Dear Children

Letters From A Father's Heart

Archive for the category “relationships”

One Way To Free Yourself From The Surly Bonds Of Common Deceptions ++*

Dear children,

Sometimes different things get mixed up and start swirling around together in such a way that makes them dangerous.  They can get so out of hand, in fact, that they wind up tearing lots of stuff up while standers-by watch, wide-eyed and gasping with their hands over their mouths.  If you could pretend for a moment that separating the debris from the wind in a tornado would render it harmless, that would go a long way in helping me to explain what I want you to understand here.  For the truth is, in a lot of different things that seem to bring confusion, if we could separate the parts that make them that way, it might bring clarity.  In short, we need to be able to look at the whirlwind while discerning the dust from the wind.  I have learned that it is possible to train oneself to do this.  If I could teach you to do the same, perhaps I can help save you from some confusion, or at least to better understand the confusion that you will be finding yourself emersed in.

The difficulty in getting this across is first and foremost a difficulty of words, for I must attempt to explain it well enough, and with enough examples to get you started, while at the same time not bore you too much.  So, in order to attempt that, I’ll simply move right into a few kinds of examples of what I’m talking about:

Education and morality -I was working with a man recently who told me that his 16-year-old step-son was living alone in another state.  So I asked him how the boy was coming along without adult oversight?  He answered by telling me that the young man was making good grades.  But that didn’t answer my question.  He was confusing good grades with morality. You will find this to be quite a common thing.

As for me, I’ve seen news reports where young people have gotten into terrible trouble. The response from those who knew the wayward young man was all too common. They always seem to be shocked. And, they’re shocked because, after all, the kid did make good grades.  You are living in a culture that idolizes education, and as such, I think it may be a little challenging for it to separate its little god of education from its morality. So when you are older, know your children’s heart as much as you are able.  Don’t confuse their smartness, or their accumulated knowledge, with their goodness.  And remember that really smart people can be really evil too, while mental slowness is by no means a sign of a moral handicap.  I’m personally thankful for that one.

Another similar thing to education that gets mixed up with morality is health.  I asked a woman once why she thought her daughter’s fiance was a good man for her.  She seemed as though she had been caught off guard by the question. It was as if the thought had never occurred to her.  After thinking a bit she finally said that it was because he was healthy.  “Oh”, I said.  Still, many others confuse beauty with morality. But probably worse than anything else along these lines is the confusing of feelings with morality, as in, if it feels good, it’s moral.  But all of these are totally separate things and should be discerned from each other when deciphering the realities that whirl about you.

The institutionalization of sin – As I write this we await what might be the greatest spectacle of hubris ever put on display by man.  Nine judges are going to decide if a square can be a circle. Of course, that’s not what they’re really deciding, but it might as well be because deciding whether or not a man can marry another man is equally as absurd.  Of course, the court’s decision will have no bearing on reality, but rather it can only succeed in changing the meaning of a word: “marriage”.  It will also determine in many ways whether or not we will be a nation that plans on living in reality or a fantasy land.

But be that as it may, the Church has for some time been in a difficult place concerning such cause-celeb sins of our day, only because so many in its midst have not separated the debris from the wind.  As is typical, there are many things that are happening at the same time that must be understood separately if they are to be understood together.  For example here are two things that work together.  On the one hand, Jesus clearly taught His followers to love their neighbors as themselves. And I am inclined to believe that Jesus did not mean to exclude those who practice a certain sin as being our neighbor.  But, on the other hand, there are political movements afoot that are much greater than any one individual, and we must not confuse a single person with a collective political movement, even if that poor soul is part of the movement.  Nor should we give the movement a pass for the sake of any one individual. These movements appear to have as their goal the wiping away of all vestiges of God, family, and Church as the Bible defines them; preferring instead to redefine them in ways that are more malleable and palatable.  They approach, under the cover of compassion, and they seem to only be requesting from the Church what Jesus commanded of it anyway.  But Jesus also taught that the Church is the light in this world.  He never taught us to have compassion for political movements that seek as their end to, not only justify sin, but to force all to accept it.  Sadly, many Christians bristle at the suggestion that there should be any resistance to these movements because they are simply unable to differentiate between resisting collective evil and loving an individual caught up in that evil.

We are to preach the Gospel to the individual, which includes repentance and forgiveness.  We are to shine a light into dark places in this world, which we know will cause it to hate us, and our Savior.  But Jesus tells us that some will repent and become redeemed children of God.  We are to be the very hands of God, pulling individuals from the torrents of collective evil, and not fearing what man thinks of us for daring to call those torrents evil.

Judging others – Sin destroys.  So, we have on the one hand your sin.  And then on the other we have my sin.  And the two are similar things in that they both destroy.  But they are different things too, in that we are two different human beings.  When a loved one calls us out on our sin we have a choice. We can feel attacked, and we can make counter-accusations, or we can listen and consider what they say. In choosing the former, however, we cause a destructive whirlwind.  If I, your father–or someone else who is a friend–points out sin in your life, it is a loving thing for them to do and you ought to see it as such.  It is foolish to evade such love by accusing them of “judging” you because they themselves are not without sin.  If anyone wants to discuss the sin in my life, let us do so. There is much to discuss. But let us not discuss my sin at the same time that we discuss theirs. One person’s sin does not make another’s sin okay.

If we dare not help each other pick the splinters from our eyes, we will end up both blinded, and the best we could ever hope for is to not wander into a pit. Blinded is where much of Christendom lives today, but you don’t have to live there.  Thank the brother who loves you enough to hold you accountable. And don’t be afraid to love others enough to hold them accountable. It is important to understand that no one else’s sin makes your sin not sin.  Desire to live righteously.  Ask the one who points out your sin to help you overcome it as you help others in any way you can to overcome theirs.


So here I have given you just a few examples of how some things that would otherwise confound can be better understood.  I hope that you will train yourself to disassemble them and grasp and interact with their component parts separately.   If you work on thinking in this way it will become your second nature, and you will be all the wiser for it.  I pray that you would grow in this area.

Your father


There’s A Worm In Everything, Managing Expectations And Preparing For Marriage*

Dear children,

A friend once told me over a cup of coffee, “There’s a worm in everything.” I’ve found that to be true. No matter what the wonderful thing you’re looking forward to is, you can count on there being worms in it once that wonderful thing is at your door.  You build something up in your mind with great expectations and it becomes this thing to look forward to with no down sides at all.  But then the day finally comes and things happen that seem to cause it to fall short of your expectations.  And the bigger your expectations the bigger even the small problems feel.  Those problems and other unexpected difficulties are the worms, and you need to know that those worms are going to find their way into everything.  That’s just life.

When we are young our expectations tend to be in smaller events, like camping trips, or special occasions we’ve arranged. But when we’re older we can put our expectations into life-long things, like careers and marriage. And not having reasonable expectations, or, refusing to consider the downsides in your more life-encompassing endeavors can lead you into a disposition of disappointment needlessly. No matter how wonderful you think something is going to be now, it will not be perfect then, so you would be wise to prepare yourself ahead of time by expecting the worms along with the good.

It is my desire for you to learn these things, and to think this way about the things that you look forward to, big or small. It will not only help you to overcome disappointments that are coming, and so therefore be a happier person, it will also help you to learn while you are young to approach all of life with this same mindset.

When marriage does come for you, it will probably be the most expectation filled endeavor that you will ever have, and likewise, it will also be the one place that worms can do the most damage. God made us to feel a powerful feeling when we find ourselves attracted to someone who is attracted to us. There’s nothing like it. It’s like a drug.  And as drugs go, they wear off, and then you realize that you’ve been blinded for a time and there are some worms that you will be dealing with for the rest of your life. And to be sure, it’s not like the worms might be there, I’m promising you that they most definitely will. But don’t feel bad. Your spouse will be dealing with their fair share of worms too.  Such things are a given. It doesn’t mean you ought to abandon your new family and go off chasing that high again. It means that it’s time to begin the work of loving and sacrificing for someone else, in the true sense of those words. And whatever you do don’t forget, those who trade in their old worms only trade them in for new ones. Better to let the familiar worms perform the work of turning you into a good, decent and faithful human being who knows how to love someone even when you don’t feel like it.

That all said, I feel it necessary to talk a bit about my marriage to your mom. It might be misunderstood that I am insinuating that I’m not happily married. Nothing could be further from the truth. The real truth is that, because I never expected perfection, or marital bliss, I’ve not been in any way disappointed in our marriage. I married a fellow sinner which means that I married all the little things that make her a sinner. And she married someone much worse, as I’m sure you both can attest. And we have managed to love each other through the years, and in fact, we have become pretty adept at slaying and managing worms, and are looking forward to a long life together with godly anticipation, should God so grant us that privilege. But we both had to slay and quarantine some worms to get where we are now, and that doesn’t happen by running from one can of worms to the next, ever searching for that empty can.  I promise you, it is not out there.

A friend gave me some good advice about marriage.  He said to keep both eyes wide open before the wedding, and then afterward to close one. That was good worm management advice. That “drug” induced fog we can find ourselves in has a way of minimizing worms, or making them disappear altogether. But that is the very time that you need to be taking a close look at worms because they have a way of growing. After you become one with someone else, then your and your beloved’s worms become your worms; “your” meaning the two of you. So one of the things you might keep both eyes wide open for is to see how your future spouse manages worms, because your spouse will have plenty to manage.  Such is life.

Keep in mind that some of the worms that you can encounter can grow to monsters.  Believe me also on this, my beloveds, love will not overcome some worms.  We humans are masters at lying to ourselves to get what we want, and then to get rid of the same when we realize that we no longer want it. The best plan is to have realistic expectations, ask for and listen to Godly counsel, and be willing to put yourself through a little pain early to save yourself from a lot of pain later.

I talked to an 85 year old man just the other day. He was on his 68th year of marriage and his wife is now suffering from dementia. As I talked to him I didn’t have to ask him if he had lived through 67 years of marital bliss. Ups and downs are a part of marriage, and the ups can be high and the downs can be low. But learning that love is more than some blissful high, and in fact can endure dark days void of any feeling at all, will not only pave the way for the happiest life you can expect, it will grow you up into a sound, grounded and mature human being.  As your father I want you to live as happy of lives as you can possibly live.  But I am a realist, and I desire that you be a realist also. So I pray that you would thoroughly understand that you live in a fallen world, and that you bring your own fallen nature to bear on that world also. I pray that you learn to manage disappointments and even to flourish as a husband and a wife in spite of them, and perhaps I might even dare to say, because of them.  I pray that you would be godly, raise godly children, and would love God with all you can muster, all the days of your life.

Your father.

Some Management Advice For Disappointment*

Dear children

We are fallen creatures and as such we don’t always behave well.   Knowing and accepting this fact is a good first step on the road to becoming a decent human being.  As I often tell you, the worst battles in your life will be with your very self.  With that in mind I would like to write to you this day on managing disappointments.  Here are four thoughts on how to do this.

1. Manage your expectations.

Expectation, so I’m told, is the leading cause of disappointment. So, when it comes to managing disappointments, managing expectations is a preemptive action.  What should we expect out of life?  Well, one thing we ought to expect is a healthy dose of disappointment.  If we expect it, then we won’t be disappointed when it comes.

Also, when disappointment finally does arrive, we should also be realistic about what it is exactly that we are disappointed about.  As my good friend says, there’s a worm in everything.  We are masters at building the things that we look forward to up in our minds to be bigger and better than they could have ever actually been.  Such disappointments could be as big and encompassing as a career, or marriage, or something as small as a birthday party.  But when, for whatever reason, a thing we are so looking forward to doesn’t com to pass, we need to first realize that our disappointment is not with the loss of the actual thing but rather the loss of an idea that we created in our minds.

Also, while we should have hopes, goals and dreams that are worth looking forward to or achieving, we should not hold them so tightly that we lose our sense of reality.  I once wanted to play the guitar and sing.  You both know that I can’t sing, which is something that I didn’t know when I first picked up the guitar.  I can’t sing because I am somewhat tone deaf, which is also why I’ll never be able to play any musical instrument very well.  Things like this, and much much worse, are going to happen.  When they do, some of them will have the potential to change our course in life from that which we expected; and we can expect that.  So it is important to manage those expectations and adapt, both in the big things and the little.

2. Manage Your Disappointments 

You can find yourselves a little depressed for a few days when something small, like say a vacation, doesn’t end up happening.  Or it can be devastating when that fiance lets you know that there’s been a change of heart.  If we have managed our expectations well then hopefully we are more prepared to manage our disappointments.  First there are things we should do, like being honest with ourselves and others. We should let those close to us know that we are battling disappointment, and ask their forgiveness for the times that this battle has spilled over into the relationship. Ask for grace from those you love, and extend grace to those who are not handling your behavior well.  We should grieve if grief is due.  And we should realize that time will heal our wounds.  Your life will not be made by a few successes, nor will it be ruined by a few failures and disappointments.  It will be an accumulation of successes and failures, wins and losses, victories and defeats of all types that will end up making your life what it will be, and you who you are.  Learning to manage disappointments well will make it easier and quicker to climb out of the valleys when they come.  So begin now to learn how.

3. Manage Yourself

It is a learned skill to manage one’s self, though it does take some longer than others.  The learning process will be quicker if you realize that you are in the midst of just that, a process.  You will find that this process will be a life long venture that ever requires development and attention.

You can start with your thought life.  As I always say, think about what you’re thinking about.  Manage your thinking so that you don’t descend into an emotional pit.  If we actively attempt to direct our thought life it is actually possible to gain some semblance of control over it.  This will go a long way in helping you to manage your emotions and so manage yourself.

Second, ask for help.  Everyone, either knowingly or unknowingly. manages themselves in some way.  When you know someone who does this well, try to glean from their abilities.  But also keep in mind that everyone’s disposition is not the same.  Some are simply predisposed to dealing with adversity better than others.  But neither is anyone stuck with who they are.  Growth is always possible.

4. Manage Your Relationships

There is probably nothing external to yourself that will determine your destiny more than the company you keep.  Some friends will feed your disappointment with words of rage.  You will be strangely drawn to their affirmation of your disappointment as it feeds a monster within, and your own thoughts will grow increasingly bitter.  This is Godlessness and it leads to misery.

There are some friends however who will come along side of you and give you a measure of comfort.  But they will also help you overcome your disappointment by assisting you in getting beyond it.  They will have grace for your failures, and will desire what is best in you and for you.  They can also help you gain some perspective that is outside of yourself and your current trial, and can help you see more clearly the reality that, no matter what the disappointment, not all is lost.

For this reason, it is of the utmost importance that you choose relationships wisely.  Realize when someone is aggravating a situation, or is helping to heal it. Also, with this in mind, be the friend to others that you need for yourself when your friend or loved one is walking through disappointment.  Learn from good friends how to be a good friend and be willing to teach the same in a loving way.


My dear children, I wish that I could say that I have lived up to this advice.  But, as I am well aware that you know, and that you know that I know, this has not been the case.  Still, I think that you would agree that I am not the same now as I was, and in fact have grown in my abilities to manage these things also.  And that’s just it.  Growth is what I expect from you, and it is also what you should expect from yourselves.  I pray that God will give you the wisdom early to have success in managing this thing we call our flesh so that your lives will be Godly, and filled with as much happiness as one can expect while living in this sin soaked world.

Your father.

The Law Of God, Prison Or Sanctuary?*

Dear children

As you live out your Christian faith you will discover that God’s law and His grace can at times be difficult to reconcile.  You will encounter a full spectrum of thinking concerning the tensions that exist between the two.  On one end of that spectrum there are those who would say that the law of God has been abolished and that we can live as we please because we are under grace.  On the other end you will find those who say that God’s law is still in effect, many of whom will attempt to obey it in order to gain God’s approval.  And, within the scriptures, there is texts to support both.  Experience can also lend its weight behind one or the other depending on how one interprets life.  In this letter I simply want to give you something to think about as you contemplate where the correct place on the spectrum is; and please know that I believe that there is a correct, as well as an incorrect,  place to be. To do this I will use a metaphor.

Imagine for me a circular fence that encompasses a field with a temple at the center. The fence will represent God’s law and the temple the dwelling place of Jehovah.  Now, put yourself in the courtyard between the temple and the fence, because if you are a follower of Christ, that’s where you will live.

All of humanity begins outside of the fence, for all men have broken God’s law and so therefore are unholy and banished from entering.  All on the outside of the fence are living in rebellion against the law.  For them, the fence will be seen differently than it is for those who live on the inside.  For some it will have the feel and appearance of a prison, threatening to keep them locked up, denying them the freedom to appease their flesh.  These will not want any part of the law’s protective presence.

And then there are others who will hate the fence simply because it exists.  Fences, by their very nature, exclude and divide, and for that reason the fence is passionately hated.  All men, so it is thought, have rights to be included in all things, divine or not, and to decide for themselves with certainty that their decisions are righteous.  Therefore these will want the fence destroyed and so they may well devote their entire lives to those ends.  They hate God’s law and desire rather to live under the illusion that there is no distinctions between men.  “God loves everyone unconditionally” they will say, and there is no need for any fences that might be misinterpreted as God loving some more than others.  And besides, such fences make God look like a kill-joy in the sight of our fellow man.

Then perhaps there are those who see themselves as on the inside of the fence, but who are not.  For these, their gaze and desires are for what lies beyond its confines of the fence to the “good times” being had by all who do not suffer its restraint.  Though they acknowledge the temple behind them, their concerns and priority is with the fence, and getting as close to what is beyond the fence while convincing themselves that they are still on the inside.

But then there are some who spend their time at the door of the temple, wondering about what our Lord is doing in there, and eagerly waiting with perseverance for any glimpse they might have the occasion to gain.  For these, the fence is behind them.  It is not of much concern and they are not fixated on it.  They do not concern themselves so much with possible loop holes and such.  Their interests lie with the Lord of the Temple.

With this perspective in mind let us change our metaphor a bit to bring it down to a more personal level.  Let us look at another circle with you at the center, me in the courtyard, and your “law” for me as the fence.  Your law would be, let us say, that I love you, that I provide for you, that I protect you and your mother and sibling, that I instruct you, that I spend time with you, and that I not harm or hurt you.  Now let us suppose that I keep all of these laws to the letter, out of duty, but all the while my heart and my mind is elsewhere.  My real and obvious desire is to do other things that have nothing to do with you, but still, I keep your law to the best of my ability.  My relationship with you, therefore, is governed by these laws, and my duty to fulfill them.  So, it only stands to reason that I would in many ways ignore you, ever focusing on your laws as I search for ways that I might keep them for you while still fulfilling my own true desires.  It is obvious that such a relationship would be empty.  But you know that this is not how our relationship works.  The fact is that I love you.  I don’t obey these “laws”, I fulfill them without burden because of this love, and you do the same for me also, because you love me.  Do we fulfill them perfectly?  Of course not.  We transgress often, and the sting of the law is there when we do, but we are not cast out, because we love each other.

As goes the relationship between people who love each other, perhaps we can say, so goes, in part anyway, our relationship with God.  But let me add one last nuance to consider so that I might take the metaphor from a static picture to real life, which is always dynamic.  I would love to say that my life before you has exemplified someone standing at the door of the temple attempting to get a glimpse of our Lord.  But we all know it hasn’t.  I can only say that there have been episodes in my life where this has been the case.  There have also been times in when I have stood at the fence looking out, my back to the temple.  Looking back, I am thankful for the fence, which kept me in the “courtyard”.  This is a reality of life as a worshiper of our God, just as it is a reality of life in human relationships.  If you are in Christ, your life will be lived between the fence and the temple, at different times closer to one than the other.

My prayer for you is that God will put a desire in your hearts to live your lives on the doorstep of the temple, that you would long for our Lord, to know Him and to experience Him.  You may pray the same for me also.

Your father

Love God*

Dear children

I  can sum up every thing I want to say to you in these letters by simply repeating the greatest command: Love God.  Those two words, as simple as they are on the surface, will require your entire life to unpack, and perhaps even an eternity for all I know.  So here are a few things to think about concerning this simple challenge.

1. Don’t get things turned around.  Jesus said if you love me you will follow my commandments.  Some get this turned around and hear “you love me because you follow my commandments”.  Love God first, then following God’s commandments will flow from the Spirit.  If you simply attempt to will yourself to follow rules and rudiments, splitting hairs on what you can and can’t do, then you will be living in the flesh.  Studying the law in order to live a hair’s width inside of it is not loving God, and it doesn’t lead to following God’s commands either.  When this is your mindset, you are not keeping the greatest commandment.

2. Pray.  Ask God to put in your heart ever more love for Him.  Loving God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength is not a natural thing, and so we are not, in our fleshy selves, inclined to do it.  Loving God is a spiritual thing, and God is capable of giving  you love for himself based on His grace.  Once you love Him, living your life free from sin will be easier, though not easy.  But don’t let the “not easy” dissuade you.  No direction that you take in your life will be an easy one, even if you decide to reject God and live in rebellion.  If it looks easy, or it promises ease, you can know that Satan is involved somewhere.

3. Read the scriptures.  As God, by His grace, puts a love for Himself in your heart, you will also love the scriptures.  As you love the scriptures you will find that they will increasingly become an anchor for you in a world that seems bent on going mad.  You will find, as your knowledge of God through the scriptures increases, that your Biblical worldview will at the same time grow stronger.  This will make you wise beyond your years, and it will guide you in avoiding much anguish and many tears, though not all anguish and tears.

4. Fight.  Paul, an apostle, and the one who physically penned much of the New Testament, said at the end of his life “I have fought the good fight”.  The love of God is worth fighting for, and your most formidable foe in this fight will be your own self and the carnal desires which lead to death.  What ever it takes, therefor dear children, fight the good fight and love God.

5. Choose friends wisely.  They will help you fight the good fight, and you will help them.  The love of God is contagious.  Time spent among a body of believers that loves God will encourage you to love God all the more, and you will likewise encourage others.  But those in your inner circle will in many ways determine who you become.  Choose friends who live in such a way that challenges you, and who also love you enough to challenge you personally by holding you accountable.

6. Be discerning.  In this endeavor doctrine is your friend, especially as it pertains to God’s holiness and man’s depraved condition. Put God’s word inside of you thought study and memorization. God teaches us in parables. He expects us to apply ourselves in gaining knowledge, wisdom, and understanding. Be skeptical of new things. Test all things by the scriptures. Think rather than feel. Don’t assume that all words are defined the same way for all people.

7. Love others. The first step in loving others is to refine the meaning of the word “love” according to scripture. It does not mean the same for this world and God. Extend ample grace and compassion for those who are not your brothers and sisters in Christ. Help your brothers and sisters in Christ run the race, fight the fight, and do what you can to help them get untangled from the sins that ensnare them. Help them where they are weak as they help you.  Pray to your Father in Heaven and ask Him to give you discernment.  You will need it!

Your mother and I remind each other often of our number one desire for you.  It is a desire that surpasses every other, including your education and how well you make it in your life financially, both of which are prevailing idols of this age.  We desire more than anything else that you would love God with all of your heart mind soul and strength.  We have desired it also for ourselves, and before we were even married we set as a goal to love God as the foundation for our lives.  As you have noticed, we have failed, but the goal is still there.  Pray for us dear children as we pray for you that indeed our God would become the love of our lives in ever deeper ways.

Your father



Eight Things You Can Do To Be A Better Human Being *+

Dear children,

It is my very nature to be self focused, self centered, and self aggrandizing.  It is also yours.  So here are eight  things that can become a life-long project for you in the betterment of yourself.   All of these things I wish I had known when I was becoming an adult, and earlier.  But I did not know them, and so have many regrets.  This need not be so for you.

1. Repent

Yes, we must repent before God and rest in his forgiveness. But that kind of “repent” is not exactly what I’m talking about here, now.  I am talking about being willing and ready to repent concerning other people.   Admit when you are wrong, behaved badly, or in any other way have given into your fleshy nature toward others.  Ask forgiveness and then try to do better in the future.  When someone points something out, like say a boss, a family member, a friend, or even a stranger, consider their words.  Contemplate the question: “Why did they say that?”  “Is that really true?”  Ask those who love you to be honest, then allow them to actually be honest.  They are your best resource for learning the many not-so-wonderful things about yourself that you don’t even realize are there.

2. Forgive

People are going to be people.  They are going to fail, make mistakes, and in many other ways hurt you just as you will do to other people.  There will come a time in your life when you will wish more than anything in this world that you had not said or done something in a moment of anger or weakness.  You will understand in that time what it means to be forgiven by the one you have offended.  Never forget that moment, and recall it when someone is genuinely sorry.  Put things behind you.  The older you get, or the worse the offense, the more difficult this will be.  Ask God for help.

3. Check your motivation

Everything you set your hand to in this life will be the result of a motivation of some sort.  There is no getting around it and that fact is not necessarily a bad thing.  But it is a bad thing when we are motivated by the praise of others, even when what we are doing is a good thing.  You will avoid much embarrassment if you would spend your life working diligently at keeping your base motivations, that is the lust for praise and approval, in check.  You may ask yourself, why am I doing this?  Why am I saying this thing about myself if not to empress?  Do I want to be seen doing this this or that thing?  The answers will be telling.

4. Check your thinking

Your thoughts are indicators of your future doings.  Control your thought life and you will be a long way down the road of controlling yourself, which in itself is a Herculean task.

Our thoughts toward others can also lead us astray.  It is in your mind that you will first make your worst assumptions and judgments about the motivations of others.  Many times, if you will stop and think about it, you will see that you are projecting onto someone else things that you know are true about yourself.  And quite possibly you may be correct in your judgments.  But all this means is that this is a fellow human-being being just that, a human being.  Keep grace on hand.

We are also quite good at conjuring up thoughts about future actions of others we think that they might commit.  We can become angry in our hearts toward someone for something that they haven’t even done, nor probably will ever do, and then become angry about it.  As I always say, think about what you are thinking about.  Catch yourself when you do this and make yourself stop.  Let someone at least actually offend before you become offended.  This will save you a lot of heart ache.

It is in your thought life that will be the battlefield where your worst battles will be fought.  Memorizing, and being familiar with scripture will be your best weapon in this fight.

5. Keep some perspective

We can always ask our self the question, “Compared to who?”.  No matter what our circumstances, it is possible to think of others who have had it worse, or better.  We are all individually one person in the midst of billions of people.   Things can always get worse or better.  We should be thankful for what we ought, work toward something better, and realize that no matter what happens we will end up one person in the midst of billions, some of which will be more or less nicer and personable than you, richer than you, poorer than you, intelligent than you, attractive than you, and so on.  So don’t think too highly of yourself, nor too lowly.  Try your best to realize the truth about yourself, and be content with that.

6. Ask questions, listen to the answers

I once read of a study on social interactions.  In this study they put a group of people together with widely varying levels of income and education to study how well they all enjoyed each other’s company.  One might assume that the wealthier and educated people would be drawn to “their own kind”.  But the study showed that the one thing that determined whether the interaction between the people was enjoyable or not was how much each person had the opportunity to share in the conversation.  This, I think, says quite a bit about human relationships.  We generally have no need, as persons, to teach ourselves to speak but we are naturally deficient in listening.  And when I say listening, I don’t mean biding your time until it is your turn to talk, but to listen intently.  Determine to know more about others rather than desire others know about you.

7. Build others up

The best way to build someone up is to compliment them, and there are a lot of ways to compliment.  I personally love complements.  They can change my whole feeling about life in general, as well as my demeanor, even for a few days.  This is true for everyone I believe.  But I do not love to be patronized.  The difference is in the sincerity of a complement.  So train yourself first to admire things in others.  Everyone has something to teach you about something.  Therefore, as you ask questions, seek to learn new things.  Your interest will be a compliment.  Ask for advice from someone you respect in a given area.  That will be a compliment also and will never be misinterpreted as patronizing.  Never be stingy in pointing out things that you appreciate about others.  If you look, I think you will find that all people have many things about them that deserve sincere compliments.

8. Avoid inferiority and superiority complexes

You will never be the smartest, best looking, richest, nicest and most talented person in any room that you will ever walk into for the rest of your life, and you need to know that.  I think I can confidently make this claim as a true thing about you.  But this is not true for just you, it will be true for all others in the room too.  You will have your God-given strengths, and your God-given weaknesses.  You should make it your business to have some sort of idea of what they are for you so you can become comfortable with them.  You will find that your weaknesses are in some ways a gift to others.  They allow others to shine in their strengths.  How does it make you feel when I ask you how to spell a word?  Both of you children are already better spellers than I am, and I know it brings you joy when I ask you to spell a word and you know how.  That is just a microcosm of the dynamics that happen in relationships.  Don’t be threatened if someone near to you is better than you in some way.  Learn to be comfortable with who God has made you to be.  Learn to be happy for others for the blessings that God has bestowed on them.  Don’t ever be jealous.


These are just a few things that I am telling you now that I wish I had known when I was your age.  All of them can be referenced to scripture verses, but there is one verse from 1st John that I would have you memorize:

For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.  (1 John 2:16-17)

As I stated earlier, and emphatically restate now, the picture painted by John in this passage is our natural way.  It will be a life time battle waged in your mind that will overcome your own sinful selves.  To the extent we are able to do that is the same extent to which we may perhaps be able to, not only please God, but to obey his commands of loving others and building up the Body of Christ, and be ever more Christ-like as we occupy this passing world.

Your father

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