Tag Archives: Leadership

Protecting Against Deception – Part 4

We are in the middle of a series addressing the topic of protecting against deception. I encourage you to read the three previous articles to see where we are picking up. As fathers and husbands, God has given us the huge responsibility of guarding our own hearts from deception and also those of our families. This will only happen as we make definitive choices to walk in the truth of God’s Word—the Bible.

Continuing with the account of the fall in Genesis, let’s investigate another aspect that applies to deception. “And the man said, The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat” (Genesis 3:12). Amazingly, instead of owning the responsibility for his sin, Adam blames both God and Eve for his disobedience. So it goes today; there is nothing new under the sun. We continue to blame God and others for our personal sin and for any deception embraced by those in our family. The cry is, “It wasn’t my fault.” Adam was there when Eve sinned. He shouldn’t have listened to her, but instead he should have protected her and stopped her. He wasn’t willing to own personal responsibility for not helping Eve to avoid being deceived.

So often today dads are engrossed in work or play while their families are in deep spiritual trouble. Dads are the ones held responsible before the Lord for not protecting their families from this deception, but they are often apathetic and complacent regarding their responsibility—blaming others. Adam was simply the first of many. If each dad fully owned his responsibility before the Lord, I believe, we would not have a professing church that is living in deception, little different from the world, nor would we be living in a pagan nation that allows the daily slaughter of innocent babies. It is convenient to blame pastors and teachers for what is taught, or not taught, to our families and then embraced by them when it really is our responsibility to protect them from following the deception.

Adam was likely aware that Eve was speaking with the serpent and what was being said. He should have intervened. Since most dads are away from their families eight or more hours a day, how can they protect their wives and families from deception? Communication is critical to guarding our families. We need to be listening to our wives carefully and asking questions. As we listen to them, we must wonder: are there others who are tempting her or the children down a deceptive road that runs counter to God’s Word?

Also, a wife can be very spiritually sensitive, and if asked, she might have cautions about the direction her husband is walking. Does she see some inconsistency in his life, or is there sin that she desires to warn him about? A wife is can be like a modern radar array antenna, and we would do well to seek frequent feedback from her. Adam’s problem was in obeying Eve; his problem was not in listening to her. He just should have responded sooner to have prevented tragedy. Based on our e-mails, this is frequently the case in many homes today. Dads, if we want to avoid deception, may we ask our wives for their thoughts on the direction of the family and the dangers they see ahead.

In 1 Kings 13, God sent a prophet to prophesy against Jeroboam. God told the prophet to “Eat no bread, nor drink water, nor turn again by the same way that thou camest” (1 Kings 13:9). After speaking with Jeroboam, the prophet obediently returns via a different route. However, an old prophet who lived in that area went after the prophet and said to him, “I am a prophet also as thou art; and an angel spake unto me by the word of the LORD, saying, Bring him back with thee into thine house, that he may eat bread and drink water. But he lied unto him” (1 Kings 13:18). Here we have an account of how a man began by being obedient to God, but another convinced him to disobey. What was the outcome?

“And it came to pass, as they sat at the table, that the word of the LORD came unto the prophet that brought him back: And he cried unto the man of God that came from Judah, saying, Thus saith the LORD, Forasmuch as thou hast disobeyed the mouth of the LORD, and hast not kept the commandment which the LORD thy God commanded thee, But camest back, and hast eaten bread and drunk water in the place, of the which the LORD did say to thee, Eat no bread, and drink no water; thy carcase shall not come unto the sepulchre of thy fathers” (1 Kings 13:20-22). We are told in the following verses how, after eating and drinking at the old prophet’s house, he left, God delivered him to a lion, and he was killed.

The prophet was deceived, and it cost him his life. God had spoken to him personally, but he chose to ignore those words and heed another’s deception. We must obediently cling to the Word of God to avoid the consequences of being deceived.

Today obedience seems to be underemphasized. Yes, we are saved and sanctified by grace through Jesus Christ alone, but He calls us to a life of obedience. “Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him” (John 14:23). Obedience is powerful in our lives. It draws us into greater fellowship with the Lord, and it confirms in our hearts God’s truth, keeping us from deception. It gives our hearts confidence and assurance that the path we are walking is truth, and that we are not being deceived. “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself” (John 7:17).

I know in our family there have been times when the children have said, “You never told us not to do that.” That may have been true, but they had been told clearly what they should do. If we are obedient with what we should be doing, we aren’t in danger with what we shouldn’t be doing. God’s commands highlight our personal responsibility to obey. The more we are in the Word and reminding ourselves of His commands to us, the more we will feel that responsibility to obey. Obedience to the Word protects from deception.

Today God is still the same, and He holds us accountable to follow His Word. To do that we must be in His Word daily and study to show ourselves approved. If we are sitting under a pastor who is leading families astray, God is holding the fathers responsible for following deceptive teaching, and there may be consequences. “For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth” (Hebrews 12:6). God has given us His Word. We are to be in it, and then obey it.

Let’s summarize how to protect our families from deception. First, we will acknowledge before God that we own full responsibility for protecting our families from deception. We can’t blame anyone else, and we must take this matter seriously. As we own the responsibility that God has placed on us dads, we will have a keen interest in studying His Word individually and with our families. There are no other options; we must be in the Word daily. We must continually talk with our wives and children, asking them questions. How are they being tempted, and what do they see in us that causes them concern? Finally, we must be committed to obeying the truth that God gives us. Through our obedience, His presence is revealed in our lives (John 14:21), and He confirms His truth. Dads, as we seek the Lord Jesus through His Word and obedience, we will be drawn out of a “going-through-the-motions,” stale religion into a dynamic, Spirit-filled walk with Jesus.

Protecting Against Deception – Part 3

In December we began a series focusing on protecting Christian families from deception (please read Part 1 and Part 2 if you haven’t already). It is easy to be deceived, and the consequences can be far-reaching. Last month, we started looking at the first and greatest deception recorded in Scripture, where in the garden Satan won, and all mankind has suffered since then. We too will suffer when we are deceived. But who would choose to be deceived, and why then would God allow or bring consequences as a result of a deception? How can we guard against deception?

“And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat” (Genesis 3:6).

After listening to the serpent’s deceptive words, Eve stood gazing at the forbidden fruit. She determined that it would be good to eat, that it was beautiful to behold, and that she wanted to be wise. She allowed her mind to follow the serpent’s deceptive reasoning when he indicated there were not any negative consequences of eating the forbidden fruit because there hadn’t been any when eating the other fruit. Even though Eve was deceived, God still held her accountable for the disobedience that came as a result of that deception.

Eve was the first to be deceived and to follow that deception into disobedience, reaping its consequences. However, we are vulnerable to doing the same. The longer we dwell on something forbidden, the more likely we are to deceive ourselves, justify wrong actions, and pursue it. First we behold, and then we hold. The forbidden fruit was pleasing to the eye. The flesh and sin appeal to our eyesight which is the door to our soul. How great is the danger.

Scripture tells us we must flee from temptation. “Flee also youthful lusts…” (2 Timothy 2:22). If we don’t want to be deceived, we will take our gaze off of the temptations of the flesh and run from them. We will stop looking at them, and go in the other direction. We will teach our children this as well.

When my boys go with me to the Kansas City homeless mission once a month, we often discuss the temptations of the flesh that have deceived those who find shelter at the mission. We discuss how the alcohol that has ruined some of these men’s lives didn’t tell them up front what the consequences would be. It was deceptive. It appealed to the flesh. It isn’t a temptation if it isn’t appealing, and the only way it claims its victims is by deception. No one who takes his first drink plans to become an alcoholic living on the street. The mission men have been deceived, and they have suffered the consequences of that deception in their lives and in the lives of their families.

Those are concrete examples I can show to my sons, but I find that fleshly temptations leading to deception also apply in Christian men’s lives who haven’t been deceived by those same appetites. Instead they are deceived by more subtle deceptions involving how they spend their time, how they use their money, and where they will put their focus. When we desire something, we are more vulnerable to allowing ourselves to believe a deception—because we want to believe it. If we ourselves are following deception, we can be quite sure our families will be as well.

Eve was deceived, but Adam was just plain disobedient. Eve took and ate and gave to Adam, who was with her. Scripture doesn’t tell us how close Adam was to her. However, she did not have to go looking for him. Adam knew God’s command was not to eat, he had not intervened when Eve ate, and he then had to choose either to follow Eve or to obey his God. By not taking action when he should have, he now had a far worse decision to make.

How could Adam have protected Eve? There is nothing to indicate in the previous verses that they should have been on guard. Adam had known no danger, nor had he any reason to suspect they were at risk. They were at peace living in paradise, yet danger was so very close. This is how deception works. A person is most susceptible when he isn’t suspecting anything. It may seem peaceful for us in our lives and families, yet we must be prepared and on guard against deception.

God had prepared Adam and Eve to withstand the deception that Eve experienced and the disobedience of Adam by giving them clear direction. He had said not to eat of the fruit from that one particular tree. Adam and Eve had the truth of His Word on which to stand against the deception.

We, as well, will protect ourselves and our families from deception by standing on the truth of the Word. We can only stand on it if we spend time in the Word and study it—individually and as a family. “Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:31-32). It is God’s Word that keeps us in the truth and away from the bondage resulting from deception.

The Lord Jesus uses the Word in our lives to change us from the inside out. By directing us to what edifies, He doesn’t have to have an endless list of things that we can’t do. When we focus on what is good, then what is harmful is not a danger. If Adam and Eve had set their hearts on God’s Word, they would have been content with the good fruit they could eat. They would have known that if God wanted them to have the forbidden fruit, He would have offered it to them. They would not have been vulnerable to the deception and disobedience. The same is true for us today. Instead of being concerned with the line of sin, we should concentrate on what is clearly pleasing to the Lord. When this is the case, we are shielding ourselves from deception and disobedience.

If only Adam had been continually reminding Eve of what God had commanded them, perhaps she wouldn’t have been deceived. Ephesians 5:25-27 says, “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.” Adam could have been daily washing Eve with the Word of God, which would have fortified her in the Truth that could have allowed her to withstand the deception.

We protect our families from deception by not being deceived ourselves. Have you evaluated your life against Scripture? Can you Biblically justify how you spend your time, how you use your money, and where your focus is? Are you teaching your children to flee youthful lusts? Are you washing your family with the water of the Word every day? Are you continually putting your family’s hearts and minds on the Lord Jesus Christ?

Protecting Against Deception – Part 2

In December we began a series focusing on protecting Christian families from deception. It is easy to be deceived, and the consequences can be far-reaching. There has been no greater deception than the first one recorded in Scripture, where in the garden, Satan won, and all mankind has suffered since then. When we choose not to follow God’s Word, even if the choice was due to being deceived, we will lose, and there will be consequences for our family. May this series on deception help Dad to be on guard against being deceived.

“Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. . . .” (Genesis 3:1)

Subtil means that the serpent, controlled by Satan, was crafty and skilled in deception with a wicked agenda. Satan’s plan for everyone is contrary to God’s calling. Satan wants to separate us from fellowship with God and from being obedient to our Lord as we will observe in these verses. We must never underestimate the ability of our opponent, the weakness and depravity of our own flesh, and how that combination makes us vulnerable to deception. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9).

“. . . And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?” (Genesis 3:1)

Now we begin to see Satan’s wicked agenda as he exploits Eve’s weakness. Satan will attack the family through any vulnerability, whether it be the wife’s (1 Peter 3:7), the dad’s, or the children’s weak areas. One of the primary weapons Satan uses is questioning God’s Word, especially as it relates to the boundaries God places on our lives. He wants to convince us that there will be no consequences if we disobey. God places boundaries for our protection, but our pride wants freedom without constraint. The less we know of God’s Word, and the more insistent that we are “free in Christ” to do as we please, the more vulnerable we become to deception. Real freedom in Christ will be consistent with Galatians 5:13: “For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.”

Often believers in the Lord Jesus Christ overestimate their own “goodness” and their resistance to deception. We still have the flesh with us, and therefore, our wicked hearts make us susceptible to being led astray. In one respect, we are a sin salesman’s dream come true since our hearts desperately desire what sin offers us, and we can choose to believe the deception. “But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed” (James 1:14).

Joshua was deceived by the Gibeonites because he didn’t inquire of the Lord as to whether they were telling him the truth. Eve should have taken the new doctrine she was hearing from the serpent to her authority, Adam. Satan’s initial deception involved Eve, who at this time had no sin nature. Of all people, she should have been the most resistant to sin. If she was deceived, how much more at risk are we? Keep in mind, though, Eve was deceived, but Adam disobeyed.

“And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.” (Genesis 3:2-3)

Eve now reveals a disconnect with God’s actual command as stated in Genesis 3:11: “. . . I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat . . .” It is very possible that Eve had a resistant attitude toward God’s command not to eat from the tree because she added that they couldn’t touch it either.

What practical lessons can be gleaned from just this section on the initial deception? First, we can see that when we have a negative attitude toward God’s clear commands, we open ourselves up to false doctrine. Eve was not willing to accept God’s command not to eat the fruit—she changed what the command was.

In John 8:41-45 Jesus was rebuking the Pharisees. They weren’t able to receive Jesus’ speech as truth since they were disobeying God and obeying Satan. Because of their disobedience, they had embraced false doctrine and could not recognize Truth. As we obey the clear teachings of Scripture, we will find new truths become clear that we didn’t understand before. Sometimes a dad will wonder why his family is different, less godly, than another family. The answer may boil down to one of obedience. God gives more light and understanding of doctrine as we obey the light He gives. “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself” (John 7:17).

Next, we must always be suspicious when we are being challenged or encouraged to less obedience to the Word and more freedom of choice. We need to be in God’s Word daily discussing with our families how it applies to life and welcoming the safeguards God has put in place for us. Our flesh doesn’t like restraints, but it loves freedom. Paul was willing to restrict any freedom he had if it meant not causing a brother to stumble. “Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend” (1 Corinthians 8:13). Are we willing servants of the Lord Jesus who can deny ourselves, take up our crosses, and follow Him (Matthew 16:24)? That doesn’t sound like much personal freedom of choice does it? An automatic red flag should appear anytime someone encourages us toward more freedom, questions obedience, and denies consequences.

Eve didn’t know that she was being deceived. Deception won’t tell us that it is not truth. Therefore, we must turn to our source of truth—the Bible. Our focus needs to be the Word and obeying the light God gives us. The Holy Spirit has freedom to direct us, but He will do so consistently with the Word. May we learn the voice of the Shepherd by hearing it daily. John 10 tells us that the sheep know the Shepherd’s voice and will follow it. The more we are in His Word, the more our souls will be tuned to knowing our Lord’s voice from that of the deceiver.

Eve was in the wrong company. Dad, what company are you keeping? To whom are you listening? What sort of significant secular influences do you have—friends, media, music, or entertainment? We can deceive ourselves by saying, “It won’t affect me. I can take what I want and leave the bad.”

Years ago I was listening to a popular, secular talk show because I wanted to be informed about politics. This show is also very entertaining. It often mocks people and is filled with inappropriate innuendoes. I figured I could “tune out” the bad and receive the good. During that time, I found myself struggling with wrong thoughts. I would cast those thoughts down, but they just kept coming back. Finally, the Lord prompted me to discontinue listening to that program, and amazingly, all those wrong thoughts disappeared. Whatever we allow into our minds will have an influence on us. What sort of company does your family keep?

Why was Adam not protecting Eve? God gave Adam the role of keeping the garden, and he was likely aware that Eve was talking to the serpent. This would have been surprising because there is no indication that any of the other creatures were able to speak. Eve did not turn to Adam, nor did Adam intervene in protecting Eve. Are there influences that Mom is exposed to or “counsel” she is hearing that she would do well to discuss with her husband? Is her husband aware of what others are saying to her? Many well meaning “friends” might be “encouraging” her that she needs more time for herself, shouldn’t be homeschooling, or shouldn’t be having more children. God made a husband and wife to be no longer two but one flesh. Therefore, the wife should share the outside advice she is hearing with her husband. Do our wives have confidence that we have their best interests before the Lord always? Can they trust us with their deepest needs and thoughts? A great hindrance to a wife opening her heart to her husband is if he is a selfish man who cares only about his own preferences. That is why it is so important that we have hearts for our families with a vision for where those families are called to go. Then we must be obediently following the Lord.

If we don’t want our families to be deceived, we will lead them daily into the Word, the source of truth, and teach them to obey the Word. (Feed My Sheep: A Practical Guide to Daily Family Devotions is a resource encouraging you to have daily time in God’s Word with your family and then showing you practically how to do it.) A positive attitude toward obedience begins in our lives. We will guard our families from deceptive influences, again starting with us. Next month, Lord willing, we will continue to look at this subject of deception and the Christian family.

Protecting Against Deception – Part 1

I remember once speaking with a man who had owned a liquor store while professing to be a Christian. I asked him whether selling alcohol, which ruined lives, and being a “Christian” seemed to be a conflict. He insisted that there was no conflict because it was a great opportunity to witness to people.

Have you noticed how easy it is to deceive yourself? I must admit, it is true in my life as well. I have shared in previous Dad’s Corners some examples of times I have deceived myself. The consequences for being deceived can range from minor to terrible.

Perhaps the greatest and most disastrous deception is a man believing he is saved when in fact he is headed for hell. He may be thinking he is going to heaven because he once, without really meaning it, repeated a prayer someone told him to pray, or is religious, or goes to church, or considers himself to be a good person. However, this may be the reality: “Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity” (Matthew 7:22-23). Without repenting from sin and placing faith in Jesus, a person is bound for hell. “And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel” (Mark 1:15). “For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another” (Titus 3:3). I would encourage every dad reading this to go through 1 John and evaluate whether you are in Christ. It is too important to take a chance on being deceived.

As dads, it is our responsibility to lead our families down the path the Lord has set before us. “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad” (2 Corinthians 5:10). Therefore, it is vitally important that we do all we can to protect ourselves from deception. Jesus warned about leaders who have a problem: “Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch” (Matthew 15:14).

First, I have to say that I believe it is unlikely, if not impossible, to embrace truth in every aspect of our lives. As long as we have a wicked and depraved heart, we will be susceptible to believing a lie. “But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed” (James 1:14). Feeding our families may be difficult too, but is that any reason to give up, letting them go hungry? Of course not. We must fight the fight, lean not on our own understanding, and rest in the God of our strength. “Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer” (Psalms 19:14).

As the leaders of our families, how does protecting against deception begin in our own lives? Self-examination becomes difficult because, if we are deceived, we likely aren’t going to be able to see it in ourselves. That is why the truth of God’s Word and the affirmation of His Spirit is critical. Are we having a quality personal time in the Word and in prayer every day? Please don’t consider something like listening to a preacher while driving to work a quality personal devotion. “But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly” (Matthew 6:6). We should get in a quiet place, with no distractions, and focus on the Word of God and allow the Holy Spirit to speak to our hearts. Next, are we leading our families in a family time of reading the Bible together every day? God’s Word is a mirror to our souls, and it will point out the sin in our lives. (If you aren’t sure how to have family devotions with your family, or you are struggling with being consistent, we would strongly encourage you to consider our audio resource called Feed My Sheep: A Practical Guide to Daily Family Devotions.)

Are we forsaking the sin that we know is wrong? May we never, never accept sin in our lives because the consequences, for if we do, will be far-reaching. As an example, we often receive an e-mail from a wife who tells us about her husband who is enslaved to a “private” wicked sin, and this desperate woman is crying out for help and encouragement. The husband’s life is bound to his sin, and he is poisoning his family with it, even though he has deceived himself by thinking it is a personal sin that affects only him. His sin yields the bad fruit of violating his marriage, his sons becoming enslaved to the same sin, plus other consequences as well. Normally this man is an angry man because of the internal conflict raging in his heart between his depraved sin and the knowledge that it is wrong. His anger then spreads throughout the family, making family life a cauldron of contention. “Make no friendship with an angry man; and with a furious man thou shalt not go: Lest thou learn his ways, and get a snare to thy soul” (Proverbs 22:24-25). No matter how secure the chain that binds us to sin, we must yield it to be broken by the power of God. To receive God’s power, a man must begin with confession and repentance to his Lord and then to anyone he has offended. It may be that another man is needed to come alongside and help with accountability and support. In addition to a brother’s help, walls of protection might be needed to help guard against the pull of the flesh. May we be zealous for leading upright lives and not excuse sin in our lives.

Another important aspect of avoiding deception is obeying the truth that God has given us. “If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth” (1 John 1:6). The way we live our lives must be consistent with the truth that God has revealed to us. If it is not, we are choosing to walk in darkness. We can be encouraged because God will give grace when we repent. We set a positive example for our family by confessing, repenting, and obeying. If we know the Lord Jesus, we will obey Him. “And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments” (1 John 2:3).

Fellowship with other believers is also important in avoiding being deceived. Brothers need to exhort one another in the truth. “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching” (Hebrews 10:25). When is the last time you loved a brother enough to ask him whether he was in the Word daily himself and leading his family in a daily Bible time? If you have not done this, why not? We are to exhort one another, and that is what God intends to happen within a fellowship. I know it is becoming more and more difficult to find like-minded, conservative churches. We must persevere until we find where and how the Lord would have us to worship. Truly, may we seek to obey the Lord Jesus in all areas.

Are we committed to walking in the truth and leading our families accordingly? Let no man deceive himself. What is sown shall be reaped. Next month we will look more deeply at deception and helping our families avoid it.

Don’t Let Balaam Seduce You

“Several years ago my husband and I got rid of the TV. Over the last year my husband has been traveling a lot for his job. Since this has happened, he has started watching TV and movies again because TV and movies are everywhere as you travel. I have seen him slowly give up his godly convictions and be pulled back into the world and its entertainments. He says there is nothing wrong with it and even gets angry if anyone encourages against these things.

“I pray for him all the time. I know God can get to his heart. I just don’t understand God’s timing. It breaks my heart, and I worry now about the kids. We still do not have TV at home, yet when my husband is home he has a little hand-held video game player that also plays movies. He spends most of his evenings with it, so the kids see Dad’s heart drawn to this.

“I want my kids not to be drawn into this, and I also want to be a submissive, loving spouse. What can I do, though, to protect the kids and submit to my husband? I know that I can’t be his ‘Holy Spirit.’ I can’t make him stop desiring the world’s entertainment. I just wonder if only one parent (and being the parent who is not to be the leader) can make enough of an influence on the kids that they will choose to follow God wholeheartedly and not turn to the world’s pleasures. Do you have any ideas on what I could do?” Excerpts from a concerned mom’s e-mail (used with permission)

Because my articles are addressed to the fathers, I am not answering this mom’s questions. However, I want to use her situation, which is quite common in the e-mails I receive, to try to grab fathers’ hearts and attention. I would love to see the solution to this mom’s problem be a husband who is convicted of his sin, repents, draws close to the Lord Jesus Christ, and brings his family along with him. We men have to see the seriousness of our personal choices on not only our own lives but also on the lives of our families.

One reason e-mails like this are such a heartbreak to me is that they remind me of the problems Israel encountered in Joshua, chapter seven. After the God-given victory of the Israelites over Jericho, Israel is defeated by the much smaller city of Ai with a consequence of thirty-six Israelite lives lost. How could Israel experience such a conquest of Jericho but humiliation by Ai? This story presents an example to us of how God’s people are defeated both by their love of the world and by their disobedience to God.

Before Israel attacked Jericho, they were told that they could only take silver, gold, brass, and iron and then put it into the treasury of the Lord (Joshua 6:18-19). The Lord was very specific in His command. Conquering the city would have been a horrific job because it involved killing everyone except Rahab’s family. I can’t imagine how difficult it would have been to carry out those commands, particularly regarding the young and old. Some of the Israelite soldiers may even have questioned what they were told to do. However, those were God’s instructions.

In Joshua chapter 7, we read that the Lord’s anger was kindled because Achan took from Jericho that which was accursed. Achan confessed: “When I saw among the spoils a goodly Babylonish garment, and two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold of fifty shekels weight, then I coveted them, and took them; and, behold, they are hid in the earth in the midst of my tent, and the silver under it” (Joshua 7:21). Achan loved the world; he looked, he coveted, and then he disobeyed the Lord’s direction.

Were there any consequences for Achan or his family? Following Achan’s confession and retrieving of the forbidden items, they took his family and everything he owned to the valley of Achor. Then we read: “And Joshua said, Why hast thou troubled us? the LORD shall trouble thee this day. And all Israel stoned him with stones, and burned them with fire, after they had stoned them with stones” (Joshua 7:25).

I wish with all my being that I could tell the mom who wrote the e-mail that her husband’s choices would not impact the children. However, I honestly believe that the terrifying and heartbreaking reality is that every father has tremendous influence in the lives of his family, and he can cause them great suffering—even destruction. That is the price of leadership and the way God has ordained it.

I also can see that God had a greater purpose in Achan and his family’s death than simply punishing Achan. I think He was using them as an object lesson for the rest of the nation. The Israelite men not only were to stone Achan but also his whole family, children included. I can hardly imagine the agony those men experienced as they killed Achan’s family. I expect out of that pain, though, was born a prayer in each man’s heart that would go something like this: “Lord God, please may I follow You wholeheartedly and never bring this on my family.”

Now let’s look at a stark contrast found in Joshua 5:13-15. “And it came to pass, when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted up his eyes and looked, and, behold, there stood a man over against him with his sword drawn in his hand: and Joshua went unto him, and said unto him, Art thou for us, or for our adversaries? And he said, Nay; but as captain of the host of the LORD am I now come. And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and did worship, and said unto him, What saith my lord unto his servant? And the captain of the LORD’S host said unto Joshua, Loose thy shoe from off thy foot; for the place whereon thou standest is holy. And Joshua did so.”

The captain of the Lord’s host was likely the Lord Jesus Christ because, if he had been an angel, Joshua would not have been permitted to worship him. Joshua has his face in the dirt worshipping the Lord, and the Lord tells Joshua to do something strange. He commands Joshua to take off his sandals because it is holy ground. Joshua is already showing he knows this is a holy moment and that complete reverence is called for, yet that wasn’t enough. Joshua’s sandals would have had the “dirt of the world” on them, and they were to be removed.

Joshua didn’t argue. Joshua didn’t say, “But Lord, I’m already lying on my face in the dirt. What is wrong with my sandals?” Joshua chose to obey what his Lord told him to do at that moment and as he led Israel.

Can you picture the delight of the mom mentioned at the beginning of the Corner if her husband were to say he has recognized the destruction in his life and his children’s lives of his worldly pursuits? What a joy it would be to her to have her husband stop watching TV when he travels and throw out his hand-held video game player. What would her heart do if he desired to lead his family in worship and spend time with them? No longer would she be torn by her biblical command to submit versus wanting to have a family who follows God wholeheartedly. Don’t we fathers want more in life than to pursue personal pleasure and then reap the consequences of it?

Dads, what I am convinced is needed is the fear and realization that our families will be blessed or suffer as a result of how we lead. God is not to be blamed. We aren’t robots, but we are to make right and obedient choices. It isn’t our wives’ fault that they aren’t praying enough for us, or that they aren’t submissive enough. We own fully the choices we make. If a dad is saved, the Holy Spirit will be convicting of sin. Dad will either listen and obey, or grieve the Holy Spirit by pursuing the world and the lust of the flesh.

As fathers, we can choose to be a Joshua who obediently removes his sandals soiled by the world. We can bless our families through this kind of leadership. However, we can also choose to be an Achan, who ignores God’s command while destroying himself and his family. As fathers we have a choice set before us: we can follow Achan’s example or Joshua’s. May deep conviction from the Holy Spirit be at work in all of our hearts as we follow our Lord Jesus Christ.

Leading in Which Direction?

We received this Corner request, which is long, but I felt it was so common in families that it would be good to share it fully. The author details two families in which she is observing serious problems.

“My topic request is about a wife submitting when the husband is not where he should be spiritually, though he is a Christian. There are two situations that I’m thinking of. In both, it seems that the husband makes many decisions hastily and under pressure from older children, and oftentimes the wife/children are unprotected due to his lack of wisdom/protection in the situation.

“In one case, over time the wife has become the conservative one and the husband more liberal. The children have learned to view Dad as easy and Mom as hard. The mom desperately wants to submit to her husband, but she is heartbroken at the lack of leadership/protection he’s giving and the consequences of some of his decisions. It’s very difficult for her to stay sweet and submissive when she feels her husband is making major mistakes in allowing worldly influences into their home, especially since he doesn’t seem to see his part in this. Also, he gets angry easily and often intimidates the wife and children into submission, even when she feels it could lead to spiritual or physical destruction.

“The other situation is similar, but the father is pretty strong outwardly. He is oftentimes harsh and wants to be respected as the leader, but doesn’t seem to be led of God in many situations. How can a wife/children joyfully submit when the direction the father is leading seems to be to their spiritual, emotional, and even physical destruction? Both of these families know about God’s authority structure and truly want to live submissive lives under the authority God’s given them, but are struggling with the lack of sheltering the authority is providing.

“Thank you for tackling this tough, but growing, problem among many Christian families.” A troubled mom

How incredibly difficult it can be for a wife to submit to her husband. “For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body” (Ephesians 5:23). It would be so good for each dad to consider what it is like for his wife to submit to him. Our head is the Lord Jesus Christ. The question is: how much are we submitting to Him? The less we submit to Christ, the more difficult it is for our wives and children to submit to us.

Weekly, we receive e-mails from heartbroken wives who are desperately trying to submit to their husbands. They are asking us how to do that when the husband is in love with the world and not obeying the Lord Jesus. To clarify, these are usually churchgoing, professing-Christian men who would not consider themselves in love with the world, but in reality their actions/decisions betray them. Think about how difficult that becomes for the wife who has vowed to obey her husband. She sees the bad seeds being planted in the children’s life because of Dad’s choices, and she knows they will likely lose their children to the world because of it. She pours out her life for the family every day knowing it will likely be wasted because of her husband. This Corner request is typical of the e-mails we receive, and it breaks our hearts.

I am confident that most dads in this category would not consider themselves a blight to their family. If only there was a way to wake them up to the fact that it isn’t their opinion that matters, but what the Lord has to say about their leadership. A good example is from a man after God’s own heart, David. Nathan the prophet is telling David what God has sent him to say after David took Bathsheba and had Uriah killed. “Now therefore the sword shall never depart from thine house; because thou hast despised me, and hast taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be thy wife” (2 Samuel 12:10). David would never have considered himself to have despised his God, but God said he did because of his disobedience and sin. Dads, we despise God when we don’t follow Him. It brought ruin to David’s family, and it will bring ruin to ours.

In the same way, most dads would not consider themselves a friend of the world. But when others on the outside (or the wife) observe Dad’s decisions, it becomes obvious. God is clear that anyone who is a friend of (has affection for) the world is His enemy. “Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God” (James 4:4).

Husbands are to submit to the Lord as they lead their families, but are we aware of the stumbling block we place in the path of our wives when we are poor leaders? Everyone will make mistakes, but all too often these days the husband is the weak link in the home. Instead of Dad being strong in the faith, the servant/leader man of God, the one clinging to the Word and guarding his family, he is the one who wants to watch TV and movies and spend the remainder of his free time on other entertainment and recreation. The fruit brought forth in the lives of the children are evil temptations and worldly appetites. These will lead them to be either carnal Christians or lost and headed for hell. That is a fearful responsibility for Dad to bear. There is a day coming when each of us will stand before God and give an account of our lives.

Often Dad plants the seeds of destruction when he is to be the saviour of the body as we read above in Ephesians 5:23. “Saviour” means deliverer and protector. Sadly, Dad is often the one who, by worldly decisions, is the one corrupting the children. I’m not describing a situation where the children just receive a “lower spiritual grade” because of this bad fruit; I am urging you to consider that Dad’s life will have influence in where the child spends eternity and how or if he lives for Christ.

I believe that is why the Lord Jesus is so incredibly strong in Matthew 18:6: “But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.” The word offend means to cause a believer to question or weaken his faith or even to deny Jesus.

In the verse I just referred to, the phrase, “little ones which believe in me” is a type, meaning one who is saved. But if it is that serious how Dad influences those saved in the home, how much more serious it is if the children haven’t been saved, and Dad’s influence affirms their lost path to hell! Many children may never believe if Dad’s influence is sufficiently worldly.

I believe this verse also applies to dads who cause their wives to stumble. Can you see why so many moms are brokenhearted and stumble themselves? We have seen them question how God could allow this in their family, and that can lead to bitterness toward God. I believe that is a dangerous position to be in both for Mom and her husband who caused her to stumble.

This is such a serious thing, but many of the dads who need to hear this would never consider that it applies to them. They might be teaching Sunday School, leading a Bible study, singing on a worship team, and even serving as a deacon or elder. Somehow the outwardly religious ones are often the worst. God is not impressed with our religious service. “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity” (Matthew 7:21-23). Like David we can even have a heart after God, but not be following Him. God wants our obedience.

Anger is also very prevalent in professing Christian homes. Anger is poison to relationships because you can’t get close to a person who could “explode” any minute (We have a CD titled Anger-Relationship Poison). “But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth” (Colossians 3:8). Paul, by the Holy Spirit, would not tell us to put it away if we weren’t able to. Just like a boss who bullies his employees around by his temper, Dad will be harsh and demanding and use his anger to get his way. Oh, may God have mercy on those families.

“Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered” (1 Peter 3:7). So many men’s prayers are hindered because they are not honoring the heart cry of their wives. To honor I mean to listen carefully to her concerns, take them to the Lord in prayer and search Scripture, and then obey the Lord’s direction.

These situations are so troubling. What many dads need is a “trip to the woodshed.” God’s longsuffering should never be confused with God’s acceptance. There are consequences, and the greatest heartbreak is when the consequences fall on the innocent in the family. The solution is for Dad to repent, throw the world out of the home, get right with God, and obey. Critical to this is reading the Bible EVERY morning and leading the family in a daily time in the Word.

What is it like to be yoked to “ourselves”? Are we a blight or a blessing? Do we honor our wives and families? Do we make it easy and a joy for our wives to submit to us? Are we the spiritual leaders and protectors they need that will draw them into an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ? May we be true men of God, serving and obeying Him wholeheartedly.

Are You on a Collision Course?

Our family was returning home from a trip to Lawton, Oklahoma. Happy, enthusiastic talk filled the van as we rolled down the interstate. Ahead of us on the other side of the highway, I noticed a car that was just merging onto the other side of interstate headed the opposite direction from us. Suddenly, I saw the car abruptly make a sharp 180 degree turn and strike out toward seventy-mile-per-hour oncoming traffic—a nightmare scenario.

In horror I said aloud, “Oh no!” and I cried out, “Lord Jesus, help them!” As we passed the car now traveling the same direction as us, I saw a woman driving with several small children in the car. I glanced ahead. There were two cars bearing down on her. To the Maxwell family’s relief, she pulled over and stopped on the median shoulder as the cars safely whizzed by her.

Our excited chatter had been replaced by a momentary deathly silence. Now everyone was voicing a similar thought. What if she hadn’t pulled over then? We realized we had just narrowly missed being eyewitnesses to a freeway head-on collision. We could not fathom what possessed that woman to make a U-turn and head the wrong way down the interstate toward oncoming traffic. How could she have risked her life, the children’s lives, and those of the people in the other cars?

Praise God that she realized she was heading in the wrong direction and took appropriate action in time to avert a disaster. How heartbreaking it would have been to watch something terrible happen had she struck one of the two oncoming cars.

For quite a while now, Teri and I have had heavy hearts as we read e-mails, read message board posts, and observe Christian families losing their children to the world. These families are busy with normal life until, all of a sudden, they are in the midst of a crisis. The child, who has been nurtured and taught for so many years, begins making choices that reflect the negative influence of the world.

Our sadness is nothing compared to what the parents of those children have experienced. The disappointment and anguish they suffer is horrible. But where is God in all of this? Does not His Word offer hope for the rest of us? Is it simply the destiny of a fixed percentage of families to have a child who will embrace the world?

It can be discouraging for parents when they look around and mostly see teens who are very worldly. Is there nothing that can be done, or do we just wait until they’re grown to see how it will all turn out?

We have found encouragement in these verses. “A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)” (1 Timothy 3:2-5).

As we look at these verses, it is clear that they are intended to be the litmus test of a man to see if he qualifies to be an elder or overseer of the church. Let me briefly list the meaning of the requirements: blameless, have one wife (one marriage), vigilant (circumspect or temperate), sober (self-controlled), of good behavior, hospitable, able to teach, not a drinker, not violent, not greedy, patient, not quick to quarrel (peaceable), not covetous, rules his house well, and having reverent children. Also, in Titus 1:6, it is added that the children would be faithful.

As we look at those requirements, we see how none of them have to do with the color of the man’s hair or how tall he is. Notice that the first thirteen all have to do with things that are affected by his personal choices of obedience to the truths of God’s Word. For example, a man makes a choice as to whether he will be self-controlled or gluttonous, greedy or generous, patient or angry. In the same way, this man of God who is qualified to lead the church has made decisions that have allowed him to rule his house well and raise obedient children. The fruit of that man’s walk with Jesus Christ are children who are reverent and faithful. His home is to be a miniature representation of the church.

The focus of the elder’s heart and his efforts are on fulfilling his God-directed, God-given, and God-taught responsibilities. He is proving himself to be a follower of God, by walking in love and obedience, and therefore he is qualified to lead the church.

Frequently, we see families who are on a collision course with disaster. At first they aren’t aware of it, but in time, they realize all is not well as they sense they have lost their children’s hearts. Our prayer is that they will realize it before it is too late. They need to hit the brakes and get off the road they are traveling down.

The problem is that, often, those needing to change direction are comfortable because they are with so many others. Someone once told me he was okay going to hell because all his friends were going to be there as well. Unfortunately, when the results of that decision are realized, it will be too late, and hell will not be the party that he was expecting. “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28).

Whether you are following the crowd or on your own, I plead with you, don’t propel yourself into a similar situation as that woman we saw. Praise God she finally made the right decision before it cost her, her children, and others a horrible consequence. “Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season?” (Matthew 24:45).

 

Can Dads Influence Their Children’s Spiritual Outcome? – Part 9

(If you’d like to read the previous articles in this series, please do so.)

Teri and I were eating dinner with another couple earlier this year at a homeschooling event, when a sixteen-year-old young man asked if he might sit in the empty seat next to me. I said, “You are welcome to as long as you don’t mind me asking you a ton of questions.” He told me that was fine as long as I didn’t mind him eating. I chuckled as I thought about what he said while looking at his plate. It was what you would expect of a young man with an appetite, lip-lopping full without a square inch of empty room. As Randy sat down, I observed in him a young man with a confident smile, who looked accustomed to working hard. True to our words, he commenced to eat, and I began launching questions his direction. How old was he, how many in his family, how did he spend his time, what did he like to do, what sort of friends did he have? As soon as he answered one, I had another one for him.

His replies were not just courteous but also full of respect. The more I listened to his answers the greater appreciation I had for his parents and what they were doing in his life. I could hear how much he enjoyed his family. He truly loved his parents and his six brothers and sisters. The average sixteen-year-old young man would feel his siblings were a nuisance, to be avoided at all costs. Randy clearly loved his family.

His favorite person to be with in all the world was his father. He had one friend outside the family, a young man in his twenties who had a construction business. He really enjoyed working with his friend and learning the trade.

He was always busy. Most boys his age would be on every sports team they could find. Not Randy. His time was filled with working with his friend, helping, and being with his family.

I told him I really wanted to meet his father. He pointed with his chin and said he was sitting right behind me. Unfortunately, as soon as I was finished and ready to meet his dad, he had already moved on to some responsibilities. I was disappointed but hoped I might run into him before we had to leave.

God is so good. The next morning as I was on my way to check out of the hotel, I saw Randy’s dad having breakfast. I went over, introduced myself, and asked if I could visit for a short while. He smiled and welcomed me to sit down.

I told him about my conversation with Randy and how impressed I was with him. From my brief time of discussion, Randy really seemed to be a godly young man of character who enjoyed his family and working. Was this really the case, how long had Randy been like this, and what was this father doing to have such success with his son?

His dad then shocked me by what he said. Just four years ago, Randy was a very angry boy such that, those who knew him were well aware of his problem with anger. Over the last four years God had done a mighty work in Randy’s life. He isn’t perfect, but he is a young man who dearly loves his God and his family and enjoys working.

I asked Tom, Randy’s father, how the Lord had worked in Randy’s life. Tom said that one of the first things that changed was that he was shown that his (Tom) focus needed to be on his family and not himself. The principle that the family applied to how they spent their time had become (aside from Tom’s job), “If we can’t do it as a family, we won’t do it.”

Tom said his golf clubs have about four years’ worth of dust on them now. He loves to golf and did quite well in tournaments. Even now some have encouraged him that they could golf as a family, but he knows that the passion would be rekindled. It wasn’t worth pulling his heart away from his family again.

I expect their family would have been a very typical “religious” family. The children were in private school and in all the normal activities. Besides school activities, Randy was on basketball and baseball teams like all his friends.

However, God started working in Randy’s parents’ lives. They decided to homeschool the children and made other changes. They sought solutions to Randy’s anger and were willing to do whatever was necessary. The parents continued to be obedient to the Lord’s leading and over the past four years have seen God do a mighty work in their family.

I interrupted Tom a few times as we talked with an exclamation of praise for the Lord’s goodness and mercy. These parents responded to the Lord’s leading and what a marvelous work is in process. Tom is quick to say they aren’t perfect and still have some consequences from their earlier lifestyle, but the change is welcome and continuing.

This home is a wonderful example of Malachi 4:6: “And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.” How the futures of so many children could be positively changed if only the father’s heart would be turned toward his children. I believe that the parent usually thinks it is his child’s problem. “He just won’t listen to me,” or, “I’ve told him a hundred times, and he won’t obey me.”

It all begins with dad and mom’s hearts. Are they turned toward their children? I asked Tom what he would have said if someone had asked him years ago if his heart was turned toward his children. He said he wouldn’t have known what that meant. I then asked him if he had his own activities and the children had theirs. He said, “Yes, that was true.”

I wonder if many dads think their hearts are turned toward their children, when in fact they aren’t. If I were to ask you right now, “What has your heart?” what would you say? If you said, “my children,” do a reality check on that. Aside from Dad’s work time or Mom’s daily responsibilities, how do you spend your time?

“Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matthew 6:19-21). Face it. There are a myriad of “important,” or fun, things that can take every minute we have. Then we toss our children the scraps of time that are left over, when it should be the opposite.

Even as I write this, I’m convicted of some things that need to be reworked in the way I allocate my time. I feel that I need to make better use of the way I’m spending my time after our evening family altar time and before the children go to bed. I can’t tell you what is going to change, but I know I need to pray about it and see how the Lord will direct me. I cherish these years of raising my children, and I desire to have no regrets when I look back on these years.

I delight in spending time with my children. Next to Teri, they are my best friends. The time I am with my children is a treasure that doesn’t rust and can’t be stolen. I have a passion for flying private planes, and yet I haven’t flown for over twenty years. I laid that use of time and money aside for something of far greater value—time with my children and a heart focused on them. So many things will creep in to steal away our time and attention.

A daddy’s heart focused on his children is an amazing thing. God used Tom’s change of heart direction in a mighty way in Randy’s life. The promise in Malachi is real. If we will turn our hearts toward our children, they will turn their hearts toward us. Families all around are experiencing awful consequences due to not having hearts turned toward each other. Are you? If so, are you willing to turn your heart toward your children?

Can Dads Influence Their Children’s Spiritual Outcome? – Part 5

Teri and I have had our hearts broken to see parents close to finishing the job of raising a child then lose the child to the world. I have to admit that quite a few years ago I actually said, “Homeschooled children don’t have problems with drugs, alcohol, immorality, and rebellion.” From the large group of homeschoolers we interact with, I can’t say that is true anymore. Now my thoughts run this way: “Homeschooled children don’t have to have problems with drugs, alcohol, immorality, and rebellion.” I don’t believe it is a matter of whether you “get a good one or a bad one.” The issue is this: “Dad, what are you doing with what God has entrusted you?”

We continue with this heavy subject (read the previous months here). The topic was originally broached by a father, and we’ve been looking at what he wrote. I’ve copied the last half here again for reference.

What I am seeking is good, practical advice on how and at what age to expose my children to the world. And how to keep from losing them to the world. (I’ve got a seven-year-old daughter, four-year-old daughter, two-year-old son, and one on the way.) This isn’t the first time that I have heard people speak of sheltered kids getting out and “going nuts.” It seems to me that it would be best to expose them to the results of sin (chapel for recovering addicts, jail, etc.), as compared to letting them see “all of the pleasures and none of the guilt,” such as is seen at the mall, etc. Maybe even working this into some kind of a family ministry (although my children may be too young now, that is part of my question). This recent comment about the backsliding grandson has got me seriously considering self employment and some kind of family businesses.

Space no longer permits revisiting all we have already covered in previous Corners. However, each piece is critical to our parenting.

I firmly believe that if you do everything else and not this next area we will discuss, your children are at great risk. Please don’t think that I’m exalting my opinion to such a high place that you need to follow it. Read this Corner, and study the Bible passages to which I refer, to see if it is true. May the Holy Spirit confirm in your heart truth.

“Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep” (John 10:1-2). “Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep” (John 10:7).

In verse one, we see that all who don’t enter the sheepfold by the door are thieves and robbers. Then in verse seven we see that Jesus is the Door. The Middle-Eastern shepherd was so concerned about his sheep that after bringing his sheep into the fold for the night, he would sleep in the doorway. The shepherd, literally, became the door. Nothing could get through the doorway that the shepherd didn’t allow. He would give his life for the sheep. Therefore, a thief knew the only other way to get to the sheep was by climbing over the wall. In doing so, he was still likely to be confronted by the shepherd as he entered the fold.

The protection of the sheep was of utmost importance to the shepherd. He would have carefully constructed his fold so that the sheep would be safe. I can picture him building the walls so that nothing could easily steal away those who depended on him for safety. Even though the sheep knew his voice and not the voice of the stranger, he still took great care in protecting them. Was it because he didn’t trust the sheep? Of course not. Scripture says that they knew his voice and wouldn’t follow a stranger. He knew, however, that others presented danger to the sheep.

This example is critical for dads who love their children. We are the shepherds of those God has entrusted to our care. We are to be the door to the family. No one gets by us to our children. Is it because we don’t trust our children? Absolutely not. It isn’t a matter of not trusting our children. Rather, it is a matter of our responsibility to protect them from others.

Recently, a dad was telling me that he didn’t have a problem sending his children off for further training because they had proven themselves trustworthy. Unfortunately, I believe, he is basing the future of his children on his evaluation of their being trustworthy. Their trustworthiness is important, but maybe as important is the issue of WHO they will encounter.

It doesn’t matter whether it is a school or religious organization of stellar credentials. I’m not even assuming there is evil intent on the part of the other person. However, something happens when the right two people get together. Suddenly all logic and self-control are gone. I expect that most have heard of pastors who have become involved in an immoral relationship. Likely those who have been ensnared like this never thought it would happen to them. It is contrary to everything for which they had lived. It is just that they found themselves in a situation that soon was out of control. If it can happen to those who are highly respected and have proven themselves “trustworthy,” then how is it parents think it can’t happen to their young adult children?

Even if the child isn’t “lost to the world,” but only fallen and morally scarred, is it worth the risk? I expect most parents of children that this has happened to don’t even know about it. We have heard many a Christian mom share how she failed when out from under her father’s protection. Might their fathers have done more to protect them? Could it be that their fathers trusted them when they should have protected them?

That is why the shepherd isn’t content knowing that he has his sheep’s “hearts.” He knows there are others out there who may cause him to lose the ones for which he is responsible or who may actually cause them harm. He values his sheep so much that he is not willing to take any chances with them. No matter how confident we are that we have our children’s hearts, they are still flesh and blood. They have to deal with the appetites of the flesh. Is it a matter of trust, or is it a matter of prudence and responsibility?

Remember what Jesus said was in the heart of EVERY person. “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies” (Matthew 15:19). If we ever think our child is strong enough and cannot fall, I believe we have put him in great jeopardy.

Remember the pastors or other people I referred to earlier—the ones in high spiritual positions who ran away in an immoral relationship, often leaving a wife and family? These are people who “had” proven themselves to be of certain moral character and spiritually trustworthy—enough to earn the positions they held. They wouldn’t have been given their positions if others hadn’t had confidence in them. Not only had they given their hearts to their spouses in marriage, but they also had made a covenant before God to be faithful to that spouse. That was not enough to stop them. No matter what explanation is given or what warning signs there were, trust was breached, testimonies blackened, and lives shipwrecked.

Then how is it that, if pastors and others in high spiritual positions fall, parents can so easily “trust” their children putting them at such risk? I challenge you to evaluate whether it is really a matter of trust or value. Teri and I trust each other completely. However, we value our relationship so much we are not going to put it at risk. That is one reason why I don’t have business lunches with women. There are more safeguards that we have put in place, but those are sufficient examples. We believe what Jesus said about the depravity of the human heart and that if we can fall, certainly our children can. May we value our children so much that we take our responsibility to protect them seriously. How is it that parents who have poured out their lives into their children and homeschooled them to protect them from the world will put them in situations where they are at great risk? If they were going to lose their children anyway, wouldn’t it have been much easier on the mother to have sent the children to public school in the first place and spared herself the years of great effort homeschooling them? By putting our children in situations that may lead to their falling, I believe the parents have become their own enemies. Their actions have betrayed their goals. Instead of the father being the door, he has invited the wolf in to spend the night with the sheep. Oh, dads—may it not be!

To prevent any misunderstanding, let me give you some examples. If your desire is that your children would remain pure until they reach the marriage altar, then is it wise that they date or have friends who are dating, and should they spend time with others (of the opposite gender) to whom they may be drawn? Youth groups, ministry projects, short-term mission trips, joining the military, anything that involves young men and young women spending time together will likely stir up emotions. May each of us carefully evaluate the activities are children are involved in as to whether they are consistent with our goals. If you let your young adults participate in any of those activities even while you claim to be committed to courtship, do not be surprised if your children don’t court. We hear too many tragic stories from people who have let their young adult children go down those roads and have experienced great disappointment.

If you don’t want your children to rebel, then is it wise to let your children associate with rebels? Where might you find rebels? Youth groups, friends (even from great “Christian” families), sports teams, vocational technical schools, junior colleges, and colleges (Christian or secular) should all be viewed with great caution. Even if someone uses the word “Christian” to describe the organization, this does not mean that everyone there is a Christian living for the Lord. As the one called to protect our families, may we be able to look our wives in the eyes and say, “God is telling me that I must send my son/daughter there.” If God isn’t telling you clearly, do you really want to send them? Just because everyone else “is doing it” or your son or daughter really wants to, this is no reason to let them. “Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child . . .” (Proverbs 22:15). Often we hear the excuse that the child REALLY wanted to do something, so the parents let them. Dads, that is no reason. We are the ones who are accountable to the Lord for our decisions. Our children should only do what we are convinced is God’s best for them—nothing less!

Being the “door” is not a very popular position. There will be times when some of the sheep want out, and the door is stopping them. There are other times when a wolf wants in, and the “door” has to mount a defense. However, the Lord didn’t ask us to do it because it is fun. It is our responsibility.

May I encourage you to get alone with your Lord and determine what His goals are for your family. Then critically evaluate your decisions in light of those goals. You may be surprised to see that you have invited Mr. Wolf to spend the night. Evict him before it is too late. May we be the men God has called us to be.

What’s Your Excuse?

I have an audiocassette of a sermon by David Ring that he preached during a Moody Bible Institute’s Founder’s Week. He wove the testimony of what Christ did in his life throughout the message. What set his message and life apart from any I’ve heard is that Brother Ring has cerebral palsy.

He shared the tremendous struggles he has had in life. He talked of how the children made fun of his stammering speech and his difficulty in walking. Most of us have had others tease us at some point in our life, but it is likely that very few reading this have ever experienced the mockery that David endured. Children can be cruel and can delight in making fun of anyone, no matter how “perfect” they may be. But let children see someone who has a real physical challenge, and they will swarm to attack like killer bees or sharks in a feeding frenzy. Can you imagine what it would be like to be around children and have great difficulty speaking clearly? What about not being able to run and play like the other children, but instead to have a leg that hinders you from walking normally?

If that wasn’t bad enough, both of David’s parents died when he was a child. I believe his father died first, and David was all the more dependent on his mother. When his mother died, he was devastated. One of his sisters loved him deeply and took him in. She showed him incredible kindness and patience as he was struggling greatly with the loss of his mother and the way others treated him.

School was awful for him, and he wanted to give up. His sister kept encouraging him that he could do it, while others said that he would never amount to anything. I’m not sure of the exact sequence, but he was finally saved. God began working in his life, even giving him the desire to be a preacher. He shared, to my amazement, that other men studying to be preachers would tell him he would never make it. He completed college, married (and now has several children), and travels the U.S. as a full-time evangelist.

Religion may provide some degree of outward conformity, but Jesus Christ not only saves a person from hell, He also changes lives. Jesus Christ can take ashes and make something beautiful. Jesus Christ did a wonderful work in David Ring’s life. He took a man who was full of despair and bitterness and made a new creation. Jesus Christ took a man who was predisposed to a life of failure and rejection, and appears to be using him as a powerful instrument to glorify Himself and challenge others in their walk.

There were several things I noticed in particular from his message that encouraged me as a father. First is the influence we can have on those around us when we are encouragers. It is easy to point out every time our children fall short. The Lord used David’s sister in a mighty way. She believed in her brother and conveyed that to him over and over. When I’m not with my children, will their thoughts “hear” me correct them or tell them they can succeed at something? Are they likely to see Dad as the one who most believes in their ability to succeed? When they think of Dad, does it give them a feeling of assurance? Those are my desires for my children.

Along similar lines are the voices of those who told David he would never amount to anything. Have you ever heard yourself say, “You always . . . ?” I sure have, and I wish I could take back every one of those times. The positive affirmations we make to our children can be quickly forgotten by our negative global statements. If we are going to make a universal statement, may it be one of blessing. “Son, I want you to know that every time I see your face my heart rejoices.”

Everyone on the face of the earth has areas of weakness. As I listened to David Ring, I realized the great need to be extra patient and understanding with the mental and physical limitations of my children. It is easy to let their weaknesses become irritants instead of stimulants for us to bless them more. These are the areas in which they need us most. Yet, those are often the areas where we will lose patience first. “Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up” (1 Corinthians 13:4).

I suppose the greatest challenge I received from David was his desire to be used of God despite any difficulties he faced. “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body” (2 Corinthians 4:7-10). David Ring longs to be used by God for His glory. In David’s physical limitations, God gives grace. David is willing to receive God’s strength and be used as an instrument of righteousness.

For those who are saved, we have been bought with a price, the precious blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. “For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Corinthians 6:20). We are no longer our own, but His. We are not on this earth for our pleasure and entertainment, but to serve our Lord. “Ye are bought with a price; be not ye the servants of men” (1 Corinthians 7:23). We have daily opportunities to serve our families. The needs of our wives and children are to come before ours. “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it” (Ephesians 5:25).

May each of us take a sincere appraisal of our life. One way might be to review how we spend our time each day. Who or what is it spent on? Are we being obedient to the Lord? Are we serving Him in gladness of heart? Are we serving others outside the church? Are we responding with peace and patience to the tribulations that come our way? Are we welcoming them as opportunities for God to show Himself strong? If not, what is our excuse? David certainly had a good excuse, and yet he chose to be used of God. May we be men of God and let Him be glorified through our willing, cheerful obedience. What is our excuse for not being used of God?