Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Raising Kids in a Post-Modern World

She burst through the door, jubilant. "Mom, you'll never guess what happened in my photography class!" My oldest daughter was taking a summer class with a sweet friend of mine last year. We've told the kids for years that once they got to college, they were going to meet with all kinds of ridiculum--but we certainly didn't expect it in a photography class.

The prof had been going through submissions from the students and critiquing each one. Our friend's photo came up, and it had a scripture written across it as its caption. "This photo is great, but the caption should be something different. It would be better if it looked like this." And his version was the same beautiful little girl but with the inane "Are we having fun yet?" imprinted across it.

Up goes my daughter's hand. "Excuse me, but if the author of the photograph wants a scripture on it, what is wrong with that?"

Prof: "The problem is that it offers a solution. We shouldn't do that. We should be asking questions."

Undaunted, my daughter's hand goes up again. "Excuse me, but do you really think people are lying in bed at night thinking, 'Gee, I wish I had more questions,'?"

Bingo. The problem of the post-modern world is its refusal to offer answers. And my then 16 year old daughter nailed it--in class. Raising children in a post-modern world means preparing them to offer the answer when others are only asking questions. It means training them to understand that they have the Truth, that the Truth is absolute, that not believing the Truth absolves no one from guilt in the eyes of the Creator.

Statistics say that 80% of kids raised in the church will lose their faith when they leave home. (Okay, I know "lose their faith" is doctrinally problematic, but the perseverance of the saints is another blogpost. Work with me, people.) What kinds of things are our children encountering out there that are snagging them?

You've seen the bumper sticker. It sends my 15 year old into orbit every time. Why? Probably because kids are amazingly adept at spotting inconsistencies. (Why we lose the ability to think critically when we reach adulthood is beyond me.) The main idea behind this thought is: There are many ways to God. And God answers to many names. Pick the name and the way that works for you.

The problem with this line of thinking is a logic problem. Each religion claims to be the right way. But they can't all be the right way, then, can they? The Law of Non-Contradiction says that a proposition cannot be both true and false at the same time. So, it is not possible that a religion that claims "Jesus is the only way to God" and a religion that claims "Jesus is not the only way to God" can both be valid. In formal logic, we would plot those two statements on the Square of Opposition. One is a universal affirmative; the other is a universal negative. They have a relationship called Contrariety, which is just a fancy way of saying that they can both be false, BUT they cannot both be true.

If life were a pantry, emergents would be the fruit loops. Like most post-moderns, they are hard to nail down on what they do believe, but they sure know what they don't believe.
1. Original sin: We inherited our nature from Adam. Man is totally depraved and dead in his sin. There is no way to please God...
...unless you are emergent. In which case, you believe Jesus loves you because you are interesting. But God says our righteousness is like filthy rags; the Apostle Paul says he is the Chief of Sinners. I'm fairly sure that God is repulsed by our sin and most definitely does NOT find us interesting. He finds us in need of mercy...
...which brings us to the next doctrine:
2. Substitutionary Atonement: Because man is dead in his sin and is unable to help himself, and God cannot live in the presence of sin, He had to send a substitution to die for us, to pay the penalty of our crimes...
...unless you are emergent. In which case, you believe that the Cross is 'cosmic child abuse.' Of course, if I think Jesus finds me interesting, then the Cross does appear to be a rather brutal, bloody, over-the-top, attention-grabbing stunt. At least they are consistent. Unfortunately, the whole movement un-Scriptural. I wonder if emergents find that interesting. (Are you listening, Rob Bell, Brian McLaren, and Donald Miller?)

What do we do to ensure our children are as shrewd as serpents and as innocent as doves?

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Seven Year Old Faith

"God is sovereign. And He is good--sometimes." That was my seven-year old's response to the question, "What is the basic nature of God?"

I stared at her. "What do you mean, sometimes?"

"Well," she answered, "there are times when bad things happen. I don't think He is good then."

I was speechless. How had this child of mine lived this long in my house and so misunderstood such a basic thing about God? Where had I gone wrong? She sounded like, well, like the world. Yikes. That night found us at Starbucks, hunkered down over a couple of frappucinos, discussing the nature of God and the nature of man.

God is sovereign over all creation, and He is good. If He were sovereign only, He'd be a despot. If He were good only, He'd be a weakling. Man is totally depraved in his own sin inherited from Adam. That complete immersion in sin renders him incapable of even asking for help without the prompting of the Holy Spirit. That's what the Bible teaches. So that's what we teach at home. Is it any wonder I stared at my daughter, aghast that she somehow thought she was less sinful than Nebuchudnezzar?

"Do you mean to tell me that you think you're good without God?" I asked her.
She confidently replied, "Well, I'm better than Nebuchudnezzar."


"No, dear, you're not better than Nebuchudnezzar. Neither am I. We are all hopeless without God regenerating us."
"Well, God sent him off to the wilderness to live like a wild man because of what he did," she batted back.
"Yes," I said, "and if you read to the end of the account, you'll see that he finally acknowledged that God was God, and he was not. And when God got his attention, he saw the truth. And you wouldn't see the truth without God revealing it to you, either."


We had a good conversation that night. We talked about original sin, depravity, election. We talked about God's sovereignty and why he allows bad things to happen. We talked about the goodness of God and the sinfulness of sin. But, in the end, my seven-year-old had a seven-year-old's faith.

She turned 8 this past week. And she is growing in her understanding of the Creator/Redeemer, just as surely as she is growing physically. She's growing an eight-year-old faith. That's right where she should be.

The tragedy is when an adult has a seven-year-old faith, when adults stomp their feet because life isn't turning out the way they thought it should, because life is hard, or because life hurts. The tragedy is when adults think God lets bad things happen to good people, though the real puzzler is why good things happen to bad people. The tragedy is when adults think they can be even a little bit good, even do a little bit to please God, even ask God for a little bit of redemption by themselves without the Holy Spirit.

Life's not fair. That's one of the first hard lessons every child learns. And attempting to impugn God's character by saying it's not fair that He predestines most for hell is wrong and immature. It is completely fair to separate sinful man from a Holy God. It is unfair that any of us get to go to Heaven at all. It's not unfair that the Atonement is limited; it's unfair that there is an Atonement at all.

It's okay, even good, for a seven-year-old to have a seven-year-old faith. But for an adult, it's tragic.

Hebrews 5:12-14

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Confessions of a Recovering Charismatic

I am not likely to forget the conversation for a long time. We had been traveling out west and visiting some friends we hadn't seen since our east-coast days. She was spilling over with enthusiasm after visiting a religious service north of the border. For me, it was the final nail in a coffin I had been assembling for some time. It took all of my will-power to not look sideways at my husband while she told us that the Holy Spirit had filled the place, and people were barking like dogs and clucking like chickens. Strange fire, anyone?


Here are the other nails:

Leg-lengthening: I won't even dignify this one with an explanation. Where in the Bible???

Shiver-quivers: Charismatics will tell you this is the Holy Spirit. I think the air conditioning is set too low. Where in the Bible???

Prophecy: The problem with prophecy today is that it so often is a 'new' word that can't be verified by Scripture. If we're willing to allow prophecy, we must be equally willing to test the message and discipline the messenger. To misspeak on God's behalf is not an experiment; it is blasphemy.

Slain in the Spirit: Let's be honest. The only Biblical account of being slain in the Spirit is Ananias and Sapphira. When people fell down in the presence of the Lord in the Bible, it was out of fear. God was not 'ministering' to them. And they certainly weren't hoping “to get me some more of that next week.” Where in the Bible???

“I just want to go where the Spirit is.” For years, I thought I had the Holy Spirit, and the rest of the Body only had access to two persons of the Trinity. I am so ashamed of my arrogance.

I am not a cessationist. I believe the gifts are for today. And I believe there is something very natural about them. I believe in prophecy IF it can be verified by the Word. I believe in miracles and healing. I believe in tongues, words of wisdom and knowledge, and discerning of spirits.

The problem is not the gifts. I think the Word is clear on that point. The problem is the packaging: the mystical, hyper-emotional, often hysterical and chaotic atmosphere that many charismatic churches allow. Do these things in any way reflect our Redeemer?

As believers, we must be willing to reform and conform to the Bible. I threw the baby out with the bathwater for years. But I'm finding the baby again. Thanks to men like CJ Mahaney and ministries like Sovereign Grace, I know there's a baby there.

Let's drain the tub--before the baby drowns.

Saturday, September 11, 2010


This is one of the most beautiful poems I have ever read...

The Sleep
Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806–61)

OF all the thoughts of God that are
Borne inward into souls afar,
Along the Psalmist’s music deep,
Now tell me if that any is
For gift or grace surpassing this—
“He giveth His beloved, sleep”?

What would we give to our beloved?
The hero’s heart to be unmoved,
The poet’s star-tun’d harp to sweep,
The patriot’s voice to teach and rouse,
The monarch’s crown to light the brows?—
He giveth His beloved, sleep.

What do we give to our beloved?
A little faith all undisproved,
A little dust to overweep,
nd bitter memories to make
The whole earth blasted for our sake:
He giveth His beloved, sleep.

“Sleep soft, beloved!” we sometimes say
Who have no tune to charm away
Sad dreams that through the eyelids creep:
But never doleful dream again
Shall break the happy slumber when
He giveth His beloved, sleep.

O earth, so full of dreary noises!
O men, with wailing in your voices!
O delved gold, the wailers heap!
O strife, O curse, that o’er it fall!
God strikes a silence through you all,
And giveth His beloved, sleep.

He dews drop mutely on the hill,
His cloud above it saileth still,
Though on its slope men sow and reap:
More softly than the dew is shed,
Or cloud is floated overhead,
He giveth His beloved, sleep.

Ay, men may wonder while they scan

A living, thinking, feeling man
Confirm’d in such a rest to keep;
But angels say, and through the word
I think their happy smile is heard—
“He giveth His beloved, sleep.”

For me, my heart that erst did go

Most like a tired child at a show,
That sees through tears the mummers leap,
Would now its wearied vision close,
Would childlike on His love repose
Who giveth His beloved, sleep.

And friends, dear friends, when it shall be

That this low breath is gone from me,
And round my bier ye come to weep,
Let One, most loving of you all,
Say, “Not a tear must o’er her fall!
He giveth His beloved, sleep.”

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Showdown at Mt. Carmel

Mt. Carmel

My all-time favorite Biblical account and the zenith of the ministry of my all-time favorite Bible character, Elijah.

God vs. Idol
Truth vs. Lie
Sheep vs. Goat
Crops vs. Tares

And the all consuming fire of the all-powerful God licking up even the water...
And the humbling of the rebellious...
And the affirming of the righteous...

What a great reminder that there is Absolute Truth, one truth that is true for everyone all the time, that tolerance kills and truth saves, that God does not brook with syncretism, and that He is not mocked.

"And when all of the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, 'The Lord, He is God; The Lord, He is God." I Kings 18:39