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On Spanking

This blog is originally from a Facebook post, but I’m parking it here for the sake of future reference.

My take on the Adrian Peterson/”Should you spank your kids?” brouhaha:

Hey Christians: Let’s not get too nuts about one verse of Scripture, and a Proverb (13:24), no less. Proverbs are, well, proverbial wisdom. They are not binding on the consciences of believers at all times and all places. They are meant to be generally applicable and true for most times and circumstances, but are to be considered and thoughtfully and contextually applied. Very few of the proverbs are universally applicable in all times and all places. I’ve spanked my kids (see below), but if other believers’ consciences dictate differently, I’m not doing to go all Proverbs 13:24 on them, like it’s a law. I’m probably going to ask them to help me understand why they don’t spank, exactly, but I’m not going to insist that they HAVE to spank if they love their kids. So let’s cool it with the, “If you don’t spank, you don’t love your kids” BS. This isn’t the gospel. There’s room for personal, contextual, conscientious application here.

Hey Christians: Even biblical precepts that Christ-followers view as binding on their conscience must be set within the overall context of Scripture. In this case, you can’t just pull out Proverbs 13:24 and apply it to AP, as though nothing else applies. I think AP’s method of “discipline” probably falls into the category of abuse and probably violates Colossians 3:21 and Ephesians 6:4. I’d also be curious to ask AP why he thinks he has the right to practice corporal discipline when he’s not present in most of his kids’ lives most of the time. Discipline without the context of overwhelming love is nothing more than being pissed off at behavior. If he’s not present in their lives, and loving, loving, loving them (as God calls him to do as a father), then I think he’s completely foolish to think that whacking his kids with a stick will do anything but anger and discourage his children. “This guy who slept with my mom, and now comes around once in a while, pretending to be my ‘dad,’ and hits me and makes me bleed and is hardly ever around?!… What the HELL?!” That’s all I can imagine his teenage son ever saying. If you don’t love your kids well, why do you presume that you can discipline them well?

Hey, Christians: Can we stop pretending like this is about whether it’s okay to spank your kids? This is about whether it’s okay to hit your kids with a stick until they’re bleeding, and stuff leaves in their mouths to muffle the screams. If someone else did that to my kid, they’d either be in jail or the ER. Just because it’s your own kid doesn’t make it just fine and dandy. This isn’t about discipline. It’s about abuse. AP should be in jail or he should not be allowed contact with his children until he’s gone through some sort of extensive education/retraining program–especially because he still thinks he’s right and said he’ll continue to disciple his kids the same way, if he feels it’s warranted.

Hey, everyone else: To think that the liberal city-dwellers of 21st century America have a historical corner on the market of parenting wisdom is absolutely asinine. Most societies for most of history have practiced some form of corporal discipline. I think we should be slow to say, “Hey look, WE finally figured it out that everyone else in history has been doing it wrong!” I’m just looking around and making informal observations, but… I don’t think most of the kids I see are going to give much credibility to your confident, pop-psych, self-esteem movement conclusions.

We discipline our kids in a variety of ways. They get vinegar on their tongues if they tell lies to remind them that what came out of their mouth was yucky. They get appropriate privileges taken away for smaller issues. And when they are disrespectful to Mommy, or when Owen has been aggressive with his sister, they get spanked by Dad. And I’ll say a few things about that: First, I never spank angry. I always bring them to their room, explain what’s about to happen and why, and tell them how many spankings they’ll be given (usually 2-3). I never spank until I’ve “gotten all my anger out,” or “feel like it’s probably enough.” It’s ALWAYS very limited and never leaves a mark. Good dads should know how to spank without injuring. Second, after the spanking is done, they usually cry a little and I hug and hold them and kiss them. And I know that matters because when I spank them, they turn toward me, not away from me. They know that the person bringing the discipline is the same person with whom they will find comfort and love. Which means they will never doubt how much I love them–even when they’re being disciplined. Third, we pray together after spanking and I confess the ways I’ve committed the same sins, and we ask Jesus for forgiveness together, and thank him for always forgiving us, because he died for us. At some point along the way, after we pray, we started falling over and tickling each other and laughing. I don’t know if there’s anything biblical about that. But that always happens now. Because… I don’t know. Tickling’s fun. Fourth, (and maybe most importantly), I haven’t had to spank them in about a year. They don’t disrespect Mommy and Owen doesn’t hit his sister anymore. They learned that lesson the hard (and effective) way.

Daily Scripture Readings?

Hey everybody. Remember when I used to post the “daily” Scripture readings from the New Hope Church Exponential 2.2 year-long Bible reading track? I started that undertaking last June… one year ago. So then, according to the “year-long” concept, I’m now done – except my last post was 2 months ago and the readings posted were those from midway through the month of January. Yikes.

But there is good news! My uber-busy schedule over these past few months has, as of today, transitioned into a very different landscape of life for the remainder of this year. I will be travelling a heck of a lot, but I will also have an unprecedented amount of free time. I intend to use that free time to finish what I started.

Many of you have made comments to me electronically or in person that you’ve enjoyed/appreciated the daily Scripture posts, and I’m thankful for that. I trust that my lack of posts in recent months hasn’t deterred those of you that have been following along with the regular readings from doing your own reading in God’s word. Internet posts are one thing, communion with God is another.

Bottom line: stay tuned for an onslaught of Daily Scripture Readings posts.

What’s the Deal With God Killing So Many People In the Old Testament?

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My mom is reading through the Bible and recently she came to Joshua 6-8 and was prompted to ask a great and really important question: “Why is there such violence? God has the Israelites on the seventh day shout down the walls of Jericho and kill everyone. This is not the first or last time that killing has taken place in the Bible by God’s command. What am I missing?”

Hi Mom,

So, as you probably guessed, there are no easy answers to the question about wars in the Bible and God’s commands to wipe out entire populations of people. But I think there are three major, central biblical realities that we have to have in place in our minds before these wars make any sense whatsoever:

(1) No one deserves life; Everyone deserves only death.
There is no such thing as an “innocent” person in the grand scheme of things. Every single person who has ever lived only deserves death for their sin, according to Romans 6:23. This is an important corrective to our modern sensibilities. When we hear about people dying in war or in natural disasters, we tend to be outraged and ask questions like, “What did they do to deserve to die?!” But biblically a better question is to look around at all of the people who aren’t dying and ask with amazement, “What did we do to deserve to live?!”

Jesus once got a question that was very similar to the one you’re asking. Luke 13:4-5 records a bunch of people coming up and asking him about some people who had been killed when a huge tower collapsed and crushed them. They asked him, “Were they the worst sinners in Jerusalem?” And Jesus basically said, “No, they weren’t any worse. What happened to them is what everyone deserves, and it’s more or less what everyone will receive sooner or later unless they turn and follow me.”

All of that to say (harsh as it sounds to modern ears), all of the people who die in the Bible—whether they die through wars, natural disasters, natural causes, or by God’s own hand–all of them deserve to die, just like us. So there is no injustice on God’s part whatsoever when he orders the death of whole populations.

R.C. Sproul offers a helpful illustration. He says, “I once had a class in which students were late turning in a paper. Instead of giving them an F, I gave them an extension. For the next paper, even more students were late. Again, I relented and gave them an extension, but I told them that this would be the last time. For the last paper, even more students were late. This time I told them that they would receive an F. The students were outraged. They had taken my mercy for granted. They assumed it. When justice suddenly fell, they were unprepared for it. It came as a shock.”

We’re always shocked when God’s justice falls because he is overwhelmingly merciful to us in allowing us to live for another moment. The fact that we’re living at this very moment (despite our ongoing sin) points to God’s amazing mercy. We don’t deserve the breath we have in our lungs at this moment. The breath you just took—that one—you don’t deserve it. And neither do I. And the ultimate mercy, of course, is that not only does God spare us the death we deserve at this very moment, but he sent Jesus to die in our place so that anyone who would commit their life to following him would never really die, but would live with him forever.

(2) Idolatry is the greatest of all sin.
If we were to put together a “Top Ten” list of sins, we’d probably all arrange them differently, but I’m sure no one would leave out some obvious biggies: Murder, rape, slavery and child abuse would likely be toward the top. Maybe after that adultery, theft, dealing drugs, spousal abuse, and so on. But the fact is that the greatest evil in Scripture is idolatry—the worship of other gods besides the one true God. This is what the first commandment is all about: “I am the Lord your God… You must not have any other gods besides me.” (Exodus 20:2-3) Idolatry is the act of saying to the one true God, “You’re phony. This other god that I worship is the true god.” To tell God that he’s a phony is the greatest sin of all.

The people dwelling in Canaan at the time worshipped a variety of false gods. Now, keeping in mind what I said above, this added insult to injury. Not only did they already deserve to die (like we all do), they were every day committing the gravest sin–the act of giving worship to a god who is not the true God, and telling the one true God that he’s a phony.

Now, maybe it goes without saying, but this still happens all around us. And no, I’m not just talking about people who follow other religions. Lots of people who call themselves “Christians” aren’t even truly devoted to the one true God. Their “true god” is really money or comfort or pleasure or power, etc. And God would be acting within his justice to eradicate anyone who fits that description. But he sent Christ to forgive us and show us mercy, and to plead with us: Put away these other gods. None of them are worth your worship. None of them are worth giving your whole life to.

(3) The so called “holy wars” are over because Jesus is the new and greater dwelling place of God, not Israel.
In the first parts of the Old Testament, God was establishing the land of Israel as his “dwelling place,” where he would live with and among his people. He would be the “God who is with us” for Israel. For that to happen, the “holy wars” had to happen. Now, sometimes people ask me: “Well, what if God ‘tells’ someone to lead a Christian holy war again? The radical Muslims believe they’re in a holy war (jihad). Shouldn’t we be at war to take back Israel and the Middle East (not to mention America) for God?”

My response is that God will not say that. If someone claims to have been told by God to wage a holy war, they’re either crazy or they’ve heard wrong. And the reason I know that is because God no longer ties his “dwelling place” to a piece of land. Jesus is now the dwelling place of God. Jesus is Immanuel (which means, “God with us”). And as Jesus dwells in the hearts of his people by his Spirit he makes our own hearts the “Promised Land”; the place of rest for God’s people. So God couldn’t care less who lives on the hunk of land east of the Mediterranean. He doesn’t have much interest in real estate—until, that is, Jesus returns to claim the entire world as his own and declares, “the dwelling place of God is with man” again—in the most real sense (Revelation 21:1-4). So, there will be (or at least should be) no Christian “holy wars” until the end, when God finally lays waste to evil and sadness and death, and they cease to exist (Revelation 20). In the end, God wins.

Please feel free to respond and ask any questions about anything I’ve been unclear on. Thanks, mom!

Love,
B

Christ and Moms

They bring us into the world, give us life, and name us. 

They give us a home, and work to make it comfortable and warm and life-giving.

They clean up our messes and help us learn to be less messy.

They try to protect us from threats to our life, to our peace, to our growth, and to our happiness.

They sacrifice for us—giving up what is theirs for our good, for our life, for our flourishing, for our joy.

They forgive us and help us reconcile ourselves to them and to those we’ve hurt; Those we’ve abused; Those we’ve offended.

They heal us. They do the hard work of cleaning our wounds as we kick and scream and plead with them to stop as they’re trying to help us. 

They tolerate our disobedience, our waywardness and our rebellion against their authority with patience, and return to us kindness and mercy.

They discipline us for our good—discipline that always hurts them more than it hurts us. They do what break their hearts to do, so that we would learn not to harm ourselves and destroy ourselves.

They point us to God. They show us his kindness and strength. They reveal his character.

They rejoice in us and find deep satisfaction in us. They live to see us flourish; to see us progress; to see us succeed and win and conquer the dragons in our lives—both real and imagined.

They serve us and live to provide the things we really need while at the same time they try to steer us away from the things we think we need, but that may actually harm us and bring us sadness.

They pray for us; interceding before the Father on our behalf—sometimes through eyes flooded with tears because it has become so apparent that we have turned our back on him for a moment or for a season or a lifetime.

They teach and model for us tenderness when tenderness is right.

They teach and model for us forcefulness when forcefulness is right.

They teach and model for us patience when patience is right.

And they teach and model for us insistence when insistence is right.

They teach and model for us righteousness and love and peace and integrity and truth and kindness and self-control and charity because they’re always right.

And they speak the very words of God to us and ask us to follow him. They plead with us to be reconciled to the Father, who sent his son to be broken so that we could be healed.

In these and in so many other ways, they—that is, Christ and mothers—are alike.

Rape Will Not Go Unanswered

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I read a story on CNN this morning that broke my heart:

Three of four minors accused of taking part in a brutal videotaped gang rape of a teenager will face full prosecution, a spokesman for a South African court said Wednesday. …The images of the assault of the 17-year-old girl, believed to be mentally ill, swept across the Internet last week and touched a nerve in South Africa. The shocking footage shows the girl pleading for her attackers to stop, and it has some activists saying it is an example of the country’s problem with rape.

My life group has been studying Revelation together for the last few months and this week were thinking through chapters 18-19 together. In an email to them today I said:

“I suppose my main response to chapters 18-19 is the response of the saints in the narrative itself: Overwhelming joy. I feel so incredibly… what’s the word… glad? Happy? Thrilled? … that God wins and that everything we see that’s wrong and ruinous and corrupt in the world (as symbolized by Babylon and the Beast) will be destroyed. These chapters are the answer to the frustration I feel in my gut when I see things like I saw this morning on CNN: A young disabled girl in South Africa was gang raped by a bunch of teenage boys and they filmed it on their phones and put it on the internet. When I see stuff like that my stomach turns inside out and my fists ball up because it’s such a perversion of God’s desire for the world. It’s so ugly and corrupt and evil. And these chapters tell us that there will be an answer to that. That crime will not go unpunished and unhealed. God will undo the badness done to the girl and the penalty for it will be paid by the offenders–unless they repent and follow the King, in which case the King himself will pay the penalty for them.”

I’m reminded of C.S. Lewis’s famous quote from The Great Divorce: “[Mortals] say of some temporal suffering, ‘No future bliss can make up for it,’ not knowing Heaven, once attained, will work backwards and turn even that agony into a glory.”