A Simple Mark of Biblical Wisdom

For five summers during and after college I worked at a Christian camp in northern Wisconsin. The staff were mainly other single college kids like me, and we had plenty of energy by the weekend. One time a friend and I came across an old mining cave in a town not far from the camp. The fact that it had a fence around it with a No Trespassing sign just made it more tempting to us. It wasn’t a huge cave; it went in probably 50 feet, but it was a neat find that had an element of danger to it that was attractive to two young men.

My friend, Will, and I came up with a plan for showing some fellow camp counselors the cave on the next weekend and making it even more exciting. We decided we’d bring four or five female staff members there and stage a hold up with some guy staff members playing the role of hoodlums. To say this was not wise is an understatement; however, at the time it seemed like a surefire, exciting experience for us.

The first indication that this wasn’t a good idea was that several of the girls didn’t like the idea of climbing a barb wire fence with a No Trespassing sign on it. We convinced them it was okay and kept going into the cave. A second indication was just inside the entrance there was a huge boulder that wasn’t there the first time we came. It fell out of the ceiling in the intervening time! But we pressed on.

Soon our friends came into the cave behind us with ski masks on and started threatening Will and me. I was further in the cave and coincidentally had my girlfriend on one side and my ex-girlfriend on the other side of me. Both grabbed my closest arm, and they were both crying. My ex was whispering, “Dear Jesus please protect us” over and over and over. My girlfriend was shaking which I mistook at the time for sobbing. This was when it finally dawned on me that this was a dumb idea. I literally had no idea up to that point that some girls’ greatest fear is being assaulted.

The “hoodlums” demanded money and pushed Will around. At that point my girlfriend grabbed the stocking cap off of one of them and said, “Is this Danny?” What I thought was my girlfriend sobbing was actually her stifling giggles.[1]That girlfriend eventually became my wife and has been for 30 years. 🙂 But she was the only one. The rest of the girls did not forgive Will and me for quite a while.

That was a foolish idea from beginning to end. It was illegal (climbing over the fence), unsafe physically, unsafe emotionally, and unkind.

You know what Will and I didn’t do? We didn’t run this idea past our Camp Director, or Program Director, or really anyone that might have told us no. Why? Well we really didn’t want to hear anyone that would push back on our idea. We didn’t want to listen. We had a week to plan this, and at no time did we ask a more mature person what they thought of this idea.

There’s one chief characteristic of the wise person over the foolish person in the Book of Proverbs, and it’s simply this: wise people listen. Foolish people don’t listen. You can really summarize Proverbs that way. A wise son or daughter listens. That is taught by how often Solomon tells his sons to hear him. [2]All passages from the ESV.

Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching…. Prov 1:8
My son, be attentive to my words; incline your ear to my sayings. Prov 4:20  (cf. 4:1, 10; 5:1; 5:7; 7:24; 23:19)

We’re taught this when wisdom is personified in chapter eight and tells the naive to hear her.

Hear, for I will speak noble things, and from my lips will come what is right, Prov 8:6
Blessed is the one who listens to me, watching daily at my gates, waiting beside my doors. Prov 8:34  

We’re taught this truth generally.

The ear that listens to life-giving reproof will dwell among the wise. Prov 15:31 
Incline your ear, and hear the words of the wise, and apply your heart to my knowledge, Prov 22:17 (cf. 23:9; 25:12)

But most clearly it’s taught when fools and wise people are contrasted.

The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice. Prov 12:15  
A wise son hears his father’s instruction, but a scoffer does not listen to rebuke. Prov 13:1  

There are other marks of wisdom in Proverbs—the fear of the Lord is the foundation of wisdom for example (Prov 1:7). But the primary mark is a wise person listens.

It’s easy for us forget this simple lesson. Give me a little ministry success, a little success in my family, maybe some actual spiritual growth over a besetting sin, and I start to think that I don’t have to listen. I can become less teachable. Not really unteachable, but I’m less teachable. I start to pick and choose whom I hear. Those that I think are spiritually less than me I ignore. I think “What could they teach me?” I become more defensive. I don’t hear rebukes (Prov 13:1) because I don’t think I could need them.

Are you in a spiritual place where you can listen to others? The foolish son doesn’t listen. Neither does the foolish parent. He’s condescending to those that share truth with him. Heed the Book of Proverbs. You must be a person that hears wisdom, that seeks for wisdom. Be a listener; be teachable, and you will also be wise.

My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding…. Prov 2:1–6

References[+]

References
1 That girlfriend eventually became my wife and has been for 30 years. 🙂
2 All passages from the ESV.

Decaeuxarista [Deca-eucharista] 2021

Every year I develop a list of 10 reasons I’m thankful for each family member, and I try to share it by Thanksgiving, but it’s normally Christmas. I call it my Decaeuxarista–I’m not a Greek scholar, but it’s my attempt at making up a word that means Ten Thanks. It’s good for me to intentionally think about why I’m grateful for each family member. This is the list I shared with them this year. My kids are all adults now, and they still look forward to it–and its unique title. 😉 May it spur you to appreciate your family.

Laura[1]I’ve included my wife’s name, but not my kids’ names. I think they prefer that.

  1. You are easy to like. You have an easy-going nature and earnest spiritual passion. I’ve always known that, but now I have more evidence since in your role as Assistant Dean of Women you are very popular with the college girls. They all love you.
  2. I love that you are willing to do hard things to spend time with your family. Backpacking in WY is probably the greatest recent example. You did it just because I enjoy it. Not many women of any age will do that.
  3. You are the peacemaker in the family. You want us all to be right with each other. It bothers you when we aren’t, and so you work with us sinning family members to lead us to repentance and reconciliation.
  4. Your absence of fear of man has blessed our family many times. You’re willing to ask questions when I would rather you didn’t, but you persist and we are blessed. On our vacation you asked if we could bring a cooler of snacks on the rafting trip, and I was sure they would say no. They said yes. That’s just one example.
  5. You are teachable; you are still growing spiritually. You’ve told me at least twice that moving to Ankeny has been beneficial for your growth in ministry skills. You’ve taken two college classes just to get better at mentoring girls. You sat in class next to girls that were less than half your age because you have a teachable spirit.
  6. You are the most thoughtful person in our family. You plan and save and shop for your family all year long. You make Christmas very special because you care about what gifts you give. I’m always encouraged at how well you know me and the kids when we get our stocking stuffers on Christmas morning.
  7. Your care when I am sick (and when the kids are sick and they are around) is legendary. You are so compassionate and kind. You think of all the little things to ease our discomfort. You jokingly said, “If Momma gets sick, this family is going down.” It’s true! We need you.
  8. Actually, you “Mom” very well. You are constantly up and taking care of business, getting stuff done for your family. The kids notice it when we’re all together. The rest of us stand around not knowing what needs to be done, and you just take care of things.
  9. You make all our family times so warm and fun. You especially serve at those times. Over Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks you have been baking and comforting and encouraging all of us. You’re the first to jump up and get something for someone. You make home so homey.
  10. Part of making our home so comfortable is your design and decorating. I would probably never hang anything on the wall, and they would look cold and unfriendly. You, however, have a gift—you get the right furniture (always at a reasonable cost) and lighting and paint and wall hangings, etc. so that the house is welcoming. And you change it up regularly. You have an eye for making our home warm and comfortable, and you’re always thinking ahead on changes we can make. We’re in the smallest space we’ve been in since seminary, and it still somehow fits well when our kids visit.
  11. You know I appreciate spending time with you and you will purposely do work in whatever room I am in. You intentionally organize your day so we can be together more, and I love it. You’re my best friend, and there is no one I would rather be with.

Daughter

  1. You are sensitive to people that might be on the outside of the popular crowd. You will speak up if someone is speaking ill of someone not present. You lock on to people that are being ignored. It’s a way that your love looks most like Christ.
  2. You still call me when you need help. I got called in class when you locked your keys in your car on the first day of school. Of course that was an urgent need, but you also ask for help with your taxes, friendships, job decisions, etc. You are open to advice and counsel. In fact, you look for it.
  3. You intentionally show affection to family members. You still hold my hand when we walk together or when we sit together. You still hug your family members. You’ve never been ashamed of expressing affection. Your family feels very loved because of that.
  4. You are exceptionally careful with money. You are paying your way through college, and you make sure every purchase is necessary. You have almost completed three years without any student loan debt. But you still are generous with family and friends. Money doesn’t control you.
  5. You share the gospel. Mom told me that you have given homeless people at the U some cash or a gift card and a gospel pamphlet. You have witnessed to friends of yours on campus and at work. You care about your Muslim friend and atheist friend at the U coming to Christ.
  6. You work hard in school. No one is watching over your shoulder anymore, but you keep on plugging away. Mom and I don’t get concerned about you living independently because you are so responsible.
  7. You are a grateful person. You don’t expect us to pick up the check or pay for your gas when you come down to see us, and when we do, you appreciate it.
  8. You give up your own tastes (like K-dramas) and watch whatever the family is watching. You have eclectic media tastes and while you would appreciate it if we enjoyed them with you, you never expect it or demand it. You willing give up your preferences for the rest of us.
  9. You’ve always been the child that climbs into the back of the minivan no questions asked and no complaints given. You’ve never had any seat expectation except that you will take the one that no one else wants. That’s a wonderful servant heart.
  10. You have always been the least needy child. Not that any of our kids are needy, but you have always been independent and self-sufficient. You don’t expect us to serve you. You just assume that you will have to figure any problem out (although you still get advice), and you don’t have any expectation that we are responsible to “save” you. You just trust God and move forward.
  11. You are really good at making time for people. You are as busy as any other college student, but you make sure that you take time for lunches, coffee, phone calls, and other touches with family, but also with so many friends. Even though they don’t always reciprocate, you invest the time to build relationships.

Son

  1. I love how you take care of your mother. You are always happy to see her. When she visits you, you are generous. I’m glad you love your mother so well. You are kind to her.
  2. You don’t love money as far as I can tell. You have been generous with all of your family members through the years. You bought your sister a laptop; let your brother use your Mustang; helped another sister get a car and bought gifts for Mom and me. I’m glad you use money to show love; that’s a godly view of money.
  3. You think earnestly about Scripture. I’m glad you read and consider Christian books. You’ve gone to a conference with me and also on your own taken a Biblical Counseling introductory course. I’m glad you work at understanding theology and biblical application.
  4. You love people. That’s why you enjoy social events with friends. You’re great with people because you enjoy being with them. You invest in people.
  5. I like that you are a good friend. A person that has you as a friend is blessed. You will pursue relationship and communication. You will say hard things to them if they need it.
  6. Your sense of humor is a joy to me. I fancy myself humorous, and I like that we can riff off each other. Your humor is not hurtful or unkind, which is more mature than mine was at your age. In fact, your humor often helps defuse a stressful situation.
  7. You have grown a lot in self-discipline. I’m sure the Navy helped with that, but it’s a fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5). You’re more consistent in your spiritual disciplines.
  8. You have a good study ethic. You enjoy learning new things, and you have lots of interests. You’re always surprising me with your latest interest—plant-based diet, backpacking, guitar, minimal support running shoes, etc. You study things thoroughly. You don’t tend to be impulsive. Actually, maybe that’s a better way of describing it. You’re not an impulsive person which means you’re not the Proverbial fool. I’m glad you are prudent and consider things deeply.
  9. You care about growing spiritually. You willingly did a book study with your brother and I on Sunday nights. You were honest and transparent. You talk to your parents about spiritual things. You want to please God in your growth.
  10. You are committed to attending and serving in church even though a military job with its deployments makes that difficult. You pursue a gospel-centered church at every location—even if only there for a week, and then you forge friendships and serve enthusiastically.
  11. You are a gracious person. You tend to react to others outbursts or braggadocio with grace. You don’t tend to respond to anger with anger. You’re easy to be with because you soften the prickliness of others.

Son

  1. Your focus is a strength. You picked up golf and have focused on getting better. You’ve improved a ton in just over a year. You are never half-hearted in anything you do. You don’t understand why someone might do something without enthusiasm because you regularly give 100%. You take that same focus and discipline to all areas of life.
  2. I admire your confidence. You might not always feel confident, but you regularly radiate confidence to those around you. That’s an encouraging gift—especially if it’s coupled with a deep dependence upon God.
  3. I’m glad you are so involved in your church and in Navigators. You want to learn more about God and His Word. You serve in your church while at the Academy, and you love your weekly Navigators Bible study. You have a hunger for righteousness.
  4. You are efficient with your time. You definitely get more out of your time than the rest of us. You don’t waste time. Even in high school you could get your homework done quickly. It seems intuitive to you how to study efficiently and that has helped you in college. You are wired to redeem your time.
  5. I’m glad you have told other students at USAFA about your faith. You told them the good news of the gospel. You want them to know Christ, and you’re taking some opportunities to exalt Christ in their eyes.
  6. You have gotten more edifying with your talk. You say kind things to all of us that show a growing faith in Christ. At times while growing up you have struggled with your words, but you have grown immensely in the past few years.
  7. You are physically disciplined. You’ve decided to prepare for a half marathon and I don’t doubt that you will be ready. You don’t normally sleep in, and you exercise regularly. It’s good stewardship of your body. There’s virtue in doing hard things, and you love doing hard things.
  8. You have a regular, weekly schedule for calling your siblings. They look forward to your calls. (You also call your Mother on Sundays and she loves it!) You schedule time for your family because you love them.
  9. You prioritize time in God’s Word. You finished your Annual Bible reading by the end of October. I’ve seen you many times getting your daily reading and daily devotions in. You have stopped an activity to make sure you get time with God. I’ve seen it.
  10. I’m thankful for your growing kindness toward and appreciation of your mom. This was not always true of you. You have sent your Mom some texts in the past few months that are especially kind and grateful. God has changed you.

Daughter

  1. You are willing to be stretched. You taught English for two years, which is your love, but now you’re teaching Algebra. It has pushed you out of any comfort zone, but you are learning and growing and being teachable.
  2. Your willingness to leave one job for another one in a different state is pretty remarkable. It’s an evidence of your growth and maturity. You have always been very cautious—even when learning to ride a bike years ago. 😉 Now you take risks to pursue God’s will. That’s maturity.
  3. You don’t embarrass easily, and Mom and I have tried. 😉 Your struggle with fear of man doesn’t tend to be with public embarrassment and that’s such a welcoming trait to others.
  4. You are growing in your struggle with the fear of man. You think about it when you make decisions for your class. You are getting better at making hard decisions that you know might be unpopular but that are right.
  5. You are affectionate with all your family members. I still get good hugs as do the rest of the family. You’re not embarrassed to let people know by your actions that you love us.
  6. You defend your family more fiercely than probably your parents do. I admire that you are not scared to confront others that slander your family. Your friends know that you love your family much. They get tired of hearing about us from you because you talk about your family A LOT. 😉
  7. You’re very relational. You pursue friendships in your church with all ages. You had friends that were children, young adults, and even senior adults when you lived in SC. You have friends everywhere you’ve been because you like people. That is a great trait for a believer.
  8. I’m thankful that you aren’t tempted to find your worth in social media likes. You don’t spend much time on that. You rarely post. You much prefer IRL relationships rather than social media distant ones. That is a huge temptation for your age group; I’m glad that it seems much less tempting for you.
  9. You read a lot. I mean a lot! There are many your age that waste hours and hours on trivialities, but you would rather curl up with a book. And some of those books are actually good! 😉 Reading is more valuable than watching media and you definitely prioritize reading.
  10. You come close to your Mom in thoughtfulness. You think about others throughout the year, and you have gift ideas for them. You don’t just buy a gift to check them off your list, you like to make sure the gift suits them.

References[+]

References
1 I’ve included my wife’s name, but not my kids’ names. I think they prefer that.

Love Like My Mom

My Mom called on a Saturday night over two and a half years ago to tell me that my younger brother, Jeff, had died.[1]Picture is of my brother Jeff My Mom didn’t grow up in a family that knew the gospel. In fact, she was the first person in our family to trust Christ. Her parents were divorced at a time when a scoundrel husband could just move across a state border and avoid paying any child support. And her dad did just that. Life was harder for her.

Jeff was called mentally retarded when that term was acceptable in the ‘70s. He would never have been able to live on his own, and so he lived with my parents his entire life. My mom and dad would never think of institutionalizing him. He was actually a great help to them as an adult. He loved routine, so they gave him jobs to do regularly. He could bring wood in for the wood stove. He could shovel snow. He could bring up the laundry. He could put away dishes.

Sometime after I graduated from college Jeff started having seizures. He had never had any health problems related to his disability before. After a seizure he would need several days of rest before he was fully recovered. My mom would lovingly take care of him until he recovered.

My brother didn’t have Down Syndrome. In God’s grace many Down Syndrome children are incredibly compassionate and loving. They are tender and affectionate. That was not my brother. There really wasn’t much emotion in Jeff’s hugs. They were perfunctory not passionate. He wasn’t a robot; he could show frustration, and he even smiled quite a bit. But he didn’t do the normal things that a baby, a young child, and even young adults do to express love to their parents. My mom never got an affectionately clingy infant in my younger brother. He would hug when he was told to, he would even say “I love you” if you said it first, but it wasn’t like when other people said it. I don’t doubt that Jeff actually meant it as well as he could, but love was a concept that really was beyond his ability to understand. He was never able to understand the question, “why?” And you really have to understand that to understand love.

I’ve thought about this over the years, and it’s occurred to me that my Mom’s love for my brother was a wonderful example of what Christian love is supposed to be. We don’t define love like unbelievers. We don’t just love those that love us. We are able to love those who don’t return any love—even our enemies (Luke 6:27-29). Of course with those closest to us it can be hard to love as Christ loved and seemingly get very little in return… maybe even nothing in return.

But it is how God loved us.

…but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8 (ESV)

In fact, we were his enemies and he still loved us.

For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. Romans 5:10 (ESV)

My mom has been a living definition of biblical love to me my entire life. For a long time, I didn’t notice it. That’s just what a mom does. But now I’m enriched by it. My love is too often selfish. I give to get. But my mom, like God, just gave. And she did it because the gospel changed her. And she did it for my brother’s entire lifetime.

My brother is gone, but I still think of my mother’s love for him. It’s a sweet picture of God’s love for me, and it reminds me of how to love others.

But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Luke 6:35 (ESV)

References[+]

References
1 Picture is of my brother Jeff

Personal Weaknesses & Patience

One of my sons was very forgetful as a young child; he was absentminded. He would forget his trombone on days he needed it for band. He would forget his lunch. He forgot his soccer cleats for games.

So we worked on it. We would have him place his trombone right in front of the front door along with his lunch. Problem solved, right? One would think so. Only he would step over his lunch and trombone on the way to the car and still forget them. How? I don’t know. I’m not wired that way.

When he was really young, he was reflecting on some consequences he had faced for being forgetful, maybe he didn’t have lunch that day, I don’t remember. But he was in bed and I was saying good night and he was practically crying. He said, “Dad, I don’t want to be this way.” Well, I didn’t want him to be that way either. We prayed.

And that didn’t change him either. He forgot more important things in high school. He would finish his assignments and bring them to class on the day they were due. However, our school had a rule that the assignment must be turned in at the start of class. He would forget and turn it in at the end of class. Points would be deducted for a late assignment. Other kids were turning in assignments, and it wouldn’t trigger his memory that he needed to turn in his.

One day they had an exam and he didn’t know there was an exam. And my wife said, “Didn’t the teacher go over a study sheet in the class before?” and my son said, “Well, now that’s making sense to me.”

So my wife would sit down with him every night and go through his calendar. It helped a lot. But he needed that because he was forgetful, distracted.

Is forgetfulness a moral issue? I wanted it to be at that time. I wanted to find some way that his forgetfulness was sin. But it’s not.

What Is Man? [1]The idea for this is based on a lecture by Edward Welch, Westminster D.Min, 8/14/2007

Every philosophy of life has an anthropology. It has a theology of what people are like. An anthropology includes why you do what you do –your motivation. It includes a belief in strengths and weaknesses or what can a person do and what can’t they do. What are they responsible for and why aren’t they responsible for other things.

Of course the only true anthropology is found in God’s Word. We’re described as sinners, worshippers, and seekers—but not after God.

Most of evangelicalism—those that believe the Gospel—believe that man is made up of two parts: body and soul. The body is material, but the spirit and soul are immaterial. You cannot see them with your eyes. You cannot see them under a microscope. You can’t cut them out of the body. They are immaterial. They exist together but can be split apart—that’s what happens at death.

We could say that you are made up of both inner and outer elements. The body is your outer person and the spirit, soul, heart, etc. are the inner person.

So you have two types of problems: body issues and soul issues. Maybe this seems too simplistic to you. After all, how can you tell where body issues end and soul issues begin? That is the dilemma sometimes. They are often interrelated.

You’re one person with two interrelated parts. Your body is an instrument for either glorifying God or sinning. It carries out the desires of your heart.

How do the body and the soul, the material and the immaterial interact? Have you ever thought about that? How do they influence each other? Maybe I should ask it this way, what happens to your sanctification when you get tired? Or hungry? Or sick? Do those body issues influence your heart?

You are body and soul… and each influences the other. Any particular problem can have its source in both your body and your heart. For example, your worry (spiritual issue) can cause real physical problems, and your lack of sleep (body issue) can influence how you respond to your life (spiritual issue), can’t it? So how do we make sense of that? Is the body able to make you sin?

2 Corinthians 5:10 (ESV) For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.

The body mediates our moral (good or bad) deeds; it doesn’t initiate them.

Ezekiel 18:20 (ESV) The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.

My environment may have been bad, but I’m still responsible for my sin.

1 Corinthians 10:13 (ESV) No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

For the believer, we are never tempted beyond our ability. Our body cannot make us sin; God says he won’t allow it.

All things spiritual are the inner person. Violations of God’s commands are always a heart issue.

2 Corinthians 4:16 (ESV) So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.

The Apostle Paul said that we have an outward man and an inward man. While our body is wasting away our spirit can be thriving.

How this Helps

So what? That might be what you’re thinking.

The outward person—the material part of you is not characterized by sin or obedience, but by strengths or weaknesses. What are you good at? What talents do you have? Those come from the outer man. The body is the mediator of moral action, not the initiator of it.

The body can never make us sin. It’s an outside influence on our heart like the world, friends, and the devil. We might add our past or experiences. They all influence, but cannot make us sin. This means that each of us will face greater or lesser temptations because of the peculiarities of our bodies and our history.

What are you good at? What talents do you have? Those come from the outer man.

  • Some can hear better
  • Some are stronger
  • Some are more athletic
  • Some can see better; don’t need corrective lenses.

One way we can identify body strengths and weaknesses is by asking ourselves whether what we’re considering is a moral issue or not. So are the following moral issues?

  • Figuring out directions?
  • Not seeing cultural cues? (Asperger’s Syndrome, nerdishness, close talkers). Some people are more skilled relationally. Others don’t get the nuances of interpersonal relationships.
  • Memory in general? “I told you to get milk on the way home. Why didn’t you?”
  • Being a detail person?
  • Punctuality? Ability to judge time and distance? Those of us that are punctual really struggle with the idea that this might not be a moral issue.
  • Ability to smell your own body odor? I’ve met some people lacking that ability. 😉
  • Or how about these?: “the physical experience of panic, hallucinations, disrupted sleep, physical agitation, a mind that races from one thing to another, or an inability to make useful and practical plans.” [2]Ed Welch, “Spiritual Growth in the Face of Psychiatric Disorders,” Journal of Biblical Counseling 29:3 (2015), 46. This is an excellent article that explains how understanding body weaknesses … Continue reading

Now is it possible for a non-moral weakness to become a moral issue? And if so, how? I think these weaknesses can be sin if I’m unwilling to work on them. Why? Because they are all ways that I can love my neighbor. Getting better at them means I love my neighbor better.

When you recognize that these issues are body weaknesses or strengths, not sin, you can be patient with them. This is the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23). So if your friend is forgetful, you can be patient. Their forgetfulness is not sin, and you are wrong if you try to make it a sin so you can justify your irritation.

My wife and I have different body strengths and weaknesses. Mostly we complement each other. It was easy early in our marriage for me to think that my wife needed to become more Kraig-like, not Christlike. But she doesn’t need to become more like me in areas that are not moral. Both of us need to become like Christ.

We need to be patient with our families. Understanding that some of our irritations with each other are body weaknesses can help us.


References[+]

References
1 The idea for this is based on a lecture by Edward Welch, Westminster D.Min, 8/14/2007
2 Ed Welch, “Spiritual Growth in the Face of Psychiatric Disorders,” Journal of Biblical Counseling 29:3 (2015), 46. This is an excellent article that explains how understanding body weaknesses changes how we view people with certain psychiatric diagnoses like, ADD, Depression, and panic attacks, and it gives practical help for counseling them.

How Do We View Children?

I’m preparing a class on counseling children for the fall semester, so I’ve had some time to think about how our world views kids. Actually this is probably mostly a Western mindset about children. It’s clear the world doesn’t tend to think about children with a theological understanding.

Children Are Innocent
This is a common belief about children, isn’t it? The world believes that our environment corrupts children by the time they are adults, but when born, a child is innocent. And they do look innocent. They are cute and cuddly and they clean up well.

But have you ever thought about what keeps an infant from committing murder when he’s angry? Is it innocence or something else? [There’s a famous Christian quote about this I cannot recall.] It’s just that a baby doesn’t have the strength to murder you when he’s angry. A baby is a sinner… from birth. And if he could strike you when you weren’t bringing his bottle soon enough, he would.

While we can make allowances for a child’s immaturity in foreseeing consequences, we cannot treat children as if their sin doesn’t matter. Or as if children are not responsible for their sin. Their lack of considering obvious consequences is probably a mitigating circumstance, but they are still guilty. All of us are guilty from birth. Children are not innocent. Children are sinners by nature and by choice, just like adults.

Romans 3:10–13 (ESV) as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; 11 no one understands; no one seeks for God. 12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” 13 “Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.” “The venom of asps is under their lips.”

Their sin affects their entire being.

Ephesians 4:17–19 (ESV) Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. 18 They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. 19 They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity.

I believe that’s true of children. Do you?

Children Are Wise
We even have a popular saying about this, “Out of the mouths of babes.” Some use it when a child says something unexpectedly wise. But if children say something wise, it’s normally an accident. Or it’s something they don’t really understand. Or it’s something they heard from an adult. They are not naturally wise.

Our world, however, believes they are. This is shown when a child says or does something that supposedly teaches the world. Greta Thunberg became a world-wide sensation as a Swedish teenager because she schooled adults on how to care for the environment. Adults will use children to make adult arguments because of the supposed wisdom coming from a child.

But children are not wise. They are naturally foolish.

Proverbs 9:6 (ESV) Leave your simple ways, and live, and walk in the way of insight.” 
Proverbs 22:15 (ESV) Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline drives it far from him.

Children Are Autonomous
Some parents don’t think they should demand their children do things they don’t feel like doing. Parents are commended by the elites of Western culture for letting their children choose their gender or their sexual orientation. Why would you let a child choose? Because you believe they are wise—they can make a good decision, and you believe they are innocent—you believe their decision won’t be impacted by evil impulses or motivations, and you think they are independent or autonomous.

But that’s not what Scripture says.

Colossians 3:20 (ESV) Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.
Ephesians 6:1–3 (ESV) Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), 3 “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.”

Children have to submit to parents. Parents have God-given authority over children. The reason a child obeys is because it’s a reflection of his relationship with Christ. No believing child is ultimately obeying his parents; they are obeying Christ. Which is why it doesn’t really matter if a child’s parents are even believers or even nice and kind. That would make it easier, but children can obey even ungodly parents because they are obeying Christ.

Ephesians treats children as if they can grow in their relationship with Christ, as if they are able to see the Jesus they serve behind their parents. That treats children just like it treats wives, husbands, fathers, employers, and employees. Paul expects children to be motivated by their relationship with Christ. How significant.

And he puts them under authority just like he does wives, husbands, fathers, employers and employees. Children don’t get to live any old way they want to. They are not autonomous. They need the direction of a parent who understands Scripture to help them grow in their relationship with Christ.

Those are 3 characteristics the world believes children possess. What would you add?

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