Tag Archives: Wisdom

Bible study: It’s loving to warn someone who is about to make a mistake

Bible study that hits the spot
Bible study that hits the spot

A lesson in spiritual leadership, from the excellent Dr. Michael Brown, writing for Townhall.com. (H/T Think Apologetics)

He writes:

[L]ove that does not warn is not love at all.

The parent who doesn’t warn a chain-smoking child about the dangers of nicotine is not a loving parent.

The doctor who doesn’t warn a morbidly obese patient about the dangers of overeating is not a loving doctor.

The preacher who doesn’t warn his straying flock about the dangers of spiritual compromise is not a loving pastor.

Love warns, and it warns loudly and clearly – but that does not mean harshly or with an angry, self-righteous spirit.

Love warns with tears.

Love warns with brokenness.

Love warns with longsuffering.

Love warns.

That’s why Jesus wept in public as He warned Jerusalem about the terrible judgment that was at the door (Luke 19:41-45).

That’s why Jeremiah wept in secret when the nation refused to hear his warnings of impending disaster (Jeremiah 13:17).

That’s why Paul said to the elders of Ephesus, “I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish every one with tears” (Acts 20:29-31).

When is the last time we warned someone with tears? When is the last time we cared enough to weep for them in private?

May God break our hearts with the things that break His heart. May the Lord shatter our indifference.

In the words of the Book of Proverbs, “Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy. . . . Whoever rebukes a man will afterward find more favor than he who flatters with his tongue” (Proverbs 27:5-6; 28:23).

We are not called to tickle people’s ears and make them feel good. We are called to speak the truth in love, to have hearts of compassion and backbones of steel, to emulate the true prophets not the false prophets, to do the right thing rather than the convenient thing.

Oh that God would deliver us from a crippling, compromising, man-pleasing mentality!

In your life or ministry, do you really want to be surrounded by a bunch of Yes-men who tell you what you want to hear rather than what you need to hear? Do you really want to work with a bunch of carnal prophets who say, “All is well, all is well,” when nothing is well? (See Jeremiah 6:14.) Then do the same for others and save them from disaster and self-destruction by warning them when they are on the wrong path.

Paul’s final exhortation to Timothy rings as true today – if not even more true – than the day it was written: “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths” (2 Timothy 4:2-4).

Lots of good, challenging Bible verses there. It shows that telling people “watch out” is a real thing.  First point I want to make is that you should use data when you warn people, if you can. Notice that in Dr. Brown’s list, he talked about smoking and obesity, which doctors universally frown on. He wants to tell people the consequences for their health if they choose to smoke or be obese. A lot of moral issues are like that, where you want to tell someone the consequences, which they are often ignorant of – especially when they are young and foolish. So do use studies and papers to show the consequences.

I don’t think it’s something you can do flippantly. But if you have life experience in the area that you are warning about, then it is a good idea to tell what you learned to someone who is about to make a mistake. For example, suppose you see someone about to move in with their boyfriend, and their boyfriend has no degree, delivers pizzas, has gaps in his resume, and has no savings. And he’s 30. If you moved in with a deadbeat guy and it went nowhere, then you should tell this other person what happened to you, and what you learned from it. Don’t be afraid to pull out studies about cohabitation to turn your personal experience into something more persuasive.

Even better than a bad experience is how-to knowledge. If you have tried to do something and been successful at it, then you are in a position to say what worked. Suppose you have good STEM degrees, a good long work history and lots of earned income that you’ve saved and invested. You see a guy who is about to do a degree in art history, then he wants to go on vacation for two years in Europe, before finally trying to find a full-time job. You know – based on your own success – that this is bad for his resume, bad for his career, bad for his future marriage (a lot of divorces happen because of money). Well, then say something to him. It’s better to say something and risk losing him as a friend than for him to proceed in ignorance and make a mistake. It’s better to tell the truth than to be liked for lying. That is the loving thing to do.

Finally, if you are the person who is being warned, then respect the people who try to tell you the truth. God knows, it is hard to be the person who speaks the truth in a day and age when people just want to be happy, and be surrounded with positive affirmation. What happens when you chase away the people who have the courage to tell you the truth is that you find yourself surrounded by liars. It’s never going to be the case that you know everything about everything. There will always be people who know more than you. If you keep chasing them all away for disagreeing with you, you’ll only be left with your own judgment and a crowd of people who either don’t know the truth, or won’t tell you it. Be careful how you treat the truth-tellers in your life.

Does sex before marriage have any effect on your future relationships?

Is it OK to tell women they are wrong?
Do young people understand the long-term impact of premarital sex?

I’ve posted before about how premarital sex affects the stability of marriages by making divorce more likely. But there has been more research published since. Let’s take a look.

Here a good study on relationship tempo and relationship quality.

Abstract:

Rapid sexual involvement may have adverse long-term implications for relationship quality. This study examined the tempo of sexual intimacy and subsequent relationship quality in a sample of married and cohabiting men and women. Data come from the Marital and Relationship Survey, which provides information on nearly 600 low- to moderate-income couples living with minor children. Over one third of respondents became sexually involved within the first month of the relationship. Bivariate results suggested that delaying sexual involvement was associated with higher relationship quality across several dimensions. The multivariate results indicated that the speed of entry into sexual relationships was negatively associated with marital quality, but only among women. The association between relationship tempo and relationship quality was largely driven by cohabitation. Cohabiting may result in poorer quality relationship because rapid sexual involvement early in the romantic relationship is associated with entrance into shared living.

The authors are from Cornell University and University of Wisconsin – Madison. Prestigious schools, and very far to the left.

Here’s another recent study that shows that if a woman has more partners than just her husband as a premarital sex partner, the risk of divorce increases.

Conclusion:

Using nationally representative data from the 1995 National Survey of Family Growth, I estimate the association between intimate premarital relationships (premarital sex and premarital cohabitation) and subsequent marital dissolution. I extend previous research by considering relationship histories pertaining to both premarital sex and premarital cohabitation. I find that premarital sex or premarital cohabitation that is limited to a woman’s husband is not associated with an elevated risk of marital disruption. However, women who have more than one intimate premarital relationship have an increased risk of marital dissolution.

Here’s another study that makes it even more clear.

Findings:

Data from the 1988 US National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG) were utilized to assess the impact of premarital sexual activity on subsequent marital stability. Among white NSFG subjects first married in 1965-85, virgin brides were significantly less to have become separated or divorced (25%) than women who had not been virgins at marriage (35%).

[…]The lower risk of divorce on the part of white women with no premarital sexual experience persisted even after numerous intervening and background variables were controlled.

And I am going to save the best study for last. This marvelous PDF is from August 2014, and is put out by the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia. It is comprehensive, and links to many papers from decades ago to the state of the art today. It seems like people are really rushing into sex these days, without much thought. They want to have fun, feel accepted, be like their friends, conform to the culture. But sometimes, it’s better to be practical than to be governed by the desire for fun and thrills. If you want to do something, look at the research and find out what the consequences are before you do it. That’s what a sensible person does.

When it comes to discussing the Bible’s rules on sex, evidence is very important. Evidence is what convinces even non-Chrsitian people to take the Bible seriously when it comes to putting sex in its proper place. That’s why we need to know what the Bible says, and we need to augment that with real-world evidence so that it is applied to our own decision-making, and so that we can be persuasive when discussing it with others.

New study: women seeking to have a child should start before age 32

Brain vs Heart, from: theawkwardyeti.com
Brain vs Heart, from: theawkwardyeti.com

Dina sent me this sobering piece of research from the New Scientist which is perfect for all the young feminists who have been taught in college that marriage should be put off, and women can easily get pregnant after age 40.

Excerpt:

It’s a question many people will ask themselves at some point in their lives: when should I start a family? If you know how many children you’d like, and whether or not you would consider, or could afford, IVF, a computer model can suggest when to start trying for your first child.

Happy with just one? The model recommends you get started by age 32 to have a 90 per cent chance of realising your dream without IVF. A brood of three would mean starting by age 23 to have the same chance of success. Wait until 35 and the odds are 50:50 (see “When to get started”).

The suggestions are based on averages pulled from a swathe of data so don’t give a personal prediction. And of course, things aren’t this simple in real life – if only family size and feelings about IVF were the only factors to consider when planning a family. But the idea behind the model is to help people make a decision by condensing all the information out there into an accessible form.

“We have tried to fill a missing link in the decision-making process,” says Dik Habbema at Erasmus University in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, one of the creators of the model. “My son is 35 and many of his friends have a problem deciding when to have children because there are so many things they want to do.”

It’s a scenario that will be familiar to many; the age at which people have their first child has been creeping up over the last 40 or so years. For example, the average age at which a woman has her first child is 28 in the UK and has reached 30 in Italy, Spain and Switzerland. In the US, the birth rate for women in their 20s has hit a record low, while the figures for those over 35 have increased over the last few decades.

The decision is more pressing for women thanks to their limited supply of eggs, which steadily drop in quantity and quality with age. Female fertility is thought to start declining at 30, with a more significant fall after the age of 35.

[…]The new model incorporates data from studies that assess how fertility naturally declines with age. The team took information on natural fertility from population data collected over 300 years up to the 1970s, which includes data on 58,000 women.

I have often tried to talk to young women about the need to get their lives in gear. I advise them to work summers during high school, obtain a STEM degree in university, minimize borrowing money by going to community college for the generic prerequisites, don’t have premarital sex, get a job related to their STEM field straight out of college, pay off their debts, move out of their parents’ house, start investing from the first paycheck, marry between age 25-30, and then start having children after the first two “stabilizing” years of marriage. This is sound advice, rooted in my careful reconnaissance of the things that human beings care about and need in their old age. This advice is not bullying, it comes from reading many, many relevant papers. It comes from putting the knowledge gained from reading the papers into practice, and seeing results where appropriate.

I am giving you the numbers. Straight out of a peer-reviewed study. Don’t follow your heart. Don’t listen to your friends. Follow the science. Make your decisions within the boundaries of reality. God will not save you from foolish decisions.

Related posts

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.

Are Christians responsible for making plans and making good decisions?

Here’s a wonderful post on decision making and the will of God posted on Neil’s blog. Neil links to another post where someone is trying to figure out what God wants him to do.

Excerpt:

Really short version: Aside from direct and clear personal revelation from God, you don’t have access to his sovereign will when making decisions.  Therefore you must look at other factors.  If it isn’t moral, don’t do it.  If it is moral but not wise, don’t do it.  If it is moral and wise, then use your personal preferences.

Using this model you can end up with a wise and biblical decision, but you have avoided the traps of the “God told me to ____” routine.  People who run around saying that God told them this and that convey a super-spirituality that can leave less mature believers wondering if they really have a relationship with God (i.e., “God doesn’t tell me every little thing to do, so maybe I don’t really know him.”).

He has a helpful picture posted as well:

This is actually a very important topic for me, because I like making plans and making good decisions. I like being the quarterback or squad leader of my own life. I like to pick objectives and then make plans to achieve them. (Nothing too exotic, just simple stuff like saving money or reading more books)

Actually, I really oppose the idea that God has a magical fairy tale will for each person that will make them happy and fulfilled. For me, life isn’t like that. I don’t expect God to lead me along like a child at a scavenger hunt. I expect to survey the battlefield where I am and then do something to make a difference. There are lots of things you can do that will please God. Should you focus on your career and sponsor apologetics conferences? Or should you use your spare time preparing Sunday school lessons? There are lots of good things you could do to please God. Your job is to pick the one that will be the most effective. It doesn’t matter if it makes you happy, it only matters if it’s effective and if you are good at it.

Who is Rifleman Dodd?

A while back, I was busily working my way through the U.S. Marine Corps Official Reading List, and I came across a book by C.S. Forester called Rifleman Dodd, or alternatively titled Death to the French. It’s a work of historical fiction that takes place during the Napoleonic wars. The story is about a British marksman named Dodd, who is cut off from his own lines during a withdrawal maneuver. He is subsequently left to fend for himself behind enemy lines. An ordinary man might be full of despair and forget about his mission entirely. But Dodd is no ordinary man. Not only does he find a way to survive by finding food to eat, water to drink and places to sleep, but he also tries to remember his orders and to think about what he can do to advance the cause of his General, the Duke of Wellington.

Here’s an excerpt from a gritty book review:

It’s about a green-coated British infantry rifleman in the Napoleonic Wars, an age when rifles were a novelty and most of the army was red-coated and carried muskets. Private Matthew Dodd gets separated from his regiment during a retreat and finds himself stranded behind enemy (French) lines in Portugal. With the occasional aid of some natives, but mostly on his own, he harasses the French with his rifle and tries to prevent them from building a bridge across the Tagus River. It’s a remarkable tale of survival and solitary achievement, of a rank-and-file soldier who lives by his wits and slowly learns to make plans without orders, and shows leadership qualities and a knowledge of warfare.

I think we’re in the same situation as Dodd.

There is no point in us looking for breadcrumb trails to happiness at this point. That’s not the point of Christianity. The point of Christianity is friendship with God, imitation of Christ, honoring moral obligations, self-sacrificial love for your neighbor (and even your enemies!), and dedication to the truth – whether anyone else likes you or not. It’s not supposed to make you happy, and it’s not necessarily going to be a normal life like everyone else has. Things may not work out the way you’d like them to.

We seem to be making such a big deal about compassion and forgiveness in the Christian life these days – such a big emphasis on our feelings. Almost like we have forgotten that we have obligations to our friend – and his objectives. A relationship doesn’t mean that one person completely disregards the character and goals of the other person and then is automatically granted forgiveness whenever they want it. That’s not a friendship – that’s using someone else for your own ends. Maybe it’s time to remember what this is all about.