Tag Archives: Needs

Don’t let unmet needs block you from honoring your obligations to God

Theology that hits the spot
Theology that hits the spot

I’m still reading the devotional book (Paul Tripp’s “New Morning Mercies”) that Dina asked me to read. I will be reading it all year. I find that about one devotion a week is useful, the rest are fluff. However, because she is willing to keep asking me how I am doing with it, and also listen to me complain and criticize, I am keeping up with it.

I wanted to blog about the March 17th devotion.

Here it is:

If you put too many things in your need category, you will end up frustrated with life, hurt by others, and doubting God’s goodness.

It really is one of the sloppiest words used in human culture. If need means “essential for life,” then the vast majority of the things we say that we need we don’t actually need. You know this if you have children or are around children. Let’s say you’re a parent and you have taken your child to the mall (which is your first mistake). As you’re walking through the mall, your child sees the sneaker store and immediately makes a left-hand turn. Now, with nose pressed against the window of the store, he says, “Mom, I neeeeeeeed those sneakers.” You look down at his feet, which are encased in perfectly good shoes, and you say: “No, I’m not getting you those sneakers. You already have perfectly good shoes.” Now, when you say this, your child does not think: “What a wise mother I have been blessed with. She has seen through my distorted sense of need, has recognized selfish desire, and has lovingly rescued me from me.” No, your child lashes out against you: “You always say ‘no’ to me. I don’t know why I have to have the one mom who hates sneakers.” Then your child refuses to relate to you for the rest of the time that you are in the mall.

When you tell yourself that something is a need, three things folio’ First, you feel entitled to the thing, because, after all, it is a need. Second, because it is a need, you feel it’s your right to demand it. And third, you then judge the love of another person by his or her willingness to deliver the thing. This not only happens in our relationships with one another, but more important, it happens in our relationship with God. When you name something as a need and God doesn’t deliver it, you begin to doubt his goodness. What is deadly about this is that you simply don’t run for help to someone whose character you’ve come to doubt.

In Matthew 6:32, Jesus reminds us that we have a heavenly Father who knows exactly what we need. There is comfort and confrontation in Jesus’s words. The confrontation is this: the reason Jesus reminds us that we have a Father who has a clear understanding of our true needs is because we don’t have such an understanding. We constantly get needs and wants confused, and when we do, we are tempted to question the love of our heavenly Father. The comfort is that, by grace, we have been made to be the children of the wisest, most loving Father that the universe has ever known. He is never, ever confused. He knows our every need because he created us. We can rest in the grace that has made us his children, knowing that our place in his family guarantees that we will have what we need.

For further study and encouragement: Psalm 145

I’m posting this because it applies to me. I have a need for recognition and acknowledgement from Christian women, and for a very long time in my life, I had to do without it, despite making what I considered to be all the right moves. I don’t think anyone would say that I was not a successful person, and not a successful man. But I think something has changed in the culture that makes it harder to get appropriate recognition from women, even if you do all the right things. So I had to face this problem of having an unmet need for most of my life, until I started blogging and met tons and tons of women who recognized and acknowledged me. (My love language is words of encouragement)

I think the best thing I can say about this is that it hasn’t affected my willingness to serve God. I remember having a conversation with an atheist woman who expected God to meet all her needs. She expected him to appear to her and explain why she had certain bad experiences. And of course he didn’t appear, because it’s a suffering religion. The founder of the religion did everything right, and he still suffered. You can do everything right as a Christian, and still suffer. When you are suffering really badly from unmet needs, the best you can do is decide to keep faith with God and not let your unmet needs cause you to dump him.

So I guess my advice to all of you is to say that I am right with you having an unmet need. But if I can keep doing my job for God, then you can do it, too. You can have needs. You can ask for them to be met. You can talk to God about it. But it still may not be forthcoming. And then you have a decision to make. Make the decision I made, and resolve to keep serving regardless of whether your needs get met.

Contrasting two approaches to religion: truth vs crutch

I went to church today and we got a sermon from a guest speaker who espouses the standard felt needs / mysticism / Bible-verses-as-incantation-with-magical-powers view of evangelism.

I just thought that I would write it down while it was fresh in my mind. So below I’ll contrast my view of evangelism with what I will call the felt needs view of evangelism.

1) Who is to be evangelized?

My view: anyone, with an emphasis on people who are willing to listen to your evidence and change their mind on that basis

Felt needs view: People who are poor, ignorant, sick or who are grieving a recent death in the family, people who do not make decisions based on truth and evidence, but on emotions and superstition

2) What is the central issue in evangelism?

My view: the truth of the propositions, e.g. – does God exist, did Jesus rise from the dead

Felt needs view: making people feel good by telling them pleasing things that they have no basis for believing

3) How is the gospel preached?

My view: you explain the truth claims of the Christian faith then appeal to objective evidence, especially from science and history

Felt needs view: you knock on stranger’s doors and tell them how you used to be bad and unhappy and now you’re good and happy and you achieved this by reading the Bible, singing songs, attending church and believing things that you are not able to give an answer for

4) Why should we adopt your view of evangelism?

My view: Because this is the same view of decision-making that is used in the business world, the scientific world, or any other human endeavor where we must make careful decisions about things that matter. And what’s more, this method is Biblical – preparing a defense and presenting evidence IS the Biblical method of evangelism.

Felt needs view: once upon a time some Muslims had a death in their family and I baked them a cake and then they were all in my church 2 weeks later – all 13 of them! That really happened! Oh oh, and there was an old woman on a bus and she converted the bus driver when he annoyed at a red light by telling him that Jesus would turn the light green if he believed in Jesus, and then the whole busload of people converted, too! That really happened! You just have to “share” your faith with people who have an emotional need and tell children Bible stories when they are 6 and 7!

I work with a lot of people that I meet through my blog on their skills and evangelism. One of them had a message waiting for me in my inbox when I got home talking about how she had had a discussion with an annoying atheist who disapproved of her spiritual life. She used the following arguments on him: kalam, fine-tuning, moral, intelligent design, resurrection. He responded with no arguments. She was very excited about it and very comfortable in her faith, and he went away without an excuse. Whether he has a need or not, he knows that ought to adopt Christianity because it is true. She presented it as true and his emotional state was irrelevant to the discussion.

In contrast, consider where the felt needs approach to evangelism leads:

Schuller: Tell me, what do you think is the future of Christianity?

Graham: Well, Christianity and being a true believer–you know, I think there’s the Body of Christ. This comes from all the Christian groups around the world, outside the Christian groups. I think everybody that loves Christ, or knows Christ, whether they’re conscious of it or not, they’re members of the Body of Christ. And I don’t think that we’re going to see a great sweeping revival, that will turn the whole world to Christ at any time. I think James answered that, the Apostle James in the first council in Jerusalem, when he said that God’s purpose for this age is to call out a people for His name.

And that’s what God is doing today, He’s calling people out of the world for His name, whether they come from the Muslim world, or the Buddhist world, or the Christian world or the non-believing world, they are members of the Body of Christ because they’ve been called by God. They may not even know the name of Jesus but they know in their hearts that they need something that they don’t have, and they turn to the only light that they have, and I think that they are saved, and that they’re going to be with us in heaven.

Schuller: What, what I hear you saying that it’s possible for Jesus Christ to come into human hearts and soul and life, even if they’ve been born in darkness and have never had exposure to the Bible. Is that a correct interpretation of what you’re saying?

Graham: Yes, it is, because I believe that. I’ve met people in various parts of the world in tribal situations, that they have never seen a Bible or heard about a Bible, and never heard of Jesus, but they’ve believed in their hearts that there was a God, and they’ve tried to live a life that was quite apart from the surrounding community in which they lived.

Schuller: I’m so thrilled to hear you say this. There’s a wideness in God’s mercy.

Graham: There is. There definitely is.

If you don’t think that the gospel is about sin, and a man dying on a cross for those sins and then rising from the dead, then you think it’s about people’s feelings, and all that’s needed is for them to “believe” things that they have no reasons to believe, so that they will feel better about their need. Or, maybe they just have an emotional experience without believing anything about Christianity and that emotional experience helps their need. Being saved means having your needs met through belief in things you haven’t investigated. This is the approach of evangelism used by many today – even by some guest speakers in my church. Read comforting words, tell comforting stories, believe in things you can’t test or prove. Feel better. Avoid discussions and debates with people who have no needs and sufferings for you to exploit. If someone doesn’t have a need to believe things that are true, then you have nothing to say to them. Do you know where atheists get the idea that Christians believe nonsense because they need a crutch in order to feel better about their weaknesses? They get it from us. We tell them that. We do.

One thing this annoying sermon did do was to cause me to pray about legitimate obstacles to evangelism. For example, I prayed that the laws that encourage people to silence and coerced Christians would be repealed. I prayed that people would be less insular about their own religions and be willing to listen to others from outside their faith. I prayed that people would choose their religion on the basis of truth and evidence, and not because of where they are born and what their families and communities require. I prayed that people stopped identifying religion with nationalism, race and culture. I prayed that people would dedicate more of their time to investigating what is really true using logic, science and history. I prayed that people would investigate whether anyone made the universe for a purpose, what happens when they die, and what Jesus claimed about such things when he was here among us. I prayed that the schools and the culture would not spread lies about behaviors and speculative theories that encourage people to get into sinful lifestyles before they have had the opportunity to investigate religion on the merits. And I prayed that the New Atheist caricature of faith as blind belief in order to address felt needs would not be adopted by Christians, and even by charismatic visiting Christian speakers speaking in my church.

Women on the secular left are repulsed by the needs of men and children

Here is an interesting post by a brilliant new blogger Sparx 401.

Excerpt:

Here’s an interesting article from Georgetown University’s News Magazine:

The Kids Aren’t All Right

Essentially, the writer, Julie Patterson, exclaims that she finds children repulsing, even the thought of “family time” and child-rearing inculcates in her a sense of disgust and revolt. She writes, and a I quote:

I’ll come right out and say it: Children repulse me. They frighten me. They make me anxious. Babies all look the same, and they are all ugly. Toddlers are praised for doing ordinary things like speaking and waving. Children have a comment and a question about everything.

and,

…I could muse on how the source of my discomfort lies in how the promise of youth that shines in their carefree eyes makes me lament my own loss of innocence, but it’s probably more accurate to say that these kids just suck. They’re loud, they’re obnoxious, they have too much energy, and they’re still learning how to conjugate irregular verbs. I have no time for that in my life…I assume that they, like many predators, can sense fear, and will therefore leave me in peace. But there are no guarantees in life—not even the success of birth control. Here’s to hoping no little accident ever “blesses” my life.

Even for people who prefer not to have children, this seems to be going too far. This may be a shot in the dark, and correct me if I’m wrong (I have tried to look and see her personal beliefs on religious and spiritual matters, but to no avail), but I don’t think she’s a Christian…perhaps a nominal one in label only, but certainly not following any orthodox teaching from any mainline denominations.

I have found via Lex Communis, who provided this other related link that, “Incidentally, Julie’s Facebook page lists her only two Interests and Activities as “Being a Bitch” and “Being a Hypocrite.””

And then you get these complaints from some women that men are unreliable and immature for not marrying them. Well, d’uh! You don’t marry an insane man-hating, child-hating woman, any more than you marry a great white shark. You don’t hire a dentist to fix your car, you don’t hire a doctor to do your taxes. And you don’t marry a left-wing feminist, because left-wing politics and feminism (narcissism) are not compatible with the self-sacrificial behaviors required for marriage and parenting. Men may have sex with left-wingers and feminists, but they don’t marry them, and they don’t have children with them. We aren’t that stupid. We know that if you are willing to kill a baby you created while having recreational sex, just because babies cost money and you can’t be bothered , then you are not suitable for marriage. If you can’t be bothered to treat men like grown-ups and court them properly, and care about their needs and get to know them, then you are not qualified to be a wife and mother. Manipulating men through early sex is not the right way to make a man make a life-long, exclusive commitment to love you and provide for you. They are actual behaviors required to be qualified for marriage and parenting, and men need to be free from sex so they can assess a woman objectively. It’s the man’s job to choose a woman who can help the man in his roles as protector/provider and moral/spiritual leader, raise effective, influential Christian children, and have an influence for God herself in society (such as becoming President).

More about this in my afternoon post for tomorrow.

Paul Copan discusses tactics for preaching the gospel

This article talks about 10 factors related to talking about sin (bad news) during evangelism. (H/T Apologetics 315)

Here’s one factor from his list that I’m a little uncomfortable with:

2.  I have met plenty of “the encountered” who report that those who “witness” by telling the bad news first commonly come across as judgmental, legalistic, arrogant, scolding, and morally superior.  Yes, rebels against God love darkness rather than light.  Does this mean we never mention the need to turn away from the lifestyle of the spiritually dead?  Not at all.  (See the comments on idolatry below.)  Our consciously taking on Paul’s chief-of-sinners title would go a long way in building bridges.  In the words of the evangelist D. T. Niles, we are like one beggar telling another where to find bread.  We should remember that friendship commonly helps lower defenses and helps create a context for people to connect with the gospel.

I believe in objective morality, so I like it if someone who is morally superior to me judges me and scolds me. I’m ok with that. What’s the big deal? It’s only annoying to be judged if you’re a relativist. I think it’s fun to be judged. FUN!

And here’s one that I agree with:

5.  How many of us came to trust in Christ because a stranger told us that we were sinners?  While this certainly occurs, we more likely turned to Christ through believing friends or relatives who modeled an attractive, redeemed life. Statistics reveal that up to 90% of those who have come to Christ and faithfully continue in their discipleship were introduced to the Christian faith through believing friends and relatives.  This personal connection to the gospel came through love, acceptance, and a patient modeling of the Christian faith.  (See, for example, the Arns’ The Master’s Plan for Making Disciples.)

A more recent piece of research comes from Bridge Builders’ David Bennett.  He describes how adults become Christians — which, we should remember, is typically more of a process than it is for kids at a Christian summer camp!  His survey shows that times of crisis/felt needs (death, illness) present an open door for Christian friendship; in his research, this has been the most effective means of seeing people respond to Christ.  Ninety-two percent (92%) of those surveyed first had a Christian friend before they responded to the gospel. The research showed that those who found Christ did so through a gradual process.

This article is kinda nice, gentle and Christian-y. Blech! But I thought some of you (you know who are – MARA!) would like it. Paul Copan is a great philosopher. He knows when to be mean (his response to John Dominic Crossan at the Greer-Heard Forum was fantastic!), and he knows when to be nice.

Related posts

Jennifer Roback Morse writes about the real issue in the marriage debate

Cloning her would solve the marriage problem
She knows about love and marriage

Because I’m so busy working and writing the blog, I almost never have time to read books any more. Right now I am reading Jay Richards’ “Money, Greed and God” and Jennifer Roback Morse’s “Smart Sex”. I read Smart Sex on Saturday when I go to lunch.

I found a wonderful series of passages on marriage and child development in Smart Sex, and I’m going to type the whole thing in for you, because I think it’s so important.

Excerpt from p. 41-43. Dr. J writes:

I believe the real issue driving the “marriage debate” is the question of what we owe to children. Do we owe them material resources, provided by society at large? Or do we owe them personal relationships, provided for them by the particular people who brought them into existence? If children truly need a two-parent, married-couple family, this would place obligations upon the adults to get married and stay married. Many adults are reluctant to accept these particular obligations. So they, along with their allies in high policy-making places, try to minimize the importance of the evidence or to reinterpret it to mean that children really need more material support from government and business.

From this perspective, the questions are: What is the minimal set of human relationships that a child can have and still turn out tolerably well? What is the least adults have to do in relationship terms for their kids to get by? How much money does society have to pump in from outisde the family to make up for the loss of relationship, so that I won’t have to give up my belief that parents are entitled to any lifestyle choices they want?

This minimalist mentality shows up in the conclusions people draw from these studies. For instance, people reinterpret the studies showing that a stepfather who spends enough time with this stepchildren can ward off some of the problems often seen in divorced families. A one level, this is undeniable. Of course children benefit from more time and attention from their fathers and stepfathers. But we are not justified in drawing the conclusion that there is no reason to be concerned about family structure as long as stepfathers spend enough time with their stepchildren. The very same study also shows that stepfathers, on average, spend much less time with their wives’ children than do biological fathers.

Many people seem to beleive it is unreasonable to expect or even encourage people to get married and stay married. But asking stepfathers to behave like biological fathers may be every bit as unreasonable . Stepfathers behave systematically differently from biological fathers. It is unrealistic to expect men to work as hard to on a relationship with another man’s child  as he would with his own child. It is more straightforward, as well as more sensible, to expect men and women to work together to maintain their marriages in the first place.

Some people argue that the children of single and divorced parents would do fine if only society would increase the resources available to the children. The government should provide some combination of subsidized day care, housing allowances, and income supplements to increase the standard of living of the children of single-parent households. This postition is unpersuasive because most studies show that problems remain even after accounting for differences in economic resources. The resources that two parents can provide are not likely to ever be fully replaced by a single parent, no matter how heavily subsidized.

I bellieve that children are harmed by the loss of relationship itself, not simply by the loss of resources. The primary business of parenthood is relational. Parenthood is much more than a process transferring resources from Big People to Little People. If that were true, resources from outside the family could possibly make up the losses that children experience from the loss of a parent.

The primary responsibility of parents is to build relationships with their children and prepare their children to build relationships on their own when they mature. The whole attachment process, upon which conscience development depends, is a relationship-building process. Replacing a father with a paycheck is not a service either to the child, who misses out on the father’s love, or to the father, who becomes reduced to a combination sperm donor and wallet.

I propose that we confront these relationship issues with more generosity toward children. Instead of asking how little we have to do, we should ask what children need from their parents in order to thrive. Instead of asking how much money it takes to substitute for the presence of both parents, we could ask what parents can do to keep growing in love and regard for each other. We should not embrace a collective responsibility for financial support for children when we could embrace the personal obligation to nurture and cultivate loving relationships between spouses. We should be asking how we adults can support each other in maintaining our marriages.

The reason why I am chaste is because I need to court effectively so I can choose a wife who believes what Dr. Morse wrote – that parenting is an important purpose in marriage, that both parents matter and that the government is not a subsitute for mothers and fathers. I can test if a woman is qualified to parent annoying, aggressive, insolent little child monsters letting her try to nurture me during the courtship. If she can develop my Chrsitian worldview, then should be able to handle the children.

I think my single male readers should think the same way. Stop thinking with your hormones and start thinking about what women can do for God in relationships. We all need to realize that the time to address marital problems is during the courtship phase of the relationship. Therefore, choose wisely. And we should stop trying to grow a secular government to replace the parents. If a secular government is responsible for the children, then those children will never form relationships with God in Christ.

On the contrary, Christian parents must jealously guard their children from a secular government. And that means we should favor limited government and a free market, with unregulated, low-taxed small businesses creating plenty of jobs so that we have lots of pay left over after taxes to spend on stay-at-home moms, private schools, and apologetics training materials. We can spend our own money better than any secular government can to buy anything that our children may need. It’s our responsibility.

Jennifer Roback Morse’s blog is here.