It’s a War!

I love it when Teri is giving a workshop and tells moms that the alarm clock is their friend not their enemy. That statement is usually followed by either chuckles or outright laughter from many in the audience. I suppose a mom hearing that the alarm clock is her friend is similar to a dad who is told that work is a blessing from God. He is likely to laugh at that thought. Through the years I have heard so many men complain about their jobs and how they dread going into work.

The “flesh” is something isn’t it? Not wanting to get out of bed in the morning and complaining about work are examples of fleshly responses to God’s calling for our life. Even Paul said, “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do” (Romans 7:18-19). In one way, it is surprising to me that even Paul had a struggle with the flesh. On the other hand, it shouldn’t be a surprise because Jesus said, “Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41).

Jesus was saying that in regard to doing the right thing, our flesh is weak. The inverse is true as well because the flesh pulls strongly toward what is wrong. When I look at the struggles in my life, I see that I’m at war with my flesh. Like Paul, I know what I should do, but sometimes I don’t do it.

I suppose my greatest fleshly struggle is with eating too much. I know mentally what my body appropriately needs to sustain itself, yet, I often choose excess. A person can know what’s right to do but still struggle because the flesh is weak. I suspect that most reading this have a struggle with excess in some areas.

Jesus said we are to watch and pray if we are to avoid giving in to a temptation. Watch means as we would expect—to be vigilant and observant for those things that are contrary to the Spirit. It means we are to make a conscious decision, a choice that we will be on guard against a temptation to do something to which the Spirit has said, “No.” For me the majority of the problem is that I really don’t want to be on guard against the temptation of eating too much, because I enjoy it. We prefer to embrace the temptation. A poor defense indeed would be for the soldier to be on the front line watching and guarding, but when the enemy comes near, he gives him a big hug.

The added difficulty with overcoming the flesh concerning food is that in a sense it isn’t wrong. Everyone has to eat. Yet, if our eating isn’t done in moderation, it is wrong, and there will be consequences for it. Normally, the consequences come in the form of gaining weight and putting one’s health at risk. Overindulgence in food is so prevalent among believers today. However, overeating is just one area of many where we can end up being a slave to it.

The person without self-control is similar to a city with no walls for protection. “He that hath no rule over his own spirit is like a city that is broken down, and without walls” (Proverbs 25:28). Without protection a man is open to being spoiled by others. The most likely spoiler in overeating would be disease of the heart and arteries. I’ve been amazed when I’ve been in the doctor’s office. When I look around the waiting room, I see that the vast majority of those there are significantly overweight. There appears to be a definite connection between being overweight and ill health.

In 2 Timothy 3:3-4 we read of the bad “company” a person who is incontinent—without self control—keeps. “Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God” (2 Timothy 3:3-4). Sinful behavior goes hand-in-hand with lack of self control.

In addition to the possible consequences to my health, I’m troubled by my lack of self-control and the knowledge of setting a bad example for my children. My desire is that I’m an encouragement to my children in raising them in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, not that I would be a detriment. What makes matters worse is that when we lack self-control and are covetous of things, whether it is sleep, food, sweets, soda, pleasure, entertainment, or whatever else it might be, we will likely foster similar appetites in our children. Then, instead of bringing up our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4), we are causing them to stumble.

To take it a step further, we could look at what leads to overeating. Isn’t it being covetous of good tasting things and the pleasure they afford us? I don’t know about you, but I have yet to covet food like lettuce, brussel sprouts, and carrots. We covet the things that thrill the taste buds. “For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God” (Ephesians 5:5). We might be tempted to excuse being covetous, but when a covetous man is called an idolater, there is no mistaking it for the sin that it is.

Jesus said there are two things to help with lack of self-control—vigilance and prayer. To be vigilant means we have to be watchful for something that poses a threat. For me that is the greatest struggle. My flesh doesn’t consider food harmful. As a first step, it is needful to take appropriate verses such as I’ve used in this Corner, memorize and then meditate on them to acquire God’s viewpoint. Then, once we have the Lord’s mindset, we can be watchful for temptation. However, it takes a moving of the will, a conscious decision to agree with the Lord. Once we have made that choice, prayer is then the vehicle for adding grace to the decision for moderation in a particular area.

I have previously followed this path for other areas of struggle, and now it is time to deal with the food issue. I need to cry out to the Lord for grace in being a man of self-control, and I need to be vigilant in having before me the seriousness of my example in the lives of my children. May we be the men of God that God desires and enables us to be.

News and Children’s Internet Usage – Part 1

Once again this month’s Mom’s Corner is a response to an e-mail question we received that we felt might be something other moms were grappling with as well as the mom who wrote the e-mail. This mom writes:

“I was wondering if you have advice on whether or not (and how much if so) to read the news. I find it can be so discouraging to read truthfully and yet know that we should have some awareness of what is going on in the world. I’d love to hear advice on how your family manages in this area.

“I was also wondering if you’d ever be willing to share how you were able to introduce your children to the Internet. I have taken perhaps an extreme approach and not allowed my sons access unless I am sitting next to them, and yet know that now that they are 15 and 18 I need to transition them and train them in this area. I’ve been at a loss for how to manage and would greatly appreciate any advice you can pass along!”

About twenty years ago, Steve and I decided to stop taking the newspaper. By that point in our lives, we had already quit watching TV, so we didn’t have news exposure except through the newspaper and radio. Our older children were then ages where they could read well, and they picked up anything in the house they could find to read, including the newspaper. Because of this, Steve and I became aware of how news stories were impacting our children. In the process, we evaluated our own reception of that information.

What we found was that a great majority of the news was filled with evil, wickedness, and violence. We were sheltering our children from as much of the vileness of the world as we could, but through reading an article in the newspaper about a horrible crime, they could within just a few minutes be exposed to and educated in the most despicable levels of unrighteousness imaginable.

These verses became key in our decision to eliminate the newspaper from our home. “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them. For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret” (Ephesians 5:11-12). By reading the newspaper, we were on the listening end of what was being spoken of that was done in secret. In that knowledge of evil deeds, a level of fellowship with unrighteousness was accomplished. Even though our hearts despised the wickedness, it was still in our thoughts.

This verse also played a part in our decision: “. . . yet I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil” (Romans 16:19). How could our children, or even Steve and me, be simple concerning evil if we were reading the worst of the crimes committed in our community, our nation, and the world?

There was an easy solution to this problem, and that was to stop taking the newspaper. However, as was often true of our decisions like this one, it took a little longer to actually take the step to call and cancel the paper. That was because I was used to reading, or at least skimming the newspaper, and I found it enjoyable. In the letting-go process, I came to see that I had made the newspaper somewhat of an idol in my life. This became evident because of the difficulty I had in letting it go even though I could see it wasn’t good for my family or for me.

After stopping the newspaper, we rolled our zeal to be “informed” over to listening to the news on the radio. All the reasons for not reading a newspaper held true for not listening to the radio news except that now even the younger children, who couldn’t yet read, could be exposed to wickedness and evil. Soon we stopped listening to the radio news.

Here is what we can tell you about living without reading the newspaper or Internet news or listening to the radio news. Our children are protected from the evil information that comes through the news, and if for no other reason than that, we are overjoyed to have eliminated that knowledge of unrighteousness from our lives.

An unexpected blessing has been that my heart is much more peaceful because knowing of the evil and wickedness in the world often caused me to be fearful and worried. I would wonder if something like I had read about might happen to my family. If the news was about the possibility of war, I was fearful. If it brought tidings of gloom and doom on the economic scene, I worried about our family’s future. There was seldom good, uplifting news.

When I wasn’t reading or hearing the news, I was able to focus on loving my family, doing what the Lord Jesus had called me to do in my home, and ministering to those He brought into my path. This was much better use of my time and emotional energy than worrying about issues for which I had no control.

Somehow, we find out about major happenings in the world, our nation, and our local community. For example, the economic crisis our country is experiencing is discussed regularly as we interact with others in our town. When there was a plane crash, it was being talked about in the checkout line at the grocery store. However, we have discovered that people don’t usually tend to discuss publicly the evil and wicked crimes that are described in detail in the news. Therefore, we are free from that knowledge of unrighteousness, and we have a very small amount of information about local, national, and world events.

It seems that our world has convinced us that it is critically important for everyone to be continually informed via the news in one form or another. If one would choose not to watch the news, read it, or listen to it, our society makes it appear that we are uneducated and less of a person. Have you ever considered the amount of time Christians spend becoming informed via the news? We wonder how many spend that much time in the Word. What would happen if Christians invested their news time in Bible study or ministry?

We have no desire to go back to what we learned via the news. The freedom in our spirits, thoughts, and home is such a great blessing to us. Perhaps you have never considered that you could make the choice to not invest time in the news. Maybe you have thought there would be negative consequences if you weren’t informed about local, national, or world events. May I encourage you to consider what blessings you might receive in your life if you quit the news. Next month I will respond to the second question that was asked in the opening e-mail.