buddies who jokes about how stupid he is. Joanna is the artsy lady you go to church with. They are normal, happy, successful folks.

And, for the LGBT brigade, that’s the problem.

In a world where seemingly everyone is offended by something, the most offensive thing a person can do is to live a happy, normal life that is guided by a faith that has not been previously approved by our culture’s sexual gatekeepers.

Much of the LGBT community thrives on self-identifying as victims. They have even gone so far as to equate their movement with the civil rights movement led by Dr. Martin Luther King. In reality, the real victims of hate are those who refuse to bow the knee to the god of homosexuality. The Bible could not be more clear in it’s message to believers. We are to love everyone, that includes gay people (Matthew 22:34-40). But we must not condone any sin (James 5:19-20). And as we faithfully hold to that standard, we must expect hardship (2 Timothy 3:12-13).

But don’t worry. The One True God is far more powerful than the god of this age.

He cares nothing about winning a culture war. That was taken care of when he rose from the grave.

Because of that victory, he has won something greater, an eternal home for his people that cannot perish or fade away.

Christian, no amount of cultural bullying can touch who you are and what awaits you in Christ (1 Peter 1:3-5).

And non-Christian, no amount of rebellion is too much for the grace of God. The gospel is more than a statement on human sexuality. It is a declaration that none of us is good enough to achieve salvation on our own and please a holy God. A homosexual’s greatest need is not to be made straight. It is to be made right with God. And in Christ, that has been made available.

That simple message is what many in the LGBT community find so offensive.

But that’s okay.

Grace is always offensive.

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 (ESV)

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Benevolent Dictators, The Gospel And Georgia’s Burqa Ban

Update: Jason Spencer has decided to withdraw House Bill 3.

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You might have a hard time believing this but there’s a really bad bill scheduled to come before the Georgia Legislature. This one has nothing to do with raising taxes or making grits the official breakfast food of Georgia. House Bill 3, if passed as written, would prohibit the wearing of any device that would hide a person’s face while taking a photo for a driver’s license, driving a car or, get this, while on, “any public way or public property.” 

To be clear, the bill’s sponsor, Jason Spencer, isn’t trying to crack down on young suburbanite women at the Mall of Georgia who wear their scarfs too high up on their face. This is a ban on burqas.

I can understand the problems of a concealed face during a driver’s license photo but using the power of the sate to prohibit the wearing of a burqa while driving a car or “on public property” is very problematic.

It matters how Christians respond to this.

We must be firm in our theological disagreement with our fellow Americans who are Muslims. No man can serve two masters (Matthew 6:24) and it is clear that the God of Christianity and the god of Islam are not the same. However, we must be just as firm in defending the rights of our Muslim neighbors. Believe it or not, this can be done without compromising the faith.

There’s something very troubling about so-called conservative evangelicals. As I’ve always understood it, conservatism referred to limited government. Recent history reveals that conservatism really means government that’s just as big as the kind that progressives prefer, only with conservatives instead of liberals reaching into our lives. Simply put, many conservatives have abandoned the concept of liberty in favor of a benevolent dictatorship.

And make no mistake, a government that can tell people what they can and cannot wear on “public property” is a dictatorship. I guess it depends on who you ask as to whether or not it’s benevolent. And a government that can tell Muslim women that they have to put their faith in the backseat while driving or in the public square can just as easily tell Christian families that they can’t homeschool their children and tell Christian churches that they can’t refuse someone for baptism or membership.

This bill is rooted in fear. Spencer reasons, “This bill is simply a response to constituents that do have concerns of the rise of Islamic terrorism, and we in the State of Georgia do not want our laws used against us.”

But we must remember that fear is the enemy of liberty. When we allow ourselves to be ruled by fear, we can be sure that there will be scores of benevolent dictators eager to fix the problem. And we can be just as sure that the fix will be worse than the problem.

A while back I was driving my family to a soccer tournament that my son would be playing in. It was a trip like most others but this time we had an extra passenger. My son’s teammate came along for the ride because his parents had to work. My son’s teammate was Muslim.

Now, we could have performed our own stop and frisk on this young boy before letting him into our car. We wouldn’t want him setting off a bomb in the back seat of our Camry, now would we? Call me a bad parent, but we didn’t screen this young man. And somehow, no bomb went off.

But something else happened.

For the entire hour of our drive, I played the music of Lecrae. He’s a rapper who frequently references the gospel. And while Lecrae’s music was playing, I was praying. I was praying that the light of Christ would shine through our family as we interacted with one another and through Lecrae’s lyrics as they blew through our speakers.

When we got to the soccer fields, my son’s friend didn’t get out of the car and pray to make Jesus Christ his Lord and Savior. He did something very different from that.

He threw up.

Now, I don’t know what that has to say about me and my family but I think that it was an answer to prayer. While I was cleaning up vomit, my wife was comforting this young Muslim boy as if he was her own. The light of Christ shone through her that afternoon. And I’m still praying that it penetrates the heart of that young man.

Muslim’s suffer. Sometimes their suffering comes from being car sick. Sometimes it comes from ridiculous laws. Either way, it is the job of followers of Christ to be there for them, with love and truth, when that suffering comes.

It’s the sacrificial love and truth of God and his people that removes burqas.

Not ridiculous laws from benevolent dictators.

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A Prayer For The American Church

Heavenly Father,

We are so prone to wander. In many cases, we have replaced worshiping You with apologizing for You and making You more consumer friendly. We have remained silent while those around us have suffered. Like the German churches that sang their hymns louder so that they wouldn’t hear the screams of Jewish prisoners from the passing trains, we have neglected the hurting. Our nation deserves Your wrath, not Your blessings. Father, send us revival instead. And send it through Your church.

Father, forgive us for idolizing our political leaders. We throw our coats on the ground before them and wave our palm branches at them every four years only to suffer the pain that comes shortly after the election when we realize that even the best leaders are not You. Not even close. Forgive us for living under the red or blue glow of a political party rather than shining the light of Christ like we’re supposed to.

Forgive our hypocrisy. We talk so much about caring for the unborn. And we should. Help us to do even more to defend the cause of the babies who are murdered in this country before they are even born. But we pat ourselves on the back, convinced that this is enough. We talk a big game about respecting life but when we hear about a kid in Chicago who just lost his, we turn it into a political talking point. Lord, help us to care just as much for the 18-year-old kid on the other side of the tracks as we do for the child who has yet to be born.

Father, help us. Help the people who are tired of being labeled uneducated simply because they didn’t go to college to relate to the people who are tired of being called thugs just because they wear a hoodie. Help us to grieve with those who grieve. And if it’s Your will, give us the strength to do something to stop the grief. Even if it’s a grief we may not be able to fully relate to.

Father, help us to not settle for being divided into groups that aren’t supposed to get along. Help Your church to lead the way in breaking down the terrible walls that keep us apart. Lord, we do not want to abandon Your truth. Protect us from doing that. But Lord, help us to remember that it’s okay for us to abandon our cultural labels and the marching orders of those who turn a profit off of keeping us at odds with one another. Help us to remember that Your truth is not merely an American truth or a white truth. It is Your truth. And that is enough.

Help us to be committed to Your word. Forgive us for obeying the parts we’re okay with while ignoring the difficult parts. Father, Your word is truth. All of it. But help us not to be content with keeping Your truth to ourselves. Help it to impact the way that we work on our marriages, the way we raise our kids, the way we resist evil and the way we love the evildoer.

God, save us from fear. The Anxiety Industrial Complex rules the day. Business is booming in the fear industry. Everyone is worried and afraid. Help us not to be. Instead, help us to worship you, not just on a Sunday morning in a church building but on a Thursday morning on the way to work when we hear about yet another terror threat. Help us not to ultimately look to man for peace from anxiety. Give us a picture of the promise You gave us through Paul when You said that the peace of God would guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Help us to know the presence of Christ at the doors of our frightened minds and hearts.

Father, You are good. You have delivered us. Because of Your great grace, the work of Your Son and Your Holy Spirit, we are Your children. Help us to look for our identity no where else. And help our hearts to ache for those who are not Your children.

Lord, there will come a time when America will be no more. But Your kingdom cannot be shaken. It can be ridiculed. It can be mocked. It can be rejected. But it cannot be shaken. It is an eternal kingdom. Help us, your people, not to forget where our citizenship is.

Thank You for the mercy and patience You have shown to us.

Awaken us.

Expand Your kingdom as You see fit.

In Jesus Christ’s name,

Amen.

 

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Be Careful How You Use The Word Uneducated

The word uneducated has been thrown around a lot over the past couple of days. It’s one of those words that can’t really be used in a nice way. We don’t say that children are uneducated. We just say that they’re in the process of getting their education. Usually, when we use the word uneducated, we’re trying to find a nice way to call people dumb. The only problem is that it’s not too nice. And it’s, well, an uneducated thing to say.

A while back I was driving my 1990-something automobile down a busy road at night when smoke suddenly started coming out from under the hood. I jumped out at a red light and tried to correct the issue. About a mile down the road, my 1990-something automobile reminded me that I don’t know anything about cars. The smoke got worse but I managed to guide the dying automobile into a church parking lot.

I got out and said a prayer.

And then I made a phone call.

The guys who came to help me don’t carry any initials after their names. They’ve never been asked to write a book about anything. They’ll probably never give a commencement address. I, on the other hand, have spent a lot of years in school. When I finish my current degree I will have spent almost as much time in school after high school graduation as I did before.

But standing next to that dead car of mine, guess who the uneducated one was.

Some of the most brilliant people I know have never been to college. Have you ever watched a carpenter work? A good one is one half Michelangelo and one half Mike Rowe. He’s an artist with dirt under his fingernails and blisters on his hands and drive in his heart. And he’s far from uneducated.

There are many times in my life when I don’t know what my next step should be. When I find myself in that situation, I don’t go looking for the guy with the most degrees. I go looking for the guy with the most wisdom. The two are not the same. Typically, the guy with the most wisdom has more gray hairs and wrinkles than he does degrees.

A while back someone asked me if it was a requirement for a pastor to go to seminary. For me, it was. I needed the discipline and rigor. But that’s not the case for all ministry leaders. Some of the best ones I know have educated themselves through interaction with other wise leaders and reading a lot. On the other hand, there are those pastors who can’t keep track of all of their degrees but who also couldn’t recognize the Holy Spirit from a graduation robe.

This is not to say that degrees and higher education do not matter. They do. If you’re getting surgery, you want the guy holding the scalpel to have tons and tons of initials after his name. A good, formal education is a necessity for some. But not for all.

We have to remember that we’re all different. We have different roles. And those different roles don’t make some better than others. Society needs doctors and carpenters. The best example for us is the Trinity where we see one God made up of three distinct yet equal persons. The Holy Spirit is no more or less God because he’s not the one who died on the cross.

No matter who came out on top in the election, I knew I wouldn’t be happy about the winner. I can’t remember the last time that I was happy with the outcome of an election. Maybe one day I will be. But I’ve never called in sick to work or asked for the day off from classes because I needed to cope with the bad news. There are a lot of highly educated people who did just that this week. I know a mechanic, a guy who some in our media would refer to as uneducated, who wasn’t too thrilled with this week’s election results either. But he went to work the next day.

It goes to show, there’s a difference between being uneducated and miseducated.

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You Say You Want A Revolution

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I was hoping that the guy would say that the was misquoted. He didn’t say that. Instead he doubled down.

A few weeks ago, a popular radio host said that if his candidate didn’t win the presidential election, it would be time to take up arms and march on Washington. He wasn’t speaking allegorically. He was talking about starting a war. And when the reporter gave him a chance to turn down his rhetoric a notch or two, he turned it up. In the weeks leading up to the election, I’ve seen similar responses. In my own town, there’s a “militia” that is “training” in case the other candidate wins the presidential election. A few national news outlets came down to do a story about them. You can imagine how proud we all are.

Can we just cool it with the revolution talk?

Not too long ago, revolution was something we talked about doing in a voting booth. Now it’s something people talk about doing in the streets if things don’t go their way in the voting booth. But these people forget. Or maybe they never knew. An actual revolution is nothing like the one you play in a video game. There is no pause button. You can’t turn it off. The casualties are real.

If you really love America, an actual revolution with blood and casualties should be the last thing that you want. If you’re as patriotic as you claim to be, you should do all you can to shut down even the slightest talk of another civil war.

Instead, if you really want a revolution, here’s something revolutionary for you to do.

Love Jesus Christ with everything that you have and are.

Love your neighbor, even if she voted for someone you don’t like.

Men, lead your family. But don’t do it like a some of the authoritarian types trying to get you to vote for them. Do it like Jesus who served by laying down his life for his people. Instead of spending every other weekend out in the woods “training” with your “militia,” how about staying at home and training your kids how to be men and women who love God and neighbor.

If it’s a disturbance that you want, just tell the truth. And live a life that matches what you say. That’s in short supply these days. People will really think you’ve gone nuts when they see you doing that. And just maybe, they’ll be inspired to fall in line behind you.

I don’t want to see good people get hurt. But that’s what will happen if we have another revolution or civil war.

I’d rather just see good people being good. And they’re out there. I’ve seen them. I know them.

That might not be the sort of revolution that makes for an exciting video game.

But it is most certainly the kind of revolution that we need.

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In Defense of Kirk Herbstreit

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I’ve been critical of Kirk Herbstreit, the analyst for ESPN’s College GameDay. My problem wasn’t personal. It was petty. I always thought that Kirk was biased toward the team he once played for, the Ohio State Buckeyes. I hate the Ohio State Buckeyes. As I’ve grown older, I’ve learned that we’re all biased. If I had Kirk’s job, 15 minutes of every episode of College GameDay would be devoted to the Georgia Bulldogs. And ESPN’s ratings would tank.

Something else has happened with age. And I’m not just referring to my age.

I’ve realized that Kirk Herbstreit is an example of what it means to be a man.

Herbstreit and Coach Lee Corso have been analysts for College GameDay since the show’s beginning. Herbstreit has always come to the table with the expertise that comes with having played quarterback for a major college football program. Corso always brought a level of goofiness to the show. But it wasn’t too much. Even when the old coach picked against our team, we all still loved him. Not everyone would admit it, but Corso has always been a big reason why we keep tuning back in every Saturday in the fall.

In 2009, Corso, who is now 81, had a stroke. He spent a significant amount of time in the hospital and rehab. He made it back to his spot in front of the camera by the next football season. And he’s still there, putting on mascot headgear and firing up fanbases all across the country.

But he’s not the same.

Coach Corso’s timing is a little off. He gets confused. He stumbles over words. He looks, well, like a guy in his 80s who had a stroke a few years ago. Our culture frowns upon that sort of thing. We prefer the young and unblemished over the old and wrinkled. The old and wrinkled have a way of reminding us of where we’re all headed.

A few weeks ago, I watched College GameDay with my kids. Coach Corso was having a hard time saying what he wanted to say. It was like his mind and his mouth weren’t in tune with each other. That week’s celebrity guests even gave him a little grief for his frequent verbal fumbles.

It was hard to watch.

But as I paid closer attention, I saw the beauty in what was happening.

While I was listening to what Corso was trying to say, I couldn’t help but notice what he was doing. He and Kirk Herbstreit, the former college football quarterback and current ambassador of the game, were holding hands with each other. If you’ve ever had to talk on TV, you know that losing your train of thought for a split second feels like three hours. It’s brutal.

Kirk was lending his hand to the aging coach to remind him that it was okay. He wasn’t alone. And when the words just wouldn’t come out, Herbstreit was there to fill in the blanks. Or offer a gentle correction.

There are plenty of men who can run fast and lift a lot of weight but who don’t know what it really means to be a man. Kirk Herbstreit seems to know. God didn’t design men to be strong as an end in itself. The strength he gave to men is meant to serve those whose strength is fading.

Christians talk a lot about respecting life. Usually, we’re referring to the unborn when we talk that way. That’s a good thing. But it’s not the whole story. Respecting life also involves caring for the young adult who has to dodge bullets on his way to work. And it refers to serving those who have been around for the better part of a century and who aren’t what they used to be. Sort of like Kirk Herbstriet has been doing every Saturday since Lee Corso’s stroke.

Kirk Herbstreit likes Ohio State. It’s obvious.

But Kirk Herbstreit loves and respects Lee Corso. That’s even more obvious.

And for that, I’ll always be a fan of the former Ohio State quarterback.

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When They Cry

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On Wednesday afternoon I had the privilege of picking up my sons from school. When they climbed into my truck, something wasn’t right. One son was his normal self. The other one was not. My parenting instincts kicked in. I asked if something was wrong. He said that there wasn’t. His answer did nothing to ease those nagging parenting instincts so I asked again. This time he said that he wanted to wait until we got home to tell me what was wrong. In private.

By this point, I really knew that something was wrong.

When we got home, I took him to the private place that he seemed to be longing for. When he sat in my lap, the tears poured out of him. And they came out loud.

He explained to me that another kid at school was mean to him earlier that morning. I could barely make out his words between the wailing. I thought about whoever the guy was who made up the saying about sticks and stones and words that never hurt. That guy  obviously never had anyone say anything mean to him. The words spoken to my son earlier that morning had broken his bones.

I let him cry and held him tight. When he got a little quieter, I told him to cry some more. “Get it all out, son. It’s okay,” I told him. And so he did.

When all of the tears were gone, we had a good talk. All of it, the mean words that morning, the tears that afternoon and our private conversation, were an answer to prayer.

Minutes before I picked up my kids that afternoon, I said a prayer. Sitting in my truck in the car line, I asked God to help me to be patient. I asked him to give me the right words to say to my sons. I asked for words of grace. God rarely answers our prayers the way that we expect him to.

Sitting there in that room with my sobbing son on my lap and my shirt wet from his tears, God gave me what I asked for. He gave me not only the words to say but the opportunity to tell my son what he needed to hear.

I told my son that looking like everyone else is a dead end game. I reminded him about his true identity in Christ. I let him know that part of being a man who leads and does significant things means that people will take shots at you for no good reason. I reminded him how much his family loves him and how much more Jesus loves him. It was good to see him smile at the end our our talk and cry session.

On his way out of the room, I thought about my own childhood.

I thought about wrestling magazines.

I used to get bullied a lot. Once, after a nasty encounter with one of the neighborhood bad guys, I ran into my room and looked at wrestling magazines while crying. I grew up in a single-parent family. My mom had to work. I had to spend a lot of time alone. As I looked at those magazines, I wished that Ric Flair could somehow jump out of the pages and give me a few pointers on how to put the figure four leg lock on that bully. It sounds crazy I know. But it’s not uncommon.

A lot of kids today are growing up without a father around. Or if their father is around, all he has to offer them is tough talk on getting over it and a plea to shut up with the crying. I do a lot of counseling for my job. There are a lot of young men who have sat across the table from me who had dads like that. Dads who gave them nothing when the world was giving them its worst.

Dads, there is a difference between whining and crying. Our kids need to know the difference. And so do we. Whining is what kids do when they don’t get their way. When kids whine, they need to be corrected in love and told to stop. Crying is what kids do when their world caves in on them. When they cry, they need to be held and told that it’s okay to cry. Keeping pain bottled up isn’t manly. It’s foolish and dangerous.

I’m glad that God answered my prayer the way he did that day. I hope that through his tears, my son could see what his father had looked for and not found in a wrestling magazine.

I hope that he learned that the world can be a mean place.

I hope that he remembers that sometimes it’s okay to cry, no matter how old or how manly you are.

And I hope that our conversation the other afternoon gave him a vivid reminder that when the tears do come, he is still being held by his Father.

For I, the LORD your God,
hold your right hand;
it is I who say to you, “Fear not,
I am the one who helps you.” Isaiah 41:13 (ESV)

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Parenting Books And A Friend Like Keith

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Ten years ago, when I found out that I was becoming a father, I was a little scared. Growing up in a single-parent family, I wasn’t around a continual example of fatherhood. My mom was great but she couldn’t be a dad.

I taught myself how to throw a baseball and shoot a basketball. That didn’t end well for me. I didn’t even bother trying to teach myself how to change brake pads or replace a water heater. To this day, pretty much all I have to offer in that category is, “Lord, please keep my brake pads and water heater working properly.” So far, so good.

Fatherhood really worried me. I knew that I was supposed to be a godly father but I wondered if I really knew what that meant. Is it just a matter of going to church? Can I get away with just telling my kids, “If you can’t be good, be careful” when I drop them off at the skating rink? Do kids still get dropped off at skating rinks?

Keith Keller is the wisest man I know. He makes me think about things I otherwise wouldn’t. There’s no telling what kind of casual Christianity wasteland I’d be in if it were not for him. A lot of people can say that about Keith Keller.

When Keith found out I was going to be a dad, he gave me a call to congratulate me. And then he gave me some wisdom. It wasn’t that kind of, “Look here, boy, this is what you need to do” wisdom that a lot of people share without being asked. Keith was humble when he told me, in so many words, “Look, people are going to be telling you all kinds of stuff and recommending all of these books to you but here are two that I think you should read.”

The first book was called On Becoming Baby Wise. In some circles, saying that you followed what was written in that book is about like being caught with a copy of Mein Kampf. And in others, if you haven’t read Baby Wise, you need to be brought before some parenting court. People either hate that book or they belong to a cult where they worship it. It helped my kids learn how to sleep and, so far, they haven’t turned into serial killers so I’m thankful for it. Just not thankful enough to join a cult.

The other book was even more beneficial. It’s called Shepherding A Child’s Heart and it was written by Tedd Tripp. Once my kids learned how to get to sleep on their own, I quit thinking about Baby Wise. I’m ten years into parenting and I still haven’t quit thinking about Shepherding A Child’s Heart.

Most parents settle for some version of behavior modification whenever their kids start acting crazy. When little John Henry gets caught pouring paint all up and down aisle seven at Wal-Mart, John Henry’s mom goes nuclear in order to get him to stop. Once he does and she’s away from the scene of the crime, the problem is solved. Or so she thinks. Really, all she’s done is applied a bandage to a cancerous mole. It might look like the problem’s gone but it’s still there. And it’s deadly.

Shepherding A Child’s Heart, while certainly not neglecting the importance of discipline, encourages us to address the real root of the problem. Our kids do not simply have behavior problems. They have heart problems. They have a sin problem.

I’ll spare you the book report. If you are a new parent or you know someone who is, Tedd Tripp’s book is a must read.

I don’t remember most of the gifts that my wife and I got while we were expecting our first child. I’m sure that there were a lot of diapers involved. For that, I am thankful. Well, I was. Not so much now. Those days are gone. But I’ll always be thankful to my friend Keith Keller who gave me a couple of solid book recommendations. And I’ll always be thankful to God for giving me a friend like Keith Keller.

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I Don’t Belong Here

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I don’t feel at home here. More and more, I’m feeling like an alien. Or the uninvited guest who brought the bad potato salad to the picnic. I just don’t belong.

When I watched the debate on Wednesday night where Hillary Clinton justified the violent murder of a full-grown baby, I kept thinking about how I don’t belong here.

The following morning I saw political experts on major news channels support her serial-killer like description of partial birth abortion as if it were nothing more than a trip to the dentist’s office. It made me feel out of place in my own home.

When I realized that out of all of the people who could have been standing opposite of Mrs. Clinton to defend the cause of life, we are left with a reality TV star who just a few years ago voiced his support for partial birth abortion and just a few months ago praised Planned Parenthood, the very organization behind most of the abortions in this country, I really felt out of place.

Over the past year, I’ve looked to the church as a whole for relief. Sadly, when I see many of her leaders justifying the evil of one candidate because it is somehow lesser than the evil of another candidate, I really feel like an alien. Big name Christian leaders who I once admired for standing against the current have contorted scripture simply to see their candidate get into office.

I’ve never felt more out of place.

Minutes before Wednesday night’s debate, my son asked me a question. He wanted to know why the culture was getting so bad so quickly. He had just seen a commercial on TV that sort of put it right before his eyes. I don’t remember what I told him. I hope it was good. But I’ll never forget his question. It’s one I ask myself quite often.

I think often about how quickly our world has changed and how out of place I feel in it. And in a way, I hope that both of my sons feel the same way. As parents, we do all that we can to make sure that our kids fit in. In reality, we should be training them to do the exact opposite.

Some find their identity in a political party. When I look in that direction, I see groups of people who care nothing about me or the God I serve. All they want is to stay in power.

When I look to the church, more and more, I’m seeing a body that has lost its way. Relevance and pragmatism have taken the place of salt and light.

The more I read my Bible and look at the world, the less at home I feel.

I think that’s sort of the point.

For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come. Hebrews 13:14 (ESV) 

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