Monday, March 31, 2008

Reading Too Much Into Scriptures

"Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord" (James 5:14, NKJV).

A few days ago, I saw a brief news report about a father and mother who were arrested and charged with negligent homicide for allowing their child to die of a treatable disease. Apparently, according to the report, the couple did not believe in seeking medical care because of their understanding of the Bible. They called the elders of the church to pray for their child and to anoint her with oil in the name of the Lord, but they believed the Bible passage that they were following also prohibited them from seeking medical care.

Now the parents are grieving the loss of a daughter and facing prison time. Did they love their daughter? I'm sure they did, or they would not have called the elders of the church to pray for her healing. Was their faith sincere? I have no reason to question it. They acted upon it with the expectation that their daughter would be healed. Did they misunderstand the Bible? Yes.

I have a lot of sympathy for the couple. I have made similar mistakes in reading the Bible. I too have read a passage, missed the intent of it, and added a prohibition that was not there. As far as I know, my misunderstandings have not cost anyone his or her life. However, I have missed the intent of God in reading Scriptures at times. I have read prohibitions into a text that were not there.

Faith in Christ saves us, but it does not make us infallible. We can be saved and still make very costly mistakes. That's why it's so important to continue learning the will of God in the Scriptures. We need to have as accurate an understanding of the Bible as possible in order to live as God intended.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Devotional Links

Two good devotionals caught my attention today.

At, you will find encouragement to speak up when you know you should.

At, you will be reminded of the need for humility in serving the Lord.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Would You Like to Have a Black Son-in-Law?

"Then Peter began to speak: 'I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right'" (Acts 10:34-35, NIV).

Janet and I have a goal of raising our son to be a godly man. We would like to see him develop the faith and character qualities of a biblical elder (a.k.a. overseer, pastor, etc.).

In 15 to 20 years, it's likely that he will be married. Who will he marry? We don't know, but we pray for him to marry a young Christian woman who sincerely loves God.

Preparing for that time, I would like to challenge Christian parents of every race to be open to their children marrying someone from another race. Let's not limit the choices of our children based on something as superficial as race or ethnicity.

If your daughter is white, Hispanic, American Indian, Asian, or another race, would you welcome a young black man like our son into your family as a son-in-law? Would you like to have black grandchildren? If your daughter is black, would you welcome him as a son-in-law despite him having white parents? These are questions I would like to challenge every parent to ask himself or herself.

(Baptist minister John Piper, a white man with an adopted black daughter, has a good sermon about interracial marriage at

Sunday, March 23, 2008

My Wife's Legacy of Mission Work and Benevolence

"She opens her arms to the poor
and extends her hands to the needy" (Proverbs 31:20, NIV).

Twenty years ago, my wife was a student majoring in accounting at Missouri Southern State University in Joplin, Missouri. As a part of the campus ministry Koinonia, she persuaded her campus minister to take a group of MSSU students to Juarez, Mexico to help the Iglesias de Cristo in that poverty-stricken area. She and the group spent their Spring Break laying new tile on the floor of a church building.

Today, before attending our services with the Contact Church of Christ, we attended the early services of the Northside Christian Church in Broken Arrow because her former campus minister, Matt Stafford, was leading worship services for the congregation. Today, Matt is a faculty member at Ozark Christian College, but he and his wife continue to take college students to Juarez to work with a ministry to build homes for the poor in Mexico. He and his group were on their way back to Joplin from their Spring Break mission trip when they stopped at the church in Broken Arrow to lead the worship services.

Because of Janet's initiative, Christian college students from the Joplin area have been helping the poor in Mexico during their Spring Breaks for 20 years. Isn't that amazing? I'm so proud of my compassionate wife!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

The Condemnation of Sodom

"Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. They were haughty and did detestable things before me. Therefore I did away with them as you have seen" (Ezekiel 16:49-50, NIV).

Many people may know that Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed for their homosexual behavior (Genesis 18-19). However, fewer may realize that homosexuality was merely one manifestation of a larger problem: a completely ungodly self-centeredness.

The people of Sodom were arrogant. They believed themselves to be independent and self-reliant. They were wise in their own eyes. They rejected the standards of nature and nature's God in favor of their own selfish standards. Gratitude was a foreign concept to them.

They were overfed and unconcerned. The Sodomites were flourishing. Who cared if others were hurting due to their business practices? As long as they were doing well, oppression was not a concern.

They did not help the poor and needy. If generosity existed at all among the citizens of Sodom, it was the type of generosity that expected to be paid back. A friend could have received a meal because he could return the favor. A disabled beggar could starve before receiving aid, unless it could be written off on their taxes. A prosperity preacher could have received money, if he convinced them that they would be paid back 100-fold by whatever deities they acknowledged.

They were haughty. They were not merely arrogant; they flaunted it. They were self-made men and women, and they let it be known that they worshiped their makers. They celebrated debauchery and condemned as intolerant anyone who told the truth.

They did detestable things before God, not the least of which was attempted homosexual gang rape of visitors to their city (Genesis 19:1-11). Their morality and ethics reflected nothing of the image of God.

Obviously, the people of Sodom are not alone in their sins. If we are going to escape their fate, we will need to become people of humility, compassion, generosity, and high ethical and moral standards. Even more importantly, we will need God's forgiveness because, individually and collectively, we have already failed. Thankfully, God offers his forgiveness to everyone who will trust and follow his Son Jesus Christ.

Friday, March 21, 2008

He Got Better

"If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith" (1 Corinthians 15:13-14, NIV).

"And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins" (1 Corinthians 15:17, NIV).

"If all we get out of Christ is a little inspiration for a few short years, we're a pretty sorry lot. But the truth is that Christ has been raised up, the first in a long legacy of those who are going to leave the cemeteries" (1 Corinthians 15:19-20, The Message).

When Christopher was 2 years old, we were driving along a street as he spotted a church building with a cross on it. He exclaimed, "That's a cross!" Janet and I were a little surprised, but we responded, "Yes, that's a cross." Then Christopher asked, "Jesus died there?" I said, "Yes, Jesus died on a cross. Then what happened?" With full assurance, Christopher answered, "He got better."

"He got better." In his own words, our 2 year-old son had articulated an accurate understanding of the most important event in human history: Jesus Christ had risen from the dead after paying the penalty of death for our sins.

His resurrection substantiated everything he had claimed. He really had fulfilled the expectations of the Law and the Prophets. He really had satisfied God on our behalf. He really was the Son of God.

Now, Christ's followers can look forward to the day he returns (1 Corinthians 15:51-57). Yes. "He got better" and he made it possible for his disciples to get better, too.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

A Bloody Mess

"Just as there were many who were appalled at him---
his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any man
and his form marred beyond human likeness---" (Isaiah 52:14, NIV).

Like most people, I have never seen a crucifixion. But I have read enough to visualize the scene as Jesus Christ was crucified.

I see a man who has been beaten nearly to death. His eyes and face are swollen and bruised from the hits. The gaping gashes repulse the onlookers. The crown of thorns leaves streams of blood flowing down his forehead into his eyes before they mix with tears.

He is sweating, yet shivering from the shock his body is enduring. He needs to double over in pain, but the nails in his hands and feet prevent any such movement from his body. He gasps for breath with every once of remaining strength. He hacks and coughs with convulsions, but manages to force out a few words of love and forgiveness.

Finally, the struggle ceases. The end of the torment has arrived.

Those who love him are in a state of disbelief. How could this have happened? Why did he allow this? Where is God? Could they not have left his clothes on at the very least? Why go to so much trouble to humiliate him? How could anyone hate Jesus so much? What's the purpose in this atrocity?

When I think about the cross of Christ, I want to remember how much Jesus endured for me. Although he looked like a victim needing to be rescued, Christ was a hero giving everything he had to rescue me. I want to remember how much pain my sins caused him, and I want it to motivate me to avoid further sins. I want to remember how much Christ loved me and his Father, and I want to duplicate such love for God and people. I want the crucifixion to be a continual catalyst for change that will honor God in my life.

No More Jellyfish, Chickens, or Wimps (Part 5)

With my final installment in my review of Paul Coughlin's No More Jellyfish, Chickens, or Wimps, I will focus on his advice for bullying. Too many children are bullied by other children because:
1. They do not know how to avoid being targets of bullies.
2. They are incapable, because of mental or physical disabilities, of avoiding being targets of bullies.
3. "Innocent" bystanders allow or encourage the bullying of these children.

Mr. Coughlin writes, "Bullies and related criminals look for people who exhibit what they call a 'victim's stance':
*Faces pointed down
*Eyes too quick to make eye contact with others; eyes unfocused
*Hunched shoulders
*Arms that are close to their bodies, revealing a more protective pose
*Short, unsure steps

"The Protectors teaches kids how to tower, not cower. For example:
*Stand up straight
*Chest out instead of in
*Steady eye contact with level chin
*Walk with purpose and energy
*Look confident while seated
*Girls: Don't carry your books by hugging them to your chest, which makes your shoulders curl forward" (pp.177-178).

Those simple tips will go far in preventing bullying, because bullies look for the weak and avoid the strong.

However, some children will not be able to avoid being victims of bullies. In such cases, bystanders must be taught and encouraged to intervene on behalf of victims. "Most bullying would not take place if it weren't for the display of power they want others to witness. Bystanders vastly outnumber both predators and prey...The reason for their lack of intervention comes down to basic human nature. The indifferent, confused, and/or fearful masses who witness bullying are urged from within not to be courageous and protective but to shrink instead" (p. 147).

We have a moral obligation to act on behalf of victims of injustice whenever we can. As the Bible teaches, "Do not withhold good from those who deserve it, when it is in your power to act" (Proverbs 3:27, NIV).

No More Jellyfish, Chickens, or Wimps should be required reading for every parent, school teacher, and minister. It is full of valuable insights. I highly recommend it and Mr. Coughlin's web site, featuring a faith-based response to bullying on campus.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

A Funny Easter Story

"A cheerful heart is good medicine,
but a crushed spirit dries up the bones" (Proverbs 17:22, NIV).

Check out for my favorite funny Easter story.

No More Jellyfish, Chickens, or Wimps (Part4)

"Discretion will protect you,
and understanding will guard you" (Proverbs 2:11, NIV).

In his book No More Jellyfish, Chickens, or Wimps, Paul Coughlin devotes one chapter to stopping adult predators from preying on our children. These are some of his tips:

*"Teach your child to say to a stranger, or to someone they know but do not trust, 'I didn't ask for your help, and I don't want it. Leave me alone.' This isn't wrong. It's wise" (p. 83). Predators build trust and a sense of obligation by appearing to be helpful.

*"Teach your child he does not have to answer every question put to him. In some cases, short answers like 'Whatever' are appropriate" (p. 84). This is useful when a predator asks something like, "You're not too scared to disagree with your parents, are you?" A child does not need to play stupid mind games.

*Teach your child to refuse to negotiate with people they do not trust. If your daughter wants to refuse help, she should not say, "I really appreciate your offer, but let me try to do it myself first." Instead she should say, "Bug off!" "Teach her to look a person in the eyes with strength, to walk away, and to be loud if necessary. De Becker says, 'You cannot turn a decent man into a violent one by being momentarily rude, but you can present yourself as an ideal target by appearing too timid" (p. 85).

*"If your kid is lost in public, train him to ask a woman for help before asking a man" (p.85). Contrary to conventional wisdom, a mother is more likely than a father to physically abuse her child. However, conventional wisdom is correct in believing that a woman is less likely to be a sexual predator. An unknown woman is usually safer for a child who is lost.

*"Kids need to know we'll protect them" (p.88). They need to know that we are safe. We will listen without criticism. We will not punish them. We will not be devastated. We will be strong enough to deal with the situation. We will defend them even if it means going up against a family member, friend, or authority figure (like a teacher, coach, minister, or police officer). Our children will be protected from predators.

*The National Alert Registry ( can help us be aware of convicted sex offenders in our areas, so that we can avoid them if possible or watch them closely if necessary. The National Alert Registry charges $10 for its services. However, you may be able to get the same information for free by searching the Internet for your state government's sex offender registry. I did a search this morning and found Oklahoma's sex offenders registry at

Monday, March 17, 2008

Christ, Our Life

"When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory" (Colossians 3:4, NIV).

I cannot think of a passage in the Bible that defines the Christian life with so few words. Christ is our life. He defines it. He gives it purpose and meaning. He gives it passion. He gives it hope. What a powerful verse!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

What Can I Do to Improve the Situation?

"'So I will come near to you for judgment. I will be quick to testify against sorcerers, adulterers, and perjurers, against those who defraud laborers of their wages, who oppress the widows and the fatherless, and deprive aliens of justice, but do not fear me,' says the LORD Almighty" (Malachi 3:5, NIV).

Recently my co-workers and I discovered that the vast majority of us would be losing between 10-25% of our income and between 26-52 days off per year (meaning working every other Saturday or every Saturday). This may be the most difficult and stressful year on our jobs in quite a while.

I have been thinking about how to respond. My family and I will be hurt by this, but so will nearly every co-worker and his or her family. (Many of them will hurt worse. Some part-time employees may lose their jobs entirely.) Will I spend the year whining about the injustice? Will I become lazy, thinking that by doing less on my job I will get even? No, those are childish and counter-productive responses.

I remember something that Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy's father said to him when things were not going his way: "What are you going to do to improve the situation?" (That may not be an exact quote, because I gave my copy of his book Quiet Strength to a co-worker whose son recently died of an accidental drug overdose. I can't look up the exact quote.)

Last night, I attended a district meeting of my labor union and signed up to become a delegate to the state convention for this summer. I do not know exactly how I can help my friends at work and myself, but I know that becoming more involved in my union can help. I will be able to gain more information. I will be able to propose and vote on resolutions that may help in future contract negotiations. I do not know if I can help improve the situation, but I feel the need to try.

Of course, I will also be praying, finding ways to spend less money over the next year, and trying to keep my co-workers from becoming too discouraged and frustrated.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Peacemaking for Families: Teaching Children to Make Peace

These are my notes for my Sunday morning Bible class at the Contact Church of Christ:

*Once, Jesus was asked to tell people the greatest commandment. "Jesus replied, 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments" (Matthew 22:37-40, NIV). This is the heart of living life well. It is the heart of peacemaking. Living for the glory of God and loving others as ourselves will mold us into peacemakers.

*Our children need to learn how to be peacemakers. Conflict comes naturally. Peacemaking must be learned. Living for one's self comes naturally. Living for God must be learned. Loving one's self comes naturally. Loving others just as much must be learned. Sometimes my son asks, "Dad, why do you love God?" I take the opportunity to let him know that God made me, saved me from the punishment I deserved, gave me the life that I'm living, and has answered my prayers. How would he know reasons for loving God if he had not been taught anything about him? In a similar way, peacemaking skills must be taught.

*Ken Sande and Tom Raabe wrote, "Some conflicts call for friendly discussion, teaching, and respectful debate (see John 3:1-21; 2 Timothy 2:24-26). In other situations we should overlook offenses, lay down rights, and do good to those who wrong us (see Luke 6:27-28; 9:51-56; Matthew 17:24-27). Sometimes love requires gentle confrontation or a firm rebuke (see John 4:1-42; Matthew 23:13-29). Above all, we need to be willing to forgive others just as in Christ God forgave us (see Luke 23:34; Ephesians 4:32)" (Peacemaking for Families, p. 114).

*Peacemaking skills are crucial in order to succeed in life. In ungodly cultures, Joseph, Daniel, and Esther became influential leaders who made a difference without compromising their integrity or faith. They stood for what was right while treating others with respect, firmness, and forgiveness. We can do the same and teach our children those same skills. Ken Sande wrote, "I have hired, promoted, and fired people. These decisions were rarely based primarily on a person's technical skills. What I have valued most in an employee or manager is the ability to work as part of a team, to maintain strong relationships, and to build consensus so a group's gifts and energies stay focused on the project at hand. These are the skills of a peacemaker; and they are the same skills that will help your children succeed in the vocations to which God calls them" (p. 115).

*Peacemaking skills also enable our children to have great marriages and families. When we engage in conflict properly and forgive freely, we guard against resentment and divorce.

*We must remember that peacemaking comes from our faith in Jesus Christ. Ken Sande wrote, "We must remember that the most important requirement of peacemaking is to understand who we are in Jesus Christ. Before the apostle Paul tells the Colossians what they should do, he reminds them of who they are: 'Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience' (Colossians 3:12)" (p. 116).

*As we teach our children peacemaking skills, we want to help them diagnose their own hearts. Instead of condemning them when they mishandle conflict, we should ask them questions to help them see where they went wrong. Then we should instruct them and remind them of God's forgiveness and freedom.

*Finally, we need to be intentional in teaching our children the peacemaking skills they need. We need to become good examples for them. We must not live in denial of conflict nor flee from it. We must not lash out at others, blaming them for all our problems. We must never refuse to forgive. We must confess our sins with humility and try to change. We must confront others with love. We must be merciful and forgiving.

*Use opportunities to teach. When your children are in conflict with others, help them to see how they could handle it. When reading a book, watching television, or watching a movie, look for the conflicts. Ask questions. Is the main character avoiding conflict, attacking in response, or trying to resolve conflict? Is he being wise? Is she being a coward or courageous? What is driving him to do what he's doing? What are the consequences she may face? How would you handle their situation? Good questions can prepare a child to make good choices.

Teaching children to be peacemakers takes time and practice, but it can be worth it.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Questioning Salvation

A co-worker came to me this morning with an interesting question: If a homosexual becomes a Christian, engages in homosexual activity after becoming a Christian, and dies before seeking God's forgiveness, will he be saved?

This was my answer:

Our salvation is not based on our perfection. Christians are saved by God's grace through faith in Jesus Christ.

When we experience God's grace, it changes us. Paul wrote, "For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say 'No' to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age" (Titus 2:11-12, NIV). When we come to appreciate what God went through to save us, we want to avoid sin and temptation.

When we come to true faith in Jesus Christ, we are changed. It affects our actions. James wrote, "I will show you my faith by what I do" (James 2:18, NIV). Unlike the demons whose faith does not change them, a Christian's faith changes him.

Is it possible for a Christian to return to homosexuality (or any other sin) after conversion and still be saved? Sometimes it takes a while to learn how to say "No" to our ungodly urges. Sometimes Christians will return to familiar sins in moments of weakness, in moments of anxiety, or in moments of depression. "But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin" (1 John 1:7, NIV). We need to follow the Spirit's call to reject sin, and trust in Jesus even when we fail to live up to his standards.

Sometimes I attend funerals of people who have been affected in obvious ways by the grace of God. They tell people about their faith. They live with obvious love for God and people. I do not doubt their salvation, because I have seen how the grace of God has impacted their lives.

Sometimes I attend funerals of people I do not recognize by the words the preacher uses to describe them. They reject God's grace. They live selfishly and arrogantly. They oppose God's standards, and do not even try to live up to them. I don't really have any reason to hope to see them in heaven. I have a very hard time at their funerals.

Sometimes I attend funerals of people who have professed to love God, but who have struggled a great deal with overcoming their sins. They seem to fail more often than they succeed. I look at their lives, and I have some hope that they will be in heaven, but I have a few nagging doubts because I would have liked to have seen better results from their lives. I would need to put the hypothetical Christian (mentioned by my co-worker) who died while engaged in homosexuality in this category.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

No More Jellyfish, Chickens, or Wimps (Part 3)

"Learn to do right!
Seek justice,
encourage the oppressed.
Defend the cause of the fatherless,
plead the case of the widow" (Isaiah 1:17, NIV).

If you are a parent or children's Bible class teacher, please read these quotes from No More Jellyfish, Chickens, Or Wimps by Paul Coughlin:

"Read your children's Sunday school or youth group curriculum. Go back as many years as you can. Volunteer in their classes and observe what they're being told. Ask them what they talked about and learned. You'll discover this: Churchgoing kids are instructed nearly exclusively on how to avoid sin. Their spiritual training consists of what a person shouldn't do. Avoiding sin is good and right. But what they're missing, what our culture is missing, is full and consistent instruction about what to do---which includes standing up for those being abused.

"..Yes, it's good when they avoid doing wrong. But what about when they avoid doing right? Sometimes it's what they don't do that facilitates disharmony and decay in the world. When we fail to love, we sin.

"Many Sunday school curricula don't even include courage as fundamental to a virtuous life. Some teachers relegate courage to the personal realm, telling children they need to exercise the courage to say no to others. That's important. But it entirely misses the Bible's admonishment to say no on behalf of others.

"Christians are encouraged to feed and clothe the needy, and this is excellent. But we're rarely challenged to defend those in need. Why the distinction? Because helping the poor usually doesn't include conflict; defending the needy often does. We don't like conflict, so we ignore this side of our faith life, yet we'll never attain a purpose-driven life if we don't learn how to do conflict well. And until we do, the weak will continue to suffer.

"...Good people stand up to injustice. Nice people don't---they slink away and cover their cowardly tracks. Good people make enemies for the right reasons---Jesus wouldn't have told us to pray for our enemies if He thought we wouldn't make any. Nice people worry too much about the approval of others to make an enemy when they should; they go with the crowd, right or wrong" (pp.157-159).

Saturday, March 08, 2008

When the Saints

When the Saints by Sara Groves should win a Grammy and a Dove Award for Song of the Year. It is one of the best songs I have heard on the radio in months. Some of the references may be a little obscure, but it lauds the actions of

1. Moses, the man used by God to free the Israelite slaves of Egypt (see Exodus)
2. Paul and Silas, who endured imprisonment for taking the good news of Christ to hostile areas (see Acts)
3. American slaves, who escaped slavery with the help of the underground railroad prior to our Civil War
4. Jim Elliot, Nate Saint, and their fellow missionaries, who lost their lives trying to reach a primitive and violent tribe in the rain forests of South America
5. The wives and children of those missionaries, who returned to that tribe shortly after the deaths of their husbands and fathers in order to carry on the work (please rent the movie The End of the Spear or the documentary Beyond the Gates of Splendor to learn more about their amazing story)
6. Mother Teresa, who devoted her life to helping the sick and dying in the slums of Calcutta, India
7. International Justice Mission (, whose members work with local law enforcement officers to rescue children enslaved as prostitutes around the globe
8. Jesus Christ, who carried the load of the world to the cross on our behalf in order to pay for our sins (see Romans for the significance of his sacrifice and Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John for accurate accounts of his life, death, and resurrection).

These are the lyrics of When the Saints by Sara Groves:

I have a heavy burden of all I've seen and know.
It's more than I can handle
But your word is burning like a fire shut up in my bones
And I can't let it go
And when I'm weary and over wrought
With so many battles left unfought
I think of Paul and Silas in the prison yard.
I hear their song of freedom rising to the stars.
And when the Saints go marching in
I want to be one of them.

Lord, it's all that I can't carry and cannot leave behind.
It all can overwhelm me
But when I think of all who've gone before and lived a faithful life
Their courage compels me.
And when I'm weary and over wrought
With so many battles left unfought
I think of Paul and Silas in the prison yard.
I hear their song of freedom rising to the stars.
I see the shepherd Moses in the Pharaoh's court.
I hear his call for freedom for the people of the Lord.
And when the Saints go marching in
I want to be one of them.
And when the Saints go marching in
I want to be one of them.

I see the long quiet walk along the underground railroad.
I see the slave awakening to the value of her soul.
I see the young missionary and the angry spears.
I see his family returning with no trace of fear.
I see the long hard shadows of Calcutta's nights.
I see the sister standing by the dying man's side.
I see the young girl huddled on the brothel floor.
I see the man with a passion come kicking down that door.
I see the Man of Sorrows and his long troubled road.
I see the world on his shoulders and my easy load.

And when the Saints go marching in
I want to be one of them.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Connecting Heart-to-Heart With Our Children

"My son, give me your heart..." (Proverbs 23:26, NIV).

During the last 3 days on the FamilyLife Today radio program, the topic has been about connecting with our children's hearts. Today's broadcast may be heard (or the transcript may be read) at Previous broadcasts may be accessed from that page also. It's worth hearing (or reading).

Thursday, March 06, 2008

No More Jellyfish, Chickens, or Wimps (Part 2)

"But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars---their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death" (Revelation 21:8, NIV).

"Many parents have never even had a conversation with their children about cowardice. Warning against its corrosive nature isn't even usually on our parental radar, or included in many sermons. Instead, most of us are quick to warn our kids to avoid getting too involved (or involved at all) when someone is mistreated because of the collateral damage it may do to them. This is in direct defiance to how Jesus told us to live (see the parable of the good Samaritan in Luke 10). And we're overlooking the far-reaching damage of cowardice itself: Ultimately, cowardice can be as destructive as drug addiction" (Paul Coughlin, No More Jellyfish, Chickens, or Wimps, p. 29).

"Weak and timid children become parents whose children find them spineless and unreliable. They have checkered employment histories and an obligatory church attendance that fuels cynicism and resentment toward God. These anxious people also wear their bodies out---they're more at risk for hypertension, migraines, intestinal maladies, and other stress-related illnesses" (ibid, p. 117).

In order for our children to have a better chance at living courageously, we parents need to model such behavior. We need to take risks. We need to be more like Jesus. He risked his reputation to help people who could stain it. He spoke the truth with grace, but he did not allow fear of criticism to stop him from speaking truth when it was needed. He did not like to see disciples abandon him, but he did not alter his message or his love for others even when they abandoned him. He had been sent to die for the sins of humanity, and he did not allow fear to stop him from doing so in a manner that honored his Father.

Christ called us to follow him in living life to its fullest. One key to accomplishing our mission is to have the courage to do what needs to be done despite the risks. Through the Holy Spirit, he has given his disciples the help needed to be able to do it. Jesus promised his followers, "And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age" (Matthew 28:20b, NIV).

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

No More Jellyfish, Chickens, or Wimps (Part 1)

I recently completed reading No More Jellyfish, Chickens, or Wimps by Paul Coughlin. The book aims to help parents raise secure and assertive children in a tough world. I found it to be fascinating and very helpful.

I plan to share several quotes from the book along with some of my comments during the month of March.

After analyzing the psychological problems that many young people confront today (such as depression, eating disorders, and substance abuse), Mr. Coughlin starts to list some of the contributing factors to the problems. He asserts that children have been taught to live with timidity by parents, teachers, and churches. While we have the best of intentions, we are raising children to be compliant and sweet rather than righteous and courageous. As a result, our children are suffering from inhibitions that are driving them toward unhealthy thinking and living.

He writes, "Here's a huge part of the problem: Christians are raising some of our culture's wimpiest kids. I don't say that they're becoming wimpy because we're teaching them to be humble and training them to embrace patience. They're going out into the world as wimps because we parents are ignoring the broader counsel of God, pushing away character traits that make us uncomfortable and pretending that being disengaged from the world is actually about holiness and purity, when more often it's about fear and a lack of love...

"We're often either marginalizing or largely eradicating such rugged virtues as shrewdness, boldness, and courage. These aspects of integrity require an active and assertive approach toward life---but many Christians think being assertive is wrong. As a result, we're bringing up our kids to be so sweet and compliant that I wouldn't be surprised if the federal government and armed forces commissioned studies to determine whether or not children who grew up in churches are capable of defending our country" (pp. 14-15).

The last sentence of the first paragraph above struck me. How often have I been disengaged from something or someone because I either feared the situation or lacked love for the people involved? How many time have I tried to convince myself that I was being holy or pure by remaining uninvolved? How pathetic! I don't want to live like that, and I don't want to teach others to live like that either. I want to live by faith and love, not in fear and apathy.

This book can nudge parents to live with the boldness God always intended and to teach their children to do the same. It can inspire us to courageous and assertive living for the sake of Christ.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Update on the Violence in Kenya

"If a man shuts his ears to the cry of the poor,
he too will cry out and not be answered" (Proverbs 21:13, NIV).

The Christian Relief Fund has posted an update on the situation in Kenya at

(Another post worth reading on their site may be found at It provides an opportunity to help poor Hispanic immigrants and migrant workers in south Texas.)