Fundamentally afraid

Fundamentally afraid

Parents, are your children cowered into becoming frightened poster-boys of your ideology? Know this: fear eventually wears off. And when it does, they will search for sure footing and find none. They’ll wish you had been honest, upfront and gracious about truth, instead of focusing so much on fear.

Fear is appropriate when it walks alongside truth. But when it replaces truth, fear becomes an instrument of abuse, distortion, and resentment.

A child who is warned regarding electrical outlets will know both fear and truth. This is healthy. But a child who is threatened with monster stories, will one day discover the truth on her own and throw all caution to the wind. Her reckless abandon will be proportional to the fear once ingrained in her.

Children with fear complexes grow up with serious misconceptions. Here are three:

1. They can not articulate their beliefs. Society is curious by default and will question why they believe a certain way. Why do they prohibit this clothing, that drink, or that kind of music? Their answers will be variants of the worst possible thing that can happen. “Because rape…”, “because drunk beatings…”,”because demon possession…”. Bad is bad because it makes terrible things happen. They can not explain beyond that. Their principles are formed by reacting towards evil, instead of acting on truth.

2. They believe fear is a safe place to be. They are taught that the “world is out to get them” (though the definition of what consists of ‘world’ is a grey area). Home is safe, everything else isn’t. Fear becomes the norm. It’s no wonder we’ve seen so many cases of abuse stay hidden for decades within certain conservative movements.

3. They know more about sin than the Saviour. This is a tragedy. They grew up hearing of sin — society’s sin, their neighbour’s sin, their own sin. Everything had a direct relationship with sin. Sin, sin, sin. It’s a broken record, not a celestial choir. When Jesus is mentioned, He is never portrayed as Restorer & Rescuer. The cross is mostly God’s way of making you feel really bad about your sin. There is little victory. No joy. No complete forgiveness. Hope and glory are vague terms. Grace is rarely mentioned and never applied. They live with guilt, condemning themselves for every slip up.

There are many reasons why young people experience a ‘faith crisis’ as they start spreading their wings. Sometimes, it’s because they discover fear isn’t all it’s cooked up to be. When the curtain of fear drops, their shallow understanding of truth crumbles as well. “If mom and dad were wrong about the scare tactics, might they be wrong about everything else as well?

Here’s the good news: Jesus focused on truth. Truth, after all, sets free. These principles never shake or crumble. We discover His victorious Gospel, and read of the cross, where He nailed our sins, “triumphing over them” so that we might be eternally forgiven. In Christ we learn how to rightly worship, live, serve and fear. His Word gives us a new name, new identity & new hope.

If you are still hiding in fear, please stop. There’s a safe haven in the amazing grace of a glorious Saviour. Yes, the world is messed up. Yes, you might have messed up. But His Righteousness outshines it all.

Are you convinced or convicted?

convinced-or-convicted

Convincing someone is relatively easy. You throw a flurry of facts in their face, speak with an authoritative tone & share a handful of examples which prove your point. Pronto — they’re convinced. But only until they hear a more convincing argument.

Conviction, on the other hand, is intentional and fruit of personal study. While convincing is fleeting, conviction requires time. Convincing is a knee-jerk reaction while conviction requires reflection. To be convinced, you have only to listen to an argument and come away impressed. But to be convicted, you must roll up your sleeves, dig deep into books, hear both sides of the argument and test your conclusions. In short, conviction requires wisdom, while convincing needs only a moment of shock-and-awe. Convincing is free; conviction is earned.

I’d encourage you to consider your own worldview. It has been said that everyone believes something. The question is why do you believe what you believe? Are your beliefs fruit of being convinced or being convicted? Have parents, pastors & public opinion merely convinced you, or have they guided you towards studying & discovering the answers for yourself? We must taste and see for ourselves that the Lord is good (Psalm 34:8) and echo Paul’s conviction: “I know whom I have believed” (2 Tim 1:12).

When the ground shakes, the convinced are the first out the door. Those with convictions stand their ground.

Homeschooling will not save your soul

Homeschooling will not save your soul 600x362

Homeschooling is fine but we can’t hope it will become something it isn’t. Homeschooling is not:

  • The Gospel of Redemption
  • The infallible Word of God
  • The Holy Spirit, in order to transform hearts
  • The Truth which will set us free
  • The seal and primary sign of a true disciple
  • The means by which God’s people become more like Christ
  • The Good News to a dying people

One of the reasons there are so many embittered homeschoolers is because they expected homeschooling to be something it could never become. Idolatry always leads to frustration.

A lesson from the World Cup about passion

A lesson from the World Cup about passion

So the World Cup is full and overflowing. It’s that time of year where countries come together to do what they do best: bicker about referees! And all this soccer talk has left an impression on me. So, let me tell you about my dog.

Everyday when I come home from work, Fiona bounces out to meet me. She’s like a kangaroo stuffed into a dog suit. And she always has this squeaky toy in her mouth, and she wants me to throw it — get this — so she can go it and bring it back to me. So I can throw it again. She’s on instant replay. It’s like she’s thinking: “I’ll keep getting the ball until either I die or he does.” And the other day I was watching her and I thought, “Boy I wish I could be like that! Not be a dog, and look everyone in the ankles, but be so passionate about something so simple that I could repeat it over and over and over ad naseum!”

And that’s really what all this hubbub about soccer is about, isn’t it? There are 22 grown men running back and forth after a ball for 90 minutes. Not that big of a deal really. But it’s the passion that makes the difference, see. If you paid 22 grown men millions of dollars to run after 22 balls on a treadmill of sorts, no one would watch. But it’s the idea that these soccer teams are made up of the best players, guys who have dedicated their entire lives to this one sport. Soccer is their gift in life — it’s their whole life actually. And that’s passion, and that’s attractive. And it’s catching! I can take the money I earn from my dead end job and turn it into something passionate by buying the jerseys, and flags and investing in my team! So that, as fans, we become part of the passion that is radiating off of the team.

We love the idea of passion! We’d be addicted to it if we ever found enough of it. Our teenage years were spent dreaming of meeting someone so perfect that we have no alternative but to be dumbfounded with passion. Overcome with a profound sense of intense emotion. We want to be possessed by romantic loveliness and kiss people in the rain like that movie The Notebook and get married to the soundtrack of the Twighlight movies. In our careers, it sounds so amazing to work in a startup. We’re captivated with the idea that three guys can build an empire in their parent’s garage out of nothing but passion and granola bars!

There’s an article about this guy who spent the past 35 years building a kinetic sculpture of San Francisco out of 100,000 toothpicks. And everyone thinks “This is colossal!” primarily because it is. The first year he was building it they all thought, “How cute, he’s gluing toothpicks together. Didn’t he have a childhood?” And now — 35 years later — they’re buying tickets to see his sculpture at the art gallery. Dedication like that is inspiring and motivates us to find a passion of your own that fills a void of boredom in your life, and that’s awesome too.

That might be one of the biggest turnoffs of Christianity actually. You say you serve a sovereign God Who is greater than all other gods and can hold the entire milky way in the palm of His Hand. You say He’s not only forgiven you for being the scum you admit to being, but He’s gone out of His way to adopt you into His family and promise you eternity. That sounds colossal. But have you seen how you worship? It’s more ‘ho hum’ than ‘awesome’. Where’s the joy? Does He save you to be lethargic? Isn’t there something wrong when Amazing Grace loses it’s ‘amazing’.

No one wants to be a puppy running after a ball, on repeat. We want truth that leave us full and overflowing. And that’s where passion starts.

The love of God is peculiarly the work of the Holy Ghost…. Therefore the way to get it is earnestly to pray…. We are no more able to love the Lord than cold water is able to heat itself…so the Holy Ghost must breed that fire of love in us, it must be kindled from heaven, or else we shall never have it.

John Preston (1587-1628), The Breastplate of Faith and Love, 2 vols. in one (1634; facsimilie repr., Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1979), 2:50.

5 reasons why legalism is a dangerous drug

Legalism can be addicting. It gives us the high that we’re floating on a holier-than-thou cloud of paradise above the other sinners. Here are 5 reasons to quit:

1. Legalism says it’s all about you. Christ is offered a backseat.
2. Legalism suggests that you are the Lawmaker, instead of God. It also appoints you Judge & Executioner.
3. Legalism gives you a pat on the back every time you meet your own standards, instead of leading you to glorify your Redeemer.
4. Legalism teaches that it’s more import to have an appearance of righteousness than to know the righteous Son of God.
5. Legalism preaches that true joy is just a matter of obeying the right set of commandments, instead of discovering God’s grace.

Paul said it best: “For men will be lovers of themselves, …. rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!” (2 Tim 3.1-3)

Bonus readGrace is not a Thing by Jeremy Treat

A person can say, yes, all of this Bible and Christianity stuff is nice, but the place where I’m really going to find joy is in my ‘fill in the blank.’ Whatever you think is going to give you ultimate satisfaction in life is what you worship.

Ligon Duncan, via metrochristianliving.com

John Knox’s marriage proposal to Elizabeth Stewart

Four years after the death of his first wife, John Knox met his second soon-to-be wife, Elizabeth Stewart, and the proposal took place at the dinner table.

“Addressing himself to the young lady, he said ‘My bird, are you willing to marry me?’ She answered, “Yes, Sir, only I fear you’ll not be willing to take me.’ He said, ‘My bird, if you be willing to take me, you must take your venture of God’s providence, as I do. I go through the country sometimes on my foot, with a wallet on my arm, a shirt, a clean band, and a Bible in it; you may put some things in it for yourself, and if I bid you take the wallet, you must do it, and go where I go, and lodge where I lodge.’ ‘Sir,’ says she, ‘I’ll do all this.’ ‘Will you be as good as your word?’ ‘Yes, I will.’

Upon which, the marriage talk was concluded, and she lived happily with him, and had three daughters from him.”

As described by Mr. Robert Millar, minister of Paisley, to the historian of “The Sufferings of the Church of Scotland,” Mr. Wodrow, on November 15, 1722. [via thisday.pcahistory.org]

If any smart aleck tries this move with my daughter while I’m eating dinner, I’ll politely excuse myself from the table and throw him under a bus.

Dear son: your dad is messed up

Your mother and I are counting down the days until you shake the hospital room with your first wail. Our home is a small one, and sometimes our bouncing dog makes it seem smaller, but you are most welcome to fill it with your little giggles, abrasive screams and tender tears. We love you.

Here’s something you should know: much of our world is made up of appearances. From advertising, to entertainment, to the small talk of social interactions, it seems that putting on masks and pretending to be a different ‘you’ is quite common. Most everyone has a shinier version of themselves which they put on and off, depending on who’s taking notes at the time.

But I don’t want you to see me in my shiny armor. (I’d rather get rid of it, really.) Instead, I want you to see me the way my Saviour sees me. It’s the only accurate portrayal of who I am. When you look up at me, look for these things:

  1. Your dad is a sinner. He’s messed up. God created him with a beautiful purpose: to know & worship the Triune God. But your dad missed the mark. Repeatedly. And purposefully. Your dad wasn’t an awesome person with just a few faults. He was faulty all over. He was like 200 lbs of swiss cheese, bespeckled with holes. Drained of any righteousness and yet overflowing with pride.
  2. Jesus Christ saved your dad. And saved is a pretty big word. It’s the words loved, rescued, washed, freed, adopted, and called all rolled into one! A whole bunch of wonderful things happened to your dad — yet none of it happened because of your dad. God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved me, rescued me in Jesus Christ. He bought a slave and promptly called him ‘My child’. I hope to share this story with you many more times.
  3. Your dad keeps messing up. It’s frustrating, I know. Just ask your mom. Your dad messes up more often than you do in your cute little diaper. Before God’s eyes, your dad is completely blanketed by the perfect holiness of Jesus Christ. And the Holy Spirit is molding and shaping me. But you’ll see this over and over again: when you compare your daddy to Jesus, there’s a huge gap. Dad doesn’t mirror his Saviour perfectly. However, your parents find relief, forgiveness and comfort in Someone Who is perfect. Someone Who not only began a good work in us, but will complete it.
  4. God is pouring this thing called grace on your dad and, boy, does he need it. Grace is the sharpening tool, the correcting rod, and the comforting blanket. I need grace because Jesus Christ is the only standard — the only appearance — that God is pleased to see. There’s nothing that pleases our Father more than His Son. And grace is how God is making His children become more like His Son. Grace is the fuel that motivates the Christian in his Heavenward journey.

Here’s your dad in his true colors: sinner, growing, depending and needy of grace. So your dad isn’t the defining item in your family. He can’t fix everything, protect everybody, or meet every need every time for everybody for all eternity. He certainly doesn’t have all the answers. Only God Himself can make worthwhile change in your dad, your mom and you. Only God can fix our sick world and its messed-up values. Only God can make something beautiful out of our messed-up stories.

Welcome to our home, baby. It must be a place of  broken hearts and not shiny masks. Hearts that find their meaning in the only Father worth knowing.

“Paganism is optimistic with regard to unaided human nature, whereas Christianity is the religion of the broken heart.” - J. Gresham Machen

Many Christians rush to develop what they will call a “Christian worldview” by arranging isolated Christian truths, doctrines, and convictions in order to create formulas for Christian thinking. No doubt, this is a better approach than is found among so many believers who have very little concern for Christian thinking at all; but it is not enough.

Albert Mohler, via albertmohler.com

Mr. Hoover, if you see ten troubles coming down the road, you can be sure that nine will run into the ditch before they reach you and you have to battle with only one of them.

Calvin Coolidge, to Herbert Hoover, via futilitycloset.com

Our first problem is that our attitude toward sin is more self-centered than God-centered. We are more concerned about our own “victory” over sin than we are about the fact that our sins grieve the heart of God. We cannot tolerate failure in our struggle with sin chiefly because we are success-oriented, not because we know it is offensive to God.

- Jerry Bridges, “The Pursuit of Holiness” via mikeleake.net

Worth a read

Pr. Jeff Amsbaugh reflects on what must change within the fundamentalist movement. His post is directed at young Baptist preachers, but is worth a read by everyone who has (or had) interaction with fundamentalists.

In summary:

  1. We must not live in fear of our friends.
  2. We must not encourage ‘hero worship’.
  3. We must recognize the usefulness of unity. (“We must believe that compassion is not compromise.“)
  4. We must recognize the glory of grace. (“When Christianity becomes nothing more than an itemized list of abstinences, then nothing is done to address heart attitudes.“)
  5. We must recognize holiness does not sprout from legalistic lists.
  6. We must seek to abolish the problem of pride.
  7. We must recognize that attempts to satisfy the flesh will only lead to exhaustion & frustration.

I’ve noticed a common theme amongst well-adjusted kids. The theme seems to be this: Great kids come from families in which parents are real about their shortcomings. They come from families who live and believe in grace.

Donald Miller, via storylineblog.com

Though one may excel in heroic virtures, yet all his virtues are mere fumes, which shine before the eyes of men, except the object be to obey God.

- John Calvin

Stop being good | A Homeschooler Manifesto

Many Christian homeschoolers have lived with the expectation that they must be good. Dress good. Talk good. Live good. Just be good.

Sometimes this expectation was implanted by themselves. Sometimes by family, a church or community leader. Regardless, can we all just admit that this expectation is never fully met? You try and try and try to be good and then discover the bar was set much higher than you at first expected or were taught. No matter how good you are, someone will have a verse to throw at you, a standard to compare you to or a coffin to nail you in.

As they grow older, many homeschoolers respond by either adopting stricter regulations or going bezerk and throwing all standards to the air. Both are sad conclusions.

So here’s the deal, guys: stop being good. Let that load drop from your back. Stop carrying it. Leave it alone and step away.

___________________________

The Bible describes that moment when Jesus said “No one is good, save God” and the rich, young ruler piped up: “Well, I’ve kept all the commandments from my youth up.” Perhaps he was a homeschooler. But he certainly was convinced of his own goodness. Therefore he didn’t have much need for Christ.

Because doing good things — helping the elderly cross the street, giving cookies to your neighbor, wearing dress pants and a tie as pijamas — doesn’t require anything special. Anyone can do that. God didn’t send His only begotten Son to die on the cross in order to allow us to help the elderly & bake cookies.

Instead, through Christ’s perfect goodness and sacrificial death, we are enabled — let this soak in — to be righteous. This is key. Righteous is a whole different standard.  Nobody can be righteous on their own; we need God’s grace for this. So Christ’s righteousness is transferred to our account so that “Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Gal 2:20). This is wonderful! We can stop trying to be pretty mediocre humans because the perfect Son of God gave Himself for us so that He could rectify us from the inside out. And this means:

  • God loves you because of Christ and not because of any single one of your good deeds.
  • God accepts you because of Christ and not because you keep trying so hard.
  • God is changing you to be more like Christ because He is faithful, and not because you are focused on being a role-model for homeschoolers everywhere.
  • God still loves you because of Christ even when you really mess up.

Here’s the point: go ahead and keep doing good things. Please bake those cookies. But PLEASE, stop finding your identity in that. “I talk a certain way / dress a certain way / sing a certain way — certainly I am a good person.” Stop thinking that you are defined by what you DO. The Good News of the Gospel is that we are defined by Him, not us. God calls us to chase after Him and seek His holiness out of loving obedience and in joyful response to the Cross of Christ. Which means that as we help that elderly lady cross the street, we do so joyfully because God has been good to us — not in order to validate our own goodness.

Listen: stop being good. That’s never enough. It never was. I’m sorry you wasted so much time being so focused on that. Repent of being satisfied in that. Get to know Christ. Be righteous before Him. Find satisfaction in Him. Be complete in Him. Be swallowed up in His righteousness. And let that holy transformation be the motivation of your Christian walk and never again the goal of your good deeds.

[Inspired by Bryan Chapell's timely talk: https://vimeo.com/5173082]

The moment without fear.

How wonderful it is to find yourself in a moment without fear. And in that fleeting moment, paint! carve! sing! act! write!

A large portion of my younger years was spent beneath the cloud of pending doom. The cloud of pending doom casts a shadow upon fresh, bright moments by suggesting that someone somewhere will look upon this bright moment and frown. Someone will say words that strike you deeper than you might be willing to admit. Someone won’t like what you’ve made. Someone you admire will be annoyed about what you created. Or apathetic.

It’s no wonder that I often found myself carrying a tripod out into the outskirts of town to film videos about little red riding hood and visible ninjas.  It was there — against the backdrop of nothing and with no one watching — that I found an escape from beneath the cloud of fear.

Living in fear of what others will think is a terrible way to administer your life. Fear doesn’t breed faithfulness. It only leads you deeper into the dungeon of believing you can please everyone all the time.

“Crucifying the defensive impulse is so difficult because it essentially means choosing to allow others to misunderstand you, misjudge you, and even malign you.” –  Jared Wilson