Archive for August, 2010

“-er” Requires a Standard

A Counselor Reflects on Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

“If your moral ideas can be truer, and those of the Nazis less true, there must be something—some Real Morality—for them to be true about (p.13).” Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

Our language condemns us. But I am not referring to Luke 6:45, “The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.”

Nor am I referring to James 3:2, “For we all stumble in many ways, and if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body.”

Our language condemns us before we speak (or think) of anything rude, inappropriate, or blasphemous. Our language is filled with words of comparison (those ending in “-er” or “-est”), beauty, power, and significance. All of these types of words assume a standard and our awe reveals that we fall short of that standard.

The saddest part of this is that in our extremely self-centered culture we see this and retreat into shame, insecurity, and defensiveness. Instead the response should be one of celebration and self-forgetfulness.

We were given eyes not so that we could enjoy mirrors, but so that we could take in the glory of God. We were given consciences not so that we could become defense attorneys, but so that we could echo “Amen!” to God’s character.

The tragedy of our day is that we view truth (or any sense of standard) as our enemy. We have forgotten John 8:32, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free,” because we think the truth is first and foremost about us. IT’S NOT! Praise God!

Truth is the revelation of God. Because of our sinful nature we have grown to fear/resent what we were meant to fear/love. When we refuse to be humble we begin to view our only hope as our condemnation. We run from the only exit in a burning building and think we are wise (“enlightened”) for having done so.

The challenge of this post is to consider how we use our language of comparison. Do we live life constantly asking, “Do I matter? Am I good enough? Am I significant?” If we do, then truth (any sense of standard that creates awe) will be our emotional enemy.

Rather, let us strive to live with truth, beauty, power, and significance as the all-satisfying destination of our life-long journey; something we know we will only attain after reaching our point of greatest weakness and decay (death). It is only that sense of process by grace and eternity that will allow to embrace an “er” language without succumbing to shame, insecurity, and defensiveness.

Life In/Under Christ – Ephesians 1:15-23

The Eyes of Your Heart (1:18)

How can two people look at the same thing or event and come away with very different conclusions? Culturally, this is explained through a system of beliefs called “relativism” which states that only perspective (as opposed to real, objective truth) exists. This belief system is summed up in the phrase, “What may be right to you may not be so to me; who am I to judge?”

Ephesians points us in a different direction for answering this question. People come away with different conclusions because of the varying conditions of their hearts. Our beliefs, values, agenda, priorities, hopes, allegiances, pet peeves, and affections shape what we see. Christians believe in more than objective truth. Christians believe that our hearts must be in tune with God’s heart in order to perceive and respond to our world correctly.

Application: When you and a friend recall a given conversation or event differently consider how the “eyes of your heart” (beliefs, values, agenda, priorities, hopes, allegiances, pet peeves, and affections) shaped the difference. Try to step out of your perspective and vested interest to ask what God’s heart for that moment was. Until we begin to ask questions about the “eyes of heart” we will not know if they are blind.

Hope to Which He Has Called You (1:18)

 

We are called to hope. That seems like a simple statement, but (to be honest) it caught me off guard. It seemed much more natural to say we have been called as God’s children (relationship), to share the Gospel (mission), or to live holy lives (character).  But it seemed a bit odd to think that we have been called to hope (disposition).

While I do not believe there is one ultimate personality – as if fully sanctified people will share the same sense of humor or risk-tolerance, it does seem that we are called to express our personalities (extrovert/introvert, optimist/pessimist, random/orderly, spender/saver) displaying a disposition of hope.

Reflection: This must mean that hope can come in many different “flavors.” Do you tend to think of hope as having one mode of expression? What about other virtues of disposition (humility, faith, love, courage, patience)? What do we lose when we assign these virtues

to particular personality types or modes of expression? Use you imagination to consider what each virtue (especially hope) might look like when expressed by different types of people.

Christ the Head

Any debate over what it means for a husband to be the head of his wife in Ephesians 5:23, should not begin until a study has been done of what it means for Christ to be the head of the church in Ephesians 1:22. The relationship of husband and wife are meant to mirror the relationship of Christ and the church. To start with husband and wife questions would be like learning about the Grand Canyon from a picture when you could take a tour by donkey back.

There is no way to answer the breadth of questions this subject creates and this goal here is not to debate skeptics. What can be offered is a process of reflection for the genuinely confused or those seeking a more complete understanding. Use the following questions to help you journey from Ephesians 1 (where Paul starts) to Ephesians 5.

  • How does Christ relate to the church in authority, compassion, guidance, allowing freedom/preference, sacrifice, patience, etc…?
  • What are other titles/metaphors/roles by which Christ relates to the church? How are these similar to, different from, or complementary with that of “head”?
  • How well does the church respond to Christ as her head?
  • How does Christ respond to the church in the midst of her struggles to submit?
  • What decisions do a husband and wife face where headship and submission are needed? In what situations should general obedience (actions, values, and disposition) to God’s Word make headship and submission largely irrelevant categories?
  • How should a husband relate to his wife in authority, compassion, guidance, allowing freedom/preference, sacrifice, patience, etc…?
  • What other titles/metaphors/roles does Scripture give for how a husband relates to his wife?
  • What should happen when a husband fails to be a Christ-like head? What should happen when a wife fails to respond in church-like submission?
  • What practical or theological questions remain for you about husband-wife relations?

As you continue in this study of Ephesians, pay careful attention to the relationship between Christ and the church to prepare you to accurately apply the marriage section.

Introduction to the “Living Our Faith” series.

Good Cop Bad Cop Parenting

When is balance not balanced? When extremes are cancelling each other out.

I can remember the treatment for a significant ankle injury incurred playing baseball. It involved two five gallon buckets. One filled with ice water. The other filled with steaming Epson salt water. The process was to immerse my injured ankle alternately in each bucket for 10 minute intervals. You can imagine the “joyful noises” that poured forth.

That was not balanced. You could pour the two buckets into one ten gallon tank and get something quite comfortable. But if I had to live in a world where temperatures vacillated to that degree I would rather have a bum ankle.

Too often parents do something quite similar in their homes. One parent is the bad cop; the other is the good cop. One parent handles love; the other discipline. One parent encourages; the other motivates. One parent emphasizes potential; the other inherent value. One parent doesn’t sweat the small stuff; the other does.

In the end the child lives being alternately plunged into buckets of expectations and responses that widely vary in “temperature.” Mix the two together and it would make a very comfortable home and life, but unfortunately the parents never mix.

Two very destructive things emerge from this style of parenting. First, the child learns a distorted view of gender roles. Second, the child learns a very confusing view of God.

There is not a combination of good cop (husband) bad cop (wife) or vice versa that results in a healthy view of gender. Either way, one is controlling and dominant while the other is weak. Yet weakness is viewed as loving. Strength is viewed as distant.  That is an awful choice to have to make.

This same false dichotomy is often projected on to God. Either God is loving and weak or strong and distant. The child has no other categories by which to understand relationships.

In this mess we can marvel all the more at John 1:14, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

Discussing the glory of God the Father seen in the Son, John says Jesus was “full of grace and truth.” As parents, both individually and as a couple, we are called to be Christ-like. This is much more than a guilt-trip about being “nice.” It cuts to the core of the good cop / bad cop parenting dynamic.

The problem with debate (nice word for argument) when it is between parents is that they want to determine “Who is right?” The answer is neither. Compensating for ice water with steaming heat does not create an environment where life thrives.

In order to solve the problem both parents must humble themselves and admit that something is more important than their position – namely accurately representing the character of God and the Gospel to their children. As long as the conversation focuses primarily upon bedtimes, test scores, and duration of groundings, the conversation (nice word again) will be an endless rendition of counter examples.

The two questions that I would encourage parents caught in this trap to ask themselves (personally) is, (1) “Did I accurately and intentionally represent the character and heart of God in that moment?” and (2) “Did my handling of my child’s sin or immaturity point my child to or prepare them to embrace/apply the Gospel to their struggle?”

If this post was beneficial for you, then considering reading other blogs from my “Favorite Posts on Parenting” post which address other facets of this subject.

What Would Make a Devil of Us?

A Counselor Reflects on Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

“The most dangerous thing you can do is to take any one impulse of your own nature and set it up as the thing you ought to follow at all costs. There is not one of them which will not make us into devils if we set it up as an absolute guide (p.11).” Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

I cannot say that I have ever thought about becoming a devil, even for a Halloween costume, but as I read this quote from C.S. Lewis it was not the way I thought (if I did think about it) of becoming one.

My instincts said, “I would have to intentionally engage in sinister activities for prolonged periods of time with malice-aforethought in order to become a devil.” As I think about it, though, that is exactly what C.S. Lewis was saying; only the sinister activities are wearing the “costumes” of innocent desires (i.e., impulses).

Impulses such as golf, Facebook Farmville (now I’m stepping on toes), reading, parenting, working, eating, a special diet, theology, loving, being loved, education, and any other pleasure are forms of worship.  When we do these things we are delighting in them and declaring them worthy of our full, concentrated attention (intentionality from my thought in paragraph 2).

When we “set it up as the thing you ought to follow at all costs” we are declaring it our god. This impulse begins to play all the roles that the true God ought to play – determining right/wrong, good/bad, worth my time, friend/enemy, degree of value, etc… Those who agree and cooperate with my impulse are “righteous” and those who do not are deserving of wrath.

Because I believe I am right (and everyone should agree with me) I follow my impulse for a prolonged period of time. I even begin to read my Bible through the lens of my impulse and God’s Word is muzzled because I read it to say (affirm) only what I am already living for.

Because I have declared my impulse good (and it probably is except for what I am doing with it), I begin to plan my life around the pursuit of this impulse (malice-aforethought in paragraph 2). My schedule and daydreaming become substantially shaped by my impulse.

The end result is that I have a god who is not God and I am verbally and nonverbally declaring its glory to the world around me. All the time the sinister-ness of what I am doing masquerades in the costume of an innocent desire and I do not realize that I have become more devil-ish than God-like.

So the caution is that (1) we should never let what we do for God become our god and (2) we should never mistake the blessings of God as our god. Both are such tempting (but deep) pitfalls.

In light of this consider the story of the Rich Young Ruler (Matthew 19:16-30). RYR viewed his material possessions as his “stamp of approval” from God in typical Jewish (and often modern Christian) fashion. When Jesus asked RYR to trade God’s blessings for eternity with God, RYR could not let go of God’s blessings to take hold of God’s person.

His “impulse” was to follow God’s rules to secure God’s blessings. It was the absolute rule of his life that he followed at all cost. He came to Jesus asking for more rules to follow for another blessing. He went away sad (to the place of weeping and gnashing of teeth) because his good impulse (being good for God’s rewards) had “made a devil” of him.

Life in God’s Family – Ephesians 1:1-14

God Our Father & Adoption (1:2-5)

We often have a tendency to try to apply biblical metaphors backwards. We start with what we know and assume it is the “real” thing and then assume it is a bigger version of what we do know. So when we hear that God is our Father we make God a bigger version of what we know.

It would be more accurate to come at this metaphor (and most others) from the other direction. God is the epitome of what “father” is/should be. Our experience only gives us glimpses of the real thing. It is like a child playing with a toy castle. The toy castle has enough features to activate the young person’s imagination, but offers no protection from enemies or shelter from rain.

Application: In seeking to know God as Father, strive to give him the basic courtesy of getting to know Him for who He is. We consider it rude when someone says, “I know you. You are a teenager (Southerner, Yankee, of Christian, etc…).” When we force the experience of someone else (even our earthly fathers) on God, we dishonor him in a similar way.

That We Should Be Holy (1:4)

 

What should we expect to be the primary result of our salvation? How we answer that question will determine whether we think Christianity “works” and how much we enjoy our Christian life. I would contend that many are disappointed (even angry) with God because they thought their salvation was “about” something other than what God said it was about. They feel like the Gospel was a bait and switch because they did not consider what God was saving them from.

God did not save us from unhappiness, a lack of purpose, a low self-image, fragmented relationships, physical pain, or financial hardship.  God saved us from our sin and the eternal punishment our sin deserved. Therefore, the primary result of our salvation is holiness – the eradication of sin and sin’s effects from our actions, thoughts, emotions, and motives. If we miss this, we may well spend most of our time in prayer distracting ourselves from what God most wants to do in our lives.

Application: Our calling is to

find joy in what God is doing on our behalf. Unless we find joy in what God is doing on our behalf, we live in pride believing we know better than God what is in our best interest. However, as we cooperate with God’s goal of holiness we find that our life is marked by greater joy, purpose, confidence, relational harmony, grace adequate for our suffering, and contentment. The great challenge is to allow God to define the “abundant life” (John 10:10).

Lavished… In Wisdom

We can rest in the fact that neither the Bible nor God’s character contain contradictions, but they both contain some strong tensions. Consider the consecutive phrases in Ephesians 1:8 that God lavishes grace upon us but does so in all wisdom. We would find it quite hard to “lavishly love” and yet do so “with all wisdom.” Yet balance and harmony between virtues is the essence of holiness. The most amazing thing about God is not that he is great in every aspect, but that there is no friction between the aspects of His greatness.

Look at the following list of virtues. Circle the ones you consider personal strengths. Underline the ones you consider personal weaknesses. Try to identify where your weaknesses are exaggerations of or results from your strengths.

Love     Personal     Grace     Good     Patient     Attentive     Free     Productive     Beauty     Joy     Wise     Order     Peace     Honest     Just     Power     Influence     Control     Hope     Efficient     Respect     Understanding     Unity     Rest     Fun     Affirming

From this examination, I would encourage two things. First, let it cause you to marvel afresh at the balanced holiness of God’s character. Second, let it give you a new way of thinking about pursuing holiness and how holiness can be expressed.

Introduction to the “Living Our Faith” series.

Two Uses for the Upcoming Parenting Seminar

No matter how hard you strive to craft a clear and clever title for a seminar, it is never quite clear to everyone what a seminar is about.  Hopefully, a blog post can do what a title phrase cannot. There are two ways I am praying that this seminar will be used by God.

The first, and primary, use of the seminar would be to equip parents to raise their children “in the training and instruction of the Lord (Eph 6:4)” by training parents to effectively use the Bible and Gospel in parenting (hence the seminar title).

We have to begin by acknowledging this has not been done effectively in the last generation. An extensive research project by Ken Ham and Britt Beemer revealed:

“61% of today’s young adults who were regular church attendees are now ‘spiritually disengaged.’ They are not actively attending church, praying, or reading their Bibles (p. 24)… Almost 90% of them were lost in middle school and high school. By the time they got to college they were already gone (p. 31).” Ken Ham & Britt Beemer in Already Gone

This survey was taken exclusively from teenagers who grew up in conservative, evangelical churches. The statistics showed no major differences between children who attended public school, private school, or were home schooled.

With this said, parents must be equipped to prepare their children to think biblically, while living a life that models the superiority of biblical wisdom, and disciplining their children in a way that facilitates a growing appreciation/dependence on the Gospel.

This is a large task, but it is the mandate of every Christian parent. God gives us everything that we need for the task by His grace – often redeeming our sin and mistakes as the most fruitful illustrations of His wisdom and power. But we are commanded to equip ourselves for the task (2 Tim 2:5; 1 Pet 3:15). The first goal of this seminar is to be a part of that equipping.

A second use for this seminar is to be a place of healing and clarification for those whose parents use the Bible as a weapon against them or those who grew up in a non-Christian home and are not sure what Christian parenting looks like.

For some in these situations the Bible does not make sense. There are so many biblical doctrines and metaphors rooted in family life – God as Father, the church as the family of God, pictures of grace and nurturing.

For others in these situations the Bible is a book to be feared. It was brought out as a club to be the final instrument of guilt and shame. For these people it almost feels like children should be protected from the Bible and Gospel (because children should be protected from the kind of verbal abuse and emotional manipulation they were exposed to).

These are my prayers for the upcoming seminar. I hope they clarify whether this seminar is a good fit for your current season of life and equip you to join in praying for this seminar.

“Effectively Using the Bible & Gospel in Parenting”
Tuesday Sept 7, 2010
National Hills Baptist Church
2725 Washington Road; Augusta, GA 30909
9:00 am until Noon or 6:00 pm until 9:00 pm
(two times for your convenience)
$20.00 per person
By Phone at (706) 364-1270
www.crossroadsaugusta.org

Good and Bad Desires Do Not Exist

A Counselor Reflects on Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

“It is a mistake to think that some of our impulses—say mother love or patriotism—are good, and, others, like sex or the fighting instinct, are bad… Strictly speaking, there are no such things as good and bad impulses. Think once again of a piano. It has not got two kinds of notes on it, the ‘right’ notes and the ‘wrong’ ones. Every single note is right at one time and wrong at another. The Moral Law is not any one instinct or set of instincts; it is something which makes a kind of tune (the tune we call goodness or right conduct) by directing the instincts (p.11).” Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

I think we too often treat good and bad as qualities (like hot and cold or sweet and sour) instead of directions (like East and West or high and low). In terms of what Lewis is saying, if good and bad are qualities then particular impulses inherently have a particular quality. For instance, mother love would be good in the same way that a jalapeño is hot. The definition of jalapeño necessarily includes hot.

Yet mother love can be both good and bad. Mother love is at the root of fond childhood memories and the negative cliché’s associated with the title “mother-in-law.” This is where the metaphor of direction (towards or away from God) is helpful. If I am traveling North to New York City and reach Canada, then I have gone too far North. North was originally “good” but the excess now makes South “good” and continuing North “bad.”

The movement of the “direction” is love.  Too often we try to think of sin as hate and holiness as love. But in actuality all sin is love and holiness is also love (just in the opposite direction). Consider the Great Commandment passage:

And [Jesus] said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets (Matthew 22:37-40).”

If the command to is to love God first and neighbor second, then I break this command by loving something or someone else first and second.  Therefore, all sin is love (in the wrong direction or order). Hence, Paul would warn Timothy, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs (1 Tim. 6:10).”

Hopefully this will help us in our battle with sin. Too often we have turned to God and His Word asking, “Tell me what I should and should not do; should and should not feel; should and should not think.”  This is a request for labels; not direction (or a tune).

Now, as we turn to God and His Word we can ask, “Tell me where my love should go; what should it sound like; what is the outcome I should strive for?” The answer to this question is not primarily rules, but outcomes.

A young pianist memorizes notes (and this is good for the novice). An experienced pianist reads the music, understands how the music is to “move” the audience, and delivers a song. As we read God’s Word and learn to follow it, let us begin with memorizing notes (learning good from bad), but let us not be content until we allow the Word to “move” us in the rhythm and direction of God’s heart.

Thorns, Pride, & Love – II Corinthians 12

Thorn in the Flesh (12:7)

I believe both the timing and vagueness of this verse are significant for its application. Paul discusses the humbling effect of his “thorn” right after discussing an incredible experience that could have easily caused pride (2 Cor 12:1-6). Paul viewed his character as more important than his comfort, therefore he could see the goodness of God in stripping his comfort to protect his character.

Yet the “thorn” is also vague. While the best guesses seem to be sight impairment from the Damascus road experience, it is impossible to be sure. I believe Paul (by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit) used a metaphor to describe his ailment instead of a precise description so that we would be better able to relate to God’s work in Paul’s life.

Reflection: Can you see the goodness of God in the midst of your suffering? Admittedly, this is a very difficult question. Paul came back to God at least three times before he could answer it affirmatively. Does your struggle to see God’s goodness come from valuing comfort more than the refinement of your character? When you speak of your suffering do you consider the way others may be reading their experience of suffering onto your words (2 Cor 1:3-5)?

Sufficient Grace

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness (2 Cor 12:9),” are some of the sweetest and most difficult to apply words (personally, not abstractly) in all of Scripture. These are words we can cling to in the darkest night of our soul, yet when we try to figure out what to “do” with them it gets hard.

Almost by definition (God’s power in our weakness), the “application” of these verses will be an altered perspective rather than a set of steps. This sanctified perspective emerges from three concepts.

  • Redefined Weakness (“Therefore I will boast all the more of my weakness, so that the Power of Christ may rest upon me.” 2 Cor 12:9b): Paul so lived for God that anything—including his own weaknesses—that pointed people to the greatness of God was a reason for celebration. Paul’s life was so not about himself, that insecurity was an irrelevant concern. Yet neither did he become a doormat—by being a people-pleaser—because that also would have defamed God (2 Cor 10).
  • Contentment (“For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities”2 Cor 12:10a): What an amazing list. It captures most every dimension of human suffering. Once Paul’s life became about proclaiming the sufficiency of God’s grace, then every moment of suffering became an opportunity to proclaim, “God is more satisfying than this suffering is disheartening.”
  • Redefined Strength (“For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Cor 12:10b): In a world that constantly tried to measure “good enough,” what a liberating statement! The best part is that Paul did not wait until everyone agreed with that statement before he lived in its freedom. But by living in the emotional freedom that Christ’s strength defined him more than his weakness, Paul’s “boldness” opened many doors to share the message of God’s sufficient grace.

As you face your own forms of suffering, and subsequent insecurities or fears, walk through this passage asking God to change your perspective rather than telling you what to “do” next.

Seeking Not Yours But You (12:14)

 

What a great definition of love! So often our loving is a self-centered seeking or savoring of something about the other person. In this case Paul was saying I was not seeking your money (see 2 Cor 9), but we could legitimately transfer this principle to attractiveness, intelligence, humor, touch, or power. But Paul would say that a love that pursues another primarily for what it gets from the other person is still an immature, selfish love.

Rather Paul says, “I was seeking you. I long to see you redeemed and enjoying Christ more than anything else you could give me in return. You were the ‘cake’ and I did not care if it came with ‘icing.’” Paul goes on to compare this love to the love parents have for their children (a mature love); a love that gets joy out of seeing the joy of their beloved grow.

Reflection: Are you a mature lover? Do you measure relationships based upon what they have to offer to you? Do you tend to insist on things being done the way you enjoy them? Can you take delight in the interest of another person and be deeply satisfied by their enjoyment? This is not natural for any of us, but is harder for some than others. Pray earnestly that God would make you a mature lover.

Introduction to the “Living Our Faith” series.

Parental Discipline Assessment Tool

Do you miss the days of report cards?  For some of us that might be a traumatic question. But there was something nice about always knowing how you were doing. That is part of what can make parenting so scary. It is hard to know how you are doing.

When we do not know how to measure how we are doing, we tend to ride a roller coaster. On bad days we assume we are cosmic parental failures and that our kid’s life hardships will be our fault. On good days we are prepared to tell everyone else what they ought to do with their rotten kids.

Below is a “report card” of sorts to grade your parental discipline.  This tool, among many other things, will be unpacked as part of the “Effectively Using the Bible & Gospel” seminar.

Tuesday Sept 7, 2010
National Hills Baptist Church
2725 Washington Road; Augusta, GA 30909
9:00 am until Noon or 6:00 pm until 9:00 pm
$20.00 per person
Register at:
(706) 364-1270
www.crossroadsaugusta.org

What was the offense?

I. Pre-“Issue” Assessment: Are you and your spouse (if applicable) in agreement on this subject? Are there aspects of this subject you need to further study biblically or otherwise? Do you have insecurities or pet peeves that make it hard for you to be objective on this subject?

 

II. Pre-Discipline Assessment: (Circle One)

1.  Did you remain calm?                                                                                               Yes      No

2.  Did you restrain from making hollow threats of punishment?                Yes      No

3.  Did you restrain from shaming or embarrassing the child?                     Yes      No

4.  Did you restrain from physical aggression?                                                    Yes      No

5.  Did you resist viewing the episode as a power struggle?                           Yes      No

6.  How many times did the action occur before you addressed it?            _________

III. Disciplinary Conversation Assessment: (Circle one)

1.  Before acting did the child know the action was wrong?                           Yes      No

2.  Was the child asked to express what they did wrong?                               Yes      No

3.  Was the child asked to answer a heart question (see below)?                 Yes      No

4.  Was an opportunity for the child to repent provided?                              Yes      No

5.  Was discipline administered within predefined parameters?                 Yes      No

Discipline Administered: ____________________________________________

6.  Did you forgive and re-affirm love for the child?                                         Yes      No

7.  Did you follow through on discipline (if applicable)?                                Yes      No

IV. Post-Discipline Assessment: Heart QuestionsWhat was it that was so important that you were willing to disobey in order to get it?  What were you trying to achieve with this action?  What desire were you obeying when you did this?  How would this action have provided security, identity, or pleasure?  Who were you trying to please or win their approval?  Do you think this was your “right”?

Key Theme of Heart Question: ________________________________________

What elements of this disobedience (activity, patterns, threats, peer presence etc…) have been frequently repeated in past episodes of disobedience? What instruction, discernment, or training is needed in the future to help your child mature? How are you preparing to help your child meet this struggle?

What Needs to be Explained?

A Counselor Reflects on Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

“It is only our bad temper that we put down to being tired or worried or hungry; we put our good temper down to ourselves (p.8).” Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

Have you ever reached that point of exasperation with an inquisitive child and asked, “Why are you asking why?” Hopefully this blog post will not create that level of stress, but let’s ask a similar question, “When do you ask why?”

Lewis’ observation is that we only ask why about human behavior when we or someone else does something bad. We do not bother to ask the question when we do something good.

This reveals something important about how we think (do you get nervous when a counselor says that?).  Actually, it reveals two things:

  1. A belief that people are basically good, so that it is only their bad behavior that needs to be explained.
  2. A belief that bad behavior is more important, because it is what warrants our time and attention in examination.

This post will focus on the first one and leave you to ponder the second on your own.

Too often we forget that our humanity comes pre-flawed at birth.  Consider this quote from theologian Millard Erickson,

“The Bible’s depiction of the human race is that it today is actually in an abnormal condition….  In a very real sense, the only true human beings were Adam and Eve before the fall, and Jesus.  All the others are twisted, distorted, corrupted samples of humanity (p. 518).” from Christian Theology.

If that is true, then it is our good behavior that needs to be explained. It is our kindness, patience, affection, encouragement, peace, and hope (feel free to add to the list) that do not make sense without the “interference” of an outside influence.

When we realize this, we begin to see God as being much more active in our lives and world. We should ask “why” about every good thing in us, in others, and in our world. The continual answer would be “only the grace of God.”

With that in mind, hear the words of James 1:16-17 (emphasis added).

Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.

James began by saying “do not be deceived” because he knew there were many alternative explanations for the good things in life (the most deceptive being that it is only bad events or behaviors that need an explanation). Then he reminds his suffering brothers and sisters, see God in every good thing in your life. Use every pleasant moment as a reminder of the love and grace of your Father.