Monthly Archives: June 2014

No Non-Aggression Pacts Here!

If you are a soccer fan, or if you are following the World Cup, then you probably know that FIFA is facing a potential nightmare in the upcoming USA-Germany match. What is this nightmare? Hatred between the teams? Political or religious differences? Terrorist threats? No, no, & no.

Actually, the nightmare issue is just a fluke in the points-based tournament system of the World Cup. Based upon current standings, the best chance that both teams have to get into the next round is to “sit down, pick some grass, have a nap, and do absolutely nothing” (http://www.cbc.ca/sports/soccer/brazil2014/fifa-faces-nightmare-scenario-with-usa-germany-match-1.2685210) #CBCWorldCup.

And, believe it or not, it has happened before. In 1982, it was known as the “non-aggression pact of Gijon.”  In that game, West Germany and Austria needed West Germany to win by 1 point. After West Germany scored a goal, both sides effectively sat on the ball and ran the clock out for 80 minutes! Both teams were shamed, the fans were furious, and it was a black mark on the sport for quite some time.

The likelihood of a repeat of ’82 is small. The USA team is known for always giving its best and not engaging in faked injuries and other drama typical of these games (ie., Suarez the shoulder biting guy). Germany has pledged to play hard also. I can’t help but wonder though – do Christians often make non-aggression pacts too?

Most of us don’t like confrontation. So we tend to have a non-spoken “draw” agreement when it comes to sins – our own and those of our brothers and sisters. The mantra of today is, “You don’t bother me and I won’t bother you…and we will ‘game the system’ so we both go to heaven by getting along and going along.” It is easier to avoid conflict than to challenge each other to do better.

The problem? There is a “great cloud of witnesses,” (Hebrews 12:1) watching down on us. And while that passage is more about deeds of faith than actual witnesses, it might be helpful to picture the disappointment of “fans” who expected us to defend the faith and spur each other on. Will we disgrace their sacrifices by taking a draw?

Do we really believe that we can please God and enter heaven on a “draw” technicality? Once baptized, the tendency of some Christians is to “sit down, pick some grass, have a nap, and do absolutely nothing.” The grace Jesus offers by His blood is sufficient to save us. But surely we can do better than to hope to remain covered in that grace by “non-aggression pacts.”

There is no doubt that we should encourage each other, love each other, and be united and of one mind with each other. But we must remain vigilant against sin. Is it difficult to go in by the small and narrow gate? Yes, but it leads to life (Matthew 7:14). God knows the difference between those who are faking it and those who are giving it their all. Commit to Christ, and remain faithful unto death. If you do, there is a crown of righteousness stored up for you (2 Timothy 4:8).

Crawling Down the Highway of Life

Man Finds Baby Along Highway

In an alarming story this week, a 1-year-old girl was found crawling along a Georgia highway. Apparently, her parents left the house for a while and had put the other children (13, 9, & 5) in charge of the infant. The baby got away and crawled 300 yards through woods, receiving mosquito bites, briar scratches, and bruises from falling into an embankment along the highway. A man driving by happened to notice the infant, stopped, and saved the day by calling 911.

Now, before you read any further, remember your anger; hang on to that righteous indignation. It will be important later. Ok, back to the article…

As a parent, I admit that we don’t monitor every second of our kids’ lives. And, I imagine that every parent has experienced a “glance away” that allowed a child to get into a potentially dangerous situation. But I am quite certain that no parent would ever knowingly allow his or her infant to crawl along the highway!

Most of us have safety precautions set up to ensure our little ones never get near a highway. But it seems that many parents today have simply thrown up their hands when it comes to their pre-teens and teens regarding sin. I often hear, “There’s nothing you can do…kids are going to sin!” I also hear, “You have to let them experience these things.”

Really? I have to let my kids experience the spiritual equivalent of crawling along the highway? Why? Who says? Now, do I mean that kids need to live in a bubble? Certainly not. Bumps, scrapes, and bruises are going to happen in life. But when kids are unattended and unsupervised, where will they tend to go? Straight toward the highway…almost every time.

You have probably heard Proverbs 22:6 at some time: “Train up a child in the way he should go, Even when he is old he will not depart from it.” But consider the verses before as well: verse 3: “The prudent sees the evil and hides himself, But the naive go on, and are punished for it.” Or verse 5, “Thorns and snares are in the way of the perverse, He who guards himself will be far from them.”

‘Training up a child’ includes keeping kids from crawling near highways! What is the best way to avoid immodest behavior? Dress and act modestly. What is the best way to avoid the dangers of teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases? Avoid fornication. What is the best way to avoid violent and lustful thinking? Quit messing around with pornography and foul movies, music, and video games.

Why is the answer so clear for toddlers and highways, but seems so unavoidable for older kids and sinful lifestyles? I am sure some will call me naïve. “You just don’t understand.” Or, “Wait until your kids are older,” they will say.

I get that. I understand the difficulties. But let me ask you this, “Were you horrified and self righteous and indignant when you first started this story, thinking about parents who left a child unattended who crawled up to the highway?” If so, what changed, and when did it become ok for your kids to play near the dangers of sin?

Bad Parts vs Good Parts: Did Slender Man Make Them Do It?

slender man

Two days ago, a 13-year-old girl put on a white mask, waited for her mother to come home, and attacked her with a knife. The attack followed one from a week ago, when two 12-year-old girls lured one of their friends into the woods on a sleepover, stabbed her 19 times, and left her for dead in the bushes. Thankfully, the girl crawled to safety and survived. What was the reason for these unthinkable attacks? The “Slender Man” made them do it!

Slender Man (also known as Slenderman), is a relatively new, internet based version of the “Boogie Man.” But the “Boogie Man” was primarily a way to scare children into behaving at night, not an excuse for murder. This week’s 13 year old attacker was said to have been influenced by Slender Man, and last week’s 12-year-old attackers were hopeful to gain favor from Slender Man by murdering their friend.

Our initial reaction might be anger: “Why are 12-year-old girls visiting horror sites on the internet?” Perhaps we are simply heartbroken for these girls as well as for their victims. Certainly, their lives and their view of the world will forever be scarred by these incidents. But in seeking to understand, and in searching for answers, how should the Christian respond to these latest challenges to our sense of morality and values? Is there anything new to all of this? Or is it just, “the Devil made me do it!” all over again?

People have been shirking personal responsibility for thousands of years. In the days of the early church, James reminded his readers not to blame God or the devil for sin, but to take personal responsibility. When we become “carried away and enticed by [our] own lust,” and that lust “has conceived” and given birth to sin, that accomplished sin will lead to death (James 1:13-15).

What peaked my interest, though, was not the blame game aspect of this story, but how one of the girls said in her confession, “The bad part of me wanted her to die, the good part of me wanted her to live.” There was a battle going on in her between “good” and “bad” parts. And truth be told, the Christian must admit that a battle rages within each of us. The heart wrenching thing is to see it begin in those so young.

The Apostle Paul recognized this battle in Romans chapter 7:14-25. The crux of that argument is: “For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.” His conclusion? “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord” that Paul could be set free from the wretchedness of a life enslaved to sin.

We each have to deal with fleshly, sinful lusts and passions. Some days, sin seems to be our master. But we would do well to remember that we have been freed from the mastery of sin and have become willing bondservants to righteousness. We have a higher, spiritual purpose and an eternal soul worth protecting. Not God, not the devil, not the Boogie Man, nor the Slender Man…no one is responsible for my sin other than me. And I have the strength to rebuke sin through Jesus Christ who gives me strength to do all things (Philippians 4:13).

So, how should the Christian respond? Where will I direct the impressionable minds of my children? To Philippians 4:8. And I will remind them to view and concentrate on the things that are “true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy.” Avoid sin for as long as possible and whenever possible. Accept personal responsibility when you do sin. Embrace the grace and mercy of Christ. And pray for the safeguarding of innocence in our young people.

Covered by Christ…and a Wedding Dress???

baby+on+wedding+dress+train+060214

The Apostle John told us the reason that he wrote to believers was “so that you may know that you have eternal life” (1 John 5:13). Therefore, as a preacher, I love to hear Christians sharing the joy of being secure in Christ. But every now and then, I cringe at what I hear, because…well, some folks are a little confused by what John meant.

Take, for example, the ‘baby train’ wedding. That’s the best way I know how to describe it, anyway. When Shona Carter-Brooks wanted to involve her 1 month old daughter in her wedding, she tied her into the train of her wedding dress and proceeded down the aisle with baby riding in tow. Perhaps not particularly tasteful, but who am I to judge?

But it was Shona’s defense that peaked my interest. Shona defended her unusual accessory to “haters” in the media and Facebook by claiming that her baby was “awake and well-secured” and “covered in Christ.” Awake and secure? Ok. “Covered in Christ?” How so?

In her response, Shona explained, “The answer is we do what we want when we want long as Jesus on our side…” Is that really the case? Can Christians “do what they want” as long as Jesus is on their side?

Allow me to offer a few theological suggestions:

1)      A baby being “covered by Christ” has nothing to do with the safety of being pulled down the aisle on a dress. Children are innocent of sin and would be in heaven if they were to die. But neither Jesus, nor any NT writer, suggests that babies will be kept from all injury because they are “covered by Christ.” We ought to be pure like children (Mark 10:16), and we must become like children to enter heaven (Matthew 18:3), but no physical protection in this lifetime is promised to children or any of us.

2)      Being set free from the law of death merely makes us slaves to righteousness (Romans 6:18). The freedom Jesus provides us is not to “do what we want, when we want,” but being transformed by the renewing of our minds into what He wants (Romans 12). He’s not on my side; I’m on His! If I stay that way, I can expect a home in heaven with Him!

3)      We should never throw our freedom in Christ in the face of others. Rather, we should glorify God in our service to others, not lording our freedom over the world or as an excuse for inappropriate behavior (Galatians 5:13).

Riding the wrong coat tails…or gown, may lead to your eternal separation from God. Sadly, many people will form opinions about Christianity from events such as this. But there is only one source of security and eternal life. Will you search the scriptures and see what the true words of life are? Don’t let yourself get tied to the wrong gown! The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come” (Revelation 22:17)!