Found it!

synchro.jpgOur long search for the video of the famous Saturday Night Live Men’s Synchronized Swimming skit is over. We found a DVD of some of Harry Shearer’s work that contains it. You can read the script here.

Parenting 101 & the Prison Psychiatrist’s Couch

As we prepare to move our oldest off to a ballet company and to college, I thought about one of my first posts and present it here with a few updates. 

Here is my basic parenting philosophy: If I make any mistakes my kids can always work them out later on the prison psychiatrist’s couch.

Seriously, I highly recommend three books for every parent:

1. The Bible – News flash: The God who created the universe and everything in it had some good advice on parenting. Shocking! I thank God that I got serious about my faith around the time my kids were born. It has made me a much better (though still quite imperfect) parent.

2. Parenting with Love and Logic – Great practical tips on letting your kids learn by natural and logical consequences. This has made our parenting easier and better.  Of course you should protect your kids in age appropriate ways from dangerous situations.  But too many parents spare their kids any consequences such that they don’t learn responsibility.

3. The 5 Love Languages – Learn your kids’ preferences for giving and receiving love. Works wonders for spouses, too! It isn’t psycho-babble. It is an easy read that is full of practical advice on relationships. Everyone I know who has read this got a lot out of it. Like many successful books, this one has a special edition for any subcategory you can imagine – teens, kids, German Shepherds, etc. But the original is a good one-size-fits-all, so when in doubt stick with that.  Most parents love their kids, but this book gave good advice on being more intentional and effective about showing it.

When in doubt, express love in all these ways: Quality time, words of affirmation, physical touch, acts of service and gifts.

It also contains some truly important advice on not marrying too quickly, because we can all put on a good act for a short period of time when we are in courting mode.

To state the obvious, pray for your kids.  We did this regularly and specifically most of the time — for wisdom, safety, character qualities, potential spouses, etc., and especially that they will come to know Jesus in an authentic and meaningful way.

Being a parent is the most important job you’ll ever have.

Philippians 1

This reading is Philippians 1.

When Paul refers to the Philippians as saints, he means it in the sense of being “set apart,” not that they are perfect. Paul referred to the “Lord Jesus Christ,” which is rich in meaning. As Lord, He is over all and we are subject to him. As Jesus, He is our Savior. And as Christ, He is the Messiah promised to the Jews.

As shown in verses 3-4, Paul obviously had a strong relationship with the Philippians: “I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy.

Verse 6 teaches the doctrine of eternal security, that is, if you are really in Christ then you will stay that way. Don’t confuse that with the doctrine of assurance, which deals with whether you really are in Christ or not.

Paul is sometimes misconstrued as being harsh or chauvinistic, but if you read his writings closely, he is very personal and caring. Consider verse 7: “It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart . . “

As God does so often, a bad situation like Paul’s imprisonment is used for good, as Rome’s “whole palace guard” heard of Christ because of it. You get the feeling that no one could be around Paul for long without hearing about Jesus. In addition, Paul’s example emboldened other believers to more courageous and fearless.

Paul humbled himself so much that he didn’t even care if others used his situation against him to preach about Jesus, as long as they got the Gospel right.

Verse 21 (“For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain”) is famous. He has such confidence in the Lord that he is willing to be obedient and suffer on earth though he would prefer to be with Jesus in Heaven.

Paul notes that all Christians will suffer for their belief in some way – “For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him.” This is an important point to mention when sharing the Gospel. Sometimes churches focus solely on the peace, love and joy parts of Christianity without mentioning the suffering and sacrifice it can require.

Paul challenges the church to stay unified, “contending as one man for the faith of the Gospel.” Fellowship is much more than just cookies and punch after church. It is living life together and carrying out the mission of Christ’s church together.

The next reading is Philippians 2.

I don’t know, but I’ll find out.

This is a rerun from 2006.  Long time readers: Try to look surprised.

question-mark.gifSeven really important words for evangelism and apologetics are, “I don’t know, but I’ll find out.”

1 Peter 3:15-16 gives the following command to Christians:

But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.

So we must be ready to graciously explain why we believe in Christ. But there will always be questions we don’t have the answers to. Sometimes when we get stumped we resort to poorly made arguments such as “Because the Bible says so!”

But when we don’t have well reasoned answers to share we should not make them up. This is a corollary to the advice about the first thing to do when you have dug yourself into a hole (“Stop digging.”)

Consider the following benefits of being willing to say, “I don’t know, but I’ll find out.”

  • It is a humble response. You burst the stereotype that Christians are smug know-it-alls who aren’t willing to listen.
  • It takes all the pressure off of you.
  • It keeps you from giving bad answers. Remember that one bad argument can undermine ten good arguments. Skeptics will seize on it and use it to justify their position.
  • It gives you time to prepare better answers.
  • It lets you make an appointment to come back later to talk about God. This is invaluable, as you can approach the person later and say, “Remember when you had that question about . . .”
  • By taking the objection off the table temporarily, you can shift back to the Gospel, as in “While I can’t answer that right now, here is what I do know . . .”

Of course, you may use different words to convey this. You might say, “That’s a good question. Let me think about it and get back with you. Thanks for giving me something to think about,” or something similar. The main thing is to humbly convey that you listened to what the other person said, that you don’t have a ready answer and that you care enough to do some research and get back to them.

Keep in mind that just because you don’t have an answer right then doesn’t mean that Christianity isn’t true. If the essentials of Christianity are true (e.g., Jesus is God, He is the only way to salvation, the Bible is authoritative and accurate, etc.), then they are true regardless of whether someone can explain them or not or whether someone wants them to be true. All you need to know is where to go find the answers to the tough questions. You can maintain your confidence in what you do know to be true. In fact, when we respond graciously to critics we come across more confident than if we get overly excited and emotional.

Hat tip for parts of this: Stand to Reason

Hypocrisy or good parenting?

Is it hypocritical to forbid your kids to do things you did as a youth? No. It is called good parenting.

But some parents have bought into the lie that it would be hypocritical to steer their kids away from drinking, pre-marital sex or fill-in-the-blank just because they did such things when they were young.

But consider what happens if you take that reasoning to its logical conclusion: Your kids could do all the bad things you did (and admit it, there were many!) without a consequence from you. There is a running joke in my house that when my daughters are 21 I’ll tell them about (most of) the bad things I did as a youth.

Hypocrisy is pretending to be something you are not in the present. Just because you did something before doesn’t make it hypocritical to speak out against it now. In fact, to do so is a sign of growth and maturity.

Now, if you get drunk then tell your kids not to drink or do drugs, that is hypocrisy. If you cheat on your taxes and tell your kids not to cheat in school, that is hypocrisy. If you are unrepentantly smoking, lusting, hating, etc. and teaching your kids otherwise, that is hypocrisy.

Philippians overview

Welcome to the overview of Philippians.

Who wrote this? The Apostle Paul (formerly known as Saul).

Paul’s story was recounted three times in the Book of Acts, in chapters 9, 22 and 26. His conversion is amazing and important for a couple major reasons. First, if the main persecutor of Christians and the church can be converted, anyone can. His job was to destroy Christians and Christianity. Jesus even said, “Saul, Saul why do you persecute me?” Yet he was forgiven and transformed. He became the first missionary to the Gentiles (non-Jews) and arguably the best missionary ever.

Second, Paul was a first-rate Jew in every measurable way. He listed his credentials in Philippians 3 and 2 Corinthians 11 yet pointed out how that wasn’t enough to reconcile himself to God. So if Paul still needed Jesus, then everyone does.

It is important to note that Paul wrote this while in jail. His message of joy is that much more powerful considering his environment.

Who was Paul writing to, and why was he writing? New Testament letters were typically written to correct false teachings, but Philippians was an exception. It is mainly a thank-you letter to the church in Philippi, Greece that Paul had started and that had helped him immensely. This church most likely helped and fed Paul when he was in the Philippian jail in Acts 16:25-40. In those times, if someone didn’t come to feed the prisoners they might starve to death.

When was it written? Roughly 61 AD, which is nearly thirty years after Jesus’ resurrection and roughly three years before Paul was put to death for being a Christian.

The resounding theme of Philippians is joy. He mentions joy or rejoice sixteen times. Only Luke mentions joy more, and that book is twelve times the length of this one. So Philippians has more joy per page than any book in the Bible.

It is important to note the distinction between happiness, which depends on current circumstances, and the joy of Christ, which depends on Jesus. We can be unhappy yet joyful at the same time.

I encourage you to read the whole book of Philippians quickly then go back through one chapter at a time.

If you really want to dig deeply into this incredible book, I recommend James MacDonald’s audio series, I Choose Joy. It contains about eight hours of a series of sermons which cover Philippians verse by verse. Many of my study notes will come from that series.

The next reading is Philippians 1.

Listening to the Bible

Years ago a friend told me how he listened to the Bible when he commuted. I bought some tapes from a ministry called Faith Comes by Hearing and started listening to them. They have many versions to choose from. You can get tapes, CDs or MP3s. There are many other organizations that produce audio Bibles.

The whole Bible takes about 80 hours to listen to. With 15 minutes a day, you could listen to the Bible in a year, or the New Testament in just 3 months.

Sometimes I listen in my car, exercising, or when I’m doing yardwork or anything mundane.

Even if you like to read, give listening a try. You will be surprised at the things you pick up that you miss when you read (and vice verse).

Romans 10:17 Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.

We look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.