A Call to Resurgence

1037I find many contemporary Christian books lacking in either sound theology or cunning intrigue. When it comes to Christian books I tend to stick with the classics like R.C. Sproul and C.S. Lewis.

A friend of mine suggested I read Mark Driscoll’s new book, A Call to Resurgence, and he asks the question: “Will Christianity have a funeral or a future?”

I’m not going to lie. I like Driscoll. I agree with about 97% of his teachings about the Chruch, the Bible, God, and the people of God. And I believe he’s got a good handle on what’s in store for Christianity in the very near future.

As citizens of the 21st century are drowning in the rapid currents of the new “tolerance” movement, Driscoll makes the point that we Christians need to know where we stand on issues such as gay marriage, abortion, and basic theological truths that many of us may have forgotten.

I loved this book. Not only because I agree with most of his statements and predictions, but because he explains this “brave new world” we’re living in crystal clear, and reminds Christians that we can no longer sit on our butts and watch the world spiral out of control.

We’ve got to join in the chaos, because, really, it’s not chaos at all. The world is heading in the direction God has planned – bad as it may seem now.

We just have to know how to live in it and stand strong.

How Salvation Works

kids-in-classroomOn the first day of school, Mrs. Shermann passed out the kid-friendly syllabi  to her students and asked, “How many classroom rules do you notice on the whiteboard?”

“Ten!” they all shouted in unison.

“That’s right,” said Mrs. Shermann.

What she was about to teach them was her favorite lesson to teach. And she wondered who, if any, would learn it.

Rules 2-10 were the standard RAISE YOUR HAND BEFORE SPEAKING; BE COURTEOUS TO YOUR CLASSMATES; WRITE YOUR NAME ON ALL ASSIGNMENTS, etc.

But Rule No. 1 was the heart of it all.

It said, “ALWAYS SAY YOU’RE WELCOME.”

She spent probably eight minutes stressing the importance of this rule. A simple rule at best, a curious one for the 21st century at worst.

But the No. 1 rule, nonetheless.

But as the year progressed, it proved to be so much more complicated than it ever needed to be. And many kids had their feelings hurt by it, and others cried, and many were grounded by their parents for bad grades. All because of that dreaded Rule No. 1.

Mindy’s parents went over her assignment with her at least twice before declaring that it was indeed a perfect 100% (a 99 at worst if Mrs. Shermann was counting the missed comma in one of Mindy’s answers). But the 0/100 blotched in red ink at the top was a curious and disdainful score.

Dylan came home crying to his mom for the second time that week because, “Missus Shermunn calls on me and I give her the right answer, but she says I’m wrong. I raise my hand and say the answer is Benjimin Franklin and she says no. Then she called on Lindsy and she says Benjimin Franklin, and Missus Shermunn says she’s right.”

Every year Mrs. Shermann meets with a lot of parents the first couple of weeks of school. But the parents walk out appeased and relieved almost every time.

“It’s come to my attention that most of you think I’m unfair with my grading,” said Mrs. Shermann one Thursday morning before diving into the day’s agenda.

Some of the kids skeptically nod their heads. Others sit stiff upright, as though not wanting to show disloyalty or doubt to the fuhrer.

“A lot of you feel that your answers are correct in your assignments, but you get 0′s. And some of you give the right answer in class, and I say you’re wrong.”

A few more heads nod.

“You can do all the right things, and have all the right answers, but none of that matters if you don’t follow the rules. Especially the most important rule.”

Her gaze directed the others’ toward the whiteboard. Rule No. 1 seemed to be written in a much brighter color that day.

ALWAYS SAY “YOU’RE WELCOME.”

“If you turn in your assignment and I say ‘Thank you,’ and you don’t respond with ‘You’re welcome,’ then what good is it if you have all the answers right? You broke Rule No. 1, so nothing else matters.”

She continued. “If you give the right answer in class and I say ‘Thank you,’ and you ignore me or just nod your head, then I’m going to call on someone else until they obey Rule No. 1, then I’ll tell them they have the right answer.”

“Let’s say you live in a small town and the most important rule is that you must wear a blue shirt all the time. If you don’t wear a blue shirt all the time, but you do a lot of amazing things like save kittens from trees, give money to the poor, be nice to your enemies, none of that matters, because you’re not wearing the color blue. You’re breaking the most important rule. It might not make sense to you, but the rule in this classroom is to say ‘You’re welcome’ when thanked.”

“Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” Matthew 22:37-39

“All have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags.” Isaiah 64:6

You’re welcome.

Imitations

StarbucksI’m here at Starbucks working on a book, and as I look around, I’m realizing something.

Starbucks is the Christian alternative to a bar.

I mean really, as I sit here I’m watching a chubby guy trying to make eyes at a young lady at the opposite table. He’s bald and wearing a small Western Kentucky Hilltoppers sweatshirt. He has a copy of The Insanity of Obedience next to his computer. I don’t think he has much of a chance.

One couple is snogging each other on the barstools where people are trying to pick up their lattes.

People go to Starbucks to get their drinks – their buzz – and hope to meet someone of the opposite sex. The only difference between Starbucks and a bar is that you don’t have to tip the servers!

(And instead of being asked, “What’s your poison,” you might be asked, “Whole milk or skim?”)

I may not come to Starbucks to meet singles, as I’m happily married, and I’m definitely not saying it’s a bad thing that people go to Starbucks for any reason. But I’ve got other imitations in my life.

I’m listening to the Frozen soundtrack as I work and I’m mistaking it as uplifting Christian music (need I say more than the opening track, “Vuelie”?).

I mistake the Bible as a self-help book.

I treat God as a deistic Being who is just out there somewhere. Then, when the devil locks me in the great Cave of “Wonders”, I expect God to appear as a funny big blue genie, complete with gold cufflinks, symbolizing His inferiority to me.

And church? That’s a place I go to for credit on my Eternal Records.

We tend to get a lot of things mixed up, don’t we? I know I do.

Something I’m trying to learn right now is to be still and know that He is God.  He doesn’t sound like Robin Williams and He certainly isn’t bound by any cufflinks or golden lamp.

That’s easy to say, and easier to write. But it’s something I’m trying to learn to believe. And be okay with it.

Meantime, I’m going to finish my latte and see if I can play Hitch to the Hilltoppers sweatshirt guy; his glasses are fogging up staring at this girl, and I think he’s going to damage his computer if he drips anymore sweat on it.

“Please Don’t Kill the Child”

Abortion ChairForty-one years ago today, on January 22, 1973, two historical events took place during the drafting of the Paris Peace Accords and negotiations of the release of Vietnam POW’s.

The country would mourn one event, while it would be torn apart because of the other, more crucial event.

The first was that the thirty-sixth president of the United States died of a heart attack in Texas. This may have overshadowed the even more dreadful event of January 22 – the U.S. Supreme Court’s 7-2 ruling in Roe v. Wade.

Regardless of your beliefs, this was a dark day in American history. The ruling struck down any abortion law that had been in place. It allowed abortion for any reason for the first three months of pregnancy.

Cold-blooded murder was permitted on U.S. soil 41 years ago.

And the blood of the unborn continues to flow freely today, for the most part, without resistance.

Why are people so base as to actively terrorize the lives of unborn babies? I’ve mentioned it in a previous post that those who murder or support the murder of unborn babies are no better than the despicable acts of  people like Andrew Lanza.

And now I ask a question to those who oppose abortion: Why? Why aren’t we fighting to defend the fatherless, the motherless, the unborn orphans? Why have we let America fall so short of this basic God-given right to life?

A lot of times we might just ask ourselves, what can we do?

I love the words of Mother Teresa, who puts it so plainly:

We are fighting abortion by adoption – by care of the mother and adoption for her baby. We have saved thousands of lives. We have sent word to the clinics, to the hospitals and police stations: “Please don’t destroy the child; we will take the child.” Please don’t kill the child. I want the child. Please give me that child. I am willing to accepet any child who would be aborted and to give that child to a married couple who will love the child and be loved by the child. From our children’s home in Calcutta alone, we have saved over 3,000 children from abortion. These children have brought such love and joy to their adopting parents and have grown up so full of love and joy. 

So I ask, what’s stopping us, any of us, to do the same?

If you know of anyone who is planning on having an abortion, offer to take that child. Find a family who will take that child. Save that child. If you are considering an abortion, there are plenty of families who are desperate to have your baby, and will take great care of him or her and you would not be condemned by giving him up.

Let us not forget the tragedy of this day, 41 years ago – America’s return to depravity that is as dark, and even worse, than slavery itself.

Mourn for the deceased unborn, and seek out and fight for those who may yet still have a chance.

Approval

 

approved_red_stampWell, it’s been nine months since we attended the foster to adopt classes here in Kentucky. We hit a little snag a couple of months ago, which you can read about here.

Things do seem to be looking up in the Toy household, though. Pixie is recovering nicely from her surgery, and began walking almost immediately (mostly because nothing will stop her from getting to Sarabeth). It’s the next 7 1/2 weeks of recovery (A.K.A. crate confinement) which will be difficult, especially when her little sister Prim is allowed to frolic free around the loft.

And the better news is that we got an email from our case-worker saying that all of our paperwork has been approved and we are finally approved by the state of Kentucky to be foster to adopt parents. Whew!

Nine months.

Like a pregnancy without all the morning sickness and hot flashes (or is that just with menopause?).

So what does that mean, now that we’re approved? Well, it means that we could get a call from the state at any minute, being today or sometime next summer – who knows – and they’ll say, “We’ve got a two-year-old boy here who’s dad is missing and his mom is in rehab…” or “We have a brother and sister here, both under three-years-old who need a home…”

They’ll tell us the situation and any problems that are on record for the kids and ask if we are interested in taking them in.

Before we agree to picking them up, we will ask if they are eligible for possibly being adopted.

By accepting a placement, no matter what the answer to that question may be, we knowingly run the risk of that child being placed back with his or her parents or a relative stepping into the picture to take them in.

But some kids aren’t eligible for adoption for varying reasons. We want to take a child in with the hope that he or she could be ours forever.

So who knows what the future holds for us.

Personally, I’m terrified, as I’ve never had a child before. And it’s not like there’s a due-date. I won’t have six-to-eight hours of labor to let it sink in that I’m having a baby. I won’t get to hand out cigars in the lobby (thankfully this isn’t a 1950s movie, either).

We don’t want to buy toys for Christmas because we don’t know if we’ll have a child with us that morning or not. We don’t know if we need to reserve an extra seat or two at our Thanksgiving table. We don’t even know if we can go see Catching Fire next week because we wouldn’t dare take a two-year-old to such a loud and violent movie.

All we know is that everything is up in the air. And everything is unsure.

But nothing is undecided.

We take comfort in the fact that God knows the exact kid (or kids) that will be placed with us, and when. He knows their temperaments, and He knows ours. He knows whether they’ll be with us for a few months, a couple of years, or forever. He already knows the outcome of the court proceedings that are likely to follow.

We don’t; but He does. And I’m fine with that.

All we can do is have the house ready, warm, and welcoming for whoever we may bring through the door at any hour.

Why We Don’t Celebrate Halloween

halloweenIt’s not that I don’t like Halloween. I love the fall colors and the trick-or-treaters running up and down the streets, and the yellow glow emanating from jack-o-lanterns. I did a lot of trick-or-treating myself as a kid and I have fond memories of those nights.

But when I got married and I started censoring the sort of movies I watch and cleaned up my mouth (which I’m still working on), I’ve learned that something else in my life wasn’t quite right: I loved Halloween. Now, I wasn’t one of those 20-somethings that knocked on doors for candy, but I did go to the amusement parks to take part of their Halloween nights.

But Sarabeth had a different take on Halloween. Her dog died on Halloween, and the third Halloween we spent together, she got a call from home saying another dog of hers died. But her opposition to Halloween goes deeper than that, and it took a few years for me to understand it.

To break it down, Halloween is nothing more or less than a celebration of everything that is wrong with the world. Whoever pulls off the biggest scare gains fame. Whoever is dressed the ugliest or most horrific gets the prize. We poke fun at the dead, and express our willingness to be dead in the costumes we choose.

Halloween is a celebration of everything that came after the Fall of man. We willingly exchange everything that was good and right and perfect in the Garden for our consequences of the curse. We’re like dogs who can’t get enough of feasting on our own vomit.

Halloween is a night where we spit on what God has made for us and we further twist His good gifts into darker and more sinister depravities.

I still love It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown and Will Ferrell’s Bewitched, and candy corn and the smell of a freshly cut pumpkin, and Jack Skelington. I’m not at all against families dressing their toddlers up as Pinocchio and walking them around the block for free candy.

But being made in the image of God and yearning for what’s right and good and wholesome, I can’t consciously welcome any sort of celebration of death into my life, because God never intended death to occur. I won’t rent movies like The Exorcistor Dracula because I don’t want to fill my wife’s mind with images that God never intended for us to see. (Now, I might suggest we watch Jurassic Park or Signs since that’s scary enough for our tastes.)

But before you get dressed up and go out and celebrate next week, think about what you’re celebrating and why. And for goodness sakes, if you’re twenty-something, please don’t go trick-or-treating. Go to 7-11 and buy your own candy.

And please, please, please tie your dogs up or keep them inside.

It’s All in a Song

notes

It’s funny. If you take a song, any one song, and play it at different times of the day, it can have a whole different meaning, or evoke different feelings.

Let’s take Jackie Wilson’s “Your Love (Keeps Lifting Me Higher)” for example.

That song works best in the car, at night with the windows down. It’s just got that old-time feeling to it, that can’t help but make you smile and tap your feet.

It’s also a fun song to have on while you’re doing chores around the house, or if you want to get your wife or kids out of a bad mood.

It can also be very lulling as it quietly plays somewhere in your bedroom at night as you fall asleep.

Maybe it reminds you of an old flame, or a loved one who passed.

It can also hold up as a party song, or even as elevator music.

No matter where you play it, or when you listen to it, it’s the same song, sung by the same guy.

The same can be said of God. He works in different ways, and speaks in different volumes, but no matter what He’s saying or how He says it, it’s the same God speaking those words.

The same God who spoke the world into being.

And the same God who spoke the words of Scripture.

So the next time you find yourself asking if it’s God’s leading or your own, match it up with what He has already said in the Bible, and see if it matches up with what you think you hear God saying to you.

And always keep the music playing. (Except when you’re praying, of course.)

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