Dec 17 2012
An Ultimate Question: Will God Protect My Kids?


Brant, my dog growled last night and I thought of this question and decided I'd ask you.. My husband travels a lot (like 2 weeks a month) and so I am home alone with my two babies, my dog, and my two cats, and all the scary noises and shadows that make you wonder how safe you really are.. I normally follow my dog's lead when I get worried as his hearing is better and he is very protective of us.. I read a prayer book to my babies at night (just a collection of prayers) and a couple of them contain "Protect my family", "watch over us", etc.. but here's my hiccup.. God lets bad things (horrible things) happen to good people.. to HIS people.. People are raped and murdered every day so how is trusting God to keep us safe supposed to happen?? Yeah, Daniel may have walked through a den of lions unscathed, but I'd be willing to bet Stephen felt every stone that was thrown at him.. So how do we sleep at night knowing the world is full of evil and that sometimes (a lot of times) that evil hurts good people?? Just wondering what your thoughts are on this topic..


Amy

 

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Amy,


Okay, here are my thoughts, such as they are. And I hope you don't mind the picture up there. I have no idea who that is. I just like putting pictures next to blog entries. Thank you. But back to the question, and I think a LOT of people are asking it, even if not out loud.

As a dad, I think the answer to this is scary. And this may not be true for you, it may not be exactly YOUR inner conversation, but the conversation can go something like this:

Honest question: If I am a good Christian, and have faith and stuff, will God protect my children?

Honest answer: He might. Or He might not.

Honest follow-up question: So what good is He?

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I think the answer is that He’s still good. But our safety, and the safety of our kids isn’t part of the deal. This is incredibly hard to accept on the American evangelical church scene, because we love families, and we love loving families, and we associate Godliness, itself, with cherishing family beyond any other earthly thing.

That someone would even challenge this bond, the primacy of the family bond, is offensive. And yet...

Jesus did it. And it was even MORE offensive, then, in a culture that wasn’t nearly so individualistic as ours. Everything was based on family: Your reputation, your status -- everything. And yet He challenges the idea my attachment to family is so important, so noble, that it is synonymous with our love for Him.

Which leads to some other spare thoughts...

We can make idols out of our families.

Again, in a “Focus on the Family” subculture, it’s hard to imagine how this could be. Families are good. 

But idols aren’t made of bad things. They used to be fashioned out of trees or stone, and those aren’t bad, either. Idols aren’t bad things, they’re good things, made Ultimate.

We make things Ultimate when we see the true God as a route to these things, or a guarantor of them. It sounds like heresy, but it’s not: The very safety of our family can become an idol.

God wants us to want Him for Him, not merely for what He can provide.

As wonderful as “mother love” is, we have to make sure it doesn’t become twisted.

And it can. It can become a be-all, end-all, the very focus of a woman’s existence. C.S. Lewis writes that it’s especially dangerous, because it seems so very, very righteous. Who can possibly challenge a mother’s love?

God can, and does, when it becomes an Ultimate. And it’s more likely to become a disordered Ultimate than many other things, simply because it does seem so very righteous. Lewis says this happens with patriotism, too.

Mother-love, even when disordered, and placed before a desire for God Himself, always looks perfectly justified. And that’s why it’s deadly.

Children are truly gifts from the Lord. And, still, God wants us to want Him for Him, not His gifts.

This is the whole point of “trust”.

We say “I trust Jesus”, or “Trust in the Lord, and...” and all that stuff. But here’s where the words actually mean something.

What if... the worst happens? Do you still trust Him? Do you believe it’s really the end of the story, if it does happen? Isn’t that the point of trust, itself, is that you’re stepping into mystery?

Job is the classic example. He had no idea what was going on, and he was left with only one thing: His trust in God, Himself. He did not know the big picture, and yet he believed... there has to be a picture, here, and it’s one that I can’t see. As we know from the story, he was right. There was a backstory, he just didn’t know what it was.

Do we really believe that God is good, and will ultimately set things right? The real “trust” comes, I’m afraid, when what we think is “right” in our present reality doesn’t happen.

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Not long ago, my wife and I visited the mom and dad of a little girl who was the victim of an unspeakably horrible crime. A relative was in their home for Thanksgiving, and went on a shooting spree, concluding with deliberately taking the girl’s life while she slept in her bed.

We sat in the little girl’s room, days after the shooting. The dad sat on her bed, and pulled down a beautiful, embroidered picture that was on the wall above it. He was crying, and pulled down the picture, and showed the back of it to us.

He still thinks God is good. Somehow.

“I feel like we’re only seeing this part right now, where it looks like chaos,” he said. “But someday we’ll see the front, where the stitches make more sense, and it will be beautiful. It doesn’t make sense, but I have to trust God.”

There are those who would say he’s naive, but I think this is the very essence of trust, and the whole point of it.

We see dimly now, and we know in part now, but we will someday see it all. This is trust.

And one last, radical thought:

By becoming a Christian, we say we are giving our lives to Christ. If that’s true -- if we’ve given our lives to Christ -- we’ve given it all. Everything.

And if that’s true, it includes -- and boy, is this tough to say, as a dad -- it includes our very children. They’re His.

No one can take anything, or anyone from His grip. They can take from ours, but not His.

So watch them sleep, and thank God for them, and know that they’re on loan. He loves them, more than you, even. And whatever happens, He’s got the big picture, we don’t.

That is trust.

Not sure if that helps... but those are some thoughts, for what they're worth...

Best,

Brant

Dec 16 2012
Good News: God is Still Allowed in Public Schools

A listener asked me what I thought of the thought expressed on this t-shirt.

So here goes: Putting it in delicate terms... it's hogwash. 

God isn't "allowed" anywhere. He doesn't need permission. He doesn't need a hall pass from a teacher, and He doesn't need to report to the office on the way in.

We didn't "kick God out" of our public school system. We don't have that kind of power, unless you're such a big fan of the Supreme Court that you think God must first parse a majority decision to determine where He can go.

When Jesus said, "Lo, I am with you always," he didn't leave it subject to court review by our robed lawyers.

Do I think the courts have it right, that they've interpreted the constitution fairly, to allow students religious expression?  No way. They've been all over the map. Incoherent, even. They've overstepped their bounds, in restricting free citizens the very first freedom mentioned in Bill of Rights. That's my opinion.

But they did not kick God out of schools, because... they can't. And God doesn't take on the role of dispassionate observer to prove a point for you.

So don't tell us otherwise. And, because words matter, don't give kids the impression that God waits, sadly, outside, waiting for the final bell, when they can rejoin Him.

God loves little children, and He does not hear their cries from without, and then refuse to be with them. He loves teachers, too, who often feel overwhelmed at their jobs, and thousands call on Him daily. He does not offer a wistful, "I wish I could go in, but..." 

It's true: He does not promise an absence of suffering. In fact, he promises just the opposite. 

But lo, students and teachers, he is with you, always. And when God says He draws near to the broken-hearted, there's no asterisk that says, "Except during homeroom, pending an appeal." When He draws close, He doesn't consult the reigning opinion of the Sante Fe ISD v. Doe decision for boundaries.

Turns out, the Bible doesn't talk about our courts much. It does, however, make it clear that evil precedes the McCollum case of 1948. In fact, it dates back thousands of years, and Jesus' own birth into our world was greeted with unspeakable evil, an infanticide on an unimaginable scale, with a single purpose: Disallowing God.

But you know what? The authorities didn't get to determine where God goes, and where He is. They never do.

There's nothing new about evil. This is our world, as it was, as it is, but not how it shall ever be.

"In this world, you will have trouble," Jesus tells us. "But take heart! I have overcome the world."

Good news, kids! And good news, teachers!

God is in your school. He has not left the building.

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Dec 05 2012
On Saying "Merry Christmas!"...or "Happy Saturday"

(Here's my response to the now-tired "Christmas wars", I wrote for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel a few years back. I post it during the - ahem - "Holiday Season", in case you want to pass it along, or start some discussions with it with those who might object to "Merry Christmas!" Or, you know, school districts who don't want to acknowledge our cultural history. And, by the way...Merry Christmas.)

Happy Wednesday!

No, wait. Check that. You likely know that “Wednesday” really means “Woden’s Day” -- a nod to the Teutonic god.

I, for one, do not worship Woden. I'm not wont to worship Woden, and, well, wouldn't worship Woden. Perhaps you pursue a personal relationship with Woden. But maybe not.

So forgive my insensitivity. Granted, in this culture, the fourth day of the week is, most obviously, “Wednesday” – why, it’s as obvious as, say, December 25th is Christmas – but we shouldn’t simply say things like that out loud because “it’s been that way” for centuries.

It’s time to recognize, and celebrate, our differences. Joining the celebration of religious expression is easy: Simply be offended by everyone else’s religious expression. Celebrate good times, come on.

What’s disturbing: Our own government continues to refer to this day as the Day of Woden, clearly embracing one religious view over others. Even our public schools embrace Woden, throughout school publications and practices. While I’m not steeped in Teutonic lore, I suspect, based on our monthly cafeteria calendars, that Woden remains the Teutonic Lord of pizza square, pear, brownie and choice of milk.

Not to mention these “Saturdays” we keep having! I try to be open-minded about this stuff, but c’mon: “Saturn” is just the Roman equivalent of the Greek god “Cronus”. What did Cronus do? Oh, boy.

“Cronus was the ruling Titan who came to power by castrating his Father Uranus. His wife was Rhea. There offspring were the first of the Olympians. To insure his safety Cronus ate each of the children as they were born..."

That's pretty much not cool. I don’t want to judge, I'd have to walk a mile in his shoes, etc., but -- I don't know, man -- this just seems out of line.

But he gets his own DAY for that. He castrates his dad, eats his kids…and then mall stores honor Cronus with “Saturday Sales Events”? I don’t even want to know what goes down at those things.

So yeah, stop saying “Saturday” around me. New rule: Even if the culture is steeped in it, and even if most even prefer it; even if it might seem to be reasonable to expect I could accommodate it, heck, even if it IS Saturday: don’t say it.

I remember my public high school (!) marching band, performing that song by Chicago: You know what day of the week, in the park, I think it was the fourth of that month named after a militaristic dead white guy. I doubt the whole crowd at the Assumption, Illinois football game was into Cronus. Krokus, yes. Cronus, pretty much no. Couldn't we have found something else to play? Times are changing.

Let’s re-name everything, and pretend our culture appeared out of thin air, thirty seconds ago. Sure, it would be a massive, and massively strange, project. We could make a court case out of it, since the Constitution itself doesn’t afford different protections for expression of mostly-dead religions and expression of religions more widely practiced.

Or, we could just chill, and recognize that, for example, Saturday is Saturday, whether I worship Saturn or not.

And we could even say that December 25th is “Christmas” whether you’re a Christian or not.

Heck, maybe then, with one of the most painfully annoying melody lines ever written, we could even wish you a merry one.