Worshipping Youth, part II

This weekend I saw a commercial for Disneyworld vacations. It was brilliant. It began with a father and a son sitting side by side atop a giant waterslide. They look at each other, they grin competitively, and then they slide toward the pool below. But when they reach it, a transformation has taken place, and the father has become a boy as well! The son gives his father/new playmate an appraising glance, then an approving smile and they race off together. The rest of the commercial is a series of images showing the two enjoying their time playing, exploring, riding rides, and so on. When it ended, I was left with a feeling of wistfulness for my own childhood.

And that was when I realized that I was being played.

I said that the commercial was brilliant, and I meant it. It was brilliant in the same way that the first commercial ever made was brilliant. Maybe you’ve read about it:

Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.
(Genesis 3:1-6)

Talk about knowing your target demographic! And Disney knows theirs as well. They know that most Americans believe that childhood is magical, and that being a child preferable to being an adult. And if you’re like me, your brain is yelling, “But it is magical.” Let’s be clear: it isn’t, at least, it isn’t any more magical than the rest of life. Don’t get me wrong, childhood is great, it’s fine, it’s part of the process that God designed us to go through. In short, it’s good. But don’t go any farther. When we magnify childhood, when we make into the be all and end all of greatness, we cheapen every other part of life that God has made. We begin selling the idea that God made the first part great and everything after it is punishment.

If you don’t believe me, just try imagining the commercial if it were the other way around. The father and son sit at the top of the slide, they slide down, the boy is transformed into a man, and then what? They work 9 to 5 jobs together? They pay bills… in tandem? Watch TV together? That might work for a beer commercial, but even then, it just sounds too depressing.

The problem is that we think being an adult is drudgery. And whether we realize it or not, we communicate that thought to our children. Of course, if all you think of yourself as is just a consumer of goods and services, then perhaps you are not mistaken. Of course, if that is the case, you might also want to ask yourself why it is that you believe you are a Child of God and called according to His purpose.

Am I making sense here? As Christians, we have a sworn duty to become men and women of God. And part of that is raising our children to become men and women of God as well. We cannot fully do that if we ourselves believe that our children are better off staying children. We cannot do it if we believe the age old lie that we are raising children. We must remember that we are raising adults.

What do you say?

Protecting your family

There are certain Bible verses that stay in the forefront of my thoughts. They are typically verses with strong imagery, with straightforward application, the sort of verse that you can see in action around you practically anywhere you look. I Peter 5:8 is such a verse:

Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour

I think about this a great deal lately, about the last five words in particular. I know people who have been devoured by the adversary, people who have been eaten and metabolized by the awful work of sin. We think of being devoured as being destroyed, but nothing eternal can be destroyed, it can only be changed, and we all know people who bear the marks of such a transformation. To some degree, we all bear such scars ourselves.

I think about these things when I look at my children, when my daughter is squeezing my hand and looking up at me with large and innocent eyes, when my son is standing in the center of our living room staring up at the television and drinking in whatever we have chosen for him to see, when my wife is at home and I am at work and she is facing the dark thoughts of a dreary afternoon. I think about these things, and I wonder what, if anything, I have done to keep this beast at bay. Some days, I know and fear the answer to that question.

But I should be clear here, we are not to fear Satan. There is only one thing that we are to fear, and that is not fear itself, but God Almighty. For Satan, we reserve our vigilance. For Satan, we reserve our seriousness and our sobriety of mind. And we know what this means. It means no more laughing at little sins, at cute wickednesses and clever blasphemies. It means being wise and alert and sleeping with one spiritual eye open. It means going through our homes and looking at everything with an air of suspicion, with an air of caution, with the thought in the back our minds that our families and our own lives may depend upon it. Because whether we like to think about it or not, there is a beast out there, and he is hunting for more than just you.

A Message for Monday: The Evangelization of the Home

I had the opportunity to speak at my church last week and I ended up bringing a message about the evangelization of the home. You can listen to it right here, or if you want a copy for yourself, you can click here to download it.

[audio:The Evangelization of the Home.mp3]

Let me know what you think.

The First Type of Evangelism, part II

In my first post in this series, I discussed the Shema Yisrael and its connection to what Jesus Christ calls the first and greatest commandment. In this post, I want to backtrack a little bit and talk about evangelism in general. Before we go further, it might be useful to define what an evangelist is. The word “evangelist” is a transliteration of the Greek word evangelizesthai1 which means to “bring good news,” from eu- “good” + angellein “announce,” which is from angelos “messenger.” So an evangelist is one who brings good news, and since the word gospel means the “good news”, within Christendom an evangelist is one who brings or proclaims the Gospel.

Continue reading “The First Type of Evangelism, part II”

A Sermon for Sunday: Closing the Generation Gap

If you have never heard Voddie Baucham preach, you are missing out on one of the truly great experiences of the 21st century. If you have heard him preach, but you have never heard his message, Closing the Generation Gap, then you have some work to do. Preaching in 2006 before a large group of Southern Baptists pastors and their ministry associates, Baucham delivered a timely, engaging message on why Christianity in America is dying, and what we as Christians can do about it.

It is a message that still needs to be heard.

[audio:Closing the Generation Gap.mp3]

Click on the play button above to listen to the message, or right-click here and choose “Save Target As” or “Save Link As” to download the mp3. (Note: I have contacted Mr. Baucham and have been granted permission to distribute this message.)

Worshipping Youth

I’ve been thinking about this for a while now, and though I don’t have time to go into depth, I would like to throw out a thought. Let me start with a couple of assertions:

  • Christian American culture worships youth
  • Christian American culture does not respect parents and elders
  • Our attitude is in conflict with Scripture

Continue reading “Worshipping Youth”

The First Type of Evangelism

Our church’s verse for the year is “He that winneth souls is wise”, and while I have no problem with Scripture or focusing on winning souls, I’m a little underwhelmed with the modern concept of “soul winning”. And no, I’m not talking about my frustration with the concept of door-to-door evangelism, though before all is said and done, it might sound like it. You see, my understanding of the foundation of soul winning is found in the Shema Yisrael.
Continue reading “The First Type of Evangelism”

Marriage, Children, Love, and Responsibility

I’ve always been interested in the nature of responsibility, and in what makes a man or a woman finally pick up its mantle and seriously begin the journey toward true manhood or womanhood. I think for a lot of people, the catalyst is their first child or children. I used to think it was marriage, but after getting married, I realized that it is quite easy to have a pleasant marriage and remain quite selfish. There’s still plenty of time in a day for two reasonable people to basically do what they both want to do. Tonight we’ll eat at your restaurant and tomorrow night we’ll eat at mine; Friday night, the mall, Saturday morning, the golf course; etc…

A child changes that. Free time suddenly dwindles, days and night inexplicably become both longer and shorter, typically expanding or contracting as necessary to most effectively limit your perceived freedom. Everyone becomes more stressed out. Throw a little sickness or depression into the mix and you’ve got a custom designed crash-course entitled The Selfish You: Learning How To Defeat the Me-Monster. For those of you who don’t have children yet, I am not joking.

To be fair, the reason that a child can be so shocking to the system is that the experience challenges our beliefs regarding the purpose of our lives. Someone who is already living a life based on sacrifice, humility, and unselfishness, will notice only the blessings that a child brings: the first smile, the first laugh, the feel of the tiny head resting on their shoulder. To the selfish man, these things seem like such consolation prizes. Look at all that I gave up,” screams the selfish soul, “and all I get is laughs and smiles? I could have rented About a Boy or My Life and saved myself the trouble”.

Where am I going with all this? That’s a fair question. It’s partly a confessional on my part, an admission of my own failures, and an attempt to be more transparent, but it’s also an attempt to frame a question. Does this resonate with other first and second time parents? I have two children now, Gavin will be two near the end of May and Petra is going on eleven weeks. In many ways, the second child was harder than the first, but the first taught us so much that it’s hard to really compare them. God says that the fruit of the womb is his reward, and his blessings tend to be things that go against our nature (Matthew 5:11-12, Isaiah 55:8) How does this thinking compare with what others have experienced? Has God used children or marriage to move you toward responsibility and away from selfishness?

Man + Woman = Good!

As a man and a husband and a father, a lot of the topics on this blog tend to center around the home. As such, from time to time, I will have things to say about marriage and about children. Before I say some of those things, I do want to make one thing clear: it is a pet peeve of mine when people who champion childbirth and the responsibility that we have to multiply and replenish the earth – and make no mistake, I am one of those people – make comments that suggest or imply that a married couple who does not have children is somehow incomplete in the eyes of God.

While it is true that Scripture says that children are an heritage of the Lord, and that the fruit of the womb is his reward, and I am very much of the opinion that someone who is actively trying to prevent God from giving them said heritage/reward needs to reexamine their actions in the light of Scripture, I think it is worth looking at what Genesis 1:26-31 has to say about God, couples, children, and what is good, and then to think about these things in light of Isaiah 5:20.

And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth. And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat. And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat: and it was so. And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.
(Genesis 1:26-31)

Two things are worth pointing out here:

  1. When God created the man and his wife, he created them without children
  2. God said that they were good

That’s it. End of story. I don’t want to make too big a deal about this, but I’ve met enough couples that are childless and that do not want to be childless and most of them were struggling with the preconception1 that “if God doesn’t give you a child right away or at all, he hates you”, and Scripture doesn’t support that. God withheld children from Abraham and Sarah for years to give Himself glory and to make His own name great. So don’t be discouraged. It’s ok to want a child, in fact, it’s Scriptural to want a child, but because God hasn’t given you one doesn’t mean that he hates you. Enjoy your marriage, enjoy your husband or your wife. Treasure this time together. For whatever reason, God has decided that you need it.

1 pun slightly intended

Sheltering Children: Faith, Virtue, and Knowledge

Parents are always talking about how to protect their children without sheltering them. Invariably, in these conversations, the word “sheltered” is used as if being sheltered is a bad thing. I presume that most of the people who makes these arguments live in modern houses, with four or more walls and a roof and everything, and not, as they would seem to be advocating, on a bed of pine needles beneath a canopy of (preferably) sparsely limbed trees. To be fair, and to go ahead and make the anti-shelterian counter-argument before one of them does, yes, my house has windows. To go further, if a window overlooked an Adult Drive-in (my crack research team assures me that, while rare, they still do exist) I would either move, or keep that window closed.

My opinion on protecting children without failing to prepare them for life, is as follows. Anyone who reads the Bible to their children will have a hard time “sheltering” them. We have fratricide and other brutality in the first few chapters; keep reading and you’ll hit rape, incest, idolatry, rebellion, war, famine, pestilence, etc. And while I’m not advocating providing details to children, I am advocating the idea that they can understand more than we give them credit for. I have a friend who told his children that a prostitute was someone who behaves as if they are married when they are not. In the children’s minds, the prostitute was taking money to make dinner or to lay in bed and talk. But this was sufficient. The cynical mind says: but the child doesn’t truly understand what goes on when a man goes into a prostitute. A wise man says: do I? Proverbs says that the way of a man with a maid was too wonderful for him, Paul says that the true nature of the relationship between a man and a woman is a mystery. In the end, I think it is our foolishness that bites us, in that we believe that our exposure to sin has made us wiser rather than just more knowledgeable. We are become Eve, eating fruit not meant for us and gasping at the joy of untimely knowledge.

As a side note, in my experience, the problem with a sheltered child is that parents have often failed to give their children any real responsibility (authority for which they are held accountable). Responsibility and accountability allow obedience to perform it’s work, taking faith and adding virtue, and to virtue finally, knowledge.

Any thoughts?