Parenting in the Trenches

Building Confidence in Perhaps the One Area we feel most Guilt

It is graduation time around the Despres house.  My second son is done and headed to Texas A&M Galveston Campus.  He is excited and we are as well.  Only 3 more to go…I was thinking about schools, grades, minimum level competencies and graduation.  Everyone that walks must pass.  Same with a Driver’s License.  Written and road tests must be minimally passed in order to have the privilege of driving.  Not so with parenting (unless you are adopting).  There are no applications, no minimum level competencies, and no background checks.  Two people can either decide or “accidentally” become parents.  I find that amazing.

When a man and woman decide to be parents, they have appointed themselves at that point to be trustees of the future…the emotional well being of their child and those he/she interact with is largely affected by how you pour into them. WE ARE TRUSTEES OF THE FUTURE.

There are a lot of books to guide parents dealing with God’s way to Grace based parenting to dealing with the brain and boundaries.  I am indebted to Buck Hatch; his wisdom and biblical foundations are spot on.  Parents who want to have a Biblical framework for parenting may not get answers to the dangers or not of sucking thumbs, or to clear age of dating standards or what kinds of clothes kids should wear but what the Bible does give is Principles.

God is the Architect of the FamilyWhen we hire an architect we want the first question out of their mouth to be “What is the Purpose of the Building?”  What will it be used for?  So it is clear the first question we must answer is, “What do we want our children to be/become?”  If you don’t know where you are going any direction will do but not every direction is profitable for a child.

In one place in the Bible, we meet a boy named Samuel and he has some contemporaries whose names are Hophni and Phinehas.  Two sets of boys with two sets of parents with obvious two sets of outcomes.  What can we learn about successful parenting?  Samuel was a prophet.  Eli’s boys Hophni & Phinehas were priests.  Is it true that successful parents have kids who go into the ministry?  Obviously not, vocation has very little to do with parenting success.

Principles of Parenting

  1. Vocation is not as important as a heart for God.  Just because someone is a priest, pastor, missionary or bible scholar, doesn’t mean their heart is aligned with God’s.
  2. Protection is not the end all for parenting.  Samuel was in the Temple near the end of the time of the Judges, he no doubt saw Eli’s sons disrespect the things and people of God (1 Samuel 2:17,
  3. Education is not the final answer for parenting.  Homeschooling, Christian Schooling, Public Schooling are all good options for children.
  4. Temperaments are not the end all either.  Introverts are not better than extroverts.  Those who are quiet are not holier than the loud children.
  5. Parents are very important (1 Samuel 2:29).  Samuel’s parents were stellar and H&P’s Dad was a useless waste. However, it does appear that although Samuel was a spiritual giant his kids were anything but that (1 Samuel 8:1-3).

Normal Biblical Parenting

Now the boy Samuel continued to grow both in stature and in favor with the Lord and also with man (1 Samuel 2:26).

Our goal is Normal parenting.  Provide for normal physical growth, normal mental growth, normal relational growth and normal spiritual growth.  How you choose to provide normal is up in the air.  Interesting, this is the same words used of Jesus in Luke 2:52.

The only parenting style that removes guilt from parenting is the one that puts God at the center …If you get any glory out of the process you get to keep the guilt. If you give all the glory to God, then you remove yourself of guilt.

What is an Addictive Personality? part 2

Avoiding a Samson-like Fatal Attraction.

My coach would always say, “Never play to the level of your competition.”  I guess if your competition was better it would be bad advice.  I have seen too many teams play to the level of their competition and not play to the top of their ability.  It is extremely frustrating as a coach.  Samson is the strongest in the league by far.  It is hard to get any good game tape on this guy…”no one knows where his strength comes from” (Judges 16:6). He has destroyed thousands with a jawbone of a donkey, torn lions apart, caught foxes and destroyed crops.  This all leads me to ask:  What did Samson look like?  Hollywood Samson or maybe the real Jewish Samson?

 

If Samson was what we think, “Incredible Hulk Samson” then I am not sure why people insisted on trying to figure out where his strength came from.  No I believe Samson looked like any typical Jewish man would have looked.  There seems to always be mystery and intrigue when it comes to God.  Enter Delilah whose name means “weak one!” She is called in the find out the answer.  She begs, pleads, coaxes him to give her the secret.  We are crying in the background, “Wake up Man!”

Samson’s Fatal Attraction

Addictive people  don’t typically become addicts over night.  If we knew our actions would result in our death or destruction we probably wouldn’t carry them out.  No one wakes up one day and decides I’m going to jump off a cliff to my death, without first going down a long path of struggle, deception, giving in, being overwhelmed by chemicals, not having the correct medicinal path, etc.  Samson gives closer and closer hints to the “real” secret.  Slowly we crawl to the cliff of disaster.  Those who are destroyed by addictions get to a place where it is virtually impossible to turn back.  The first steps were the determining ones.

St. Ambrose said, “Samson, when brave, strangled a lion; but he could not strangle his own love.  He burst the fetters of his foes; but not the cords of his own lusts.  He burned the crops of others, and lost the fruit of his own virtue when burning with the flame enkindled by a single woman.

How Should we then Live in Light of This???

Cultivate Intimacy with God- As long as Samson looked to God to quench his thirst he was all right, but when he stopped looking to God he became thirsty and succumbed to Temptation. Our ability to drink will determine our spiritual satisfaction and our ability to spiritually flow.

Marriage does not solve the problem of LUST! Lust is a spiritual problem not a physical issue. If you struggled with LUST before marriage you will after. Marriage is not your answer, Jesus is your answer, the gospel is your power.

Build a Strategic attitude toward Lust

  • Deal ruthlessly with thoughts- Lust starts in the Mind (Rom 12:2, 2 Cor 10:5
  • Deal objectively with Movies, Magazines, Marketing…Photoshop is not real.
  • Do your best to be accountable- We should never think we can out grow our acct.
  • Understand what Flee means- 2 Tim 2:22

Finally…Isn’t it funny how boys play fight with their dad’s. I’m gonna get you Dad…Roar. One punch and they hit your watch and go crying to mom. I’m not sure how to react to that…in the same way, I am not sure how to react to Samson, he seems like he should know better. Even though we don’t want our sons to be like him or our daughters to date him, God used him in big ways. WHAT DOES THIS MEAN? Should we be like him or not be like him?

I hope the Samson story actually causes your heart to long for Jesus, I hope you see the GRACE of GOD in fresh ways…Judges 16:22. In all of our Brokenness, God’s grace shines bright…he is the God of second chances.

When we look at this story there are several connection points to JESUS-

  • Births- both foretold by an Angel
  • Both were sold out for silver
  • Both were saviors- Samson’s story was set in the Judges period where the story of salvation is played over and over, the people cry out to God and they hear. We see God using broken heroes all over this story, people of fear, deformed people, prideful people, and one like Samson a person full of lust.
  • Make no mistake- Jesus is the GREATER Samson. Only Jesus can restore us. He’s the only one who can mend our brokenness. He alone can break down anything separating us from God.

There is brokenness all around us. Every where you turn, people are in pain. This wasn’t God’s design…we got there because of SIN. God made a way through our hero Jesus. He came down, paid our debt and died in our place, and then rose again. If we turn and believe we can be restored, healed, and grow in a relationship with God. What is more, we can go into a world of brokenness and share the love of Jesus.

What is an Addictive Personality? part 1

Avoiding a Samson-like Fatal Attraction.

When I was in high school my leader told me that Paul had a thorn in his side.  A thorn?  That must have hurt.  No one really knows what that thorn was (poor eyesight, a limp, depression, etc.).  Like Paul, Samson had a life long thorn.  He had an addictive personality.  Samson had a huge issue with LUST.  My leader turned to me and said, “You have a thorn also Greg!”  What?  You also have an addictive personality.  I. Have. An. Addictive. Personality??  What is that?

 

Do you have an addictive personality? How do you know? Eat food for Comfort? Use Alcohol to socialize, have to have a cup in your hand? Need to be constantly stay connected- always counting your followers and likes? Shop for self-esteem wanting what you buy make you stand out? Gambling excitement? Use drugs or anything really to self-medicate? Is everything VERY, VERY hard to quit??   If you do not have problems with lust you may know someone that does…

We live in a sensual society. Sensuality is everywhere at schools, in homes, on TV, Newspapers, mags. Ever since the Fall of man, we’ve been looking for love in all the wrong places. Samson, whose life and exploits we have been studying in this series from Judges is a good case in point.

Samson’s Addictive Personality

One might expect Samson to lead now and lead well. But he goes very far spiritually and geographically away from God- he’s a spiritual midget but physical giant.  Some think that 20 years have passed from chapter 15 to 16. Now Samson relives an old practice- Wandering Eyes. Samson has lived with an eye problem.  Judges 16:1 is a picture of an addict who leaves home, maybe not wanting to be caught or really not caring.

Samson went to Gaza, and there he saw a prostitute, and he went in to her (Judges 16:1).

His rep precedes him, the town surrounds him. They think they finally will win.  However, they experience a slight miscalculation. He handles gates like a realtor handles a For Sale sign.  Samson carried gates 40 miles or to the top of the hill that faces Hebron…Taking gates meant Samson won! Gates were for defense. Jesus said The GATES of Hell cannot stand, there will never be a day when Satan will win.  In our next post, I will share about the wonderful grace of God.  But I am left scratching my head.  Although God is not mentioned, there is no way Samson could have lifted the gates without the Spirit of the LORD rushing upon him.  Without the spirit he would have been dinner to a lion, he would have been powerless against the Philistines, he would have been weak in the face of the Philistines.

LESSONS TO LEARN

Addictions are a long-term battle. Samson was 20 yrs in the clear. If we don’t continually fight, we will succumb.

We don’t build back up, we take up where we left off.  Alcoholics are always alcoholics.  What a frightening thought, “We may be walking with the Lord for years, but in an instant, in an unguarded moment, we can fall back in.” Please Heed: 1 Corinthians 10:12- Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.

The grace of God covers are sins.  The grace of God covers our shortcomings.  God wants to live and work in us and through us.

Your Wake up Call part 2

Time to kill apathy and self-centeredness

Wake up calls are common when we travel. We call the hotel’s front desk and we tell them when we want to be awakened. The next morning, the phone rings at the appropriate time, and a computer-generated voice can be heard telling us the time.  Sometimes wake up calls come in other forms. Our boss telling us one more mistake, and we are fired. Flunking out of school. A near brush with death.

Sometimes we are awakened in the middle of the night, by a knock on the front door or a phone ringing or a child crying or an animal prowling or by a dream or by a man killing a 1,000 men with the jawbone of a donkey.

Remember our man Samson?  His wife has been given to his best man, he has wreaked havoc on Timnah a Philistine village by destroying an entire year’s worth of crops and now he is holed up in a cave.  The Philistines are ticked, they will “do to him what he did to us.”  Escalation.  Our unmet desires if allowed to escalate will lead to war.

The Philistines retaliate at Lehi (Judges 15:9-10).  NOTE- Lehi means jawbone.  Israel is surprised and frightened.  Then we read the saddest verse in the chapter.

Judges 15:11

Then 3,000 men of Judah went down to the cleft of the rock of Etam, and said to Samson, “Do you not know that the Philistines are rulers over us? What then is this that you have done to us?” And he said to them, “As they did to me, so have I done to them.”

Seriously??

There is so much wrong here.

  • The first time they muster an army, they do so to capture Samson and not fight the enemy.  They could’ve rallied the troops and marched behind their hero instead they hand him over.
  • The Israelites were OK w/slavery over freedom. Compromise over commitment.  Their God is the God of the Angel armies, he split the Red Sea, he caused 900 chariots to get stuck in the mud and opposing armies to kill each other without Israel lifting a finger, and he is the one who led them here.  The Israelites were overtaken by apathy and fear.

Bridge to Your World Personally Are you tired of status quo? Are you OK with missing opportunities for biblical reflection because life is too busy? Are you busier with important pursuits and leave knowing God for later? Are you so caught up with you plans that you don’t have time to deal with growth issues?  Do you need a wake-up call?

God’s Wake-up Call at Jawbone Hill

Judges 15:14-20 reads like a Hollywood movie like Patriot, Braveheart, or Gladiator.  One man sending a clear message to the enemy.

The Philistines sounded their victory battle cry! The Jews hung back! Samson was EMPOWERED. Ropes came off.

Samson picks up a fresh jawbone and kills 1,000 Philistine men. What did this do to the Jews? Do you think some of them had the urge to go out and fight? This was God’s Wake Up Call…

What is Samson’s response? Judges 15:16-A Play on words- Donkey and heap are the same words- with the jawbone of a DONKEY or the other word for donkey- Donkey upon Donkeys (don’t miss the poetic humor from Samson).   However, there is not mention of God, Samson takes the credit.

Then everything changed…Judges 15:18- First time he calls on God was in response to a physical need. He is thirsty. He sees his need big time. He still does not have mature God exalting responses, it is still all about HIM. No mention of anyone else…but it is a start.


 

Your Wake Up Call part 1

Time to kill apathy and self-centeredness

Several years ago the Associated Press released a story about a 20-year-old man named Gene Tipps of Seymour, Texas. On May 21, 1967, Mr. Tipps was involved in a very serious automobile accident in which he suffered severe head injuries. He was in a coma for three weeks, after which he remained in a state of unconsciousness for eight solid years. During that extended period of time, this was his daily routine: his parents would prop him up in bed, move him to a chair, brace him up by putting pillows around him, and then feed him. They would usually have to open his mouth and help move his jaw so he could chew the food. He would then swallow. When he finished eating, they would comb his hair, talk to him for awhile, and then put him back to bed. For eight long years, that was his daily experience. Then, one day after all those years of slumber, Gene Tipps woke up! His nurse was startled because she was trying to give him some medicine when he awakened. His parents ran to him and shouted for joy. They called the doctor. Everyone was thrilled and shocked simultaneously.

Later someone asked him what it was like to be asleep for eight years. Tipps replied, “It’s all very strange, my girlfriend is now married and has children. The war in Vietnam is over. To everyone else I am 28, but in my mind I am still only 20.” He slept from 1967 until 1975. He went to sleep when L.B.J. was President of the United States, and woke up with Jimmy Carter smiling in the White House. He slept right through Richard Nixon!  Can you imagine being asleep 8 years?

Samson and His Sowing to Self-Centeredness

Samson’s motto was, “I will do to them what they have done to me.”  Revenge was what he was after (Judges 15:3, 15:7, 15:11).  I really don’t blame him much.  His father in law gave his wife to the best man (Judges 15:2).  What ensues is long list of escalation, violence, death, and finally war.

Samson was called to defeat the enemy but down deep we long to see him fighting the Lord’s battle and not his own private wars. King David seemed to always connect the battles he faced and the enemies he faced as being enemies of the LORD.  Be careful that your individual preferences don’t become religious temper tantrums or worse, religious demands.

Where does all this escalation come from?

We can’t fulfill our selfish desires. We have desires that are God given and yet we pervert these desires w/self-centered demands. We don’t get what we want, so we get mad, mad at God, mad at our friends, just mad!  James 4:1-3 puts the problem squarely inside of us.

What is the result?

Galatians 6:7-8- The Law of the Harvest is as certain as Gravity. You reap what you sow. Samson sows to the Flesh will reap what he sows.  Farmers don’t EVER wonder what is in the Harvest.  That is impossible.  The farmer knew exactly what he sowed and followed up daily on what he sowed. God will not be mocked. We won’t be able to turn our noses up to God…

You Reap what you Sow…She is bored with her marriage. There’s a man at work that is so tender and caring. Her husband doesn’t understand her any more, but he does. You reap what you sow. He was just a sophomore in college trying to make ends meet when a friend told him how much money he was making selling pills to some of his friends. Quick money, illegal drugs.  You reap what you sow. He was spending more money than he was making, his bills were getting behind, creditors were constantly calling, and his credit score was getting worse and worse. You reap what you sow.

John Stott said

To ‘sow to the flesh’ is to pander to it, to cosset, cuddle and stroke it, instead of crucifying it … Every time we allow our mind to harbour a grudge, nurse a grievance, entertain an impure fantasy, or wallow in self-pity, we are sowing to the flesh. Every time we linger in bad company whose insidious influence we know we cannot resist, every time we lie in bed when we ought to be up and praying, every time we read pornographic literature, every time we take a risk which strains our self-control, we are sowing, sowing, sowing to the flesh. Some Christians sow to the flesh every day and wonder why they do not reap holiness.

John Stott also said

Sow a thought, reap an action.

Sow an action, reap a habit.

Sow a habit, reap a character.

Sow a character, reap a destiny.

Difficulty with Desires

How to Win Against Samson Like Desires

Have you seen Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory?  One of the children with a golden ticket is Verruca Salt.  She is easily the world’s biggest spoiled brat.  It is easy to raise Verruca Salt’s.  Donald Miller in one of his talks referred to a spoiled girl one time.  She got that way because when the family was eating Mac & Cheese, she whined for chicken nuggets and the family caved to her whining.  Samson is the original Verruca Salt.

What happens to a person who is unchecked and no one or no thing can stop it?

Samson had a problem with his eyes (Judges 14:1-4). He didn’t want what God wanted or what his parents wanted.  He was unfaithful to his parents, his Nazirite vow, and to his God.  Although he is found in the Hall of Faith (Hebrews 11:32), he was not a faithful man.  Samson is not a guy you would want your daughters to date.

Samson had a problem with his flesh (Judges 14:5-9).  He was unfaithful to his vow and lived a life of secrecy.  Living in the shadows is never a good idea.  Samson was a closed book for no one to see.

How do we win against the battle of mounting desires?

Physical desires will challenge us till we die. They are like trying to fill up a leaky cup.  Once it is filled up, it is gone in a matter of time, needing to be filled again.

Winning the desire battle is intense and stressful. It requires the seriousness of a funeral and resolution of one on a mission. I once heard that the person who desires to live a life of obedience must struggle with the intensity of a drowning man struggling for air. The Apostle Paul challenged many to, “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you:  sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry” (Colossians 3:5).  He also said, “For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live” (Romans 8:13). 

Personal Funeral planning is hard work. Being consistent is difficult. It takes effort, daily effort. Ask anyone who has ever struggled with addiction recovery, it is difficult. How do we fight this in our lives? What steps should we take to stop desires from overtaking us? The enemy knows us. He watches us. He knows our struggles and tries to exploit them.

  1. Take responsibility. You are responsible for what you do with temptations. God is not the author of your sin, the devil didn’t make you do it.  James 1:14
  2. Focus on the big picture. Temptations show how sweet the pleasure of sin is but not the stinging pain that sin brings.
  3. Identify areas of weakness in your life. Recognize which aspects of your life are easy targets for Satan’s attacks.   Never let yourself get too Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired.
  4. Make yourself accountable to a friend. Find someone you trust and tell them about the temptations. We can never outgrow our level of accountability.
  5. Treat the Bible like Bread not Cake. The Scripture is God’s path to wisdom and food for everyday use.  It is not cake for special occasions in life.