Unequal “Yokedom” and Keeping Our Children’s Hearts

Photo Credits: My son Sam

Photo Credits:
My son Sam

Genesis 28:1-7

28:1 So Isaac called for Jacob and blessed him. Then he commanded him, “You must not marry a Canaanite woman2 Leave immediately for Paddan Aram! Go to the house of Bethuel, your mother’s father, and find yourself a wife there, among the daughters of Laban, your mother’s brother. 3 May the sovereign God bless you! May he make you fruitful and give you a multitude of descendants!  Then you will become a large nation4 May he give you and your descendants the blessing he gave to Abraham so that you may possess the land God gave to Abraham, the land where you have been living as a temporary resident.” 5 So Isaac sent Jacob on his way, and he went to Paddan Aram, to Laban son of Bethuel the Aramean and brother of Rebekah, the mother of Jacob and Esau.  6 Esau saw that Isaac had blessed Jacob and sent him off to Paddan Aram to find a wife there. As he blessed him, Isaac commanded him, “You must not marry a Canaanite woman.” 7Jacob obeyed his father and mother and left for Paddan Aram.

2 Corinthians 6:14-18

“Do not become partners with those who do not believe, for what partnership is there between righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship does light have with darkness? 15 And what agreement does Christ have with Beliar? Or what does a believer share in common with an unbeliever? 16 And what mutual agreement does the temple of God have with idols? For we are the temple of the living God, just as God said, “I will live in them and will walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.” 17 Thereforecome out from their midst, and be separate,” says the Lord, “and touch no unclean thing, and I will welcome you, 18 and I will be a father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters,” says the All-Powerful Lord.”

Ok, so we are not cattle and it might seem a bit archaic to still use the terminology “yoked”.  Perhaps another analogy would serve today’s generation better, nonetheless our souls confirm this truth.  It was not a racial slur when Jacob’s parents were opposed to Jacob marrying a Caananite woman.  They knew that Jacob’s heart could be turned away from following the living God by marrying an unbelieving spouse.  This is not just a principle for the Old Testament.  I fear in our day of tolerance and relevance that we have lost touch with the truth that God’s word never changes and His principles still stand, no matter how sophisticated or independent we think we’ve become.

I have three daughters and two sons that God has blessed me with.  Later in life, He also brought a step-daughter into my life.  When God enabled me to be a parent, my greatest heart’s desire was that I would be faithful to raise them in the LORD.  God was seeking godly offspring when He chose Abraham and when He chose us.  These children He has given are truly His.  Being charged with guarding their hearts and guiding them in Christ has been a challenging task, indeed, but it is worth it.

Suitors are now coming to call and the foundation that was laid all of these years is holding, by the grace of God.  It is not easy, and I, too, can easily falter if it were not for the compass I hold in my hand each day – the Bible.  You see, the philosophy of this day and age is to minimize the authority that parents have in their children’s lives.  It is viewed as old-fashioned.  So be it.  The role God gave parents is one He holds them accountable for, and that truth, coupled with the fear of the LORD, keeps me seeking God for His choice, not mine, in my children’s lives.

Worldliness is easy.  It is so woven into all of society, even in Christian places, that we can become dumbed down and not detect it anymore.  It is so hard to keep our hearts, let alone our children’s.  If I put my oxygen mask (the Bible) on each day, I am able to see clearly enough to place it on my children, but this also requires discipline and consistency in my life.

It starts when they are young.  Even when my children were first able to understand, I shared with them God’s word and how it differed from the world around us.  At that time I told them we were not going to follow the customs of the culture around us, including dating at a young age.  The follow up to that standard never relents and must not just be a legalistic mantra.  Godly standards flowing from genuine conviction breathe life, not rebellion.

This morning, my 10-year-old son knew I was not to be interrupted during my devotion time.  It is still so hard for him to not do so. Instead, he got his Bible out and read beside me and drew a picture from his devotion time, which I used for today’s blog. These moments are precious, but we cannot rest in them.  We have to keep building on this foundation and remind our kids that the faith they were taught has to become their own.

Back to my daughters.  Young men are now coming, asking to date or court my two oldest – pesky thing it is, them growing up.  Trying to walk the line of counseling my daughters and letting them make decisions is difficult, to say the least.  True character is shown soon enough, though, whether a young man will respect the parent’s place in the young woman’s life whom he admires, or whether he will secretly attempt to subvert the authority God has placed in my daughter’s lives.

We did not permit dating or courtship until they were 18 and have certainly been judged for doing so.  No regrets here. This past week I had the joy of having a godly young man inquire after one of my daughters.  They have been friends for a year and a half and walked through this process beautifully.  Moments like this make it all worth it.  Suitors can lie, manipulate and couch their professions of love in “Christianese”, but the Holy Spirit is able to guide important life decisions.  We just have to be seeking and listening.  True character is shown in time – we just must be vigilant!

My older son is a couple of years away from adulthood now.  Completely different and also much the same.  The principles of purity and guarding our hearts have been laid as groundwork since before he could first understand those words.  May he and his younger brother continue to walk in God’s ways and seek a righteous wife someday, for even the wisest man, Solomon, had wives turn his heart away from God toward worthless things.

Although Jacob might have easily disregarded his parent’s counsel, he did not.  He chose to obey and was rewarded for it. He had his own past of deceit and maybe learned from it.  My prayer is that my children will continue to choose the path of following God, but that will be their decision.  I am blessed to say that they are walking with God, but the spiritual battle for all of our children’s hearts is waged daily.  We have experienced firsthand how the disobedience of one person caused incredible pain and horrific consequences in our lives.  We do not want to walk that path again.

We never arrive as parents and never are done inspiring our children to love God.  The costs are just too high, and future generations are counting on the faithfulness of us right now.  We cannot become trapped in cultural pressure or fads.  Even terminology can become an idol – dating or courtship.  Choices lie before us all each day.  What we choose impacts those who follow behind us.  I choose by the grace of God blessing and not a curse – walking in obedience over rebellion, life over death.  What say you?

Lord, thank you for saving me and showing me the need for discipleship of the children You have given.  When I fall short, LORD, protect their hearts and enable us to follow hard after You, for You are our life!

Under the Influence

Photo Credits dannyhageman.wordpress.com

Photo Credits
dannyhageman.wordpress.com

1 Kings 11:4

“When Solomon became old, his wives shifted his allegiance to other gods; he was not wholeheartedly devoted to the LORD his God, as his father had been.  6 Solomon did evil in the LORD’s sight; he did not remain loyal to the LORD, like his father David had.  9 The LORD was angry with Solomon because he had shifted his allegiance away from the LORD, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him on two occasions  10 and had warned him about this very thing, so that he would not follow other gods.  But he did not obey the LORD’s command.”

This passage should humble us all – the wisest man that ever lived turned away from the LORD.  Should not his wisdom have guided him to avoid wicked influences?  Compromise is subtle – we often do not notice or perceive that a slight alteration is chipping away at our integrity and commitment to God.  It is not enough to simply have moral ideals – the life in Christ must be a loyalty which makes us shudder at the thought of indulging the flesh with something that would pull us away from our God.  But unfortunately, we cave in to “minor” influences.  PG-13 movies that have “some” curse words, which we trivialize because we can “handle” them.  The problem is that the slope is headed downward – not up.  Decisions are made one by one, but add up to an avalanche over time.

We need to be vigilant with every influence in our lives.  There are many sources which influence us – media in multiple forms – including television, internet, social media and e-mail; and peer groups, which include people in many different environments; friends, family, peers at work, and at church (oh yes, there, too!).  Vigilance does not mean shunning, but rather setting clear boundaries that you abide by.  Sometimes folks around us can resent our boundaries, citing them as legalism, but it becomes sin to us if we violate our own consciences to appease those around us.  While it is uncomfortable to maintain your convictions, consider it a test – do you really believe in what you claim you do?  A little persecution presented by peers snubbing or labeling us is a pretty mild test.

Fame and riches were part of Solomon’s downfall.  Perhaps he thought he was invincible or that the wisdom he had enabled him to handle all of those temptations.  Not so.  Bad judgment call.  We will all be tempted, for sure.  We will have our decisions to make, one by one. Stay sober – do not allow yourself to go under the influence.  Stay in the Word of God and be alert.  Remember that we do not ever “deserve” to sin, or to choose to violate God’s commands out of comfort or pleasing others.  The price He paid was too high for that casual, liberal application of the costly grace given to us.

Hold fast to the convictions God revealed to you.  Don’t allow people to define for you what your standards should be.  Hold fast.  The visual of an anchor helps me in this regard.  It is unmovable, fixated where it needs to be and though it is so small, it is capable of holding in place large vessels.  Small decisions matter.  Guarding ourselves from negative influences in our lives is essential, but we cannot stop there.  Instead, we must be the bold, positive influence that the world needs – not in a harsh, judgmental way, but in a godly confidence that helps sheep around you see that they, too, can exert their power to choose to protect and guard righteousness in their lives.

God, wake us up and help us to be faithful.  We need You to keep us grounded in Your word, walking blamelessly before you!