Tag Archives: parenting

May 9; Parenting For Heaven

Psalm 3, 4, 11, 12, 23, 26, 36; 2 Samuel 16:1-14

Recently I read an article about how we need to be raising our children – and especially our daughters – to be “empowered.” It said we should be telling them they are strong, special, perfect, capable, and beautiful every day. On the surface that sounds right. We certainly shouldn’t be telling them they are ugly, worthless, and useless, right?

But is training our children to be self-aggrandizing how God wants us to train them? Psalm 12 starts out by saying there are no godly people out there. The faithful, David says, have vanished. Everyone lies. Everyone flatters. They say, “We will triumph with our tongues; we own our lips – who is our master?”

Empowerment.

Psalm 36 continues with this thought concerning the “sinfulness of the wicked.” They do not fear God. And then verse 2:

“For in his own eyes he flatters himself too much to detect or hate his own sin.”

Is that how we are teaching our children? Parents and Grandparents, you have got to raise your children to understand their sin problem. And they all have a sin problem. Let’s face it, even your child is not “all that.” There are times even your child disobeys you. Your child has lied to you, kicked the dog or bitten the neighbor kid. And sometimes the tantrums your child throws drives you up a wall. Be honest.

I believe it is at those moments your children need to know who really has the power.

If we don’t teach our children to be sorry for – ashamed of – disobedience, or selfishness, or meanness, we are teaching them they don’t need to detect or hate their own sin. If they don’t fear you, how do you think they are going to realize their need to fear God?

It saddens me when I hear Christian parents say they don’t spank their children, or raise their voices to their children, or show anger toward their children. I want to tell those well-meaning parents to put down the psycho-babble and open their Bibles. Do you think Dr. Spock and the “positive parenting” gurus have a better handle on child-rearing than God?

Ask yourself how your child’s Heavenly Father reacts to disobedience. I’ll tell you right now, when the Jewish people obeyed God, they obeyed because they were afraid not to. Can your children say they obey you for the same reason? They should. Fear is not the opposite of love. Fear is a good thing. Fear is the loving thing. It’s Scriptural.

The Bible tell us God hates sin. Hates it. He considers sinners His enemy. But He died for those enemies, He died for your child. But your child will have to make a decision to repent of sin, to ask for forgiveness, to accept what Jesus died to give him or her while they were yet sinners. How do you expect them to do that if they don’t even recognize sin in themselves? It’s your responsibility as a parent to teach them what that means.

And that means teaching them that their disobedience is sin, that dumping the food on the floor is a sin, that taking a toy another child has is a sin, that slapping you is a sin. That there are consequences for sin. It means teaching them that there is forgiveness for sin when they ask for it, and not before. It also means that they can count on your love, and that your love is why you discipline.

Please raise your children to recognize their need of God. Help them to understand they are vile sinners before a Holy God. Raise your children to want to ask God for forgiveness as soon as they understand they are sinners. Raise your children to go to heaven. The alternative is unthinkable.

 

May 6; Rizpah

Psalms 8, 138, 139, 145; 2 Samuel 21:1-14, 9:1-13

Do you know who Rizpah is? She was the mother of two of Saul’s sons. Her story takes a whopping three verses of Scripture. But this woman has touched me deeply. I’ve read her story many times, but for some reason reading it today has broken my heart.

I’ve sat here and wept for her, and for all mothers, and for us who love children not our own. I put myself in Rizpah’s shoes as she stood helplessly by and watched her sons be executed for crimes their father had committed. It’s excruciating.

I don’t know how old her boys were. Were they babies? Teenagers? Adults? Did they have children of their own? I’m glad the Bible doesn’t tell us. Would the story be less tragic if her sons were grown?

I think the woman was out of her mind with grief. She parked herself next to the dead bodies of her children and for days she swatted flies and chased away the vultures. For days, maybe weeks, she protected those hands she had once held, the feet she had once washed, the cheeks she had covered in kisses, and those arms that had clung to her when her boys were afraid. She was their mother.

I’ve sat here trying to get a handle on why I’m still crying about this woman, when a picture of my own mother comes to mind. How often did I get a glimpse of her, kneeling at her bedside, praying for me and my sisters, swatting flies and chasing vultures? How many times did my mother go to God and plead with Him to hold on to me when she saw me drifting away, to guide me, to accomplish His will in my life? I think my mom was as determined to protect me from Satan as Rizpah was about protecting her own sons from the vultures.

Let’s get on our knees and pray for our children no matter their ages. Let’s storm heaven’s gates and plead with God to protect them from the enemy. Rizpah didn’t just swat a vulture or two first thing in the morning, then go about her day with no thought for her sons. She stayed there day and night, losing sleep, maybe not eating. Nothing was more important than keeping those vultures away.

And nothing is more important than the eternal souls of our children.

February 27; Out Of The Mouths Of Babes

Numbers 3:1-4:33

I find it significant that when God told Moses to take a census of the eleven tribes of Israel, they were instructed to count all the men twenty and older who were able to serve in the army. Now, when God gave the order to count the Levites, they were to count every male a month old and older.

Obviously, little children were not given jobs for the care of the Tabernacle, any more than the children from the other tribes were expected to go to war. So why count babies at all?

(Side note: in our current climate where murdering babies is applauded, let me remind all of us that life is a gift from God, and every life is precious to Him, and should be to us. God forgive us for what is happening in this country.)

The children born to the Levite clan were going to grow up to be priests, to carry on the work of their fathers as the spiritual leaders of Israel. And I believe they were counted as infants for a reason.

Proverbs 22:6 tells us to train up our children in the truth, in the way they should go. I don’t think it’s ever too early to teach your children the difference between right and wrong. I don’t think a child is ever too young to recognize sin, and experience consequences for sin. I believe children should experience what repentance and forgiveness feel like before they realize their need to go to their Heavenly Father for the same. And I don’t think a child is too young to be used by God in leading someone to the Savior.

A friend of mine shared about a little boy who was standing in the checkout line with his mom at the grocery. The cashier began entering prices into the register, and packing the groceries in bags when the little boy asked her, “Is your name written in the Lamb’s Book of Life?”

The cashier burst into tears. Uncontrolled weeping caught the attention of everyone around, including the manger who quickly came and took the cashier aside. The mom and boy followed.

Right there, in that grocery store, the cashier prayed to receive what Jesus died to give her. And so did the manager!

Out of the mouths of babes.

I think God made a distinction between the census of the eleven tribes and that of the Levites for a reason. A child is too young to wield a sword in battle. But when he is older, he must become a warrior. There will be battles to fight.

But a child is never too young to wield the Sword of the Spirit. We must be teaching our children about God, reading to our children from the Bible, talking to our children about God, leading our children to God’s saving grace, and equipping our children to share Jesus with others. Because God can use a child as much as He can use you and me.

 

February 22; Sacrificing Children

Leviticus 19-21

As I read this today I got to thinking about moms and dads sacrificing their babies to a pretend god called Molech. The pagan people in the neighborhood practiced this cruel ritual. But here in Leviticus God is telling His own people not to do it, and what the rest of the Jews should do to the one who throws their child into the fire. It makes me so sad.

When I read what Scripture has to say about idolatry I admit I tend to think of weird looking carvings sitting on someone’s bedside table, or a huge likeness of a demon with fire coming out of its mouth perched on the side of a mountain. But today God seems to be asking me to consider another, more subtle form of idolatry.

Can a job become an idol? Can a relationship? Is there such a thing as a popularity, or a success idol? Can an idol look like my “self?” We in a civilized society don’t throw our children into a fire to appease an idol. But I wonder if we don’t sacrifice our children in other ways.

I wonder how many children are sacrificed for the job idol, or the self idol. I wonder how many little ball players keep glancing toward the stands to find the face of a parent who sacrificed that little one to appease a boss, or a pilates class. I wonder how many children have been sacrificed to the god of alcohol and drugs.

Homes and families have imploded because of the idol of self, or success. And the children are the first casualties. We may shake our head and say confidently that we would never allow our child to be thrown into the fire as a sacrifice to an idol.

But I wonder if that is true.

God declares repeatedly that, “I am the Lord your God.” I pray that He is your God, and that your children are blessed because He is.

February 9; My Bad

Exodus 22-24

The reading of the law might not be the most exciting narrative in Scripture. In fact, it’s tempting to skim through and think, “This doesn’t apply to me since I live after the cross.” But I believe every verse in the Bible is God-breathed with a purpose.

If you have spent much time with young children, I imagine you’ve cleaned up your share of spilled milk. I also imagine you’ve looked into wide eyes and heard, “I didn’t mean to.” And 99% of the time that would be the case. Spilled milk is an accident.

Are there consequences for accidents? There should be, according to what God told Moses. When a Jew was negligent, or unintentionally did something that resulted in a loss for someone else, there was a guilty verdict and restitution followed. There was never a slap on the wrist or a “Be careful next time,” from the judge. A penalty had to be paid.

Now, the consequence for an accidental crime wasn’t as severe as that for an intentional one, of course. But if your ox died while in my care, I was guilty of killing your ox whether it tumble down a hill and broke its neck, or I slit its throat.

For years, decades really, I have been concerned about what children are taught about rule-breaking. Let’s call it what it is: I’m concerned about what children are taught about sin. I’m afraid we are reaping what we have sown.

Many of the young adults in our world today have never been held accountable for wrong-doing. Parents don’t paddle. They don’t even show anger if their child does something wrong. Heaven forbid we raise our voices. What has three decades of this kind of child-rearing produced? I’m afraid we are looking at thirty year old toddlers.

But I’m going to tell you something. God makes it clear He never turns a blind eye to sin. He never winks, then sends us on our merry way. Sin makes God angry.

No, sin makes God furious. Including the adorable little temper-tantrum your child pitches in the grocery, or that lie you told your boss when you were late yesterday.

Often God’s discipline is swift and painful. The ultimate consequence is eternity without Him. But every sin will be accounted for. Every. Sin.

Next time you are tempted to brush off sin with a “My bad,” stop and think. Would you look into the eyes of God and say that? Would you want your child to?

Parents, paddle your children. If a child is old enough to drink milk from a cup, he’s old enough to help clean up the mess he made when he knocked it over. Let your child know disobedience angers you. Raise your voice. Why would you want your kid to feel good about himself when he has sinned?

Why?

It’s your responsibility to demonstrate in your home what I hope you want your child to do later on. That is to recognize sin. To be ashamed of sinning. To recognize the devastating consequences for sin. To understand that sin makes you (and God) very angry. Then to experience what  it means to be forgiven when they come to you and ask for it.

Raise your children to be accountable for their actions, accidental or intentional. Raise them to want to do what is right for fear of consequences, for fear of your wrath, for fear of the awful feeling that comes when they are guilty of something. Don’t raise your children to say, “I’m sorry,” so they can get out of consequences. But raise them to ask for forgiveness because they are truly ashamed of what they did, and want you to forgive them, to restore a broken relationship between you and them.

Raise your children to be ready to go to their Heavenly Father, and receive all that Jesus died to give them.

Matthew 8-10; God Help Us

A middle-aged woman was grateful when her adult son moved back into their home after her husband died. She’d been so lonely in that empty house, and welcomed the company. He was a good boy. Clean cut. Had a good job. He was friendly, polite, and helpful. He was a son any mother would be proud of. Except for one thing.

Every once in a while her son would meet a nice young lady. They’d go out a few times, and eventually he’d invite her to the house. The mom would fix a meal, and welcome the girlfriend with a hug. They’d eat together, laugh together, and enjoy a relaxing evening together. Then the son would invite the girl to see the game room in the basement.

As the two young people would head downstairs, the mom would leave the dishes and head upstairs, to her bedroom. She’d turn on the TV as loud as it would go. She didn’t want to hear the sounds that would inevitably come from her son’s game room.

You see, he was a serial killer. He tortured and murdered the girls he took to the basement. But what was the mother to do? He was her son. She loved him. She couldn’t turn him in, or kick him out. She was his mother.

I totally made that up. But I hope you had some reaction to the mother’s response to her son’s actions. How could she let that happen in her own home?

I was part of a difficult conversation not too long ago. And, honestly, I wish I wasn’t thinking about it now. But it’s something God has laid on my heart. So here goes:

The subject of our conversation centered around a woman whose son had brought home his boyfriend and announced they were getting married. The question was: What would you do?

As we were talking, the verses from Matthew 10 came to mind. So when I read them today, I felt God nudging me to write about it. I’d really rather not, but I want to obey. I’m praying as I write. And I’m praying for you as you read.

First off, if you are tempted to be enraged because I seem to be putting serial killers and homosexuals in the same category (which means I must be homophobic) let me stop you right there. My story could have been about a thief, or a drug dealer, or a child molester, or a liar, a gossip, or a glutton. Would that have made you feel better? I could make this post about any number of sins.  Sin is sin, my friend. And enabling sin in any way is wrong. But God has laid the sin of homosexuality on my heart today.

And let’s get one thing straight. Homosexuality is a sin according to the Bible. Unless you can show me a verse to the contrary, I’m going to proceed with that truth, because there is more than one verse that calls homosexuality sin, an abomination, unnatural.

Jesus, in Matthew 10:34-39, tells us His Presence will divide families. That’s hard to hear. He also said if keeping your family together is more important than following Him, you aren’t worthy of Him. If you put anything – including your children – above Him you are wrong.

I can’t imagine the pain of being forced to choose. Talk about a cross to bear. It has to be harder than losing a limb. God help us.

I’d like to say something to parents of young children. Sadly, the media has taken away your privilege of deciding the right time to have the “birds and bees” conversation with your children. The time is now. Don’t think that the subtle (and overt) messages that are imbedded in cartoons, kids programs and movies, video games, and commercials aren’t effecting your kids. They are impressionable. And once you’ve seen something, you can’t unsee it.

Your children spend hours every day in school. Do you know what they are being taught? Are you familiar with the curriculum? Most schools teach tolerance, some use books that promote homosexuality. Are you aware of any of that in your child’s classroom? What if your child’s teacher is homosexual? What do you say to your child about his friend’s two daddies, or the two women next door who just got married? How do you want your child to react when a boy in their second grade class starts wearing dresses to school?

How are you helping your children embrace their God-given sexuality, when Satan is telling them it’s not determined by DNA, that it’s “fluid.” When Satan is telling parents they should let their two-year-olds choose what sex they want to be, what are you telling yours?

How important is it for you to follow Jesus according to Scripture? How important is it that your children choose to follow Him, too? Please start talking to them today about how they can know the truth. I pray that none of you will ever have to choose between your children and God.

But I’ll tell you right now, if you are forced to make that impossible choice, I pray you choose God.

I’m praying for you.

Daniel 5-6; Parenting In The Lions’ Den

My Mom and Dad used to love taking their young grandchildren on adventures. One of their favorite destinations was the Columbus Zoo.

Dad said that one time, while visiting the lion exhibit, my nephew who was about three at the time, got the attention of one of the adult lions. Ryan walked up to the thick glass wall, and the lion met him there, face to face. Ryan walked a few steps to the right, the lion followed. Ryan walked to the left, the lion followed. It soon became a game between boy and lion, and the crowd of people at the exhibit laughed at the silliness.

“Isn’t that cute? The lion likes the boy.”

“Yeah,” my dad said. “For dinner.”

That lion wasn’t playing a game of follow-the-leader with the boy. That lion was stalking its prey. And only the glass wall prevented my nephew from being torn to pieces and savagely eaten by the wild beast.

Do you remember Roy Horn of Seigfried and Roy, entertainers who used white tigers in their act? Roy raised those animals from a young age. He treated them like kittens, loved them, played with them. They were his pets.

But one night, one of those “pets” savagely grabbed Roy around the neck, and began to drag him off stage. Roy sustained life threatening injuries, and his life has never been the same.

A wild animal is not a character in a Disney cartoon.

Throwing Daniel into the lions’ den was sentencing the man to an awful, violent, and terrifying death. But we know he didn’t die.

The story doesn’t end there, however. Darius, the king who had been tricked into condemning Daniel, had the men who deceived him thrown into the den of lions. He sentenced those jealous, evil, conniving low-lifes to the same death they’d planned for Daniel.

Now if that was the extent of it, I’d say they got what they deserved. But the Bible tells us Darius didn’t stop with the men who’d plotted against Daniel. The king had their wives and children thrown into the lions’ den as well. Their wives and children met with the same gruesome end as the men.

I can hear you shouting, “NOT FAIR.”

I’m not going to try to argue that except to say, if you read this you’ll not see God tell Darius to kill those people.  I know the God of the Bible takes no pleasure in people dying without Him. He doesn’t want anyone to suffer the agony of hell. In fact, He paid the awful, violent, and terrifying death we all deserve.

But the Bible is also clear: the guilty will not go unpunished. Hell is real. And people who die without honoring God really do go there.

Here’s what occurred to me today: Many people – maybe you although I pray not – are ignoring God, or disobeying Him. Some deny Him or defy Him. The Bible tells us if that’s the case – be prepared for an awful, violent, terrifying existence for eternity, knowing you had a chance to avoid it all.

But I want to ask you – how many of your loved ones are you willing to take down with you?

You might brag like a post I read on FaceBook recently, “Yeah, I’m going to hell, and enjoying every step of the way.” But what is that message saying to your children? You do know, don’t you, that you are the single greatest influence on your children for the good or for the bad.

You might be appalled at the story here in Daniel, when you are doing the exact same thing. Your life does have an effect on your loved ones… an eternal effect. You may be foolishly willing to go to hell. Just understand that that precious child in your lap is watching you, imitating you, learning to think and believe like you.

It’s NOT FAIR of YOU to take them with you.