Dads, Ask Better Questions

Recently, I met with a father who is facing a phenomenon that is all too common. His teenage son asked a question that he found difficult to answer. The particular question he faced went something like this:

“Dad, I know smoking pot is illegal, but that seems to be changing in some states. If it were legal for a person of my age – would it still be bad?”

Normally the teen follows this question with a summary quote of a study that compares the effects of marijuana and alcohol on the brain and body. The common conclusion is – marijuana seems safer than alcohol. Typically, the proactive teen can even produce a couple of studies that seem to conclude that marijuana even has some health benefits.

The dad I had lunch with was quick to produce a verse. He mentioned Ephesian 5:18 where Paul warns us, “do not get drunk with wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit”. Dad proceed to take the principle of the verse and make application to marijuana, prescription drugs, etc.

Let me quickly say, “way to go dad!” you are showing your child your faith in the authority of scripture in your home – that’s awesome. In addition to this I would recommend you go a step further – ask a better question. Rather than simply asking, “is it bad?”, a better question would be, “why do you think people want to use marijuana?”. There are a number of reasons the honest teen will give for an attraction to the substance. It may be boredom, curiosity or peer pressure, however more often than not I am hearing teens say that they are tempted to smoke pot as a way of dealing with stress. Since that is the primary reason I am given I will show you how I address that response.

Stress in short spurts it can be helpful in that it gives us a dose of adrenaline for use in our natural, “fight of flight” response to a threat. It can energize us to tackle things properly. However prolonged stress is typically a form of what the Bible calls – worry. When a Christian is worried it should send them into a time of analysis. First, we should acknowledge that all worry is sin. Second we ask the following questions:

  • What specifically am I stressed about?
  • Are there practical things I can do to better the situation?
  • Are there things out of my control that I should trust God’s sovereignty about?
  • Am I acting in love toward all the parties involved – friends and enemies?
  • Is there any area that I need to store up or offer forgiveness toward someone?
  • Am I thinking on things that are true (Phillipians 4:8) or am I imagining things that I don’t have evidence of?

When we wrestle through such questions we typically find that we are humbled, driven near to God, and our stress (or worry) is turned into sense of peace and confidence in our Lord. The enemy offers a myriad of substances as an alternative to dealing with stress biblically – marijuana is one. Mood altering substances can become a crutch that keeps us from addressing the real problem.

More broadly – healthy things can also become crutches. Working out, for example, can serve to clear your mind, give you a burst of endorphins and enable you to do the hard work of biblical analysis. If, however, working out becomes an end in itself – it will also become a crutch and a replacement to working through your stresses biblically.

When addressing the question of recreation drug or alcohol use – consider a similar paradigm of questions depending on the teens response. If they are using primarily due to peer pressure, you want them to better understand what God’s word has to say concerning friendships.

When you deal with the issues of life this way it will not eliminate the temptation your kids face entirely but it will reduce a 10 temptation down to perhaps a 4, which is more manageable. In conclusion, remember – ask better questions.

Meals and Mission – Episode 1: Russia, Beef Stroganoff and Russian Salad

[DON’T MISS THE VIDEO AT THE BOTTOM OF THE POST]

Dining is, quite seriously, a religious experience in our home. A friend of mine quotes his father as saying,

“I do not eat, I dine”.

I know exactly what he means! The greats have always viewed meals as special! Henry David Thoreau said,

“He who distinguishes the true savor of his food can never be a glutton; he who does not cannot be otherwise.”

Meals are special. History can be understood as a series of meals from the first bite of forbidden fruit (Genesis 3) to the marriage supper of the Lamb (Revelation 19) with one major meal, the Last Supper, in between (Matthew 26). Jesus’s strongest critics focused on when he ate (Mark 2), how he ate (Mark 7), what he didn’t drink (Matthew 11), and whom he ate with (Mark 2). According to most biblical historians, practically every service in the early church involved a meal.

So, it is not surprising that the primary discipling of our families is expected to happen around the dinner table.

Deuteronomy 6:6–7 (ESV) And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.

We have found that there is no better place to disciple our children than around the dinner table. That is why we make it a priority to have an evening meal together at least 4 nights a week.

The conversation often turns to what God is teaching us, what we are studying in the Scriptures, and how we are trying to influence others for the Gospel. Recently, my wife and I wondered if there was a way to use that evening meal time to keep the Great Commission (Matthew 28), the mission field, and the work of missionaries in front of our children and in our regular conversation. We have created a tool to help to that end – we call it Meals & Mission.

My wife (Julie) is an incredible cook. She specializes in ethnic cooking. Since we are already in the habit of cooking one or two ethnic meals a week, we wondered what it would look like if we were more intentional in the selection of the meals. Seeking to find recipes from around the world that will allow us to circle the globe in the course of a year is our goal. Simultaneously, I will write a short devotional (2-3 paragraphs) that will communicate the climate of the missionary endeavor in that part of the world, introduce a missionary family, and give a few ways we can pray for the spread of the Gospel there.

From there, the idea began to grow. We figured, if we are going to go to the trouble to produce this material, we might as well seek to share it with you – the readers of my blog. So here is what we are attempting to produce at least once a month:

  • A recipe from a particular mission field
  • A short video that will teach you how to cook the meal
  • A devotion that you can print and read to your family

This will be a major undertaking for our already busy schedule. SO WE NEED YOUR HELP. We would like for you to consider sending us a recipe for an ethnic meal complete with a list of ingredients and instructions. Be sure to tell us where in the world the meal originated and, if possible, which people group you wish to focus on. We will do the research needed for the devotional, but if you have thoughts or resources to be considered, include those as well. You can leave your recipes, meal ideas, and devotional thoughts in the comment section below.

2a8a8d5e-69c4-427a-ba22-3bbb9b9935c3Now that you understand the context of what we are trying to accomplish, let’s begin with Episode 1 – Russia.

The Christmas Family

The following is a fictional story, more of what C.S. Lewis called, “a Supposal”. Suppose we were allowed to look into what occurred in heaven just before Messiah was born. This is what my sanctified imagination came up with…

A Christmas Supposal:

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It happened many years ago, although in the Celestial City, time is irrelevant. The Angelic Hosts were gathered in two companies before the Great Throne, arranged by their rank and duty. The two great ones, Michael and Gabriel, were seated on lesser thrones at the head of each company, with scores of cherubs, seraphs, and soldiers arranged behind them.

The time was at hand. After epochs of waiting, longing, wondering…that of which the prophets have spoken in the Holy Scriptures had arrived. It was now time for Messiah’s Advent. That second Person of the God-Head, the eternal Son of the Almighty, the Manifest One, would now be sent to a tiny blue planet to redeem the creatures on whom His affection was set.

Angelic hearts began to race. They had dreamed of this day. There were so many questions that would now be answered. Some expected the Messiah to travel to earth on a chariot of fire like that which gathered the prophet Elijah heavenward years earlier. Others had heard a rumor that God would form Messiah’s body of the dust of teh ground as he had done in the beginning. Yet, in actuality, eye had not seen, neither had it entered into any angelic heart, what God had prepared for the Advent of His Son.

From the midst of the throne thundered a voice that was at once both terrifying in its power and comforting in its tone. The decree of God sounded forth, informing the Angelic Host that,

“Messiah will transition to Earth by means of that ancient institution, the family.”

One could hear the angels gasp- a family. A human family. Out of all of the potential methods the Ancient of Days could employ, He did that which no one expected. Michael raised the question that was on everyone’s mind:

“Oh, Eternal One,” he asked. “They have all turned aside, all of them have gone astray. Even the mightiest of men wrestle with pride, with fear. Their lives are filled with drama. Who could handle such a responsibility?”

At that very moment, before the throne arose a great mist. Flashes of lightning and circles of rainbows proceeded from the mist, and images began to appear! The angels could now see beyond the Celestial City, through time and space. The images grew clearer and clearer until they revealed a scene unfolding on earth: it was a young man and a virgin at their betrothal ceremony.

Gabriel whispered, “They are so young.”

Then, the Almighty again spoke:

“Behold, My servants, Joseph and Mary of Nazareth, of the tribe of Judah, descendants of David. Mary will carry Messiah in her womb, and she will nurse Him. Together Joseph and Mary will see my Son through His earthly pilgrimage.

Don’t let their humble estate fool you. They have the greatest of all human traits: THEY TRUST ME. They walk by faith and not by sight. These two ordinary people will soon be husband and wife. They will carry all of the stress any other couple carries, and added to that, the enormous weight of being the earthly parents of Deity.”

No angel would dare question the wisdom of the Creator, yet God knew their hearts were troubled about this plan. Once again God explained,

My beloved messengers, the human family is my most mysterious, yet powerful creation. For that reason, the fallen ones from your ranks have waged war against families from the beginning. Yet the truth remains that if a husband and a wife will simply walk with Me, I can make from their union a cocoon that will transform a simple boy into a mighty man of valor. I can convert a little girl into a jewel among women. The very Son of God can grown in favor and stature with God and man, until He is ready to pay the ultimate price.”

“Master, an angel asked, “will we be allowed to set a legion of our best soldiers to watch over this family?”

You will have your part, as always,” answered the Almighty, “but please remember that I forge a family as I form a diamond. They will experience stress and enormous pressure. They will at times fear for their lives and the life of their Son. Yet, as they walk with Me, I assure you that the mission will be accomplished. So, let’s begin…”

There was silence in Heaven for about half an hour as a new star exploded into existence above the hillside of Judea. Then suddenly, the silence was broken by the crying of a baby, as all of Heaven toward Bethlehem did lean.

A Letter from the Future

I am constantly trying to come up with creative ways to bring truth to bear on the hearts of my kids. My latest attempt was to write a letter to my son from his son in the future. My son Cole has a brilliant imagination. Hopefully this letter from the future is speaking his language.

Dear Dad (Elijah Cole Terry),

I am writing you from the year 2034. In my time you are 31 years old and I am 9. My name is Eli. I hope you get this letter because there are a few things you really need to know.

  1. Take care of your legos – they are antiques in my day and you often tell me if we ever need money we can sell them on cloud 9 (it’s similar to what you call the internet).
  2. Whatever you do, don’t date the girl you have a crush on when you are 19, she turned out to be psycho.
  3. Mom is really pretty and you guys are best friends. She says, that she hopes you pray for her even now. She will not let me tell you when you guys meet for the first time, but learn how to play golf!
  4. You tell me often that prayer was always your greatest weapon. I guess you should start becoming good at it now and you will be even better in my time.
  5. Make sure you get a female labrador retriever at some point. As I write this letter my favorite dog Samson is sitting beside me, apparently he is the great grand-dog of your Levi.
  6. In 2031, remember that kids make mistakes, your hair WILL grow back and it was JUST A JOKE!!!
  7. Oh yeah, one more thing – hug Papa Zach for me and tell him when he buys the condo on the Moon to make sure it has bunk beds for the grandkids.

Your Loving Son,

Eli