Whose Idols are in the way?

idols6In his book, “An Age of Opportunity: A Biblical Guide to Parenting Teens” Paul David Tripp identified 5 idols that parents must reject to be effective parents in an age of opportunity. Here’s a sample of what he shares:

Core Principle

The anger, frustration, discouragement, irritation, impatience, and fear that parents feel during the teen years not only reveal that the teen is struggling, but that the parents are as well. 

If our hearts are controlled by something other than God, the great opportunities of the teen years will not be viewed as opportunities at all, but as a constant stream of hassles brought on by a selfish, immature person who upsets our otherwise comfortable life.

Failure to deal with our idolatry will mean we will turn God-given moments of ministry into moments of anger. We will personalize what is not personal, become adversarial in our approach to our teen, and settle for quick, situational solutions that do not focus on the teenager’s heart.  

The goal of this chapter (dealing with the idols) is best summarized by Proverbs 20:5, “The purposes of a man’s heart are deep waters, but a man of understanding draws them out.”  The goal is that parents would use the mirror of the Word (Luke 6:34-36; Ezek. 14:1-5; James 4:1-10) to examine their hearts.  Which of the typical parental idols listed below best describes them?

 Five Idols

  1. Comfort  (“I just wish life were a little easier, a little more peaceful, and a little more predictable.”)
  2. Respect  (“If it is the last thing I do, I am going to get her to respect me!”)
  3. Appreciation  (“I have done and done for them and this is the thanks I get? It is about time that I got a little credit for all of my hard work!”)
  4. Success  (“Do you know what it is like to do all this work and have him behave this way?  What are people thinking about our family now?”)
  5. Control  (“If I had a little more control around here, life would be much easier and he would be in far less trouble!”) 

The goal is that parents would understand that they must be willing to start with their own hearts if they want to be used by God to help transform the hearts of their teenagers. If we do not do this, we will be a hindrance, not a help, in what God is doing.


7 Links worth seeing

Mommy, Somebody Needs You

The sooner I can accept that being Mommy means that I never go off the clock, the sooner I can find peace in this crazy stage of life.   That ‘Mommy’ is my duty, privilege and honor. I am ready to be there when somebody needs me, all day and all night.  Mommy means I just put the baby back down after her 4am feeding when a 3-year-old has a nightmare.

For the Moms stuck inside 

Call it cabin fever, seasonal affective disorder or just feeling cooped up, caring for young children during the winter is no joke when the walls feel like they are closing in around you. On top of feeling stuck inside with your kids, it takes more effort to bundle kids up and do anything or see anyone. That means a lot of moms feel isolated during the winter.

The Heartbreak of Foster Care

I mean, there’s nothing glamorous about it. You voluntarily allow a child into your home whose parents are probably less than stellar. They come with lice (or worse). They don’t know how to eat at the table properly. They probably cry for parents you wish could be locked up for decisions they’ve made. It means child services in your home, scrutinizing you in ways no one does for a biological child.

Profiles of Courage: Jo’s Story, Part 1 (Foster Parenting)

I used to say I wanted to adopt someday. I envisioned a dark hand in my pale one. And maybe a few more little hands as well. A full colour pallet of little hands. It was a pretty picture that I now realize was sustained mostly by a rosy-colored romanticism.

Develop a Thick Skin

I argued that emotional self-control is a critical part of professional maturity, and that emotional outbursts really have no place on a warship—especially in a watch-standing context.

Why Privatizing Marriage Can’t Work

Young Evangelicals are not stupid. They see the writing on the wall, and they don’t want to drown when the approaching cultural tsunami hits land. Their suggested compromise makes an enormous amount of sense to them. Unfortunately, it cannot work.

Faithful Compromise

Daniel and his friends are remembered for their uncompromising witness: they refused to defile themselves with the king’s delicacies; they refused to worship the image of the king. They were willing to bear the costs of such faithfulness, and we rightly celebrate such public witness.

But Daniel was also willing to make compromises, to almost embrace his exile in a way that secured influence. He learned the language and literature of the Chaldeans; he served in an administration that had captured his own people; he provided counsel to an idolater. His faithfulness did not find expression in an enclave of purity, nor did it require him to insulate himself in some holy huddle that protected him from compromise. Instead, he was faithful amidst compromise.

Formula E429 could change your life!

One of the best ways to improve our communication is to replace destructive tones with constructive ways of speaking to each other.

Words of appreciation and encouragement are excellent alternatives to ugly tones of grumbling, whining; impatience, frustration and defensiveness.

Think of how many times we could defuse a situation by choosing better words and tones. Parents especially need to ask if their words and tones set the right example for their children. 

Use Formula E429 to remind yourself of God’s will for our speech. The formula is based on Ephesians 4:29 – “Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.” (Ephesians 4:29, NLT).

Then apply a large dose of the first two characteristics of love: “Love is patient, Love is kind…” (I Corinthians 13:4).

This could literally change your life and the lives of those close to you!


This advice comes with a warning about how easily we excuse our attitudes, words and tones by pointing to the difficult people around us. Remember the basic truth that the only person you can change is yourself. But by working on self-correction and experiencing personal change, we can powerfully influence others. So if you feel stuck in a bad place, find ways that you can change your attitudes, words and tones. But start with the words and tones you use because this discipline will make you face and confront your attitudes and emotions.

Recognize how all of this change fits under the work God is doing in your life based on these truths:

“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.  And we all … are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit” (II Corinthians 3:17-18, NIV).

“Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him” (Philippians 2:12-13).

I have work to do. Will you join me?

Steve Cornell 

See also: Spiritual Depression

The role of motivation in parenting (pt. 2)


Like all godly parents, Solomon gives his son instruction and warning about the realities that will confront and test him in the world. The early chapters of Proverbs reveal how Solomon wants his son to realize that life in the big world is not easy and can be dangerous.

Solomon naturally desires for his son a long and prosperous life. He wants him to find favor and a good name in the sight of God and man.  However, he realizes (what life soon teaches) — that these things do not come by accident and that there are many threats to this kind of life.

Solomon uses a variety of motivations to encourage his son in the way of wisdom. He realizes that motivation is a big part of every area of life. Any position in life of leading others involves motivation. When law enforcement, for example, investigates suspects in a crime, one of their early efforts is to establish possible motives. For example, if a your relative died unexpectedly and police learned that you recently helped him take out a large life insurance policy in your name, you should expect to be questioned about a motive that might point to your involvement.

The need for motivating or energizing others toward certain choices or behaviors and away from others is a big part of the role of law. You can read a lot of material on motivation as a social learning theory.

God’s concern about motives

  • “All a man’s ways seem innocent to him, but motives are weighed by the Lord.”  (Proverbs 16:2).  
  • “The word of God is quick and powerful . . . it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).

The book of Proverbs repeatedly appeals to various motivations and incentives. Their aim is to direct our choices away from folly toward wisdom.  It is interesting to consider the book of Proverbs in this light because so much of human experience relates to motivation, choices, and consequences.

In Proverbs 1:10-15, the father provides his son with some examples of motivational incentives evil people use to lure others to join them. They appeal to a sense of belonging, membership, and shared experience (vv.11, 14); anticipation of thrill, power, and control (vv. 11b-12); and potential for material prosperity (v. 13).

However, in Proverbs 1:15-19, the wise father exposes the actual outcomes of following the appeals.  He encourages his son to look beyond the deceptive veneer of allurement to the reality. He does this to fortify him against being drawn into a trap.

Motivational incentives

We are creatures who respond to motivational incentives, and God’s word is filled with incentives. Some are not as explicitly presented as others. In Proverbs 1:10-19 we have explicit reference to motivational incentive. Sometimes, however, the motivational force is less explicit or presented in a different style.

  • In Proverbs 10:1, it’s presented by joining character and conscience. The motivational incentive is to be a source of joy to others.

“The proverbs of Solomon: A wise son brings joy to his father, but a foolish son brings grief to his mother” (pr. 10:1).

  • In Proverbs 11:15 , we have an example of act/consequence, where the motivational incentive is to avoid suffering and harm, and maintaining safety.

“Whoever puts up security for a stranger will surely suffer, but whoever refuses to shake hands in pledge is safe” (Pr. 11:15).

“The ultimate motivation is life (8:32-36). Self-preservation, the desire for well-being and the avoidance of harm underlie much proverbial motivation.  Rather than demeaning such motivational forces by labeling them as adolescent or crassly egocentric, such ‘worldly’ motivations need to be embraced as having been utilized in Proverbs, the law (Deut. 28; Lev. 26), and even the NT (cf. I Tim. 5:23; Titus 2:5; cf. Matt. 6:33; Acts 16:3)” (Roy Zuck, p. 261).

In Proverbs 3, the motivational factors fit this primary desire for life, well-being and avoiding of harm.

In verse two we have the personal factor of long life and prosperity.  Verses eight and nine also describe personal factors of physical health and well-being and an abundance of material goods.  Verse four points to the social and spiritual motivation of favor and a good name.  Whatever the motivation, the son must choose to obey.  Although the account of the motivation falls on physical and material benefits, there is a careful integration of the moral and spiritual dimension into the physical and material.

Above all, Proverbs 3 is a God-centered passage with a variety of motivations toward a God-centered life. In verses 5-12, the son is instructed to trust in the Lord, acknowledge Him, fear the Lord, honor the Lord, and respond favorably to the Lord’s discipline.  Another way to consider it would be to see four units of thought:

  1. Keep the commands (vv. 1-4);
  2. Trust the Lord completely (vv. 5-8);
  3. Honor the Lord’s provision (vv. 9-10); and
  4. Accept the Lord’s correction (vv. 11-12). 

Steve Cornell

The role of motivation in parenting (pt. 1)


If I asked a group of parents to write a list of desires they had for their children, what would we expect to read? What would I learn if I also asked the parents how they planned to motivate their children toward the desires?

How should motivation be employed in parenting?

Parents typically use reward and punishment as motivations for younger children. But are there other considerations worth reflecting on regarding motivations? The book of Proverbs offers helpful insights on this question.

In Proverbs 3, we find a father’s desires for his son and most parents would identify with them. The chapter opens with the words “My son.”

This father desires for his son long life and prosperity (v.2); favor and a good name in the sight of God and man (v.4); straight or correct paths for his son’s feet (v.6); physical health and well-being (v.8) and overflowing provision of the physical necessities of life (v.9).

These are not unreasonable desires for our sons and daughters. However, as the logical structure of the verses demonstrates, such benefits do not come by accident; nor can parents be the sole provider of them. There are certain conditions that our sons and daughters must meet. 

Structure of Proverbs 3

The structure of much of Proverbs 3 is presented as, “Do ‘A’ because ‘B’.”  This is a command/motive type of proverb. In Proverbs 3:1-12, there are six sets of command/motive. The first five sets emphasize the results of obeying the command, while the sixth (vv. 11-12) focuses on a reason more than a result.

There are a number of structures in Proverbs, but with each one, the relationship is between parts A and B (i.e. the relationship between the various lines in the proverb) offer necessary insight on the intended meaning and application of the proverb.

In Proverbs 3, we are working with a command/motive type of logic. Whether the motivation emphasizes the result of obeying the command or the reason for it, the intention is the same.  The Father wants the son to understand why it is so important for him to obey the command. These proverbs provide insights into the use of motivation in parenting our children toward certain goals. 

Moral and spiritual dimensions

Although the list of the father’s desires for his son seems to accent physical and material well-being, it’s important to reflect on his integration of the moral and spiritual dimensions into the physical and material.

Verses 5 and 6 introduce a very important item on the list of desires. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight.”  These  verses call for deep spiritual commitment as central to everything else in the son’s life.

External and Internal concerns

In the first nine chapters of Proverbs, much of the concern for the son’s life has to do with external dangers, such as the allurements of wicked men and immoral women. Here, however, Solomon recognizes internal factors which will have a profound effect on his son.  But even when Solomon warns about temptations of an immoral woman, he mentions the heart.  “Do not lust in your heart after her beauty or let her captivate you with her eyes” (6:25); and “Do not let your heart turn to her ways or stray into her paths” (7:25).

One could argue that the internal considerations are of first and greatest concern.  When you make room in your heart, you will soon make room in your life.  We must be pro-active in our stand against temptation.

God-centered life

Solomon desires for his son what every godly parent should desire — “trust in the Lord with all your heart: and “in all your ways acknowledge him.” In all your dealings and circumstances, take your relationship with the Lord into consideration.

The wisdom in Proverbs is God-centered. It is concerned about,“The sound handling of one’s affairs in God’s world, in submission to His will” (D. Kidner).  This is in contrast to man-centered wisdom which is focused on materialism and ignores the spiritual.

In I Chronicles 28:9, we read of David’s desire for Solomon: “And you, my son, Solomon, acknowledge the God of your father, and serve him with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind, for the Lord searches every heart and understands every motive behind the thoughts.  If you seek him, he will be found by you; but if your forsake him, he will reject you forever.”

This is what Solomon now wants for his son and what every parent should desire for his or her child. 

More on the role of motivation to come!

Steve Cornell

When parenting is the problem


Sometimes we too quickly connect bad behavior of children with a deficit in parenting. We forget that our children have their own internal conflict with evil. Other times, however, we fail to make needed connections between parenting or a bad example we’ve set and the outcomes in our children.

So while we should always be open to improving our parenting, we also should be careful not to think that there is a parenting method that will erase the sin nature in our children. Parenting is not like making cookies where all you have to do is follow the recipe to get the exact product.

This recipe approach is often more about parents trying to look good and not what is best for the children. It can lead to self-deception and unreality in a home that others can easily detect from the outside. It can also encourage children to be duplicitous and hypocritical rather than dealing honestly with their struggles under the loving guidance of parents.

This approach to parenting is observed when parents try to cover-up, downplay or ignore bad behavior rather than acknowledge and deal directly with it. This is about keeping up an image and encourages hypocrisy.

Parenting is the problem

There are times when we should look more closely at our parenting or our own examples. If we see a particular trait appear somewhat consistently in all of our children, it should signal a closer look at the parenting or example of a parent.  Let me give you some examples.

  1. Anger and irritability – If children consistently observe a short fuse in a parent who quickly snaps at others or often displays an irritable disposition, it shouldn’t surprise us when these responses show up in the children.
  2. Complaining and whining – If children consistently hear a parent whine and complain when things don’t go how they want, they will more likely display the same responses.
  3. Arrogant and argumentative – If children consistently see and hear a parent who doesn’t like to admit that he’s wrong or that he knows less than others, it’s likely that the children will always have to be right or claim that they know as much or more than others and likely that they will be overly argumentative with siblings and even parents.
  4. Selfish and lazy – If children observe a parent consistently sitting around and letting others do the work, it shouldn’t surprise anyone when children do the same.
  5. Blame-shifting and excuses– When children consistently hear a parent blaming others at the suggestion that he might be wrong or quickly making excuses for why he wasn’t really wrong or at fault, we shouldn’t be surprised to hear the same responses in the children.
  6. Sneaky and dishonest – If children see parents trying to be sneaky about things or trying to cover things up to keep a good appearance, it shouldn’t surprise us to see the children being sneaky or manipulating the truth to get what they want or to keep up an image.

The key word in each case is “consistently.” It’s not unusual for these kinds of behaviors to appear from time to time in the lives of sinners, but when certain specific areas like the ones above are notable in each of our children, parents should look at their own lives to see if there are ways that the children are picking up the behaviors or attitudes from one of the parents.

Parenting as a team means that we must love each other enough as husbands and wives to point out tendencies like the ones above — especially if they are consistently displayed. Enabling or excusing your mate in any of these areas will only ensure that your children receive the damage.

Failure to point these out should not be excused as covering in love or as a form of submission, but acknowledged as personal selfishness that fears man rather than God.

Of course, when we choose to speak the truth to our mate, we should first look closely at our own lives (Matthew 7:1-6) and only speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15) and with a spirit of gentleness — not as someone who has no faults (Galatians 6:1). We should also be prepared to be part of the solution not just willing to point to the problem.

Husbands and wives should recognize that God has given each of them the closest access to the other and that He wants to use the influence of each one to help the other be mature in Christ. Failure to do this is a sign of an unhealthy home – no matter how much it tries to appear healthy to others.

Steve Cornell

The glory of ordinary lives

il_340x270.505798718_omb6We need more emphasis on the glory of living ordinary lives for Christ. Perhaps it could become the new radical!

The emphasis we’ve seen on being radical Christians could lead to a feeling that what is ordinary is either boring or some form of compromise. This could then produce a larger chasm between what the Church says and the way most people must live day by day.

It also has the potential of threatening the joy of daily life with the spirit of discontentment that promoted the sin of Eden.

Listen to the way people tell you what they do.

  • “I am just a mom.”
  • “I am just a mechanic.”
  • “I am just a waitress.”
  • “I am just a ….”

On and on it goes. But maybe there is no “just” with God? Or, more likely, God is found in the “just.” Jesus asked, “For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves” (Luke 22:27).

A needed message in our times

    • “Make it your goal to live a quiet life, minding your own business and working with your hands, just as we instructed you before. Then people who are not Christians will respect the way you live, and you will not need to depend on others” (I Thessalonians 4:11-12, NLT).
    • “Our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good, in order to provide for urgent needs and not live unproductive lives” (Titus 3:14, NIV).

I fear that we’ve lost touch with the glory and joy of being called to faithfulness and diligence in the ordinary routines and duties of life. What would life look like if we renewed our zeal to “… be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).

I think of Jesus’ emphasis on serving God quietly in secret places. “Be careful” He said, “not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them” (Matthew 6:1). “When you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen” (Matthew 6:6).

We need renewed zeal for the quiet glory of being faithful fathers, mothers, children, brothers, sisters, neighbors, employers, employees, — just common followers of Jesus Christ living ordinary lives for an extraordinary glory.

tumblr_mrwo0aVE5W1qcdaeho1_500“So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).

Have we lost touch with the joy of ordinary, non-glamorous devotion to God and others because we’ve lived with an “If only….” spirit of restlessness? Have we overly radicalized wholehearted love for God and our neighbor by separating it from daily faithfulness in mundane but necessary duties?

Jesus said, “So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty’” (Luke 17:10).

Jesus required unconcern for status as a kingdom virtue. “At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.” (Matthew 18:1-5).

“Stop being un-amazed by the strange glory of ordinary things” (Clyde Kilby).

Steve Cornell

3 links worth seeing

Why My Kids Are Not The Center Of My World

Modern parenting is creating a generation that’s not going to be able to function in society. Your child, who you cater to every need, who you shelter from all things “evil.”  How will this child react when he or she grows into adulthood?
Modern parents, who drop everything all the time to sit and play with the child, who “needs attention,” or drop what they’re doing to help the child the second he or she gets frustrated?  How is Joey going to deal with the fact that there won’t be anyone in his adult life who’s willing to stop what they’re doing, stop living their busy lives, to cater to his every whim?
Parents who make their children the center of their universe are not doing anyone any favors.  Obviously, as parents, we love our children more than anything.  But dropping everything to cater to their every need is only going to lead to a very rude awakening once they enter the real world.

Woman about to go into surgery for a double mastectomy

Watch a pre-surgery celebration.

Render to Caesar or to God? Government Funding and the Crisis of Conscience

The instant an organization takes government money it is transformed into an instrument of the state. What Caesar funds, Caesar controls. This is a hard lesson, and one likely soon to be learned by Christian institutions that have been taking government money and have grown dependent on those funds.

When asked about the payment of taxes, Jesus famously responded, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Mark 12:17). We dare not render to Caesar what belongs rightly and only to God.

Can you identify with this?

Ouch!! Been there.

Goodnight Funny!