The Gospel

Who, If Not the Muslim, Is Our Neighbor?

Shared-Zone.jpg

King Solomon wrote, “There is nothing new under the sun.”

Last night I wore my Huguenot Cross to the mosque. I almost always wear it everywhere I go, but last night as I sat and listened to the grief and the sorrow and the condolences shared among our local Muslim brothers and sisters, I was struck by the symbiotic symbolism of the cross I wear and the events experienced last Friday in a mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand.

The Huguenots were the French Protestants of the 16th and 17th centuries, emerging out of the Reformation like their Protestant brothers and sisters in nearby countries of Germany, Switzerland, England, and Scotland. They suffered severe persecution at the hands of French Catholics.

On August 24th and 25th, 1572, some 3,000 Parisian Huguenots were dragged out into the streets and massacred, their bodies thrown into the Seine and their homes and business burned to the ground. Plotted by Catherine de Medici, the killings continued outside of Paris into all of France, with the death toll reaching nearly 70,000.

“Carts piled high with the dead bodies of noble ladies, women, girls, men, and boys were brought down and emptied into the river, which was covered with dead bodies and ran red with blood,” -Simon Goulart

And as I sat there last night surrounded by grieving Muslim men, women, and children, I could hear the cries of the Huguenots. My heart ached as it recalled the wailing of the Jews, the millions (yes, millions) of Bengali Hindus, the Sikhs, Baha’is, and people who follow smaller factions of faith. Each, at some point in history and many today, experience hatred and intolerance.

In it all, there is this truth:

The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.

The lie is that we have the right to step in and act as God, deciding who lives and who dies. And as Christians, we have two great commandments: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.

Who, if not the Muslim, the Jew, the Sikh, the Hindu, the Bah’ai, the Catholic in your community, is your neighbor?

Huguenot Cross.jpeg

What James MacDonald Forgot

What James MacDonald Forgot

Can we stand yet another post on the James MacDonald debacle?

I first watched a video of James MacDonald teaching back in 2010. He was a mighty fine speaker: eloquent, passionate, and well-prepared. He had charisma and humor, to boot. He loved the Word of God.

He seemed so much like so many other charming and well-spoken pastors with big names and bigger platforms, thanks to publishers driven to capitalize on their books and social media outlets that stand in as a worldwide pulpit. Less like shepherds, more like celebrities.

Power trips and the root of it all, pride, are the tip of the iceberg according to insiders. Honestly, I wish the festering pimple would just pop so we could have it all out and be done with it, swabbing the whole mess with a gigantic cotton ball soaked in alcohol.

Or the gospel.

Because, see, that’s what’s been missing for a long, long time. Back when he began, back when I heard him speak, back when he was running an organization that touched the lives of thousands all over the world, I can believe that the gospel was the goal. But as the personality and the ego begins to serve one person—James MacDonald— the gospel becomes painfully absent from the mission. Oh, it might take the forefront in word, but in heart, it becomes, shall we say, nonattendant.

The gospel that reminds us of Whose we are and what He did for us. The gospel that reminds us that God is more than enough, that Jesus paid it all and declared “It is finished”, and that what He did was more important than what we do. The gospel that reminds us that we don’t have to go anywhere else to look for our value, worth, acceptance, or fulfillment. 

That’s what James MacDonald forgot, and I am just like him. Because I, too, leave the gospel behind daily in my quest to feel accepted. I have to remind myself of the finished work of Christ on my behalf daily, hourly. I have to bask in the love of a God who cannot ever fail to love me. 

So really, we’re not so different, James and I. Perhaps now that he’s left with a deep, hemorrhaging, gaping, festering wound, he’ll remember why he loved Jesus in the first place. It may mean isolation and a profound loss of relationships and at the very least, the complete collapse of that pathetic little empire he built apart from the gospel. But that would be the greatest thing James could ever do in his life. Return to Jesus and be filled up with Jesus’ value and worth and significance. It’s all about Jesus. 

Because empires built on anything less than the gospel aren’t worth the tiny men who’ve slaved tirelessly to erect them. In the end, what they had put up as a prop for their own inadequacies fails them miserably, and they become slaves to the very things they might have used to point people to Jesus instead of themselves. 

The gospel. That’s what James forgot.


By the way, if this article sounds familiar to you, it’s probably because you read my post called What Doug Phillips Forgot or heard our podcast episode called What Josh Duggar Forgot. James MacDonald shares a lot of company, unfortunately. Us, too.

If you happen to be one of those Christian leaders who find yourself increasingly all about yourself, find a place to start here: In Light of Fallen Men: How Christian Leaders Can Avoid the Abyss.


Grace-Based Parenting Isn't a Fad (But It Isn't An Excuse, Either)

 I don’t often write parenting posts. The reason is threefold:  

1.

We aren’t done parenting yet. While we have four adult children and one about to be so, we are also still raising a high schooler, a junior higher, and an intellectually disabled 10-year-old. If we’ve learned anything, it’s that we don’t call the game at half time. The story isn’t over. 

That’s a lot of kids, but we’re even missing our oldest son and his wife in this one.

That’s a lot of kids, but we’re even missing our oldest son and his wife in this one.

2.

Our best parenting moments have been entirely led by the Holy Spirit. I’m not kidding when I say the most helpful, loving, and life-transforming things to come out of my mouth have been uttered after I’ve cried out to God and told him I have no idea how to handle the present situation. Some of those are doozies, like when the loudest, most contentious yelling shakedown occurred above my head on the second floor. . . between two sisters. Even the older brothers had never had such an altercation, and there was no cupboard of experience into which I might peer and draw acquired wisdom.

I could tell you how to parent and what to do, but the better guide is the Holy Spirit in your life. I’d want you to take my ideas with that in mind.

Always keep your eye on the one with the biggest smile. Sisters, 2004

Always keep your eye on the one with the biggest smile. Sisters, 2004

3.

Our family dynamics, marriage, home culture, and children are all different than yours. I can tell you where we have failed miserably and where we have had huge successes, but really only in relationship to the people in our home.  

If you can keep those three things in mind, then keep reading!

This is what 27 years of marriage looks like for us. Lots of hiccups, lots of love.

This is what 27 years of marriage looks like for us. Lots of hiccups, lots of love.

Prior to leaving legalism, we were a rules-based family. There was a lot of fun and monkeying around and kids splashing in the pool and people everywhere, but the bottom line was the bottom line: “Shape up or ship out.”

Then one sweltering June morning I tiptoed into the big master bedroom walk-in closet to check on the baby and discovered that my tiny beautiful boy had slipped into a life-altering coma. It’s a story I tell often, because it was the beginning of transformation. How could it not be?

As God began to gently nudge us out of our rules-based, religion-heavy, good behavior-driven stupor and toward a faith centered solely on what Christ had accomplished on our behalf, our relationships began to change, too. Our parenting changed.

There are nuances that have been the result of that change, nuances that are still refining themselves within each relationship and interpersonal interaction we have with each individual child. That could fill a book. But this is a lowly blog post and I want it to pack a punch in fewer illustrations and absolutely no chapters, so here we go:

Showing children grace does not cancel out showing them how to be decent human beings.

I want to like my kids. I want you to like my kids. Therefore, we still teach them to treat each other with kindness, be grateful for everything that’s been given to them, be others-centered and unselfish in their care of people, and to wipe the pee off the toilet seat.

We still discipline when there’s defiance. We say what we mean and mean what we say. We still take away technology when it begins to steal a child’s ability to focus on anything but a screen, assign appropriate chores, get irritated when dishes are dumped in the sink or snuck to a bedroom, and curtail privileges like hanging out with friends when attitudes are tossed our way or schoolwork is ignored.

But grace. Grace allows us the space to also communicate that doing everything perfectly—schoolwork, relationships, chores, obedience—does not make God love them any more than he already does. Grace is a gift, given and bestowed because he loves them so. Grace allows me, the sinful mother, to say, “Oh man. Look at how I blew up at you. I am so sorry. Can you forgive me? This is why I need Jesus. This is why you need Jesus.”

It’s a subtle shift in how we view sin, our children, and their savior, but it packs a critical punch. It allows a giant space for the gospel to swoop in and communicate that he isn’t angry, vengeful, or wrathful with the redeemed. He loves and showers grace over the hearts of his beloved people, including our children. We get a lot of do-overs because of Jesus.

Special needs or not, we all “strugol”.

Special needs or not, we all “strugol”.

The Bible is still the Word of God, whether or not we believe God’s commands are for our good.

It’s funny. The more I talk about grace, the more I’m met with the response, “But what about swinging the pendulum too far? I mean, God has rules.” Folks, we are obsessed with the rules.

Obsessed.

So much so that I spent one whole chapter of Leaving Legalism addressing this very topic. Rules. Pendulums. The law/grace equation.

You’re right. There are rules. But let us never, never, never forget that those rules (commands, principles, imperatives) always, without exception, follow God’s outpouring of love and his communication of who he is and who we are because of who he is.

I’ve just finished reading through the first four books of the Bible this year, and I have been struck repeatedly by the fact that God, without fail, tells his people who he is and then tells them who they are because of who he is before he hands over the rules etched into giant stones. Their identity—who they are—is established before they get the list of how he wants them to move forward.

If God has found it necessary and consequential to remind us who he is and who we are because of it, then we must do the same. Do you want something to do? Do that. Remind yourself, over and over and over, of who God is and who you are because of it. Redeemed. Justified. Whole.

Out of the knowledge of who we are flows the desire to do what he tells us to do. If we reverse the order, we are precluding God’s Word. We are telling him we can keep his law all by ourselves. We can’t. You cannot.

We teach our kids first who they are in light of who God is, and then we tell them why our loving God gives us so much wisdom and some really helpful guidelines in Scripture. People can get all up-in-arms about displays of the 10 Commandments in public spaces, but I bet there isn’t a one who disagrees with “Don’t murder”, “Don’t lie”, or “Don’t steal your neighbor’s stuff”. God, in his infinite wisdom, tells us the rules because he knows what is best for humanity.

Imagine that.

This daughter teaches me what grace looks like.

This daughter teaches me what grace looks like.

Grace is a glorious, God-shaped gift. It lives eternally. It isn’t a popular parenting paradigm.

How you decide to dress your kids, feed your kids, talk to your kids, or steer your kids is entirely up to you. Fads abound. Parenting built on a foundation of the understanding of our salvation by faith alone through grace alone in Christ alone isn’t one of them.

You do you.

As you do you, remind yourself and your children that we have been given much grace, and in light of it, we want to follow Jesus Christ as closely as possible. We don’t get points for following. God doesn’t love us more because we spent lots of time focused on him today. We aren’t super saved or more cherished because of anything we do. We are all of those things because of what Jesus did.

Can you imagine growing up in a home like that?