Monthly Archives: January 2013
I usually do not get too worked up over political issues. I do care very much about what is happening and look hopefully through a biblical lens in evaluating them. I have found however a great amount of angst over the announcement that women would now serve in front-line combat positions.
I served for six years in the military and though I did not hold a front-line combat position, four of those years were in a combat designated role that at the time was not open for women. It is now and should not be!
I am grieved over the lack of honor and continued decline of our culture, particularly the role of men, and that we would place our daughters and wives in a front-line military conflict position. The thought of fathers and husbands consenting to their daughters and wives to be placed in such a position to be shot or killed in battle or what would happen to them if captured as a prisoner of war. What are the men who made such a decision thinking?! Is this what the feminization of our culture has come to? What kind of people are we to do such a thing?
My respect for the military leaders who were part of this decision is shattered. Where is honor? Where is courage? Where is dignity in being soldiers? Why are men who should be leading us bowing to such pressure? As Danny Burk of Boyce College asks, “…what if the draft is reinstituted? Are we really going to be the kind of people who press our wives and daughters to fight in combat?” He goes on to quote John Piper who wrote in World magazine:
“If I were the last man on the planet to think so, I would want the honor of saying no woman should go before me into combat to defend my country. A man who endorses women in combat is not pro-woman; he’s a wimp. He should be ashamed. For most of history, in most cultures, he would have been utterly scorned as a coward to promote such an idea. Part of the meaning of manhood as God created us is the sense of responsibility for the safety and welfare of our women.
If you read this … thanks for letting me vent. I am appalled and pray that sense and courage takes over our military and government officials.
10 POSITIVE REASONS TO TRAIN YOUR KIDS IN CELL PHONE USE
By David Murray, Professor of Old Testament and Practical Theology at the Puritan Reformed Theological, Seminary
Apart from giving them the Gospel, the single best thing we can do for our kids’ college, career, and marriage prospects is to train them to be self-disciplined in their cell phone use. Improving their cell phone habits will:
1. Raise their grades: Study time and quality will dramatically improve if they are not being continually interrupted by text messages and Facebook updates.
3. Strengthen their reasoning: Teachers everywhere are alarmed at students’ increasing inability to concentrate and follow the logic of a sustained argument, with most tracing the damage to cell phone distraction and abbreviated communication.
4. Expand their worldview: Although it’s called the World Wide Web, most kids’ worldview shrinks when national and international news are deluged and drowned in a tsunami of local and parochial trivia served up via the social media fire hose.
5. Improve their health: It’s not only that late-night use of screen technology delays and disturbs sleep, but a staggering number of kids check their Facebook status throughout the night as well. Nothing is more important to long-term health than long and deep sleep.
6. Strengthen their relationships: Families who take radical steps to reduce cell phone access and use in the home testify to the huge improvement in sibling and parental relationships.
7. Enhance their communication skills: Employers are desperate for people who can speak a reasonable number of complete and coherent sentences with clarity and confidence, and who can relate to people face to face with courtesy and care. That’s not learned with our faces in a phone.
8. Clarify their vision: When kids are constantly distracted by the latest status update, text message, or Tumblr GIF, they can’t see beyond the horizon of the present to seek and find a long-term purpose for their lives.
9. Ground their self-image: The more time spent in the virtual world, the more unreal our self-image becomes. Our kids need to be grounded in real flesh & blood relationships in the real world if they are not to get an over-inflated sense of who they are and what they’ve accomplished.
10. Deepen their spirituality: Horizontal communication pushes out vertical communication. When kids start the day with their phone rather than their Bible in their hands, the day has already gone wrong.
If we love our children, we must take radical action now. Look at the benefits. Re-write the list in the negative and ask, “Do I want that for my kids?”
What can we do? Confiscation is very appealing, but usually a bit extreme. We can use parental controls and accountability software. We can forbid phones in bedrooms, at study desks, and at meal times. I now insist on all phones (including my own) be kept in one central place when in the house and I limit the number of times they can be checked in an evening. We’re also starting a phone fast on Sundays. And let there be consequences for misuse or overuse, yes, even confiscation at times.
But perhaps the best thing we can do is to talk to our kids about these ten positive reasons for making this wonderful technology a servant rather than a master. It might be the best career move they make. If they master their cell-phone they will stand out in their generation in so many positive ways.
This Saturday is the annual March for Life across the country. This promotional video by the National March for LIfe organization is very well done. If you get the chance, why not fulfill what our President has asked of us regarding our children.
HT: Justin Taylor
My favorite Christian songwriter and performer the past few years has been Andrew Peterson. Here is a song, “You’ll Find Your Way, from his recent release, “Light for the Lost Boy.” A great reminder of the path we set for our children.
One of the issues I have watched my own daughter and her husband fight is the almost daily grind of a request for a cell-phone by their teenage sons. Others in the church who have not yet given one to their child have told me of the whining that goes with it. Some other parents who have given a phone to their child share stories of the problems that seem to accompany the use of the device.
Below is a model contract that I have modified from Janell Burley Hofmann that she gave her 13 year old son when he was presented an Iphone at Christmas. If you would like to see the original contract, you can go to http://www.janellburleyhofmann.com/gregorys-iphone-contract/
Feel free to modify it for your family situation but there is a lot of wisdom in this model for you.
You are now the proud owner of an iPhone. Aren’t you lucky! You are a good & responsible __ year old (boy or girl) and you deserve this gift. But with the acceptance of this present comes rules and regulations. Please read through the following contract. We hope that you understand it is our job to raise you into a well rounded, healthy young (man or woman) that can function in the world and coexist with technology and not be ruled by it. Failure to comply with the following list will result in termination of your iPhone ownership.
We love you madly & look forward to sharing several million text messages with you in the days to come.
1. It is OUR phone. We bought it. We paid for it. We are loaning it to you. Aren’t we the greatest?
2. We will always know the password.
3. If it rings, answer it. It is a phone. Say “hello”, use your manners. Do not ever ignore a phone call if the screen reads “Mom” or “Dad”. Not ever.
4. Hand the phone to one of your parents promptly at 7:30 p.m. every school night & every weekend night at 9:00 p.m. It will be shut off for the night and turned on again at 7:30 a.m. If you would not make a call to someone’s landline, wherein their parents may answer first, then do not call or text that person. Respect other families like we would like to be respected.
5. It does not go to school with you. Have a conversation with the people you text in person. It’s a life skill. *Half days, field trips and after school activities will require special consideration.
6. If it falls into the toilet, smashes on the ground, or vanishes into thin air, you are responsible for the replacement costs or repairs. Mow a lawn, babysit, stash some birthday money. It will happen, you should be prepared.
7. Do not use this technology to lie, fool, or deceive another human being. Do not involve yourself in conversations that are hurtful to others. Be a good friend first or stay out of the crossfire.
8. Do not text, email, or say anything through this device you would not say in person.
9. Do not text, email, or say anything to someone that you would not say out loud with their parents in the room. Censor yourself.
10. No porn. Search the web for information you would openly share with me. If you have a question about anything, ask a person – preferably your father or mother.
11. Turn it off, silence it, or put it away in public. Especially in a restaurant, at the movies, or while speaking with another human being. You are not a rude person; do not allow the iPhone to change that.
12. Do not send or receive pictures of your private parts or anyone else’s private parts. Don’t laugh. Someday you will be tempted to do this despite your high intelligence. It is risky and could ruin your teenage/college/adult life. It is always a bad idea. Cyberspace is vast and more powerful than you and it is hard to make anything of this magnitude disappear – including a bad reputation.
13. Don’t take a zillion pictures and videos. There is no need to document everything. Live your experiences. They will be stored in your memory for eternity.
14. Leave your phone home sometimes and feel safe and secure in that decision. It is not alive or an extension of you. Learn to live without it. Be bigger and more powerful than FOMO – fear of missing out.
15. Download music that is new or classic or different than the millions of your peers that listen to the same exact stuff. Your generation has access to music like never before in history. Take advantage of that gift. Expand your horizons.
16. Play a game with words or puzzles or brain teasers every now and then.
17. Keep your eyes up and not always on your phone. See the world happening around you. Stare out a window. Listen to the birds. Take a walk. Talk to a stranger. Wonder without googling.
18. You will mess up. We will take away your phone. We will sit down and talk about it. We will start over again. We all are always learning. We are on your team. We are in this together.
It is our hope that you can agree to these terms. Most of the lessons listed here do not just apply to the iPhone, but to life. You are growing up in a fast and ever changing world. It is exciting and enticing. Keep it simple every chance you get. Trust your powerful mind and giant heart above any machine. We love you. We hope you enjoy your awesome new iPhone.
LOVE: DAD AND MOM
As one who has dealt with many marriages that have or are struggling, I absolutely affirm what Owen Strachan, Assistant Professor of Christian Theology and Church History at Boyce College in Louisville has to say below. If you grasp this one concept about yourself and your marriage, you will resolve much of the struggle of family living.
Every marriage is under attack. Marriage is given to humanity by God as, ultimately, an expression and picture of his love for his people. Satan, the anti-aesthete and anti-tutor, wants to tear this living image down.
There is much to work on in marriage, but it strikes me that there is a single key that unlocks the door to health: humble repentance. As sinners living together under the same roof, husband and wife will annoy one another, hurt one another, and fail to edify one another as they should. Sin and its baggage are not only possible, but inevitable for even the godliest couple. If we pretend otherwise, if we act as if we can bat 1.000 all the time, if we plaster smiles on our faces and project the image of perfection, then we lie to ourselves and to others.
Most significantly, we lie to God, who knows the depth of our fallenness, and who is justly offended by our sin.
The single most important key to a strong marriage, it seems to me, is humble repentance. Sin is the fundamental problem of our marriages; humble repentance is the fundamental solution. What does this mean? It means that husbands and wives must train themselves to be experts in the art of saying “I was wrong. I hurt you. I get that. I am so sorry.” What a simple collection of words, but what a punch they pack.
It is surprisingly easy for even loving couples to get out of this habit. You hurt your spouse, and she lets you know as she should, but you don’t apologize. You skate over it. We all come to a moment on a regular basis when we arrive at a fork in the road: we can take one path and evade meaningful confession, or we can swallow our pride and take the route of humility. Whether you’re married or not, you know what I’m talking about. Taking the first path guarantees that things will get harder, that sin will calcify. Taking the second brings light into the marriage; the pressure releases, and it’s as if someone opened the blinds in a gloomy house. The light of the gospel shines again.
Christians are called to be experts in repentance. We may not always feel that way; some of us, relatively young in our marriages, are working on establishing good rhythms, and training ourselves to take the good path. But this is a crucial part of what distinguishes us as a people. We have seen by God’s grace that we are wrong and that God is right. The cross of Christ is a summons to this confession, and the means by which we are made right. But being cleansed by the blood of Jesus does not free us to to live as super-people deluded by our infallibility. Instead, the confession of repentance that marks our conversion is the initiation into a lifetime of the same.
So believers are not first and foremost practitioners of ritual. We are not primarily people who merely enjoy gathering together. We are students in the school of repentance. This is not theoretical, though; it is by nature intensely practical.
If your marriage has run aground on the iceberg of unconfessed sin, the way off is humble repentance. Husbands are to lead in this discipline. Being the head of the home doesn’t mean that men are untouchable potentates. It means that men are lead repenters. This is part of what opponents of manly headship don’t understand. Being the “head” or the leader in biblical Christianity doesn’t mean getting off the hook and doing whatever you want in the most lordly and officious way possible. It means leading in all the hard stuff: sacrifice, humility, change, growth, confession, and yes, repentance.
Displace men from this God-given role and you set them up to wither, and the family to suffer, over and over again.
Wherever your marriage is today, break up the ice by initiating humble repentance. If you’ve gotten locked into patterns of hurting one another and never confessing it, get a babysitter tonight. Go get dinner somewhere. Talk about this. There’s a place for unwinding what has happened, and you’ll need to identify how not to hurt one another going forward. But make sure that your conversation leads ultimately to full-throated, whole-hearted confession of sin. Claim the gospel, practically, afresh in your marriage.
Along these lines, a former pastor of mine and very wise man, Mike Bullmore, once recommended that I have a weekly conversation with my wife to do just this. Some weeks get busy, but I think this has been the single most helpful piece of practical advice Bethany, my sanctification partner, and I have received.
This is needed, by the way, not just by the downcast among us, those who cannot help but wear their pain on their faces. It is needed by high-achieving couples, those who are always smiling, those who seem impervious to normal struggles. Healthy marriages definitely do exist. But we can also paper over our hurts. As a husband, take time this week to ask your wife, without any arguing back, how you can care for her better and not hurt her through sin. Perhaps you don’t browbeat her (you better not); but are there quieter, more obscure ways that really do wound her? Are you two locked in patterns that make you ships in the night–the marriage hums along, things seem fine, but there’s little direct spiritual edification happening?
In truth, all of us are fighting sin together. Every marriage requires hard work. Don’t pretend. Don’t mask sin. Don’t say you’re a sinner but then act, practically, as if you’re not. The most mature among us are not those who seem never to offend God and man, but those who know they are going to sin and who actively hunt their sin down, in part by engaging with their spouse or loved ones.
Christians are not perfect people who can avoid repentance. Through Christ, Christians are called to be experts in repentance. The good news: wherever we find ourselves, we can grow, and change, and light can flood the room.
By Jason Helopoulos, University Reformed Church, East Lansing, Michigan
Some of my greatest joys in life stem from being a parent to two delightful children. However, some of my greatest struggles in life also stem from being a parent to these same two children. There are days that I cannot imagine anything more rewarding and other days that I want to get into the fetal position and remain there for a week. Here are a few reminders for me and all the other Christian parents out there:
Affection and Love: We can never show our children too much love. I have yet to meet the adult who tells me, “My parents just showed me too much love!” But sadly, I have often heard the reverse. Shower your children with affection. May they know our warm embraces and messy kisses!
Have the Right Goal in View: As Christian parents, our goal in raising our children is not primarily to prepare them for going out into the world as fully functioning adults. Our goal, as Christian parents, is to prepare our children for eternity! This should shape all that we do in our homes.
Focus on My Responsibility: But having said that, we can’t “force” our children to be faithful, less sinful, or more righteous. That isn’t our responsibility. Our responsibility is to be faithful in our own charge as parents. In that regard, I can surely hinder or help their sensitivity to Christ, growth in sanctification, understanding of grace, and maturing in character, but I can’t guarantee it, secure it, or determine it. Let’s be faithful in what we do have responsibility for and spend less energy trying to control that which we don’t have responsibility for.
Keep Your Eyes Forward: We can be prone to look over our shoulders. What will OUR parents think? What will others at church think? What will my pastor think? Our children are disobedient and we find ourselves cringing inside and looking to see if anyone else was watching. And when we see others looking on, immediate concern grips our minds. Will they think my children are disobedient or bad? Will they think I am a terrible parent? Stop! We aren’t parenting for others’ approval. We are parenting for the good of our children to the glory of God. Let’s keep our eyes looking forward and heavenward for the good of our children and the glory of God.
Don’t Get Too High nor Too Low: Children change, so let’s not get too high or too low by what we see in our child’s character, actions, or soul in any given day or during any given period. Let’s rejoice some. Let’s mourn some. But let’s do so with restraint.
Tomorrow has Enough Worries of its Own: We can’t control today, let alone tomorrow. Be faithful today. My son taking a toy from his sister today doesn’t mean he is a good candidate for robbing convenience stores at age eighteen. We can get caught up in what they will be like next week, next year, or when they are twenty-one. Let’s just be faithful in our parenting today.
Run the Right Direction: God knows a thing or two about wayward children, so let’s seek Him who has an understanding ear. What grace we need in parenting and what grace is given in Christ. May we run to Him with our frustrations, struggles, trials, and failures. He should be our first counselor and comforter.
Parent on Your Knees: Oh for an army of parents who exercise as much energy in prayer for our children as we do in lecturing them. Prayer may be the most important and most neglected of parental responsibilities. Let us pray for and with our children–not just before bed–not just over meals, but throughout the day and for all their lives.
Show and Tell: Let’s not just tell our children about the Christian faith, but show it. Let us ask for their forgiveness when we have been irritable or have yelled at them, lead them in family worship, talk much about Christ, extend grace, be quick to point out God’s good providence, joyfully lead them to church, pray for and with them, and sing a few hymns in the shower!
Christianity not Morality: Morals are good, but not in and of themselves. Let’s teach our children and pray for a morality that flows from a heart changed by God’s grace. For many of us, our default is to slip into morality parenting, rather than Christian parenting. The former is focused solely upon outward behavior, the latter is focused upon inward change which will manifest fruit in moral outward behavior.
Lastly and Most Importantly, Count the Blessings: Let’s thank God everyday for our children. Even on those hard days, find the blessings amidst the chaos! Count every blessing that comes as a parent. Let it fill us with wonder that the Lord of the Universe has given us the privilege of having these little souls under our care. What a blessing. Thinking on that may even help us get out of that fetal position.