“Thank You For Staying With Him”

August 27, 2012 at 11:25 am

I can’t post a lot of details because of CPS, but Baby G, our foster baby spent the weekend in the hospital. He’s doing much better now and we’re glad to have him home. Kristi stayed at the hospital with him and at one point, she was on the phone about the situation with a CPS worker who made a comment in passing that really stuck with me. The CPS worker said: “Thank you so much for hanging out there with him.”

In other words, the CPS worker fully expected us, as foster parents to simply leave Baby G at the hospital. She made it seem like that would have not been out of the ordinary and that broke my heart. Now, please understand, I don’t say what I’m about to in order to show how great we are, but the thought of just leaving Baby G all alone didn’t even occur to us. In fact, I was shocked that the CPS worker was surprised that we stayed with him.

All of this has led me to think a lot lately about why so many Christians struggle with the things we do. I’ve been a follower of Jesus for a long time now and along the way, I’ve met many people who seem to struggle under the weight of the Christian life. Following Jesus is difficult, but at the same time, Jesus said in Matthew 11:28-29:

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

There is often a disconnect between our head, heart and hands. We intellectually ascent to spiritual truths, but we don’t know them. Jonathan Edwards talks about the man who knows everything about honey. He can describe it more eloquently than anyone else. He can tell you about it’s molecular makeup and how honey from different regions has a different taste, etc. But he’s never actually tasted honey. Therefore, he may know about honey but he doesn’t know honey’s sweetness. In the same way, I worry that we teach people to know a lot without helping people know the truths about God.

In light of the CPS worker’s comment, all weekend I kept thinking about verses that talked about God’s faithfulness. Consider Deuteronomy 3:16:

Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.

We like to tell one another to “be strong and courageous” but we forget that the basis for this is that God “will not leave or forsake you.” Our hope is not in ourselves but in God’s steadfast faithfulness, that when we feel most alone, when the dark night of the soul creeps in, He is faithful. He is with us and we can find rest for our souls. How is it that Jesus promises that the Truth will set us free (John 8:32) and yet so many of us still feel so enslaved? It’s because we choose to believe lies. Lies about ourselves (that we’re important, that we “deserve” more and better, that we’re “worthless,” whatever your lie may be) and about God (that He owes us, etc.).

I want our Church of the Cross family to surprise people the way the CPS worker was surprised that we would stay with Baby G. But this means that we can’t put all of our time, energy and resources into Sunday’s gathering. We certainly value Sunday. We love sitting under God’s Word, singing His praises together, hearing from others what He’s doing, etc. But we want our people to take the rest of the week as seriously as many churches take Sunday. In many large churches, it’s not uncommon for hundreds of hours each week to go in to making sure Sunday “goes off well.” If we want our people to be changed by God’s truth then we must adopt different measures of “success or failure” in the church. Lots of people at an event does not necessarily make us successful. But then again, neither does lots of people in a missional community.

I’m rambling now about church structure and intention when I sat down simply to write about God’s faithfulness and how it sustained us through another trial. But it’s my blog, so I’ll ramble if I want to. God is good and because He will not leave or forsake His people, we can be strong and courageous. Our feelings don’t change God’s truth.

Chick-Fil-A Day and Our Cultural Posture

August 1, 2012 at 10:09 am

As you may have heard, Mike Huckabee has declared today “Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day.” He has called for Christians to inundate the fast-food chicken chain with their business as a sign of their support. In case you haven’t heard, the chain has come under scrutiny, even losing the support of the Muppets because company president Dan Cathy supported the traditional view of marriage in recent interviews. Furious over what they view as hate-speech and discrimination, many have called for a boycott of the famous chicken peddlers. Upset about having the boycott game turned on them, Christians have decided to eat lots of chicken, claiming this as a first amendment right and have equally thrown out the clarion call of “DISCRIMINATION!”

Barnabas Piper recently stepped in to the fray saying why he believes “Chicken Day” as I have come to affectionately call it, a “Bold Mistake.” Piper summarizes his position by saying that:

the message the homosexual community and its supporters see is “us versus you.” The event also sends a message of separatism and territorialism in the “reclaiming” of those restaurants that are being boycotted, a collective action easily seen as a shaking of the fist or a wagging of the finger.

Piper adds:

The separation of believers and unbelievers, when it happens, must be a last resort or an unavoidable result. Actions to the contrary, those that clearly promote an “us versus them” mentality, are most often unhelpful.

I think that Piper has raised a serious issue which Christians must consider. By binging on “Chicken Day,” what are we really communicating? We love to sing “Jesus, Friend of Sinners,” (Matthew 11:19 and  Luke 7:34) but do we like to live it? Now, before you say that I’m condoning sin, think about this. Something about Jesus attracted the sinners and repelled the religious people. Our cultural approach seems to be exactly the opposite. We want to dig our heels into the ground and force the divide between us and “them.” What could have been a beautiful opportunity for dialogue has now turned into another battle in the “Culture War.”

And think about what’s been done to Chick-Fil-A in the process. Instead of creating an environment in which everyone feels welcomed, they have been put in the position of playing the role of cultural beacon for Christendom. I wish Chick-Fil-A had closed today and said: “Our president expressed his views, Huckabee et al, we appreciate the idea but we’re just chicken sellers. Please leave us alone.” But now they’re the “Christian Chicken Sellers!” If you like the “secular” KFC, try the “Christian Alternative Chick-Fil-A! While many believe this is a great thing, I think it will ultimately hurt Chick-Fil-A in the longrun, even if Huckabee and others think “Chicken Day” is an important statement. It might be, I just worry it’s sending the wrong message.

There is a way to humbly but confidently share life with “sinners” (and please let’s remember that sinners are sinners are sinners and we’re all sinners – there is no “us vs. them” it’s become “I’ve been forgiven of my sin and I think your sin is the worst of all!) while speaking the truth in love, while pointing to the truth. Jesus did it every day. The very fact that he ate and drank with “the tax collectors and the sinners” prompted the Pharisees and the Scribes to grumble and complain, leading in to perhaps Jesus’ most famous parable (Luke 15).

I worry that “Chicken Day” is taking us in the exact opposite direction. I understand that Huckabee’s Chicken Crew believes that they are standing up for biblical convictions but I just worry that they are creating the “Pharisee Meal With A Side of Separatism” in the process. Do we really want to separate ourselves from the very people Jesus made such efforts to hang out with? What biblical conviction does that speak advance? What if our posture was one of humble, confident, loving dialogue and service to those with whom we disagree rather than heels-in-the-ground division? Maybe we need to see the cultural chiropractor?

I know I’ll hear from you on this one and I look forward to your respectful dialogue.

  •  Read my previous thoughts on this issue.
  • Read Barnabas Piper’s piece.