Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Building Character In Your Children

  Image by: David Castillo Dominici,
Many parents want to instill godly character traits in their children. We want our children to be considerate, compassionate, kind, and un-selfish. However, many parents find that talking to their kids about these things is often a fruitless endeavor. In this article, I want to explore why that is, and offer some solutions that may help build character in your kids.

So how DO we build Godly character traits in our children?

Problem #1: I think the number one reason children do not exhibit godly character is because it is frequently talked about, but infrequently modeled. I know for myself, I struggle with this issue multiple times a day. I hear my kids bicker and nit-pick and I exhort them to be kind and compassionate, to be servants to one another. But by the end of the day, my gentle exhortations have become angry, snappy comments that truth be told, do no good to anyone. My kids are left feeling scolded, and I'm left feeling like a bad mom, and the bickering continues.

Solution: Building godly character in our kids starts with modeling godly character. We all know this is easier said than done, but if we really want to see change in our kids, we have to be willing to change our own behavior.

Commitment: Today, I commit myself to using a gentle voice, to guarding my tongue, and to speaking words of exhortation rather than words of destruction to my children.

Problem #2: Fervent prayer is absent from the home. Many families identify with the Christian faith, but so often frequent, fervent prayer is just not happening. We live in such a concrete world. We get so much instant, visual input. I believe this modern way of life really hampers the prayer life of many Christians. There are just so many other more visible things to do and needs to be met on a day to day basis, that something as abstract as prayer doesn't get priority in our lives.

Solution: Pray more. Pray for your children every day, not just when you're at your wits end or when they are feeling sick, or at bedtimes and mealtimes. Commit to a daily prayer time where you can get quiet before the Lord and intercede on behalf of the heart of your child. Prayer works. I fully believe that if we pray more we will see the fruit of that in the lives of our children.

Commitment: Today, I commit to finding a quiet time to pray for each of my children. Though it may be difficult to find a spare minute, I commit to making the time and lifting them up to the Lord on a daily basis.

Problem #3: Children have only a general sense of what it means to be "good", but a very deep sense of what it means to be wronged. I have found that my kids are very easily offended. An accidental touch, a sarcastic comment, an unintentional interruption, and my kids are quick to accuse one another and defend themselves. But when I ask them to be "nice" or "kind" they struggle to do it because they don't really know what it means.

Solution: I believe that teaching your children specific character traits by name (responsibility, diligence, self-respect, humility, etc) will go a long way in helping them demonstrate these positive attributes. Today my son was struggling to do his reading homework, and on the verge of giving up (read: throwing a fit). I was able to encourage him to be diligent because we had been studying that character trait for the past few weeks in our homeschool curriculum. The fact that he knew what diligence was really helped him change his actions to align with the behavior and attitude I was wanting to see from him.

Commitment: We recently started using Heart of Dakota in our homeschool, and I'm so thankful for their character trait Bible studies. Previously we had not done much character trait study, but I'm so glad we've started, and I find it to be a very valuable tool in my parenting tool box. I encourage you to find ways to incorporate character trait study into your daily routine.

I'd love to hear from you! What things have you found helpful in instilling godly character in your children?

Saturday, September 14, 2013

1 Corinthians 11, Christian Head Covering for Today

Image Courtesy of: Arvind Balaraman, 

Recently I talked about some emotions you may feel when you start wearing a head cover in worship. Today, I want to unpack 1 Corinthians 11 verse by verse to bring to light why Christian head covering is for today.

To be clear, Christian head covering refers to the wearing of a cloth cover on the head of a woman during corporate worship. This post isn't meant to address every opinion, objection or variation of the belief of head covering. Rather, this post will only extrapolate the individual verses, or groups of verses, as the case may be, and hopefully shed some light on this often neglected portion of scripture.

1 Corinthians 11: 1--16

Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.

Here, Paul exhorts the Christians to follow his example because he is following the example of Christ. Because Paul's words are inspired by God, we can feel confident that following the example of Paul is like following the example of Christ.

I praise you for remembering me in everything and for holding to the traditions just as I passed them on to you.

Paul is praising the recipients of this letter for holding fast to the tradition of head covering of which he had previously taught them about. This verse is in direct contrast to verse 17 of this same chapter, where Paul says that he does not praise the Corinthians for their treatment of the Lord's supper.

But I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man and the head of Christ is God.

Verse 3 begins Paul's first rationale for the use of Christian head coverings. He starts his argument by appealing to the creation order--God is the head of Christ, Christi is the head of man, and man is the head of woman. Understanding this rationale is important because Paul is saying that the reason head covering is required is because the covering represents the creation order (God, Christ, man, then woman).

 Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head.

This passage isn't just about women wearing a covering; it's also about a man NOT wearing a covering. When the verse says that a man dishonors his "head," what it's saying is that by a man covering his physical head during worship, such as with a hat, he dishonors his spiritual head, which is Christ (see verse 3).

 But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head—it is the same as having her head shaved. For if a woman does not cover her head, she might as well have her hair cut off; but if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, then she should cover her head. A man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man.For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; neither was man created for woman, but woman for man.

Here, Paul says that a woman should not pray or prophesy with her head uncovered, but that she should wear a cloth covering when doing these activities. He says that if she does so uncovered, she dishonors her spiritual "head", which is her husband.

Some argue that a woman's long hair is her covering, siting verse 15; this argument makes no sense in light of verse 6. If we were to plug "long hair" into verse six in place of "cover her head", we would see that it makes no sense that a woman's covering is long hair, and that instead Paul is speaking of a cloth covering: "For if a woman does not have long hair, she might s as well have her hair cut off, but if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, then she should have long hair." If a woman doesn't have long hair, then she can't have it cut off; it is already cut off!

10 It is for this reason that a woman ought to have authority over her own head, because of the angels.

Paul gives no other explanation here other than that we should have a symbol of authority on our heads because of the angels. While this verse seems somewhat incomplete on its' own, if you do a study of angels, you will see that angels are mentioned many times in the Bible, and clearly play an important role in their interactions with humans.

 11 Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. 12 For as woman came from man, so also man is born of woman. But everything comes from God.

Paul makes sure here to add the caveat that while man is the spiritual head of woman, man isn't independent of woman, nor is woman independent of man--both come from God, and both need each other. Neither gender is better or more important in God's sight.

13 Judge for yourselves: Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? 14 Does not the very nature of things teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a disgrace to him, 15 but that if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For long hair is given to her as a covering.

Paul uses the phrase, "Judge for yourselves" not because he wants us to actually judge for ourselves whether or not head covering is necessary. If that were the case, why bother making such a long-winded case for head covering in the first place only to say, "hey, it doesn't really matter though--you decide!". Rather, he is using the term rhetorically. He is appealing to nature. It's normal and natural for a woman to have long hair and a man to have short. In the same way, he's saying that it's normal and natural for a woman to show her submission to the creation order with a physical symbol upon her head in the form of a head covering. It's also normal and natural for a man to show his submission to his head, which is Christ by remaining uncovered in worship. The apostle's use of rhetorical questions like this is fairly common in scripture, so it is not unreasonable to assume Paul is using the statement in this way here.

 16 If anyone wants to be contentious about this, we have no other practice—nor do the churches of God.

Some interpret this to mean that if there is contention about this, then just don't practice it. However, that interpretation doesn't make sense because if the practice were optional, why would Paul give such a lengthy argument for its' use only to then end with, "but if others don't like it, don't do it"? Instead, this verse means that if anyone has a problem with the practice of head covering, just let them know that all the Christian churches practiced covering, and that there was no other alternative practice.

5 Emotions You May Experience Concerning Christian Headcovering

Image Courtesy of: Arvind Balaraman,
Several months ago,  I came across the passage in 1 Corinthians 11 regarding Christian head covering, and I began to read the passage again with fresh eyes. The Lord really opened my mind to understand the meaning of this section of scripture, and I became convicted that Christian head covering was for today.

All that being said, I didn't make the decision to cover without some inner angst. It isn't usually easy to do God's will, but when God's will isn't culturally relevant, and even in some circles, borderline repulsive, it can make having the boldness to move forward a difficult thing. In this article, I want to highlight 5 emotions you may feel if you decide Christian head covering is for you.

1. You may feel self-conscious. Christian head covering can be done quite discreetly, but even if you choose a cover that is discreet, you may feel like you have a pink feathered hat on your head and that the whole room is looking at you wondering what on earth you are thinking! If this is you, remember, "God did not give us a spirit of fear (or timidity)." (2 Timothy 1:7). To help with this, you can try different things. Here are some of the things I've tried:

--Practice wearing your covering at home before wearing it to church or in public. This will get you use to the feel of it as you go about your day.

--Explain to those most important to you that you have become convinced that the teaching in 1 Corinthians is for today. That way people won't be staring because they'll already know what you believe and why you are wearing a covering.

--Connect with others who have a similar conviction. You won't feel so alone, and you can ask them for advice on your feelings.

2. You may feel misunderstood. In our society, head covering has been unfortunately misunderstood to be something that represents female oppression and male domination. We live in a world where it is male against female, each gender fighting for its' own rights. But God's plan for males and females is nothing like that at all. In God's plan male and female work together to glorify God in everything that they do. Listen to this scripture (from the passage on Christian head covering), "In the Lord however, woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. For as woman came from man, so also man is born of woman. But everything comes from God." (1 Corinthians 11:11-12).

3. You may struggle with feeling legalistic. I know for myself, I had to come to terms with the idea that a physical covering was what the passage was calling for. Because I had been conditioned to believe that Christianity was only about the spiritual world, and that the physical world was something separate, I felt almost legalistic saying that a cloth covering was necessary during corporate worship. I prayed and pondered this idea for some time, and came to realize that:

--Christianity should not be relegated to the spiritual realm. It is a very physical belief system, as well as a spiritual belief system. The Bible talks about baptism, a physical act representing a spiritual principle. We also have the Lord's supper, which is something we physically do that is a symbol of something spiritual that happened when Jesus died for our sins. Jesus' act on the cross was the ultimate in physical pain that resulted in spiritual change. Spiritual and physical are not meant to be mutually exclusive. Christian head covering is also a physical act that represents a spiritual belief.

--God is the creator of the physical world, as well as the spiritual world. It should make sense to us  that some of His commands address the physical realm. The Bible talks about dressing modestly (a physical act), meeting the physical needs of others, and working diligently in the physical world.

--Colloquially speaking, legalism has more to do with the way other's perceive your attitude toward their decisions, rather than what you actually do. So if you are convicted to cover, make sure your heart is in the right place, and that you aren't judging others who may be on a different path in their Christian walk. You can be convinced of the biblical command to cover without putting head covering on par with more important commands like evangelizing and feeding the poor.

4. You may feel alone. This one was huge for me. Christian head covering was the norm from biblical times up until several decades ago, and the person who didn't cover was the odd man out. Now, just the opposite is true. It's virtually unheard of--outside of the Amish and Mennonite faiths, and a few others--to have women who believe head covering is for today. It can be daunting to do anything alone, but something so outwardly evident and so dividing can really make a person feel as if they are the only ones doing it. I was blessed to know one woman who also believed in Christian head covering and she was more than willing to be a mentor for me and guide me gently in the right  direction. I would encourage those who feel alone to find someone to talk to who shares your conviction. It makes all the difference.

5. You may question yourself. When so many Christians, especially those we've been trained to put on a pedestal as the great teachers of our time, don't believe in Christian head covering, you may questions yourself and your ability to interpret this passage correctly. My encouragement to you is to seek the Lord and ask Him to show you the meaning of this scripture. Without turning to commentaries or sermons or the opinions of others, simply read the text and see what the Lord shows you. Sometimes I think we turn to sources outside the Bible too much, and to our detriment. Instead, turn your mind toward what scriptures says, and I am confident the Lord will show you the meaning of this passage through his Holy Spirit, and give you the confidence to cover.