Training or Spite

Parents are instructed by God to “train” their children. The whole process of child discipline is the same process as child training. Discipline and training are so intertwined that you cannot have one without the other.

Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6

Getting in Your Own Way

Some parental discipline is hardly training, but much more like anger, frustration and even spite toward the child. What is happening is that parents are getting in their own way. Instead of training their child the parent’s feelings and frustrations become more important than the good of the child. That’s when parents move from Training their child to Penalising the child for annoying the parent.

Here are some tell-tale statements from parents that let you know the parent is not thinking about “training” the child, but venting their own frustrations…….

“Get out of here. You make me sick.” “I’m sick of hearing your whining voice.” “I’ve had just about enough of you for one day.” “One more noise out of you and I’ll let you have it.” “Make yourself scarce!” “You just SO annoy me!” “Get to your room. I don’t want to see you.” “Get out of my way.” “I ought to give you a whipping.” “I’m going to feel so much better when I’ve given you a thrashing.” “You’ve pushed me too far this time!”

Train the Child

Godly discipline is for the good of the child. It is not to make the parent feel better. When parents deal with their child based on what will placate the parent’s upset state, those parents are not training their child, but taking out their frustrations on the child.

So let’s remind ourselves that Biblical discipline has the good of the child in mind at all times. The Rod and Reproof give wisdom. The Rod of Correction drives foolishness from the child’s heart. That’s why godly discipline, including smacking a child with a rod, is an expression of love to the child. Those who will not smack their child with a rod are described in the Bible as hating their child.

Godly discipline gives wisdom, removes foolishness and affirms the parent’s love to the child. It is all for the good of the child.

Correction not Anger

The Rod of Correction is not the Rod of Anger. The two are completely opposed. The rod of Correction drives foolishness from the child, but the rod of Anger simply does not work.

“Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.” Proverbs 22:15

“He that sows iniquity will reap vanity: and the rod of his anger will fail.” Proverbs 22:8

The Rod of Correction is for the Good of the Child, which trains the child’s heart and directs the child’s life. The Rod of Anger is used by parents for the good of the parent, venting anger, frustration, resentment and spite.

Spite

I have seen parents act in cruel spite toward their children. Such parents usually choose to banish their child, rather than smack the child. They also speak horrible words of rejection and cursing over the child. They make threats, lash out, bring fear into the heart of the child and leave emotional scars.

A planned discipline regime, using the rod of correction, where you smack the child, give explanation and give plenty of affirmation, is much better than the banishment which some parents think is more humane. Children feel secure when they know the parents will not lash out or respond in anger. They also feel loved when they are not rejected and sent away.

I encourage all parents to look to the Biblical pattern of child training and to clear their own hearts of things that lead to anger and spite.

Ultra Vires

Have you ever heard of a judge, policeman or official overstepping their authority? It’s common enough and it’s the focus of this discussion.

Ultra Vires means “outside the law” and it has to do with the Rule of Law. It also relates to the abuse of official power. I trust that none of you ever have to deal with such matters, but this discussion is for those who want to think about the matter or who may have to deal with it in some way.

Scot Free

I chatted with an elderly man today who I met while on my daily exercise walk. He is of Albanian extraction but was born and raised in Kosovo, back when it was part of Yugoslavia. Since I have been to both Kosovo and Albania we had much to chat about.

He related the various troubles the nation of Yugoslavia endured due to ethnic rivalries. One case prompted me to write this post. He told of a man who convinced a friend to assist him commit a burglary. Both men were caught and brought before the judge. The judge was of the same ethnicity as the first man and he instructed that man to go through a particular door. That door led the man to complete freedom. He was let off “scot-free”. The other man, however, was sentenced to 12 years in prison.

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Now, that’s an example of the abuse of office. The judge had acted “ultra vires”, outside his official authority. Either both men were guilty or both men were innocent. Favouring his own kind was an abuse of official power.

Rule of Law

Back in 2004, when I was in Cape Town waiting to travel to Zimbabwe I was shocked to see a newspaper headline declaring complete collapse of the Rule of Law in Zimbabwe. I read the article with keen eyes, concerned about whether I should cancel my travels there. I had visions of rioting and looting in the streets as we saw in the LA race riots.

What had occurred was that Prime Minister Robert Mugabe rejected a decision of the High Court in Zimbabwe. The dramatic headline was targeted at Robert Mugabe, not the ordinary man on the street. When we arrived in Harare we found it perfectly safe and a great place to minister to people.

In the Zimbabwe situation the PM resisted the lawful finding of the courts. He wanted to operate “ultra vires”, outside judicial restraint.

Model Traffic Rules

Kenneth Wayne tells of his experience as a young officer in the late 1970’s watching a political lobbyist advise politicians about the Model Traffic Rules which the  lobbyist wanted them to implement. When it was pointed out that the rules violated the American Constitution the lobbyist responded by pointing out that most people will never realise that the rules are unlawful and until someone successfully overturns the rules the government will rake in much more money.

That legislation, which did come into effect some time later, was “ultra vires”. It was outside of the law. The politicians who put it in place ignored the law, knowing that the public would be easily duped and would be powerless to stop them.

Going Ultra Vires

Operating outside the law is an appealing option to those in power, those who wish to get their way and those who have personal agendas to push. Whether it is letting someone off lightly or duping others into giving in to your demands, the act of going ultra vires is common enough.

Such terms as nepotism and discrimination reflect the human tendency to use positions of power and influence to cater to their own agendas. In most such cases the person has had to violate the rules and regulations, thus they have gone ultra vires.

Here Lies the Law

In some places the rule of law has been buried long ago. People do not get justice and those who can bribe and push their way forward get all the advantages.

In other places the law appears to be alive and well, but the laws have been adapted and morphed into laws that are outside the lawful constraints put on the Governments or officials.

The surest proof that the true rule of law is alive and well is that everyone is effectively held accountable for their handling of the law. Where people resist calls to account for themselves, then you can be certain they are operating ultra vires and don’t want to be stopped from doing so.

“Alas poor law, I knew him well…”

Truth Versus Facts

You would think that Truth and Facts are the same thing. Surely if you know the Truth and you know the Facts you know the same thing. But that’s not so. While the facts and the truth have much in common they are also at times the antithesis of each other.

So I want to stir your faith by getting you to recognise the wonderful superiority of Truth over Facts. Are you ready for that?

Facts are Data

facts

At one level facts are meaningless bits of information. Every discreet piece of data is a fact. The table is flat. The table is brown. The table is new. The table is broken. The table is clean. All these tiny bits of information are facts.

A list of facts sounds like a first grade reader. Bill is a boy. Bill is a big boy. Bill has a dog. Bill hit the ball. And so on it goes.

[Which reminds me of a cute joke about a woman at a social event answering questions about her husband, saying: Bob writes books. Bob writes many books. Bob writes big books. Bob writes books for children.]

Facts Are Interpreted

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While we think of facts as something like bedrock that cannot be challenged we can easily see that facts are open to interpretation and misinterpretation. People mix facts with their interpretation of those facts until the same fact can be seen as evidence for opposite claims.

The fact of similarity between species was interpreted by Charles Darwin as evidence for each species evolving from the other. But Behe pointed out that those features had to devolve and re-evolve for each new species which is quite ridiculous. Christians realise that the similarity between the species shows that there was a single designer who utilised the same design concepts in diverse and unrelated species.

darwin

In view of the diversity of interpretation given to the facts they become somewhat lame and end up like putty at times, being moulded to suit the ideas of the interpreter, rather than the reality behind the facts.

Truth is Dynamic

While facts are mere data that can be interpreted in different ways, Truth is a living and powerful entity of vastly superior force. Religion and philosophy have done little with facts, but the subject of Truth is a most compelling one.

The Bible asserts that Truth has the power to liberate people. Jesus Christ declared the potency of Truth when He asserted that “the Truth will set you free”!

“And you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” (Jesus Christ) John 8:32

It cannot be equally said, “You will know the facts and the facts will set you free”, because the facts may lead to various interpretations. The Truth is not subject to personal interpretation.

When people realise the Truth about a situation they are released from misconceptions, fears, doubts, and so on. Truth has a liberating power.

Truth Has Personality

What sets truth far apart from facts, despite the times when a fact appears to be the same as the truth, is that the Truth has personality. Jesus Christ personally declared Himself to be “truth”. So Truth is not a static fact, but a living personality. That’s why the Truth is dynamic, filled with liberating power.

“Jesus said to him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man comes to the Father, but by me.” (Jesus Christ) John 14:6

The Truth is so awesome. It is an expression of the very personality of Jesus Christ. To know Jesus is to know Truth. To know Jesus is to be set free, because the Truth sets people free.

“If the Son therefore makes you free, you will be free indeed.” (Jesus Christ) John 8:36

Truth Blitzes Facts

The most exciting thing about Truth is that Truth completely blitzes the facts. While the facts can line up with truth and while they can be thought to be equivalent with the truth, they are proven to be empty when they come up against the Truth.

Have I confused you? Let me see if I can unpack that for you.

The facts may be that you have no money and no food. That’s a sad reality that should have you distressed and fearful. But those facts are mere data which can be blown away by the Truth. The Truth is that “my God will supply all my needs” and “let the poor say I am rich” and “with God nothing is impossible”. As you stand on the Truth you can see the facts dispensed with in an instant.

Millions of people have experienced that, and testimonies abound of people who confidently rested on the Truth, despite the facts, and saw God come through time and time again. George Mueller and Heidi Baker are famous examples of this kind of faith.

The facts may be that you have a terminal disease. That’s the sad reality the doctor tells you. But those facts are mere data which can be blitzed by the Truth. The Bible declares that you were healed by the whipping of Jesus (1Peter 2:24). There are thousands of testimonies of people who rejected the facts in order to claim the Truth, and the Truth set them free from the facts.

What is Truth?

Pilate famously asked Jesus “What is truth?” Ironically the one who was truth stood before Pilate. Pilate did not find truth because he did not realise that Truth is a divine personality, not an interpretation of the facts.

Truth is not dependent on the facts. Truth is not a product of man’s powers of deduction. Truth is supernatural and eternal. It is “out of this world” and enters the world as a work of God’s grace. We receive the Truth when we receive Jesus. We find the Truth in God’s Word, because Jesus is also the “Word of God” and the “Word made flesh”.

You can live above the facts and explore the divine possibilities provided by the Truth, when you recognise that Truth is not a “what” but a “who”. Truth is a person. What is true about Jesus is True Truth.

Get to know the truth about Jesus, because when you know the Truth, the Truth sets you free, and you are free indeed!

Missing Ingredients

Effective Parenting requires that you use the right ingredients. If something is missing then the recipe will not turn out right. Many parents lament they have not been as effective as they hoped and wanted to be. If you are in that category I trust this look at the Missing Ingredients proves helpful.

No Water

Some years ago we bought a bread-maker and made many successful loaves. We finally gave up, probably because the yummy bread was eaten in no time and bread making became a bit of a burden.

One memorable loaf which we baked overnight really disappointed us in the morning. The aroma of the hot grain could be smelled as usual, but when we opened the machine and looked inside there was simply a pile of dry ingredients in the base of the tin.

We forgot to add water. So the machine went through the whole process of mixing and heating and so on, but to no avail. A vital ingredient was missing and the machine just could not produce the usual delicious loaf.

We never forgot the water again.

Incomplete Recipe

temper-tantrum

In the same way parents can leave out something very important to the life of their child. If they do then some or all of the effort they put in will be wasted. If the recipe is incomplete then what is created won’t be what is expected.

That’s how many parents find it. What they get from their child is different to what they expected. So this lesson points you to two Biblical ingredients which every parent needs to put into the life of their child.

Rod and Reproof

People have different opinions about discipline and child training. Some are brainwashed to be negative about any form of punishment. Others believe if you spare the rod you spoil the child. Some believe that by being kind and patient the youngster will turn out right in the end.

Whatever your preferred ideas I want you to be Biblical first of all. Man’s ideas seem right but lead to destruction. We must put our own ideas aside and pay close attention to what the Bible teaches, since it is God’s Word to us.

So notice the Bible’s joint emphasis on two key ingredients: rod and reproof.

The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself brings his mother to shame.” Proverbs 29:15

Give Attention

discipline

Before we look at “rod and reproof” please notice that they both represent giving special attention to the child. The opposite of those things is to have a child who is “left to himself”.

So it is important for parents, both dad and mum, to share life with the child and to give the child attention. If the child is left to himself or herself and allowed to do as he or she pleases without guidance and correction, the result will be shameful.

Children are not designed to find their own way and to determine what is right or best for them. They are designed to be guided, corrected, brought to account, instructed and led into the right things. That’s the role of parents.

So please give good, Biblical attention to your child, and especially give them both the rod and reproof.

The Rod

The Bible teaches that children are blessed when they are punished for their wrong behaviour. Godly punishment involves physical pain, such as a smack on the bottom. It teaches the child but it also enables the child to feel whole and resolved on the inside.

By being punished when they know they have done wrong a child achieves the lovely sense of being made right. They feel absolved and don’t live with unresolved guilt or fear of being found out.

Parents know that effective physical punishment administered appropriately leaves children happy and feeling clean on the inside.

Therefore the use of physical punishment is for the good of the child. If a parent smacks their child out of anger or to vent the parent’s frustration then the action ceases to be godly discipline and becomes self-serving and abusive.

Reproof

The Rod does not work so well on its own. The Bible tells us that the Rod and Reproof work in tandem to create wisdom in a child.

Reproof involves speaking to the child and speaking into the child’s life. It involves explanation, instruction, correction, godly counsel, affirmation and direction for future behaviour.

When reproof is employed along with use of the rod the results are far better than if either one is used on its own.

Words of Reproof

To help those who may not find the right words easily, here is an example of a reproof that could be given to a naughty child.

“You know what you did is wrong, don’t you? You disobeyed mummy and that’s a bad thing to do. God wants you to always do what mummy tells you to do. Now, you are a very special good boy that God gave to us so we can train you to be a mighty man for God. That’s why it is so important that we smack you when you do wrong things, so you will learn to do what God wants and you’ll become the man that God wants you to be.”

“Now I’m going to give you one smack for saying ‘No’ to mummy. Then you are going to ask mummy to forgive you and I’ll lead you in a prayer to ask God to forgive you too. And if you say ‘No’ to mummy again, I’ll have to give you two smacks, because one wasn’t enough to help you learn to do the right thing. Do you want me to give you two smacks? I didn’t think so. So, all you have to do is make sure you don’t say ‘No’ to mummy again and do just what she tells you do.”

Ingredients

spoiled-girl

Effective parents know that they have to deal with things as they come up. They can’t neglect the child’s training. They also know the child needs their love and affirmation and that firm discipline is an expression of love to the child. They also know a child is unsettled and agitated if they cannot resolve wrongs in their heart. Godly discipline clears away the messy feelings they carry around with them when they have done wrong.

Clear explanation, loving affirmation and practical engagement in the right behaviours, such as saying “Sorry”, lead the child to put godly character and good behaviour into their lives.

Being clear about the punishment, why it is given and how it will be increased in the future if correct behaviour is not evident, helps the child feel secure and clear about what to expect.

I hope that helps you refine something of what you do to bless your children.

Take it Easy

Mental Illness is at epidemic proportions in the prosperous west. With all the things modern technology has provided and with all the security of food, clothing and shelter that third world countries struggle without, it is absurd that comfortable westerners should have a care in the world.

Yet they do. Millions of well-off westerners (in global terms) struggle with depression, take medication for stress or anxiety, encounter mental instability and lack the contentment and security their environment should provide them.

The causes and solutions are many and varied and I do not profess to be an expert on these matters. However I have made suggestions to sufferers which they tell me proved very helpful. So I am sharing some of my thoughts here, for the benefit of those who may also find them helpful.

Intensity Disorder

stressed

My gut feeling about much of the mental struggle that westerners contend with is that it is in fact an “Intensity Disorder”. It seems to me that people who are tormented in mind are trapped in a situation where they struggle with uncertainties, doubts, worries and the like, which create a ‘turmoil of intensity’ in their thinking, and possibly their emotions as well.

I have seen people resolve some of their mental disorder by simply reducing the mental intensity that has abducted their thinking patterns. That’s why I’ve titled this post “Take it Easy”. That is my advice to those who are getting all worked up about things, creating storms in the tea-cup of their situation.

Tormented

Now, it is true that the mental state some people get into is somewhat out of their control. People do fall prey to things that torment them and which have a mind of their own in attacking and besieging the minds of their victims.

Biblically we would see such things as demons assigned to attack and harass a person. The whole process of spiritual warfare involves issues of the mind and that must include those who are tormented by evil spirits which mess with their mind.

Capturing Thoughts

The Apostle Paul taught that we have spiritual weapons which pull down strongholds in our mind and which also bring thoughts back into line.

“For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” 2Corinthians 10:3-5

Wrong thinking patterns can be enemy “strongholds” in our mind which create fearful or distressing imaginations and thoughts. Our spiritual weapons pull down those strongholds and destroy wrong imaginations, bringing our thinking back into line with Christ, who is the truth.

Turning Off the Intensity

People who are anxious and distressed in mind usually have something gnawing at their thoughts.

stressed

“I’m not sure I did the right thing.” “I don’t know if people like me.” “I can’t be sure everything is going to work out.” “I tried to help that person but it didn’t work out, so now I feel like it’s my responsibility.” “I want my circumstances to improve and so I’m thinking about it all the time.”

Myriad thoughts can cause you to be buried in intensity, unable to let go and “take it easy”. People berate themselves, get tied up in knots, lose all capacity to move forward, and have their mind go into overload when they have this kind of Intensity Disorder.

Imagine how much better life immediately becomes when you can turn off the intensity.

Give Yourself A Break

Stop attacking yourself. Stop putting your mind into overload. Just relax. Give yourself a break. Stop taking yourself so seriously. Take it easy.

As a Christian you have all the capacity you ever need to be able to turn off the intensity. You can cast all your cares on the Lord, knowing that He cares for you. You can give your burdens to Him. You can take His load on your shoulders, because His load is always light.

“Casting all your care upon him; for he cares for you.” 1Peter 5:7

“Come to me, all you who labour and are heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and you will find rest to your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

Just Relax

I remember various times in my youth when I struggled with anxieties. I wondered whether I was reaching manliness as well as I hoped. Did I look like a man? Did I stand like a man? Did I fit the part properly or not? What should I do differently to convince those around me that I was every bit a man?

I was probably influenced by the insecurity generating media that wanted me to buy a product or dress the way they prescribed. I thought that looking the part was an important part of being the part.

But I noticed that people accepted my manliness even when I didn’t go out of my way to convey it. I was as tall as a man, with a deep voice like a man and I shaved and had grown up responsibilities. When I walked through a shop women would tell their child to “get out of the way of the man”, and they were referring to Me!

All my anxiety had nothing to do with reality. I was a young man, whether I felt the part or not, or whether I dressed trendy, in a uniform, or in my gardening clothes. So I learned to relax and accept that I had arrived, even on those days when I doubted the fact.

Tense Shoulders

Another process of relaxing and taking it easy came from my early months of driving. I noticed one day as a teenage driver that my arms and shoulders were totally tense. Everything from my fingers to my neck was tight with tension.

I knew that most drivers seem so much more relaxed than I felt. I also realised that a three hour drive would just about cripple me at that level of muscle tension. So I deliberately relaxed my fingers, hands, arms, shoulders and neck.

The experience was liberating. I could drive and watch the road and rear-view mirrors much better when my body was not stiff. I relaxed my legs, wriggled in my seat, settled back into the chair, put my elbow onto the arm rest and even let go with one hand.

Every time I caught myself tense again I would physically relax my body until being relaxed in the driver’s seat became normal.

Loosen Up

If you are tense about something stop and address it. If it’s a responsibility then trust it to God. If it’s something you need, ask God for it and then trust Him enough to rest while you wait. If it’s uncertainty about the future commit the future to God and concentrate only on today.

Pray about those things that concern you. Let God know what your requests are. Then Relax. Loosen Up. If you catch yourself tense and anxious then change posture, pass the problems to God again, and settle into a relaxed posture once again. Practice the posture you would have and the thoughts you would think if you knew that God heard your prayer and everything was under control.

Give it a try and see what it does for helping you work through those mental storms that tie you up and bring you down.