And when they are older,…

Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it. (Proverbs 22:6)

     

While rearing teens has never been easy, it seems that each year it becomes harder and harder.  And as our society becomes more high-tech and information is nearly instantaneous, many of the difficulties that used to begin in the teenage years are now starting in the pre-teen or middle school years.  Kids have access to things that they simply aren’t ready to handle.  So they struggle to appear to be in control, they make bad decisions and act out.

I was a teacher and a coach for nearly 40 years and a youth pastor for 20 years and I thought I had faced most of the issues of drugs, smoking, drinking, sex, pornography, divorce, abuse, eating disorders, run-aways, suicide and general rebellion.  My wife and I counseled individual teens and teen groups, biological children and adopted children, parents and families, churched and un-churched.  It was never easy.  But most of the time I felt like we accomplished something–that there was a chance that we might have made a difference.  Yet right now, I know that there are many parents–even among my family and close friends who are at their wit’s end, wondering what they should do about their son or daughter.

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.  Honor your father and mother (which is the first commandment with a promise), so that it may be well with you, and that you may live long on the earth.  Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. (Ephesians 6:1-4)  One of the difficulties is that children have no patience and do not want to be rewarded later for good behavior.  They want what they want now, with no consequences.  And many of them spend most of their “family” time looking for the ways to irritate Mom and Dad so that they (Mom and Dad) can provoke them (the child) to anger,..or sullenness,..or cutting,..or swearing,.. or running away–you probably can plug in the behavior(s) from your own child or from a child of someone close to you.  Suddenly, they are getting the attention they crave, though all for the wrong reasons.

I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but I do know a couple of things.  The first is that when all is said and done, your child is responsible for his/her own behavior.  For everyone belongs to me, the parent as well as the child–both alike belong to me. The one who sins is the one who will die. (Ezekiel 18:4)  You can explain godly living and live the example for them; but you can’t make them apply it to their lives.  They have to do that themselves.

One other thing I have noticed is that children can almost always outlast their parents when it comes to giving in on something.  They are younger, have more energy, and always believe that they are 100% right.  As a parent, you cannot win all the battles.  Pick the important ones and don’t give in.  Let the little ones go.  If they want to dress like something between a street bum and a Halloween character, so what?  If they want to chew gum like a cow chewing grass, let them.  Sooner or later, someone other than you will make a comment that will cause them to rethink how they look or act.  Though they are still children, they are struggling to enter adulthood.  Give them some slack in the non-essential areas.

Is it easy? Absolutely not!  You must constantly be praying for and showing the fruit of the spirit.  But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23)  Remember that God made you the parents.  Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tender-hearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.  Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.  Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony.  And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. (Colossians 3:12-15)

So while you are not responsible for your child’s decisions or the consequences of those decisions, you are responsible for being the example that God wants you to be.  And He’s always there to help you become that example.  Don’t let the acting out behaviors become a distraction to your own walk with God.

Acknowledge that the Lord is God!  He made us, and we are his.  We are his people, the sheep of his pasture.  Enter his gates with thanksgiving; go into his courts with praise.  Give thanks to him and praise his name.  For the Lord is good.  His unfailing love continues forever,  and his faithfulness continues to each generation. (Psalm 100:3-10)

Mark Twain once said, “The older I get, the smarter my parents were.”  This is how it was for me.  Fortunately, I discovered this at a relatively young age and was able to enjoy some quality time with my Dad.  Someday our kids may feel the same way.  In the meantime, we just have to hang on and have faith.

Be still, and know that I am God! (Psalm 46:19)

“When the answer Is simple, God is speaking.” (Albert Einstein)

2 Corinthians 11:3 – But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.

Getting to know God through Christ should be–and is–simple.  Simple enough for little children to understand.  Then some children were brought to Him so that He might lay His hands on them and pray; and the disciples rebuked them.  But Jesus said, “Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Matthew 19:13-14)

So let’s summarize the basic plan…

How it started

God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day (Genesis 1:31).

How it was supposed to be

Then God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and multiply.  Fill the earth and govern it.  Reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and all the animals that scurry along the ground.”

God said, “Look! I have given you every seed-bearing plant throughout the earth and all the fruit trees for your food.  And I have given every green plant as food for all the wild animals, the birds in the sky, and the small animals that scurry along the ground—everything that has life.” And that is what happened.

Then God looked over all he had made, and he saw that it was very good (Genesis 1:28-31)

Then the LORD God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it.  (Genesis 2:15).

The one rule God gave

The LORD God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die (Genesis 2:16-17)

How temptation entered

The serpent was the shrewdest of all the wild animals the Lord God had made. One day he asked the woman, “Did God really say you must not eat the fruit from any of the trees in the garden?”  “Of course we may eat fruit from the trees in the garden,” the woman replied.  “It’s only the fruit from the tree in the middle of the garden that we are not allowed to eat. God said, ‘You must not eat it or even touch it; if you do, you will die.’”  “You won’t die!” the serpent replied to the woman.  “God knows that your eyes will be opened as soon as you eat it, and you will be like God, knowing both good and evil.” (Genesis 3:1-5)

How sin entered

The woman was convinced. She saw that the tree was beautiful and its fruit looked delicious, and she wanted the wisdom it would give her. So she took some of the fruit and ate it. Then she gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it, too (Genesis 3:6)

The immediate consequence of sin

Then he said to the woman, “I will sharpen the pain of your pregnancy, and in pain you will give birth.  And you will desire to control your husband, but he will rule over you.  And to the man he said, “Since you listened to your wife and ate from the tree whose fruit I commanded you not to eat, the ground is cursed because of you.  All your life you will struggle to scratch a living from it.  It will grow thorns and thistles for you, though you will eat of its grains.  By the sweat of your brow will you have food to eat until you return to the ground from which you were made.  For you were made from dust, and to dust you will return.” (Genesis 3:16-19)  Then the Lord God said, “Look, the human beings have become like us, knowing both good and evil. What if they reach out, take fruit from the tree of life, and eat it?  Then they will live forever!”  So the Lord God banished them from the Garden of Eden, and he sent Adam out to cultivate the ground from which he had been made. (Genesis 3:22-23)

The eventual consequence of sin

For in the day that you eat from it, you will surely die (Genesis 2:17).  For the wages of sin is death (Romans : ).

Where man stands today

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23) No amount of soap or lye can make you clean. I still see the stain of your guilt. I, the Sovereign LORD, have spoken! (Jeremiah 2:22)  For the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23)  For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them in chains of darkness to be held for judgment; if he did not spare the ancient world when he brought the flood on its ungodly people, but protected Noah, a preacher of righteousness, and seven others; if he condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah by burning them to ashes, and made them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; and if he rescued Lot, a righteous man, who was distressed by the depraved conduct of the lawless (for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard)— if this is so, then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials and to hold the unrighteous for punishment on the day of judgment. (II Peter 2:4-9)

How to avoid the penalty of death and hell

Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household. (Acts 16:31)  For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ. (II Corinthians 5:21)  There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved. (Acts 4:12)

Summary

God made everything and He is good.

Man messed up.

Separation from God, suffering, death and hell resulted.

Man still sins today.

Jesus paid our penalty and conquered hell and death.  His is the only acceptable sacrifice.

We accept his sacrifice and avoid spiritual death and hell or we don’t accept it and have to pay the penalty ourselves for all eternity.

The choice is simple.  Any questions?…

A Tale of Two Cities

The book of Revelation is a tale of two cities, each represented by a woman.  According to Colin W. Smith, the author of many devotionals, the first city is Babylon (see Rev. 18), another manifestation of the tower of Babel, which reminds us that throughout human history, right up to the end of time, humanity will continue in its defiance of God. That city is represented by a prostitute.  The second city is Jerusalem, and it is represented by a bride.

                                                                   

There is all the difference in the world between a prostitute and a bride.  The prostitute sells herself; the bride gives herself.  The prostitute is motivated by greed’ the bride is motivated by love.  The world is divided between those who trade their lives for the things of this world and those who give themselves freely to the Lord.

Imagine the contrast of these two women, projected simultaneously on a screen.  The prostitute sits on a garbage heap, destitute and filthy.  Unclean birds fly around her head, and her soul has become a haunt for evil spirits (See Rev. 18:2).  She can still remember her glory days when she was the desire of rich and famous men, but nobody wants her now.

The bride is about to begin her procession.  She is dressed in white, and her face is radiant.  The one who waits for her loves her more than words can tell.  the bride of Christ comes forward to the sound of trumpets.  She knows that this is the moment of her destiny.

The bride and the prostitute give us a picture of the eternal destiny of ever person who has ever lived.  Your eternal destiny will either be one of desolation or one of delight; one of everlasting loss or one of everlasting love.  There is nothing in between.  And the choice is ours.  Choose wisely.