Sunday, December 20, 2009

To Be Sober Part 5 - Bitter Roots

Bitterness and resentment can creep into the mind and cause us to retreat and/or lash out. We could be holding onto pain from the past, or something that just grinds us daily like a lack of help with kids, or around the home. This very common verse has helped me greatly with my resentment towards my husband, and I think it will be an encouragement to you too.

Then the LORD God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him." Genesis 2:18 (emphasis added)

Notice in the above verse that he is not to be our "helper", but we are made to be his. Taking a different look at the passage and putting it practically in my life stopped me in my tracks. I realized for so many years I resented my husband for not being a better helper to me when it was my calling to be a helper to him. Proverbs 31:10-12 also says

"An excellent wife, who can find? For her worth is far above jewels. The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. She does him good and not evil all the days of her life." We need to just put away bitterness.

"Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled" Hebrews 12:14-15."

Would our husbands say that we did him good and not evil all the days of his life? Are we holding on to bitterness that can bring many people (family, neighbors, children, etc.) to be defiled? The wonderful thing about most men is that they don't hold grudges like we do. It's time to (as I say to my kids) to "turn it around".

As I read this excerpt from Charles Spurgeon, I'm delighted to notice the overall attitude of the wife. This may sound ideal to some, but it just takes one person that chooses to rejoice in any circumstance.

“Sometimes we have seen a model marriage, founded on pure love, and cemented in mutual esteem. Therein, the husband acts as a tender head; and the wife, as a true spouse, realizes the model marriage-relation, and sets forth what our oneness with the Lord ought to be. She delights in her husband, in his person, his character, his affection; to her he is not only the chief and foremost of mankind, but in her eyes he is all-in-all; her heart’s love belongs to him, and him only. She finds sweetest content and solace in his company, his fellowship, his fondness; he is her little world, her Paradise, her choice treasure. At any time, she would gladly lay aside her own pleasure to find it doubled in gratifying him. She is glad to sink her individuality in his. She seeks no renown for herself; his honor is reflected upon her, and she rejoices in it. She would defend his name with her dying breath; safe enough is he where she can speak for him. The domestic circle is her kingdom; that she may there create happiness and comfort is her lifework; and his smiling gratitude is all the reward she seeks. Even in her dress, she thinks of him; without constraint she consults his taste and considers nothing beautiful which is distasteful to him.
A tear from his eye because of any unkindness on her part, would grievously torment her. She seeks not how her behavior may please a stranger, or how another’s judgment may approve her conduct; let her beloved be content, and she is glad. He has many objects in life, some of which she does not quite understand; but she be believes in them all, and anything she can do to promote them, she delights to perform. He lavishes love on her, and, in return, she lavishes love on him. Their object in life is common. There are points where their affections so intimately united that none could tell which is first and which is second. To watch their children growing up in health and strength, to see them holding posts of usefulness and honor, is their mutual concern; in this and other matters, they are fully one. Their wishes blend, their hearts are indivisible. By degrees, they come to think very much the same thoughts. Intimate association creates conformity; I have known this to become so complete that, at the same moment, the same utterance has leapt to both their lips."Happy woman and happy man! If Heaven be found on earth, they have it! At last, the two are so blended, so engrafted on one stem, that their old age presents a lovely attachment, a common sympathy, by which its infirmities are greatly alleviated, and its burdens are transformed into fresh bonds of love. So happy a union of will, sentiment, thought, and heart exists between them, that the two streams of their life have washed away the dividing bank, and run on as one broad current of united existence till their common joy falls into the ocean of eternal felicity.”

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Welcome Autumn!!

If you look closely, you can see the bees.

My two youngest boys are too scared to make their way along "Scarecrow Alley".

He has made His wonders to be remembered; The LORD is gracious and compassionate. Psalm 111:4

My favorite season is finally here. I love the colors of orange, yellow, green, brown and even red. I also love the smell of spices when I enter a market and taking in the cool air.

I took these pictures to remember the beautiful day I had with the kids on a cool (for Southern California) October afternoon. I pray I never lose my sense of wonder of the faithfulness and consistency of His creation.

Friday, September 25, 2009

To Be Sober Part 4 - Examining Ourselves

For though the LORD is exalted, Yet He regards the lowly, But the haughty He knows from afar. Psalm 138:6

It seems a man’s most general sin is selfishness. We also have our own sin as women which counteracts theirs, and it is also selfishness, and it manifests itself in entitlement and self righteousness. In my blog “Disenchanting Idol’s”, I discuss this problem more in detail. We live in a culture that has been influenced by liberalism, and it has seeped into the church more than we realize. One preacher has said in the last decade he is seeing a reformation of young people returning to scripture. "This reformation will reveal who is a real disciple of Jesus Christ, and who is playing with a watered down cultural "Christianity" that holds the form of godliness, but denies the power thereof." I believe that. When I share what I have learned in God's word in regards to my relationship with my husband and children, I’m amazed that more often than not, women who are my age and older, and who know more than I do about the Bible, and often talk of their conservative “right minded” views, are the most contentious about these truths. I heared from two women who said with a chuckle, "I don't want to be convicted of that". Things can be seemingly fine in your marriage, but with that attitude, you're still in rebellion before a Holy God. "An excellent wife is the crown of her husband, But she who shames him is like rottenness in his bones." Proverbs 12:4

We stand up to false doctrines, such as Mormonism, or the Jehovah Witnesses, but we don’t realize how much our behavior and mindset has been influenced by the doctrine of Hollywood. You see on commercials, movies, books and any sitcom that we women are much smarter, wiser, and now it seems even tougher than any guy. We can become rather proud in our "righteous indignation", and fail to examine our own sin in light of God's word.

When I first came into my Bible study over 10 years ago, I certainly felt that it was my husband's fault that our marriage was struggling. Every time someone would try to tell me I was in error, I felt entitled because his sin was so much worse and I was sinning in response. My teacher told us to take 2% responsibility; maybe even 1%. Even if it is 98% his fault, I can work with my 2%. Only God can change your husband. The more you try, the more he will either stand his ground and rebel, or withdraw in his “cave”. We can’t change our husbands, but we can change with God’s help. Take 100% responsibility for your 2%.

Naomi Wright who has been teaching the Titus 2 principles for more than 50 years, compiled a list that has been very helpful to me. We were given these examples of three types of women near the end of the year when the topic was "submission", but I think it would help with discerning our own "2%". In order to see any change take place in our lives, we need to "turn our eyeballs" around as my teacher Joanne would say.

What Kind of Woman are You?

The Doormat Woman:
People Pleaser
Heart Attitude: Fear and Guilt
Rights: Doesn't feel she has any
Responsibilities: Feels responsible for everything and everyone (co-dependent)
Emotions and Self Control: Highly emotional, prone to fear and self-pity
Love Relationships: Being accepted is more important than being loving and truthful
Needs: Lets needs and feeling of others rule over her life
Discernment: Only wants to see strengths, not weaknesses in others
Dealing with Shortcomings: Overly disappointed when sees weaknesses, often devastated
Truth: Afraid to be truthful for fear of angry consequences
Submission: Misunderstands submission
Power: Feels powerless and intimidated
Offense: Stuff offense - stays unresolved

The Contentious Woman
Motive: "...unto self"
Heart Attitude: Resentful
Rights: Recognizes rights and demands them
Responsibilities: More concerned with rights than responsibilities
Emotions and Self Control: Highly emotional and prone to fear, resentment and anger
Love Relationships: Being right is more important than being loving
Needs: Preoccupied with her own feelings and needs
Discernment: Only sees weaknesses
Dealings with Shortcomings: Critical and judgemental when weakness is revealed
Truth: Offers truth through blaming and demands change
Submission: Resents and rejects submission
Power: Wants her own power
Offense: Is quick to be offended

The Sober Minded Woman of God

Motive: "...unto God"
Heart Attitude: Cheerful and willing
Rights: Recognizes rights and lays them down
Responsibilities: More concerned with responsibilities than rights
Emotions and Self Control: In touch with feelings, but not controlled by them
Love Relationships: Being loving is more important than being right
Needs: Listens carefully and is sensitive to the needs of others, but not ruled by them
Discernment: Sees both weaknesses and strengths, but accepts person
Dealings with Shortcomings: Edifies, encourages and strengthens when weaknesses show
Truth: Offers truth and petitions out of love
Submission: Embraces submission
Power: Focuses on God's power and her own powerlessness
Offense: Slow to be offended, willing to admit and resolve it when it occurs

I admit, I swing from being a contentious woman to a doormat woman depending on my mood. However, through the years as I grow in my Christian walk, I see God working things out in my own life so I can become the "sober minded woman of God" through sanctification. That leads me to my next question...Do you know God?

"For indeed He was crucified because of weakness, yet He lives because of the power of God For we also are weak in Him, yet we will live with Him because of the power of God directed toward you. Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you--unless indeed you fail the test?" 2 Corinthians 13:4-5I'm not saying that you're not a Christian unless you're the 100% sober minded woman of God, but if you're not sensitive over your sin (If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. 1 John 1:8 ) , then I would encourage you check out the video below, or listen to the series on Biblical Assurance on the red widget on the right of this blog. Even if you're assured of your salvation, it doesn't hurt to examine ourselves to renew our minds of the wonderful assurance of what Jesus did for us. It has blessed me greatly.

Friday, August 28, 2009

To Be Sober Part 3 - The Purpose of Marriage

"Sincerity makes the very least person to be of more value than the most talented hypocrite" - Charles Haddon Spurgeon

I have to be honest, nothing has been more challenging in my 16 year pilgrimage with the Lord than my marriage. Marriage can be very wonderful, but more often than not, we do not warn of the pitfalls of marriage, and young people go in with high expectations of fluffy bliss. I know I did. I ignored the crazy statistics out there of almost 60% of marriages ending in divorce. When I first got married and things started unraveling, I felt so ashamed and alone because other couples, especially in churches, seemed to be in a piece of heaven. What was wrong with us? As I get older I'm starting to hear real stories from real women, and we and our husbands are just normal sinners sharing the same roll of toilet paper. If only we as older women would be honest with younger women and share our experiences good and bad, how it would equip, encourage and even save marriages. Titus 2:3-5 are not suggestions, but a mandate. I only had one woman in my early marriage who was a pastor's wife that came and asked me how things were going. I lied and told her things were fine. She shared briefly that she had been married for many years, and for the first five it were very difficult. I remember coming away from that conversation so relieved, but I needed more mentoring.

I’m convinced if I would only get it right as a wife, everything else would fall into place. I’m not going to tell you with hypocrisy that I have arrived, or even try to appear like I have all the answers; only God has all the answers given to us through His word. The reason why I share what God has taught me is not only to help those who need it, but to also review and challenge myself. I desperately need help with the natural tendency that we all have as women to rule over our husbands (Genesis 3:16); whether we would do that in dominance, or in a manipulative martyr way. I have a long way to go to being a woman of God. It seems I would do well for a while, then things can go awry before I would blink.

I was saved a year before I was married, and I thought I was so spiritual. I was over the moon for the Lord, life was good, sin no longer had the dominion over me like it did, and I could see the Lord working in my life in so many areas. I was reading my Bible every day, going to church with my Grandma, praying, telling others about Jesus and singing Hallelujah; then I got married. For the first time in a year, swear words flew out of my mouth at my new husband. (This problem is no longer by God's grace.) This is a man I made a covenant with before God in His sanctuary in front of over a hundred witnesses promising to love and cherish for the rest of my life. Talk about a wake up call that I was not the sanctified self righteous princess I thought I was. I was so ashamed. We went through years of arguing, until we withdrew into quiet despair. After about five years, I found myself in bed weeping uncontrollably for four days. I fell into a deep depression.

I managed to get out of bed, but the hopelessness of just hearing the alarm clock and waking up seemed daunting. What will this day bring? Is it going to be a day of more emptiness, heartache, rushing, fighting, dirty socks on the floor, etc., etc., etc? For the first time in my life, even a day at the salon would not cheer me up. Things I once enjoyed seemed like just another task. I remember this time about 10 years ago, going to a salon and telling the lady to do what she wanted, and that I didn't care. It almost seemed in the woman’s eyes she knew. She seemed to take extra care with me as she stayed silent to cut my hair. I’m a very relational person, and I just sat there stone faced. I needed a good year of biblical counseling, and a Titus 2 Bible study to help me get through all of that. God is so good in so many ways; it would take a rather large book to write it all out. He really is the Good Shepherd.

Perhaps you can relate in some way. God knows, and has never left or forsaken you. You may be going through pain much worse than anything I have ever experienced. I want to encourage you with a verse on the reason for marriage if you’re a Christian. Here it goes…

“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren” Romans 8:28-29

Most of us know this verse, but rarely do we apply it to marriage. I heard a preacher say that more often than not, God will give us a mate that is not compatible. When we think of Christ we think of His ability to forgive and His unconditional love. God will use what it takes to teach us unconditional love. How can we ever learn to love unconditionally if our mate meets all of our conditions? We are being conformed to His image and that should be an encouragement. He is the Potter and we are the clay. Praise God!

Once I came to a place where I realized that I deserve nothing outside of His grace and His salvation is more than enough, my perspective started to change. God revealed to Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10"And He has said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness " Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong."

I find myself reminding myself time and time again of Paul's prayer that I not only have been saved from the Hell I deserve, but bought and purified by the blood of Christ, and given more grace by being adopted as His own. If you think of that, all we could do is rejoice. On top of all of that, He blessed me with a wonderful husband and children.

If your husband is not regenerated by the Holy Spirit, I know that is a lonely road. I was there for the first 15 years of my marriage. If you've been a Christian for very long, I'm sure you're familiar with the verse in 1 Peter 3:1 "In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior." If you catch the first part of that verse, "In the same way", it refers to the previous text in 1 Peter chapter 2 as it mentions submitting to authority and being a bond servant to Christ to "silence the ignorance of foolish men" through your obedience. Also it refers to Christ's example during His crucifixion..."and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously;" 1 Peter 2:23. I would encourage you to do a study on 1 Peter chapters 2 and 3. He doesn't ask us to be nailed to a cross, but He does call us to take up our cross and follow Him. Some are called to suffer not only conform us to His image, but to give us the privilege to represent Him as He sanctifies us.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

To Be Sober Part 2 - Disenchanting Idols

"You shall have no other gods before Me." Exodus 20:3

I was thinking of my own thought life and the constant war zones I find myself in. I realized that most of my negative thinking and lack of sober mindedness is all rooted by idols. We all have them. Some of these thoughts may start by good intentions (ministry, marriage, kids, volunteer work, etc...), but before we know it, we have been ensnared by our own flesh, whether that be in a form of acceptance, accolades, or fear of the people in our lives. Another example of an idol is with us mothers. We often worry over our children that can overwhelm us to the point of crippling our trust in God's sovereignty. Let’s put it this way, whatever fills your mind the most is your god.

The Bible’s definition of an idol is an image of a deity other than God. So what is that supposed “divine” thing that takes your thoughts away from the One True God or obeying His word? So many Christians believe that the Bible is inspired by God, but few really believe it is sufficient. "All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work." 2 Timothy 3:16-17. Often times the philosophies of this world can lead us in idolatry to strive for something outside of the will of God such as money, career, success, and even the American dream rather than strive for His Kingdom. There is nothing wrong with wanting those things, but we need to examine our motives and see if any work we do brings glory to God, and the promotion of His Kingdom rather than ourselves and our kingdom.

An idol is also any person or thing regarded with blind admiration, adoration, or devotion. I think for most women who read fairy tales as a little girl, or read romance novels (even Christian), would form an image in our heart of the “perfect man”. We all know the handsome Prince Charming who promised to take us away from our annoying parents and siblings and go far, far away, and (now let’s say it together...) live happily ever after. Even as little girls, that was our fantasy, our dream come true. Another definition of an idol is a mere image or semblance of something, visible but without substance, as a phantom; a figment of the mind, or a fantasy. The reality is if you’re married, or going to be married, accept he is a sinner, a seed of Adam. I will talk later about the differences between men and women, but it’s not common, being that they are conquers by nature, will slay the dragon, hang their swords, watch TV and “let go” after a long day. Meanwhile, we can become very disenchanted and even miss our Prince Charming that he once was (or appeared to be). Not only is the image of the perfect man an idol, but a desire for romance or a close companionship can root bitterness and discontentment. Realize that any preconceived notions from books we’ve read, TV shows, soap opera, movies, etc are only a mere image without substance. We really need to be very careful of the images we put in our minds. Those images can lead us astray into emotional idolatry, and give us a heart of discontentment, and feed vain imaginations of entitlement. Our culture brainwashes us to believe that a sinful man can fulfill us and make us "complete". Only God can truly satisfy. "No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.Therefore, my dear friends, flee from idolatry. I speak to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say. 1 Corinthians 10:13-15"
Here is an exercise I share with women and practice myself using Philippians 4:8. “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” That is a command from God! If you’re struggling to even think of anything good about your husband, you need to remove the idol of “the perfect man” and replace it with five things that are true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, etc. and pray with thanksgiving. Pray for a week and show with your face (smile at him) your admiration of him. Because “a happy heart makes the face cheerful, but heartache crushes the spirit.” Proverbs 15:13

I know this may sound simplistic especially if you are married to a difficult, sinful, rebellious, cantankerous, or neglectful man, but scripture is simplistic. The disappointment may seem overwhelming to the point of hopelessness. When I share the "list making exercise", I'll get this death glare, but it all comes down to our own pride of our supposed righteous indignation, and turning our eyes around to ourselves. This may not fix your husband, but through God's word and being obedient, God will change your heart, thus changing the tone of your home and fade that "perfect man" or any other idol that steals the desire for God. "I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh." Ezekiel 36:25-26 This verse talks about regeneration that results in sanctification, and this should be the process in the life of the true believer. We’ve made it way more complicated than it needs to be by simply not trusting the Lord in ALL THINGS and leaving that idol on His throne in prayer, and being thankful for the mission He has sent us on. "Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:5-7

Let me share an experience that I had this just past week. I was having a serious conversation with my friend at the beach while my three boys were playing next to us in the sand. If I analyzed what that “serious” thing was, it was a worthless idol. After talking for several minutes, my friend asked me where my youngest son David was. I immediately stood up, and quickly was at the brink of hysteria trying to locate him. He was gone! The terror filled my mind as I imagined the worse case scenario that he drowned in the ocean. I begged God, “please no, oh God, please no!” After about 10 minutes, a group of Christian woman next to us huddled in a prayer circle while lifeguards for miles were locating a little six year old boy with blue shorts and brown hair. I was standing at the water edge with fixed eyes on the bobbing heads in the water. Within minutes, a lifeguard got a message on her walky-talky that they found him. He had wandered off.

The irony of this incident is that my friends and family tease me at my child watching intensity in potentially dangerous situations. Immediately that conversation of that very "serious" nature became the furthest thing from my mind. My point in sharing that story with you is how “idols” take our hearts and minds off the things that really matter. That could of been a very tragic situation, and because of my negligence, could of cost my son his life. This may be an extreme example, but more often than not, I choose "me" rather than spending time with God, my boys, husband, family, etc.. When it comes down to it, I only need to look in the mirror to find my idol, and see that I'm worshipping my own desires when I'm not walking in obedience and denying myself. And He (Jesus) was saying to them all, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it. " Luke 9:23-24. God will use anything to humble us and make us see that we are not what we think we are. I really believe He brought this incident to not only to show His power in prayer to all the unsaved that was all around us, but to also show me that I’m weak and distracted by things that are only a blind admiration.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Virtuous "Young" Woman

"Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, But a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised" Proverbs 31:30

To Be Sober - The Foundation Part 1

Titus 2:3-5 (King James Version) "The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed."

The word “sober” is the last word that comes to mind when my boys are fighting, when they lolly gag with their homework, or when my husband says a careless word. I’ve asked God to forgive me from "losing it" numerous times. I'm getting better by His grace, but still a work in progress. I understand now it all starts with the mind and to yank negative thought patterns at the root. Just knowing that and praying when my mind is not in line with scripture, has helped me greatly. Believe me, I’m a very emotional person, and I need a double dose of daily mercy in this area. Being of sober mind is so much more than staying away from alcohol (not a bad idea by the way), but lays the foundation for the rest of the principles listed in Titus 2:4-5. As I read the word of God, my mind marvels at the lack of human logic that goes into the text. Only God knows us women; more than we know ourselves. Our biggest struggle is a lack of balance in our lives, and it all starts with our thought life. Here is a chart that makes that point more clear.

  • Thoughts create Feelings
  • Feelings create Actions
  • Actions create Habits
  • Habits create Character

I will use the King James Bible for the main text of Titus 2:3-5. I will be using the New American Standard Bible (NAS) for other references. If you have an NIV, the word sober is described as “self-controlled”. An NAS would define it as “sensible”, and more contemporary versions would describe it as “sensible” or “clean minded”. The original Greek word is “Sophronizo”, which means to recall to one’s senses and being self controlled. I personally like the word “sober” because it is weighty with implication. Many people are familiar with Titus 2:3-5, but you know what they say, “familiarity brings contention”. Often times we hear a text so much that it can became cliché and lose its meaning. From this point forward, when I introduce a Titus 2 principle, I will use a dictionary and a thesauruses to define the term, making sure to pick out the definition in the proper context and align it with the scripture. This has really helped me bring more reality, practical application, and conviction in my life. I’m not trying to add anything to God’s word, but with our sinful hearts, we often grow dull of the scriptures from the overuse in other applications throughout our lives.

The word “sober” means: habitually temperate, quiet or sedate in demeanor, subdued, self controlled, sane, rational, prudent and not easily offended.The “not easily offended” is what gets me. Chanting “a sober minded woman is not easily offended” needs to be my mantra throughout my day. What a concept that God has to set us free. Being offended is ultimately MY choice.

Here are some antonyms to “sober”: emotional, irrational, immoderate, stormy, upset, worried, mixed up and undiscerning. I’ve experienced all of these, and they have only done harm to me and to my family.

"Houses and wealth are inherited from parents, but a prudent wife is from the LORD." Proverbs 19:14

Common Parent Traps by John MacArthur

If you’ve been a parent for any time at all, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that your child came into the world with an insatiable faculty for evil. Even before birth, your baby’s little heart was already programmed for sin and selfishness. The inclination toward depravity is such that, given free reign, every baby has the potential to become a monster.

Original sin is the biblical doctrine that explains your child’s sinful proclivity. It means children do not come into the world seeking God and righteousness. They do not even come into the world with a neutral innocence. They come into the world seeking the fulfillment of sinful and selfish desires. Scripture also teaches a doctrine called total depravity, referring to the extent of original sin. Although the outworking of the sin nature does not necessarily attain full expression in everyone’s behavior, it is nonetheless called total depravity because there is no aspect of the human personality, character, mind, emotions, or will that is free from the corruption of sin or immune to sin’s enticements.

Put bluntly, sin is not learned—it is an inbred disposition. Your kids got their sinful nature from you, you got it from your parents, your parents got it from their parents, and so on, all the way back to Adam. In other words, Adam’s fall tainted the entire human race with sin. Both the guilt and the corruption of sin are universal. The apostle Paul wrote, “Through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned” (Rom. 5:12, emphasis added). “Through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men” (v. 18), meaning we inherited the guilt of sin. And “through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners” (v. 19), meaning we inherited the corruption of sin. No one is exempt. No one is born truly innocent.

That means that left to themselves, your children will pursue a course of sin. And left entirely to themselves, there is no evil of which they are incapable. You may find that hard to swallow, especially when you see them as newborns. Infants seem to be the very epitome of chaste, precious, childlike innocence. But don’t let the cute cheeks, the playful coos, and the bright eyes fool you — those children are a miniature version of you! The depravity that lives in their hearts is just waiting for the opportunity to express itself.

So how should the doctrines of original sin and total depravity impact your parenting? Before I answer that, let me show you three parenting approaches that miss the mark.

Trap #1: Focusing on Behavior: Many parents go off track by focusing all their efforts on controlling their child’s behavior. Be careful. If you concentrate all your energies on correcting external behavior, or staving off misbehavior with threats of discipline, you may be doing little more than training a hypocrite.I’ve seen that happen repeatedly. I know Christian parents who think their parenting is successful because they’ve taught their children to act politely on cue, to answer with “Yes, Sir” and “No, Ma’am,” and to speak to adults when spoken to. While that kind of behavior control may appear to work wonders for a time (especially when the parents are nearby), it does not address the root problem of depravity. Sinful behavior is a symptom of a sinful heart.

Trap #2: Focusing on Environment: Other parents try to control their child’s environment. They attempt to build a cocoon around their kids to isolate them from bad influences. They restrict their children’s exposure to television, ban popular music from the home, and sometimes forbid contact with children whose parents may not share their same parenting philosophy.While I do think you should shield your kids from the experience of evil, you need to teach them to be wise and discerning when confronted with evil. They won’t learn those lessons if they are completely isolated. The isolationist approach merely produces naïve children who are gullible and vulnerable, defenseless in the world.

Try as you might, you won’t be able to isolate your children forever. When the day comes that they venture out into the world, they need to be prepared with discernment skills and wisdom to detect and resist the enticements of the devil and the world. If you choose to shield them from an evil environment, you are ignoring the enemy within them — a depraved heart. But if you win the heart, you win the child.

Trap #3: Focusing on Self-Esteem: A very prevalent approach today is to build a child’s self-esteem. That method assumes that if a child sees himself as good, noble, and wonderful, he’ll not only behave better, but he will also treat others better. This method turns self-love into a virtue.
The truth is that much of the modern effort to spark kids’ self-esteem is simply pouring gasoline on a runaway fire. It encourages already selfish kids to think they are justified in wanting their own way. It makes you as a parent think you have to defer to the child, no matter what, because the child has a right to express himself freely, so he feels good about himself. All of that only escalates out-of-control behavior and feeds the worst tendencies of human depravity. Want to ensure that your child will become a delinquent? Feed his self-esteem and then compound the problem by refusing to correct him when he is wrong.

Self-esteem is based on an unbiblical perspective that denies original sin and the doctrine of total depravity. The Bible has nothing positive to say about self-esteem, self-love, or any other variety of self-centeredness. It teaches your child to deny himself, not love himself (Luke 9:23).

The Right Approach: Focusing on the Heart: There’s only one remedy for your child’s inborn depravity: the new birth—regeneration. As Jesus said to Nicodemus, “That which is born of flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit… [Therefore,] you must be born again” (John 3:6-7). “Born of the flesh” with a sinful bent, your children have no power to free themselves from sin’s bondage. They lack the Holy Spirit and thus have no capacity to please God or obey Him from the heart (cf. Rom. 8:7-8). Until your children are born again, they are dead in “trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1).So your top priority as a parent is to be an evangelist in your home. You need to teach your children the law of God, show them their need for a Savior, and point them to Jesus Christ as the only One who can save them. If they grow up in your home without a keen awareness of their need for salvation, you have failed as a parent in your primary task as their spiritual leader. Teach them the gospel and ask God to perform His sovereign work of regeneration.One word of caution about that — if you try to force, coerce, or manipulate your kids into a profession of faith, you may pressure them into making a false profession. The new birth is a work of the Holy Spirit, and your child’s salvation is a matter that must ultimately be settled between him and God.

Don’t approach parenting by focusing on the symptoms rather than the heart. If you attempt to modify your children’s behavior, isolate them, or bolster their self-esteem, you will not only exacerbate the problem, you will fail to reach to the heart of the matter. But if you teach them about their sin and need for the Savior, and if you live a life that models what you are teaching them to be, you can rest your hope in God’s grace for the salvation of your children.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Just a Quick Testimony

I guess I'll start as most blogs start and say I've never blogged before. I'll just tell you about myself. God saved me at the age of 25 when my life was nothing more than to get drunk as much as I could get away with and manage to go to work the next day. I've been a Christian for 16 years, so that would make me 41 years old. I don't know where I would be today if God didn't save me from the pit I was in. I'm so grateful. I'm a wife of one of the sweetest and most romantic guys around, Mike. I have three sons, Kyle who is 13, Blake 8 and David 6. Before I was saved, I was also a feminist, and really didn't have much interest in having kids. I think to be honest, I didn't trust my ability to be a parent. Once I had my first child, I couldn't believe God could bring such a love within my heart for my boys.

I'm not a good writer, but I love to communicate and share what the Lord teaches me. I thought I would use this as an outlet and hope it will encourage someone out there. I plan to start a video blog soon on the Titus 2: 3-5 principles that have reshaped my heart and attitude towards marriage. My marriage was in serious trouble for the first 10 years.

I've been married for 15 years, and it wasn't until a few years ago that I realized I was committing blasphemy according to Titus 2:5. A self righteous, proud, bitter, discontented, angry woman would not win my husband or anyone else to Christ. Once I studied and applied each aspect of Titus 2:3-5, things changed. My husband is now a true believer as of this past July. Praise God! I don't want anyone think this is some secret formula for making a saved husband. Only God can save. I also had to realize by my own failures that following the Titus 2 principles is not some kind of humanistic method on how to be happy. The benefits became a byproduct, and not the prime product. Once it became about the Lord and obeying His word because I love Him, and recognizing I deserve nothing outside of His sufficient grace and mercy, I rested in His providence. I know once I changed my attitude about God's word and made the changes, I became closer to God, thus bringing a revival in my home. Mike has changed in ways that only God can make happen. It didn't happen over night. It took almost 15 years. I’m far from perfect, but he knows I"m trying to be a good wife. By striving to love him unconditionally, being a trusted friend, showing the respect he craves so much and admitting my failures, is when he began to witness God’s grace first hand in spite of my frailties.

"The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed." Titus 2:3-5 KJV