Tag Archives: Responsibility

Bible study: responsibilities and obligations in Philippians 1-4

(Note: this video illustrates an infantry tactic where one group monitors the movement of another group. And then they switch roles. This is called “bounding overwatch”)

Here are some parts of Philippians that speak to an issue that I think is a problem today for many Christians – self-centeredness. I have three parts of Philippians to present below on that topic.

1) The importance of fellowship – preparing to work together with other Christians towards some end:

Phil 1:3-11:

I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all, in view of your participation in the gospel from the first day until now. For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. For it is only right for me to feel this way about you all, because I have you in my heart, since both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers of grace with me. For God is my witness, how I long for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, 10 so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ; 11 having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

Some Christians find it difficult to “participate in the gospel” with anyone because they feel uncomfortable with responsibilities, expectations or obligations to others. In my experience, people who shun responsibilities, obligations and expectations can improve this by taking Paul’s advice – grow in real knowledge and all discernment. In my experience, I have found that people who shy away from responsibilities, expectations and obligations do so because they are afraid of failing. They are proud and don’t want to look bad if they fail to perform something that they are expected to perform. Christians should not shy away from growing though, because growing is what helps us to be better partners in the gospel. We should try to read hard things, study hard things, and take the hardest jobs we can do – so that we build up our tolerance for responsibilities, obligations and expectations. People who do hard jobs like computer programming or nursing know that that you always struggle to learn difficult things and there is always the risk of looking incompetent. But we accept the risk of looking stupid and being judged and this builds a level of comfort with responsibilities, obligations and expectations. That comfort level with responsibilities, obligations and expectations that you get from doing hard things can only help you be a better partner in the gospel.

2) The importance of not being self-centered, but instead being focused on the needs of others:

Phil 2:1-8:

Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion,make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

And Phil 2:19-23:

19 But I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you shortly, so that I also may be encouraged when I learn of your condition. 20 For I have no one else of kindred spirit who will genuinely be concerned for your welfare. 21 For they all seek after their own interests, not those of Christ Jesus. 22 But you know of his proven worth, that he served with me in the furtherance of the gospel like a child serving his father.

Nothing very complicated here, it’s important to look out for the interests of others and to be concerned about their welfare. I think it’s a good idea to be practical about this, and instead of just expressing opinions like “I care”, try to find out what needs to be done and do it. The important thing is that it’s good to be focused on other people, and not on ourselves, and to think of the interests of others, not our own interests. That point about looking out for other people’s interests is said twice, once in each passage from chapter 2 I quoted above.

3) People who are doing good work for the Lord have needs:

Phil 4:10-18:

10 But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned before, but you lacked opportunity. 11 Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. 12 I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. 13 I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.14 Nevertheless, you have done well to share with me in my affliction.

15 You yourselves also know, Philippians, that at the first preaching of the gospel, after I left Macedonia, no church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving but you alone; 16 for even in Thessalonica you sent a gift more than once for my needs. 17 Not that I seek the gift itself, but I seek for the profit which increases to your account. 18 But I have received everything in full and have an abundance; I am amply supplied, having received from Epaphroditus what you have sent, a fragrant aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well-pleasing to God.

I think if you are friends with a person and they are working on some task or other for the gospel, then it’s a good idea to be sensitive to their needs, and be open to caring for those needs. Your goal should not be to make excuses for why you don’t have to do anything to help them. In my case, finances are not a problem, so I don’t have that need. I use money to supply the needs of people that I partner with in the gospel, though. Instead, I have other needs that people can help with – for example, after a stressful day of work, I am always looking for people to play games with me. Some of my friends show an interest in that, and others don’t. The good things that I do for God are not free, and it matters a lot to me whether those who know me want to listen to me and then take responsibility for making sure that I keep functioning and doing the things that I do for God. We have to have an eye out to maintain people who are doing good things for God – not just take it for granted that it will continue. Sometimes, it is not just sending money (gifts), it can be other love languages like touch, service, quality time and words of encouragement. But turning away from the needs of others is not good for us.

New study: leftists have less self-control than conservatives

Dina tweeted this article from the UK Daily Mail, and it’s worth a look.

It says:

In three studies, US scientists tested the abilities of two groups: undergraduates who considered themselves politically conservative and ‘liberals’.

They classed conservatives as those who endorse traditional values and the status quo, while liberals ‘endorse egalitarian ideals and progressive change’.

They found that the conservatives were better at ‘regulating their attention’ and persisting with tasks.

And they found the difference between the two groups was linked to how closely they believed in free will.

The authors wrote in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences: ‘Three studies document a clear difference in self-control as a function of political ideology, as political conservatism (versus liberalism) was consistently related to greater self-control.’

[…]The researchers from the universities of Cincinatti, Indiana and Florida said their research followed on from previous studies that found conservatives tended to be more studious at university than their left-wing counterparts.

The authors suggest that a belief that success is down to one’s own efforts rather than being pre-determined is key to academic success.

Explaining findings that conservative students do better at university, they suggest it ‘could be that conservatives believe they have greater control over their performance and thus expend greater self control in their academic pursuits.’

This is interesting. The theistic view is that human beings are non-physical souls, and the non-physical souls tell the body what to do. Since the non-physical soul is not material, it’s behavior is not governed by fixed physical processes. This is in contrast with the naturalistic view, which is that you are your body, there is no free will, and no personal responsibility.

Isn’t it interesting that the people who do believe in free will also believe in personal responsibility, and this causes them to take more responsibility for their own choices? I cannot imagine how a person can deny free will, yet this is the natural outworking of saying “nature is all there is”.

For those who don’t like the Daily Mail, you can read about the study here in Science Daily.

Move over housing bubble and student loan bubble: here’s pension bubble!

Obama 2013 Budget Debt Projection
Obama 2013 Budget Debt Projection

Recently, I was talking to Dina about which state I would like to live in. I looked at a whole bunch of factors like tax rates, housing prices, religious liberty laws, voting patterns… but I also looked at state obligations to pay pensions.

Let’s take a look at the story from the Washington Examiner to see why this is important.

It says:

Years of gimmicks and politically motivated benefit increases for government workers have left America’s states and municipalities with pension funds that are short at least $1.5 trillion — and possibly as much as $4 trillion if the investment returns of these funds don’t live up to expectations in coming years.

[…]Since 2007, states and localities have been forced to increase annual contributions into pensions by $43 billion, or 65 percent, and in various places these rising payments are crowding out other government services or driving taxes higher or both. Retirement debt has even played a crucial role in high-profile government bankruptcies — including in Detroit; Stockton, California; and Central Falls, Rhode Island. Fixing the problem is proving expensive, and it won’t happen quickly in places with the worst debt.

[…][O]fficials in Stockton spent years enhancing benefits to workers without understanding the debts they were accruing. The city agreed back in the 1990s, for instance, to pay not only its own share of contributions into the pension system, but those of staff, too. It also guaranteed healthcare for life for retirees.

[…]Facing $400 million in pension debt and $450 million in promises for future healthcare, the city declared bankruptcy in 2012. Employees lost some of their perks, like healthcare in retirement, but citizens suffered, too. Trying to save money, the city cut essential services, including the police department, and crime soared.

[…]Places that cannot reform pensions, or where legislators were slow to act, are inevitably seeing tax increases to finance these steep obligations. In Pennsylvania, 164 school districts applied in 2014 to increase property taxes above the state’s 2.1 percent tax cap. Every one of them listed pension costs as a reason for the higher increases. In West Virginia, the state has given cities the right to impose their own sales tax to pay for increased pension costs.

Several cities, including Charleston, have already gone ahead with the new tax. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel tried to impose a $250 million property tax increase last year to start wiping out pension debt in the Windy City, where pensions are only 35 percent funded. When the City Council balked, Chicago instead passed $62 million in other taxes, including a levy on cell phone use, as a stopgap measure. But the city faces a pension bill that is scheduled to rise by half a billion dollars annually in 2016.

I was able to find a helpful table that shows the solvency of all the public sector pension plans in each state. There are sensible states where I could live. It’s also important to look at the trend to see what direction the state is moving in, and thankfully the table had that information.

Anyway, here is the point I want to make about this.

When I look at these numbers, I feel sad, because it means that I have to be careful about my spending, and not spend too much on things that are fun in the short-term. I also cannot stop working to take a year off to go backpacking in Europe, because that would wreck my resume, and lose me a whole bunch of earned income. Sometimes, reality causes us to feel bad like that, so we run away from it. We find people who will agree with our feelings, and we shut out people who see things clearly. But we as Christians should not make decisions based on intuitions and feelings. And it doesn’t even work if you wrap up a bad decision in spiritual language, i.e. – “God told me…”, either. As much as I might feel like spending my money on frivolous things, I know in my mind that I cannot do that. I don’t like having constraints on my freedom, but to ignore data like this in my decision-making would not end well for me.

Sue Bohlin of Probe Ministries recently wrote a wonderful post about short-term pain versus long-term pleasure.

She writes:

Decision-making often involves choosing between short-term pleasure or short-term pain. (Usually it’s more like short-term inconvenience.)

Short-term pleasure often leads to long-term pain, and short-term pain often leads to long-term pleasure. What doesn’t work, and is a horribly unrealistic expectation for life, is short-term pleasure leading to long-term pleasure! (Wouldn’t THAT be nice?!)

Maturity and wisdom is displayed by the choices we make, especially when we exercise patience and self-control, not insisting on the instant-gratification jolt of “I want it NOW!!!” Many of our choices for pleasure in the right-now end up costing us down the road, causing pain later. You know, like that fourth brownie that tastes soooooo good in the moment, but then you can’t zip up your jeans a few days later. Or indulging your child’s demands and whims today because you want to be the “cool parent” and you want them to like you, but then you start to notice the ugliness of that child’s sense of self-absorbed entitlement. Short-term pleasure, even when that pleasure is simply trying to avoid pain, results in long-term unpleasant consequences.

But when we recognize the value of self-control and self-denial in the present, so that we can reap the harvest of pleasure in the future, that’s wisdom. Mark Twain advised, “Do one thing every day you don’t want to do.” That’s good advice, but of course God thought of that much earlier! Using self-control and self-denial is how we fulfill the biblical idea of not indulging the flesh (Galatians 5:16).

[…]Jesus said, “If anyone wants to become My follower, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me.” (Luke 9:23) Denying ourselves, taking up our cross, and following Jesus are all about short-term pain with major long-term pleasures!

Sue is wise. And her newest post is all about how to deal with feelings.

She says:

What is the biblical perspective on how to handle overwhelming feelings?

There are healthy and unhealthy ways to do that.

The healthy way to deal with strong feelings starts with thinking wisely about feelings in general. Our pastor often says that feelings are real (we do feel them, often intensely), but they’re not reliable (they make terrible indicators of what is true). So we should acknowledge them, but not be led by them.

Especially powerful, overwhelming feelings.

Allowing yourself to be controlled by your feelings is unwise and immature. The flip side of that is our example of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. No one ever experienced the strength of horrific feelings like He did, to the point of sweating blood. He allowed Himself to feel His feelings, but then He turned in trust to His Father, submitting to His will. He set the bar for how to handle overwhelming feelings: feel the feelings, and trust the Lord.

Often, though, especially in the young, people deal with their strong feelings in unhealthy ways.

Feel the feelings, but don’t let them into your decision-making.

Serial sexual relationships, multi-partner fertility, single motherhood and fatherlessness

A man leading a woman upward
A man leading a woman upward

Here’s an article from the policy journal National Affairs (editor is Yuval Levin) that has some statistics about single motherhood by choice. When you are reading the article, keep in mind that most people who lean left are so influenced by feminism that they seem to think that women trip and fall accidentally, and end up pregnant from random men. I don’t think that we should minimize the fact that most women freely choose the men who treat them badly.

Excerpt:

Pew Foundation and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention surveys indicate that, on a range of measures, a very large share of fathers who do not live with their children have virtually no meaningful relationship with their non-custodial children. More than one-half report that they had not shared a meal with their non-custodial children in the last four weeks, while nearly two-thirds had not read to their children and a full three-quarters had not done homework with them. Moreover, these are self-reported figures, so the share of fathers with no relationship to their non-custodial children is most likely even higher.

When fathers form new romantic partnerships, their involvement with children from previous relationships declines. Jo Jones and William Mosher report that, while 39% of fathers in new romantic relationships had shared a meal with their non-custodial 5- to 18-year-old children at least once in the past month, 62% of those not in a new romantic relationship had. While 55% of fathers in a new romantic relationship had spoken with their 5- to 18-year-old non-custodial children, 77% of those not in a new romantic relationship had.

In addition, men with less education are more likely to exhibit absent-father behavior. Whereas 70% of fathers with at least some college had talked to their non-custodial 5- to 18-year-old children at least once in the past month, 59% of those with no more than a high-school degree had done so. While 74% of fathers with at least some college had played with their non-custodial child under 5 years old at least once in the past month, only 53% of those fathers with no more than a high-school degree had.

Multi-partner fertility is not only associated with father abandonment, it also adversely impacts child-maltreatment rates. Women attempting to balance work, the demands of new relationships, and the challenges of raising children are faced with a set of chronic stressors that often lead to child abuse and neglect. The shift from welfare to work increased these stresses. Partially as a result, between 1993 and 2005, the rate of overall abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, and serious abuse, respectively, rose by 22%, 14%, 49%, and 34% for children living with single mothers. By contrast, for children living in two-parent households, child-abuse rates fell on each of the four measures (by 42%, 24%, 62%, and 37%, respectively). By 2005, the child-abuse rate was 2.9 per 1,000 for children living with married biological parents but 10.2 for those living with a single parent and no partner, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. This disparity cannot be explained solely by socioeconomic status since the abuse rate for children in families of all kinds in the lowest socioeconomic group was still lower than that for children living in single-parent households.

Multi-partner fertility also increases child-abuse rates in a second way: the presence of non-biological fathers in the house. Child abuse in households with single mothers triples when they live with a man other than the child’s father. Child-maltreatment rates are actually lower in black than white households when the mother lives alone. But unfortunately, many men bring their job and other frustrations into the home, creating abusive situations. As a result, when a partner is present, the black rates on all three measures of child maltreatment — emotional, physical, and endangerment — are almost double the white rates. In addition, rates of intimate violence are over 12 times higher for single mothers than for married mothers.

Edin and Nelson ignore the subject of abusive behavior in men. Instead, despite the fathers’ caring attitudes, we are told, the mothers kick them out because they don’t earn sufficient income. And on the impact of multi-partner fertility on children, Doing the Best I Can offers one benign sentence: “Kids are amazingly resilient, but the rate of family change among children of unwed fathers has become so rapid, and now leads to such complicated family structures, that kids might have a hard time adjusting.”

Academic studies paint a much grimmer picture. After surveying the evidence, Sara McLanahan and Christopher Jencks concluded earlier this year,

[A] father’s absence increases antisocial behavior [among children], such as aggression, rule breaking, delinquency, and illegal drug use. These antisocial behaviors affect high school completion independent of a child’s verbal and math scores. Thus it appears that a father’s absence lowers children’s educational attainment…by disrupting their social and emotional adjustment and reducing their ability or willingness to exercise self-control.

The effects of growing up without both parents when it comes to aggression, rule breaking, and delinquency are also larger for boys than for girls. Marianne Bertrand and Jessica Pan found in 2011 that the behavior of boys is far more dependent upon good parenting practices — spending time with a child, emotional closeness, and avoiding harsh discipline — than that of girls. Such parenting habits are far more common in two-parent families, which helps to explain why boys with absent fathers are more likely to be suspended and have other behavioral problems than boys who have both parents at home.

The evidence also indicates that the outcomes are most negative when a man other than the biological father is present. Cassandra Dorius and Karen Guzzo found that “adolescents with a half-sibling with a different father are about 65 percent more likely to have used marijuana, uppers, inhalants, cocaine, crack, hallucinogens, sedatives, or other drugs by the time of their 15th birthday than those who have only full siblings.” Cynthia Harper and Sara McLanahan reported in 2004 that, among fatherless boys, those who lived with stepfathers were at an even greater risk of incarceration than those who lived with a single mother.

I think in today’s society, there seems to be a lot of fear and trembling to speak about moral standards. And it seems to be especially true that men are not allowed to tell women about their moral obligations. I know that at least when I speak to young women, they are often very rebellious. The attitude I encounter most often is that they feel that they should be able to trust their feelings and act in the way that their feelings dictate. Any destructiveness that results – which I warned them about – is dismissed as “unexpected”.

I can clearly remember the first time this happened to me, when I was in high school. I was friends with a girl named Tara who would come over and speak to me before morning announcements. She would tell me about her stock car driving boyfriend. One day, she told me that she was moving in with him. I warned her against it, and listed off a bunch of statistics about how this would cause problems. She stopped coming to talk to me, and so did her best female friend. Well, a few years later I ran into her again at one of our local universities where I was an undergraduate. She filled me in on what had happened. He had cheated on her with her best friend in their house. He got her pregnant. She had an abortion. She knew better now, but back in high school I was easily dismissed, and all of her friends sided with her.

Whenever I try to produce evidence to say that something is likely to cause harm, the response is usually “well I know a person who broke the rules and nothing happened”. I produce statistics about some likely consequence of following your heart, and it’s dismissed because some Hollywood celebrity managed to escape the probabilities. “Don’t judge me!” they say. Happiness comes first, and the best way to decide how to be happy in the long-term is apparently to do what makes a person feel happy right now. But statistics are there to tell a story of how the world normally works – dismissing it all with individual cases is bad logic. There are consequences to following your feelings and dismissing moral obligations.

We need to be able to tell women right and wrong

Disclaimer: in this post, when I refer to women, I mean young, unmarried women influenced by feminism.

I want to give several cases of women behaving badly and then make a general point about whether we are doing the right thing when we decline to criticize women for fear of offending them, and instead point the finger of blame at men, however ridiculous it is to do that.

First case – wife threatens divorce unless husband agrees to abort Down’s syndrome baby:

“When I walked into the room they all turned to me and said ‘Leo has Down syndrome,” he told ABC News. “I had a few moments of shock.”

[…]”They took me in see him and I looked at this guy and I said, he’s beautiful — he’s perfect and I’m absolutely keeping him.”

Soon Forrest walked into his wife’s hospital room with Leo in his arms.

Her reaction was unlike one he ever expected.

“I got the ultimatum right then,” he said. “She told me if I kept him then we would get a divorce.”

[…]One week after his birth, Leo’s mom filed for divorce.

Second case – woman abandons her 5-month old baby to go on a two-week partying binge:

Alena Itapova, 19, who has been nicknamed ‘Monster Mum’ in Russian media for letting baby Veronika die, tried to blame her parents during appeals but ultimately was found guilty. Russian judges refused her appeal and instead increased her sentence. Itapova claimed the baby’s death was her parents’ fault for not teaching her how to properly raise a baby.

During a trial last year, Itapova admitted to leaving her baby alone in her apartment while she disappeared for two weeks. She found her daughter dead when she returned.

Third case – a woman writing for Think Progress bemoans Republican efforts to ban dismemberment abortions:

“Immediately, when I heard the title of these bills, I had to take a deep breath and calm down,” Dr. Anne Davis, the consulting medical director for Physicians for Reproductive Health and an OB-GYN who provides abortions, told ThinkProgress. “This is a familiar tactic, similar to the other types of bans we’ve seen. It seems the strategy is to take language that provokes emotional responses and then to argue that, because there’s an emotional reaction to something, it should be illegal.”

Fourth case – Cathy Young interviews a man accused of rape and finds evidence that contradicts the accuser’s story:

Sulkowicz has said in interviews that she was too embarrassed and ashamed to talk to anyone about the rape, let alone report it; an account of her mattress protest by New York Times art critic Roberta Smith says that she “suffered in silence” in the aftermath of the assault. Yet Nungesser says that for weeks after that night, he and Sulkowicz maintained a cordial relationship, and says she seemingly never indicated that anything was amiss.

Nungesser provided The Daily Beast with Facebook messages with Sulkowicz from August, September, and October 2012. (In an email to The Daily Beast, Sulkowicz confirmed that these records were authentic and not redacted in any way; while she initially offered to provide “annotations” explaining the context on the messages, she then emailed again to say that she would not be sending them.) On Aug. 29, two days after the alleged rape, Nungesser messaged Sulkowicz on Facebook to say, “Small shindig in our room tonight—bring cool freshmen.”

Despite not being able to present the friendly Facebook messages from two days after the rape at the university trial, he was exonerated. She declined to press criminal charges. Making a false charge to the police is a crime. But she can make a false charge and carry a mattress around on campus, and get her victimhood celebrated by United States senators.

And finally fifth case, false rape accusation investigated by the police, charges dismissed because sex proven consensual.

So what’s the point of all this?

The point of all this is that I think that we are letting women getting away with too much. Instead of standing up to their poor decision-making and outright lying (in the rape cases that have been in the news lately), we coddle them and make them out to be victims, and blame the bad men they freely choose to have relationships with when they mess up their lives. They have to take responsibility for their own poor decisions, and make different decisions going forward. There isn’t enough money in the world to give them to make up for all the mistakes they are making.

When a women makes decisions in her life to drink, move away from parents, shack up with bad men, take drugs, contract STDs, vote for higher taxes and bigger government, run up student loan debts, drop out of school, get pregnant before marriage, have abortions, go on welfare, choose younger unemployed boyfriends, choosing violent boyfriends, move in with men before marriage, get frivolous divorces for “unhappiness”, put kids in non-family daycare when they are under two years old, make fake domestic violence charges, make false rape accusations, deprive children of their father, withhold sex from their husbands all the time for no good reason, disrespecting men, disrespecting masculine traits, etc. then we ought to be confident enough to tell them NO and IT’S WRONG.

We should not let them direct the conversation away from their own mistakes so they can blame others and justify continued irresponsible, selfish behavior because it “feels right” to them. Women are making really bad decisions these days, and it seems like men have lost all confidence to be able to tell them NO and IT’S WRONG. It’s so easy for a woman who is behaving badly to just find people who will agree with her and give her sympathy for her bad decisions. Men and women both seem to love to agree with women who are wrecking their lives and causing problems for everyone else around them.

We need to stop condoning and rationalizing their poor decisions. The harm that women cause is very real, and the costs for “fixing” their mistakes through government programs and charity are ballooning. In the UK, we are now seeing taxpayer-funded breast implants and IVF, in some provinces in Canada, taxpayer-funded IVF, and here at home – free contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs. We cannot keep paying for lives that are ruined by decision-making dominated by emotions, cultural standards and peer-pressure.

Just because a woman is pretty and sounds nice, that doesn’t make her exempt from the moral law. It’s not even good for a woman, in the long run, to surround herself with people (men and women) who tell her to “follow her heart” – I can guarantee that that her yes-men and yes-women won’t want to deal with the mess she creates by following her heart, when it all blows up in her face. The biggest problem I see is apparently moral Christian men being so desperate for attention and/or sex that they give up the role of being the moral leader so that the woman will prefer them to men who would hold them accountable.