Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Preparing Our Children - part 2

Last week I highlighted an article I saw back in January (I couldn't post it at the time as I already had blogs prepared for our “I Love My Church” month at Trinity). I mentioned that we went through some of these questions as a family. I want my boys to not only know what they believe, but be able to give a clear answer to the world when they ask. I could walk through each section of this blog http://ireport.cnn.com/docs/DOC-910282 however, I just want to take a moment and deal with some of the glaring issues and how we should approach them with our children. I am not going answer this in a "deep" way using theological words and a great apologetic attack: while this would be very easy to do Biblically, the goal of this is to simplify word and truth in a way that you as a parent can discuss this with your children.  We must be able to give an answer for what we believe, and it is our responsibility to teach our children not just what we believe, but where it is found in Scripture and why we believe it.  
“ One day he would know this, and he would not trust my judgment. He would know that I built an elaborate tale—not unlike the one we tell children about Santa—to explain the inconsistent and illogical legend of God.”

I have said on multiple occasions that how parents deal with Santa and other things is a personal matter. However, as parents who have played the whole “Santa” game, I confess if I had to do it over again, I would not do it. It just leads to many logical questions that thinking children ask which give this guy “god-like” characteristics. I would tell them that “Santa is a game that some families choose to play with their kids.  Some families are more serious about it than others and we should not mess up their game just because we don't play it with them.” But, what this lady says is correct to the degree that it really can lead to difficult discussions and put you answering questions that really give this myth “God-like” qualities. 

“And so I thought it was only right to be honest with my children.”  

Why be honest? Who sets the standard of honesty? If there is no God, then why bow to a moral standard that says that it is wrong to lie. Is lying immoral? Who set the code for morality? If there is no standard of right and wrong, no absolute good or bad, then use this opportunity to teach the child survival skills; how to lie and get by with it, how to cheat or manipulate to get ahead of everyone else, to steal to get what you think you deserve (Now, if you are like most parents and just thought, "Of course I don't want to teach my child to get ahead at all costs!", then remember, without God, who says that is wrong?).  Who said “it is only right to tell the truth"? What is truth? If we are going to declare that there is no God, then we must declare there is no giver of a standard of good/evil, so man is left to determine for himself what is right in his own eyes...so why do you get to dictate to me what is moral?  

“God is a bad parent and role model.”
 Again, what is the standard of good and bad, and who sets this? Who says I must live according to someone else's standard of “good.” The entire reasoning is out of whack here. In reading the line of reasoning presented, this argument assumes the “parent/child” relationship is really now adult to adult. After all, the reasoning of a 3 year old thinks that Pop Tarts are a meal and that if something is bad to you it must be bad for you, so avoid it. Our children only want what their flesh screams for (it is not until some maturity sets in that we can begin to deny our flesh and make sensible decisions), so certainly the argument presented flash forwards to adult children. In my relationship with my parents I do not have to obey them, I am not under their authority any longer. I will honor them, but in decisions we are equals. God and I are not equals: He is a perfect, omniscient, omnipresent parent. He is also a just, holy and righteous God who will do what is right and best, regardless of whether or not I see it and understand it at the time. On my best day, I am not that type of parent. The other issue is that not everyone is God’s child. We see a complete contrast in 1st Jn. 3:10 do we not?

“God is not logical” “God is not fair”

The constant answer given, almost like a stuck record by one of our boys to these two questions was, “God is Sovereign and we are not.” In truth, every single point of this paper can be answered that way. God’s ways are above ours and I see very early and throughout the Word of God that I am in no position to explain the “why” of God doing something. If God were “fair,” He would have thrown every single one of us into Hell. This is the problem with any type of worldly belief system, including the false teaching in many “evangelical” churches. God wasn’t created for me, nor for my understanding, but I was created for Him. Life is not going to be fair: we are in a fallen world and I can, at the very least explain the why of tragedy by going to Genesis 3. I can explain that this is not the best way, that we live in a fallen world, but we serve a good God and every single wrong, every single tragedy will be dealt with by God. He will put sin under the blood of Calvary or cast it into Hell, but a perfect judge will not simply overlook it; it must be dealt with. His ways are higher than mine, but He doesn’t answer to me, but both my children and I will answer to Him.  I am not sure where we have gotten the idea that things have to be "fair" according to us, and that we have to understand something for it to be truth.  That thinking does not hold true in any other part of our society or lives, but we think we have a right to demand it from a holy, righteous Creator (by the way, the One who created it, owns it, rules it and care for it).

 “God does not protect the innocent”
This point gave us great opportunity to talk at length with our boys about God’s amazing grace. I will take it a step further than the blogger: God didn’t protect the perfect! He put His only Son on the cross to suffer and drink all the wrath the should have fallen to me. Crazy enough, God didn’t protect the perfect so He could receive me. That is beyond the scope of my reasoning, but it is what makes grace so incredibly amazing. Sin spares no one, it is a death sentence, but God sent forth His son as a propitiation for our sin! As believers, we can have a lot of fun when we talk about this part. 

“God is not present”

In this area we discuss the God of all science. God created things that are beyond our 5 senses for us to discover and some, that we will never understand this side of eternity.  The argument that nothing can be held to unless it is experienced with the 5 senses will fly in the face of modern science itself. Certainly, the child can’t use this test to determine radio waves, electromagnetic pulses, even the understanding of the atom.  I know the argument that follows would be "Well, we have instruments to measure those things,” but let's remember that those instruments are continually evolving from the intelligence that God has given us to understand and discover His creation - these instruments were not always "around" and yet it is the belief in the existence of these things (things which cannot be seen, felt, smelled, etc) which leads to the desire to study and discover, which leads to the science and technology to understand.   God has revealed himself in a general way through creation but man denies this.

 “God Does Not Teach Children to Be Good”and “God Teaches Narcissism”
False doctrine and moralism teaches children to be good and breeds narcissism. I understand and teach my children that God isn’t looking for “white washed tombs,” but looking for a heart that is pure, and only He can give this through the work He did on Calvary. If I understand and teach my children that God didn’t come to make life about me, but for me to die to myself and be willing to take up the cross and follow Him, I think these two objections fall apart. The best way to combat these thoughts are to give your children true theology; talk about big truths and let them see life is about Christ, not about me!

This dear lady is teaching her child theology; it is just not biblical. While she denies that there are standards given by God, she is teaching the standards that are deemed good and acceptable by her; which leads to the thought that every man can determine those for themselves. There is no good parent except what she deems good. The truth is she is not being intellectually honest, nor is she being morally honest: she does want religion to go away, she does want someone else to take care of her and her child but she makes it crystal clear it is the government and the world’s standards.  These standards are ever changing based on social whim of the day and lead to chaos and me-centric thinking.  The order and safety presented in that idea is a myth that is tragic and that leads to destruction. While our moral voice still originates in an internal compass of right and wrong given by God (whether we deny Him or not), when man believes that truth and standards are in his hands to define, power struggles, entitlements, self-righteous judgementalism rule the day.  After all, the one we would consider depraved and maniacal would define his actions as just and appropriate.  Our standards and truth must come from Scripture alone and lie in a recognition that God, while not understood completely by His creation, is in control and has the right to rule over the creation He made.  He is not obligated to make Himself understood or to explain His ways; He does not have to bow to our sense of fairness nor our desire for our sense of justice - He defines good/evil, right/wrong and He along is holy and just.  Pray for this dear lady that God will work in her life and open her eyes to the wonderful truth of the gospel.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Preparing Our Children:

Below is a blog and link from cnn.com.  I recently used this to push my boys and ask some tough questions; questions to help them think things through. I am going to post this today and encourage you to think through the things she says and how to pose some of these questions to your family. Next blog I will give some thoughts concerning this:

Why I Raise My Children Without God
By TXBlue08 | Posted January 14, 2013

CNN PRODUCER NOTE TXBlue08, a mother of two teenagers in Texas, blogs about raising her children without religion. She said she shared this essay on CNN iReport because 'I just felt there is not a voice out there for women/moms like me. I think people misunderstand or are fearful of people who don’t believe in God.' What are your thoughts on this iReport? Share your written response via our Sound Off assignment. Update: CNN hasn't flagged this iReport as inappropriate, but some community members have. This is a divisive topic, however it does not violate our Community Guidelines, so we ask people to please stop flagging it. We will continue to review the story as often as possible. - dsashin, CNN iReport producer

When my son was around 3 years old, he used to ask me a lot of questions about heaven. Where is it? How do people walk without a body? How will I find you? You know the questions that kids ask.

For over a year, I lied to him and made up stories that I didn’t believe about heaven. Like most parents, I love my child so much that I didn’t want him to be scared. I wanted him to feel safe and loved and full of hope. But the trade-off was that I would have to make stuff up, and I would have to brainwash him into believing stories that didn’t make sense, stories that I didn’t believe either.

One day he would know this, and he would not trust my judgment. He would know that I built an elaborate tale—not unlike the one we tell children about Santa—to explain the inconsistent and illogical legend of God.

And so I thought it was only right to be honest with my children. I am a non-believer, and for years I’ve been on the fringe in my community. As a blogger, though, I’ve found that there are many other parents out there like me. We are creating the next generation of kids, and there is a wave of young agnostics, atheists, free thinkers and humanists rising up through the ranks who will, hopefully, lower our nation’s religious fever.

Here are a few of the reasons why I am raising my children without God.

God is a bad parent and role model.

If God is our father, then he is not a good parent. Good parents don’t allow their children to inflict harm on others. Good people don’t stand by and watch horrible acts committed against innocent men, women and children. They don’t condone violence and abuse. “He has given us free will,” you say? Our children have free will, but we still step in and guide them.

God is not logical.
How many times have you heard, “Why did God allow this to happen?” And this: “It’s not for us to understand.” Translate: We don’t understand, so we will not think about it or deal with the issue. Take for example the senseless tragedy in Newtown. Rather than address the problem of guns in America, we defer responsibility to God. He had a reason. He wanted more angels. Only he knows why. We write poems saying that we told God to leave our schools. Now he’s making us pay the price. If there is a good, all-knowing, all-powerful God who loves his children, does it make sense that he would allow murders, child abuse, wars, brutal beatings, torture and millions of heinous acts to be committed throughout the history of mankind? Doesn’t this go against everything Christ taught us in the New Testament?

The question we should be asking is this: “Why did we allow this to happen?” How can we fix this? No imaginary person is going to give us the answers or tell us why. Only we have the ability to be logical and to problem solve, and we should not abdicate these responsibilities to “God” just because a topic is tough or uncomfortable to address.

God is not fair.
If God is fair, then why does he answer the silly prayers of some while allowing other, serious requests, to go unanswered? I have known people who pray that they can find money to buy new furniture. (Answered.) I have known people who pray to God to help them win a soccer match. (Answered.) Why are the prayers of parents with dying children not answered?

If God is fair, then why are some babies born with heart defects, autism, missing limbs or conjoined to another baby? Clearly, all men are not created equally. Why is a good man beaten senseless on the street while an evil man finds great wealth taking advantage of others? This is not fair. A game maker who allows luck to rule mankind’s existence has not created a fair game.

God does not protect the innocent.
He does not keep our children safe. As a society, we stand up and speak for those who cannot. We protect our little ones as much as possible. When a child is kidnapped, we work together to find the child. We do not tolerate abuse and neglect. Why can’t God, with all his powers of omnipotence, protect the innocent?

God is not present.
He is not here. Telling our children to love a person they cannot see, smell, touch or hear does not make sense. It means that we teach children to love an image, an image that lives only in their imaginations. What we teach them, in effect, is to love an idea that we have created, one that is based in our fears and our hopes.

God Does Not Teach Children to Be Good
A child should make moral choices for the right reasons. Telling him that he must behave because God is watching means that his morality will be externally focused rather than internally structured. It’s like telling a child to behave or Santa won’t bring presents. When we take God out of the picture, we place responsibility of doing the right thing onto the shoulders of our children. No, they won’t go to heaven or rule their own planets when they die, but they can sleep better at night. They will make their family proud. They will feel better about who they are. They will be decent people.

God Teaches Narcissism
“God has a plan for you.” Telling kids there is a big guy in the sky who has a special path for them makes children narcissistic; it makes them think the world is at their disposal and that, no matter what happens, it doesn’t really matter because God is in control. That gives kids a sense of false security and creates selfishness. “No matter what I do, God loves me and forgives me. He knows my purpose. I am special.” The irony is that, while we tell this story to our kids, other children are abused and murdered, starved and neglected. All part of God’s plan, right?

When we raise kids without God, we tell them the truth—we are no more special than the next creature. We are just a very, very small part of a big, big machine–whether that machine is nature or society–the influence we have is minuscule. The realization of our insignificance gives us a true sense of humbleness.

I understand why people need God. I understand why people need heaven. It is terrifying to think that we are all alone in this universe, that one day we—along with the children we love so much—will cease to exist. The idea of God and an afterlife gives many of us structure, community and hope.

I do not want religion to go away. I only want religion to be kept at home or in church where it belongs. It’s a personal effect, like a toothbrush or a pair of shoes. It’s not something to be used or worn by strangers. I want my children to be free not to believe and to know that our schools and our government will make decisions based on what is logical, just and fair—not on what they believe an imaginary God wants.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The Goal is NOT Moralistic Children!

At Trinity we have spoken of this countless times: I can teach a dog or elephant to do tricks, just as I can teach a child how to “act right”, but only the Spirit and the Word can change the heart. We are called to give truth to their heart, not behavior for the world. The blog below helps keep things in perspective.

The Danger of Moralistic Parenting

Certainly the faith that has empowered the persecuted church for two millennia isn’t as thin and boring as “Say you’re sorry,” “Be nice,” and “Don’t be like them.”  Why would anyone want to deny himself, lay down his life, or suffer for something as inane as that? Aside from the “Ask Jesus into your heart” part, how does this message differ from what any unchurched child or Jewish young person would hear every day?
Turning God into Santa
Let’s face it: most of our children believe that God is happy if they’re “good for goodness’ sake.” We’ve transformed the holy, terrifying, magnificent, and loving God of the Bible into Santa and his elves. And instead of transmitting the gloriously liberating and life-changing truths of the gospel, we have taught our children that what God wants from them is morality. We have told them that being good (at least outwardly) is the be- all and end-all of their faith. This isn’t the gospel; we’re not handing down Christianity. We need much less of Veggie Tales and Barney and tons more of the radical, bloody, scandalous message of the God-man crushed by his Father for our sin.
“Instead of the gospel of grace, we’ve given them daily baths in a 'sea of narcissistic moralism.'”
This other thing we’re giving our children has a name—it’s called “moralism.” Here’s how one seminary professor described his childhood experience in church:

The preachers I regularly heard in the...church in which I was raised tended to interpret and preach Scripture without Christ as the central...focus.  Characters like Abraham and Paul were commended as models of sincere faith and loyal obedience....On the other hand, men like Adam and Judas were criticized as the antithesis of proper moral behavior.Thus, Scripture became nothing more than a source book for moral lessons on Christian living, whether good or bad.  
Teaching Good Manners Instead of Salvation
When we change the story of the Bible from the gospel of grace to a book of moralistic teachings like Aesop’s fables, all sorts of things go wrong. Unbelieving children are encouraged to display the fruit of the Holy Spirit even though they are spiritually dead in their trespasses and sins (Eph 2:1). Unrepentant children are taught to say that they’re sorry and ask for forgiveness even though they’ve never tasted true Godly sorrow. Unregenerate kids are told they are pleasing to God because they have achieved some “moral victory.” 

Good manners have been elevated to the level of Christian righteousness. Parents discipline their kids until they evidence a prescribed form of contrition, and others work hard at keeping their children from the wickedness in the world, assuming that the wickedness within their children has been handled because
they prayed a prayer one time at Bible club. 

The Bible Isn’t a Book of Fairy Tales
If our “faith commitments” haven’t taken root in our children, could it be because they have not consistently heard them? Instead of the gospel of grace, we’ve given them daily baths in a “sea of narcissistic moralism,” and they respond to law the same way we do: they run for the closest exit as soon as they can.  “Good manners have been elevated to the level of Christian righteousness.”  Moralistic parenting occurs because most of us have a wrong view of the Bible. The story of the Bible isn’t a story about making good little boys and girls better. As Sally Lloyd-Jones writes in The Jesus Storybook Bible:
No, the Bible isn’t a book of rules, or a book of heroes. The Bible is most of all a Story. It’s an adventure story about a young Hero who comes from a far country to win back his lost treasure.  It’s a love story about a brave Prince who leaves his palace, his throne—everything—to rescue the one he loves. It’s like the most wonderful of fairy tales that has come true in real life.  This is the story that our children need to hear and, like us, they need to hear it over and over again.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Dear Trinity....from Bro. Jon Rushing

Dear Trinity,

It is a struggle to put into words what you mean to me and my family.  When we came here in 2009, we were excited to see God moving in your midst, but when I would talk (both publicly and privately) about my confidence in what God was doing, I was many times met with doubtful stares.  I think even your members who longed to see God bring health to you, were not so sure it was really possible.  I confess that there have been some difficult days, but God has been so faithful to continually turn us in His direction and lead us onward.  

Today, it is a true joy to lead you to weekly worship our great God together and to do life among a people struggling to be who God says we are.  I look around and see that God has truly re-created us...and it is a beautiful thing!  We are far from perfect, but I cannot imagine being a part of any other church.  

You are my family's faith-family.  You are co-disciplers of our boys.  And you are a safe place for Suzanne and me to grow and serve.  I am grateful to God that He planted us here, and I believe God is going to do immeasurably more in us during the coming days.  I pray that He blows our minds and expectations out of the water for His glory!  

Thank you for being God's chosen instrument to continue His work...in me, in my family, in Desoto County, and in the world.  

"But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light." - 1 Peter 2:9 ESV

I am loving Christ with you, and because of you.

~Jon Rushing