Is Self-Esteem in Psalm 139?

It was in the 1970s that the self-esteem movement seriously infected the U.S. culture and grew to epidemic proportions. It didn’t take long for Christians, myself included, to catch the virus and claim the need for a higher self-esteem. To justify the concept as a Christian worldview many put forward proof-texts. One of those proof-texts is Psalm 139, especially verses 14-15: 

“I will give thanks to You for I am fearfully and wonderfully made…My frame was not hidden from Thee, When I was made in secret and skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth.”

This passage has been used to insist that the woman with low self-esteem is extremely valuable to God and, therefore, needs to feel better about herself. Now think about that: a woman who identifies her main problem as low self-esteem DEMANDS that Psalm 139 teaches that she has great worth.

Was David intending that Psalm 139:14-15 be used to teach people to think better of themselves? Such a proposition misses the point established in the very first verse of the psalm:

“O Lord, Thou hast searched…”

From the get-go it is obvious that the psalm is about God, not man. It is about God’s inestimable attributes–God’s omniscience, God’s omnipresence, God’s wisdom, God’s creative skill, and God’s providential involvement in the details of His work among men. The emphasis is God’s worth, not man’s.

This isn’t to argue whether or not man has value. I believe we do, but not to our credit because it is bestowed, not inherent. But as to rightly understanding Psalm 139, whether man has value is not the issue of Psalm 139. God’s perfections are the subject. 

Even if we use verses 14-15 to make a side-note on the value of man, it has to be taken in context. Psalm 139 proclaims the same message as the whole Bible: it is not for man to claim self value but for man to worship God in awe of God’s value. That is David’s direction. The wonder of how man is made is not for man’s benefit, but for God’s. David cites the amazingness of man’s formation as evidence of God’s greatness not his own, to build a high view of God not a high view of self.

How did David apply the truths in Psalm 139, including how amazingly man is made? To relate it to the modern emphasis on people esteeming themselves I’d like to observe also  what he didn’t do.

He didn’t meditate on his own worth. He meditated on the inherently precious value of God’s character, knowledge, and works. It is God’s thoughts, not his own, that David valued (139:17-18).

He didn’t claim significance. To David it was God’s reputation that mattered (139:19-22). 

He chose a low view of self. Esteeming oneself highly is what led Adam and Eve to the Fall. Self-esteem is just a psychologized, socially acceptable term for pride.

The response of David to the knowledge of God was the opposite. In light of God’s value David admitted his unworthiness to be esteemed. He agreed with God about reality. First, man is merely a creature, a created being totally inferior to the Creator. As Thomas Watson commented on Psalm 139:15,

“Thy being curiously wrought, may make thee thankful; but being made of the dust, may keep thee humble. If thou has beauty, it is but well-coloured earth. Thy body is but air and dust mingled together, and this dust will drop into the dust.” (Body of Divinity, 113)

Second, man is sinful. Acknowledging how prone he was to think too well of himself, David pled for God to open his eyes to his sin and to purify him (Ps. 139:23-24).

We are wonderfully made. The wonder of how we are made is evidence that God is awesome and worthy of all thanks, praise, and adoration. It is God who deserves our high esteem.

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Religious Beliefs of America’s Founders

When I was teaching my children history we went beyond history textbooks to read some original writings of America’s founders. One observation that took me by surprise was the vagueness of their references to Jesus, God, and Christian faith. I had always thought these men were Christians, but from what I read they didn’t sound like Christians, not even like the Christians of their own day. More recently, I was glad to discover a book that deals with those inconsistencies.

How is it that many claim that Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin were deists and yet both men encouraged prayer and wrote of a God personally involved in current events? How is that some people claim that George Washington was a Christian and yet he refused to profess faith in Christ, crossed Jesus’ name out of speeches written for him, would not kneel for prayer with his congregation and pointedly refused to ever take communion? How is it that many founders can be called both deists and Christians and yet not exactly fit either category?

Gregg Frazer tackles these questions in his book The Religious Beliefs of America’s Founders: Reason, Revelation, and Revolution. Mr. Frazer is professor of history and political studies at The Master’s University. He suggests a third option–theistic rationalism. Frazer arrived at his third option by searching for the founders’ real beliefs in their private writings more than in what they wrote for public consumption. In his book, he focuses on the eight most influential founders. He says they weren’t deists because they believed that God was involved in present events. Neither were they Christians because they rejected the Trinity, the deity of Christ, and other doctrines central to Christianity. Instead, they were rationalists; they believed that reason was the highest arbiter of what is true. 

“Your reason is the only oracle given you by heaven” – Thomas Jefferson (125)

“The Scriptures…do not supersede the operations of reason” – James Wilson, one of four key framers of the Constitution (164) 

What is theistic rationalism?

Theistic rationalism is a “hybrid belief system mixing elements of natural religion, Christianity, and rationalism, with rationalism as the predominant element” (14). For the founders, while believing in God (theistic), any Christian ideas that did not seem reasonable could be rejected and God could be defined as seemed reasonable to the individual (rationalism).

Key clergymen were on board with the primacy of rationalism. Chapter 2 reviews the religious beliefs of those clergymen who most strongly influenced the founders and promoted the Revolution. For example, one of the divines who most influenced Thomas Jefferson was Joseph Priestley. Priestley was unitarian and rejected the deity of Christ and the Trinity.

Didn’t the founders promote Christianity?

The founders promoted religion. Why? They knew that for their system of government to work it needed a moral people. “Morality was needed to get men to live in civil fashion without coercion in a free society; and religion was the best source of morality” (179). Any religion that promoted good morals would do. 

The founders could sound like Christians while rejecting Christ. How? They consistently referred to God in generic terms–Creator, Divinity, Providence, Author–not Christian terms–Christ, Jesus, the Holy Spirit. Why be vague? Why did they not speak like the committed Christians we’ve been told they were? Generic God-words are interpretable, maleable. Enlightenment ideas sandwiched between God-words could be fed to the church-going masses without offense to most denominations and religions.

How did they get past Romans 13?

Romans 13:1-7 and 1 Peter 2:13-17 stood as sentinels against the rebellion of the American colonials. Romans 13:1-2 says,

Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves.

The revolutionary clergy shot the sentinels. Turning that passage on its head, they preached that Paul advocated a duty to resist tyrants. How did they arrive at the opposite of what the passage clearly says? Pages 66-67 in chapter 2 walk the reader through Boston pastor Jonathan Mayhew’s application of human reason to Romans 13.

  Chapter 3 explains how it came about that, in the mid-1700s, pastors of the era shifted away from use of the Bible as their primary source and instead incorporated Lockean Enlightenment political philosophy into their sermons. Turning from Calvinism, they taught enlightenment ideas as though they were Bible-based principles, ideas like natural law, natural rights, government by consent of the governed, and accountability of rulers to the people. They persuaded their congregations that rebellion to tyranny was a Christian duty. Frazer quotes Michael Zuckert on the political function of using Scripture to undergird the teachings of rationalism:

…the higher or more intense authority of religion now stands behind the cool rationalism of Locke. There can be little doubt that the enlistment of St. Paul in Locke’s army had much to do with the fervor Americans of the revolutionary era brought to the political conflicts of the day. (231)

What did the top eight key founders believe?

In chapters 4-7, Frazer analyzes eight of the most influential founders in depth. For example, he shows why he categorizes John Adams as a theistic rationalist rather than a Christian, and Benjamin Franklin as a theistic rationalist rather than a deist. A surprise to me is Alexander Hamilton. I had never heard that late in life Hamilton apparently repented to faith in Christ and one of the changes was that his terms for God and salvation shifted from vague and generic to specific and biblical.

So what?

In the final chapter, Frazer answers, so what? He explains the ramifications of theistic rationalism on our founding documents and American civil religion. Is patriotism part of Christian piety? (Implication: Should a U. S. flag stand in our church auditoriums?) Is the language of the Declaration of Independence Christian? Did the freedom of religion in the Constitution originate in Christianity?

You may believe that the founding fathers of the United States were mostly Christians and that this country was founded on Christian principles. You may believe they were mostly deists and that our founding was built on natural religion and Enlightenment rationalism. You may have been taught a Christian founding but felt confused by the founders own writings and inconsistencies between founding documents and the Bible. No matter what your persuasion, as a part of education on U.S. history, The Religious Beliefs of America’s Founders ought to be required reading for all adults and high school students.

Amazon.com: The Religious Beliefs of America’s Founders: Reason, Revelation, and Revolution (American Political Thought (University Press of Kansas)) (9780700620210): Gregg L. Frazer: Books

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When You Know Someone Whose Child is in Residential Treatment

The idea of residential treatment for a child’s emotional-behavioral problems carries the connotation of trouble, behavior out of control, intense conflicts between parent and child, failed efforts to overcome a serious problem, a prodigal child. If you know someone who has delivered their child into a residential treatment program you might have some thoughts about it or questions about how to respond to the family. Thank you for caring about your friend or family member.

When you first learn of the situation, you might wonder, do I say something or not? You don’t want to seem calloused by ignoring the significant situation, but neither do you want to embarrass the family. What are some ways to be thoughtful toward these parents?

Sympathize. Many people try to be understanding of the difficulties of other parents. What a blessing to hurting parents! See “When You Send Your Child” for more elaboration on what the family might or might not be experiencing. Meanwhile, I think that asking where the child is is not too invasive and a natural question we commonly ask when a friend is suddenly not in attendance.

Be slow to criticize. You probably know this point, but it bears saying because residential treatment seems a bit radical, especially when all you have seen in the child is model behavior. We naturally give children the benefit of the doubt and tend to blame parents for recalcitrance. There is some truth to that; parents can provoke children to rebellion, even unintentionally. Or, adoptive and foster children who presently have good parents can drag reactions from past abuse and neglect into the present.

Parents certainly carry responsibility for their influence but they are not at fault in every case (Ezekiel 18). Children really are so sinful at heart that they can become the provocateurs in the household (Jeremiah 17:9). Unless you’ve seen unbiblical parenting, and especially when the situation involves adoptive or foster children, be slow to arrive at a negative conclusion against the parents.

Avoid minimizing speech. It is kind of you to want to empathize and right to direct your heart to compassion, but there are some pitfalls to sidestep (Prov. 15:28). Some respond by comparing the case to teen-age rebellion or “just a stage” in maturation. Those assertions implicitly call the parents’ judgment into question. Some well-intentioned people misapply Proverbs 22:6. “You’ve trained your child in the way he should go. When he is older, he’ll come back to the Lord. He’ll thank you some day.” You and the parents don’t know that. Proverbs 22:6 is not a promise.

“Well, it could be worse.” “It could be worse” doesn’t lessen the pain parents presently feel; it belittles it. Proverbs 14:10 says that “the heart knows its own bitterness.” Their pain is real no matter what could be and no matter the more tragic situation someone else is experiencing.

“God won’t give you more than you can handle” implies that we don’t need the Holy Spirit. People commonly suggest that the suffering person find what “God is trying to teach you.” (Does God ever “try”?) God does not hide lessons from us. Trials are not revelatory. A hunt for hidden meaning actually distracts from present responsibilities. What if the trial is not intended to teach but simply for the glory God will receive if the sufferer practices contentment without knowing the why or some lesson to learn?

Pray for them. Talk to God first. He can best minister to their hearts.

Give benefit of the doubt. This is the flip side of being slow to criticize. It is likely that something very serious has driven the parents to this extremity. You don’t know all of the circumstances involved. Perhaps they have sought counsel and submitted themselves to all authorities with all humility, willing to do anything to change. They may have actually exercised better parenting than you. Give benefit of the doubt that they did what they thought was best. (1 Cor. 13:7)

Listen to Learn. If you are related closely enough to talk with the parents, approach not with solutions at hand but with readiness to learn. (Prov. 18:13)

Offer hope judiciously and respectfully. You may not be the right person to say anything. “He who restrains his lips is wise” (Prov. 10:19b). If not, pray that God will use someone else.

If you’re like me, you have to work at developing the most loving and appropriate set of words to minister to someone. While you avoid platitudes (“everything will turn out all right”) it is also true that there are universal hopes for any Christian in difficult circumstances. God is sovereign over all and is at work providentially in all situations. God loves His children. No matter the trial, there is a way for a Christian to trust God and experience joy.

May you be effective in ministering to those you know who are in this situation or any other difficult situation.

Posted in Christian Living, Parenting, Child-rearing, Reactive Attachment Disorder | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Did God Speak to Me? A Personal Experience

I thought I was done writing this series on hearing from God in the heart. Then an experience crashed into my worldview. I was standing at a table in the classroom on a Tuesday morning organizing my materials for Bible class and thinking about what I needed to do next. Suddenly, as clear as can be, to my mind came the voice-like sentence, “Lunch will be at Bandana’s today.”

Weird! I thought, It was like someone just spoke to me, and How could I know where lunch will be? Well I guess I’ll find out if the voice is right. It was as vivid as when I used to believe I could hear God. I said nothing to anyone.

Two hours of Bible study passed. As we prepared to leave someone began the usual group decision process. “Are we going to lunch today?” (We almost always do.) “Where do you want to go?” I said nothing and left the room. When I returned I asked what the ladies had decided. The answer? “We’re going to Bandana’s.”

I have written energetically and repeatedly against the idea that anyone today hears from God subjectively like what so many women claim, like what happened to me. Did my experience contradict my theology?

Lest I be misunderstood…

I don’t want to be misunderstood. I totally believe that God is intimately, lovingly involved in every detail of our lives. If a sparrow does not fall without God’s say-so, then He actively cares for us in specific, personal ways (Matt. 10:29-30). I even believe He uses subjective experiences like gut feelings and intuition to influence our choices. This use is called providence. So if I have a sudden impression to pray for someone, by all means I pray and give thanks to God for the opportunity. If a gut feeling “coincidentally” protects me, I thank God for His providence.

What I do not see biblical evidence for is God speaking through gut feelings, intuition, impressions, unexplained thoughts, hunches, forebodings, amazing coincidences, even promptings to pray. Nor has anyone ever provided authoritative evidence to me that God does. Nor can anyone infallibly, authoritatively discern that the source of her impression or prompting is God.

Did my experience contradict my theology?

Interpretations are different from experiences.

First, it helps to separate the experience from the interpretation of the experience. As to the experience, it is true that:

  • It really happened. (However, without objective evidence and on the testimony of just one, you have strong grounds to challenge my claim.)
  • God can directly cause thoughts if He so chooses.
  • Ability does not necessitate practice. Just because God can does not mean He is now.
  • Experience is not self-authenticating.

As to the interpretation, I could interpret through the same assumptions so common today and call them evidence that God was talking to me.

  • Since the voice came involuntarily it must have happened to me, not be generated by me. (It’s too humiliating to think it is just in my head!)
  • Since I can think of no rational explanation, the intuition must be of spiritual origin.
  • I heard a voice. I am a Christian. Therefore, the voice must be from God.
  • I received a message. It came true. Therefore, the prediction must be from God.
  • This is how my favorite authors and speakers describe it, so it must be from God.

The rationale in each of these interpretive arguments is faulty. I can claim all I want, but I can’t prove my claim, especially when there are other possibilities.

What could it be?

People credit reincarnation, infringement of an alternate universe, demons or their favorite deity. Christians default to God. In additional to some rational options here, I’d like to offer another.

Dare we consider that it might be something as mundane as a false sensory perception? At one time or another, most people see, hear, smell or feel something that isn’t there. For example, cell phone hallucinations have become so common they are being researched and discussed in “Psychology Today.” “Phantom vibration syndrome” is the perception that you hear the phone ring or feel it vibrate when it doesn’t. [1]

Out of body sensations are called “proprioceptive” hallucinations. Think near-death stories, floating above yourself, visits to heaven (heaven-tourism books). A well-known hallucination is feeling pain from an amputated limb. Another is the sense of the ground rolling when you step onto land after hours or days on a boat. Your brain feels something that is not there to feel. Déjà vu with premonition fits here. [2]

A common auditory hallucination is a grieving person hearing the voice of the deceased loved one. According to one report, as many as 13 percent of normal people hear unspoken voices at one time or another. I suspect the number is higher. I mean, who wants to admit to hearing voices? Sometimes, physical sensations accompany the voices, like agitation, tingling in the hands and feet, pressure in the head, feeling warm or hot, and the sense of feeling detached from the body. [3] The voices may be thought-like or have an auditory quality as if in the same or nearby room, like this:

Early one morning, University of Queensland psychiatrist John McGrath had just turned off the water and was stepping out of the shower when the new dad heard one of his children calling for him. He poked his head out of the bathroom door and called the kid’s name, but got no response. He started to panic — but then stopped short. That’s right, he remembered. His children weren’t actually home. [4]

How can a normal brain see, feel, or hear something that isn’t there?

Visually, normal brains fill in missing visual gaps, using previous visual information. [1] Various hallucinations may be due to drugs, migraines, lack of sleep, starvation, emotional upset, and religious fervor. The changing brain chemistry of someone whose body is shutting down to die could produce hallucinations of visits to heaven. Habit and anxiety contribute. For example, by repetition brains grow neurons and connections highly sensitized to phone vibrations and sometimes those neurons fire independent of the phone. Scientists think that memory function with interpretive disagreement by parts of the brain plays a role in déjà vu. [2]

So how do I explain my prescient thought?

Personally, I wonder if a long-unused neural circuit, habituated by my Charismatic ways of old, fired.

How could the voice-thought have predicted correctly? It could be that I am so familiar with the habits of this group that I unconsciously sensed that the weekly lunch pattern was ripe for Bandana’s. Just like any palm reader, if you make enough educated guesses you’re bound to be right sometime.

In the end, I don’t really know, nor does faith in God require that I assign it an explanation. Nor does it furnish the slightest benefit to others to spiritualize an experience into a supernatural message from God (Jer. 23:32). Actually, assigning mysterious experiences to God gets in the way of humility and decision-making. Instead, I can rejoice in living by faith, trusting the providence of God, who brilliantly incorporates such coincidences into providence. In fact, I thank God for ordaining that by providence I had this experience so that I could write about it in this post.

What other reasons would dictate against my experience being given directly by God?

  • Revelation to an obscure person about her lunch does not at all fit revelations seen in the Bible. Revelations in Scripture are those which advance God’s kingdom plan–the gospel and God’s glorious rule.
  • It does not follow that because the prediction was correct it was necessarily from God. Deuteronomy 13:1-5 allows that false prophets can prophesy accurately and still not have a divine source for their prophecies.
  • Jeremiah 17:9 says that my “heart is deceitful.” If it happens to predict correctly every once in awhile I should be all the more skeptical lest I be tempted to trust in my senses. “He who trusts in his own heart is a fool” (Prov. 28:26).
  • Scripture tells us to not “go too far,” don’t “exceed what is written” (2 John 9; 1 Cor. 4:6).
  • The canon is closed (Heb. 3:1-2). There is nothing to add. The word of God is sufficient counsel.

Important: Falsely crediting God with something He did not do is a serious offense (Deut. 13:1-5; Ezek. 13:8).

And by the way, nothing super-spiritual happened during lunch at Bandana’s.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~`

[1]   https://www.today.com/series/wired/are-cellphones-causing-hallucinations-reason-why-you-felt-phantom-buzz-t67231

[2] https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/03/180301125046.htm?utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=ScienceDaily_TMD_0&utm_source=TMD

[3] http://www.medicaldaily.com/what-hearing-voices-told-those-auditory-hallucinations-325552

[4] https://www.thecut.com/2015/11/perfectly-healthy-brains-hallucinate.html

Resources

“Intuition and Superstition: An Admonition”:
http://teampyro.blogspot.com/2007/03/intuition-and-superstition-admonition.html
(an excellent concise summary with four lessons and a practical example in the question-and-answer)

“Providence is Remarkable”: https://www.gty.org/library/sermons-library/TM13-15 (excellent lecture, of which the last half especially pertains to the topic of intuition and hearing from God)

By Gary Gilley: https://sharperiron.org/article/cessationism-revelation-prophecy  (Don’t miss the comments, especially the rebuttals on 11/24 and 11/25.)

“The Still, Small Voice”: http://www.thegracelifepulpit.com/Sermons.aspx?code=2013-11-10pm-PJ

Déjà vu is the sense of strong sense of familiarity with something that should not be familiar to you, like the sense of having previously been in a location which you know you haven’t. It can be accompanied by a sense of premonition. Depending upon the person’s belief system, it is attributed to a past life, infringement of an alternate reality, magic, and the supernatural (evil beings or one’s god).

Secular Sources:

https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/frontiers-for-young-minds/what-is-d-233-j-224-vu/

https://www.sciencealert.com/deja-vu-premonition-just-a-feeling-memory-familiarity-anne-cleary

“Talking to ourselves and voices in our heads”: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/12/171208143043.htm  The pdf of this report contains more links.

Posted in Christian Living, Discernment, Prayer | Tagged , , ,

When You Send Your Child to Residential Treatment

Handing the care and nurture of your child over to a residential facility is not easy. When the reason for placement is because the child has become too difficult for you to parent, more factors come into play. Depending on the individual and the situation, parents of a child in a residential treatment program can experience any or all of a wide range of emotions.

What Parents Might Experience Personally

Parents may experience confusion. How did it come to this? Or anger–why couldn’t it have worked? If only the child had cooperated with the plan!

When the constant contentions are gone from the home they may feel relief. They don’t have to be perpetually on alert for trouble or grappling with manipulations all day long. Peace has returned to the home. Or if the child had been succeeding in dividing the parents, they find that now they are able to think through issues again and restore peace and unity in their marriage.

They can feel happiness that the child has new opportunities and sadness at the realization of the child losing out on many blessings he could enjoy that his parents wanted to supply. Greater sadness is felt over the fact that his behavior indicates that he is probably not saved and definitely not right with God.

They might have doubts, wondering where they went wrong. How did they fail? Doubts lead easily to guilt feelings and regrets, such as if they perceive themselves to have “failed” the child or the siblings. They were too strict. They were too permissive. Maybe they didn’t believe the siblings’ complaints when they should have. Maybe they poured so many resources into the one child that the siblings lost out on opportunities. They are wrong to enjoy relief now. Reasons for feeling guilt and regrets can be many, some legitimate and others not.

There may be grief. Parents who move a beloved child out of the home and into residential care experience losses. They lose the daily contact with the child. They lose a sense of relational closeness. The child’s bedroom is uninhabited and eerily quiet. His place at the table is empty, his seat in the car vacant. They lose a part of their family. They also lose a dream. This isn’t how family is supposed to work. It becomes undeniable that they will never experience the particular joys they’d anticipated from “family” or this particular relationship. Missing their beloved child, parents endure a constant if fluctuating longing for his return or for connection with him.

New uncertainties lead to wondering, prudent concern, or even worry. How do we love the child from a distance? What does that look like? What plan do we have if the child is sent back home prematurely?

In relation to others, parents might be hypervigilant. They may be processing what to tell those who ask where the child is. Will someone ask a question too awkward to answer? In the past, family or friends questioned their parenting, “You’re too strict.” “You don’t understand how sweet your child is.” They may be wary of telling much to others for risk of criticism.

What Siblings Might Experience

If there are siblings, parents have to address their concerns wisely with grace. Sibling responses will vary according to many factors like age, emotional closeness to the rebellious child, and intensity of either the positive interactions or the anger- or fear-inducing provocations received. There may be relief. As one sibling said, “The black cloud is gone.” No longer are there daily, hourly, conflicts raging in the home. They no longer have the worry of watching or hearing a parent be verbally attacked by the rebellious child. Finally, Dad and Mom have time for them. Finally they are free of tension, provocations, and fear. They are also free to tell Dad and Mom about maltreatment by the offending sibling that they had kept secret; they disclose more.

There may be anxiety and/or confusion. What will Dad and Mom do if told the secret offenses of the absent sibling? What do I do with the offenses I am now free to expose and face? What was wrong in the family? Why would Dad and Mom send a sibling away? Was I part of the problem? Will Dad and Mom bring the provocateur back or can I relax?

Anger feelings rise to the surface because they can now express it without threat of the bully’s retaliation, so they release pent-up frustrations over unresolved perceived injustices. There may be brooding from a desire for revenge for the many injustices and sins the sibling endured at the hands of the absent child, leading to bitterness. If the children want to never have that sibling return to the family, they resist reconciliation. They want to cut him out of their lives. These responses will have to be evaluated biblically as to whether they are prudent or sinful.

What You Can Do

Hope. It is inevitable that relationships have difficulties. God is both in control and loving. This situation is under His supervision and He will use it for your welfare. By the power of His Spirit, you can trust Him. – 1 Cor. 10:13

Pray. God has chosen to work out His sovereign plan in part through the prayers of His people. Pray for repentance and subsequent growth in love for Christ, for salvation and subsequent sanctification. Pray for the staff and the child and your family. – 1 Thess. 5:17

Determine. Hopefully, you have no problem dealing with the situation. But if find it difficult and emotions threaten to overwhelm you, don’t live by feelings. Evaluate what emotions are based in truth, find out what God says to do about them, and then do what He says no matter how you feel. – Gal. 6:16

Restrain. I’ve been asked what a parent can say when someone asks about such as delightful charming child being sent to residential treatment. There isn’t much you can say without gossiping about the child and that would be sin. Develop a one-sentence, discreet answer. Better to be misunderstood than to sin with gossip. – Prov. 10:19

Confide. Choose a trusted person as a confidante who will counsel wisely for comfort and solutions. – Prov. 17:17

Assess. Did you parent like the Bible says regarding instruction, discipline, grace, communication, and gentleness? Where you obeyed God, give thanks for the work of His Spirit in you. Where you disobeyed, plan how to change and implement the plan. – Prov. 28:13

Change. Take this opportunity to make needed changes in your marriage and parenting. Use this time to grow in Christ, including your heart desires and attitudes and your ways of communicating. – Eph. 4

Love. Plan and carry out ways to love the child now. Depending on what is allowed and in the best interest of the child, ideas include phone calls, letters, cards, visits, and gifts. Ponder ways to speak words of blessing, like Paul did with the wayward Corinthians. Speak well of the child to others. Commit to continued love for the difficult child. – 1 Cor. 13; 2 Cor. 11:11

Restore. Work with the other children in the home to help them take a biblical view of their absent sibling and the situation. Help them assess their own hearts, put off sinful responses and put on godly desires, thoughts, words, and actions. – Matt. 22:39; Luke 6:20-37

Support. Be supportive of the staff at the facility where your child is. If you don’t understand or think you disagree, be slow to criticize and quick to ask questions for more understanding. Give benefit of the doubt. Thank them. – Prov. 18:13

Prepare. Prepare for your child’s return or for future interactions. – Prov. 20:18

Posted in Parenting, Child-rearing, Reactive Attachment Disorder | Tagged ,

Experience Intimacy with God

Ancient or modern, God’s children have always wanted intimacy with Him. Rightly so. Man was made for close knowledge and familiarity with God. God walked with Adam in the Garden (Gen. 3). Intimacy is all over the psalms. “I love You, O Lord” (Ps. 18:1). “My soul thirsts for You” (Ps 63:1). “Hear my cry, O God” (Ps. 61:1). “I will give You thanks with all my heart” (Ps. 138:1). Jesus said, “Abide in Me, and I in you…if you abide in Me and My words abide in you…”(John 15:4, 7). What a delight it is to know Jesus!

In this post, I talked about experiencing intimacy with God through prayer. It is part of a series on hearing God “in the heart.” Now I’d like to broaden to other means God has given for enjoying Him, for enjoying the relationship a person can have with Him.

First though, it is essential to distinguish between the state of being in an intimate relationship with God and the experience of that intimacy. A personal familial relationship with God must be obtained before it can be experienced. Yet as I listen to many Christian women in the country I conclude that in general they are so focused on the experience that they actually limit the breadth and depth of their relationship.

How do we obtain a familial (intimate) relationship with God?

The Bible says that all people are born separated from God. What separates is our sin. To remove the separation and obtain peace with God we need forgiveness. Forgiveness can’t be earned; it is given by God’s grace through faith (Eph. 2:8-9). The particular faith is belief that Jesus is the Son of God who died to pay for sins, rose from the dead, and ascended to the Father. Upon trust in Christ for forgiveness, the person enters a relationship of peace with God (Rom. 5:1). Once an enemy, he is reconciled to God (Rom. 5:10-11). He is granted full rights as a son in God’s family, is united with Christ, and has the indwelling Holy Spirit (Eph. 1). This close relationship, this intimate state in God’s family, is a position. It is given through trust, trust in Christ and Christ alone.

How do we experience intimacy in relationship?

To achieve a sense of intimacy with God (as opposed to the positional state), people suggest all kinds of methods. In a google search, I found that some suggest singing God a (romantic) love song–not wrong unless it is the pursuit of sensations because we like how they feel. Some suggest saying a breath prayer, but there is no biblical basis for such a concept. You might breathe deeply or take a walk–those two seem to go together well, though how they generate feelings of intimacy with God I don’t see. There are many options invented by men.

God Himself tells us how we can enjoy intimacy with Him. Fear the Lord.

The secret of the Lord is for those who fear Him
And He will make them know His covenant. ~ Prov. 25:14

A study of the word “secret” shows that the idea of this verse is friendship, intimate communion. The Lord is holy, unapproachable, and not to be understood on a whim, but He confides in those who fear Him. Fear of the Lord is a right response to knowledge of Him, a response of mingled dread, awe, veneration, wonder, pleasure, and joy which motivates love for and obedience to God. If it doesn’t result in obedience, it may be a feeling of awe but it isn’t fear of the Lord.

What does God confide? His covenant, which reveals Himself. He enables those who fear Him to understand the covenant’s revelation of His glorious character, its gracious provisions, the way to salvation and reconciliation with Him.

Where can we find such a wonderful covenant? In the Bible. It certainly can’t be discovered anywhere else in all creation nor in religious stories handed down or all the books that have ever been written. The New Covenant given in the Bible is where Christ Himself is revealed.

What does the Bible show as to the means of enjoying intimate friendship with this otherwise unapproachable, holy God? As we relate to Him in the following ways, our relationship with Him is strengthened and intimate communion will increase and deepen.

  • Faith
    • Believe God when He says “The Lord is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth” (Ps. 145:18). God remains in close proximity to one who trusts Him, and that closeness is not dependent upon the person’s feelings but upon the God who promised. He calls His children to trust Him for it.
  • Bible reading and study to hear from God
    • The Bible is where God has hidden the “secret” He reveals to those who fear Him (Prov. 25:14).
    • The Bible is God’s self-revelation. No wonder “Your testimonies also are my delight; They are my counselors” (Ps. 119:124).
    • “He who has my commandments and keeps them he it is who loves Me, and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him” ( John 14:21). If we don’t study His commandments we can’t expect know them in order to express our love to Jesus in a way that pleases Him (2 Tim. 2:15).
  • Obedience
    • “He who has my commandments and keeps them he it is who loves Me, and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him” (John 14:21).
      There’s nothing about feelings here. Feelings come and go. Though obedience results in positive feelings, it is the obedience that is reliable evidence that the child is lovingly close to his father

      • Obedience to what? It is through obedience to the “commandments,” not to impressions, that children express their love.
      • Jesus promises to disclose Himself (intimacy). How? Again, there is nothing here about impressions. He discloses Himself where He has spoken–in His Word, illumined by His Spirit. Obedience increases disclosure because practice enhances experiential understanding.
  • Prayer to talk to God
    • Jesus communed with His Father in prayer and still intercedes for Christians (John 17).
    • By prayer, we talk to God. (See this post.)
  • Call Him “Father.”
    • Christians are children of God (John 3:1-2). Jesus told the children of God to call Him “Father” (Matt. 6:9). If you are His child, come to Him as a godly child, adoringly affectionate.
  • Daily confession of and repentance from sins
    • “I acknowledged my sin to You, and my iniquity I did not hide; I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord’ and You forgave the guilt of my sin” (Ps. 32:5). When David confessed, his joy in fellowship with the Lord was restored (Ps. 32:10-11; Ps. 51:4, 12).
  • Singing hymns and spiritual songs
    • “Singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God” (Col. 1:16).
  • Thanking God
    • When you thank God you are in His presence delighting in the good, loving character of the God who gives gifts to you. (1 Thess. 5:18)
  • Rejoicing
    • “Rejoice in the Lord” (Phil. 4:4). We are commanded to choose joy. Joy is a logical reaction of a forgiven person to being close to his wonderful Savior. Joy also engenders a sense of delight and closeness to Him.
  • Thinking about who God is and what God has done for you
    • “On the glorious splendor of Your majesty, and on Thy wonderful works I will meditate” (Ps. 145:5). Meditating on a loved one–who he/she is and what he/she has done for us–is an exercise intimacy. It also increases intimate connection.
  • Thinking God’s thoughts
    • “How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How vast is the sum of them!” (Ps. 139:17). Knowing the thoughts of another is intimate. Of the one in close fellowship with God David says, “His delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night” (Ps. 1:3).In the Bible, God has handed His thoughts to us in an open book, so to speak, providing we actually open it.
  • Being active in your local church.
    • Worshiping together, we have fellowship with Christ also (1 John 1:3).
    • The church gathered sings lovingly to the Lord together, “singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord” (Eph. 5:19).
    • Service to one another builds the body of Christ to know and love Him (Eph 4:12).
  • Communion (with others in your local church).
    • In communion, we commune. That cultivates intimacy. We give thanks to Christ as we remember His nature, character, and what He did for us. Sharing the Lord’s Supper is part of fellowshipping with the Lord (1 Cor. 11:23-24, 33).

Obviously, God wants His children to enjoy intimacy with Him. It should be apparent that God has provided no lack of ways to be intimate with Him. What should also be apparent is that these godly disciplines focus on the practice of intimacy, not the feeling of it. Rather than try to generate feelings or a sense of union with God, faith acts on the knowledge that one is already in close relation to God who is always present.

I am so glad God gave us emotions so we can enjoy feelings of closeness and affection for Him! I am also glad that relating intimately to God does not depend upon feelings, which are so fickle. Rather, we can enjoy relating intimately with God by means He told us to use. Thanks be to God for giving us so many ways to enjoy Him!

(Series continues: A Personal Experience)

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