Tag Archives: obedience

Hate, Love, and Homosexuality

Did you know that there are verses in the Bible that say that God hated Esau? (Malachi 1:3, Romans 9:13) I have read the verses over and over in my lifetime but never gave them much thought.

One day, a man in our church preached about it. He challenged me and compelled me to come to terms with the meaning of those passages. He and I arrived at different conclusions, but nonetheless, I am indebted to him for forcing me to look into this topic.

You see, it’s NOT okay to read the Bible, soak up the parts that sound good to us, and let the rest fall to the ground. (Which is, unfortunately, what most people do. They create their own god – based on the parts of the Bible that they like.)

The painful truth is, if the verses about God hating anyone were true, then He was not the God that I’d always believed Him to be. Or, so I thought.

I went home from that church service unable to sleep or do anything other than think about what I’d been forced to read. I stayed up late that night and got up early the next day, insistent on getting to the heart of the matter. I would not rest until I had the answers in my hand. I turned to just about every reference book I owned, searched the web, looked up every possible related passage in the Bible, wrote pages of notes. I WOULD have resolution, and I would have it soon.

Here is a note that I wrote to myself in the margin of one of those pages:

“How can we fit those verses into the same Bible? How can He be the same God? We know He is, by the many proofs we have seen (Feast days, OT points to Christ). If it doesn’t seem to fit, there must be a misunderstanding of some kind.”

You see, in the quest for truth, one thing is absolutely necessary: that we learn to be honest with ourselves.

At first, I went looking for excuses. I thought that perhaps it was okay to hate people who were doomed anyway – I rationalized by wondering if it was because they deserved the penalty for their sins. But that didn’t make sense to me because I knew that God did not desire for anyone to perish, but for all to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). Also, I deserve the penalty for my sin, but God doesn’t hate me. In addition, David said that he himself hated people with a perfect hatred. Was David righteous enough to hate an imperfect perfect person? No.

Next, I thought to myself – perhaps the meaning of “hate” has changed since 1611. For the next page or so of notes, I based all of my research on this idea. After all, we know that English words like “conversation” (lifestyle), “knew” (had sex with), “let” (hinder), “meat” (food), “quick” (living), “quit” (keep on), and “suffer” (allow) have all changed in meaning since 1611.

This argument was close enough, and I finally got some sleep.

Skip forward to today.

For the past 18 months or so, I have been studying Hebrew. And lately, I have learned a few things about their language and the way they see the world: Hate is not what I thought it was. Neither is love.

Try to fully define either of those words for yourself, and what do you get? Paragraphs of explanations and examples. They are called abstract ideas for a reason. And if you compare your perception of these nouns to anyone else’s, there will be inconsistencies, contradictions, arguments. I have discovered that the Western way of thinking is wholly to blame for this. The reason we don’t understand things such as faith, love, or hate is because we are looking at them through a Western lens.

The Word of God was penned by people who understood the reality of these terms. The Eastern mindset is concrete. In order to love someone, you have to do it, not feel it. And that makes sense, doesn’t it? If you don’t do it, then you don’t really feel it either. A mother who fails to feed her starving baby does not love that baby, no matter how she thinks she feels about him. Hate and many other abstract words function the same way.

When God spoke of hating Esau, He wasn’t telling us how He felt about them. He was telling us that He actively worked against them. He brought judgment down upon them. Not because He wanted to destroy them, but because His righteousness demands that all sin must be paid for.

In reality, He desired to save them, just as He desires to save everyone. “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9

If you persist in rejecting the Messiah’s substitutional sacrifice in your behalf, then you will necessarily pay for your own sins, which will prevent you from inheriting eternal life. (The wages of sin is death. Romans 6:23)

So that’s the biblical definition of hate. Then what is love? The Almighty God loves us by doing what is best for us. God’s entire Law hinges on love. In it, He tells us how to live a healthy and successful life. The Law is love. The Law is life. After informing us of the best way to live, He allows us to choose whether we want to walk in the ways of life or abandon it.

If there is sin in our lives, then the Law prescribes correction. It’s not always pleasant, and it’s not always what we would choose for ourselves, but it is always best. If you are a parent that loves your child, then surely you have corrected him. Parenthood is the perfect object lesson. There’s a reason He calls Himself our Father.

So how do we even begin to love Him in return? I have one word for you, and that is obedience. Look it up. Read your whole Bible this year, and when you have finished it, tell me if I’m wrong. “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” John 14:15

The following is a story about a lawyer who was trying to trick Jesus into tripping over His words. I believe that He wanted Jesus to belittle some of God’s words (making them less important in comparison to others). Here’s how the story goes:

Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying,  Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” Matthew 22:35-40

How did Jesus score? Did He pass the test? Yes, He did. His answer was rhetorical. All of God’s words are equally important. So Jesus said to love Him and love people. In doing these two things, you will walk in all of God’s commandments because:

Love for God = obedience

Love for your neighbor = lawful behavior toward mankind

Jesus’ response to the lawyer points out the weight of the whole Law. He had the same response for satan: “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that procedeeth out of the mouth of God.” Matthew 4:4 – not just some words, but all of them.

Time for a few more abstract terms:

Forgiveness. Have you ever wondered how to forgive someone? It’s not in how you feel about them. It’s how you behave toward them. It’s what you say behind their back; it’s how you treat them to their face.

What is faith? Behaving like you believe. That’s it. Faith manifests itself in action. It is the evidence of things not seen. If there’s no action, there’s no faith. James 2:18 is rhetorical: “shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.” Read the whole chapter to get the big picture.

One more really controversial topic; I will say as little as possible while still making myself clear: homosexuality itself is concrete. If you aren’t sleeping with members of the same sex, then you aren’t a homosexual. If you sleep with a member of the same sex, and then stop again, then you aren’t a homosexual. In fact, we really shouldn’t be using the adjective homosexual to define a person at all. There is homosexuality – that is the noun, the act. For Christians to call another human being a homosexual is for Christianity to buy into the belief that we are born that way and have no say in the matter.

Perhaps you stole a candy bar from the gas station 30 years ago. Do you refer to yourself as a thief for the rest of your life? Perhaps you know the combination to the safe at work. You daydream about making off with the money and retiring to a tropical island. Do you refer to yourself as a thief because of your temptation? No. Thievery is what you do – how you behave. It is an action.

What about a recovering sugar-addict? You may dream about ice cream, donuts, and candy bars all day long. Yet you care more about your health, so you deny yourself sugar. (IMHO, this is the same reason that God told us not to commit homosexuality – because it’s not healthy, and he wanted us to know that it isn’t good for us.) Do you label yourself a sugar addict forever, or do your actions define who you really are?

I’m not saying that we shouldn’t refrain from thinking homosexual thoughts. We should also refrain from fantasizing about burglary, extra-marital sex, vengeance, any number of things. Thoughts lead to action. However, I am worried about all of the kids and teens and even adults out there who are going to start labeling themselves as homosexuals just because an impure thought crossed their mind. We don’t label ourselves fornicators and adulterers at the slightest temptation. Why would we do the same for homosexuality? I’m afraid that these people will buy into the idea that they are “homosexuals” and that their belief will lead to behavior. What do you think?

Again, I know I’ve touched on some highly controversial topics here. I would venture to say that many Christians and many homosexuals will be offended by some of the things I’ve said here today. However, I do want to hear from you. My mind is forever adapting to new information, so I encourage any feedback you may have for me. Let’s just give our best effort to respect each other and keep things civil. 

Believers, Do You Read Your Bible?

Bible-reading: How can I express its importance?

How can I put it into the right words?

What argument can I use to encourage you to pick up this life-giving book?

If you don’t believe it’s all that important, why not? What are the reasons that you allow it to take a backseat to the other priorities in your life? Let’s talk about it and see if we can get to the bottom of the issue here.

I have a few more questions for you, intended to provoke you to action.

How can you claim to believe something you’ve never even read?

How do you know what the Bible says about where we came from, how we are supposed to worship, what obedience entails, and where we are going to end up? If you haven’t read the Bible to glean these answers, then you are merely believing what someone told you. You are choosing a person to trust rather than the Word of God itself.

Is there anything within its pages that would surprise you? How do you know?

Is there hidden treasure inside that might be the answer to the persistent questions or problems in your life? What if you’re missing it?

His words are truth. His instructions are life. Please don’t miss out. That book over there, sitting on the shelf collecting dust – it has the power to change you, but first you have to read it.

photo credit: Theo Crazzolara <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/141324643@N05/32033909876″>Chocolate coins</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;

Is the Sinai Covenant Conditional?

Whenever I am studying a topic, I always like to look at it from all angles. That’s why I enjoy discussions with others who strongly oppose what I believe. It gives me the opportunity to check my own understanding for flaws. I am ever changing, ever conforming to His image in the light of His Word.

“Yea, if thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for understanding; If thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures; Then shalt thou understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God. For the Lord giveth wisdom: out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding.” Proverbs 2:3-6

When I formulate a response to those who believe differently, it is never good enough to look up someone else’s pat answer and then regurgitate that to anyone who argues with me.  I’m not looking for an excuse to continue believing what I already believe. If I’m wrong, I want to open myself to instruction so that the Lord can teach me from His Word. The whole reason I began following Torah is because I discovered some things I had been wrong about. I believe Torah is still true today. Truth itself doesn’t change. Psalm 119:142: “Thy righteousness is an everlasting righteousness, and thy law is the truth.”

A couple weeks ago, an acquaintance of mine brought up some very interesting and well-prepared arguments that are certainly worth consideration. Today, I’d like to address the first of those arguments.

 

Argument #1: “God made a conditional covenant.”

Do we have scripture that supports this? I am not trying to be arrogant, and I may very well be missing something, but I could not find any real basis for this argument. What we do find are some “If…then” statements, explaining what the consequences would be if the children of Israel were either obedient or disobedient. It is the blessings and the curses that are conditional. Those conditions are part of the covenant, not outside of it. Read all of Leviticus 26 for instance. God never says that He won’t keep His covenant. God made a pact with us to bless us when we obey and turn against us when we disobey. When God brings evil upon us, it is in order to turn us back to Him. (God’s redemption in spite of man’s sin is the theme of the entire Word, but we can easily read Isaiah and Jeremiah to see a glimpse of the big picture.) This time of correction is not done in abandonment of the covenant, but in keeping with it. After that time of correction, the covenant still stands: “And yet for all that, when they be in the land of their enemies, I will not cast them away, neither will I abhor them, to destroy them utterly, and to break my covenant with them: for I am the Lord their God. But I will for their sakes remember the covenant of their ancestors, whom I brought forth out of the land of Egypt in the sight of the heathen, that I might be their God: I am the Lord.” Leviticus 26:44&45

If his children forsake my law, and walk not in my judgments; If they break my statutes, and keep not my commandments; Then will I visit their transgression with the rod, and their iniquity with stripes. Nevertheless my lovingkindness will I not utterly take from him, nor suffer my faithfulness to fail. My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips.” Psalm 89:30-34

His covenant with us stands forever, and because we cannot meet the conditions on our own, God Himself provides the way: Jesus Christ – the perfect, obedient Son of God.

Submission – what does it really mean?

Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the savior of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.

Ephesians 5:22-24

What should you do when you feel that your husband isn’t treating you right? Maybe you can sense a reoccurring streak of selfishness, or maybe it’s as bad as a complete disregard for how you feel. Worse than that, perhaps you can see that he is making poor choices or ignoring the mandates set forth in God’s Word. How can you make him understand? The short answer: you can’t. You can try to reason with him; respectfully tell him exactly how you feel. Sometimes your honesty will be enough to make him take a second look at things. But in the long run, you can’t force him to believe differently about something or to behave in a certain way.

How then, should you react? Here’s my advice, although many may not agree. The Bible commands wives to submit to their husbands. I know, I know; it also commands husbands to love their wives as Christ loves the church. That means that your husband should listen to your opinions and give them a lot of weight in his decision-making, right? Well, the truth is, however your husband decides to interpret that verse, it shouldn’t have any impact on the way you interpret the preceding ones. You see, those verses aren’t set up like “if…then” statements. If the husband loves his wife, then the wife submits to her husband. What if your husband isn’t a Christian at all, and gives no thought to the Bible whatsoever? Does that automatically make you the decision-maker of the household? Because your decisions are the right ones? No. Every wife believes her opinions to be the right ones – all the time. The Bible doesn’t say, “Therefore, whosoever is wrong shall submit to whosoever is right.” God has ordained your husband to make family decisions.

The only time you can disobey your husband is if he asks you to sin against God. You cannot force him to act the way you believe God wants him to. I have found that approaching God’s command this way frees me from worry about the effects of my husband’s decisions. I obey God by obeying my husband; everything that happens in my life as a result is God’s responsibility. You see, God will never punish you for obeying him. In fact, the only way you can find His perfect will is to obey Him to the letter – even if you feel that God’s will is being hindered by others in your life. Believe me; He does have the power to perfectly order your life in spite of other humans.

Your only job is to act the way you believe God wants you to act. As a matter of fact, that is everyone’s job, and the sooner we can believe that as a church, the sooner we can begin to examine our own lives, and stop nit-picking the lives of others – either audibly by nagging them, or in our thoughts. Think about a common church service for example. Maybe the pastor is preaching about finding God’s will for your life. Maybe your husband is sitting next to you, and you just know this sermon is exactly what he needs. You speak to him after the service and discover that he thought the message was, “ok.” What? That was a life-changing message! So why isn’t he bubbling over and brainstorming areas in his life that need changing right away? Sometimes – I would venture to say all of the time – what people really need in their lives is an example of godly living. My advice is to apply every Word from God to your own life, whether you are sitting in church or having a quiet Bible study by yourself. So much time is wasted by thinking, “So-and-so really needs to hear this. I wish she were here,” or “I hope he’s paying good attention. This message is for him.” When in reality, God has you sitting under that message on that day for a reason, and I guarantee that that reason is not so you can sit there and think about who else needs to hear it. Am I making sense? Let me bring it down to one sentence:

It is not the words you speak that will change the world, but the example that you set.

Challenge: apply everything you read today to your own life.

Sincerity

A few blog posts back, I wrote about Discipling our Children. I mentioned four characteristics that I think are missing from modern Christianity. Although maybe it’s not just our “progressive society” at fault; perhaps there have always been a majority of lukewarm Christians. It would be kind of hard to tell by looking at historical documents, however, since mediocre believers generally don’t make as big of a splash or leave a legacy behind them. The world-changers are those who are sincere in their faith and willing to do whatever it takes to help the disadvantaged or reach the lost.

The four characteristics I mentioned were:

1. Sincerity

2. Obedience

3. Discipline

4. Compassion

So today I want to address sincerity. What is sincerity? According to Merriam-Webster.com, sincerity is “the quality or state of being sincere: honesty of mind: freedom from hypocrisy”. And the word sincere means “having or showing true feelings that are expressed in an honest way: genuine or real: not false, fake, or pretended”.

You might ask, what is honesty of mind? I think that means that you are honest with yourself. You aren’t trying to rationalize or make yourself feel a certain way in spite of what you believe is right. In other words, you aren’t trying to get by with behaving a certain way, all the while soothing your own conscience in order to sleep at night.

Freedom from hypocrisy, what does that mean? I really like this definition. It means we don’t believe or speak one way and act another. In other words, if you go around preaching tolerance, but cannot tolerate the intolerant, you are being a hypocrite. Either you don’t really believe what you are preaching in the first place, or you are offending your own conscience every time you fail to live up to your own standards. (This is not an argument supporting the whole tolerance movement, by the way. Rather, it is an argument against it. There are obviously some things we should not tolerate, but that is an issue for another post.)

How else can we apply sincerity to our own lives? Where do we find a lack of sincerity in the Christian realm?

Are we sincere in our belief? Do we really believe there is a Creator out there that loves us, watches out for us, gives us what we need, and provides a way of salvation? The first, immediate response would be, of course! We’re Christians, aren’t we? But then, if we truly believe that He has our best interests in mind, why do we have so much trouble obeying? Why do we think that our situation is the exception to the rule? Well, I know I’m not supposed to gossip, but… Or, I know I’m not supposed to watch this or go here or do that, but I really want to. It can’t hurt me that much…

I propose that the more obedient we are, the happier we will be. The more rebellious we are, the more miserable we will become over time. The most miserable people I know are those who have made a habit out of making poor choices. They make those choices because they just want to experience a moment of fun or laziness or danger. But one minute of sexual promiscuity, drunkenness, violence, driving recklessly, quitting a job, or yes, even gossip, can be life-changing. Think about the saddest person you know. How did they get that way?

Are we sincere in our trust? We say we trust Him with our eternity, but why do we fear death if that’s true? And if you can trust Him with forever, why can’t you trust Him right this very minute? Trust Him with your job situation or your relationship that’s falling apart. Trust Him with your health and your finances, all the while acting in obedience to His will. If you truly trust Him, you will find that you have no fear. You won’t fear people, situations, or the future.

What kind of Christian are you? Are you sincere? There is one way to tell:

Ye shall know them by their fruits.    ~ Matthew 7:16

Discipling our Children

Bible ReadingWe need a mature mindset when it comes to disciplining ourselves and the little people we are responsible for (our children). Somehow, we find no problems saying, Yes, you HAVE to eat your vegetables, you HAVE to brush your teeth, you HAVE to share, HAVE to apologize. These things are non-negotiable. We parents realize that we are responsible for our children’s health and attitudes in their youth, with the goal of cultivating life-long responsibility in our kids. Why is it then, that we have such difficulty in helping our children develop habits such as daily Bible-reading, prayer, worship, and thankfulness? What about teaching them to discipline themselves through occasional but regular periods of fasting, even if it’s only for one meal? What about charitable giving? Volunteering? Reaching out to others? Shouldn’t we make these things a regular part of their lives so that they will have some clue as to how to function as real Christians?

What do I mean by real Christians? The word Christian is an old one, and originally it meant “little Christs.” It may have even been a derogatory term when it was used by the citizens of Antioch to label followers of Christ. I’d like to think that Christians earned this term because of their adherence to a lifestyle that mimicked Christ’s. Therefore, I maintain that Christianity should be more than just a belief. More than just an acceptance of the Gospel. True, our works don’t get us into heaven, and the definition of the word “Christian” has changed over time, but our belief and acceptance should be made obvious by the changes that salvation works in us.

You might argue that your children haven’t personally accepted Christ yet, and that’s okay, I get that. But the goal is to direct them to seek out the true God and develop a relationship with Him. There’s nothing wrong with running your household in a way that presupposes their eventual acceptance. Even if your children never accept Him and grow up thinking you’re a crazy fanatic, there’s certainly nothing wrong with teaching them to love people and sincerely seek the truth.

Even for parents who have no qualms with “pushing” their religion onto their kids, many still fail to instill Christian discipline in their offspring. I think one of the main reasons is this: we refuse to discipline ourselves and therefore feel like hypocrites when we require them to read their Bibles, etc. If we demand that our kids return the candy bar they stole, yet we ourselves cheat on our taxes, what does that say about us? How can we pass on traits such as sharing, self-discipline, fasting, etc. if we can’t be bothered with these things in our own lives? Well, I only have one answer for that – seek discipline in your own life and set the example. But being an example isn’t enough; we need to help our kids practice for a lifetime of Christianity.

None of us are perfect, and we’re going to fail – a lot – but that doesn’t excuse us from trying our best. You expect a good effort from your kids on all sorts of things – keeping their rooms clean, obedience, education. Expect the best from yourself while you’re at it.

Anyway, rant over.

Here are a few things I find lacking in Christian society today:

1. Sincerity

2. Discipline

3. Obedience

4. Compassion

I have a few thoughts about each, but I will save them for another post.

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Consistency & Boundaries, Guest Post

CONSISTENCY & BOUNDARIES:

Two Absolute Necessities For Guiding Your Child’s Behavior

by Eileen von Seckendorff

Amy asked me if I would be willing to share some of my own experiences and observations on the subject of discipline. It should be noted emphatically that I am not an expert in child rearing or in child psychology and as a parent I am constantly reminded of how much more I need to learn and grow. I also know there are no guarantees. I’ve seen “good” kids go bad and kids whose parents gave up on them turn out amazingly well. That said, I believe that children who grow up in a loving and consistent home stand a much better chance of having a successful and happy life. That’s not to say that there won’t be trials, hard times, and bad choices at times, but hopefully they will have the tools they need to persevere, evaluate their options, and make better choices in the future.

When I was growing up there was a complete lack of consistency in our home. I don’t blame my parents at all. They did the best they could raising ten kids in their situation and I don’t think I could’ve accomplished half as much as they did if I had been in their shoes. The fact remained, you never knew what to expect. The same infraction could be a huge deal or not, depending on the climate in the home on any given day. Not knowing the consequences or even the severity of an action ahead of time added a huge fear factor to us as kids. That fear led to panic which led to lying which led to all sorts of problems which could have been avoided.

If that wasn’t confusing enough, the rules we did have did not necessarily apply to everyone equally. For instance, let’s say my little sister did something we weren’t allowed to do and I got blamed for it (which NEVER happened). Even if I could prove my little sister did it, I was told that I was still responsible because I was the older sister. That may make sense to a Mom, but to me the message was clear; I was responsible for my own actions and hers and she wasn’t responsible for anything. Not only was that not fair, it could easily have led to bitterness and resentment between us and caused countless other problems.

It has been said that when a child does something wrong, their actions usually fall into one of three categories: Disobedience, Disrespect, or Irresponsibility and there are three easy solutions. If they are disobedient, they need to obey. If they are disrespectful, they need to show respect, and if they are irresponsible, they need to assume the responsibility. My husband and I have really taken this to heart and have had this at the core of our home discipline.

  1. If a child was told to clean their room and they didn’t, that’s disobedience. I would tell them they had to obey and then I would sit in their room while they cleaned it. Did that kill my afternoon plans? Maybe, but they eventually learned that our rules are not multiple choice and that next time it would just be faster and easier to clean it on their own. (When they were really small, I did not expect them to clean their own rooms by themselves, but I did expect them to help Mommy while I cleaned it.)  
  2. If a child was mean or rude to someone, that’s disrespect. I would have them apologize and be nice to that person. 
  3. If a child spilled a drink, that’s not disobedience or disrespect (unless they were throwing it at someone), it’s irresponsibility. I would tell them accidents happen, give them a hug, and have them clean it up (or help me clean it up if they were little). This is a biggie. If they know they’re going to have to clean up all their own messes, the number of messes will decrease dramatically.

If your children are anything like I was as a kid, their infractions will involve a combination of the above. For instance, I knew I wasn’t supposed to play with my older sister’s record player. I also knew if I did, someone might hear me and I would be busted, but I was so fascinated with it I just couldn’t leave it alone. My solution? Put a record on it, put the needle down, and manually spin it as fast as I could to see if I could still hear it making music. I could! I was so excited
…until my sister found her record all scratched up and told Mom.

  1. I disobeyed. I needed to say I was sorry, and recognize that I did not have the right to play with other people’s things without permission.
  2. When confronted, I got sassy about it. That’s disrespectful. I needed to be reminded that I shouldn’t speak to my mother that way, and told to apologize for it. (If I refused, that would’ve been disobedience again).
  3. I damaged my sister’s record. That’s irresponsibility. If I didn’t have the money to pay to replace the album, then I should’ve been given some work to do around the house to make the money so I could assume the responsibility and pay her back. Odds are, if I’d had to pay for the album, I would’ve been less likely to do that kind of damage again.

Bottom line: If there are no consequences for bad behavior, there’s no incentive to avoid it.

I’ve also found that there are some times when apologizing alone for disobedience is not enough. Kids need to learn that their actions have consequences (whether it’s a time out, or a loss of privileges, or a grounding, or a spanking ~ whatever you choose). They also need to know that it doesn’t just apply to kids, that adults can get punished too. (i.e, If I get a traffic ticket, it’s going to cost me money … even if I’m sorry.) Once they realize that consequences are something that follow you throughout your whole life, their perspective will change.

I think the most important part of all of this is that you take your time in deciding the consequences. Never decide on or impose punishment when you’re angry, and be consistent in enforcing the rules. My kids have known since their first driving lessons that if they get a traffic ticket, they will have to pay the fine and they will lose driving privileges for a time (how much time will depend on how far over the speed limit they were traveling). They know what to expect and are not fearful of Mom or Dad “losing it” and grounding them ‘til they’re 70.

I think the second most important part of this is being approachable. I’ve always told my children that they can communicate anything to us (they can even tell us we’re bad parents), as long as they do it respectfully (no “I hate you!”s, or lashing out angrily). If we tell them to do something, they know they should never answer with “but…”, because that sounds argumentative. I’ve told them to always say yes sir or yes ma’am first (so we know they’re willing to obey) and then they can ask their questions or bring up their objections for discussion. Along with that, we need to clearly communicate not only what the rules are, but why they’re important. That may seem obvious to you and me, but it’s not always obvious to kids. There are plenty of kids out there who think that their parents are just mean (because they do not understand why they’re being punished) and that if they just ran away from home, they wouldn’t have to deal with stupid rules any more. I can think of countless stories of teenagers who’ve had it with their parents telling them where to go and what to do all the time … so they left home and joined the Army. They eventually learned why discipline and hard work were important, but they learned it the hard way. Help your kids to understand why the rules are important and that your actions are done out of love and concern for who they are now and who they grow up to be.

That’s pretty much all I have to share. Are these good principles? Yes. Is it easy to be calm, consistent, and disciplined as a parent? No. Will I mess up? Daily, but when I do I admit it to the kids. It’s important for them to see that we all struggle to do the right thing and that we all fail at times. With lots of prayer, and guidance from the Lord, I find the strength to get back up and try again and I try to teach them to do the same.

I hope you’ve found something helpful in all of this and I wish all the best for you and your family.

Eileen