Tag Archives: Protecting Against Deception

A Follow Up to the Deception Series

After my recent series of Dad’s Corners called Protecting Against Deception, I received an e-mail with a very real situation that is regularly faced by families.

This is part of that e-mail.

“Oh the discussions that we have been having with the ‘fun’ articles being addressed in the Corners. Thank you for the salt!!!

“We don’t think we could have put into words what my soul was feeling, but this has been really hitting me hard. We fully agree with your words and are encouraged and challenged to consider our actions, activities, and time all the more. Our struggle in reading this is how to lovingly address our parents. Our parents confess with their mouths that Jesus is their Lord and Savior. However, they are very bothered with how our family operates—we don’t participate in sports, we have family devotions every evening, and (to them) our children go to bed way too early.

“We struggle so much with what to do with our parents. We know that we are to honor them. We have six children, and two of them are really wooed by the ways of our parents after being around them. They tell us how they sometimes feel in conflict because what Dad and Mom says is different from what Grandma and Grandpa say. Our parents want constant entertainment (and have the means to do just that), and so are constantly talking to the children about going to Disneyland, etc. They have recently retired and talk to the kids about how bad work is and how great it is to surf all day and play. Our nine-year-old says he wants to be just like that. 🙁

“How do you deal with this conflict? We feel like the souls of our children are at risk with the influence of their grandparents.” A Parent Following the Narrow Path

Isn’t that just how it is? There are always so many others who think they know best how we are to raise our children. The writer of this e-mail refers to grandparents, but it can be aunts, uncles, friends, neighbors, or even those from church. Any of them might take it upon themselves to pressure us to conform to their ideas of how the Christian life should be lived and “our” children raised. Therefore, we must expect people to pressure us to conform to their way of raising children.

When the pressure comes, we need to quickly evaluate the fruit that might result from following that advice. Will the fruit be good fruit if we follow the offered counsel? “Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples” (John 15:8). Will the fruit be bad fruit? “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them” (Matthew 7:15-20).

There are two pretty clear concerns shared in the e-mail. “Our parents want constant entertainment.” What is the likely fruit of this mindset? The fruit of an entertainment lifestyle will be those who are lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God. “Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God” (2 Timothy 3:4).

The second concern is: “They [our children] tell us how they sometimes feel in conflict because what Dad or Mom says is different from what Grandma and Grandpa say. . . . Our nine-year-old says he wants to be just like that [the grandparents].” Children will be pulled to follow their grandparents, especially when it is a fun-filled path. It becomes a very difficult thing to teach our children to respect their grandparents when the grandparents choose a worldly, entertainment, self-seeking lifestyle, while still wanting them to follow their parents down the narrow path of self-denial and serving the Lord Jesus. Jesus tells us plainly of this dichotomy: “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon” (Matthew 6:24). The fruit these parents are concerned about (and should be) is that the children will be forced to rebel against either the parents or the grandparents.

How does a Christ-led family contend with such a challenge while still protecting and raising children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord? Ignoring it in the hopes it will go away will most likely not yield good fruit. This is evident by the statement in the e-mail: “They [the grandparents] are very bothered with how our family operates.” This shows that the grandparents, even though professing faith in Jesus Christ, are not willing to follow Him in practice. “Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Matthew 16:24). In addition, the grandparents have taken their disagreement with the parents’ choices in how they follow Jesus directly to the children. That is serious.

All families will vary to some degree in the path they are following. However, when an adult takes his disagreement directly to the children, it conveys a total disrespect for the parents’ authority, and that is guerrilla warfare. We see clearly in our world when this sort of warfare is ignored by a country, the country’s leadership is usually eventually toppled. Why should we expect different results in a family setting? Understanding the seriousness of this situation is important in establishing a plan for restoring a proper relationship.

At this point, the difficulty of honoring the grandparents while protecting the children will lead to some degree of confrontation. Honoring does not mean we ignore our God-given responsibility of bringing our children up “in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). Raising the children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord is a responsibility the Lord has given to the parents not the grandparents. The question that must be answered is whether the grandparents will respect the parents’ responsibility before the Lord.

Therefore, one approach would be for the parents to ask to come over to the grandparent’s house to discuss something. If the grandparents tend toward anger, then a public setting might help temper their responses, so going out for dinner is a possibility. Begin the time with prayer, inviting the Holy Spirit to lead and guide the discussions so that the Lord is glorified, allowing the family to be strong and unified in the Lord Jesus.

After prayer would be a good time to ask the grandparents if they desire to see their grandchildren raised in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Tell them you would like to share with them the vision God has given you for your family so that you can do just that. This is why it is important that every family has a written vision statement and the Scripture to back up each item. Explain to them your vision statement, and read the Scripture that goes with each point explaining how you are intending to arrive at each goal. Then ask them if they will give you their full support in following the Lord’s direction for your family. Hopefully, they will affirm that direction.

If they can’t agree to what you are asking of them, listen carefully to why they reject your vision and the path you are choosing. Be willing to pray about it and seek the Lord. But if they clearly have a worldly focus, then comes the tough part. In our out-of-control legal society, grandparents have been given certain rights that vary by state, and one needs to be careful not to stir up a hornet’s nest. “If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men” (Romans 12:18). Scripture affirms that we are to do everything we can to avoid conflict. However, we always stop short of compromise. Be careful, though, because I’ve known some parents who seem to be looking for reasons to “cut off” grandparents who are not like-minded. Rather than that, I would encourage you to be seeking ways to make the relationship workable. We all would appreciate supportive grandparents who encourage us in the decisions we are making. However, that is often not the case, and then one must seek the praise of God more than the praise of men even if it means difficult decisions with family members.

Parents must check their hearts very carefully. Look for ways to love and honor grandparents without compromising in what God has called you to do. When grandparents are not supportive, one can still honor them by fellowshipping together as a family. That way the parents are always there. They know what is being said and whether the activities being done together are consistent with the calling for the family.

It really becomes hard if there are still comments in the family fellowship setting by the grandparents that undermine the direction of the family. If so, make a simple private request that the grandparents restrict comments only to those that are supportive of the family’s direction. If the grandparents are resistant, then the parent can plead with the grandparents for support. “Dad and Mom, you were allowed to raise us as you felt right. Will you not give us the same freedom? We love you and would be so grateful if you could do this.” Always gentle, loving dialog conveying respect is how we are to interact, but without compromise.

Situations like these can be so very difficult. However, by following Jesus’ direction for the family, He will lead us in how to work with those who disagree. The very last resort is that it may be necessary to restrict the time that the children can be with someone who will not support the family’s direction. If it comes to that point, then may the dad be willing to pray, fast, seek a softening of hearts, and wisdom for Dad and Mom. The Lord will be faithful in showing a way. May we be faithful in following Him.

Protecting Against Deception – Part 9

To begin, if you haven’t read the full series on Protecting Against Deception, we would encourage you to do that.

In this Dad’s Corner we finish our look at one of the greatest deceptions that professing believers have embraced wholeheartedly. This deception is that “fun” is something reasonable for a believer to pursue and invest his time into.

Someone recently asked me, “I wonder if your family avoids all entertainment?” Maybe answering that question is a good way to begin this Corner.

I love amusement parks, especially those with the fastest, highest, most thrilling rides. I have always loved them, and it is still in my blood. So of course when our children were old enough to take along with me, I delighted in giving them the same appetite for thrilling rides. Teri would get motion-sick, so she didn’t enjoy these types of activities, but she could do other things by herself, right? In addition to amusement parks, I love small two-man airplanes, sailboats, and motorcycles. If it moved, I found it fun and a worthwhile use of my time and finances. A big problem with that type of adventure, though, was coming up with the cash to keep the fun flowing.

Years ago, when we lived in Florida and then in Washington State, we had great fun going to professional baseball games. This was something that we could do together as a family. However, it was expensive, so we couldn’t do it very often. As I look back now, I’m troubled that I took my young, impressionable family into an atmosphere of drinking and immodesty. Sadly, I don’t remember being troubled by it then.

When we lived in Florida, our two oldest boys joined Little League baseball as soon as they were old enough. We loved going to their games and watching them play. We considered it a great family activity. As they grew older, they continued to play baseball and were very good at it. For almost six months of every year, our lives revolved around baseball practices and games (including all-stars). We were the typical American Christian family.

Also during those years we watched TV, but we found that we were becoming increasingly troubled by what was being broadcast. Over time we became more and more selective in what we watched. Through no coincidence, Teri and I were reading the Bible individually every morning. Looking back, we can see the correlation between our time spent in the Word and our growing disdain for the worldliness of television. We finally dropped all normal TV broadcasting and went to very selective Christian video watching for a time.

However, the more our family read the Bible, the more we came to see all entertainment as chaff. Understand that this really wasn’t our idea or plan. Our flesh loved entertainment. We often found ourselves trying to justify spending time being entertained, but the Holy Spirit kept using God’s Word in our lives to reveal how empty entertainment was compared to those things “above.” The Apostle Paul had no time for things which did not edify. “All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not” (1 Corinthians 10:23). We were finding ourselves of Paul’s persuasion concerning entertainment and fun. We began leaving behind the amusement parks, baseball games, and television.

The next reasonable question you might ask me would be, “Does the Maxwell family ever have enjoyable times?”

YES, YES, YES!!! The root question really is, “What does the Maxwell family take pleasure in doing?” I will begin by sharing what brings our family joy. I will first list each in an overview fashion and then go into more detail. We love our time in the Word, individually and as a family every day. We love being together and talking. We love ministering as a family and working together.

As stated many times over the years in these Dad’s Corner articles, our family takes great enjoyment in reading the Bible every day. We each read individually in the morning when we first get up. Teri, Christopher, and Sarah have separate rooms they read in while the other children and I gather in the living room. We all have our “spots” and sort of “snuggle in” for our personal Bible reading time. When I put my Bible down, the other children who are with me do the same, and then we pray individually. Even though we aren’t reading out loud, just being together thrills my heart.

Our evening time reading the Bible is equally special and treasured. I have shared much detail about family Bible time in my audio called Feed My Sheep, so I won’t go into the same detail now. Every night we take turns reading two Bible verses as we go around the room and then discuss what we read of a chapter or two of Scripture. We also share a particular verse that stands out to each of us that we want to apply to our lives. We then have a time of asking forgiveness if we have wronged others in the family but had not set it straight earlier in the day, and finally we close with a hymn. Teri prays with the girls at bedtime, and I pray with the boys. Our days would be so empty (non-edifying) without that time in the Word.

Our family takes great pleasure in fellowshipping as a family. At mealtimes and in the evening, we simply enjoy being together and talking. Jesse, my youngest son, calls these times “chatteries.” We don’t have to have something entertain us to get us to want to be together. We actually like being together. We love sharing what our day has been like and what we learned in speaking with others. Often this is when we will tell the family about opportunities we had to share Christ during the day.

One of our family’s favorite topics is discussing what our nursing-home church members have told us when we were together. Once that gets started, it may be awhile before a new topic begins. Even though there is not a non-family member within forty years of their ages, the children love ministering at our nursing-home church. They delight in talking with the residents before and after our service.

We love to minister to others because it gives us great joy. Even though our road trips involve a lot of work and can be exhausting, everyone loves them. For hours of driving time after a conference, the children take turns telling what they learned from those with whom they spoke.

We especially love to tell others about Jesus and what He has done for us. An excellent place affording that opportunity is the homeless shelter where we go one Saturday afternoon a month. Nathan, my oldest married son, is the one who introduced us to the shelter. Frankly, I would be happy not to go because I’m out of my comfort zone there, but it is always a blessing once we go. We also delight in sharing Jesus with telemarketers, store checkout personnel, and the people we meet while traveling.

I believe having no entertainment in our home is one clear reason why our children take great joy in helping others. If Nathan, who lives across the street, is doing a project for Grandad, who lives next door, and needs some help, our children will delight in taking their personal time to assist. They are quick to want to help other neighbors as well, as time permits. However, if one raises children on a diet of fun and entertainment, that is what they will seek, and they will most likely shun being a servant because it isn’t fun or is boring to them.

When I go to visit my mom, who lives three hours away, I take one of the children with me, and we have a great time together. It is a blessing as I have time with one of my children, and we minister to my mom. It is a joy for me to be with my children and for them to be with me. We don’t have to do “fun” things to enjoy being together.

There are occasional bike rides together with my boys. The purpose of the ride is not to have fun, but rather to spend time with them while getting some exercise. We often take family walks together, and regularly this includes Grandad and Grandma along with my children and granddaughter. We enjoy these walks greatly because we are able to fellowship and exercise.

Working together as a family is also a great blessing. As book titles were being added to our family ministry, we came to a crisis point with no place to store more books. As we discussed options one day, we learned that Christopher was happy to buy our current house so that we could build a house with a bigger basement that could be walk-in accessible. This meant that we no longer would need to carry the many boxes of books down into and then back up out of the basement.

The family wanted to work together to build the new house because that is the only way we could afford it. In between speaking trips and school schedules we spent many enjoyable, but hard, often sweaty hours working side-by-side. We have posted numerous pictures on our blog along the way. I believe it is by God’s grace and by not developing an appetite in our children’s lives for entertainment that we have the privilege of having children who enjoy working. What a blessing!

Fun is the world’s alternative to joy. Joy costs us nothing while the pursuit of fun through entertainment is both costly and addictive. Instead, may we be addicted to ministering. “I beseech you, brethren, (ye know the house of Stephanas, that it is the firstfruits of Achaia, and that they have addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints,)” (1 Corinthians 16:15). The joy of the Lord comes through obedience to Him and yields eternal fruit, while fun lasts only as long as the money holds out.

Do those professing faith in Christ deserve entertainment? The world has deceived believers into thinking that fun is an acceptable use of time, something to be sought after and deserved for hard work. Sadly, every minute that is wasted on fun is time stolen from something profitable and the duty to which we are called. Listen to Jesus’ example of an unprofitable servant: “So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do” (Luke 17:10). Today I hear such gross exaggeration of what we are free to do. The reality is that we are servants of Jesus Christ, and we are to be busy about His business.

Jesus said, “. . . I have overcome the world” (John 16:33), and He has overcome the world with His life’s blood. If this is true, then why do so many professing believers spend so much time pursuing the world and its entertainment? James tell us, “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).

The more someone invests his time in fun, entertaining things, the more his heart is drawn to the things of this world. “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning; And ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their lord, when he will return from the wedding; that when he cometh and knocketh, they may open unto him immediately” (Luke 12:34-36).

Let our joy, our delight be in the things the Lord has called us to do. Then our hearts will be drawn to things above. “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth” (Colossians 3:2). My heart is saddened when I hear people attempt to justify their fun entertainment. Paul is so clearly saying we are to set our affection on those things above, not on things of the earth.

The deception is that we deserve to have a fun time and that it is an acceptable use of our time. The truth is that we deserve hell, and by God’s grace He gives us eternity with Him. “No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier” (2 Timothy 2:4). Will we be found ready when the Master returns?

Protecting Against Deception – Part 8

To begin, if you haven’t read the full series on Protecting Against Deception, we would encourage you to do that. Now, as we continue our Dad’s Corner series on deceptions to which believers fall prey, let’s investigate another one.

Let me give you some clues to help you identify the deception we will focus on in this Dad’s Corner. What word is frequently used when describing a motive to do something? What word has amassed enumerable stolen hours in its treasure chest? What word equals Balaam’s secret weapon? What word shouts victoriously over ministry, witnessing, Bible reading, or service every time? What word separates the modern church from the church for which Jesus died? What word is likely quite responsible for the modern church not being “salt and light” to a dying world?

Merriam-Webster defines this word as: “what provides amusement or enjoyment; specifically : playful often boisterous action or speech.” Its synonym friends are: jest, sport, game, and play. By now you likely know the word that is the world’s most treasured friend—”FUN.” Perhaps there is more time wasted in fun’s honor than for any reason. It is important to clarify that we are referring to those activities that are not sinful in themselves, but that are enjoyable, pleasurable, and entertaining, and that steal our time away from pursuits that are edifying and productive.

A Google search for “fun” turns up 667 million sites one can visit if he lacks for fun. Even though the Bible is the most treasured and printed book of all time, it only returns 118 million Google sites referencing it. Sadly, fun’s popularity far outweighs the Bible’s.

What does the Bible say about our “friend” fun? That is a slight challenge because the word “fun” does not appear in the Bible. We must begin by looking at the definition of fun, which we saw earlier was “what provides amusement or enjoyment.” Webster’s dictionary defines amusement as something entertaining. In essence, we see that fun is something that is an end in itself; it is pleasurable. Today pleasure, fun, and entertainment are synonymous. Fun is not sinful in itself, but oh, what a powerful weapon it is in the hands of God’s enemies.

Remember from Part 6 of this series, I said, “One way to confirm a deception is to see if Satan promotes it and what the Lord’s position is on it.” In these next verses we see both Satan’s promotion and the Lord’s condemnation of pleasure. “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God” (2 Timothy 3:1-4). Doesn’t that seem to describe what we observe today?

Let me remind you of one of the protections from deception from Part 3 of this series: “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.” Is that what we find in churches today, or are we also seeing this love of pleasure soundly advancing upon the professing church? I expect it would take little objectivity on our part to look no further than the calendars of many churches to see that to which God’s people are being drawn. Is it fun, or is it edifying?

First, we could consider the youth activities that are the training grounds for the church leaders of tomorrow. What do we see? Is fun the bait used to draw the church’s youth and outsiders to the group, or is it edifying pursuits? What is used to bring them in must be used to keep them too. When observing the youth, do you see sober teens or silly, fun-loving teens? Paul warns, “Young men likewise exhort to be sober minded” (Titus 2:6). A diet of fun does not lead youth to be sober and service minded.

Next, it would be good to look at the church activities for the adults, especially the men. Again, are they edifying or fun? I understand that the churches’ justification of the use of fun is to draw men in the doors of the church, but sarcastically I question: Did not Jesus, the God of creation, think of this? If this was a good thing, why did Jesus not use fun things to draw men to Him? It wasn’t because it wouldn’t be effective, since we know that man is drawn to pleasure. I believe Jesus didn’t use fun to bring men to Himself because it would not have been edifying. It wouldn’t produce the fruit that He desires in us.

Often we receive e-mails from moms seeking encouragement because their husbands waste precious time on fun things, while discipling the children and the needs of the home are left untouched. Every hour men spend doing fun things is one less hour available to do that which is worthwhile, that which is edifying. Our time on earth is so short. How will it be used—on fun things or those activities that bear eternal fruit?

Here is another verse where we find God’s mind on pleasures and fun. Jesus tells us plainly, in the parable of the unfruitful seed sown, the result of pleasure in a life: “And that which fell among thorns are they, which, when they have heard, go forth, and are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection” (Luke 8:14). The pleasures of this world will choke out the fruitfulness of a believer’s life. Wouldn’t that be a delight to Satan? We see the truth of God’s Word being lived out today in our now-pagan nation. I believe that the professing church’s effectiveness in reaching a lost and dying world has been quite effectively neutered by the power of fun. As I said in the Dad’s Corner, Balaam Rides Again.

To determine whether or not we are being deceived, we might look to our lives and see what place fun and entertainment have in relation to spiritual fruit–bearing activities such as time in the Word, serving the Lord, discipling our children, and serving our families. It would be good for each one to do a Bible study and try to find out how God’s men used their time. I’ll give you a hint. They didn’t spend time being entertained—the Romans did that at the coliseum. “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). I believe Scripture teaches that we are here on this planet to be instruments of righteousness (Romans 6:19) in our Savior’s hands.

Another test of whether we have fallen victim to the deception of fun might come from Part 2 of this series: “First, we can see that when we have a negative attitude toward God’s clear commands, we open ourselves up to false doctrine.” 1 Corinthians 10:23 says: “All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not.” Do we have a negative attitude toward this directive from the Lord? Do we think we deserve to spend some time having fun? Does it sound too confining and unrealistic to evaluate activities to see if they are edifying? Do we set in the balances “edifying time” and “fun time,” considering it acceptable if “edifying” tips the scale over “fun”? Remember Eve’s response when the serpent questioned her on God’s command?

This is a heavy discussion of a deception. For many years, my family and I were victims of this deception. It was only through our time in the Word and choosing to follow after that which is edifying that the Lord began to open our eyes to fun’s delusion. The Lord has used this change in our family’s focus to so transform us that we want to challenge others to evaluate whether they are being deceived and then to encourage them that they will be happy with a path away from fun if they were to choose it.

Next month we will look more into fun’s deception, what we receive when we avoid fun, and what we can do if we don’t look for fun.

Protecting Against Deception – Part 7

If you received e-mails with the following questions, what Scripture would you answer with?

“We have three children, and my husband does not want any more. What about vasectomies and tubals?”


“We believe permanent measures are wrong, but what about natural family planning?”

Our discussion of Satan’s deception against children began in last month’s Dad’s Corner (Part 6). I encourage you to read that article and the whole series.

To respond to the questions about having children or not having them, one has to begin with Who/who is in charge of planning families. The world tells Dad and Mom to decide how many children to have. However, God’s very first recorded command to mankind is, “And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth . . .” (Genesis 1:28). God has not told man to stop; as a matter of fact, after the flood, He reiterated it twice: “. . . Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth” (Genesis 9:1); “And you, be ye fruitful, and multiply . . .” (Genesis 9:7).

Nowhere in the Bible does the Lord tell a husband and wife to plan how many children to have. This issue of the number of children is critical to each family. If God intended for parents to make that decision, would He have left that direction, whether explicit or implicit, out of the Bible? “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). What Scripture says is that children are an heritage (Psalms 127:3) and that we are to go and multiply (Genesis 9:1).

I have had a few men justify limiting children by saying that God tells us to plan as in Luke 14:28: “For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it?” Yes, planning is good as long as we are being consistent with all Scriptural commands. Oftentimes Scripture can appear to say one thing when just one verse is considered. However, Scripture must be evaluated in context, and the context of Luke 14:28 is a discussion of the faith of being a disciple of Jesus.

The two verses prior to 14:28 are: “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26-27). The Lord is teaching us about the true cost of being His disciple. In essence, this verse is teaching the exact opposite of us planning a family; we are being challenged to have the faith to let Jesus control our lives. Do we have the faith to receive the good gifts He wants to give?

A practical application of Luke 14:28 is that thinking about the future is good. There is an important difference, though, between planning for what the Lord chooses to send us and planning to hinder His will for our lives. Proper application of Luke 14:28 in regard to family size would be for the couple to say, “Lord Jesus, we are committed to being good stewards and not wasting money so we will be ready for any children You choose to send us.”

In 2 Kings 13:15-19 there is an account of Elisha and Joash, where the wicked king of Israel came down to Elisha. Elisha told Joash of an arrow that Joash shot out the window: “. . . The arrow of the LORD’S deliverance, and the arrow of deliverance from Syria: for thou shalt smite the Syrians in Aphek, till thou have consumed them” (2 Kings 13:17). Elisha then told Joash to smite the ground with the arrows. When Joash quit after striking the ground with the arrows only three times, we are told that Elisha was angry because Joash only smote the ground three times and not five or six. What Joash didn’t know is that each time he struck the ground it represented a victory the Lord would give him over the Syrians. He felt he had struck the ground enough and quit.

Sadly, many, many families tell the Lord “enough” when they fail to trust Him for the future and how He desires to use their family to glorify Him. “As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth” (Psalms 127:4). Families seem content to settle for fewer children, not realizing that children are like arrows in our hands to reach a lost and fallen world.

The most common reason we hear for not wanting more children is that the parents believe more children will be a hindrance. There is no doubt children will greatly impact a person’s life, but so much depends on a person’s frame of reference. Have we “got Jesus” as some have a rabbit’s foot in the pocket, and now we can live life to the fullest with no fear of hell, or are we purchased by the blood of the Lamb and here to glorify Him with our lives in whatever way He chooses to use us?

“Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Matthew 16:24). If our heart’s desire is to wholeheartedly follow the Lord Jesus, families will find that children are the opposite of being a hindrance; they become part of a family’s credentials. “If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly” (Titus 1:6).

Some would say they are concerned about being able to provide for more children. How does the Lord Jesus speak to that concern? “Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof” (Matthew 6:30-34). Little comment is needed because the Lord clearly states that we are to trust Him to provide for our needs.

A number of times in the past, when I told my dad that the Lord was blessing us with another baby, he asked, “Where is the money going to come from for another child?” I would say, “The Lord will provide for what He sends our way.” And He has. We are told to deny ourselves and follow Him. He will provide.

Yes, they may “cost us,” but aren’t we bought with a price and stewards of His money? Would the Lord give us children if He didn’t want us to have them? Would He give us children if He wouldn’t provide for them? Of course not. Isn’t it a matter of faith and learning to depend on Him?

A side note here: What is the solution if a family trusts the Lord with family size and yet they struggle financially? A dad must fervently seek the Lord to find out why needs aren’t being met. “And I set my face unto the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplications, with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes” (Daniel 9:3). When we have faced difficulties without answers, I turn to my Lord with a fast for as long as I can handle it. God has always answered. Children are a great stimulus to improve our walk with Christ. They sure have been in mine.

I don’t believe there is such a thing as “natural family planning” condoned in Scripture. Any understanding of a normal husband and wife relationship and human physiology cries out against this misguided concept. I have had some support this notion by referencing 1 Corinthians 7:5: “Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not. . . .”

I want to be discreet because we know children sometimes read the Corners, but this is not teaching natural family planning. The closest one can get to supporting family planning from this verse would be that if the family’s life is in such chaos and trouble, the husband and wife would fast and abstain for a time. However, I’m confident the vast majority of couples are not fasting when they think they are “applying” this verse.

Then we have e-mails from people asking us whether “permanent” means to limit children is a sin. With Teri’s depression, we permanently cut off the possibility of more children. I wrote about that in a previous Corner (We’re Reversed a Bad Decision), and so I won’t go into that here except to say the God changed our hearts as we studied Scripture.

Tubals and vasectomies are considered permanent means of surgically “breaking” something that was healthy. Doctors are given skills to heal and restore, and those should not be used to destroy something God-given and wonderful.

“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). This verse tells us clearly that believers are purchased by the blood of Jesus. Our bodies are not our own to do what we want to do with them. We are to be good stewards of Jesus’ property.

God would not give us permission to “break” something that He has control over. He would simply choose not to give us more children if that was His will. We have to face the reality that surgical sterilization is taking control over something we don’t want God to control. This is difficult to say. Please understand, I speak out of love, and I am not being judgmental. I wonder if sterilization might be analogous to one aspect of suicide. Both take into control what God intended to be under His control. What do you think?

Any time we go against God’s will, it is sin, and worse, when we take permanent measures, it likely takes away any future option of a change of heart. God was so merciful in giving Teri and me children after I repented and had a reversal. However, I’ve talked to many families who haven’t been able to have children even after a reversal. Don’t presume upon His grace. Certainly, don’t take permanent measures to limit children.

When we travel, we often encounter families who trust the Lord to decide how many children they will have and to provide for babies that He sends. I frequently sense a spirit of faith and peace in their lives. I have spoken with so many families who surrendered this area to the Lord Jesus, and they rejoice at what He has been doing in their lives ever since. Regularly, we will receive e-mails from a family who first chose to limit their family size, but then the Lord changed their hearts. We rejoice with them when they write to tell us that they are expecting a baby.

If you have chosen to limit children, seek the Lord to see if your reasons for limiting children are selfish—most are—and if so, repent. The world has deceived families saved by the blood of Jesus. Please, please, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness. …”

Protecting Against Deception – Part 6

To read the first parts of the series, you may do so here.

When a man has been deceived, he doesn’t realize it. In fact, he may even get angry with someone who implies that he has been deceived. That is the way it is with so many Christians today, in that they have taken the bait—hook, line, and sinker—in the greatest deception of the age. How could so many be deceived? Remember, we are deceived far more easily when the deception appeals to the flesh.

Almost everyone with an e-mail account has received a scam e-mail telling him that help is desperately needed. The e-mail will explain in great detail that someone very important and wealthy died, leaving a huge sum of money that is just waiting to be claimed. The e-mail will continue by pointing out that if you will help them, this vast some of money will be yours.

Most people receiving that e-mail know it is fake, yet many people are being fooled by it. There are so many being taken by the scam that when we went to our bank to arrange a money transfer for a missionary in Africa, we had to sign a paper attesting that we had been warned about fraudulent offers. Here we are in little Leavenworth, Kansas, and there had been people from our city who had withdrawn tens of thousands of dollars and wired it overseas with the hope of getting rich.

The bank officer told us that it was usually the elderly who were falling for this hoax. If several from our town have been deceived by this, then think how many around the world are being tricked out of their life savings. What makes the deception so tempting is the fact that it appeals to greed. People want to get rich quick. That is why the lotteries have been so successful in fleecing those who have the least to spend. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). The bait appeals to our sinful nature, and we want to believe the lie. That is why so many are deceived.

Even though those reading this would not fall for a hoax such as sending your savings away on a get-rich-quick deception, there is one that is far more serious, and vast numbers of Christians have been hooked by it. Not only have they fallen for it, they will relentlessly defend the deceived position and pressure those who have not been deceived. This is the same progression we see in Psalms 1 concerning the scorner: “Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful” (Psalms 1:1).

First, the susceptible Christian will listen to the counsel of the ungodly. That bad counsel, which is after the tradition of men (Colossians 2:8), will lead to his taking this ungodly position for himself and standing firm in his belief of it. Finally, the last step is that he will sit in the seat of the scornful and loudly proclaim the deception to be true in his attempt to convert others to this way of thinking.

One way to confirm a deception is to see if Satan promotes it and what the Lord’s position is on it. I want to walk you through one of these deceptions that is devastating to families. This particular deception is the deception that children are burdens and not a blessing and that parents are to decide how many to have.

The phrase “pass through the fire” occurs eleven times in the Old Testament. It referred to a horrific practice of offering one’s children to demonic idols. In Leviticus 18:21, God specifically commanded that the Israelites were not to do it, and He referred to it as an abomination in 2 Kings 16:3. “And thou shalt not let any of thy seed pass through the fire to Molech, neither shalt thou profane the name of thy God: I am the LORD” (Leviticus 18:21). “There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch” (Deuteronomy 18:10). It is clear that Satan’s agenda is to destroy and limit godly seed, but to God this is an abomination.

Egypt, which is an Old Testament type of the world, took a position against godly seed when Pharaoh commanded the midwives to kill all the newborn Hebrew sons. “And he said, When ye do the office of a midwife to the Hebrew women, and see them upon the stools; if it be a son, then ye shall kill him: but if it be a daughter, then she shall live” (Exodus 1:16). The world, under the “prince of the world,” desperately wants to limit godly seed.

Just this week a man driving a delivery truck was speaking with my sons, Joseph and John. He asked how many children there were in our family, and they told him eight. He replied, “Whew. God said to multiply, and that is what my wife and I did. We multiplied twice, and that is it.” Here he was a professing believer, but he had clearly misapplied Scripture, either intentionally or ignorantly.

The first time God commands “man” to multiply is in Genesis 1:28. “And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth” (Genesis 1:28). It is the first command that God gave man. Also important to note is that it is His first blessing on man. The Hebrew word for “multiply”—raba—according to the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament means “become great, many, much, and numerous.” When used in relation to days, raba means a long life; when used with wealth, it means to become rich. As we study the Word of God we can quickly see that “multiply” means to make numerous or many. God told Noah to be fruitful and multiply, and He never rescinded that command for us.

What is God’s heart toward children? In Psalms 115 we are told that the Lord will bless with children. God sees children as a blessing. “The LORD shall increase you more and more, you and your children” (Psalms 115:14). Probably everyone is familiar with Psalms 127, and in particular verse 3: “Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward” (Psalms 127:3). Here we are told that children are a heritage of the Lord. The word “heritage” means inheritance. Amazingly, they are both an inheritance from the Lord and to the Lord, if they are raised in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. The fruit of the womb is His reward. Next to salvation, children are the greatest reward we have from the Lord. If God calls children an inheritance and reward, why would anyone ever choose to limit children? Could it be because they have listened to Satan’s deception and are not listening to what the Lord is saying?

What if someone phoned you and said, “I have a truckload of gold I would like to give you. Do you want it?” Of course everyone would readily accept it. What if he called again with the same offer? What if a third time? A fourth? People would not say they have too much gold. Could a willingness to receive gold but not children reveal a carnal focus rather than a heart for God? To some that may sound strong, but think about it. Study and meditate on God’s Word and what He has to say about children.

Have you noticed that to justify abortion, people will bring up the extreme circumstances and use them as a reason why abortion should be an option? In the same way, I will receive e-mails from families wanting to let God give them children but detailing all sorts of seemingly impossible situations as to why it seems that the family shouldn’t have more children. However, if God is the giver of children and knows fully every family’s situation, shouldn’t we look to Him to decide whether He gives a child? That is why this area of children is the greatest challenge concerning whether a family is willing to trust God with all of their lives.

“But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:14). A very reasonable application of this verse is that parents should allow children to be born into the family. We see Jesus’ love and desire for the children, when even the disciples would send them away.

Just like the e-mail scam, we are vulnerable to the deception concerning children because that deception appeals to our flesh. Children take our time and our finances. We have to deny ourselves if we are going to bring our children up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. They are often inconvenient, causing us not to be able to do what we want to do. When viewed from a fleshly position, life is easier without children.

Through Scripture we can observe God’s position on children as opposed to Satan’s disdain for them. We can then see how great the deception is that has been wrought against Christians. As with any deception, when our eyes are opened to it, we will repent and turn away from it, embracing the Truth instead. In the case of children, may we repent and embrace the good gifts that God wants to give us.

Protecting Against Deception – Part 5

(See the previous parts to the series.)

Can you describe for me what a deceiver looks like? What style of clothes is he most likely to wear? How does he comb his hair? Is he clean shaven, or does he have a beard? If you can’t describe him, can you at least tell me where he lives and what sort of car he drives? Hmmm. You can’t tell me? Then it would seem pretty difficult to know who is deceiving us.

We have been discussing how to protect our families from being deceived. Here we will take a look at one possible deceiver. It would be nice if we could describe a deceiver by his outward appearance or where he lives, but unfortunately, we can’t. Frankly, we must always be on guard as anyone can be a deceiver. “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness” (Mark 7:21-22). In these verses, Jesus tells us that everyone is capable of deceit.

Paul warns to, “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ” (Colossians 2:8). “Any man” means that all “men” are capable of being deceitful.

Scripture tells us that there are some deceivers that we might never suspect. Paul, in describing his ministry, says that they have “ . . . renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God” (2 Corinthians 4:2). When Paul says he has renounced handling the Word of God deceitfully, it means that there are some who do handle the Word of God deceitfully. Paul was warning that believers are to be on guard against deception from the pulpit.

Can you imagine that Paul, the apostle, would instruct us that we should be suspicious of what we are being taught at church? I can picture some pastors being upset if people in their churches were encouraged not to take for granted what their pastors are preaching. However, I would be suspicious of a man who would be upset because people wanted to check out, or evaluate for themselves, what he was preaching. Everyone is fallible, and each of us should verify what we hear from the pulpit (or taught elsewhere, including this ministry) to see if the Bible agrees with it.

Would you like to receive praise from the author of Acts? Then verify what your pastor is teaching you. “And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so” (Acts 17:10-11). We see that the Bereans were praised as being more noble than the Thessalonians. Why? Because the Bereans eagerly received the Word that was being taught and then searched the Scriptures daily to make sure what they were being told was true.

The Apostle Paul was there preaching, and the Bereans were verifying in Scripture what they heard Paul say to make sure he was speaking truth and not deceiving them. I find the fact that they didn’t automatically believe Paul to be shocking. I can’t help wondering today how many preachers would be offended if those listening were checking them out and asking questions about what they were hearing.

I remember a time over fifteen years ago when we were looking for a church and visited one. The pastor quoted mostly a Reader’s Digest article during his sermon. I was appalled at what I heard, and we never went back. However, that church has continued to thrive these years following. How can that be? Also, I sometimes hear snippets of popular TV preachers’ messages on Sunday mornings coming out of the residents’ rooms when I am in the hallway of our nursing-home church. What I overhear causes me to shudder. Remember what Paul said: “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ” (Colossians 2:8). Families are “buying” this stuff from polished, wonderful-looking guys and not checking them out. They can’t be confirming these messages in the Bible, as evidenced by the fact that they keep coming back.

The Lord Jesus is holding us dads responsible if we allow our families to be deceived. “And he said, Take heed that ye be not deceived: for many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and the time draweth near: go ye not therefore after them” (Luke 21:8). That doesn’t just mean we aren’t to be deceived in discerning who the Christ is, because Paul, in Colossians 2:8, is also telling Christians not to be deceived.

I would encourage dads to be extra suspicious of preachers who use TV and movie clips in their messages. I remember an e-mail where a mom shared that their children were exposed to horrible, worldly knowledge of sin, sitting in their Sunday morning worship service, through movie clips used during the message. “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). I can’t understand why a preacher could ever justify watching worldly movies in the first place, but it is beyond comprehension to expose one’s congregation to them. We wouldn’t be going back to a service like that if it were our family.

We were visiting a service one time by invitation and had been assured it was a very conservative church. During the message, the pastor said he couldn’t wait for the Superbowl game later that day. He said that it had been a long time since he’d seen a real game where the blood was flowing, and he was excited for this one. The message grew worse from there. My family was shocked, and even the children remember that as an example of one pastor they never would listen to again.

The writer of Acts commended those who listened to Paul and checked out what they were hearing against the truth of God’s Word. May we understand that every man has a depraved heart and is capable of being a deceiver. It is a good thing when we hold what we read and hear up to the light of God’s Word. May we be Bereans, eagerly hearing what is taught and searching the Scriptures diligently to confirm truth and reject what is error.

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.