Some Child-Raising Advice from a Dad Who Doesn’t Listen to Child-Raising Advice

When my kids were little, I received tons of advice about how to raise them. Some of it was helpful. Most of it was wasted breath.

This Fall, all my kids will be in high school. I notice that I do not receive advice about parenting any more. There are several possible reasons for this:

  1. My kids are obviously awesome, which shows I do not need advice.
  2. No one has any idea what to do with teenagers.
  3. People are afraid to talk about this subject any more.
  4. People are afraid of me.
  5. People are still giving me advice, but I have stopped listening.

I can’t say for sure why the advice-giving has ceased. I’d like to think it’s #1, but it’s probably more #5.

Here’s a confession: I don’t like most people’s kids. If I don’t like your kids, there’s not a chance I’m going to listen to your child-raising advice. Not one chance.

In my opinion, based on the plethora of annoying kids in the world, I don’t know who all these parents are who think they should advise others about raising kids.

Everybody thinks their kids are special. And, trust me, they are. Very special. But here’s the thing: they are only that special to you. I’m glad you like your kids, but that doesn’t mean everyone else does, or even that they should.

While studies show us that today’s kids are more neurotic, failing in actual learning (and good grades don’t even mean anything anymore), emotionally out of whack, incompetent at most life tasks, and largely not doing anything, every parent feels their kids are the awesomest.

Our self-esteem culture has pumped our lazy, incompetent children with happy feelings. They feel great about themselves while failing at pretty much everything. Everyone gets a trophy to celebrate their abject loserliness.

I resist self-esteem. I might, perhaps, go too far the other way. I test myself all the time. I find fault with everything I do. This isn’t some kind of depressed, moroseness, it is, I like to think, an honest analyzation of my performance.

I do the same thing with my kids. I test them. I don’t let them win unless they earn it. I tell them the truth when their performance was awful. I even punish them when they didn’t do the work they said they were going to do.

This takes effort. It’s exhausting. My kids get mad at me from time to time. All the other kids get ice cream after their sorry performance. I have taken my kids home without the treat that everyone else got, because I didn’t like how they acted (Actually, I think I made them get the treat and then watch me eat it! No sense wasting free treats!)

King David had a son named Adonijah. He was a bad kid and grew up to be a bad adult. Here’s a phrase from 1 Kings chapter 1 about David’s parenting of this fool of a kid who was now a fool of an adult:

And his father had not displeased him at any time in saying, ‘Why hast thou done so?’

Adonijah’s dad never questioned him about why he was doing bad things. He never “displeased” his son. “Displeased” means “hurt, pain, grieve, vex.” Fathers are supposed to do this. I think this is a father’s job because 1) a father is better at finding fault with his kids than their mom is, and 2) a father is better emotionally equipped to discipline.

If my kids mess up, I have no motherly nice feelings. My all-consuming desire is to put them in their sorry little place!

I do this out of love. Some dads go too far and all they do is find fault and displease. Don’t go overboard. I also praise when my kids do something worthy of praise. I reward and honor and give treats to my kids when they actually work and accomplish things.

The problem now is we’ve over-reacted to the fault-finding fathers by having the best-friend fathers who just pat their kids on the back all the time. One sure way to raise a loser is to constantly praise their losing.

Proverbs 29:5 says “A man who flatters his neighbor is spreading a net for his steps.”

Pumping up people’s self-esteem (also known as “flattery”) is a sure way to ruin someone. God does not like lying. Tell your kids the truth. Make them strong enough to face up to their failures, to take criticism, so they can learn and improve.

Lying to kids to make them feel good is not a good long-term strategy.

Raising kids is not easy. There are many threats to its success and each kid is responsible before God for how they turn out. Parents have a huge say in this, however. It is a terrifying responsibility.

I’ve stopped listening to parenting advice. As I told one lecturing parent, “If God wanted you to raise my kids, He would’ve given them to you.”

I’m not telling you to listen to my advice, you probably think my kids are annoying, too!

But if there’s any summary advice I have for parents, it’s said here. This is my theory. It’s not complicated. I think I have Scripture in support, and my wife and I put the work in. We’re pretty much done with their training. It’s up to my kids now to do with it what they will.

Be honest with your kids. Tell them the truth. Help them deal with truth, even when it hurts. Some day they will stand before their Creator, who IS THE TRUTH, to be judged by His word, WHICH IS TRUE.

Don’t lie to your kids. Love your kids, and remember: love rejoices in the truth.

The 3 Easiest Ways to Get a Christian Book Published

Christian publishing has become quite the money-making field. In order to get a Christian book published you must either be

  1. A celebrity
  2. A heretic
  3. A member of the dominant Reformed-Conference tour-industrial complex.

Christians have always been desperate for validation by celebrities. We are so accustomed to celebrities being against Christianity and Christian virtue, we’ll pretty much bend over backwards to not have a problem with any famous person claiming Christ. I’m stunned by the otherwise-level-headed believers who will pontificate about some random celebrity, “Oh, she’s a Christian.”

Celebrities get little criticism if they claim to be Christians. We gladly accept them and all their strange views. Celebrity sells.

Not a well-known athlete, musician, or actress? There’s still hope for you in the Christian Publication Industry!

Be a heretic!

Heretics sell well. Find a new doctrine, make some stuff up, and then write a book about your new-fangled doctrine. Sit back and let the royalty checks pour in!

Or, if that’s too scary for you, write books about other heretics. Write books to attack the books already written.

There are constantly new books and authors that are the latest heretical threat to Evangelical Faith. There are legitimate threats, but who? Rob Bell? Andy Stanley? Joel Osteen? Or is it John MacArthur, John Piper, or Tim Keller?

The problem is in identifying who the heretics are. Heresy is defined as “unorthodox views.” Orthodox views are–what those in power believe. To be a heretic isn’t always bad: it depends who thinks you’re a heretic!

Heresy is usually nothing more than–views held by those who are not in power at the time. This is where we get into group 3 above–the Reformed-Conference tour-industrial complex.

Whenever a new book is published that does not match up with the Reformed-Conference tour-industrial complex’s doctrine, you will see a multitude of their blog posts letting you know what a horrible threat this new heretical book will be to you.

Observing this trend for a couple of years now, it makes me wonder–is the Reformed-Conference tour-industrial complex truly worried about me believing heresy, or are they more worried about losing market share?

For instance, is The Shack or Jesus Calling as bad as “Desiring God Ministries” and “The Gospel Coalition” and “Together 4 the Gospel” and all the other Reformed-Conference tour-industrial complex members say it is, or are they just trying to protect market share?

The best way to drive web site traffic is to critique a best-selling book. People are obviously into the book, the market has been proven, readers will do a search and come across your web site. Instant traffic! There is a healthy market for books written to debunk other books. “Why The Shack Will Destroy Your Faith” books sell well too.

It does not require genius to find fault. I am proving that in this post, in fact.

In all honesty, I have reservations about Jesus Calling and The Shack. I’m not defending these books or authors, nor their doctrinal foundations.

What I am saying is this: Market interests are beginning to dominate the Evangelical world. There is good money in being and labeling things “heretical.” I’m not saying that all members of the Reformed-Conference tour-industrial complex are necessarily wrong, I’m merely speculating that their market interests should cause some reservation in walking with them lockstep.

There is a lot of noise in the marketplace these days. Everyone is selling something and promoting their personal brand. It’s hard to hear in the midst of deafening levels of noise. The Christian marketplace is too noisy. As Solomon said, “In the making of books there is no end.”

It’s been a while since I’ve purchased a new Christian book. I want the market to slow. There are good books out there, but you have to read about 25 in between every good one. Markets are driven by popular demand. Right doctrine has never been in popular demand. Be careful out there.

Doctrinal Convictions and Spiritual Growth

In my years of listening to Christians, I have become aware of a fascinating phenomena: One person’s heresy was another person’s life-giving doctrine.

Let me illustrate.

Not long ago I saw a couple of Christians rejoicing in their Calvinism. They both claimed that they did not see the power of the Gospel until they were taught Calvinist doctrine. Since that day their faith blossomed.

I also know other believers, myself included, who say that ever since they were shown the errors of Calvinism and were taught non-Calvinist doctrine they saw deeper beauty in the Gospel and their faith blossomed.

I have seen this with churches–one group claims massive spiritual growth due to their church, while other people found growth by leaving that church.

I have seen this with adhering to a pastor or professor or author. I’ve seen this with Charismatic experience and deliverance from Charismatic experience. I could go on and on. Each side worked growth for opposite groups.

So, what gives? Here are some possible answers, solely based on my experience and observation of the phenomena.

Continue reading “Doctrinal Convictions and Spiritual Growth”

Trying to Humbly Be Right

Yesterday I talked about being humble in our opinions whether we are scientific, religious, or both, or neither. Not everyone knows everything.

At the same time, some people do know some things! We’re not floating around in an incomprehensible void of mush. Some things can be known.

Science can help us know many things, but not all things. The Bible can help us know many things, but not all things. I think both have their place and the person who embraces both will know more than the one who embraces only one or neither.

But humility is key. The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. Being humble is how learning starts.

Some people are right and some are wrong. There are times when the person who is right needs to correct the person who is wrong, but that correction must be humble too.

Here is a recent conversation I had on the internet, which did not involve me desiring to be in any argument. The question I responded to was asked by a non-Calvinist on his non-Calvinist web site. Here is his question:

What are the potential effects of teaching the Calvinistic claim that if God wants you then He will make you want Him?

Here is my answer:

Then God doesn’t want everyone, eliminates God being good & not a respecter of persons, Christ not a propitiation for sins of the world etc

Not bad for 140 characters! Of course, being the internet, it devolved into an argument. Here is the flow of what ensued.

ANONYMOUS INTERNET ARGUER: Eliminates God being good????? Even if He chose to not save anyone at all He would still be good! He owes us no mercy!!

ME: You are defending the point that being unmerciful would be consistent with being good?

AIA: Yes because He is God and doesn’t HAVE to be merciful. He is good to give justice. Is He not good to give justice to unbelievers? That’s what mercy is!! Exodus 33:19 Titus 3:5
He doesn’t owe anyone mercy. He could damn us all to hell like we deserve. He would still be good. Sorry you have a poor view of Him.

ME: I’m aware of what mercy is. Your point is that God can still be good if He were unmerciful and I disagree.

AIA: God is not unmerciful……He does however withhold His mercy from some….He is still good though.

ME: thank you for making my point. Been a pleasure.

The conversation was dropped here, much to my surprise. I can only assume it’s because the Calvinist at hand was not male.

Now, I have a certain amount of pride in posting this. I think I have a very legitimate point and I think I made it well without going into personal attacks and diversions. I stuck to the original point and I think I made it.

That’s right, so you might want to back off.

AIA’s point is that God is good, therefore, everything He does is inherently good. So, even if God did something that wasn’t good–if He were always unmerciful–He would still be good. Therefore, His hypothetical mercilessness would be good.

This is very bad logic. This rips the word “good” right out of any common-sensical meaning. In order for someone to be good, someone else must be able to recognize the goodness.

God is good, which is why He’s merciful; and God is merciful, which is why God is good. It’s not like one came before the other.

To claim you are good means you do things that are good in and of themselves. Saying you are good, and then doing all manner of bad things, and yet claiming your bad things still define good, is arbitrary and not very orderly. Language falls apart at that point. Words don’t mean anything, so we might as well figglemunch dasser wooblesnouse.

I believe I am right. I believe I am right based on scripture, logic, and word etymology.

I believe I am right based on the arguments against me. The main issue is not addressed, but verse references are given about mercy that don’t touch on the pivotal point at hand, points that are not essential to the debate are brought up, and then there’s this nugget, “Sorry you have a poor view of Him.”

Anytime such responses are used, you know you’re on to something. I ignored it and went back to the original point.

Again, I’m showing this to you so you can see what flawless arguing looks like. I nailed it! Notice my “Been a pleasure!” At the end? That is one sarcastic “!”! I am now an arrogant jerk bragging about my awesomeness to others, thus showing I did not argue out of love, but rather to show intellectual superiority and frustration with non-sensical Calvinist reasoning.

Knowledge puffs up. That’s what it does. I don’t know how to beat it. I just know it when I sees it. I seens it big time. Good luck out there. Stay humble, my friends.

Resurrection and Creation

There are people who worry that cremating a corpse will prevent God from resurrecting the body, or so I’ve heard. This may be one of those apocryphal issues that no one truly has.

There are other ways to die that would seem to cause a problem then, like people who die in real fires. Or bodies that were eaten by animals, digested, and deposited around the forest. Or bodies thrown into the ocean so their decaying bits are carried around by currents.

You get the idea.

The Bible says that from the dust we came, and to the dust we will return. Genesis tells us that “the Lord God formed man out of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.”

I think this gives us assurance that if your body is dust and spread about, God can put it back together. He made it once; He can do it again.

1 Corinthians 15 says that our bodies will be raised from the dead. Our bodies will be changed. We currently have an earthly body; it will be raised in a heavenly body. We have a corruptible body; it will be raised incorruptible. We have a mortal body; it will be raised immortal.

Paul points to the resurrection of Jesus Christ as proof that resurrection is possible. If God can raise up Christ; He can raise up anyone else. If Christ did not rise and there is no resurrection, then you won’t rise either, and we are of all men most miserable. Amen.

Christ’s resurrection is a model for how resurrection takes place. Christ is the firstfruit from the dead. A “firstfruit” is the early harvest that lets you know the rest is coming. It’s a guarantee of more to come.

Christ’s resurrection and the creation of humanity are both types of our future bodily resurrection.

Genesis says that God made us. We did not evolve. There was a moment when God formed man and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and man became a living soul.

Resurrection will happen the same way creation did. Both involve God taking us from the dust of the ground and sticking us together and giving us life.

How was Christ raised from the dead? Did He evolve over time, or did He just get up?

Resurrection is a new creation. It’ll happen the same way the old creation did–there will be a change, in the blink of an eye. A pile of dust will become a living being. The second creation will reflect the first one.

If God is powerful enough to create us the first time; He’s powerful enough to do it again. If God is powerful enough to raise the dead; He’s powerful enough to re-create your pile of dust body, decaying in the ground.

Resurrection of a decayed corpse is no more a problem for God than making you the first time. He’s a pretty big God. He can handle it.

Why God Allows Suffering: A Hypothetical Conversation

If God allows people an opportunity to defend themselves on Judgment Day, this is one way I imagine the conversation to go (I say this with all reservation about putting words in God’s mouth):

GOD: You did a lot of sin down there.

PEOPLE: You’re blaming me for that?

GOD: You’re the one who did it.

PEOPLE: Well, then Satan made me do it.

GOD: I don’t recall telling you to listen to Satan.

PEOPLE: OK, but scientists told me my genes made me do it.

GOD: I don’t recall telling you you had to listen to genes.

PEOPLE: But John Calvin told me you made me do sin for your glory.

GOD: Seriously? I don’t recall telling you to listen to Calvin.

PEOPLE: Well, who were we supposed to listen to?

GOD: You were supposed to listen to me.

PEOPLE: Yeah, well, we would have, but you were always ruining our fun. All those “Thou shalt nots” and so forth.

GOD: I told you those things because I love you and wanted you to avoid pain.

PEOPLE: Yeah, right. Nice spin there. #AlternativeFacts #FakeNews

GOD: #No. That’s pretty much what I told you when I gave you those commands–love is the fulfilling of the law.

PEOPLE: We just wanted to be free. We can’t be free with you dumping commands on us all the time. Why do you have a problem with us being free?

GOD: I have no problem with you being free. You’re the ones who keep bringing yourselves under someone else’s control and saying you have no choice. I gave you freewill.

PEOPLE: Yeah, well, we don’t get that either. Why did you allow sin in the first place?

GOD: It’s part of freedom.

PEOPLE: Why couldn’t you have eliminated evil and suffering though? How can you talk about love and yet sit indifferently by and let us suffer?

GOD: I was not indifferent to evil and suffering. I told you not to do evil because evil brings suffering. All you had to do was listen to me.

PEOPLE: Yeah, but if all we could do is listen to you, we wouldn’t be free!

GOD: I’m aware of that. You’re the ones saying you want to be free. I let you be free. Now you complain because you get the consequences of being free.

PEOPLE: But why couldn’t we be free without suffering?

GOD: Because freedom means you don’t have to listen to me, and I’m the Creator, the God of order. When you break the order; stuff breaks.

PEOPLE: So, what you’re saying is that you gave us our freedom, and then let us suffer under those consequences? You just let us rot in our suffering?

GOD: I joined in your suffering. That whole Jesus and the cross thing. I showed you I still loved you. I showed you I could restore all the pain of your sinful freedom. But you persisted in your sinful choices, complaining about me the whole way, and even making up doctrines to blame me for your rebellion.

PEOPLE: Well, that was dumb of us.

GOD: I agree. Remember that part where I said “every mouth will be stopped?” That happens now.

PEOPLE:

Manic-Depressive Christianity

Over my years as a pastor I have worked with several people who were bi-polar. This is sometimes referred to as being Manic Depressive.

The Manic phase refers to ideas of superiority, taking over the world, on top of it all, and looking down on all the losers around you.

The Depressive state refers to, well, being depressed. The world has stomped me, there is no hope, no reason to continue, I will go enjoy my favorite reality drowning sin.

The Depressed state is replaced with the Manic state, the Manic replaced with the Depressed, and around and around it goes. Each stage is an over-reaction followed by another over-reaction in the opposite direction. It’s one thing to observe it from the outside, it’s another thing to be stuck in the cycle.

There’s another brand of Manic Depressive out there too, beyond human psychology: Manic Depressive Christianity.

When people are down, the Church shoves happy verses at them: all things work together for good, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me, all things are possible with God.

The depressed person goes away chanting these out of context phrases, bucked up by the happy sentiments, they go out in the power of the Spirit to conquer the world. We are more than conquerors after all! Rah-Rah, go get em, boys!

After a couple weeks of exhausting one’s self in uber-happy Christian out of context mantra chanting that has not made any difference or taken over any world, depression sets in.

The Church hands the depressed girl the happy verses. The happy verses are repeated. The depressed girl is bucked up. Rah-rah! Go win one for the Gipper! Only to find out the Gipper died a long time ago and everything stinks.

It’s a discouraging to watch people stuck in this cycle. Facebook is the greatest venue for watching this cycle in action. People post way too much stuff, revealing way too many personal things.

If you have many Christians on your Facebook page, you probably have two or three of these people. One day everything is awesome, and them and God are doing it all! Next week everything is horrible, struggling, pain, failure. Nest week, posting pictures of sunsets with out of context biblical phrases. Next week, on top of the world with Jesus! Repeat.

I get depressed for what the Church does to people. Instead of chanting out of context phrases from verses, rest on the solid rock of God’s Word.

Teaching the Bible is not easy. The Bible is very long. There are many things “hard to be understood,” says the Apostle Peter.

Most churches skip the hard work and settle for self-improvement and bucking up people with happy thoughts torn out of context.

All things do work together for good–and the good, according to the context, includes suffering and being counted as sheep for the slaughter. The good is conformity to Christ; not worldly achievements.

We are more than conquerors, because one day we will be dead and we will have lost our lives, but we will have gained Christ.

All things are possible with God. And, based on the context of this verse, the impossible that will be made possible is rich people will give away their money to the poor, not you getting the girl, or the job, or the new car.

You can do all things through Christ, but the all things don’t mean overcoming obstacles to worldly pleasure and enjoyment. The all things, based on the context, means being content in whatever state you are in regardless of your present state of worldly pleasure and enjoyment.

But the Church doesn’t teach this any more. Too depressing. Not happy enough. Who would come and listen to that? Well, not too many people, but preaching a false message of hope to hopeless people only leads to hopelessness.

Many may not listen to the Bible’s message, but those who do will at least be helped. Changing the Bible’s message so more will hear you, only makes you accountable for destroying those souls by your false, incomplete message.

I pray for the Church. I pray for those stuck in the Manic-Depressive cycle and those stuck in the Christian version of it, too.