The Theology of Emotion

I feel like…

I don’t think it’s fair that…

I don’t feel like God would make someone unhappy…

Christians are saturated by thousands of blogs, articles, and thoughts about what is ok and not ok to do and be in our day.   One of the more dangerous false teachings I see creeping into the American Christian world is what I want to call the Theology of Emotion.

Theology simply means the study of God.   Our culture is increasingly a generation of Christians that are basing their beliefs about God more heavily on how they feel than what God has revealed about Himself through the Bible.

If you need examples of this just go talk to most young Christians and ask them if they think living together before marriage is wrong.   Or ask them if they think homosexuality is wrong. It seems that many who claim Christianity today are more concerned with how they feel about something than what God has said in the Bible about it.

Don’t get me wrong emotions are a great and powerful driver.   Emotions are the great catalyst to actions. I love so many passionate movements going on in the Christian community such as the “End It” movement to end sex trafficking.   I love the pregnancy care centers that are all over our nation that provide options to mothers who feel like they have no options. I love the push for Christian families to be involved in foster care and adoption. These are great pictures of how God uses our emotional heartstrings to rally us around causes that are close to His heart.

If we do not feel then we do not care and we are never moved to action.

Emotions are great motivators but bad decision makers.

When we allow how we feel about any certain issue to supersede what God has revealed we become our own god and no longer trust Jesus as the authority.

One recent example I read was in an interview with popular Christian author Jen Hatmaker.   I know many women in my church that love her books. Most of what she writes is helpful and beneficial. But when I read her recent comments on the homosexual community I was taken back.

Here is what she said, “From a spiritual perspective, since gay marriage is legal in all 50 states, our communities have plenty of gay couples who, just like the rest of us, need marriage support and parenting help and Christian community. They are either going to find those resources in the church or they are not. Not only are these our neighbors and friends, but they are brothers and sisters in Christ. They are adopted into the same family as the rest of us, and the church hasn’t treated the LGBT community like family. We have to do better.”

I find her statements very disturbing.   The Christian community has the biblical mandate and responsibility to love and minister to every person, red, yellow, black, white, male, female, straight, gay, confused or other. But what she says takes this to another level.   She is taking people who embrace a life and identity that God clearly defined in scripture as a direct rebellion against Him, and associates those who embrace that lifestyle as a fellow believer in Christ.

This is anti-biblical to the core.   Jesus is so clear that when we become His followers we sign away all of our personal rights. We become willful slaves of Christ.   Here are the words of Jesus, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23)

Those selfish acts of rebellion no longer characterize our life.   We willingly choose to deny what may seem pleasurable and best to us in order to follow what Jesus says is best.

The Apostle Peter said it this way,

“So then, since Christ suffered physical pain, you must arm yourselves with the same attitude he had, and be ready to suffer, too. For if you have suffered physically for Christ, you have finished with sin. You won’t spend the rest of your lives chasing your own desires, but you will be anxious to do the will of God. You have had enough in the past of the evil things that godless people enjoy—their immorality and lust, their feasting and drunkenness and wild parties, and their terrible worship of idols.” (1 Peter 4:1-3)

Dietrich Bonheoffer said so clearly, “the call to follow Christ is a call to die.”

My goal is not to throw stones at Jen Hatmaker or even those who identify as LGBT. The goal is to expose a larger problem that is a bitter root in the tree of American Theology.   It is the idea that we can change our theology to match the spirit and feeling of the day. The beauty of the scripture is that it is unchanging. No matter how we feel about an issue we yield to Christ.   We do not seek to make the scripture fit our feelings. This applies to all of us!   This is no indictment on any particular sin.   It is prerequisite for all of us.   I make my kids take off their shoes before they come in the house.   We must shed ourselves of all of our sins when we come to Christ.

When we come to Christ we do not have the option of holding on to any sin.   Our identity is no longer found in our activity but in our Savior.   The sex addict can come to Christ, but he must repent and turn away from his sex addiction.   The thief can come to Christ but he is no longer a thief, he now seeks to look like his Savior. He goes from taker to giver. The idol worshipper can come to Christ but he cannot bring his idol with him. He must destroy it. The homosexual can come to Christ but he no longer identifies as a homosexual. My point is not to say that Jesus followers will no longer struggle with their sin but that they will STRUGGLE. They will embrace the internal battle that is going on inside of them. They will not give themselves over to the sins of their past. The Holy Spirit inside of them will no longer allow them to be happy in their sin.

Adrian Rogers once said, “Our feelings are the most shallow part of us. God does not do His deepest work in our most shallow part.”

If you are a follower of Christ I would challenge you to read your bible more than you read the latest Christian book.   Remember that if something has been true for 2000 years of the Christian faith then God is not going to suddenly change His mind because the culture now embraces some particular sin.   The call of the Christian life is a call of self sacrifice. It is a call to lay our sins down and lay our lives down for others.

Let’s not make a golden image of god in the likeness of the American culture of our day. The world says that we should be happy and we find happiness when we do what makes us feel good.   The word of God teaches us that we should seek holiness.   When we seek to be holy, only then do we find happiness. Happiness in the Christian life is not the goal but the by-product. It’s not found in sin but often found in service.   Happiness can be briefly experienced in the passing pleasures of sin, but that kind of happiness will quickly leave you empty again. Real happiness can only last in the conscious surrender of ourselves to Christ and His calling on our lives. Get your theology from the Bible and not from your heart.

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“A Person’s a Person No Matter How Small”

“A person’s a person no matter how small.”   This is the line that kept reverberating in my brain this morning as I read a number of gag worthy news articles about the murder, dismemberment, and sales of aborted babies.   You can watch the footage here if you can stomach it https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jjxwVuozMnU

I was trying to think of where the quote came from and it finally dawned on me that it came from a Dr. Suess’ book that I used to read to my children called, “Horton Hears a Who.” This little line from this children’s book written in 1954 embodies what we have all known to be true since we were children.

EVERY LIFE MATTERS!  

This is what the Bible says, “for YOU formed my inward parts. YOU knit me together in my mother’s womb.   I praise YOU for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.   Wonderful are YOUR works and my soul knows it very well.”

The Declaration of Independence says, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are LIFE, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Your conscience bears witness. No matter what your belief system, inside every person is a core belief that life has value. This is what we know in our hearts and minds to be true. People…Human beings are the pinnacles of Creation.   We are made with intrinsic value and worth.

What do we do? How do we respond?

We weep!

James 4:9 “Let there be tears for what you have done. Let there be sorrow and deep grief. Let there be sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy.”

We weep for the children who are the victims of these murders.

Our hearts should break. We must not become so numb to the wicked acceptance of killing babies in the womb that we no longer feel it. This dismembered child could have been your child. These are not clumps of cells but people. These are little people full of potential to love, dream, hope and have families of their own. They are future neighbors, friends, and co-workers. They are the future businessmen, farmers, teachers, and mothers, fathers, and leaders that will never be.   They are a picture of potential that has been stolen, destroyed, and extinguished. We weep for the babies.

We weep for the mothers!

We weep for women who are so scared and so fearful that they feel abortion is their only option. Our hearts should break for the young girl who is 15, 16, or 17 who has lost her virtue and has been left alone. We weep that no one is there to support her and help her raise the life that is within her. She has no mother or father with sense enough to tell her to do what is hard and right instead of what is quick and easy.   ‘Quick and easy’ is a lie she will have to live with for the rest of her life. We weep for the woman who has had multiple abortions. We weep for her because she is so lost that she does not value herself or the babies within her body. We weep that she has not been taught that she is valuable, that God loves her and God loves her babies that she is choosing to abort.

We weep for the men.

We weep for the men that view women as objects to meet their sexual needs. We weep that they do not understand that sex is designed to be tied to accountability. We weep that they will not know the joy of being a responsible father to the child that has been aborted. We weep because they do not know that true joy is not found in taking from others but giving of yourself as a protector and provider.

Jesus wept over a city in Luke 13:34 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones God’s messengers! How often I have wanted to gather your children together as a hen protects her chicks beneath her wings, but you wouldn’t let me.”

I wonder if He is looking over America today He might say, “O America, America the nation that kills its children and mocks God’s messengers. How often I have wanted to gather your children together as a hen protects her chicks beneath her wings, but you wouldn’t let me.”

Those of us who believe in the value of human life must speak up.

Use your voice.

Use your voice in social media. Be loving but truthful in this area.   The truth is that social media is so much more fun when it is birthday cakes, summer vacation selfies, and pictures of what people are eating for dinner. But if you have a voice you need to use it for good.   Talk to people about the value of life.

Use your actual voice. Call your Senators and Representatives and tell them that this must stop!   Beg them to pass legislation that will end the brutal practice of abortion.   Plead with them to not allow any more taxpayer money to go to Planned Parenthood and other abortion industries.

Use your pen. Write letters to you political and church leaders and ask them to stand up for these children.

Use your parenting. Raise your children to value life. Tell your little girls that abortion is never an option. Let them know that even if they make bad decisions you will be there to support them and their child if needed. Teach your sons to be responsible men.   Talk to your children about the value of waiting till marriage to have sex.

Use your prayers.   This is the time that every believer of Jesus Christ should be calling out to Him on behalf of these children.

Share your faith. Your neighbor next door or your coworker down the hall may be contemplating abortion. You need to know them. You need to share with them the hope of Jesus Christ.   It is only in finding hope that you can erase hopelessness.

Use your pocketbooks. Give to agencies that seek to help women that have an unexpected or unwanted pregnancy. These places are called Crisis Pregnancy Centers. Thousands of children every year are saved because of organizations like these.

Proverbs 31:8 could not speak more clearly, “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed.”

In the book “Horton Hears A Who,” these powerful words are given, “Don’t give up! I believe in you all. 
A person’s a person, no matter how small! 
And you very small persons will not have to die 
If you make yourselves heard! So come on, now, and TRY!

God, help us to make these little people heard.

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KNOWING THEIR HEART MAY KEEP THEM FROM BREAKING YOURS

How do we keep our children from throwing their lives away and breaking our hearts in the process?

A few weeks ago I dropped my 5 year old twins off at Vacation Bible School (VBS) at our church. Both daughters cried and would not let go of me when they arrived with their group.   They made quite the scene as I attempted to pull away. I was frustrated with them and scolded them and told them to go to their class.   Looking back I know the day will soon come that I will be dejected because they will no longer want to hang on to me, instead they will want to let go of me. I have been told by a number of parents with grown children, “When they are little they step on your toes and when they get older they step on your heart.”

I have seen many broken-hearted parents with teenagers and young adults that have gone astray. I cannot help but believe that while young people will make their own decisions, there are some very practical things parents can do to keep their children from going down a path the leads to misery.

Recently, I witnessed some pretty disturbing things among teenagers and preteens. Here are a few:

Middle school age children, both boys and girls, addicted to pornography.

Teenagers cutting themselves with razor blades to ease the pain they feel.

Teenagers contemplating or even engaging in a same sex lifestyle in 8th grade.

Middle school and high school age children taking pictures of themselves naked and sending them to their boyfriend or girlfriend.

Teenage Stress…

Teenage Depression…

Teenage Despair…

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These are scary accounts you might expect to hear from hard on their luck, inner city kids, but that is not where these came from.

These stories came from upper middle class church kids at youth camp.

I recently was the evening speaker at my church’s youth camp. There were 323 sixth through twelfth graders along with over 100 adults. The students were awesome and God moved in a big way.   There were students giving their lives to Jesus, surrendering to ministry calls and many tears of brokenness over sin.

The reality of what kids are dealing with today versus 5-10 years ago is amazing!   Sin is still the same.

The internal struggle is still the same but availability, access, and the cultural moral compass have changed.

I would like to offer what may be some helpful thoughts for Christian parents and youth leaders.

Youth today are further down the sin path then they were ten years ago.   Let me explain what I mean.

Ten years ago at youth camp there were usually a few boys struggling with pornography.

Today most of the guys are struggling and many of the girls are struggling with pornography.

Ten years ago you never would have thought to talk about kids struggling with same sex attraction in a church camp setting.

Today most of the youth have accepted homosexuality as a normative behavior.

I can remember in 8th grade it being pretty scandalous if you were kissing your girlfriend, and yet this generation has self-identified homosexuals in 8th grade!

All parents know that there are no guarantees in parenting but there are patterns and there are some wise decisions we can make as parents that will help our children. Here are some ideas that I think Christian parents must consider.

It may be (It probably is) worse than you think – When you hear about kids struggling do not automatically jump to the conclusion, “That’s not my child.” Maybe they’re not…but maybe they are. Most parents of teenagers who are seriously struggling do not know their kids are struggling.

Praise your children for things that are praiseworthy – It is very easy and even natural for us to see what is wrong with our children. We correct them and try to change their behavior to make it what is acceptable. It is so important that we parent according to the gospel. Jesus calls believers His children. When His Spirit convicts us of our sin it is a calling up and not a pressing down.   Satan uses fear and guilt. Satan reminds us of how bad we are and how we could never be accepted.   Many times I am afraid Christian parents employ Satan’s strategy in parenting.   We shame our children. We scold them and tell them how bad they are.   God’s Spirit of conviction in our life is different. He convicts us of sin, not to shame us, but to call us to be who we already are in Christ.   We are a son or daughter who was adopted into God’s family through the blood of Jesus. He tells us we are to act like who we already are…His children.   I am working to remind my kids of who they are and not who they aren’t. Find what they are doing and encourage them.

IT is OK to tell your children that there are things that are NOT ok!   We must not let the insane illogical world of culture dictate what is true in our homes. We live in a day of illogical confusion. We have laws to save endangered birds and also have laws that make sure we have the right to kill our own children in the womb. Our politically correct gibberish is creating a generation of confused young people.   Parent, it is ok to say that a white woman who claims to be a black woman is actually wrong and confused. It is ok to teach our children that a man that thinks he is a woman is not a hero but a very broken person in need of finding his identity in Christ. It is ok–no, needed–that we teach our children that a romantic relationship with someone of the same sex is not ok. It is important to teach your children that it is not ok to look at pornography.  This list could go on for a long time but basically you must teach your children truth based on the Bible and basic common sense. These are lost in our day.

Teens are begging for their parents to help them. They would not say it that way…in fact they would not verbalize it at all. The thing they think they want least (their parent’s love, discipline, and instruction) is the thing they are crying out for most. They are drowning!   Teenagers from the beginning of time have struggled with sex…body’s change and hormones rage.   All adults wandered through the awkward years of adolescence, but today is a day like never before. For centuries gone by, sexuality has always been a curiosity to teens but always something that was subdued until a time of marriage.   A man’s strong desire for sex would drive him to work and to be a responsible man.   A young woman’s virtue was her highest prize.   A combination of unlimited free pornography, unlimited Internet access and most kids having smartphones has changed everything! Porn is the ocean in which our children are drowning. Some just feel like they cannot do anything to get free.

We need to give them a plan.  It is not enough to say pray and read your Bible. They don’t need shame. They need help. They don’t need you to yell at them.   When most parents find out their children have some great sin issue or struggle they blow their top, yell and scream, and threaten to lock their children up for the next 10 years. Most of the time these kinds of reactions only cause more separation between the child and parent.   Parents should be hurt and even angry that their child has drifted into the deep waters of sin, but they must use that deep emotion to help their child develop a plan for getting out!   Some issues need professional help. Sometimes it may be some simple levels of accountability.   Every situation is different and requires wisdom and a long term plan for help. Maybe you are thinking, “I have no idea how to get my child help!”   Start with the local church you attend. Ask a pastor. That is what they are there for. If they cannot help you, they can point you in the right direction.

We do not need to put undue weight on them.   They “need” a cell phone because everyone else has one. We give them one because every other parent has given their child one, but what if they actually don’t “need” one.   What if giving them a phone is not helpful but really the weight that pulls them down in the ocean of porn. Remember a phone is not a phone anymore. The thing they use their phone for the least is actually calling people. It is an eye gate to the world. It is an information center. It is the key to everything social.   Their phone holds the key to everything they will find their identity in. Is that what you want for your 12 year old? It is the object that shapes our child’s worldview.   I don’t even know if they make “just phones” anymore. Be very slow in making the decision of when your child will get a phone. Be very fast in taking their phone away if they are struggling.   I don’t let my 18 month old play with knives because she will hurt herself. Most young children are not ready for smart phones when they receive them. We are giving our children a tool to hurt themselves.

Parents must make sure their children have safe, Godly people to talk to other than themselves.   At church youth camp I was again shown the importance of Godly spiritual adults.   I was reminded that the day will come where my children may not feel like they are able to talk to me about a particular subject because I am their authority figure and I make the rules. They must be able to talk to someone!   I am so thankful for youth pastors, girls’ directors, small group leaders, and Sunday School teachers because they are that safe harbor where kids can go to talk. You must get your kids around Godly adults and leaders other than you that you trust. If they are not going to talk to you, then who will they talk too?

God’s Word is the best counselor. I am starting to get on a regular basis questions that I was never asked 5 years ago. Things like: “I have a child that is a girl, but wants to be a boy. What do I do?” or “How can I help my child who is attracted to the same sex?” or “My child is in Middle school and has been sexting. What do I do?”   Because these issues are different than issues parents have dealt with in the past sometimes we feel inadequate…which we are.   I have found that the best advice for parents is not something new, but something old. We must choose to believe God’s word and use it as counsel.   While the problems may be complex, the answers are simple.   We are sinners in need of Jesus. When we repent of our sin and live in a way that is pleasing to God, eventually our heart changes. Transformations are rarely overnight…they take time, but God’s word is true and He knows us better than we even know ourselves.   We must choose to believe about us what God says about us. The best counselor a parent can know is their Bible!   Most parents feel inadequate to help their children because they do not know what God’s word says or where to find it.   Here is a novel idea for all parents: Read your Bible everyday. Pray for your children everyday!   Don’t miss church and be among other Christian parents!

What I Am Going To Do To End Racism

We are on the heels of yet another heart breaking senseless crime. Another young white guy has murdered a mass of people.   This recent mass murder is a little different than some of the others. This one was clearly motivated by racism. This young man in his deranged mind justified the killing of 9 innocent people at a church prayer meeting.

What horrible irony. The place you go to find hope and forgiveness would be the place that he would bring death and destruction.

What if we could end racism? What if the answers are already there?

I can tell you the answer is not in passing a law, having the right person in public office, or going on a social media rant.

This murder has caused a lot of attention toward the Confederate Flag and whether it should be taken down from certain public areas.   Some use the flag as a symbol of pride and to some the flag is an object they have always associated with racist people.   Maybe the flag should come down, but the flag is really not the issue. The issue is always the same. It is a matter of the mind and heart. This is where we are losing.

I grew up in the Deep South. As a Caucasian male I don’t pretend to know what it is like to an African American person. I don’t know how hard it is. I don’t know how a black man sees me, or what feelings well up within him when he come in contact with a white man.

I do know that I grew up in a culture that verbalized disgust when a white woman and a black man were together. I grew up in a culture where there was always some level of fear when young black men were around because the perception was that they were angry and would commit some crime. In the school I attended black people hung out with black people and white people hung out with white people. While I had many friends that were black I did not hang out with them outside of a school setting. We played sports together, were in the band together, and sat next to each other in class but there was always a clear distinction between black and white. There was a always a clear level of separation that was seen most clearly on Sundays at church.   These are just the facts of how things were and how in many places they still are.

As I have grown in the Lord many of my personal views have changes. I have come to fully realize that every person is incredibly valuable because Christ made us.

Galatians 3:28 says, “There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

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This tells me that the Gospel of Jesus Christ transcends race, socioeconomic status and gender. In Christ we all have value.   We are one church under His blood. The precious blood of Christ was shed for every man.

Because the world is broken and people are naturally sinful I am sad to say that racism will not end.

Many will take this tragedy and use it to politicize their particular agendas.   Many people will use this opportunity to throw out more hatred. Neither of these responses helps anyone.

Racism will probably never end…but I just might be able to end it in my family.

I cannot change the pain and anger that people feel in their hearts, but I can teach MY children.

Here is how I am going to end racism in my home.

I am going to teach my children what God says about people. I am going to teach them that God loves people so much He gave His life to save them. John 3:16 “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”

I am going to teach them that we should love people and give our lives in service and love towards others. Matthew 22:39 “…’Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

I am going to teach them to do to others, as they would have others do to them. Matthew 7:12 “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets.”

I am going to teach my children to value other people and cultures. 1 Corinthians 9:22 “When I am with those who are weak, I share their weakness, for I want to bring the weak to Christ. Yes, I try to find common ground with everyone, doing everything I can to save some.”

I am going to invite people of other races into my home. 1 Peter 4:9 “Cheerfully share your home with those who need a meal or a place to stay.”

I am going to teach my children that we do not judge someone by the color of their skin but the content of their character. John 7:24 “”Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.”

I am going to show them the evil of prejudice and teach them the beauty of love. Romans 12:9 “Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.”

I am going to (if the Lord allows) open my home to foster children of whatever race the Lord sees fit.   James 1:27 “Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.”

I am going to beg my children to not repay evil with evil but to repay evil with good.  Romans 12:21 “Do not overcome evil by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

I can’t end racism…but I can make a difference in my home. I pray my son will not be the deranged young white kid with hatred in his heart towards people of a different skin color.

I pray my children will not be the problem but the answer.

We end racism one decision at a time, one heart at a time.

The answer is almost never in legislation or anything in the realm of politics. The Bible has already showed us how to end racism. We just have to obey it.

There is hope. Close friends of mine, who are Caucasian, have become foster parents of three young African American children. I am so thankful for this. One of the children is a girl and she has become best friends with my little girls.

One of the three children is a baby who just turned one and had a birthday party that we attended. It warmed my heart to see my 7-year-old son blowing on the belly of this baby just like he blew on his sister’s belly.   He didn’t even think about the difference in skin color. He just loved the baby.   I pray that my children will grow up to love people…all people.

The families of the victims in the Charleston shooting have showed us what Christian character and love look like. In the midst of the deepest pain they chose to publicly forgive their enemy instead of pile on more hate. Let us all learn from their example.

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