Our Happy Host

In the previous post, we found out that joy suspends sorrow and finds a reason for celebration. In Nehemiah 8, Nehemiah calls an end to mourning and commands the people to observe a festival. Why? Because “the joy of the Lord is your strength (Neh. 8:10).” Joy is like a surprise party in the midst of sorrow. A great party needs a happy host.

God, Our Happy Host

I have never been to a good party where the host is angry. That would be awkward. It is hard to enjoy a party if you get a sense that the host doesn’t want you to be there. That’s extremely awkward. A great party host is someone who is happy for the gathering. 

Notice that Nehemiah says that it is “the joy of the Lord” that is your strength. That statement reveals one of the most profound truths of Scripture. If you grab onto this simple statement about God, it will revolutionize your faith. Are you ready for it? Here it is.

God is happy.

It is His joy that strengthens us. It is His joy that we run into quickly as a safe refuge from our sorrow. He is happy to invite us to enjoy Him, especially during difficulty. It is God’s joy that creates the surprise party in the midst of our sorrow.

But God Seems Angry

Despite the Bible’s revelation that we have a happy God, many people feel that God is temperamental and angry. This may be true for two reasons.

1) We misunderstand God’s anger.

Yes, there are indeed passages in the Bible where God pours out His wrath. In Genesis 19, God destroys Sodom and Gomorrah by sending down fire and sulfur from heaven. Someone who would send down fiery sulfur bombs from heaven certainly doesn’t sound like a happy host. But even God’s wrath is motivated by his joy.

If you are a parent, then you know what it is like to love a child. You also know what it is to be angry. A parent can have moments in which they could not be more proud of their child. There are also moments in which the parent could not be more angry with the child. But at the center of both places, both in pride and anger, the motive is joy.

A parent is proud of their child as they witness their growth and maturity. Each incremental accomplishment, the first step, the first word, the first win; each one brings joy. That dress she wears, his kindness to others, an award at graduation; the beauty of maturity also brings joy. 

And nothing brings more joy to a parent than when a child obeys righteous instruction. A parent who has a sense of stewardship from God over his or her child’s life seeks to impart godly wisdom both from experience and from God’s Word. The parent has roughly a 20-30 year head start on the child and can see where decisions lead. So it brings great joy when the child responds positively to that instruction. Obedience brings joy.

But there are times when the child strays. When the child is very young, it may be their curiosity of a hot stove, but then later, the stakes grow higher. Perhaps it is a person, a place, or a path the child wants to explore, but the parent knows that it is a path that could be as harmful and painful to the child as him or her touching the hot stove.

When the child is young, if his mother turns around to see the chid’s hand reaching upwards toward a hot skillet full of steaming grease, she screams, “No!” “Don’t touch that!” And if the child insists and tries to reach up again, what does she do? She may go so far as to strike the hand. Sure it inflicts pain, but that pain pales in comparison to what could have happened had the child pulled down upon themselves hot grease from the stove. 

And then the child is older. Insistent on going with those people to that place to do those things. And the father argues his case. He uses the deterrent of punishment to try to curb his child’s choices. Why? Because in both cases, the father knows not only the pain of poor choices but the joy of good ones. A parent fears the consequence of a scalding burn just as much as that of following unscrupulous friends. She’s seen it. Perhaps she’s lived it. But she knows it. But she also knows the joy of health and of success. A good parent is ever motivated by a happy vision for their child.

Even in Punishment, There is Joy

Even in punishment, the parent is motivated, not by anger, but by joy. It is joy that explains the passion. Joy, not anger, makes the parent scream across the room, lunge for the hand, and strike it if need be, “Don’t touch that!” It would be inaccurate to say that all the parent is, is angry. Ultimately, a parent is not moved by anger, but motivated by joy. That is a father or a mother who desires the fruits of obedience to become abundant in their child.

And the Lord speaks to this in Hebrews 12.

“Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” Hebrews 12:9-11

Sure, God gets angry. But He is not bitter. God is happy. The joy of the Lord explains His passion for His people, even in punishment. He knows the harm of sin and the paths of righteousness perfectly. He will strike out righteously to eradicate sin, not because He is always angry, but because He is ever joyful.

2) You were raised by an abusive parent.

We are prone to bring our experience with our parents into our vision of God. I think this is natural since it is the trust of God that a parent would raise a child in the fear and admonition of the Lord (Eph. 6:4). The Lord’s desire is that a parent would take who He is and convey that vision of righteous love and protection into the child’s life (Deut. 6:4-9).

But sadly, as sinners, many parents do not share that same vision. Some parents may be absent or even abusive. Abuse may include anything from physical to sexual, to emotion, even religious abuse. A parent can warp a child sexually as well as religiously. He can abuse a child physically because he or she has superior strength. A parent can harm a child religiously through harsh and unrealistic legalism. 

Whatever the abuse, it leaves an imprint. Unfortunately, that broken trust between God and a parent becomes an imprint in the child that they bring into their vision of God. Perhaps your parents did not know the Lord. Maybe they were not in the least bit interested in the Lord. Does this mean that you can never know the Lord as He is? Absolutely not.

Is there healing?

If I could encourage anything in your healing, it would be for you to deeply meditate on the truth that we have a happy God. You already have the statement on the joy of the Lord as our strength from Nehemiah 8. But I also want to introduce two other statements that point us to God’s happiness. Both of these were spoken by Jesus.

“These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” – John 15:11

“But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves.” – John 17:13

I would encourage you to meditate on these verses as well as any verse in the Bible (and it is full of them) that speak of the Lord’s delights and joy. Think deeply about these revelations of His happiness and it will begin to transform your vision of Him and your relationship with Him. 

We Have a Happy Host Who Wants You At His Party

If you are going to have a great party, you must have a happy host. The Bible states repeatedly that we have a happy God. But notice, especially John 15:11 and John 17:13. Not only do we have a happy host, but He issues an open invitation. God wants you to experience His joy. He is generous with His joy. He is an excellent host.

God’s desire is that His joy would become our joy. I will share more about this In my next post, but joy is a surprise party in the midst of your sorrow. And our happy host extends an open invitation to you.

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Bible Study

Read John 15:1-11

  • Write the commands that are to be obeyed.
  • Write the promises that are to be believed.
  • Write the principles that are to be applied.

Challenge

Take some time today to find verses and meditate on the joy of God. Where have you gotten it wrong? How do these verses change your relationship with God?

(Un)Reasonable Reaction

Since 2006 the folks at Gallup have been measuring America’s levels of anger, stress, and worry. I bet you can guess what I’m about to say. Our levels in all three categories are rising. We are not happy. When it comes to stress, Americans scored 20 points higher than the global average.

With so much going on in the news and with so much demand on our lives, it’s not surprising to hear that Americans are amongst the most stressed-out people in the world. We could probably each give some very good reasons as to why we are so worried. And when it comes to anger, we all feel a little on edge. Such a reaction from stressed out, worried people is not surprising. If anger, worry, and stress have become so natural in our culture, is it even reasonable to think we can be happy?

This week I am sharing 5 ways to stay happy all day. In my last post I introduced the topic and shared the first way; rejoice and repeat. With this post, I want to continue to explore Philippians 4:4-7 and share the second way we stay happy all day. To stay happy you have to a good reason for a happy reaction.

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Way #2 – The Right Reasons Lead to the Right Reactions

In Philippians 4:4 Paul instructed us to rejoice and repeat it. In Philippians 4:5 he calls on us to give reasons for such rejoicing. “Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand.” Some translations of the verse read, “Let your gentleness be known to all. The Lord is at hand.”

When you come across a verse in an English translation of the Bible in which you have two completely unrelated words like “reasonable” and “gentle” you wonder, “So, which is it?” Instead of the answer being one or the other, the answer is probably both.

Sometimes words are lost in translation. The seeming discrepancy simply means that we don’t quite have a word that captures the meaning of the original language. The jest of the word is that you exhibit a gentleness that is more than just a personality trait. You are gentle for good reason. You have learned some things. You believe some things. Your reactions are not a response to the situation, but a response to solid, foundational, Biblical reasons that undergird your joy.

Don’t Be a Happy Idiot

The Bible calls us to reasonable rejoicing. We reject any notion that the Bible would call us to be happy idiots. By happy idiot, I mean that person who is sappy and disconnected from reality. The Bible speaks to true human emotions like sorrow and discouragement. The Bible never endorses any behavior in which we would pretend that something bad is good. We are not to be out of touch with the situation, but we can have a much different reaction. To simply be “gentle” for the sake of gentleness is unreasonable. To pretend to be happy makes you look like an idiot.

A Great Reason

Instead of worry, stress, or anger overcoming us, we rest our joy on a very solid reason, “The Lord is at hand (Phil. 4:5b).” In every circumstance of life, the Lord is near. God is not aloof, uninterested, or disconnected. He has not forgotten me nor has He distanced Himself from me. The Lord is at hand.

His Word is available. His Spirit is personal. His promises are faithful.

When the Lord is your first reason to rejoice, joy is always available. You can rest assured that if the Lord has prepared “this” for you then He has prepared you for “this.”

You’re not to be a happy idiot. You always have a reason to rejoice. This reason governs your reactions. If you want reasons to stay happy all day, take some time to study God’s Word and write down reasons God has given us to rejoice. One of the foremost reasons we can rejoice is because of salvation. God reconciles the sinner to Himself through repentance from sin and faith in Jesus Christ – and even Heaven rejoices (Luke 15:10)! What are some of the other reasons that the Bible gives us as reasons to rejoice?

Bible Study Questions:

Read Psalm 126. Pay particular attention to verse 11, “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”

  • What emotions are expressed in Psalm 126?
  • In the beginning of the passage, David makes a statement that would lead us to believe that he is experiencing some sort of turmoil. What are the truths/reasons he cites throughout the passage that give him encouragement and joy?
  • What are the promises to be believed?
  • What are the commands to be obeyed (hint: there may not be a stated command in the passage, but there may be one that is implied or understood)?
  • What are the principles to be applied?

If you are looking for a book to help you bring about a better pace to your life, check out my book #TheWalk. One question answered every day will help you accomplish your greatest goals; not by doing more, but by doing less. Are you ready for #TheWalk?

5 Places Joy is Always Available

What if I were to tell you that joy is always available? Are you interested in knowing more? I am. If you are reading this post, that must mean that you are as well.

I am starving for joy. I’ll admit that I have not been very happy. I walked through quite a streak of stresses and difficult circumstances over the past 3-4 years and it got the best of me. I’ve been waiting on the next bad thing to happen rather than shaping something good. So I started searching for joy. I found it. In Psalm 16 David shares 5 places where joy is always available.

Joy is always available in God

Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge.
I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord;
I have no good apart from you.”

Psalm 16:1-2

Joy is a reaction. Joy is a response. There always has to be a reason for joy. You can’t fake it.

Joy is not like love in that we can love someone who is not easily lovable. Jesus commands us to love our enemies. But when it comes to joy, you can’t take joy in something that isn’t joyful. Taking joy in something that isn’t joyful is sinful. The Bible uses words like envy, jealousy, covetousness, and drunkenness to describe the misguided notion that a person can find satisfying joy in joyless things.

Joy is Not an Option

What’s even more interesting is that joy is not an option. The Bible speaks of joy about 430 times. The Bible uses the word “rejoice” about 230 times. Did you know that the Bible commands us to rejoice and be glad more than it commands any other thing? That means that just as it is a sin to take a human life, it is a sin not to be happy! That’s a problem if I can’t find joy.

So what makes you happy? Family. Food. Friends. Money. Sports. We all have a shortlist of things that make us happy. But there’s another problem. Those things are not always available or affordable. Then what?

You’re fine with your shortlist as long as there is someone at the top of the list that is always available to give you joy. So David secures his joy. He declares that the Lord is his Lord and that he will find no good apart from God.

Joy is not an option, it is a command. Seeing that the Bible so often mentions joy, we can conclude that God is concerned for our joy.

David does not share his circumstances, but if you know anything of his life you know that he is a man who seemed to surf the highs and lows of difficult situations. Declaring that he seeks refuge in God indicates that there is no joy in his current circumstances and so he turns to the faithful reservoir of joy. God. And that is wise. Since God commands joy He is always available for joy. Seeing that the Bible so often mentions joy, we can take conclude that God is concerned for our joy.

And David is not disappointed. In verse 16 he shares what he has found. “In your (God) presence there is fullness of joy.” That word full means satisfied, saturated. It means that the supply has not been exhausted but that you simply don’t have the capacity for more.

For those who name the name of the Lord, there can be no one else on the top of our list of things that make us happy than God. God commands us to take joy in Him. “Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say rejoice.” If He commands it, He is available for it. Being the most excellent being in existence He will never fail to give us a reason for joy.

Joy is Always Available in God’s People (vv. 3-4)

As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones,
in whom is all my delight.
The sorrows of those who run after another god shall multiply;
their drink offerings of blood I will not pour out
or take their names on my lips.

Psalm 16:3-4

It is no surprise to hear that God is the source of infinite joy. But as a human, I need more than words on paper. I want to see Him, feel Him, and hear Him. I want to experience God.

One of the great doctrines of the Bible is that the church is the Body of Christ. God has chosen to minister His graces to His people through His church. Basically Jesus died for our sins. Rose from the grave. Ascended into Heaven. Gave us His Spirit and essentially said, now you be me on earth. No pressure!

Some of the meanest people I’ve ever met have been in church.

And David has found this to be true. Not only does he have an excellent God, but David has found some of God’s excellent people. The excellent ones are the people who have been affected and infected by God’s joy so much so that David not only finds pleasure in God, but he delights in God’s excellent ones.

Immediately we raise an objection. Some of the meanest people I have ever met have been in church.

The Bible has something to say about this as well.

The Ugly Side of Church

  1. Not all people who claim to be God’s people are God’s people. Unfortunately within the church, there are false teachers (2 Peter 2:1) and fake Christians (Matthew 7:15-23). These people are definite joy killers. They bear no spiritual fruit (Gal. 5:22-24). They exhibit no evidence they are indwelt by God’s spirit. They share no witness of Jesus. The Bible says they are there. Identify them, but don’t make decisions based on them. The fact that you can draw no joy from them and that they seek to distract you and destroy your joy should be no surprise to you. These are not God’s excellent ones.
  2. Not everything that is claimed to be of God is from God. Another unfortunate reality of church is that even sincerely saved, spiritually indwelt, regenerate people can exhibit spiritual immaturity. This is true of all of us from time to time. If we are not careful, we get caught up in gossip, accusation, deception, unfaithfulness, and anger. In response to this, we should renounce it and approve what is excellent (Titus 3:8-11). In short, we should seek to quickly end expressions of immaturity and approve joy (1 Peter 2:1-3). It’s especially true that when you are seeking joy in a turbulent time that it is wise to adopt David’s approach to ungodly people and ungodly things in 16:4. I smell blood, and I’m not going to go there! It’s false. It is not of God and it only ends in sorrow. And who needs more of that? Not me!

While it is true that the squeaky wheel gets the grease, don’t fail to look around and find God’s excellent ones. These are most often the people who are not vocal. Often they are not noticeable, but they are excellent. They will pray for you, encourage you, and impart godly wisdom. Since God is an ever-present source of joy, you can take comfort in knowing that there will always be people who have been affected and infected by His joy who will be a delight to you.

Joy is Always Available in God’s Ways (vv. 5-6)

The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup;
you hold my lot.
The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.

Psalm 16:5-6

Have you ever wondered “why?” Of course you have. What’s even more painful is when we find no joy in our circumstances and we seem to get no answer from our ever-present God of endless joy. THAT – I do not enjoy!

But notice that joy may be frustrated, but it is not lost. The cup in the Bible is a metaphor for fate. Jesus referred to this in his conversation with God in the Garden of Gethsemane, “If possible let this cup pass from me (Matthew 26:39a).” And then comes that beautiful statement of our Savior’s surrender, “Nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.”

There is no way we could plumb the depths of the reasons for Christ’s surrender, but one of them is certainly cited here in Psalm 16. Notice the language. The Lord does not just give us the cup. God gives us Himself. He is our chosen portion and our cup. The Lord holds our lot. The fact that He holds our “lot” basically means that our fate is not simply left to chance. There is joy in knowing that God’s choices are providential and purposeful. Even more amazing is that we have Him! This is why the Bible speaks so often of the paradox of joy that God’s people find in the midst of sorrow (James 1:2-4, Romans 5:3-5, Psalm 30:1-5). It can be said, because God is our cup and our portion that our suffering is not pointless, nor is it joyless.

The Lord does not just give us the cup. He gives us Himself. He is our chosen portion and our cup. He holds our lot. The fact that He holds our “lot” basically means that our fate is not simply left to chance. There is joy in knowing that God’s choices are providential and purposeful. Even more amazing is that we have Him!

The Lines in Pleasant Places

But what does the Bible mean here about the lines falling in pleasant places? This is a reference back to God’s distribution of the promised land to Israel as their inheritance. It is as if he is walking around within the boundaries of his inheritance and finding wonderful things. It is like a man who has just been given land exploring it for the first time and he likes what he sees with every step he takes.

What is interesting about Israel’s inheritance is that it was possessed in obedience. I think this sense of boundaries, or commands is also encapsulated in the word “lines.”

So let’s put it all together. Sometimes you don’t like your circumstances, but you cannot change them. When you don’t like your circumstances you may not think much of God’s commands because you don’t want to do them. But Psalm 16:5-6 tells you that there is joy always available here. How so?

The Journey and the Job

  1. Journey in the command. As the picture of the verse indicates, walk around, take a look. The command may not look like much when you take a look at it, but journey in it. You will find some pleasant places in it. You will find some unexpected beauty there. In God’s commands, there is no regret. There are no foolish mistakes. When certain things DON’T happen, certain things WON’T happen! Think about it! Take joy in the journey of waking rightly with the Lord.
  2. Work the command. Just like Israel had to work the land you have to work the command. It will bear fruit! You will find the joy of God’s preservation in the command. You will experience the bounty of God’s blessing in His commands. Don’t negotiate it, shortcut it, or question it. Just do what God says to do! His ways are not your ways and His thoughts are not your thoughts. He’s God. You and I are not! Work His plan. Do His commands. You reap what you sow! “Those who sow in tears will reap with shouts of joy (Psalm 126:5)!” Work it! There is joy within the boundaries of God’s commands. You will never be truly happy until you are concerned with being holy.

Joy is Always Available in God’s Word (vv. 7-8)

I bless the Lord who gives me counsel;
in the night also my heart instructs me.
I have set the Lord always before me;
because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.

Psalm 16:7-8

I don’t know about you, but I do my worst thinking at night. Sleepless nights are filled with voices. It is at night that my mind replays every criticism, rehearses every doubt, and exaggerates every fear. But David does not hear cursing, he hears the voice of blessing in the night. David has found that joy is always available in God’s Word.

The passage is instructive to us about our approach to God’s Word. If you want to hear the voice of God bring you joy and drown out your critics in the middle of the night then God’s Word must be taken 1) as counsel 2) as instruction 3) to heart. God’s Word is not intended only to be read. The intention of God’s Word is for it to be obeyed. Furthermore, if it is to change me, it must be within me. Psalm 16:7 reflects David’s commitment to Scripture meditation and memorization reflected in Psalm 119:11, “Your Word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against thee.”

I do my worst thinking at night. Sleepless nights are filled with voices. It is at night that my mind replays every criticism, rehearses every doubt, and exaggerates every fear.

And notice that his experience in God’s Word helps him to find that God is not only always before him, but that God is at his right hand. The result is that he will not be shaken.

There is joy in knowing that there is not a single thing you can go through that God is not already there. He is ever before you. God’s Word is filled with stories, prayers, illustrations, and wisdom for every circumstance of life.

There is always joy in knowing that God is always available at your right hand. What does this mean? It is a nod to the ancient warrior who carried his shield in his left hand. This means that his right side is most exposed. Every warrior knows that the person beside you is critical to you. His shield was the cover for your right side! Let His Word be your counsel and His presence be your defense. There is joy always available in God’s Word!

Imagine going to be tonight and instead of hearing criticism, you hear Psalm 16. Take God’s word to heart in meditation and memorization. It will not be long until you do your BEST thinking at night!

Joy is Always Available in God’s Salvation (vv. 9-11)

There is nothing more miserable than not knowing where you will spend eternity. I remember what it was like not knowing. Doubt is crippling. I remember what it was like to be lost.

But did you know that of the 430 plus times the Bible mentions joy, that it mentions most the joy that is found in salvation? There is nothing that can bring a person more joy than knowing God, defying death, and having hope in the resurrection.

If you find a person who says, “I have no reason for joy.” You have found a person who is in Hell already.

David found joy in knowing that the grave was not his end. As humans, we need something to look forward to. David looked forward to leaving behind a life in which we experience only the first-fruits of joy at best and entering into God’s presence where there is endless pleasure and fullness of joy.

If joy is always available in God, in God’s people, in God’s word, in God’s ways, and in God’s salvation and you meet a person who says, “I have no reason for joy,” that is a person who is in Hell already. For a human, created by God and commanded to enjoy God, to have no reason for joy, he is already experiencing the tragedy of Hell minus the flames.

If that is you, I would point you to Christ! Repent of sin. Turn to Jesus today! Today is the day of salvation. JOY IS ALWAYS AVAILABLE!

Other posts that may interest you:

Joy is Always Available (sermon video)

Why the Ladies Love Thomas Rhett

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Turning People into bodies title graphic

Turning People Into Bodies

In this series of posts we are looking at Jesus’ shocking statement concerning lust in Matthew 5:27-30 and gleaning from it 4 ways that pornography short circuits intimacy. In the previous post, I discussed the first way. Pornography short circuits intimacy because to justify it we ask the wrong question. If we ask the wrong question we live the wrong answer. In this post I want to share the second-way pornography short circuits intimacy: pornography objectifies people and turns them into bodies.

With Jesus’ statement in Matthew 5:27-30, he moves the conversation off of the finish line of adultery and moves it onto the starting line of lust. Adultery is the sin of ending up in someone’s bed. Lust is the sin of letting it get started in your heart.

What is lust?

Lust is not noticing that someone is attractive. Lust is imagining what it would be like to have them. Lust is not seeing someone, it is dwelling on them. Lust is misplaced desire.

An interesting thing about the word translated “lust” in Matthew 5 is it is the same word translated as “earnest desire” in Luke 22. The scene in Luke 22 is Jesus preparing to take Passover with his apostles.

And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.”

Luke 22:15

The same word used to describe a deeply meaningful act of devotion in Luke 22 is used in Matthew 5 to describe a dirty thought that could potentially turn into someone more.

The problem is not desire, but direction. We all have desires. The question is not whether or not you will have them. The question is what will you do with them?

The Prayer You Don’t Want to Pray

A typical early response to a message like this is for someone struggling with lust is for them to want to pray, “Lord, please take away these sexual desires.” Do you really want God to answer that prayer? I don’t think so! That prayer would be like someone struggling with gluttony to pray, “Lord, please take away my hunger.” The problem is not in the desire. The problem is in the decision.

Sex Drive?

They call it sex drive, but is sex drive really just our desire for sex? It isn’t. Our sexual desires are more complex than just the physical act of sex. If we just wanted sex for the sake of sex, then people hooked on pornography, or people who sleep around, or people in prostitution would be the happiest people on the planet. But they’re not. Why not?

Because in our sex drive there is also the desire to be loved, to be known, to belong, to connect, to be affirmed, to be satisfied, and to be secure. Our sexual desire is one of the most complicated, but deeply meaningful parts of being human.

The problem with lust and pornography is that a desire becomes a demand. A person just wants sex without the messy work of love, communication, building intimacy, trust, connection, forgiveness, and grace.

Maybe your marriage is not so good right now. Maybe the two of you are not getting along. But you still have desires, right? The right way to fulfill that desire would be to reconnect with your spouse. The right way is to work on communication, talk through the issues.

But that takes time and work. So a decision is made. I still have the desire, but the right way is not an easy way. So, that desire becomes a demand. You bypass your spouse. You pull up an image or a video. You lust after a body.

When you bypass the messy work of connecting with your spouse and fulfill your desire through the demand of pornography, you effectively do what they did with the rubber hand illusion (see my previous post). You take one of the most complex desires God has given you and you transfer all of those connections onto something that isn’t real.

That person on the screen has a name. That is someone’s son or daughter. That person has needs and desires of their own, but with pornography you don’t need affirmation, you just need a body. With pornography you don’t give security, you just take an image. With pornography you don’t develop trust, you just click a button.

The person on the screen has no identity, it’s just a body.

You have taken your God-given desires and turned them into demands. The more you do this, the more you like this, and the more you believe you need this. The more you bypass the messy work of fulfilling God-given desires and settle for just making demands; this becomes dangerous! You have short-circuited intimacy and turned a person into a body.

For a great resource on this topic, check out Michael John Cusick‘s book, Surfing for God.

Next Post: Pornography short circuits intimacy because it is a form of idolatry.

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Title blog article D2 Discipline

3D Parenting – D2 Discipline

The first “D” in the 3 D’s of Biblical parenting is DEVELOP. Develop is about creating an environment that consistently reinforces content that helps your child discover who God wants them to be. “Develop” only works if there is discipline.

Discipline

Necessary to the development of a child are boundaries. There must be discipline when boundaries are crossed. When it comes to discipline, many parents consider it begrudgingly. The Bible looks at discipline lovingly.

Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.

Proverbs 13:24

Every parent must remember, you may have a beautiful child, but you are raising a natural born sinner. If you love your child, you will discipline your child.

Many people mistakingly equate discipline with abuse. The Biblical discipline of a child does not put them in any sort of physical danger and is in no way abusive.

Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you strike him with a rod, he will not die.

Proverbs 23:13

Discipline is not manipulation. You don’t discipline a child because he or she annoys you, interrupts you, or frustrates you. As a parent, you discipline yourself before you discipline your child. You should never punish your child out of anger, but out of heartbreak. You also must be careful that the child understands that they have not just done something to disappoint you, but they have ultimately sinned before God. A parent is a servant of God, not His replacement. If we use discipline to point our child toward the Lord, the child will develop a higher sense of accountability. If you help a child understand that they are ultimately responsible before God, not just to you, they will respect God’s authority throughout their lives.

Discipline in Balance

When it comes to discipline we cannot be too soft or too harsh. Proverbs 22:15 says that folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but that the rod of discipline drives it far from him.

Discipline is a positive and a negative. It is exposing wrong and reinforcing right. If folly is truly to be driven from the heart of a child, there has to be a tipping point. Your value has to become their value. If folly is bound up in the heart of a child, that means they innately do not understand why something is wrong. You simply getting angry or disappointed is not discipline. Discipline involves discipleship. Your child is unlearning folly and replacing it with the Biblical values you reinforce.

If folly is bound up in the heart of a child, being their friend won’t help. God has called you to be a parent, not an enabler. A soft parent doesn’t want to hurt or to offend. In doing so, a soft parent only fosters the folly in their child’s heart and the older the child gets the more difficult it is to drive that folly very far!

Your child may not be happy with you when you discipline them, but they will be thankful for you in the end. Hebrews 12:11 says that discipline is painful and not pleasant, but that it yields “the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” Part of your problem with discipline may be that YOU don’t like it! It should break our hearts to discipline our children, but remember, it’s not about you, but about what’s best for them.!

Discipline is Shepherding

At the heart of discipline is not enforcement, but shepherding. Discipline is not breaking a child. Discipline is about loving guidance with consequence. A parent must realize that discipline is not as much about spanking, grounding, or whatever method you use, as much as it is about connecting with a child’s heart. They have to see that the choice they have made is not a good choice. It is one that has hurt them and others. You as the parent help them through discipline to realize that the world is not all about them.

Discipline cannot be too harsh. In Psalm 103:13 the Bible uses the example of a father’s compassion for his child to illustrate the compassion God has for those who fear Him. If we separate discipline from love and compassion all we have left is physical abuse and emotional manipulation; and that is not at all a loving parent.

For a great resource on parenting and the critical connection that we must make with the heart of our children, see Tedd Tripp’s Shepherding a Child’s Heart.

A Safe Place to Fail

Children will fail. Discipline gives a child a safe place to fail. If a parent lovingly disciplines a child he is safe. His folly will not be allowed to forfeit his future. His mistakes will turn into teaching moments. His failures will not destroy him, but disciple him.

Children need boundaries and loving discipline that brings them back when they cross the line. Discipline is like a guardrail on a highway. When you hit them at high speeds there will be a sudden and perhaps painful collision. But think of what a guardrail saves you from. Had you not hit the guardrail you may have ended up in a ravine, wrapped around a tree, or at the bottom of a pond. Guardrails are not pleasant or beautiful, but they are safe. A home without discipline puts a child in greater danger. Discipline brings them back. Loving discipline creates a much safer place to fail.

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how to get bubba out of the basement graphic

Why is Bubba Still in My Basement? Missing the Point of Parenting

What is the point of parenting? Is it to raise a happy, healthy child? That seems to be a fairly generic goal.

How does one measure success as a parent? Is it GPA, earning potential, athletic achievement, or some sort of moral standard? How do we know if we’ve done well?

The point of parenting is articulated in the 28th verse of the Bible. Even before God rested, He explains the purpose of a parent.

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.’

Gen. 1:27-28

OK, nice Bible verse. So what’s the point of parenting?

  • Image – you are the representative of God on earth. You demonstrate how His Word works in the world and share the blessing that it brings. Your home, as imperfect as it may be at times, is a demonstration of the Lordship of Jesus Christ and His redemptive power to the world.
  • Multiply – notice the Bible doesn’t say add but multiply. All things being equal, any man and woman can biologically add children, but the word “multiply” means that there is something exponential in the purpose of parenting. Teach your child how to be an image of God and you double yourself. If that child has children who also pass along those values, and so on and so on, what you have done for the benefit of the world is exponential. The greatest contribution you can make to the world is not the business you start or the recognition you receive. The greatest contribution you make to the world according to Genesis 1:17-28 is in the children you send.
  • Fill – what you are for your children doesn’t stay put, it moves. Notice that the verse does not say fill your basement space, but fill the earth. What has happened in your home needs to happen again, in another place. The word “fill” assumes there is an empty space with a need. When we fill the earth with “image-ness” there is less of a void. People tried the stay-put plan with the Tower of Babel (Gen. 11). God didn’t take it well. Don’t make your basement Babel 2.0. God was the first father to boot a Bubba out of the basement. The earth left to itself descends into chaos. It needs more images to fill the earth, spread out, and work God’s plan (Gen. 2:5).
  • Subdue – God created the world by applying His Word day by day. In the same way that God applied His Word and brought chaos to order, His images continue to work the earth, day by day, by applying God’s Word bringing an otherwise chaotic culture to order. We need MUCH more of this, don’t we?

So, in short. The point of parenting is to teach a child what it means to be an image of God so that when you release him or her into the world they will continue to apply God’s Word to an otherwise chaotic world and bring it to order.

But Houston, we have a problem; failure to launch.

Failure to Launch

A study published in November of 2016 found that in The State of New Jersey, 45% of young adults aged 18-34 live with their parents, even though they are employed.

The common term for a child’s unwillingness to leave out on his own is “failure to launch.”

I realize that there are a lot of circumstances in life in which a young adult may choose, or need for a time, to live in their parent’s home. Many college students save on the high cost of housing by commuting. I was one of those. My parents encouraged me to go to college by offering to pay tuition. The rest of it was on me. When I realized how much debt I would have just in housing expenses, and then took a look at what they were serving in the cafeteria, I realized that home is a really good deal!

There may be hardships or unforeseen circumstances that require a young adult to shelter at home for a time. There may be mental or physical disabilities that make staying at home a wise choice. But from what I understand of the study, these circumstances are not factored into the 45%. Even if I am making a mistaken assumption and all of these variables are included, 45% still sounds a little high don’t you think?

Life can be difficult and expensive, but I don’t think it is any parent’s dream to raise a capable kid, only to find that at 31 Bubba refuses to leave the basement!

Why am I being so hard on Bubba and his parents?

So what if Bubba is still in your basement? Or maybe he’s a boomerang kid – he moves out but keeps coming back. Am I saying that you are a bad parent? Not at all. I’m not even saying that Bubba is a bad person. Bubba’s first choice may not be for him to be in your basement. Furthermore, I know of some amazing single people who have greatly impacted God’s Kingdom who have lived their entire lives in their parent’s home.

But if you have an adult child who has no plan to launch out on his own and no concern for God’s Kingdom, I do have a question. What’s your release plan?

Surely you are not about to give up on Genesis 1:27 and 28. It’s too great of a vision. I’m not trying to condemn you, but I do want to challenge you. The world has enough people in it that eat Dorito’s, play video games, and binge watch NetFlix. We have some definite void in this culture that needs to be filled. Rise up, don’t give up!

God’s desire is for you to embrace the point of parenting. It will be a blessing to you!

Why are there so many Bubba’s in New Jersey?

Bubba stuck in the basement is not just a New Jersey problem. Failure to launch is becoming epidemic in the American family. Why is this? Perhaps it is because many have missed the point of parenting.

The point of parenting is not to just please our children, but to release them as mature adults. Instead of our homes being launch pads we are instead creating safe, sterilized bunkers in which our kids have everything their heart’s desire, where they are never hurt, never disappointed, never told “no”, and somehow sold on the snake oil that they should never fail.

The problem then becomes that they NEVER leave. Even worse, some parents, never get it! They don’t want to release their children. And YES – this I condemn. It is disobedience and not AT ALL God’s design!

Some parents simply want to control their children no matter how old they are. God has called parents to be equippers, not enablers. If a parent is an enabler, there sits Bubba in the basement thinking he is the center of the world; having no plans to impact the world. This is a child that has been added to the world, but who multiplies nothing. He is a consumer; a proverbial black hole of a family’s resources. He only adds to the chaos, making no contribution to subdue it.

So what if I don’t want a Bubba in my basement?

But maybe that’s not your vision. You don’t want Bubba in your basement. Perhaps you want to be an effective parent who releases an image of God capable of impacting culture and subduing the chaos. So how do we accomplish the point of parenting and raise kids with for purposeful release?

So now that I’ve intrigued some readers and perhaps angered others, let’s offer the proverbial cliff hanger. What’s the answer? I’ll share it in my next post. This week I’ll also address the issue of parents who have done it right, but the child rebels. What then? Stay tuned! Subscribe! Comment, ask questions – let’s have a conversation. How would you explain the point of parenting?

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Check out a past post – God’s Good Reason for Bad Things

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throat punch love your enemy title

Love Your Enemies

Jesus commands us to love your enemies. When agitated by an enemy, loving them is not my first thought and we all know that thoughts can be powerful things!

Did you know that Samsung is developing a TV that can be controlled with your mind? If they are successful that would certainly take care of the problem of losing the remote.

In February of 2018, a Florida man named Johnny Matheny received a 120 million dollar, advanced, mind-controlled prosthetic arm.

These advances in technology are from a fascinating field of study called cybernetics. In short, cybernetics is the merging of man with machine. If you read about this stuff it will either scare you to death or amaze you at how close we are to existing in a sci-fi movie.

One of the side effects of cybernetics is that it is making us take a hard look at what it means to be human. What is it that makes us different than machines?

For instance, as amazing as it is to have a robotic arm that is connected to your thoughts, aren’t you thankful that you don’t do everything you think? Some people would say that they are a lover, not a fighter. I’m afraid that I’m a fighter, not a lover. I’d rather argue than give a hug. That being the case, I’m afraid that if I had a cybernetic arm that responded to my thoughts; there may be some people who get throat punched!

The Difference in Man and Machine

One of the big differences in man and machine is that computers simply carry out commands. Humans have the ability to make an extra decision between emotion and action that keeps unreasonable, annoying people from getting constantly throat punched by maniacs like me.

While there may be something in me thinking “throat punch,” to date I have throat punched exactly zero people (so give me a sticker). This act of self-control comes from the ability you and I have to realize that even though delivering a throat punch is tempting, that doing so would probably make a bad situation even worse. Somewhere between emotion and action comes a correction that results in a much better decision.

It looks like this for computers. COMMAND ———> ACTION.

It looks like this for humans. EMOTION ——> CORRECTION ——> ACTION. That correction is significant! When you omit that middle thought, someone gets throat punched.

While it is one thing to use restraint and refrain from throat punching someone, it is quite another to carry out the 4 correcting commands Jesus offers us in Luke 6:27-28.

But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.

Luke 6:27-28

Let’s break these four commands down from the standpoint of pure emotional first response.

4 People I’d Like to Throat Punch

Enemy. An enemy is someone with whom there is no peace. This is anyone in your life that you would like to throat punch.

Hater. Don’t be a hater! (throat punch)

Curser. You curse me. I cuss you back. (throat punch)

Abuser. There is nothing to say here. All that is necessary is a well-placed Chuck Norris throat punch.

There are some people I’d like to throat punch. But Jesus won’t let me.

Restraint is one thing, but what Jesus is saying seems ridiculous. He wants me to love my enemy? Why would I do good for my haters? What blessing could I possibly have for someone dog cussing me? What could possibly be left within me that would motivate me to pray for someone who abused me?

I understand that I can’t go around throat punching people, but Jesus is not just telling me to use restraint, but to respond with radical redemptive action toward the worst possible people.

Why Restraint isn’t Enough

Why would Jesus ask us to not just use restraint, but to respond in a radically redemptive way? I think there are two reasons.

  1. Action releases emotion. Just because I refrained from throat punching my hateful, cursing, abusive enemy doesn’t mean I have dealt with the destructive emotion. If you emotionally bottle up, you eventually blow up. Typically we blow up on the very people who don’t deserve a throat punch. We take out our frustrations on family and friends because we feel it is “safe.” We direct our aggravation and frustration at them, all the while they are wondering what is wrong with us. Conversations are filled with slander and gossip about your enemy. True, you didn’t throat punch someone, but are you any better off being toxic at home? We need a redemptive release of emotion.
  2. Redemption is better than revenge. If you hate your haters, cuss your cursers, and abuse your abusers all you’ve done is double the problem. If you simply return destructive action in response to destructive action, what makes you any different than your enemy? I can tell you something Jesus desires of you. He doesn’t want you to be like your enemy. He wants you to be like him.

Now that we understand what Jesus would have us do and why, the next logical question is who? Who can possibly do something like this? Has anyone ever responded to a cursing, abusive, hateful enemy with radical redemptive action. The answer is, YES!

The Bible’s Book of Genesis tells the story of one such person. His name is Joseph and he finds himself in each of the horrible situations Jesus articulates. Amazingly, he also displays each of Jesus’ radical redemptive responses. Joseph had every reason in the world to deliver a cybernetic throat punch to his brothers, but instead, he took action to redeem them.

We will begin to explore this story and how it corresponds to Jesus’ corrective commands for us in the next post.

When Family Becomes Enemy Title for Blog Post

Catch up on last week’s series of posts – The Bible Says to Give All, But How Can Anyone Afford All?

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