Love God: Love Discipline

discipline“No.” I hear the word a lot. I hear my kids say it. Being a children’s pastor, I hear kids at church say it over and over again. If they do not say it, they often brazenly demonstrate the thought by grinning at me while the directly disobeying my latest command to sit down. “No!”

When our kids say no they do not ultimately have a problem with authority. They have a problem with God. The creator of the universe tells children to obey their “parents in the Lord for this is right,” and tells them to “Obey your leaders and submit to them.” (Eph. 6:10; Heb. 13:17).

When they tip over their cup, when they hop out of their seat, and when they scream at their parents in anger, they are declaring themselves to be the God of their universe. They are saying, “I know better; This will make me happy, and I have every right to get it regardless of the cost.” Little people who cannot go to the bathroom by themselves are attempting to turn the world upside down when they say, ‘No.’ We cannot let this happen.

The Bible has a term for such little people: fools. In Psalm 14:1 God says, “The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds; there is none who does good.” We should lovingly discipline children when they do abominable deeds because such children are ultimately rebelling against God. We send kids home from church and place them in timeouts so that they will learn that they our fools. We imperfectly model divine judgement because we want our children to see their foolishness and repent of it. A one week ban from church is much kinder than an eternal life in Hell. If we love the children in our homes and churches, we will discipline them.

This is the mindset of God. He says in Hebrews 12:6, “For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” God punishes his children because he loves them and wants what is best for them. For us to be like God, we too must discipline children out of love.

If we remember 1 Corinthians 13, we will remember that love does not boast and does not seek out it is own. We discipline not because ‘our’ authority was challenged, and not because we are upset that ‘our’ plans have been changed. We should never punish children to defend our pride. Like our children, we are sinners daily in need of grace and correction. We discipline because we hate sin wherever it appears and because we hate seeing foolishness destroy our children’s lives. God administers such loving discipline to us. We must follow our father’s example. Are you ready?

Why IQ Scores Are Not Enough

I-QWhether it’s the fake IQ of Sheldon Cooper or the true genius of Albert Einstein, we typically gravitate towards smart people. We sit in awe of their keen insights, wondering what special arrangement of genes made their success possible. We tend to assume that smart people are born smart.

But the reality is far more complex than an IQ scores. Men and women can have great IQ scores and yet never win a noble peace prize, never graduate first in their class, and never even get a stable job.

Take Physicist Robert Oppenheimer and college drop out Chris Langan. Both men were incredibly smart. Both men faced adversity and experienced very different results. 

Malcom Gladwell reports that Oppenheimer was brought before an academic counsel at Cambridge University when he poisoned his tutor. Oppenheimer received academic probation and was told to visit a psychiatrist. Several years later, the gifted Chris Langan was kicked out of Montana State University because he could not get a ride to his 8AM classes. The University would not let him switch classes.

What determined the men’s success in academia was not their IQ. Their success was driven by their families’ background. Langan grew up in a poor and dysfunctional home run by divorced and drug riddled parents. Oppenheimer grew up in a stable home with parents that valued education and ingenuity. Consequently, Oppenheimer learned how to read and interact with people while Langan did not. Their family backgrounds trumped their IQ.

Their stories are not anomalies. Studies repeatedly have shown that children without fathers are five times more likely to live in poverty, nine times more likely to drop out of school, and twenty times more likely to end up in jail than those with a father. When single moms remarry, their kids benefit greatly, gaining access to better social, financial and health care networks. The way we structure our homes and the decisions we make about our marriages will have a lasting influence over our children.

Exodus 20:5 agrees. The text says,

You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands[a] of those who love me and keep my commandments.

The parent who loves something more than God will teach their children to love sports, money, and academic awards more than Jesus. Such loves do not prepare people to thrive. They lead ultimately to judgement and despair regardless of one’s IQ.

To raise successful kids, Christians must actively live out their faith. They must do more than drop off their kids at church a couple of times a week. They must create a culture of faith in their homes and families. They must regularly follow and obey the Scriptures. (Deut. 6). They must regularly talk about the Bible and their faith with the children, detailing how the Bible drives their choices. When Christians expose their children to the commands of Christ, parents expose children to the grace they need to succeed in life. Having a home structured around the gospel is the greatest gift we can give our children.

Admittedly, Christians homes cannot guarantee a child’s salvation. But they can point children to the truth. They can equip children with the life skills and the theological framework needed to navigate life. They can bless children with advantages not found in secular homes. Children need these skills to succeed.

Intelligence alone does not guarantee success. Intelligence matched with a godly home can produce great results. Are you ready to parent in such a way that your family revolves around the Bible?

Can A Baby Solve Your Marriage Problems?

marriage-baby-1.jpgWe all long for community. We all long to be known and to know. When our relationship with our spouse begins to fracture, we look for solutions. We look for ways to fix the every widening gulf between our loved one and ourselves. And quite often, many settle on the idea of a child. “What is more intimate and more glorious than having a child” is the thought process. But it is correct?

At one level, the answer does seem plausible. Children are a blessing from the Lord. Psalm 127 makes this point abundantly clear. Having children in our homes is a very good and a very God thing. But are children the solution to our marital problems? Does their blessed nature help us overcome our lack of trust or poor communication issues? Will creating another life and building a relationship with that small person empower us to reshape our relationship with our spouse?

The answer to this question is, “No.” Children cannot restore or fix our marriage because they were not designed to be marital talismans or good luck charms. If anything, they are the opposites. According to the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, children actually exacerbate martial tensions and stresses. The common idea that having a child will improve your already troubled marriage is at best a myth; and at worst, it is destructive and harmful.

Marriages struggle not because of children nor because of a lack of children. They struggle because men and women are putting their own needs and their own desires above their spouse’s needs and desires. They are selfishly deciding not to share about their day or about their recent success at work because they do not trust their spouse. They do not want to get hurt, so they withdraw from the intimacy of the marriage. Or perhaps, you have already been hurt by your spouse’s anger, cutting words, or neglect and you do not want to do the hard work of helping your spouse change. Regardless of the issue, the temptation to run to children is often nothing more than a distraction and escape. It is an attempt to fix deep spiritual and heart issues with physical things, i.e other people.

Having a child to fix your marriage would be like going on a cruise ship to cure your cancer. It may provide a brief rest from cancer, but the cancer remains. The disease will get stronger and will hurt you more and more. A child may briefly distract you from your conflict with your spouse, but eventually the arguments will come back. But now, you struggles occur within the frame work of sleep deprivation, poor eating habits, and the despair that comes from listening to a baby cry for hours upon hours.

Ultimately the marriage that is weak, broken, and defined by a lack of trust does not need more children. It needs more of Christ. Both spouses need to reengage Jesus. Instead of channeling their marriage through their sinful desires, they need to channel their marriage though Christ. They need to remember that Christ loved them long before they loved Christ (1 John 4:10). And they need to remember that they need to love their spouse regardless of what their spouse does. Love is not conditional. It is a free gift that we must daily work to extend.

All marriage problems have one source: our sinful hearts. As James 1:14-15 says,

But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.

Our marriage problems are sins problems. And sin problems can only be fixed by refocusing on the heavenly dwelling of Christ. There is no other way. Kids will not make our marriages great again. Are you ready to deal with this reality?  Are you ready to do the hard work and get serious about your marriage issues?