Tag: christian hedonism

How to Be a Good Dad (& What to Do with a Bad Dad)

Father’s Day–some are grateful it’s just one day.

There are many fathers who have heaped unbearable burdens upon their children with unrealistic demands. To you, this day reminds you of failure, not measuring up, not being who Dad wanted you to be. For others, Dad subtracted meaning from your life. Your Dad just cut out on you, left Mom for another woman, a career mistress, or never entered your life at all.

How do you respond to your father while edging out on the ice of fatherhood yourself?

Others see Father’s Day as an opportunity to honor someone they’re grateful for every day. Dad reminds you of warm approval, strong godly character, firm discipline, and vibrant faith. You don’t know how good you got it but you know it’s good. Fathers possess incredible power over their children, for good or for ill, and a new generation of Christian fathers are emerging with very poor role models. Is it possible to redeem your patriarchal past? How do you respond to your father while edging out on the ice of fatherhood yourself?

What to Do with a Not So Great Dad

St. Augustine had great Mom and a not so great Dad. Throughout his Confessions, (a Western classic every Christian should read), Augustine reflects on his mother’s prayerful faithfulness and his dad’s worldliness. In a passage in Book 2, he extols his father for providing for his education in literature and rhetoric. He notes that his father took great pains to secure the necessary finances. It is hard to imagine the Western Church without an educated Augustine. His books, ideas, and turns of phrase have been admired by many, believer and non.

Augustine shows us how to honor our fathers, even when they were less than honorable.

Augustine shows us how to honor our fathers, even when they were less than honorable. Even if your father was absent and just cut a check for child support, at least he did that. Instead of ripping cynically on his absent Dad, he shows us how to carry out the Christian principle of “honor your father” by searching for anything positive and honoring him for that.

But what about his Dad’s absence, or worse, his very real, damaging presence?

Augustine describes his father’s neglect: “father took no pains as to how I was growing up before you [God], or as to how chaste I was, as long as I was cultivated in speech, even though I was a desert, uncultivated for you, O God, who are the one true and good Lord of that field which is my heart.”

Though he received a financial deposit, Augustine was raised in spiritual poverty by his father. His father approved winkingly over his sexual exploits, a badge of manhood. He sent his son in the wrong direction. Dad held the career high–a rhetorician–and Christ low. Augustine repeatedly reflects on his struggle with mistresses and sexual temptation remarking that he was “in love with love.”

Moving Beyond Dad Issues

Until he was conquered by a holy love: “You love, but are not inflamed with passion; you are jealous, yet free from care…who will help me, so that you will come into my heart and inebriate it, to the end that I may forget my evils and embrace you, my one good?

The prison of his father’s neglect was redeemed by the Heavenly Father’s attentive concern. Evils were slowly blotted out from his memory in the presence of the one, true Good. The way we move beyond our Dad issues isn’t to bury them, but to carry them to the Redeemer.

When I was preparing to become a father for the first time, I asked a good father friend for advice. He said, “Be a good Dad by being a good son.” He was saying that fatherhood is less about technique and more about identity.

Be a good Dad by being a good son.

The more a man settles into the perfect love of God, the more his fathering becomes an approximation of the perfect Father. The more rooted you are in God’s approval, the more inclined you are to give it to your kids. The more you are aware of the holiness of God, the more you will call your children into his holiness–cultivating their soul. The more you are aware of God’s unfathomable grace, the more quick you will be to extend it to your children.

Fatherhood is less about technique and more about identity.

Dad, you have an opportunity to cultivate the soul of the next generation. You can point them to the “one true and good Lord of that field which is their heart.” You don’t have to be enough for them because God already is enough. Cultivate your soul and act like your heavenly Father toward your kids. Teach them the gospel, repent quickly, and be present–no perfection required–Jesus has that covered.

Be a good son, and you’ll be a good Dad.


Culitivating Obsession (or craving well)

This is a guest blog by Steve Cota, a City Group leader at Austin City Life.

When we think of the word obsession, we typically think of a lust or perhaps something along the lines of the movie Fatal Attraction. The movie Obsessed tells the story of a woman obsessed with a co-worker, willing to go to great lengths to obtain him, regardless the consequences. Is this all there is to an obsession? Can our careers, sports and fitness also be obsessions?

What Determines an Obsession?

In the book Consolations of Theology, Andrew Cameron writes: These [obsessions] are whole-body desires that wage war against our very selves. They are not righteous obsessions. Cameron takes St. Augustines account of obsession and says, We have proper longings for God the Father, for each other, and for all the goods of a good earth. But these proper longings are distorted and disordered into improper longings, many of which we call obsessions. Notice his distinction between proper and improper longings. It’s as if the line between proper and improper is not determined by the object of longing but the strength of our longing.

Be Obsessed

Obsession or desires arent evil in themselves. In fact, the Bible has accounts that share those obsessions or desires are good. For example, in Proverbs 13 there are these confessions of the truths about desires that are of a godly nature: but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life. (vs.12) A desire fulfilled is sweet to the soul… (vs.19). Cameron explains, We also see several NT appearances of strong desires as a form of moral excellence. Disciples, prophets, and angels long to see divine truth; apostles long to see Christ; or to see their people; or for their people to progress in faith; young men rightly long to care for Gods people.

Crave Well

So the question is: can we crave well? Can the object of our obsession be a righteous craving? Cameron offers some thoughtful theological consolations for obsession:

  • Rest in Christ: We can rest safely in Christ, even in the grips of our obsessing weakness. At our worst, our most inhuman when we are least like him but most need him, he will die for us. And thus bear our most damning unrighteous obsessions.
  • Reorder Your Affections: Christ opens the way for the Spirit to be poured in our aid. The Spirit reorders our affections to respond in joy to his divine and holy affection.
  • Fly to God in Prayer: Then, under the gentle power of the Spirit, flying to God in prayer to aim our obsessions toward these new joys. This joy is to love the proper object, the perfectly ordered and harmonious enjoyment of God and of one another in God.

We dont need to find and cultivate obsessions or desires within ourselves, for they already exist. According to St. Augustine, it is finding the proper response to that reality about us. For us to aim toward these new loves, as opposed to our obsessional loves.Augustine points us to the proper object of our love, so that the old treasures we obsessed about can fall away as boring, or find their proper place. That proper place is well articulated by Augustine: you have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts, [may they] find no peace until they rest in you.

What do you Savor most?

This past Sunday we considered how the gospel reconciles our past and present sin. One observation we made is that it is not mere actions that alienate us from God, but also our misguided affections. Scott Thomas, Director of Acts 29, posts some thoughts on what it means to be spiritually minded vs. carnally minded which also emphasize the central role of affections in the Christian life. He draws from the deep wells of John Owen for insight and offers us this gem:

One has to decide if one’s mind is fixed upon the spiritual or upon the things of this world. The Geneva Bible published in 1599 (the Bible of the Puritans) says, “For they that are after the flesh savor the things of the flesh: but they that are [savoring] after the things of the spirit, the things of the spirit.” Toward what do you savor: heavenward or earth-bound?

What we savor determines our savior. Our desire determines our deity.
Its not our desire for things, but rather, the strength of our desire for them that produces hostility towards God. If God is not uppermost in our affections, then we become hostile towards him. Why? Because God threatens to unseat what we desire most. If you desire the approval of others more than you desire God, then approval is your God. If you desire control more than god, the control is your god. You are controlled by control. So it goes with success, beauty, goodness. When our hearts turn to other things, we turn our noses up at God. Bottom line, we do not desire God as he ought to be desired. Unlike the finite things of approval, control, success, God is infinitely desirable.