Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Smile

When I come home from work, a little two year old boy runs to the door and with a huge smile yells, "Daddy!!!" when I walk through the door. He has a square face and his smile stretches across it. I love seeing the smile and hearing him yell, "Daddy!!!"

His smile and yell of "Daddy!!!" mean a lot to me because I am not his natural father. His natural father wants nothing to do with him. He is my foster child. Before living with me, he lived with his single mother. His father is not involved with him in any way. I don't even think he knows who is father is. While not having a father is bad enough, his mother didn't take care of him either. So, the state removed him, his older brother and younger sister, from her. He and his sister now live with me. The little boy needs a Dad and I am glad that I can be his Dad. It is great when he yells "Daddy!!!" and gives me a big smile.

I hope I will continue to see the smile and hear the "Daddy!!!" Naturally, his mother wants her children back. At this point, a judge will decide whether the children will ever return to their mother. If they don't return to their mother, then they will probably stay with me and, perhaps, even be adopted by us. If he returns to his mother, I fear for him. While I fear that she will not take care of him, I am certain that she will not be able to provide the role of a father that he needs. The future of a boy who grows up without a father and with a single mother who does not know how to care for her children is not bright. Beyond his future on earth, I don't know if he will ever know and accept the love of Jesus as his Savior. If he stays with me, I know he will be exposed to the love of God and he will know of his need for a Savior. But, these things are out of my control. Tomorrow, I look forward to seeing his smile again.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Thoughts on Rob Bell's book Love Wins

Rob Bell has ignited controversy among Christians with his new book, Love Wins. Bell has been very influential in the spiritual lives of many people, especially twentysomethings. He is the pastor of a church with an attendance of over 10,000 and is considered one of the most influential pastors in America. While popular and influential, he is controversial and many are leery of his teachings. I believe he has been difficult to criticize because he asks a lot of questions, does not typically give a lot of answers, and has not clearly set forth his beliefs. His newest book, Love Wins, clearly defines enough of his beliefs that many conservative evangelicals determined that his beliefs are wrong, are a re-formulated version of liberal theology, and are heterodox (go ahead a look it up, I had to).
I quickly read through the first half of his book and read a few reviews (I was going to read the second half tonight, but the book is so popular that my local bookstore is sold out). For those unfamiliar with the controversy, Bell claims that God’s love will win everyone over to Him. Even if a person fails to accept Christ during his life on earth, the person will accept Christ in another life. He believes no one will spend eternity in a literal hell.
While many have reviewed the book and given their opinions, I will share a few of my thoughts, which will probably be spread over a few blogs.
First, Bell, in his book and some television interviews, explains that his views are not new but have been taught for over 2,000 years. By making this claim, he tries to give credibility and authority to his beliefs. While I not an expert on church history, I believe that others have taught these same views for 2,000 years. However, that does not mean his beliefs are true. Rather, it simply means that these false teachings have been in existence for 2,000 years. The fact that others have taught the same thing does not mean that it is true. In fact, we know that false teaching existed 2,000 years ago. Paul, in his epistles, was constantly attacking false teaching and encouraging people to guard the truth. In my view, Bell has just joined a 2,000 year line of false teachers.
Second, I think Bell refuses to believe that a loving God could send people to a place of eternal fire and pain. So, he has re-imagined God, the Bible and the gospel. Since hell is too cruel of a fate for anyone, Bell created his own doctrine in which no one suffers eternally and God accepts everyone into heaven. His doctrine certainly does not come from the Bible, but is his own creation.
Third, I am amazed at the relevancy of 1 Timothy 1:3-7. Independent of the Bell controversy, my Bible study led me to these verses. In these verses, Paul tells Timothy to charge people not to teach a “different doctrine”. In explaining the different doctrine, he refers to “myths and endless genealogies”. One commentator says false teachers were using the Old Testament Law and genealogies to make up all kinds of new doctrines that lead people astray. Bell is doing the same; he is making up his own doctrine, which leads people astray.
While I have not read everything that Bell has written, I have always been frustrated with him because he asks a lot of questions but rarely, if ever, gives definitive answers. I think his questions, without answers, lead people astray. Interestingly, Paul, in verse 4 says that the “different doctrine” leads to speculations. The false teachers raised questions, but provided no answers. These questions had no spiritual value, but led people into arguments. Rather than provide clarity, false teaching leads to confusion and obscures God’s truth. The Bible Knowledge Commentary points out that God’s plan is not implemented by human imaginations, but by faith. Wow, what an accurate depiction of Rob Bell – speculations, questions but no answers, confusion, and replacing faith with human imagination.
Bell’s supporters denounce his critics by claiming the critics hate him. In reality, love should motivate people to criticize Bell’s teaching. In verse 5, Paul explains that love motivates him. Rather than hate Bell, love causes people to signal warnings against Bell’s errant teaching. How can it be loving to support Bell’s teaching when it is wrong and leads people to hell? Instead, love demands a warning against his false teaching and challenges people to read and study the Bible so they can discover the truth. No one gets a second chance, for “it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment” (Hebrews 9:27).

Monday, March 14, 2011

A Day With My Wife's Schedule

I believe that men are fairly simple creatures and women are very complex. This belief was very evident today as I tried to keep part of my wife's schedule. On a normal day, I leave the house as the children are getting up. I get to the office early while it is quiet and I get some work done. I have to make sure that projects are done on time, that I remember appointments with clients, I attend business development meetings, and I appear in court when necessary. At times, my schedule may seem complex, but, in reality, I just have to take care of myself. Occasionally, I will help Sandy with the kids, but, generally, I only have to care for myself.

Today, I had to take care of my wife's schedule. She had to take our foster baby for surgery. I had to leave the house at 8:00 a.m. We left on time and things were going well. I got Laura to school on time for her class. We then arrived at my in-laws house where we were to spend about an hour. During that hour, my 2 year old foster son needed a diaper change. My mother-in-law changed him so that I could get some work done. After she took off his stinky diaper, we discovered that we left the diaper bag at home. So, I had to make a quick trip to CVS to get diapers. Shortly after finishing the longest diaper change ever, I had to leave the house to pick up Laura at school and drop Aly off at school. Then, we returned to my in-laws for about an hour and a half. At 10:45, I had to pack the kids back up and pick up Aly at school. Then, we had to go to the orthodontist for 11:15 appointments. Because the appointments were supposed to be short and my foster son can be difficult, I kept him, my 6 year old daughter, and 10 year old son in the van. Unfortunately, these short appointments ended up being an hour long. This was a long hour. Eventually, we returned home where I left the kids with my wife and I went to the office for sane schedule.

This is a fairly typical day for my wife. In comparison to her schedule, my schedule is fairly simple. I really do not know how she is able to care for 6 kids, with 2 in diapers. She is an extraordinary woman. She is capable of handling a complex schedule; whereas, I am too simple to successful handle such a schedule. I am truly blessed to have her as my wife. After living one morning in her shoes, I know that I am not capable of keeping her schedule.

Lasting Marriage

Having been married for over 20 years, I am more convinced than ever that commitment, no matter the circumstances, is the key to a lasting marriage. Prior to, and after, the marriage, the couple are madly in love with each other. The man knows all about his wife, likes most everything about her, cannot imagine living without her, and loves her. Likewise, the woman knows all about her husband, likes everything about him, cannot imagine living without him and loves him. They are in love, happily married, and expect (or at least hope) to stay married to each other forever.

But, something unexpected happens over the years – changes. Over the years, the man changes. The woman also changes. It is impossible for the two people to remain the same as the years pass. In my case, I completed law school, got a job, changed jobs, started my own law office working out of my house, and started a partnership with new offices out of the house. As a family, we have given birth to 4 children and have seen them grow to the point where they are 17, 13, 10, and 6. We have gone through the tragedy of losing children before they were born. We have rented apartments, lived with parents, and bought two houses. We have changed churches once. My wife went from being a school teacher, to being a stay-at-home-mom to a home school-mom who still takes her kids for some classes at a Christian school. We have become foster parents to 2 young children. After 20 years of marriage, we are not the same people. We have changed.

If I was only in love with the person that I married 20 years ago, I would have a problem – that person does not exist. Likewise, if my wife was only in love with the person that she married 20 years ago, she would have a problem – I am not that same person. What keeps us together? Simply, it is commitment and a decision to keep loving the other person. It does not matter how either of us has changed, we choose to love each other. Our circumstances do not matter, we choose to love each other. We are committed to each other.

As I said, people change. Our circumstances also change. Through all the changes, a married couple should choose to stay committed, stay in love, and stay married. I found an interesting study conducted by the University of Chicago. The study examined married couples who described themselves as “very unhappy”. After five years of remaining married, 77% of those “very unhappy” couples described themselves as “very happy” or “quite happy.” On the other hand, those “unhappy couples” that chose divorce remained unhappy even 5 years after the divorce.

The message is simple, couples should choose to remain in love and be committed to each other no matter what. We all change, but that is no reason for a divorce. Even bad circumstances are usually temporary and change. Stay committed during the hard times, things will probably change for the better; you just need to outlast the bad circumstances.

NOTE – Do not think that this writing means that I am not happy and am merely staying married because I am committed. I am madly in love with my wife. She is the most wonderful person in the world. While this is true, she is not the same person that I married. I love her anyway. In fact, I love her more today than ever before. Twenty years of marriage has taught me how to love. While I am much better at loving my wife today than I was 20 years ago, I expect to continue to grow and love her more, and better, as the years pass.

FINAL NOTE – I did not write the Note because my wife would read the blog. I wrote it because it is true and because my wife will read the blog.