The (not so) glory days

I am such a homer for the "way things used to be." Yeah, I was the guy that rolled my eyes whenever my parents or those from their generation spoke of how things used to be so much simpler/easier/more meaningful/etc., back when they were younger. My response to all of that was, "Come on, get with it! Today is so much better - we have cassette tapes, 5 cable channels, and more than one phone mounted on the wall in the house. What more do you want?" My eyes saw things only through my self-imposed utopia.

Fast forward a few decades and now I'm a dad with four kids who all look through tainted lenses of their own. Whenever we are in the car and I come across a song from my high school or college days that jams, I get "the look" from them that I gave to my parents. "How can you listen to that stuff?" is written all over their faces. And yes, I find myself rehashing the tired line, "You know, when I was your age..." Please, bring me my Geritol now.

Even though many of us cling to the cheesy relics of years gone by, we can learn a whole lot of valuable lessons from the past. Some dude named George Santayana once said, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it," and for the most part I agree with him. There is a difference between people who live in a whole other dimension of the past and can't seem to grow past the music and styles of a certain era and those who refuse to learn from the successes and mistakes of previous generations. We don't have to look far to see how disastrous that can be.

I find the account of the early history of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah to be fascinating and revealing. To give you a quick recount, Saul started it all as Israel's king, then came David and Solomon. After Solomon things got a little sticky - his son Rehoboam was crowned king of Israel but another guy, Jeroboam, was given the crown for the southern region called Judah. A kingdom divided is what resulted. From then on it was the Northern Kingdom of Israel and the Southern Kingdom of Judah, each with her own king and all the issues that come along with trying to lead a nation.

Throughout the history of these two kingdoms there were a bunch of kings that came through. Some of these kings were attentive to the things of God during their reigns, but for the most part the rulers of both these kingdoms did a pretty lousy job of living up to God's leadership standards. From the time the kingdoms were divided, a template had been set and the kings of Israel specifically struggled to learn from a past that would certainly doom them if they repeated it.

Jeroboam, the first king of Israel after the division, had some serious issues. Since the temple was in Jerusalem, and Jerusalem was in Judah, Jeroboam decided to set up his own cities of worship in Israel complete with golden calves to represent God (1 Kings 12-13). Do you want to be a priest in Israel but have no credentials? Sweet, you've got the job! Long story short, Jeroboam did a miserable job of leading Israel and brought the people about as far away from God as he could.

King Jeroboam established a pattern that, unfortunately, many of the kings who succeeded him chose to follow. I won't bore you with a whole bunch of names and dates, but I will share with you a consistent description that was attributed to most of the kings of Israel that followed:
He did what was evil in the Lord's sight and followed the example of Jeroboam.            (1 Kings 15:26; 15:34; 16:26; 16:31; 22:52; 2 Kings 3:3; 10:29; 13:2; 13:11; 14:24; 15:9; 15:18; 15:24; 15:28)
This Jeroboam guy certainly did not leave a healthy legacy. In fact, when Israel finally fell to Samaria in 722 B.C., the reason listed was that "The Israelites persisted in all the sins Jeroboam committed and did not turn away from them." (2 Kings 17:22) Yet in spite of Jeroboam's awful track record, the kings who followed him refused to learn from it. We know that there were some pretty sweet times in this history of Israel, but the ignorance and obstinance caused most her kings to live in a past that spelled certain doom for their future.

So what can we learn from this? Following in the footsteps of those who have royally botched things before you is not the path to take. You don't have to live in the glory days but you should certainly learn from the not so glory ones. Examples of this are everywhere, especially in the Bible. Learn from the mistakes of past or you will certainly be doomed to repeat them. And nobody wants to be like that Jeroboam guy.

Consistency

As I was perusing social media sites this morning, I came across a blog post that has been rapidly making the rounds on Facebook. Maybe you've read it or seen others share it on their Facebook wall. In a nutshell, this blog post was written by a mother of three boys and one girl who, along with her husband, regularly check the social media sites that her kids frequent to make sure that the content is acceptable. Bravo! My wife and I do the same with our middle school daughter and, like the author of the blog, we edit as we see fit and "unfollow" some of our daughter's "friends" who are posting pics and phrases that we don't want our children to see (or us to see for that matter).

Many don't think it's right for parents to "creep" on their kids' social media pages. After all, they are kids and deserve a chance to express themselves. But what would I have become (or any of you for that matter) if I was allowed to operate without boundaries when I was growing up. No, I didn't have social media at my disposal (we only had a few cable channels for a while) but there were other ways that I could express myself in a detrimental fashion, and I'm grateful for parents who loved me enough to rein me in when I got out of line.

So as I read this blog post exhorting young women to be careful what they post on social media sites, I saw the words of a mother who cares about her sons enough to protect them from the harmful things that the world attempts to expose them to daily. As a parent, I totally relate to that!

It was then I saw the pictures that she chose to post along with her words that caused me to scratch my head in confusion.

You see, the author had just spelled out a well-crafted argument encouraging girls and young women to respect themselves enough to not post trashy "selfies" of themselves that will draw the wrong kind of attention from young men. But then she posts a couple of pictures of her boys, shirtless and posing/flexing on the beach. Hmmm, that's odd. Didn't she just warn her boys against the dangers of female flesh online only to turn around and essentially do the same?

Now some of you might think this is harmless. After all, boys are more stimulated by sight than girls, so the same rules don't necessarily apply, right? Not to mention that the pictures that girls post on Facebook or Twitter are much different than the playful pictures that the author of this blog posted of her sons, right?

Regardless of how you react to all of this (and if you read the article in question you will find that there are many comments at the bottom of the page written by men and women who have lots of opinions), there is one question that immediately came to my mind after reading the article and then seeing the accompanying pictures:

Where is the consistency?

I realize that my job as a parent is one of the most important responsibility that I have ever been given. There is so much at stake. If I rebuke my children for yelling at each other, but then turn around and raise my voice at them, then I have lost a bit of my parental clout. If I am not consistent in what I teach my children, then how can I expect them to be consistent in their own decisions and behavior?

Does it make sense for a chain smoker to preach against the evils of smoking to his own children?

How closely would a daughter listen to a message on purity from a mother who regularly sleeps with the men she dates?

What if I lecture my kids on how to handle money but I can't control my own spending?

Where is the consistency in that?

This is not an attempt to slam the author of this blog, for her words rang absolutely true to my ears. Yet is does serve as a gentle rebuke. If you or I choose to put our thoughts or images to the page of social media, then we must be willing to bear the scrutiny that comes along with that.

Perhaps this will cause all of us to take a closer look at what we have posted on social media so that we can be sure that what we have posted is consistent with what we believe. Better yet, may this focus us on living lives that are consistent with what we say we believe.


Desperately trying to find that middle ground

Have you been reading the news lately? Not a whole lot of positives are being splashed on the headlines, but then that's no surprise. Syria has done some pretty awful things to their own people, but then no one is really sure who actually authorized what so the world is at sort of a standstill on how to respond. Some want to bomb them to send a message, but without all the facts what good will that do?

Then there's Egypt, another big mess. There were a much bigger deal before someone in Syria began gassing fellow Syrians, but they still have many problems that no seems to know how to work out. Hundreds are dead and the government is no longer trusted, but whose to blame for all of the problems? Just where does the buck stop?

I'm glad I'm not the one making national and global political decisions because there seems to be no cut-and-dry answers out there. Diplomacy is always a good first choice, but when no one is listening it's hard to sit back and just tell others to be nice to each other. Even when the nations come together as a coalition, the truth seems so hard to come by (see: Iraq). Many so desperately want to find a middle ground, a common denominator that both sides of the conflicts can agree on, but that rarely if ever seems to happen.

When did our world become so ambiguous?

Answer: It always has been.

As long as people are involved, things are gonna be messy. All sides of the argument will claim that their points are most valid, while the rest of us are trying to figure out where the truth lies. And that's where most of these problems begin - there is no handle on truth. The world exists in its own bath of relativism, with truth being redefined daily depending on what your side needs to accomplish. The truth is out there, but no one seems to want to find it (unless, of course, it bolsters their side).

But Jesus had no problem speaking the truth. In fact, He claimed to be the truth (John 14:6). And if you are bold enough to claim to be the truth, then your perspective is pretty set. There is no need to argue useless points or haggle over details. No matter what you do or say, the truth is the truth.

And that statement usually offends people.

"You mean to tell me that if I don't know Jesus then I don't what truth is?" I'm just repeating what Jesus said about Himself, and I just happen to believe it, too. And this didn't just come from the words of Jesus. There were many men who knew Jesus personally, traveling and ministering with Him, who would later claim the same thing: Apart from Jesus, there is no truth. If you believe in or put your trust in anything or anyone else, then you've been deceived.

This past Sunday I had the chance to teach on 1 John 2:28-3:10. It's one of those passages written by John, one of Jesus' apostles and His best friend while He was here on earth, that can really offend people. John's basic point is this: Either you know God or you don't. There is no middle ground. You either know God and love His Son, Jesus, or you follow after the ways of the devil. Ouch! After the service someone told me that I was being pretty black and white about everything. I agreed with him on that. But it wasn't what I was telling him, rather I was relating the words of God as faithfully as I knew how.

Maybe there is some middle ground to be found in world conflict. Perhaps opposing sides can come together to meet in the middle to solve their differences. I hope so. Compromise between two enemies can be a beautiful thing.

Yet when it comes to God we have to understand this: He isn't looking for compromise. Because when it comes to you and God, there is no compromise. Your way is never best, no matter how good you try to present it. As the author and finisher of our faith, God has the first and the last word. Shoot, He's got the only word. Does this offend you? If it does then it's probably because you've tried for so long to do things your own way that you've convinced yourself that you can do it all on your own. But when you see the truth of God for what it is, you realize there is nothing but freedom in surrendering to God's love for you Some think it's crazy to put all of your eggs in God's basket. I say it's crazy to even think that your own basket could actually carry you anywhere.


Broken bones, but not broken dreams

This is what a broken and dislocated forearm on a 9-year-old girls looks like. Unfortunately this belongs to my youngest daughter, Emme...