grace Posts

Gospel Hope

When you stop to think about it, you’re life is all about hope. Every decision, every good or bad moment is about hope and expectation and then, whether that expectation is met or not. Think about it: “I hope this person likes me.” “I hope this relationship works out.” “I hope to pass this test, graduate.” “I hope this job becomes mine.” “I hope I stay healthy and grow old. “I will do this or that…” And then something or someone steps in. And when it doesn’t happen we’re disappointed, upset, angry, even despairing. In fact, you could go so far as to say, all frustration and disappointment in life is a result of, or birthed out of, unmet expectation.

Beware: Christmas ramps this up in spades. All of this season’s ads are pummeling you with false hope. We’ll see hundreds, even thousands, of ads this month promising you something- offering hope. What we see is an embellished vision of life created by a media- drenched culture that changes our expectations. It captures our imagination and convinces us that life should be like this. In fact, there’s a term for it: it’s what sociologist Krishan Kumar (at UVa) calls “hyper-reality”. He says this: “Our world has become so saturated with images and symbols that a new ‘electronic reality’ has been created, whose effect is to obliterate any sense of an objective reality lying behind the images and symbols.” In other words, the images and the symbols that represent the things that stand behind them
are actually overblown, exaggerated and embellished. We create in our minds a world that is not based on reality. As a result our hopes are heightened even more and our expectations are exaggerated and we’re always left wanting, even despairing.

We place or hope in something or someone and we expect that thing or person to deliver. The Scottish writer, Allan K. Chalmers, wrote, “The grand essentials of happiness are: something to do, something to love, and something to hope for.” We all place our hope in something or someone. But it is the Object of our Hope that makes ALL the difference. So, rightly understood:

Christmas is all about hope created, hope lost, hope restored, and hope realized. Indeed, this is the story of redemptive history. And HERE is the great human problem: We are prone to place our hope in things that cannot deliver. But here’s ironic twist:

The doorway to hope is hopelessness. The only way you find true hope is to give up on all those others things you place your hope in. And for hope to be hope must fix what’s broken. If not why hope in it? And we must realize that the answer is not found in us or anything this world can offer. There’s no horizontal hope.

Hopelessness is the doorway to hope. When you finally give up on the idea that you will find hope in the horizontal, you’re at the doorway of REAL hope, that gives life. When you give up on horizontal hope then you’re ready to look up and find the only hope that matters. Have you given up on all those other things? Do you still think you’ll find your personal savior in something or someone else? Give up on that perfect relationship. Give up on that perfect job, the perfect body, the perfect marriage, the perfect house. Give up; those things are fruitless. But HOPE has come.

Biblical hope is a bold and certain expectation that God will do what He says He will do. Biblical hope is synonymous to trust. It is not synonymous with wish or desire. Those who hope in the Lord, are those who trust in Him- and trust is equivalent to obedience. Hope is not a magic wand or a good feeling- ultimately hope is the result of obedience. Hope is a firm reliance on the preferred or future Story of God.

Hope is not a situation, it’s not a circumstance, it’s not a thing. When you finally realize this (usually by painfully discovering that those things and people will never satisfy), you open the door and guess who is standing there? Jesus.

Hope is a Person and His name is Jesus.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” Romans 15:13

 

 

 

 

The Ten Traits of a Healthy Family

Family on floor in living-room

 

1.  They have an irrational commitment to each member of the family. They display an illogical love for one another, spread lavishly and without discretion.

“How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know Him.” 1 John 3:1 Driven by 1 John 3:1, stunning amounts of love, kindness, and forgiveness are shared to family member.           

2.  They communicate with truth and grace. Mom and Dad model Ephesians 4:15 How we treat our spouse (and how we extend grace to our family members) will confirm or contradict what we believe about God.

Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into Him who is the Head, that is, Christ.”  Ephesians 4:15 Create an atmosphere where truth can be discussed, regardless of how difficult it may be to talk about.

3.  They affirm the value and uniqueness of each member of the family. Each person is loved for free and without judgment. His or her opinions and feelings are always honored.

Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.” Romans 15:7 Celebrate the uniqueness of each child in our family. “I wouldn’t change a thing about you.”   

4.  They vow never to abuse, shame, control, or intimidate one another. “Oh, children are resilient- they bounce back.” No children are fragile and understanding that children are fragile- no emotional, verbal, or physical abuse is tolerated in any way and is immediately confronted. Consider the power of words.

Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.”  Philippians 4:5 Unkind words are not tolerated- “We do not talk to each other like that in our family.” Parents: You must model kind words and challenge this early on.

5.  They share a strong spiritual foundation. Parents recognize that a “mild dose” of God will never cultivate a life that has Christ at the very center, guiding every aspect of life (Deuteronomy 6:4-9). There is no abdication of spiritual formation- no outsourcing to the church. We create spiritual orphans, spiritual schizophrenics. Complete disconnect! What’s your goal parents? There’s a big difference between a young person who goes to church & one who is truly sold out to God.

 

6.  They teach respect for others. Racism, arrogant superiority, or disrespect for people who are different is never tolerated. Jesus added to the Shema that we should love each other as we love ourselves:

And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’.” Matthew 22:39 When you see a child who is different than other kids ask, “What would it feel like to be that kid?” Teach your children to love and honor all people- adopt Martin Luther King Jr.s’ dream for our nation. Help your children dream of the day when every person- Hispanic, black, Asian, European and all people will know that they are loved with the unprejudiced, unbiased, and unrestrained love of Jesus.

7.  They instill a sense of responsibility in one another. Each member knows that they must take responsibility for their own actions and face the consequences of their poor choices. Self-esteem does not result from simply heaping large amounts of affirmation and praise. It happens when a child learns to be responsible.

“If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.  If we claim we have not sinned, we make Him out to be a liar and His word has no place in our lives.”  1 John 1:8-10

Let the consequences do the teaching.  It’s God’s way- and parents too often get in the way of what God wants to do, simply through the consequences of choices made or not made.  Parents: Do NOT rescue your child. This takes courageous parenting- it takes faith- to believe that God will work in your children’s life as He sees fit.  When you let the consequences do the teaching you place that child in the hands of God.

8.  They play together.  This is so important. Laughter and fun mark a family that builds strong relationships with one another.

“A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.”  Proverbs 17:22

9.  They celebrate rituals and traditions together. This gives the family a sense of constancy and permanence.  They know that the love and commitment of the family will never change- this year, next year, and the next…

“Ask the former generations and find out what their fathers learned, for we were born only yesterday and know nothing, and our days on earth are but a shadow. Will they not instruct you and tell you?  Will they not bring forth words from their understanding?”  Job 8:8-10

10.  They seek help when they come to an impasse.  They understand that all families have issues that may need outside or professional help and they are not afraid to ask for help when needed.

“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.”  James 5:16

God is very clear about the kind of families He wants us to have.  Let us follow His principles and seek to honor Him in our families.

 

 

The Destructive Power of Disordered Love

The Destructive Power of Disordered Love

In his classic work, “Confessions”, Augustine explains that sin is “disordered love”. It is love out of order. We most often think of sin in terms of behavior, bad deeds, actions- but Augustine helps us from another angle. There is an order to love. He said we should love God, love others, and then love ourselves. The problem comes when you love something you should love but that you should not love supremely. That’s when a good thing becomes a God thing. It’s about finding your superior satisfaction in God alone, and nothing else.

The Problem: We make good things god things.

Love out of order is what the Bible calls idolatry. Friedrich Nietzsche said there are “more idols than there are realities”. John Calvin said, “The human heart is an idol factory.” How do you discern what you’re idols are? Tim Keller asks, “What thing, if you lost it, would almost mean that you would lose the will to live? What thing, lost, gone from your life, would mean that almost all value and significance- identity and worth- would be drained out of your life?” Whatever that thing is, the Bible calls it an idol. It’s an alternate god, a counterfeit god – anything that is more fundamental to your happiness, sense of value, or identity- other than God. Anything you love more than God or rest your heart in other than God. These are not necessarily bad things but they are created things that you’re looking to for worth and value- family, spouse, comfort, health, friends, your body, your intelligence, your position, your reputation as a certain person/character that you’ve created over time. Consider the many idols in our lives today.

American Idols

  • People -sports heroes, rock stars, “American Idols”, even your kids, your spouse
  • Prosperity - money, all that money can bring- nice house, car, retirement
  • Posterity – youthfulness, being young/vibrant, even health
  • Pleasure – substance abuse, sex, next great diversion, even family
  • Power – image, success, popularity, fame, this includes ministry

The Gospel challenges our idols. The Gospel challenges the gods that we have already established. And before you think this doesn’t apply to you, I would argue that the process of sanctification in a disciple’s life is our willingness to allow the Spirit of God to dismantle of our idols. The Gospel attacks our idols, destroys them. Jesus put it this way: “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added unto you.” Matthew 6:33

There’s only one first. This disordered love, this idolatry, is not easily discerned. Psychologist, Alfred Adler, noted that it’s very hard to figure out what you’re really living for by simply asking yourself. He says you’re not that self-aware. You may think, “I’m living for God.” But the way to find out is not to ask that question. Instead, Adler said: Look at your nightmare. What thing, if absent, would almost (or would) take away your reasons to live. He says your deepest emotions- anxiety, fear, despair will point you to your god. It can lead to uncontrollable anger- toward any obstacle or person that stands in the way of you possessing it, despair if you cannot have it, bitterness. You must discern the idols in your life, expose it, and then destroy it or it will destroy you. Paul said, “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.” Colossians 3:5

The Solution: The Gospel makes God our One Good Thing.

  • The Gospel demands repentance from idol worship. You may think, “I don’t have any idols.” Therein lies your problem- you don’t even know that you are an idol-worshipper. “I don’t feel spiritually dead.” A fish doesn’t feel wet. You’ve become so accustom to your environment, your idol worship, you don’t even know you’re doing it. Until it starts to be taken away from you. Again, look at your deepest emotions of fear, anger and anxiety. They reveal your idols. Jesus said: “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:21
  • The Gospel delivers real satisfaction. Studies have been done of professional athletes who have career-ending injuries show that they don’t always need physical care for their injury only- they also need therapy. The injury sends them into an existential crisis. Usually depression sets in. Often the loss of their athleticism suddenly tosses them into a downward spiral. “Who am I anyway?” The loss of their athleticism causes them to question their existence. What’s the difference between making a great thing the best thing- the number one thing? All the difference in the world. Only God’s grace satisfies the human heart.
  • The Gospel divides God worshippers from idol worshippers. An obsession with the Gospel – with Jesus – is the only cure for idol-worship. French Christian philosopher, Simone Weil, noted that we either worship the one true God or we worship idols. There is no other option. And idols will crush us. Only when we worship God through Christ do we find life through worship, not death. Psalm 115:8 says that those who worship idols will “become like them”. We are shaped by whatever it is that we worship. Worship Christ and you will be shaped by Him, glorifying Him through your life- all to the praise of His glorious grace.

The Gospel makes God our One Good Thing.

 

 

Five Things Mom Can Live Without

Five Things Mom Can Live Without

 

We often think of motherhood (and parenting) as a kind of recipe.

If we add just the right ingredients to the mix, a dash of this or that, and put it in the oven long enough, then out will come this perfect child and the proverbial perfect life. Motherhood and life never work that way. Most moms know the things they ought to be doing. In fact, that’s a big part of the problem- most moms feel guilty precisely because they feel they are not doing all that they think they should do.

Some “supermoms”, thinking they’re helping inspire or encourage other moms, actually create an opposite reaction resulting in guilt and shame from an inaccurate view of motherhood. I took an informal survey on Facebook and had a great response from moms to help me with this post. My hope is for moms to lighten up. Let’s all determine to leave some things behind. When asked what moms can do without, some funny responses included: whining, tattling, all those Legos, Brite Lights, pantyhose (tights) for babies, and extra pounds. Some not-so-funny responses included: an uninvolved dad, absent father, deadbeat dad, condemning looks from others while trying to care for my special needs child. Five things emerged as recurring themes. I want to present them with a biblical response to each one.

1. Unnecessary Guilt

“Mommy guilt” results from the myth of the Supermom. Supermoms are driven by the unnecessary need and unrealistic expectation of perfect kids – a clean house, excellent meals, and an always-cheerful spirit. If you know a woman who seems to be the perfect mom, I can assure you, she is not. Let’s just destroy the myth of Supermom. And if you’re trying to live up to that: Give it up. Be real. Live in the freedom that is yours in Christ.

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:1

2. Unrealistic Body Image

Many moms struggle with a worldly self-image (body image). One mom said, “After a few kids the perfect body is gone.”  This, of course, is natural and though our culture says otherwise, the Lord tells us our worth and value in Christ trumps all worldly measures. Finding your worth in anything apart from the freedom we have in Christ results in crushing personal demands. Moms: Recognize that you are in a spiritual battle and it is for your soul, not your body. Give up trying to have the perfect body. 1 Samuel 16:7 reminds us that God doesn’t look at the outward appearance anyway- He looks at the heart!

“Do not let your adorning be external… but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.” 1 Peter 3:3-4

3. Unimportant Things

Contrary to what many moms may think, they don’t need more stuff (more toys for the kids, a nicer house, better clothes, a newer car, a promotion or raise, more activities, extravagant jewelry, an uninterrupted career path, etc.). Moms: Keep your life free from the love of money, and be content with what you have. Your Savior is enough and Hebrews 13:5 reminds us that He “will never leave you nor forsake you.”

And He said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” Luke 22:15 

4. Unintended Pressure On Your Kids

Many moms, in an effort to protect their kids from the stress of life, actually induce more stress in their children. Parents are to be the “non-anxious presence” in the family. Moms and dads must find their worth in Christ and not in the performance of their children. This sets their children free to risk, to fail, and to learn from their mistakes. Non-anxious moms find their rest in Christ, who has become their Righteousness, their Perfection, their Peace. These moms raise well-adjusted children who recognize their identity is found in Christ as well. Moms must also remember that each child is unique. Allow each child to be himself/herself and do not bring unintended pressure by comparing your children to one another.

But Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.”  Matthew 19:14

5. Unwanted Worry 

Moms have many things in their lives that could lead to worry- but they don’t have to worry. The Bible tells us to be anxious for nothing. Some of the moms in my informal survey noted that they also don’t need unresponsive, unmanageable, or unruly children. It is true that many things in life can distract a peaceful heart. Moms can eliminate worry as they determine to have one priority: Christ Himself. As we seek Him above all else, all else will fall into place.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”  Philippians 4:6

This Mother’s Day let’s commit to give our moms what they deserve the most: Lots of love and encouragement.

How to throw a party

IMG_1021

Jesus was once invited to dine at the house of a ruler of the Pharisees. Luke adds that they “were watching Him closely” (Luke 14:1). He had already silenced them by asking if it was unlawful for Him to heal a man on the Sabbath or if any of them would not save their own son if he fell into a well on the Sabbath. They would not answer Him. Following the letter of the law while disregarding the spirit of the law leads to absurdity. The radically religious are often blinded by their heartless obsession with the law.

Then Jesus said to the man who had invited Him, “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just” (Luke 14:12-14).

Tonight, Park Cities Baptist Church threw a party. Not your normal North Dallas party mind you, but a BIG throw down, dance party for the crippled, the lame, the marginalized, and those too often ostracized in our culture. Hundreds of volunteers set the stage for the most amazing prom any of us had ever seen. Special needs students from Richardson I.S.D., Highland Park I.S.D. and other parts of North Dallas, were matched up with “buddies” from our student ministry. Crowds screamed and applauded as each student was dropped off, introduced on the red carpet, and welcomed into the Commons. Prom pics were taken and dinner was served as a band provided music for hours of non-stop dancing into the night. We had more fun than any of us have had in one night in a long time.

It was unforgettable. Together we experienced the Kingdom of God. I believe it was a foreshadowing of Heaven where the last will be first, the weak will be made strong, and all that’s broken will be made right. As we pray the prayer of Jesus-  for God’s will to be done “on earth as it is in heaven”, let us be the answer to His prayer. Love the unlovely, give to those who cannot repay you, forgive before the other makes the first move, and out-grace everyone in your life.

Big thanks to our student ministry team for a night that none of us will ever forget.