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Of Bronze Serpents and Modern Day Church Kids

Apr 29 2022

"I realized I had to lay my family on thr altar of my heart and offer them back to the Lord.  I was laying on my bed in the clinic crying, and the doctor thought I was missing my familywhen in fact they are tears of repentance and joy as I let God set my priorities straight."  This is from an entry in my journal when I was in Santo Domingo in 1994.  I had gotten sick and thought I was dying.  It was then the the Holy Spirit asked me if I'd be willing to let go of my wife and two preschool daughters.  There, laying on bags of concrete in the tropical July sun, I did in my heart what Abraham did in reality:  I laid my family on the altar to be 'sacrificed' .  I became aware and convicted that my family had a higher place in my heart than God Himself, and had become idols.

Now, the family man in me feels a need to clarify that I love my wife and kids even more than before this 'sacrifice', but I love them in the right order of priority.  We now have three adult daughters, and we are a very close family, even as we're spread out over hundreds of miles.

Ironically, it was on this same two week mission trip to the DR that I discovered something in Scripture I'd neber noticed before."

He removed the high places, and broke the images, and cut down the Asherah poles, and broke in pieces the brazen serpent that Moses had made; for until those days the children of Israel burned incense to it; and he called it Nehushtan." 2 Kingd 18:4. This is the account of the godly King Hezekiah, as he demolished the various idols that had crept into Jewish worship.  But what I saw for the first time was, " and broke in pieces the brazen serpent that Moses had made."  This particular idol was given to the people by God Himself.

Remember in the wilderness when the Israelites were being bitten by poisonous snakes.  There one hope came from an idea given by God: "The Lord said to Moses, “Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.” So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, they lived."  Numbers 21:8 and 9.  

This miraculous figure, designed and even commanded by God, a few generations later, had to be destroyed as an idol: a false god in and of itself.  And my kids, who Sue and I were supposed to never be able to have, had become the same thing.  Instrad of a blessing from our Creator, they were objects adored above Him. I am grateful (And I suppose my girls are, too) that this misprioritization was corrected so many years ago on a construction site in the slums of Santo Domingo.

And now, as I am neck deep in 21st century American Christian pop culture, I am surrounded by many who are making the same mistake, to the harm of their kids the church itself.

What does it look like when our kids become our idols?  First of all, like pagans of old, who tried to appease the anger of their  gods through seemingly bizarre sacrifices, there are many in church who do the same regarding their kids.  Even as Balaam demanded the sacrifice of babies to keep from unleashing his rage on the people, there are Christian parents who sacrifice ridiculous amounts of money for their child to have the newest technology, sacrifice their relationship with their spouse so their child can be the center of his own little universe, or sacrifice the truth of God's Word so their child's rebellious choices can be explained away.  Appeasing the idol of our offspring, they hope, will let them see another day without these little 'gods''  unleashing their wrath.

Gods, of course, are morally superior to us mere mortals, or at least, must be treated as such.  It amazes me how many church parents will, in one breath, acknowledge the biblical truth of humankind's sin nature, then deny their own child could never possibly be at fault when they misbehave in class, get kicked off of their team, or get a young girl pregnant.  (Of course, having had a President recently, who said he never did anything for which forgiveness or repentance was needed doesn't set a great example.) But so many are so committed to this notion that their child is always right that it can make working with these kids almost impossible.  Christians more than anyone should know - and not with lip service only- that the only perfect child was born in a manger and wrapped in swaddling clothes.

Primitive cultures used to let their 'gods' determine when and how to live.  Through casting lots, reading the stars or interpreting dreams, their gods told them what to do and when to do it.  Similarly, we now have these gods, not made of stone or wood but of sperm and egg, telling the adults how things will be in the household.  I've seen first hand kids telling parents when they will go to bed, where they will go to school, what they will have for supper, if they will apologize, and how the family will spend a given day.  I don't mean appropriate situations in which parents let the kids make reasonable, controlled choices, but when kids sipmly tell the adults in the house how things will be.  

The idolatry of our kids is perhaps one of the most dangerous and common vices in our current culture.  Like Abraham of old, for the good of our culture, our churches, our families, and our kids themselves, we need to figuratively lay them on the altar of our hearts and give them back to God.  We can then trust that He, in turn, will give them back to us in their proper palce in our priorities.




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