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Monday, October 14th, 2013
2 years, 10 months.
This evening while Mommy was buying groceries, you and I played with the Dollar General version of Play-Doh, called Craft Dough.
With your 5 pack of Craft Dough came a very rare color… black.
You decided to make a camper for your Dodge Ram pickup truck, so you began stuffing the bed with black dough.
In the process, you picked up your St. Peter action figure and his boat, and stuck them in the back of the truck, then stood Jesus on top of a couple containers of Craft Dough nearby.
You ended up nixing the whole camper idea altogether and I got to hear the dialogue of the new plot line:
“Jesus, I gotta drive my truck and take my boat. Do you want to go?” Peter asked.
“No, I’ll just stay here today,” Jesus replied, in your falsetto voice.
I immediately began imagining a new kids’ show which featured favorite Bible characters in a modern day setting.
Yeah, that wouldn’t go over well at all…
But just the thought of Jesus and Peter as buddies who drive pickup trucks and take the boat for a spin out on the lake, instead of the familiar “walk on the water” story everyone knows, it’s pretty much hilarious to me!
In the process of trying to find Biblical action figures last Christmas, which you asked for by the way, I noticed there weren’t a lot of toy companies that made them.
Not only is there probably not an abundance of toy companies who are willing to make religious action figures, but there’s also the fact that those toys may very well end up in random activities which are more likely to show up in the lyrics of a Country song than they are in a sermon.
To be honest, I’m suprised it’s actually taken you this long to crack me up with your inevitable and accidentally humorous (and somehow seemingly inappropriate?) use of Jesus and St. Peter action figures during playtime.
What would Jesus do? I’m not sure sometimes…
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Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012
“I want John! I want Paul!” my son Jack whines.
You’d think he was just a big Beatles fan like his dad, until he continues:
“Martha- where’s Martha? Jesus! There’s Jesus. Jesus sleepy.”
For the past 23 months, Jack has been exposed to a children’s story Bible for bedtime. But now that he can piece sentences together and recall names of different characters, his children’s story Bible has never been more relevant.
His Bible is officially his favorite book. Why wouldn’t it be?
Plenty of camels, horses, sheep, and bearded men in robes to keep the attention of a 23-month-old little boy.
I think it’s hilarious/awesome that Jack has memorized the cartoon representations of at least a dozen men of the Bible. The only real distinction between them is the color of their beards and robes.
Tonight during story time as he sat in my lap and read to me, he made it his mission to find Mark. The problem is, even I couldn’t find Mark.
So I turned to a page where Jesus was feeding the multitudes from a little boy’s bread and fish. I figured with all the bearded men surrounding Jesus on that page, Jack would think he saw Mark somewhere in the crowd.
Not so much.
As I put Jack to bed tonight, it was kind a struggle for me to get him in sleep mode.
“I want Jesus! Jesus!” he cried, literally.
What he wanted was for me to let him take his children’s story Bible to bed with him, like he would his Elmo doll.
I just didn’t see that being a very comfortable situation in the middle of the night.
So Jack did settle for Percy the Train instead.
What’s interesting is that today during my lunch break, I mountain biked across town to the LifeWay store. I was just curious…
Do they sell a Jesus action figure, or even a plush doll?
But I sort of have a feeling by the time this story really ends, I’ll find one for him.
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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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Sunday, September 18th, 2011
If I wasn’t a devout Christian, what would I believe in instead; especially after becoming a dad? I try to imagine…
I don’t have enough faith to believe in nothing at all, so I would probably think that my life as I know it is just a figment of some big computer program in which I play a small role; unaware of how insignificant I really am; basically, I’m getting the idea from the movie The Matrix. Or maybe I would believe my life is simply a dream inside of a dream inside of a dream, like in the movie Inception.
Either way, it’s clear to see that if I didn’t take the words of Jesus Christ literally, along with all 66 books of The Bible, that I still would be led to believe that I am part of someone else’s plan; that there is some all-powerful force behind it all and for some reason I was chosen to play a part in it.
Something I hear other parents say a lot, or at least grandparents, is that when they look at a young baby, they see an innocent angelic being. I’m not knocking that concept, because I totally get it. But for me, what I see more of when I think deeply about my son Jack, is a human currently incapable of understanding right from wrong, but who nonetheless needs no instruction on how to make the most destructive decision possible.
Jack naturally would choose to crawl down the stairs if I wasn’t there to stop him. He would stick my car keys into the electrical outlets if I wasn’t already 23 steps ahead of him. He would never sleep, never get his diaper changed, and never leave the presence of his parents- using his crying power to try to sway his parents’ interception.
So the fact that Jack needs no help in being prone to make the wrong decision would definitely say something to me if I had no religious beliefs. It would clearly show me that despite man wanting to be good, on his own, he is prone to do the opposite.
That would cause me to realize that as a human, I am in need of some kind of intervention or path to lead me to be reconciled of my flawed nature- which is wired with good intentions but ultimately bugged with morality viruses.
But I wouldn’t be okay with the belief that there is simply some “higher power” who would usher me into a heavenly afterlife just because I was a “good enough” person. Because what exactly would be the standard of “good?”
What would make the most sense to me at this point is that there must be a God who not only created this whole universe but who also Himself would be willing to intervene in my morally imperfect state, helping restore flawed mankind to the state of Paradise that this world once was.
That way of thinking would ultimately cause me to be curious enough to pick up a free Bible in a hotel room somewhere and start reading The Old Testament, taking notice of the reoccurring theme of a perfect man who would eventually show up to willingly take on imperfection and sacrifice his life for all of mankind.
Then as I would move on to The New Testament, I would read about how God Himself came to Earth in the form of man; bringing to life the ancient predictions of The Old Testament.
I would ultimately become fascinated by this Jesus fellow, eventually believing that He was the answer to my state of moral depravity. I would recognize that no matter how hard I tried to be good enough on my own, I would ultimately fail and never be “good enough.”
Humbled of my pride and eager to embrace this mysterious yet somehow practical savior, I would become a solid believer in this man from Galilee.
Even if He wasn’t God, who He claimed to be, I would still be so enamored by a man who has managed to lead so many millions of people astray by his false teachings within the past 2000 years, and who could cause people who didn’t believe in Him to still at least say he was a good teacher, despite Him being dead wrong or even lying to people that He was God.
And that’s how ultimately, I would have become a follower of Christ, simply by observing the nature of my son. That is the gospel according to Jack.
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