Category Archives: Biblical Thought

Father vs. Dad (part 3)

Those of us who understand that we must model proper authority to our children can still be a part of the fathering problem if we don’t intentionally model success. I wrote the following during the 2012 Summer Olympics:

By Way of Comparison

“Do you think someday I will be as fast as him?”

This is what my six-year-old son asked as we watched Usain Bolt win gold in the 200 meter race last night. Way to put me on the spot, kid.

That’s a tough question to answer when your son is grinning at you with that imaginative glow in his eyes. I didn’t want to belittle him or his six-year-old imagination that can still envision himself standing on top of an Olympic podium… I remember having that same dream when I saw Carl Lewis in 1988. On the other hand, I don’t want to fill his head with garbage. Let’s face it, it doesn’t matter how much he trains or works or runs, Jack just doesn’t have the genes to be the fastest sprinter in the world. I guess that’s my fault. Well, half my fault half his mom’s fault.

“You can do anything you put your mind to” may be the most-often quoted lie. Maybe second to “No, that doesn’t make you look fat.”

I answered him by saying something like “That would really be something if you could run as fast as Usain Bolt because no one else in the history of the world has ever run as fast as he can” and we went back to watching the Olympics. See how I didn’t answer the question and avoided crushing his dreams? I’m pretty good at deflecting. At least I thought I was good at deflecting…he was obviously still thinking about it because a few minutes later he asked another question that was easier to answer but a lot more to think about.

“Dad, someday could you teach me to run as fast as you?”

In the span of 2 minutes he had gone from an unrealistic dream of being the fastest man ever to the all-to-obtainable goal of being as fast as a thirty-year-old, slightly overweight guy who likes to go for a three mile run a few times a week. Who we compare ourselves to makes all the difference, doesn’t it?

“Jack, I will run with you as much as you want, and I hope you’ll be faster than me someday.”

So back to the current topic…

  • Every dad knows it—our kids learn from us.
  • Every dad gets it—our kids want to be like us in many ways.
  • If we’re honest, every dad all also understands that sometimes our kids say “I’ll never be like that.”

I wonder how much it would change the way I interact with my kids if I realized that I am my kid’s measuring stick for life. How they compare to me will be their gauge of both success and failure. If I kept that thought forefront in my mind, I wonder if I would have a better chance of being their idea of success.

Father vs. Dad (part 2)

It’s easy to point a finger at obvious evil, but perhaps even “good dads” are teaching much more important lessons than we think we are.

1. Fathers shape our impression of God

The Bible calls God our “Heavenly Father” many, many times. Jesus referred to God as “Father” over 100 times in the book of John alone. Paul called Him “Father” over 40 times in his writings. Many of the ways we interact with God mirror our own experiences with our dads—provider, model, teacher, judge, legislator, comforter, protector.

How we treat our kids will impact how they feel about their Heavenly Father.

  • Am I angry? My kids will probably think God never is satisfied with them.
  • Am I uninvolved? My kids will probably believe God is never there.
  • Am I selfish? My kids will probably live as if God is uncaring.
  • Am I harsh? My kids will probably consider God a tyrant.

But the flip side is true…

  • Am I loving?
  • Am I kind?
  • Am I consistent?
  • Am I just?
  • Am I patient?

The more I am like my Heavenly Father, the more realistic a picture my children will have of theirs.

2. Fathers shape our impression of all authority

People who grow up in homes without a dad are 20 times more likely to be imprisoned. There are all kinds of socioeconomic reasons that play into this, but I can’t help but think that a general lack of fatherly authority in their lives has led them to a mindset that rejects all forms of authority.

But having the wrong kind of authority could greatly damage a child’s perception of his own future role as an authority figure. Fathers who are harsh or lacking love in their authority cause an even more negative impact than the absent father. Dr. Stuart Brown studied serial murderers and found that, almost without exception, their fathers had forced extremely unrealistic regimens of work and rigid rules upon them at very young ages while failing to show any compassion or love. I wonder how many people who abuse their power as adults got the idea of rigid, uncaring authority from their fathers.

Those of us who understand that we must model proper authority to our children can still be a part of the fathering problem…

Father vs. Dad (part 1)

I am convinced that improper fatherhood is the largest social problem in the United States. I believe it is the root of the vast majority of other problems that we face.

Dad Switch

If this universal switch existed, the world would change immediately. Many problems would be drastically reduced and some would be all but non-existent:

  • Abortion
  • Violent crime
  • Welfare-dependent families
  • Domestic violence
  • Hunger
  • Drug and alcohol abuse
  • Suicide
  • Teen pregnancy
  • Dropping out of school

This list is obvious. If sperm-donors were replaced by productive leaders of families, if deadbeats provided for those for whom they are biologically responsible, if a temporary sexual relationship was never the commencement of a human life…the world would be different.

But it’s easy to point a finger at obvious evil…

Drinking the Kool-Aid?

Kool-Aid glassPop Quiz: Is this a cult?

  • Claims to be the ultimate moral authority
  • Rejects all other religions as outdated revelations that have been trumped by their authority
  • Intentionally and purposefully seeks out the most gullible and impressionable members of society to teach this new doctrine

A few months ago I was reprimanded for using the phrase “drinking the Kool-Aid.” The person kindly pointed out that many of the Jonestown victims in 1977 did not know they were committing suicide and, therefore, should not be criticized for their decision. This point was expressed very clearly in a Washington Post article by James D. Richardson. Now with better knowledge of the details, I more strongly believe that the phrase very accurately (perhaps with less sensitivity toward lost lives than should be afforded) depicts the exact mindset that it is intended to portray. Of course many of the Jonestown victims didn’t realize they were harming themselves. Some were force-fed the poison and the others wouldn’t have done it if they knew it was unsafe. And that’s the point. They were convinced that what they were doing was beneficial while placing their trust in a madman. Following the direction of a strong leader who will cause harm without your knowledge is exactly what we mean when we say someone is “drinking the Kool-Aid.”

Unfortunately, many unknowing victims are being force-fed what I believe to be an even more dangerous cocktail of ideas and ideology that will condemn their souls individually and American society collectively.

In his second letter to Timothy, the Apostle Paul warned about the types of wickedness that we will experience in the last days:

But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.

2 Timothy 3:1-5 (ESV)

The beginning of the list is almost entirely comprised of personal character problems that negatively affect other people. The last quality mentioned is “having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power.” This simply means that they claim to live morally but this morality is not based upon any supernatural authority.

Paul continues to describe the wickedness of the last days by discussing the attempt to recruit the vulnerable and impressionable:

For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth.

2 Timothy 3:6-7 (ESV)

Although I do not believe Paul was specifically speaking about modern America; our government, media, and education system definitely fit the description:

  • Greedy, self-centered, discontent, abusive, ungrateful, dishonest, pleasure-seeking people abound.
  • All three branches of the federal government have repeatedly denied the moral authority of any supernatural power for many decades.
  • Our entertainment and news sources have claimed to be the authority of what is right and proper behavior, but have completely rejected any supernatural or innate reasoning for these beliefs.
  • Our government-sponsored education system has taught this foundationless morality to two generations of impressionable children and is continually becoming bolder.

When I say American society has been “drinking the Kool-Aid” I do not mean it as an insult or as an insensitive remark recalling the horrible death of 918 people, I am simply pointing out that the general population of the United States is a victim. I am not blaming the victim, but I will call attention to the perpetrators. I will speak out against the popular immoral ideas perpetrated by American media. I will denounce our public education system for its unapologetic promotion of the Godless religion of humanism.

I won’t be drinking the Kool-Aid and I will be warning those around me that it’s poisoned.

Completely Useless

Here’s the most embarrassing thing I can tell you about myself:

I am the best foosball player I know.

Foosball table

That’s right. You heard me. I do not personally know anyone who could best me at maneuvering a plastic soccer ball using only 11 armless men impaled by a steel rod. I developed this skill when I was 17.

In October of my senior year of high school, a friend and I found two old, broken foosball tables that were being thrown away and pieced them together into one working set. It’s a good thing that we kept the left over plastic men because our varsity basketball team played on that table so much throughout the course of the school year that we had to replace over half of the men. As a 17 year old I spent countless hours honing my ability to pass off the walls, fake shots, hit angles, defend every possible play from specific positions, and play equally well with either hand from any position.

I can’t count the number of times that skill has been valuable to me, but I can ballpark it around…

ZERO

My foosball ability is embarrassing because I now recognize what it represents—the fact that most hobbies require learning very specific skills and I chose a completely useless one.

If I had that year to live over I would not be the best foosball player. Instead I would possess the following skills:

  • Type correctly with my hands in the right position
  • Play the guitar
  • Play the piano
  • Speak a language other than English

Each of those skills have been developed by millions of young people because they chose to enjoy hobbies that allowed them to learn a useful skill. These realizations have changed my outlook on my responsibility to the next generation. I’m not sure my goals as a parent and educator have changed, but I am expressing them differently after wrapping my head around the ideas in these two posts.

I wrote this one about a year ago:

God Doesn’t Use Ordinary People

Marc Neppl wrote this one in October:

What I Wish Is Knew in College

I state my goals this way now:

I want those I am responsible for educating to love God and develop every ability He gave them into a useful skill that He will allow them to exercise.

Action Plan: Put on the Armor

take actionChurch is a big part of my life. I lead a life group for young (and youngish) adults. I go to church every week. I am on the media team. I hear sermons. I ask questions. I answer questions. Every week I am challenged with one or two things that I realize I need to work on personally. I leave these times of spiritual encouragement refreshed and determined to do better.

But I rarely make any actual changes to my life, mindset, or faith before the next Sunday.

I’m not down on myself or confessing some deep secret, that’s just the way it is. That’s the way it always has been and I’m guessing that’s the way it is for most Christians. I know the truth and I care enough about it to learn more; I’m just not really great doing anything about it. This is not an issue of “hearing and not doing” it’s more of a settling for where I am without striving to get better.

When my wife and I started hosting a Bible study in our home for our life group every week, one of my goals was to do something that would cause ME to want to improve my spiritual walk every week. With the help of the D6 Curriculum from Randall House (that’s a shameless plug because I really believe in what they’re doing), I am now attempting to make a specific action plan each week for myself while presenting the opportunity for others to do so as well. It is usually as simple as making sure I notice when I am tempted to do certain negative actions and having a specific, pre-planned response. Some week it involves setting a specific time to engage in some positive action or thought process. Sometimes my plan has to be more involved because the topic, like this week’s theme of putting on the armor of God, is such a core part of the Christian life that I needed to outline 11 individual actions to accomplish six specific goals:


Action plan to “put on the armor of God”

Purpose: Our spiritual protection against evil doesn’t just happen, it must be intentionally worn so that I can resist and stand firm.

1. Belt of Truth

God’s eternal, absolute truth is the centerpiece of my armor. Every other defense is held together by his unchanging Word.

Suiting Up: I will start each day this week by considering God’s plan for humanity and my life:

  • God created me in His image
  • I chose to sin and separate myself from God
  • Jesus died to restore that relationship
  • If I seek first His will and righteousness, He will take care of everything else
  • I must view my actions through the lens of God’s holiness

2. Breastplate of Righteousness

Doing what is right in God’s eyes protects me from my own sinful desire to choose self-gratification rather than what pleases Him.

Suiting Up: I will seek to eliminate specific sins from my life.

  • I will ask God to convict me of wrongdoing.
  • I will confess failures to God and others who see my sins as soon as I am convicted.
  • I will attempt to recognize situations and events that could lead to unrighteousness before they occur and avoid them if possible or resist if necessary.

3. Shoes of the Preparation of the Gospel of Peace

Understanding that I have accepted a place in God’s salvation plan gives me peace that provides a strong footing for all of my other activities.

Suiting Up: Spend time each day praising and thanking God for His salvation.

  • I will actively listen to music that is specifically about salvation each morning as I get ready for work instead of ESPN Radio.
  • I will intentionally think about and thank God for salvation each time I pray…even at meals.

4. Shield of Faith

Faith is my act of believing the truth that God has already established. Being intentionally full of faith will help me to defend against misinformation that could threaten my spiritual life.

Suiting Up: While mentally rehearsing God’s truth, I will explore areas of doubt that might indicate a weakness in my faith.

  • Do I really believe that my sin is my fault?
  • Do I really desire to seek God’s righteousness first?

5. Helmet of Salvation

Understanding and accepting God’s redemption plan is the ultimate defense against Spiritual attack.

Suiting Up: I will actively remember and re-live my salvation experience.

  • While listening to music about salvation, I will attempt to apply the lyrics to my specific circumstances.
  • I will be specific in my prayers of thanks for my salvation.
  • I will re-affirm my commitment to God each day.

6. Sword of the Spirit- the Word of God

I cannot fight a spiritual battle on my own. My weapon must be from a Spirit source and more powerful than I.

Suiting Up: I will actively read and meditate on the Word of God each day.

  • I will read God’s Word each morning before I begin my morning routine of getting ready for work.
  • I will choose a single theme of the passage I read to meditate upon throughout the day and I will set a reminder on my phone to force me to recall that theme at some point in the day.

I plan to be fully armored for one week beginning on Thursday, October 23, 2014.

Tweets from the Book of Ruth

I have read through the book of Ruth several times recently and have seen some great applications for my own life. I like to condense lessons that I learn into bite-sized nuggets that I can actually remember and meditate upon. Since the digital equivalent of this is a Tweet, here are several things I learned about the book of Ruth in exactly 140 characters each:

  • 1:16-17 Ruth had more than a family connection with Naomi, she embraced her culture and God. This commitment could only be severed by death.
  • 1: 20-21 Although Naomi returned to God’s perfect plan for her life and God used her circumstances greatly, her personal joy was sacrificed.
  • 2:2 While she could have felt entitled, Ruth took personal responsibility for her mother-in-law’s well-being and volunteered to gather food.
  • 2:3 Ruth “happened to come to the part of the field that belonged to Boaz.” From the human perspective sovereignty might appear coincidence.
  • 2:4 Boaz seemed to take personal responsibility for everything that happened in his field while still giving God the credit for the results.
  • 2:11-12 Boaz told Ruth that he was gracious to her because of her kindness to Naomi. It is usually easier to be generous to generous people.
  • 2:20 Although she had pointed out God’s judgment earlier, Naomi was quick to recognize the Lord’s hand of provision, grace, and forgiveness.
  • 3:12 Naomi and Ruth seemed to think that asking Boaz to be a redeemer would surprise him, but he had obviously thought of it and had a plan.
  • 4:5-6 Whether the rightful redeemers wanted to act seemed to hinge on their knowledge of Ruth. Boaz knew her and didn’t hesitate. #Character
  • 4:14-15 Ruth’s faithfulness and Boaz’s kindness brought Naomi full circle: from leaving her inheritance, to repentance, to full restoration.
  • Maybe I’m just dense but I’ve never noticed that the theme of the #BookOfRuth is Naomi’s redemption not Ruth’s separation from the Moabites.

What do you think Naomi would have tweeted? After she got Ruth to show her how, of course.

Ruth Hashtag Redeemed

God Doesn’t Use Ordinary People

David and GoliathWe need to stop using David and 1 Samuel 17 as an example that “God uses ordinary people to do extraordinary things.” David wasn’t ordinary. He came from a fairly ordinary family and started in an ordinary job, but his skill set was remarkably extraordinary. Two of these skills proved to be instrumental in catapulting David into a position where he could do amazing things for God:

 

 

David was skilled with a sling. I don’t believe David would have even had the courage to face Goliath had he not had great confidence in his ability as a slinger. I’m not discounting God’s provision in allowing the stone to find its mark, but the accuracy (“it struck the Philistine on the forehead”) and speed (“The stone sank into his forehead”) with which he hurled the single projectile proved how much time he had devoted to honing this particular ability. The fact that the Bible even records his selection of ammunition—five smooth stones—is a testament to the care he took when performing his craft.

David was a talented musician. Before the encounter with Goliath, David already had his foot in the door with royalty. In the previous chapter when Saul was vexed by an evil spirit and his advisors suggested that music might help, David’s name was at the top of the list. I can’t believe that King Saul would tolerate anything less than the best harpist he could find. David had obviously practiced an incredible amount of time to ensure that he mastered the instrument before it ever proved to be valuable.

These skills were developed while David was young. He, no doubt, had practiced and trained in private for years before he ever showcased his abilities in public. They were fairly mundane and common proficiencies that anyone with a little drive and determination could have cultivated, but David recognized that he had some aptitude and grew them into very valuable skills.

So instead of telling young Christians that God can use ordinary people, I believe we should be telling them:

  1. Discover your valuable natural abilities and interests.
  2. Work tirelessly to hone those talents into extraordinary skills.
  3. Search for ways to bring glory to God using those amazing abilities.
  4. When God presents you with an opportunity to use your expertise, recognize His leading and go for it! Go play for the King! Go slay the giant!

God can use ordinary people, but if you study the Bible you’ll find that, most of the time, the ordinary people He used had already developed extraordinary skills.

Love Story

I read a book recently that I thought was going to be an adventure with lots of battles and some mystery thrown in, but it turned out to be primarily a love story. It had some of those other things in it as well, but the primary focus was the love interest of one couple.

The girl and the hero of the book loved each other very much and spent every moment they could together. The two were inseparable and she just knew their love would last forever…and then the other guy showed up. He talked her into rejecting her love and the two were now apart. Maybe “on again off again” is a better description because the hero never gave up on her. He wrote letters and poems to her, he made promises regarding his commitment, he sent his friends to talk to her and build up his good qualities. Sometimes these actions made her angry and she would reject his advances. Other times she would realize her true love for him and would go back to him temporarily.

The scorned man, madly in love, finally went to see the girl who had rejected him and, at the prompting of the other guy, she murdered the hero. This tragic tale got even worse as the antagonist turned out to be a dragon in disguise and was merely using the girl to overthrow the hero who was a king!

SPOILER ALERT!

The king came back from the dead, raised an army, defeated the dragon just as his defeat seemed sure, got the girl back…and they lived happily ever after.

 

 

Cheesy story? Maybe. But that’s how the Bible told it.

What did you learn from Frozen?

Disney’s latest animated feature was great! My kids, wife, and I have been referencing jokes and songs from Frozen ever since we saw it a few weeks ago. Besides having lovable characters, a good plot, great music, and some witty humor sprinkled in, Frozen has gotten rave reviews for its more “progressive” elements. It is definitely Disney for the 21st century and has redefined what we can expect in future “princess tales.”

Before you read on, please understand that this piece is not intended to be in the same genre as the “Harry Potter is the devil” rants of the early 2000s but simply an exercise in critical thinking.

To understand my purpose, you must understand these two guiding principles:
1. All entertainment is trying to teach something.
Rachel Donahue did a tremendous job outlining this point is her discussion of The Hunger Games a few years ago. The main idea is that every work is based on a specific viewpoint—a belief system and idea of what is bad, good, and best—that will be presented in the work. We should diligently search for the author’s ideals so that we are not absorbing them unaware.
2. World view matters.
As Gordon Clark said, “World view is more than a mental sentry, it is the essential interpreter of life’s meaning.” Christians should not simply reject or accept ideas and behaviors, we should look at them the way God does. I want to look at Frozen’s implied messages from a biblical viewpoint.

Olaf PuddleIn a recent article, Gina Lutrell outlined seven proofs that Frozen is a shift toward 21st century ideals for Disney. If you’ve made it this far I’m assuming that you don’t mind reading a little to stay informed, so I hope you will read her article carefully and completely. I believe she is correct in her assumption that Disney is intentionally embracing the thoughts and values of 21st century America. In italics is my summary of her seven points (once again, read her article to completely grasp each point) along with my reaction to these shifts in ideology:

1. Elsa and Anna’s parents were abusive by repressing Elsa’s abilities. “Disney takes a much-needed step forward by portraying realistic parental abuse that affects many children today.”

Disney obviously portrays that Elsa’s parents were acting out of love and protection for their daughter but still implies that their repressive actions were wrong. I couldn’t disagree with the implications more. When a child’s natural inclination is harmful to herself and others around her, that nature should be repressed. Fortunately, no parents will ever have to make the choice between overreacting to their child’s ability to freeze things with her hands and keeping her from accidentally killing her sister.

In the non-animated world this topic of parental suppression isn’t about magical powers but often about morality. The Bible clearly teaches these two principles of childhood development: A) all humans are naturally sinful (Isaiah 53:6, Proverbs 22:15, James 1:14-15) and B) Parents should train their children while allowing them to thrive in their natural interests…that’s what “in the way they should go” means (Proverbs 22:2). It isn’t a leap to say that the biblical model of parenting is to subdue interests that are morally harmful and nurture abilities/interests that are not. It seems that some are inferring from Frozen that parents should not suppress any interests of their children and, therefore, not impress their own morality upon the next generation. I definitely see that as a main emphasis in modern entertainment.

2. Elsa found true happiness when she was free to be herself. Her self-empowerment, self-reliance, and self-confidence were her greatest virtues…even if they meant isolation.

While confidence and self-reliance are extremely valuable, the modern mentality of self-esteem and self-worth is blatantly anti-Christ. While I want my children to be strong, I do not want them to be self-empowered without the realization that their strength comes from God. While I want them to know their capabilities and have assurance in them, I do not want them to rely on their abilities while failing to rely on God’s ability to use them. (Proverbs 3:5)

3. Anna’s clumsiness, awkwardness, and honesty were not cause for shame and did not need to be changed in order to make her a better person.

I like this one. Physical imperfections are a part of life. Too often we dwell on our short-comings and are unable to truly trust a God Who perfectly designed us as an imperfect creature (Psalm 139:14). It’s okay, learn to laugh at yourself.

4. Kristoff was a strong male leader alongside strong female characters. At times he supported Anna and on other occasions disagreed with her while valuing her as an equal. He “partners with the women in his life. He is not a competitor, a doormat or a fool. He is an equal.”

Once again, I think this is a great portrayal of a man around strong females. They were in leadership positions and he had no problem following them, respecting them, and still standing up to them when they were wrong. In fact, I believe that Kristoff is a great example of how we should treat all human authority in our lives (Titus 3:1-3).

5. Oaken, the trading post owner, was a gay man with a family. He motions to the sauna and says “Hey family!” to an adult male and four children inside.

There is some debate about whether this was the intended meaning of the very short shot of the sauna. If it is, does it surprise you that Disney included a homosexual character in a movie? It’s Disney. I would expect more in the future.

6. The kingdom unquestioningly accepted their queen. The characters had no problem with a woman, unaided by a male, as their sole ruler.

Accepting a rightful government leader is a very biblical principle (Romans 13:1-4, 1 Peter2:13-17). The fact that it is a woman does not change the command. The United States will have a female President in my lifetime. I plan to respect and honor her with the same respect and honor that I have given the five male Presidents in my lifetime. I hope that I teach my son to do the same.

7. Everyone reacted negatively to Anna’s foolish engagement. The quick engagement has long been a staple of Disney films, but it was clearly frowned upon by Elsa and Kristoff.

While it has been refreshing to see the “love at first sight” ideas kicked to the curb in modern fairy tales, I can’t help but wonder if the idea of commitment for life has been sent away with it. I can’t prove that it is intentional and I certainly won’t argue that Disney has become anti-marriage, but it is interesting that the heroines of two recent Disney movies, Brave and Frozen, have been rewarded for eschewing marriage for singleness. It is no secret that marriage rates have dropped substantially in the past two decades. I wonder if singleness as an ideal is starting to gain some traction in mainstream thinking.

Congratulations! You’ve made it to the end of a long and scattered post! I’ll try to sum up my thoughts:

  • Disney movies are definitely different in their ideology than they were even a generation ago.
  • I am not anti-Disney. I watched Frozen with my kids and would do so again, provided I recognize that…
  • As a Christian, I must examine my entertainment to identify the world view of the authors and allow myself to think critically rather than just absorb and react.
  • As a parent, I must ensure that my children are bathed in a godly worldview because even clean and wholesome entertainment often presents a humanistic mindset that God is unnecessary if you are self-able.