Tuesday, July 10, 2012

LGBT Studies: Exciting News for Salty Christians

The University of Louisiana created a buzz by adding a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trangender Studies minor to its offerings. Many Christians are up in arms over the new LGBT minor. But I am pumped.

Now, no Christian on campus can say they don't know how to start a conversation about the Gospel. And only the Gospel changes hearts. We can sit on our religious, condemning high horse. Or, we can season our speech with grace. Salty speech makes people thirsty.

Here's how it works:

"I go to UL."

"Oh, really? What do you think of the new minor they're offering there?"

"What new minor?"

"The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trangender Studies minor. Do you think that's a good idea?"

"Well, I think people should believe whatever they want to believe."

"Really? Can I go to your house and take everything you own, then? Since I believe that's right for me."


"Of course not. Because you don't really believe that statement. It's wrong to do bad things. Would you consider yourself to be a good person?"

And off you go.

Somebody else says, "Man, I drove by UL today, and the traffic was horrible."

"Yeah, Johnston Street can be pretty rough. So, have you heard of the new minor UL's offering? What do you think of it?"

Just like before, in 30 seconds, you're not talking about homosexuality at all. You're talking about relativism. 30 seconds later, you're taking him through the law and the Gospel.

"I can't wait for the big game! Geaux Cajuns!"

"Me either! I don't know how this season will live up to last season, but I can't wait to find out! Hey, so what do you think of that new minor they're offering at UL?"


"Hey, I heard in the news that UL's offering a new minor: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trangender Studies. Have you heard about that? What do you think about that?"

... and it's a short trip to the Gospel from there.

Let's not be Pharisees. Let's be salty.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Mickey Shunick: Does Lafayette Really Believe in Justice?

It's amazing how a community tragedy can bring out the true colors of the people in that community.

No, this isn't a heartwarming tale of Cajun country bonding together to support its own. It's not a fairy tale about all that's "good" about humanity.

People are talking. But for many, it's not because they care. Many just want to be "in the know." People are speculating, and guessing, and demanding more information. Most of the cries for "more" come from people who, until a few days ago, couldn't even spell "Shunick."

If I didn't know any better, I'd think this whole community was talking about something they saw on "The Young and the Restless." To Mickey Shunick's family and friends, this is an unimaginable, horrific tragedy.

To many strangers, it's something interesting to gossip about at the water cooler at work. That alone should make you sick to your stomach.

But that's not the worst part of it.

Acadiana wants justice. I get that. I want justice, too. As human beings, we long for the good guys and the bad guys to all get what they deserve.

Or do we?

The cry from Acadiana residents reminds me of a mob with a similar mentality about 2.000 years ago. "Crucify Him! Crucify Him! Crucify Him!" The circumstances were very different then - the mob crucified an innocent Man. But the mentality is the same. Can you hear it?

It's the mob that could be passing out flyers to help find Mickey Shunick, since they care about her so much. But they're on Facebook, speculating about a burnt truck, letting investigators know all that they did wrong, and providing their expert forensic analysis. Guess what? Watching "CSI" doesn't make you an expert.

It's the mob that says, "Hang that pervert!" Most of the members of that mob can't even tell you the guy's name. But the cries get louder, and nosy people with loud voices get caught up in the chorus. So the chorus gets louder and louder. More and more violent. "Crucify him! Crucify him! Crucify him!"

The reason we are innocent until proven guilty in America is to protect innocent people from that mob. Yeah, he's probably guilty. But what if he's not? Yeah, he has a history. You have a history, too.

Our hearts cry out for justice. And rightfully so.

But here's an important question each of us should ask ourselves today: What if God gives me justice? What if God gives you justice?

The Lord sent Nathan to David. And he came to him, and said to him: “There were two men in one city, one rich and the other poor.

The rich man had exceedingly many flocks and herds.

But the poor man had nothing, except one little ewe lamb which he had bought and nourished; and it grew up together with him and with his children. It ate of his own food and drank from his own cup and lay in his bosom; and it was like a daughter to him.

And a traveler came to the rich man, who refused to take from his own flock and from his own herd to prepare one for the wayfaring man who had come to him; but he took the poor man’s lamb and prepared it for the man who had come to him.”

So David’s anger was greatly aroused against the man, and he said to Nathan, “As the Lord lives, the man who has done this shall surely die!

And he shall restore fourfold for the lamb, because he did this thing and because he had no pity.”

Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man!"

2 Samuel 12

It's easy to look into another man's house and see all the "badness" in him, isn't it? Are we willing to look in the mirror, and use that same standard to judge ourselves?

I want justice, Acadiana. You want justice. It's right to be angry. It's right to want the right thing. It's right to want the "bad guys" to get what they deserve.

But, to the mob, I ask each of you: do you even know this guy's name? I don't. Before a month and a half ago, could you even spell "Shunick?"

Yet you yell at the top of your lungs, "Crucify him! Crucify him! Crucify him!"

You are that man, Lafayette. No, you may not have done the horrific things this guy has done. But you've got your own wickedness, deep inside your heart.

So do I.

I can prove it, in under a minute. Ready?

Imagine that I have a camera that can see every thought inside your brain. Now imagine that I turn that camera on, recording everything that runs through your mind for a week. Then, I gather all of your loved ones and closest friends into the living room for movie night.

There, on the television screen, displays every thought in your mind, one by one. Every happy thought. Every generous thought. Every charitable thought.

But then, the music becomes louder and more dramatic. Like all those predictable horror movies you've seen, you know what's coming next when you hear that music.

Your heart thumps through your chest, as the screen flashes things you thought no one would ever see. Every vengeful thought. Every hateful thought. Every hurtful thought. Every lustful thought. Every angry thought.

Now, it's getting personal, isn't it? All of your family and friends cannot believe their eyes.

How does that popcorn taste?

You wouldn't last 5 minutes in that room. You'd run as fast as you could to get away.

Look in the mirror, Lafayette. Don't compare yourself to this guy and think you're sparkly white. You and I are dirty, filthy, and rotten to the core. That's reality. The sooner you understand that, the sooner you'll flee to the only water potent enough to wash your filth away - Jesus Christ.

When you repent and place your trust in Jesus, he washes you clean and gives you a new heart. Until then, you're exactly what's showing on that television screen.

So cry out for justice, Lafayette. But be careful what you wish for. Because what if God gives you justice?

You are that man.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Why Most Children's Bible Study is a Waste of Time

As we celebrate Independence Day in America, I'm once again reminded of how blessed we are. American parents live freely to teach their children the values that matter to them in peace. As a parent, I want my children to love studying the bible.

Many adults love studying the bible's laws, principles, prophecy, and stories. I want my children to grow up loving these things, too. But how do you teach the bible to very young children, in a meaningful way?

Not all bible passages are created equal. Long genealogies teach us that historical portions of Scripture really do provide real-life, historical accounts of events that actually happened. But a 4 year old and 2 year old couldn't really care less about that. Why should they?

And some accounts of events aren't rated "G." In fact, some aren't even close. The bible narrative contains violence, sex, and any number of things that would make a marvelous Harlequin novel apart from the whole "Jesus" thing.

For five years, I've wrestled with the search for some way of organizing our family's time in the bible so that it's meaningful. So that I don't leave anything important out. Do you face a similar struggle with young children?

So, what's the problem?

In America, we have access to literally thousands of "bibles" written for children. Why not just pick one? They have stunning pictures of giant whales, huge boats, and everything necessary to stir a kid's imagination. What's the big deal?

Every book, devotional, plan, and curriculum I've seen over the last 5 years has at least one of three problems:

1. It treats the Bible like a magical fairy-tale storybook.

"Oh, look! Isn't that a big boat! Let's go watch Barney now." My children have many books on the shelf. Everything from "Green Eggs and Ham" and "Hop on Pop" to "The Story of Jesus." What's the difference between these 3 children's books, in the mind of a child? "Jesus" is just another character, like "Clifford" or "Big Bird."

Most children's devotionals and bibles turn God's rescue plan into a fairy tale. They eliminate the seriousness of the endeavor of bible study. I want my children to enjoy bible study, but not at the expense of knowing the true character of God. The bible is not a book of children's stories.

Don't think that has an impact? I regularly visit with folks on a college campus that believe the bible is just a collection of fairy tales. Many of those folks grew up in Christian homes, where their parents believe the bible is the Word of God. What happened?

2. It leaves out essential parts of the Bible narrative.

Parts of the bible are very graphic for young children. I understand that. But certain parts are essential. You can't gloss over creation. You can't skip the Exodus, or the ten commandments.

Why not? Well, the bible says that the law is our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ. If bringing them to Christ is my goal, how can I skip the tutor God has given us so we can get to the next exciting bible drama?

3. It focuses on the character of the children reading it, instead of getting to know its Author.

I want my children to live Godly lives. No question about that. But what's the point of them doing "the right thing," if they never know Jesus? They'll follow all these "rules," look like perfect little Christians, and lack the essential ingredient they need from bible study. They'll grow up knowing how to act like "Christians," but they won't know Jesus at all.

Sure, they'll know about this Jesus, that lived long ago. How He was an amazing teacher that taught the Golden Rule, and to "be kind" and "love one another." But so did a lot of other religious leaders, right?

I talk to these folks all the time, too. I want to do everything in my power to keep my sons from becoming one of these. Why? Because that is a wide path that leads to destruction.

A Singular Focus

The bible study I do with my children must focus on one thing: Who Jesus is. In creation, in the law, in the accounts of "exciting" events, in the sermons, in the crucifixion, in the resurrection, and in the events that followed. Right on through who Jesus is today.

"Jesus answered and said to him, 'Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.'"
John 3:3

Not only can you not enter Heaven apart from being born again - you cannot even see the kingdom of God.

And my boys won't be born again by developing Godly character. They won't be born again by interesting stories about a giant fish, or lion's dens, or enormous boats filled with cute, colorful animated animals.

Only by knowing Jesus will my kids be born again. And when they see Him, they'll be like Him. That's just a bonus.

"And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself.”
Jesus, in John 12:32

When Jesus is lifted up above all the things this world wants to teach my children, He will draw them to Himself.

So as I study with my kids, I ask 2 simple questions:

Who is God?
Who is Jesus?

Godly character occurs supernaturally when God gives you a new heart. Until then, I'm trying to put lipstick on a pig when I teach my kids to do good things. Does that mean I don't teach them to make wise choices? Of course not.

But our bible study is the place to provide context. Why do we make good choices? Let's get to know Jesus. The more you know Jesus, the more everything else comes into focus - supernaturally. The more you know Jesus, the more you'll develop Godly character - supernaturally.

And that's no fairy tale.