Answering “Why” to Your Children

Do you find yourself giving umpteen reasons why your child should do what you just told him to do? Do you find yourself repeatedly explaining why or why not? (This post is part 2 of a series.)

I am concerned about the postmodern trend to reason with children over an obedience issue (either a command or a denial of something requested). When I mentioned this topic to a friend of mine, a grandmother, her reaction was instant and emphatic. Her strong reaction incited me to ask several other older moms living in other U.S. states. Every one echoed the same concern with intensity. They see it as a serious problem among young parents.

Initially, little children ask “why” because they are learning to connect cause and effect. However, when obedience is required the question easily morphs into a control tactic for delay, avoidance, or resistance. Given time and practice it becomes a slip-n-slide to rebellion.

The Bible is clear that the primary reason parents must exercise decisive, loving authority is because God commands it. If that was the only reason it would be sufficient. Of course, underlying that command is the nature of God Himself and, therefore, what parents’ obedience to this command models to children and others about God. But for this post, I would like to take a more pragmatic approach and show from biblical principles of child development why reasoning does not work but provokes anger and rebellion. I won’t elaborate on the principles so much as state them and then connect to the implications. At a minimum, child development in the areas of knowledge, perceptions, thinking skills, feelings, impulses, conscience, and will relate to the issue.

Reasoning disregards factors of child development.

First Corinthians 13:11 says that a child reasons and perceives as a child. In context it refers at the least to a lack of knowledge, lack of understanding others, and lack of broad perspective. A child has neither the brain ability nor the years of experience you do. So if you give reasons for what you want the child to do you are showing reasons to a person who is literally unable to see them like you do because he is literally unable to understand as an adult does. Children generally live for the moment, so you are trying to get a short-sighted person to see distances–he can’t.

Living by feelings and impulses, children aren’t naturally sensible or reasonable; they are emotional and selfish (Ps. 51:10; 58:3; Prov. 22:15; Rom. 3:10-18; 1 Cor. 3:1-3). Therefore, if you think you’re logically explaining why, what you’re actually doing is pitting reason against emotions. His feelings matter a lot more to him than your reasons.

Children think and perceive self-centrically, simplistically, and foolishly (1 Cor. 3:1-3; 13:11; Prov. 16:2, 25; 22:15). You see yourself reaching the heart. The child sees an adult who, at the point of disagreement, can be distracted and drawn into a discussion by just the little word “why.” You explain reasons. The child perceives he is in a negotiation over a behavior. And he’s right. When giving reasons, you are trying to persuade your child to give up wanting what he wants. He’s doing the same toward you. That’s a negotiation, not instruction.

A child is a chooser. He has a will, a strong will, a will bent toward his own way. More than one parent has thought that if she could just explain it enough times the child would finally “get it.” Understanding is not the problem. Willfulness is. (Ps. 51:5; Prov. 22:15; Rom. 3:10-18, 23)

Reasoning doesn’t reach the heart in the way you intend.

For the reasons above, I propose that it is not the assertion of gracious, judicious authority that is harsh, but it is the efforts at reasoning little children into obedience that is unloving. (Again, I’m not talking about a congenial discussion time. I’m talking about a time for obedience.) Expecting a person who can’t understand to understand is not kind. It expects more than a child is able to handle. It frustrates, provokes, and that is inconsiderate at best. Parents who adopt this practice do not realize its long-term effects.

Christian parents rightly want to shape the heart motives of their children. By Ephesians 6:4 we see that instruction is an important way to do so. Thoughts about truth influence the desires a person chooses. Perhaps this command to instruct leads to a misapplication, to explaining (“instructing”) reasons why a child should obey instead of enforcing the responsibility of the child to obey.

Reasoning with a child over obedience teaches by example that it is right for the child to expect authorities to answer to him, to defend decisions. It feeds pride. “Mom is willing to negotiate with me person to person; therefore I must be on a level with her. Okay, I’ll ask ‘why’ because it draws her into explaining herself. Then I’ll negotiate until she compromises.” 

Christian parents rightly want to train the conscience. Reasoning when the child should be obeying does the opposite. It hardens a child’s heart. How? It lets him practice ignoring his conscience in order to resist, argue with authorities, and comply only on his terms–when he deems the decision to be “reasonable.” You may out-debate a young child until he does what you want, but the teen will out argue and outlast you without remorse.

It is vital that a child learn to trust and obey. Explaining reasons in order to gain compliance teaches the opposite. When God told Abraham to sacrifice his only son, Abraham didn’t ask why. He didn’t question or negotiate. He didn’t dawdle. He immediately obeyed (Romans 4, Hebrews 11). That is mature faith. Having to know all the reasons first opposes faith.

Teach at the effective time.

Do teach. Just don’t do it when submission to authority (obedience) is at issue or when the child is disputing. When obedience is the issue it is time to learn obedience, not thinking skills. “Son, your responsibility right now is to honor and obey without disputing” (from Ephesians 6:1-3 and Philippians 2:14, spoken calmly).

Train the conscience. Teach the right standard to inform the conscience. Discipline violations to help him listen to that conscience, to care about God’s standard. That is reaching his heart. Discipline makes him more aware of the sin in his heart that his conscience is warning him about, which then uncovers his need for Christ. This is why discipline is a grace to the child.

Just as the Law exposes our sinful hearts, so requiring compliance to an authority without reasons exposes the child’s heart. If the child is resisting, he is not teachable anyway, so explaining is futile and leads to frustration. When your child truly wants a discussion for understanding you won’t feel your tension increasing and he usually won’t use the word “why.”

So then, don’t confuse application time as teaching time. I’m not saying the two can never go together. Relationships are dynamic. But if you find yourself frequently hearing “why” or being expected to defend your commands, your child has moved away from teachability to resistance. He doesn’t need more words; he needs more practice at application.

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Reasoning with Children? Parents, Don’t Abdicate!

Reasoning with children to obtain compliance without confrontation is a parenting approach in epidemic proportions and prolifically promoted on the web. People propose that children have a basic “need for power.” They suggest empathizing with a child’s anger and resistance until the child is willing to listen to reason.

The reasoning method comes from humanism, not the Bible.

While it is certainly biblical to give a gentle answer and to speak persuasively and lovingly, this practice of reasoning with children over an obedience issue is not biblical. It is a worldly method traceable back to at least the 1950s. Clinical psychologist Thomas Gordon believed that use of coercive power damages relationships, so he opposed authoritarian parenting. Children inherently resent anyone having authority or power over them and want to decide for themselves what behaviors to limit. Therefore, adults must use non-power, non-authoritative methods of raising children. 

In 1962, Gordon introduced the program Parent Effectiveness Training (PET). It is designed to encourage collaborative, cooperative relationships between parent and child. It quickly gained popularity.

PET taught the use of three key methods: active listening, I-messages, and No-Lose Conflict Resolution. An “I-message” is an assertion of the feelings or values of the speaker. “I feel frustrated that this room is a mess” rather than “Son, please clean up this room.” “I need you to pick up your toys” rather than, “Son, pick up your toys.” One goal is to give the child the opportunity to solve the problem. Empower the child. Another goal is to avoid blame by not pointing out faults.

By no-lose conflict resolution is meant arriving at a solution to which both parties agree. So, a parent is no longer to command her son to pick up his toys; she is to persuade him to want to pick up his toys.

What this all amounts to is negotiation. Rather than assert the authority a parent rightfully and necessarily has, parents are to pursue a collaborative, cooperative agreement–with a mere child! No wonder so many children don’t respect their parents. No requirement to comply; no blame for defiance; adults answering to the child; negotiating on equal terms; empowerment––no wonder today’s younger generation is being labeled narcissistic!

What about I-messages? Regarding “I need you to…,” Parent, why would you think your child cares about what you need? Regarding “I feel…,” if you understand the sin nature of a child, why would you expect a child to care about how you feel?

Parents have no right to abdicate.

There are two primary reasons why parents must unapologetically act on authority. I don’t mean legalistically authoritarian parenting. There are profitable times for parents to answer and explain many “whys.” I mean authoritative parenting, using a right and kind application of legitimate authority in obedience to God and for the good of the child. The foundational reason is God’s command. The horizontal reason is for the blessing upon and relationship with the child.

The issue of authority is at the very core of life. The first words of the Bible establish that: “In the beginning God created…” God’s commands to Adam in Genesis 1 and 2 establish the principle of authority and presume God’s supreme authority. Satan’s “Has God said?” first thing in chapter 3 shows the centrality of the issue. Adam’s sin was essentially a rejection of God’s authority. Authority is a foundational principle.

God Himself authoritatively commands parents to instruct and discipline as authorities, not as collaborators (Eph. 6:4). He unapologetically commands children to obey parents as authorities, not collaborators (Eph. 6:1-3). By subverting parental authority, the PET philosophy subverts God’s. While there is no warrant for harshness or selfishness, and while direct confrontation may not be the wisest course in every situation, parents don’t have the right to avoid being authoritative.

Your child’s right understanding of authority is essential for his welfare.

Every person must grapple the issue of authority. Whose agenda takes priority? Who rules? Who must submit to whom? Practically speaking, throughout his life your child will be responsible to comply with many authorities whether or not he agrees with them, or face unpleasant, even coercive, consequences. Would we rather he learn this hard lesson from those who mix compassion with the lessons or from the cold, cruel world after he leaves home?

Ultimately, our craving for control clashes against the granite wall of the sovereignty of God. Therefore, your child’s eternal life hinges on what he does when he hits that wall. The safest place to hit it is under the care of lovingly authoritative parents who will help him see the issue clearly with his welfare in mind. Don’t let the world deceive you into avoiding the concept of authority with your children.

What about the claim that children have a “need for power” and so adults must avoid asserting power? What a lack of understanding! Of course your child inherently resents anyone having authority over him and wants to decide for himself what behaviors he gets to do. Of course he wants power. So do you. So do I. It’s called pride. It is the sin nature (Rom. 3:23; Prov. 22:15). The Bible has pointed that out for millennia. A child needs to see that his “need for power” is actually his dominating drive of selfishness (2 Tim. 3:2). His “need to decide for himself” is a sinful demand for control to get his way. When he demands power, reasoning is not what he needs. The experience of running into your loving but firm authority is intended to help open his eyes to the fact that he is a willful sinner in need of a Savior. Parents who wisely and lovingly enforce their God-given authority do not damage relationships. They please God, shape wise children, cultivate peace and order in the home, and therefore build rewarding relationships.

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Departing in Peace: Biblical Decision-Making at the End of Life

Have you thought about whether you want to be kept alive on a feeding tube? More importantly, have you thought about what God’s will in that situation would be? Have you thought about having to make end-of-life medical decisions for an incapacitated loved one? The book Departing in Peace: Biblical Decision-Making at the End of Life discusses the choices people face in major medical circumstancesDeparting in Peace

Author Bill Davis begins by laying out principles that can be applied to situations of medical care. For example, the Word of God has complete and final authority over our decisions. It teaches that “human life is precious” and yet “earthly life is not the highest good” and “there is a time to die.” Everyone has a duty to protect the weak. We each have the duty of stewardship of the body God made for His glory and not our comfort and, therefore, the authority to make medical choices for oneself. While we are “called to suffer for Christ’s sake,” we are “not obligated to suffer only to stay alive.” We are not required to try to live as long as possible no matter the cost, but neither may we choose a shorter life for our own sakes, like because we are tired of life. Stated in reverse, we may not commit suicide but neither are we obligated to sustain a body that is clearly dying.

An important principle the author rehearses is that when making end-of-life decisions for a loved one, we do not have the right to choose what we would want. Our own preferences are not the issue or standard. Rather, we are obligated to choose what we believe our loved one would choose. This is how to love and honor the person who will be receiving the treatment.

Using many real cases to illustrate, Mr. Davis applies the principles to conditions that force hard choices.These include people with permanent unconsciousness, permanent confusion, terminal illness, and dependence on others for basic daily care such as feeding, bathing and dressing. Regarding permanent unconsciousness, he reminds us that while God has all power to heal people and we are certainly to pray for healing, we are not to presume upon God and wait endlessly for a miracle. Trusting God, we must go ahead and make decisions based on the information God has already providentially provided. As to dependence on others he states, “Declining life-sustaining medical treatment merely to avoid being a burden to loved ones is to reject God’s design for our life together.” If people are to bear one another’s burdens, then someone has to be the burden that provides opportunities for others to practice caring. (86)

Along with challenging conditions come the kinds of modern treatment options that would preserve life in those conditions–CPR, mechanical life support, treatment of new conditions, and artificial nutrition and hydration. He describes in some detail what each involves and then circumstances in which it might be good stewardship or poor stewardship to receive the treatment. For example, resuscitation in a hospital involves breaking of ribs, electric jolts, drugs, and/or intubation. If it even works, these all require a recovery process in addition to what provoked a hospital visit in the first place. If you’re thirty years old with possibility of many years of productive and happy living, it is worth it. If you’re 95, full of cancer, and content with the years you’ve had, you can choose resuscitation but it is not a sin if you do not want it.

One discussion that changed my view was on the realities of feeding tubes. I used to think that it would be sinful and cruel to remove a feeding tube. Mr. Davis agrees that when used temporarily to help recovery a feeding tube is good stewardship before God. However, long-term, it risks infection. It risks a very unpleasant death by aspirating food into the lungs. A dying body loses the desire to eat, and if it is not processing food then the forcing of food into the system can be painful. In addition, long-term use prolongs the suffering and spiritual deprivations of the person. What about the possibility of the pain of thirst if the tube is removed? As long as the mouth is kept moist, a person dying without a feeding tube will not feel thirst.

Another difficult, often guilt-inducing topic is money. This is a tough one because God’s prohibition against unpayable debts may mean we must withhold treatment that we desperately want our loved one to have. This principle clashes against the assumption that we deserve medical care no matter the cost, even that it is morally wrong to withhold treatment due to money. Families will often agree to medical care they cannot afford because they feel guilty refusing it simply for the sake of money. 

In the chapter devoted to this topic, Davis says that because we are commanded to pay our debts, we must not make promises of repayment that we cannot keep.

“God’s Word forbids accepting medical services for which we cannot reasonably expect to pay out of resources that we possess, that we can expect to earn, or that we have been explicitly promised by reliable people.” (199)

Davis takes extra care to back this position with several Bible passages, then answers objections to the prohibition. He also brainstorms how repayment might be made. On the flip side, even when plenty of money is available there are situations in which the person is not obligated to take the treatment but may devote his money to other God-honoring purposes.

The chapter “Hospital Realities: Making the Most of Them” is aimed at correcting false assumptions about what life in a hospital is like. It offers practical suggestions on a number of issues. The last chapter is well summarized by its title, “Things to Do Now.”

If I had to find fault with the book, it would be at two points. I don’t fully agree with Mr. Davis’ interpretation of the sheep and goat judgment of Matthew 25:14-26 in chapter 2. Also, I couldn’t find any sources to confirm the idea that some ancient kings sent deformed people as “image-bearer/ambassador” to test the loyalty of their subject people. It doesn’t make sense to me. I would think it would convey a sense of weakness or ineptitude in the represented king, just as our faulty image-bearing misrepresents God, or just as the Philistines who believed that since they captured the ark then their god was stronger than Israel’s God. In a brief search, I found that many Egyptian commoners had deformities, but I saw not even one who was an ambassador for a king. It would be helpful if the source had been cited. In any case, there are certainly other passages in the Bible that teach principles of caring for the weak and being ambassadors for Christ, so the principles Mr. Davis highlights are biblical.

At the end of each chapter are questions for study and discussion and a list of further reading. On the book website Davis offers two further types of resources–for free! One is sets of lesson plans to download and use in teaching others on issues in end-of-life decision-making.

The other is a link to download advance directives from all fifty states. In addition, there are duplicates of each directive which Mr. Davis has partially completed, explaining critical points. The way I used this resource was to first download the Tennessee form (because the book follows that order of thought) and used it to write out for my loved ones what I want and why. Then I compared it with Mr. Davis’ completed form for my state and then completed my own forms. My state is less specific, so now my loved ones have my state forms plus extra instructions on the side to help them understand my reasons for choosing as I did.

This is an excellent book. No matter how young an adult you are, go get a copy. Read it and think through the issues. Then complete an Advance Directive. It will help you practice stewardship of your body to the glory of God and it will be a service of love to your loved ones.

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Alarmed? Love the Lord Courageously  (Psalm 31, Pt 3)

Fear. The word “alarm” speaks of fear, apprehension, fright, or panic. Under the heading “Trust the Lord Knowledgeably” I highlighted David’s exhortation in Psalm 31 in response to feeling alarmed.  That was the opener to a three-part series from Psalm 31 on dealing with fear, strong or extreme fear.

What was so terrifying? David told of being in danger from enemies. He was distressed. Heaped on that, he felt worn out by years of sorrow. Guilt for sins came back to mind. He feared being shamed before his enemies; shame is a powerful fear-inducing force. His own neighbors had rejected him, and he felt a sense of abandonment. Altogether, it seemed life was crashing down on him.

Even so, rather than believe his feelings and perceptions, he believed God’s Word and trusted God. This is love. He wrote that God is sees everything and, seeing the suffering of one who trusts Him, the Lord saves powerfully. The Lord loves graciously. He is full of mercy toward His children who are troubled in soul and physically endangered. The Lord rules sovereignly in all situations. Being good, the Lord stores goodness generously for those who trust Him. The Lord listens compassionately. The Lord avenges justly. He “fully recompenses the proud doer.” God is trustworthy.

What is David’s concluding response to the One so worthy of trust? 

Love the Lord resolutely.

David wrote, “O love the Lord, all you His godly ones!” (31:23). When afraid or alarmed over your circumstances, love God resolutely by trusting Him unreservedly. Under the heading “Love the Lord Resolutely” I tried to flesh out a few specifics about how that exhortation might be applied.

But as you probably have experienced, loving God when life seems to be crashing down is no piece of cake. It’s one thing to say it or write it. It is quite another to do it. I’ve certainly failed–too many times. That is why I am so thankful for David’s tag at the end of his song. After demonstrating his own love for God and then exhorting others to love God, David finished with a second admonition: 

Love the Lord courageously.

Altogether, his wrap-up of the psalm looks like this:

O love the Lord, all you His godly ones!
   The Lord preserves the faithful,
   And fully recompenses the proud doer.
Be strong, and let your heart take courage,
   All you who hope in the Lord. (31:23-24)

“Let your heart take courage” means “let your inner part be resolute.” “Hope” means “wait for.” To wait for something implies that you are not immediately receiving what you want, and also implies that you are expecting to receive it. Hope in the Lord is not a wish for an uncertainty, it is a confident faith in what will certainly be. David determined that even when trust in the Lord did not immediately bring relief, even when his bad feelings threatened to drag him down, he would exert himself to be resolute in trusting the Lord. Doing so, he demonstrated that he loved God.

Proverbs 24:10 says, “If you are slack in the day of distress, your strength is limited.” If you give in to pressures, you are weak. Loving God when circumstances appear to indicate that He is not trustworthy will require resolution and strength. If any of this resonates with you, dear reader, may the Holy Spirit be your supply.

Trust the Lord knowledgeably.
Love the Lord resolutely.
Love the Lord courageously.

Posted in Christian Living, Devotional, Psalms | Tagged

Alarmed? Love the Lord Resolutely   (Psalm 31, Pt 2)

Have you ever noticed how fear feelings can distort perceptions? If you’ve ever awakened out of a nightmare you know what I mean. Finally awake, you realize there is no actual danger. Yet the feelings keep you dwelling on the horrible thoughts and the thoughts generate more fear feelings. To rid yourself of the anxiety you might have to get up, turn on a light, and read for awhile–all over a scary dream.

In genuine danger we need to take prudent action. But any time we remain in fear, bad guys look badder, darkness looks darker, problems look bigger and solutions smaller. It seems we are all alone and no one can help. This is a factor in Post Traumatic Stress (PTS) fear responses.

In Psalm 31 David wrote about a time when he felt “alarm.” In other words, he felt panic, panic from threat of serious harm. People were plotting to kill him. This wasn’t a just a nightmare. The threats were real.

He was “in distress;… wasted away from grief.” He had “become a reproach” to his neighbors, “an object of dread to my acquaintances.” Abandoned, even shunned by those who used to be his friends, he was “forgotten as a dead man.” So people who used to be his friends were ignoring him as though he didn’t exist. How humiliating! He says, “I am like a broken vessel”–useless, treated as trash. Furthermore, neighbors had slandered him, painting scurrilous graffiti on his broken vessel. David had no one who cared to help him! This is a picture of traumatic stress. (9-13)

If David applied principles in Psalm 31 in the midst of real danger, how effective might they be to apply in situations where the danger is not real and immediate, like Post Traumatic Stress, panic attacks, nightmares, and other extreme fear situations.

Beware of misperceptions.

The threat was real, but his response led him to a conclusion that was not. Have you ever been in David’s shoes? Perhaps at some time, “distress[ed]” with panic or “sighing” in despair of relief, you have said what David said,

As for me, I said in my alarm,
‘I am cut off from before Your eyes (22a)

It seemed that like everyone else in his life, God had either pushed him away or could not see him whirling in the tornado of slanders, schemes, and terror. How did he reach his false conclusion about God? He listened to his panic feelings and his perceptions were distorted. Not only did the bad guys look badder, it looked like his one last Friend had abandoned him, too.

Don’t obey your feelings.

In the last battle of the 1977 Star Wars movie, Obi Wan Kenobi tells the hero, Luke, “Trust your feelings.” Mr. Kenobi gave horrible advice. Feelings often lie. Fear is a powerful twister of perspective, in part because it focuses our attention on ourselves for self-preservation. Don’t trust your feelings.

What did David do with his feelings and the misperceptions they generated? He put on truth.

Nevertheless You heard the voice of my supplications
When I cried to You. (22b)

“Nevertheless…” required going against feelings. “My feelings say ____, nevertheless…” Circumstances indicate that God has abandoned me, nevertheless I choose to believe the truth: God listens and cares. “Nevertheless” required willful choice.

Love the Lord Resolutely.

David doesn’t tell the reader of his panic “alarm” until way down in verse 22, but it apparently happened before he set pen to papyrus. Why wait? He first applied his own counsel, then wrote about it in this psalm. As a result, he began with his own commitment. Then his future readers, you and me, don’t have to wait for the solution. We meet it coming in the door: “In Thee, O Lord, I have taken refuge” (v. 1). 

In the previous post, I highlighted what David knew about God that made his trust well-placed.

  • The Lord saves powerfully.
  • The Lord loves graciously.
  • The Lord rules sovereignly.
  • The Lord stores goodness generously.
  • The Lord listens compassionately.
  • The Lord avenges justly.

No wonder David cries out,

O love the Lord, all you His godly ones!  (23a)

David loved God! He loved Him by believing Him. Trust expresses love for the Lord. How so? It believes the best about Him and believing the best is one characteristic of love (1 Cor. 13:7).

Fear opposes love. In the Roman arena, two gladiators could not simultaneously wear the victor’s wreath. Fear and love are like two gladiators. When fear dominates, love shrivels to the ground. When love overcomes, fear flees. To put off fear, put on love, love for God and others. Love for God corrected David’s perceptions. He remembered that,

The Lord preserves the faithful,
And fully recompenses the proud doer. (23b)

Again, Love the Lord Resolutely.

What principles are true for us today? No matter the appearance of the situation, trust in God is well-placed. His children can cry out to Him and know with all confidence that He hears and cares and rules the situation. Rejecting fear, we can and must love the Lord by believing Him. We love Him by believing the truth about Him that He tells us.

  • Does your situation seem beyond improvement? The Lord saves powerfully.
  • Do circumstances seem too harsh to take? The Lord loves graciously.
  • Does it seem that a bad outcome is inevitable? The Lord rules sovereignly.
  • Does it seem like your trial has no purpose? The Lord stores up goodness generously.
  • Does it seem like God is far away? The Lord listens to His children compassionately.
  • Does it seem like offenders are getting away with wrong-doing? The Lord avenges justly.

How can you apply Psalm 31 to fight fears?

Are fear reactions a problem for you? If so, you might be wondering what practical difference love for the Lord will make. I don’t know your particular situation, so here are a few wide-angle ideas:

Repent and be saved. To love Him, you must first be one of His “godly ones” because you cannot claim these promises if you aren’t. A godly one is also called, “the faithful.” One who is “faithful” faithfully trusts God. It is done like David did, only by grace alone through faith alone in his deliverer alone. You cannot be “the faithful” if you are not trusting in God for your salvation from yourself, your sin, and God wrath.

Don’t try to “cope.” This is man’s approach. Coping sets the bar way too low. Walking with God means more than mere coping, far more and far better. It means overcoming fears. We are commanded to turn from man’s ways, not to them.

Seek the glory of God more than your self-preservation. This one commitment takes your eyes off of you and your fears and moves you to doing what expresses love for God, even if you have fear feelings.

Think the best of God. Love thinks the best of others (1 Cor. 13:7). Psalm 31:19 says”How great is Your goodness!” Despite appearances to the contrary, the “godly one” will agree and be glad.

Put off lies. Beware of distorted perceptions. Don’t believe your feelings. Fears and sorrows can, and usually do, twist our thinking so that we believe things to be true that are not. If necessary, ask someone else to help you clarify the truth. Do your feelings tell you that God seems distant and your prayers go nowhere? The Bible says that God is everywhere, and that He hears the prayers of His children (1 John 5:14-15). Pray anyway, because talking to God demonstrates love for Him.

Put on true thoughts. Meditate on Scripture. Actively praise God. Sing hymns and (doctrinally rich) spiritual songs. Speak well of God to others.


Posted in Attributes of God, Devotional, Fear, Anxiety, Panic, PTSD, Psalms | Tagged

Top Ten Posts for 2018

I appreciate you readers. Please accept my thanks for reading this blog in 2018. I hope that the posts have been encouraging and edifying to you.

As I look at the top ten posts this year and review those in past years it seems that, at least as far as what I happen to have available, interests lie along a few repeated themes. Those are marriage, hearing from God and the subjective or mystical, and the seeming lack of conscience in some children. Among other possible observations, all three relate to intimacy in family relationships and intimacy with God.

10. God Still Speaks – Discussion After Josiah’s Fire. What began as a book review turned into a series, answering rebuttals to the review. This is the first of the series, a good place to start for an introduction.

9. They Say He Has No Conscience. The idea that some people lack a conscience is commonly accepted. “Normal” people feel remorse for doing wrong. Since perpetrators of extreme evil do not they must be mentally ill or not even have a conscience. But is this what the Bible teaches? This post is best read with its partner post, How can they be so remorseless?.

8. He…thought of me above all?. This is an attempt to remind us of who God’s plan of redemption, kingdom, and glory is really about.

7. Josiah’s Fire. This is a book review that, due to pushback, led to a series on hearing from God subjectively. Serving up the attraction of warm, fuzzy sentiments and titillating claims that a little autistic boy visited heaven, talked with the dead, and heard from God frequently, this book promotes trusting one’s subjective experiences and undermines the doctrines of the authority and sufficiency of Scripture and the person and work of Christ.

6. No Trust, No Love. Really? It is a popular notion that a person cannot love another unless they first trust him or her. Trust is, in certain relationships, extremely important and enhances love, but can it be justified as a necessary prerequisite before you can love another? This post is one of a series. The related posts will set it in a broader context.

5. A Purpose for Marriage: Oneness The last half of Genesis 2 emphasizes Adam’s aloneness and then the glorious and delightful oneness of he and Eve. Oneness in marriage is important to God and essential to a happy, God-glorifying marriage.

4. Parenting the Difficult Child  This page introduces my book and gives some background on it that is not in the book. The book is being used by parents whose children are often disobedient and oppositional. Additionally, it appeals to adoptive parents and parents whose children behave according to the psychological label Reactive Attachment Disorder. While psychologists have helpfully categorized behaviors under a label, their views and solutions are a mix of what the Bible already teaches and what is not biblical. Part of this book contrasts this man-made view with the Word of God and, in doing so, sets the Christian moving into biblical thinking about other psychology-constructed models.

3. The Secondary Primary Purpose of Marriage: Companionship  Everyone who marries does so for a reason, often not realizing that God has purposes for marriage far more important than ours. Living for God’s purposes rather than our own transforms how we view our communication, decision-making, sex, child-rearing, finances, socializing, and relational conflicts. Taking God’s view for our own will change our behaviors, which usually results in a more satisfying relationship with one’s spouse. The pleasure and glory of God is more important that our satisfaction, so I recommend: The Ultimate Purpose of Marriage: Image-Bearing.

2. Marriage: Procreation is Important, But Not Primary Some people believe that the primary purpose for marriage is procreation. Others say the primary read for sex is procreation. Regarding the latter position, Genesis 2 emphasizes the “one flesh” of marriage (which includes sex) a whole chapter before Eve conceived a child, which seems to imply sex expressing oneness in relationship more than use for procreation. The “family” is husband and wife; children are secondary and temporary. First Corinthians 7 ties sex to the relationship, saying nothing about children, and indicates that sex is to continue apart from children. Sex is intended for joy and intimacy in marriage. See more in the post.

1. An Unloved Woman  What does Proverbs 30 tells us about a woman who has experienced significant rejection? What is likely to happen if she marries? Is there hope for change?
I’m not sure why this post hit number 1 this year. Is there something that especially attracted you to it? I welcome your comments.

I wish you a 2019 full of God’s grace and peace!


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