THE CHRISTIAN HOME: by Shirley Rice 1965
A Woman's View
The 'Wednesday Class' just grew like Topsy. It began with a core of about twenty five women in the Tabernacle Church of Norfolk meeting to study what the Word of God had to say about marriage and child rearing. It quickly mushroomed into a group of two to three hundred women, gathering from many different churches in Norfolk, Virginia, and vicinity, and representing just about every denomination.
Each week the class was preceded by half an hour of informal fellowship over coffee and cookies. Following this period the women gathered in the church auditorium for a "sharing time" under the direction of the pastor's wife, Mrs. Mary Alice Dunlap. In this quarter hour the women shared their lives in Christ with each other, and each week we saw the Holy Spirit weave the sharing and music together into a unit with the lesson which followed.
We can only say that God chose to do a unique thing in the class as the women fellowshipped around the person of Jesus Christ, united in their love for Him and for each other. Lives were changed, and homes were changed, as the women bent their hearts in obedience to the teaching of the Word of God.
Guest speakers were used occasionally as they were available. And far from interrupting the continuity of the lessons, they were in perfect harmony with the whole study, proving again that the endeavor was under the authority of the Spirit of God, exalting Jesus Christ and making known once again the unity of the Body of Christ.
The notes of the class were mimeographed each week, so that they could be taken home, studied, and mailed to friends. The lessons were also taped and distributed from the Tabernacle Church Taped Sermon Service to other groups of women. These tapes are still being circulated quite widely.
The class also included a third view, a series of six lessons on "Physical Unity in Marriage," which are not in this volume. They have been bound separately for those who especially wish to study them.
Mrs. Shirley Rice
THE OVERVIEW: A Survey
1. Our Need and God's Provision...
THE FIRST VIEW: The Husband Wife Relationship
2. The Husband Wife Relationship, an Overview 7
3. Walking in Love 13
4. Difficulties in the Walk of Love 21
5. Submission 27
6. Limits in Submission 36
7. Communication 43
8. Women's Moods 49
9. The Atmosphere of the Home 65
10. Achieving a Calm and Gentle Spirit 59
THE SECOND VIEW: Christian Education in the Home
11. The Family Altar 69
12. Spiritual Goals for the Child 77
13. The Child's Two Needs: Love and Discipline 85
14 Discipline 93
15. Homework Hysteria 97
16. Training Children Ages One to Six 107
17. Training Children Ages Seven to Twelve 115
18. Understanding the Teenager 121
Guides for the Dating Years:
19. The Standard of Purity 129
20. Purpose and Method of Dating 135
21. Some Definite Rules 143
22. TV, Movies and Literature for Our Children 147
THE THIRD VIEW: Physical Unity in Marriage
(Not included in this volume)
THE CHRISTIAN HOME
Lesson 1 back to table of contents
A SURVEY OF OUR NEED AND GOD'S PROVISION
We have used this song as our theme song this year, asking the Lord to make it very real in our lives. We do not sing it as a smug request that "God will bless us, and be good to us, and not let anything bad happen to us." We are looking beyond the superficial meaning of the words to a deeper meaning. We have the intention of yielding our homes to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. When we ask Him to keep want and trouble out of them, we are thinking of spiritual want: the lack of love, the lack of joy, of patience, of peace. When we think of trouble, we are asking Him to keep our homes free from real trouble: materialism, unbelief, indifference to the voice of God. We are asking Him to so fill our homes with His presence that we will be able to go into His presence quite naturally some day. We have been with Him all the time.
Bless This House
Bless this house, O Lord, we pray, Make it safe by night and day; Bless these walls, so firm and stout, Keeping want and trouble out; Bless the roof and chimney tall, Let Thy peace lie over all; Bless this door, that it may prove Ever open to joy and love.
Bless these windows shining bright, Letting in God's heavenly light. Bless the hearth a blazing there, With smoke ascending like a prayer; Bless the folk who dwell therein, Keep them pure and free from sin; Bless us all that we may be Fit, O Lord, to dwell with Thee; Bless us all that one day we May dwell, O Lord, with Thee.
Words by Helen Taylor
Many have requested that we study the Christian Home again, and since I had such a need for a fresh study of it myself, I felt the Lord would have us go into it again this year. Because the marriage relationship is a living, growing, changing, maturing thing, I see new vistas of completion and happiness in it for us, things I did not see two years ago, and I would like to explore them with you this winter. I see newer and deeper responsibilities for myself as a mother, and as I have a new vision of them, I am more aware of my inadequacy.
Perhaps some of you may be here today with a reluctance in your heart to begin to probe into your lacks and shortcomings as wives and mothers again. Most of you know your needs as well as I do, and you're tired of hearing about them. After last year, you have had enough of discipline, and you aren't having any this year. I don't blame you. I felt that way about it myself. But in facing my discouragement at the prospect of another overhaul on myself, God began to show me over and over again an old truth in many news ways— simply this —God loves me. He is my Father and I am His child, and He has never yet demanded anything of me that He did not with it give me the power to do it.
His love has made provision for all our needs. He does not drive us with a whip; he draws us with cords of love. So unwind, and let us not begin our study with clenched hands and tightened lips in determination to do or die. Let's relax in the power of His love to do in us all that He desires of us as wives and mothers. Give yourself to Him in love and let your motive be simply to please Him through the whole study this year. Because we love Him, we will search His Word to see what He wants us to do, and to see if we can begin to fathom all the beauty He has waiting for us if we will bring listening, willing hearts week after week.
For this lesson we will make a broad survey of our general needs in the home and what God in love has supplied to meet those needs.
Isaiah 5:1 4. This refers to Israel as the vineyard of God (verse 7), but this is also for us. John 15:1 13 gives us the same picture.
Notice in John 15 His first provision for us, His life in us. We can never meet His goals for our marriage in ourselves. This sort of love He demands is impossible in our own capacities. But it does not depend on us; this is His life. We have been grafted into the Vine, and the branch draws its life from the vine. It cannot act independently
Our Need and God's Provision
Notice through the chapter, His provision for us: His love. His joy, His peace (John 14:27). Notice verse 7 of John 15. What is it you want in your marriage? For your children? You may have it if you will meet the conditions in verse 7. He may change what you want. But He will give you the desires of your heart if you abide in Him, and His Word abides in you.
Now, back to Isaiah 5. Notice that He fenced the vineyard with care. He rooted out stones, which would spoil the fertility of the soil. He planted it in a fertile hill (Ephesians 3:16 20). He made a lookout tower in the middle of it. He is our tower (Psalm 18:2 and 61:3; Proverbs l8:l0).
Notice that he made a wine vat. He expected fruit. He would use it to pour out the life of the vine to others. The wine vat was carved in the rock, and He is our Rock. We need to be crushed in order for our fruit to make wine for the needs of others. We do not like to be crushed. We would not mind so much if He would do it Himself, but He uses some person or some circumstance to which we said we would never submit to do the crushing. No matter whose feet may tread on you to crush you, remember that it is the Rock who holds you. It is He all the time.
What is the fruit He expected? Love, Joy, Peace, Long suffering, Gentleness, Goodness, Faith, Meekness, self-control Galatians 5:22 23). But then He said, "Wherefore when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes?" What are the wild grapes?
I. MATERIALISM. Isaiah 5:8 9. Was their sin that they owned much real estate? No; their sin was that this was their purpose in life, the acquiring of possessions and more possessions.
The sin of America is not that it has the highest standard of living in the world, but that this has become its purpose in living. While half the world goes to bed hungry, we go to bed on full stomachs and lie awake to worry about meeting the payments on that second car, the TV, the freezer, the wall to wall carpet. It takes two incomes to meet the "needs" and soon Mother goes to work, too, to supply them. What we have here is a materialism that teaches the child that a man's life consists in the number of things he possesses.
The "Report of Youth Conference," Woman's Day magazine, October 1960, revealed candid comments by a group of young people who represented their generation at this year's White House Conference on Children and Youth:
"The indifference of our generation comes from parental indifference—and devotion to Things."
"Making financial success and pleasure major goals leads to emotional starvation."
"We are looking for: something to give our lives to . . ."
"Parents put a tremendous pressure on us to succeed. They always expect us to win. The pressure builds up and soon all you can think of is success." One girl said, "I've heard girls call their parents from college and ask to go home for a weekend. Parents refuse with, 'What do you want to come home for?' as though the idea of anybody wanting to come home was beyond them. They are too busy for their children. Mothers wear themselves out working or stretching themselves to buy things for the children, and expect them to show their appreciation by getting better marks, or being class president. They don't seem to know that children want their interest, not their money."
A boy said, "Where do you get understanding and love? Let's face it, the family is on the way out. The community is your family. There are no more close relationships. Yesterday in my work group, a girl asked, 'How can women stop this trend?' and I said, 'By staying home and making the family feel that they are worth her time and trouble.' And she said, ' How can you expect a woman to sit home all day?' I guess you can't. It's just not important any more. It's only important to have what you can buy."
You say this does not concern you —you stay home and care for your children. Listen, all the materialistic mothers aren't working. There are mothers here today who work and they are not materialistic. And there are women here who never leave their children, even for a needed day off, and they are swallowed up in materialism. Discontent eats at them, as they dust their furniture and wish for other furniture, or vacuum the rug and wish for wall to wall carpeting. Or if this is not true, they sit down to figure out the bills and seethe with resentment that there is never quite enough. Somehow when their husband comes home it's all his fault.
The child learns the same lesson: Things are very important, more important than the Word of God, which says: "And having food and raiment, let us be therewith content." I Timothy 6:8. "Take no thought for the morrow: what ye shall put on, what ye shall eat. Your Father knoweth that ye have need of these things." Matthew 6:25 34.
Isaiah 5:9 says "Many houses shall be desolate, great and fair, without inhabitant." The years will go by, and you will gain your material security, but your children will be grown and gone, and you will never have known them.
II. SELF INDULGENCE. Isaiah 5:11 12. Here we see pursuit of pleasure, self indulgence, and disregard for God's claim on their lives.
This is a picture of dissipation, but it represents more than that. It represents parents who can find time for everything they want to do, buy can find no time to search. the Word of God for guidance in rearing the children. They have time for newspapers, TV, magazines, but no time to pray. Sleeping in on Sunday is more important than taking the children to church. Self indulgence!
III. IGNORANCE. Isaiah 5:13. This shows ignorance of God's will and purpose for us as parents.
Some are ignorant of the fact that He has anything to say about it at all. Others are well instructed but can't be bothered to obey.
When America was an infant nation, the Word of God was taught in the home and in the school. Today, when it is a forgotten book, we are rearing children who will be the leaders of our nation, but they will be famished men, famished for the bread of life. It is a generation of children with a thirst for something, but they know not what. They can only voice the hunger wistfully, "We are looking for something to give our lives to." See John 4:13 14.
IV. SIN OF UNBELIEF. Isaiah 5:18 19. This is the sin of unbelief which persists in its own ways, clinging to its sin, and scoffs at God's intervention.
This is not only the sin of the person without God, but the sin also of the Christian, who continues to sin again and again against the light he has had on the Word. He does not really believe that he will have to give account to God some day for it.
This is the sin of the mother who really intends to come to grips some day with God's commands for personal holiness and His demands for the Christian education of her children. I Somehow she never gets around to making a beginning.
V. MORAL CONFUSION. Isaiah 5:20 and 22. This is moral confusion which cannot distinguish between good and evil.
We live in a generation where cheating is considered part of the game by students who practice it and by faculty members who tolerate it. Forty percent of our college students admit to cheating with little or no apology or sense of wrong doing. One third of our captured men collaborated with the enemy during the Korean war. The newspaper speaks again today of the TV scandals, but still many, many of the people involved and many quizzed about it cannot see that this was evil.
We have a creed of conformity if most of the people do it, it must be all right. No one takes any blame on himself It is always society, Congress, employers, unloving parents, lack of money, environment—someone or something else is always to blame. Anything goes if it is expedient.
Even the Christian cannot discern between the voice of the devil and the voice of God!
IV. PRIDE. Isaiah 5:21. This is pride in man's wisdom which acts without reference to God.
The wisdom which is from above makes too many demands. It is peaceable, pure, without hypocrisy. We prefer to ignore it, for now we are down to the core of the matter: self. However it may work, it comes from one core, my claim to my right to myself
This is a discouraging picture, but God's Word has clear guidance and instruction for our daily walk, for our marriages, for our children. Our need is great, but His provision is as great as our need. With His help we will learn to avail ourselves of it.
Without Thy numberless blessings, Lord, Wrought by Thy grace in love outpoured, My life would impotent, barren be. Oh, stay not Thy blessed touch from me.
So as the Branch in the vine cloth live, Fed by the vine, its food to give, So may the blessings of life in Thee Be shared by Thine own to magnify Thee.
Refrain: Surely a negligent, sin laden heart Can keep Thy child and Thy blessing apart. Thou source of all light, Keep my soul armored bright, That blessing may constantly flow to me. Written and sung at the class by Mary Alice Dunlap
Lesson 2 back to table of contents
THE HUSBAND—WIFE RELATIONSHIP
I have been thinking about marriage this week, and have decided that the amazing thing is not that so many marriages fall apart, but that so many of them hang together.
You know how it is when you have company for a long period of time — perhaps someone you enjoy very much, or even relatives whom you love dearly — isn't it nice to be alone again, and get back into your old familiar family routine? Or have you visited somewhere, or vacationed, and enjoyed yourself thoroughly, but wasn't it nice to be home? We love our routines.
Marriage is a complete upheaval of the settled routines of two adults. And it goes on and on! There is no going back. Here is where so many marriages break down —the individuals involved keep looking back over their shoulders at the beloved personal freedom they had before and are unwilling to make the permanent adjustments that will be necessary for the two to live in harmony.
A man and a woman perhaps come from radically different backgrounds. He is from a large, rollicking family with easygoing, untidy ways, and a very relaxed sort of discipline. She is from a small family of reserved people, where sternness, neatness and discipline are the order of the day, and the members of the family do not openly show their affection for each other. Now these two have decided to spend the rest of their lives together! They are going to share the same bed, use the same bathtub and the same tube of toothpaste. This small, neat girl who has always had her own small, neat bed and who always sleeps on her right side finds herself sharing a bed with a person twice her size who is used to fighting for the blankets with a younger brother. So he revolves like a windmill all night, winding the blankets tighter and tighter around himself He leaves a nonchalant trail of dirty clothes behind him on his way to the shower and leaves the towel in a wet heap on the bathroom floor. He squeezes the toothpaste from the middle, too. He wants pancakes and sausage, cereal and fruit, and coffee for breakfast! He wakes up wide awake with a zest for living. She has never eaten anything but toast, coffee, and orange juice, because she can't even focus her eyes until 10 AM.
Well, it won't be a nice visit and then he'll go home—this is for keeps. They have to live together. It isn't so bad at first, because she has read that people get married and live happily ever after. She is riding on a pink cloud, and she carries on happy little illusions for a while. When you were first married, did you wait until your husband was asleep, then sneak out of bed to put your hair up in pincurls and sleep with one eye open the rest of the night so you could wake up before he did, get it down and combed, put your make up on, and be lying there — a fresh cut rose—when he woke up? Well, she does, and she freezes all night when he snatches the blankets. She picks up the dirty clothes and the wet towels. But all this can be exhausting, so one morning she oversleeps. He wakes up first and the jig is up! There she is, pincurls and all, and no make up! The look on his face is interesting to see. She' tries to focus her eyes through sleepy eyelashes. "Why does he look at me like that?" Then she remembers and claps a hand to her pincurls. The first stirrings of resentment she has ever felt against this noble creature she has married begin to rise within her. "Does he think he looks so wonderful lying on his back with his mouth open, snoring?" Suddenly she realizes he has some faults. He grabs the blankets; he leaves his clothes on the floor; he never picks up a towel; he squeezes the toothpaste from the middle! Furthermore, he eats an uncivilized breakfast, and it is grossly unfair to expect her to cook it!
The seeds of disillusionment and resentment are sown, and there is emotional immaturity on the part of each of them. This crucial period of adjustment begins to reflect itself in hurt and irritation over the slightest things. Soon the happy, extroverted husband begins to wonder, "Where is the lovely girl I married? She looks grim so much of the time. Look at her over there cleaning my ring out of the bathtub—she looks unhappy!" And she, bewildered little introvert, is thinking, "Look at him! Doesn't he see I'm working my fingers to the bone cleaning up after him? He can't love me. I've married a brute!" But they don't talk each other about it, and of course they have their happy times — they are in love!
But the root of bitterness has sprung up, and there is secret disillusionment in each heart: marriage is not what they had thought it would be. Their differences go much deeper than the surface irritations mentioned, but they don't look deeper. It is not so frightening if you blame it on squeezing the toothpaste in the middle.
Today we are going to begin to examine, in this order:
I. God's idea of the husband wife relationship and how we measure up to it.
II. What the root of our trouble is.
III. How to attain the ideal husband wife relationship.
There are many different kinds of marriages here today. Some are united marriages, where both husband and wife are Christians trying to please the Lord. Some are so called "Christian" marriages, but the couple have never really examined what God's idea of marriage is and so are living in a sort of truce. They aren't miserabIe, but they aren't happy either. Some are so called "Christian" marriages which look very nice on the surface, but underneath there is bitterness, bickering, heartache. Some are marriages where the wife is a Christian and would like to live up to God's idea of marriage, but the husband is not a Christian and will not cooperate. Other marriages represented here are broken. Some are ready to break. Some are in such a mess that you really don't know why you're here—yours has had it!
Please stay with us. If you do not understand some of what you hear, or it if is all new to you and sounds impossible, stick with it and give yourself a chance. Don't give up on the first lessons. See it through. I promise you that if you will open your heart to it—if you can go as far as saying, "God help me. Help me to see and recognize my need, to understand what your Word has to say about it, and to obey it when I see it" — if you will go that far, God will begin to work a miracle in your life.
If your marriage is in good shape and you don't need any help, you stay anyway. There is always more to learn. You can pray for others in the class whose need is greater than yours. It will be good for you to hear the A B C 's again.
I. GOD'S IDEA OF THE HUSBAND WIFE RELATIONSHIP
Marriage is an institution of God. Genesis 2:18 25 (Berkeley Version). Notice in this scripture portion that marriage is:
1. Turning from one way of life to committal to another way of life. Father and mother are to be left. All that life has been, the familiar family routine, is to be put behind, and a new life together taken up. This is so often where the trouble begins; the way of life we have known is what we feel we must impose on the partner.
If one has not liked the way of life he has had up to the marriage, often his defenses are up against any repetition of it in his marriage. He often goes to extremes in the opposite direction.
It is a turning from a way of life where one has always received to a way of life where one must always give — from a way of life where your world centered around yourself to a way of life where your world must center around another.
2. It is turning from all others to committal to one person. "I, Shirley, take thee, Don. . . and forsaking all others, cleave only to thee, as long as we both shall live."
3. It is a deliberate choice: you choose to commit yourself. In so doing, you deliberately join your destiny to another and lay yourself open to hurts and burdens and responsibilities that would not be yours otherwise. But you also make yourself eligible for joy and fulfillmentt that could not come to you outside this relationship.
II. GOD'S ILLUSTRATION OF IDEAL MARRIAGE
Marriage is likened to the relationship between God and the believer all through scripture. In the Old Testament, He likens Himself to the Husband and Israel to the wife (Hosea). In the New Testament, He calls Himself the Bridegroom; His Church, the bride (Ephesians 5). Individually He likens marriage to Christ and the believer (2 Corinthians 11:2).
Note that' the Christian life is parallel to marriage:
1. The Christian life is a turning from one way of life to complete committal to a new way of life. Whereas God may have had a portion of your life, you have been the center of it. This isturned about—God becomes the center of your life,and all else is related to Him.
2. It is a turning from all others to committal to a person, Jesus Christ. "I, Shirley, take thee, Christ . . . " It is more than a general acknowledgement of God. In John 14:6 Jesus said, "I am the way the truth, and the life. No man cometh unto the Father but by me."
3. It is a deliberate choice. It involves your will. You choose to make Jesus Christ the Lord of your life. In so doing you lay yourself open to the chastening and correction of the Heavenly Father. But you also lay yourself open to a world of joy and peace and satisfaction that you will not begin to fathom until the choice is made. You have a new capacity — all that He is, you can be. Ephesians 3:1 6 20.
What you achieve in this course depends on your relationship to Christ. If.you do not have a satisfactory relationship with Him, open your heart now and begin achieving one.
III. THE WIFE'S RESPONSIBILITY IN THIS RELATIONSHIP Ephesians 5:22 23 (Read in Phillips' translation.)
The wife's love must resemble her love for Christ. Draw a parallel between the two relationships. Whatever can be applied to your relationship to Christ can be applied to your relationship to your husband:
1. Love for Christ must grow. As we walk with the Lord we love Him more. Love for our husbands must grow we walk together. Your love for Christ has a direct influence on your love for your husband. The more you love the Lord, the more you love your husband.
2. We must seek to know the Lord. Philippians 3:8 (Amplified) Do you seek to know your husband?
3. We must submit ourselves to the Lord. We must submit ourselves to our husbands, lovingly, willingly, from the heart.
4.We must allow nothing to come between us. Verse 31 —one flesh. Genesis 2:35—nakedness of soul before the Lords, nakedness of soul before husband.
5.We must reverence our husbands. Verse 33 (Amplified)
Obviously there is a love. involved in this marriage relationship that is beyond us. Next week we will begin to study this love and how we may attain it.
Lesson 3 back to table of contents
WALKING IN LOVE
Last week we ended on the calm command of the Word of God that the wife "See that she respects and reverences her husband — that she notices him, regards him, honors him, prefers him, venerates and esteems him; and that she defers to him, praises him, and loves and admires him exceedingly." Ephesians 5:33 (Amplified).
This sets a goal beyond our capacity, demands a love beyond the purest of human loves. It is the love of Christ Himself, and this is why you cannot achieve it on your own without Him. '
Remember the first lesson, when we talked of Him as the Vine, and of us as the branches? As we abide Him, His life flows through us, just as the life of the vine flows through the branches. As we abide in Him, we yield the fruit of the Spirit—love, joy peace.....All the fruit of the Spirit that we talked about—love, joy, peace, gentleness, longsuffering, goodness, faith, meekness, self control — is really one fruit.
It is the full fruit of Love.
Dr. Donald Grey Barnhouse expressed it this way:
"Joy is love singing.
Peace is love resting.
Longsuffering is love enduring.
Gentleness is love's touch.
Goodness is love's character.
Faithfulness is love's habit.
Meekness is love's self forgetfulness.
Self control is love holding the reins."
So the love of Christ is the life of Christ, flowing to us and through us as we abide in Him.
We women want to be loved and cherished. We are not unique in this respect. A psychiatrist will tell you that this is a basic human need, from the smallest baby to the oldest of us. We have to be loved, and we have to be needed. They will tell you, too, that if you have never been loved it will be difficult, even impossible, for you to give love to someone else.
We go through life with this hunger, and so we get married, thinking that at last our need for love will find fulfillment. Things are shiny for a while, but then the old unrest begins to stir. The glamour wears off, and you begin to realize that there is still an emptiness inside you that this relationship has not filled either. The need you thought you had quieted, the questioning, the seeking is still not answered, even in marriage. Many people at this point begin to look for the fulfillment they want outside their marriage bonds. They think it is not marriage, but this particular person, who has failed them. "Someday, somewhere, I'll find it—my great love."
If you do not do that, you settle down to the daily skirmish for love, trying somehow to wring it out of the one you married. We try all sorts of methods to get the attention we crave. Sometimes our aches and pains have this at their root, the desire to be cherished, cared for. Sometimes we have babies for this reason. It is nice to be special for at least nine months once in a while. Sometimes when the children come, this only adds to the competition — now you have to compete with them for your husband's attention.
All that is really the matter is that you need to be loved, in a way that will still the seeking in your heart. You need to give love, but you have none to give. Your own need is too great.
The Word of God tells us (I John 4) that we are not really capable of loving at all until we are loved of God. We are capable of human love, even of a high and pure form of human love. But the love described in the Word of God is an absolutely selfless love, and we have no capacity for it at all until we have been loved of God.
We were designed to fellowship with God and to find our happiness in Him. He wanted us to be united to Him freely and voluntarily in love and communion, and in order to achieve this He had to give us free wills, so we could choose to love Him or not. The love of a puppet is not worth having. So He made us with free wills, and ever since then man has been trying to find his happiness somewhere outside God. Out of this has come the whole fantastic mess the world is in — greed, poverty, war, ambition, sin...the long story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy.
But the hunger is there, and it is hunger for the lost fellowship with God. It is in us all, and in you, though you may not recognize it. That is why a psychiatrist will tell you that every human being has to be loved. He may tell you that, and may understand that, but he has the same hunger himself, and he can never satisfy it with anything less than a deep drink from the source of all love, the love of Christ.
Once you have been loved by God, you are loved completely and you do not need to grasp any more. His love fills and surrounds you and flows over easily to husband and children to fill their needs. They need to be loved with His love.
Now I said "once you have been loved by God." But you must allow Him to love you. This is the place you must come. You are, of course, your own worst enemy. You cannot be loved of Him until you come to the foot of the cross, and in a moment of blinding clarity realize what took place there— God's perfect love and God's perfect justice meeting and clasping hands at the cross of Christ. Man in his stubborn self will had lost his right to fellowship with God, and God, looking down, loved him even in his sin, had compassion on him, and made the way back to Himself for man. When you can come to the place where you can lay down your rights to yourself at the foot of that cross and say, "Not my will, but Thine," bring your empty heart in your empty hands, and He will fill it. Miraculously, His love will flow into your life and begin to fill all the empty places, as the tide comes up into all the little hollows of the beach. "Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God!" (I John 3:1)
Then I John 4:11 says, "Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another." This love now becomes the motive for all our actions. Paul says in II Corinthians 5:14, "The love of Christ constraineth us—impels us." The Phillips translation put it: "The very spring of our actions is the love of Christ." You have a new capacity. You become identified with Him in His love for all men. You no longer look at any individual from your viewpoint but from God's viewpoint. The Wuest translation makes II Corinthians 5:14 16 read something like this: "For the love which Christ has for me presses on me from all sides, holding me in tenderness, giving me an impelling motive, having brought me to this conclusion, that one died in behalf of all in order that those who are living no longer are living for themselves, but for the one who died in their behalf. So that from this time onward, not even one individual do we know as judged upon the basis of human standards."
You have become identified with God's interest in and God's attitude toward your husband. You have tapped the limitless source of His love. It is waiting to flow through you, pressing in on you from all sides, wrapping itself around you in tenderness.
One thing will stop its flow — SELF. You, rising to claim your rights; your will rising in opposition to His will. We have now come to I Corinthians 13, and Paul gets down to brass tacks with the demands of this love. Notice how every requisite of this love labors against "self" and its rights in you. I have taken I Corinthians 13:4 8 and looked it up in several modern translations to clarify the meaning for us. The various translations are noted after each statement. Scripture is in quotation marks.
This love is:
1. "So patient and so kind." (Williams) "It meekly and patiently bears ill treatment from others. It is gentle, benign, pervading and penetrating the whole nature, mellowing all which would have been harsh and austere." (Wuest)
2. "This love looks for ways of being constructive.,' (Phillips ) It is helpful.
It looks for ways to make a husband happy and comfortable. It has discernment and awareness of his needs.
3. "It never boils with jealousy, never envies." (Williams and Amplified)
Are you jealous of your husband? Jealousy is fear, and perfect love casts out all fear. I John 4:18. It is not that your husband loves you perfectly, but that you love him perfectly with the love of Christ. Because Christ has met all your needs with His love, you can love with relaxed and complete love. You do not need your husband's perfect love in order to give him perfect love. Your source of love is Christ.
4. " It is not conceited, arrogant, or inflated with pride. " (Amplified) "It is neither anxious to impress, nor does it cherish inflated ideas of its own importance." (Phillips) "It is not out for display." (Berkeley)
Are you conceited? Do you really think your way of doing things is better than your husband's? Are you more spiritual than he? You really are? Are you arrogant? Do you force your will on him? Are you overbearing? Do you sometimes get your way with an "iron hand in a velvet glove" routine?
5. "It does not act unbecomingly." (Wuest and Amplified) "It has good manners." (Phillips) It covers up everything. " ( Berkeley )
Are you as courteous to him as you were before you married him? Do you open his mail without his permission? Do you speak up and give his opinion for him before he can open his mouth to express himself? If he has faults or lacks of any sort, do you seek, in love, to cover them up? (I don't mean the little teasing husbands and wives do about little faults. This is really a sort of tender bragging we do about each other when we, in obvious love, parade little idiosyncrasies that make the loved one different and "special" to us. I mean his real faults and shortcomings.) Do you skillfully help to complete him before others? More important, do you skillfully (with the skill that only the love of Christ can give you) make up his need in private in such a way as to give him confidence and encourage him?
6. "It does not insist on its own rights or its own way —for it is not self seeking." (Amplified)
Did he step on your "rights" this morning? And are you giving him the cold shoulder until he apologizes? After all, why should you be the first to make up?
7. " It is not possessive. " (Phillips )
Must you have all him time, all his love, all his attention? Do you hold him with a clenched hand? The love of Christ opens its hand and binds him only with cords of love. It must give the same choice God gave you —you must choose to love Him. He will not force you. You cannot force your husband to love. Open your hand.
8. "It is not touchy, or fretful, or resentful." (Amplified) is not irritated provoked, exasperated, aroused" It to anger. " (Wuest)
This is your provision for the daily annoyances. What is it he does that drives you to distraction?
9. "It takes no account of the evil done to it." (Amplified) "It does not count up past wrongs." (Riverside. This version is out of print.) Ah now, here it is. We have to forgive, and dismiss it. What has he done to you today or yesterday or ten years ago? You must put it behind you and go on from there.
10. "It does not gloat over the wickedness of other people. It is glad with good people when truth prevails." (Phillips )
Are you secretly glad when he loses his temper and proves he is just what you said he was? It makes you feel so self controlled. Or do you smirk when he disciplines the children in a way you said would never work, and it doesn't work?
11. "Love knows no end to its trust." (Phillips) "It has unquenchable faith." (Berkeley) "It is ever ready to believe the best of every person." (Amplified)
He has betrayed your trust, but now he says all things will be different. But you can't believe him. The love of Christ is ready to begin again. It expects the best of him, and if it is fooled 1,000 times, it is ready to believe again on the 1,001st time.
12. "It bears up under anything and everything that comes. Its hopes are faceless under all circumstances, and it endures everything without weakening." (Amplified) "It can outlast anything." (Phillips)
How far must you go? There is no limit. This is a personal adjustment. A new way of life.
Now Paul says in Ephesians 5:2, "Walk in love." In I Corinthians 13:1 (Amplified) he says this love is a "reasoning, intentional, spiritual devotion;" and in I Corinthians 14:1 he says you are to pursue eagerly and seek to acquire this love, "make it your aim, your quest."
Your will is involved. The love is there, waiting to press in on you. Through your obedient determination to let it have its way you turn the valve that lets it flow. You make this decision many times during the day. It is as you decide and reach out a loving hand, deliberately say the loving word, that His love comes flowing through. You do love.
This love edifies; it builds up in a mysterious way. I Corinthians 8:1. You become a channel through which God can pour the great creative force of His redemptive love, and mysteriously, as it pours through you, it works a change on the person who is the object of it. Paul said to the Corinthians, "Dearly beloved, we do all things for your edifying." II Corinthians 12:19. Will you look at your husband this week and make that verse personal, just for him: "Dearly beloved, I do all things for your edifying."
Lesson 4 back to table of contents
DIFFICULTIES IN THE WALK OF LOVE
Do you remember when we had big old coal furnaces down in the basement? You could control the draft door by a lever upstairs attached to a chain which went down through the floor to the door on the furnace and lifted it or closed it. But every so often you had to go down and take hold of a handle at the bottom of the furnace and shake the clinkers out. I used to love to be given this chore. The coals always burned brightly after this shaking.
It is time to stop today and shake the clinkers out of what we have been talking about. You have been struggling with the concept of the love of Christ this week, and you would like to swallow it whole. But the circumstances of your own particular situation have clouded the issue for you; this might be all right for Shirley Rice, but she doesn't know the mess you are in, nor the man you have to deal with.
I know some of the clinkers that bother you. I've had them in my own marriage. You have told me of some of your difficulties. You will not offend me by your doubts and questions. This is not my theory that I have presented. Had it been left to my quick Irish temperament, believe me I would have thought of a different scheme. It wouldn't have worked, but it would have been full of all sorts of goodies for us wives, put down in black and white: husbands shall kiss you good morning, they shall always be cheerful, they shall help with the children, they shall not look at you like that when you can't explain what happened to your check stubs, they shall always be true and faithful.
The rules God gave us in our lesson last week did not read like that. It is all giving on your part. This is because it is the life of Christ and His love, and He came not to be ministered unto but to minister. Mark 10:45. Oh, God demands the same love of your husband that He demands of you, but the problem is that you can't demand it. It is between your husband and God, and none of what God demands of you is conditioned on how well your husband meets God's demands of him. Your husband is not here. He is not hearing this. God is talking to you, and it is your responsibility you have to face.
How often have you told your children that? "But, Mother, what about Johnny? Doesn't he have to." "Never mind about Johnny. You do what I told you to!"
God must have one willing heart to begin to work in your marriage. He will do it if you believe, like Abraham who "staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; And being fully persuaded that what He had promised, He was able also to perform. "Romans 4:20 21.
Now, what are some of your difficulties?
1. Does the whole thing seem like an impossible, improbable pipedream?
I would remind you again that the love of Christ is simply the life of Christ being made manifest. When I plant tulip bulbs I do not expect to grow lilies. Tulip bulbs yield tulips. You must possess the life of Christ before it is possible to manifest the life and love of Christ. "He who possesses the Son has that life; he who does not possess the Son of God does not have that life." I John 5:12 (Amplified)
To possess the Son is simply to let the Son possess you. The core of the Christian life is that I deliberately sign away my own rights and become a bond slave of Jesus Christ. Perhaps you are trying to love with the love of Christ, but you do not have the life of Christ. It can't be done!
2. Is your difficulty that you can't understand it?
We become confused when we think that we have to understand in order to obey This is never God's order in the Christian life. God's way is first following, then knowing. When Peter was arguing with the Lord about whether or not he would allow the Lord to wash his feet, Jesus said to him, "What I do thou knowest not now, but thou shalt know hereafter." You may not understand the circumstances you are in. You may not understand the love of Christ. You may not understand how it can work in your case. You do not need to understand. God wants to teach you to walk by faith, not by sight, and one day He will tell you what He was about.
3. Is it that you don't know how to begin?
You begin by one simple act of obedience. Take one of God's commands, and act on it. The moment you deliberately act on one of His commandments, immediately all the power of almighty God begins to move in your behalf. It is; not because you act, but because for a moment your will becomes lost in His, and He is free to invade you with the life of God. John 15:10.
4. Is it that you can't believe?
In Mark 9, when the distraught father brought his demon possessed son to the Lord, he said, "Master, I have brought unto thee my son, Which had a dumb spirit. . . and often times it hath cast him into the fire, and into the water, to destroy him." While he was talking, the boy fell on the ground, foaming and wallowing, and the father cried, "If thou canst do anything, have compassion on us, and help us!" Jesus said to the father, "If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth." Straightway the father of the child cried out and said with tears, "Lord, I believe, help thou mine unbelief!"
Can you bring your marriage to the Lord like that? "If thou canst do anything, have compassion on us, and help us." He will not ask great faith of you—only a broken will and a heart that admits its doubts and cries for faith to believe.
5. Is it that you fear the consequences?
It does not leave you with any rights of your own, does it? If you love your husband like that, he will walk all over you, won't he? He will take advantage of you.
Let me ask you something very gently — could it be that you can need to be walked on? I needed to be. I was an arrogant, overbearing, bossy, intolerant female, and I needed to be walked on! He didn't give me what I deserved. He started to pamper me, and lavish love upon me, but let's not get away from the basic issue. If you are standing with a chip on your shoulder, jealously guarding your rights, fearfully guarding your rights (because you are really afraid of being hurt), you have not laid down your rights at the foot of the cross and given them into the keeping of the Son of God. He will guard them well, if you will give them to Him.
I told you love believes. I don't know your husband, do I? He can look you right in the eye and lie to you.
He knows it and you know it. Are you to believe his lies? He is always blustering about what he means to do, but he never keeps his promises, does he? Are you to believe his silly daydreams? No, of course not. It is not him you believe in. It is 'whet God can do in him that you believe. The love of Christ in you is not changed or daunted by his lies or promises. It is the same, yesterday, today, and forever. It looks beyond him to the day when this man will know in reality Jesus Christ, the Truth, and lies will be foreign to his nature; to the day when the vacillating character of the man will meet in reality, the Rock, Christ Jesus, and will waver no more. When you obey God, you leave the consequences with Him. They are His responsibility.
6. Do you feel you are being hypocritical, to act loving when you do not feel loving?
If this were your love, I expect you would be a hypocrite. But you are not loving with your love. You have gone past your love to a source of love which is just exactly what I Corinthians 13 says it is.
7. Isn't it hypocritical to pretend that you approve of everything your husband does?
Yes, definitely! I do not recall that the demands of love said you had to do this. God does not approve of all I do. His love is never mushy or sentimental. It is strong and stern in its demands. It holds me to the very highest. C. S. Lewis says, "The great thing to remember is, that though our feelings come 'and go, His love for us does not. It is not wearied by our sins, or our indifference; and therefore it is quite relentless in its determination that we shall be cured of these sins, at whatever cost to us, at whatever cost to Him."
This is the same attitude we must have toward that man we love, holding him to the highest at whatever cost to him, at whatever cost to us. Women, this is not easy. It is a subtle, tricky business, and when you ask me how to know what to do, I confess that so often I 'don't. I used to spend ninety percent of my time disapproving of something my husband did, and I felt it was my duty before the Lord to make my husband strongly aware of it. The habit is strong, and I have to guard myself constantly because eighty nine percent of the time what he did was all right—it just wasn't the way I would do it. I try to follow this outline when I feel that there is something my husband is doing of which I disapprove:
1. I read Galatians 6:1 5 in the Amplified Version. Following this scripture carefully (I am usually stopped so cold right at "ye who are spiritual" that I never get any further), I examine my heart before the Lord. What is my attitude? Am I humble? Do I see my own faults? How much of this was my fault? What has been my attitude or reaction contributed to the situation? Is it necessary to speak? Is he hurting someone? If I had done or said what he did or said, what would be my attitude toward it then? Can't I leave this to the Holy Spirit to do in Him? Why is it Don so seldom has to speak to me about my faults? If he can trust the Holy Spirit to teach and correct me, what makes me think I have to be the one to correct him? '
2. After you have talked to yourself and to the Lord along these lines, then throw it in the Lord's lap and leave it. If He wants you to speak, He will make the opportunity. If He doesn't, you may open your mouth, but somehow it never comes out. This is if your attitude is right. I will tell you this: every time I have gone to my husband about anything in the right attitude, he has received what I had to say. When he has not received it, I have found in short order it was because I had the wrong attitude and never should have said anything anyway.
I know, I have a Godly man to live with, but your husband isn't even a Christian. Next week we will talk more about it. Let me ask you one more thing before we go.
8. What is your motive in seeking God's help about your marriage?
Are you standing with a little fistful of conditions ready to bargain with God? "I'll commit my life to Him, if He really will promise me a happy marriage and make my husband love me the way Don Rice loves Shirley."
I don't know anywhere in God's Word that He promises you that you can be happy. HE says, "I will give you my joy." Happiness is an elusive thing, dependent on circumstances. Joy is a deep abiding thing, which does not depend on any outward situation. It comes from doing the will of God. Do you remember GOD'S purpose for you according to Romans 8:29? To transform you to the image of His Son. To manifest in you the life of Christ.
What is the purpose of your marriage? For you to be happy? Get back away from it and look at it with God's perspective. God is suffering over a world that has been redeemed by Him at great cost and does not know it. He has one purpose — to manifest that Redemption to a lost and hungry world. My marriage is part of that scheme! If He can better bring His purpose to pass in the world by breaking my heart, then I must thank Him for this. This is joy!
You will not understand this unless you are in love with Jesus Christ. Paul says, "Thanks be to God, Who in Christ always leads up in triumph—as trophies of Christ's victory — and through us spreads and makes evident the fragrance of the knowledge of God everywhere. " II Corinthians 2:14 (Amplified)
Right now my marriage is a trophy of what the redeeming love of Jesus Christ can do in two rebellious hearts if they will cease their rebellion and become slaves of Jesus Christ. It may please Him some day to make one of us, or both of us, our marriage, a trophy of what He can do in another kind of circumstance. He might choose to break my heart. Whatever happens I am in the train of a conqueror, and He will lead me in triumph.
That's asking for it, isn't it?
Lesson 5 back to table of contents
I have been trying to sneak up on you in these past four lessons with a wonderful truth which has just begun to really dawn upon me in its fullness in the past few months. Its implications leave me breathless. I am being sneaky about it because if I had thrown it at you in the first lesson, you would have gone home.
You came here to talk about your marriage, your troubles, your problems. I want to move you out of the tight circle of your marriage into the larger sphere of God's purpose for marriage in general, and out of that into awareness of God's PURPOSE, period.
We are going to be very practical in a little while, so practical you will wish we would drop the whole thing, probably. But first we must get something settled, and this is the lesson we must do it in. We have reached a crisis, and you will either get worse or better from this point on. If you do not get better as time goes by, come back to this lesson. You will find this to be the focal point of your trouble.
We have been talking of an ideal marriage, so ideal as to be impossible — a perfect love, ridiculous in its demands. God's Word says this is His will for us. What He demands of us He enables us to do. Yet we are running up against difficulties. Now, either it is true or it isn't. It works, or it doesn't. Now you must always draw your line on the premise that if God's Word says it, it is true. If it is impossible for you, it is because you are not meeting the conditions laid down in His word. So take your place on the line of the authority of God's Word and let's slug it out. If there are difficulties, His Word has to have the answer to them. '
The first thing to do is to get our purpose straight. To do this we must get it in line with His purpose. I will try to set forth as simply as I can what I believe it to be.
The wonder of God's great redemptive plan is not that He redeemed men in general, but that He redeemed men individually. "God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." John 3:16. He loved the world that whosoever. This is like looking into a microscope and seeing a swarm of blood cells, then narrowing the field, magnifying to a greater intensity, and bringing it down to individual momocytes, leucocytes, and eosinophiles — individual blood cells, with individual purposes. God loved the world and gave Himself that Shirley Rice might have life.
God always deals with the individual, and this brings me to the realization that God loves one individually, in a way He does not love you. And He loves you in a way He does not love me. Why else were individuals created? You will not be so shocked at this statement if you will think for a moment of the way you love your own children. You love them all equally well, but each one differently because each is an individual. There is no difference in quantity or quality of love, only variety. In the same way, your children return love to you in different ways according to their individuality.
In the same way, we as individuals know God in individual ways. C. S. Lewis puts it like this: "Each of the redeemed shall forever know and praise some one aspect of the divine beauty better than any other creature can. This difference, far from impairing, floods with meaning the love of all of us for each other—the communion of the saints. Each has something to tell all the others—fresh and ever fresh news of the 'My God' who is 'Our God'."
God loves you as an individual, and He values your love as an individual. You have a responsibility to communicate your own knowledge of Him to me, and I the same responsibility to convey to you what I know of Him. This is the mystery of the body of Christ. We meet here from so many different denominations, and because we love Him, we can share that love with each other and have sweet fellowship. Many different voices are raised in harmony. If we all sang the same note it would not be harmony. As long as you follow the score and sing on key, I must not insist that you sing my note.
God knows the ins and outs of your individuality and will use them to manifest His life to the world. You are responsible to Him for this. Oh, if you do not allow Him to do it, He will manifest the life of Christ through someone else, yes. But that person will not do the particular job the Lord meant for you to do. He will be fitting into God's purpose for him and the world will be forever impoverished because it will not see what God could do in you.
Now we are getting down to God's purpose: Here is a world of people he has redeemed from death unto life, and they have spurned Him. He offers them, through the costly atonement of Calvary, peace, and life, and joy, but they turn from Him, as blind men, and grope here, there and everywhere seeking happiness and completion. This is His suffering ("Oh, Jerusalem, Jerusalem . . . How oft would I have gathered thee unto me, as a hen gathereth her chickens, but ye would not — ye would not!" Matthew 23:37) and we are to enter into that suffering with Him to be identified with His yearning over the souls of lost men.
His purpose for you, individually, is to be conformed to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29), that men may look at you and see Christ and come to Him for life.
His purpose in marriage is to glorify Him—to be an exhibition of the way God loves the individual, to be a picture of the way Jesus Christ loves that one who has put his trust in Him, to manifest to a lost world His love and His power.
Your marriage is as individual in His scheme as you are. No other marriage will serve in the special place He has for yours to serve. If you refuse to give yours up to Him, He will show the world through someone else' marriage, it is true. But what He meant to convey through yours will be forever lost. God is working a great jigsaw puzzle. Only you and your marriage will fit the place cut out for you.
We are going to talk today about submission. This is the whole idea: the yielding up of your individual will to His will for the carrying out of His purpose in the world, and the giving over of your purposes in your marriage to His purpose. This is why I keep talking about "self " You must abdicate in favor of the King.
C. S. Lewis says in his book, The Problem of Pain, that Self exists to be abdicated. In self giving we touch a rhythm, not only of all creation, but of all being, for the Eternal Word also gives Himself in sacrifice, and that not only on Calvary. For when He was crucified He did on earth what He had always done at home in Heaven. From the foundation of the world He surrenders begotten Deity back to begetting Deity in obedience. And as the Son glorifies the Father, so also the Father glorifies the Son.
Mythology tells us that "the golden apple of selfhood, thrown among the false gods, became an apple of discord because they scrambled for it." They did not know the first rule of the holy game, which is that every player must by all means touch the ball and then immediately pass it on. To be found with it in your hands is a fault; to cling to it, death. But when it flies to and fro among the players too swift for eye to follow, and the great Master Himself leads the revelry, giving Himself eternally to His creatures, and back to Himself, and they to Him, and then to each other, then indeed the eternal dance "makes heaven drowsy with the harmony." As we are drawn into its rhythm, pain and pleasure sink almost out of sight. There is joy in the dance, but it does not exist for the sake of joy. It does not even exist for the sake of good, or of love. It is Love Himself, and Joy Himself, and Good Himself. It does not exist for us but we for it. (This is the condensed thought of several pages from The Problem of Pain, by C. S. Lewis. )
The great choreographer is laying out the steps. Wherever He says, "This is my will, step this way, step there...." do it, will you? Do you want to spoil the rhythm of the dance? Will you stick to the script and leave the end to Him?
The script says, in Ephesians 5:17 and 22, "Be not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is . . . wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord."
Here is God's perfect order for this part of the dance— God over all, then the husband, then the wife, then the children. Wherever you disturb that order, you have chaos.
Jesus Christ, Himself, sets the pace in His obedience to the Father. Last year we considered this and applied it to our own relationship to Him. We found three things:
1. He never had any other purpose in mind. Hebrews 10:7 "Lo, I come to do Thy will, O God."
2. To do it was His joy. Psalm 40:7 8 "I delight to do Thy will, O God."
3. He never considered His own will. John 5:30 Amplified. "I am able to do nothing of Myself—independently, of My own accord; but as I am taught by God and as I get His orders. (I decide as I am bidden to decide. As the voice comes to Me, so I give a decision.) Even as I hear, I judge and My judgmentis right (just, righteous), because I do not seek or consuls My own will—I have no desire to do what is pleasing to Myself, My own aim, My own purpose —but only the will and pleasure of the Father Who sent Me."
This is the way the Son obeyed the Father. This is our example for submission to God. I would like you to see that submission is an attitude before it is an act. It is an attitude of will that bends eagerly and willingly under the hand of God, seeking ways to obey. "I delight to do Thy will." There is no stubbornness. It does not consider its own ends and desires because it is lost in the great purposes of God.
To submit to God is more than to simply obey. It is to abide in Him, to rest in Him, to lean on Him, to trust Him, to adhere to Him, to abandon oneself to Him. It has in it the simple faith of the very young child who trusts his father so completely that if the father stood him up on the table and held out his arms and said, "Jump!", he would smile and jump in delight and complete confidence that his father's arms would catch him.
This is submission — complete confidence that His will for me is the very best thing that could happen to me. It means an acceptance of your present situation. You are in a painful situation; your heart is aching. Submission says first of all, "O God, if by being here in this situation I can glorify you more, then I am happy to be here. If you choose to keep me in this situation for the rest of my life, because to do so will better bring your purpose to pass and will better manifest your power and your love to lost men and women, then let me be here for the rest of my life." It is not often He requires this of you, but you must come to that place of submission and be willing.
There are some of the consequences of sin that can never be changed or undone. God can forgive, and He can work miracles in restoration, but sometimes, when we sin, we are required to live with the tangible results the rest of our lives. If a young girl has a child out of wedlock, her sin can be forgiven, she can be restored to a happy life in His power, but the child is there. Forgiveness and restoration do not make it magically disappear. If a man lives in alcoholism or venereal disease, he can be forgiven or restored, but disease has ravaged his body. I know a woman whose husband is alive. They are not divorced, but he is forever lost to her because of the dreadful toll of sin on his body and mind. All this teaching on marriage will not restore this marriage. But through submission of this woman's will to God's will, He has so manifested His life in her that she is a walking evidence of the very power of God to her children, to me. to others. She is completely at rest in His peace, and she has suffered more than any other human I have ever known.
Now, what is the will of God for the husband wife relationship? It is that my husband should be the head of my house. Ephesians 5:22 24, Amplified. It is that he should be my teacher. I Corinthians 14:35. The whole teaching of the Word of God is that the husband should be not only the head of the house in all practical matters, but also the head of the house in all spiritual matters. This will not offend some of you, but if you are the strong willed independent sort of person I am, this hits you where it hurts.
First, it hurt me because I simply did not want him to tell me what to do. When I could get over that hurdle to the place where I saw that this was God's will for me and I began to obey it, it dawned on me slowly that there was a much greater hurdle to clear. I had the cart before the horse for a long time. I was submissive in act long before I was submissive in attitude. While I was being so submissive, I could congratulate myself all the time on how very spiritual I was being. Down in my heart of hearts I KNEW I was more spiritual than he was, so I could be generous and give him a token submission. It was not hard to do as long as I still had the upper hand in my own mind.
But one day I saw the truth about it, and it seared me like an iron. I saw that it was God's will for this man to lead me. The day I stood before God with a heart emptied of its own purposes and said, "O God, I come before Thee with a new desire for my husband. I desire that he shall lead me like a little child before Thee. I desire to submit to him, as I do to Thee. I want to lean on his wisdom, to defer to his judgment, and to abide in him with complete trust and confidence. This is my purpose and this is my delight" the problem resolved itself. And now that I had removed myself, the stumbling block, the Holy Spirit was able to work a miracle in my husband as He shaped him into a spiritual rock I could lean on, a giant with sure feet I could follow.
This is not to say that you are out of God's will if you are ahead of your husband in spiritual wisdom and growth. Many of you are. Some of you (as I did) just think you are. It is all a matter of attitude. Once your attitude is straight, you have moved into God's will in the matter. It does not ever mean that you have to slow up your own pursuit of God. It means, on the contrary, that you must seek Him more diligently.
Now, I could quit judging my husband's spirituality. How much does he read God's Word? How much does he pray? Has he given up this habit or that? Has he acquired this grace or that? Oh, I had my little thermometers, and I was forever taking his spiritual temperature.
Actually, do you know how much your husband prays or reads the Word? I suspect that for some time my husband took pains not to let me know. It was one way he could outwit my eternal managing of his life before the Lord.
Now, you say, "I can't lean on my husband. How do you lean on someone who has spaghetti for a backbone?" Yes, you can because underneath are the Everlasting Arms. Your dependence is on God, and you can go out on the end of a limb in obedience to His Word, which says, "Obey this man — leave the consequences to Me." In a mystical way I can't describe, God will strengthen him as you lean. (Think of how you grew and matured as you had children who leaned on you.)
It is important that you realize that the Holy Spirit will teach you in your individual case, just how to do this. If you want to be led, He will lead you. If you want to be taught He will teach you. You will have to seek to know God with your whole heart — you will have to saturate yourself in His Word and prayer. How great is your need anyway? When your need is great enough, you will do this. When my need was great enough, I spent all the time I did not actually have to do something else in studying the Word of God and in prayer. I had no choice: I was a starving woman—I had to be fed. I was lost — I had to find the way. There was no one to teach me and to tell me what to do. I wanted to know, and the Holy Spirit taught me through the Word. I stumbled over myself in my eagerness to find more of it to obey. He will do this for you.
What if your husband is not a Christian or is supposed to be a Christian but is not obeying the Word of God? In I Peter 3:17 (Phillips), (Alford) suggests this interpretation of verse 6: "As long as the believing wives are doing good, they need not be afraid with any sudden terror of the account which their unbelieving husbands may extract from them."
With the attitude of submission we have been talking about and the calm and gentle spirit mentioned in the above scripture reference, it is no longer a question of "How much must I obey this man?" but rather, with delight, "How far can I go in obedience to this man without really transgressing some direct command of the Lord?"
In the next lesson we will discuss where to draw the line, try to cite a few examples to give meaningful guidance, and see how we can learn to discern the leading of the Holy Spirit in this matter.
Lesson 6 back to table of contents
LIMITS IN SUBMISSION
We could easily give way to anxiety on this lesson and forget that we are abiding in the Vine. I told you at the end of our last lesson that I felt that when real conflict comes in this matter of obedience to husbands, the line would be drawn on what is morally right according to the Word of God. This is a very subtle and delicate thing and will not always be the same for each of you, even on a given question. I can't stand here and draw hard and fast rules for you. I wish I could; it would be easier. But the Christian life is never like this, is it? It is an individual walk with the Lord with the rules laid down in His Word and the Holy Spirit applying them to your own need.
In giving you any concrete illustrations for guidance at all, I can walk over into the dangerous position of being your Holy Spirit. This is as dangerous for me as it is for you. I cannot have God's blessing on my life if I usurp the place of the Holy Spirit in yours. You cannot have His blessings on your life if you look to me for guidance instead of to Him.
I have had to lay all my anxiety about this lesson upon Jesus Christ and walk into it quietly, abiding in His ability to lead us together because we want to be led, and to preserve me from making statements that could lead you astray.
Now, can you give Him your anxiety about the whole question of being able to discern His will in the matter of submission to your husband? Let us logically see if we can get our ducks in a row so we can pray intelligently about the matter.
The first duck to get in a row is:
I. Your obedience is always to God. Obedience to your husband is just the outflow of that.
Peter tells us to submit to every ordinance of man, for the Lord's sake, whether to the king as supreme, or to the governor, or to men sent by them, for this is the will of God for you. I Peter 2:13 15. But it was also Peter, standing before the high priest and the council as they harangued him because he had not stopped preaching in the name of Jesus, who said, "We ought to obey God rather than men." Acts 5:29.
The truth is that he had never obeyed anyone else. His obedience to men was obedience to God, and when they would have him do other than the will of God, he was not sidetracked into doing the will of men rather than the will of God. He kept constantly on his course of obedience to God.
II. God's Holy Spirit will lead you by God's Word. It will be a lamp to your feet and a light to your pathway. You MUST feed on His Word. This is the book of rules. and we can't know what to do if we don't read it. Don't give up because you have not mastered it. If you turn to it each day, praying for guidance and for wisdom to understand it, He will guide you through it.
III. You MUST spend time in prayer, consistently. whether you feel like it or not, whether you feel blessed or not. You will not have His guidance unless you ask for it. Prayer is the work. It is through your intercession that the Holy Spirit can minister to your husband.
As you ask for guidance and read His Word, "Thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, 'This is the way, walk ye in it,' when ye turn to the right hand and when ye turn to the left." Isaiah 30:21.
IV. The attitude of your heart must be: Jesus Christ shall rule in my heart. I shall constantly look to Him for wisdom, I shall constantly moment by moment as each need arises yield over my will to His direction.
Dr. Sidlow Baxter preached to us last night from Romans 5:17: "They which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ." This is the secret of the victorious life — put Jesus Christ on the throne of your heart; make Him Lord over all. Then He says, "Come up here with me. You and I shall rule your life now. I'll tell your tongue what to say, and you say it. I'll guide your thoughts, your actions."
Now, let us see if we can sort out the main categories where conflict comes:
I. Your Social Life
When you become a Christian, it is true that your desires change. Never tell a new Christian, "Now you have become a Christian. You must stop this and that. You can't go here, and you can't go there." Tell him, "Now you must read your Bible, and you must pray." Leave it there and the Holy Spirit will take over to weed out of the life of the new Christian all those things which are not pleasing to God. There does come a definite change — all things have become new, and old things have passed away. II Corinthians 5:17. What you used to love you no longer love. What you used to hate or be indifferent to you now love. You long to be with God's people. You have lost interest in the tinsel pleasures of the world since you saw the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. II Corinthians 4:6. There are things you used to do that are not pleasing to God, and you now realize this.
But, your husband is not a Christian. He does not have your new appetite. He is not interested in your new way of life. He wants you to go here or there, do this or that. How shall you obey him and obey God too? You will have to learn to seek God's guidance on each issue. It will not always be the same for each of you on the same question. I recall one girl who has been able to say to her husband since she has become a Christian, "I would rather not do those things any more. I would rather not go to those places." It has been all right with him, and they have stayed home together. She has been much nicer to stay home with than she used to be.
I know another girl, however, who has been just as changed, she is just as nice to be home with now that she knows the Lord, but her husband has said, "You come with me, or I'll get another woman to go with me." He meant it! This was no idle threat. Which was worse—to push him into this sort of sin or to go with him to the place she didn't want to go?
Jesus said in John 17, "I do not ask to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the Evil One." We are to be in the world, but not of it. Oswald Chambers says, "Jesus was not an ascetic. He did not cut Himself off from society. but He was inwardly disconnected all the time. The religious people of the day called Him a glutton and a winebibber, because he mingled with sinners."
Can you mingle with sinners unscathed or is your holiness too fragile? If you have the brawny, robust holiness of the Lord Jesus Christ resting upon you, you can walk among sinners when you have to and come away unspotted. There is too much of the sort of holiness in the world that draws its robes about itself and avoids contact with evil in order to remain unspotted from the world. This is self righteousness. It is never the righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ.
There is another kind of holiness which mingles with sinners, but proclaims loudly all the time that it is holy and everyone else is sinful.
Then there is a gray kind of holiness which tries to look and act enough like the world that no one will ever know the difference, but also tries to be true to Jesus Christ in secret all the time. Have you stood in a room with people who are drinking and held a drink in your hand all evening? You wouldn't drink it, of course, but you wouldn't want to hurt anyone's feelings. Is this really why you do that, or is it because you do not want to be thought different?
The answer must lie in whether or not you are really dead to the things of the world and alive to God. If you are in a situation you would not choose, but are there because you are a Christian, and you are inwardly in vital union with Jesus Christ, you can walk with His dignity and poise and assurance where it is necessary and not have to compromise His name. Galatians 6:12 14 (Phillips). Worldliness is an attitude before it is an act.
The line is drawn on revelings, orgies, drunkenness, carousels, sensual lusts, and such like. Galatians 5: 19 31. These are forbidden to you now. You have no obligations to follow your husband in obedience to anything of this sort. I Peter 4:1 5 (Amplified). May I warn you again about your attitude when you have to refuse to take part in something of this sort?
What about church? You want to go and he doesn't. Well, go if he does not forbid it; Don't condemn him for not going. It is not your duty to convict him of his sin. That is the duty of the Holy Spirit. John 16: 7 11. When you have to go out the door and leave your husband at home try to have the same attitude you have when you leave for the grocery store. Kiss him goodbye and leave. You do not make him feel condemned when you go to the store, do you?
Another thing, don't church him to death. Don't line up church meetings all through the week and leave him at home. It is much better for you to go once and fellowship with God's people, then come back and stay home with your husband the rest of the week, manifesting the life of Christ to him in your love and attention to him. He is your mission field.
If he will not permit you to go at all, you can worship the Lord at home and fellowship with believers on television church programs or the radio. (What of shut ins who can never get to church? They manage to find fellowship in this way.) Then take the problem to the Lord. "Father, you see that he will not let me go. Help me to be so obedient to him and to Thee that you can soften his heart, and I may be permitted to go in Thy time." This will certainly drive you to a closer walk with the Lord in your private devotions even if you cannot have the strengthening influence of church services.
II. Home Life
1. FAMILY DEVOTIONS. If he will not take charge of them, you do it. Invite him to join if the opportunity affords itself. "Dear, don't you want to hear the children say their prayers, after I read their Bible story?" "Would you like to read to them? You read so well, and they enjoy it." If it is not possible to draw him into it, then do it alone with your children.
If you do not have children, there is no need for you to parade your private devotions before your husband. He does not need this evidence of your Christianity if you are living before him with the love of Christ.
If he won't say the blessing at the table, you say it or ask one of the children to do it.
2. DISCIPLINE AND HANDLING OF CHILDREN. You have a duty to protect your children morally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. If he teaches a child there is no God, you teach the child there is. Explain that the reason Daddy says this is because he does not know God. But you know Him, and you have His Word which tells us all about Him.
If he should give a child liquor, tobacco, or drugs, forbid this. (This is more common than you think. Some parents think the way to keep a child from being an alcoholic is to give him liquor as he grows up and accustom him to it. The law forbids this. You are not allowed to give liquor to a minor. There have been parents who would give drugs to their children to quiet them.) Enlist the aid of your doctor. He will surely help you if you have this problem. Again, pray about each particular problem.
If he should teach a child to lie, tell the child God's Word forbids this. If he teaches a child dishonesty (one man taught his son to sell copies of his homework), you forbid the child to do this. You may strongly tell the child that this is wrong because God's Word forbids it.
If he mistreats the child physically, you certainly interfere. (Be sure he is really mistreating him. We soft hearted mothers so often. think Daddy is beating the child, when in reality he is giving him a spanking he probably needs. Children need the stern discipline of a father. )
If he mistreats him morally, you prevent it forcibly if necessary. There are fathers who would commit incest with their young daughters or mistreat their young sons sexually. This must not be permitted.
You do not permit a man to beat a child with mental cruelty. You defend the child. I remember a father telling his small adopted son, "We'll take you back to the place where we got you." You must never permit this sort of cruelty. You assure the child this will never be done; you will never leave him. If a father persistently tells a child he is stupid or belittles him in such a way as to break his spirit, you must build the child up and assure him that this is not so. May I point out that so often when a father treats a child in this manner, it is because of a great need in his own life. He is not secure in love himself, because he feels that he is somehow competing with the child. Ask God to give you wisdom and discernment of your husband's need. Could it be that God would use you to fill a great vacuum in this man's life, loving him in such a way that he can have love to give and can have a normal, giving, loving relationship with his child?
You can explain to a child that the father is not a Christian, and he will behave differently when he becomes a Christian. You can explain to a child when the father is a Christian, but is backslidden to a degree. That is obvious even to a child.
Perhaps your husband is to all intent a Christian, but his actions are not Christian: he obviously has no walk with the Lord, never reads the Word, never prays. If a child should notice this and ask you, you can explain that the Holy Spirit gives light to different people on different things at different times, but we cannot judge another's walk in the Lord. Oswald Chambers said, "When we discern that people are not going on spiritually and allow discernment to turn into criticism we block our way to God. God never gives us discernment in order that we may criticise, but that we may intercede."
What about TV? Does he insist on watching programs that are not good for the children? You can remove the children. Or, if you cannot, ask God to take care of this specific problem. He will do it for you if you lay it before Him.
The same is true of books or magazines brought into the home that are bad for the children. You can forbid them to the children, put them out of their reach, and talk to the Lord about it. He will protect your children from this sort of influence if you ask Him to. Read I Peter 2:13 to 3:18 (Amplified).
3. MONEY MATTERS. Is your difference over money? Is he a poor manager? If you let him be the head of the house, you'll starve? Is this a point of conflict between you? Take your hands off and let him manage it. You won't starve! God won't let you when you are doing this in obedience to Him.
Are you trying to make your non Christian husband tithe? Cease. God does not want or need his money.
What are you willing to do to bring this husband to God? How much do you love his soul? Are you loving trim with the enfolding, warm love of Jesus Christ, or are you going through the motions of obedience with a cold courtesy and a stiff bending of your neck to a galling yoke?
Lesson 7 back to table of contents
There is a reserve in the most gregarious of us that will not allow even our best friend to trespass but so far on our personal intimacy. There is something in us that says, "Part of me shall be kept to myself No one shall take from me all my personal freedom."
This is what causes the big struggle in becoming a Christian. For to become a Christian is to give up completely all rights to yourself to Jesus Christ. You cannot knowingly withhold any portion or area of your life from the probing of the Holy Spirit.
Again we see how much the marriage relationship is like the relationship we have with Jesus Christ. There must be this same nakedness of soul between husband and wife. Genesis 2:25. There must be this same complete committal of each partner to the other, a giving up of all personal freedom to the one loved. Nothing must be withheld if there is to be complete oneness. As birth into the family of God is just the beginning of a growth in the Christian life, so the marriage ceremony is just the beginning of a process of growth toward complete oneness that only the years of living together can complete.
Dwight Small says: "The personal intimacy of marriage, based as it is upon knowledge and understanding of another person, will reveal the weaknesses and inadequacies, faults and sins of two persons as no previous relationship had or could ever have done. Such intimate knowledge will bring to the surface all existing differences, exposing how short each one falls of the expectations of the other. In such intimacy each is rendered highly vulnerable to the other. The vulnerable one becomes sensitive to his own vulnerable places in the realization that the other has an advantage should there arise a desire to attack and hurt. One can never be truly hurt until one has experienced personal intimacy with another. Then to be rejected or hurt by the one who has shared that intimacy is to experience great pain and bitterness. No wonder there is such possibility of hurt in marriage, with the ability to hurt and to be hurt in direct proportion to the achievement of personal intimacy between two persons!"
Do you see that this is why we withhold part of ourselves from our husbands, either consciously or unconsciously? " I can't reveal myself to him in this area. I must have some place to retreat. If he doesn't know me here, he can't hurt me here."
For the process of growth in oneness to go forward, communication between husband and wife is necessary. When communication breaks down, or is never established, the process halts. Communication is not always through speech. To communicate is to share, to have communion, to fellowship, to understand.
Perhaps you are married to a man who doesn't talk. Perhaps you cannot express yourself. Whatever your situation, I hope this lesson will help you. Perhaps you talk easily, but there is no real fellowship between you and your husband, no real understanding This matter of communication is a problem to some degree in every marriage, at least in some area of marriage.
Modern society trains us to be experts at pretense. We rarely say what we really feel. We exaggerate and pretend. Think of TV commercials, of advertising. Think of the way we greet people, express interest in their interests, effusively bid them goodbye. We express emotions we do not feel, pretend concern we do not have, live in a world of insincere make believe. And the practice of dissembling carries over into our marriage. One reason we cannot communicate is because of this shadow boxing. We do not live in reality much of the time. In a relationship as intimate as marriage it does not take very long for the veneer of sophistication to wear thin and the lack of genuineness to show through.
Are we to stop being gracious? Are we to be brutally frank and outspoken? No, this is not the point. The point is that, for the Christian, the outward expression of sincerity must reflect the genuine inner attitude.
Paul told the Corinthians (II Corinthians 1:12) that the Christian is to be simple and sincere. The inner attitude must be brought up to meet the outward expression of sincerity. We are to be uncomplicated, easy to understand. What a lot of suffering this would alleviate in the marriage relationships if we would really grasp this truth and obey it!
Spurgeon said, "Sincerity is the willingness to know one's self and to be known." If you will go back to the opening remarks of this lesson and think of them in light of that remark, you will begin to see what the basic trouble is. Dwight Small says again: "Simplicity and sincerity remove the strategies by which the proud ego seeks to maintain itself, and this is the first step toward humility. When a Christian says with Paul, 'I am crucified with Christ,' he consents, among other things, to be crucified to all forms of affectation. The game is up! Christ delivers the individual from all pretense and parade. There can be no more window dressing. He will give the individual a transparent life. And as in all of lifer so particularly in the marriage relationship, Christ will make us authentic selves."
The English word "sincerity" (sine cera) means "without wax," and is supposed to refer to the practice of Roman potters of pressing wax into the cavities of vessels to hide defects. A sincere vessel would be one without wax covering flaws.
This is the basic struggle in the Christian life—to stand before God without wax, no attempt made to cover flaws, willing to know one's self as He reveals us, and to be known, both by Him and by others. This is bound to be a basic struggle in marriage if this relationship is to be like our relationship with Christ. We must stand before our husbands "without wax," no covering up of motives, a real willingness to admit faults and needs.
The word "simple'' means basically "without a fold," referring to long, loose garments. Hense, simplicity actually suggests a garment unfolded or spread out. It came to mean openness, artlessness, just as a pocket suggests concealment. Duplicity or double foldedness consequently expresses subtlety, one secret intent behind another appearance.
Now, you are thinking that I am contradicting my own teaching because I have told you to act loving even when you don't feel like it. But remember again that this is not your love. Paul says that we are to love without hypocrisy (Romans 12:9), and human love just is not capable of this. But if we are truly loving with His love, the inner motive and desire will really be what the outward expression of sincerity claims. He added, when he spoke to the Corinthians of this, that it was through the grace of God. II Corinthians 1:12 (Amplified).
We said that one reason we cannot communicate is the fear of being hurt, and, of course, as we allow the love of Christ to have full flow through us this disappears. The love of Christ pays no attention to a suffered wrong. Your love will be hurt, but the love of Christ will not be because it is a selfless love, and hurts roll off it like water off a duck's back. If you will look deep into your heart you will find some little corner of it you have withheld from your husband as a sort of insurance policy against being totally devastated.
I John 1:5 7 tells us that if we are walking in the light, we have unbroken fellowship with one another. The Amplified says, "If we really are living and walking in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have true unbroken fellowship with one another."
If you will look at the root meaning of the word "sincerity" in a concordance, you will find that it comes from two Greek words which mean basically "judged by sunlight"—"tested as genuine."
As I was studying this one day along with the portion in I John, I began my study when the sun was at the side of my house. It did not fall into my living room, and I thought my living room was clean. As I sat and studied, and the sun gradually moved to the front of the house and fell into my living room windows, I began to notice a great deal of dirt in my living room—dust on the furniture and even dust balls under the sofa. I had thought my living room was clean, but judged by sunlight it was not clean.
As we truly do walk in the light, we begin to have transparent lives, lives that are always exposed to the sunlight: the searching of God's Word and His Holy Spirit revealing sin in our lives.
When I noticed the dirt in my living room, I arose, got the dustmop and dustcloth and removed it. And so, John goes on to say in Verse 9, "If we confess our sin, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sin, and to CLEANSE us from all righteousness."
When I had cleansed my living room, the table tops and the floor gave back the reflection of the sun. And as we confess our sin, He cleanses us and we reflect Christ from our innermost being. To walk in the Light is to give back like a prism the beauties of the many sided Christ—His love, His joy, His peace, His complete understanding of the man who is my husband.
This involves systematic denial of self day by day. Read II Corinthians 10:5 6, King James and Wuest. It is not enough to read the Word and pray; there must be this deliberate self denial day by day. We see self will and reject it. We see self hurt and reject it. As Paul says, "If you cut the nerve of your instinctive actions by obeying the Spirit, you are on the way to real living." Romans 8:13 (Phillips).
And this has to do with communication. Remember the chip you get on your shoulder when you can't communicate with your husband on something. I said one reason you can't communicate is because you are afraid of being hurt. Or perhaps you have made an effort to communicate and were rebuffed, so you withdrew in hurt. You withdrew into that secret corner you have not exposed to the light, that last stronghold you have kept so that you might have some place to run and hide and nurse your pride.
To walk in the light is to let the light shine into that corner, expose the pride as wounded "self," turn to Him for cleansing, and let go of it.
Here is where the "simplicity" comes in. The Greek word means "singleness, sincerity without pretense or self seeking, generosity, copious bestowal." Paul says in II Corinthians 12:15 "I will very gladly spend and be spent for you; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I be loved." This is the "agape" love of Christ—copious bestowal of love, no self seeking, no withdrawal because of hurt.
What are some of the areas where communication breaks down in marriage? They are the same areas which are the main causes for divorce, according to statistics.
1. Money: This is fantastically important. Do you see why? You basically resent being dependent on your husband for money. Perhaps you have been reared under different estimates of its value or different ways of handling it. It represents security for most people. (Ecclesiastes 7:12) What makes your husband behave as he does about money? What makes you behave as you do?
You can dodge this issue, or you can bring it to the Light. Expose it to the working of the Holy Spirit. Understanding will not be achieved overnight. It will be achieved when both husband and wife have let go of the money and given up their personal rights to it to the Lord.
2. Sexual relationship: The husband and wife who can communicate on this subject are rare. We will study this in detail later.
3. Temperamental incompatibility: We all have personality difficulties and shortcomings due to our environments and backgrounds. Jesus Christ can make the individual the complete person God meant for him to be. Then he can make two whole individuals one in Christ.
4. Rearing of children: This will be studied in later lessons.
5. Relatives: Usually personal hurt and pride enters here. Do you love your in laws with the love of Christ?
6. Religion: You begin to see how important this is and what difficulties can arise from difference in direction here.
7. Sickness: Either physical or psychological illness can cause a breakdown in communications.
God understands your husband. He knew him before he was born, knows all the things that make up his personality, knows his inner thoughts. Ask God to give you His understanding of your husband. Look for some stirring up. It won't be easy; it won't be quick. This will never be finished, this growing knowledge of your husband, but how exciting to grow in understanding and communication until you are one with Him"
Lesson 8 back to table of contents
Every human being is subject to moods, and women by no means have a corner on this instability of temperament. There are some moods which are peculiar to women, though, so we have the reputation of being inconsistent and variable in our emotions. We have moods in connection with entering into adolescence, moods with pregnancy, moods with menopause, and then, just to keep things humming, in between we have moods that are directly related to our monthly menstrual periods.
Today I would like to examine the moods that are peculiar to us as women to see what conclusion we can draw about them. If they are related to our spiritual lives, let us find out what to do about them. This problem has a direct bearing on the husband wife relationship because our moods so often cause a disruption of the spiritual unity between husband and wife. They bring us down to defeat in our efforts to love with the love of Christ.
Every woman from adolescence to the menopause has her periodic ups and downs. Some of the time the world is beautiful, and no matter what the challenge is she is sure she can cope with it. Then let ten days or two weeks pass, and suddenly she is so low and depressed she has to reach up to touch bottom. And when she thinks of the Wednesday class and all this nonsense about the love of Christ, she is spoiling for a fight.
I read an excellent article entitled "Monthly Moods" recently in the Family Circle Magazine. It was written by Maxine Davis. Perhaps you have read other articles by her. I would like to share with you some of the information in that article.
Mrs. Davis says:
"We would like to think that the days or weeks when we are feeling serene and happy are the times when we are really normal, and when we wake up one morning in the dumps, irritable, nervous, achy and resentful, we just aren't ourselves. Actually both phases are characteristic of woman's normal reproductive cycle.
These changes in emotional well being are triggered by two female hormones, estrogen, and progesterone, and due to the cyclical increasing and decreasing action of these hormones, produced in the ovaries, a woman lives on an emotional and physical seesaw from the beginning of menstruation to the menopause, when the reproductive process ends.
These hormones are secreted by the ovaries each month at a high level as the ovum is maturing within its own tiny sac in the ovary. This phase reaches its climax when, about half way between the menstrual periods, the egg leaves the ovary to make its trip into the fallopian tube where conception may take place. During this phase one has a sense of exhilaration, wellbeing and happiness.
If conception does not take place, the level of both hormones drops, and another phase begins. This time actually represents one of Nature's failures—and is figuratively a sorrowful time. You might call the time when the egg is being prepared Springtime, and the time beginning with the death of the little egg which has not been fertilized, Fall. This period lasts for a week or ten days before the menstrual period, and it is during this time that the woman may begin to move gradually into the doldrums. With the beginning of menstruation, however, another cycle begins, another period of Springtime. The hormones are again produced at a high level, the woman again feels serene and in full control of herself; then again comes the drop."
Do you see the periodic cycle, with its accompanying moods?
Now there is a Scriptural answer for the need manifested here. Always the Christian life is very practical, so before we look to the spiritual side of it, let's see if we can find out what we should expect during the different phases of this cycle. Just knowing what to expect should help simplify things.
During the days before the menstrual period, this drop in the production of the ovarian hormones is responsible for changes in certain physical processes. One is an increase in the rate at which the body burns up its normal supply of sugar, and therefore, the level of sugar in the blood falls slightly. This drop may be slight, but may affect the way a person behaves and feels for the time being. It can cause increased thirst and appetite, and a craving for sweets, and is one reason why a woman's usually firm and steady fingers may become clumsy and shaky during the days before her menstrual period. This slight fall in the blood sugar level is only temporary, of course, and only one of the factors in the situation.
Mrs. Davis names some other symptoms that may occur during this premenstrual phase:
1. A placid person can become irritable, cranky, and mean.
2. Her sense of humor is not the same. If a cake falls or a zipper jams, it is a disaster.
3. She may become exceptionally talkative, rattling along until she bores everyone into a near coma.
4. A demure pleasant girl may become annoyingly aggressive, suddenly turning bossy and brassy.
5. A woman usually blessed with inner calm and security may carry a chip on her shoulder, or carry a feeling of guilt for real or imagined sins.
6. Most women find it hard to concentrate during this period. The tidiest, most orderly girl may lose her car keys, her purse. .You may have to get out the recipe for a pie you've made fifty times.
7. She may have difficulty making decisions. Should she wear her green dress, or her navy? — and she really can't decide! If she drives her car she may keep changing her mind about which lane she wants to drive in.
8. Anxiety and depression are common. She may weep a river of tears because she is sure she can't do something she has done many times before.
9. Fatigue is one of the worst manifestations. She may get up feeling as though she has fifty pound weights tied to her hands and feet. She may feel chilly, shaky, and sweaty.
10. It does not make sense, but she may suddenly become abnormally active. She has had a rugged day, everything went wrong, and common sense would call it a day and wait for tomorrow, but no—this is the time she decides she simply MUST clean the attic, or wax all the floors.
11. The hormonal imbalance often upsets water metabolism and the body cells retain more fluid than usual. This consequently shows a weight gain of from two to ten pounds —very disheartening if she is counting calories! Excess fluid may be retained in many parts of the body, and wherever it accumulates it has certain effects that most of us have experienced from time to time. The breasts may become swollen and tender. The abdomen may be congested until you have a dragged down heavy feeling, or dull pelvic pain. An increase in fluid in the brain cells might cause headaches, sometimes very severe ones. It helps to restrict fluids during this period, and if you have a big weight gain, your doctor can give you a drug which will help eliminate excess fluid. The hormones have an effect on the sebaceous glands of the skin that may cause breaking out.
12. Allergic reactions become more acute at this time, such as asthma, hay fever, etc.
Now, no one suffers from all these disturbances simultaneously, but even one of them can bleach the color out of life temporarily. The symptoms are slight at first, too, and only intensify gradually, as the menstrual period draws near. With menstruation, they dramatically disappear. Simply knowing what is happening helps you to adapt yourself emotionally and physically.
Of course, all moods are not due to pre menstrual tension. Few of us are wise enough to discern whether the cause of the mood is physical or spiritual. For instance, if you are in a blue mood right now, would a check for $1,000 lift you out of it? Are you perhaps worried over bills? Worry is a sin, and a depressed mood due to this has its roots in sin. Are you covetous, and are you in a sullen mood because there is something you want that you can't have? Are you full of self pity because you think you have to do without a great many things? Are you cross because someone has not bowed down to "self" in you? These moods have sinful roots, and need to be dealt with as sin.
We need to remember three things about moms:
I. God is infinitely tender and understanding about our weaknesses. Psalm 103:13 14. He was tender to Elijah when he took flight at the threat of Jezebel, and ran for his life, and sat down to mope under a juniper tree. God sent an angel to care for his needs and then asked him gently, "What are you doing here, Elijah?" When Elijah wailed that he was the only one left who really believed in God, God said to him, "Go stand on the mount before the Lord." "And behold the Lord passed by. A great strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind, an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire, a still small voice." I Kings 19:11 12.
Learn a lesson from this. When you are caught in the grip of a mood, go stand before the Lord, and stay there, until the storm passes over and you hear the still, small voice of God.
II. The Word of God always speaks to our wills, not our emotions or feelings. Never, never rely on the capricious thermometer of your feelings to measure your walk with God. It is the deep, sure current your life in God which gives direction, not the little surface ripples or gusts of wind. He never intended that we should live a miserable up and down existence. We are called upon to act without regard to our moods. Oswald Chambers says: "Moods do not go by praying — they go by kicking. We have to take ourselves by the scruff of the neck and shake ourselves, and we will find that we can do what we said we could not. The curse with most of us is that we won't."
We find that the Word tells us to rejoice always, (I Thessalonians 5:16) and to let the peace of God rule in our hearts (Colossians 315). There is no footnote which states that this is to be only during those weeks out of the month when we are feeling good. Romans 8:35 39 tells us that nothing shall separate us from the love of Christ. This does not simply mean that His love holds us, but that His love is to flow through us without interruption under any circumstance. We are more than conquerors in all things.
III. This is the third point—we are more than conquerors. The love of Christ is not irritable, and when you make up your mind that you will yield to the love of Christ, instead of to your irritation, you are to behave in a way that is not irritable. But then something wonderful happens; the love of Christ in you has conquered the mood, but now the mood disappears. It gives place to the peace of God which passes all understanding. You really are serene, as God meant you to be. You cease to be a moody person. The steadiness of disposition that is the life of Christ flows through you, for, in Him there is no variableness, neither shadow of turning (James 1:17 ).
Lesson 9 back to table of contents
THE ATMOSPHERE OF THE HOME
See Proverbs 31:10 31.
Today we are going to begin to examine different aspects of the Christian home. What makes a home truly Christian?
We observe each other here at class or at church other times during the week, and think, "My, this person must have a godly home." The truth of the matter is, we can't know what a home is really like until we have lived in it long enough for all the natural attitudes to begin to show through the outward niceties, or unless we have had opportunity to observe it under different situations and pressures — "in the raw," so to speak. There used to be a cigarette advertisement, "Nature in the raw is seldom mild. " Well, home relationships are seldom the glossed up version we give of them in public. We get out of the car in back of the church on Sunday morning, and put on Sunday faces before we go into the church. Did you look that congenial at home, or were you at each other's throats an hour before Sunday School? And on the way home, does the Sunday morning smile wear off, and does cold silence descend on the car, erupting into irritation as the hungry children begin to fuss?
God's Word holds up a very high standard for the Christian home, and I would like to comfort you before we begin on it with this thought: this thing is just like everything else in the Christian life. It is a growing process. As we parents grow in our knowledge of the Lord, our homes become more and more what He wants them to be. But none of us have reached the ultimate. You need not be embarrassed about the lacks in your Christian home, as long as you are aware of them and are seeking the Lord's guidance in overcoming them.
The godliness of the Christian home grows in direct proportion to the growth of the Christians who live in that home. When you face a new year, you say, "Oh God, give us in our knowledge of Thee (this year). Let us love each other with Thy love. Let us understand each other with Thy understanding. Make us grow up and mature in Thee throughout this coming year." Then at the end of the year you stand back, and look, and you see that through the past twelve months He has wrought subtle changes in the home. Circumstances have come that were distressing or puzzling at the time but, at the year's end, you see that they have been the means of spurring growth in your life in Christ. The change has not come in the brick and mortar of your home—the windows, the walls—the change has come in the lives within those walls. Those lives must continue to grow in Him until the day they stand before Him in reality, face to face. The home, therefore, must continue to grow in godliness for the length of its existence.
As you think of the atmosphere of your home, now, I am going to say some words that should project an image of a certain kind of home into your mind. For instance, if I say the word "peace" what do you see in your mind's eye? Is it your home? The home of someone you know? Now try another one, "warmth." What sort of home comes to mind? "Laughter." Do you get another image? "Music?"
We are talking, remember, about the overall atmosphere of the home, not the individual situations that might disrupt the atmosphere temporarily. "Peace," for instance, can be disrupted when your little one falls and knocks his front teeth out, or when the baby puts the cat in the clothes dryer. We are talking about the deep currents of the home, not the surface ripples. For instance, if I said the word "confusion"— is this the atmosphere of your home? There can be quite a bit of confusion when you have small children or if a home is generally open to the public so that people come and go a great deal. But confusion is not the atmosphere of the home, if the adults there have direction in their lives, and peace in their relationships. Confusion comes when the home has no certain direction or thrust.
I am going to mention some words that might describe the atmosphere of a home. Circle the ones that you think apply to your home, and see what sort of picture you get. Then pick out the ones you want the Lord to make real in your home this coming year. Ask big! Believe and obey. Then you can stand here at this time next year and gratefully draw firm circles around those things He has given you.
Warmth unity peace cheerfulness love rest serenity laughter music anxiety quarreling bickering bitterness coldness tension division disorder confusion quietness gentleness sternness laxness frustration lack of communication greed materialism understanding.
What does the mother contribute to the atmosphere of the home? We have said that the father is the head of the home. Dr. Norman Harrison likens him to the rim of the wheel, coming as a protective cushion between the family and the world, taking the jolts and hardships for his family. The mother is likened to the hub of the wheel. Everything in the home revolves around her. As the hub goes, so goes the wheel. If the hub is off center, the whole wheel is thrown off balance. Now you have surely observed this. The father is most certainly the head of the home, but just as certainly the mother sets the general atmosphere of the home. If she is serene things roll along on an even keel. If she is upset, things disintegrate. You have noticed with your tiny ones that when you are tense, they are cross. You have noticed this both with your unstable pre teener and with your teenager and his moods. Children need the security of a mother with an even disposition, and there is nothing more unnerving to a man than to be always wondering what mood his wife will be in when he comes home.
We talked during the last lesson about some physical causes for our moods; now let's think about some of the spiritual causes. It is the same old thing. We have forgotten that it is the life of the Vine which is to flow through us, that we are only branches. James says, "In Him there is no variableness, neither shadow of turning." Hebrews says, "Jesus Christ, the same, yesterday, today, and forever." If the life of Christ is to flow through me, then this must be true of me. My family must find me serene and stable at all times— Shirley Rice, the same, yesterday, and today and forever—because it is His life in me. I must possess an even disposition: the steady, unchanging grace of God flowing through to meet every situation, at all times. Paul tells us in Ephesians 4:23 to be renewed in the spirit of our minds. This is what it is—a constant renewal, a constant changing of the old pattern of thinking and acting, a constant changing of the old habits (did you know that a bad disposition is a habit?), and a constant yielding to the attitude of Christ.
You remember that we read in I Peter 3 that our beauty was not to depend on our outward appearance, but on the inward beauty of a calm and gentle spirit (Phillips version). Do you see how the calm and gentle spirit of a wife and mother pervades the whole home? How a man loves to come home to that! How the children rest on it, like a pillow!
What makes us tense? I would remind us of some points we gleaned from Matthew Henry, and from an article in the Moody Monthly two years ago:
1. We have a sense of inadequacy for the ministry entrusted to us. We are frightened at the responsibility of rearing our children in this fearful day. Read I Corinthians 2:1 (Phillips). You will not accomplish the job. Your children's faith will not rest upon your cleverness, but on the power of God.
2. We all look at immediate circumstances, rather than at the purpose for which all things work together. Romans 8:28. We ask Him to work in the lives of our children, and then we panic when He begins to stir things up.
3. We haven't learned to "sit loose to the world and everything in it" as Matthew Henry says. "Whatever you have of the world in your hands, keep it out of your heart." We set great store by "things"; we are never satisfied with what we have. We push our husbands to get ahead; we covet this and that. Never being satisfied makes us tense. Proverbs 15:27 says "He that is greedy of gain troubleth his own house." David said in Psalms 131:2, "I have behaved myself as a weaned child." Are we weaned from our desires for things of a material nature? Covetousness begins when we cannot be content with what we have. It is not that you do not need a new rug, nor is it that it is wrong for you to have it; but the sin is that you cannot be content with what you have until such time as you can afford the new one.
4. We have not studied to be quiet. I Thessalonians 4:11. Psalms 46:10.
5. We inwardly resist God's will for we have never come to that place of submission to the circumstances we are in.
6. We harbor unforgiving attitudes toward others, especially those in our family.
All of this is true because:
7. We have not given Him our time. We have not spent time in His Word, and in prayer. We have not given Him the hours and minutes of our days.
"Take from our lives the strain and stress, and let our ordered lives confess the beauty of Thy peace." (From "Dear Lord and Father of Mankind")
Lesson 10 back to table of contents
ACHIEVING A CALM AND GENTLE SPIRIT
We have been talking for the last two lessons about the need for the wife and mother to be serene, to have an even disposition, and to have the beauty of a calm and gentle spirit. I think you agree that she needs to be this way, and we see how important it is. We have said that this is accomplished as we let the serenity and peace of the life of Jesus Christ flow through us. The next logical step seems to be— how can we achieve this?
There are two things involved, and they are involved with each other. There is the spiritual element, which is all important, because the amount of peace you achieve will be in direct proportion to the quality of your relationship to Jesus Christ. As always in the Christian life, there is a very practical outworking of discipline in the life which is involved, too, in any spiritual growth we have.
Today, then, we shall talk about four things:
I. Your own personal growth in the Lord;
II. The regulation of your time;
III. Prayer; and
IV. The quiet time.
I. Your Growth in the Lord
When a baby is born we feed him milk, and then as he grows older we add other things to his diet until he is able to take meat and a full diet. This is the way growth comes about in the physical life. Without food, you die. With too little food, you suffer from malnutrition, and become stunted in your growth.
The same thing is true in the spiritual realm. When you are born into the family, through faith in Jesus Christ, you are a spiritual baby. If you would grow, you must have spiritual food. Peter says, "As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the Word, that ye may grow thereby." (I Peter 2:2)
The writer of the epistle to the Hebrews tells them that they have been in the family of God long enough to be able to take the real meat of the Word. Yet they are not able to digest it; they still desire milk. (Hebrews 5:11 14 Amplified) We see here that Paul (it sounds like Paul to me, and I always think of him as the writer of Hebrews) has expected growth from these Hebrew Christians. He fed them first on the simple basic truths of God's Word, and expected them to grow and to be able gradually to understand the deeper truths of God's Word. They had not done it because they had continued to feed on milk. They had refused to dig deeper into the Word. They wanted to stay on the simple truths they had learned at first, which did not demand too much effort on their part. Milk you can drink; meat you must chew.
Also, if a baby takes food but does not retain it, or if he takes food into his mouth and chews it a while but spits it out instead of swallowing it, he will not grow. The food must be digested and become part of him if it is to produce growth.
This is true in the spiritual life. It is not enough to read God's Word. There must be an attitude of readiness to obey what is read, which takes the Word into the life, comprehends, understands, and appropriates it, so that it becomes spiritual bone and muscle.
Therefore, when we read in I Peter 3:3 4 that we Christian women are to have a beauty which does not depend on our outward appearance, which comes from a calm and gentle spirit within, we do not have a choice about this for it is a command. We are to be this way. In a spirit of obedience this knowledge must be taken into our lives and become part of us.
You cannot explain how meat and potatoes go into your system to become skin, muscle, teeth, and hair. Neither can I explain to you how obedient, prayerful study of the Word of God makes you grow in the Christian life and produces in you the qualities of the life of Jesus Christ, a calm and gentle spirit, but this is true. You know this from experience, apart from the fact that Peter tells us this is how we grow. As you study the Word, and through a decision of your will, you say, "All right, Lord, I see what you tell me to do or be here, and I intend to obey and do it." As you make the definite effort to do what the Word has commanded, the power of God moves in your behalf to flow through you and produce the fruit of the Spirit—love, joy, peace, etc. (Galatians 5:22)
How much of a calm and gentle spirit you achieve, then, will depend on how regularly and consistently, persistently and obediently you partake of the Word of God, your spiritual food.
There is another factor necessary in the growth of a child, and this is love and fellowship. You may give the baby the proper food and care, but without love, it becomes a sort of vegetable being. It does not develop emotionally; it may even die. In the spiritual realm this corresponds to communion with the Father or our prayer life. We must pray! God could work without our prayer if He chose to do so, but he chooses not to. He says in James 4:2, "Ye have not because you ask not." The provision is there for us, but we must ask for it. Prayer is more than asking; prayer is communion. You will never know the nature of God—WHO HE IS—unless you commune with Him in prayer.
Are you tired of being nagged about the importance of having a time of quietness with the Lord each day? I have to keep telling you, because our whole relationship to the Lord hinges on this. I know in my own life how easy it is to let it slip, or after I have established a regular time for it, to let it become a time when I simply go through the motions and do not really get down to business with the Lord. I know, too, (and you do, too, I'm sure) that the power of God flows through my life in direct proportion to the vitality of my own relationship with Him. If I am carefully maintaining my own relationship with Him, the attitudes of Christ come through me instead of my own.
The Phillips translation of Colossians 4:2 reads, "Always maintain the habit of prayer." It's a habit you must maintain. You must care for it, guard it, make time for it, cherish it. Helena Garrick has recommended a little book, The Quiet Time, which should help you in your time with the Lord, but YOU must establish the time. No matter how busy you are, no matter what your schedule, no matter how many children you have — you must have it for this is your lifeline. How can we think we are clever enough to rear children in this day with our own wisdom? I wish I knew some way to reach you with the urgency of the fact that we mothers must pray for our children! If you have any contact with young people, or if you read your newspaper, surely you see their bewilderment. They are looking for something to give their lives to, for they are filled with a great unrest and a great emptiness. You dare not offer them anything less than Jesus Christ, as nothing else will fill the vacuum. They have no interst in a lukewarm Christianity. However, when you say, "Jesus Christ will meet your need, but if you would follow Him, you must deny yourself,'? you will make sense to them in an unstable world. They need parents who know where they are going, who know in Whom they have believed, and who can say to them, "You follow me, as I follow Christ!" You can't say that to them unless you are in vital union with Jesus Christ yourself
II. Regulation of Your Time
Another thing that is involved in achieving a calm and gentle spirit is a regulation of your time. This is because, first of all, to regulate your time will make time for you to spend time with the Lord each day. Secondly, to bring order into your day will promote peace and serenity in your home in a very practical way.
Ephesians 5:15 17 in the Phillips reads: "Live life, then, with a due sense of responsibility, not as men who do not know the meaning and purpose of life, but as those who do. Make the best use of your time, despite all the difficulties of these days. Don't be vague, but firmly grasp what you know to be the will of God." Now what is the will of God? First of all, that we maintain a habit of prayer. Second, that we flake the best possible use of our time. Paul says in I Corinthians 14:33 that God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, and in verse 40, that we are to do all things decently and in order.
Let everything be done decently and in order. Maintain a habit of prayer. Make the best use of your time. DON'T BE VAGUE, FIRMLY GRASP! There must be a stiff determination to do something about it. In your day you must sit down and sort out all the things that MUST be done. My day as an example:
1. Time with the Lord
2. Meals, dishes, housework
3. Washing, ironing
6. Time with family
7. Time to rest and relax
How does your day add up? Do you have time with the Lord? Truthies, now. If you object to having a set time with the Lord, because you feel it becomes too much of a rote sort of thing, then you can vary your time from day to day. You will find this takes more discipline than having a set time, however. The important thing is to have it, no matter how you arrange your own particular schedule.
Do you have time with your family? Do you have time during the day to rest, and do you feel guilty? Stop feeling guilty for how are you going to be calm and gentle when you run yourself ragged without taking time to rest somewhere in the day? Now what can go out of your day? Time on the phone? TV? Some of the reading you do? Visiting with the neighbors? (You must be friendly, but do you have to have coffee with her every morning?)
Make a schedule for your day, and a broad one for your week. (You have to have something to depart from.) Now stick to it. If Friday is the day you have designated to clean, pick up the vacuum and begin. If Thursday is the day you shop, get off the phone and go. When it is time to have your Bible reading and prayer, stop and do it.
We have talked a great deal about the fact that the marriage relationship is like the relationship between us and the Lord. Turn your thought around for a moment and remember that your relationship to the Lord is like a marriage. The Bible says we are to be married to Him. A woman's whole life revolves around her husband and her children and her home. God's Word says we are to live in a state of marriage with Jesus Christ. He is to be our life. Everything is to revolve around Him and all our desire is to begin and end in Him.
This is what He said to Israel in Isaiah 62:4.(Hephzibah means "My delight is in her," and Beulah means "married.") When you sing about Beulah land in hymns, did you think it meant heaven? It doesn't. It is talking about this higher ground; a new dimension in your walk with the Lord where the closeness of your relationship to Him makes you walk in serenity above all the circumstances of your life, and His peace flows through you all the time.
IS NOT THIS THE LAND OF BEULAH?
(by Harriet Warner Re Qua)
I am dwelling on the mountain, Where the golden sunlight gleams,
O'er a land whose wondrous beauty far exceeds my fondest dreams;
Where the air is pure, ethereal, laden with the breath of flow'rs,
They are blooming by the fountain, 'neath the amaranthine bow'rs.
I can see far down the mountain, where I wandered weary years, Often hindered in my journey, by the ghosts of doubts and fears; Broken vows and disappointments, thickly sprinkled all the way, But the Spirit led unerring, to the land I hold today.
I am drinking at the fountain where I ever would abide,
For I've tasted life's pure river and my soul is satisfied;
There's no thirsting for life's pleasures, nor adorning rich and
For I've found a richer treasure, one that fadeth not away.
Tell me not of heavy crosses, nor the burdens hard to bear, For I've found this great salvation makes this burden light appear,
And I love to follow Jesus, gladly counting all but dross, Worldly honors all forsaking, for the glory of the cross.
Oh, the cross has wondrous glory! Oft I've found it to be true; When I'm on the way so narrow, I can see a pathway through; And how sweetly Jesus whispers: "Take the cross, thou need'st not fear,
For I've tried the way before thee, end the glory lingers near "
Is not this the land of Beulah? Blessed, blessed land of light; Where the flowers bloom forever, and the sun is always bright.
We must realize that there is no power or value to prayer itself — there is power in GOD. Billions of prayers are offered each day. Most of them are never received by God. John 14:6 tells us that "no man cometh to the Father, but by me." Prayer cannot be offered to God apart from Christ. Before Christ came it was offered to God through the altar and Levitical sacrifice looking forward to the Lamb who would be slain, the Messiah. So we must come to God through the Lord Jesus Christ. If you attempt to cash a check, it is a simple matter if you present it according to the rules. Suppose I am walking down the street and I see a bank. I go into the bank, and write a check, and present it to the teller to be cashed. The teller asks, "Do you have an account in this bank?" "Well, no," I say, "I do not, but I want you to know I sincerely believe in cashing checks!" You know I will not get the money. It is not enough to believe in cashing checks. One must have an account in the bank. It is not enough to say, "Oh, I believe in prayer!" One must have an account in the bank of heaven. If you have not come humbly to God by the way of the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ, and hailed Him as Lord, thereby being born into the family of God, He is not your Father, and is under no obligation to answer your prayers.
1. Prayer is highly personal. Do not try to copy someone else's prayer life. The secret of power in prayer is not a method, but a yielded heart. The Word gives definite conditions for having prayer answered, but let your method of prayer be your own as the Spirit leads you. It may vary from time to time; you will not always pray in the same manner. Prayer is talking to God, and since He knows our innermost thoughts, it is also unspoken communion.
Some good quotes about prayer: John Dunlap—"Prayer is not a spiritual exercise that gets God in the mood to do something He didn't want to do before." Dawson Trotman— "Time does not have much to do with whether or not God hears you, but it has something to do with whether your faith is built up as you pray and ask." John R. Rice—"Prayer is a pick up truck we back it up to God's warehouse and come away with the goods. But some people pray as they window shop they don't go after anything and they don't bring anything home. "
3. Conditions for prayer:
1. Forgive when you pray. Mark 11:25, 26. Matthew 6:14, 15. We have a gospel for forgiveness for the
sinner, but no gospel for forgiveness for those in our own home, or some other Christian who hurt
us. We can forgive the sinner anything, saying, "Well, you can't expect more of him—he doesn't
know the Lord." But how often do we go to prayer with that grudge against our husbands still in our
hearts? We do this constantly, and then wonder why the Lord does not answer our prayers. It is
time we stopped building air castles for ourselves according to our own whims and recognized the
plain teaching of the Word of God, which says bluntly, "Forgive, when you stand praying, or else
your Father cannot forgive you." You will see that this is because of the next condition, which is:
Cleanse your heart and life of sin. Psalm 66:18 tells us plainly that if we regard iniquity in our
hearts the Lord will not hear us. To be unforgiving is sinful, and if we cling to an unforgiving spirit, the Lord will not hear our prayer, because we are regarding, or holding, or cherishing iniquity in our hearts. We all have sin in our lives. Some of it I'm sure is apparent to others, but not to us, and some of it is not even apparent to others. But there must be a constant searching of the heart before the Lord, asking Him to reveal all in us that is not pleasing to Him, and seeking forgiveness and cleansing. Psalm 66:18 is speaking of sin which is known to us, but to which we stubbornly cling or refuse to deal with. God will not hear your prayer under this condition. His Word says so. Isaiah 59: 1,
2. Sometimes it is a lack of submission to the husband on the part of the wife and a failure of the husband to honour the wife as the weaker vessel that hinders our prayers. I Peter 3:1 7.
3. Believe. Mark 11:22 24, James 1:6,7. We pray so often through a sense of duty, without any real thought of the prayer being answered.
4. Delight yourself in Him. Psalms 37:4. You will delight yourself according to the light you have. Do not feel that you must be an expert in the Christian life in order to delight yourself in Him. The newest Christian can offer Him praise and love, ,can read His Word, can talk to Him, can seek to please Him in all he does. This is delighting yourself in the Lord.
5. Abide in Him, His words in you. John 15:7.
4. Ingredients of prayer: Pray . . .
1. With thanksgiving. Philippians 4:6, I Thessalonians 5:18.
2. Without ceasing. I Thessalonians 5:17. This is an attitude of having the heart constantly turned toward God. Dr. Barnhouse says, "What does your mind snap back to when you are not thinking of the things you must think of?" As a mother is alert to the smallest cry of her child, even as she sleeps, so we are in constant communion with Him.
3. Fervently. James 5:16. Sincerely and persistently. Luke 11:5 10.
4. To God, not to man. Matthew 6:5 8. Let us pray especially that the Lord will deliver us from the public prayer, in church or before our families, that is prayed with an ear attentive to how it sounds to the listener, rather than with a heart turned toward God.
5. Promises about prayer:
1. When two agree. Matthew 18:19. This does not mean that two people can covenant together to pray about something and get anything they want. It would be ridiculous to suppose this, because two people might agree on something that was entirely out of the Lord's will. The word "agree" comes from the Greek symphanzio" from which we get the word " symphony. " If the Holy Spirit burdens your heart about something, and then He also burdens my heart about that same thing, we can go to the Lord in prayer about this thing, and KNOW that we have what we ask. We are in accord, in "symphony" about it, through the Spirit, because He has given the same burden to each. Dr.Barnhouse illustrates it this way: When the song leader announces a hymn on Sunday morning, everyone turns to the correct page, the organist will sound the key and, at a sign, everyone stands and begins to sing the announced hymn in the proper key. There is nothing unusual about this. However, if the song leader simply stated, "We will now rise and sing," and the organist should begin to play and all sang in the same key with the same hymn, this would indeed be unusual. This would be "symphanzio."
2. The Holy Spirit helps us to pray. Romans 8:26 28.
3. We may have wisdom. James 1:5.
4. For the sick. James 5:16.
5. Other promises. Matthew 7:7 11 and 17:20. Mark 11:22, 24. John 14:13, 14; 15:16 and 16:23, 24.
6. Fasting. Scripture references to fasting: Matthew 6:1618; 9:14 15; 17:19 21. Luke 18:12 and 2:37. Acts 13:2,3; 14:23; 10:30; 27:33. I Corinthians 7:5. II Corinthians 6:5, and 11:27.
1. Not as a work.
2. He is more important than food, or anything. Your request is more important to you than food.
3. Only when the Spirit leads.
4. It is ministering to the Lord, worship and communion (Acts 13:2,3).
5. Involuntary fasting. The burden is so great, that though we do not purpose to fast, we do so involuntarily.
6. Be sure you read Matthew 6:16 18 over again before you ever decide to fast.
IV. The Quiet Time.
What is a "quiet time"? It is a time set aside to deepen your knowledge of the Lord, to enrich your own personal relationship with Him, to fellowship with Him, to love Him, to worship Him, on a very personal basis. This quiet time each day is for YOUR OWN PERSONAL GROWTH in the Lord. It may seem selfish to you to devote time strictly to your own needs, but this is not selfish; it is absolutely necessary. So I am not talking about time spent on Sunday School lesson preparation, or even on intercession for others, even though this is needful. Bible study cannot be underestimated. But sometimes we have so much studying to do, and so much intercession, that we do not spend time before the Lord strictly for our own personal growth. No matter how old you are in the Lord, how closely you walk with Him, I feel this little time of intimate fellowship with Him will always be necessary. You may have a set time for it, or it may happen several times during the day. You may take five minutes, or five hours, as the Spirit and circumstances lead, but vital personal contact with the Lord is necessary, in order that you may have a constant in pouring of the Life of Christ, that He may channel it through you to others. Do not ever feel you must stick to rules and regulations in order to achieve this. If you DESIRE to know Him better, the Holy Spirit will certainly lead you in your efforts, even if you never see any helps on the subject.
Lesson 11 back to table of contents
THE FAMILY ALTAR
The source of all truth is God. Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth and the life." (John 14:6) He did not say, "I am an aspect of the truth." He said, "I am the truth." The world divides sacred and secular things, but the Christian recognizes no such division. The average person allots a portion of his life to religion. The Christian puts God at the core of his life and relates everything else to Him.
Just as a child learns all the time, so the child of God learns all the time in the Christian life. Christian education is basically this: the process of growth and learning in the Christian life. If you are a child of God, you are to grow in two ways in the Christian life (II Peter 3:18), "Grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord."
Growing in the knowledge of Jesus Christ is what Philippians 3:10 (Amplified) is talking about. To the Christian everything he sees and experiences teaches him something of the nature of Jesus Christ. We are studying marriage, and as we have studied it in the light of the Word of God, out of our study comes an overwhelming revelation of the nature of God as revealed to us in the love of Jesus Christ for us.
As we begin to study the parent child relationship, we will see the revelation of the Father relationship of God to us, His children. As we study discipline of children, God's Word will bring into clear focus the patient child training of God our Heavenly Father toward us, His children.
To the Christian the whole world speaks of the nature of Jesus Christ (Psalms 19:1) "The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament showeth His handiwork." We see the properties of the wind likened to the Holy Spirit (John 3). We see water and think of Jesus Christ, the water of life, who satisfies the thirst of a man's soul (John 4:14). We eat bread and think of Jesus Christ, the bread of heaven (John 6:51), who satisfies all the hungers of the heart. We see a rock and its properties speak to us of the nature of the Rock, Christ Jesus (I Corinthians 10:4), who is the same, yesterday, today, and forever. (Hebrews 13:8)
Not only in the tangible world around us, but in every area of living mental, spiritual, and physical God is the core of everything. Wherever truth is found in art, science, music, philosophy, it is God's truth, and the nature of God comes shining through in perfect clarity. If a person does not know Jesus Christ, he cannot fully comprehend any truth. (I Corinthians 2:11 16 Amplified)
So you see that Christian education is not just something we strive to give our children by sending them to Christian schools. It would be too bad if this were so, because not everyone has the opportunity of sending his children to Christian schools. I believe in Christian education in Christian schools with all my heart, because a Christian school has as its aim exactly what we have been talking about. It seeks to teach the child that all truth belongs to God, whether it is scientific, historical, philosophical, or spiritual truth. He learns this as he studies math, and science, and history, day by day. I hope to have a program for you later on, where the staff of the Norfolk Christian Schools will demonstrate for you exactly how this is accomplished in the classroom. But the truth I want you to see today is that Christian education is not something that is carried on solely behind the doors of those schools called Christian schools. Christian education is going on all the time in our Christian homes, if we are alive to the leading of God's spirit in our lives.
Christian education is not just for children. We parents are being educated in the Christian life every day. We are growing in knowledge. But we must also grow in grace. Do you remember the actual meaning of the word "grace" from last year? It was as follows: "Grace is the divine influence on the heart, and its reflection in the life." Christian education then is a deliberate seeking of knowledge about God, and of His will for the life, and then the application of that knowledge to the life or appropriating the knowledge for one's own use. We have been doing this in these past months as we have searched God's Word for His teaching on marriage (this is growing in knowledge); then we have taken these truths home to make them real in our lives (this is growing in grace).
As we Christian parents train our children, there must be on our part that same searching for knowledge from the Word of God, and teaching of this knowledge to our children. Along with it there must be teaching by the example of the parent, and by an application of the knowledge in the child's own experience day by day.
Before we begin to study child rearing, I thought we should have this lesson on worship in the home so that you can be doing it and your children can be reaping the benefits of it.
Deuteronomy 5:29 expresses the desire of God's heart for us. Deuteronomy 6:4 9. Notice in verse 6 that these truths must be written in the heart. II Corinthians 3:2 3 (Amplified). It is not sufficient just to read the Word to the child. The child must see the Word lived out in your life. Mr. Gene Garrick tells of having family devotions in his home one morning when Kathy was very small. Little Kathy had asked, "Where is Jesus?" and he was trying to explain to her that He is not only in heaven, but that He lives in the hearts of those who love Him. He explained, "Jesus is in Mommy, and Jesus is in Daddy." Kathy digested this for a moment, then she leaned forward and said, "Daddy, I want to SEE Jesus in you!"
Does my child see Jesus Christ in me? How dangerous to read and teach the Bible to a child, when he can see our lives are full of hypocrisy. I am not saying that we have to be perfect for none of us is, but a child can sense when there is an earnest desire on the part of the parent to do God's will, and an earnest effort to make the parent's life measure up to what he is teaching the child from the Bible. He can sense a counterfeit just as quickly.
I read an article in Moody Monthly by Mrs. W. E. Kawkins. She said her little boy came to her one day for money for some school supplies, and she fished in her purse and brought out a quarter and handed it to him. He barely hesitated, then handed it back to her. "That won't do me any good, Mother — that's lead," he said. She was stunned. She had handed her child a counterfeit coin and he had detected it immediately. She had not meant to deceive him, of course, and quickly exchanged the coin, but afterwards she began to think. Had she been handing her son other counterfeits far more dangerous that could not be so easily exchanged for the real thing? If so, sooner or later he would hand them back to her because they lacked the ring of true genuineness.
If Christ is not real to you, you cannot make Him real to your children. You will not teach them to love Him, if you do not. Do you read to them from the Word, "Rest in the Lord," and then do you fret? Do you read I Corinthians 13 to them, and is there bitterness and unforgiveness in your heart even as you read? Do you read, "Having therefore food and raiment, let us be therewith content," and then do you covet material things? Do you read, "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor," and does your child see you in a gossip fest with some other woman, tearing someone's reputation to shreds?
You are handing your child a counterfeit Christianity, and sooner or later he will hand it back to you and say, "That won't do me any good, Mother — that's lead." But if you are earnestly endeavoring to live what you are teaching him, one day the child will come to the point of decision in his own life. Shall it be his will, or God's will for his life? He will look at your life and respect the Christianity he sees, and seek it for himself, as the children came to their parents in Deuteronomy 6:20 25. You can say, as they did, "Son, there was a time when I did not know God, when I did not know how to talk with Him, but then I learned what a Christian really is, and He brought me out of bondage into liberty, out of darkness into light. All that God says, He will do. He has done it for me. If you will only love Him, and obey Him with all your heart, you can come into possession of the land, Beulah land, where you walk in closeness with Jesus Christ, and His life and His power flow through you all the time. "
Isaiah 28:9 20. The family altar is the careful laying of the foundation of God's truth in the child's life. It will be done, little by little, line upon line. It is not something that will give you immediate results, but it is the long range building of sure foundations for the child's spiritual life.
Dr. Norman Harrison calls the family altar the foundation for family discipline. When a child has been given occasion to question the parent's motive in discipline, or if there has been a display of temper or ill will on the part of the parent, so that the child's respect for the parent is lowered or compromised, the will of the child is set up against the will of the parent, and a harmful condition has been created. However, if the parent can lead the child to the family altar, and there they bow together, submitting mind and heart to the Lord, and the child hears the humbling of the parent before the Heavenly Father, he finds it easy to submit himself to an earthly parent who is in turn submissive to the heavenly parent.
Do not infer from this that the parent should always be apologizing to the child, or that a parent should never be stern. We represent God to our children, and it could not give a true picture of God if we did not deal swiftly and surely with disobedience, as God does with us. But while God is angry with sin, He is not angry with us. He loves us, sinners that we are. Too often our discipline of our children is not for their good, but simply because we must give vent to our own irritation or ill temper. This is the sort of thing which tears down the child's respect for the parent and should be confessed to God before the child.
I. Some things that should be incorporated into the family worship
1. Confession of any sin in the life which has affected the child, or been against him.
2. Asking for wisdom and guidance from God for the rearing of the children.
3. Praise for little things, that the child might learn to be thankful. Gratitude to God for His mercy and love.
4. Dedicatory prayer. Each child should know that God's will for him is what you desire most of all.
5. Personal prayer for each child.
6. Prayer for others, outside the circle of your own family, including church, friends, and your own interests.
II. Some don'ts:
1. Don't bring children "to trial" at family worship. Try to make him eager to seek forgiveness from God on his own, but don't "report" him to the Lord.
2. Don't ignore an apparent problem, if you can pray about it tactfully, without humiliating the child.
3. Don't let the time of worship become stiff and formal.
4. Help a child to learn to pray thoughtfully, but do not criticize his prayer. Do not try to make him conform to what you think is a respectable sort of prayer.
III. Some methods:
1. Bible stories or games for the very young. (You need not have reservations about using a good Bible story book. This is the Word of God, simplified for the child. )
2. Object lessons that teach the Word.
3. Modern translations of the Word.
4. Correspondence courses for older children.
5. Books in conjunction with family worship, a chapter a day. They should not replace the Word, but can be used along with it. It is your responsibility to give your child missionary vision. You could use some stories of the lives of missionaries. Our children were fascinated with Through Gates of Splendor, and The Dayuma Story.
6. Prayer lists can be used concerning people in your family, your friends, your church, missionaries, etc. Each child can be given a name on the list to pray for as you go around the circle.
IV. Some difficulties:
1. Finding a good time of day. Ask the Lord to make a time for you. He will. You may have to experiment, but you will work out a time if you want to.
2. Keeping small children reverent and interested.
1. Make it short.
2. Make it interesting.
3. Bring it down to their level. (This is to feed them, not you.)
4. Let them take part. Even the smallest child can do this. A teenager loves to express himself, if you will give him the opportunity. Ask his thoughts or opinions on what you are reading. An older child can be allowed to read to the younger ones, etc.
5. Do not expect a small child to sit stock still. He can't. Do make it such a pleasant time in the Lord that he will look forward to it.
6. Punishment should not be associated in the child's mind with the family altar. A child will absorb nothing if he is full of rebellion. You may have to correct the child, if he gets out of hand during the worship time, but do it gently and lovingly. Ask the Lord to give you wisdom about discipline you must use during this time. Ask the Lord to keep a small child's restlessness from making the time futile. Do not choose this time to nag the child about sitting up straight, chewing his fingernails, etc. Concentration on getting truth across to the child. You can take care of his manners later.
3. Husbands who are not Christians. If your husband is not a Christian, he may not be at all sympathetic toward having a time of family worship. If he will sit through it and if you do it, by all means do so. If he will not take part, then you make a time when you can gather the children around you, and have it with them.
4. Husbands who are Christians, but will not take the spiritual lead in the home. This should drive you to a personal life of prayer and examination before the Lord for your own life before Him, and for your husband, that he might see and assume his responsibility. Pray for him, not about him. It is the Lord's desire that he should be the spiritual head of the home. Make it your desire, and then ask the Lord to work it out. Too often, in our deepest heart, we do not really want the husband to take over, or when he does, we belittle or interfere with his efforts or methods by word or attitude.
Ask God to establish a time of worship in your home beginning now. He will lead you.
Lesson 12 back to table of contents
SPIRITUAL GOALS FOR THE CHILD
Today we must see exactly what the spiritual goal is for which we are aiming in the Christian education of the child.
Psalm 127 points out the utter folly of all precautions outside the Lord and the folly of all preparation outside Him. It is stating again what we studied last week; the fact that God is the core of everything and the reason for being. He is truth. He is life. To build a home without God at the core of it is to build on sand. The search for truth, apart from Jesus Christ, is simply a walk in spiritual death, leading to eternal death.
What is a child? How am I to prepare him for "life" — whatever "life" is? Verse 4 of the psalm calls the child an arrow in the hand of a mighty man. Do you recall Lesson 5, in which we talked about God's purpose in the world: to redeem sinful man back to Himself? All creation moves with this purpose; all history leads to this goal. He is calling out a people for His name, and everything moves to this rhythm. His purpose for the individual is all bound up in this great purpose of redemption. He redeems individuals and conforms them to the image of Jesus Christ. He thrusts them forward into the picture, into an office, into a school, into a mission field, and into a kitchen. He spells out the meaning of redemption to the world, through individual lives. All through the world God has His people who are arrows pointing the way to Jesus Christ.
God gives me a child, a slim piece of wood, and He says,
"Now shape him. Make me an arrow; carve him this way I and that. See, here are the clear directions in My Word: sand I him down, and polish him. He must be strong and straight ! and true. Oh, do your best for Me, and when he's ready, I'll hold your hands as we fit him to the string, draw back, and let him go, straight toward the mark!"
I am deeply involved in God's purpose for the world, and my children see me involved in it. I draw them into it with me, and there is never a time when they are not conscious of the fact that they are involved in it, too.
I give my child this tremendous sense of destiny as he grows, and I broaden his horizon. From the shelter and security of his home, I open a window on the world, and I make him aware of the red tide of Communism rolling closer and closer the unrest of the nations the cry of hunger from half the world bloodshed and war crime poverty suffering death and of that stuff the world calls pleasure that stuff the world calls fame that stuff the world calls wealth that stuff the world calls happiness.
And I boil all the needs of the world down for him into the one great need: sinful man needs to be reconciled to a Holy God. I make sure he recognizes this, no matter what face it wears.
It is not enough that I open a window on the world for him. The life of that world must stream through my door because he has to learn that we are not here to be ministered unto, but to minister.
We have the bread of life and there is a bread line at my door day by day. As he learns to recognize the fact that all the needs of the world are simply one great need, that a man must find peace with God, he learns to recognize this need wherever he sees it. It explains to him the actions of a father who does not know God, or a brother, or sister, or friend, or neighbor. He learns that the need of the world is very near to him, even in his home and on the quiet street where he lives, in Norfolk and the cities elsewhere, and the regions beyond that where no man has heard the name of Christ.
I will teach him what life is through the words of Jesus Christ. "This is life eternal, that they might know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent." (John 17:3)
I will teach him that the real things are the divine intangibles which are in Jesus Christ—love, joy, peace, gentleness, goodness, meekness, faith, self control. Peace? He does not think it strange that the nations war when the angel said, "Peace on earth!" He knows that the kingdom of God is within you and the peace he gives is that peace that passeth all understanding, but it is a peace about which the world knows nothing. (Philippians 4:7, John 14:27)
I will teach him that this is what life is all about. All the polishing of the arrow — the education I give him, the clothes I provide for him, the food, the recreation, the tender loving care—is all to the end that God might have the very best with which to do His work.
How do you launch a child toward that goal?
There is only one sure way that I know. This is to see that he has a true understanding of what the Christian life is according to the Word of God. I must be certain that he knows all that is involved in the word, "Salvation."
We have made the mistake (with the help of the devil, I'm sure) of pulling portions of the Scripture out here and there, and saying, "This verse explains salvation; this is the gospel in a nutshell." You can't put the gospel in a nutshell, for while our salvation is so simple that a fool can appropriate it for himself, it is on the other hand so deep that the wisest man in the world could spend eternity studying it, and never fathom its depths.
You will not convey the meaning of salvation to your child by having him recite John 3:16 like a Boy Scout oath, affirming that he believes it. The whole of the gospel IS wrapped up in John 3:16, but what do you mean by "believe?"
Perhaps you have received brochures on the new cars through the mail, as we have. On the first page is the shining, big overall picture of the new Ford, or Plymouth, or whatever it is. Oh, there it is, the '61 Ford. It certainly
nice! You like its looks, and there it is, all of it, but you don't really understand the '61 Ford. Turn the page. The next page begins to give you a view of the interior of the car. Yes, it has adjustable seats, foam rubber cushioning, and automatic transmission, but you still don't understand much about the car. Turn the page again. Now, this view lifts the hood and shows you the motors and then on we go, page after page, to the breakdown of statistics about the car: how it operates, how much power it has, what the mileage is, how much space it occupies. Then comes a picture of the bare frame, and a cut away view of how the transmission works. You are beginning to understand the '61 Ford. And so you read John 3:16. There is the gospel, all of it; but keep turning the pages, for the whole of the Word of God is taken up with the amplification of this truth stated there so concisely.
Read II Corinthians 5:17 21 (Phillips). Now you see some more explanation of this salvation. There is an exchange involved here. He took our place, and now we are to take His place in the world. He represented us on Calvary; now we are to represent Him. He took our sin; we take His righteousness. Why? That "in Christ we might be made good with the goodness of God."
But now you need more amplification of the picture, because you know that you are not good with the goodness of God. How is this to be accomplished? There must be more about salvation that you need to know.
Turn the page again. Matthew 16:24 25. Jesus is talking about salvation again, but now this is narrowing it down, isn't it? It's going to get narrower still where you turn over to Matthew 7:13 14, and 21 23.
Ah, now we stand here all uncertain and shaken up. Shall we go back to John 3:16? It was more comfortable back there, wasn't it, before all this talk about a narrow way? What shall we do with this part of the Word of God? Would you like the responsibility of throwing it out? (Revelation 22: 1 19)
Jesus' disciples had the same uneasiness when they heard Him speak these words, and they said, "Lord, are there few then that be saved?" He looked at them, and brushed aside their question. Never mind how many — God knows, you do not need to know. "Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able." (Luke 13:24)
Is this teaching that salvation is by our own efforts? By works? No. Let us see what we can understand about it.
Here are two gates. One is wide, and leads to a broad road, with many people crowding along it. The Word of God says it leads to destruction. The other gate is very narrow; it opens onto a narrow road, and there are not many people on the road. But Jesus Christ is on that way, and you would like to follow Him, you think, so you rush for the gate. Suddenly you find you will have to stoop to enter. There were things you were going to take along to commend you to God, but there is not room for you to get through the gate if you take them with you. So you lay down all those things you were sure would be useful as a recommendation of your worthiness— your works, your talents, your money, your goodness, your even disposition, your generosity, your church membership. You can't get through the door with them, and then you notice a sign tacked to the door that has been there all along, "Not by works of righteousness that we have done, but according to His mercy." (Titus 3:5)
You will throw everything down, but you still have one bundle which is labled SELF and you are going to need that, wherever you go, because a man has to look out for himself. No one else will look out for him, that is sure. A man has to take care of No. 1 in this world. But you find you can't get through the door if you carry this bundle. You will have to lay it down if you would enter. This is why Jesus said, "Many will seek to enter in and will not be able." Don't you know a person will give up everything but his right to himself? He said, "If any man would follow me, let him deny himself"
Self must go because this is a way of life you are entering upon. Once you are through the narrow gate, you are on the narrow way, and it is a life time decision. The whole way, from the gate and onward, is "Not my will but the will of the Father." It is turning once and for all from the broad way, where you did as you pleased, to the narrow way, where you do as He pleases. "Not my will, but His, in all things." This is why He says, "Not everyone that sayeth unto me, Lord, Lord, but he that doeth the will of my Father." You never know, until you are IN the narrow way, how filled with glory it is. After you go through the gate, you begin to comprehend that this is life, NOW, and it leads to life eternal. You can't fully understand any of this until you go through the gate, and the decision comes very hard.
Are you in the narrow way? I did not ask if you never sin. You will stumble and fall many times on the narrow way. You will sin, of course you will. The narrow way is not sinless perfection. But have you made your choice, once and for all? Are you committed to this way? Is this the thing that controls your life? This is what it means to be "in Christ." Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life . . ." (John 14:6). "I am that narrow way. Come through the narrow way of complete submission to my will and enter into the abundant life, possessing all the things that I am—My joy, My peace, My wisdom."
We must nurture our children toward the day when they enter the strait gate. They cannot possibly understand and comprehend all that is involved when they are small. Now they are sinners, born in sin, with sinful natures. Yet they have not resisted the will of God knowingly. They sin, but they do not have a comprehension of the nature of sin that is within them which separates them from God. They are not accountable to God for their sin until they stand before Him with enough maturity to comprehend that their sin is against Him. Now the child is safe, don't misunderstand. If he should die, he would be with the Lord Jesus Christ in heaven. And the heathen child is just as safe as yours is, though his little ears never heard the name of Jesus. Why, then, all this training of the child in spiritual matters? Because the day is coming when he will be accountable, and he will stand at the two gates where he will have to decide, God's will or mine, now and forever. Which shall it be?
Rushing a child toward a decision about conversion that he does not comprehend and understand can lead to disaster. It may be years before he finds out what the Christian life is all about, because he thought he settled the whole affair when he said, back there in his childhood, "I want to have Jesus in my heart." Worse still, he may count on that decision, made in childish, innocent years, when he is not a child of God at all. He may go along feeling that he is a Christian, and then when he discovers he is not, he may be ashamed to admit it.
No, we must nurture the child toward the decision. We teach him to know and to love Jesus Christ. We teach him to obey God. We teach him to deal with sin in his life. He learns to confess and be forgiven. We teach him to turn to Jesus Christ for comfort and for wisdom.
As you bring him up, carefully teaching him the ways of the Christian life, one day he reaches a point of maturity where the Holy Spirit does the work in his heart and he sees himself as a sinner before God with a sinful nature that cannot please God. He stands at the two gates. If you have trained up the child in the way he should go, when he is old he will not depart from it (Proverbs 22:6). He will choose the narrow way.
The choice is made usually about the time he reaches his middle teens. I say usually, because it varies with the maturity, sensitivity, and training of the child, but it is usually about this time when he is fully aware of his own strong will surging within him, and he recognizes the fact that it resists God's will. This is why the teenagers move me more than any other age of children. They are standing before the gates on the brink of decision and they are so full of potential. If I could pull them in, I would. But this is an individual matter; each must decide for himself, and the pull of the broad way is so strong when they want so much to be like the crowd. It is so painful to be different. The decision is hard!
How desirable have you made Jesus Christ to your teenager? What does he see in your life on the narrow way? Does your joy in the Lord make the broad way appear to be what it is, the way to destruction? Does your walk with the Lord beckon to him, "Son, this is life, follow me, as I follow Christ!"
Lesson 13 back to table of contents
THE CHILD'S TWO NEEDS — LOVE AND DISCIPLINE
"Crime is our great national problem. Statistics reveal that it has increased in recent years until there is a murder committed in our country every hour, a rape every half, a robbery every seven minutes, a car stolen every two minutes, a burglary every forty five seconds. Experts tell us that in 1962 one million teenagers were arrested and that the average age of the criminal in our country is now eighteen years." These are figures given by Judge Alfred W. Whitehurst of our own Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court in the city of Norfolk. Judge Whitehurst says: "It is a pathetic sight to see the people standing in the hallways before court opens. The hallway contains little children crying, mothers wearing weary faces, and people who have been assaulted or injured in some way. As you see this human misery crowding the hallways, you are reminded that so much of it need never occur."
A worker from the Juvenile Bureau called me to tell me a teenager I'd been working with had run away from home. She thought the girl might have come to me. Soon the child called me. I said, "Why have you done this? Don't you know you'll be rated incorrigible and made a ward of the court if you keep this up?" "Mrs. Rice," she replied, "I want to be made a ward of the court. I don't care where they send me, just so it isn't home."
I went to the Juvenile Court with another broken hearted mother. The thirteen year old girl had run off with a man who already had a long police record. "Where did she meet this man?" I asked her. "She met him at a public dance where she lied about her age to get in." "What was a thirteen year old girl doing at a public dance?" I asked. "She wanted to go. How could I stop her? I promised her a new dress if she would stay home. She took the dress, but then she went anyway."
I visited another home. The fourteen year old girl was not in school. She looked hale and hearty and she was watching TV. "Why isn't she in school?—Is she sick?" "Oh, no, she's not sick, but she didn't want to go, and when a girl that size doesn't want to go to school you can't make her." "Don't the school authorities catch on to this?" I asked. "I guess she would have been caught long ago if I didn't write notes to excuse her." And then, at the look on my face, "Well, I can't make her go. What can I do?"
A father, writing in the Saturday Evening Post, says: "If anyone had told me a year ago that my eighteen year old son Howard used narcotics, I could not have believed it. Such a thing could not happen in my family or in my neighborhood. Westchester County, N. Y., in which we live, is one of the wealthiest per capita neighborhoods in the world. . . The drug problem is popularly thought to be primarily a scourge of the slum and the underprivileged. Here in Westchester it has attacked the over privileged. It has invaded families which have given their children everything that money can buy, every opportunity that schools, churches, and social welfare can provide. . . None of the parents involved had even a glimmer of what was going on. Our kids taking dope? Don't be silly . . . it couldn't happen."
As you read on through the article, the father says, "Howard came in about 4 AM. I met him on the stairway, for I had been unable to sleep. .. He brushed by me and went to his room. I heard his door lock. probably, I thought, he's had a few drinks and doesn't want me to know. Drinking among teenagers is common in our county, even among the fifteen year olds, and most parents ignore it....The sheriff reminded Howard that until the dope hit him he had been a big athlete, but that heroin had ruined his coordination so that he had been dropped from all the teams. It was the dope, the sheriff went on, that had caused Howard to play truant and finally to flunk two subjects at school. All this was news to me."
We feel like paraphrasing Bishop Cushman to say:
"O, thou parent, (America) what is thy reaping, If, while all hell's astir, thou art still sleeping?"
There are two things a child must have if he is to grow up into a mature, God fearing, law abiding individual. These things are love and discipline. Love without discipline is sentiment; and discipline without love is tyranny. The extreme examples we have listed here show us that these two great lacks are behind the juvenile delinquency in our nation. Judge Whitehurst says: "It is amazing the strange sources we seek to correct this problem. We listen to a famous disc jockey who advises on the subject, and to any lovelorn column, but not to God, the Creator of the home. The Psalmist has said, 'Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it.' How amazing it is that we will listen to practically any: source on this all important subject, but will not listen to the Lord in building our homes. God's law requires that not only children honor their parents, but that parents be worthy of that honor. If children are not taught to honor their fathers and mothers, you cannot very well expect them to honor their teachers, their employers, and their government. No civilization, in all history, has been able to survive without families where the authority of God is reflected in the authority of the parents."
Perhaps you take comfort in the extremity of the examples I have mentioned, and because you don't have a juvenile delinquent, you think this has nothing to do with you. But the same two lacks are behind the troubles in the marriages represented here. I dare say that each one of us is familiar with this in an intimate sense. You, or your marriage partner, or someone close enough to you to affect your own happiness vitally, has suffered a lack of love or discipline or both in growing up, and in consequence has not really been able to grow up. So we have adults who either refuse to grow up or cannot grow up entering into marriage. Thus they cannot meet the demands placed on them by this relationship which requires mature attitudes.
If you are within the sound of my voice today, you are blessed, for I have good news for you! You need not suffer from lack of maturity, no matter what your background has been. If you will yield yourself to the discipline of the Holy Spirit through the Word of God, He will make you grow up. Patiently, thoroughly, the great Child Trainer will work you over, exposing your need, and supplying grace for your growth, filling you with the wisdom of God, until, as Paul says in Ephesians 4:13 15, "We will come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ; That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine. . . but speaking the truth in love, may grow up into Him in all things."
None of us has reached that full maturity, no matter how adult we may be in our attitudes when we enter upon the Christian life, for when your "maturity" faces the demands of the love of Christ in I Corinthians 13, you find you are just a child after all. But we are growing and feeling growing pains. They are pains, to be sure, but because we know we are being conformed to the likeness of His dear Son, these are pains we love to bear.
Now, just as the teaching of the Word of God applied to the adult's life will make him grow and mature in all ways, so the teaching of the Word of God in respect to the discipline and nurture of our children produces a child who grows and matures at the proper rate. In the end he stands a mature individual, confident that he can do all things through Christ. He is humbled, though, by the life long exposure to the searching Word of God, so that he knows he must continue to grow up until the day he dies.
I think if I could try to find the one word which conveys the attitude of most of us here about the rearing of our children, it would be "fear." We are just afraid, that is all, afraid that we will discipline too much or too little; afraid we will love too much or too little; afraid of the world situation; afraid of our own inadequacies, the situations in our homes; and, actually, let us face this honestly, are we not afraid of our own children? The whole situation has turned topsy turvy, and all over America parents are obeying their children, fearful to assume authority lest they damage the child or lest the child react in a way they can't handle.
There are two things the child needs, love and discipline, and we need the wisdom to administer them in the proper proportions. I have chosen for our scripture today II Timothy 1:7, and I wish you would learn it if you do not already know it, and hug it to your heart from now on. "God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind." There they are — the three things you need: power (the authority you need for discipline), love, and a sound mind (the wisdom to administer the two).
The child has to have love. It cannot be a love that overprotects the child. There is a distinction between the protection which holds back development and that which helps it along. You are over protecting a child if you carefully surround him with an environment that shields him from all difficulties. Life is real and life is earnest, and it is difficult. There will come a day when you cannot protect him from the difficulties of life, and if you have shielded him all his growing years, he will never be able to meet it when he has to go it alone.
On the other hand you must give the child the affectionate protection and security which make him know that you are standing by in all his difficulties, so that he is not overwhelmed by them. You will teach him early to turn to the Lord for wisdom and strength and guidance in all his problems. You will feed him responsibility just as fast as he is able to accept it, letting him learn to dress himself, feed himself, put his toys away. Then as he grows older, you will hand him more responsibilities commensurate with his age.
It cannot be a love that is possessive. Possessive love binds the child to the parent and discourages his independence. Possessiveness leads a parent to decide what career his child will follow. It seeks to bind the child to the family circle long after the child should have tried his wings. It seeks to bind a child to the family circle even after the child's marriage. Possessive love demands to know the child's every thought and action. Possessive love uses love for its own purposes, as a means of controlling a child or making him conform to its wishes. "If you love mother, you will go to bed like a good girl. If you love me, you will do as I say. I can't love you if you are naughty. I can't love you if you are going to be careless with your new sweater." The child soon learns that the mother's love depends on his behavior; love is a very unstable thing, indeed.
It must be a love that fosters independence and maturity, that demands the best of the child, and holds him to the highest, which is the demand of Christ upon his life. It must be a love that is understanding, that comprehends the child’s need and fills it. It must be a love that is trusting, not suspicious. It must be a love that leaves the child free to develop within the circle of God's will for his life.
You can see by now that your love will not do at all, for it is not sufficient for these things. This is a love that must have the attributes of the love of Christ —the unchanging love of Christ. So we see that we need to say, "Oh, God, cover my love with Thy love and love my child through me."
Do you have one child who gets on your nerves? He annoys you. He irritates you. He always does the wrong thing at the wrong time. And you have felt so guilty, haven't you, especially if you do have rapport with another of the children. Can you look at that little one who bothers you so, and realize that he is sensitive to your attitude? Sometimes you can reject a child in attitude, even though you really love him dearly. Can you just come to the Lord honestly, and say, "Lord, this one irritates me. I love him, but his ways annoy me so. My love is not enough. It gets irritated and provoked and out of patience. Cover my love with Thy love, which is always kind and gentle and never provoked. Give me your understanding of this little one's actions, your understanding of his needs." And He will give you such a love and understanding for this child that you can accept him and make him comfortable, and he can relax and develop poise as he rests in your love.
Do you have one child you can't understand? You simply can't have a meeting of minds, no matter how you try? You do not understand him and he does not understand you. Can you say, "Oh, God, give me your discernment with this one." He will teach you how this one thinks and feels, and what his inner need is.
Do you have one with whom you have complete rapport? O this is fine, isn't it? But do you see the danger here, too? Proverbs 3:5 warns us, "Lean not to shine own understanding." It is so easy to lean to your own understanding of the child, instead of the Lord's understanding of him. "Lord, help me not to lean to my own understanding, but to trust Thee for trim with all my heart."
The child needs discipline. You remember the meaning of the word "discipline" from last year: "Training which corrects, molds, strengthens, perfects. Training in self control and obedience to given standards." This is the whole Christian life: training in self control and obedience to the given standards in God's Word. The child learns his pattern of obedience to God from the pattern of obedience to his parents. We understand how to discipline our children from examining the way the Lord disciplines us. We will talk more about discipline next week, but there is one basic truth I would like to give you today. Discipline must have authority behind it to be effective. There is always the danger, in trying to love our children always with the love of Christ, of going overboard and losing your authority over them because somehow you have the idea that authority is not compatible with the love of Christ. The child sees that you are controlled, and not easily provoked any more, and he thinks he will see how far he can push you.
The sternness of the father is usually a good balance for the softness of the mother, but we mothers need to realize that we should not depend on the husband for all the authority in the home. Some of your husbands are out at sea for six to eight months at a time and things can get out of hand in that length of time! Our husbands work so they are not home with the children very much, and we must have authority during the day when Daddy is not there. When your son gets to be six feet tall and smiles tolerantly at you when you correct him, you suddenly realize that you are just a little woman and you are not big enough to MAKE this boy do what you want done. Where is your authority?
Your answer lies in remembering that all the authority of Almighty God is behind you, and more—it is in you, for He dwells in you, and all that He is, you are, as you yield to the working of His spirit through you. Do you remember the authority of Jesus Christ as he cleansed the temple? Do you remember how they marveled at His words, for He spoke as one having authority, and not as the scribes? His power is yours, for your need. As you pray, "'Oh, God, give me the authority of Jesus Christ with these children," somehow in a mysterious way His power comes through your voice, His dignity and poise rest upon you in a way that commands obedience.
God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power (His authority), and of love (His love), and of a sound mind (His wisdom to administer the authority and the love). II Timothy 1:7)
Lesson 14 back to table of contents
Last week we talked about the child's two needs, love and discipline. The child has these two basic needs as a channel for the two basic attributes of God (God's perfect love and God's perfect justice). It is as we love the child with the quality of the love God has for us that the child understands the love of God. It is as we discipline the child with the quality of discipline that God uses as He chastises us that the child understands the perfect justice of God.
If you think these statements through, you will be shaken with the weight of the tremendous responsibility we have toward our children as Christian parents. There will come a time in my child's life, as he grows up, when he will take over the responsibility for his knowledge of Jesus Christ. He will, himself, seek to know and understand God. But in his formative years the parent is responsible for revealing God to him. Other influences will have bearing on the child's knowledge of God — his church and Sunday School training, the lives of other Christians, what he sees and hears of men without God — but the Bible places the RESPONSIBILITY on the parent for teaching the child and bringing into his life those influences which will broaden his knowledge of Jesus Christ.
What does my child know of the love of Christ? Only what he sees of it in me. Go back to our lesson on love, I Corinthians 13, and study it now with your child in mind. What does my child know of the justice of God? Just what I teach him, as I rear him tenderly in the training and discipline of the Lord. Ephesians 6:4 (Amplified)
We need to make our study of discipline practical. First, remember the definition of the word from last year: Training in self control and obedience to given standards. God's Word is the standard, and the whole discipline of the child is bent toward this standard.
1. We must remember that our discipline of our children is a total training toward a given goal. That goal is spiritual maturity for the child. Remember that it is a long range process. I do not mean by this that we are striving for ultimate obedience from the child. Complete obedience must be required from the very outset. The thing that we are striving for ultimately is maturity, and we must have exactly the same patience with the child's growth toward this goal as God has with us in our struggle for spiritual maturity.
We see discipline pictured in Hebrews as a crop or a tree. It is planted; it is cared for. There is grievous and painful tending of theplant but the end result is a harvest of fruit—true righteousness. Hebrews 12:11 (Amp.)
2. Remembering always that our discipline of our children is to be patterned after God's discipline of us, note the following things about His discipline:
1. He disciplines us because He loves us. Hebrews 12:6 (Amplified) and Proverbs 3:11 12.
2. It is always for our good. Hebrews 12:9 10 (Amplified);Job 5:17; Psalms 119:67.
3. It is to conform the child to the pattern of the Christian life because he must be ultimately conformed to Christ's image. We must be untiring and utterly faithful in bringing him to this end. Proverbs 19:18.
Bearing these things in mind, let us make a few practical points to guide us:
1. Depend on the Lord constantly for wisdom AT THE MOMENT you need. Christ IN you can be patient, be wise, be firm, be gentle. When you are in a vital, soul shaking struggle for control of a child over a deep basic issue (though the incident that brings the deep issue to the surface may be trivial in itself), remember that Jesus Christ must win! Pray that way in the middle of your struggle — "Oh, God, I don't know what to do. I can't see where I'm going, much less why I'm here. But I know that all things must work together for our good and Thy glory. My child must learn that God always triumphs. Jesus Christ, have this victory through me today."
2. Expect obedience. Don't give a choice (If you don't do so and so, I'll punish you!) God gives us explicit commands. He does not ask, "Shirley, will you be holy?" He says, "Be ye holy, for I am holy." If I do not obey, I can expect His sure chastisement. Make sure you get obedience. Stick with it. Don't give an order, then become absorbed in something else and forget to see that it is carried out.
3. Expect what is reasonable of the child. I Corinthians 10:13.
4. Have only necessary rules. Jesus Christ boiled the whole law down to two simple rules: "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and thy neighbor as thyself."
5. Do not nag. Exercise, through the power of the Holy Spirit in you, His control over this. It is a habit. He can sort your words out and make them count, instead of pouring them out in endless, futile profusion.
6. Insist on courtesy. Be courteous to your child. I Peter 3:8; Philippians 2:4 (Amplified)
7. Teach the child that his liberty ends where another's begins. Romans 13:10 (Amplified) Do you make your child respect other people's property? Do you see that other children respect your child's property?
8. Teach the child to respect authority — the teacher, the policeman, the minister, the maid, the baby sitter. Romans 13:1 4 (Amplified) Do you teach your child to obey the law? Do you obey the speed limits? Do you let your child drive the car without a license?
9. Be consistent. God is not changeable. Our biggest difficulty is our inconsistency. Do not be inflexible, however. For instance, if you had a rule that a child must clean his plate, you would obviously have to relax this for a child who felt ill.
10. Teach the child to endure hardness. II Timothy 2:3; I Corinthians 9:27. When Adam walked in fellowship with God, his spirit ruled over his flesh. When he fell, his flesh began to rule over his spirit. This is the great battle in the Christian life—to let the spirit rule over the body. We must help the child in this by teaching him to put up with things he does not like, by trying foods he does not like, by doing without some things he might want, but which the family can ill afford, etc.
11. Help him face his faults and failures. Do not help him make excuses for himself when he should not. Help him to see the hand of the Lord in his life, shaping him, molding him. Help him to see each stumbling block as a steppingstone to further maturity in the Lord.
12. Do not be pressured into punishing a child unjustly because of the opinion of a neighbor or friend. (Your pride is involved here.)
13. Present a united front with your husband before the child. (See the lesson on Limits in Submission for times when this would not be possible.)
14. If you are losing control, stop and get quiet before the Lord.
Still Will We Trust
By William Burleigh
Still will we trust, though earth seems dark and dreary, And the heart faint beneath His chastening rod; Though rough and steep our pathway, worn and weary Still will we trust in God!
Our eyes see dimly till by faith anointed, And our blind choosing brings us grief and pain; Through Him alone who hath our way appointed, We find our peace again.
Choose for us, God! nor let our weak preferring Cheat our poor souls of good Thou hast designed: Choose for us, God! Thy wisdom is unerring, And we are fools and blind.
Let us press on, in patient self denial, accept the hardship, shrink not from the loss; Our portion lies beyond the hour of trial, Our crown beyond the cross.
Lesson 15 back to table of contents
Here is a funny excerpt from an article in Everywoman's Family Circle magazine, October 1960 issue, entitled "How to Combat Homework Hysteria," by Sidonie Matsner Gruenberg and Hilda Sidney Krech:
It's after dinner homework time in the Smith home. Notebook in hand, their twelve year old Roger plants himself in front of his father.
"I'm stuck," he complains. "It says here to list the ten countries that make up the Middle East, and I can think of only three—Iran, Iraq, and Israel. I remember them because they all start with 'I'."
"How about Egypt and Turkey?" Dad asks pleasantly, putting down his newspaper.
Roger writes down the names of the five countries, chanting exuberantly, "Five down and five to go!"
"The Middle East. . ." Dad murmurs, but the names of the other countries escape him. He feels annoyed with the teacher for asking such a hard question of a twelve year old child.
Mother, listening as she knits, makes a suggestion: "Wouldn't the encyclopedia have all the countries listed.?"
"Sure," says Roger, reaching for the volume. As he reads the Middle East listing, his face clouds. "I don't get it!" he exclaims.
Dad takes the encyclopedia from his son. "Let's see . . . hmmm . . . there are three definitions of the Middle East and three different lists of countries included in each. Which definition is your social studies teacher using?"
"I don't know . . ." Roger mutters.
"How is the poor boy supposed to know?" Mother asks.
Both parents turn to Roger as he shame facedly admits the information is in his social studies textbook. . . but he has forgotten to bring the book home.
Mother, trying as usual to come to the rescue, suggests that Roger answer the question the next morning before school.
"There won't be enough time!" the boy screams. "We have to do a whole chart with the capitals, the climate, and the crops. And we have to make it neat."
"Too bad," says Dad, and his voice conveys a definite feeling that too often Roger counts on his father to get him out of a jam.
"Our whole week's grade depends on this chart," wails Roger, now panicky.
"Next time start earlier," advises his father as he goes back to his newspaper. "And remember to bring home your book."
Mother is angered by her husband's casual tone. "This is important," she snaps.
"What am I supposed to do?" he snaps back.
"You could help the child figure it out."
"I'm no mind reader. I don't know which list the teacher wants. "
Mother looks at her watch and sees that it is 9:30. "Go to bed now, Roger. You'll just have to do the best you can in the morning. "
"How can I do a whole chart before school.?" he asks angrily.
"Oh, come on now, Roger! It's not Mother's fault that you forgot your book," Dad says impatiently. "Go to bed."
"Okay—if you want me to get an F!" shouts Roger.
The boy's hysteria is caught by his parents, who know that even one F will bring down his grade average and that in junior high school, grades begin to count. They are certain he will never get into college if he keeps on like this.
There was a time when parents were not expected to help their children with their homework. Indeed, they were discouraged from doing so. "Hands off!" was the policy. But with the crowded classroom situation and the teacher shortage, the situation has changed. There is little time for individual help, and the child must get his individual help from his parents at home.
I do not have the answers for all your homework troubles, or your child's scholastic difficulties, but perhaps the Lord will use something He gives me to say today to turn on a light for you somewhere and give you a step in the right direction toward solving your particular problem.
I believe there are two things necessary for a child to be able to perform adequately scholastically. First, he must have ability, and second, he needs motivation. He has to be capable of doing the work that is required of an eight year old child. Then he has to have a reason for doing that work.
1. Ability — If a child is making good progress in school, we do not usually worry about his ability. However, he may have difficulties. Then we begin to wonder, and the parent needs to get to the bottom of the difficulty. The first thing to do is to check the child's native ability. The parent needs to have a talk with the child's teacher or guidance counselor to get an understanding of what the child's basic ability is. The teacher is usually a good judge of this. I say 'usually' because sometimes there is a child who is considered slow, or dull, who, upon testing, is found to have average or even superior ability but is not able to perform adequately because of other reasons. Usually, however, the teacher can tell, even in a case such as this, that the child has ability and is not using it.
If the teacher is not sure of the child's ability, tests can be made. An intelligence test can be given which will be a fairly accurate measuring rod of his ability. An intelligence test is not an absolute measure of a child's ability, for it could possibly differ under different circumstances, and there is a leeway of ten to fifteen points in accuracy. But it is a fairly accurate measuring rod of the child's native intelligence. If the child has a high IQ this does not solve all his problems, and if he has a low IQ he is not doomed. But you need to find out as nearly as possible his native ability and then accept it.
Some parents have a college career planned for the child when he is in elementary school, and perhaps the child has a low normal IQ. He is never going to be able to do college work. In fact, he is not going to be able to finish high school, except perhaps a vocational school of some sort. So often the parents cannot accept this. When they find out that the child is not going to be able to come through and complete their dreams for him, they refuse to face the fact. They keep pushing and prodding the child, running here and there, vainly trying to find someone who can make him produce. He can't if he doesn't have the ability to produce but just so much. How much happier this child would be if the parents could accept him just the way he is and let him move along at his own rate of progress. In his own realm he can be productive, but when he is pushed beyond it, he can't do anything.
He becomes nervous and unstable. Our pride is involved here. We somehow think the child's poor ability is a reflection on us.
The parent needs to develop the proper perspective on academic achievement and progress. It is not an end in itself, but it is a means to an end. Remember our lesson on the spiritual goal for the child — the polishing of the arrow for God's use. All that he does in school is not so that you can have a string of A's to look at. But is he progressing as he should in the molding of his abilities toward the purpose God has for him?
A child with a high IQ may not be producing at all, and so we come to the other factor that is necessary for production, which is motivation.
2. Motivation—A child has to have a reason for producing. There are many reasons that will motivate people to knock themselves out to do their best: fame, popularity, ambition, or jealousy. But they are not enduring reasons that will stand up under stress. Do you remember the Conference on Children and Youth? Let me read again some of the statements made by these young people:
"We should be showing leadership for world peace, but we are not taking the initiative."
"Making financial success and pleasure major goals leads to emotional starvation."
"Good attitudes come from parents who care about their own children, but also show concern for others."
"The indifference of our generation comes from parental indifference and devotion to Things."
"We are looking for something to give our lives to."
"Most students use college for selfcentered enjoyment. "
"The popularity of the slick job is waning."
"Children want their parents' interest, not their money. "
"If we had something worth working for, we wouldn't get so mixed up."
You see there are all sorts of reasons for producing, but the child is looking for a reason that will hold up under stress. We must hold him to the very highest —that motivation which is our spiritual goal for the child—that he might get a vision of God's great purpose in the world and realize that he is individually involved in it. The child has to know that he is individually important in God's purpose of redeeming man back unto Himself. He will catch a vision of this as you impart to him your own enthusiasm and eagerness, as you look forward to what the Lord is going to produce in this life. The child learns that he is being prepared now in his school years and that all he does is to this end. He learns that God will use him and nobody else to do one particular thing He has cut out for him.
He must understand that whatever ability he has, God gave it to him, and He knew what He was doing when He did it. He must realize that if he has just average intelligence, God gave him that ability for a purpose. If he has low normal intelligence, or even very low intelligence, God, for some purpose known to Himself, gave the child that amount of intelligence. If he has a high IQ, this too is for a specific reason. God has different needs to be filled in the world, and He makes no mistakes. Teach him to accept this fact gratefully and enthusiastically: "God made you this way for a purpose!" The child must accept his ability as from the Lord and look forward eagerly for the Lord to use this ability. If the child has this motivation it will override all other difficulties. However, it is a rare child who has this motivation, especially in the elementary grades. It is rare even in high school years. We must direct the child to a realization of this motive through the years.
There are other things he needs to be able to produce:
He needs his parents' approval and interest. Every child needs to perform and to be applauded for performing. Do you think it is rather sinful to pat your child on the back when he does well? You want him to work just for the Lord? Well, yes, of course you do, but in the meantime he needs your approval and support. We all have to have love and understanding, don't we? We have to be approved and accepted. God the Father gave us the example when He poured out His approval on His Son, Jesus Christ (Who needed nothing, for He was God), when He said, "This is my beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased."
Do you remember that Dr. Gedney of Gordon College warned us about always seeing the hole in the doughnut? We do this, too, don't we, women? We ask the child to dust the living room, and we don't come in and say, "My, that looks lovely, but there is a little spot you missed over there . . ." No, we say, as we come in and look around, "You missed this chair over here . . . " without commendation for what was done well. The child brings home a report card with an A, and a B, and two C's and a D. We never start out, "Oh, look at this wonderful A! And a B! And some C's! But what is this old D doing down here?" No, we start with the D. "What's this D!" And we never get beyond that. The child who is never applauded for his efforts will eventually give up. What is the use of trying?
The child needs the sort of loving interest that will take time with him. Many parents love their children, but they can't be interrupted from their own busy schedules long enough to take time for the child. They don't really understand and know his scholastic situation. Worse still is the parent who loves his child and has time for him too, if he would take it, but cannot put himself out enough to be bothered really about the child's progress. He is quick with criticism when the progress isn't good, but a little attention along the way might have solved the child's difficulty.
Along with loving interest, the child has to have discipline. We have talked about this, and if you have waited until this lesson to begin and your child is in junior high, you are going to have difficulty. He should have been getting the discipline all along. But if you have just realized your mistake, don't give up. Begin now. I would have a talk with my child, and explain to him God's purpose in the world, and the child's part in it. Explain why the discipline is going to be necessary, and then crack down. We have a duty as parents not to allow our children to trifle with their tasks, not to quit when they want to, not to work below the level of their ability, produce mediocre work and be satisfied with it. The child needs the security of a parent who says, "I love you, so I won't permit you to do a sloppy job."
The child has to learn to discipline himself for this is the most important of all. You can lead the horse to water, but you cannot make it drink. You can discipline the child. You can sit him down with the books, turn off the TV and tell him that it's time to do homework, but you can't make him absorb it, can you? He has to discipline himself. You teach the child to discipline himself by giving him responsibility as he grows up just as fast as he is able to accept it. Then, dear girls, and Shirley, take your hands off, and let him face the consequences of not meeting his responsibility. We do not do this. In the portion I read to you at the beginning of the lesson, this child is going to make an F. Will these parents hustle around and find this information for him so that he has it in the morning? Will they figure out some way, or will they let him take the consequences of carelessly forgetting the book, of carelessly not listening to what the teacher said, of not allowing enough time to get the work finished? Here are a few ways we can help them learn to discipline themselves:
1. They should take the responsibility of homework assignments. They should know what is to be done when they sit down to do their work, and if they do not, they should not be allowed to call another student to find out. (There could be an exception if the child was not in the room when the assignment was given or if the child had been out because of illness, etc.)
2. They should take the responsibility of checking the homework assignment for the proper books, and if they do not bring the proper books, they should not be allowed to call another child, and ask him to read the work from his book.
3. They should take the initiative for getting started on the homework assignment and for seeing that it is completed.
Mr. Garrick tells me the child should be taking the responsibility for his homework in the fourth grade. He does not mean by this that the child never needs help, for he may need help from time to time all the way through school. He means that the child should be taking the initiative for getting the work done, and that it should be his work. He says some teachers do not let homework count on the grade at all, because they feel it is the parents' work, not the child's. This is the ideal situation and we realize that it is rare. However, by all means, the child should be on his own by the sixth grade.
Now if our children are not on their own by the time they are in high school, it is time we started to work deliberately toward this goal of putting them on their own and letting them assume the responsibility for their work. Go quietly into a closet somewhere and chew your fingernails while they take the consequences for neglecting their responsibilities.
We need to mention some things that might be affecting a child's scholastic progress:
1. Deep seated emotional difficulties.. Sometimes this is a temporary anxiety. I remember when I was in the third grade a little classmate died. No one realized I was upset over this. No one explained death to me, and I worried over it for most of the year. I remember, too, of being upset about my father marrying people. He was a minister and often had weddings at our home. I heard them say he was to marry this one or that one. Somehow my mother seemed to have an edge over these other women for he stayed with us, but there was always the possibility that one would come along that he would like better than he liked Mom, and he might go off with her. No one realized I was struggling with this, but I lay awake nights about it. Children have little anxieties that we don't realize. But we usually can tell if the child is anxious, and we should try to get to the bottom of it. It may be fear of some impending event—maybe you have told him he is going to have his tonsils out. Maybe some other unpleasant event is going to have to happen. He marks time until this dreaded event is behind him.
Perhaps it is strife and tension in the home which causes the child's emotional upheaval. He has the ability, but he can't produce because his little nerves are in knots. He doesn't understand the situation, and he can't cope with it. The effort of doing schoolwork on top of the turmoil within him is too much, so he gives up.
Perhaps he is being pushed beyond his ability. It could be the opposite — that he is not being pushed up to his ability so he may be bored. He may be doing a mediocre job and waiting for you to say, "Come on here, get with it!"
It may be the lack of love and understanding we have talked about, the failure of the parent to show approval for work done well.
It may be a struggle with temptation. Teenagers, especially, have all sorts of struggles along this line. It may be some sexual problem that is bothering them. It may be an infatuation with another teenager, which we call puppy love, but it is not funny to them. The teenage is the time for spiritual upheaval, for this is the time of decision. He is standing at the two gates. The death struggle is very hard, as he dies to self and gives up his will to God's will. Many times a spiritual struggle will manifest itself in a big upset over some trivial thing. You will be amazed when it is something that doesn't even matter. Of course it doesn't, but the big upset is over the deep inner struggle.
2. The child's scholastic progress may be held back because of discipline by the parent. It may be, and so often is, because of the lack of discipline of himself that we have already discussed.
Perhaps the child's schedule is too crowded. He has no time just to be a child. No time to dream, to play. He is taking music, participating in sports, doing club work, and facing loads of homework. It is up to you as a parent to sort out his schedule and cut off some things, so that he has quiet evenings at home to study, so that he has time for relaxation (I don't mean in front of the TV, either—I mean time to be outdoors and play, etc.). If he has to let up on some of the homework in order to have a well rounded life, you should go to the teacher and get a happy working arrangement on this. If he has to make B's instead of A's, in order to have a rounded routine, this is preferable.
Perhaps his difficulty is some physical trouble—a hearing difficulty, poor vision, some glandular difficulty. Your doctor can help you make sure that this is not the child's trouble.
Here are some helps for the homework situation:
1. Your attitude about it is of the utmost importance. "In quietness and confidence shall be your strength. " This is a stream of living water that flows from you to the child, as you lead him by the still waters and make him lie down in the green pastures of your peace in God. Have you really committed the homework situation to the Lord? Have you said, "Now, Lord, you know what your purpose is for my child, and what you want to prepare him for. You know that in my blindness I'll never see it until it is done. Give me your wisdom, guide me in everything you want done for him, that I might properly prepare him for your use." Then at the moment of your need, at the moment of stress in the middle of homework each night, at that moment, commit it to the Lord. "Give me your wisdom NOW. What shall I do NOW?" As you rest in the Lord, the child soaks up your peace and is able to go about his work relaxed and at his best.
2. Provide a place and a time for the homework.
3. Teach him to be sure of assignments.
4. Teach him to check the books he needs to complete his assignments.
5. Teach him not to put it off and to allow plenty of time for each assignment.
6. Teach him to use a dictionary.
7. When he is getting tired, give him a five to ten minute break. Give him a glass of milk, orange juice or a cookie.
8. Teach him to do the hardest subjects first, while he is still fresh. He won't want to. Human nature wants to put off the worst until the last. Insist that he make a habit of doing the hardest first.
9. Teach him to look for the principle behind a problem, not the method.
10. It may be that he lacks training in the basic fundamentals—he doesn't know his multiplication tables, he can't read, he can't write, he is slow in number skills. If you can't afford a tutor to help him here, you will have to find time to teach him these things yourself. Give him writing practice. If a child has to think about forming the letters, his mind is distracted from the subject matter. He must be able to read, or he can't understand math, science, or anything. Drill him on his multiplication tables until he knows them automatically.
11. Teach him to draw on the Lord for his strength. He works for the Lord. It is all for Him. He will be the source of the child's strength and wisdom. "In quietness and confidence shall be your strength, my son."
Lesson 16 back to table of contents
TRAINING OF CHILDREN AGE 1-6
Dr. Charles Schauffle, Head of the Department of Christian Education, Gordon College, Beverly Farms, Massachusetts, was the guest speaker at Tabernacle Church of Norfolk on February 19, 1961. He delivered the following message to the adults in the Sunday School hour. It was played by tape for the Wednesday class on February 22, 1961. Its main points are reproduced here.
I would like to be able to meet you all, and I would like to meet you through your children. Yours and mine is the greatest job in the world today, of trying to establish and maintain a Christian home where God is the center. Here we have many enemies against us in that task. Turn to II Timothy 3:16 17. Verse 17 says the man of God must be complete. This is what the Greek word means—that he may be perfect, that he may be whole. A whole person, with God as the center, is the aim of the Bible for every individual. When a person is not whole, he is in parts and he is schizophrenic. There are many schizophrenic people today who are not in institutions. Their lives are in compartments. They have their business life in one compartment, their family life in another compartment, their Christian life in another compartment, and they are all the time trying to keep all the compartments together. The effort, the mental and spiritual effort, of trying to keep all the parts together is the strain that sends some of them into the institution. The wholeness of the Christian life is the goal for every individual, and this goal is set for us here in the scriptures. It is the same goal, strangely enough, that Communism has. Communism seeks the whole life, devoted to the propositions of Lenin and Marx and devoted to the Communist State.
There is another world that is doing the same thing, and that is the world of secularism. Secular simply means life without God, and you can immediately think of persons or families who are secular, who live as if there were no God. The secular world is engaged in making us one person, but without God. The secular world has all the substitutes for what we have. Instead of God it has a big "I." Treat yourself to the best. Buy the biggest, the broadest, the softest, all for no down payment, of course. Don't deny yourself anything. It has substitutes for the Christian festivals. In place of the Babe in the manger, Santa Claus, the Christmas tree, and the necessary gifts. In place of the risen Christ, the Easter bunny and the spring festival. It hasn't left out a thing. It is complete life, and the tragedy of our Christian homes is that so many of us are unaware of the dichotomy that exists between secularism and Christianity. So we try to have one foot in heaven, eat our cake and have it, too. It can't be done. Jesus said, "You cannot serve two masters."
So you see that the idea of unity, of one whole, is not alone the idea of Christianity. It is the Christian principle and this is what we have to work at. We want to look at our Bibles and see how this can be achieved. How can we get our homes and our families with a unity of life in which God is the very center? He has given us His Word to direct us how this may be done. With God as the center (See Illustration No. I.)we find that the center of the Christian home is spiritual. Deuteronomy 6:1 7. Here God commands the parents to love Him with their whole soul, heart, and might, and to teach this diligently to the children. We are responsible for bringing spiritual unity into the home and into the life of the children. Spiritual unity begins with God. Before we can have any love for neighbor, we must have love for God. (See Illustration No. II.) God loves us, and we love Him in return. When we love God in return, we are able to love our neighbor. This is keeping the commandment in the proper order, keeping the law of God: love God, and love your neighbor. This is not only from the New Testament, but the Old Testament as well, the whole Judeo Christian tradition of society. We have strangely reversed it again today. The secular world has first love yourself, treat yourself to the best; and then if there is any time left over, seek what gods there may be, the gods of pleasure, money, fame, and fortune.
The command to parents is to teach the children diligently to love God with all their soul, mind, and might. I like that word "diligently." (Some of you became better acquainted with the strap than you did with the razor.) That is what the word means over and over and over again. This is the way you teach children. You tell them 500 times, "Don't come into the clean kitchen until you've wiped your muddy feet," and they come in anyway. You say, "Don't wipe your hands on your clean shirt, use your napkin." They never do until you are out somewhere in a restaurant, and lo and behold they act as though they always used a napkin. They knew it all the time. This is the way you teach children, by repetition. This is God's method, the scriptural method.
The word "diligently" in Hebrew also means to sharpen a stick. You know how you have sharpened a stick for a wiener roast. You bring it to a point; that's diligent. You do it over and over, and you bring it to a point. Diligently does not mean just grace before meals. That's not diligent; that's only three times a day! Diligently does not mean just quick family worship before we all hop into bed. That is very little for the children sometimes because it is catch as catch can. Diligently means all the time. Here it is in Verse 7, "when thou talkest to them, when thou sittest in thy house, when thou walkest by the way, when thou liest down, when thou risest up." The whole life of the home, the whole life of the individual is to be contained in the orbit of God, in the will of God, with God as the center, so that we relate all these activities of walking and talking and lying down and rising up to God who is the center of life.
I am talking especially now to parents whose children are six and under. This is the important time for education. The most important education the child will ever have comes before six years of age. The reason for this is very simple. It is simply a matter of arithmetic. (See Illustration No. III.) There are 168 hours in the week. You say, "Is that all? I thought there were twice that many!" The average child after six is in school thirty hours a week. The average Protestant child is in church two hours a week, and because you have so many more activities for your children, we will give you three hours. The child under six is supposed to be in bed ten hours a night, seven nights a week. That's a blessed relief of seventy hours, so that the child is out of circulation for 103 hours a week. (You see, mine are grown now, but I have a long memory!) That gives the parent and child sixtyfive waking hours in the home, and if he's under six, you add those thirty hours that he will be in school later. That gives the child ninety five waking hours in the home.
Now, a lot of this time is taken up just in the mechanics of living eating, washing, getting ready, going to the dentist, music lessons, all the business of living. It takes time, but it still gives the parent twice as many hours as he will have when he goes to school and an enormous number of hours during the week that we think of as just wasted time, usually without any special program of spiritual nurture. This is where we lose out! We expect that in some magic way our youngsters are going to get spiritual nurture by osmosis, simply by being exposed to it. They do gain a lot of casual training. They do gain a lot by association, but the idea of persistent, regular, systematic training of the Word of God and God's law and God's love as it applies to the home and their individual conditions is part of the Christian nurture. And this passage in Deuteronomy says this is done in the home.
What should children know? They should certainly know that God exists in three persons. They won't be able to give you a theological discourse on the Trinity, but they should know that God exists as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The God of the Bible is a revelation. In a very simple way we can teach our children who this God is and their relationship to Him because this God demands complete allegiance, complete love, and complete devotion. A child can understand that. There is almost blind loyalty, blind devotion on the part of the young child under six to his parents and to the God his parents represent.
So the spiritual opportunity is so great at this time that we have to put our best mind and thought to it. How uncanny it is that we think when our children are this young, they aren't taking much in! We think they are just putting in time until school starts; then we will ship them off to the Christian school, and they will teach them everything they need to know. The Christian school will be the first to tell you this is not so. The Christian school is only as strong as the Christian homes which supply its student body. If you are going to prosper by your splendid Christian schools in this place, the Christian homes from which these youngsters come have to be made strong in the Lord.
A systematic time of training and instruction must go on in the home before the child ever comes to school at the age of six. This has to be done not only by table grace, not only by family worship, but by talking about God, reading God's Word, explaining God by conversation in the home. Have you thought in odd moments of reflection how little conversation goes on in the average home today? It is either "Keep quiet, I'm too busy," or "Shut up. You don't understand," or "Whatever you're doing, stop it!" You yell out the back door every five minutes, and there is so very little conversation that goes on in the home. The kids have their world, and we have ours, and we wish they would be quiet and let us be in our world. Time was when the family gathered round, and each one had a wonderful tale to tell of all his adventures of the day and everyone listened. The three year old was listened to with the same interest as the father when he told his happenings of the day. Now secularism has a counterfeit for this: it is called "togetherness," just being together. A woman said, "Oh, I think the television is the most wonderful thing because it's the only time our family is ever together!"—in mute silence, of course, around this machine. And I said, "Well, if somebody kindled a bonfire in the middle of your living room, that would bring all the family together, too." There are many things that would bring the family all together, but they are not coming together for a Christian purpose, bringing the family together in God, to learn more about Him and about family relationships in Him.
There is another area we want to think about, and that is the mental area. (See Illustration No. I.) This is not divorced from the spiritual area. I put the spiritual area at the top because it must shed its light on all the areas of the life. There is this educational hierarchy today that says, "Don't teach your child anything until we get him in school." This is not even natural. Doesn't Christian love dictate that you answer your children and fulfill their mental desires? All this talk about pupil readiness! There is no one age at which pupils are ready to learn. God has made us all different, and we all have our different ages of inquiry and information. When children ask questions, parents are supposed to answer them and answer them truthfully. The idea that no one is capable of teaching the child but the teacher is wrong.
I'll tell you why parents make the best teachers. They love the child more than any teacher ever will, and they have him longer than any teacher ever will. At least I hope no teacher has your child for six years, unless you intend to have him pensioned out of the eighth grade! The parent will have the child longer, and the parent knows the child better. The reason we know our own children best is because each one is a chip off two old blocks, and we see in them our weaknesses and our strengths. This is what makes us so furious sometimes when we see ourselves coming out in them, and we say, "Is that being passed on?" It is, because they are perfect imitators. If you don't believe that, you stand some day when they are playing house, and you will hear yourself repeated. You are the best teacher. You teach when you answer the phone; you teach when you greet the neighbor; you teach when you go to the store; you teach when you lie down and when you rise up and in every aspect of life. That is why this age under six is so very important, because ninety five hours of the week at least you are teaching, teaching, teaching. And you are either teaching that God is the center of your home, and everything is related to Him; or you are teaching that God has nothing to do with our home, and we just tip our hats to Him when we go to church on Sunday.
There is another area that is neglected today, and that is the area of the social, the area of responsibility. (See Illustration No. I.) Many parents make the mistake of deferring the training of responsibility to other years. How does the child assume responsibility? Well, he should know that he is responsible to God first of all because God made him. This ought to be easy for the parent. You may have in your bookstore here the little blue plastic book called Can You Tell Me?, by Dena Korker, in which parents get help for the questions children ask. Where was I before I was born? Who made God? What makes the rain? We need to know answers to these questions that will relate the child to God.
The child has social responsibility. Turn to Mark 12:29 31. This idea of the love of neighbor, of the consideration of the other fellow, of the rights and privileges of other people in the family, is again a necessary part of the training of the child There are other people in the world. Much of the trouble teachers have in the first grade is when the child comes from a home where he has been the center and has not had to consider the rights and privileges of others.
There is another word that goes along with this, that unpopular word "work." And if you say at home "I have some work for you to do," you know the shudder that goes along with it. There is no reason why the child should not have family tasks, and there should be tasks that the family does together for the ongoing of the family. They need to see that they are responsible to do certain things. It's much easier to do it yourself; we all know that. They make so much mess, they break things, and we have to clean up after them, but they are not learning anything if you are doing it yourself. It is our Christian responsibility as parents to teach them to do things at this early age. At the age of six with ninety five hours together it is natural. You mothers know when you are cleaning, the kids want their little dustpans and brushes to be cleaning with you. And when you iron, they want their little irons and ironing boards. They want to do what you are doing. And you dads know when you are trying to fix something down in your shop, you have the little boy there with his little hammer and nails, too. When you are under the car, he is there getting all greasy and using the wrong wrenches, but that's the way he learns. They need to know there are certain things to be done and certain things for which they are responsible. The lack of this shows up later when the teacher makes an assignment, sends him to the library, and tells him he has so many pages to read, but he doesn't do it because there is no parent there to push him. He needs to get the inner sense of doing things for God.
Now along the line of the physical (See Illustration No. I) we have responsibility, too, and this has to be done in this ninety five wonderful hours we have with him. We keep ourselves clean because our bodies are the temples of the Holy Spirit. Yes, we do have to wash our hands before dinner because cleanliness is an expression of our relationship to God. Every act in the home can be related to God as the center, not only the work idea, of serving others, but the idea of responsibility and of cleanliness.
One closing thing from Ephesians 6:14. Here is the charge to instill in the child the principle of obedience. This is a lost quality. Democracy is order under law and obedience to authority. Obedience to law begins in the home. This is a hard lesson to teach because the world disregards it. It may require tears, and it will require discipline and some things that are unpleasant. But whatever the cost, pay the price. Parenthood is not a popularity contest. It is the most responsible area God gives us in this life, to train children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
Lesson 17 back to table of contents
TRAINING CHILDREN AGE 7-12
Mrs. Alta Mae Erb is the author of Christian Nurture of Children. We are delighted to have her as our guest speaker this week.
Boys and girls of this period of middle childhood are halfway between in childhood. We speak of early childhood, middle childhood, and later childhood. I guess there are some differences, but really it is just a going on in the growing process. There are certain periods when certain characteristics stand out, but I believe we'll never know whether we are perfectly right in the way psychologists have divided the periods of childhood. We do know it is a long time, and they grow slowly. As they come into this period at their own God given rate we find some things they have in common, though there may be many different patterns.
A woman asked 800 junior age children what they liked to do most, and this is what I am going to take for my outline.
The thing that got the most votes —— could you guess? What do juniors like to do most? Play! Isn't that what you might expect? This is the activity God has given the child, and we never want to depreciate the value of play, far more wonderful than we have any idea. If God had not given him that desire he would never develop as we anticipate or expect.
Play shows up the child physically. Authorities say that at this period he is in the best health he can ever anticipate. Doesn't this tell us something about why they like to play so well? Because they can DO it. And their play is different! One mother told me, "My ten year old doesn't talk — he shouts' He doesn't smile, he howls with laughter. He doesn't walk if he can run, and he doesn't run if he can dash and jump!" Physical ability is almost one of the first things that comes to your mind as you think of this age child.
At this period, with this energy, he likes to go into things, to explore, to dare. I like the word Jesus used when He spoke of the children. Remember the men wanted to push them away, but Jesus said, "Let them come." "Let." Can we let them use this energy; can we let them explore, go out and dare and DO things?
This is the time when they are doers, not sitters, not just hearers. Now it is valuable to bring up a junior child to this period with a good "listening ear." Juniors do not always have to be going forward and doing things themselves so that they can never listen. To train a child to have a listening ear is a big subject in itself. But at this period they are. not just hearers. You see they have too much energy. With all this physical energy at this time they have a capacity for doing things, for motor skills, using their muscles.
Mentally they are quite energetic, too. The second activity the children said they most liked was reading. This is the time to let the child venture forth in books. Reading is thinking. In the first years he had to learn the skills of reading, but now he can DO it. At this period, with his backlog of learning to read, he ought to be privileged to go forth into books. Books can take him jumping and skipping into things — take him into adventures, and he can even use some of his physical energy in going into books.
This adventure in books must be directed because it must be good. He is certain to meet poor literature in the world, but we must direct him into good literature and give him a taste for it. One way we can help our children against the evil is always to strengthen them in the good. I know the power of evil is great. Satan is powerful, but is he as powerful as God? You say you do not want your child to read an evil book. Why not? Because you know the evil is going to work out in his life. Now won't the good, by the same route through his heart and mind, work out in his life? Of course the good is harder to find. The things on the evil side are represented so attractively. We must watch how we present the good literature. Anything that comes from the church in the name of Christ should be very good. It should be very attractive with the best of art and the best of literature. Don't give cheap literature to your child, especially in the name of Christ and the church.
One mental characteristic at this age is curiosity. This is a God given trait we do not want to lose. They want to explore. God's world of nature is a great place to explore, a rich place, and a pure place.
This is the time when they begin to go into history and geography in the schools. They have not had much of this up to this time because they have not been mentally ready for it. They can't appreciate that one thing causes another to happen; then, after that situation proceeds, something else happens. History evolves this way. Things are as they are now because of the way things were. This is very helpful to their spiritual advancement too. They are beginning now to be able to look within a little bit and interpret their own lives. They can begin to see that they are making responses to past situations, and all this is getting them ready for the day when they are going to respond, when they are going to choose from the two ways—one Way, or the other.
This is the time of collections. Here you have an opportunity to direct them into wholesome hobbies. We can't dictate hobbies, but we can encourage them.
This is the time, because he can do things so well, when he can go out in service projects. He is able to do things for people. We can turn a lot of his energy into this channel, and it will turn him away from himself to others. For a while your little child had to be turned into himself, but surely by this time he must begin very definitely to turn out of himself to others. It is a long journey to get completely out of "self' to the day when he sees that in himself he can't do anything. And then he is privileged to accept the great Saviour Who can help him and do all things through him.
The third activity the children liked was "making things." We have already touched on this. I observed one boy, however, who worked too much on one thing. He put together airplanes, he put together more airplanes, and his grandfather got him more airplanes, etc. It seemed to me that this family was feeding this boy too narrowly in his motor skills. We need to direct the child in many lines so that he has a diversity of experience. We need to provide tools, and this may become costly, but I often wonder if we ought to give the children such poor tools to work with. For instance, the scissors we give them down in kindergarten: I can't cut with them, can you? And if I can't, how can they? The tools need not be expensive, but they must be workable.
The next thing the child said he liked to do was to "go places. " The child is reaching out, acquiring this historical and geographical sense, and now he wants to go places. He is becoming more independent.
Socially at this time they go to group games. One problem we have at this time is the "gang," isn't it? I'm not sure whether all this is quite Christian, or whether the world has arranged the situation so that the "gang" is present. Whether we really need the "gang" as much as the world says or not, I'm not just sure! I don't believe I would say this is a demand. If you can have group activities in your church and schools, they can meet some of the needs of the child for this sort of relationship.
This is the age when boys "hate" girls. At ten sex differences are pronounced. They will never be so pronounced hereafter. Let's not push them at all. Just let them "hate" the girls. The girls don't "hate" the boys quite as much as the boys "hate" the girls.
Emotionally this is a very important age. Whatever emotions they display at this age, don't try to push them down. Let them talk about their troubles and fears. A simple illustration: In the younger ages here comes a child with a hurt. She says it hurts, and perhaps you can't see anything at all. You say, "No, now it doesn't hurt e stop crying." Does that help? No, it makes it worse. But if you say, "Well, I'm just sure that hurts," and maybe all you need to do is kiss it, everything is all right. Accept their feelings even though you doubt them.
All the abilities and powers we have talked about are God given. They are good. But the trouble is sin, isn't it? Any of these powers can be used to sin. We want to teach the child to use his God given powers in righteous living.
I want to give some attention to the question asked me: "If my children go to play with non Christian friends will they become contaminated?" Is it dangerous? But these are your neighbors; you want to testify before them. Can you so live before them that you will not be contaminated and so that your children will not be contaminated?
The only way we can solve this problem is to lay a good foundation to relate the child rightly to God and to Christ, to know the source of power they have in Him, and to be happy about this power and about His attitude and interest in children. Teach them to turn to God for help at home, or at play, or at school. Encourage them to look to the One who can help them. We don't want to rear houseplants—our children will meet evil. I think we should arrange that situations are not too bad. But strengthen them in their relationship to God, and they will have the help they need when they must go apart from their purely Christian environment.
I must Stop I pray you might be wise to handle this age; it is so important. I think if we do a very good job here, our job will be much easier in the next period. Let them be juniors, but provide the Christian background for all their experiences. We don't tell the children of our purpose in this. We DO it. May God make you good mothers of your "middle age" children.
Lesson 18 back to table of contents
UNDERSTANDING THE TEENAGER
When I think of the teenagers of our generation, in my mind's eye I have a picture of a vast flock of sheep without a shepherd, running toward a precipice and following each other blindly over the edge. I can hear the pitiful frightened bleating as they suddenly realize there is nothing under their feet but emptiness, and they catch a terrifying glimpse of the rocks below. They are so unaware, so indifferent even, to anything except moving with the flock. This is the nature of sheep. Vachel Lindsay expresses it poignantly in "The Leaden Eyed":
"Let not young souls be smothered out before They do quaint deeds and fully flaunt their pride. It is the world's one crime its babes grow dull, Its poor are ox like, limp, and leaden eyed.
Not that they starve, but starve so dreamlessly, Not that they sow, but that they seldom reap, Not that they serve, but have no gods to serve, Not that they die, but that they die like sheep."
How do sheep die?
By following one another blindly into danger because they have no shepherd.
By being ravaged by enemies from without the flock because they have no guardian.
By starving to death because they cannot find their own pasture.
From thirst because they cannot drink from swift water and they cannot find still water.
From poisoning because they cannot discern between weeds which are poisonous to them and the grass which nourishes them.
From injuries when the shepherd is not there to bind up their wounds and anoint them with oil.
You recall our lesson on shepherding last year when we talked about our responsibility as shepherds under the Great Shepherd, as the Lord said to us, "Feed my lambs—shepherd my sheep."
We read the Twenty Third Psalm to see how the Lord shepherds us, and we realized that He was our example for shepherding. As we shepherd our children under Him, they are to suffer no spiritual want. We are to make them lie down in the green pastures of God's Word. We are to lead them beside the still waters of His peace in us. We are to lead them, not send them, but lead them in paths of righteousness for His name's sake. We are to encourage and protect them and keep them from evil. We are to feed them on those things which are good for them and see that they consume no poisonous things. We are to anoint their wounds with the oil of His gladness, to see that mercy and goodness are their companions, to see that they dwell in the house of the Lord until they know with certainty the voice of the Great Shepherd, and they follow Him. John 10:27 29, "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them to me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand." Until the day when we send them out into the world following on their own the voice of God, we stand in the gap as under shepherds, and we say the same words, "My sheep, my children, know MY voice, and they follow me as I follow Jesus Christ. It is mine to acquaint them with His eternal life. No one shall pluck them out of my hand. My Father which gave them me is greater than any force which would pull them another direction. They and I are in the hand of God."
The teen age years are the years of weaning the children from our shepherding to following the voice of the Great Shepherd. We carry the little lambs in our bosom; the teenager must learn to walk. There must be the gradual loosing of the strings which bind them to us. We have to know when to tug gently just to remind them we are there, and when to take our hands off completely. Who is sufficient for these things? The responsibility is beyond us.
I think of the meeting between Jacob and Esau after their estrangement when Esau said to Jacob, "Who are these with thee?" And Jacob answered, "The children which God hath graciously given thy servant." Esau said, "Let us take our journey and let us go." Jacob responded, "My lord knoweth that the children are tender, and the flocks and herds with young are with me; and if men should overdrive them one day, all the flock will die . . I will lead on softly . . . according as the children be able to endure . . . " Genesis 33:5, 12 14.
We must lead on softly as they are able to endure, and we know that if we overdrive them, they perish. It is only as we turn back to Psalm Twenty Three and read it again to find OUR Shepherd there, that we realize all our needs are met in Him as we lead our young behind Him. We need not fear, for He is with us. We have only to step firmly where He tells us to go. If you are the mother of a teenager and you are frightened to death, won't you come to Jesus Christ and put yourself and your teenager in His keeping? He will lead you all the way.
What is a teenager? He wonders himself. Who am I? Why am I here? Where am I going? He is searching for two things: identification and purpose. Up to this time he has been identified with his parents. Now he is beginning to move out on his own and gradually is breaking away from the parental ties. It is a time of insecurity for him. He wants to be free and he is afraid to be free because he is not sure of his capabilities yet. He has many opinions on things, but he has not the opportunity to try them. Up to this time he has accepted his parents' evaluation of himself, his parents' point of view, and their interpretation of life. Now he begins to weigh things for himself. He begins to discover himself as a person for the first time, and there is a period of upheaval while he decides whether he can accept the person he finds himself to be.
He finds in himself strange emotions and reactions he never had before, and because his emotions play such tricks on him, he becomes adept at covering them up. This is why he withdraws for a period when he is about fifteen and stops talking while he is getting things under control. He does not always succeed in controlling himself. He laughs on solemn occasions, but he feels like crying inside. Sometimes he cries for no reason at all.
He is completely and totally self centered. By the time we are adults we have all sorts of little slipcovers to hide "self" in us, but the teenager has not learned yet to dissemble like this. He is frankly and openly interested in himself, his opinions, his friends, his likes and dislikes. Much as a baby is absorbed in his toes and fingers when he begins to discover himself for the first time, the teenager is so awed and absorbed by the process going on within him that he is totally absorbed in it. He moves in a world of his own. There must be patience on the part of the adult. We long to see them grow in the Christian life, which is, in essence, "Deny self and follow Christ." But we must not confuse this normal hunger of the teenager for self understanding with the kind of self which is a lifting up of one's will against God's will. There is a certain amount of self absorption he must go through in this period of finding himself. To lead him safely out of this time of self interest, you must jump in with him, into the very middle of his interests, and help him satisfy his hunger for knowledge about himself. Help him know for sure who he is, somebody good, not righteous, but good, worthwhile, worth knowing, worth being. Who am I? You are an individual loved by God and by me, important to God and His purpose in the world, important to me. Why am I here? You are here to be used of God to point men to Jesus Christ. Where am I going? You are going step by step in God's plan for your life, and it will be rich and full. When you die, you will go be with Him in heaven, if you will give Him your heart.
The teenager is happy and energetic one day, restless and bored the next. There is definite physical cause for this. His body is changing and maturing. The teen age boy is so awkward that he can walk through a room and leave every rug in a heap and all the furniture he passes slightly awry. Yet on the basketball floor his thin body arched to shoot the ball into the basket is poetry in motion. You may not be able to trust your teen age daughter with the good dishes, for the chips will surely fly; yet she rises from her impossible, cross legged position on the floor with the grace of a cat.
Your teen age son is as tall as his father, and on Sunday morning when he is dressed in white shirt and tie, he is six feet of manhood. But when his Dad slips him the car keys and tells him he can drive to church, the unguarded delight that tugs his mouth into a grin is the delight of that little boy with the first red fire engine. Your teen age daughter, dressed in high heels for a date, with every burnished hair in place, is such a lovely woman your heart turns over at the sight of her. But yesterday when she was hurt, her mouth looked the way it did when she was four years old.
Child and adult, a bewildering mixture of the two, and he slips from one to the other so fast it catches a parent off balance. He is so adult so much of the time that when he reverts suddenly to the child, too often the parent cries out in disappointment at his immaturity, forgetting to commend the times when he has acted with good judgment.
He has a new sensitivity to beauty and a new awareness of the suffering in the world. It seems to him that his soul has an emptiness in it as vast as space, and he will never find enough beauty to fill it. The change of seasons, the fall of the year, the spring can you remember how these things hurt? I remember walking to school one autumn day when I was in the tenth grade, and the color of the leaves the smell of fall — I thought I could not bear it. I had a teacher in American Literature named Moravia Garrison (we called her "Raving Ravia") who in her eagerness to give us a love for the beautiful and an appreciation of the classics was often melodramatic. We made all sorts of fun of her, but we didn't feel that way. She was expressing the way we felt; only we dared not say it. One morning I walked into her class the first period of the day, and I could not talk. Autumn was coming through the open windows. She tapped her bell, and as the class stilled, she opened her book without a word, and began to read:
"O world, I cannot hold thee close enough! Thy winds, thy wide gray skies! Thy mists that roll and rise! Thy woods, this autumn day, that ache and sag And all but cry with color! That gaunt crag To crush! To lift the lean of the black bluff! World, world, I cannot get thee close enough!
Long have I known a glory in it all, But never knew I this; Here such a passion is
As stretcheth me apart. Lord, I do fear
Thou'st made the world too beautiful this year.
My soul is all but out of me—let fall No burning leaf; prithee, let no bird call."
"God's World"—Edna St. Vincent Millay
As she read, I fought a lump in my throat getting bigger and bigger. I looked at my desk and balled my fists in my lap. "I'm going to cry," I thought. "Right here in front of all these kids, I'm going to cry like a fool!" Then I raised my eyes to my teacher, and she was standing there with the tears running unashamedly down her face. I'll love her until I die for that. And I went right out in the hall afterward and called her "Raving Ravia"! That's a teenager for you; that's the way he's made.
There is an ache within him that is too great to be borne, for the need to right all the world's wrongs is heavy upon him. He is an idealist. He is sure he knows a way to do it. Only Jesus Christ can fill his need. In Him he will find beauty enough to explain all the beauty in the world. In Him he will find an answer to every wrong, balm for all ills. In Him his persistent and dogged search for truth comes home at last. As we shepherd these young sheep, we parents must pick our way through the sick culture of this day and find reality for them in Jesus Christ.
It will help you to understand the mind of a teenager if you listen to the answers given by 600 teenagers on a questionnaire sent out to different schools by Eric W. Johnson:
WHAT WORRIES YOU MOST?
1. Grades and school. (Does that surprise you? You thought he couldn't care less, didn't you?)
Some comments along this line: "It worries me when I have a paper to hand in and it isn't ready." "What's going to happen to me in French class? It makes me very nervous. "
2. The opposite sex. What you should do and not do on dates. 3. Being popular. How can I get people to like me?
4. Family Relations. Not getting along with parents. One comment: "How can we get along in our house without so many fights and arguments which are giving me a pain?"
5. My future. What is going to happen to me? Getting married and having a happy life.
6. Myself. What kind of person I am and will be. "I feel I won't be able to do anything."
7. My appearance. "My complexion disgusts me."
8. Temper. Loss of self control in front of people.
9. The world situation.
WHAT WOULD YOU CHANGE?
1. Family relationships. No divorce.
2. Myself, my attitudes and my personality.
3. The world situation.
WHAT MAKES A GOOD PARENT?
1. Understanding. They should listen to us. (We don't, do we, women? We have a great deal of advice to give, but we seldom listen to them. Do you know your teenager's opinion on anything? Have you let him express himself to you? Have you listened with respect?)
2. Love. (The teenager needs to be loved, and he is embarrassed by physical expressions of love. Let him have the comfort and security of the physical contact he needs with you through a little roughhouse now and then. Let your daughter fuss with your hair, your make up. They are too big to sit on your lap, to kiss and fuss over now as you did when they were smaller, but they need this physical warmth. We will discuss this more in our lesson next week on dating.)
3. Discipline. Some comments they made: "They don't punish us enough. They let us get away with everything: not doing homework, going on dates, smooching. They should have complete control, but not too strict. They should not be easily persuaded if a kid starts wheedling or crying."
4. Patience! Patience! Patience!
5. Kindness. "Be kind to our friends."
6. Availability. "They ought to BE there!" (Are you there? And if you are there, are you available? Are you approachable? Can your teenager talk to you easily, or does he have to really screw up his courage to come to you with a problem? Is it possible you are so wrapped up in learning to be a good mother or even in your own devotional life that you are not available when they need you?)
8. Humor. "A joke helps," one boy says, "even a corny one like: Two octopuses were walking down the street hand in hand in hand in hand in hand in hand."
9. Good disposition. They should not lose their tempers. They should try to understand we love them and try to please them. (The calm and gentle spirit. He needs parents who are free from tensions. He has too many of his own to handle; he should not have to worry about yours. This week watch the way you speak to him, correct him. By changing the tone of your voice wouldn't the same words be kinder, cause less rebellion in his heart?)
10. Honesty. Comment from one boy: "My parents make me lie about my age when we go to the movies. Do you think this makes me honest?"
11. They should respect the child. They should trust him and give him responsibility.
12. They should admit mistakes.
13. Parents should do more and talk less. Examples were given: "My father gave up smoking so I wouldn't smoke. Do you think I'll ever smoke?" "My sharp tongue I get from my mother."
WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO BE ABLE TO TALK TO
YOUR PARENTS ABOUT?
1. Boy girl relations, especially dating
4. Social life
Next week we will talk about guides for dating.
Lesson 19 back to table of contents
GUIDES FOR THE DATING YEARS:
STANDARD OF PURITY
O, to be like Thee, blessed Redeemer! This is my constant longing and prayer. Gladly I'll forfeit all of earth's treasures, Jesus, Thy perfect likeness to wear!
O, to be like Thee! O, to be like Thee! Blessed Redeemer, pure as Thou art! Come in Thy sweetness, come in Thy fullness, Stamp Thine own image deep on my heart.
O, to be like Thee, full of compassion, Loving, forgiving, tender and kind; Helping the helpless, cheering the fainting, Seeking the wandering sinner to find.
O, to be like Thee! While I am pleading Pour out Thy Spirit, fill with Thy love! Make me a temple meet for Thy dwelling, Fit me for life and heaven above.
O, to be like Thee! O, to be like Thee! Blessed Redeemer, pure as Thou art! Come in Thy sweetness, come in Thy fullness, Stamp Thine own image deep on my heart!
T. O. Chisholm
I asked Mrs. Dunlap to sing that today, because unless it is the desire of your own heart and unless it is the desire of your heart for your children, that they might be like Him, this lesson won't make sense to you at all. I want to teach you a new concept of dating, completely different from the dating culture of our day, but as old as the Word of God.
Part of this lesson will make wonderful sense to any teenager because it is a wonderful refuge from the "dog eat dog" dating society in which he finds himself But the standard of purity I am going to set today from the Word of God will not make sense to him unless he loves Jesus Christ with the kind of love that makes him want to be as pure as He is.
You say, "Well, that leaves me out. My teenager doesn't love Jesus Christ that way." You teach him this anyway. You hold him to the highest. As you hold up the beauty of Jesus Christ to him and the purity of Jesus Christ as his standard, and as you intercede for him, the Holy Spirit will give him that kind of love for Jesus Christ.
The call of Jesus Christ is irresistible when it is undiluted. We are the ones who have diluted it. A weak, wishy washy Christianity is what we offer them, and it has no power in it.
I remember a day in my own life eight to ten years ago when I came to the point where I was fed up with the kind of Christianity I knew. I loved Jesus Christ. I claimed to believe His Word, but down in my heart I knew that none of what that Book claimed was the Christian life was true of me. I had no peace; I had no joy; I had no power in my life, no victory over sin. And I was tired of it. I was ready to chuck it! And I came to Jesus Christ with that attitude: "Look, You show me. You said it. Now what is it I don't know? What is it I don't do? Is what this Book says true, or is it not?" I learned a new word, women, obedience, and it made all the difference in the world! Total committal, a heart which searched that Word eagerly looking for ways to obey, a will that said, "I'll do what it says if it kills me!" And the power of God began to come into my life like a flood.
I don't have anything else to offer a teenager I just don't. That's what I would tell him: "Come on and FOLLOW Him; it's all or nothing at all. You have got to give up your desires to His, your will to His. Now take it or leave it!" That is the message. And Paul says this in II Corinthians 6:167:1. In this young person's language, those verses say, "Put up or shut up! If you are going to follow Jesus Christ, if you love Him, then let's make it a complete consecration." (Phillips )
Mr. Dunlap told us Sunday of tuning in on his short wave to the Christian radio station HCJB in Ecuador and hearing them read some letters from their listeners all over the world. Twenty seven of the letters were from Russia. They could read some of them, and some of them they could not. One mocking letter said this: "I listen in exultation to your weak and palliated message. I note your plea for dedication. I am a communist, an atheist, a worker, and I live for one thing —that is to see the blessing of world wide communism become a reality in my lifetime."
"The weak and palliated message of Christianity. " Jesus Christ never made it that way; we have made it that way! We have watered it down until we can no longer say, "I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God." It is not the power of God in our lives. Thank God, I have found the reason and the answer. Jesus Christ never minced words. His claims were absolute. When I throw my life into His hands in total committal to His will, that gospel becomes the power of God, God's dynamite in my life. I will not offer a teenager less than this — all or nothing at all. But the prize for such devotion, do you see what it is? "You, you little teenager are going to KNOW Almighty God. He is going to condescend to be to you a Father and allow you to be His son, His daughter. And you will know Him in all the wonder of His person. His power will flow into your life and make it abundant and complete."
Now what am I saying? I am going to come right out now and make the statement, and this is why I said last week that I am going to lose half of you on this lesson. The standard for purity that I believe our young people should have in their dating years is this: A complete hands off policy. I'm not talking about how far they can go without getting into trouble. I'm talking about not even looking for trouble. I'm talking about no kissing, no caressing, no necking, no petting, no nothing!
I know that some of you wish this could be so. You have daughters ready to date. Why is it that we only worry about daughters, I wonder? Do we need to examine our motives? Are we looking for something that will get our teen agers through dating, safely into marriage, before they can bring disgrace on the family name? Can this be so? Girls have babies, and boys don't. So we don't worry as much about our sons. Can this be true? We need to examine our motives. Are we looking for some sort of system that will let us sleep nights when they're out on dates, or do we really desire that they might be like Jesus Christ, that they might know Him as He is?
I will not be able to finish this lesson today—it will take another whole session. I'm trying to teach you in half an hour what I have learned in ten years about teen agers. I have been guilty of offering teen agers a weak Christianity, and they window shopped and went on by. The reason I did it was because I wanted them to like me. Do you know that you want your teenager to like you and approve of you? Dr. Schauffle said that parenthood is not a popularity contest, but we make it that, don't we? And I have offered teenagers something less than complete devotion to Jesus Christ because I didn't know Him that well myself. I hadn't really seen Him the way Job had: "I have heard of Thee with the hearing of the ear; but now mine eye seeth Thee, and I abhor myself." Once you really see Jesus Christ in His holiness, you see yourself for what you are and you abhor yourself. You want to be different. You want to be like Him. In ignorance I tried to present the claims of Jesus Christ to them in one hand and let them hang on to the world's philosophy with the other. It can't be done. And a teenager wants no part of it.
Well, can you really sell this sort of philosophy to teenagers? A purity that says, "I will keep myself, not partially pure, but completely pure in all physical relationships and in mind and heart, through my dating years?" Will they buy that? They will, if they love Jesus Christ that much and if you are willing to intercede for them that much. If you are willing to draw a line and stand on it and hold that line by prayer. You can't legislate morality. You have to get to the core of a teenager, to his heart, and the Holy Spirit has to change him from within, so that Romans 12:1 2 makes wonderful sense to him.
These youngsters have to mature enough in their dating years to be ready for marriage at the end of it. The plan of God for their dating years will achieve that maturity in them.
One reason we have not given our children the proper guidance is because we have been so brainwashed by the culture of the day. If we have not accepted it, at least we have come to tolerate it. We hear from all sides that if we repress our desires we will harm ourselves psychologically. And even we Christian parents wonder, "Well, look, aren't kids going to neck? They always have. And is there any real harm in it as long as they don't go too far?"
We need to sort out our own thoughts and ask ourselves, "Who is setting the standards for the morality of our young people?" You will agree that the movies, TV, the paperback novels, and magazines that flood our newsstands are setting the standards for our young. The dating culture of this country is peculiar to the U. S. A., and the reason is the influence of these media picturing love and marriage from the world's viewpoint, not God's.
The automobile has contributed to the peculiarity of our dating culture. We have more cars here than any place in the world. This has given our young people an opportunity to get away from home. We used to know where they were. Now they can be miles from home in minutes, and in the cozy intimacy of a car.
The insecurity of our homes has contributed to the pattern of dating. Teenagers need the physical warmth of contact with people they love. If they don't get this at home where they should, they will get it somewhere else. They need security. If your daughter is insecure and has not had the proper sort of love and affection at home, watch out. She will throw herself at every boy she meets. You son, if he has not already, will be promiscuous with each girl he knows.
The movies and TV teach that love is "blind," that you "fall" into it and are helpless in its grip. Once the great passion has you in its power, you are not able to resist, and anything is excusable in the name of love. If you disagree with that, look at the movie page in the paper.
Sex is flaunted in the faces of our young people from every billboard and every magazine. No matter what is advertised, sex is the drawing card. We have become accustomed to it. The world's viewpoint of what love and sex are no longer shakes us.
Here are the things I think young people need to know in order to go successfully through their dating years:
1. What marriage is, according to the Word of God. That beautiful picture of marriage in Ephesians 5 is marriage according to God. What God's purpose is for marriage. Go back and read Lessons One through Five.
3. What God's purpose is for him.
4. A thorough and complete sex education, what sex is from God's viewpoint. I am going to teach you how to teach him this, later. (This series of lessons is printed separately.) What love is according to God's viewpoint. Read Lesson Three.
As you teach the teenager God's view of marriage, God's view of sex, God's view of love, he begins to discern the difference between what the world holds up as love and marriage and what it really is according to the Word of God.
As he understands this, then he begins to understand the standard of purity we have set for him. He sees that according to the Word of God, all intimacies between a man and a woman are within the circle of the marriage relationship. The Bible takes this for granted; anything else it calls sin. God's Word knows nothing of the sort of dating culture we have today. We've built this thing through the gradual loosening of our morals over the years. Nowhere does the Word of God teach us to play with temptation. Paul said to Timothy, "Flee youthful lusts." Run from them.
We will continue this next week as we try to see what dating should accomplish. I am leaving you at a place where you disagree with me. I have set an impossible standard, and I haven't told you how it's to be done. We will do this next week.
Lesson 20 back to table of contents
PURPOSE AND METHOD OF DATING
Last week we gave the standard of purity for our young people during their dating years. This week we want to study the method of dating and the purpose behind it. In the next lesson we talk about concrete rules for our dating teenagers.
I would like to recommend the chapters on dating from Design for Christian Marriage by Dwight Harvey Small. I am indebted to him for putting this concept of dating into a logical and clear presentation.
I told you that the teen age years are the years for weaning our children away from following us, as we follow Christ, to following Him independently. I want to go right on with that thought now and show you that dating is the time for being weaned emotionally from parental attachment as the teenager transfers his emotional dependence from his parents to his contemporaries. We want him to do this. If he does not make this break cleanly and successfully through his dating years, he will never be able to handle a marriage. See Lesson Two where we stated that marriage is a turning away from one way of life to a completely new life. The man or woman leaves father and mother and cleaves only to his wife or she to the husband. Dating is designed to further this process of emotional maturation. As the teenager finds increasing emotional satisfaction in his dates, he finds a decreasing need for his parents.
The pattern should be for casual, diversified dating, leading on to steady, exclusive dating, and in turn to engagement and marriage. What do I mean by casual, diversified dating? In brief, this is dating on a friendship basis, with many different people. This sort of dating should continue for a number of years, in fact until the youth is ready for serious consideration of marriage.
There is a place for going steady. It is toward the end of the dating years as the young person begins to really consider marriage and is beginning to choose his mate. Then he might go steady with one, or with several, before he finally decides that this is the one. Going steady serves a good purpose here. He sees a girl that he admires above all others and wonders if this is the one God has for him. Will their relationship stand up if they are together much more? So they begin to date exclusively and they learn to really know each other. Perhaps they find they have such widely divergent views on some important issues that they are not interested in continuing the alliance. If they are holding to the standard of purity we set last week, no harm has been done by this, only good. They part wiser for the experience and no less pure.
If, after going steady and prayerfully considering all things, they decide this is really love, the going steady arrangement progresses into an engagement. When two people are pledged in engagement, it is a solemn contract; and we need to impress the sanctity of engagements to our young people. An engagement ought to be the end of all other alliances. There should be no thought of another man or woman from that time on. They are pledged to each other. In consideration of this, caresses are proper between an engaged couple to a limited extent, but even here restraint must be used in order to keep their relationship pure through the engagement period.
There is the possibility that two Christian young people could enter upon an engagement in good faith to find out later that they do not believe it to be God's will after all. If they have behaved discreetly, there will be no regrets.
In the pattern outlined (casual diversified dating, leading to the going steady arrangement in later years, leading to courtship and engagement, leading to marriage) each stage of the dating years progresses to another stage and each stage is purposeful. It goes somewhere. This progression does not hold true in the dating culture of our day. It has been turned about. The trend is for "going steady" in high school, then turning to more casual dating in college. Why is this?
The underlying cause for this is emotional immaturity and insecurity. The boy or girl has the same need for security he had in the parent child relationship as he branches out alone into his social life, and he finds security temporarily by a steady relationship with each one. Casual, diversified dating shows greater maturity and ability to be on one's own, and the college young people, being more mature, turn to this sort of dating. I really believe that the "going steady" phenomenon of this day has evolved through these past years of terrible insecurity in the homes of America and in the world situation. Young people find themselves in a frightening current, and they are grasping at straws for security.
If a young person can be taught what the purpose of dating is and what the pattern for it through the years should be, this in itself gives him assurance and security. If he can be taught that the "going steady" arrangement of the day is a treadmill that goes nowhere (because it can go nowhere, since these young people are too young to marry), and if he sees that he is doing this because of immaturity and insecurity in the unstable world in which he lives, he begins to get the desire to pattern his dating years along a more mature line.
What do these years of casual, diversified dating accomplish?
1. Diversified dating brings an appreciation of the differences in masculine and feminine viewpoints. Being married to a male, you realize how important this is, don't you? You didn't begin to understand how a man thinks until you had been married a long time, did you? That is one of the reasons for your difficulties. For instance, you come to this class, soak it up, and you're all enthusiastic over what you see to be the vision for your home and your children. You run home and spill it all to your husband, but he doesn't get the message, does he? And does he resent me? You will be wise not to stuff Shirley Rice down his throat. Now, you are to share with him what you learn here, but you must not be resentful if he does not follow your thinking all the way. We women have more time to meditate on these things than men do. Our whole life is wrapped up in our homes, our children, our husbands.
Our men may be ever so devoted to their homes, but they are wrapped up in their work. Eight hours or more of every day are devoted to dealing with the problems of their occupation. This is legitimate. This is the man's place to provide for his family; he must be concerned with this. When he is wrestling with an engineering problem, he cannot be wrestling with the problems of dating teenagers. You have been home all day vacuuming and washing dishes, and your mind has been going a mile a minute while your hands worked. You have caught such a vision of what God wants in your home that when he comes in the door you begin to overflow with it. But he's not with you. Give him time to catch up and recognize the difference in your ways of thinking. Do not compare him to Mr. Dunlap, or Gene Garrick, or Harold Burkhart, or your pastor, whoever he is. These men think along this line all the time because this is their business, their calling, their work.
2. Diversified dating helps relieve the young person of his own sense of inadequacy. As he associated with many other young people he sees that other teenagers have personality inadequacies, too. Through the broad associations which come about in this sort of dating, he learns to discern traits in others and in himself which cause people to like or dislike him.
3. Diversified dating keeps reality in perspective. The ideal person one would like to marry is measured against real persons in one's dating experience. This keeps one from having an impossible idea as one dates many others and sees that no one is perfect. This is a lesson that has to be learned for a happy marriage. See Lesson Two. He begins to realize that there are frailties in the most consecrated and spiritual people he meets, and he accepts the fact that this is an adjustment he will have to make in marriage: to love the mate he has chosen in spite of the inadequacies the intimacy of marriage will reveal.
Going steady for long stretches with just one or two persons during the course of the dating years leads to disillusionment. The youth keeps looking for the ideal, and he thinks he has found it as he settles down to going steady with one. Soon he is disillusioned, but he thinks he will still find the ideal. So when he finds another he likes, he settles down to going steady with this one, only to be again disillusioned. On one of these going steady arrangements he finally marries, only to be disillusioned again. If he had associated with more people he would not have set up an impossible ideal.
4. This kind of dating should be planned and purposeful. It should develop the teenagers' personal knowledge of themselves and others, their social skill and genuine friendships. Have you found out after marriage that you loved your husband, but were not friends with him? You need to be a friend of the man you marry. Teenagers need to learn to develop friendships.
5. This arrangement keeps things on an even keel emotionally. Young people are going to have "crushes" on each other. They are going to "fall" hard for this one or that. This is not meant to eliminate that. That is part of growing up. But for him to be "crazy about" a girl and going steady with her, to spend much time with her alone, with the temptations of physical proximity tugging at their emotions, leads to temptations they do not have the maturity to handle. Casual dating in group situations gives him a means of keeping a check on his emotions.
Now women, this is not all taught in one sitting. Remember Dr. Schauffle's statement about the Scriptural method of teaching children: over and over and over and bring it to a point. We begin to teach our young people this concept of dating before they start to date. We keep teaching it over and over, holding them to the highest. We have the patience to wait until they can grasp it, until the Holy Spirit does that work of devotion in their hearts that will make them want to do things God's way rather than according to the culture of the day.
This kind of dating can be exploitative—"how many dates can I rack up?" Also, without the standard of purity set up last week, a boy or girl would be promiscuous with everyone in this sort of dating. Their motives must be pure. What is the motive we want them to have? It is this: To the Christian, all his purposes must be caught up in God's purpose of redeeming sinful man back to Himself Our marriages, we learned, are part of this purpose; and as we keep our hearts single to God's purpose, He gives us all the happy by products: the loving husband, the children, our homes, our happy, satisfying way of life.
As the teenager catches a vision of God's purpose in the world and of his individual place in it, his dating years suddenly come into focus, and he sees that dating is a ministry. God has put him here, not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and he has some responsibilities. It is no longer an attitude of "What can I get out of this?" but "What can I give?" Not, "Do I like this fellow or girl well enough to spend time or money on him or her?" but "What can I impart to this person of my life in Christ? What can I learn from him?" He becomes identified with God's interest in other people rather than his own. He looks at the girl who may not be so beautiful, but he realizes that she is as important to God as that lovely blonde. He realizes that part of his ministry may be to get to know her and to minister to her in helping her to gain poise, self confidence and in learning to express herself to others. He realizes that he has something to learn from her, and he begins to estimate people from God's point of view, not from outward appearances. He realizes that sometimes he can be used of God to keep a shy person from retreating into loneliness and frustration. As he ministers to a need wherever he sees one, he himself grows in maturity and understanding. He begins to learn the joy of edifying another in Jesus Christ. Solomon's prayer becomes his, "Give to thy servant an understanding heart to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and bad," (I Kings 3:9) as he realizes that Jesus Christ, through the yielded heart, can minister to the needs of others.
He begins to see his other responsibility, evangelization, reaching other teenagers who do not know Jesus Christ. I do not see the church of Jesus Christ attacking the problem of juvenile delinquency per se. I do see the church of Jesus Christ striking hard at the core of juvenile delinquency as it breeds vigorous young Christians who realize that they, above all people, have a responsibility to be missionaries to teenagers those they go to school with, those they associate with in their social life. Who can understand a teenager as well as another teenager They have complete rapport with each other: they speak the same language. And as the teenager realizes that because of the redemption of Jesus Christ in his life he is a debtor to all men (Romans 1:14, Amplified) — not just to the thousands lying in darkness in Africa or India, but to those right at his door—he sees that he is standing in a generation of teenagers who have lost their way. He knows where he is going, and he has a debt to pay.
"Behold how many thousands still are lying Bound in the dark some prison house of sin, With none to tell them of the Saviour's dying, Or of the life He died for them to win."
The teenager begins to take up his responsibility for bringing to pass God's purpose in the world. He sees that he is not just fitting himself for service in years to come, but that he is responsible NOW to manifest the life of Christ to those in spiritual death about him. And do you see how he, personally, matures in every way, physically, spiritually, emotionally, socially, as he learns to view every situation from God's point of view and identifies himself with God's interest in other people?
Purpose and Method of Dating
There was an English poet and clergyman of the seventeenth century who had some words to say about this responsibility we have of sharing the life we have in Christ with those in spiritual death about us. His words have often been misunderstood, perhaps because people do not know the life of the man who wrote them. His name was John Donne. He lived a profligate life in his youth and wrote many cynical, sensual love poems and satires during this time. He was trained as a lawyer, but he wasted his talents and his money. When he married he left behind his dissolute way of living and began to turn his attention to writing on religious subjects. He was reared as a Roman Catholic, but later turned Protestant. He lived during that period when the Church of England was making its break with the Roman Catholic Church. As this man turned his thoughts more and more to God, he finally took holy orders and became an eloquent preacher, being made Dean of St. Paul's Cathedral in 1619.
His wife died, and five of his twelve children died as time went on, and finally he himself was stricken with the illness which was to take his life. He lay ill for about two years before he died, and it was during this time he wrote his great sermons and meditations. As he lay on his bed, he heard the bells of the church adjoining as they rang to mark the funeral service of someone who had died. He would send to see whose funeral it was. As the days went by, in his illness he drew closer and closer to God and values came into clear focus. He would listen to the bell toll to announce that another life had gone out into eternity, and he would ask himself if that man had been rightly related to God. Did he go out into eternal death. And the bell tolled day after day. He would think, "Who was it? What was my responsibility to that one?" Finally he did not send any more to see whose funeral it was. He came to the realization that it did not matter for whom the bell tolled: he had a responsibility to every man. So he wrote, "The bell rings out, and tells me in him, that I am dead." Then he wrote those words you know so well, "No man is an Island entire of it self; every man is a piece of the Continent, a part of the maine; if a Clod be washed away by the Sea, Europe is the lesser, as well as if a Promontorie were, as well as if a Mannor of thy friends or of shine own were; any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankind; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee."
This is no vague expression of the brotherhood of man. This is the cry of Paul: "I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren!" Romans 9:2 3.
This is the cry of Moses: "Oh, this people have sinned a great sin . . . yet now, Oh God, if thou wilt forgive their sin
. . . And if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written!" Exodus 32:31 32.
The church of Jesus Christ is weak and powerless today because that is the kind of burden we are supposed to have for a lost world, and we do not have it. I think it would not be so foreign to my nature to enter into the suffering of Christ over a lost world if I had been taught this when I was young. And I'm for giving it to teenagers just that straight. "You are not here to mark time until God calls you to some service in the future. Send not to know for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for you! Every man's spiritual death diminishes you. Because of the redemption of Jesus Christ in your life you are involved in mankind, and you have a debt to pay. The payments begin now."
Lesson 21 back to table of contents
SOME DEFINITE RULES FOR DATING
What is a good age to begin dating?
I think fifteen or sixteen is a good age to begin dating, depending on several factors. First of all, we are talking only about the kind of dating we have described in the past few weeks. Then, of course, it depends upon the individual maturity of the teenager. Some are still so immature at that age they are not ready for dating at all. If this is so, the teenager. needs more activities in mixed groups which will prepare him for dating. The parent knows the child and his individual readiness better than anyone else. The girl is usually ready a little sooner than the boy is. At this age girls mature a bit faster than boys.
Dating at this age, and for some years, should be only double dating, actually until about age seventeen, I would think. A parent should know the details of the date: where they are going, with whom, what they expect to be doing for the evening, etc. Parents should know the boy their daughter is dating. It is not always possible to meet all the girls a son will date since he picks them up at their own homes, but it is possible to know about the girl. There is not the same danger involved in not meeting and knowing the girls as there is in not knowing the boys a daughter goes out with. Girls should date boys their own age or not more than two years older.
Parents need to know who is driving, and whether or not he is a responsible driver. Be slow in giving your own teenager car privileges. Not only are unlimited car privileges not good for him, but a car is a dangerous weapon. Be sure if your teenager is involved in an accident with him at the wheel that you can honestly face the Lord and say, "It was not because I let him have that dangerous machine before he could handle it capably and wisely." There should be definite rules about the number of people allowed in the car and their behavior in it.
What time should they come in?
Eleven P.M. is late enough, and for most occasions they will be in earlier. If they go to a church affair which is over at 9:30 P.M., then go somewhere and eat, it gives them plenty of time if they are home between 10:30 and 11:00 P.M. If a boy takes a girl home at 11:00 P.M., he should be allowed a little extra time after that to get to his own home. But for very first dating, I would have the boy himself home by 11:00 P.M.
More privileges can be given gradually as they grow older and show themselves trustworthy. On special occasions they could be allowed a little later curfew. However, even in late teens a teenager should be home before midnight. There is nothing to do but park in the late hours. Your teenagers should be taught not to park, period! They should be taught that when they come home from a date, they should get out of the car at once and either say good night or go directly into the house.
They should learn to call home if their plans are going to vary or if for some reason they find they are not going to get home on time.
How often should they date?
Only on weekends, except for rare occasions when there is some particular school or church function during the week. By weekend dating I do not mean Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, either. This is too big a weekend. A Saturday night date, and sometimes a church date, are enough. They see their friends over the weekend at church services.
I think they should be allowed to go out after church or Saturday night youth meetings and eat without having this counted against them as a date. By a date, I mean a prearranged, planned evening.
Boys can't afford much dating, especially during winter when they do not have the opportunity for earning money mowing lawns, etc. Your daughters need to learn this and learn not to expect the boys to spend more than $1.00 on most dates. There are special occasions for which allowances are made, of course, when they will spend more. You do not want your daughter to feel that she should be pampered and have money spent on her and be catered to by boys. Home dates should be encouraged. A boy should earn his own money for dates.
Bear in mind that the purpose of all these rules is to teach the child discipline and self control in his social life. Discipline is the core of the Christian life, and he needs to learn it in every area.
Let me urge you to let your children mature slowly. Please do not push them into a maturity for which they are not ready. They may look mature if you allow your daughters to dress like older girls, but they are not mature. Did you read "Where Are The Ugly Ducklings?" in the Reader's Digest some months ago? If you do not allow your daughter to have her childhood, she will be a child later at her husband's expense. She will fight for her lost childhood all her life.
What about telephone privileges?
I think thirty minutes in any twenty four hours is a generous allowance. Amy Vanderbilt thinks teenagers should limit their conversations to three minutes, so you see I am being generous. They could divide this up into any number of phone calls, or have it all in one.
What about dating etiquette?
Shall we let the teenager be cruel, crude, thoughtless? Or shall we expect the highest of him? I feel that all his associations should be governed by the love of Christ in I Corinthians 13. If you go back and read your lesson on love and apply it to dating and to his associations with his contemporaries, you will see how pertinent it is. This love is patient and kind, does not envy, is not jealous, is not boastful or conceited, thinks no evil, believes the best of everyone, has good manners, behaves becomingly, does not insist on its own rights or way, is not self seeking, is not touchy or resentful, is unfailing under all circumstances. If he governs all his actions by this, he will be pleasing to the Lord and to everyone.
What about going steady?
If you have forbidden your teenager to go steady, then he needs to know that if he disobeys, this is sin. There are ways of getting around it too by saying, "I won't go steady; I just won't go with anyone else." This is simply circumventing a command, and so it too is disobedience.
If you allow your teenager to go steady, he needs some restrictions to help him keep the relationship under control. I would prefer that the couple put these restrictions on their activities, but if my child would not, then I would put them on for him:
1. Limit their dates together. Two per month. They see each other, of course, in other activities.
2. Only double dating.
3. Limit their phone calls to two per week, no more than thirty minutes each.
If the teenager insists that he is going steady not because he is insecure but because he is really in love, you should point out that this love must meet certain tests:
1. The test of time. Will it last until such time as they are able to marry?
2. The test of separation. If it is not possible to effect a temporary physical separation, have them both date others for a while. If it is infatuation, their interests will soon turn to someone else. If it is not, they will continue to love this one above all others.
3. Does this love meet the requirements of I Corinthians 13? Is it self giving or self seeking?
4. Does this relation edify or tear down? Does this relationship enrich the teenager's life in Christ or enfeeble it? Does the relationship build him up in every way or does it pull him down? I Corinthians 8:1.
I wish we could spend a whole lesson on helping our teenagers choose a mate, but we do not have the time. These last points will help. Of course, you do realize that you must instruct your Christian child that he can never marry an unbeliever. God's Word forbids it. II Corinthians 6:14. But beyond this they need to realize the importance of choosing a mate who is really one with them in their committal to Jesus Christ, for inequality here makes for great frustration and strain in establishing a Christian home. Then these last points mentioned will help them know if the one they have chosen is truly the one the Lord has for them.
Lesson 22 back to table of contents
TV, MOVIES AND LITERATURE FOR OUR CHILDREN
Hebrews 13:17. "Obey them that have the rule over you and submit yourselves ...."
This is not only a command to listen to the admonition of our pastors and our appointed spiritual leaders because they watch for our souls and must give account of the shepherding they have done, but it is a direct command to our children to obey us parents as their appointed spiritual leaders because we watch for their souls. And it is a warning to us because we will be required to give account to God some day for the way we have trained them.
The Expositor's Greek Testament has an interesting note on this verse. It states that the writer of Hebrews is admonishing them to yield themselves trustfully to the teaching of their spiritual leaders, and this is reasonable because of the responsibility of the leaders and their anxious discharge of it. "They watch," it says, "like wakeful shepherds, or those who are nursing a critical case, in the interest of your souls, to which they may sometimes seem to sacrifice your other interests. They do this under the constant pressure of a consciousness that they must one day render to the Chief Shepherd an account of the care they have taken of His sheep."
We have seen ourselves to be under shepherds of the sheep the Lord has given us to rear. We have often said this to our children, haven't we? "We would like to let you do as you like in this matter, but we dare not. We must answer to God. And though the temptation is to please you and make you happy at the moment, we can never yield to that temptation if to do so would be contrary to what God has shown us to be His best interests for you."
I know at times they feel we are sacrificing their own interests so much of the time in this interest for their souls. But we are wakeful shepherds. We are nursing a critical case and the responsibility is heavy upon us.
In our children we are sowing a harvest that will be reaped both here and in eternity. Galatians 6:7 9 warns, "Be not deceived; God is not mocked; for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. And let us not be weary in well doing; for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not."
These verses not only apply to us personally, but to us as we either sow to the flesh or to the Spirit in the lives of our children. You remember our. lesson last year on shepherding, and how we talked of the influence of the mother as a widening wedge. We drew a little diagram of it on the board with the mother at the top and beneath her, her children. From them went lines to their children and so on, down through the generations, the widening wedge that would reach to the ends of the earth, the influence of one godly mother.
We get weary in well doing because our noses are flat against the present circumstances. But always we have the solid promise of God's Word behind us, "In due season ye shall reap, if ye faint not." We also have the solemn warning, "He that soweth to the flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption. Be not deceived, God is not mocked!"
I believe the Word of God teaches that there will be degrees of punishment meted out at the great white throne of judgment to those who are eternally damned because they have rejected Jesus Christ. Revelation 20:11 15. When I see in the paper the story of a father and mother who caused their teen age daughter to commit unnatural acts with her father while the mother took photographs of it, I believe those parents are going to feel the lash of God's wrath strike out fiercely at them when they stand before Him some day. Because Jesus says, "Whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe unto the world because of offenses! For it must needs be that offenses come; but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh!" Matthew 18:6.
But as I think of the hideousness of that crime, I think of another parent in another city, a woman of high social position and wealth, whose teen age son went to church with one of his friends and was fascinated as he heard of Jesus Christ and a life of reality in Him. As his refined socialite mother saw him being drawn more and more to this particular group of young people where he was learning of life in Christ, she deliberately cut off his connections with them and cleverly persuaded him away from the belief that was beginning to bud in his heart. "You don't want to get carried away on a religious kick now. What will our friends think?" I am sure that her crime is no less than the other. She is reaping her harvest now, for he has taken her at her word, has turned his back on God and is living a profligate life. And she will reap another harvest in eternity as she faces the wrath of God. We dare not think of the harvest in the life of the other teenager mentioned. The mind recoils from it in agony.
You believe what I am saying. But I wonder if we believe that we Christian mothers will stand before God some day to be judged, not for our sins, for they have been judged once and for all at Calvary. This is a different judgment seat where God's own will be judged for their works. I Corinthians 3:6 16. Part of the works we will be judged for as Christian parents will be what we have done with the responsibility God has given us in our children. We will give account. Will we do it with joy or with grief?
An article in Reader's Digest several years ago described some new brain surgery which was being performed to cure certain types of epilepsy. Exploration is done without anesthetic after the skull flap is lifted because there is no sensation of pain in the brain tissue itself, and because the patient must be conscious in order to help the surgeon locate the area in the brain which is affected.
The surgeon applies an electrical stimulus to the different areas of the brain, and the patient says, "I feel a response to that in my right leg or my left arm." As the surgeon moves the electric probe about, finally he locates the diseased area as the patient tells him, "Yes, I feel an epileptic seizure coming on." He can sometimes remove the diseased portion and restore the patient to normalcy.
As the doctor was probing with the electrical stimulus, suddenly the patient began to tell him of an experience he had in his childhood. "I am there," he said. "I hear the music. I see the room, the furniture. It is all the same." He took the stimulus away and tried it in different areas, but as he touched the same area again, the patient relived the experience he had years ago. He found the same response in other patients. One woman lived again the birth of her eldest son who was nineteen years old.
This experience affirmed the belief science has that nothing is forgotten. It is all there, the mind is like a tape recorder. The baby comes into the world with his little mind like a fresh tape, and the little mind begins to record, day after day. It is all there, and it makes up, all together over the years, the individual that baby becomes.
Once the enormity of your responsibility comes home to you, once you realize that God has given you the privilege of forming the minds of your children, you will be careful to sort out what goes into that little tape recorder. You will want what goes into it to be strong and true, you are building for eternity. You will come out of the kind of indifference that uses television for a baby sitter, that sends a child to the movies, any movie, on Saturday, that lets him read what he pleases.
This realization does not come easily. First must come the sharp awakening to the world around you. The devil is competing for the mind of your child. He uses all the things which appeal to the nature of man to lure your child's mind into a worldly pattern of thinking and away from a godly pattern of thinking.
I John 2:16 says, "All that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof; but he that doeth the will of God abideth forever.''
Something terrible is happening in America. We are tolerating evil! It no longer has to hide in the corner; it can march in the streets; it can come into your living room. When you go into your supermarket to buy groceries again, look at the paperback books displayed on the magazine rack. Look at the movie page in your newspaper. Read "How to Stop the Movies' Sickening Exploitation of Sex" by Don Wharton in the Reader's Digest, March, 1961.
Warner Twyford, TV critic in our own local paper, sounds like an evangelist much of the time as he reviews the TV shows for us: " Television Today and Motion Picture Daily have polled the nation's TV critics and columnists and come up with the depressing results: The Untouchables is the best network program and champion of champions for 1960. . . There must be something about The Untouchables. To me there is — brutality, violence, the hallmark of the successful TV dramatic program of today. The show is well made, true, but shall we accept the bloodletting and knuckle dusting of The Untouchables for the sake of its skillful production? . . . Since most television shows are aimed at the mass audience, they appeal to basic emotions. Thus there is the strong emphasis on violence in the western and came shows which make up so great a proportion of the networks and local stations programming."
It should not be necessary to go into the sordid, negative side of this question of movies, TV, and literature when addressing a group of so called Christian women. We should be able to take it for granted that we are all aware of the problem and dealing with it in our individual families. We should be able to go happily to the positive side of the discussion.
But the unhappy truth is that so called Christian people are supporting this sort of entertainment. If every professing Christian in the United States would boycott bad TV, movies, radio programs and books, this sort of entertainment would disappear from the American scene.
I am talking about "professing" Christians, but I am constantly shocked at the fact that families I KNOW to be Christian give their children unlimited TV privileges. They do not seem to realize that our children are learning to express themselves through these media and that we are showing them exactly the opposite of what we want them to imitate. We are showing them that anger is expressed brutally, and that love is expressed only by hunger for another's body. We show them that even murder is permissible if one hates enough, or if it is expedient. Our senses have become satiated with horror and violence, and so we must constantly make the entertainment more horrible, more violent. Sex itself is too tame, so we must dwell on perverted forms of it. And all the while our children are watching, the little tape recorders are faithfully recording, and we cannot understand why they do not grow up to be compassionate and responsible adults.
Oswald Chambers says in The Moral Foundations of Life, "Our thinking processes are largely subject to the law of habit. Philippians 4:5 says, 'Let your moderation (or your forbearance, your self control) be made known to all men. The Lord is at hand.' Self control is nothing more than a mental habit which controls the body and mind by a dominant relationship, which is the immediate presence of the Lord— 'The Lord is at hand.' The danger in spiritual matters is that we do not THINK godliness; we let ideas and conceptions of godliness lift us up at times, but we do not form the habit of godly thinking. Thinking godliness cannot be done in spurts, it is a steady habitual trend. God does not give us our physical habits or our mental habits; He gives us the power to form any kind of habits we like, and in the spiritual domain we have to form the habit of godly thinking. "
What thought habits are we and our children forming? You can see that a godly habit of thinking not only rejects evil; it holds to the very highest good. With the Christian it is not always a choice between good and evil; it is so often a choice between good and best. There are some TV programs that are not evil and won't harm your child, but are you going to fill the little tape recorder with the mediocre, hour after hour, day after day? I read in the paper Sunday that the small children of this nation are spending as many hours in front of the TV as they are spending in school.
Now, shall he never know violence? Shall he never know death? Shall he be unaware of evil, of hate, of sin? No, this is not what we want. We do not want him to be a hot house flower that will wither at first contact with the hot blast of the world's breath. God's Word is full of violence and of the tale of men's sins. The classics in literature, which have lived down through the years, have in them violence, hate, murder, lust, and greed. But the reason for the telling makes all the difference in the world, doesn't it? God's Word puts the grace and truth of Jesus Christ like a jewel against the black backdrop of man's sin. And the literature which has lived, and will live, draws the line sharply between evil and good, so that the child is never confused. It is this fuzzy world of violence for the sake of violence, of sex for the sake of sex, that leaves a child in a frightening gray world where nothing is truly wrong and nothing is truly right, and truth is relative.
Let's face it. It is a rare movie which will be fit for your child to see today. There is not much TV that is good for your child. But in the world of literature he can walk forever and not exhaust the supply that is there to feed him, if you will teach him discernment. You definitely need to pray about the movies your child sees. You definitely need to pray about the TV he watches. And you need to pray not only that God will give you the wisdom to preserve him from evil, but the wisdom to expose him to all that is good.
There is so much in the world of literature that is rich and that should be part of his knowing Jesus Christ. It is part of our understanding of men, and we need to keep learning and always broadening our horizons that we might be able to "be all things to all men, that we might by all means save some." I Corinthians 9:22.
Saturate your child's mind first with the Word of God. He must have a yardstick to measure truth by as he walks in the world of literature. Teach him, too, that God's word is the world of literature. It would have to be, wouldn't it, to be the very Word of God?
Feed him slowly as he is able to absorb. Do not try to push the classics down your child's throat before he can understand them. Lead him into them bit by bit. Pray that God will enable you to do this or send someone to help you to give your child this appreciation of the world of literature.
Teach him to reject evil when he finds himself reading it, even though he has to sacrifice satisfying his curiosity about the rest of the tale.
A final word—you do not want to rear an intellectual snob. Teach him to appreciate the CONTENT of what he is reading and work back from there to who wrote it. He must not learn a sort of intellectual bigotry that appreciates a piece of literature because of the prestige of the author. When he has judged the content, then let him learn of the author. "Therefore let no man glory in men." I Corinthians 3:21. Paul also said in that verse, "All things are yours." This is the scope of the Christian life. All good gifts come from the hand of our heavenly Father and are ours to enjoy. "All things are yours, and ye are Christ's; and Christ is God's."
Mrs. Shirley Rice
Thank you Debby Rice-God's blessings