Never Waste A Crisis

Machiavelli first said, “Never waste the opportunity offered by a good crisis.” In the modern era, this sentiment has been wrongfully attributed to Winston Churchill (as I had done as well the first time I posted this blog post.) It was Rahm Emanuel who popularized Machiavelli for this generation by saying “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste,” he said. Why? Because “it’s an opportunity to do things you could not do before.” It was during the economic crisis of 2008 Emanuel and his cohorts used the cover of crisis to deepen their hold in our Republic. Republicans and Democrats differ on many things one thing they both agree on is more power and more influence is better than less. A crisis, therefore, allows politicians to consolidate power and expand influence. To use their strength to grow stronger by preying on the weaknesses of others. A crisis is an opportunity for them to boast in their strength.

For the Christian, the idea of not wasting a crisis is altogether different, rather than projecting strength at the expense of others you boast in your weakness. Paul says in 2 Corinthians that as Christians, servants of God we commend ourselves not in our self-confidence, not in our success but actually in our weakness.

But, What About… The Canaanite Conquest?

In a recent blog post, I wrote for David C. Cook’s content site for kids ministry leaders called Spark I talked about in recent years how the paths that apostates take their “de-construction” stories have a familiar ring to them. One of those familiar tunes they all seem to play is the God of the Old Testament vs. the God of the New. This is where problems seem to start with most modern apostates. They see the God of the Old Testament as a grumpy, angry, indefensible curmudgeon whose actions are embarrassing and shameful. They contrast this angry God with the all-loving view of Jesus that modern evangelicalism seems to be pushing to fill seats.

Because they see God as only love to the exclusion of His justice and holiness, they cannot reconcile how God could order Israel to destroy whole groups of people—in their conquest of Canaan—and still be good. How could the God of love order His chosen people to kill and destroy in His name?

Once you separate the attributes of God or feel that you can no longer “defend Him,” you invariably erode the authority of Scripture. Because it no longer presents a holistic view of who God is from the Garden to the City.

I have heard many people say that “all the Bible is inspired, but not all of the Bible is applicable for children.” I agree with this statement to a point. The problem I have is in the application of this line of thinking. The problem with saying, “not all of the Bible is applicable for kids is you edit the Bible for kids. The result of this edited version of their faith causes them to grow up inoculated with the gospel rather than gripped by it. If you sanitize the stories of the Bible and avoid the hard stories, our understanding of sin is muddied, and our need for salvation is minimized.

If you sanitize the stories of the Bible and avoid the hard stories, our understanding of sin is muddied, and our need for salvation is minimized.

We don’t get to decide if something is applicable for kids what our job as communicators of the gospel is HOW do we apply it to kids. Do kids need to hear the story of Hosea and Gomer? YES. Do they need to listen to the ins and outs of ancient or modern prostitution? No. They need to hear that God loves us with relentless love, just like Hosea loved Gomer. In our desire to find happiness, we turn from God over and over again, love other things more than him. Just like Gomer left Hosea over and over.

So what about the Canaanite conquest? The reason this becomes an issue is that we spend eighteen years of our kids lives telling our kids that God is not just love as the Bible states, but “only” love as the Bible never says. In elevating one of his attributes over the others, we end up with a picture of God that is incompatible with the reality of God.

I recently saw a debate on Facebook, asking if we should cut pictures of Jesus out of the curriculums we use. This is a question worth asking as we should do all that we can to avoid breaking the second commandment. The question we should ask and rarely ever do is this “Have I made God in my own image?” Do I say that “my God would never do that?” What we say when we talk about God forms who God is and is not in the hearts and minds of our kids. It’s important that when we talk about God, we talk about God in the ways he has revealed himself in Scripture.

The primary problem we have with the Canaanite conquest, and when we read the Old Testament, is often people say, “my God would never do that.” We in subtle and overt ways prefer the God of the New Testament to the God of the Old. We think that the God of the Old Testament is different. Leading some major evangelical leaders to separate the two.

What do you think of when you think about God?

What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.

A. W. Tozer

What we think about God reveals a lot about what we believe God is and is not. Lewis had a different take. He said what God thinks about us is the most important thing about us.

I read in a periodical the other day that the fundamental thing is how we think of God.
By God Himself, it is not! How God thinks of us is not only more important, but infinitely more important. Indeed, how we think of Him is of no importance except in so far as it is related to how He thinks of us.

C. S. Lewis

I side with Tozer on this one. For the reason that how we have formed God in our minds reveals how he has revealed himself to us. We can only see him if he opens our eyes to see him. In all honesty, this is a false chose both are the most important but each one tells us something different. What God thinks about us reveals the ground of our salvation. What we think about God shows the fruit of our salvation.

A few nights ago I was putting my youngest daughter to bed and she asked me if closing your eyes and thinking about God was bad. She said this because we discourage the spiritual practices of yoga with our kids. I told her closing your eyes and thinking about God and his word were not bad at all, in fact, its something we should do. She responded by saying “ok, good.” So I asked her “Baby, what do you think about when you think about God?” I was nearly moved to tears, her reply both convicted and moved me. She said “I think about how good He has been to me. I think about how even if we don’t have bread he can make it rain from the sky.”

“I think about how good he has been to me.” God used my six-year-old to preach the gospel to me.

I said what else do you think about when you think about God? She then said, “Dad you know about Clifford the Big Red Dog?” I said “Yes” she laughed sweetly and said, “I asked God for more episodes because I have watched them all. And he heard me they made a new Clifford.” I knew she disliked the new one because Emily and Clifford talk to each other. I said, “But the new one isn’t good is it?” She said, “No daddy, I don’t like the new one.” I told her I was sorry. “It’s ok,” she replied. “God told me that I need to be thankful for what I have.”

My daughter in a two-minute conversation just preached me the essence of a Gospel-centered life. A life marked by the gospel will produce humble gratitude.

This is why I love my church. They are more concerned with kids loving Jesus than kids loving church.

If my daughter by God’s grace continues to think about those things when she thinks about God she will never lose her passion for the church. In our desire for relevance and for pragmatic effectiveness, I think we are missing what matters most. We rightly want our kids to love the church. Yet I think our desires are misguided. What I have found to be the case in my life and in the lives of those who have come through our church over the years When we teach our kids to love Jesus they will love the church. Discipleship isn’t a word we talk enough about in kids and youth ministry. That needs to change. Rather than trying to attract lots of kids each week lets ask a different question. Let’s ask “How can we help our kids see what God has done for them in Christ this week?”

How do we disciple kids in such a way that they love Jesus more as a result?

  1. Point every story back to Jesus. – Don’t be a weirdo and force Jesus where he doesn’t belong but be sure to point them to the larger story that the Bible is telling about what God is like.
  2. Remind them of what God has done for them in Christ. – Don’t just talk about the sin and the cross once a year remind them of the saving life-transforming work of Jesus every week.
  3. Tell them stories of missionaries who gave everything for the gospel. Pray for missionaries who are in harm’s way because of what they believe. We do this daily with our kids.
  4. Ask them when they think of God what do they think about – This one is scary because it is probably one of the more immediate indications of your discipleship of your children. Who have you told your kids God is. Who have you shown your kids through your actions is worthy of your trust.

When you think about God what do you think about? It may not be the most important question but I can think of no better gospel diagnostic. Ask your kids this question often but first, ask yourself. “What do I think about when I think about God?”

Kids Can Handle More Than You Think

One of my favorite moves of all time is UP by Pixar. Up always reminds me that kids can handle hard things. In the course of the two hours this “kids” movie addresses, death, miscarriage, and divorce. How does Pixar tackle those topics? With story. The story of UP is simple but powerful. Up is really fun and most of all it’s incredibly moving. I think as parents or leaders we tend to protect kids from difficult topics or shelter them from the hard stories of the Bible. To avoid the temptation to skip hard conversation because kids aren’t ready.

How do you handle hard truths for kids?

  1. Start by not avoiding hard truths because they are hard.
  2. Tell them the truth in a story – Jesus did this before Pixar did.
  3. Tell them with humor – Use appropriate humor to disarm and protect the kids you are speaking to.
  4. Be truthful – Don’t lie to make it easier, don’t skip parts of the Bible. The idea that certain parts of the Bible are not appropriate for kids isn’t true. The question isn’t appropriateness but rather “How can I teach this truth in an age-appropriate way.”
  5. Show kids Jesus – teach kids that when we don’t fully understand everything which we won’t because we are finite. What we do know about Jesus allows us to trust what we can never know to Jesus.
  6. Lastly, tell them – tell them of the hard stuff you have been through and how Jesus has been faithful in the middle of it all.

How We Stop Short in the Debate on Christians and Alcohol

I came across this article on Facebook a few years back “Can a Christian drink alcohol?” It did an excellent job of warning people of the very real dangers of alcohol. It’s important. People need to hear those dangers loud and clear. Alcohol, when abused, causes much pain. My grandfather was an alcoholic and was apart of AA his whole life. I understand.

The problem with the debate of alcohol is every person I have heard preach against it has stopped short of the real problem alcohol represents. In stopping short, they make alcohol out to be evil when there is nothing in scripture or in 2000 years of church writing that would show alcohol as evil. Alcohol is not evil; the abuse of it is. The excessive reliance on it is. Alcohol does not ruin marriages as the author of the above link purports. It’s something far more sinister that ruins marriages. Just talking about the adverse side effects of alcohol as he does isn’t even intellectually honest.

I grew up in a church culture that, through proof-texting and liberal interpretation of the scripture taught that Jesus never drank wine, he only drank grape juice. I have also been in situations where I have been teased by Christians because I was not drinking alcohol. Both are wrong. We stop short in the debate over the consumption of alcohol when we fail to communicate and that the problem is not fermented grapes; the problem is you and me. We hammer on the symptom but fail to address the cancer far below.

Love how Tim Keller, in his commentary on Romans, addresses the Idols of our hearts.

In the book of Romans, Paul develops a profound anatomy of sin. He shows us that sin goes much deeper than mere behavioral violations; it begins at the motivational level. This is why, as he will go on to explain in Romans 8, sin cannot be resisted through mere willpower. The only cure to sin through the application of gospel truth by the Holy Spirit, at the motivational level.

1. Our root problem is our unwillingness to glorify Godto give him the centrality that is his due

2. Therefore, we choose to create things to be our “gods.” In order to deny God control of our lives, each of us chooses a created thing (or things) to live for and worship instead.

3. Therefore, each life is distorted by a life lie. At the base of all our life choices, our emotional structure, and our personality is a false belief system centered on an idol—the belief that something besides God can give us the life and joy that only God can give. We have “exchanged the truth of God for a lie” (1:25). We look to something besides Jesus to be our “savior,” our “righteousness,” the thing that makes us good and acceptable.

4. But each life is a kind of bondage. No one is actually “free,” for we must serve whatever it is we have decided to live for—so people have “worshiped and served created things” (1:25). Since every human being must have an ultimate “good” by which all other choices are made, and values are judged, we all “offer [our]selves” to something (6:16). Therefore, every human being is in “covenant service” to a “lord” that works out its will through our bodies (6:16-19).

5. Even after conversion, our old, false saviors/lords and their attendant false belief systems still distort our lives—unless the power of the Holy Spirit continually renews our minds and hearts (7:14-25).

6. The key to freedom is the application of the gospel of grace. “Sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace” (6:14).

The debate we rarely have in Christian circles is what we are clinging to more than Jesus. Why, when we feel scared or lonely, do we turn to the abuse of alcohol to numb our pain. The cancer below the symptom of alcohol abuse is sin. Pure and simple. I have counseled many many marriages, and you know what destroys far more marriages than alcohol? iPhones, iPads, and computers. I don’t see people tearing up Facebook to ban and demonize those. Lets bring the debate back to what the whole of scriptures are trying to get at and that is the idols we have lodged in our hearts, enthroned were Christ alone should be. When we understand what Christ has done for us, we are free not to drink because having a beer doesn’t make you godly, cool,or relevant, and we are free to drink because Christ is our treasure.