Monthly Archives: November 2012

A Prayer for Marriages, Our Own and that of Friends

While on the theme of marriage, I read yesterday this prayer by Scotty Smith in his book, “Everyday Prayers” and pass it on as my ‘amen’ to what Scotty prayed:

For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. ”Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. Eph. 5:29-32

Dear Lord Jesus, I’m painfully aware of a growing number of friends who feel disconnected, despairing, or “dying” are in their marriages. I’m saddened, but not shocked, for two reasons.

It makes complete sense that the powers of darkness would assault the one relationship meant to tell the story of your great love for your bride.

Of course marriage is going to be a war zone—the front lines of spiritual warfare, until the Day you return. Satan is a hater. He hates you, he hates the gospel, and therefore, he hates your bride and he hates marriage.

But knowing my own heart also decreases the shock factor. Like most of us, I came into marriage with a little gospel and big naïveté. I had no clue about the depths of my brokenness, the degree of my selfishness, or the devices of my sinfulness. I had no clue about what it would take to love one person well the rest of my life—like every other spouse, someone who needs the gospel just as much as I do.

And I certainly had no clue that your love alone is better than life; that your love alone can slake the deepest thirst of my heart; that your love alone can provides the depths of intimacy we crave and for which we’ve been made.

Only theoretically did I understand how your love can free me to love another my spouse the way you love me as your spouse—for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, forgiving and forbearing, accepting without acquiescing, doing the hard and heart work of the gospel.

Jesus, I pray for my friends, and I pray for myself. Protect us from the evil one, and rescue us from ourselves. Give hope to the hopeless, conviction to the foolish, nourishment to the famished, grace to the betrayed, and godly sorrow to the betrayers. Tell your story of redeeming love, in us and through us. So very Amen I pray, sobered yet expectant, in your loving and powerful name.

Scotty Smith is Founding Pastor of Christ Community Church in Franklin, TN and you can obtain gospel-centered prayers daily through his book, “Everyday Prayers” (Baker Books, 2011)  or at his website:  http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/scottysmith

 

 

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GOING STRONG AT 40 YEARS

This past weekend, Deb and I celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary. We reflected on many things that we have gone through and happenings over the years. We also rejoiced in that we are “more in love” with each other than before.

Paul David Tripp writes in his outstanding book, “What Did You Expect, Redeeming the Realities of Marriage,” (Crossway, 2010) the following 22 ways that love is to be an action. Deb and I are imperfect examples of each but we can confidently say that we are positive examples of every one of them. If I was to sum up our marriage, it is based upon the grace that has been extended to us by God through Jesus Christ and his love, we have chosen by our wills to be committed to such love.

I share these with you in celebration of my love for Deb and pray there are many other marriages like ours.

  1. Love is being willing to have your life complicated by the needs and struggles of your spouse without impatience or anger.
  2. Love is actively fighting the temptation to be critical or judgmental toward your spouse while looking for ways to encourage and praise.
  3. Love is the daily commitment to resist the needless moments of conflict that come from pointing out and responding to minor offenses.
  4. Love is being lovingly honest and humbly approachable in times of misunderstanding, and being more committed to unity and love that you are to winning, accusing, or being right.
  5. Love is a daily commitment to admit your sin, weakness, and failure and to resist the temptation to offer an excuse or shift the blame.
  6. Love means being willing, when confronted by your spouse, to examine your heart rather than rising to your defense or shifting the focus.
  7. Love is a daily commitment to grow in love so that the love you offer your spouse is increasingly selfless, mature and patient.
  8. Love is being unwilling to do what is wrong when you have been wronged but to look for concrete and specific ways to overcome evil with good.
  9. Love is being a good student of your spouse, looking for their physical, emotional, and spiritual needs so that in some way you can remove the burden, support them as they carry it or encourage them along the way.
  10. Love means being willing to invest the time necessary to discuss, examine, and understand the problems that you face as a couple, staying on task until the problem is removed or you have agreed upon a strategy of response.
  11.  Love is always being willing to ask for forgiveness and always being committed to grant forgiveness when requested.
  12.  Love is recognizing the high value of trust in a marriage and being faithful to your promises and true to your word.
  13.  Love is speaking kindly and gently, even in moments of disagreement, refusing to attack your spouse’s character or assault their intelligence.
  14.  Love is being unwilling to flatter, lie, manipulate, or deceive in any way in order to co-opt your spouse in giving you what you want or doing it your way.
  15.  Love is being unwilling to ask your spouse to be the source of your identity, meaning and purpose, or inner sense of well-being, while refusing to be the source of theirs.
  16.  Love is the willingness to have less free time, less sleep, and a busier schedule in order to be faithful to what God has called you to be as a husband or wife.
  17.  Love is a commitment to say “no” to selfish instincts and to do everything that is within your ability to promote real unity, functional understanding and active love in your marriage.
  18.  Love is staying faithful to your commitment to treat your spouse with appreciation, respect and grace even in moments when he or she does not seem to deserve it or is unwilling to reciprocate.
  19.  Love is willingness to make regular and costly sacrifices for the sake of your marriage without asking anything in return or using your sacrifices to place your spouse in your debt.
  20.  Love is being unwilling to make any personal decision or choice that would harm your marriage, hurt your husband or wife, or weaken the bond of trust between you.
  21.  Love is refusing to be self-focused or demanding but instead looking for specific ways to serve, support, or encourage, even when you are busy or tired.
  22.  Love is daily admitting to yourself, your spouse, and God that you are not able to love this way without God’s protecting, providing, forgiving, rescuing, and delivering grace.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING

Colossians 3:15  And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful.

1 Timothy 4:4-5 – For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected, if it is received with gratitude; for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer.

1 Thessalonians 5:18  in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

Hebrews 12:28,29 Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.

“A sensible thanksgiving for mercies received is a mighty prayer in the Spirit of God. It prevails with Him unspeakably.”  ~ John Bunyan

“I preached on the righteousness of the law and the righteousness of faith. While I was speaking, several dropped down as dead and among the rest such a cry was heard of sinners groaning for the righteousness of faith that it almost drowned my voice. But many of these soon lifted up their heads with joy and broke out into thanksgiving, being assured they now had the desire of their soul – the forgiveness of their sins.” ~ John Wesley

 

 

WHAT KIND OF FOOL AM I? (Part 3)

The final level of foolishness is the most severe. Proverbs speaks of the scoffer or the mocker who is someone deliberating rejecting correction. They are essentially someone who shakes their fist at discipline and their arrogance is obvious to all.

Examples of this are found in Proverbs such as:

 9:7,8  “Whoever corrects a mocker brings an insult;… Do not rebuke a mocker or he will hate you…”

13:1 “…but a mocker does not listen to rebuke.”

15:12 “A mocker resents correction; he will not consult the wise.”

22:10 “Drive out the mocker and out goes strife; quarrels and insults are ended.”

29:8 “Mockers stir up a city, …”

As you can see from these Proverbs, though no one is ever out of the reach of the arm of God to save, the mocker/scoffer puts themself in a position where it requires a long stretch. A picture example of a mocker is from the parable of what is known as the prodigal son. Here the son who initially rebelled essentially wished his father be dead by taking the inheritance in advance. His actions proved out his mocking but God’s grace eventually reached his heart.  The irony of the story is the self-righteous brother ends up to be a mocker in the end.

Discipline is obviously very difficult for the mocker and scoffer and what needs to be considered are whom they are influencing. If their actions are contributing to the foolishness of others, then they need to be “driven out.” What this looks like calls for wisdom and discernment but as a parent, you must protect the simple and the fools of your household from moving toward mocking or scoffing  your discipline.

 

 

WHAT KIND OF FOOL AM I? (Part 2)

Yesterday I presented the simple fool that is the kind of fool we all are at many times in many places. To move to wisdom daily we find ourselves needing guidance and instruction so you should be able to identify easily with you child. How do you want to be disciplined when you just don’t know what is the best way to do something? Think then of how you should address your child then in their simplicity.

The next levels of foolishness in Proverbs are what is translated as the fool. There are 3 common words that are in the Hebrew that are translated into the word fool. They usually are not distinguished because they are so close in meaning but there are slight differences. When we talk about the fool, we are now moving out of simplicity to the one who knows what they ought to do, has been trained, and yet still does not follow the counsel.

The first word is “kciyl” which would speak of someone who is obstinate or dull to wisdom. Some examples from Proverbs using this word are:

10:18  “Whoever spreads slander is a fool…”

10:23 “A fool finds pleasure in evil conduct …”

14:16 “…but a fool is hotheaded and reckless.”

26:11 “… so a fool repeats his folly.”

29:11 “A fool gives full vent to his anger.”

The problem according to Scripture is that this fool rejects the fear of the Lord. Proverbs 1:29 says, “Since they hated knowledge and did not choose to fear the Lord…”

The second word is “eviyl.” Sound out this word and you get an idea of what it means by the English word.  This fool tends to be stubborn about their sin and the rejecting of hearing words of wisdom. Some examples from Proverbs are:

12:15 “The way of a fool seems right to him…”

12:16 “A fool shows his annoyance at once…”

14:9 “Fools mock at making amends for sin…”

20:3 “…but every fool is quick to quarrel.”

29:9 “If a wise man goes to court with a fool, the fool rages and scoffs, and there is no peace.”

The third word is “nabal.” You may recognize it as the name for the foolish husband of Abigail in 1 Samuel 25.  This fool tends to be close-minded to wisdom which is a hardened condition form continuous rejection of the fear of the Lord. It would be considered the most severe form of foolishness among the three types. Some examples from Proverbs and elsewhere are:

Proverbs 17:7 “Arrogant lips are unsuited to a fool…”

Psalm 53:1 “The fool says in his heart, ‘there is no God.”

Psalm 74:18 “…how foolish people have reviled your name.”

Jeremiah 17:11 “Like the partridge that gathers a brood that she did not hatch, so is he who gets riches but not by justice; in the midst of his days they will leave him, and at his end he will be a fool.

 For these fools, instruction and training are needed but the added dimension of the rod is necessary for them to learn. Their problem is not that they do not know but God calls for the instrument of the rod so it can be a conduit of his grace to work on the child’s heart. This is why it is so critical that the reproof that follows with the rod must be a gospel-centered message to your child. It is the gospel that is the message of deliverance from sin, not the law which simply changes behavior.

Next post will be the most severe form of foolishness and the one that breaks the heart of a parent. It is however not one without hope.

WHAT KIND OF FOOL AM I?

If correction with the rod is for fools, it is important as a parent that we use wisdom to discern if the activity of our child is foolish or not before using the rod. The book of Proverbs gives us the most comprehensive understanding of foolishness and its dimensions. The books presents 5 different types of fools and we can find guidance that helps in determining the type of correction needed by discerning the kind of fool our child is being.

I actually think that this is an extremely important issue for experience teaches us that the wrong kind of rod applied can indeed discourage our child or harm them by being too harsh or being too lenient. The metaphor of Isaiah 28:27-29 rings so true:  Dill is not threshed with a threshing sledge, nor is a cart wheel rolled over cumin, but dill is beaten out with a stick, and cumin with a rod. Does one crush grain for bread? No, he does not thresh it forever; when he drives his cart wheel over it with his horses, he does not crush it. This also comes from the LORD of hosts; he is wonderful in counsel and excellent in wisdom.

The first type of fool to consider is translated commonly as the “simple” fool. In the Hebrew the root word means to be deceived or seduced. This fool is one who is easily led, gullible, and may even act silly as seen by others. The reason is commonly that they are ignorant, lack information, or not trained to act wisely in a situation they find themselves in.

Examples from the book of Proverbs are:

1:22a “How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple?”

7:7      “and I have seen among the simple, I have perceived among the youths, a young man lacking sense”

8:5a    “O simple ones, learn prudence”

9:4-6   “Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!” To him who lacks sense she says, “Come, eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed. Leave your simple ways, and live, and walk in the way of insight.”

14:15 The simple believes everything, but the prudent gives thought to his steps.”

22:23 The prudent sees danger and hides himself, but the simple go on and suffer for it.

The simple fool is instable due to acting out of ignorance and they can be easily corrected in most cases by good instruction and training. It is like when you see your child do something that you see as stupid and you ask them “why did you do that?” and they reply honestly, “I don’t know.” If you apply in this case a heavy rod of correction, it could well be too harsh. What they really need is your instruction and training. Once they have such training and then they repeat the action, they no longer are acting in the same situation as a simple fool, but have elevated their action to being a fool which will be the subject of the next post.

RESCUING OUR CHILDREN: WHEN TO USE THE ROD

What is the goal of your discipline for your children?  In choosing a rod of correction, it is to be goal oriented toward the child. God always disciplines with a purpose as indicated in Hebrews 12: 11-13: For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed.

The rod is to be tied to correction of a fool (tomorrow will begin a section on the fools of Proverbs). The purpose then is to correct the foolishness which means the rod is to produce repentance. The key is that a child has been instructed and trained for the thing that they are being disciplined for. In other words, if I am using the rod of correction for something that my child does not really understand or I am using the rod in an area of honest weakness, I am exasperating and provoking my child to anger. Also if I choose a rod that is too powerful or one too weak, I am showing a lack of wisdom. Note Isaiah 28:27-29; Dill is not threshed with a threshing sledge, nor is a cart wheel rolled over cumin, but dill is beaten out with a stick, and cumin with a rod. Does one crush grain for bread? No, he does not thresh it forever; when he drives his cartwheel over it with his horses, he does not crush it. This also comes from the LORD of hosts; he is wonderful in counsel and excellent in wisdom.

So is spanking the only form or a rod for children? I say absolutely not. God uses what He sees as appropriate to bring about the repentance that he requires. Luke 12: 47-48 shows he disciplines differently two groups. Jeremiah 23 and Ezekiel 34 shows that leaders are disciplined differently than others.

Finally, to not use the rod of correction for foolishness by our child is to be foolish as a parent. In multiple places in Scripture, i.e.; Proverbs 13:24, 23:13, to not discipline is described as even hating your child. The reason is that as a parent you are to help your child to restrain from sin and to not discipline them properly is to be negligent to their well being. The results can be devasting as in Proverbs it is described as “saving them from death.” It is God’s way to deal with us and so as those in stand in our child’s life on behalf of God, we must discipline even with the rod when necessary.

 

 

RESCUING OUR CHILDREN: CORRECTING FOOLISHNESS (The Rod)

Thousands of books have been written about parenting and systems of controlling your child’s behavior. I was exposed to a multitude of behavior management programs in my 17 years as a secondary school teacher and administrator. There is one thing all these programs have in common – pragmatically they all work. Most are based upon behavior modification techniques of stimulus and response. The outcome is a child who around their parent or others who the child is conditioned to respond to, will behave as trained or will receive the known consequence. The child stays out of trouble in these controlled environments and the parent’s stress level is reduced.

Another common element in these parenting paradigms is a consistent correction format that in many of the Christian programs is spanking the child regimentally. The correction may include prayer, reading Scripture and then a hug. What I want to point out from the Scriptures the next few days is that the concept of the rod for correcting foolishness as used by God as a model for us is not so narrow.

Starting out, the definition of the word rod as found in the Old Testament is that is was a staff, scepter or a branch. Examples of how it was used are it was to beat cumin (Isaiah 28:27), as a weapon (2 Samuel 23:21), a shepherd’s implement (Leviticus 27:32), an implement to protect and guide (Psalm 23:4), and a mark of authority (Genesis 49:1).

The word rod is used in many forms in the Scripture when applied to correcting rebellion and foolishness which shows that God disciplines in a variety of ways:

I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. When he commits iniquity, I will discipline him with the rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men (2 Samuel 7:14)

Let him take his rod away from me, and let not dread of him terrify me. (Job 9:34)

For the yoke of his burden, and the staff for his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, you have broken as on the day of Midian. (Isaiah 9:4)

Ah, Assyria, the rod of my anger; the staff in their hands is my fury! (Isaiah 10:5)

I am the man who has seen affliction under the rod of his wrath; (Lamentations 3:1)

What do you wish? Shall I come to you with a rod, or with love in a spirit of gentleness? (1 Corinthians 4:21)

(The rod and the gospel tomorrow)

 

 

RESCUING OUR CHILDREN: TRAINING TO PRODUCE THE PEACEFUL FRUIT OF RIGHTEOUSNESS

I took a different direction for class today than I had originally planned after prayer and thought. It seemed we needed to drill a bit deeper into the concept of training our children and the use of correction. So this week in the posts, I will head in that direction.

By correction I mean an instrument that enhances the instruction and training of a child. The rod of correction is meant for foolishness which is when a child has rejected the instruction and training that a parent or legitimate authority in their life has given.

The biggest mistake that parents make in the discipline process of their child is that they do not train them. 2 Timothy 3:16 informs us that the Word of God is not just for instruction, but also trains and corrects us. Training consists of taking instruction and then applying it to the child to develop the instruction into a habit. Once accomplished, the child becomes “fully trained” in the task.

An example of this process is telling your child to clean their room. What do you mean by clean? A training session would consist of showing the child how to clean their room and what you clearly mean by what defines a clean room. It is showing and repeating with the child the tasks involved. It may take a few times but eventually they will be “fully trained” so that when told to clean their room, the command is clear and understood. So should they not do so, it is a deliberate action of rebellion and classified as foolish.

Another example may be calling your child to the dinner table. This should only have to be done once and given a few minutes to respond, the child should obey. To train them may consist of dad sitting with the child before dinner and when mom makes the call to be at the table in 5 minutes, dad shows the child what they need to do at that point. It might consist of turning off media devices, putting toys away and then proceeding to the table. Dad can make a game out it and repeat the actions several times to let the idea sink in of being “fully trained” so mom does not have to repeat the call. Once done and the child does not respond as trained, it is a deliberate foolish act calling for correction.

(Next post will be the beginning of several posts on correcting foolishness biblically and spotlighting the gospel in the process)

RESCUING OUR CHILDREN: WHO IS IN CONTROL?

Not only is a parent to realize that they are to act with the delegated authority given to them by God, but they are to regulate and guide their child in what they do. With authority in place, they are to set boundaries and limits that help restrain the child from their tendency to sin. Proverbs 29:15b states, “a child who gets his own way brings shame to his mother.

Placing controls on your child to help them deal with sin is for the protection of the child and is the orderly administration of life itself. Your child needs such controls until they can demonstrate the maturity to be without them. When you release a child too soon from the control and boundaries set for them, there are always consequences.

These controls are needed to help them fight two forms of rebellion:

  1. Active rebellion where the child will not listen or accept instruction. This includes tantrums, defiant “no”, walk away, or ignoring their parent.
  2. Passive rebellion where the external requirements for obedience were met but they showed obvious internal resentment. This includes showing disgust or indifference. They even may have listened politely to the instruction or request and then failed to follow through with the action.

The way to deal with this is through conviction, instruction, training and correction with God’s Word as your guide. That is what I will continue with tomorrow.