Monday, August 16, 2010

What Is $5.00 Worth?

Last week, our family went to Ocean City, New Jersey, where they impose the dreaded beach tax of $5.00 per person over the age of 12. As we were planning the trip, my mind immediately tried to think of ways to avoid the tax. My 12 year old is small for her age, so I could easily pretend she was 11 and save $5.00.

Suddenly, I realized what I would be teaching my children. My 12 year old knows that she is supposed to have a tag and she would know that I did not buy it. My other children would probably discover my failure to pay the $5.00. I think it is ridiculous that Ocean City charges $5.00 for a 12 year old to spend the day on the beach. But, they do. That is the rule. By not paying the $5.00, I would definitely be teaching my children that Dad thinks it is all right to break the rules.

If it is all right to break the rules for a small amount of money like $5.00, where does it stop? At what point does the rule breaking become so big that it is wrong to break the rule?

In reality, $5.00 is a small amount of money. Is saving $5.00 worth losing my integrity before my children? Is it worth sinning before God? It is only $5.00!

I hated spending the money, but as we entered the beach that day, we spent $20.00 for beach tags for every member of my family that was over the age of 12. I hated doing it, but my integrity, the lessons I teach my children, and my standing before God are worth more than $5.00. Unfortunately, the next time I go to Ocean City, I will probably have to pay the beach tax (I doubt they are going to change it), but I don't think I will wrestle with the decision of whether I should pay it.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


A mother recently confessed, in a blog on, that she showed her 14 year old son Lady Gaga’s “Telephone” video even though, in her words, the “clean” version is thick with raunchy sexual material and bad language. She justified it by saying that every teenager has heard of Lady Gaga and, because she is such a huge presence in popular culture, he would have seen it anyway, probably at a friend’s house or while flipping through channels at his grandparents’ house. She says, “I want [my children] to seek authentically after God, engaging with culture, contributing to it, and finding true joy by seeing Christ in others. And I don’t believe that pretending Lady Gaga and raunchy music videos don’t exist is the way to do that.”

I do not believe we need to show 14 year old boys raunchy sexual material in order to engage the culture or contribute to it. On the contrary, I think God wants us to avoid such material. Philippians 4:8 says, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” While I have not seen the video, I have read enough about it to believe that there is nothing true, honorable, lovely, commendable, excellent, or praiseworthy in this Lady Gaga video.

Similarly, Romans 12:2 says, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind.” We become conformed to this world when we are saturating our minds with the world's influence. We transform our minds when we avoid the world's influence and, instead, fill our mind with God’s word and things that are true, honorable, lovely, commendable, excellent, praiseworthy.

I am sure that some people would argue that watching the video one time and discussing the video from a biblical perspective, as the mother in her blog did, is not going to cause the child to conform to the world. However, I doubt that the boy’s exposure to such worldly influences is limited to watching Lady Gaga with his mother. She admits that he is more interested in artists like Coldplay than Lady Gaga and that he will probably see the video at a friend’s house. I doubt that his friends would watch just the “Telephone” video. If they are watching “Telephone”, they are probably watching MTV or something else that is showing a number of videos.
They are not watching just one. Accordingly, I think it is apparent that he has a great deal of exposure to the world.

This continual exposure is what conforms us to the world. I think it is better to teach our children to resist such influences and limit their exposure to them. The blogger noted that every teenager knows of Lady Gaga and her son would have seen the video anyway. I believe you can raise your children so that their knowledge of Lady Gaga is very limited and they would choose not to see her video. After reading the blog, I checked with my 16 year old daughter and nearly 13 year old daughter. They both had heard of Lady Gaga because they have seen her name on Yahoo. My nearly 13 year old did not know anything else about her. My 16 year old knew that she was a singer and that was all. Neither have seen any Lady Gaga video. They said that if their friends were watching a Lady Gaga video, or other similar videos, they would say that they did not want to watch and would leave if their friends were watching such videos. Contrary to the blogger’s belief, I think we can teach our children to avoid such influences. This is not pretending such videos and influences do not exist; rather, it is teaching our children to avoid them and not to be conformed to this world.

The blogger refers to the need to engage our culture. First, if my children have to watch “raunchy” Lady Gaga videos in order to engage culture, then I do not believe my children should be engaging culture (whatever that really means). When children and teens watch a lot of the world’s media, they are more likely to imitate the media they see. Studies have shown that teens who watch sexualized television shows or who listen to sexualized music are much more likely to engage in such behavior. In this war, my children are at stake. I would rather not have them engage our culture than risk their souls.

Second, you can engage culture without watching the video. If you feel that you have to know what is going on so that you can discuss such things intelligently, there are ways to find out the information without continuously watching it. Focus on the Family has a website that contains reviews of movies, music, and video games. It even has a review of the “Telephone” video. After reading its review of the content of the video, I know what is in the video and know that I do not need to see, and my children should definitely not see it. You can know what is in pop culture without watching everything. By being aware of what is going on, you can engage the culture.

I think most Christians, not just our children and teenagers, need to be more careful about the media we watch and listen to. It effects the way we think and act. We are to be holy, just as God is holy. We cannot be holy when we are filling our minds with such thoughts.

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Importance of a Firm Doctrinal Foundation

I just started reading Dug Down Deep by Joshua Harris. One of Harris’ purposes for writing the book is to convince people to study doctrine and theology. While he believes doctrine is important, it seems like most Christians, or at least younger ones, do not believe it is important. For many, doctrine is boring, does not apply to real life, and is something better left for pastors and old men. I agree with Harris; doctrine is important and relevant.

In the first two chapters, Harris explains the purpose of studying theology. Theology provides the foundation for our lives. In the biblical story, mostly taught to children, Jesus explained that the wise man built his house upon the rock and the foolish man built his house upon the sand. Often we think the foolish man is the non-Christian and the Christian is the wise man. However, the passage (Luke 4:46-49) begins with Jesus asking, “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord’ and not do what I tell you?” The audience was composed of people who were, at least at that time, following Jesus. They were at least somewhat religious. Furthermore, the foolish man is described as the “one who hears and does not do [the words of Jesus].” Harris concludes, “He’s talking to people who claim to believe in God.” Even a religious person can still be foolish by not building upon the rock. So, if you want to be the wise man, you will build upon the rock, a solid foundation. You build upon the rock by accepting the truth of Jesus and applying it to your life. When problems and trials come (the flood in the parable), you will survive because you have the rock as your foundation.

Harris follows this explanation with some examples of why the foundation is important. These examples prompted me to remember the storm that Sandy and I experienced this fall, and in some ways are still experiencing. In October, Sandy was 20 weeks pregnant and we had a miscarriage. It is impossible for me to explain all of my emotions and thoughts since then. The best way I can explain it is “DEVASTATING”. I don’t know how else to explain it. I experienced incredible hurt; more hurt than I have ever experienced. I did not, and still do not, understand anything. It was impossible to read the Bible or pray. While I felt lost, I never felt completely lost. It is hard to explain. While I felt like a ship being thrown around in the sea, the anchor held. Even without a lot of Bible reading, I still knew the truth. While the facts seem cold at times, I still knew the facts. I knew that God is in control of all things. I knew that God still loves me. I knew that God has a purpose for this tragedy. I knew that God had not abandoned us. I knew these facts, but I did not “feel” them. My emotions were out of whack, but the facts kept me anchored. I did not “feel” the truth, but I always knew the truth. In troubled times, Harris says, “There’s nothing more important, more precious, more life securing than knowing and living by God’s truth.”

After living this nightmare, I understand how someone can leave their faith in God. A firm foundation is the key to surviving such a tragedy. Correct, deep doctrine and theology are the anchor. I have not left the faith because of my strong foundation. Everyone needs a strong foundation in doctrine and theology. Tough times are going to come. Without the anchor of doctrine and theology, a shipwreck is bound to occur. With a strong anchor of doctrine and theology, you can ride out the storm and still be afloat when the winds become calm, the seas become peaceful and the sun rises.

I am reminded of Psalm 1. The blessed man is like a tree planted by streams of water. The water allows the tree to have a deep and strong root system. When the difficult times come, the tree continues to stand because of the deep and strong root system. The “leaf does not wither”. What is the key to being such a strong tree? “His delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.” This is doctrine. This is theology. Delight in the law of the Lord. Meditate on it. Study it. Know it. With it, your leaf will not wither.

Monday, February 22, 2010

A Fine Line

Saturday, February 20th, was the day that our unborn baby, Julia, was due to be born. We lost her in October, so Saturday was a very sad day. I still sit on the couch wishing that I was holding a baby. I miss the opportunity to be in the hospital during her birth and visiting Julia and Sandy at the hospital. I want to take my other kids to see their new sister. I want to buy another outfit for the baby's trip home. I want to hold and feed Julia.

Such thoughts can get me very depressed. I know it is not healthy for me to live in a depressed state. God does not want me to live a depressed life. My family, church, and clients cannot have me live a depressed life.

In order to avoid depression, it almost seems as if I should just try to forget about Julia. If I forget her and never think about her, then it is easier to avoid the depression.

But, forgetting about her does not seem right. She is a child of mine. In fact, I have three other children who are also already in heaven. I don't think I should just forget about them. If one of the children who presently live in my home died, I would never forget them. So, how can I forget my other children. This brings me full circle; if I don't forget about them, then I am sad and likely to be depressed.

I am struggling to find the fine line between remembering and not being depressed. In order to help, I decided that our family would have a "Family Memorial Day" on February 20th. On that day, we will remember the four children who are already in heaven. I bought little presents for my wife and my four children living in my home. We went out to a restaurant for pizza. The trip included a stop at Build-A-Bear so my little one could get an outfit for her new bear (this was her present). Hopefully, this will cause us to remember our children at least once a year without being controlled by the memories and sadness.