Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Sons are Mirrors

Our children are often mirrors of ourselves. Sometimes it manifests itself differently. For example, a kid grows up just like his father in the area of rebellion against authority, but instead of the kid rebelling against the government like the father does, the kid rebels against his father. Or a father runs to the bottle and the kid runs to drugs. But both are in the same boat paddling around in the same dark waters.

In Greyfriars Hall 'm teaching a course on how to love your kids and it comes back to me over and over again that the Bible has a lot to say about how to love our kids and how not to love our kids. There are often conditions placed on what is said. For example, Proverbs 19:18 says "Discipline your son, for in that there is hope; do not be a willing party to his death." Of course this is not saying that unless you discipline your 2 year old he will die then. But I know that if a son is not disciplined in the right way when he is little there isn't a thing a father can do about his son's behavior when he grows up. If he doesn't learn to be obedient and respectful when he is little, he will not be obedient and respectful when he is 19. The world is a hard place for a son who never learned to be humble and to submit to proper authorities—particularly God. So, in a real way not disciplining your son could lead to his death in a temporal sense, and in an eternal sense.

But there's more, the father has not been obedient and respectful either. He didn't obey the word of God and discipline his son and teaching him how to respect authority. And so the problem is not simply that the son is cursed and has to go his own way (though that is certainly true), but the son also is copying his father in his rebellion.

Before I go too far let me assure you that I am not blaming you in the sense that you knew what to do and didn't do it. You're doing the best you can, I'm sure of that. But the fact remains that you didn't know what to do as a father and thus didn't do what the Bible requires you to have done with your son when he was little and now you are reaping the fruit of that planting and watering. What remains is how to “fix” it.

I suggest first, that you get your mind around your responsibility in your son’s rebellion. You are responsible for his actions because God put you over him. He belongs to you and reflects how you raised him apart from God. Once you do realize how important you were in the journey, you need to repent of your sin and confess it first to God and then to your son. Let your son know that his rebellion is your fault and that you are taking the blame for his sin. Third, let your son know that his rebellion is also his responsibility. He is the one choosing to go that way, to do those things, to be that way. You trained him, but he is also an independent being and can make right choices. He needs to repent and confess his sins and turn back to God. He needs to start again, as you do.

Fourth, depending on how it goes with your son, you might need to pour your heart out to God in prayer and fasting; asking God to grant forgiveness to your son. If your son realizes his place before God, rejoice with him at his coming home to Christ. Sing Psalms and Hymns and rejoice in the Lord. Have a feast, have a party; invite your friends.

I hope this helps.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

God Cannot Tempt Us...And Yet


Question: James 1:13 says that God does not tempt anyone. In Matthew 6:13, Jesus tells us to pray that the Father does not lead us into
temptation. If God does not tempt anyone, why did Jesus tell us to pray that the Father doesn't lead us into temptation?

Wow. Tough question.

I think the answer lies in the fact that the word actually means testing rather than tempting. Of course tempting is correct when we view the test as one that we were to fail would be indicated by our sinning. Still God does test his saints (e.g. Gen 22:1), the goal being successful completion of the test, though he does not tempt them (Jas. 1:13). The difference would be that God's desire is for the one being tested to come through with a completion of the test rather than to fail the test.

So, God could lead a person into testing, which we should accept with rejoicing (Jas. 1:2), because it produces godliness in us. At the same time we should pray that God not lead us into temptation because we are weak and don't want to fail the test. On another hand we know that when tempted God will always give us a way of escape so that we don't have to sin (1 Cor. 3:10:13).

It is similar to when Jesus tells his disciples to rejoice in being persecuted (Mt. 5:10-12) and at the same time he tells them to flee persecution (Mt. 10:23). We rejoice if it comes to us and is unavoidable, but we avoid it if we can.

It's all about relationship and covenant. God wants us to walk with him in every way, with every aspect of our lives devoted to him and his service. With respect to our being tested and proved, he constantly gives us opportunity to choose him over our own desires. Because he loves us, he never wants to see us fall, thus he never tempts us. But he does want to see us worship him by laying down our lives and choosing him over our own desires and those opportunities for service are called testing.

I hope this makes sense.


Wednesday, December 03, 2008

My Way or the Highway

As I was driving home after our discussion the other night I thought a lot about your situation. It is always interesting to me that the same kinds of situations come to our pastoral team in waves. There are many families in the same situation as yours in now and I thought it might be helpful to write something to address it.

You mentioned several times in our conversation something along the lines of "this is my house and folks need to do what I say or get out." Another way to put it is "its my way or the highway." And I've heard this same sentiment like this, "you either put up or shut up," from other gents. The attitude that this sort of statement makes is that "God has put me in the place of authority in my home and I'm taking it very seriously and don't get in my way or you will be squashed."

I know that you would never express this attitude as harshly as I've presented it here, but you did say something like, "this is my house and as long as you live in my house, you will do as I say." This isn't an exact quote, but I think it is close enough for discussion. Also, after we got home I asked my wife about it and she noticed the comment as well.

The problem with these sorts of comments is that it expresses an attitude is that it is right in one sense but totally wrong in another. God did put the husband in the home to lead it, to be the head of it, to be the authority in it. But he did not put the husband in the home to dominate it or to bully it. Men need to be the head as a servant, not a tyrant. Jesus was in charge, is in charge, but he never says anything close to "its my way or the highway." He says walk in me, spit on me, hit me, and I'll still love you and care for you and intercede for you and give my life for you.

The way this attitude shows itself in the kids is that they feel like they have to walk around the home on eggshells all the time. They never know when they are going to set the "master" off by doing something that is contrary to what he's deemed the "right" way. It frustrates them and makes them angry. This is the primary attitude that causes a father to break the commands to not frustrate or anger his children (Eph. 6:4; Col. 3:21). It may also be the reason your sons ran away rather than face the ruler of the home with something they "knew" would not be a topic for discussion. It also would explain why there is clearly something still wrong and none of the kids are talking.

I believe this attitude or ruling from the top down is a sinful attitude. It will drive your children from the home as soon as they are able to leave. They will not love what you love because you have been forcing it on them rather than living it out in front of them. You have been cramming it down their throats rather than offering it to them in an attitude of love and grace.

If, after you get up off the floor, you think I'm right in my assessment of what is happening and why, you'll need to confess this imperial attitude as sin. Confess it to the whole gang and get rid of it entirely from your mind and vocabulary. Never act like you are the boss again. It isn't your home it is Jesus Christ's home and you are simply the care taker. Jesus doesn't rule the home with an iron fist, even in his mind, He leads as a servant.

One more thing about this, if I'm right about the attitude in your home, and I think I am, it will probably carry over into whatever church you pastor. If it does, your church will never make it and if it is already up and running, it will explode in a short time. This attitude is a challenge to everyone to kick against the goads. It tempts people to raise their backs and fight this unauthorized authority in their lives. This is why it frustrates and angers the family as well.

With this repentance and confession of sin in mind I have some suggestions for how to love your family. I know you are already doing most of this, but it is good for me to write it down:

First, love your children physically. Touch them a lot. Throw the boys around, hug your daughter. If you've been hugging the boys keep it up and do it more. Make your home a physically touchy place. Don't forget your wife in all of this. She lives there too and is feeling the brunt of trying to keep the whole shebang together in spite of the situation you've created. So love her, hug her, play with her, flirt with her, take her on dates, sit and chat with her for hours and hours. Make them all crazy with your attention.

Second, respect your sons. Praise them for anything and everything they do. Get involved in their lives as much as you have time for. Boys need respect. They need to know that their father is proud of them. They need to know that they can make mistakes and things are okay at home. They can do stupid things and their father will still be their greatest fan. If you don't know what it means to respect someone, look it up in the dictionary and do a Bible study about it. Then do it until everyone is driven nuts by it.

Don't forget your wife and daughter in this. The Bible doesn't say to respect your wife, but how can you love her if you don't? Usually men don't need to know what it means to respect someone, they need to know how to love, but it wouldn't hurt to practice on your wife and daughter too.

Third, be very careful with the way you give commands in the home. In fact, with Bubba I would say hardly ever give him a command at all. He needs to learn to make decisions on his own, so take these next few years as a testing ground to help him learn to make them for himself. Talk to him about it and let him know what you're doing. Don't just drop him. Let him know that you want to give him the benefit of your years and wisdom, but in most cases you're going to let him make decisions about his own life.

With everyone else don't give commands like you are god. Make sure everyone knows that you're making decisions for their best interests, and that you have them in mind every time you make a decision. Even ask them for their input for most of the things you have to decide about for the family. Let them be involved in the things that the family needs to do. If you have to make a decision for Wilbur make it with his obvious input. In the process teach him how to make wise decisions. Of course everyone else will be in on this too.

Fourth, instead of making commands make requests. Instead of saying, "go out and mow the lawn." Say, "the lawn is kind of long, would you please go and take care of that?" Give the folks the opportunity to say "no," or "I'd rather not," or "sure, I'd love nothing better than to serve you with all my heart." By you getting off your high horse and becoming a servant in your home instead of the boss, you'll be allowing your family to serve you and one another, and not do it grudgingly, angrily or out of frustration.

Fifth, unless someone wants to make a decision that will affect the rest of their lives (metal things in their head, or tattoos, etc.) let them do what they want. If Bubba wants to wear baggy, faded jeans, let him. If he wants to listen to rock music, let him. What will it hurt? If he is doing it because he is rebelling against God, you've lost him anyway. Anything you do at this point will only drive him away from you. If you back off and let him do what he wants, at least, if he is rebelling, he will self destruct in your own home rather than off in a gutter somewhere. My view is that he was rebelling against your attitude rather than the Lord. If this is the case, he might wear those jeans, but if there isn't anything pushing back against him, he'll stop if after a short time.

Again, use the things he wants to do as an opportunity to teach him how to make decisions. If he makes bad ones, let him. He needs to learn by making bad decisions as well as by making good ones. In either case, respect him, lift him up, pray for him, pray with him. Live a godly life in front of him and let him live it in front of you because it is flowing out of his bones, not because you told him to.

Bubba isn't a bad kid. He isn't going to want to get a tattoo or date a strange woman. What is the worst thing that can happen if he gets to do stupid things? The worst thing right now is that you'll have to give up control. But that's the point. Control isn't yours, it is God's. God loves Bubba infinitely more than you do, so love him like God does.