Rappin’ With Rick

How to Defeat a Dragon

While reading A Landscape with Dragons: The Battle for Your Childs Mind, I was reminded of the importance of both mothers and fathers, and what each brings into the raising of children.

The author opens with an account of how his mom and dad each addressed the fear of a monster that kept him awake at night. His dad charged into the room with a stick and assured him that the monster had been driven from the closet. That sufficed for a night, but the monster returned. His mom then had him and his brother draw pictures of the monster, and then cut them up and burn them. That took care of the dragon they had seen so clearly in their imagination.

Mr. O’brien uses that incident to open a very interesting book that addresses the imagination of children, and how serious thought should be given on how to respond to their fears, and how discernment must be exercised in evaluating, and perhaps even limiting, what they read and watch. I found his thoughts about responding to their fears especially insightful.

“These are frequently called ‘irrational fears’, as if they were completely groundless, when in fact some of them may be well grounded indeed, though not based in the visible world. These I prefer to call metaphysical fears, or cosmic fears, and they are of a spiritual nature. It is a wise parent who recognizes the first awakenings of these mute dreads as the first buds of a spiritual faculty.”

“In a seeing-is-believing culture, which denies the existence of the supernatural world, the tendency is to repress all fears of invisible things. But if a child’s fear of monsters under the bed or dragons in the closet always are ridiculed as nonsense, his spiritual guard is in danger of being lowered, with the consequence of his becoming more vulnerable to spiritual evil and less sensitive to spiritual good.

“As his awareness of the presence of evil in the world expands, we must help him to overcome his real and imaginary fears with courage based upon faith that God is more powerful than evil. Just as my mother led me and my brother to destroy the dragon, so God leads us forward in battle against the enemy. We do not overcome evil with our own power, of course, but with Christ. Our children’s fears provide opportunities to learn this.”

God Bless, Rick

A Cosmos Centered in Love

As you are no doubt aware, some of us have been reading and discussing Love Thy Body by Nancy Pearcey on Sunday nights since September. Our final session will be this week at 6:30, and I would like to invite everyone to join us. To help encourage you to come, I’m giving the author one more chance to convince you of the importance of the issues we’ve been exploring.

“In every decision we make, we are affirming a worldview. We may think we are just acting on our feelings of the moment, but in reality we are expressing our convictions about the cosmos. Either we are expressing a biblical worldview or we are being co-opted by a secular worldview. The secular moral revolution is built on the conviction that nature has no moral meaning, and that we are inherently disconnected, autonomous atoms connecting only by choice. As Morse writes, (in The Sexual Revolution Reconsidered) ‘We act as if we believe that we are alone in a meaningless and indifferent universe, as if we ourselves have no intrinsic value, that our sexual acts have no meaning apart from the meaning we assign them, that our sexual acts are simply the actions of mindless particles bumping into each other from no particular cause at all, and with no particular purpose in mind.’

Christianity offers a genuine alternative to an empty, pointless cosmos. It says that we are not alone, that the universe is meaningful, that we do have intrinsic value, that sexuality has its own purpose or telos, that human community is real, and that there is objective truth, goodness, and beauty. Most of all, we are not products of mindless chance but the creation of a loving Creator.

Each one of us was loved into existence, and we have the high calling of inviting others into the astonishingly rich experience of living in a cosmos centered in love.”

We will begin this Sunday by briefly reviewing how we have allowed society to redefined abortion, marriage, gender, and parenthood. You really need to be here.

God Bless, Rick

Vexing Verses

What book of the Bible do you find to be the hardest to understand, and the scariest? Most would probably say it’s Revelation, and who would deny that the images found in Revelation are hard to interpret and are indeed frightening. It might surprise you, however, to discover that the verse many believe to be the most difficult to interpret, as well as a verse that causes many to live in anxiety, are both found in the little book of James.

A couple weeks ago we confronted James 4:5 in our Wednesday night study. Confusion about that verse centers on two things. When James says, “Or do you think that the Scriptures speaks to no purpose,” it’s impossible to determine if he is referencing what he has just said, or quoting an unknown Scripture. The other problem relates to the possible quote no one can find; “He jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us.” Is he talking about the Holy Spirit or our spirit, and is he saying God jealously desires a relationship with us or that we have a jealous spirit? We decided any way we looked it, it was true, and that we’d leave the debate to the theologians.

The verse that many find frightening is one we ended on last Wednesday night.“Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do, and does not do it, to him it is sin.” (James 4:17) It is from this verse that “sins of omission” arise. If you’re not familiar with them, they are the opposite of “sins of commission.” They aren’t what you do, but what you don’t do.

If this verse is read in isolation, it does sound like a blanket warning about failing to do whatever you know you should do. If it’s kept in context, however, James may simply be saying that we must do what he’s been telling us to do.

If this is a warning about failing to do everything we know we should do, I think it takes away any sense of peace in our relationship with God. How would we ever know if we’ve done everything we’re supposed to do? Some have suggested this can be addressed by praying for forgiveness for everything we did, and didn’t do, but I’m not sure if that would really be confession of sin, or just a lame attempt to cover the bases.

Last Sunday we were reminded that we are to consider ourselves dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus. I think it would be hard to feel alive to God if we’re always walking under the cloud of unknown sin. I think it might be best to simply walk confidently in grace, and do our very best to walk in obedience.

God Bless, Rick

Two Kinds of Soldiers

I recently received a no-doubt broadly sent email that shared some interesting facts about the soldiers who guard the tomb of the Unknowns. Even if you’ve seen it, please let me share them now again.

The soldiers who guard the tomb must meet specific physical requirements, and commit two years of life to guard the tomb. They must live in a barracks under the tomb, and cannot drink any alcohol on or off duty for the rest of their lives. They cannot swear in public for the rest of their lives and cannot disgrace the uniform or the tomb in any way. After two years, the guard is given a wreath pin that is worn on their lapel signifying they served as guards of the tomb. There are only 400 presently worn. The guard must obey these rules for the rest of their lives or give up the wreath pin.

During the first six months of duty a guard cannot talk to anyone or watch TV. All off duty time is spent studying the 175 notable people laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery. A guard must memorize who they are and where they are interred. Every guard spends five hours a day getting his uniforms ready for guard duty, making sure there are no wrinkles, folds or lint on the uniform. In 2003 as Hurricane Isabelle was approaching they were given permission to suspend the assignment, but respectfully declined the offer. Soaked to the skin, marching in the pelting rain of a tropical storm, they said guarding the tomb was not just an assignment, it was the highest honor that can be afforded to a service person.

Now, contrast that with the soldiers who guarded the tomb of Christ.

“Behold, a severe earthquake had occurred, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled away the stone and sat upon it. And his appearance was like lightning, and his garment as white as snow; and the guards shook for fear of him, and became like dead men.”

“Behold, some of the guard came into the city and reported to the chief priests all that had happened. And when they had assembled with the elders and counseled together, they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers, and said, ‘You are to say, “His disciples came by night and stole Him away while we were asleep.’ And they took the money and did as they had been instructed;”

When standing guard over the reputation of the risen Christ, which guard do you most resemble?

God Bless, Rick

Something More

If ever promises, threats and warnings could make a difference in people’s lives, surely those found in Deuteronomy would do it.

In our daily Bible reading many of us have just finished Deuteronomy, where Moses goes over the laws a second time before the Israelites enter the Promised Land. And the promises found in the Law were truly amazing. God promised to establish the Israelites as a holy people, and to bless them in every way possible if they would just obey Him. And after they had seen Him free them from bondage and miraculously care for them for forty years in the wilderness, you’d think that would have been enough.

But then He also warned them what would happen if they didn’t obey Him. He even listed a host of specific horrible curses He would send upon them if they turned away from Him. And Moses told the people to take to heart all the words of warning and to teach their children to carefully observe the Law, because their life depended on it.

The people swore they would, but Moses knew they wouldn’t. He even told them he knew they would turn away from God and do evil after his death.

The Law had been carved on stone, God’s promises were put to song, and the warnings would be shouted from Mt. Ebal after defeat in battle due to disobedience. But hearts couldn’t be changed by the Law. God knew it would take something more, and we even find hints of what it would be in Deuteronomy itself.

Moses told the people that God would raise up another prophet like himself, and the Law ordained that a man hanged on a tree is accursed of God. Whether these were specific prophecies concerning the Messiah or not has been debated for centuries, but we do know that Philip told Nathanael that they had found Him of whom Moses in the Law wrote. And after quoting what Moses said about the Lord raising up a prophet like him, Peter said that God raised up His Servant and sent Him to bless us. And Paul said Christ was able to redeem us from the curse of the Law because cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree.

Indeed, what the Law couldn’t do, Christ did. He took away our sin, and gave us a grateful heart that changes everything.

God Bless, Rick