The Deadly Mistake Of Minding Your Own Business

He was the rock. He was a foundational leader of the church. But he wasn’t above being called out when he was wrong.

 

Peter was eating with Gentiles (Galatians 2:11-14). At first, that doesn’t seem like much to me because, well, I’m a Gentile. But Peter had spent his entire life living by the strict dietary restrictions we find in the Old Testament. Things changed in Acts 10 when God gave Peter a vision of several unclean animals in a sheet and said every hunter’s favorite Bible verse, “Rise, Peter; kill and eat” (Acts 10:9-13). My friend calls this the first pig in a blanket.

So a little while later Peter finds himself doing the unthinkable. Eating with Gentiles. And I’m sure that he loved the taste of those pulled pork sandwiches and catfish. Something like that. You get the picture.

But then some of the Jewish elites showed up. And when they did, Peter was caught. Should he stay at the Gentile table at that proverbial New Testament high school cafeteria or should he go back to sit with his old friends. Peter went back to his old friends. But it was more than just nostalgia that pulled Peter away from the Gentile table. It was fear.

The message was clear from Peter. “Gentiles, I’m with you and this new covenant until my people show up and then it’s back to the old way. It’s been real.”

Thankfully, Paul was there and his message to Peter was even clearer. He opposed Peter publicly.

[14] But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas (Peter) before them all, “If you, though a Jew, llive like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?” Galatians 2:14 (ESV)

Here’s a translation of what Paul said. “Peter, why do you hold the Gentiles to standards that you can’t even keep?”

This was a pivotal time for the church. Peter was influential and his hypocrisy could have led the young movement back into the self-righteousness that they had been delivered from. Paul’s open confrontation could have caused a major split between he and Peter and, by extension, the church as a whole.

But it didn’t. And for that, we have Peter to thank.

Paul doesn’t tell us how Peter responded to being held accountable by the former murderer turned missionary to the Gentiles. Did he storm out of the room? Did he post a vague Facebook status in all caps about people needing to, “Mind their own business?”

One of Peter’s letters, written years after this incident gives us a good clue.

[15]  And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, [16] as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures. 2 Peter 3:15-16 (ESV)

Peter refers to Paul, the one who rebuked him years earlier, as, “Our beloved brother” and speaks of him having God-given wisdom. He acknowledges that Paul’s words can be hard to understand and easy to to distort but he finishes with a very important assessment of Paul’s letters. They are part of the Scriptures. That is, they carry the authority of God’s word.

We need Paul’s in our life. We need people who care enough about us and the gospel to lovingly correct us when we are wrong. The very worst thing that could happen to the church or to you as an individual is for everyone around you to, “Mind their own business.”

And when those people do step in to lovingly hold you accountable, it does no good unless you respond like Peter and accept their authority and wisdom. Use their words as an opportunity to examine your life.

My growth in my walk with Christ has little to nothing to do with my own individual perseverance. It has much more to do with God putting people in my life who love me too much to, “Mind their own business.” I pray that he does the same for you.

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Excusing Our Kids To Death

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There is something hurting our children. It’s not in the water. It’s not the vaccines. And it’s not something on television.

The thing that’s hurting our children is parents.

That isn’t to say that we need to rethink the family institution and hand our kids over to the government, as some pundits propose. Rather, parents who really care about their children need to come to grips with the shortcomings of their children. Too many parents are excusing their children to death.

When my son was younger he was throwing a fit in public. This fit had all of the ingredients of a toddler tantrum: arched back, crying with no tears and throwing things. But I had a fall back. The fit had nothing to do with my son’s character or my parenting. He was teething. I joked with a friend that I’d be using the teething excuse until my son’s 18th birthday.

For some parents, that joke isn’t too far from reality.

We like to say that our uncontrollable toddlers are strong-willed. And when those toddlers turn into ten year olds, we blame it on a medical condition. And by the late teen years, when the prescription drugs have quit working, we just say that he, “fell in with the wrong crowd.” Never once do we blame the problem on sin or our own parenting.

When our child has a rampage at the McDonald’s playground and takes out three teeth from a girl half his size, it just sounds better when we blame it all on a psychotropic imbalance in his medial frontal artery or some such gibberish. If you just call it a sin problem, people think that you’re an idiot.

Let’s be clear. Your child has a sin problem. So does mine. So do you. And so do I. It is a problem of the heart. But somewhere along the way we began believing that a child’s heart problem could be treated by taking two pills and calling the doctor the next morning so that he can tell us to up the dosage to three pills.

Yes, there are strong willed kids. But in too many cases and for too many parents, strong-willed child is code for, week-willed parents. A strong willed child does not need a label. What he really needs is loving parents who have a will stronger than his.

Yes, some kids do have medical conditions that cause crazy symptoms and require medical attention. The key phrase there is some kids. Not all kids. The fact that the kid four houses down has a legitimate medical issue that requires a doctor’s attention does not mean that every parent on that street gets to throw away their responsibility to discipline and instruct their children and let a prescription do their job for them.

And yes, we do need to make sure that our kids do not fall in with the wrong crowd. But at the same time, we need to come to grips with the very real potential that our kids either are or are becoming the wrong crowd. When we fall back on the strong-willed child crutch or rely on pills over actual parenting, we should not be surprised when our kid becomes the leader of the Wrong Crowd Gang.

We are excusing our kids to death. Instead of justifying foolish behavior, we would serve our kids much better if we lovingly corrected that foolish behavior.

Parenting is hard. We all mess up. There are days when we feel like all we have done is correct our children and there are days when we go to bed at night afraid that we didn’t correct them enough. No matter how good of a job we do, when our kids grow up they’ll sit around a table with their friends and talk about something stupid we did while raising them. But we can’t give up.

We need wisdom.

We need prayer.

And our kids need us.

Us.

Our kids need us to guide them.

What they do not need is our excuses to cover for them.

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When We Talk About Divorce

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Churches are all over the place when it comes to divorce. Some pastors are sure to get a few amens on the topic so they preach against it every month or so. Others never mention it because the big money people in their church have been married a couple of dozen times.  Wherever you or your church fall on that spectrum, there are a few things that you need to remember.

I grew up in a house that was devastated by divorce. I know all about weekend visits and awkward phone calls. I do not write this as someone who read a book about divorce. I write it as someone who has lived it. I hate divorce. And God does too.

But we must be careful with our hatred of divorce. Yes, it is a sin but like most other sins, just because you have been impacted by it does not mean that you are the guilty party.

I’ve heard a lot of women whose husbands have walked out on them describe the anxiety, loneliness and condemnation they have felt walking into a church building. Whether true or not, they have told me, it sometimes feels like every eye in the house is directing its judgmental gaze toward them. Sadly, in many churches such a scenario is all too true.

The same is true for many men. The stereotype for them is that it was their laziness, drunkenness or infidelity that led to the divorce. I know many men who, though far from perfect, made great sacrifices to save their marriage and family. But it didn’t work. And so along with being abandoned by their wives, they get the added joy of being shunned by their church.

When we talk about divorce, we need to use a surgeon’s scalpel rather than a bully’s club. The scalpel can be painful but when used properly it brings healing. The club just knocks people around. We all know about the guy who loved getting drunk and sleeping with strangers more than he loved his own wife. But we must not forget about the hard-working, Godly husband who comes home one day to the surprise of a note from his wife telling him to jump in a lake and to have fun with the child support payments. One of those men needs strong correction and discipline from his church. The other needs love and assurance. They both need grace.

The Church must not follow the example of presidential politicians on the campaign trail. Trump, Clinton, Sanders and the rest can afford to paint with broad brushes on complex issues in order to appeal to the base. We can’t do that. We must speak to and love the individual in a way that is appropriate for the occasion.

There are a lot of broken hearts out there. Some of those wounds have been self-inflicted and others came like a shot from an assassin. But whatever the situation, God’s grace is sufficient. If we are serious about loving our neighbor we will do the hard work that comes with being vehicles of that grace.

We can’t do that if we are content to simply preach to the choir. And we can’t do it if we’re too scared to share the hard things the Bible says about painful issues. But we can do it if we take the time to know someone for who he is rather than who he used to be married to.

Divorce is painful.

I hate it.

So does God.

But God is the Master of bringing beauty from painful things.

May we who carry the name of Christ be used by him in that process.

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Your Kid Could Be On TV!

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Parents want to see their kids do well. Maybe even see them on TV one day. Just by following these simple steps, you will.

1. Only affirm your child. 

Speak pleasant words to her. Talk to her in baby talk if you’d like. Talk to her just like she’s one of your friends. Whatever. It doesn’t matter. Just be sure to keep it positive. But whatever you do, never ever tell her not to do something or that something is not right. Psychologists tell us that kids aren’t able to handle such talk from adults until they become adults themselves, and that doesn’t happen until sometime in their early to mid 30s.

2. Never hold your child accountable.

It’s not his fault that he keeps getting in trouble at school. It’s got to have something to do with his teachers. They just weren’t fully appreciating his artistic expression that time when he cut his finger and wrote “I Am the Beast Lord” in blood on the desk next to him. Ah, second graders these days.

It’s not his fault that he took a bite out of the arm of some kid on his baseball team. That kid should have done a better job of keeping his arm out of your son’s mouth.

And it’s not your son’s fault that he failed his spelling test. Him missing 19 out of 20 words and getting lucky on the word for has nothing to do with his lack of focus and hard work. It’s the teacher’s fault for making the words too hard. So pull him out of that school. And the next one. And the next one. You get the point.

3. Fight for her rights.

Her lack of playing time on the tee ball team has nothing to do with that time when she jumped the fence and ran away when the coach put her in right field. You guessed it, it’s the coach’s fault. Be sure to let him know. And then bad mouth him in front of your daughter on the way home from the game. Remember, your child is a lock for the world of professional sports, just as long as her coach gets his act together and finally recognizes the talent of your little three-year-old slugger.

Just by following these three simple steps, you could see your kid on TV one day. It will probably look something like this.

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And, if your little angel doesn’t cause you to have a nervous breakdown before his big TV appearance, you’ll get to be on TV with him explaining to everyone that you have no idea where he went wrong and that, “he’s always been such a loving little boy who just fell in with the wrong crowd,” as the police haul him away and clean up the carnage of his latest misunderstanding.

BONUS STEP

You’re not just any parent and you don’t want your child to be just any child. So this bonus step is for you.

4. Worship your kid.

I know, it sounds funny at first. That’s just because no one ever admits to worshiping their kid. But believe me, plenty of parents do it.

Don’t worry, you don’t have to dress up and go somewhere for this kind of worship. Well, unless your child wants you to. That’s really what kid worship comes down to. Whatever he wants, he gets.

So the next time he goes nuts when you take the fork out of his hand while he tries to jam it into an electrical outlet, give it back to him. His way is the best way.

The next time you tell her that it’s time to leave the park and she loudly tells you and every other parent in the county that she’s not ready yet, just lean back and say something about parenting being hard. And give her another ten minutes. Or an hour. It’s her call.

And remember, no self-respecting person would ever discipline his god. That would just be weird. So make threats if you must. Scream if you have to. Count to three five or six times. But, under no circumstances, should you ever actually carry through with those threats or do anything that even closely resembles correction. She’s your god, remember? And gods don’t need correcting. That’s why they’re gods.

If you can manage to follow through with this bonus step, you’ll do better than having a kid on TV. You’ll have this.

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Your very own dictator! Imagine the pride that you’ll feel when all of the other parents talk about their kids going to college and starting families when you trump them with stories of your little sweetie taking over his own country.

Who knew that raising a criminal and possibly even a maniacal mad man could be so easy?

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The Neglected Child

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There was a time when people lived in the house. There had to be. And they probably drove the car that’s parked out front.

But not anymore.

Now the house is almost impossible to see from the road. The weeds surrounding the house look like small trees. One of those small trees is growing through the car parked in the front yard.

The questions run through your mind. What turned this house into a shack? How long does a car have to stay in one place in order for a tree to grow through it? What happened?

And then you realize that the answer is much simpler than you first thought.

Nothing happened to this house. It’s all just a natural result of neglect.

A while back I took my kids to an indoor playground. I can’t prove it, but there are somewhere around 43 new diseases waiting to be discovered in indoor playgrounds. The folks responsible for these places know this. That’s why they put hand sanitizer dispensers on the wall.

I was watching my kids play while simultaneously wondering what kind of weapons grade bacteria was growing on the sliding board. Another kid caught my attention. He was playing with the hand sanitizer dispenser on the wall. Did I say playing with? I didn’t mean that. What I meant to say was eating. He was eating the hand sanitizer that came from the dispenser.

It’s always awkward when you have to correct someone else’s kid. But in this case I couldn’t help but think about this little boy losing his eye sight, needing a liver transplant and getting high. So I said something to him.

“Hey, buddy. You need to stop eating that.”

His answer was bold.

“No!”

The questions ran through my mind. How does a kid get to the point where eating hand sanitizer seems like a good thing to do? More than that, what was he taught that made him think that it was okay to yell at an adult?

The answer was simpler than I first thought.

Nothing happened to this kid. His actions were the natural result of neglect.

Parents who would never dream of leaving their child in a hot car while they run in to play a few games of video poker can still be guilty of neglect. You can stay by your child’s side every hour that she is awake and have her sleeping next to you during the hours that she sleeps and still neglect her.

It happens when a parent laughs when correction is needed. You’ve probably seen this before. A small child disobeys a direct command from her father. And it’s not just a lazy disobedience. It’s a bold, you-can’t-make-me-do-anything type of disobedience. Instead of correction, the father laughs it off and says something about her being just like her mother.

Sure, there may be a threat or two thrown in but it’s never followed through. In some ways, this is even worse than doing nothing. Empty threats train kids to believe that words and rules carry no power behind them. Even if those words come from a teacher. Or a judge. Or God.

Neglect also happens when a child is treated as an object of worship rather than a human being in need of training. On the surface this may look like the opposite of neglect. You’re with the child all the time. Your whole life revolves around him. Everything takes a back seat to his baseball schedule. Everything. Which is another way to say that you worship him.

If you want your son to have an identity crisis later in life because his professors, bosses and friends don’t treat him like a god, do everything you can to treat him like a god now.

Kids are a lot of fun. But they make terrible gods. They need their parent’s instruction, not their parent’s worship.

And kids are funny. But some of the things they say and do that seem funny at first are actually quite deadly. That’s when they need their parent’s discipline and correction instead of the nonverbal approval of mom and dad’s laughter.

Nothing good ever comes from neglect. It’s true for cars and houses and it’s true for kids. If you want to raise monsters, neglect the hard work of discipline and instruction. But if you want to raise men and women, you’ll have to get some dirt under your fingernails.

Compassionate discipline and correction are the preventative maintenance that helps to keep the monstrous weeds of idol worship and rebellion from growing up around your child.

There is no such thing as a perfect child.

Nor is there a perfect parent.

But that’s no excuse for neglect.

Bad Mistakes, I’ve Made A Few

A while back I got an e-mail from a friend. It was quick and to the point. I blew it and he was letting me know. He does this kind of thing a lot.

I couldn’t live without those e-mails.

I like to write. I try to do it everyday. That’s why I have this blog. It gives me a good place to say what’s on my mind, be it college football, Judge Judy or theology. Hence the name Pastoral Ramblings.

When I first started Pastoral Ramblings I would only write when I had some grand thought come into my mind. I was waiting for my masterpiece. That means I was usually waiting a long time. Two friends told me to stop doing that. My friend Marty told me to try to write almost everyday. My friend Keith quoted Seth Godin to me.

“No one ever gets talkers block.”

And so I started writing everyday. A lot of days, I get an e-mail from a friend. One of those e-mails I was telling you about. One that calls me out on a mistake.

Keith has written me quite a few times.

“Typo. The should be they.”

And Marty.

“I think it’s Lego. Not Leggo. Not sure how you check that to find out for sure.”

And Casey.

Irregardless isn’t a word.”

And Scott.

You’re. Not your.”

My friends aren’t being jerks or grammar Nazis. It’s not like they’re searching everything I write to find their own little gotcha moment on me. But when they see a glaring mistake, they let me know.

These are some of the most encouraging e-mails I get. I know that sounds weird. But they serve as reminders that I’m not alone. I have other people with me. Other people who care. People who care enough not to be yes men. People who show me how the church is supposed to work.

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Galatians 6:1 (ESV)

Jesus isn’t the head of a show or a program. He’s the head of the Church. The Bible calls it the Body. Jesus even identifies it with himself. The different organs and parts of a body, if that body is healthy, do not function on their own and they certainly do not function against each other. Jesus himself is a member of the Trinity, one Divine Being made up of three equal and distinct persons; Father, Son and Spirit. They work together.

So why should those who profess to follow Jesus expect to be different? What gives us the idea that it’s okay to be spiritual Rambos or Lone Rangers, fighting sin and Satan on our own? God designed the Church to be a living organism where each member looks out for the other.

We would do ourselves a lot of good if we stopped trying to convince our friends that we are perfect and stopped always looking past their imperfections. Otherwise, our friendships will become nothing more than vehicles for finding more self-affirmation or boosting our Twitter followers and Facebook friends. After all, it is possible to have a ton of friends while not really having any friends at all.

What we need are friends, even if it’s just a few of them, who really care. Friends who care enough to let us know when there’s a typo, be it the grammatical kind or the spiritual kind. If you’ve got that, you’ve got a lot.

A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. Proverbs 18:24 (ESV)

Editor’s Note: Dont start sending me abunch of e-mails leting me no about a typo. I really dont have them any more.Maybe once are twice butt not that much.   Its really not a problem for a righter of my calibur so dont worry about me. Thax!,,,,