And Jesus said…

Matthew 16: 21, “From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day.”
“Life is about fun and excitement.”
Mark 8: 31, “And he began to teach them, that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders, and of the chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.”
“I just don’t see what is wrong with missing a church service. Jesus cares about what I care about and He wants me to have fun and enjoy myself. If this conflicts with a church service, so what? Church will be there next week. This won’t.”
Mark 9: 12, “And he answered and told them, Elias verily cometh first, and restoreth all things; and how it is written of the Son of man, that he must suffer many things, and be set at nought.”
“Be all you can be…enjoy all that you can enjoy…live all that you can live…have all the fun you can, all of the time that you can.”
Luke 9: 22, “Saying, The Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be slain, and be raised the third day.”
“I don’t want to have to give up anything. God doesn’t have a right to tell me how to live.”
John 14: 15, “If ye love me, keep my commandments.”
“God is love. He doesn’t care so much about what we do as how much we love.”
Matthew 20: 26-28, “But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.”
“Servanthood? I’m not serving anybody who doesn’t do for me first!”
Luke 16: 13, “No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.
“I’m getting all that I can.”
Matthew 4: 10, “Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.”
“I’ll die without my cell phone!”
Mark 8: 38, “Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”
“Why are you getting so bent out of shape? It’s only a movie. I can ignore the language.”
Matthew 7; 21, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.”
“You have so much. All you lack is Jesus. All it takes is a moment to pray and ask Him into your heart. Won’t you do it so that your life may be complete?”
Matthew 10: 38, “And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me.”
“We want to be free to do it our way. The old-fashioned ways were so…restrictive. It’s different today. The clothes are different. The music is different. We’re different, too. We’re still Christians. Just different Christians.”
Matthew 16: 24, “Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.”
“Immodest? Come on, mom, get over it. If a guy looks at me and lusts after me, it is his fault for not controlling himself.”
Mark 8: 34, “And when he had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.”
“The Bible is meant to make us free.  Jesus cares about our hearts much more than He cares about what we do. We can enjoy life and still be on our way to heaven.”
Luke 14: 27, “And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.”
“Christian liberty allows me to do what I want and still be saved. Jesus understands.”
Luke 9: 23, “And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.”
“Hearing the words “biblical womanhood” makes me angry.”

Photo by David Beale on Unsplash

Modern Youth Ministry: The blind leading the blind

(If this sounds like I am against Youth Ministry, I am; at least the way modern youth ministry is done. With that being said….)

Matthew 15: 14, “Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.”

What’s going on in Youth Ministry? Things have changed and someone (meaning the parents…and, oh, yes, God!) have been left out in the cold. Maybe it hasn’t changed all that much; maybe the way it is now is just the natural outcome of the way it was then. And it just got more so.

But you have to admit that modern youth ministry is just so, well, modern. And not biblical. We, the parents, aren’t really expected to understand it. What these guys do to…uh, I mean with…our children…to teach our children…is the business of…no one, it would seem.

Our teens supposedly go to youth ministry to learn more about God and His Word and, instead, end up a whole lot more knowledgeable about culture, music, movies, fashion, and dating, or they socialize (Oh, come on, this part really is important; after all, we all know how very important proper socialization is to their souls, don’t we?; and by proper socialization we mean ignorant teens spending time with other ignorant teens, all of them hanging out together and learning absolutely nothing) or they…get this, you’re gonna love this part…play games! Yes, you heard that right. Sounds like fun, doesn’t it? Just picture these lovely young ladies eating too much candy in too little time, or these big, strapping, nearly grown young men who should be in training to lead the church out there acting like little kids having ice cream eating contests. I know what you are thinking, this sounds crazy, right? But you have to understand, some youth group minister guys really go overboard in this way. These games here are really kind of mild compared to some of them: anybody want to eat peanut butter off the sole of some guy’s bare foot? or eat live something-or-other’s just to see if you can? Yeah, well….). You’ve got to remember to thank the Youth Group Buddy Head Honcho for thinking up all these great things that will surely advance your teens in knowledge of the truth of God’s holy Word. Ahem, yes, well, moving on…

When we get concerned (or, is it confused? frustrated? fed up?), and go to “Parent Involvement Meetings” with the Youth Minister Guy and offer our input, nothing happens; we talk to our children about what goes on in their “Bible Study” (oops, I don’t think we are really supposed to call it that, anymore) and, drum rollllll…ta da! nothing happens!! We might even complain to the head Pastor and…guess what?…nothing happens. Again.

Nothing happens because nothing is meant to happen. It’s not any of them that are wrong, see? It’s us, the parents (at least those parents who still care). We’re old-fashioned and out of touch. We have lost sight of what Bible…sorry…youth group is supposed to be all about. It isn’t actually about God. No, that went the way of actually caring about doctrine. Today’s Youth Ministry (Can we really still call it that?) is all about fun, fitting into culture so the culture wants to be like the church, relevance (see fitting into culture), and felt needs, or some such thing. Youth ministers (ah, leaders? buddies? pals?) know this, you see. It’s just the parents who still harbor old-fashioned beliefs that Youth Ministry (or even church itself, it seems) ought to be about Jesus who are out of the loop.

So with that in mind, I thought I’d help you poor confused parents to understand what is going on when your teens go to Wednesday night Bibl…ah, sorry…youth group…and come home knowing less than they did when they went (but with some great new fashion tips) so you can just relax and let them have their fun. So, (bear with me, please), you might want to go get yourself a strong cup of coffee here. Or a beer, if you so indulge. With all that said, here goes absolutely nothing (and I really, really, mean that):

1) Youth ministry isn’t about teaching doctrine, helping teens to grow spiritually, guiding them in how to pray, having anything even resembling a real Bible study, or preparing them to serve in the church one day. Youth ministry isn’t about God at all. Youth ministry is about your teens. Period. Plain and simple. Your teen is the center of the universe in that church (if we can still really call it that and be correct), and you need to learn it (because soon, he is going to be proclaiming that he is the center of the universe in your home, too). Youth ministry is there to provide fun, excitement, bonding time with buddies (including the biggest one, the youth leader–minister? guide? friend?–himself)…not to mention tips on movies, music, food, school, and fashion (and, perhaps, dating). The Cross of Christ will seldom, if ever, be mentioned (but it will be worn around the neck and adorn their too-tight tee-shirts). Hell, sin and other “scary” things will never be mentioned (lest someone is hurt, confused, triggered, embarrassed, or offended by the fact that God is offended by their sin).

2) Youth ministers are expected to dumb down everything since they and most everyone else think that your kids are really, really dumb. When they aren’t softening doctrine, or explaining that Jesus came to die so that they could have a really great life here, today, in this very place (and thus why they really need that new...whatever it is that your teens are trying to convince you to buy for them) then they are thinking about maybe one day trying to tell a story in order to find a way to tell your child that he is a sinner without hurting his feelings and thus soften the news that he just might be hell bound without Jesus. I mean, if they hurt his feelings by letting him know that, in God’s eyes, he has transgressed every single law of God and, without His Son, is bound for hell, then your child probably won’t want to come back and will probably spend their Wednesday nights (and maybe even Sunday mornings) doing something that isn’t relevant at all…at least to his paycheck…(like spending time on the phone…instead of in person at “church”…with their friends–talking about movies, music, fashion, food, school, and dating) and, well, to be honest, the Youth Person…Guy…whatever…just might lose his job…and we can’t have that now, can we?

3) The Youth Buddy Fellow has absolutely no expectations whatsoever of your child when it comes to God’s Word. If your child doesn’t know anything about Noah parting the Red Sea, Jonah and the Great Flood, King Paul, David and his fight with that bully…oh, come on, give me a minute…oh, yes, GimBob? Golutha? never mind, or any of the other really great, but not very memorable, Bible stories, that’s okay. The Y.B.F. knows that your teen is just a kid and shouldn’t be made to think like an adult (since that is stressful…very, very stressful). The Y.B.F. (along with other adults “in the know”) realize that kids must be kids even if they are in church. The fact that he (or she…let’s not be sexist, now) is nearly an adult ought not to bother us (much); after all, that are a lot of really immature grown-up’s out there who manage to make a living (like some Y. B. F.’s). Maturity isn’t necessary to make it in church, either; after all doctrine is no longer emphasized so that no one feels stressed. If this worries you it shouldn’t, since absolutely no one really knows what the Sermon on the Mount means anyway (it is, however, a great story… picturing Jesus there on the side of the mountain with His 10 disciplines, their girlfriends, a few others, and the 14 baskets of fish…teaching them how to make their lives happier…better…and more successful). Mary Magdalene was probably there, too. She was Jesus’s girlfriend, right? Or, was she the woman caught in adultery? It’s all so confusing. These days.

4) The Y.B.F. is there to keep your kids off the street, off of drugs, and away from bad influences (like away from any church where they would have to learn doctrine thereby ruining any self-esteem that they might have; I mean do your teens they really need to know that they are sinners in dire need of a holy Savior–Who will then demands that they be holy? That’s just asking too much, don’t you think? And does God really care what they do as long as they are happy?). So whatever it takes to do that is just fine with him (after all, he’s getting paid a nice amount for this). He might, if he can get your permission and your money, load up the church bus and head off to somewhere to see this really holy, super cool, new Christian group who has some new song about being in love with Jesus. Just think, your kid could buy their new…everything…while at the concert. Supports the group, the Youth Minister is happy, your child is happy, and you’re broke; it’s good all around. Almost. But it’s not all about being out and about. That’s for Saturday’s; this is Wednesday night we’re talking about. The Y.B.F. will talk with the kids about their needs all night (or, the 45 minutes that the class lasts, anyway) if the kids want to (their needs being movies, music, fashion, and dating…oh! and the absolute necessity of owning their own car. Or their own cell phones…that is, brand new expensive cell phones. With unlimited minutes. Or about going to another Christian concert; except one that’s louder and even more culturally saturated.) But, if that’s all talked up and out, there’s always games (ice cream, anyone? Gold fish? Worms?). This works especially great when the Y.B.F. can throw in a few “Christian” sounding things to keep things legit (such as “Christian” bands, “Christian” novels, “Christian” clothing lines…and so on…after all, we must keep things “Christ-centered,” mustn’t we?; that makes Jesus happy) and of course as long as he (or she…remember, no sexism) understands our kids have to be the center of everything and own everything everyone else owns (which they have to own because someone else does..and so on).

5) The Y.B.F. must remember (and you, dear parent, must understand) that your children (no matter how old they are) are not the church of today…they are the church of tomorrow…which is a long time away…so we can’t really expect them to be to be interested in in-depth Bible study (five minutes a day is more than fine), be expected to memorize Scripture (except “God is love”; they know that one really well; oh, and “Judge not”), pray correctly, learn to serve others, or be involved in anything that doesn’t position them as the center of the universe (because, we must remember, they are very stressed over living such stressful lives in such stressful times and they are very emotional about it). Your youth need time to relax and just enjoy themselves and they come to church to get that time (to have to come to church and study, pray, worship, or be expected to really learn anything in any meaningful way would simply be too stressful for them). Maturity, knowledge, and discernment will all come in due time (if your kids stick around to stay in church) and, if not, at least they’ve had a good time, haven’t they?

So, there it is. Youth ministry isn’t about God, it’s about your teens. Life, for your teens, isn’t about God, it’s about your teens (for any normal teens, that is; there are always the abnormal ones who love God and obey their parents). That’s the way it is. Everybody knows it and we, the confused and concerned parents, had better get used to it; after all, the Youth Ministry Fellow Guy did.

Soli Deo gloria

Photo by Kristina Paparo on Unsplash

The cross of Jesus by Octavius Winslow

“The cross of Jesus displays the most awful exhibition of God’s hatred of sin and at the same time the most august manifestation of his readiness to pardon it.  Pardon, full and free, is written out in every drop of blood that is seen, is proclaimed in every groan that is heard, and shines in the very prodigy of mercy that closes the solemn scene upon the cross.  O blessed door of return, open and never shut, to the wanderer from God!  How glorious, how free, how accessible!  Here the sinful, the vile, the guilty, the unworthy, the poor, the penniless, may come.  Here too the weary spirit may bring its burden, the broken spirit its sorrow, the guilty spirit its sin, the backsliding spirit its wandering.  All are welcome here.

The death of Jesus was the opening and the emptying of the full heart of God; it was the outgushing of that ocean of infinite mercy that heaved and panted and longed for an outlet; it was God showing how he could love a poor, guilty sinner.”

from Personal Declension and Revival of Religion in the Soul

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Comfortable Christianity?

When Jesus walked on the earth, most Jews failed to recognize Him as the Messiah or understand His mission for what it was. They saw Him as a human savior sent to meet very human needs. They came for healing. They came for comfort. They came to be fed. They came to Him because they thought He was the one who would save them from the Romans. One man even came to Him to have Him settle a dispute between himself and his brother (Luke 12: 13, 14). Few who came to Him saw Him as the holy Son of God. Even His brothers didn’t recognize His deity until after His death and resurrection. He is still misunderstood today.

Jesus didn’t come to earth to bring a message of ease and comfort. His message was one of death. Yet, the modern Christian landscape is filled with preachers who preach to the flesh. They tell us that Jesus wants to see us rich, happy, healthy and comfortable. God the Father didn’t send His precious Son to earth to bear the penalty for mankind’s sins just so that He could make us comfortable. Or healthy. Or happy. Or rich. He died to kill all that is in us that isn’t of Him. He died to reconcile us to the Father. He died to make us holy. Our lives are to be different from those around us. They are to reflect the life of Christ who in Matthew 16: 24 states, “Then Jesus said to His disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.”

Take up his cross, and follow me…. These are not comfortable words. These words would have terrified those who heard Jesus say them. Who ever heard such a thing? Command your followers to take up an instrument of execution and then follow You? Living in the time and place that they did, Jesus’s listeners knew all too well what crosses were for. They were an instrument of torture and of death. No one doubted that. So these words would have been shocking, frightening. They realized that Jesus was commanding complete devotion to God–devotion that could very well cost them their lives.

Today, we see crosses as pretty little things to wear around our necks or as adornments for our homes. Even rock and rap stars wear them (although devoid of any real spiritual meaning). We put them on plaques on our walls and set them on our desks. They dangle from key-chains and decorate our tee-shirts. Seeing them as often as we do, it’s easy to forget the real history behind them. It was bloody. It was destructive. It meant death. The cross of Christ still means death.

Comfortable Christianity? There is no such thing. Jesus’s disciples lived and died to preach the Word of God. Countless martyrs have died to proclaim, protect, teach, and defend the Gospel. Countless men and women have submitted to torture rather than taking the easy way out and denying Christ. Comfortable? Hardly.

It isn’t comfortable to be a true follower of the Way in a fake Christian landscape. It isn’t comfortable to take up our cross and follow Christ in a culture that despises His holy Name. It was never meant to be comfortable. In Matthew 10: 34-39, Jesus said, “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me. He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.”

Following Jesus was never about being healthy or having an easy life. It isn’t about finding a place to park in a crowded lot (shades of Joel Osteen), being financially secure (shades of many) or having great sex (we won’t even go into how many preach this). Following Jesus was and is about dying to yourself, to sin and to this world and living only unto Him. Comfortable? Easy? No, not at all. But it’s worth everything. It’s the only thing worth living…or dying…for.

Photo by eberhard grossgasteiger on Unsplash

Scripture or Feminism?

Joshua 24: 15, And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.

Titus 2: 3-5, Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good,  and so train the young women to love their husbands and children,  to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.

Declaration of Feminism (1971):“The end of the institution of marriage is necessary for the liberation of women; therefore it is important for us to encourage women to leave their husbands and not live individually with men. All of history must be rewritten in terms of oppression of women. We must go back to ancient female religions like witchcraft.”

Jeremiah 17: 9, The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick;
 who can understand it?

Gloria Setinem: “By the year 2000 we will, I hope, raise our children to believe in human potential, not God.”

Genesis 2:24: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”

Sheila Cronam: “Since marriage constitutes slavery for women, it is clear that the women’s movement must concentrate on attacking this institution. Freedom for women cannot be won without the abolition of marriage.”

John 1: 14, And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Carol Crist (Roman Catholic Theologian): “I found God in myself and I loved her fiercely….”

Psalms 127: 3-5, Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.

Margaret Sanger:“The most merciful thing a large family can do to one of its infant members is to kill it.”

Genesis 2: 7, Then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.

Shirley McClain: “Male is matter, matter is male, matter is evil, male is evil, feminine is spirit, spirit is feminine, and that’s good.”

Hebrews 12: 2, Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

Ann Lori-Gaylor: “Let’s forget about the mythical Jesus and look for encouragement, solace and inspiration from real women. 2,000 years of patriarchal rule under the shadow of the cross ought to be enough to turn women toward the feminist salvation of the world.”

1 Timothy 5: 14, So I would have younger widows marry, bear children, manage their households, and give the adversary no occasion for slander.

Vivian Gornick: “Being a housewife is an illegitimate profession. The choice to serve and to be protected and plan towards being a family-maker is a choice that shouldn’t be. The heart of radical feminism is to change that.”

Proverbs 22: 6, Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.

Dr. Mary Jo Bane: “In order to raise children with equality we must take them away from families and communally raise them.”

Hebrews 13: 4, Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.

Sheila Cronan: “The simple fact is, every woman must be willing to be recognized as a lesbian to be fully feminine.”

Genesis 18: 19, For I have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice, so that the Lord may bring to Abraham what he has promised him.”

Linda Gordon: “The nuclear family must be destroyed… Whatever its ultimate meaning, the break-up of families now is an objectively revolutionary process.”

John 16: 21, When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world.

Antonia Senior: “Standing where religious martyrs were held and tortured in Britain’s turbulent reformation,” she writes, “I could think of one cause I would stake my life on: a woman’s right to be educated, to have a life beyond the home and to be allowed by law and custom to order her own life as she chooses. And that includes complete control over her own fertility.”

Matthew 18: 10, “See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.

Antonia Senior: “As ever, when an issue we thought was black and white becomes more nuanced, the answer lies in choosing the lesser evil…The nearly 200,000 aborted babies in the UK each year are the lesser evil, no matter how you define life, or death, for that matter. If you are willing to die for a cause, you must be prepared to kill for it, too.”

1 Corinthians 11: 3, But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.

Mary Daly: “If life is to survive on this planet, there must be a decontamination of the Earth. I think this will be accompanied by an evolutionary process that will result in a drastic reduction of the population of males.”

Photo by Lindsey LaMont on Unsplash