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father

“Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.” ~Colossians 3:21

Moving on further in Paul’s practical instructions for human relationships, we find a different sort of command.  Up until this point, Paul has given positive commands. (Wives, submit; Husbands, love; Children, obey.)  Now, we find that he has shifted gears and given a negative command, “Fathers, do not…”

His emphasis on what fathers ought not do should give us heed to stop, consider, and caution ourselves when in authority over children – be they physical or spiritual children.

Perhaps he speaks this way because what we must avoid is of greatest importance in the grand scheme.

So, what does Paul highlight as #1 for the parent to whom he has given ultimate leadership and responsibility over children?

“Do not provoke your children…”

Do not provoke them.  Do not frustrate them.  Do not make them aggravated, angry, irritated, exasperated, or upset if at all possible.  If there is any other way to teach your children, do so.  If there is any method you can utilize that does not produce these kind of feelings and attitudes in them, use that.  Do not use these feelings and attitudes toward them either.

It seems that Paul is not so much concerned with what methods are used, save that they do not injure and discourage young souls entrusted to men.  Apparently there are many right ways to raise up children in the Lord but this wrong way proves most tempting and dangerous for fathers.

Children are often difficult to be patient, kind, gentle, and loving toward.  If they are particularly disobedient and obstinate, our greatest temptation is to become disobedient and obstinate towards God’s instructions right back at them.  It is a vicious cycle which teaches them nothing less than hypocrisy.  Little wonder why Paul gives the reason as to why we must avoid provocation: “…lest they become discouraged.”

Who would not become discouraged if every time they fail, someone treats them harshly and, being an authority, fails themselves to obey their own authority?  Such discouragement gives way to apathy, indifference, and a general distaste and distrust regarding respect for authorities in general.  Dare I say the church has lost much of its credibility as a result of dealing with God’s children this way.

When fathers – spiritual or physical – accuse, berate, belittle, and deal harshly with tender children who are seeking to learn and grow, those children doubtless become discouraged.  The reason is not only the former faults, but also because they are not being encouraged.  Authorities who only comment on bad behavior, who fail to recognize and encourage small steps, good work, and personal improvement – even when it is not perfect or spectacular – who overcorrect wrongdoing by harsh and repetitive accusation; who fail to praise and pray alongside calm correction, discourage.

Dads, do what you will by way of discipline, but do not discourage.  Do not provoke.  Deal kindly and gently.  Encourage.  This is one of the most important details in fatherhood.

“The bad temper and example of imprudent parents often prove a great hindrance to their children and a stumbling block in their way.”  ~Matthew Henry

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sR-1ggqyEIE

sheep

“Mommy, does God have a family?”

“Yes.  We are His family.”

“We are?”
“Yeah, remember?  He is our Father in heaven.  We are His children.”

My six year old looks puzzled for a moment and then resumes playing with her toys.  I think about the scripture verse next in line in my study.

“Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.”

The main task for children is always to obey.  I suppose the hardest time for children to obey is when they are most busy or when they do not understand.  How willing children are to obey at the moment of command – not the moment of understanding – is the true test of obedience.

It is a daily test with my children as well as with myself and my Father God.  It almost always starts with a simple one word command, “Child, come.”

“Come here, child.”

I’m sure you know what the response often is from my children when I call without further explanation.

“Why, Mom?”  “What do you want, Mom?”  “I’m doing something, Mom.”  Followed by a slow, “I’m coming…” and subsequent short term memory amnesia.

Somehow, when Daddy says, “Come.” a child quickly appears in front of him, no questions asked save, “Yes, Daddy?”

I have to say my oldest is, and always has been, most compliant.  She even answers with a respectful, “Yes Mommy”  almost every time I give her an instruction.  Maturity breeds obedience.  She has learned that disobedience does not end well for her.

Never am I more frustrated than when I call one of my children because I have exciting news or a gift for them and they fail to come.

Oh, that I would learn to quickly appear before my Father every time I hear his calling.  No excuses.  No inquires.  No stalling.  No willful amnesia.  Just a “Yes, Daddy?”  How well my day would go if I would just obey like a mature child rather than an immature rebel.  God, help me.

These are Paul’s instructions for children.  Obedience is pleasing to the Lord because obeying earthly parents without delay or excuse trains children to obey God without delay or excuse.  Failing to teach them to obey us as parents puts them at a great disadvantage in both their physical and spiritual life.  I often remind my kids of their duty to obey by asking them in the midst of their disobedience, “What is your #1 job?”  They know it is to obey mom and dad because obeying us is obeying God.

The good news is that our Father is not an unjust power hungry control freak.  His commands for obedience are rooted in our greatest good.  He is gracious and loving toward his children because we are the apples of his eye.  There is always a great and exciting gift waiting for those who obey heartily – the abiding presence of God himself.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a4_woZ-LUvM

An Old Soul

10bday

My oldest child just turned 10 years old.  Imaginative as she is creative, I rarely have to offer ideas on, well, much of anything.  She is always coming up with things I would never think of to make and do.  I am continually surprised by her unique ambitions and initiatives.

Just when I’m amazed that she got up and made us all breakfast, on her own, without burning the house down, I find perfect heart-shaped cheese gracing my eggs.  By the time I realize she has taught herself how to knit from youtube videos, I receive a home made scarf and she tells me she’s made one for her friend, too.  I bought her a rainbow loom and she followed a likely 807 step video that someone produced rubber band made Elsa, our dog, an owl, a unicorn for her sister, flowers, etc.  She can hang with Bob Ross and she wishes someone would just let her teach a paint and sip already.

Needless to say, birthdays are always interesting.  When she was 6 or 7, she wanted an Asian party.  We ate Chinese food, she wore a kimono, taught origami to her friends, and insisted the cake be written with characters rather than letters.  Another time we had a karaoke party.  This year she said she just wanted to shop with her friends.

Ok, daughter.  How do I give you a shopping birthday?  I guess we go to the “big mall” (as she calls it) and spend Daddy’s money.  Yeah, so this is definitely something I would have picked if I were thinking outside the box when I was 10.

Let me just tell you some things about our shopping birthday party, folks.  It was not really what I expected.

Mia brought two friends along with us.  The first place we stopped was at the convenient store.  Daddy just couldn’t wait to hand them a $100 bill and tell them to, “Get whatever you want.”

Do you know what we walked out with?  Three slushies – one for each girl.  That is all.  No piles of candy.  No goofy key chains or celebrity inspired sunglasses.  Not even a bag of Doritos.  “Weird,” I thought.

On to the mall.  As surprised as I was about the one slushie each episode, I was even more surprised that their self-control continued throughout the entire trip.  They bought a few necklaces and bracelets at the novelty store, always carefully checking prices.  Mia bought flower ribbons for her hair and a bracelet for her sister.  When the cashier told them they were being given free pearl-like necklaces with their purchases, the girls immediately announced how happy they were to have something to give to Mom for Mother’s Day.

They looked around some more.  They spent forever in “Justice.”  Mia wanted a canopy to put over her  bed.  When I told her it wouldn’t work with her top bunk, she didn’t whine or argue.  She looked around some more.  All in all, they really only bought a very few small things.  They were more excited to see Bath and Body Works and look for more things their moms might like.

We ate too spicy Chinese and the girls got overpriced pedicures before we left.

I realized that my 10 year old and her friends are more mature than I gave them credit for.  Somewhere along this short way, these girls have learned to self govern.  Growing up in a world full of adults and children who grossly lack this skill, I am thankful.  They have respect, responsibility, and regard for others.  Where I thought they would be greedy, they were thoughtful.  Where I thought they would be out of control, they were self-controlled.  If I am honest, I don’t think I’d split my birthday money among my friends.  I’m pretty certain I’d choose to shop alone!  I guess Mia gets the generous gene from her Dad.

There really never is a dull moment with Mia.  There never has been.  She is always full of fun surprises.  I couldn’t be more proud of the one who called me “Mommy” first.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jd9zYKLepCw

flowers

Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them.

Husbands are called to love, that is, to show love in their actions and speech towards their wives.  Their natural tendency and temptation is not to.  Paul wouldn’t have specified this if it were not so.

This, the second instruction given by Paul for human relationships, is obviously not for me.  But I do know something of what he is talking about.  I don’t really like to focus on things that God instructs others to do because I feel our priorities lie in searching out the things he instructs us to do.  But I can tell you what a loving husband looks like.

Despite my undeservedness, I have a husband who tries very hard to show love.  He works hard and provides for our family.  He apologizes when he is wrong.  He buys me flowers for no reason.  He sacrifices his precious little time for me and for our kids.  He says good things of me.  He asks me what I need.  He prays for me and with me daily.  He compliments me.  He tells me he loves me.  He takes care of me when I am sick or tired.  He tries to do right.  He follows Christ.  He forsakes things that cause me pain or fear.  He forgives me.  He treats me as an equal.  He is growing out of harshness and replacing it with patience, kindness, and love.  He does good to me every day and I could not be more thankful.  God has richly blessed me with a husband who proves to look more like Christ every day.

Just as my failure or success in the area of submission and respect toward him can make it easier or harder for him to love me well, his obedience to love me well can make the difference in how difficult it is for me to submit to him.  Neither is responsible for the others’ obedience, however, regardless of the other’s failure or success.  In other words, just because your spouse is not obeying God in these instructions, it does not get you off the hook as responsible for obeying God in these instructions.  Obeying might just be the catalyst for their repentance.

If your husband is not loving, do not give up.  Obey God and respect him.  If he is harsh, answer kindly.  Try not to react.  Stop expecting him to change and instead expect God to work.  Pray.  The Lord will honor your obedience and fill up where your husband lacks.  If you are a husband, find out how to love your wife.  Ask her.  She will tell you.  Obey God and trust him even when your spouse fails.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zbwahcpz464

submission

Here’s Paul:

Dear Church,

Here’s the gospel – what Jesus did.  Here’s what to reject as a false gospel – what certain leaders say you have to do.  Here’s your responsibility – what you will do if you believe.

Honing in on Paul’s instructions on responsibilities, Colossians 3 leaves little room for error.  He’s told the Christians things like don’t lie or envy, avoid idolatry and anger, be kind, humble, meek, patient, forgiving, thankful, accountable, prayerful, and unified.

But Paul doesn’t stop there.  Paul puts the flesh on.  He knew we sheep would need more information.  So what does kindness, patience, and forgiveness look like?  Where and when do we most need to be humble, accountable, and prayerful?  Paul targets specific human relationships – namely the most common ones.

Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting to the Lord.

Submit.  What does that look like?  I don’t believe Christian women go into marriage thinking of ways to disrespect their husbands.  But somehow we often find ourselves doing just that.  This is our natural tendency and biggest temptation.

Submission goes hand in hand with respect.  Respect is asking my husband before I make purchases and listening when he vetoes.  It is placing his priorities for my time above my own.  It is speaking respectfully to him and about him.  Submission is following my husband’s lead even when I think he is wrong.  It is giving him the reigns and trusting God for the outcomes.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve failed in this area despite vowing to “honor and obey” him.  But I can tell you what I’ve learned.

Submitting is better than refusing, even when I disagree with my husband’s decisions.  God says this is my responsibility.  In order to obey God, I must obey my husband.  It is my husband’s responsibility to make God-honoring, wife-loving choices.  If he fails, I may indeed suffer.  But I will not suffer as one who has disobeyed God.  That kind of suffering is never in vain.  If, on the other hand, I choose to usurp my husband and do as I think is better, I will suffer and be disciplined for my own disobedience to God.

Perhaps there is a reason Paul chose to start with wives.  Our influence and attitude matters immensely.  It effects how easy or how difficult it is for our husbands to love us well.  Our submission is not weakness, it is strength.  It does not mean we are inferior, it means we trust God’s design more than our own ideas.  It means we trust God’s order more than we fear our husband’s flaws.

I aid my husband’s ability to love me well when I surrender to God by submitting to him. This is God’s will for those he calls to be wives.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fH8bV7rUVaU

practical

In Colossians chapter 1 Paul emphasized the supremacy of Christ.  In chapter 2 he told the Colossians what not to do and whose example not to follow.  Chapter 3 is full of practical instructions on how to follow and serve Christ.  Let’s let the format of Colossians sink in, teachers and preachers.  There is great wisdom in leading the church this way – especially in a culture where everyone has their own opinion and instruction on what being a Christian looks like.  Here’s how Paul demonstrates:

1. Preach the gospel; magnify Christ

2. Debunk heresy, false teachers, and misinformation that is plaguing the church within your culture.  Be specific.

3.  Give practical, specific instructions for the persons you are ministering to.  I cannot stress this point enough.  Be practical. Be practical.  Be practical.  Do not stop teaching at #1.  Do not stop teaching at #2.  Be practical.

Since I have come to the second portion of Paul’s practical instruction, I have to stress the dire importance of not only these particular instructions, but equally importantly, these kind of instructions.  They are invaluable to those listening.

Today I will talk about why practical teaching is so important and tomorrow I will deal with the specifics of this text.

Many men have amazing theological minds.  They are well read and can answer almost any Bible question one might have.  They preach the gospel in its entirety and do so very systematically and extremely well.  They tell you who Christ is, what he did, and urge repentance.  They refute false ideas.  They tell you what Christianity is as well as what it is not.

Consider yourself unduly blessed if you can find a preacher or teacher like this in our culture of confusion and misinformation in the church today.  Still, if door #3 – specific, practical application – is left unopened by that good man or woman, the sheep are still left meandering for their own food on many occasions.  When we are told what to do but not how to do it, nine times out of ten we do not “get it.”  If I do not know how you apply the text in your life, I often do not know how to apply the text in my life.  Tell  me.  In so doing, you teach me.

 Sheep need stories, parables, personal accounts of when and how these truths were learned and understood by our teachers.  Otherwise, as my very practical, straight-shooting mechanic husband says, it feels a lot like someone is trying to tell us how to build a shelf.  We have step by step codified instructions, but we do not have a model.  There is no hammer in our hands.  No nails or screws with which to build.  All we have is a how to lecture and Mr. Vila and all his tools and example models have left the building.

Sheep need practical application.  Sheep need for instances.  Sheep need not only a picture of the finished framework of what the end result is supposed to look like, but also a picture of all the half built stages in between.  When we set out to put this thing called Christianity together, we need a lot of help – especially if there have been no close master builders in our lives.

Therefore, I cannot stress Paul’s example enough.  After preaching the gospel, what it is and what it is not, we must tell others how to apply it.  We must tell about when we fail.  We must tell about what overcoming has looked like in our own lives.  We must be specific and practical in preaching and teaching.

Colossians 3:17-25 is practical application of that which Paul has just painted with a broad brush.  He told his readers to set their minds on the things above and to forsake sin.  He told them to be compassionate, humble, forgiving, loving, and unified.  He said to do everything for Christ.

Now, he puts some practical flesh on the bones of his outline of spiritual disciplines.  Here’s what he says:

Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. 19 Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them. 20 Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.21 Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged. 22 Bondservants, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters,not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. 23 Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. 25 For the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done, and there is no partiality.

Masters, treat your bondservants justly and fairly, knowing that you also have a Master in heaven.

Here are some real life situations, guys.  Here are the most common and important relationships you are all in.  Here’s how to act in those relationships.  Here’s how not to act.  Here’s why.

Wives, submit.  Husbands, love.  Children, obey.  Fathers, be patient.  Slaves, obey.  All of you, work hard, always.  Masters, be fair.  God will bless.  God will repay.  Trust him.

I will go further into what these instructions look like in our lives in my next article…practically.   I believe Paul did not go further because his words needed to be timeless.

That’s our job.  That’s our job.  That’s our job.

 It is the job of a good teacher to apply the Biblical text to their cultural situations and problems.  The reason we have so many knowledge infused non-action taking Christians is because we often fail to give practical instructions.  We go through the text and we stop.  We cannot afford to do that.  Christians need challenged in very specific ways.  We need very clear pictures of what a submitting wife and a loving husband looks like.  We need very clear pictures of what a rebellious wife and a loveless husband looks like.  We must use every means available.  Yes, we are the very pictures ourselves.  We are witnesses.  But we must also open our mouths and share our lives lest we live them in obscurity and fail to bring glory to Christ clenching tightly to our illegitimate right to privacy.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ffBG7JAvBiw

crunchy

I’m into health and natural alternatives as much as (probably more) than the average American mommy.  I exercise daily.  I try to eat relatively healthy.  I home school.  I nursed.  I opt for a homeopath, supplements, and essential oils before a traditional doctor and pharmaceutical drugs whenever possible.  I even used cloth diapers for three whole months with my first baby.

But…yes, my kids and I still eat fast food on occasion.  Even though I think midwives are neat, I gave birth in the hospital.  I eat already baked and sliced bread.  All of my children were vaccinated.  My kids eat candy.  (Isn’t that what candy is for?!)  I don’t usually buy organic.  My babies only slept in my room until they started eating solid foods – about four months old.

So what?  Why am I telling you all this?  Well, it seems that there is an ever growing culture of holistic women who will read this and balk.  If they know me, they will begin devising a plan on how best to show me my sins.  Call it part of the mommy wars or just plain arrogance, but either way I feel like someone needs to blow the whistle.

Before I get my foot stuck too far into my mouth, I must say that I do realize that some crunchy moms mean very well.  I understand that when we find good things that work well for our families, we often want to share them.  We want others to be helped as much as we are.  We want them to feel as good as we do about our lifestyle decisions.  I think that’s great, noble even.  It is good to share ideas and help one another become better…however…

I do have one question gnawing in my mind for these gatekeepers of world wellness.  Like I said, I’m into health and natural alternatives as much as the average American mommy.  But my question and biggest concern for this group is, “Is it ok if I am not?”  Because it often feels like these women’s eyes bulge when I see them in the grocery store and I have Fruity Pebbles, pre-sliced white Wonder bread, and disposable diapers in my buggy.  Since when did making ultra natural decisions for our own families become a woman’s pass to be a power hungry police lady of all the rest of us – complete with guilt trip lectures and constant hinting reminders that we aren’t doing things as right as they?  I don’t know.

I believe it is good to encourage wellness, whatever that looks like and is working for your family.  But I also believe that there is an extreme over proselytization going on from the holistic community these days.  It reminds me of Christians who point disgusted, condescending fingers at unbelievers every chance they get and then expect converts.  I don’t know.  I just think conversion – in both wellness and Christianity – is much more natural – dare I say “organic” than that.

Here’s my advice for those who most like to share advice with the rest of we defiled citizens.  Ask yourself whether you really care about me and my family.  Find out why my health matters to you.   Does it?  Or could it be that pointing at me makes you feel proud and superior?   If you come to the conclusion that you genuinely love me, great.  Stop preaching at me.  Instead, hang out with us.  Bring your kids over to play with mine.  Show me how you do things by your example and let me determine for myself whether it is better.  I will ask you questions because you are different.  I will notice if you are healthy and your family is thriving and mine is not.  Give me some dignity and I will listen to you.  Otherwise, I just feel like you think I’m a jerk and a failure.  Maybe you do and maybe I am, but love does not approach that way does it?

Wait, would you hang out with me?   If you did, would I be a project or a person?  Ask yourself how you came to the conclusions you did.  Was it by force, shaming, and nagging?  Or was it something else that changed you?

Lastly, accept that people make different decisions for their family and stop looking down your nose at them for it.  Love them anyway and celebrate your differences.  A world where everyone is the same would be terribly boring, wouldn’t it?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qcOK_YATp6U

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