#dadstoo

The #metoo movement has been sweeping the nation as people bravely call out those who have abused their power for personal gain.  Calls to action at the societal level have inspired people to take notice of an issue that has previously been swept under the rug.  I would argue, however, that the most important changes need to come at the level of individuals and families. It is at this level that children first observe power in action, and the most powerful person in the home is usually their dad.  He is bigger, stronger, smarter, and has more resources than they do. Dads are blessed to have the first opportunity to shape their child’s view of how people in power should act, so they should not assume that the #metoo movement is a woman’s issue or that they are powerless to do anything to help.

When I was doing counseling, I was surprised how often people traced problems back to their relationship with their father rather than their mother.  Two distinct patterns emerged: fathers who were too harsh and demanding, and fathers who were passive and apathetic. Both have taught unfortunate lessons to their children.  Before a young professional is climbing the career ladder, before they earn the corner office, before they have to answer the question, “will I take advantage?” or “will I be taken advantage of?” they have already learned the answer to this question in thousands of little ways over their childhood, from their father.  Children are little sponges, always observing how the following questions are answered:

Am I important enough for my dad to pay attention to me?  To put down his cell phone and play with me? To be consistently present, starting with dirty diaper changes and night wakings?  To communicate important life lessons and correction that is gentle and firm? Does he value my personhood? Does he listen and delight in what I have to say?  Does he draw out what is best in me and praise my inner qualities, or is everything about my outward performance?

Dads are also the first models of how to treat women.  Dad communicates a message loud and clear by the way he treats Mom.  Does he honor and help her, or does he use and ignore her? Is she the apple of his eye, or can he be found flirting with other women or leering at them on TV?  What might I stumble upon if I use Dad’s computer or visit his “man cave”? Are women treated as objects to be used, or people to be valued and respected? What is beautiful and praiseworthy in my dad’s eyes?

Dads can either use their power to protect, provide for, and propel their children upward, or they can use their power to control them and use them for selfish gain.  This is not a one-time choice, but is communicated through thousands of tiny decisions which add up to have a great impact over a lifetime. Many of those decisions will go unnoticed by most of the world.  They don’t garner attention and praise the same way as delivering a bold speech, and they aren’t as easy as liking a social media post, but they are way more important and influential when it comes time to decide:  will I take advantage? Will I be taken advantage of?

Unfortunately, although they wield great influence, men don’t have a great track record of using their power for good.  Generations of family dysfunction can be traced back through the years, with many examples even found in the pages of the Bible.  King Solomon had hundreds of wives and concubines which were ultimately his downfall (1 Kings 11:4), but he was only following in the footsteps of his father, King David, who had a man murdered because of lust for his wife (2 Samuel 11).  David was also passive in disciplining his children, even when one of his sons raped one of his daughters (2 Samuel 13) and another son threatened David’s own life and kingdom (2 Samuel 15). Before him there was Eli the priest, who looked the other way when his sons were sleeping with women who gathered at the door of the tabernacle (1 Samuel 2: 22-36).  Before him was Jephthah, who made a rash vow which cost his daughter her life (Judges 11). Before them was Isaac, who made his wife pretend she was his sister when they traveled in a foreign country, exposing her to potentially being used sexually (Genesis 26:1-11). He was merely following what he had learned from his father, Abraham, who did the same thing to his wife, Sarah (Genesis 20).  The problem actually goes even further back, all the way back to the Garden. With the eating of the apple, sin entered the world. The perfect harmony between Adam and Eve was replaced with shame, blame, and enmity (Genesis 3). No wonder it is so hard to be a good husband and father!

Thankfully, there is hope.  God sent Jesus to our rescue, to set us free from patterns of generational family dysfunction and the destruction of sin and shame (Isaiah 61:1-7).  Christ laid aside all His heavenly rights, humbled Himself and came to earth to live a life of obedience, suffering, and righteousness. He died the death that we deserve, and made a way for us to be saved.  He reversed the curse and restored the image of Christ in us, making us whole again and restoring our identity and dignity. When we have a relationship with Him, His Spirit enables us to make those hard decisions, to die to ourselves and put others first.  My husband readily admits that apart from Christ, he would be neither a good husband nor a good father. With Christ it is still hard, but not impossible! Every day he grows more Christlike, learning to lead our family and use his power to protect and uplift our son and me.  

In Christ, there is hope for everyone.  Not just dads, but moms and children too.  Those who have sinned and taken advantage of other people, and those who have shame over being taken advantage of.  Family influence is important, but not deterministic. Even if you had a horrible father, you can still find healing.  You can still have dignity, worth, and an identity shaped by Christ. You can be adopted by God, redeemed, accepted, and beloved (see Ephesians 1).  You can be healed from wrong decisions and a shameful past. God is the ultimate Good Father, and He is always there for us. “For I, the LORD, love justice.”  (Isaiah 61:8) If our Father in Heaven loves justice, then that should certainly be something that earthly fathers seek to uphold and protect.

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Approaching the Throne of Power and Grace

“…through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, angels and authorities and powers having been made subject to Him.” 1 Peter 3:22

“…according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come.  And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.” Eph. 1:20-21

“Having disarmed principalities and power, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.” Colossians 2:15

I think these are some of the most encouraging verses in the Bible!  Jesus is alive, and He’s enthroned at the right hand of His Father God.  Through His resurrection, He disarmed and conquered every single principality and power.  Having incapacitated them and rendered them powerless, He marches them through the universe, shaming and embarrassing them in their defeat. Like a proud hunter who uses the skin of his kill to make a new ottoman, they are subjugated to serve as His footstool, showing His complete domination.

What is most encouraging to me is the sheer scope of His victory.  Paul has to get his thesaurus out to make sure he gets the point across:  Jesus is far above all principalities.  And in case you’re not sure what he means by that, he adds, Jesus is superior to all power.  Not sure what all power means?  Everything that has any might at all.  And just in case you don’t get the picture, He’s also over all dominion and every name that is named.  Everyone. Everything.

But wait, Paul–do you just mean all principalities, powers, might, and dominion that we’ve heard of?  NO!  He means everything we’ve heard of and everything we haven’t yet heard of.  Things we don’t even know we should be scared of yet.  Everything in this age, and everything in the future has been subjected to Christ.  Not just some, but all.  Not just now, but forever.  No ifs, ands, buts, or maybes!

This includes not only spiritual principalities and powers such as angels, demons, and sin, but also things that go by the more familiar names of:

  • world leaders and governments
  • depression
  • racism
  • addiction
  • anxiety
  • loneliness
  • terrorism
  • that awful boss of yours
  • chronic pain
  • disease
  • painful memories
  • shame
  • eating disorders
  • an unfaithful spouse
  • panic attacks
  • grief
  • futility
  • despair
  • a bad temper
  • abuse
  • pride
  • lust
  • insecurity

Every name that is named.  Whatever controls you, Jesus has control over it.  And He invites us to “come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16)

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Day 18: “Wives, Submit to Your Husbands”

As promised, today we will be discussing the command for wives to submit to their husbands in 1 Peter 3.  This is a loaded topic, which is why I chose Cross-Reference Wednesday for this discussion.  We must interpret it in the context of Peter’s entire letter and the Bible as whole.  I challenge you to check out the Scripture references for yourself, although this is a lot of info at once, so take your time.

Back on Day 5, we established that Peter was writing to Christians who were undergoing intense persecution.  Let’s take a closer look at what that was like for them. Before they became Christians, they conducted themselves in lustful partying, drinking, and idolatry (1 Peter 1:14 and 4:3).  When they believed in Christ, they left their old ways behind to “be holy, as I am holy” (1 Peter 1:15).

The non-believers around them thought it was strange that the Christians no longer wanted to party or drink with them (1 Peter 4:4).  They started speaking evil and spreading rumors about the Christians (2:12, 3:16).  While many people assume 1 Peter 5:8 is talking about Satan himself, the word “devil” means slanderer.  Peter could have been referring to one or more non-believers who were persecuting the Christians by spreading lies about their conduct, beliefs, and integrity. Throughout his letter, Peter says that the non-believers reviled the Christians. Likely, this negative perception was affecting their interactions with the government, with employers, and within their homes. For instance, imagine this scenario playing out in the workplace:

“Oh you think you’re better than us now because you’re a Christian?  Well if you don’t want to party with us tonight, you can just stay late and clean out all the donkey stables.”

Or a non-believing husband to his wife:

“If you think you’re so much better than me, then why did I hear you gossiping about Mary last week?”

Peter gave his readers a three-fold strategy for reacting to the reviling and slander of non-believers.  First, they were to continue in their holy conduct and not return to their old ways.  1 Peter 2:1 encourages them to lay aside all malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and evil speaking.  By persevering in their good works, in time they would prove the slanderers wrong.

Second, they were to follow the example of Christ, who, “when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten.” (1 Peter 2:23).  Peter applies this call to suffer in three specific social areas, the first two of which are found in chapter 2:

  • 2:13-17— So the government is oppressing you?  Submit to their authority.
  • 2:18-25–Your master just assigned you to manure duty again?  Do it cheerfully.

Then he continues by saying, “Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives, when they observe your chaste conduct accompanied by fear (the word “fear” in 3:2 has the connotation of reverence here as in 2:18).  If their unbelieving husbands reviled their faith, slandered them, and treated them harshly, they were to respond with kindness, gentleness, and longsuffering, while maintaining an attitude of honor, respect, and deference.

It is important to note what Peter was and was not saying.  He was addressing a specific situation:  an unbelieving husband persecuting a Christian wife because of her faith.  In this situation, he asked the wife to suffer willingly, responding to his reviling with meekness for the specific purpose that he might also come to believe.  Peter was not saying:

  1. That all women should submit to all men (“wives, submit to your own husbands”)
  2. That wives should always submit to their husbands, even if they tell them to sin (Peter’s own behavior shows that when it comes down to obeying a human or doing what God commands, we always choose God–see Acts 5:27-29)
  3. That wives with abusive husbands should continue to stay with them. Regrettably, Christians have a bad record of misusing this passage against women who are being abused by their husbands.  That is bad interpretation and also sinfully disregards the responsibility that we have to help the oppressed and confront evil: (Isaiah 1:17;  Matt. 18:15-17; Gal. 6:1).

Finally, the third prong of Peter’s strategy for dealing with persecution was to entrust themselves to “Him who judges righteously,” (1 Peter 2:23; 4:19), trusting that “the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their prayers; but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” (1 Peter 3:12)  They could be reassured that in time, God would punish their persecutors (1 Peter 4:5).

Submission: “a voluntary attitude of giving in, cooperating, assuming responsibility, and carrying a burden.”  Note the word voluntary!  Submission is not something that can be taken by force.  It can only be offered by the one doing the submitting.  Peter was asking them to voluntarily give up their earthly rights for a time because their inheritance in Christ was worth so much more in eternity.

By returning good for evil, the Christians would be acting in a way that would surprise their persecutors.  When their harshness was repeatedly met with patience and gentleness, they would be forced to ask, “what has gotten into you?!?” (1 Peter 3:15)  Which is why Peter told his readers to be ready to explain the reason for the incredible hope that was in them.  Through this, God would be glorified.  The road to glory, for both Christ and the believer, goes through suffering (1 Peter 4:13).

Peter was addressing a specific situation (persecution) with a specific strategy (submission) to a specific end (making new believers and bringing glory to God).  However, this does not mean we are off the hook as far wives submitting to husbands, because there are other places in Scripture that give more general commands as to what a godly marriage looks like, and it includes submission.

In Ephesians 5:22-33, Paul says that marriage is a reflection of the relationship between the Christ and the Church.  Christ laid down His life, in selfless, sacrificial love, to save His bride, the Church.  The Church responds in obedience to Christ.  Therefore, husbands should be willing to lay down their lives in selfish, sacrificial leadership that has their wives’ own best interest at heart.  Wives, in turn, respect and follow their husbands.  Paul’s argument is not based on cultural, time-limited household codes, but based on the timeless truth of Christ’s relationship to the church.  Therefore, I believe that this is still relevant to modern-day marriages and is the design that God intended.  While this design doesn’t always work because of our own sinful nature, that does not mean the design is flawed, only the execution.  Personally, I find it liberating to submit to someone who has my best interests at heart.

Other faithful Christians disagree that the male headship/ female submission model is still relevant today.  In fact, tomorrow I will feature a post by someone I respect who holds the egalitarian perspective.  So keeping in mind that we will hear from another viewpoint tomorrow, what do you think?

How does the context of 1 Peter affect your interpretation of 1 Peter 3:1-2?

How does the rest of Scripture shape our understanding?

How does this work out in your own marriage or in other marriages you observe?

FREE study of First Peter and chance to win Chick-fil-a giftcard!

hope

Sometimes everything seems upside down and backwards of how it is supposed to be.  The extent of brokenness in the world has been weighing heavy upon my heart. The only thing that keeps me going is the knowledge that this world is not our home.  The letter of First Peter reminds us that we are pilgrims and sojourners, and while we are grieved by various trials for a short time, we can also rejoice with inexpressible joy because of our salvation in Christ.  Through His resurrection from the dead, we are given a living hope that doesn’t perish or fade away, no matter what our circumstances.  Discouragement fades away in light of what is to come.  Peter experienced that in his own life and then wrote this letter in order to encourage others.

But in order to be encouraged, we must dig down deep into the Word.  When we experience disappointments, failures, and affliction, our natural response will not be hope unless we have read about it, studied it, and made it a part of our lives as natural as a heartbeat.  If we want hope that lasts, we must abide in Christ through the intentional study of His word and prayer!

On August 3, I am going to start a 30-day online study of 1 Peter, following the methods outlined in my book, Swim in the Deep End.  You do not need to have the book to participate, as I will be putting everything you need on the blog.  You will need a journal or computer to record your notes.  The study will last 6 weeks with 5 days per week.  Each day will challenge you to study the text and can probably be completed in 30 minutes or less.  If you would like to participate, please click the “follow” button on the right side of the page and enter your e-mail.  Then you will receive each day’s post right in your inbox.

To promote community interaction during this study, I will also be having a drawing for a $15 Chick-fil-a gift card.  To be eligible for this drawing, you need to comment on at least 4 out of 6 weeks of the study.  Comments that qualify will do at least one of the following:

  • Share what you are learning in 1 Peter/ how it applies to your life
  • Ask a question about what we are studying that week
  • Give a thoughtful reply to someone else’s comment or question

Please share this Bible study opportunity with others who could use some lasting hope!  I will see you in August!

Regifting Jesus

When you were a kid, there were some Christmas gifts you would die for (like a Power Wheels Car or a Giga Pet) and some gifts you dreaded (underwear from Grandma).  As an adult, there are still some gifts that you appreciate (cash!) more than others (underwear from Grandma).  But when it comes down to it, you get underwear from Grandma because it’s such a practical gift that she knows you need and use daily.  Long after you stopped caring about the Giga pet and let it die in a pile of electronic poop, you were still wearing the underwear from Grandma.

Sometimes the gifts Jesus gives us are a lot like that.  They aren’t what we want, or anything we would ask for in a million years.  But before we wrap it back up for the holier-than-thou neighbor down the street, we should stop and ask if maybe, just maybe, we need a little more of what He’s giving:

Weakness

Jesus offers us the chance to humble ourselves and admit we can’t do this whole “life” thing on our own. He invites us to admit that we need Him to rescue us and we need other people, too, which brings us to the second gift:

Community

Jesus gives us the chance to become part of His “body”–the group of people who believe in Him.  We don’t want this gift because as Americans, we bleed individualism.  We don’t like admitting that we need other people to call us out on our crap and hold us accountable.  We don’t want the inconvenience that comes with close relationships–the caring, the sacrifice, the offenses, the forgiveness that are required.  But that’s exactly what He gives us.

Unanswered Prayers

Jesus often says “no” or “not now” to something we want.  It seems like He says “no” more often than “yes,” actually.  Yet this is not a reflection of His unwillingness to give good things, but our inability to ask for things that would actually be good for us.  Looking back on some of the ridiculous things I have prayed for over the years, I think this is one of the best gifts that He gives us.

Obedience

Many people desire the gift of freedom, or as they define it, the ability to make their own choice and live life how ever they want.  Often, however, this “freedom” leads them into unexpected slavery to alcohol, sex, food, acceptance, or love.  Jesus calls us to freedom, not just to make any choice, but the freedom to make a good choice.  He frees us from our old, oppressive masters to obey His commands, which are life-giving and made for our benefit.

Pain

This is the granddaddy of all re-gifts.  Although we hate to see other people go through pain, if we are honest, we would much rather it be them than us.  However, Jesus invites us to partake of the sufferings He endured on the cross, and has the audacity to tell us to rejoice in this “gift”!  Why?  Because it makes us like Him; it means we are His; it is the ultimate mark of His disciples.

Kingdom Membership

Raised in a democracy, we find this final gift quite unpalatable.  The idea that someone should have ultimate authority and deciding power over our lives goes against everything we believe in.  That is, until we realize this King loved us so much He first came to earth as a servant and died on our behalf.  Surely, this King will be a compassionate, wise, and loving ruler, orchestrating our lives better than we ever could ourselves.

These are never gifts we would ask for, but sometimes the best gifts are those you don’t even know you need.

This Christmas season, take time to think about what Jesus offers before supposing His gifts are better suited for someone else.

5 Reasons We Should Still Be Reading the Bible

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5) There’s some helpful advice in there!

Even if you don’t believe it’s the inspired word of God, there’s still a lot of practical wisdom to be gained. For example, don’t take the best seat at a dinner party. Don’t speak on a subject before you have heard everyone out.  And when your crazy frat bro from college asks you to cosign his loan, for heaven’s sake, don’t do it! These are life skills, people, LIFE SKILLS.

4) So we don’t sound like idiots when we try to talk about it.

Ever heard the phrase, “God helps those who help themselves”? Not in the Bible. How about “Spare the rod and spoil the child”? Nope. Not there either. Before referring to something that you *think* is in the Bible, you might want to actually check. You’d be surprised.

3) Know where you came from to know where you’re going.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe America is a Christian nation, nor do I believe that most of our Founding Fathers were Christians. But the undeniable fact is, our culture, from our laws to our language, has been heavily influenced by Judeo-Christian values.

2) It’s great literature, and pretty interesting, too.

Scholars consider the Bible to be some of the finest composition ever written, from the poetry in Psalms to the argumentation in Romans. Not to mention the fact you’ve got romance, wars, spies, murder, mystery, and even biting sarcasm embedded in these writings.

1) It’s filled with stories of people just like us….

Ok, so maybe we don’t go around sacrificing animals and washing our house guests’ feet, but we have more in common than you think. The entire range of human action and emotion finds expression within the Bible. Ever felt like a failure? Read about Peter. Too busy? Try Martha. Betrayed? Try Psalm 55 on for size. Jealous? You can surely relate to Leah.

…And a God that is full of surprises.

Lots of people are willing to affirm that “God is love.” But the Bible also describes Him as wrathful, compassionate, holy, jealous, a rock, a shepherd, suffering servant, comforter, and judge. Every page contains a new revelation about who He is. Even if you don’t believe in God, or you don’t believe everything the Bible has to say about Him, shouldn’t you at least know what it says before you make your final decision?