Be Smart with Smart Phones

Honor with your bladder

def. honor ~ “regard with great respect”

Our American tribe with its religion of deified individualism and radical egalitarianism has great difficulty understanding “regard with great respect” and therefore finds it completely normal to be able to sit through a two hour movie without having to pee, but totally reasonable to make several bathroom trips during the preaching of God’s Word. I have told my daughter that even though she may find the preacher to be a complete bore (and — sigh! — it is usually me!), she can still honor God’s Word without being a distraction to others who may be trying to extract something useful from the dull preaching by making a trip to the ladies’ room. Continue reading

The Gospel and Discipline – A Scenario

I wrote this in a comment in the discussion on parenting over at SI, and I thought I would include it here with a little bit of tweaking.

One day my five year old daughter deliberately defied me and went across the street and then lied about it. I knew I could not spank her hard enough to help her understand the sin (disobedience and lying) and the danger (a street). If I spanked her “hard enough” I would leave bruises and I refuse to do that. I found a “rod” and we went to my office and I stressed what she deserved. I could not spank her hard enough, I said, because I knew it would hurt her too much, so I gave her the stick and told her to strike me.
She gingerly and timidly struck me across the legs, the front of my thighs, and I scolded her by asking, “Patience, do you really, really think that what you did deserves just a little tap like that?” She shook her head and struck a little harder. Again, I told her that was not hard enough. Sin and danger could kill her and she needed to emphasize how bad it was. With my coaching she struck me as hard as she possibly could four times. It was quite painful.

We both cried. I had real pain tears! I explained to her then that though it hurt a lot, it still was not hard enough. The real punishment for her sin was once and for all on the cross. The pain we were feeling now was “grace pain” to train us and help us understand the gravity of our sin and, that day, Daddy was showing grace to Patience by standing in as a substitute for the pain that he felt had to be inflicted. She was only five and, being a very sensitive girl who is very attached to me, was broken-hearted.

She never crossed the street again and she never defied me again.

I don’t punish my kids. I discipline them. And, yes, sometimes there is pain involved, but they are learning that punishment for their sin was on the cross and the deserved pain of our sin and folly has already been absorbed one hundred percent. Sometimes it is God’s loving plan for us that we feel “grace pain” so that we learn to hate our sins and run from danger. Sometimes Daddy can absorb it for them. Sometimes they must feel the pain, but never is it above what they are able to bear.

If obedience is the goal, I think that we do need to remember that it is usually God’s kindness that leads to repentance. Often severity hardens. To think of disciplining our kids in terms of punishing, makes us judges. We have to make the right call every time our we could be unjust. And even the least amount of pain unjustly delivered will never be forgotten. If we are committed to punishment, we have to trust our assessment of our child’s action. But it is possible that there may be a reason for disobedience that we are not aware of. And then the parent is trapped in inequity because the punishment for the lie yesterday was a very hard spanking, but today there was a BIG lie and a defiant attitude. If the punishment doesn’t match in severity what was delivered for the crime yesterday, there is confusion.

Do I think spanking is the right thing to do? Yes, sometimes. I think it is the wrong thing to default to. It is painful and ultimately loses effectiveness as training (the purpose of Heb. 12 discipline) and reduces both parent and child to live under the cloud of punishment day after day.

More on Parenting

Aaron Blumer has a simple and helpful post on the topic of parenting from a Christian perspective.

Shepherding a Parent’s Heart

Perhaps I should give caveats and qualifications to this excellent critique by friend Anne Sokol on a book that I have heartily recommended but found myself accompanying said recommendations with caveats and qualifications, many of which are similar to Anne’s concerns. Anne raises some issues that have become matters of of concern for me as well. However, I may not be as strongly dismissive of the book because I think there are emphases that are good for certain people. Pastoral experience has taught me that a pastor is much like a pharmacist who mixes and concocts various sources to apply to particular needs. Often there needs to be a big dosage of “Shepherding a Child’s Heart,” however I do think that it should always come diluted with an awareness of problems that Anne has respectfully raised. Her four concerns are succinctly stated here and then expounded on in her article.

  1. The book’s focus on requiring obedience as the primary component of the parent/child relationship and emphasis on parental authority as the right to require obedience.
  2. Tripp’s teaching that spanking is the means the parent must use in order to bring a child back into “the circle of blessing.”
  3. Tripp’s interpretation that the “rod” in Proverbs equals spanking, that spanking is even for young children, that spanking is the God-ordained means of discipline (which parents must obey) and that use of the rod saves a child’s soul from death.
  4. His portrayal of any other style or method of parenting in a derogatory manner and training parents’ consciences that failure to discipline as his book teaches is disobedient to God.

It is not an uncommon experience among many Christian families that the youngest child has a more intimate, loving relationship with the parents than the oldest child. It is also not uncommon that the youngest child had far less spankings in his or her lifetime. This is often flippantly explained as a result of the youngest having the benefit of learning from the consequences suffered by the eldest. Or it is bitterly opined by the older children that the parents got soft. It is also a fairly common observation that older parents are less inclined to spank than younger parents. This is explained by saying that older people are sometimes overly indulgent and lack the energy required to be disciplinarian.

There may be some truth to the above statements, but I really think that another major factor is that maturing of Christian people to the realization that the parent-child relationship does not necessarily have to be defined by, as Anne says, the “rubric” of authority/submission, but by a loving relationship that accepts as very real the fact that a parent does not have the power to make a person change and that “spanking is not endued by God with such spiritual power, nor, in fact, is a parent endued with the power to restore the child.”

I do think that pain is sometimes necessary in discipline. But I also agree with Anne: “In His dealings with us as His children, God does nothing like reaching down and spanking us each time we disobey.”

I think thoughtful parents should carefully read Tripp. They should also carefully ponder critiques such as this.

Praying for Japan

Our church has always had a keen interest in the hand of God through natural disasters. From the great Tsunami of 2004 in Indonesia, Katrina, Jamaica, Haiti, and others we have always asked what we can do and sought to point men to God. By the power of God and through His abundant grace we have been able to do a number of helpful things. But every time we have felt how small and insignificant we are in the face of such power. Sometimes the only thing we can do is humbly pray.

John Piper offers a prayer worth praying. Let me suggest an activity for you this Saturday.

  1. Gather your family
  2. Watch the linked video in Piper’s blog
  3. Comment on how those are real homes and real cars of real families like yours and how you would feel if you were in that place or if your grandma lived in such an area and was not returning your calls.
  4. Read Piper’s Prayer as your family prayer and encourage your children to say, “Amen” at the conclusion.

Here’s the prayer.

Micro-managing: “I don’t accept you as you are.”

There is a time for everything. And, yes, there is even a time for micro-managing. But it’s not often.

I was scheduled to do five weddings this year and thus have spent a lot of time blocking out time for a total of 30 sessions in pre-marital counseling, six sessions a piece. I won’t marry a couple unless they’re willing to do the time with me. My process is getting more and more systematized as I go through the various themes I want to address before the big day and since we’ve been entrusted with a younger generation of people, I do a lot more weddings than funerals.

One discussion I like to have with the young lovers is about the matter of non-negotiables vs. negotiables. Happy is the relationship, marriage or other, that has a long negotiable list and a very, very short non-negotiable list. There are, of course, things in a relationship that should be non-negotiable. Jesus first is is one of those non-negotiables that a disciple of Jesus Christ brings into his or her marriage. A person cannot, in fact, be a disciple if he or she is willing to negotiate away Jesus and His Word. But if the non-negotiable list gets much longer there is an exponential increase in self exaltation at the expense of the spouse.

I marvel at the control-freakishness of men who dictate the details of their wives’ lives. Some even go so far as insisting that the house be decorated to accommodate their tastes, that the babies must be dressed a specific way, and that the schedule of the entire family revolve around them. They think they’re being leaders because they dominate. They think that by micro-managing everything that their wife or children do they are providing good leadership. In fact, they are saying, detail after detail after detail, “I don’t accept you as you are.” Mothers who micro-manage their children’s lives are undermining the single most important asset a confident person needs: acceptance.

I am persuaded that the confident Christian leader is such because he knows himself to be accepted in Christ. The assurance of acceptance is so powerful that even Jesus needed verbal affirmations from the Father that came to him via theophanies: “this is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” Friends, we must realize that micro-managing the choices of people around us, particularly those who are under our leadership, is a way of saying that we do not accept them as they are.

The beauty of the Gospel is that Jesus accepts us as we are. Indeed, there are commandments. There’s the cross and we must carry it. There is a yoke. But in Christ there is freedom because there is acceptance. Jesus has the right to dictate every second of my schedule and tell me whether I should get a tall or a grande at Starbucks, but I have a choice and so does the person in front of me!  One of the reasons why the Bible does not have a prescription for what we are to do in every single situation of our life is precisely because we are accepted as we are. Christ, the Lord of the universe, lets me decide whether I’m going to wear jeans or a suit to the funeral and accepts me either way; why can’t I restrain from dictating whether my wife hangs the portrait on the south wall or the north wall?

When I married my wife, I married her choices. Now, I am artistically challenged so I literally do not care what my wife does in our home, but being a human I have areas where I want to exercise my lordship and find myself trying to control my wife and children in order to get the desired outcome. I could call myself the helpful father, but it really is self-love. There are times when a parent needs to let the children do it their way without commenting, cajoling, correcting, wincing, or sighing. Particularly as they get older. There are also times when the parent must interfere.

Ironically, some of the most control-freakish spouses or parents that I know are also the most unable to actually take a stand on issues that matter. They can’t say, “As for me and my house we will serve the Lord” because they are always saying, “As for me and my house, we will this and we will that.”

When everything matters than nothing matters. Happy is the man when not much matters, but the right things do matter. The mother and father or spouse who figure this out become leaders and helpers and not, instead, oppressive and unhappy wanna-be controllers.

When a control-freak micro-manages every detail as if there is hell to pay if it’s not done according to their directives, eventually nothing matters. Eventually, control freaks lose the essence of real leadership: influence. This happens in marriage and parenting. And it can only be resolved when a person begins to realize that Holy God did not make him into a robot and embraces the full spectrum of his choices in all areas negotiable. When one realizes that playing lord in another person’s life is to defy the Lord in his own life then he little by little begins to develop the virtue that is the opposite of control-freakishness: meekness.

In marriage everything should be negotiable. Well, almost everything. God’s rules and God’s way are non-negotiable. But He gives us the freedom to choose Crest over Aquafresh so at the very least we should be willing to negotiate on issues of personal taste and strive to shorten our list as the years go by. Twenty years married, both my wife and I have shortened the non-negotiable list, negotiated compromises where needed, and in the main learned to love the choices of the person so amazingly different that we are married to. If I keep growing in Christ, I think I will increase in my meekness about many non-essentials that will resemble my “meekness” about home decor, a “meekness” that is not a fruit of grace, but of my nonchalance about home decor.

If I were to walk into the house today and Jennie had the walls all painted in a crazy and wild pink and purple, I speak the truth when I say I’d simply laugh and say,

Wow! I married a crazy fun woman!

If asked whether I liked it, I’d honestly say,

Not really. In fact, absolutely not! But I love the woman who chose it. It matters to her. And room decor is on my negotiable list. She can have it her way although if these colors do begin to affect my sanity I may woo her into negotiating a compromise that includes watching more ESPN than normal and letting me drink directly from the milk jug at will. Something that, sadly, is still on her non-negotiable list.

If colors are important to her and I micro-manage everything she does I’m saying: “I don’t accept you as you are.”

Today my Lord let me choose (and it wasn’t really healthy). I chose a Starbuck’s Grande Latté with vanilla flavor. My Master is not a control freak.

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