Sunday, October 16, 2011

Get Over It

One night last week, Brett was out of town, and I was holding down the fort. That's when it happened. War. Between the four year old and the six year old. It was the usual round of he-said/she-said. Drama. Tears. The whole shebang.

I got them tucked in, and though the tears had stopped, that indignant six year old lip was still stuck out.

I sat on the edge of the bed and brushed his hair back.
"Still mad?" I probed.
He looked away. "She's the worst person in the whole world!"
Scowl. Huff.

"Mmm hmm," I said. "And you did not respond correctly," I pointed out.

He looked at me like I had suddenly gone deaf.
He emphatically repeated, "She's the worst person in the whole world!"

Under my breath, I prayed, "Lord, make him a little wiser tonight."
Then I continued.
"Ethan, she did you wrong. No doubt about it. But, frankly, that's not what the Lord is concerned about. He's more concerned--MUCH more concerned--about how you reacted."

"No 'but' about it, " I cut in. "When you stand before the Lord, all He wants to talk about is how you respond when people do things to you. You will never be able to make her do the right thing. That's for the Holy Spirit to do. But you will answer to the Lord for how you react."

I could see the wheels turning.
Fresh tears. Fresh frustration.
"I wish Adam and Eve had never sinned!" he sobbed.

Here comes the wisdom.

"Yeah," I agreed. "That sin thing we inherited from them. Makes it tough, doesn't it?"

Nodding. Crying.

"And we all have to deal with that. So, people are going to hurt you because people sin. That's life. And life's hard. And you can't ever make people better. You can't ever make people behave. But you are still accountable for what you do in response. That, you CAN do because you have the Holy Spirit living inside you."

Understanding was dawning; I could see it.
The sniffles stopped. He breathed deeply.
The fresh air of wisdom.

A few weeks ago, I read something like this:
Meh, theology isn't all that important.

How sad, most especially from the pen of a believer.

Raising little people to be big Christians is nothing if it isn't theology!
How do I tell them about God
but leave out the part about Him being sovereign and good?
How do I teach them about themselves
but leave out the part about them being totally depraved?
and that every inclination of their hearts is only evil all the time?
and that, with that inclination, they must guard against responding to sin with sin?
How will any of us understand that God has only ever been about one thing--
His glory, not our well-being--without theology?

Without a proper understanding of theology, our children will be surprised when stupid sheep act like stupid sheep. They will be taken aback when God doesn't always intervene to prevent wounding. And they will justify their own sinful responses when they are sinned against.

In short, they will be victims.
You know victims.
They are walking wounded.
Their hurt is their most valued possession.
And they hang on to it more tightly than their favorite pair of jeans.

Instead of properly framing their lives in terms of the choices their own depraved souls have made--and the consequences of those choices--they improperly frame their lives as a series of wounds at the hands of other believers. And they can recite names, dates, and conversations
They live a 'woe was me', arm-across-the-forehead existence.

And they have the spiritual depth of a puddle.

If you don't think theology is important, quit.
Don't even bother going to church.
Or having babies.
Or homeschooling.
Without theology, you're not equipped to pass on a legacy to a new generation.
You don't know Who you are dealing with.
And you can't worship Who you don't know.
You're certainly going to lose this opportunity called parenthood.
Worse still,
You might lose this battle called life.

It's natural for my six year old to see himself as a victim.
But it's my job to not let him remain that way.
It's my job to lead him to the Cross,
To get him to drink deeply of God's wisdom.
And I'll be darned if I let my kids grow up to be victims.

Life's hard. Get over it.

Be a student of sound theology.
Teach your children sound theology.

And get over it.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Not of This World

Eleven year old eyes.
Faintly watery.

Bad experience with the neighbors. Again.
This time it was sneaky football rules.
And a basic lack of integrity.
And he was spittin' mad.
So he complained to the woman who would be spittin' mad right along with him. Mom.
As Brett says, "The apple don't fall far from the tree."

The flesh part of me would have liked to go out there and settle everything my way.
Take that football and shove it up their little pagan noses, for instance.
I'll admit it here. Turning the other cheek is not, never has been, easy for me.
But the Holy Spirit took over before I could get my cleats on...

You are not of this world, I reminded him.
You, me, the rest of us in this house...we step outside that door, and we are strangers,
and the world out there looks at us and mocks.
They don't get our standards.
They don't understand our integrity.
They're intimidated by our peace.
To those who are being saved, we are the fragrance of life.
But to those who are perishing, we are the odor of death.
And that's most of them.

The odor of death makes people run.
Whew! What died?!
It's the smell of their own rotting souls.
But we strangers are oblivious to a hopeless life,
A joyless life,
A life without peace.

No, we are not of this world.
We are citizens of heaven.
We are only visiting this earth.
But one day, we'll go home...

There were still angry words
And confessions.
My little apple had returned volley, apparently.
And he was still seething.

They're blind, I reminded him.
They're deaf.
And the only reason you and I are not blind, not deaf,
is because Jesus opened our eyes and our ears,
For no reason other than His own good pleasure.
And unless His own good pleasure leads Him to do the same for them...
they will die in their blindness and deafness.

I sent him away to do business with his Father.

Yusef Nadarkhani, a pastor in Iran is facing imminent execution...
For the high crime of claiming Jesus is Lord.
His country mocks him,
Is threatened by him.
He is not of this world.
He knows it.
They know it.
And they smell the odor of death.
So they want to send him whence he came.

And if they succeed,
He will cross that river.
He will meet his Lord.
And he will know, more than any of us left behind, that to die is gain.
But he will leave behind a family who will mourn him,
A wife and children, who are also likely not of this world
And who must find that to live--as a stranger--is hard.
To live as a stranger often hurts excruciatingly.
But to live as a stranger is Christ.

That evening, we chatted again.
We talked about Nadarkhani and neighbors and nations.
Not of this world can mean a whole spectrum of things.
It can range from mocking, bullying, and intimidation on one side
To torture and death on the other.
This thing you experienced in the street today,
This was nothing.
And it goes with your citizenship.

Tell your kids. Remind yourself.
There is no doubt about it.
Not of this world comes with a price.

But God be praised,
it also comes with a reward.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

He is the God Who Sees

Your baby blues so full of wonder,
Your curly cues, your contagious smile
And as I watch you, you start to grow up
And all I can do is hold you tight.
Knowing clouds will rage and storms will race in
Rain will pour down, waves will crash all around
But you will be safe in my arms. (Plumb)

Her world was changing.
It was contracting.
It was expanding.
Changes she was not looking forward to.

They are the stuff of struggle

She sat on my bed and sobbed.
From where she sat, the future looked lonely.
And to her, lonely was bleak.
And those tears came
And came
And came.

I watched the tears pour.
"He is the God who sees," I said to her.
She looked at me, wondering what that meant.
"These days, these changes, these challenges, they are not a surprise to God.
He hasn't blinked.
He hasn't let you go.
He knows what is ahead.
And He is allowing it.
More than allowing it, He is using it."

It's been three years.
She is weathering those changes.
And she seeing God's faithfulness.
But there are still days when she needs a reminder.

He is the God who sees.

Man tears.
They are different.
They make rarer appearances.
But they are gritty
And sweaty
And made of clenched jaws
And strained muscle
And boys becoming men.

And I find myself saying it again.
He is the God who sees.

He sees your struggle
He sees your growing pains
And your growth.
He sees your hopelessness
And your hope.

He has not blinked.
He has not forgotten.
He has not abandoned.
And everything is right on schedule.

El Roi is His name.
He is the God Who Sees.

They are my children.
They are the ones who need to be seen.

And I don't serve them well if I ever promise them that everything will always work out right
Because I do not know that.
I do not know that they will always have their health.
Or money.
Or companionship.
Or fertility.
Or liberty.
Or long life.

I do know that storms will come
And persecution
And the fellowship of His sufferings.
I know that because Jesus said that.

It is the stuff of sanctification.
And I serve them well if I teach them to stand in the middle of their sanctification
And proclaim to a watching world,
"God is good!"

For when they proclaim the goodness of God, they are being conformed to His image.
And as they are being conformed to His image, then the God who sees, looks at them and gradually begins to see...

Castles they might crumble
Dreams may not come true...
When clouds will rage and storms will race in
Rains will pour down, waves will crash all around
But you will be safe in My arms.