Friday, September 13, 2019

Intentions, Wisdom, and Evil

"Our age loves scientific equations. Here’s one you weren’t taught at college but which affects you as much as the law of gravity:

GI – W = E

Good Intentions (GI) minus Wisdom (W) leads to Evil (E).

You weren’t taught this rule at college because the modern university believes only science has rules. 'Rules of life' is another term for wisdom, and there is no wisdom — or even pursuit of wisdom — at our universities."

Picture used by permission from Wikipedia Commons.

Intentional Parenting

Famous baseball catcher Yogi Berra played against slugger Hank Aaron in the 1957 World Series. An on-plate exchange occurred between the two when Aaron prepared to bat. Berra chided, “Henry, you need to hold the bat so you can read the label. You're gonna break that bat. You've got to be able to read the label." 

Aaron remained silent, but he knocked the ball out of the park on his next hit. After running the bases and touching home plate, he responded to Berra, “"I didn't come up here to read." 
In a word, Aaron exuded intentionality. Merriam-Webster defines intentionality as “done by design.”  It speaks of the quality of being purposeful and deliberate.
We can approach parenting purposefully and deliberately. First, we can be intentional with time. When my daughter was four, we began going out on dates. Our first one included dressing in our “Sunday best” one afternoon and eating lunch at Dempsey’s Pizza. Now that she is a teenager, I still look for times and ways to spend time one-one-one.
Building the relationship with our children requires time. Don’t swallow the old lie that only quality time matters. In reality, quality time cannot be manufactured. It occurs in the middle of quantity time.
As our children grew into pre-teens, we began taking them on summer overnight father-son and mother-daughter excursions. Last fall my youngest son and I enjoyed an overnight excursion kayaking on the French Broad River.
I know life is busy. I know the months and years clip at a fast pace. So let’s take out our calendars now to plan quantity time.
Second, be intentional with reading. The importance of reading in raising wise, productive children cannot be overstated. Mark Hamby of Lamplighter Books shares that only two natural factors determine how different you are five years from now: the people you meet and the books you read.
We can expose our children to great books from history, great stories from literature, and great attributes from people’s lives. Be careful to not let your children’s repertoire consist only of the latest superhero or potty-humored popular series.
Child-appropriate series abound retelling classic stories like Robinson Crusoe, Treasure Island, and Little Women. As your children mature, guide them toward good, positive literature that is well-written, thought-provoking, and teaches life lessons.  One man said, "The only natural things that will make you different five years from now than who you are today are the books you read and the people you meet."
We can be intentional with boundaries. Remember, we are not primarily our children’s friends. We are their parents. One seminary professor said leadership means you get far enough ahead of people so they can spot you are the leader – but not so far ahead that they mistake you for the enemy and shoot you in the bottom!
Intentional parenting requires making hard and sometimes unpopular decisions. We set boundaries for our children for their best interest.
Last summer, my wife birthed a marvelous plan. She created a chore chart for electronic time. In order for our children to use their phones, video games, and devices, they had to earn time-based on household chores. I’ve never seen them so motivated to clean the house!
And be intentional with family devotions. Raising Christ-followers in our homes necessitates time spent at the family altar. Various methods and catechisms abound. However, I found the most effective approach is to simply open the Bible and authentically share what is on my heart from God’s Word. The genuineness of Dad and Mom sharing from God’s Word out of the overflow of our personal relationship with Jesus Christ leaves an indelible – and intentional - print on the souls of our children.
 This article first appeared in HomeLife magazine in January 2019.

Pictures used by permission from Pixabay.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Think Rightly

“Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable—if there is any moral excellence and if there is any praise—dwell on these things.”  Philippians 4:8

A person with a clear spiritual mind wants to pursue the Lord’s will, plan, and purpose for his life.  – Charles Stanley

The world’s most popular pornographic internet site released a statistic in January 2016 regarding the hours that viewers watched porn in 2015.  On their site alone, viewers watched over 4 billion hours of videos.  That means they saw over 450,000 years worth of pornography in terms of hours.

Wickedness has always been around.  But wickedness has never been as accessible as it is today.  The digital age brings with it an abundance of evil.  I heard Christian apologist Josh McDowell say that internet pornography is the single greatest threat to Christian morality that the church has faced in 2000 years.

The apostle Paul reminds us in these verses to fix our minds on godly matters.  Verse eight can serve as a filter for our thoughts – if we will train ourselves to use it.  We should learn to frisk our thoughts when they appear in our brains.  Embrace truth in a world that loves falsehood.   Ask, “Is this an honorable or dishonorable line of thinking?”  Choose justice and purity for the internet sites we frequent.  Ask, “Would my family or friends think it is commendable to look at and think on such things?”  Choose to dwell on thoughts that are excellent and that are worthy of praise.

The battle for the successful, obedient Christian life begins in the mind.  The war is won or lost on that battlefield.  We can memorize Scripture, say no to inappropriate or questionable material, and ask the Spirit of God to serve as our guard and umpire.

Picture used by permission from Pixabay.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

The Family Table

Futurist Dr. Richard Swenson writes, “Fast-lane families are headed for head-on collisions. They don’t have the opportunity to eat together. Shared, unstructured leisure time disappears. Communication suffers, problems multiply.

In a slower era . . . people had time for each other. At the store, the gas station, or the church there was time to visit. At the breakfast table and the dinner table there was time to visit. For the sake of our families, it is time, perhaps, for a slowdown crusade, or a campaign of mellowness. It is time to rediscover the fine art of relational dawdling. . . . Guard the family mealtime.”[i]

Speed is the norm of our day. Simplicity is almost a thing of the past. I believe one of the necessary spiritual habits for the 21st century Christian is learning to put the brakes on the break-neck speed of life.

If we do not slow down and guard our time, one aspect of life that suffers is what some people call the family table – or the family mealtime.

An Old Instruction

In Psalm 78, Asaph, one of the songwriters under King David, retells part of the history of the Jewish people from their Egyptian slavery to the Davidic reign. He recalls highs and lows of their history:

+ the plagues under Moses,
+ the Red Sea crossing,
+ the pillar of fire in the wilderness,
+ God’s provision of manna and quail,
+ their refusal to trust God in the desert, 
+ the conquering of the Promised Land, 
+ the loss of the ark of covenant, 
+ and the establishment of David’s kingdom.

Why does the Bible spill so much ink on past events? Because, the author knew the people would be tempted to forget their history, forget what God had done, and forget the Lord altogether. Remembering correctly is a fundamental part of being a faithful believer. And good parenting involves passing on correct knowledge worth remembering.

Notice how Asaph gives the responsibility of teaching the children about God to the parents:

+ things we have heard and known and that our fathers have passed down to us (3),

+ we will not hide them from their children but will tell a future generation the praiseworthy acts of the Lord (4),

+ he commanded our fathers to teach to their children (6),

+ they were to rise and tell their children so that they might put their confidence in God and not forget God’s works, but keep his commands (7).

Commenting on this passage, Steve Farrar writes, “You are to teach your children from the beginning the truth of the living God. That is not the pastor’s job or the Sunday school teacher’s job. You are to be the primary teacher of the Word.”[ii]

Do it Around Food

One of the best ways to practice this truth is to reclaim the family table – the time when the family sits around a table together to eat. No cell phones or tablets. No television. No newspaper or magazines. No rushed agenda.

I realize we probably can’t do this every day. But I urge you to resist the cultural norm of not making regular sit-down mealtimes a priority.

Mealtimes offer rich time for influencing the next generation. Practice listening to your children. Ask lots of questions. I know, when they become older they won’t want to always answer. But that’s ok. Ask anyway! Create a family culture of knowing what is going on in each other’s lives.

By practice, train your children that it’s good to sit around the table with the family after the eating is done. We want to be a family that enjoys each other. Laugh and tell funny things.  Practice sharing – from your own life and from God’s Word. Include them in your inner story. Tell that about your day. Share thoughts, feelings, and desires.

Varying levels of communication exist. One level asks, “What did you do?” Deeper than that is, “What do you think?” Even deeper is, “What did you feel?” or “What do you wish?” Work at having conversation that doesn’t only stay on the first level.

Our children love asking the family “what if” questions. What would you do with a million dollars? If you could travel anywhere in the world for one year, where would you go? If you had to have only one superpower, what would it be? Doing so helps build family cohesiveness and offers you opportunities to share wisdom.

Mealtime provide a captive audience to share from the Bible, creating an atmosphere of respect for God’s Word. Sometimes after supper I say, “OK, everybody clean your plates and then come back with a Bible.” We spend a few minutes together looking at a verse or passage. And I ask the children what they think about what God is saying in the texts.

President Ronald Reagan said, “All great change in America begins at the dinner table.”

Let’s change our world – one meal at a time.

Pictures used by permission from Pixabay.

[i] “”Margin and the Healthy Family” in A Minute of Margin (Navpress, 2003), 71,78.
[ii] Steve Farrar, Manna (Thomas Nelson, 2016), 198.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Courage Is the Cure for Political Correctness

Many colleges and universities have become breeding grounds for Leftism, intolerant of the values and worldview that founded this country and made America a great nation.

David French offers an excellent response to political correctness this week in the National Review . . .

"This might come as some surprise to observers of our campus culture wars, but there was a time, not long ago, when the situation in American higher education was much worse. There a wave of vicious campus activism aimed at silencing heterodox speakers, and it was typically empowered by a comprehensive regime of speech codes that exposed students to formal university discipline for daring to utter dissenting views. Moreover, there did not (yet) exist networks of lawyers ready, willing, and able to defend speech on campus.

These were the days of the Shadow University, the days before Twitter and today’s vibrant conservative media, when campus free-speech outrages occurred time and again without attracting the slightest bit of public attention. Even as a civil-libertarian resistance formed and began litigating on campus, many of the fact patterns were almost comically insane. University officials would destroy newspapers, force students to change their religious beliefs as a condition of graduation, and even — in one particularly memorable case — try a student group for the crime of desecrating the name of Allah after its members stomped on the flag of Hamas.

When I look back at my old litigation files, I see case after case that would light conservative Twitter on fire if it happened today. But courageous students fought back, they filed suits in courtrooms from coast to coast, and they won. The era of the speech code is over. The few remaining unconstitutional campus speech policies lie largely dormant and unenforced, with university officials keenly aware of the risk of lawsuits. That doesn’t mean that substantial legal challenges don’t exist — the Obama administration’s Title IX guidance initiated a tidal wave of campus due-process violations, to take one example — but speech on college campuses is legally free. If you engage in unpopular speech on a public campus and angry students demand your academic head, they’ll lose if you have the courage to persist."

Picture used by permission from Pixabay.

Changing Times

"It will be gone before you know it. The fingerprints on the wall appear higher and higher. Then, suddenly, they disappear." - Dorothy Euslin

So my wife and I recently experienced a seismic shift. We dropped our first child off at college this week.

We spent Saturday packing and making trips to Walmart for last-minute dorm needs. I looked out at the driveway at lunchtime and fixed on his silver Kia Optima. Suddenly, it dawned on me – next week the car won’t be in the driveway.

At supper on Saturday, I asked the family to bring their Bibles to the table. We looked at Isaiah 41:10“Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you; I will help you; I will hold on to you with My righteous right hand” (HCSB). I exhorted my son, that God’s presence will be with him anywhere and everywhere he goes.

Sunday morning, my wife cried off and on all morning. The pastor preached from Deuteronomy 31: [T]he Lord your God himself will cross over ahead of you. . . . So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you. . . . He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor abandon you” (3,6,8 NLT).

We spent Sunday night in a hotel in Greenville, South Carolina, where he is going to school. We enjoyed a pleasant, quiet night together enjoying the city. Our family has enjoyed many times in downtown Greenville, so it felt very normal.

The last two weeks, my mind remembered countless memories from the preschool years. Like my wife, our one-year old, and I sitting in our used white Cadillac listening to the cassette The Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. Several times this week I caught myself singing, “Deep in the hundred acre wood where Christopher Robin played.” Like singing songs together in bed before he drifted off to sleep. And like hearing his footsteps running to the door when I pulled into the driveway after work.

An older friend texted me on Monday, “This day can be a hard one for a father. It will feel like you are not coming to the end of a chapter – but a volume.”
We headed to the university, checked in, unpacked, and helped him get settled. I remembered doing the same thing with my parents twenty-eight years earlier.

I told myself that it is because I love him, have enjoyed him, have made parenting such a priority, and have intentionally invested so much in him - that I grieve now. I always feel sorry for parents who seem to not enjoy their children.

Parents going through this transition sometimes feel as if they are going through a death - at least the death of a season that was extremely precious and can never be repeated.

Michael Gersen captures it so well in his article Saying goodbye to my child, the youngster at The Washington Post.

My wife and I kept reminding ourselves, “This is good. He will get an education to help him make money and support a family. He may meet his wife here. He will broaden his horizons, meet many people, have good influences, and live in one of his favorite cities.”

We stopped in the dorm room, circled and held hands. I prayed for Hendrix, asking God to bless the room, making it a place where he can experience peace, safety, and rest. My wife and I piddled, arranging pictures on tables and looking at the clothes in his closet. Finally, knowing it was time to go, I announced, “OK kids, give your brother a hug.”

We said our goodbyes, gave our hugs, and shared our “I love you’s.”

Then we began the ride home. I wiped tears non-stop for fifteen minutes. The road seemed much longer than any previous time. My wife told our other two children, “We just need you to be quiet for a few minutes.”

I can honestly say that most of the time I made the best attempt at parenting I knew how. And so when I sort through the irrational expectations, I can see that I don't really have deep parenting regrets in the things that matter. I shepherded him spiritually, loved his mother, provided him and his siblings a peaceful, happy home, taught him about manhood, provided, and gave him lots of affection, instruction, and TIME.

Now time seems our enemy.

For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He goes ahead of my son in every new step and venture. And he goes ahead of my wife and me. The driveway may seem more vacant, but God is there.

He will neither fail you nor abandon you. . . . I can trust my son to the Lord. I can trust our present to him. Life may change, but He won’t fail us.

He will be with you. He’s in my son’s dorm room. He’s with him through any loneliness, adjustments, and challenges. He’s with me and my wife as we walk by his bedroom, watch the calendar to check when we see him next, and adjust to a new normal.

Chuck Swindoll shares the advice Corrie ten Boom gave him when he had young children. She took Chuck's hands and said in her broken English, "Chuck, I've learned that we must hold everything loosely, because when I grip it tightly, it hurts when the Father pries my fingers loose and takes it from me!"

Ain't it so!

It dawned on me today – I started this world with only the Lord. And one day, I will leave this world with only the Lord. God’s Presence is the one constant in our lives. We can draw close to Him and trust Him for our yesterdays, todays, and tomorrows.