Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Ruling Your Own Desires

I love the inspiring story of Joseph’s life in the book of Genesis. There are a few things that stand out to me in the story, first, his ability to forgive people who hurt him. Secondly, his persevering attitude in the face of disappointing setbacks and thirdly, his ability to rule over his own desires. It is this last thing I want to focus on. Joseph had the ability to control himself and exercise self-control in very difficult situations. We see and hear today that, that kind of self-control should not be expected from young people today. There are too many extenuating circumstances that mitigate a young person’s ability to control themselves, such as poverty, coming from a dysfunctional home or growing up as part of a minority. The Safe-Sex campaign that has passed out condoms to our kids for the last 30 years believes we shouldn’t expect our kids to have any self-control when it comes to sex.  They say it’s going to happen so let’s just help them be better prepared. Incidentally, the Safe-Sex campaign has turned out to not be so safe because STD’s are up and teenage pregnancies are up.

Joseph demonstrated that a young man or young woman can have self-control. He was set-up by his master’s wife. She cornered him when he was alone and there was no else around. She said to him, “Come to bed with me!” But Joseph refused (Gen 39:7-12). Joseph gave her his reasons. First, how could he do this to his master who trusted him? We call this loyalty and integrity. Secondly, how could he do this to God? We call this morality. When a young person is raised with a sense of integrity and morality, they can say no. Those two qualities produce inner strength that helps them rule over their spirit. They are not a slave to their passions and helpless to the demands of their sexual hormones like the Safe-Sex campaign purports. Joseph demonstrated that a young person can say no to seductive temptations that would ruin their lives and later say yes to the one right person. Joseph did that later when he married and had two sons and enjoyed his family.

God made sex for marriage, and within those confines it meets the emotional and physical needs of the couple. Sex outside that bond will never be completely satisfied. It will always demand more. I remember watching Dr. James Dobson’s interview with Ted Bundy, the infamous serial killer just before he was executed. Bundy’s own admission was that he got started on pornography very early and could never seem to be satisfied with any sexual encounter. His desires controlled him and always demanded more until eventually he became a killer. Not every person in pornography becomes a killer, but I can tell you that they will know that same unfulfilled desire. They will be more controlled by their desires and less connected to real meaningful relationships. Joseph is a picture of what God intended for all of us. Today the lies are everywhere that it doesn’t matter if you live with someone or become sexually active before marriage. I am here to tell you that it does matter.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Preparing Our Children to Be Future Mothers & Fathers

It is a sobering thought to think that our children are learning every day in the normal routine of our homes how to be a husband, wife and a future mother and father. The effort to work on our marriages is more than making us happy, which in itself is worth the effort, but we are also influencing our children by the quality of our marriages.  Why is it so important to be honest and authentic with our spouses and children? It is because this is the only way to produce that same authenticity in them.  Why is it so important to exercise self-control in our interaction with our family? It is because we are teaching our children how to interact. 

Children learn how to control their emotion from watching us—the parents.  We can see their progress as they relate to their peers. From very early on we can see how they learn to share and communicate with respect.  Only if we value their emotions and are willing to teach them to value another person’s feelings will they learn to communicate with respect. Our children will learn to tolerate negative emotion by showing patience with another person who is upset or angry only if they have seen us do that.  If they have felt our impatience and disregard for their feelings and desires, they will do the same to their peers.

Dorothy Law Nolte, a writer and family counselor wrote a poem entitled "Children Learn What They Live," in which she clearly expresses the challenge of parenting for the future.

If a Child Lives with Criticism
If children live with criticism, they learn to condemn.
If children live with hostility, they learn to fight.
If children live with fear, they learn to be apprehensive.
If children live with pity, they learn to feel sorry for themselves.
If children live with ridicule, they learn to be shy.
If children live with jealousy, they learn what envy is.
If children live with shame, they learn to feel guilty.
If children live with tolerance, they learn to be patient.
If children live with encouragement, they learn to be confident.
If children live with praise, they learn to appreciate.
If children live with approval, they learn to like themselves.
If children live with acceptance, they learn to find love in the world.
If children live with recognition, they learn to have a goal.
If children live with sharing, they learn to be generous.
If children live with honesty and fairness, they learn what truth and justice are.
If children live with security, they learn to have faith in themselves and in those around them.
If children live with friendliness, they learn that the world is a nice place in which to live.
If children live with serenity, they learn to have peace of mind.
With what are your children living?[1]

[1] Harris, Rachel; Nolte, Dorothy Law (1998-01-05). Children Learn What They Live. Workman Publishing Company. Kindle Edition.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016


The older I get the more I realize that self-control is so important in life. It is essential to being good at anything we do. Just think about how great athletes have to perfect self-control in their handling of the ball or the bat or whatever their sport is. Self-control is about mastering concentration and staying focused.  However, the greatest self-control is needed when it comes to interpersonal relationships. If you want to be a good husband or wife or great parent, you have to exercise self-control. This is, of course, the area that is most difficult to master. It is ourselves—our anger, our feelings of rejection and a host of negative emotions. The superstar athlete may be fantastic on the field but a disaster at home. There is no challenge in human existence any more difficult than the exercising of control over our emotions which translates into words and actions when we are confronted with opposing emotions.

This is the area where Jesus showed so much control. He lived with self-restraint. Let me show you a passage that highlights this characteristic about Jesus. It is one of the most remarkable statements about Jesus in the whole of the Bible. The statement I am sharing with you about Jesus comes with a setting of rejection. Matthew includes this quote from Isaiah to highlight Jesus’ self-control when he was being rejected. Rejection is one of the most difficult human emotions to deal with, but Jesus overcame any tendency to give in to it. Matthew states: “But the Pharisees went out and plotted how they might kill Jesus. Aware of this, Jesus withdrew from that place. Many followed him, and he healed all their sick, warning them not to tell who he was” (Matt 12:14-17).

This statement is about the incredible self-control and restraint that Jesus used. He could simply have told his followers what the Pharisees were planning, but he didn’t. He could have been so discouraged that he stopped ministering to people, but he didn’t. He could have let everyone know who he was and demand his way, but he didn’t. He lived under the control of self-restraint. Here are Isaiah’s words about Jesus written 700 years before Jesus fulfilled them:

Matthew 12:15-21
18 "Here is my servant whom I have chosen,
the one I love, in whom I delight;
I will put my Spirit on him,
and he will proclaim justice to the nations.
19 He will not quarrel or cry out;
no one will hear his voice in the streets.
20 A bruised reed he will not break,
and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out,
till he leads justice to victory.
21 In his name the nations will put their hope."

Marriages would improve immediately, parenting would be transformed, teamwork on the job would advance, and community would grow in our congregations when we learn to exercise more self-control. It means we listen more and talk less, and when we do talk, we have something to say. When we apologize, we actually explain what we did and how we plan to change our attitude and behavior. Self-control gives us insight into our own lives and those around us like nothing else can do. This is how Jesus lived, and we his followers are to live like him.