May 11, 2008

And You Shall Teach Them Diligently

As usual, I will need a few moments to set this up, so please bear with me :).


Deuteronomy 5:16 16 ¶ 'Honor your father and your mother, as the LORD your God has commanded you, that your days may be prolonged, and that it may go well with you on the land which the LORD your God gives you.

Ephesians 6:2-4 2 Honor your father and mother (which is the first commandment with a promise), 3 that it may be well with you, and that you may live long on the earth. 4 And, fathers, do not provoke your children to anger; but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

So often we use this verse or speak about it, but we never really delve into what it means, how it plays out practically in life. As already stated, the purpose of this note is not to give an exposition of this verse, but rather to be one part of a lifetime of fulfilling it, to thank my mom on this mother’s day. Children are called to honor and obey their parents and parents are called to raise their children in the love and admonition of the Lord, not unto wrath. As with all of the scriptures, the purpose is a matter of the inward heart, not merely outward appearance. I have been blessed with a mother that understands this and has raised me to. Though there are many ways to express appreciation and love, public praise is a very important one and is the purpose and intent of this note.

For those of you that don’t know, I am a student at Southern Seminary. I have been blessed to be able to take a parenting class this semester covering the Biblical theory, methodology, and implementation of parenting. It was a very encouraging, fun, and devotional class for me. You may wonder how so, when I am still single and not dating, thus quite far from parenting? My mom is the answer to that question. Ultimately all glory and honor belong to the Lord, but his faithful servants are also to be praised. I say it was devotional first because of the subject, the very subject of parenting is a weighty one that encompasses the gamut of the Gospel. There is much to be learned and applied between the two. Yet, I also say it was devotional because I cannot remember a single time during the course that we covered something my mom not only lived out in how she raised me, but also taught me to do the same. I was constantly presented with material and over and over I could hear or see my mom in the past either doing the same thing or giving the same advice.

As I said in a previous note dedicated to my mom, she would not have me go on and on bragging about her (though I most certainly could), so I will respect her wishes. Yet, I will say a few things very briefly. Of all the things that I could list and all the things mom has done (and believe me, they are MANY), perhaps the thing that has had the greatest impact is the level of communication we have always shared. I cannot take credit for this. Sure, I talk a lot (once you get to know me anyway), but the communication came from my mom, constantly teaching and correcting me. With the communication we were able to, well, communicate about a lot of things. We have had endless conversations lasting who knows how long about countless things (I guess you get the point). Yet, in these conversations, mom was not just talking to me. No, she was also teaching me. We would talk about theory, methodology, and implementation of parenting as well as life in general. When she would discipline me, she would explain why and what her goal was. When she would observe me interacting with others, she would explain how that fit in one category or another and why this may work and that may not. My mom LIVED the Shema(h)*, teaching me at every moment in constant selflessness. I cannot imagine how much it must have taken out of her, especially considering the things we’ve been through; and yet, she was always faithful, and is always faithful. Even to this day, mom continues to teach me and to watch over my soul as it were. Even to this day, she is the most discerning person I’ve ever met. She led me in love and in devotion to Christ and I am who I am in Him ultimately because of Him, but I was led that way through my mom, His faithful servant.

I remember one conversation in particular a while back where I was complimenting her and, being humble as she is, she said that most kids think so, but that as they age, they begin to see mistakes their parents made and wonder to themselves “why did mom do this to me” or that a particular thing the parents chose to do caused trouble later on. I told her then that by nature of her statement I couldn’t give an adequate answer, but that I did not believe that would be true (and even if it were, we are all human). As with so many of the things mom has told me, I “kept it (them) in my heart.” Since then I have paid close attention to myself and to the idea of parenting, I do not want to be blind. After over a year of this contemplation, several marriage and this parenting class, I still stand by what I said. Strong as I am, I cannot fathom how she raised me in the way she did with the circumstances as they were. She gave me a sure foundation in Christ and even helped me build the walls. Was she perfect? Am I blind to her imperfections? Most certainly not, but we are all human and as parents go, I cannot, with all of my vivid imagination, imagine someone to have done a better job or done it with more love.

With all that she has poured into me and all that the Lord has led me to, I do not fear marriage or parenting. I take it seriously don’t get me wrong, but I do not fear it. I have seen the things she taught me work time and time again and even here at Seminary, they were prescribed as the way we ought to raise our children. With such testimony, how can I fear. Instead, I prayerfully hope that I can be an equally loving and wise parent.

As I said in the beginning of this note, one of the ways that you can demonstrate love is to publicly praise the one you love and yet I can’t even do that without realizing that my mom is the one who taught me how. So, I’m afraid that I can’t give her anything she has not already given me… but then again, that is the truest definition of love and a wonderful picture of the Gospel. Thank you so much mom, for your endless love, care, and support. You have taught me more about the Lord, the Scriptures, and ministry, than all my theology classes combined. What else can I say, but I love you and I am unspeakably thankful that the Lord allowed me to have you for my mother!

So mom, thank you so much! Please continue praying for me as I know you have, do, and will. I pray for you all the time and I am continually amazed by your wisdom, insight, and love! Words will surely fail if I continue trying, so, happy mother’s day!

*Deuteronomy 6:4-9 ¶ "Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one! 5 "And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6 "And these words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart; 7 and you shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. 8 "And you shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. 9 "And you shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

May 5, 2008

De Temps En Temps, Je Suis Un Cynique

Ok, most of the time when I write, I try VERY hard to speak very softly (and have even been told that in my writing I “apologize” too much). I do that on purpose because I never know who will be reading and what they might be going through at the time. Anyone that has heard me preach or hold someone in accountability knows that the way I write is much more “seasoned with salt” than my natural “prophet mode.” The difference is that in person, I have some background to know who the person (or audience) is, what they are going through, and what might be the best way to help them change, which should be our goal. When writing, I write to a “blank” audience and am thus not afforded the luxury of contextualizing. Thus, I have chosen the softest “speech” I can allow myself, without shrinking from the truths that I desire to share (and quite frankly don’t want to sound or be arrogant in the way I present things).

In the context of most of the things I write about, to preach the truth blindly, with no thought to contextualization, is to be personally offensive and do a disservice to the Gospel. That is to risk breaking the bruised reed or putting out the smoldering flax. When dealing with preaching the truth of the Gospel (for example), if someone vehemently denies the Deity of Christ, then sure oppose them outright; yet even there, -often- there is place to season your speech (speaking to someone one on one verses defending your flock for example). At the same time, anyone who understands the scriptures also knows there is indeed a time to oppose with vigor, standing with power on the truth of the Gospel… to set your face as a flint. A brief overview of the prophets will demonstrate this. Yet, a close inspection of their methods will show that this type of confrontation was a last resort. The simple truth is that if change is the goal, as it should be, people will usually respond better when you season your speech with salt and take a “come let us reason together” approach. You can become more and more strong and more and more bold as you see the need and opportunity. Anyway, the point is that my writing is primarily about people, relationships, and reflection. This context demands a softer approach. Some writers, such as Dr. Mohler, are writing to a “hostile” secular audience, primarily to defend the truths of the Scriptures, and thus they must write according to that context. Anyway, once again, what was supposed to be pretty much a one-liner has turned into much more ;). Thus, the following was the actual original intention.

Sometimes I am quite the cynic and my cynical nature is usually checked, yet, the more tired I am the less of a “check” I have. The "sanctificationometer" sorta goes haywire in proportion to the lack of sleep, which is certainly among the reasons that sleep is often the first method of Spiritual attack in my life. Anyway, I am admitting to you ahead of time that I am being cynical (and then off to get a nap and finish another paper).

I had to laugh today, in a sad sort of way. I find it so funny sometimes to listen to people talk to each other, especially when a young man and young woman have obviously just started meeting with each other and are in the process of trying to suck up to or sell themselves to the other person. Words are coming out of their mouths and at a superficial level, they honestly believe they are having a discussion about some arbitrary thing. Today’s example was that they both were trying to impress each other by admitting that “they” understand that men and women are so different and by proving that they, in fact, do understand how it’s so sad and that “other” people fall into catering to the ideals of romantic love and how they believe in Biblical love. The conversation ensued with lots of emphatic and drawn-out “yeah’s” and silly laughter in thankfulness that the most obvious “Christian soapbox” they could think to address wasn’t rejected as false by the other person, though they specifically chose that soapbox because they know it is so solid that any “good” Christian would have to agree. At the same time, the other person tries diligently to figure out a way to agree with whatever is said, no matter what qualifiers or “round-about” thinking is required, so that they are not perceived negatively by the other person. This is exceedingly comic, to quote Kierkegaard. They are both so insecure with themselves, so distrusting of the other person, and ultimately so unwilling to take a stand that their conversation amounts to nothing. Further, if they can’t accept you for who you are (in Christ, of course), then why are you interested? If you are not sure, how else do you intend to find out? I am of course presuming that an honest, Godly relationship is the goal.

Again, it is exceedingly comic because at a superficial level they honestly believe themselves to be discussing those things. Yet, the real conversation is below the surface and amounts to a tentative “hey I like you do you like me?... but I’m not yet willing to be vulnerable and show you who I am so I’ll stick to sucking up for the time being.” The example today was especially funny because in the process of doing this, and of superficially discussing their refusal to cater to romantic love, they were, in fact, catering to it by their actions. It is sad for many reasons. For one, because each and every time a person speaks in this way they are lying to themselves, to the other person, and to the Lord. Further, with each and every statement spoken or thought in this manner, they are slowly breaking down their integrity and conscience. Also, they are setting up a false picture for the other person and setting themselves up for failure. Now, lest you think me guilty of claiming to have never done this, I can remember doing this a time or two, but for the most part, I just don’t understand it. Yet, as always, I must question my own motives in even writing this. Am I just writing to try to impress someone unknown to me, to prove that “I’m not like them?” Am I having a superficial conversation with my readers speaking superficial words while below the surface trying to communicate some weak insecure plea? What possible motives could I have? Why do I write at all? I know I can’t trust myself or my own motives sometimes, yet, by my actions I must be trusting them to some degree. If you ask me why I write I can think of at least three reasons. I realize I’m leaving a paper trail, I desire to honor and glorify Christ with my life, and I want to live life before people so that I may be held in check and so that we may all be aided through discussion as iron sharpens iron; yet inherent in that is ample room for false motives and self-aggrandizement if my heart is not where it ought to be. I don’t honestly think this is the case, but neither did “they.”

Folks, regardless of my motives, we ought to live in transparency before God, with ourselves, and with others. There are times or situations where transparency cannot exist because Biblical principles or wisdom dictate that it is so, but aside from that, there is simply no excuse. As you well know, I could go on and on with this both in discussion and in quoting all sorts of scriptures, but I won’t. I’ll leave it right there and close with one of my favorite quotes.

“In our addresses, let our conduct be sincere, and tempers undisguised; let us use no artifices to cover or conceal our natural frailties and imperfections; but be outwardly, what we really are within, and appear such as we design steadfastly to continue”—Benjamin Franklin