Monthly Archives: June 2014

Can or May

I can remember being in first grade, I would raise my hand and ask my teacher, Miss Anderson, “Can I go to the bathroom?” She would correct me, “May I go to the bathroom?” So I would repeat, “May I go to the bathroom?” And Miss Anderson would say, “OK, but hurry back”. And off I would go.

So in first grade I learned that there is a difference between “Can” and “May” and that when you ask to go to the bathroom you are supposed to say, “May”. For many, many years it never seemed important to me that I would get it right. And it didn’t seem too important to anyone else either. Nearly everyone says “can” all of the time.

It wasn’t until I had kids that I began to understand the difference between “can” and “may”. I became aware that “can” has to do with ability, whereas “may” is a question of permission. As a parent I wanted my children to learn the difference. I wanted them to know that just because you have the ability to do something doesn’t mean that you have permission to do it. Over and over again I would have a child come and ask, “Can I go over Tony’s house?” I would say, “If you are asking for my permission then the question is ‘May I go over Tony’s house?” I want my children to realize that they are asking for my permission.

I have no idea if my children ever really got the message. It seems subtle but the difference is critical. Many Christians don’t understand the difference when it comes to dealing with God. They understand that God has given us free-will that is the ability to choose. Somehow they have mistaken that for permission. You see God has given us the ability to sin but He has not given us His permission to sin. There is a big distinction. My children have the ability to do something, but that doesn’t give them my permission. If they were to do something without my permission there would likely be negative consequences. The same is true with God. Just because we can do something (free-will) does not mean that we should do it (permission).

So the question is “can” or “may”. Our lives need to be lived in accordance with God’s will. We need to approach every activity and every decision by asking God, “May I…?” Those who simply ask, “Can I…?” Will likely end up experiencing the negative consequences that God has established for those who disobey.

I still struggle with “can” or “will”. I try to phrase my questions to use “may” when I am asking permission. It is difficult when I am at work and I ask my boss, “May I take tomorrow off?” I sound like I am in first grade again. But I say “may” anyway because the distinction is important. It may not seem important at work but when it comes to dealing with God it has eternal consequences.

 

Mother’s Day Father’s Day

I have heard it said that the biggest day for church attendance is not Christmas, it is not Easter, it is Mother’s Day and that the lowest day for church attendance is Father’s Day. By the way, I don’t think that is correct but there is little doubt that Mother’s Day is a big day and Father’s Day is not. The normal explanation is that Mother’s Day arrives and Mother is asked, ‘What do you want to do today?’ Mother responds, ‘I want to go to church and I want all of my family with me.’ When Father’s Day arrives and Father is asked, ‘What do you want to do today?’ Father responds, ‘I want to sleep in and then later I will go golfing or watch the game.’

Pastors think it is as simple as that; Mothers want to go to Church and Fathers do not. They seldom ask the question of, “why”? What is it about church that makes mothers want to go and fathers want to stay home? Could it have to do with how churches celebrate Mother’s Day and Father’s Day?

At the typical church on Mother’s Day, Mothers are all dressed up; sometimes wearing a new outfit. They may even have been given a corsage. They arrive with their families with the anticipation of being honored. The pastor asks all of the mothers to stand. The mothers all proudly stand, exchanging glances with their families all lined up next to them. Through a series of questions one of the mothers in singled out for special honor. “Which of you most recently became a mother,” or “Which has the most children?”…or the most children in fulltime Christian service, or the most children with you in church today. One way or another some mother receives a special gift for being there.

Then it is time for the sermon. The pastor gushes about the importance on mothers to your development. The congregation is told of the great sacrifices the mothers make for their children. We owe a debt of gratitude that can never be repaid. If the pastor is so inclined he will speak of the special plight of single mothers. He will speak of working two or three jobs and taking kids to soccer practice.

At some point in the sermon the pastor quotes a passage from Proverbs 31 ‘her husband and children shall rise up and call her blessed.’ The sermon will continue with an admonition to the family to praise their wife or mother. Kids will be told to obey and honor their mothers and do their chores without complaining. Father is told to acknowledge all of the hard work his wife does. He is told that when he gets home from work, he should take over watching the kids, or do the laundry, or fix dinner, or say, ‘Dear, I can see that you are tired. Let me take you out to dinner tonight.

The sermon ends with a touching personal story or poem. Everyone is told to take their mothers to lunch and to spend the day pampering them.

It is no wonder that mothers want to be in church on Mother’s Day.

Now let’s take a look at Father’s Day in the average church. Well, to begin with there are no flowers or special gifts. Fathers may get a greeting of, “Happy Father’s Day”. Generally the pastor does not have the fathers stand and award one of them with a special recognition.

The song choices may include “Faith of our Fathers”. As the pastor enters into the sermon, he will speak of the importance of a father’s influence in the family. He will mention how important it is for a father and daughter to have a good relationship. He will also speak of the relationship of a husband and wife.

At this point the sermon will take a turn. Instead of praising Fathers for what they do, they are chastised for what they don’t do. The Father that works two jobs will be told that he is a workaholic and he should be at home more. No mention will be made of his hard work. No one will tell the families that they should stop making demands for more and more things. No one will tell the families that going into debt will result in the father working long hours. There is a simple choice, ‘you can have things or you can have your father’.

The pastor will go on to talk about how fathers need to be there at children’s sporting events and recitals. The assumption will be that fathers are not there. No mention will be made of the many fathers that coach the teams. The one event that is missed will be the focus rather than the many times father is there. Some touching story of heartbreak due to an absentee father will be told.

There will also be the appeal for husbands to have better relations with their wives. They will be told that they need to have a date night. They will also be told how hard their wives have it and they need to help out more around the house.

In addition there will be a call for fathers to be spiritual leaders in the family. Pray with your wife and children and conduct family devotions.

By the time the sermon is over the father feels beaten and dejected. He is worn out and loaded down with the guilt of unmet expectations. Worse yet the wife and children are not taught to honor their husband and father. Instead they are convinced that the father is not doing enough and it is ruining their lives.

It is no wonder that Fathers would want to be somewhere else on Father’s Day.

Pastors, use this Father’s Day as an opportunity to truly honor fathers for the things they do and build their value in the eyes of their families.

A Call for Christian Candidates

Yesterday was Election Day in California. I am ashamed to say, but I waited until the last day or two to look at the ballot. So I started the task of trying to research the candidates. I read their statements in the ballot pamphlet, I went to their websites and read their statements, I looked at their biographical history and endorsements and occasionally I even look at what the newspapers said about them.

In some cases a candidate ran unopposed. That would not be a problem if the candidate were wise and ruling in a way which is consistent with God’s standards. But that was not the case. Often these were people who had no understanding of God’s standards. They had no understanding of standards at all. They were simply doing what seemed right in their own eyes or what the Party said they should do, or what they believed would win them favor with the voters, or supporters.

There were at least a couple of cases where both candidates were just awful. In one case even the LA Times said that both judges were unqualified, and I agreed. There were candidates that made absurd statements. They would be running for an office like State Controller and would make statements against America being at war. Don’t they know that State Controller has nothing to do with the Federal Government or the Defense Department? Maybe they think that if they become the Controller they get to control everything.

To say the least I have never been more disappointed in the selection of candidates we had on the ballot this election cycle.

Where are the Christians! Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that just because a person is a Christian he or she will make a good Governor or Judge or whatever. I am also not saying that a Non-Christian is necessarily a bad candidate. But I would hope that somewhere out there among the millions of Christians in Southern California there should be many capable people. Being a Christian they should be familiar with the Bible and the principles that God laid out for creating and maintaining a successful government. Why don’t they step forward and run for office?

I think Christians have this aversion to politics. Somehow they believe the politics is dirty and Christians should have nothing to do with it. Even Churches avoid politics. There are pastors that will speak on the home and family life, drugs, sex, performing well at work and school. They will talk about handling money and tithing, forgiveness and love. Their preaching shows how God wants to affect every area of your life, except your politics.

Think about it, what would your Bible look like if all of the politics were removed? Moses would need to go. He approached the leader of the most powerful nation on earth and demanded that he free the slaves. Then he went on to lead a nation, deliver the Laws of God (both religious and civil, there really was no distinction), and he acted as the judge for the entire nation. Well there goes most of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. Let’s throw out a few other people too: Joseph (ruler in Egypt), Joshua, all of the Judges, Samuel, Saul, David, Solomon, Hezekiah, and the rest of the kings, Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, Nehemiah, even John the Baptist would have to go because he was constantly pointing out Herod’s sin to his face. I suppose we should throw out nearly all of the prophets because their messages were to nations not individuals and the messages were often delivered to Kings.

It looks to me like the great majority of the Bible is about politics. There are God’s principles for government in the books of Moses. There is God’s dealing with nations throughout scripture. There is God working through national leaders. There is God’s warning to nations in the prophetic books. All of this and Christians avoid politics. Unbelievable!!!

It is funny that we accept that God accomplished His work through national leaders of His choosing in the Old Testament but we expect Him to work totally differently today. Where are the Christian leaders? Is it that God is not calling or is it that we are not listening?

Wake-up!!! We need qualified Christians to run for office and we need it now. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think that we should look to the government to solve all of our problems and politic is not the answer. God is the one that we should turn to, but God has shown that He often works His will through national leaders. Politics is not the answer but nearly every answer has a political component. We need good Christians leading in all aspects of life and in all occupations. We definitely need them in government.

This is my call for Christian candidates. Get your act together, get organized and run for office. And the rest of you Christian brothers and sisters help them out. They cannot do it alone. They need your support through prayer, finances and campaigning for them. I don’t ever want to see another ballot where there are no obvious good choices.