God’s Warnings

In Matthew 9:13, Jesus responded to the Pharisees’ question about His associating with tax collectors and sinners with, “But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice. . . .” I believe this provides great insight into the way our Lord deals with us. I see in Scripture that He will orchestrate events in our lives to bring us to a point of repentance and asking for mercy.

Lot is probably an example of all of us at some point in our Christian walk. There has likely been a time when each of us has chosen some degree of compromise, or lack of obedience. I know I prefer to think that my sin is my sin and does not have an effect on my family. Obviously, that is a convenient and incorrect myth!

The reality is that my walk, or lack of it, with Christ has a definite impact on my family. There is no such thing as a private sin that does not have an effect in some way on those I’m called to shepherd. However, God in His grace will try to gently get our attention.

You’ve heard the naval expression “a shot over the bow.” In naval terms, a shot is fired in front of another vessel to warn them they had better change course, or stop for boarding. God works in much the same manner.

Lot’s “shot over the bow” was when God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah. It was a sinful, wicked place, and he knew it. That is why he didn’t want the angels spending the night in the square. Lot was wrong in choosing to live there. Some might argue he was trying to win the city. However, if you pay attention to what the mob and his sons-in-law said to him, it is obvious he was not winning them to his God, but losing his family.

His compromise cost him his wife, when she longingly looked back. It almost cost him his daughters as he offered them to appease an angry mob. It did cost him his daughters’ virtue as they demonstrated later with their father in the mountains.

Notice that Lot learned something from his warning. He first wanted to go to Zoar, even though he was instructed to flee to the mountains. The angels knew his physical abilities and were not telling him to do something he was not capable of doing. However, for the same reasons he was living in Sodom, he wanted to go to Zoar. It is likely that after seeing the wickedness of the city, he realized he was at risk. He then chose to be obedient and go to the mountains.

God wants us to keep our families out of evil environments. From my observations, it is often the father who places the family at risk. Praise God that He doesn’t immediately chasten us when we disobey. Our Lord desires mercy, not sacrifice. However, to offer us mercy, we have to be repentant and seek His forgiveness.

Several years ago, I was convicted that I had said something unkind to a relative. The Lord was telling me to ask forgiveness, but I resisted. One day as Nathan and I were preparing to leave for work, I decided to let the car roll backwards out of the garage while Nathan went back into the house for something. Unfortunately, I did not see that the rear car door was fully open.

As you can imagine, our garage doors are not wide enough to accommodate a Honda Civic, with a door open, passing through without some degree of trauma. The car lurched to a stop, and I looked back to see the door bent backwards. UGH! Even though the furthest thing from my mind was needing to ask forgiveness of the relative, that was the thought that instantly filled my mind.

God has a way of warning and chastening us when He needs to. I believe there was not twenty-four hours’ passage of time before that relationship issue was dealt with. My gracious Lord had said it was time to take care of it!

My own father inadvertently exposed me to wicked things that have cost me greatly. Eventually, it cost him his family. God had sent him a “shot over the bow,” but he ignored it.

How about you? Is there some area of your life that is a compromise God is not pleased with? Is there something that God has warned you about that cries for your repentance and needs a change? If so, don’t delay and take the chance of grave consequences; repent of it today. Your family and the Lord will bless you for it.

Posted in: Dad's Corner

Keys to Disciplining Children

It was the last day of school. Sarah had planned a highly anticipated party for Joseph, John, Anna, Jesse, and Mary. There were water balloons, a toss game, races, soda, cookies, and chips to be enjoyed. However, before the games could begin, the bickering had started. Children were being sent away from the party for unkind behavior. When they were allowed to return, there would soon be another incident. A fun-filled morning was beginning to feel like a disaster. Determined to not let these difficulties destroy the festive mood of our day, we continued happily through the party, dealing with discipline issues as they arose.

Discussing the troubled last day of school with Steve on our next date, I said I was not sure I really wanted to take the two weeks of school vacation we had planned, if they were going to be like the last day of school had been.

I began praying and asking the Lord how I should handle the upcoming vacation days. I quickly realized that I was disappointed with the children’s behavior because I saw it was going to have an impact on MY vacation. I had wanted to have two weeks off. I wanted them to be perfect children so I could take a break. The Lord reminded me that my expectations needed to be straightened. I had to let go of what I thought I had to have to enjoy the vacation days. The Lord’s calling on my life to bring up my children “in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4) did not end when vacation started! As a matter of fact, this was the perfect time to really focus on some of their weak areas, since there were not the normal schooling demands on our time.

With changed expectations, we entered our vacation, and the children lived up to those new expectations. There were numerous situations calling for discipline each day. As I was working diligently at being consistent with the children’s discipline, I was quickly becoming “weary in well doing,” wanting to “reap” right away (Galatians 6:9).

Again, I sought the Lord for help. He brought this question to my mind. If I truly believed, “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13), what did that mean about any discipline the children might need? I realized I was relying on my parenting, my discipline, and my consistency, but not the Lord because I was not praying with the children when they were in need of discipline. It seemed the way to rely on the Lord for this teaching time in the children’s day was to spend a portion of that time in prayer.

It may be that some of you are already doing this, but I certainly was not. It took too long. I was prone to lecturing the children instead of spending that time praying with them. This prayer time became very fruitful. I was alone with one child. I would pray first. Sometimes I would need to start by asking the Lord’s forgiveness for feeling frustrated or discouraged, or maybe for having an impatient or resigned spirit toward the situation. This has become a sweet time for me as it gets my focus off the problem and onto the One Who can work it out.

The next thing I would pray has proved to be much more powerful than a lecture. “Lord, this child wants to be a wise child. He could have chosen to be kind and waited for the toy rather than trying to grab it away. Lord, You want us to learn to have a servant’s heart. You want us to love each other and to be patient. Please forgive this child for his unkindness. Help him to see his need to cry out to You when he is tempted to be unkind. Please give him strength to not do this again. Thank You Lord, for this opportunity to learn and to grow in You.” This prayer says all I would say in a lecture, but it is strong where my lectures are weak. I am calling out to the One Who has told me, “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).

Then my child is given the opportunity to pray out loud with me. This child needs the peace of God to guard his heart, and I need it to guard my heart. Both of us could become discouraged if we feel we are trying to overcome these problems on our own, in our strength. If we focus on the problem, then we feel failure. If we focus on the fact “that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28), then our hearts are right.

I can’t tell you that in those two weeks my children became perfect. I still have to battle discouragement over their behavior and my expectations that they will not need any correction. However, I know we are doing what the Lord would have us to do when we pray as we face these teaching opportunities. “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:3-5).

What about you? Do you take the time to pray with your children when they need correction? Are you relying on your strength as a parent to change the behavior of your children? Are you calling out to the Lord, setting the example for your children, and showing them how to rely on the One Who has numbered the hairs on their head?