Bible

Guest Post: Three Ways to Help Your Children Embrace Humility

Lenow Family 2015This is a guest post from my wife, Melanie. She originally wrote this post for Biblical Woman, the blog site for the Women’s Programs at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. The post originally appeared here.

“Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will exalt you.” (James 4:10)

In about the last twenty years, the job of parenting has expanded to include a concern for our children’s self-esteem and self-image. Consequently, we find ourselves in a culture of children and young adults who struggle with the opposite end of the spectrum, self-inflation.

In his book, The Collapse of Parenting, Dr. Leonard Sax explains, “A culture of self-esteem leads to a culture of resentment. If I am so wonderful, but my talents are not recognized and I’m still nobody at age 25 . . . then, I may feel envious and resentful of those who are more successful than me.” In comparison, “The culture of humility leads to gratitude, appreciation, and contentment.”

At face value, it is a noble desire to want your children to have a positive self-image. However, oftentimes, we confuse confidence with high self-esteem and cowardice with humility. The difference between those lies in the source. The source of self-esteem and an inflated self-image is the person: “I’m a good person, I’m awesome, I’m very talented, I have these accomplishments.”

In contrast, the source of a confident humility lies in God who created and the blessings thereof. It might sound like this, “God has gifted me in this way, so I will work hard to glorify Him.” Or “God has called me to this task, I know He will give me the strength to see it through.” The confidence is not in us, but in God. This is the sign of a true and right self-image.

So how do you teach your children real humility? I believe it comes from making sure they understand three essential truths:

  1. A right understanding of who they are. We are all sinners, saved by grace. Even on our very best days, we need God’s guidance and mercy on our lives. It will serve our children well to remind them of that. Whatever talents or gifts any of us have are to be used to edify and encourage others in the Lord. If the world happens to take note of an achievement, we must train our children to understand that it is God’s handiwork that they see. In the same vein, we must teach them that, once they accept Christ, they are already accepted fully by Christ (Eph 1:6). There is no need to work ourselves into a harried stupor trying to earn God’s favor. He has already bestowed upon us his love because we are His, not because of something that we have done or can do.
  1. A right understanding of other people. Continually throughout the book of 1 John, we see the need and importance of loving each other. Again, this charge to love is not rooted in the fact that we are great people. It is rooted in the fact that Christ loved us and laid down his life for us. We should, in turn, do the same for others (1 Jn 3:16). We have to understand and teach our children how God places other people in our lives for the purpose of encouraging each other in the Lord. Even if another person is not a believer, God can use that relationship to grow and strengthen us. Other people are not to be manipulated or used for personal gain of any kind, for that would be cheapening their worth and influence. A great way to show others that you care about them is to genuinely be interested in their part of the conversation. Dr. Sax mentioned this as a true sign of humility: being able to be truly interested in the lives of others. Ask questions. Listen to their stories. Oftentimes, we are so busy thinking of what we want to say, that we miss the opportunity to love through our conversation. True humility cares about others and loves them well.
  1. A right understanding of God and His purposes. There is only one God and it is not me or you or our children. The most loving thing we can teach our children is a proper view and respect of the One True God. Culture tells children that they can do anything, but we, as parents, must show them the beauty of acknowledging and embracing the boundaries that God has lovingly placed before us. We trust Him, not as a last resort, but as a daily sacrifice to God, an act of humbleness before our Maker, the Creator and Lover of our souls. True humility is one of the most counter-cultural traits we can instill in our children. However, it is the key to fully experiencing the joy of living in Christ.

Other practical habits might include household chores and decreased involvement in social media. These things work to promote confident humility and deemphasize the emphasis on self.

The concept of a healthy and proper self-image, one that is grounded in who they are in Christ and how they can bless others, is a true gift we can impart on our children and the next generation.

Hall of Fame Hellion: Ty Cobb and the Value of a Reputation

313px-ty_cobbSome names are synonymous with baseball—Babe Ruth, Cy Young, Mickey Mantle. Other baseball figures have left their mark but make us cringe when we hear their names—Barry Bonds, Pete Rose, Gaylord Perry. Greatness and scandal are not necessarily mutually exclusive in the world of professional baseball. Babe Ruth may be the most famous slugger of all time, but his reputation off the field is less than pristine. Gaylord Perry has a place in the Hall of Fame, but he even filmed a commercial for ESPN’s SportsCenter making fun of his own use of the spitball.

Another all-time baseball still great struggles with a bad reputation more than 50 years after his death. Ty Cobb was one of the greatest baseball players of all time. He is in the inaugural class of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, receiving more votes than any other inaugural class member including Babe Ruth and Honus Wagner. He played for the Detroit Tigers from 1905 to 1926 and finished his career with two more seasons playing for the Philadelphia Athletics. By the time he retired in 1928, Cobb held 43 major league regular season career records. His career batting average of .366 still stands today, and his 4,191 career hits in the “dead ball” era still rank second only to Pete Rose.

Unfortunately for Ty Cobb, his name is often associated with dirty play, fighting, and racism. Stories are told of him sharpening his spikes to cut players on the other team as he slid into the bases. Stories of racism have haunted Cobb’s legacy since his earliest days in baseball. And fighting seemed to be a somewhat regular occurrence off the field. These stories have tainted his reputation as one of the greatest players of all time.

Just last month an article was released about Ty Cobb’s tainted legacy. In this article, Charles Leerhsen, author of the recent Cobb biography Ty Cobb: A Terrible Beauty, tried to set the record straight regarding Cobb’s life.

Leerhsen reports that much of the misinformation about Cobb’s reputation came from articles and books written by Al Stump. Apparently Stump had been hired by Doubleday & Co. to ghostwrite an autobiography of Cobb. Even though he wanted editorial control over the final product, the baseball legend died before it was ever published. Stump’s sensational stories survived as the official account of Cobb’s life. Even though several articles and books have been written to cast doubt upon Stump’s work, the reputation of Cobb as a racist, brawling cheater lingers.

The current stories regarding Cobb and racism are mixed. Gilbert King writes:

Stories of Cobb’s racial intolerance were well-documented. In 1907 during spring training in Augusta, Georgia, a black groundskeeper named Bungy, whom Cobb had known for years, attempted to shake Cobb’s hand or pat him on the shoulder.  The overly familiar greeting infuriated Cobb, who slapped him and chased him from the clubhouse. When Bungy’s wife tried to intervene, Cobb turned around and choked her until teammates pried his hands off her neck. In 1908 in Detroit, a black laborer castigated him after he accidentally stepped into some freshly poured asphalt. Cobb assaulted the laborer on the spot, knocking him to the ground. The ballplayer was found guilty of battery, but a friendly judge suspended his sentence. Cobb paid the laborer $75 to avoid a civil suit.

By contrast Leerhsen paints a different picture of Cobb as the descendant of abolitionists and an admirer of African-American baseball players. Leerhsen states:

But what about Cobb’s 19th-century Southern roots? How could someone born in Georgia in 1886 not be a racist? What I found—and again, not because I am the Babe Ruth of researchers, but because I actually did some research—is that Ty Cobb was descended from a long line of abolitionists. His great-grandfather was a minister who preached against slavery and was run out of town for it. His grandfather refused to fight in the Confederate army because of the slavery issue. And his father was an educator and state senator who spoke up for his black constituents and is known to have once broken up a lynch mob.

Cobb himself was never asked about segregation until 1952, when the Texas League was integrating, and Sporting News asked him what he thought. “The Negro should be accepted wholeheartedly, and not grudgingly,” he said. “The Negro has the right to play professional baseball and whose [sic] to say he has not?” By that time he had attended many Negro league games, sometimes throwing out the first ball and often sitting in the dugout with the players. He is quoted as saying that Willie Mays was the only modern-day player he’d pay to see and that Roy Campanella was the ballplayer that reminded him most of himself.

In theory, both reports could be accurate if his views on race evolved as he matured. But whatever the case, he is primarily remembered as a racist today. What seems to be certainly true is that Cobb had a temper that resulted in fights, including attacking fans in the stands. So even if his reputation has been marred by sensational but less-than-truthful stories, he still suffers from having not built a good reputation.

Cobb should have heeded the words of Proverbs 22:1, which read, “A good name is to be more desired than great wealth, favor is better than silver and gold.” During this lifetime, he could have handled himself with more grace and treated others with love and kindness. Not everyone will be famous like Ty Cobb and have a legacy that continues decades after death; however, in life and death we should long to maintain a good name. For Christians a good name gives us credibility before a watching world that we want to point to our Heavenly Father (Matthew 5:16)

Cobb no longer has the luxury to rebuild his reputation since he passed away in 1961. His name will likely be connected to scandal and racism as long as people continue writing about the greatest baseball players in history. However, Cobb missed a great opportunity during his lifetime to fix these problems. Leerhsen writes:

Cobb was, like the rest of us, a highly imperfect human being. He was too quick to take offense and too intolerant of those who didn’t strive for excellence with the over-the-top zeal that he did. He did not suffer fools gladly, and he thought too many others fools. He was the first baseball celebrity, and he did not always handle well the responsibilities that came with that. And yes, he once went into the stands and repeatedly punched a man who had been heckling him for more than a year, and who turned out to have less than the full complement of fingers—hence the story of him attacking a handicapped fan.

Baseball is a metaphor for life. In it we find truth that extends far beyond the diamond. In the case of Ty Cobb, we find a great player who was also a flawed human being. We are all flawed, but may we strive for our reputations to point others to Christ. Truly our reputations are worth far more than great riches.

_________________________

Charles Leerhsen, “Who Was Ty Cobb? The History We Know That’s Wrong,” Imprimis 45 (March 2016)

Charles Leerhsen, Ty Cobb: A Terrible Beauty (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2015).

Gilbert King, “The Knife in Ty Cobb’s Back,” Smithsonian, 30 August 2011.

Biblically Sound Now Available on RightNow Media

I’m happy to announce that the videos from my Bible study, Biblically Sound: Embracing Doctrine for Life, are now available on RightNow Media. Biblically Sound is a 10-week Bible study on doctrine and theology. The goal is to teach people how to build a biblical foundation for what they believe. I covered various doctrines, including the Trinity, man, sin, salvation, the church, and heaven.

This study was originally written for the men’s and women’s ministries at Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis, TN. The women’s ministry recorded the videos with their lead teachers, Donna Gaines and Jean Stockdale. Those videos are now accessible for churches on RightNow Media.

RightNow Media is a subscription based service providing high-quality Bible study materials for churches. A church can buy a subscription and have the entire RightNow Media library accessible to its members. Your church will need a subscription to view the videos, but the link to the study is available here.

If you are interested in purchasing the Biblically Sound book, you can find it on Amazon and the CreateSpace store.

Guest Post: And God Created… New Year’s Lessons from Genesis 1-3

bible-cover-pageThis is a guest post from my wife, Melanie. She originally wrote this post for Biblical Woman, the blog site for the Women’s Programs at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. The post originally appeared here.

One of my goals this year is to read the Bible from beginning to end in 2015. Maybe you have that same goal. Whether or not, I do pray that one of your goals is to fall in love with God’s Word more than you have before, for there is nothing more satisfying and life changing than reading Scripture. On New Year’s Day, as I started the year reading those familiar chapters, I began to think about the potential for 2015. I love the New Year, for it is like a beautiful blank calendar waiting to be filled or a brand new book waiting to be opened and enjoyed. The “newness” of the beginning of Genesis correlates perfectly with the “newness” of a new year.

As I began to read, I took special notice of God’s actions as he created, knowing that every day of 2015 will be filled with those same promises.

  1. God is the author of my days, weeks, and year. I can see throughout Genesis 1 how God creates out of nothingness. He simply says, “Let there be…” and it was. He was the creator of light, the sky, the birds that fill that sky and the food to feed those birds that fill that sky. Also, at the end of every stage, God declared that His creation was good. The new year is a vast expanse before us that God will fill with His purposes. He is the author of each of my days. I can plan, as men do, but God is the ultimate creator of all things including the happenings of my day. He will speak into my life and say, “Let there be this time of blessing or this day of trial. Let there be this sickness or this change of plans.” But no matter what happens, He will also say, “it is good”, because He is good and everything he creates is good (Ps 199:68). I can trust in this principle when I feel like life is slipping out of control or when I can’t see the sense of a situation. I can look to the heavens and see that the same God who created those skies, creates my days.
  2. God has a plan for everything He creates. Everything God created in that first week had a purpose. Whether to provide light or darkness or nourishment or a balance to days and seasons, everything had a reason for God to bring it into being. At the pinnacle of it all, when God created man, his purpose was to fill the earth and rule over it. Man was created, in God’s own precious image, for a specific reason. You will find no room for happenstance within Scripture. There are no accidents or coincidences. I find rest and peace that my God is a God of purpose and, no matter what happens this year, He has a plan for my good and His glory.
  3. God will provide in every way. Sometimes when the vastness of time is before me, I find myself not only uncertain of what the days will bring, but also wondering if I have what it takes to make it through. Will I have enough money? Resources? Wisdom? Courage? However, God intends for me to look at the future with hope and promise, not fear and trepidation. As God created the world, He provided for everything. He made sure the details were taken care of for every living thing to be able to survive and thrive. The days were the perfect length. The animals were satisfied and looked after and had a place to live and roam. Once man was created, God provided a helper suitable just for him and gave them both jobs to live and work and fulfill their purpose. Because God did those things and an innumerable amount more, I can have total faith that He will also provide for me in everything that comes my way. In the joys, He will provide, and in the trials, He will provide.
  4. Sin will be available, but I have a choice. Unfortunately, life did not stay perfect for long in Genesis. We read in the third chapter, Adam and Eve chose to listen to their own reason and the reasoning of Satan himself and disobey God’s instructions for them. Despite all the things I have mentioned before, God’s perfect plans and provisions, Eve still chose to turn away from God and listen to the lies of Satan. As much as I don’t want to admit it, I know this year I will have the opportunities to do the same thing. Day by day, I can choose my own fleshly path or I can choose to follow fervently after God’s direction for my life. Just like in the garden, sin will always be available. However, I can also learn from Genesis that I have a choice.
  5. God’s redemption is perfect. Finally and most wonderfully, we can learn from Genesis 1-3 that God’s redemption is perfect. Even when Adam and Eve sinned, God completely covered them and clothed them. God pronounced judgment on them, but at the end, described how sin will ultimately be defeated through Eve’s offspring. I pray this year I will make great decisions for God’s glory. However, the chances are good that I will make mistakes as well. Either way, my desire is for God’s redemption to speak so loudly through my life that those around me will see His grace and mercy at work.

As I look into 2015, my goals are set and my plans are made. However, in reading through Genesis 1-3, I am reminded that a wonderful God is ultimately in control. And based on those three chapters, I can trust him, have faith in Him, and rejoice in Him for he is my Author, my Provider, and my Redeemer this year and every year ahead of me.

Guest Post: Opening the Sieve

This is a guest post from my wife, Melanie. She originally wrote this post for Biblical Woman, the blog site for the Women’s Programs at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. The post originally appeared here.

I remember the moment very well. I don’t know the time or date, but I was sitting with my two oldest girls watching a show on our favorite network about people buying and selling houses. The next episode came on and the “couple” buying the house was two men. Before I could react with a pre-emptive, “Hey, let’s go outside!” one of my daughters said, “Why would two men be buying a house together without wives?” This began one of the dreaded conversations that a parent must have with their children, explaining to them the idea of homosexuality.

In regards to raising our children in a sinful world, a parent’s job is much like a sieve. When they are young, very little comes into a child’s life without the parent’s consent and approval. Whether it is through TV, books, or peers, we try to surround them with good, beautiful things. But over time, as our children become older, we must slowly open the sieve, allowing them to encounter more and more of the world. Sometimes it happens through some sort of media. Sometimes, through school. Sometimes, it is just standing in line at the grocery store. I will not tell you the exact appropriate time to begin discussing more worldly topics with your children. That is for you, your husband, and God to decide. However, if your children grow, which they have a habit of doing, conversations will arise, and it is wise to have a plan to engage with our kids about the culture around us.

1. Answer their questions until they are satisfied.

It takes supernatural wisdom to know when to speak and when to listen. However, God is faithful and will lead us and guide us as we lead and guide our children. When a question comes up, don’t shy away from the opportunity. Engage your child with as much of the truth as is needed at the moment. Try to satisfy their natural curiosity with pointing the conversation back to how wonderfully God created us or how much God loves us. For example, one of my kids asked a question regarding the lack of clothes a model wore on the front of a magazine in the checkout line at the grocery store. After answering her question in the most discreet way I knew how as I paid for my groceries, I turned the conversation to how our bodies are beautifully created by God and how we should adorn them in a way that honors the One who Created him. I didn’t avoid the question, but I turned the conversation to focus not on the sin of public nudity, but on our call to modesty.

2. Honor and encourage their common sense.

During a speech on the campus of Southwestern Seminary, Jennifer Roback Morse shared the idea that if we ever feel like we are constantly bombarded by liberal propaganda wanting to convince us of their lies, it is because we indeed are. The reason for this relentless battering ram of nonsense into our lives is because it takes a lot of brainwashing to overcome our own God-given common sense (Rom 1:18-32). God displays all over creation that men and women are different. In the same vein, simple human anatomy and physiology show us how same sex marriages are not natural. When my girls started asking questions after seeing the television show I mentioned before, one actually thought I was joking when I explained the situation. “That would never work,” she said. In a slightly different vein, a friend was teaching a small class of boys about how we can pray for China. In the flow of conversation, the fact arose that they abort baby girls because their culture values boys more. A smart boy spoke up and said, “That’s ridiculous. Who do they think all those boys are going to marry when they grow up and want to have families?” I think the leaders of China could learn something from the common sense of an 8-year-old.

3. Remember, God is sovereign and you can trust him with your children.

We are just recently getting into this stage of parenting. I excelled at the “closed sieve” stage. It was my delight to keep all the bad away and protect my kids. But, if my goal is to raise warriors for Christ (and it is), I must open the sieve of the world and allow my kids to get some field practice. The main thing that held me back, and still does if I allow it, is fear. I was afraid of what would happen if they saw too much or heard too much or were exposed to too much. However, once again, God reminds me that my children are not my own. I have them for a short amount of time, and then they will have to face the world on their own. It is my job to train them and teach them how to act in battle. Yes, your child might come home from school asking you about a word they heard. Or your child might overhear something on the news that they know is not right. Or a neighbor might practice a different lifestyle than yours and your child sees it. Whatever the situation, God is sovereign and trustworthy and as we do our job as parents, He will use all those hard conversations for His glory.