Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Holy Week

Oh, precious is the flow that makes me white as snow.
No other fount I know; nothing but the blood of Jesus.

We sang that in church on Palm Sunday. And I was struck by how much the blood of Jesus accomplished for us. And I wanted to cultivate a new gratitude for that. So I set out to hunker down for Holy Week, disconnect from social media. Cut down on distraction. Read Piper's The Passion of Jesus Christ. And focus. Focus on the blood of Jesus.

Even so, the skeptic in me wondered what terrible things were going to come along and steal away this warm, fuzzy plan by the end of the week. It was practically prophetic.

On Monday, my mom called. Kim had just passed away. Not quite friends, we were good acquaintances who reconnected after years, thanks to social media. Kim's parents and my parents are good, very good friends, even now. We've known each other since high school, attended the same church for a time. I think we even got married the same year; I remember her wedding. She had seven children; I had eleven. Only Kim got breast cancer.

Death stinks. Yes, for the Christian, death is gain. But death still stinks. Death is still the enemy.

And on the ensuing days...
I got my toes stepped on. Not just a nudge, either. A full-weighted, hobnail boot stomp. And I was hot.
I got into a discussion with a friend about doubters and atheists. She and I are both banging our heads on the proverbial wall and asking how those type of people could possibly come from gospel-saturated homes.
I got bogged down by a pending confrontation with a slipping soul. My heels are dug in, and I'm preparing for war...and Brett had to remind me not to make God small.

By Saturday, I was in a full-blown Bad Mood. I was still offended from Wednesday. I was frustrated with otherwise smart people who are capable of such dumb decisions about friends, life, and Truth. I'm an unwitting player in a war I only recently saw coming. And doggone it all, this is Holy Week, and this was supposed to be a time to meditate on the blood of Jesus. That was the plan.

I sat there, too grouchy to forgive, too grouchy to honestly care, definitely too grouchy to celebrate Easter. I simultaneously stewed over other people and wondered at all the blackness stirring in my own soul. And that's when I thought it:
Why did You bother dying for me anyway? What a waste.

Holy Week. I fell for it.
Like an idiotic Thomas Aquinas fangirl, I fell for it.
What a dolt.
As if.
As if there's a distinction between the sacred and the secular.
As if there's a Holy Week and fifty one other mundane ones.
As if the Resurrection was small enough to contain on one Sunday.
As if the victory of the Cross is inconsequential enough to confine to a feast day.

It's not that there is no Holy Week; it's that there is no week that's not holy. Every week is a holy week. Every hour of every day is to be lived to the glory of God. Every facet of man, his body, his spirit, his intellect, was broken in Eden and redeemed at Calvary.

Why did You die for me? I asked.
And just as fast, the answer came:
That's what the blood of Jesus is for.
It is a comfort to a grieving husband and his seven children.
It is a ransom for the doubter and the atheist.
It's for when you're unforgiving about being offended.
It's for when you're disdainful of the foolishness in others.
It's for when your soul is black and sludgy,
And this week or this day has been far from holy.

The blood of Jesus takes away the sting of death and the stain of sin.
And it deserves my gratitude every day and every week.
If I treat it like it deserves special attention on one day, then I dilute it on all the rest.

The blood of Jesus is the only thing that can get me through the Now and the Not Yet.

Oh precious is the flow that makes me white as snow.
No other fount I know, nothing but the blood of Jesus. 

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Heaven and Hell and Teaching Your Children Well

One minute they were there. The next they were gone.

There we were at the zoo watching the hippos. It was a crowded room, and the four youngest asked if they could scoot closer to get a better view. Just stay together was my only instruction, and off they went. Alex and I stayed in the back with the baby in the stroller.

The hippos enthralled all of us, and when I did a headcount, I noticed that the 11 yr old and the 9 yr old had backed up through the crowd to be closer to us. But where were the 7 yr old and the 4 yr old? I craned my neck over heads; I squinted through legs and bags and shoes, looking for those two familiar faces. No luck.  Alarmed, I turned to Alex. "They're gone. Stay with the baby." And I took off around the corner, hoping that I could get to the front of the crowd and spot them from that vantage point. Again, no luck. I ran back to Alex. "Keep everyone together. They are not in the building. Stay here."

I flew out of the building. Looked to the right; nope, not there. I looked left. And there, far down the path, I could see that bashful 4 yr. old grin. Two teens were talking to him. But...where was the 7 yr old? I took off running, and as I got closer, I saw that she was standing there with him, her protective arm around his shoulders. My heart laughed and cried at the same time. The four year old was oblivious to the danger he had been in; the seven year old was in tears.  Even as I recall this, my adrenaline is rushing.

I fell to my knees and grabbed them and hugged them. The seven year old let her tears really go at that point, and the four year old just kept smiling bashfully. He knew something was wrong; he just wasn't sure what.

We went over rules that day. I asked the seven year old what those teens had been asking them. They asked for her phone number, she said, but she told them she wasn't allowed to give it to strangers. Good. She knew that. And my eyes still get misty when I remember her arm around her little brother. She knew it was her job to protect him. But she didn't know to stay put.

That day was a stark reminder to me that we have to have repeated discussions about what's wrong with the world, about potentially dangerous situations. As distasteful as those conversations are, we do it because we love our kids.

A few weeks earlier...

I was tucking the four year old, who'd been having, shall we say, a bit of a behavioral slump, into bed. And I started telling him about the wonders of heaven. We were both getting excited and laughing and dreaming of that amazing eternity which awaits us. I came downstairs and told Brett, "I've been telling J all about heaven!

"Huh. I've been telling him all about hell."

Usually I'm the fire-breathing parent, and Brett is the nice guy.

Freaky Friday. 

But you know what? We have to tell the kids about both. They need a solid doctrine of heaven and a solid doctrine of hell. Just like they need to know about Stranger Danger in case we get separated, they need to know what awaits the disobedient, the perverse, the wicked for all eternity. They have to know this stuff because we won't always get to be with them. They need to know that there is a real bliss awaiting God's people. And there is a real torment awaiting the rest.

They also need to know a little bit about Stranger Danger in the Church.

Take self-styled Millennial spokeswoman, Rachel Held Evans, for example. (Though my own Millennials laugh out loud at her attempting to speak for them...) Ostensibly, she's waging war on evangelicalism. In truth, she's waging war on Truth. (But never--no, never--has God ever instructed us to stand down when it comes to Truth. Never.)
And I called her a goat..as in, not a sheep.
Upon further reflection, I'd like to recant.
It's far worse than that.
She's an Angel of Light. No, of course she's not THE Angel of Light. Think types and shadows here.
Second Class perhaps. Not quite got her wings. Yet.

You lead them into wrong; you make it look so right.
You lead them into darkness and make them think you lead them into light.

What's an Angel of Light?
First, they claim identity with Christ. They claim an excellent way.
Second, they take the Truth of Scripture and twist.
Third, they are offended by the True Gospel and are aggressive enemies of it.
They tame God; they civilize the Gospel; they make it palatable to the reprobate.

But the Gospel is offensive to the flesh. Regeneration is required to make it potent.
No amount of redrawing the lines or rewriting the rules will bring in converts, not real ones anyway. Redrawing and rewriting does not make Evans and her ilk Christians; it makes them rebels.

But I know where you're going, too bad you're not alone.
If it wasn't for the real Light, I might have never known. 

It is imperative that we raise our children to spot snakes in the Church lawn. Imperative. And I don't know of any other way than to continually tell them the Truth. It is imperative that we show little Johnny the filth they are spewing and sit down and walk through why that is wrong.

Or little Johnny will have no idea that it is wrong.
Because it's slick.
But horse puckey that is spit shined is still horse puckey.

And Little Johnny will be in serious danger of growing up to become a parent who tells his own children that sponsoring a child is more important than standing for the Truth. Wrong. Or that the Gospel is about social justice. Wrong. Or that Jesus died to redeem Creation rather than sinners. Wrong again. Or /cough/ that Jesus is not the God of the Old Testament. HA! Wrong.

You've got the clergy workin' overtime to widen the narrow way. 

It is imperative that our kids learn Stranger Danger in terms of false teachers. And the false teachers of our children's generation are masterful scripture twisters.

"God doesn't hate sin."
"The crucifixion is cosmic child abuse."
"Everyone goes to heaven."
"There's no such thing as hell."

And so goes the Millennial war on Truth.
Bible anyone?

Develop an appetite in yourself for Heaven.
Tell your kids what the Bible says about Heaven and who gets to go there.
Develop an affinity only for teachers who love the God of Heaven.

Develop an aversion for hell.
Develop an aversion for Scripture twisters who are on the Wide Path to hell.
Tell your children what the Bible says about hell and who must go there.

Raise your kids to be so shrewd about and so steeped in Truth, that they can spot someone who lies about Heaven
about hell
about love
about judgment
about the Gospel,
For their spiritual safety.

Angel of Light, you're telling me wrong is right, but I won't let your evil take control.*

It was absolutely frightening to lose my precious little ones in the crowd that day. It was terrifying to realize that they didn't know to stay put. But that would be nothing, nothing, to losing them to hell.

For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions. 2 Timothy 4:3

*Angel of Light, Robert M. Hartman, 1981