Our children’s soul for popularity?

How much will we as parents end up costing our children? I ask this in all seriousness and many of these thoughts are my own reflections on my relationship with my children and my Heavenly Father. If we as Christian parents are willing to sell our children to the world for a few fleeting moments of glory, how much more are we willing to sell ourselves?

I would love to see my daughter play sports at the level that I know she is capable of – she has more athleticism in one arm than I have in my entire body. I would enjoy seeing my sons on a football field in their teenage years and competing in the most glorious game ever invented. With another daughter on the way I envision the day that she walks into the room and everyone looks and says, “Hey, that’s Limbo Harding, that girl can play.” If you as a parent are honest you probably have the same thoughts: for you it may be gymnastics, the band, softball, cheerleading, or a myriad of other options.

So what are we willing to pay? I will not discuss the physical price, practice times, etc, but rather I want to look at the souls of our children for a moment. If you desire for your child to be a cheerleader are you willing to let her attend events with others just so she will fit in better with that group? What about your son as a baseball player are you willing to turn a blind eye to the events he attends with his peers because you want him so badly to be successful at baseball? Will we send our kids to movies that we know are harmful to them and damaging to their relationship with Christ, just so they can hang out with their peers at school and not feel left out? Do we desire for our kids to fit in so much that we push them to do things that they normally wouldn’t do so they can be a part of the “in crowd”?

I say we do and at an alarming rate that should cause us to question our own relationship with Christ. There is very little, if any, difference in the movies our kids watch versus the movies that all others watch and we are paying their way. We are encouraging them to attend the functions, school sponsored or not, that turn into a very thinly veiled sex-focused party as is evidenced by the dancing, photos, and other not so easily seen results. We are buying them the same clothes and going into debt at the same rate as our neighbor who cares not one bit for the name of Jesus, because preemptive to our relationship with Christ is this passion we have to make sure our child is part of “the group” and they must have the correct clothing and accessories to fit. We uses phrases such as “boys will be boys” and wink and nod encouraging our sons to be disrespectful towards women and in so doing we teach them to treat women as a sex object. We encourage our daughters to dress “cute” and display their bodies because the latest fashions “fit” that way. We buy them iTunes cards and never, ever ask them what music they are buying because quite honestly we don’t want to know. We put televisions in their rooms, with no restrictions, and then simply roll our eyes when we see them watching pure wickedness.

Parents, we are to be the ones that our kids turn to when something arises that they feel inadequate in handling but sadly many times we are simply turning them back towards their problem with no answers. If our children came to us today and told us that they desired to drop out of whatever sport/club/extra curricular/school activity that they were involved in due to the amount of peer pressure what would our response be? I see three possible scenarios: Quit today – a bitter pill to swallow especially considering the cost that these activities are costing us today, and not a likely option for many parents (quitters…ugh); personal protection – we will attend every single event, practice, and any gathering that our child has to be a part of, actively involving ourselves not through our presence but through our actions (sitting in the stands while your son or daughter is hearing absolute filth on the bench is NOT necessarily being involved) and providing a barrier between our child and their peers; the “Christian” smile and “answer” – “well honey we just have to realize some people are like that and we just don’t have to be that way, now I love you and you just do what you can do”. Out of the three responses number three is probably our most favorite answer and with it we are consigning are kids to the world without a fight at all…because we want them to fit in.

It is no wonder our kids grow up and leave the church and more importantly Jesus at a rate that if not so damning would be laughable. We are selling their souls for the feeling that we get by watching them perform, and hoping one day to hear their name announced as our child. A few months back I read a heart-breaking story of a young skater whose father started him on steroids at the young age of 13 so that he could become a champion skater. Now the father sits in prison and his now 19yo son vacillates between part-time jobs and wonders if there is a future for him. After watching our performances where we sell out our “beliefs” so they can have a few moments of glory, if it ever comes, they are so unimpressed with a belief system that has no true values that they abandon this belief the first moment it contradicts with their feelings and desires.

Now here you may insert that you believe that your child must be able to handle the temptation of the world because such a reality will not simply disappear once the said child becomes an adult. To use a time-honored teenage word, DUH! However there is not a parent around that would hold a match to their child’s arm while they tell them they just want them to experience how hot fire really is. Neither is there a parent who would repetitively throw their child off the roof of their home just so they could better understand the danger of heights. This foolishness of subjecting them to a bad influence to better enable them to make the right decision is a lie straight from the mouth of the father of all lies, Satan. Certainly we can’t shield our children from everything but this thought process that they might as well learn while they are young is absolute foolishness.

So what shall we do? Would you allow your child to stop some function if they honestly told you that if they continued they were convinced that it would have a detrimental effect on their spiritual walk? Would I? Well, my child was not the one who was charged with bringing himself/herself up in the care and instruction of Jesus Christ – I was. Ephesians 6:4 “And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.”

May God have mercy on us and most especially our children. May we look to the Word of God for help in making decisions that will impact the lives of our children for all eternity.

Living the life!!

I often talk to people who are looking to attain a certain status in life so that they can feel as if they have arrived and somehow their worries and stress will melt away. Most of those who are seeking this mystical, euphoric state are constantly pushing forward in their attempt to reach this supposed level of achievement. Especially as a child of God we think that forward is always better and that if we just learn one more spiritual truth, read one more awesome Christian book, and make another monumental religious decision we will reach this state we are constantly seeking.

I would propose however that maybe we should seek to regress in our thinking to an earlier point in our life when possibly we did not have as much. Maybe there was a point in our life when we were content to just watch what God was doing and we were willing to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit without consulting today’s top “Christian” leaders and their laws or points of success that guarantee we can live our Christianity to the fullest.

I was able to witness something pretty awesome in my children this morning. Lydia (13), Lewis (10), and Landon (5) were all lackadaisical in getting ready for school this morning. As a father who likes to be on time I just decided that when they were ready AND had completed the tasks that I gave them we  would leave for school and not a minute before. Needless to say we were late.

Lewis was furious because he believes you MUST be on time and is very conscious of having to walk into a room late. Lydia felt that I had personally insulted her by making her not be at school during what she would call the appropriate time, although for her that time changes daily. Landon on the other hand was quite a different story. During the five minute drive to school he never shut his mouth. “Are we going to get a tardy? If we get a tardy this will be my second tardy this year. Man, I don’t want a tardy! Dad, do you think the other doors will still be unlocked? Are we still late? Man! whoa my second tardy!” As soon as we arrived at the school he meekly (very unusual for Landon) joined in the line of other students to receive his little pink slip. I needed to speak briefly with his teacher so I walked with him to class. As soon as we left the office the tardy was behind him. He had received what he had dreaded for the last 10 minutes and he was ready to proceed with his life. His focus was now on his class and what he was going to be able to do that day. Therefore the non-stop talking started again as he discussed the books he had been reading and was going to be tested on.

I left him in his classroom somehow feeling relieved myself as for a moment I saw life through the eyes of a little child. Having Dad standing with him when he received his tardy made everything more bearable and now life could move on to the next great adventure. I’ve been there spiritually, and I’ve been content to just watch God at work and revel in His Grace. Too many times though I find myself acting like my 10 year old who marched off to class feeling as if he had somehow failed at life as we are sometimes wont to do when we feel as if things are just not going right and maybe if we just did something else good for God he would turn around our lives as a reward. My moment of reprieve lasted until I reached the icy interior of my truck where my 13 year old sat believing that dad, mom, and teachers had somehow conspired together to ruin her life for the day and quite possibly for eternity. And I thought as I drove away, “God, I’ve certainly acted that way towards as well.”

Reflections of a Gatorhater

I can’t decide on the one reason that I dislike Tim Tebow so much. Now I must say Tebow is certainly not the first Gator quarterback that I have had a hearty dislike for. In fact my dislike (aka hatred) for Gator quarterbacks goes all the way back to Kerwin Bell. Growing up in a home full of Gator fans just outside of Gainesville, Florida I found myself at a young age knowing anything was better than the orange and blue of Florida. Knowing that Florida State was a hated rival I settled on them as my Gator “fix”.

I absolutely despised Shane Matthews and when he led Florida to their 14-9 victory over the ‘Noles I felt that there could be no worse villain in the entire world. Of course as a 13 year old I was probably right. Just a few short years later I found out how wrong I was and that the worst was yet to come. In 1997 I found my dislike towards a Gator QB grow by leaps and bounds. For the first time in my life I yelled at the television screen, “be a man, stay down!” Unfortunately for me and my beloved ‘Noles Wuerffel just kept getting back up and up and up. In that battle on the turf of the Superdome my dislike for Florida QB’s was cemented in the back of Danny Wuerffel as he kept getting off the turf and throwing another touchdown pass.

As I grew older, moved away from Gainesville, and my life changed in ways that it does for a married man with children I found my allegiance switching. No longer did the Garnet and Gold capture my attention quite as much on Saturday afternoons. Now I found myself pulling for the Red and Black of the Georgia Bulldogs. Soon though the old feelings arose and I found myself rooting against a familiar foe. As a Georgia fan every Florida QB has been easy to dislike because they all have beaten Georgia and most of them more than once.

Tebow however is a conundrum for me. If I were still 19 as I was when Wuerffel led the Gators I know that I would find myself yelling at the TV, “KNOCK HIM DOWN. KNOCK HIM DOWN AGAIN!!” However I am not 19 and in fact this weekend I will not even be watching the game. I will instead spend my afternoon and evening setting up carnival games and handing out candy to kids who do not need any more sugar in their digestive system. You see I am now a youth pastor and therefore “should” be one of the guys espousing Mr. Tebow and his courageous stance that he has taken in how he lives his life… but I can’t. So why is it that I wish so desperately that not only would he lose this Saturday but that he would play badly and lose? Am I jealous; instinctively I wouldn’t think so but I had to at least ask myself if that was the case, and after careful consideration I agree that I am not jealous. Am I that big of a Gatorhater (that is one word in South Georgia) that I would put my religious convictions behind a football game? Now that certainly bore considering but I had to discard that reason as well as I gauged my reactions to games and found that I really hadn’t cared that much about football games the last couple of years and they certainly paled in comparison to my religious convictions many of which are the same at least on the surface as Tebow espouses. But I do find myself rooting hard against him this week and I want to know why, after all shouldn’t I be encouraging my students to be like Tim? Is it Tebow’s coach? Seriously, outside of Gainesville, Urban is not a well liked man as his penchant for poll padding has led to many ridiculous lopsided scores over the past few years and almost cost him and his team the services of Mr. Tebow this year when he left him in a game in an insane attempt to pad his stats in his quest for the Heisman. Now this issue really gave me pause but ultimately I realized that my problem is with Tebow and not his coach. In the midst of all of this I came to realize that this great dislike for Tebow was a fairly new emotion for me as just a year ago I had found myself pulling for him to win his second Heisman.

I finally wondered if in fact it was Tebow’s own arrogance that was causing me to dislike him so much. Now here there will be many that might say Tebow is not arrogant but if you were to listen to his press conferences and read what he has said in the last year it is pretty clear that he is a different man than he was before he lost the Heisman race last year. Tebow’s defense of his religious convictions have become more challenging and forceful and are not the same as the humble way in which he used to present himself. Now it seems that he almost dares someone to challenge him as to the veracity of his life. The cherry on the top was his refusal to speak to the media this past week after his abysmal performance and furthermore by his coach apologizing, yes apologizing for depending too much on his senior quarterback. Sure Tebow was upset but the question I ask is if Tebow might actually believe that he is really immortal. Could it be that he believes his own press?

I don’t know if just one of these issues is any greater than the other but I do know on Saturday that one thing will override everything else and it is simply that number 15 is wearing orange and blue and in the words of my 5yo son, “I just hope Florida loses.”

Is our self-righteousness putting us ahead of God’s plan?

Moses has enjoyed a host of criticism over the course of my lifetime, yet I remember that he is called the meekest man to ever live. Unfortunately for Moses that is not seen as something flashy and since we don’t really desire meekness we just give his meekness the religious nod and move on with our lives. Today though I want to use Moses’ life to show something that I believe happens is our lives as Christians.

Most of us are aware of Moses’ killing the Egyptian and his subsequent departure from Egypt. Now here is where we can get self-righteous ourselves as we say, “well that was just part of God’s plan” and move on as if he had done nothing wrong but Moses did do something wrong. Moses allowed his sense of justice to dictate how he responded to the Egyptian (a picture of an unbeliever). Yes the man was wrong in beating the Israelite but Moses here reminds me so much of what is happening in the church today. Changed lives are decreasing but “christian” activism is increasing tenfold. We rail against our government for restricting the Ten Commandments while we step over the helpless and weak to stand on the courthouse steps. Our self-righteousness is a stumblingblock for unbelievers. It certainly was for the Egyptian that Moses struck with an holy arm.

Secondly Moses showed this continuing self-righteousness as he tried to intervene between two Israelites (a picture of believers). WOW! How often do we attempt to rule with a holy rod of iron against brothers and sisters in Christ. What happened to the conviction of the Holy Spirit? If we so believe in the Spirit’s work why are we so specific and condemning in talking with other believers? Are we like Judge Moses? Passing by and feeling as if other believers could benefit from our wisdom.

Please don’t misunderstand what I am saying here. I am not advocating a life of apathy towards other believers and unbelievers alike. However I am asking the question, “are we sensitive to the Spirit or are we charting our own course?”

Am I really free

From Helpless Slave to Empowered Page

Is this deliverance?

Picture yourself as a lowly serf boy. You spend your days playing in the mud outside of your hut. While your parents aren’t around you don’t give them much thought as you have food to eat, somewhere to sleep, and you don’t think past tomorrow. Suddenly, one day you are taken to the castle on the top of the hill and told that the master is adopting you as one of his sons. At first you are excited to be living in the grand castle and to be considered one of the master’s sons but as the days go by you begin to ask yourself is the castle really better than the hut. You see while you lived in the hut you were able to spend your day at the hut doing whatever you desired – playing in the mud, sitting and watch the older serfs plow the fields, or simply wandering around with the other serf boys all day. Now in the castle you are supposed to spend hours learning to read and write. Your training does not stop there as you are now expected to help serve the meals to the master of the house, and learning how to play a musical instrument or developing some other talent. As you lie awake in your bed one night you ask yourself this question, “is this deliverance?”

When you awake the next morning there is a special stir to the castle as everyone seems to be excited about something of which you are obviously unaware. Plucking up your courage you ask one of the cooks why everyone is so excited, “Gabriel is coming home today” he replies “his page arrived late last night after you were asleep.”

Risking looking stupid you ask, “Who is Gabriel?”

“Gabriel, why he is one of the masters adopted sons; in fact he used to work in this very kitchen just as you do now.” Shortly thereafter Gabriel indeed arrives at the castle. You spend the morning captivated listening to him share stories of his adventures as a knight in the service of his lord. Following the noonday meal you are startled when the young knight invites you to go riding with him. As your horses head into the forest you are in awe of the fact that this young man a knight has given his time to lowly you.

Traveling down the path you are startled when he directs his attention to you, “the master is worried that you think your training is becoming drudgery to you.”

Startled and surprised it doesn’t take long for the entire story to spill – what is the purpose of the writing classes and the intense scribe who is upset with any misspelled words, and why the hours spent practicing a lute – something by the way which you would like to play but why all of the hours spent practicing, and why must you serve the meals at the table of the master – surely an adopted son should be able to simply sit at the table, and why could you not spend the days as you had previously, simply wandering over the fields.

There is a long pause and then the young knight slowly shakes his head and begins, “I see now why the master asked me to speak with you. You see I used to think as you do know. At first I loved being in the castle and the food oh how I loved the food, but as the months went by I found myself resisting the teaching, the practice and the service. One day the master took me to a jousting tournament and asked me to simply observe the knights and their behavior. The tournament was incredible, I had never seen anything as exciting as the jousting, and the sword fighting made me nervous and excited at the same time. Sitting in the great hall that night I was amazed as these same knights who had fought so hard just a few hours before now eating with grace, playing instruments, and dancing with ease. Leaving the tournament the master asked about what I had observed. I replied that I thought the knights were incredible and I could not wait until I too became a knight. This is what he said to me – ‘Gabriel, the knights are incredible and this is why. Each of them has realized that the training and all they went through as they became a knight was so they could live a freer life than anything they had ever imagined before. You see son the lessons, the practice, the service, all of this may seem like uselessness to you but I am freeing you. One lesson at a time you are closer to being able to stand in the presence of a king one day and give articulate answers for questions he may have. One practice at a time you are being freed to the diligence that you will need to maintain a lifestyle that will enable you to become a powerful knight. One act of service at a time you are being taught that living is not focusing on yourself but rather on those around you. You see Gabriel, I am not restricting you, I am teaching you to live.’”

Lying in your bed that night you think of the events of they day and a smile begins to creep across your face. Yes the cook will wake you at 5am to prepare breakfast, and then you will spend the entire morning reading and copying for the old grumpy scribe, later you know that your day will be consumed with lessons in behavior and playing your lute but now you know the truth. You were adopted for freedom. Not freedom to do as you please but an even greater freedom, freedom to see what life was really about and the ability to carry out your calling and live.

Ephesians 2:1-10  1 And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, 2 in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, 3 among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.4 But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.

Give me my inheritance

As I was reading in the book of Genesis today God revealed something to me that I wanted to attempt to articulate into something substantive. First of all I will unashamedly admit that I believe that Old Testament Israel is a picture of the church today, and that we have much to learn from them. Secondly I may be the only one, but I certainly get tired of what appears to be a less than idealistic life on this earth for the Christian. Thirdly, this is not some great theological discourse.
Most of us are aware that God promised the land of Canaan to the Israelites, and that this promise began with Abraham and was eventually fully realized when Joshua lead the Israelites in the conquering of Canaan. This was a period of approximately 550 years!
Why so long?
Wasn’t Abraham in Canaan when God promised him the land? The answer is yes. (Genesis 12:7) So why did Abraham (Abram at this time) leave? Obviously, God knew that Abraham was not ready for his inheritance and sent him back into Egypt via the famine that overtook the land. If you look at the growth of Abraham’s family you will see that they very easily could have overtaken a long time before Joshua came and conquered the land, and if you think like I do you will believe there would have been a lot less heartache involved. Not only was Abraham in Canaan that time but he was also back in Canaan, at the time of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Following the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah Abraham wandered out of Canaan again to the land of the Philistines.
I won’t give you any more history but you can read the stories of the successors of Abraham; Isaac, Jacob, and Jacob’s offspring who became slaves in Egypt in Genesis 12-50. I’ll end this part by saying that God had a plan and that Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and those that followed after were blessed because they were willing to submit to God’s plan.

Look at this!

Abraham and his immediate offspring did not inherit the land, but his nephew Lot did.
Isaac and his immediate offspring did not inherit the land, but his half-brother Ishmael did.
Jacob and his immediate offspring did not inherit the land, but his elder brother Esau did.
Why, and what is the point?
The Christians of today, myself included, want to be like Abraham and have the promise of a future inheritance, and yet we want to live like Lot, and believe that we should work hard to gain everything we can today.
We also want to be like Isaac, and know that thru us flows the greatest treasure in the world, Jesus Christ, but we want to live like Ishmael and rule the world today.
Then we want to live like Jacob and produce great fruit, but yet we act like Esau in that we only want to do what is convenient for us.

It’s coming, and we should be willing to wait!

Hold on because our inheritance is coming and this world can never compare to the glory that awaits us.
But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. 1 Corinthians 2:9

My check

Of course like everyone else I am waiting with bated breath for President-elect Obama to take office so I can begin to receive my check from the government. While I am definitely being facetious I am worried about another check. Several years ago I switched my check from my employer to direct deposit. While I waited for the direct deposit to go into effect I continued to deposit paychecks as I was paid.  The next two paychecks I did not realize that they were only pay stubs and did not have a signature at the bottom of the check, so I deposited them as normal. The funny thing was that the tellers did not notice either and approved the stubs for deposit. You can imagine my horror when I opened a letter from my bank telling me that the last two deposits to my account were being removed. At the time I did not have online banking so all night and the next morning I worried about my bank account. Once the bank opened I was able to see that my checks had been direct deposited and that the bank had simply given me double credit by depositing the check stubs. What a relief to know that the balance was correct.

I thought about this last night and was struck by something. What is going to happen when I go to cash my spiritual checks? What happens when I have been making all of these deposits all along only to find out that they were bogus deposits and there is nothing in the account? What happens when the money runs out?

Eli deposited the check of tradition and routine and one day when bad news came his account was dry and he fell over dead. David deposited the check of worship by convenience and when he went to make a withdrawal and found his account empty he went off into a state of depression. Gehazi, Elisha’s servant, deposited the check of receiving recognition for work, and found himself with an empty spiritual account and leprosy to boot. Saul made constant deposits with checks for future glory, and saw his son die on the battlefield with him, alone and without God’s help.

So what do I do if the deposits that I have been making all along are bogus and are not showing up in my account? What do I do when all has been self-serving, or for show and I need to make a withdrawal? Oh God grant me your grace, which I do not deserve.

A pair of vise grips

I hate it when I make the same mistakes over and over. Usually they are made because I don’t think through what is happening and process the information before I act. The problem is that I have a very slow processor and a very active hard drive. Last week my wife interrupted me from being beaten by Lewis on the Wii. She very excitedly told me that there were some guys in our front yard trying to take down the street sign for the park up the road. Immediately the hard drive went into accelerator mode while the processor just began to whirr. (you know the sound a computer makes when you are waiting for something to finish) The hard drive said, “shoes, phone, call 911, grab the kids, tackle them, open the door, run, do SOMETHING. The problem is because the processor was struggling this is how those thoughts were processed. phone, tackle, truck, shoes, door, 911, kids, teens, truck. As it was I ran out the door while they were still in the front yard. Due to my haste I was still on the phone with 911, while I was running towards the truck. When the guys saw me coming they jumped into the back of the ISUZU RODEO and left quickly.

Why does it matter? Well first of all I feel pretty strongly about stealing street signs. http://www.sptimes.com/News/052201/TampaBay/Suddenly__stop_sign_c.shtml

Secondly, the street sign was for a park just a block from my house where my kids play all the time.

Thirdly, these teenage punks thought they were going to steal the sign from my front yard.

Fourthly, I haven’t tackled anyone in a long long time and I thought it would be pretty cool.

So where do the vise grips come in to play? Well in their haste to depart the scene the punks dropped a pair of vise grips. Seeing me coming with a full head of steam, and what probably looked to him like slow motion, he left them and jumped into the truck. So now I have another pair of vise grips, due to a slow working processor. There are so many other ways I could have handled this and probably would have caught these little crooks in a vise but my faulty processor hung me out to dry.

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