Sunday, December 20, 2009

Do I Choose Bovine Silliness or Wise Humbleness?

This blog is young, and it is already taking turns I was not expecting. Today’s post will be one of those turns. Part of my nightly routine is that I always tuck my son into bed. Our routine is reading a story or a chapter if the book is longer. Then it is lights out, which is the official signal to start wrestling. More than just wrestling, this is wrestling mixed with tickling and laughter. When the wrestling is done, we settle down by ending our day with prayer. This is always a great silly and serious time of bonding between a father and son. It is an important part of each day for both of us.

Most of the books we read come from the children’s section of our local library. He goes through phases of different well known characters: Berenstain Bears, Curious George, and the Peanuts Gang. Lately he has been into a series of books based on two cows, named Minnie and Moo, who sit under a tree. Moo reads, thinks, and has a runaway imagination. Minnie drinks espresso and worries about what idea Moo will have next.

To a kindergartener, the first couple of books we read were funny. Over all, they were pretty innocuous. Written for younger children, who would still be learning to read, the parent would most likely be reading it to them. An alert adult would still be involved in the details to which the child was being exposed. One episode, Minnie and Moo attempted to save the farm by going to the bank and just asking for money. The only problem is they went dressed in trench coats, one carrying a violin case, and handed the cashier a note with a request for the money. You can imagine how that turned out. In the next book, they dressed up as two chickens to sneak into the hen house. They were looking for a jelly donut thief, who they had rationalized could be a blue chicken. When a wolf shows up, the rooster attempts to convince him that he should go for the two bigger chickens as they would make a better meal.

About a week ago, we started reading a longer Minnie and Moo story: Minnie & Moo and the Seven Wonders of the World by Denys Cazet. It states on the inside of the cover: Ages 7-10. So, it was written for children who would be reading it on their own. The Summary states:

Two cows try to save their farm by creating seven wonders and asking the other animals for donations to see them, but there is a wondrous and frightening creature in the woods that could foil the plan.

Seemed harmless enough, right? As this was a longer book, we were only reading one chapter a night. We made it through the first three chapters without as much as a hint of trouble. Then it happened, Dad’s internal alarm started going off. Why does the picture at the front of tonight’s chapter show one cow wearing “a turban with a red plastic jewel in the center of her head?” In front of the cow, setting on a table, she was holding a bowling ball with both hands. There were many other farm animals standing around her, looking on in curiosity. Taped to the front of the table were two signs, “Save Our Farm” and “Presidential Bunion” (a free lead-in to the Seven Wonders). On the table was one more sign, but the writing on it was not legible. We started reading, and on the next page finally discovered the content of the illegible sign, which also provided clarity about the jeweled turban and bowling ball. It read:

Madame Minnie
Mistress of the Presidential Bunion
Teller of Fortunes

When I saw that, I stopped reading out loud and started scanning ahead. My son of course was wondering why I had stopped, and wanted to know what I was doing. As I scanned ahead, I read other phrases that were bringing me to full alert.

“The mystery of the bunion. What magic lies within? What other presidential faces might appear to those with the vision to see Mother Nature’s magic?”

“I saw Mother Nature’s magic.”

“Madame Minnie will gaze into her crystal ball and tell you what you will see!”

That was all I needed to see; I closed the book. Is it really acceptable to the world to expose 7-10 year old children to the occult? Apparently, it is; as it states “A Junior Library Guild Selection” inside the front cover. Inside the back cover, it states: “Denys Cazet first introduced his lovable cows in a series of books for beginning readers. Here is more bovine silliness for children reading on their own.” I guess it is acceptable to the world, depending on whether the word “bovine” above is interpreted as a noun or an adjective. If it is a noun, then we are just talking about two silly cows. But defined as an adjective, it is bovine silliness to introduce children to the occult “on their own”. Used as an adjective, bovine can be defined as: crass, coarse, insensitive, Philistine, rude, and vulgar.

I informed my son that we would not be able to finish the book. He, of course, was curious as to why not. I went into our bedroom to let my wife know why we couldn’t finish the book. She agreed with me that it was inappropriate and not acceptable material for our young son.

Perhaps you are reading this and wondering, “What’s the big deal?” Allow me to explain. We are to judge things according to a standard. That standard must be higher than us. The Bible, God’s Word was intended to be that standard for all of mankind. God’s Word is pretty clear on the topic of fortune-telling and witchcraft. He spelled it out to the Hebrew people when they were preparing to enter the Promised Land:

“When you enter the land the Lord your God is giving you, be very careful not to imitate the detestable customs of the nations living there. For example, never sacrifice your son or daughter as a burnt offering. And do not let your people practice fortune-telling, or use sorcery, or interpret omens, or engage in witchcraft, or cast spells, or function as mediums or psychics, or call forth the spirits of the dead. Anyone who does these things is detestable to the Lord. It is because the other nations have done these detestable things that the Lord your God will drive them out ahead of you. But you must be blameless before the Lord your God. The nations you are about to displace consult sorcerers and fortune-tellers, but the Lord your God forbids you to do such things.” – Deuteronomy 18:9-14

And despite this clear warning, later we see the consequences when the Israelites rejected God’s Law:

“They even sacrificed their own sons and daughters in the fire. They consulted fortune-tellers and practiced sorcery and sold themselves to evil, arousing the Lord’s anger. Because the Lord was very angry with Israel, he swept them away from his presence. Only the tribe of Judah remained in the land. But even the people of Judah refused to obey the commands of the Lord their God, for they followed the evil practices that Israel had introduced.” – 2 Kings 17:17-19

Just in case you are thinking, “Those are Old Testament references, they no longer apply to today’s teaching,” allow me to put a finer point on it. The New Testament clearly defines the foundation from which the sin of fortune-telling is established:

“One day as we were going down to the place of prayer, we met a demon-possessed slave girl. She was a fortune-teller who earned a lot of money for her masters.” – Acts 16:16

You might still say, “What is the problem? It’s just a story. It doesn’t mean your child will turn to that.” I would answer, “Why introduce my child to the sin of fortune-telling which is built on the foundation of demon-possession?” In doing that, I would be assisting the devil in digging a hole in my child’s heart for that foundation of sin to be established. If I read it to him and pretend it is no big deal, then I have in effect told my child that it is acceptable. He has no reason to question it; he trusts his father. He doesn’t yet understand that God finds it detestable. If I abide in God and God finds it unacceptable, then I must find it unacceptable. It is no small coincidence that a few days later I noticed a young teenager at McDonald’s with what appeared to be a pentagram hanging on a chain around their neck. Both decisive action and indecisive non-action have consequences.

God’s Word says He will make fools of fortune-tellers, who predict only lies. I do not want to be associated with fools and liars, nor do I want my son to be associated with them. As a loving father, why would I hesitate in putting up a tenacious fight to protect my son from demon-possession? The best way to protect him is to ensure he isn’t exposed to that path at such a young age, before he understands the consequences. As a father, I have a mission to properly warn my children of the dangers along the path of sin. If I failed to act now and he were to take that path, then I also run the risk of contributing grief to his mother, my wife:

“The proverbs of Solomon: A wise child brings joy to a father; a foolish child brings grief to a mother.” – Proverbs 10:1

I want to experience joy. I want my wife to experience joy. I want my children to experience joy. To further that experience, I will choose to remain constantly vigilant, bold in my convictions, and not concede ground on my watch. According to the world, perhaps I am just being silly or arrogant; according to God I am being wise and humble.

Given the importance of raising children, what will you choose to do? How tenacious will you fight for an outcome which provides God's joy as the consequences for your children's choices?

For more of God’s Wisdom with regards to the fallacy of the occult, read: Leviticus 19:26; Isaiah 3:1-3; Isaiah 44:25; Jeremiah 27:9; Jeremiah 29:8-9; Ezekiel 21:29; Daniel 2:27-28; Micah 3:6-8; Micah 5:11-13; Zechariah 10:2-3

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Where Do You Find Assurance?

The past 1-2 years have been a struggle for most. The economic foundations have been shaken by a world in financial chaos. Nowhere has this been felt more than in the architecture and construction industry. I know because I was an early casualty. Over a year ago, I worked in a small architecture firm. Then suddenly I didn’t. Four months later, I found a new job. It is somewhat related, but requires me to wear the uniform of the U.S. Army. The Saint Louis architectural community is small and I do what I can to stay connected. In the last 14 months, more have been laid-off; some even as recently as the last few weeks. It’s hard to run a difficult race when it seems to last this long – even the strongest among us do not see the finish line.

Saturday morning, I was on my way to work. Rarely do I work Saturdays anymore. I was listening to the radio. It was top of the hour; time for the national and local news. The local news carried a story that immediately caught my attention: Local man, jumped to his death, owner of two well-renowned construction related companies. Due to the economy, his companies had gone through a period of many layoffs. I know some of those people who have been laid-off. I had met him once. This turn of events was a tragedy.

For the remainder of my trip, I thought about how this would resonate around the architectural community. My thoughts were filled with sorrow. No matter the potential loss of jobs and companies, they can always be replaced. Life cannot be replaced. Suicide is an irreversible decision. All of these (jobs, companies, life) are temporary, and the loss of each is always sorrowful and shocking. But an early departure from life is beyond shocking to those who must continue. For those left behind, the repercussions have the potential to be extremely detrimental.

My heart goes out to this man’s family and all the potential that was left unfulfilled. I do hope that they have a secure place to turn during this time. I pray that family and friends will stand with them and comfort them. I pray that they will be able to let go of the pieces and give them to God. Allow Him to help them find peace and move forward.

I do not mean to make light of the circumstances, but we can be so peculiar. We choose to go through life, placing our trust in treasures we know exist temporarily – only to be disappointed at their ruin. Men do this with jobs and position; sometimes allowing anger to enter our lives when it is time to move on. Anger and Disappointment are natural, but taken too far; they can lead to an overwhelming sense of failure that holds us down in a pit of defeat.  The way to overcome anger and disappointment is with peace.  Peace which passes all understanding, and leads to hope.

At our church, we have a saying: “He was reading your mail!” It is said when the message is on point with your life or thoughts. Today, Pastor Shawn was reading my mail. I hope he doesn’t mind me sharing his points on finding Peace in the Midst When Your World is Shaking. First the peace which is found in the world, the temporary circumstances:
  • An Absence of Conflict (Tolerance?)
  • An Easy-going Feeling (The Eagles: Peaceful, Easy Feeling)
  • Quietness and Solitude (Leave me alone)
  • Personal Relaxation (Stress-free Life)
  • Personal Happiness (Whatever makes you happy)
That is the list of False Peace. So, is that it then? We just go through life, one temporary false peace after another? Are we to just deal with the emotion of loss; until another gain replaces it or we are dealt a loss which appears irreversible? Has repeated loss of the temporary caused us to declare that nothing is eternal anymore? How far will you go to defend that notion? Are you willing to defend it into eternity?

Beyond the temporary, insecure offerings of the world, God offers eternal assurance in Jesus Christ:

"These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God." - 1 John 5:13

Once you have the Son of God, Jesus Christ, He offers you True Peace.

“I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” – John 14:27

This is the kind of peace which the world cannot replicate; it can only offer a cheap imitation. Here are the points which Pastor Shawn offered on True Peace:
  • It is Supernatural, only comes through Jesus
  • The gift is the Holy Spirit, who helps you in times of loss and sorrow
  • His peace is not dependent on circumstances
  • His peace stays with you when you have an open hand
Jesus instructed us not to store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Instead we are to store our treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. (Matthew 6:19, 20) Jobs, Position, and Status are all treasures we store here on earth. Right now the earth is being shaken. It is unstable and in chaos; treasures are being eaten, destroyed, and stolen. True Peace (Shalom in Hebrew) is strong, secure, stable and complete. Shalom is from the inside out, it is Eternal, and it is stored in Heaven.

Will we have an open hand and let go of the earthly treasures that are stealing our peace?  Are we willing to accept Shalom and find real Hope?