Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Where's the Evidence?

Seems that the world is just full of believers – people who say they believe in God (whatever you may call Him).  Many of these say they believe that Jesus Christ came to earth, died, and was resurrected.  I have read a couple different statistics on this, but the most recent Pew Research study indicates that 84 percent of the world’s population “has faith.”  Approximately 32 percent of the world’s population considers themselves Christians.  

But, what does this really tell us? If 2.2 billion people believe in Jesus Christ as the Son of God, and that only 16 percent of the people in the entire world don’t have faith of any kind, what can we glean? If you ask me, it’s simple.  It’s not good news.  What it means is that people’s beliefs and actions are not in alignment.

Somewhere along the way, we decided that our actions just weren’t as important as the belief we professed.  Sure, scripture is clear that must first BELIEVE.  And, it’s also clear that works cannot save us.  But, the Bible also paints the picture that our actions follow closely with our belief.  Salvation requires repentance, which is turning your back on your old life and beginning to walk in the opposite direction. This means change.  This means sacrifice.  This means discomfort at times.

The problem for most Christians is not that they don’t want to change, or that they don’t want to do the right thing.  It’s that wanting to do it, and actually doing it are completely different.  Let’s say you love your spouse with all your heart. Day after day you thank God for him or her.  They are on your mind constantly.  But, you always work late. You rarely speak an encouraging word. You never tell her how much she means.  You never plan a date night. You rarely smile at home. But, wait…you love your spouse.  You adore them. But, your actions don’t line up with your feelings.

In James, we read that faith without good works is a dead faith.  Not “no faith,” but a dead one. Lifeless. Pointless. Dormant. So, if your faith is pushing up daisies, who even knows that you have faith? What evidence is there to support that you believe?

I read a quote in a magazine article a couple years ago that has stuck with me.  To paraphrase, the author said that the biggest gap that exists in the life of a Christian is not the gap between what we know and what we need to know.  The biggest gap is between what we know and how we live. Ouch.

You may not know the entire Bible from cover to cover.  You may only know a couple of the Commandments – that you’re supposed to love your neighbor, not murder, not steal, not covet.  So, what are you doing with what you know? How are you living?  What choices are you making to demonstrate your beliefs?

I recently read a book entitled Not a Fan by Kyle Idleman.  The book is incredibly well-written, and equally convicting.  Idleman claims that most Christians are “fans” of Jesus. We like to associate ourselves with Christ.  We even agree with everything Jesus says.  But, we just don’t want to actually follow him.  We don’t want to give up control. We don’t want to go “all in.”

We think if we go “all in” we’ll have to give up some things. Maybe so.  We think if we go “all in” we’ll have to act differently.  Hopefully so.  We think that going “all in” will change our identity. Definitely so! 

After all, isn’t that why you accepted Christ in the first place? 

John 14:15 simply says this: If you love me, obey my commands. (NLT)

Your spouse wants you to cherish her.  Your kids want you to spend time with them.  Your friends want you to be trustworthy. Your co-workers want you to be dependable.

But, God wants you to obey.  Why?  Because He loves you.  He knows what is best for you.  And, He knows you love Him when you do what He asks. And, everybody else will too!

Monday, July 8, 2013

Lazy Kids, or Lazy Parents?

There was really no way to prepare myself for this.  No self-help book, YouTube video, blog post, or podcast could possibly have done the trick.  Most days, I feel like I am Velma, blind as a bat and scrambling on all fours trying to find my glasses on the ground.  This harsh reality is starting to sink in: I am now the parent of a teenager.

I can barely remember when I was a teenager at this point.  While I am not yet in my 40’s, my teen years are distant memories. I can recall events, people, places. I remember games, parties, school trips.  What I have a tough time remembering is what it was like to be a teenager. The awkwardness.  The growth. The increased appetite. The hormones.  The pimples.  OK, I remember the pimples a little more…especially those I got between my upper lip and my nostril – OUCH!

I keep hearing people say that it’s so much tougher being a parent of a teenager today than it was when I was an adolescent.  I know there’s the technology – internet, social media, camera phones, texting, and the like.  I understand that teens today consider their phone an appendage. I get that.  But, is it really tougher to be a parent today than 25 years ago?  I’m not convinced it is.

Since the Garden of Eden, there have always been ways for people to get into trouble – both adults and kids alike.  It’s called making poor choices.  The “device” or snare may be different, but essentially it’s the same.  The forbidden fruit of yesterday is a multitude of pleasures and vices today. Temptation has been around forever. But does more temptation mean you parent differently?

Sure, smart phones, Xbox 360, tablets, laptops, and of course HDTV have collectively given kids of all ages more ways to spend (waste) time than when I was a kid. Shoot, my summer break was spent watching reruns of The Jefferson’s and Gilligan’s Island all morning long, then playing the occasional game of Missile Command on my Atari.  Because these were the only forms of media I had available, I spent a lot of time playing baseball, basketball, football, and riding bikes outside. You don’t see that as much from kids today.  But, is that because moms and dads have a tougher time parenting?

If you ask me, it’s simple.  Today’s kids are not tougher to parent.  That isn’t the issue here.  Technology hasn’t made it more difficult to be a parent of a teenager.  It’s the exact opposite.  Technology has made it easier for parents to become lazy.  It’s opened the door for mom and dad to not have to be hands-on with their kids.  Instead of coming up with ways to be engaged with their kids, parents use the TV, iPod, tablet, or phone to babysit.  And, so far it is working.  When parents allow this to happen, they are essentially being replaced. It’s sad.

You may be wondering, “Does your teenager have a phone? Does he have a nice gaming system? Does he text? Does he watch TV?”  The answer to all of these questions is “yes.”  But, here’s what I can tell you: the amount of time he watches TV is limited, as is the amount of time on the video game. The phone is never kept in his room, and his texts are not “private.” We do not have a “video game room” that our kids disappear into for hours on end. My wife and I watch them like hawks.

The best parenting advice I think I have received was from Nick Person, who used to serve as the Middle School Pastor at my church.  As my son was about to enter sixth grade, I told Nick I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to handle being the parent of a teenager.  He laughed and said, “Just keep loving him like you have been, and stay in his business.  The kids who have the most trouble are the ones whose parents back off and don’t stay involved in what’s going on in their lives.”

So, that’s what I am doing.  I do not want him to get swept up in the current that will likely toss some of his classmates out to sea.  I know I will have to choose my battles, and will even have to allow him to fail and make unwise choices.  But, I will be with him every step of the way, and I will love him so much that it might mean I am not as cool as everyone else’s parents in his eyes. 

And, I am OK with that.  I can handle the attitude.  But could someone please help me with the B.O.?