Monday, March 20, 2017

What We Accept As Normal Is Just Crazy

Imagine we know this guy. But he's got some problems. Everyone is aware of this guy and his problems. And like most guys who have problems, this guy's problems become other people's problems. 

Maybe we didn't care to do anything about this guy when his problems were just his problems, but now that his problems are everyone's problems, we agree something has to be done. 

So we do something. 

We problem solve. We attempt solutions. But let's assume none of our solutions work. As crazy as it sounds, we might stop attempting solutions. 


In the Gospel of Mark, we read about Jesus and His guys coming across just such a scenario.

So they arrived at the other side of the lake, in the region of the Gerasenes. When Jesus climbed out of the boat, a man possessed by an evil spirit came out from the tombs to meet him. This man lived in the burial caves and could no longer be restrained, even with a chain. Whenever he was put into chains and shackles—as he often was—he snapped the chains from his wrists and smashed the shackles. No one was strong enough to subdue him. Day and night he wandered among the burial caves and in the hills, howling and cutting himself with sharp stones.
~Mark 5:1-6

The man possessed could not be controlled but still bowed down to Jesus without Jesus even commanding it. The presence of Jesus demands our respect. It is also interesting that this demon begged in the name of God.

So Jesus does His thing and casts out the demons. (That's right, this guy was dealing with multiple demons. Yikes!

I might not even be all that surprised by anything in this story just yet. After all, the people did try to solve this issue. And when things start getting messed up in the spiritual realm, I understand it's going to take Jesus to bring a solution. But towards the end of this story, we get another glimpse into how people respond to Jesus. 

A crowd soon gathered around Jesus, and they saw the man who had been possessed by the legion of demons. He was sitting there fully clothed and perfectly sane, and they were all afraid.
~Mark 5:15

They were afraid of a man fully clothed and sane? The demon possession had become their normal. People always prefer what they know, even when it is less than what God intended.

I think this shows that we tend to tolerate what we deem normal, even if it isn’t ideal. If our first response to trouble isn’t to turn to Jesus, then our first response is not our best response. We shouldn’t turn to God after we’ve tried everything else. When a problem arises, why wouldn’t we try the best solution first?

Could you imagine this type of lunacy in any other area of our lives? 
  • If our doctor suggested he wanted to remove our appendix by going through our leg, we'd find a new doctor. 
  • If we knew the fire department in our town was going to form a long line from the location of the fire to the nearest lake, and that they would share a bucket in order to fight the fire, we'd probably find the number of the fire department in the next town over. 
Go ahead and think of any problem you desire. Literally any problem. If your friend comes up with a great solution but then suggests he'd like to attempt other lesser solutions, it might be time to get new friends. 

Yet this is what we do with our lives time after time. We acknowledge that our current situation might not be ideal. Have we done anything to change it? Have we even considered asking God what He might want to change? More than likely we have just come to accept that not everything is going to be awesome in our lives. 

That acceptance might be okay, but if we suddenly find ourselves skeptical about things that we should find normal, then we might want to stop and question what we have become accustomed to. 

Because this story ends with the 'normal' people pleading with Jesus to go away. So, to summarize, a demon possessed man roaming the neighborhood is something we tolerate. But Jesus healing the demon possession isn't. 

So what are you dealing with and what solutions have you looked for?

Monday, March 13, 2017

Praying for My Kids Leads to Me Praying for Your Kids

I prayed for my kids today. I prayed that they would avoid or rise above the tools, the jerks, the mean kids that populate our schools. As I prayed I wondered where those kids come from. What is their home life? What makes them tick?

Then I prayed that my own kids would not be the type of kids I was praying for their protection from. 
You see, if we accept the fact that we're all sinners, then we have to accept that our own little angels might not always be angels. There is no one righteous. We all needed the sacrifice of Jesus for our salvation. That mean that each of us need strength to not be the reason another person has to endure.

For awhile, way back when I first had a child of my own, I assumed these monsters grew under rocks and were the spawn of some wild dingoes that were allowed to integrate into regular society. 

But then Jennifer and I had a second child. And we encouraged them to play together. That is, until we didn't. There were moments when we suddenly felt more like pro wrestling referees than the parents of two (mostly) normal children.

Then we had a third child.... wooo boy!

So that is why I prayed for my kids and your kids. But when we're done praying, how can parents help their children to fulfill these prayers?

Remind them how they feel...

That's right, the Golden Rule. Treat others the way you want to be treated. I know, pointing this out means admitting our kids aren't perfect. It might mean receiving eye rolls from them as they smell another lecture coming their way. But since much of how teenagers behave is based on their emotions, it might be a good idea to keep them focused on how they feel when they are mistreated. 

If you remember the pain you felt when you run full steam into an electric fence (it was an accident, I swear) then you won't likely do that again. Unless, of course, you're attempting to drive traffic to your YouTube channel. Likewise, if your teens remember the pain of being mistreated, it might help them to treat others better. 

I believe most Christian teenagers don't start out looking to hurt others. It happens because they forget. Or they simply don't have a plan for dealing with real life situations. So... 

Discuss situations with them that often come up. Let them brainstorm.
Failing to plan is planning to fail. And since teenagers, like most of us, want to be a part of solving their own problems, we should tap into their own creative solutions. 

Jerks have existed since all of us were in school, even if our teenagers believe we used tablets made of stone for our schoolwork. Tap into some of your own repressed memories of bullies. Use some stories to discuss resolutions. At this point, your good stories help and your horror stories are funny. Oh, and they can relate what not to do. 

If the remember how they feel and they go in with a plan, many of our prayers will be answered. But don't let that stop you from committing to #3.

Continue to pray.
As my teenagers like to remind me whenever we are discussing the pitfalls of watching anything PG-13, 'Dad, we're hearing a lot worse than that in our schools.'

It's not exactly comforting, but it does remind me that they are not sheltered in a church service, or even a setting where everyone is expected to act like an adult. They are in public school, a place where I intentionally send them, knowing public education doesn't just come from teachers.

Now go and pray.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Pastors Should Stick to Preaching the Bible

All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for coaxing, relaxing, sharing and making people feel good about themselves. 
You don't remember Paul writing that to Timothy? Me neither. But by the way people act in church, one might assume this is what we believe about scripture.

We all like using a scripture verse to prove something we already believe. But when one is used against us and our personally held, but not well thought out, convictions, then we begin to squirm.

Actually, we do more than squirm.

We cry out. We blame. We point fingers. We shoot the messenger. There must be something wrong with the other, because otherwise I might have to look inward.

How dare that pastor try to teach me something new? Doesn't he realize that might cause me to change?

And when those same scriptures are used to rebuke me? Get off your high horse pastor! We can be friends, but not if you're going to meddle in my personal affairs.

If I wanted to be corrected, I'd go see a math teacher. I thought we came to church to feel better. After all, it's a scary world out there. I say this without a thought that my corrected behavior might make the world, even slightly, better.

I didn't come to church to face difficulty. I didn't assume there would be this work. It's almost as if you think you were sent here to prepare me for something more.

Nooooo, pastor. The fact of the matter is that I am not equipped for all the scariness of the big world out there. So I must conclude that you are doing something wrong.

Perhaps if the pastor would use the scriptures correctly...
All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. ~2 Timothy 3:16