I Hope I Never Become a Cool Dad

I love being a dad, but I hope I never become a “cool dad.”  Check out this commercial and really ask yourself what this is trying to teach men about what it means to be a dad.

Moms and Dads need to care more about their kids than they care about their kids’ opinions of them.  Sure I want my son and daughter to think I’m fun and I want them to enjoy spending time with me as they get older… but not at the cost of putting them in charge over me.  I am their Dad and God has given me the responsibility to teach them to respect authority, to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with God (Micah 6:8).

“Cool dads” have a tough time doing that because discipline and correction aren’t cool.  I hope I never become a cool dad.

MTV Special Report on Abortion

MTV has followed teenage girls who have gotten pregnant through their series, “16 And Pregnant.”  In a new special report they will follow one young woman who has already been featured in 16 and Pregnant and then got pregnant again.  According to Entertainment Weekly:

“The special, airing Dec. 28 at 11:30 p.m., will follow one former 16 and Pregnant subject, Markai, as she wrestles with the decision after becoming pregnant for a second time. Dr. Drew Pinsky will also talk with young women who, like 27 percent of teens who end up with unplanned pregnancies, have chosen to end them. MTV sources say the documentary will tackle all sides of the issue, including the importance of contraception and the devastating effects of facing such a decision.”

In some ways I think this is great because this is a very serious issue that deserves honest treatment, but I simply do not trust MTV to paint an accurate portrayal of the aftermath of such a decision.  It’s one thing to follow someone leading up to this decision, it’s another to walk with them and talk to them about it in the following years.  Biblical viewpoints aside, the effects of abortion are devastating on both the woman and the baby’s father (if he knows).

I’m not writing this distanced from the issue: people I know and love and really care about have had an abortion (or their girlfriend did).  One woman told me that every time she sees a girl who would be the same age as her aborted daughter a little piece of her heart begins to cry.  Guys aren’t the ones who get pregnant, but they also endure much loss over the abortion too.

Ben Folds Five wrote a beautiful yet melancholy song about his girlfriend having an abortion the day after Christmas while his parents were away.  Songfacts.com has a great writeup on this song and quotes Ben Folds as saying,

“People ask me what this song’s about… I was asked about it a lot, and I didn’t really wanna make a big hairy deal out of it, because I just wanted the song to speak for itself. But the song is about when I was in high school, me and my girlfriend had to get an abortion, and it was a very sad thing. And, I didn’t really want to write this song from any kind of political standpoint, or make a statement. I just wanted to reflect what it feels like. So, anyone who’s gone through that before, then you’ll know what the song’s about.”

Raising Sexually Healthy Children

I just read one of the best articles on CNN I’ve ever read.  “Sex ed in the age of Snooki” is a great reality check for parents, grandparents, teachers, pastors and anyone else who cares about children and teenagers.

The author, Ian Kerner, hits the nail on the head:

“On the surface, I’ve got it easy as a parent—my wife and I have two sons. ‘Boys will be boys’ goes the conventional wisdom. We’ve come to expect—and often excuse—their bad behavior. That means it falls on a girl’s shoulders to have the self-confidence and self-esteem to create and protect boundaries in respect to her sexuality. While I think it’s important to teach girls how to be empowered gatekeepers of their own sexuality, I also believe that we have to focus on the boys, not let them off the hook. If girls operate in the male gaze (both actual and internalized), then we need to change that gaze. Boys need to learn how to see girls differently.”

Dr. Kerner provides some really helpful and practical (but not easy) advice for parents who want to raise sexually healthy children.  I strongly encourage anyone reading this post to read the article linked to above (it’s fairly short too, so it’s not a tall order).

“Christmas is for those who hate it most”

I’ve grown to love the Gospel Coalition Blog.  If you love good theology, you should absolutely have it bookmarked and check in with it (or hop on their fan page on FB, so that way their new posts show up in your FB homepage).

Matt Redmond wrote an excellent post worth reading: Christmas Is for Those Who Hate It Most.  Here’s an exceprt:

“Not too long ago, I heard from someone about how difficult Christmas would be because of some heartbreak in their family. There was utter hopelessness and devastation. Christmas would be impossible to enjoy because of the freshness of this pain. It’s been a story very hard to forget.

“… Christmas—the great story of the incarnation of the Rescuer—is for everyone, especially those who need a rescue. Jesus was born as a baby to know the pain and sympathize with our weaknesses. Jesus was made to be like us so that in his resurrection we can be made like him; free from the fear of death and the pain of loss. Jesus’ first recorded worshipers were not of the beautiful class. They were poor, ugly shepherds, beat down by life and labor. They had been looked down on over many a nose.”

LWAYG: Religious Tolerance

Many people believe that all religions are ultimately the same because they all teach you to love your neighbor as yourself.  If you want a clear example of this, take a look at this video: Religious Tolerance: The Golden Rule.

However, just because different religions all share a version of the Golden Rule, that doesn’t make them the same.  Saying this makes all religions the same it extremely disrespectful and negligent since this basically finds a “Lowest Common Denominator” between the different faiths and intentionally ignores everything else that is different.  If we would not treat other cultures that way (afterall, all cultures have a version of marriage and basic community laws… so can’t we say all cultures are the same?), then why would we treat religion this way unless there’s a hidden agenda?

I came across the following video about the high school in Modesto, CA.

I know that some people might say that teaching our kids about other religions might tempt them to leave their Christian faith to follow Buddhism or some other faith.  I believe that God is not afraid of religious education, we just need to be wise about it.  The more I learn about other religions and the more I read and listen to people who I disagree with the more I find myself growing in my faith as a Christian.

Ultimately, all other religions are a matter of working your way into Heaven (except for biblical Judaism).  Christianity is a religion of faith: we are not “saved” and made children of God because we are good or because we have done certain things.  We are adopted as God’s children because we have placed our lives under the rule of Jesus Christ (aka: we’re trusting Jesus and have put our faith in Him).  Other religions say DO; Christianity says DONE.

I wish I had time to share thoughts on each of the major religions, but I simply don’t have the time right now.  What I do want to emphasize is the religion of most people today: Moralistic Therapeutic Deism.  MTD teaches:

  1. God created the world and watches over human life.
  2. God wants people to be nice and good and fair to each other.
  3. God wants people to be happy and to feel good about themselves.
  4. God isn’t actively involved in the world very much and doesn’t force himself on anyone.
  5. Good people go to heaven when they die.

This isn’t one of the “World Religions” that is taught formally anywhere, but I think most of us can see aspects of this in ourselves.  Not all of that is bad, some aspects of each of these five points of MTD are true, but believing all of these completely is an absolute disregard of what the Bible teaches.

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6

But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few will find it. Matthew 7:14

For there is one God and one mediator between man and God, the man Jesus Christ. 1 Timothy 2:5

These are pretty clear statements denying that all “good” people go to heaven.  There’s no way around it: Christianity is an exclusive religion in many ways.  Everyone is invited, but only those who place their faith in Jesus Christ and repent of their sins will be saved.

Here’s my point: Know what you believe and know what the Bible teaches… but listen to other people too.  Listen to them in order to learn more about your faith in Christ through them, not just to debate or to prove them wrong.  Respectfully discuss theology and faith and spirituality with people.  Don’t be afraid to confess your exclusive faith in Jesus Christ or to disagree with the other person’s viewpoint, but don’t be afraid to actually listen to the person you’re speaking with either.

50 Druggiest Colleges…

An online site, “The Beast,” has compiled a ranking of the “50 Druggiest Colleges,” and the top four are all in New England.  I have never heard of this website before, but it was mentioned on the news so I went hunting for it online.  According to this list, 8 of the top 50 universities/colleges with the highest drug-use are in New England.

I do not know how accurate these rankings are, since they are based upon available student-rankings on the prevalence of drugs on campus, which seems like a very subjective and fairly unreliable way of doing a study.  I wouldn’t quote from this list in a research paper, but I think it’s casually interesting to consider.  Browse the site linked above for the full listing at your own risk, as I can’t vouch for what else you’ll find there – but here’s the top 20 Druggiest Colleges according to this study:

  1. University of New Hampshire
  2. Northeastern University
  3. Bryant University
  4. University of Maine
  5. SUNY Purchase
  6. University of Colorado Boulder
  7. SUNY Oneonta
  8. California State University
  9. West Virginia University
  10. Williams College
  11. Ohio Wesleyan University
  12. University of Oregon
  13. Washington & Lee
  14. Appalachian State University
  15. Northern Arizona University
  16. Kent State University
  17. Indiana University
  18. University of Vermont
  19. Washington State University
  20. Miami University

 

LWAYG: Relational Tolerance

We all have friends or family who we all have to tolerate for one reason or another:

  • Friends who practice a different religion
  • Friends with a different ethnic/cultural background
  • Friends who have and practice sexuality differently that we believe is good and right
  • Friends who seem to be chronic liars and gossips
  • Friends who just make boneheaded decisions

So here’s the question: How do you, as a Christian, influence your friends who look at life and the world from such a different perspective?

Debates are easy to get into, but are rarely effective or helpful.  Sure, there are times when a good debate is what the doctor ordered, but I think they’re usually just the “easy way” to act Christian by telling your friends you disagree.  Sometimes we just feel like we should make our opinion known, but we don’t know what to say or how to say it so we just blurt out our opinion and the debate begins.  The problem with debates are that you aren’t trying to learn anything, you’re trying to disprove your “opponent.”

Here are my suggestions for how to have a Christ-filled impact on your friends and family:

  1. You keep connected to Christ daily. This should be assumed, but we often forget how important this is because it’s so obvious.  If I’m not faithfully walking with Jesus I’m making it very difficult for God to use me.  Practice the spiritual disciplines, be faithful to Jesus.
  2. Pray for your friends regularly. God actually listens to and answers prayer!  Plus, if you’re not praying for your friends and asking for opportunities to help your friend know Jesus, then you might be walking past opportunities all the time because you’re not really looking for them.
  3. Show your friends Jesus’ love in action. Sometimes I think we live like Secret-Agent-Christians: Follow Jesus and do good things, but don’t let anyone know.  If people ask you why you do what you do… TELL THEM!  If you’re doing it “just because,” then don’t give a “Jesus-answer.”  But if you did what you did because of your faith then say so!  Remember tolerance works both ways – if you’re humbly following Jesus and your friends freak out then maybe they need to work on being more tolerant too.
  4. Talk about Jesus. This goes along with #3 above.  When you do get into conversations about faith with your friends FOCUS ON JESUS, not on evolution or homosexuality or whatever other hot-button topic comes up.  If you convince your friends that God created the world (and people too!), then great: your friend now believes God created everything but they still don’t have faith in Jesus Christ!  The Gospel is central to Scripture and our faith… keep it central to your conversations too.
  5. Remember that Jesus doesn’t approve of or overlook your sin anymore than he overlooks or approves of your friends’ sin. If you’re frustrated that your friend is going going to parties or sleeping with her boyfriend or whatever else, first ask yourself what sin you need to confess and repent of.  That doesn’t mean you need to wait until you’re perfect before you lovingly and humbly confront your friend, but it does mean that you remember there are things about you that you could be confronted about too.  The Bible teaches time and time again that judgment begins with the house of God, meaning that God’s children are held to a HIGHER standard that non-Christians… so we have no reason to be harder on others than we are on ourselves.

I just love Colossians 3:5-14, because it reminds me who I am (who I am apart from Christ, and who I am in Christ).  Read it below here:

“Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practicesand have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”

Just look at what we’re told to stop and what we’re told to do.  If we could keep this passage in our minds every day I think we’d start to look a lot different… and so would those around us.  I think we’d all start to look a lot more like Jesus.

A Theology of Marriage

I don’t have tons of time to post today, but I’ve been thinking a lot about a theology of marriage lately.  I wonder how many of us really think about why God created marriage and what impact that should have on how we view marriage.  Here are a few of my quick thoughts (sorry I don’t have more time to flesh this out more):

  • God teaches us about his love towards us through us observing the mutual love that is so obvious in healthy, godly marriages.
  • God created us to love and serve Him.  Likewise, husbands and wives ought to enter into marriage to love and serve one another.  Issues of the husband’s “headship” aside (that’s an issue for another post altogether!), the Bible is clear that both spouses should love and serve each other sacrificially.  God demonstrated his love for us most clearly in the sacrifice of the Incarnation (aka: God the Son becoming a man, Jesus Christ) and dying on the cross to take our sin/judgment upon himself so we could be reconciled to God.
  • Individuality is overrated.  When husbands and wives hold onto their own individuality in a rigid way others often look at that marriage and think, “They’re married?  But they just keep doing their own thing, they don’t really seem to do anything for or with each other.”  When Christians try to keep doing “their own thing” while “following Christ,” nonbelievers ask, “If you’re a Christian and you’re following Jesus, why aren’t you different” and then conclude that Jesus makes no difference.
  • Adultery is not just about sex.  The sins of adultery and sex outside of marriage runs deeper than mere sexual immorality – they are shadows and metaphors of idolatry.  We cannot worship Jesus Christ and _______ (fill in the blank).  If you try to do that, then you’re not really worshipping Jesus the way you ought to and you’re worshipping him in vain.  “Open marriages” may be more common than I realize, but sex outside of marriage is widely considered absolutely unacceptable and wrong.
  • God didn’t need to make sex pleasurable or fun, he chose to!  Following Jesus Christ is not a fun-less lifestyle, but ought to be characterized by joy and peace.
  • There are rough patches in marriage that you need to stubbornly “stick with it” through; and there are times of suffering and trials in life where we cling to Jesus Christ to get us through them.  But marriages and faiths that have weathered the storms are left stronger and deeper and better prepared for whatever life may throw at them.
  • Divorce just isn’t right… that’s why it hurts so much and leaves so much pain and devastation in its wake.  People whom you’ve trusted with your everything should not desert or reject you, especially after they make a vow to love you “in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer, etc.”  Times change and even people change, but vows and love must be kept.  When we walk away from our faith in Christ there is a similar effect.  Some feel bitter and callous and numb; others feel free and liberated.  But, in the end, there is still a hole (acknowledged or not) that nags to be recognized when we try to give our love/faith to another.
  • Homosexuality would then reflect man-centered religion.  Just as people were created to worship God (and not other people), so men were created to love (romantically) women (and vice-versa).
  • Sacred Marriage.  This book has had a HUGE impact on me personally and on my marriage.  The tagline says it all, “What if God designed marriage to make us holy  more than to make us happy.”  I don’t care who you are (married, divorced, unmarried, teen, college, young adult, elderly, etc.), you will learn a ton from this book!

I could keep going, but I think this suffices for now to get our minds cranking on how deeply God intends for marriages to reflect our relationship with Him.  How healthy is your marriage?  How healthy is your faith?

Christian Persecution

I don’t even remember how I came across this link, but the title immediately got my attention and I knew I needed to share it: “Christianity Arguably the Most Persecuted Religion in the World.”

According to the article, even low estimates claim that 150,000 Christians around the world are killed because they are Christians each year.  That’s 410 Christians being killed each day… and this is the conservative number.  The real count could be far greater.

Christians are singled out and persecuted in nearly 2/3 of countries in the world.  Yet, we American Christians are so insulated from all of this that we are simply ignorant of the reality so many endure each day.  I want to encourage us to pray for the persecuted Church.

Voice of the Martyrs is a wonderful Christian organization which seeks to inform Christians about the global situation while providing opportunities to do something about it, go to their website at www.persecution.com.  This page of the VOM website gives the latest news stories available regarding Christian persecution: VOM Newsroom.

 

LWAYG: What Does Christian Tolerance Look Like?

Dictionary.com defines “Tolerance” as “a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward opinions and practices that differ from one’s own.”  Here’s a video that’s not only hilarious, but insightfully pokes fun of the extent to which many have taken “tolerance” today.

TOLERANCE ASSUMES DISAGREEMENT.  Think about it: If we both agree that Tom Brady is far superior to Peyton Manning, then there’s nothing for us to tolerate about each other’s opinion!  However, if you believe that Manning is better than Brady then there would be a need for some tolerance in our football preferences (and you’d be wrong!).  You simply can’t tolerate what you don’t disagree with.

I also believe we’ve all seen people with different beliefs “tolerate” each other by ignoring the huge differences that are real.  If tolerance ignores or undermines differences then it isn’t really honest, it’s irresponsibly cutting the two beliefs down to make them the same.  Saying that Christianity and Islam are both equally good because they both teach that there’s one God and you should do good things is totally offensive to both Christianity and Islam because it isn’t taking their beliefs seriously.

So in a world where tolerance has gone rabid, what does Christian Tolerance look like?

Matthew 7:1-5 – Examine your own sin before you go around pointing out other people’s sin.  Your job is not to be a “sin detector.”  Before you point the finger, honestly and humbly pray that God would deal with your own sin first.  Many non-Christians twist this verse to mean “Don’t ever judge people.”  But that’s simply not what it says: It says we must take the log out of our own eye so that we can effectively remove the speck of sawdust from our neighbors’ eye.

2 Timothy 3:16-17 – The Bible is “God-breathed,” and is our measuring stick for truth and life.  Sure, the Bible was written a long time ago, but as we read it we discover it is intensely relevant to our daily lives.  If you’re not a Christian you won’t accept something as true because the Bible says so, but if you believe the Bible really is God’s Word then it’s worth your time to learn what God says so you don’t get sucked into believing whatever’s popular to believe among your friends.

1 Peter 3:15 – “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect” – Ultimately, we are convinced that God’s Word is true.  But the Bible does not teach us to go around bashing people over the head with Scripture until they believe what we believe.  A few things to note about this verse:

  • “Be prepared to give the reason.” This doesn’t say, “Always be prepared to preach a sermon…” it says “to give the reason.”  Live your faith in Christ wherever you are, and be prepared to tell people why you’re different when they ask.  This means that people have asked you a question, “Why are you so different?” or “Why are you a Christian?”  If you fit in with those who aren’t following Jesus I think it’s time to ask yourself if you’re really following Jesus or just fooling yourself into believing that you are.
  • “Do this with gentleness and respect.” Speaking the truth without love makes the truth taste like battery acid.  Being loving without any truth leads to a foundation made of Jello.  We need to be men and women who are good listeners and ask good questions.  When we listen to others and show them respect, even if we have to speak some very hard words of truth they will be received much better than if we blast away with truth.

Christian Tolerance does exist, but it’s unfortunately too often eclipsed by brashness and arrogance.  Just as Jesus showed grace and compassion to prostitutes and lepers and tax collectors, we Christians must also show grace and compassion to those who often find themselves on the receiving end of Christian judgmentalism.  We must not compromise on what Scripture teaches, but we must be quick to give grace and mercy to those who need it most.