The Christian Home: Fathers and Children

Col. 3:21. “Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged.”

Are you a dad who, no matter how well your child does, can always find something that wasn’t quite perfect? The child will eventually do one of several things. He will give up. He will become angry and begin to act out when he is old enough not to fear your anger. He will sink deep inside himself to protect himself from your critical spirit. He will become merciless toward others. His faith in God will be destroyed.

Dad, never forget that especially when your child is very young, you represent God to him. The kind of man you are is how he sees God. That’s a heavy responsibility. You’ll need prayer, God’s Word, and a humble spirit if the only reaction you know is anger, sarcasm, criticism. You probably had that kind of dad, and even though you hated it, you’re repeating the pattern. It is completely possible to break the pattern.

“But my child won’t respect me if I’m weak!” He’ll respect you more if you’re weak and kind than if you’re “strong” and angry ALL the time. Kindness is not weakness. Jesus was kind, but He was never weak. Anger is not strength. Proverbs 22:4 says, “Make no friendship with an angry man; and with a furious man thou shalt not go.” Anger, rather than denoting strength, shows a lack of self-control and a lack of godliness.

Anger and bitterness usually come from a lack of forgiveness. It’s a poison that eats you up from the inside. Do you want to reproduce yourself in your children? Do you want them to grow up angry and resentful, critical and impossible to please? No? Then you need to set a better example.

Micah 6:8. “He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?

To “do justly” is to be even-handed and fair. To love mercy is to be quick to forgive and pardon. To walk humbly with God is to recognize His holiness, and to know that without His mercy, we are lost.

Put Off All These Things

Col. 3:8-9.

But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth.

Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds;

Here, Paul takes aim at sin that is less easily observed by others, but that brews in the mind and heart of all of us at some point, and eventually, if we feed it, comes out of our mouths. Verbal abuse is something I’ve written about under “Counseling Issues” on this blog. Believers in Jesus Christ should put all these things away from themselves. And you’re right. It isn’t easy.

Anger is the first thing mentioned in this list. In another place (Ephesians 4:26) Paul wrote, “Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath:”

There are things about which we should be angry. Injustice, abuse, disregard for the needs of others–there’s a long list of such things. However, the so-called “righteous” anger we sometimes feel should never become self-righteous anger, which leads to nothing good, ever. The example Jesus set is a good one for us to follow. He never showed anger for all that He suffered. He did, however, show anger when the Father was disrespected or ignored. When He chased the moneychangers out of the Temple, it was because they desecrated the House of God with their greed, taking advantage of those who had no offerings to bring, overcharging them and making a profit for themselves. That is righteous anger. Jesus never sinned.

Anger often leads to malice. Malice is to wish ill on someone else, and even to plan to take part in destroying another person’s life, or livelihood, or reputation. It is getting even for some real or imagined offense toward oneself. In my experience, getting even almost never stopped at just once.

Blasphemy is to ascribe the works of God to the devil. It is to deny God, and to use His Name in vain. To use it in an empty, meaningless way.

Slander is to speak evil of someone else. “But it’s TRUE,” you may think. Over the length of my nearly 74 years, I’ve had to go to the Lord many times with this one. It is so–temporarily–satisfying to speak ill against someone who has hurt you. But God says we are to “put away” such behavior. The old saying is good: If you can’t find anything good to say, say nothing.” Following that one will keep us out of a world of hurt. I also like the one that says, “Ask yourself these things before you speak: Is it necessary? Is it kind? Is it true?” If it fails any of those three tests, best ask God to remove it from your mind, and keep your mouth shut. The only time it is necessary to speak against someone is if that other person is committing a crime and is hurting others. Even then, you speak only to law enforcement. If the wrongdoing is within the church family, Matthew 18:15-20 gives us clear steps to follow, with the ultimate goal being restoration.

Filthy communication: Oh, I could write for a LONG time about this one! I am especially unhappy about the free use of all the names of God, and their euphemisms, that abound in our language. It used to be that true believers never took the Name of the Lord in vain. Now, we do it all the time. You don’t think so? Well, did you ever hear or see “OMG” anywhere? Yes, you have. It is ubiquitous. It is so prevalent that it has made the Name of God unimportant.

Another one that makes my hair stand on end is the frequent and meaningless use of the F-Bomb, and all of it’s euphemisms, which for some reason Christians seem to think are okay. They’re not. Ever. It is always offensive. If you can stand to do it, watch one of the videos in which Antifa and/or BLMers are screaming at police. You hear the F-Bomb over and over and over again. It expresses such hatred and anger that it has become meaningless, but it is still abusive and filthy and does not belong in anyone’s mouth who claims to follow Jesus Christ.

Don’t lie to each other: Because lying is part of our nature, it’s really hard to get rid of it. No one has to teach a child how to lie. We’re born with it. We’re all guilty of it, so not one of us has any claim to self-righteousness about this one. I remember so clearly when one of my kids was only 9-10 months old, and I watched him crawling toward something he had been taught was a no-no. I called his name, and sharply said, “NO! NO TOUCH!” He stopped, back up, and turned and looked at me with big, innocent eyes. If he’d been able to speak, he’d have said, “I wasn’t doin’ anything, Mommy. Just lookin.'” No one taught him to do that. It’s just in us. Our battle is to “take off” that old sin nature, just as we take off a jacket if it’s hot outside. We take it off deliberately, making a decision to do so.


Sunday Morning Coffee: Proverbs 27:3-4

Sometimes I have an idea in mind all week for my Sunday morning post.

This is not one of those weeks. I don’t have heartburn about anything. I don’t have any soapbox messages. It’s been a pretty good week, actually, with incremental progress being made in a few areas.

When this happens, I usually turn to Proverbs. Today is the 27th of October, so I’m reading the 27th chapter of Proverbs. And the verses I chose are right at the beginning of the chapter: v. 3-4.

A stone is heavy, and the sand weighty; but a fool’s wrath is heavier than them both.

 Wrath is cruel, and anger is outrageous; but who is able to stand before envy?

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None of us is able to carry such a heavy stone. It would crush anyone who tried to get under it.

Sand is used in bags to help hold back a flood. Wet sand is very heavy, and hard to handle.

But what is worse? The anger of a foolish person. Their anger is overwhelming because it is uncontrolled, and no one can bear to carry it.

In our wrath, we can be cruel and not care. In our anger, our behavior can be ridiculous, embarrassing, outrageous.

But the worst thing of all is envy. Jealousy. The green-eyed monster.

Why is it so awful? Well, that’s because it goes beyond wanting what we don’t have; it goes beyond wanting what someone else has. It becomes hatred of the person who has what you want, and it poisons every thought, every moment of the day.

Jealousy has destroyed marriages, ruined friendships, caused strife between family members; it has destroyed churches because one person wants the power and position that someone else has been given.

Jealousy is ugly.

Jealousy is sinful. God knew how serious it would be. He included it in the “thou shalt nots” in Exodus 20:17.

Dear Father, please show me if there is jealousy in my heart, and cleanse it from me; forgive me for the envy that can take me by surprise.

His Glory

Isaiah 48:9-11.

For My Name’s sake will I defer Mine anger, and for My praise will I refrain for thee, that I cut thee not off.

10 Behold, I have refined thee, but not with silver; I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction.

11 For Mine own sake, even for mine own sake, will I do it: for how should My Name be polluted? and I will not give My glory unto another.Image result for I will not give my glory unto another

I wish I could take the time here to offer you all the differing translations of this passage. They all mean the same thing, but sometimes the wording is different and  changes one’s perspective a bit.

What God is saying is that the only reason He is allowing Israel to survive, and not to be completely destroyed, is for His own sake.  He says He has refined Israel, but has not found silver; He has tried them in the furnace of affliction,  and chosen them in spite of their failures.

Verse 11 wraps it up neatly. God is allowing Israel to survive for His own sake; for the  glory of His Name, so that no false god gets the praise.

We can read, all through the Bible, of the times God preserved Israel in spite of their unbelief and disobedience.  But that’s ancient history, right.  Yes it is, but that makes it no more relevant to this passage.

Word War II may seem like ancient history to some, but most of us have relatives for whom it was a stark reality. Hitler made every effort to annihilate the Jews, but in spite of his best efforts, they survived and even returned to Israel and, with much bloodshed and resistance, established Israel as a nation for the first time since Rome leveled Jerusalem in a.d.70. God continues to protect Israel from its enemies, and they are legion.

He will not give His glory to anyone else.

Holiness

Isaiah 13:9. “Behold, the day of the Lord cometh, cruel both with wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land desolate: and He shall destroy the sinners thereof out of it.”

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Staying in context with the rest of the passage, we’re learning of the Day of the Lord, that time when He returns to earth, the Second Advent, and deals with the peoples and nations of the earth that have rejected Him and persecuted His people.

It is true that God is a God of love; however, His love is set within the boundaries of His holiness, which cannot tolerate sin. His holiness demands that sin be overturned, punished, and cleansed. I believe we have lost sight of the reality of the holiness of God in our focus on His love.  His primary attribute is His holiness.

We should fear that. We need to understand that a holy God cannot look on sin.

Worship in the Millenial Kingdom

Isaiah 12:1. “And in that day thou shalt say, O Lord, I will praise Thee: though Thou wast angry with me, Thine anger is turned away, and Thou comfortedst me.”

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This short chapter describes how we will worship Messiah, Jehovah, when He reigns over the whole earth from Jerusalem.

In that day: Always refers to end times Millenium. Jesus Christ, Messiah, is in complete control.

O Lord, I will praise Thee:  ALL the people, not just the Jews who are restored to their land, will praise Messiah.

Thou was angry with me:  The anger of God has been poured out, the Antichrist is defeated, and Israel is restored. While it is true that all people will honor Messiah, the Jews in particular will have more reason to rejoice as they acknowledge the righteous anger of God.

Thine anger is turned away: The time of retribution is past.

Thou comfortedst me:  Israel is restored  and reconciled to God. Peace is established.

Teens and Suicide

Not a happy topic for a Sunday afternoon, I know.  Not a topic any of  us wants to discuss, or even think about.  Teens, after all, should be at the threshold of life, excited about what the future holds, looking forward to whatever comes next.

Instead, the latest statistics, according to several sources I checked, show that suicide is the third-leading cause of death for young people 15-24 years old. In 2010, the three main causes of death for this age group, in order from first to third, were unintentional injury, homicide, and suicide.

The older a person is, the less chance there is that he will die violently by his own hand or by homicide.  People ages 65 and over rarely commit suicide.

So what has happened in our society, that our kids are killing each other and themselves at such an appalling rate?

This is not a scholarly research paper; it is an opinion piece. I’m basing it on my life experience, age 69, and observation of teens over the years during which I reared my own four, taught many, and now am counseling professionally.  So here’s what I think, not necessarily in order of importance, but just as things come to mind.

God got legislated out of our education system. Instead, we now offer courses in sex education, self-esteem,  and anti-bullying strategies. Courses of this nature were supposed to decrease teen pregnancy, violence, crime, drugs, alcohol, and so on.

Fail.

I grew up watching Father Knows Best and Leave it to Beaver, programs in which the parents were smarter than the kids and the father truly was the head of the home, and everybody sat down to eat dinner together.

Today, our kids are growing up watching things we never dreamed would be on TV. Violence, blatant sex, complete disrespect for parental authority, and kids who are all smarter and funnier than their parents or teachers. And kids’ language these days includes words even the “bad boys” wouldn’t have used in front of girls.  They drop the F-bomb  without even thinking about it. Violent language comes from angry people.

Fail.

Kids in my office tell me that “everyone” knows where to get drugs.  It’s easy. And if you need money, you can always sell drugs yourself.  Yeah, sure, it’s dangerous, man, but you know, you only live once. And if there is no God, then there is no heaven, no hell, nothing to fear, no authority to respect. We’re all just animals, after all.

Fail.

Why are so many kids choosing death?   So many possible causes. I can’t believe the number of kids I see who are worried about what their sexual orientation is!  You don’t need to even be thinking about that at 12 or 14  or 16—at least, not in the world I grew up in.  But sex education today often includes “tolerance/diversity training” as well, and all the different options are presented to kids in a way that makes them wonder–am I straight? Gay? Bi-sexual?  Maybe I’m really the opposite sex trapped in this body.  I need to experiment to see what I really am.”  Kids are confused, worried, and stressed out because they’re being given information they’re just not ready for.

Fail.

Bullying?  Oh yes.  Social media has given bullies, who are ALWAYS cowards, a wonderful  tool for their evil. They can hide behind their PC’s, or their phones, or whatever devices they use, and never have to see the fear and anguish their nasty behavior causes their victims.

Depression and anxiety are epidemic among our kids, contrary to all the glowing predictions that were made if we could only teach them to love themselves just as they are.  Our kids are afloat on a sea of anti-anxiety, antidepressant meds.  Prozac is the one most-often prescribed for kids, because  most of the others create side effects of worsening depression and suicidal ideation and behavior.  Isn’t that ironic?  The medicine can make the problem a whole lot worse! And if we depend on the medication and do not help them learn how to think about what is true and good—-

Fail.

Pornography is also epidemic.  Easily accessed,  free for the looking.  Kids can even go online with other kids anywhere in cyberspace on their X-Boxes and access porn.  What?  You didn’t know that?  You need to monitor your kids’ history on their devices.  You may be in for a shock.

Cop-hatred, racial hatred,  hatred for any authority, hatred for anyone who has something someone else wants, hatred against the wealthy, against the poor, against religions and nationalities–it’s so much worse than when I was growing up.  Our nation stands divided on issues that most people agreed upon  55 years ago when I was in high school.  A simple thing like the Pledge of Allegiance, for example.  I don’t remember anyone refusing to say it, or the words “under God” creating angst for anyone. I did have one teacher, fresh out of college in 1968, who challenged me about a verse in the Bible that he found offensive.  Why me?  Because my dad was the pastor of the only Baptist church in town.  Baptists are Bible-bangers, and this teacher wanted to shake my faith.

Fail.

So what can we do?  In this age of both parents working overtime, how can we take better care of our kids?

I know this is an old argument, but I want you to consider that we’ve painted ourselves into the corner with our belief that we have to have all the STUFF we have these days; that our kids MUST have all the coolest clothes, shoes, electronic gear, etc. Or what?  Well, they’ll be uncool.  They’ll be teased.  They’ll be bullied.  They may get depressed.

What if all the parents in a school district  agree together that they weren’t going to support all the expense of being cool?  That they were going to monitor their kids’ electronics EVERY DAY; that there would be no more wi -fi access in their bedrooms, no more computers, iPads, iPods, tablets that they could take to their rooms, slap on the headphones, and do whatever they please?  I’m not saying they should never have electronics.  I’m saying we parents need to realize the dangers out there and be busy about protecting our kids. Sure, they’ll be upset.  They’ll get over it.

What are we teaching our kids in our own homes?  Do we ask them what goes on in history, health, science, literature? Do we monitor what the schools are offering our kids? Or have we given up all our parental authority to the schools, the “experts,” who tell us that some incident or the other is an “in-school issue, and you (the parent) do not need to concern yourself with it”?

My high school principal tried that one on my dad back in 1960 something.  It’s not a new philosophy.  The principal lost that round and ended up apologizing to my dad. How about that?

Here it is:  Kids need parents.  They may think they need us only as a money supply, but they need us to be an active, involved, interested participant in their lives.

Sadly, there are some who are doing that, and are shocked and heartbroken to find their child has taken his own life anyway.  That’s because kids are very good at masking what is really going on, and a parent truly may not have a clue until it’s way too late.

It’s a difficult world our kids are growing up in. Please, do whatever you need to do to shepherd your kid through these crucial teen years when he’s being asked to make decisions about things you and I never even thought of until we were much older.  If that means decreasing your income, isn’t worth it?

Our kids are our future.  It’s SO worth it, whatever it takes.

I want to end this on a positive note.  It’s high school graduation season all over the country.  Every year, one of our local newspapers puts out an edition on the cream of the crop students from all over the district.  There are a lot of them; high achievers, dedicated volunteers, planning for an exciting future.  Wonderful. We have parents out there who are still turning out quality kids.

Be that parent.

Fathers

Ephesians 6:4. “And ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.”

As Paul continues his instructions concerning marriage and the home,  he writes this verse to fathers.  I have seen families in which the father takes his role as head of the home to the point of creating such anger in his children that there is no hope of his being able to do the “nurture and admonition” part.

As in everything else, balance is the key. Fathers, if your children are constantly angry with  you, hurt, intimidated, fearful, hesitant–you are doing something wrong.  You are focusing so much on the “I’m the boss” part of your job that you are completely missing the nurturing, the teaching and training in the Lord.

The mother is not the only nurturing parent. How I wish that fathers could see the pain they’ve caused in their adult children through their lack of nurturing; through their lack of presence except to discipline; through their selfish determination that the child is ALWAYS to be seen and not heard.  Harsh, critical, constantly correcting fathers  end up with angry, hurt, distant children.

Don’t do that. You have such a special place of leadership in the life of your child. He will always remember your words IF he also remembers that you were not just a father, but a daddy.

Remove These!

Ephesians 4:31.  “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking,  be put away from you, with all malice:”

Words mean things. I decided to look at the meaning of the words in this verse in their original Greek, and I was enlightened. The fine distinctions are important, and they cover all the bases.

Bitterness  is sharpness, an acerbity of temper, ready to take offence and break out in anger. This kind of bitterness characterizes a person who is angry at a deep level, always quick to take offence and return fire with deadly accuracy in biting comments.

Rage and anger: Passionate outbursts, and the deeper anger of which it is at once effect and cause. Anger creates more anger, and becomes its own driving force until the person who harbors it has no other way of expressing himself.

Clamour: The loud fury of the first burst of wrath. This is the tsunami that roars in and destroys everything in its path.  It is the tornado that comes unexpectedly, sounding like a nothing you’ve ever heard before. It’s scary and violent, and should never characterize a believer.

Evil speaking: This is the more settled and deliberate anger that follows the clamorous outburst.  We’re hearing a lot of this during the primary election circus.

Malice: Evil- mindedness or malignity—the general disposition which is the opposite of goodness, graciousness, and sympathy. Malice accompanies bitterness, rage, anger, clamour, and evil-speaking. All of it needs to be removed, taken off, put away from the heart of a believer.

Sinless Anger

Ephesians 4:26. “Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath.”

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The first two commands in this passage:  Stop lying.  Speak truth.

Today, the commands are:  Don’t sin in your anger;  don’t end the day angry.

“Well,” you may say, “That’s all well and good, but if someone makes me mad, I can’t help it!”

And my reply is always, “Yes, you can!  God doesn’t give us commands that we cannot follow. “

Here’s the simple truth:  Anger is a choice.  We decide to become angry; we decide to behave horribly while we are angry; we choose to carry the anger across several days, making  many other people miserable in the process.

Anger, in and of itself, is not sinful.  The Bible mentions God’s anger over 450 times, and He never sins!  Where the sin comes in is when we give the anger free rein and behave according to the flesh instead of allowing the Holy Spirit to calm our hearts.

There are some things we NEED to be angry about.  I, for instance, am angry every single time I hear about another child who has been molested.  That child will never be the same. Sexual molestation touches not just the body, but also the heart and soul. However, I do not find a gun and go out and shoot the molester. The anger isn’t sinful, but murder is.

We need to be angry about abortion; about domestic violence; about the horrendous efforts over the last eight years to sabotage our freedoms and the America we are losing through our lack of knowledge and our laziness.

I am angry at the ridiculous circus a certain candidate has made of the election process, calling names and launching personal attacks.  He has no dignity whatsoever. Yes, I’m angry about that.  But I’m not going to stoop to his level, and I’m not going to hire someone to assassinate him.

Instead of acting out in anger,  I will continue to pray that God will intervene in spite of our apathy.

And never go to bed angry.  Forgive, restore, reconcile.  If it is more important for you to win than it is to reconcile, then you are an angry, unhappy person.  That is sad, because you are missing out on so many wonderful relationships. Being RIGHT above all, never admitting fault, refusing to forgive, all make you a very lonely, very unlovely person.