Proverbs 22:6 (NASB)

Train up a child in the way he should go,
Even when he is old he will not depart from it.

Train up a child

The first thing we can take from this verse is that it is necessary to train up a child. Children do not raise themselves. They need to be trained. God has placed the privilege and responsibility of training children upon the parents. This is why children are to obey their parents. Their parents are to be instructing them in such a way that it requires the child to obey.

Ephesians 6:4 “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”

Colossians 3:21 “Fathers, do not exasperate your children, so that they will not lose heart.”

We see in Ephesians and Colossians that parents are not to lord it over their children and exasperate and anger them in the way that they parent. But they are to practice disciplining them and instructing them in the Lord.

Discipline is not the same as punishment. Discipline is more closely related to discipleship. It is providing structure that aides the child’s training and obedience. Instead of rescuing the child from the consequences of their actions, it is letting them experience the consequences in a safe environment that produces the learning of responsibility.

For example, if the child does not eat his dinner, he goes to bed without it and experiences what it feels like to not have eaten as he should have. The loving parent does not remove the consequence by allowing the child a different food option before bed so that he is not hungry. If the child does not do his homework, the parent does not do it for the child or send a note with a made up excuse to the teacher. The child must face the teacher and the consequences both at school and at home.

Using punishment as a means to stop your children from getting on your nerves is not discipline. If they are unruly to the degree you cannot tolerate them, they have suffered from a lack of discipline for an extended period of time. If they are on your last nerve on a consistent basis, they need training not punishment. If their relationship with their parents is mostly adversarial, it will be difficult to switch gears into training them up in the Lord.

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We have all seen the movie. The “good” guys, let’s say a man and a woman, working for two different government agencies, enter a room simultaneously. Their field training kicks in, and two guns are drawn, each person looking down the barrel of their “adversary.” But they’re not adversaries. In fact, they’re on the same team, but badges have yet to be displayed, because both have been undercover. One finally confesses, “I’m C.I.A.” The other, “F.B.I.” The problem is that both are hesitant: “What if they are lying?” they think to themselves. “Lower your weapon.” “No. You lower your weapon.” How is trust going to be established when two people have their guns drawn on each other? “Trust no one”, they were always taught. Each one is asking the same question in their mind: “Can I trust this person?” There’s only one thing that can happen in a standoff like this: Somebody has to lower their weapon first. This requires an act of vulnerability, of defenselessness, that most people are not ready for. But somebody’s got to go first, or we’re going to have two dead people lying on the floor when Homicide shows up.

In every relationship there will at some point be pain. Sometimes it will be a little, and sometimes more than you think you can bear. We have our own set of standard responses to pain in general. Our chief goal is normally to not experience any kind of pain, but to feel safe without even the threat of it. But when we get wounded we try to protect our heart. Our heart is the thing that got hurt, so we want to make that pain stop, not let it get any worse, and try to never let anything like that ever happen again. There are several ways we try to shield ourselves from further pain, but those mentioned below are some of the most common.

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People are not subject to the world around them. They are free to make choices that order the steps of their lives. In some nations, people believe that nature affords them no recourse, but to be at its mercy. The belief that nature is more powerful than human beings prevents people from devising creative ideas to curtail the forces of nature. In the West, we harness the power of nature for our use, but in many parts of the East the powers of nature harness the people.

How Genesis makes the difference

It is actually the biblical view that God placed man on the earth to have dominion over the earth that makes the difference between the East and the West. However, if the ramifications of this doctrine are not taught, the benefits to life become lost. Animals are at the mercy of their environment. They are subject to dominion. In contrast, people can change their environment by their choices. No permission is needed to think differently. There may be opposition to practicing a new way of thinking, but progress seldom occurs without opposition. Those willing to move forward despite opposition often become those who lead the way for the more timid.

Ordering our steps

This idea extends beyond man’s dominion over nature, but man’s ability to order his own steps. Instead of life happening to us, we happen to life. Sure some things come our way that we cannot foresee or control and land squarely on our lap. But such things are few and far between in the big picture. We cannot live in such a way that everything becomes our responsibility or our baggage to maintain. Many things will vie to be our problems, but only a handful ought to become our own. If a person is making a series of bad choices, the problems will pile up, and these problems will be that person’s responsibility to clean up. But many of us have problems clinging to us that are not our own. Some other helpless soul dumped their load upon our shoulders, and we thought it loving to carry it for them. Many times we feel we had no choice but to receive the load. We need to evaluate our choices and see what truly belongs to us, what truly is an act of love, and what is not our burden to bear.

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Slavery begins in the mind. Slavery, captivity, and bondage are the fallen status quo of mankind. It is not just those who are held captive by other humans, but those who are captive to time, nature, technology, superstition, religion, or our own thinking.

True freedom

Freedom is not tied to the earth; in fact, it is living free from earthly shackles. Freedom is the nature of the Kingdom of God, for where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty (2 Corinthians 3:17). Paul wrote in Galatians 5 that “It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.”

We know that Jesus came to set the captives free. The problem is that we often live like we are bound because we do not understand true freedom. It is as if the handcuffs have been removed and we are still walking around with our hands joined behind our backs. The shackles are gone. We are free, but we live bound.

Believing the truth

In some situations we believe lies that keep us bound. The truth is we are not bound, but the lie becomes its own chain. We believe the limitation, and are thereby limited. This is where the renewing of our minds comes into play. It is imperative that we believe the truth even when circumstances seem to look contrary to the truth. To repent we recognize the lie, denounce it, and practice intentionally believing the truth.

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Excess without purpose becomes waste. We have all experienced this. Whether it’s extra money, space, time, relationships, or land, if it is not purposed for something intentionally it becomes a magnet for whatever comes along to fill it or take it.


This principle often happens with money when a person receives extra monthly income. The problem begins when this extra income is not purposed for anything in particular. The hope is that ends will meet better just because the extra is there. In no time at all, the extra is swallowed up and we hope for another raise or bonus to come along to rescue us from our financial woes.


It’s a great practice to clear out old clutter and get one’s home in order. However, a newly cleared space is a powerful magnet drawing stuff from everywhere to fill it. This is an easy thing to experiment with. Clear out an old closet or a shelf in the kitchen and watch how fast it finds new stuff. Try again and clear it out with a plan of what you purpose to fill that space. Then you are far more likely to succeed in maintaining it for the reason you purposed it for.


Time works the same as the above examples. When we have a new opening in our time it can also become a vortex for things we never intended. Maybe we changed from a full-time job to a part-time job, and after a few weeks of extra time in our week we find ourselves entangled in new projects and responsibilities that are weighing us down with more work than our full-time job. We wonder how in the world we got into such a bind. The reason is that the new time was not purposed for something particular, or if it was, it wasn’t intentionally managed for that something.

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One only has to look at the news, news websites, the average Christian political blog site, or social media site to see that the church in America is convinced that she lives under the continual bombardment of atheistic or paganistically-driven persecution. That the only way to keep from being crushed by this anti-Christ system that seeks to silence the voice of faith coming from the church, is to take their stand and cry against it as John the Baptist did against the sins of Herod. But John the Baptist was the last of an old way of dealing with such things. Jesus was the Prototype for the New Testament believer having come to teach us, not tolerance, but love. His message of the Kingdom was so powerful, not just in word, but in demonstration, that He, nor His apostles, feared the surrounding messages of other religions or cults because no voice emerged from their mute idols. It is in understanding the power of this message of the Kingdom that all faiths can exist on a level plane, because only the one will rise above the rest.

The idea of freedom of religion is rooted in biblical Christianity. It comes from the truth that people cannot be forced to believe in Jesus. Since God gave man free will, it follows that we should protect that freedom. The conundrum on a national scale comes into play when true Christian theology provides the framework for freedom of religion, and yet the necessity that Christian thinking must be predominate, both supports and undermines that freedom.

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I used to think in terms of absolutes. Grey areas were uncharted waters I did not want to explore. I thought truth had to be absolute with clearly defined borders. I am the type who colors inside the lines. I needed naturally defined parameters. I did not like to free-style anything. If there is a book, I wanted to do it by the book. Still, that is my inclination, but now I fight that inclination.

I found out that God is bigger than my absolutes. I found out that knowing Him was something more than knowing right things about Him. And that the more I behold Him the more I will have a better picture of who He is. A graven image can be in my mind as easily as it can be shaped into wood. God is too immense to define, He can only be described. We cannot make absolutes about Him, for He is the Absolute. He does not conform to any definition, rule, or condition we attribute to Him, but to every attribute that is truly His nature. He governs Himself by Himself. He is always Himself, but we are not always ourselves. He defines truth for us, in the living person of Jesus.

If we hold to a static image of who He is, we cannot grow into who we are. We have to behold Him, not a doctrine about Him. I used to confuse God with His Book. The Bible points to Jesus who is the Truth, and the Holy Spirit who leads us into all Truth. When we deify the Bible we nullify the Lord. The Bible cannot possibly contain everything we need to know about Jesus. It is not a substitute for Jesus. There is no mediator between God and man except Jesus. The Bible is incredibly useful for a great many things and is essential to the Christian walk, but it will never be on par with Jesus. John 1 tells us that the Word was God, and the Word became flesh, not paper.

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Discipleship involves all areas of life, not just the ones deemed sacred. When Christians are not concerned with anything we consider unspiritual, we leave all those “unspiritual” aspects of life for the world to disciple. As a result, it is the world that disciples the Church instead of the other way around. We then have a great deal of difficulty discipling our cities because we haven’t discipled our churches. We think the world is doing something to us; but in reality we did something to them and are doing it still.

Christians tend to relegate discipleship to spiritual disciplines. These involve reading the Bible, praying, believing the “right” things about God, and the “right” things about right and wrong. These may also involve the development of the fruits and gifts of the Spirit. By and large, we do not go any further than this. If we do it is usually involves morality with regard to social or political issues.

Perhaps we have stunted the Gospel. We have capped off its relevance to anything “secular”, and then wonder why the world is not interested in the Good Book. I used to have prolonged on-line discussions with atheists. One of the insightful questions I was commonly asked pertained to the inability of Christian life to look different from non-Christian life. I gave the usual answers about how transformation is a process, and the more you spend time with Jesus the more your life will look like what a Christian life is professed to look like. This basically translated to the atheists that if Christians would be more spiritual they would be more moral than the world, and that it was nearly impossible to accomplish that in this life. Therefore, in their eyes, a Christian life is no different on this side of heaven than people who aren’t Christians. They know we believe differently, but that those beliefs don’t seem to cause practical differences.

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I am against everyone whom God is against. Who is God against? Non-Christians? Members of the LGBT community? Atheists? Muslims? Buddhists? New Age practitioners? Witchcraft practitioners? Many people, Christians and non-Christians alike, may believe that God is against all of the above. This, however, couldn’t be further from the truth. Christians, well-versed in the Bible, may believe that the Bible supports such things. In fact, many pit themselves against the practitioners of such things because they believe that God is against them. But what if He was not? Jesus said,

“He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me scatters.” (Matt. 12:30)

Notice what He says here: “He who is not with Me is against Me.” When we say such things, we mean, “If you’re not going to support me then I am going to treat you as an enemy.” But that is not what is happening. Does the Bible say we are enemies of God before the cross? Of course we are. (Rom. 5:8) But it’s not because God has declared us enemies. It is because that is our state that we have chosen, not Him. In other words, we make ourselves enemies of God by our choice to stay in our sin, which goes way beyond the practices mentioned above. Things such as gossip, lying, and loving money all condemn us if we choose them over God. When we choose them, we set ourselves against God. God is not setting Himself against us. This is an important distinction. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. He does not need to choose a stance against something or someone. God is not against homosexuals, though people choosing homosexuality are setting themselves against God. God does not set Himself against liars, but liars are setting themselves against God. These people, along with gossips, coveters, the unforgiving, and others may not be intentionally turning their heart from God, but the thing they choose puts them in this place.

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What do Christians need of a free nation? A Christian has no greater freedom in a democracy than he does in a tyranny. If this is not true, we are unable to be harbingers or protectors of freedom in our nation. If we are captives, we cannot be liberators.

If we are to be effective at discipling nations we must understand the distinction between an earthly nation and the Kingdom of God. As citizens of the Kingdom of God, believers will be persecuted. The Bible outlines how a believer is to respond to persecution, and that is to love our enemy. That is to do good to those who wrong us. We are to respond with love, not militancy. We are to respond as if we have no rights to be treated better. We are to be more concerned about the persecutor than ourselves.

How then do we participate in maintaining the Republic if we refuse to defend our rights as free citizens? We know we have a responsibility to the health of our nation, but if we do so at the detriment of our heavenly citizenship we lose both the Kingdom and the nation.

The national freedom we work towards is not our own. We are not fighting a war to defend our “right” to share Jesus in public. We are not waging war to be free so that we can be Christians. These are selfish causes. Paul did not work to free himself from chains, he worked to free the captives that put him in chains. It will put us in chains, too, if we are doing it right. Our chains may not be a federal prison, but they may be the chains associated with laying our lives down for others.

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