Posted in Blog, In the World, Little Boots

Let Love Be Genuine

When explaining current events to my boys, I told them that ISIS persecute and kill those who do not agree with their religion. Terrorists from ISIS killed people in France, and every day they persecute people in their own country. Refugees fleeing from their homes are asking to come to Canada..

“But what if there are spies hidden within the refugees?” Encyclopedia Boots asked.

An eight-year-old boy, as free from racial and religious prejudice as only a child can be,  put his finger directly on the very real fear that many Canadians are facing.

“Well, yes, that is a risk,” I told him. “So what do you think Canada should do?”

In the media (both corporate and social), we seem to be so divided along party lines, speaking within a framework that is predetermined for us by our political leaders. But as Christians, having pledged our lives to the service of He who has died and risen for us, we must resist the urge to trot out the familiar soundbites of those pundits who espouse the values of our particular political bent. Our response, in this as in all things, must be to turn to the Word of God

 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?”  And [Jesus] said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the great and first commandment.  And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
Matthew 22:36-40

Sure, love my neighbour as myself, the Conservative Right acknowledges. But it goes on to ask: Are these 25,000 refugees, many of them Muslim, really my neighbours? Are we merely opening the door to a people who will bring the problems of their country into our own? 

When an expert in the law poses to Jesus the question “And who is my neighbour?”, Jesus responds with the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:29-36). This man, despised by the Jews for his race and religion, showed more mercy to the wounded Jew than did the priest and the Levite who passed him by. “Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?”  He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.” (Luke 10:29-36)

Okay. So they are our neighbours. But what if there are terrorists hidden within the ranks of the well-intentioned refugees? If even 5% of the 25,000 are terrorists,  we would be inviting 1,250 terrorists into our country. Surely Christian compassion cannot mean that we are to put the welfare of our own country at risk by helping our Syrian neighbours, at the risk of bringing in potential enemies.

But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.  To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.

 If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.  Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful. Luke 6:27-36

As Christians, we must not be ruled by fear.

On the other hand, it seems that the Liberal Left, in its eagerness to prove its distinctiveness from the Conservative Right, moves past compassion and into foolhardiness.

Trudeau has pledged to welcome 25,000 refugees by year end. They are vetting 100 each day. But to meet the self-imposed deadline, he will need to process refugees almost ten times faster! How can they reasonably expect to screen almost 1000 people each day, and still maintain adequate security?

And yet those even further left on the political spectrum, are quick to dismiss these security concerns as hateful prejudice and fear-mongering. NDP leader Tom Mulcair has even criticized Trudeau’s policy of attempting to keep out terrorists by excluding single men in favour of women, children and families.  Mulcair states that this is “simply wrong,” and “not the Canadian way.”

Is it really so wrong to give preferential treatment to those who are most vulnerable?

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. James 1:27

Obviously, there is a security concern. Even an eight-year-old, who has no idea of the skin colour or the religion of the “bad guys” in ISIS, can see that. We needn’t prove our compassion by affecting blindness.

But that valid security concern does not veto our obligation to help our fellow man. They have asked for help, and we can give it. As Christians, we must give it.

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good…Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them .. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all… Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Romans 12:9,14,18,21

Part of living peaceably with all, so far as it depends on us, includes taking appropriate security precautions (abhoring what is evil) to preserve the peace within our nation. We need to forget arbitrary deadlines given as election platforms. Take the necessary time to screen the refugees fully and carefully as possible. And then welcome them, in genuine love.

Posted in Blog, In the World

Prier pour Paris

One day after the terrorist attack which killed 129 people (so far) in Paris, France, you may see several posts circulating the internet in an attempt to shame people for praying for Paris. Because Paris wasn’t the only victim of terrorist action in the last couple of days. There was also an attack that killed 19 people in Baghdad, Iraq. And one that killed 43 people in Beirut, Lebanon, over the past couple of days. One of these posts claims racism is the reason that Paris is garnering more attention — because it is white people who died in Paris.

The attack in Paris resonates with us strongly in North America. It hits us close to home because Paris is familiar, not in colour, but in culture.

If you are American, France was, as Obama declared yesterday, one of your nation’s oldest allies. Don’t forget where the Statue of Liberty came from.

And if you are Canadian, France is the motherland to a large portion of the population. As Trudeau reminded us yesterday, they are our French cousins.

Paris is not just a popular, familiar tourist destination; it is a nation connected deeply to the roots of our own.

There is another reason why this tragedy has made such big news — it is newsworthy because it is rare. This is in stark comparison to the attacks that happen daily — yes, literally daily — in the Middle East. According to the wikipedia article circulated by the anti-mourners, there have been more than 300 terrorist attacks so far this year, only a handful on Western soil, and certainly none so large as the one in Paris yesterday.The overwhelming majority are in the Middle East.

The fact that Islamic terrorists are killing innocent people in the Middle East on a daily basis should not stop us from praying for their victims in Paris — we need more prayer, not less.

Of course we are mourning for France. Not only are we entitled to this outpouring of emotion for our oldest ally, our cousin, but France is entitled to this outflowing of prayer support from us.

I have to wonder if these posters would have espoused the same anti-mourning declarations after 9/11? I don’t think an American audience in those traumatized days would have stood for such an anti-American sentiment. We should not stand for such anti-France sentiment now.

But please know that our prayer for Paris does not mean that we are not also praying for the Middle East. We are.

The video prayer that I linked to in my tribute post to France is from Operation World, a site with prayer videos to help us pray for every nation. Sign up for their daily email to receive a video prayercast for a different nation every day.

And yes, Pray for Lebanon! Pray for Iraq!

But don’t let anybody shame you for praying for France.

Posted in Blog, In the Word, Little Boots

What Shiny Boots Learned at Sunday School

As I sewed a badge on her Awana vest, Shiny Boots proudly showed me the work she had done at Awana last night — a maze leading to Jesus. “You can only go to Jesus if you’re happy, right, Mama?”
“Mmm…” I responded absently. And then I nearly pricked my finger as the meaning of her words filtered through my brain fog. “What?”image

She held up the maze. She had traced a line of smiley faces to Jesus, avoiding the obstacle of the sad faces. “You can only go to Jesus if you’re happy. Not if you’re sad.”

Of course I corrected her, and we had a conversation about God’s unconditional love for us. And how we can go to Him at any time, with all of our sorrows.

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. Matthew 11:28-30

So where did my daughter learn this erroneous bit of doctrine?

At Awana, basically a weekday Sunday School type of program for children.

We don’t put our children in Sunday School, because we believe that the main service is for everyone. A period of listening to Bible stories and colouring bible pictures is no substitute for being within the body of believers on Sunday morning, worshiping and learning alongside their parents and community.

As parents, it is our awesome responsibility to teach our children to know and love God. For this task, children’s bibles and colouring pages are very appropriate. But they are never a substitute for church.

So why, then, do we send our children to Awana? Not for the Bible teaching, which they get at home. We send them because they enjoy it. We send them to make friends and have fellowship with other Christian children. It is not necessary, but fun.

We specifically chose Awana because it largely stays away from doctrinal teaching,  which we prefer to provide for our children ourselves. It focuses on Scripture memorization, in a fun and lively environment. And it provides a gym program where they can run around and have fun with other kids in a Christian environment. We send them not for the teaching, but for the fun.

And of course, there will be times when the message they’ve gleaned is blatantly false, and we will have to do some debriefing. Certainly Shiny Boots’ intelligent and orthodox Awana leader did not explicitly teach the message that Jesus doesn’t want anything to do with the sad or downtrodden. She is a lovely Christian woman who would never have imagined that one of her little charges took away this message.

That said, she does have 8 or 9 other children to tend to, and she can’t be responsible for every heresy that each one soaks into their receptive little mind. She is not ultimately responsible for what my child learns. I am.

When we teach our children at home, we are able to focus on them one on one.  The impediment of shyness does not prevent the child from asking for clarification. Most importantly, the parent knows the child as no teacher could.

The takeaway? If your child is in Sunday School or a similar program, do go over with them what they have learned after each session. You may be surprised at the ideas they have picked up!

Posted in Blog, In the Word

Bucket Fillers

Originally written March 2010

When the boys and I arrived at our weekly playgroup, the facilitator was wearing huge oversize novelty sunglasses. She told us that they were magic glasses that allowed her to see everybody’s invisible bucket.
Each person carries a bucket, she told us. When your bucket is full, you are happy, but when the bucket is empty, you are sad. We can help to fill someone’s bucket by being nice to them, and in this way, we fill our own bucket, too.

But we must never fill our own bucket by dipping into someone else’s to take their good feelings away (bullying or being mean). That is called being a bucket dipper, and it leaves everyone’s bucket empty.

BC0911-BUCKETI didn’t really like this idea. It just seemed silly to me. Why make up an imaginary concept like a bucket to explain morality to children? Of course, in public schools, they can’t teach a Christ-centred morality, or even the Ten Commandments, but do they really have to make up an imaginary bucket system? Teaching young children that they must be bucket fillers, not bucket dippers as the basis of their moral education seems to me to be frivolous and empty at best.

Morality must be based on something more substantial than buckets full of stars and streamers. Even atheists, who are not teaching their children a God-based morality, should be wary of this fairytale morality.

The more I thought about the buckets, the more harmful it seemed to me. What is the bucket supposed to represent? The heart? The soul? Do we now imagine that we can fill our own souls? That we do not need God in our lives to fill us? We need only our own good feelings about ourselves and others?

And if we break down the bucket philosophy, it is no more than John Stuart Mill’s philosophy of utilitarianism, disguised in a childish wrapping. Mill stated that morality could be gauged by its utility in bringing the greatest happiness to the greatest number of people. Hardly compatible with Christianity, is it? In fact, it is completely incompatible with any belief system that is based upon an absolute truth, or an absolute sense of right and wrong.

This bucket-filling mentality would have us believe that anything that makes others happy is the moral right. If your actions displease the morality, then you are morally in the wrong.

Of course we shouldn’t bully or be mean to others. And of course we feel good when we make others feel good. But our sense of morality must be based on more than just what makes us and others feel good. The right thing to do is not always what makes us and others feel good. We have been given our feelings as a guide to help us determine a right action, but they are not the final end in determining the rightness or wrongness of our actions.

The culture of the moment must not define our morality.

If we do not carefully teach our children about what is universally right and wrong, based upon God’s perspective, then they will easily fall victim to this indoctrination based on feeling good and making others feel good.

This is what happens when we take God out of our public schools. The lack of biblical teaching leaves a big empty hole. We have to teach morality somehow, and we end up replacing God’s Word with this empty, meaningless, and ultimately harmful drivel.

The truth hurts. It’s uncomfortable. But I want to raise children who will speak up for truth, undeterred by what the majority opinion wants to believe, and unafraid of being labelled a bucket-dipper.

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. (Luke 6:31)

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself. (Luke 10:27)

Below is a link to the bucket-filler site, but you can do your own google-search on “bucket filling” or “fill your bucket” and you’ll find all kinds of references to it.

http://www.bucketfillers101.com/presentations.php