The Obedience Stage from 2 – 6

Every father needs to daily spend time with his children between two and six and provide loving discipline with mercy. The child needs to experience the father as being big and strong but also as being actively involved. Physical discipline is appropriate when it operates within clear boundaries. The purpose must be correction of the wrong behavior not hurting children. The problem is not physical punishment. The problem is lack of positive attention. For every negative interaction between the father and the child there needs to be at least three positive activities that balance it.  By spending more time doing positive things with his children the father increases the power of his authority and motivates the child to want to obey and avoid punishment. Children need to do more than just obey their father. They need to look up to him and respect him. Through the wise use of his authority the child will come to trust and respect the father, leading to willing obedience.

The basic psychospiritual need of the child during the Obedience stage is Liberty. The Biblical view is that true liberty only comes as the child learns how to live within limits under authority. It is the disciplined child who has self-control, not the impulsive one. It is the child who respects and obeys authority who is able to focus on learning when entering school. The resultant positive emotion when a child experiences a true sense of liberty is Faith.

from page 101 of One Nation Not Under God by Philip A. Captain, Ph.D.


So this weekend we went on a 4 mile walk as a family.  Well, the youngest two rode in the jogging stroller (a must-have investment, by the way), while the older two rode their bikes, and Elisa and I walked.

I learned a couple things.

  1. a 4.5 year old is able to ride just fine for the 2 miles out, but he is really tired on the 2 miles back.
  2. a kid’s bike feels really light when you heft it up to your back, but 2 miles later it has somehow become really heavy!

So, the moral of the story is: life is an adventure and now that the chafing on my thighs has healed up, memory has recorded the event as positive.


To young men enamored of weight-lifting, squatting heavy seems like a great idea when you’re 21, but when you just want to go walking in a normal pair of shorts later in life, you’ll really regret those 30-inch thighs. Invest in biker shorts and talc powder now if you’re not going to believe me.


Now Playing:

Shawn Zevit – Sanctuary – Out of the Fire

A New Kind of Christian and The Emergent Movement

I’ve been reading Brian McClaren’s A New Kind of Christian, and once again I am struck by how similar the thinking of the Emergent movement and the Hebraic Roots revival are.  Of course, they use different terminology, but when Hebraic folks talk about thinking Hebraically and Emergent folks talk about thinking in a pre-modern or post-modern way…they are largely referring to the same thing.

Of course for the Hebraic Roots Movement this has been a confusing conversation anyway because to a large degree post-Philo the rabbis stopped thinking in block logic and began to use Platonic and Aristotelian categories, subjecting everything to Hellenic analysis.

There is still much of the ancient manner of thinking apparent in Hebraic thought, but we would do well to realize that post-Temple Jewish thought and biblical thought are often at odds.

There is nothing wrong with analysis, of course, but if it becomes exalted so much that it becomes synonymous with “thinking” or even worse with “meditation”, we are in big trouble, and indeed, this precisely what has happened.

As I’ve said before the Emergent Movement is asking a lot of the right questions.  They’re not always coming up with answers I like, but then who is coming up with all the right answers?

I’ve started McClaren’s book twice before, but this is the first time that I made it past the Introduction.  Which in and of itself is interesting because I’ve found the book absolutely fascinating.  McClaren’s characters are giving eloquent words to thoughts and sentiments I’ve been struggling to express since high school.  Anyway, what I was starting to say is that I’ve been fascinated to discover how much C.S. Lewis’ writings have influenced McClaren.  It’s sort of a comforting thing, because Lewis is an old, familiar friend, while McClaren is known as a sort of radical, so I often find myself reading the same paragraphs a couple times, because you realize that you just read a phenomenal observation, but you almost missed it because you had all your “heresy-antennae” up and quivering.

He keeps broaching subjects that get my heart pumping before I’ve even read what he is going to say, but then I read on and discover something that sounds like soapboxes of mine, only better phrased.  I keep waiting to see if I’ll consider the book “safe” to suggest to my mom.  I’m on page 129 of 165 and so far, I plan to recommend it to her.  I think it may help her understand me a lot better.  Don’t let me down now, McClaren!  I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop…

It will be interesting to see what the reaction of Emergent and Hebraic Roots will be to one another.  Particularly since I plan to begin pointing out the similarities and also where some of the truth that has been revealed to each respectively will help the other to maintain a positive trajectory and not end up repeating the same old mistakes of the past.

The thing is that God has continually revealed more and more truth in successive generations, but the human tendency is to appreciate the new-found nuggets so much that we begin to act like our slice of pie is the whole dessert.  And that is some of the blessing of serving an infinite God; we will never exhaust the depths of His character, which is the same thing as saying we will never plumb the depths of truth.  If I had to guess, I would speculate that we will continue to embrace truth for all of eternity, ever delighted in the never-ending facets of God.


Now Playing: Zach Jones – FUSE – Psalm 103

Life-Altering Belief

Years ago I wrote:

Christianity has largely failed to answer the existential questions of life…

Little has changed in this regard during the 10 or more years since I first typed those words to a struggling believer.  I do, however, see a lot of hope on the horizon.  The success of books by folks like Dallas Willard, Richard Foster, and Larry Crabb, of “new” roles like “Spiritual Director,” and of journals like Conversations all bode well for the Christian desperately seeking practical help in the transformation process.

I read a comment today that really stuck with me.  It went like this:

I believe Jesus is the Savior, not Christianity.[i]

So I hope the reader will understand that if I critique the current state of Christianity this does not reflect in the slightest on the power of the Gospel, nor on the Sovereignty of God. Rather it is a commentary on our failure to correctly apprehend the essential power of the Gospel.

Dallas Willard made an incredibly insightful observation back in 1988:

[Christianity] …must take the need for human transformation as seriously as do modern revolutionary movements. The modern negative critique of Christianity arose in the first place because the church was not faithful to its own message—it failed to take human transformation seriously as a real, practical issue to be dealt with in realistic terms….

Second, it needs to clarify and exemplify realistic methods of human transformation. It must show how the ordinary individuals who make up the human race today can become, through the grace of Christ, a love-filled, effective, and powerful community.[ii]

Last night I had the pleasure of chatting with a young couple who have been married just over a year. These are incredibly sincere and remarkably fervent young folks; their earnestness to serve God is rare and refreshing. With tears brimming her eyes the wife spoke of the fiery passion within that is calling for the abandonment of sin, while at the same time she is experiencing regular defeat in heeding that call to greater holiness.

Oh, how I can relate!  How is it that passionate God-lovers and earnest seekers are arriving at adulthood, indeed often at mid-life, without a clue regarding how to actually live a life of holiness?

There are several things missing.  One is related to community.  Not only are humans designed to operate in community, but few even of those who recognize this need really understand what community truly is. 

My wife, myself and a dear friend stayed up till 3:00 in the morning yesterday discussing the concept of community and how far we really are from realizing it.  The ironic thing about that is that it was a “community” thing to do! We asked questions, posed answers, disagreed, agreed, moved on, prayed and plotted about how we can learn and practice community ourselves and how we can spread it.

The reality is that even in supposed communities, as long as we maintain individual calendars, individual priorities, and individual plans, we won’t really be living in biblical community.  But that is another post…

A second issue is our basic failure to recognize that in many ways salvation is a yet to be realized reality.  Of course, we have been buried and raised with Messiah. Of course, we have been declared righteous in God’s sight and our spirits have become a new creation. However, as Paul so aptly points out in Romans 7, the spiritual reality of our true person must be worked out in our fleshly bodies.  Our fleshly selves may have been redeemed, but they have not been transformed and we await the return of Messiah for their salvation.

This focus on the has-been-accomplished nature of Christ’s work has resulted in a tolerance for sin and a reluctance to be transformed through the renewing of our minds, through the working out of our salvation and through the disciplining of our bodies (1 Cor 9:27).

I remember listening to Charles Ryrie describe an exercise that he practiced as a young man.  At the time (I was 20), I wondered if he must have some masochistic tendencies, but as I have matured his insight has proven incredibly sensible to me.  Ryrie related that he had a passion for mysteries and had become particularly enamored of the 30-minute old-time radio mysteries.  So to practice discipline he would listen to 20 minutes of the show then turn it off and not find out the resolution of the mystery!  I forget if he did this once a week or what, but I will never forget the gist of the story.  As a fellow lover of stories, that strikes me as torture!

I’m sort of focused on this topic of transformation right now, so I expect there will be further posts as I continue to seek more wisdom in guiding the practice of transformation both in myself and in others.


Now Reading:

The Spirit of the Disciplines by Dallas Willard, Renovation of the Heart by Dallas Willard, A New Kind of Christian by Brian McClaren, The Spirit Within & The Spirit Upon by Kenneth E. Hagin

Now Listening:

Michael Card – The Hidden Face of God – Come Lift Up Your Sorrows

[i] McClaren, Brian. A New Kind of Christian: A Tale of Two Friends on a Spiritual Journey. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2001. pg. 66

[ii] Willard, Dallas. The Spirit of the Disciplines: Understanding How God Changes Lives. San Francisco, HarperCollins, 1988. pg ix.

Thinking, Humanity and God

We can describe God, but we can never define Him. We can describe aspects of God, but we can never really explain Him.

If the universe is an intelligible machine—and science is the master screwdriver to take it apart—then analysis is the ultimate form of thought, the universal screwdriver. By taking wholes or effects apart into smaller and smaller parts or causes, each of which becomes understandable, analysis renders the universe both knowable and controllable. The fact that to us thinking and analyzing seem to be synonymous suggests how successful modernity has been at marginalizing all other forms of thought–imagination, intuition, pattern recognition, systems thinking, and so on.[i]

The Scriptures use anthropomorphic language and analogy to describe God, but description is never complete. This is amplified when the finite attempts to describe the infinite.

Even among those enamored of the Hebraic, we are plagued by many who insist on analyzing the Scriptures rather than pondering them, failing to realize that in so doing they are practicing the very “Greek” mindset that they so abhor.

Don’t get me wrong, there is a place for scientific analysis of both things and ideas. However, if we allow scientific analysis to be the only mode of acceptable or honored thinking then we will have lost much of the richness of life.

We face in the Hebraic Roots movement today a crisis. That crisis is two-fold.

On the one side you have those who in attempting to analyze the Scriptures by benefit of their intellect have abandoned what Scripture declares about Yeshua without explaining it. In their quest to be authentically Hebraic they have applied their Hellenistic modes of thinking to the Scriptures and come up with heresy: the idea that Yeshua is fully man, but not fully God.

On the other side we have those who are equally well motivated and equally earnest in their intentions. Also, passionate to defend truth they practice the missteps of our forefathers and attempt to define the particulars of who Yeshua is according to their analysis of Scriptures’ message, thenceforth demanding that all ascribe to their particular creed or confession without regard for the incompleteness of their comprehension. Historically, this emphasis has always resulted in views on Yeshua which emphasize that He was fully God while neglecting the reality that He was fully man.

Though I suspect neither party is cognizant of it, both are being driven by a type of arrogance in regard to their intellect. I can sympathize; particularly for those who are intellectually gifted and thinking oriented it can be very easy to function as if God created us as one big brain. But He didn’t. He created us in His image: body, soul, and spirit.

If we don’t allow our soul (the combination of mind, will and emotions) to be guided equally by the Spirit’s influence on our spirit we will find ourselves effectively declaring that our minds are capable of understanding God on the basis of the finite language He used to communicate to us something about the Infinite.

How tragic! I return again and again to the reality that the very reason I so cling to God, is that I cannot understand Him. If I could comprehend Him, I would not need Him. Glory be to Him Who is incomprehensible to my finite mind! Come Lord Jesus, fill me with the fullness of God that surpasses knowledge, and awaken within me the power of Your Spirit to do Your work in the Kingdom.

[i] McClaren, Brian D. A New Kind of Christian: A Tale of Two Friends on a Spiritual Journey. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2001.

Transformation, Power & the Holy Spirit

While praying for his beloved saints in Ephesus, Paul requests:

…that you, …may…comprehend… the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us,

Ephesians 3:17-20 (ESV)

What does it mean to “surpass knowledge” and what is the “power at work within us?”  And how does one become “filled with all the fullness of God?”

Perhaps just as Paul indicates that prophesy edifies the mind, while tongues edify the spirit, the work of the Holy Spirit within us is designed to surpass what knowlege-the realm of the mind–can afford us.

It seems evident that power and the Holy Spirit are connected in Scripture.  The verse everyone thinks of is:

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Acts 1:8 (ESV)

But one of my favorites is:

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. Romans 15:13 (ESV)

Now that is transformation!  I don’t know about you, but a person that abounds in hope sounds to me like someone filled with at least some of the fullness of God!