Thursday, January 08, 2009

Psalm 78

My friend Brian is a pastor in a small town in Indiana.  He wrote about his New Year's resolutions in this post on his blog.  Discipline and self-examination are only two of his strengths.  Among the others are his physical strength, an inhuman ability to consume chicken wings, and projecting sound at high volumes over long or short distances in either open or confined spaces.  This year's resolution: 

Brian and Betsy have been parents, and good parents,  long enough to realize that the goal in disciplining their kids isn't just behavior modification.  Many times, he says, he reacts with harsh words (bad) and correction (can be good), but it doesn't seem to work.  Actually, it seems to do more damage than anything else.  His goal is to have well behaved children, but that is not his ultimate goal.  His ultimate goal is to have children who really fear and love God.

Reading Psalm 78 this morning made me think about how to teach obedience to children of any age, including ourselves.  Asaph starts out by saying, "Hey, listen up!!  I'm going to tell you all something very important!!  All the stories our parents told us about the amazing things God did for them and their parents, we should tell them to our kids and the coming generations."

This Psalm is made up of example after example of God's faithfulness and miraculous protection of His people, followed by their failure to follow Him.  Seriously, Asaph had to be pretty creative to think of ways to describe how weak they were.  "But they rebelled against Him."  "And they still rebelled."  "Despite all this, they STILL didn't turn their hearts to the Lord."  He even mentions when they give lip service to God, just to highlight the fact that they really didn't care.  It's a sad history.

Of course, I'm reading this Psalm with a lot more perspective than Asaph or his contemporaries had.  He wrote about God's people being stubborn until they were given a good king in David.  That was a great way to end a somewhat depressing song, by talking about God's mercy in  granting them a godly leader.  But even then, we know the rest of the story.  Within a few generations they had already strayed again.  What a hard headed group.

But here are some questions/observations I had after reading Psalm 78.  

First, it's important to share the story of God's provision and protection to the next generation.  This means everything found in scripture as well as all the history leading up to today, including our own personal testimonies.  

Second, is that knowledge enough to cause obedience?  I don't think it is, but it leads to a related third question/observation.  

What can we do to encourage obedience without just changing our children's behavior?  I don't have kids, but I'm still going to think about it because, if that knowledge isn't enough to make the next generation obey, then it isn't enough for me.  So, how do I bring about my own obedience?  

And lastly, how do we present the gospel to people in a way that communicates God's desire for obedience AND confronts the human desire to just be a law keeper?  

These are all hard questions, and I'm looking forward to thinking about them more and more in the coming weeks.  Realizing the effects of growing up in a postmodern culture and living in post-christian Europe have made me think about that last question a lot, but I don't want to swing to extremes the way that I'm often tempted to do.

Anyway, I'm hoping to get back into blogging more this year for a number of reasons, so please feel free to comment, ask questions, dialogue, or offer suggestions.  Just remember, I'm not an expert on anything, especially difficult things like life.

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