Extend a Hand, Not a Stiff-Arm

21 08 2014

When you hear the term “social media,” what do you do? Some of you might become a bit giddy when you start thinking about that latest cat video you saw. Others become emotional because you long to see just one more picture of your grandkids. A few, after receiving more “likes” than anticipated, don’t know if you’re elated or gassy. There are even some of you (and ironically, you’re reading this post) whose nostrils flare and eyes widen as you believe social media indicates the decline of the human race.

I’ve seen similar responses to the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. At first, folks were excited, if not intrigued. “What’s this all about? What is ALS? Is that what Lou Gehrig had?” Many began to look forward to the next hilarious video. Celebrities, from Hollywood to professional sports, have gotten in on the action. It seems like a good thing. Either you donate to ALS research or you have a bucket of ice cold water dumped on your head. Many people, I presume, just go ahead and do both. Do a search for the numbers and you’ll find that ALSA.org has raised more money in the last few weeks than all of last year. Mission accomplished! Yay! Everybody get a bucket and a checkbook…

…BUT WAIT…

There’s more to this story. If at first, many were excited, I’ve actually read some folks who have become irritated. “How many more ice bucket challenges must I see on my news feed? Why do people feel the need to go public with their donations? I don’t like social activism; I want to go back to seeing videos of cats!” Yep, there are those flaring nostrils again. I haven’t polled everyone, but my guess is that families who are struggling with this horrible, debilitating disease are ecstatic about the awareness and fundraising efforts that have come by way of the ice bucket challenge on social media. Soon enough, this fad will fade, the donations will drop, and you can go back to watching cats. But be warned, there will be another challenge. Your news feed will fill up again with some new fad.

Another fad?

Yes, given the success of the Ice Bucket Challenge, I predict that someone will begin a new challenge soon enough. And, if the responses to this one are any indication, folks will either embrace it or reject it. However, as a Christian, I want to share with you what I believe is wrong with both embracing and rejecting this ALS Challenge and offer an alternative.

Embrace It

As a Christian, I’m to show compassion to the world. This seems like an easy and fun way to show the love of Jesus. Not only will I donate, but I’ll pour cold water on my head and challenge my friends to do the same. I’ll even wear my “Jesus Saves” t-shirt in my video. What’s wrong with this? After doing a little research, I’ve learned that the ALS Association supports clinical trials using embryonic stem cell research. As someone who believes in the sanctity of life, I cannot support an organization that benefits from abortions.

Reject It

If I can’t join in on this challenge, if I can’t send money to this organization, then I need to distance myself from this by avoiding the Ice Bucket Challenge and the ALS Association. I don’t want to support something I believe to be morally reprehensible. This, in no way, suggests that I don’t care for, am not heartbroken over, people with ALS. I want to help people. I am just conflicted about enabling embryonic stem cell research. What’s wrong with this? People think you’re just being mean. You’re distancing yourself from the culture that you’re supposed to be engaging.

Redeem It

Let me offer a third option. What if there was a way to join in on all the fun, help people in need, share the love of Jesus, and not conflict with your beliefs? Would you be ok with that? As a Christian, I hope you would. How about we redeem the culture? I’ll assume that you can find your own creative way to dump cold water on your head and that you know how to upload a video to social media. Let me help you now with the donation part. If you want to donate to research and care for ALS patients, here are some alternatives:

Team Gleason

John Paul II Medical Research Institute

The Kimberly Kim Foundation 

Let me caution you to do your own research. If you find an issue with one of the organizations that I’ve listed, please let me know. Further, (and this might be the reason for this entire post) don’t look back 5 years from now and say, “Hey! Remember that one time that I donated to that one organization?” Come on Christian! Give to your church, to mission organizations, to other non-profits that carry the banner of Christ and do it regularly. Live generously.

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My New Brothers in Christ

12 08 2014

For about a month now, my youngest son, Joshua, age 5, has been telling me he wanted to be baptized. This has led to many conversations. What is baptism all about? Why do you want to be baptized? Why do you need to follow Jesus? What is repentance? What is sin? What is the result of sin? Having been raised in a Christian home and church environment, the boy knew a lot of the answers. I humbly submit that he can explain the gospel better than most adults. But I needed to know that he wasn’t just regurgitating what he’d learned in Sunday School and AWANA. There have been conversations in the past in which he blended stories from the Bible with stories about super-hero vegetables.

Sometime last week, he and I had a lengthy conversation (10 minutes or so) about, again, baptism. And again, he knew a lot of the “right things” to say, however he tripped up on one issue. He admitted that he had sinned, but he had not sinned bad enough to “go to hell.” I explained how any sin condemned people to hell. He was dumbfounded. I told him we’d talk about it some more.

In the days to follow, I took the opportunity to talk with my oldest son, Micah, age 7, about some of the same things Joshua and I had discussed. Again, the boy knew all the answers. He’s got it. He can explain the gospel and occasionally throw in scripture to back it up. He’s known the gospel for a couple of years now. That brings me to last night.

I asked Micah to leave the room for just a minute. (He needed to brush his teeth anyway.) Joshua and I talked. He told me he was ready to be baptized; that he was ready to repent from the path of satan and follow the way of Jesus. Honestly, I don’t know that it gets any simpler and truthful than that. We talked a bit more and then I asked him to tell God all that he’d told me. What followed was that simplest, sincerest prayer I’ve heard in a long, long time.

Next, I asked Joshua to leave the room and had Micah come back in. Micah and I talked again about baptism and following Jesus. He said, “I know all of that, I’m just not ready.” As he hung his head and doodled on the carpet, I asked him what he was waiting for. “When do you think you’ll be ready?” He told me that it just wasn’t the right time. I said, “There will never be a better time than right now.” He looked up at me with an unusual glow in his eyes and a coltish grin, shrugged his shoulders, and said, “Ok.” He then prayed to God and told Him he was sorry for his sins and that he wanted to follow Jesus.

After that, Joshua and Lindsey joined us in the bedroom. She shared with both boys from the front pages of her Bible what she had written shortly after they were each born; that her biggest dream for them was to know Jesus. That dream was fulfilled last night. The Bible says that when one sinner repents there’s a party in heaven. (Luke 15:1-10, oh go ahead, read the whole chapter!) I can’t help but think of all the saints before me who were celebrating last night. My grandparents, Marshall Coile, and countless others were partying with the apostles and angels.