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Thursday, December 12th, 2013
When our family saw The Radio City Christmas Spectacular this past weekend, it reminded me of a deep thought that I feel often goes “unthought of.”
At the very end of the show, a short essay called “A Solitary Life” by Dr. James Allan Francis was read to the audience, right after The Living Nativity scene.
I won’t quote the whole thing here, but the last few lines of it really stood out to me:
“Two thousand years have come and gone, and today He is the central figure for much of the human race. All the armies that have ever marched and all the navies that have ever sailed and all the parliments that ever sat and all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of man upon this earth as powerfully as this “One Solitary Life.’”
It’s pretty fascinating to me that if Jesus wasn’t who He claimed to be, which is the Son of God and the predicted Messiah of the prophecies in the Old Testament, then He was simply the most famous and influencial deceiver to have ever lived on the earth.
That means He’s fooled millions of people in the past couple thousand years. That means, back in His day, he caused quite a political uproar over… nothing. In that case, it was all just a hoax.
As C.S. Lewis famously put it, Jesus is either “lunatic, liar, or Lord.”
But again, if He was simply a crazy man or false prophet, He’s the most famous and influential one there’s ever been, to simply have been just a man.
Or, Jesus really is who He said He is, and He’s still the most famous and influential man who has ever lived.
This is the same man who this time of year is better known as the baby born in Bethlehem.
Nearly a year and a half ago, I wrote “8 Non-Religious Reasons To Take Your Kids To Church,” in which I closed by stating my thoughts on the choice to live a life based on faith in Jesus:
The way I look at it; even if at the end of my life I was wrong about God this entire time and when we die, we just die and that’s it, I still wouldn’t regret having believed. Because if nothing else, I had a sense of hope amidst all of life’s uncertainties.
Throughout all the traditional Santa and reindeer stuff we enjoy this time of year, I’m still distracted by the Jesus part of Christmas.
If Christmas was simply about candy canes and snowmen, and still managed to be this big of a deal to everyone, I would really be questioning why we celebrate it.
But I know the basis of this holiday season is deeper than that, and even more than just “the spirit of giving.” It still comes down to a baby in a manger who went on to live the most famous and influential life… ever.
And as I raise you to believe in Him, if He was really just a liar or a lunatic instead, I guess that makes me one of those things too.
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Saturday, December 15th, 2012
I recently realized something: I haven’t really been praying specifically for you. Instead, I’ve been mainly just lumping you in with our family.
Subconsciously, I keep asking myself, “What else should I pray about aside, from his safety and that he will have a bright future? He’s only 2 years old.”
That’s pretty much all my prayers for you have been about: Your safety and your future.
But beyond that, on a daily basis, what else do I want for you? What should I ask God for on your behalf?
I’ve been thinking about this all week and I guess the thing is, until I take the time to write it down, I won’t know the answer.
It’s like I get so used to the habit of praying ad-lib style, that I hardly take the time to map out my thoughts and translate them into prayers.
So while this prayer will surely evolve as you grow older, here’s my prayer for you for right now:
“Heavenly Father, thank you for my son Jack. Please protect him from harm and give him a bright future.
As for his interactions with others today, I pray that in his young age as he is developing his skills to communicate and share, help him to love others as himself.
Let him be a friend today to those who need a friend. Let him be encouraging, strong, and yet still humbled.
Bless him as he learns today about colors and shapes, words and numbers, and all Your creation in between. I pray He will see Your truth in this life and that he will see Your love through me.
Lead me today, as I lead him. I pray in Your name, amen.”
The obvious thing I can’t help but think about as I see this prayer, is the last line. Jack, it’s true you are both a gift and a responsibility.
Sure, the older you get, the more responsible for yourself you will become. But as for now, I am overly mindful of the role I play in your life.
I don’t take my role as your dad lightly. Therefore, I’m very deliberate in how I raise you. That includes how I discipline you, communicate with you, entertain you, engage you, and teach you both small and important lessons in life.
The light doesn’t just one day switch on, and suddenly, what I do as your dad suddenly starts really mattering.
I’ll do my best for you, Son. So help me God.
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Tuesday, February 14th, 2012
For Valentine’s Day 1986, I received a card from my fellow preschooler friend, Alex Igou. It featured Darth Vader on the front, and on the back it said, “Be Mine… Or Else!”
It can be truly hilarious to read what kids’ store-bought Valentine’s cards actually say, even 26 years later; especially to members of the same gender.
Last week my son’s daycare center, KinderCare, gave me a list of the other 6 classmates in his toddler group. Turns out, they are all boys. No girls.
But being the crafty girl that she is, my wife made some Valentines out of some leftover felt and paired them with some animal crackers from Whole Foods.
So yeah, I couldn’t help but think, “My son is giving out bromantic Valentine’s Day cards.”
It’s funny to me, yet deep at the same time:
Since the 15th Century, Valentine’s Day has been associated with romantic love. Interestingly though, the holiday originally began as way to honor Christian martyrs named Saint Valentine and was established in 496 AD by Pope Gelasius I.
Today, it’s basically ironic to think of Valentine’s Day as anything other than a romantic celebration. But for the majority of its existence, the holiday was intended to honor men who died for the sake of their faith in Christ.
So now I wonder: Can Valentine’s Day be used to celebrate love for all people, in brotherly and sisterly ways? I say it should. Because simply, loving God means loving others.
As a follower of Christ, I am fascinated with the way Jesus answered this question:
36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” -Matthew 22:36-40
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I acknowledge the Bible is full of things I have a hard time understanding or accepting, yet I continue to believe despite my lack of competence. But seriously, the thought of truly loving my neighbors (everyone else beside me) as much as myself may be the most difficult part to grasp.
Is it even possible? And yet, Christ said that is the 2nd greatest commandment.
Man, that’s tough. It’s definitely easier said than done for a guy like me who has enough issues battling selfishness when it comes to my own flesh and blood: my beautiful son.
If I can’t get over myself enough to love my son like I should, how am I ever going to love those who annoy me as much as I love myself?
Being romantic for Valentine’s Day is the easy part. If only that’s all there was to it.
Wednesday, January 25th, 2012
During my day job, I work alongside someone I consider a “friendly atheist.” Not the kind who has a passionate agenda of converting me out of Christianity or who is obviously mad at God for not existing. He just simply believes that when we all die… poof! That’s it.
He and I have the kind of mutually respectful relationship where we can curiously ask each other questions about the other’s belief system, without it ever turning volatile or even emotional.
Last Friday I told him, “You simply have more faith than I do; to believe we all just got here by random chance.”
He replied, “You know, Nick; I find it very surprising that you, of all people, believe in Jesus and the Bible and all that stuff. I know you well enough to realize you are a very logical, rational guy. It just doesn’t fit you.”
The truth is, he makes a good point. I have no trouble at all believing in each of the miracles told in the Bible; from God creating Adam from dust, then Eve from his side, to Noah being able to gather two of every kind of animal on the ark, to the virgin birth of Christ, to Him being the Son of God, to Jesus making wine from water, to Him walking on water, to Him dying for the whole world and then raising from the dead. No problem.
Why? Because it’s all miraculous. It’s impossible unless it’s true. That’s logical to me.
Sure, I definitely believe the Bible truly is legitimate and factual.
I’m not the kind of person who only believes the parts of the Bible and God’s teachings that I want to; the ones that are easy to believe and that make me feel good. That’s not me.
Instead, I am a Bible-believing Christian who trusts in Christ alone for eternal life and redemption of all my wickedness, yet with humility I am willing to admit, there are parts of the Bible and its teachings that I struggle with.
Notice I said “struggle with.” I didn’t say I don’t believe or won’t believe. It means there are certain things I have to sort out, by carefully reading the Bible, praying to God to help me understand, reading related commentary books and talking to other Christians about my concerns.
I have this theory that most Bible-believing Christians have at least one particular part of the Bible or Christianity they have always struggled with believing. Mine is the existence of a literal, eternal, fiery hell in which people can never be redeemed.
While I’ve never met a Christian who believes that babies go to hell, it seems to be a popular belief that basically everyone else born in sin who dies not knowing Christ as their savior goes to hell forever.
That includes people in other countries who never heard the Gospel. That includes people who were only exposed to judgmental Christians who condemned them. That includes people who have been abused by their earthly fathers and have a deranged idea of what a loving father actually is.
I simply don’t want to be in a position where I have to decide who goes to Heaven and who doesn’t. But I feel that if hell is the fiery place it’s perceived to be by most Christians and their agreed interpretations of Christ’s teachings, then I sort of am in that position.
This can of worms got opened about a month ago when I read the highly controversial book, Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived, by Rob Bell.
It’s not that I agreed with every thing he said, but he was willing to shed light on my lifelong concerns about the Church’s traditional interpretation of hell. He goes back to every use of the word “hell” in the Bible and focuses on the original Hebrew and Greek words used.
So should I believe that all unbelievers, except babies, go to hell if they don’t believe in Christ by the time they die?
I’m going to give a very unpopular answer:
I don’t know. I have no idea. Yet.
I know that I’m supposed to believe it as an evangelical Christian. But I can’t lie and say in my heart I believe it at this point in my Christian journey.
But I’m trying to figure it out as I reread the teachings of Christ and the Apostles. I’m also reading the book, Erasing Hell, by Francis Chan; which counters the ideas written in Love Wins.
Just for the record, I graduated from a one year Bible college called Word of Life Bible Institute and earned my English degree from Liberty University; the world’s largest evangelical Christian university.
I know the Bible very well. But I can’t stand the thought of believing heresy, whether it’s some trendy author’s flawed interpretation of the Bible, or even the Church’s flawed understanding of Scripture.
Nothing has ever caused me to read the Bible with such passion. As a believer of Christ, I want to know who He truly is.
This is real faith. It’s not about having all the answers. Nor is it being okay with not trying to find the answers.
So what does this have to do with being a dad? Everything.
I want to be able to teach my son everything I have learned about God. My faith is everything to me. As his dad, it’s my responsibility to be the spiritual leader my dad was to me.
So to not understand a major part of my faith is difficult for me to deal with.
Like my atheist friend said, I am a very logical and rational guy. I don’t just believe something because I’m supposed to. I believe because God helps me to.
So help me God for my lack of understanding.
Top image: Hands Statue from Hell in Wat Rong Khun at Chiang Rai, Thailand, via Shutterstock.
Bottom image: Marshmallow on a stick over the fire, via Shutterstock.
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Saturday, June 4th, 2011
A few weeks ago on Mother’s Day, my wife and I had Jack “dedicated” at our church. If you are not familiar with this Protestant practice, a “baby dedication” is a public ceremony where the parents of a new baby promise, in front of the pastor and the congregation, to grow up their child in the faith. As Jack’s parents, it is our responsibility to lead and guide him in our own moral and spiritual beliefs.
My son will not be left on his own to figure out who God is and why we believe that God’s love is the reason for our existence. Sure, Jack will have to make up his own mind when he gets old enough, but my faith is so crucial to every fiber of my being, that as a father I believe that one of the most important tasks I will ever have is to teach my son about the next life, as well as, teaching him to love others as himself in this life.
While I do value the public act of dedicating my son to the building up and growing of the heavenly kingdom we believe comes after this earthly life, the private version happened before he was even born. As Jack was still in the womb, I prayed for him. And now that he’s here, I continue to pray for him. After all, I believe that I haven’t simply brought another life into this world, but that I am also responsible for bringing another soul into existence- a soul I am unmistakably accountable for teaching what I believe is the meaning of life.
Whether you have been following my daddy blog since the beginning (April 13th, 2010) or whether you just recently started tuning in thanks to Parents.com picking up my series, something noticeably undeniable yet decently subtle in my writing content is the intertwining of my family’s everyday life events and our Christian faith. According to Wikipedia, nearly 80% of Americans identify themselves with Christianity (from Catholic to Protestant, and everything in between). So I would assume that nearly 80% of readers will identify with me when I write about my faith. For the other 20%, who have a different religion or maybe not one at all, please know that I welcome you just as much to The Dadabase.
Because no matter which faith we call our own, something we all have in common is that we are parents. We have children who we are trying to raise the best we can. And just like the faith of our choosing, so parenting is also a journey. By no means do I have my faith 100% figured out- I’m being humbled and broken down more everyday, and therefore maturing as a believer.
Just like, as a parent, I’m learning as I go.
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