Hope For Hopeless Christians

sad-adultA bunch of hopeless people. This is what you will find as you make eye contact with the people sitting in your church pews. You will be greeted by smile after smile that is nothing more than a cheap movie set façade. Turn the corner and you will realize there is no firm foundation of joy. All that exists is some thin piece of painted plywood held up by two supports of flimsy church culture.

The hearts around you and me are hurting, struggling, and hopeless.

Many of us Christians gave up on the idea of the sufficiency of the Scriptures. We took up God’s script with interest when we first heard about the king of heaven. We eagerly followed every divine word of Scripture up to the base of the cross.

But as we left the cross and began the next scene of our life, we felt that the script was inadequate. The lines mentioned nothing about anorexia, ADHD, and our many other problems. Perhaps the script was no longer useful.

joseph-gonzalez-273526We addressed our concerns to local co-director. He heard our complaints and empathized with us, but agreed that the God’s script was actually kind of lacking. He patted us on the back and ushered us out of his office offering a few trite words encouraging designed to keep us reading and praying.

And so we conclude that the gospel that saves us essentially ends at salvation and will only pick up again at heaven. In the meantime, we improve things as best we can, trying to determine God’s will for our life by asking our heart, “what do you think is best?”

Quite naturally the heart that has put down the Scriptures and devoted itself to the study of itself, pop-culture, and modern thought, finds only cultural wisdom.

Our culture’s mindset is one of hopelessness. There is no hope for the sex addict, for the far too thing teenage girl, and for the out-of-control kid. Sure, we can toss some medicine and therapy their way. But at the end of the day, we can only medicate them. We cannot cure them.

And Christians who are more defined by their sin than their savior are going to be helpless. They cannot hope to be anything else. If God cannot help us with our problems, then we really are hopeless.

This is where all the lonely people come from.

Thankfully, we do not have to remain in this state of hopelessness. God does not call us to be facades. He calls us to build full and vibrant lives on his Word. The script does not end at conversion. That is the point when the plot gets really good. At conversion, we get the power of Christ to overcome our sins. The story of our life goes from being one of failure to one of success, because the hero Christ has arrived and empowered us with his helper, the Holy Spirit. Paul said it this way,

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with temptation he will also provided the way of escape that you may be able to endure it.

– 1 Corinthians 10:13.

The message of the Bible is that you are sinners redeemed by grace. If you are stressed to the point of panic attacks, cannot handle you porn addiction, and cannot control your body weight, the Bible is for you. Dive into it, find a biblical counselor or a godly pastor, and you will see that there is a way of escape. God rescues his people.

Your ultimate problem and my ultimate problem when I think life is hopeless is our theology. The divine script is not wrong. We simply misread the text with our modern, sinful eyes.

To overcome our stress, worries, and depressions, we need to dive into God’s script. As Paul told the Corinthians,

Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come – 1 Corinthians 10:11.

We like the New Testament believers live in the last age. Living in the last age does not imply the Bible is outdated. Rather, Paul says the Bible is full. We have all the stories of the Old and New Testament precisely because they are relevant to our lives today. The show us how to repent of sinful idols and how to refocus on Christ. The Scriptures are never more, relevant, important, and helpful than now.

All those fake smiles in our church by the power of Christ could one day be real and meaningful.

If you have more questions about how the Bible applies to your life or about how you or your church could start practicing the disciplines of grace, please reach out to me. I would love to help.

Let Your Kids Be Your Guide?

forget Jiminy CricketOne of today’s new and up and coming parenting trends is to replace Jiminy Cricket with your kid’s voice. When it comes time to evaluate the value of same-sex marriage or time to choose which charity to support, increasing number of parent are asking their kids to be their guides. Since my little guy can only communicate through grunts and cries, I am not all that tempted to jump on this latest bandwagon. But this new development in the world of postmodern, American parenting poses a great question for us to think through: “Should our kids be allowed to speak into our lives?” The simple answer is both yes and …no. Let’s take a look. 

Negative Words

First, let’s get the negative out of the way. As Christians, we should not surrender our decision making to our kids. Once while working as a server, I witnessed a 5 year-old order for her parents. She asked for refills and dictated the pace of the table for the entire evening. In addition to being awkward, such a situation is not healthy. As Christian parents, we should not let our preschooler order us around for the following three reasons:

  1. Our authority is God. It makes sense for non-Christians to make kids their authority because they’ve rejected the Bible and the idea of real truth. For secular parents, it ultimately makes little difference whether they choose their middle schooler or Buddha to be source their source of wisdom. It’s all relative. But as Christian parents, we claim to have direct access to truth through the Bible. If we want to know which charity to support or decided whether or not divorce is bad, we should look towards Jesus. God has all truth and all power. Why would we turn to anyone else for spiritual and moral guidance? “For you are complete in him who is head over all principality and power” (Col. 2:10).
  2. God calls parents to guide their children. We even see this example in the Trinity as Jesus follows the will of God the father (Luke 22:42). Moreover, our perfect savior obeyed his human parents (Luke 2:51). If ever there was a kid who could legitimately tell his parents what to do, it was Jesus. And yet he still followed his Mary and Joseph’s wishes. What God models, we are to follow. All throughout the Old and New Testaments children are told to obey their parents. And parents are charged with instructing their kids. To be faithful parents, we have to guide our families (Col 3:20; Eph. 6:1-4; Ex. 20:12; Deut. 6)  
  3. Our kids will fail us. If we make any person our source of wisdom and happiness our lives will end in despair. Because all kids are touched by sin (if not control by it) and lack the day to day knowledge of life (like how to use a credit card), our kids will fail us. If anything, surrendering our adult responsibilities to our kids is cruel. We are asking them to make decisions they are not prepared to make. Perhaps they can order a meal that we like, but most cannot balance our budget or determine right from wrong on their own. When we place unreasonable expectations our children, our family life will be filled with frustration, chaos, and bitterness.

Positive Words

Now for the positive! Although we should not allow children to control our lives, we should invite them to speak into our lives for the following three reasons:

  1. Though my little man can’t say a word, God has used facial expressions, the words of my younger siblings, and the comments of other children to convict me of sin.Kids are super perceptive. They can often spot hypocrisy as quicker than free candy in the grocery store.  After all it was a little boy in the famous fable who first said, “The Emperor has no clothes on.” When our children do speak up, we need to be humbly receptive and repent. Accepting rebukes is one of the many listening earways by which we can encourage our children’s hearts (Eph. 6:4; Col 3:21).
  2. God uses children to proclaim truth. Think of the Naaman’s servant girl and or Samuel who all pointed people to God (2 Kings 5:2-3; 1 Sam 3:10-21). As parents we need to realize that God can and does deliver messages of hope, salvation, and comfort through children. My wife and I experienced this first hand as several children encouraged our hearts through signs, notes, and kind words as we mourned the death of our first son.
  3. And Lastly, we should want to hear from our children because we are not God. We all misunderstand people. We will think our kids love dance with in reality they would rather taking guitar lessons. If we always assume we know what our kids like without talking to them and discovering their god given interests, we cannot help but make them bitter. Let’s encourage their hearts and get to know our kids as they change and grow.

Although we should never appoint our kids to be our conscience’s guide, we also should never shut them out of our lives. God’s given us children in-part to help us grow in our faith. For this to happen and for us to by godly parents, we need to listen to our kids without surrendering to them.