Answers About False Teachers & Discernment

I recently had a conversation with a friend of mine. We disagree on several Christian issues and I felt our conversation would benefit others. I’ve made it very generic because I’m not trying to dispute my friend publicly. The dialog just gave me the opportunity to answer some common questions, so I thought I would post them.

Before I do that, I’m sitting here wondering “WHY?” I bother with this topic. All it does is result in criticism and lost readers. But we shouldn’t base our opinion and Truth on popularity. Say it with conviction and let the chips fall where they may.

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Shouldn’t You Be More Careful About Calling Someone A False Teacher?

I do agree with being CAREFUL about who we state publicly or privately is a false teacher, heretic or non-Christian. Very careful, agreed.

On the other hand, Jesus, the Apostle Paul and Peter especially remind us that we are to call out and confront false teachers, and that everything we hear taught must be carefully evaluated and judged by Scripture. American Christians have no problem being “open” to things (fads and gimmicks and false teaching) that’s for sure.  We easily accept the Hinn’s, Bentley’s and every new Christian fad that sweeps the Church with very little (if no) discernment (no effort to evaluate it Biblically).

To make matters worse, American Christianity has pretty much lost its backbone and ability to discern, rebuke and reject blatant false teachers, extra-Biblical metaphysical fairy tales, lying prophets, horrible prooftexting disguised as teaching and money-centric “faith” fable-tellers like Duplantis and Hinn. The Church is completely out of BALANCE between being “accepting” versus “discerning” primarily due to the rampant Biblical ignorance that now exists because solid teaching has been replaced for the most part with “therapeutic” teaching (how can God and Jesus improve my life?) and sensationalism.

Aren’t You Allowing Those People To Skew Your Opinion of What God CAN DO Today?

There is a huge difference between rejecting the false teaching and shameful antics of a Todd Bentley, AND allowing them to “dictate what God can do” in our lives today. To the contrary, the silly carnality and materialism of men like Steve Munsey or Mike Murdoch more clearly point me towards what God REALLY does rather than giving my attention to their self-promoting shenanigans (and “silly” really sums up much about them).

Those celebrity-Christians such as those mentioned are absolutely HORRIBLE Bible teachers, butchering Scripture to fit their “show” and the goals of their “ministry”. Of course that type of thing is not limited to “word faith” or charismatic teachers… just witness the Scriptural misuse (prooftexting; ripping verses out of context to support a point) that took place in “40 Days of Purpose”. No matter how well meaning and useful that book is, from a Bible teaching standpoint, Scripture was routinely jerked from the pages to fit the agenda of the book rather than having the book explain the in-context meaning of the Scripture (prooftexting). Any serious Bible reader should not find it hard to see the disgraceful use of Scripture people like Hinn and Bentley employ to further their personal aggrandizement.

As for ANY man dictating what I think God can do, I don’t view men to see what God can do. I view Scripture to see what God can do DESPITE men.

Does Your Disbelief in the Healing Ministry of a Benny Hinn Cause You To Think God Doesn’t Do Miracles?

I would not state anything so definitive as “God does not work miracles through a human” because the Bible simply does not declare that. However, the public actions, teaching and lives of many of these well know “faith healers” (especially the heretical teaching that denies the deity of Christ, ie. the “Jesus was born again in hell doctrine”) leave no doubt in my mind that that they are not being used by God (in the sweeping mass way they claim; God uses our sinfulness even to accomplish His plans), especially in a miraculous nature. They are a distraction to serious Christianity at best… false teachers and heretics at worst. Strong statement I know; I don’t make it lightly or without significant knowledge and many years of observation and study of their public ministries.

My rejection of someone like Bentley (rejection of his healing or miracles or fables about visiting heaven) have ZERO to do with my beliefs about miracles or spiritual gifts. ZERO. That would be like saying if John MacArthur decided prayer was no longer effective, it would dictate my opinion on how God used prayer. Again, I look towards NO MAN to determine what I think God does or doesn’t do. I go to the Word God delivered personally to us to find out those things.

Aren’t God’s Gifts Irrevocable?

I agree with your interpretation of Rom 11:28-32 (the gifts of God are irrevocable)… the question is whether someone had those gifts in the first place. The Bible is clear about the presence of deceivers, charlatans and tares (fakes).

However, even if a Christian has gifts from God, they can misuse them, or not use them. Only God knows if they ever truly had them. We all know people who exercise “gifts” in the flesh, drummed up with human effort… gifts that obviously they didn’t get from God. I believe people like Hinn and Bentley are such people simply because their fruit does not bear out authenticity. However, only God knows for sure.

If There is a Chance They God Gifts From God, Shouldn’t You Refrain From Rebuking or Rejecting Them?

If a person started with a gift and strayed, that doesn’t mean that we have to always AVOID publicly rebuking, correcting or rejecting those who shame our Lord through greed, false teaching and carnality. That would be ignoring clear Scripture too. It’s a balance for sure, and when we who are leaders or teachers do publicly denounce a person or a particular teaching, we have to know that we will give account to the Lord for that.

I am very aware of my duty and accountability as a public teacher of the Bible (“let not many of you teach”; James 3:1) and that I’ll be held accountable not only for my private life, but doubly accountable for everything I teach and my influence on others. So I don’t make controversial statements lightly without serious conviction behind it, knowing I’m going to be held accountable; nor do I make public statements about false teachers unless I’m thoroughly educated and convicted about them over a fairly significant period of time and feel led, with a clear conscience to take on the controversy with God’s blessing. I don’t like or want controversy. It’s easier to just go along and get along but God calls us all to different emphasis’s; some He calls and gifts to discernment and public defense of the Scripture, including speaking out publicly about false teaching.

The silly “touch not my anointed” (1Chron 16.22) is a gross abuse of Scripture as well as a complete rejection of many passage that tell us to evaluate and expose false teaching. I take very very very seriously any judgments I make about false teachers or false teaching (the former being a repeated pattern of ongoing false teaching by someone; the latter being maybe one point or one message). I know the difference between false teaching, aberrant teaching, a doctrinal mistake from a lack of understanding or study, a teaching I simply disagree with and downright heresy.

So Do You Believe Personal Accounts of Tongues, Miracles and Healing?

I don’t let my opinion of a Todd Bentley taint my view of what God does, I also don’t let that taint my opinion of those who differ in their beliefs on charismatic and miraculous gifts. It’s not even in the same ball park.

I don’t believe in tongues today but have plenty of Christian friends who do and I don’t think twice about it. However, when I personally witness at “word faith” churches the coercion to get someone to speak in tongue by publicly pressuring them to just start babbling whatever comes out of their mouth, I denounce that. Why? Because the Bible shows us clearly that tongues were spontaneous supernatural occurrence by the Holy Spirit. It was NEVER  “taught”, coerced or pressured onto people in the Bible. When I personally witness groups systematically, repeatedly and predictably coercing every person to speak in tongues using a method and example we never find in Scripture… I have no problem publicly denouncing that version of “tongues” as unscriptural.

When my Christian friends read the Bible and come away believing in tongues, and believing they have experienced tongues, I don’t think twice about it, and don’t even really “disagree”… I simply think that is between them and God. I find no Scriptural mandate to go around convincing every single Christian to believe what I believe about charismatic gifts.

The Bible leaves enough room to disagree on issues like tongues and charismatic gifts (though I find many tongue-believers who won’t extend the same liberty to those who don’t see it their way). Likewise, just because I believe Todd Bentley is a “miracle huckster” doesn’t make me doubt my friend for even one second if he says God did a miracle for him, or that he has seen a miracle in another person. That’s between Him and God.

So You Draw A Distinction Between Public and Private?

The Bible draws a clear line between private and public in the sense that public false teachers, public false prophets and public heretics are to be called out, rebuked and rejected in the hopes they will repent and come back to the Truth. Person to person we are to confront in love, teach, rebuke, correct and gently bring other believers into line with Scripture using church discipline as a last resort for the clearly unrepentant. It is the duty of the spiritually mature and those who God gifts with counseling, teaching, exhortation and Shepherding to help Believers see and avoid false teaching and heresy.

My opinion about what is going on publicly with many of these Christian “celebrity Pastors” (like Hinn, Osteen, Copeland, Schuller, Bentley, Munsey, etc.) does not effect what I believe about God or what God can and does do privately in life of individual Believers, or local Churches, etc.

Because Osteen robs the Gospel of its true power with watered-down ear tickling sermonettes, that doesn’t dictate my understanding and belief in the power of the Gospel. Because Schuller teaches unadultered metaphysical heresy, that doesn’t dictate my belief in the positive nature and empowering aspects of the Christianity. Because Bentley is a false prophet (repeatedly), fable teller (incessant) and “miracle” charlatan… I don’t allow that to influence my belief in God’s power to heal, do miracles and act supernaturally.

Apostle Paul said “earnestly desire the greater gifts.” I don’t see any scriptural reason to believe that has changed between then and now. Do you?

Regardless of the true meaning of that verse (which I explain next), that cannot be taken as clear Scriptural declaration that gifts like tongues, healing or miracles have or have not ceased (or only operate in certain times or situations). If there gifts that God used for certain reasons in certain times and they served their purpose, then those would not be the “greater gifts” we would desire. They aren’t even then “greater” gifts as listed in 1Corinthians 12 (the verse referred to in the question). Again, like many issues, Christians take their CONCLUSIONS and make them “Scripture” rather than keeping them in the realm of liberty and room for interpretation.

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However, that is not the context of that passage or phrase (“earnestly desire the greater gifts”). I hear this phrase used by my Charismatic friends often in the same manner as above.

You’ll note that the context of 1Corinthians 12 is that all parts of the body (“gifts” ) are equally needed and none are to be considered of insignificant or inferior (verses 1-7). Verses 21-26 show us that we are to do away with any mentality of a caste system (rankings) within the Body. While our fleshly inclination is to see some parts as “lesser”, our new command is to see all parts of the Christian Body as equally valuable and necessary. The whole chapter is a rebuke against thinking and seeking “greater” gifts in the human sense of thinking something like “I want to be a Pastor because that is more valuable than the guy who gives out food to the poor” or “I want to perform miracles because that is more exciting and important that the one who prays in intercession privately”.

We are not to desire the prominent, powerful, public or sensational gifts because of what is does for us (attention, satisfaction, glory, etc). The final verses of chapter 12, TAKEN IN CONTEXT WITH THE REST OF THE CHAPTER and the very obvious point Paul was making, are asking a rolling rhetorical question. He states we are all the Body of Christ, made up of individual members. Pauls says “are all you Apostles? All of you Prophets? All of you speaking in tongues (which refutes many charismatics who declare you aren’t even a Christian if you don’t speak in tongues)? The rhetorical answer is clearly “NO!” because he just spent an entire chapter teaching there are many diverse parts.

Paul says in essence “but you’re all seeking after what you think is the GREATER gifts…” His final statement is “quit doing that, it’s wrong. I have shown you the more excellent way of love.” We know beyond doubt that phrase “earnestly desire the greater gifts” is not an imperative (a command to do something) because it would contradict completely the previous 30 verses. In context we know that it is more of an accusation, a rebuke of their behavior… “but all you are running around seeking what you think are the greater gifts…”

As a Bible teacher I must point out that in context of the entire chapter of 1Cor 12, that statement is actually a loving REBUKE of the Corinthians, a sensational carnal people who were inappropriately seeking the more prominent and sensational gifts. It is not a statement in support of seeking Charismatic gifts, the “greater gifts”.
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So It’s a Matter of Liberty?

Where the Bible is dogmatic, plain and definitive, we should be too. Where it is not, we should be patient and accepting of differences. For example, this verse leaves no room for liberty or interpretation: “For all have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory” (Romans 3:23).

In the same manner, a verse simply does not exist in Scripture that says “all gifts of all types are in operation during all eras of God’s plan”… nor is there a verse that says “miraculous and charismatic gifts ceased entirely after the Church was established”. We are left to read what the Bible does say and wrestle our way to our own convictions on these things.

If there was a verse that plainly said either of those things, there wouldn’t be a controversy like this one.  For Christians who honestly want to know the Truth, we accept where God is specific and plain. We believe it and don’t question it. Likewise, as mature Believers, we recognize that when the Bible is NOT definitive and dogmatic, we aren’t either; nor do we allow this to affect our fellowship and love for each other.

That’s why I don’t think “you have this wrong, therefore you are false teaching, and I should have anything to do with you.” Nope. I GREW UP thinking that way but have long since abandoned that legalistic Pharisee nonsense. Where the Bible gives room for different understanding, WE should generously give room. Now, if you pop up and said “oh, by the way, I don’t believe Jesus was God” or “I think people can be saved by other ways than Christ” then we would have a serious fellowship problem because the Bible is definitive and dogmatic on those issues.

So What’s The Problem?

Legalism and binding your personal convictions of liberty on others is a horrible problem in Christianity. That’s why we have 3000+ types of churches and Christian-labeled groups.

On the other hand, in the last 20 years an equally horrible problem has become the easy acceptance of every fad, false teaching and sensational trend that sweeps the Church; accepted without much question or thought by undiscerning Christians who neglect the Bible for latest fleshly “experience”. We have also lost the courage to make ANY judgment about false teachers and heretics lest there is a possibility, no matter how faint, that God MIGHT be using them (or maybe they even started out Godly and strayed). We’ve gotten very out of balance concerning defending the faith (2Tim 4:2; 1Pet 3:15), searching the Scripture (Acts 17:11) and engaging in correction and rebuke (2Tim 3:16-17).

Remember, there is a huge difference between judging the public teaching of someone as “false” or judging their claims as “fake” based on evidence and Scripture versus stating “I’ve looked into your heart and I judge your motives and state of salvation”. That’s God’s territory alone but God has made it our territory to judge the rightness of what is taught, and the Godliness of what is publicly displayed by Christian leaders who are supposed to be our examples and Shepherds (“imitate me as I imitate Christ” 1Cor 11:1).

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The Basic Christian Life: How to Cure Your Worldliness – Part 11

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James 4:10: Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up. (NKJV)

In this day and age of self-esteem, self-focus, self-improvement, self-love, self-forgiveness and self-worth any talk of humility and denying yourself is cast off as the old fashioned ramblings of the out of touch religious zealot. It’s a good thing Jesus wasn’t born in the 21st century. Nobody would leave their therapeutic pews long enough to listen to the self-esteem robbing message of the Sermon on the Mount. James wouldn’t get much of a following either.

But way back in those archaic and unenlightened days of the early church, James was very clear about what we need to do cure worldliness and human pride: humble yourself.  No, not the self-aggrandizing version that lifts up person up by making them APPEAR humble but the real humility that sees ourselves for what we truly, how weak we truly are, and how prone to evil we truly are. THAT kind of humility, the kind that robs you of your treasured “self esteem”  (a term predictably missing from Scripture and easily refuted by the same).

James 4:7-10: Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up. (NKJV)

Before we take a look at each part of the passage, let’s be reminded of the context. The book of James is about practical Christian living. He gives no-nonsense advice and instruction on how to be holy, avoid sin and live right.  Leading up to this passage, James tells us how pride causes strife, contention and sin which is how the world operates. He moves now directly to the cure for pride: humility.

James 4:7: Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. (NKJV)

Submitting to God is exactly the opposite of human pride. Submission is the essence of humility whether it is submitting to the truth, deferring to another’s preference, accepting our God-given roles or making our desires/will subservient to a greater Truth.  Submit to God. That is humility. Humility is the cure for pride. Pride is the root of confusion, contention, discord and strife.  If you want to rid yourself of those worldly traits then apply the cure.

Next we see “resist Satan and he’ll run away”. This is an interesting point. Nowhere in Scripture do we find commands to “rebuke Satan”, bind him or constantly address him with arrogant and witty threats to control him. If Satan were affected one bit by every rebuke, declaration or command uttered by Christians “in Jesus Name” he would have been cast into the abyss and destroyed long ago.  But we don’t find Scripture telling us to confront or command Satan.

Scripture tells us to resist Satan, and he will find someone else to mess with.  God does not give us control over Satan and too many Christian teachers and Pastors mistakenly run around commanding Satan to do this or that, and encouraging the listeners to do the same. Some of it is showmanship, some of it arrogance, some it Biblical illiteracy.

God clearly gives us instruction on what to do when Satan or his henchmen come calling. Resist them, and they will flee. They will run away. How do we resist them? By stomping our feet and using colorful (but arrogant) proclamations like “git on outta here you devil a’for I stomp you  real good in Jesus name!!!” No, we resist. What is that? Glad you asked. Jesus answers that for us:

Luke 4:4-12 “it is written…”

I wish I could surprise you with some sensational new Prayer of Jabez or similar fad that will sweep Christianity, but there it is, modeled for us by none of than Jesus Himself. You resist Satan by answering his temptations and accusations with “the Bible says..”, “God’s Word tells us…”, ” the Scripture teaches..”

You see the problem with this simple approach though don’t you (other than it is boring compared to “7 Spiritual Power Laws” or Jesse Duplantis)? You have to know what the Bible says.  That means you have to read it, learn it, study it, live it. It’s much simpler to use some positive confession or witty “in Jesus Name” rebukes but those come from our sinful minds not God’s inerrant Word.

Why is Satan even mentioned in this context of pride and humility? Because Satan is the ultimate in pride and hater of humility. He’ll do all he can to inflame your pride which results in quarreling, contention, strife and worldliness.  We need to know how to run him and his buddies off when they come calling to our prideful flesh. Answer every temptation and every accusation with “The Bible says…” and Satan will get tuck tail and run. Not because of your authority, your confidence or your courage but because he cannot hope to compete with or defeat the true power of God’s Word.

James starts by telling us to BE humble. Now he tells us HOW:

James 4:8-9: Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. (NKJV)

It’s one thing to tell someone to be humble but that leaves us to figure out how and you know what happens when sinful and deceived humans start trying to figure something out… even something Godly. We ruin it, distort it, falsify it and figure out to do it in such a way as to glorify us. Result: false humility. So James tells us how:

  • Draw near to God: prayer, time spent listening for Him, reading His Word
  • Cleanse your hands: repent of your sin, recognize it, admit it
  • Purify your hearts: commit to no longer sin (“go and sin no more”)
  • Lament, mourn, weep: express true remorse for sin, recognize it’s true destruction, believe how offensive sin is to God what  His response to it is

When we think on those things it’s hard to be prideful. Rather, it shows us our place, our weakness, our contribution to the misery of mankind because of our own sin. It is the opposite of being prideful (“I’m not that bad, I’m a good person, I’ve done more good than bad”).  It is meditation on these Truths that will produce genuine humility

What: be humble. How: think on the things of God listed above. Results:

James 4:10: Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up. (NKJV)

God will lift you up. Huh? Isn’t that PRIDE? This is a different kind of “lifted up”.  To be lifted up by God is like being rescued, comforted, cradled, refreshed, enlivened, empowered and embraced by someone who cares for us when we have hit rock bottom. We don’t deserve it, we haven’t earned it, we can’t demand it.  But in love, God comes along after we have discovered true humility and lifts us up, helping us to discover the glorious riches and eternal worth GOD achieved for us separate and apart from anything we have done, or could do (in fact, it’s DESPITE us).

Like many Christian concepts (first shall be last, the least is greatest, the servant is exalted), we find something  very OPPOSITE of the worlds thinking: to be lifted up by God and in God’s eyes, we must completely humble ourselves.

There is a human application of this “lifting up” too. If we humble ourselves, we rid our life of pride which helps us to avoid worldliness, strife and problems with our fellow humans. In that sense, we are “lifted up” in the eyes of others as a person of patience, graciousness, peace and kindness.

Even though James wouldn’t get invited to speak at many of our huge churches where you can have your best life today, I’ll take his counter-cultural and life producing advice any time over the ear-tickling junk spiritual junk food of today.

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You’re Wrong, I’m Right, End of Discussion

I received a response to my parenting post the other day that is absolutely typical of the self-righteous and high-minded declarations frequently made by the politically correct today who based their convictions on nothing more than emotion, personal experience and culturally popular ideas.

I had dared to mention in the post that physical discipline of children is necessary and appropriate for most parents. Oh, what controversy. Oh, what barbarism. Obviously my love for children is a complete farce and should be now be suspect to all enlightened modern parents who KNOW that the idea of physical discipline is a return to the Dark Ages… a promotion of abuse and violence… and most terribly a possible violation of the holy grail of parenting: the precious self esteem of millions of little narcissistic monsters.  There I go again. I’ll never learn my lesson.  Here’s some exciting highlights of the articulate and fact-filled rebuke (emphasis mine):

… your last post made me angry. There is NO (and I mean NO) reason to physically punish a child for whatever it has done. I know you see children as given from God and the most precious thing we have on earth – or at least I always thought so and believe so myself. I can understand parents getting frustrated over certain situations and I am very sure that it is hard to keep your hands to yourself sometimes. BUT: as I underlined above: there is NO reason to physically punish a child. If I want my children to learn how to live their life without physical punishment, I have to be a good example.

I live in Germany, but have been to the US several times and also lived there as an exchange student. Every time I am there, although I love the country and the people, I am more or less shocked how many people think physical punishment is “okay” and needed to discipline your children. And as you said above, you have heard from children that were raised without such punishment to be good people, but this is an exception – I tell you this is not true. I know many, many who have been raised without any physical punishment. They have learned to talk and discuss things, rather then to solve a discussion physically. I know this is utopia in many cases and I know children will not understand in the first place. I know you do not support physical behavior in the first place. But this issue really makes me angry. When I went to highschool in the U.S., paddling was still (and I fear it STILL is) a possible way of punishment. I was SHOCKED! No teacher nor parent is allowed to cause physical pain to a child. Of course, neither should a child experience real emotional pain, but I think sitting down and honestly discussing the matter and raise your children to be aware of their behavior and what it causes in others is the best way to do it.

It is not my intent to embarrass the writer so I have purposely left off their name or anything identifying them. Assuming they gave their real name and email, I will give them credit for having the courage to not leave a cowardly “anonymous” comment (people are so brave behind their anonymous keyboards).

However, these comments are a shining example of the “I’m right, you’re wrong because I said so and I’m really emotional about it” type of communication that masquerades as opinion and argument today.  The entire comment was based on emotional and personal experience. And they UNDERLINED IT, making it an almost irrefutable argument! The nail in the coffin was the emphatic “NO, and I mean NO…” declaration. In the famous words of Al Gore, the discussion is over.

Before I share the response I sent to them, I just want to encourage my blog reading friends to 1) learn to present your disagreements or opinions with passion but also with some REASONING, evidence or logic. Pure emotion is not a reason to believe something even though it is the primary way America, especially liberal America, operates today. The ability to think, articulate and present a viewpoint has largely been lost to a culture of entertainment trivia and politically correct soundbites.  And, 2) quit being intimidated by emotion-filled, inflamed diatribe devoid of substance.  Many otherwise right-thinking and God-fearing people shrivel at the angry, name-calling, universal proclamations made by politically correct and highly intolerant liberal minded people including liberal “Christians”.  Can you read between the lines what my opinion of “political correctness” is?

Here was my response to this reader:

Thanks for commenting about parenting. I appreciate your passion and willingness not to be a cowardly “anonymous” commenter.  There is room for respectful disagreement, no matter how significant it is.

To your comments, let me ask you this: how do you know you are right?  Because you underlined your words? Because of your anger? Because you were raised that way? Because you believe it with all your heart?  Because it’s the popular and accepted viewpoint of the world?

Seriously, on an issue like this how can you say beyond doubt, beyond question, beyond consideration, that you are right, period, end of conversation? Anyone who believes differently is simply wrong and it’s beyond being questioned because YOU said so? Based on what?

Are generations and generations (thousands of years) of parents who have successfully, lovingly and appropriately administered physical discipline all wrong, all evil, all bad parents? Is the proclamations of the Bible (a book which has led to more good and benevolence than any in history; a book that solidly encourages the benefits of, and God’s approval of corporal punishment) WRONG simply because you (or a country, or a generation) says that it is?

You cite your personal experience and declare it as undisputed measure of what is right. What about my experience? Do you reject as “wrong” my grandparents for spanking my parents who grew up responsible, hardworking, respectful successful parents themselves?  Do you reject without consideration ME, a hardworking, loving, sacrificial father and parent as WRONG for physically disciplining my children in a loving and appropriate manner even though my children are respectful, obedient, secure, loving and happy?  Do you reject my experience and results even though all around me in America are spoiled, bratty, narcissistic disrespectful and emotionally weak children typically being closely followed by “enlightened” parents who believe spanking is “violence”? Your experience is to be accepted as unquestioned and my experience is what? I got lucky and my kids are raised well despite the “violence” inflicted on them?

Do you reject without consideration 200 years of respectful hard working disciplined children who grew up in America and made it the  great country it is (was?) when spanking was accepted without question by parents?  Do you ignore the liberal rejection of physical discipline beginning 50 years ago, replaced with self esteem and indulgence that has now produced several generations of whiny, entitlement minded, spiritually vacuous and utterly spoiled children who are in turn now raising some of the most self-focused and pampered kids this country has ever witnessed?

See my point. You are passionate and angry about physical discipline based on WHAT? Your own feelings? How you were raised?  Is your personal conviction enough to reject with prejudice the collective wisdom of countless generations of parents, not to mention the teaching from a book (Bible) that has arguably had more benevolent influence on mankind than any book in history?

I appreciate that you are passionate. But “passion” is not a reason to angrily reject the convictions of others without any real and persuasive reason.  If you disagree, then disagree and tell the other person why. But passion and anger, especially when supporting reasons are not given, are not enough to declare others dogmatically WRONG and you are RIGHT.

I would love to hear your REASONS along with your CONVICTION… because without reasons you are simply declaring you are right just because you say you are. You can’t expect someone to consider your views if you give them no other reason than your angry opposition.

I have not received a response back and if history is any indication, I won’t. Once you start asking people to give reason and evidence for their opinion they dismiss you as unenlightened and judgmental then just move on to someone who is more easily bullied.

Sometimes I get really frustrated about this world of today.  We truly live in a time where everything is  upside down, common sense is not just uncommon but extremely rare. Endless streams of self appointed authorities with alphabet soup after their name use high-sounding vocabulary to authenticate an endless stream of foolishness, shouting down all who dare challenge their supremacy.

Just like the Bible predicts. But we can’t trust that old dusty collection of fables can we?

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I’m In A Funk and Life Seems Like a Burden

I got an email from a long time close friend. We are alot alike in personality, stage of life, work, etc.  He told me he’s in a real funk and can’t seem to figure out why, or how to shake loose.

He expected me to give him the “suck it up”, “buck up”, “quit whining” speech (which is appropriate sometimes) but as I read what he wrote I saw some other possibilities… some things I know a lot of people can relate to.

I wanted to give you the essence of how I responded to him AND ask you for your advice and comments. Maybe we can all learn something together.  I’m going to divide up my response by giving you the nutshell of each question or topic he wrote about, then my response.

Note: as I talk about “depression” I”m talking about run-of-the-mill everyday “blues” and negative feelings we all deal to varying degrees. I have to always give that disclaimer so I don’t get inundated with emails about severe cases of depression that “prove” I’m wrong about what I’ve said here.

Do You Believe God’s Providence, That He Brings People Into Your Life At the Right Moment?

Of course I believe in God’s providence. I would say humbly that I may be even more aware and sensitive to it than average simply because I’m actively looking for signs of it all time.  I’ve seen God work so many times over the years that it’s almost a personal hobby to keep an active eye out all the time looking for evidence of God’s providential arrangements.

For those who maybe don’t understand “providence” it means that God is actively aware of and involved in our life, arranging things, appointing things, making things happen according to His will and our blessing.

I Feel Depressed; Should I Just Buck Up or Does God Have a Purpose For It?

Unlike the current popular humanistic worldview, for  a Christian, we know depression is an emotion God has built into our humanness. Given that, instead of trying to avoid it, medicate it or treat it as a sickness, we should seek to discover God’s purpose in it, learn why God uses it, and find what blessing God has for us on the other side it.

Like pain, depression serves to focus us on some things we need to deal with, walk through or change. It might be sin, maybe we are off track and God wants to redirect us; maybe God wants us to examine our life and make changes or start pruning things out of our life. Maybe God just wants us to recognize something that is sad… and spend some time being sad about it.

I would encourage you not to view your depression as something that is wrong with a goal to shake it off and get rid of it. If you are depressed then God is trying to show you something, expose something, get you to change something… embrace depression as a useful emotion of self-evaluation and reflection. Sometimes I think it God uses it to slow down guys like you and me; making us less self-sufficient, stripping us of some of our “look how much I can handle” need to impress or “look how incredibly capable I am at everything” mentality.

I believe that once God’s purpose in the depression is achieved, it doesn’t always simply (or easily) disappear because our flesh can get bogged down in it. At that point, it’s time to CHOOSE to “buck up” and CHOOSE to step out of the depression and no longer give it a place (the world would tell you have NO choice and are powerless against it). If we’ve learned what God wants us to learn, I believe He honors our choice to then willfully reject depression to live out our new-found lesson or wisdom.

Our flesh can easily want to linger in depression as an excuse not to get moving or press on.  It is our unique human sinfulness that can use depression as an excuse for self-pity, inaction or laziness. A mature Christian seeks Godly counsel, prays for wisdom and is alert to WHEN the purpose of the depression has been fulfilled, and now its time to press on.  Humanistic psychobabble labels depression as a sickness that can be manipulated by experimental and dangerous psychotropic drugs, or worse, by giving in to it completely to the point of disability or inability. The world would have you believe you are powerless against this “sickness”.  Human foolishness… but such is the entire false premise of humanistic psychotherapy. That will get me plenty of hateful email I’ll deal with in another post.

What If I’m Depressed About Money?

If money is the reason for depression then money is the area God is trying to get you to change… change what you are doing, change in attitude, change of understanding, change your focus. Depression shouldn’t be a way of life, it is a time to learn and change.

Sometimes we get depressed over money because we’ve bought into the world’s idea of lifestyle, success and financial security. We wish we had more money so that we could work less, have more fun, and enjoy an increased or previously unattained lifestyle.  Sometimes we simply feel sorry for ourselves because we WANT more money and more ease.

Often we confuse depression with SELF PITY or even covetousness especially when it comes to money. When that is the case, we need to immediately make changes in attitude and perspective. Self-pity is the most pitiful and useless of human emotions, and never appropriate for Christians.  It is EASY to feel self-pity about money simply because we are prone to look at what we don’t have, what others do have, or how hard we have to labor to get what we have… we want it to be EASIER, more fun and more comfortable.

Is Depression Really Just Self-pity?

Only YOU can determine what is really happening in your life. Are indulging a little self-pity (stop it immediately!) or walking through some legitimate and useful depression (find out what God is trying to show you, change in you or teach you).  Don’t be too hard on yourself even if you do determine it’s a little self-pity. Everyone deals with it to varying degrees and it’s harmless unless you indulge it and allow it once recognizing it.

I’m Getting Older… What About Retirement?

We get trapped in the world’s idea of a comfortable retirement with plenty of money, an idea which is foreign to Scripture. That doesn’t make it wrong but if it was as important as the WORLD says it is, then God surely would have given us some imperative about it.

“Retirement” is is a matter of personal liberty. I do not think the person who plans and works toward retirement is materialistic or greedy. Nor do I think the person who does not see a need for retirement savings a foolish person who will become a welfare recipient.  Many mature Christians believe they will work, serve and minister until they drop dead, and God will provide for their needs. This is clearly an acceptable Christian view.

The world says you are a FAILURE if you don’t have a big nest egg to live out your twilight years in comfort and ease.  That view is arguably at odds with Christian living. However, the idea of savings, investment and planning for the future most certainly is very Scriptural. It’s up to each Christian to work out how God would have them do this in their life.

But, too many Christians would declare someone ignoring “retirement planning” as irresponsible or lazy.  It is certainly appropriate for Christians to believe we can continue our life to the end of our days serving God, and trusting that He will provide for us as He promises.  There should never be a financial “dark cloud” (related to insecurity about future needs) for Christians because God promises to fill our needs. Ask George Mueller.  I think Christians need a serious paradigm realignment on the matter of retirement and put it firmly into the realm of personal liberty. Like too many things, we have adopted the world’s views to a large degree and/or declared our personal convictions as dogmatic fact.

Why Do I Feel Guilty About Financial Decisions I Made Even Though They Were Responsible?

Sounds like false guilt to me (my friend told me he thought maybe he could have invested the money and turned it into more money instead of paying off debt). Why would you regret wisely and responsibly spending money and paying bills with it?  By paying off your debt you 1) relieved that specific pressure from your marriage and life and 2) actually “made more money” than any investment or stock by saving your self interest charges, penalties, etc.   There’s not an common stock or business investment on the planet that can touch the interest rates of credit debt and loans (not to mention the reward of following God’s command to “owe no man” and avoid the Proverbial situation of “the borrower is slave to the lender”).  Reject those false accusations that Satan is using to cause you spiritual stress.

If you are making a good salary and your wife is still “forced” to work, perhaps a downgrade in lifestyle is in order. Forced to work? I find this rarely to be true. It’s a choice 99.9% of the time (though we CONVINCE ourselves it’s not). We choose our lifestyle level and  a second income is necessary to sustain it.

I’m living proof a second income is a choice and I’ve known countless other families who choose one income too (one spouse working). We have only my income and seven kids; after Abby got cancer, my income was cut IN HALF and we still trusted God on one income.  My ever-growing-girth is testament that we’ve never gone without.   A lifestyle downgrade is often just what the Great Physician orders for a marriage and family under stress because it allows a spouse to stay home making more time for the marriage and more time for kids to have a parent.

Relentlessly Increasing Lifestyle…

Americans creep UP in lifestyle relentlessly, and most keep themselves right on the edge of financial stress all the time.  Men especially feel sometimes that if we are not constantly increasing our family’s lifestyle, we are failing and our family cannot be proud of us. Our friends won’t be impressed either. It is a lie we have bought into in our materialistic culture.  My wife and I have actively chosen a lifestyle downgrade and “freeze” for several years and we have far less financial strain than ever.  It looks like this:

  • We live in a 40 year old small house, that I expanded and improved with my own blood and sweat, debt free as we could afford it.
  • We drive two decent, clean ten year old cars with 100K miles. We’ll drive them till they die.
  • We don’t use credit cards.
  • We don’t buy it if we don’t have the funds available.
  • College: our kids our educated about their own education. We tell them it is not a birthright or entitlement. They are responsible for it, and we will help when and if we can.  I think even wealthy parents should take this approach. Young adults simply appreciate and take college more serious when they are breaking their own necks to pay for it.
  • Cars and insurance: kids responsibility.  They drive more careful and take care of their automobiles when it is coming out of their pocket.
  • Food: learn to cook raw foods which are cheaper and infinitely more healthy.  Packaged foods and eating out are several times more expensive than bulk raw food.

Especially concerning kids, America has a real but wrong parental peer pressure. Our kids, according to several highly profitable industries, DESERVE MUCH (and in fact are entitled to): cars, college, big proms, expensive class rings, latest clothing styles, braces if one tooth is crooked, expensive hair care and cosmetic services, cell phones, computers, technology and an endless array of products and services. It is a predatory  market based on one thing: parents made to feel guilty if they don’t give their kids all the stuff that the rest of the kids are getting.

People think a lifestyle downgrade is some sort of austere way to live. Hogwash… the reward is that you will not have the financial anxiety that destroys half of all marriages and produces countless joyless lives. When you couple this with a readjustment in belief and attitude about “retirement”, it doesn’t leave much to be depressed about concerning money.  Add to that a refusal to be “guilted” into giving kids all this stuff our culture says they deserve (and profit from) and you really can get to a point where finances aren’t a source of anxiety, regret or disappointment.

Why Do I Feel Over-Burdened By Life?

Depression can often simply be a case of being TIRED for people who work hard and joyfully take a lot of responsibility on their shoulders. Depression can be a signal to take a break, get some rest. It can be a wake up from God that we need to do some pruning and cut some things loose. It can be God getting us to see that we have fallen into the trap of earning love and respect by “doing” all the time. It can be a sign that we have allowed our insecurity to guide our life (I feel secure if I am always achieving things, impressing people and proving how wonderful and talented I am).  And again, it could simply be a little “poor me, I have to work so hard all the time” in which case it is simply a choice to “man up” and refuse to ever feel sorry for yourself. Self-pity is always wrong and destructive unlike depression which is an emotion God uses to teach us something, or allow us time to process something painful or difficult.

Can My Work Ethic Make Life a Burden?

Many people often proudly declare their “work ethic” when the reality is we simply are not in balance and it is our own personal desire to work so much (for various reasons: self-satisfaction, security, addicted to achievement, or it “proves” what a good person we are).

The Lord Jesus “got away”, rested and took time to refresh Himself.  He didn’t brag about his 27 businesses and 64 projects and never having missed a day of work. What would happen if you take some time away: something might slip through your fingers and out of your control? You might not be aware of every single thing going on in your world and not get your chance to defend yourself, have your say or be informed? Someone might do something you don’t approve of or don’t know about? Someone might accuse you of not having the world’s most incredible work ethic?

There are lots of GOOD reasons to have a remarkable work ethic.  I would say a good work ethic is absolutely Godly. On the other hand, there are lots of sinful reasons hard working folks defer to their incredible work ethic (pride, control, insecurity, doubt, lack of trust in God, addiction to achievement, fear of letting go). Only you can determine why you work so hard and rest so little thereby becoming depressed and tired because life seems to be day after day of burden.

Therapeutic Christianity Makes Matters Worse…

Christianity today has evolved into “therapeutic faith” which exacerbates this problem. We teach incessantly that we must do more, serve more, work more to prove our worth, feel better about ourselves, be satisfied with our spiritual growth and be secure in God’s opinion of our “walk”. We are far out of balance in this regard, forgetting that God’s work for our salvation and His approval was done, and is done, APART from anything we can do.

Yes we are to serve but not to the point of burden. Didn’t the Lord Jesus declare that His yoke is easy and His burden is light? We have made His yoke heavy and laborious by our relentless declarations that we must serve more, minister more, do more in order to be “better Christians, more pleasing to God” which is really a lie covering up our desire to FEEL GOOD ABOUT OURSELVES. It is in essence an attempt to earn God’s approval; the age old lie of working to merit God’s favor disguised in Christian ministry and service.

We need rest where we detach from our burdens and responsibilities and trust God to take care of regular life while we get a REAL rest. That doesn’t mean a couple of weeks of incessant activity and travel and plans… that means CHILL OUT and CEASE activity for a while. Find a lake house or campground.  Empty your life and schedule for a couple of weeks.

Is God Asking Me to Get Rid Of Some Stuff In My Life?

Perhaps God is calling for some pruning and delegation of unnecessary burdens. Maybe a lifestyle downgrade and an “expectations” adjustment. Only you know what that may be but keep in mind Jesus’ words: my yoke is easy and my burden is light. If your life is a hard and laborious burden of “work harder”, “serve more” and “increased ministry success”, then perhaps you have replaced Jesus’ yoke with your own.  Don’t confuse this with “a life of hard work” or hard circumstances. I’m talking to those whose life is burdensome because they are seeking the wrong things, working for the wrong reason, striving to earn the favor of men and God.

Hard work is good. The Lord knows we need more people who will work hard. But hard work is not the same as a “heavy burdensome yoke” on our life. Hard work has to be balanced with times of enjoying life, relaxing and letting go of our (guys, are you listening?) need to achieve, impress, accomplish, prove ourselves and have more, more, more.

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Ironically, and predictably, after I wrote this I realized how much I needed to hear this myself. It’s easy to tell others how things should be. It’s hard to see that I’m not even following my own advice.

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My Kid Punishes Me When They Don’t Get Their Way

I recently had a conversation with my friend Roy about a parenting situation that is pretty common. We both thought this might be something others would appreciate so he graciously agreed to let me put it up here for you to read.

The premise is this: our kids often resort to punishing us in one form or another when things aren’t to their liking. It might be passive rebellion, withholding love, defiance, a lack of cooperation or a generally poor disposition… but in some form they make us “pay” for not bending to their desires.

Maybe you haven’t had the pleasure of experiencing this but I know from my countless conversations with parents, this is a common situation. So here is my dialog with Roy. We’d both love to know your opinion, your advice, and even what you would have done different.

Discipline Me And I’ll Punish You

ROY:

Brent, I have an issue with my daughter and I need some advice. My daughter, age 10, was internationally adopted at age 3. She was almost four at the time.

She is/was a special needs child. It is this condition that we believe was the reason for her abandonment and ultimately her placement with us. Most people are unaware that she has ANY condition.

That’s her history; now let’s get to the difficult stuff. She HAS to have been a ‘first-born’, because her personality is just like my first-born. She is stubborn, independent, bossy, always right, knows everything, very strong-willed… You get the picture?

Don’t get me wrong… I ADORE her! I have since she first raised her arms to me to hold her. She holds my heart in her hands, and she isn’t afraid to squeeze it! From the time she came home she has spent most evenings in my lap watching TV or reading with us. It is difficult to understand the depth of love I have for this child. I love ALL my children, but for some reason, she is extra special. I think it is due to the fact that she is the one that demonstrated to me in a visible way what we are to our Father. She’s the visible Gospel, and I treasure that awakening she brought about. She knows all this, and on occasion will use it as a tool to control me. She’s never been a very affectionate child, but she likes to be held and have the attention of others. She just doesn’t initiate a hug or anything very often. She will, however, come and ask to sit with me very often.

She is home-schooled, along with the other four children. My first-born is in college, so he’s out of the school picture. Simply because she is on the front lines, my wife is the primary disciplinarian of the girls. I get involved if it’s serious and still an issue when I get home, or if I am there when something is going on that I need to address. While we don’t hesitate to provide a physical correction, if needed, I have never been the one to deliver that to any of my girls. I may be wrong on this one, but my thought is that I do not want to teach my girls that it’s okay for a man, whoever he is, to abuse them. That may be a stretch, but I don’t think that’s the issue, however, I may be completely wrong.

Anyway, a month ago, my daughter was working with her Mother on some school work and totally lost it. The work was frustrating, she was just back from her surgery, she was tired, etc. She just didn’t want to do the work anymore and went into full breakdown mode. It escalated from the whining to all out tantrum to the point that she was sent to her room. She would not go. She was loud, and would not do anything her mother asked her to do. My wife tried, unsuccessfully, to move her physically to her room and in the process, my daughter hit and scratched her. So she called me at work. I could hear the tension in her voice and the wailing in the background. I had her put my daughter on the phone and in my most stern voice that I could use at work made it clear to her that she would do as she was told and we would discuss it when I got home. She complied, and order was restored.

When I got home I went to her room and got on the floor with her. She was cold and stiff and still very angry. (Remember, this is over NOTHING…just frustration at having to do her school work, which she usually does pleasantly, every day.) My plan was to have a calm discussion about how we’re expected to behave, and that hitting her mother was never tolerated. That didn’t happen. There was no way she would have a calm or reasonable discussion. Most of her responses were along the lines that parents live to be mean to their children and that we somehow derive pleasure from that. And of course we got the tired line of how great life would be if she had stayed in China with her mother, the saint. So, with the anger still there, and no chance of a meaningful conversation, I went into full disciplinarian mode and simply stated to her that I would not tolerate this behavior and she would NOT ever hit her mother again, and that I would enforce that.

That was a month ago. The only thing she has spoken to me since that time has been hateful. She ignores me the rest of the time. She will not come tell me goodnight like the others. She does not sit with me. I usually go check on them before I go to bed each night. She used to stay awake waiting for me. Now she plays like she’s asleep and doesn’t allow me to touch her. For the past week, I’ve given her what she wants. I don’t try to hug her. I don’t force her to talk to me or anything. It has had no effect and it’s killing me. I want my daughter back, and I don’t know how to do it. I can roll over and beg her and probably get things back to some sort of normal, but I don’t want to enforce the behavior of using affection as currency or as some sort of prize that can be withheld or given to accomplish some other desire of hers. I’m struggling with the old issue of: is this institutional behavior? Or simple first-born childish theatrics?

She knows it’s hurting me, and she’s right, it is, but I can’t allow her to manipulate me. Can you imagine what kind of marriage she’d have if she takes this into that relationship. I’m an adult, with six other children…. I’m supposed to KNOW it all by now. Right?

Thank you so very much for indulging me. I wanted advice from someone who is on my side of the fence, if you know what I mean. Our pastor is very supportive, but he has no adoption related experience. There is only one other internationally-adopting family in our church, and they are much younger than us and turn to us for guidance and support, so you are a very welcome and appreciated help!

Abdication Has Consequences

BRENT:

Roy, you said: “and that I would enforce that.

How? You’ve missed years of opportunity to enforce discipline (you say your wife has done it, and you are reluctant unless you have too), and painfully, it’s coming back now to bite you. The idea that as a father, physically disciplining your daughter is somehow conveying male-to-female abuse is well… absurd. No one questions that their are fathers that abuse kids. But too often we throw the baby out with bath water because of the pressure of political correctness, modern humanistic parenting ideas or the fear of being accused of something (even by our own kids).

It’s a shame that good parents are stigmatized as “abusers” when they discipline physically… the criticism usually coming from people who either don’t have kids, or have AWFUL kids (but at least they aren’t abused!). When you look at around today at the general behavior of kids of all ages, and realize they are a product of modern, liberal, humanistic parenting techniques (read that as “minus God” and “minus the Bible”), I have only one common question to ask America: HOW’S THAT WORKING OUT FOR YOU?

Note: yes, I know there are parents who have raised good kids without ever having used physical discipline of any type but this is by FAR (far, far, far) the exception, not the norm.

The idea you are teaching “abuse” when a father appropriately disciplines a daughter is simply nonsense (I would say you are teaching weakness and encouraging manipulative behavior instead). Sorry to be so blunt, but it deserves that kind of description. You need to toss that idea into the liberal parenting abyss. Do you not believe that if that was true, God would have instructed us accordingly rather than clearly teaching us the opposite? That is a nonsense idea brought on by worldly psychobabble… the father is to lead the home and with the children, discipline (of which their is no one-size-fits-all) is a major part of that. The Bible, common sense and eons of successful parents know that both physical and non-physical discipline is an effective and loving way to raise respectful, healthy and successful kids.

Your daughter has already figured out that Dad can blow hot air, but there’s no fire behind it. She is now PUNISHING you and given her personality, is going to let you know in no uncertain terms that SHE is in charge, not you. Even if she feigns compliance on a surface level, she’ll make you pay the price at the deepest level by withholding love. She SEES, she KNOWS how deeply this hurts you, and she is using it to extract vengeance.

Man to man… on one hand, you’ve lost valuable ground and RESPECT by abdicating your disciplinary role primarily to your wife (a husband should lead by example; Mom and Dad both should be equally and appropriately involved in discipline; a united front). It has been more comfortable to hand that off to your wife, but that easy choice now has tough consequences.

The really hard part is: what to do now?

At 10 years old, the good news she is still young enough for you to a admit your bad decision to fore-go the disciplinary role, and completely change things. But you cannot be cowardly or procrastinate. You’ve got 2-4 years until she will either resent your weakness and willingness to manipulated… or respect your courage to change and find the strength to be the man-leader in the house. From what you’ve described, she is going to “punish” you even more if you “man up”. YOU HAVE TO IGNORE IT and be unaffected by it.

If you do not immediately make changes and take the next 2-4 years to reinforce your commitment to those changes, your daughter is likely to cause you MUCH grief as a teenager. She has 10 years or more of youth left knowing she can bully you emotionally, and punish you. Until the Lord gets a hold of her heart, it may be a rough road (even still, you’ll have challenges; Christianity is not a magic “perfect kid therapy”).

At a minimum, if I were in your shoes I would sit her down and say, “Daughter, I can see now that I was wrong for all these years leaving the disciplining to your mother. You have become an emotional bully, and you believe you can PUNISH me for laying down the law. You cannot. The only person you are hurting is yourself by neglecting our relationship. I love you. I’m your Dad. BUT I’m your Dad FIRST… not your buddy. I’m your parent, not your pal. So you can ignore me and punish me with your silent treatment as long as you want. You’re only hurting yourself because I will not allow it to affect me. You will not control and manipulate the relationships in this family by emotionally punishing us. You will show your mother and I respect or suffer the consequences. And let me be VERY clear about what happened: if you EVER hit, bite, scratch or physically strike back at me or your mother again, you will have painful consequences to deal with.”

Then you have to be “man enough” to actually do it. Don’t make idle ultimatums.

You’ve really got to do everything possible to build your role AND RESPECT level as the leader and disciplinarian of your home, support and assisting your wife, not leaving the parenting to her. You’ve got a couple of years with your daughter before the hormones kick in and Brother, hear me on this; you ain’t seen nothing yet IF you don’t begin to address the “emotional bullying” and defiance you are getting a glimpse of now.

You have a running chance if you and your wife buck up, present a united front, and have a strong “parental spine”. Also remember,  I am  responding to a complicated family issue based on one email… so if my response is off target, my apologies.

Too Late to Correct Parenting Mistakes?

ROY:

Brent, Thanks for the reply. You’ve given me quite a bit to consider, and I appreciate your bluntness.

I intend to put your words into action, I just wish I had considered such things earlier. It’s hard to accept the term ‘abdicated’. It may be true, but it’s difficult to accept. I’ll not argue that point, but accept it, because I wanted your biblical wisdom and advice, and I value it. My goal is to raise Godly children into Godly adults with humility and consideration and compassion for others.

I’ll say it again, I think that’s a difficult goal for the firstborn. My bio firstborn has an almost identical personality. At its core, it’s a selfish, ‘me’, attitude.

So, what I did was completely wrong. After another week of her punishment, I could take it no longer, and I tried to talk to my daughter. What I did was give in and now that she’s won, she’s back to her old self again, and I’m ashamed of how I accomplished it. What she deserves is punishment for the initial incident AND for the month+ of attitude she gave me. Perhaps it’s not too late to sit her down and make that idea clear to her?

Thanks for the advice. I truly appreciate it, and would welcome any other that you have to offer.

Use A Parable To Get Your Point Across

BRENT:

I applaud you for listening and considering my thoughts. Most of the time I get a “how dare you…” even though THEY asked ME for my opinion. I don’t claim to be “right” about everything, I just answer the best way I know how, and then it’s up to you to decide what, if any, of my advice is good advice.

“Back to her old self”… yes, this is the modus operandi of her type of personality, and unfortunately, you just reinforced what she knows: Dad won’t stand up to me and if he attempts to, I’ll punish him and outlast him.

The fact that she is “normal” again, simply proves the point: “give me my way, and I’ll reward you with my love; treat me wrong, and I’ll punish you by withholding it”.

If it were my daughter, I would sit her down, and tell her a story, like Samuel did with King David concerning Bathsheba:

“Hey, daughter… I need your opinion about something. One of my friends at work has a daughter about your age. You wouldn’t believe what she did. Her parents took her out one night this week to eat and on the way home she wanted to stop by Walmart and buy a toy. They told her ‘no, its too late’ and she got mad. She sat in the back seat and stabbed holes in the seat with a pencil because she was mad. When her parents saw it they disciplined her and grounded her. Then she got mad and wouldn’t talk to them for a week. Now they don’t know what to say to her. Since she’s about your age, I thought I’d see what you think they should say…”

I would tell the story in such a way, with a light-hearted casual way that your daughter does not pick up on the “parable”. When she tells you what how ugly the girl in the story is (and give her plenty of rope to hang the girl!), then you get serious and tell her that the story was really about her and the only way you could get her to understand is to tell in her in a “story” about someone else.

Even if she totally FAILS to get the point, I would still plainly communicate to her: THE GIG IS UP

– You are manipulating our relationship
– You are withholding love to get your way
– You are being disobedient and disrespectful
– I will not allow this any longer; if you want to withhold love, then you are the one losing out on love

I would NOT go back and punish her for the past event; I would just point out, describe and expose her behavior and let her know that you will never allow it again. Admit your fault for allowing it; admit your fault for not being more of a “parent” (discipline) and less her “buddy”.

Be sure you talk to your wife and you are both on the same plan. If your daughter is typical in her personality, she’ll try to pit you and your wife against each other.

ROY:

Wow! You know her so well. It’s as if you had lived with her.

I’ll tell you what, I have the most trouble comprehending the way she can withdraw from any attention from anyone and seem to be perfectly fine with it. As if she requires no love from anyone!

When we first brought her home, she said exactly what she had been coached to say, “Hello Mama. Hello Father.” Nothing more. She uttered not another word until we were home in the US. Not a single word. Virtually emotionless, except she appeared to be quite sad. We thought at the time she was grieving, and perhaps she was, but she was also telling us exactly who she thought was in charge… and it’s been a constant battle for control ever since. Of course we recognized that since that was exactly the same behavior we got from our firstborn.

Let Your Child Know What to Expect From Now On

BRENT:

Your daughter is “perfectly fine with it” (receiving no attention) as long as she perceives there is a chance it will accomplish its task. When she knows that “it WON’T WORK”, she’ll stop… or more likely, try another tactic. However, just a “talk” from you isn’t going to convince her of anything. Deep down she’ll instinctively think “yeah whatever… we’ll just see about this…” She’ll punish you for the simple act of challenging her… be prepared for it.

She has already been reinforced that you’ll give in, so she’ll thoroughly test that out. Be prepared. If she withdraws, you’ll just have to deal with it and don’t give in, no matter HOW LONG she does it. Tell yourself a million times a day “I’m her PARENT first… my job is to raise her, not be her buddy (first)”.

While she does it, remind her that she is giving up TIME that you could be enjoying your relationship. AND, until she repents, you don’t give her attention when SHE WANTS IT. As soon as she starts her “punishment” of you by withdrawing, then you have to withdraw anything that feels good or rewards her manipulation as opposed to jumping on every little tidbit of attention she might throw your way (when it gets her something she wants).

This will be hard for you, but you can’t normalize the situation until she repents for withdrawing… she needs to know that life is on HER PARENTS TERMS, not hers. I would say something like this to her:

“Sweetheart, you can’t have it both ways. You cannot punish your parents when it suits your purpose, and then expect us to be waiting around whenever you decide you want a little attention, or YOU want something. Sorry… whenever you decide to apologize and being loving, we’ll join you. Furthermore, the longer you choose to behave this way, the longer your punishment is going to be whenever you finally decide to stop. We are not only going to IGNORE your manipulation, when you are done with it, there will be consequences to face. How bad those consequences are is up to you and depends on how long you keep up this bad behavior…”

It is a too common event that parents don’t PARENT adopted kids because of all this psychobabble about separation issues and loss (yes, there are some real considerations about separate, but as a whole it is completely overblown and baseless as is a lot of the liberal ideas today about what is “wrong” with kids). Love them, discipline them, parent them. What you saw from your daughter on the trip home was the root of her personality: I don’t like this, so I’m going to withdraw and not give any “reward”, only punishment. It’s a systemic character trait originating in human sinfulness that says “when I’m not happy, people will be punished, AND, if it ends up getting me my way, all the better.” It’s not a separation issue or something to be excused because she is adopted.

The best way to deal with it, is to EXPOSE it, and point it out every time she does it, and say “sorry sister, not happening”. It’s pure manipulation on her part. Better to have her deal with this now instead of when she is a wife and mother.

I’ll bet you guys tried to show her all sorts of empathy and attention, and made all sorts offers and suggestions to “cheer her up” on the way home from getting her. This laid the groundwork for her internally when she found out from day one that this technique had the desired effect.

Once she realizes it doesn’t work, she’ll abandon it because her personality is results oriented. But BEWARE: things are going to probably be VERY ROCKY through her teen years… even if you would have parented her differently… doesn’t matter… she displays the traits of someone who has to do everything her way, school of hard knocks, trial and errors, no one is going to tell me I’m not right… this makes for a tumultuous teen phase.

The good news is, once they get through it, if they don’t’ kill you first (insert grin here), they usually rebound and you’ll have a good relationship. But, I’d be lying if I didn’t encourage you to prepare for a very difficult period with her from about 14-19 or so.

There Really Are Happy Endings – Sometimes

ROY – FIVE MONTHS LATER:

Good morning! I thought I’d pass along an update.

It’s been five months since we had our initial conversation, and enough time to see some results. As you predicted it took little time for my daughter to test my resolve. I followed through with precisely what you recommended and I with what I told her would happen. It was very difficult and she was shocked to discover that I would actually do it. Several days later she ‘tested’ me again to see if I would remain consistent, which I was. Since that time, We have not had any of the behavior we had prior to that.

We just returned from picking up our 7th child. A three year old boy. He is only four months younger than his sister we brought home in 2008. We were able to take our daughter with us to the orphanage. We got to spend a day at the orphanage, and it was quite the overwhelming experience.

During this trip I saw a side of my daughter I haven’t seen much. She was wonderful the entire trip. She didn’t complain once. She went along with whatever we were doing happily. Most of all, she was very helpful and compassionate towards our new son, her new brother. They played together, and she helped mom with things she needed to do… it was a pleasure to have her there.

Over the past five months I have seen this my daughter mature more than I could have expected. She is more affectionate to me now and I believe you were dead on about her respect for me. When she discovered what I told her that I love her too much to allow her to become this hateful child, she understood that to some degree, and I think she respects that.

She’s still not the perfect child, but none are. Some seem to be easier to parent that others, but they all come with their challenges! This one has been particularly challenging! I keep comparing her to my first-born, but I now realize that to assign some relevance to birth order is probably absurd.

Now the test will be to see how well she maintains this new attitude when school starts in a couple of weeks. With a new brother in the house, and another one leaving for college, it’s going to be a different dynamic. I am grateful for the child she has become.

Again, thanks so much for your time and Godly advice.

BRENT:

Great news… so happy to hear things are moving in the right direction and working out. Life doesn’t always steer towards “happy endings” but it’s sure nice to get one every now and then.

I’m glad you discovered this “firstborn” stuff is nonsense (as well as any other general categorization of personality). All that is grounded in either anecdotal evidence, wives tales, cultural myths or humanistic thinking.

The fact is, we are all born sinful. We all have character flaws, bad habits and sinful tendencies. Each of our kids are uniquely created by God and we need only to ask God to give us the wisdom to know how to parent each one specifically.

In the end though, our kids grow up to be adults and make their own decisions. We cannot force them to be “good”, whatever that may mean to us. We parent them the best we can, and leave them in God’s capable hands. We need not live in “parental regret” all the time. Do your best and trust God.

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