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I believe that our children's obedience to us flows out of their obedience to God and the work of the Holy Spirit in their little hearts.

Too often I think Christian parents (well-intentionedly, of course) place an over-emphasis on their children obeying THEM to learn to obey God.

Of course they are related, but like you've observed, it is something that leads easily to legalism.

It's been interesting to see how things are shifting as my children are getting older. (My oldest is only 8--I mean past the toddler/preschooler age.) Our discipline focus is becoming more of one that helps our children recognize their sin, realize that *of course* they struggle with obeying God's laws, and helping them understand they are free to go to God without being perfect--in repentance and in a plea for grace to obey.

Honestly, my goal isn't for my children to be obedient, but for them to understand that they, too, need Jesus daily and that they are equipped to actively apply the Gospel in their lives.


I learned this lesson the hard way with my oldest Timothy now 20. When he was in Kindergarten SS class the kids were talking about the movie Ghostbusters. He yelled at all the children, " My mom says that movie is a sin against God." I don't remember telling him it was a sin against God but he certainly got that message from something I said.


Oh, Cindy, that's funny and it reminds me of a similar experience. In the course of catechising our then-toddler son using the Westminster catechisms we had taught him the view that the second commandment's prohibition against images of God included images of Jesus. What we had failed to communicate, as became evident, was that many good and sincere Christians differ with that view. My husband had our son with him in a Christian book store. He toddled up to the counter and asked the woman there, "Are you a Christian?" She replied that she was. He pointed his chubby little finger at a nearby poster with a "Jesus" image on it and said, "Then why do you sell THAT?"

TulipGirl, you are so right. The obedience we need to work for in our children is not a robotical outward obedience to parents, but an inward heart-submission to God. This is a gift that only the Spirit of God can grant, yet He gives us parents the profound and precious privilege to be a means to that end through our faithful parenting. If He uses this life of mine for no other good thing, but blesses my parenting alone, I will be most grateful.


Hope this on

Matthew D. Johnson

I am writing this to those who are already Christians and to those who may yet become Christians. For the Christian, this will make your life as a Christian as joyful as it ought to be as long as you allow yourself to have the freedom that Christ has intended for you to have. For the non Christian, this will help you to understand that being a Christian is a wonderful thing and not the loathsome burden that many (including some Christians) would have us believe it is.

What is a Christian? There is a short list of things that all Christians must believe. If you don’t believe one or more of these very basic points, you really have no business calling yourself a Christian. This excerpt from sums it up.

“First, we believe in the authority of Scripture, which is another way of saying that the Bible is God's inspired, infallible, and inerrant Word. It's the ultimate source for knowledge about God, as well as the definitive guide for our daily lives.Next we affirm the existence of a triune God or one God in three distinct persons - the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. This God is self-existent, eternal, unchanging, omnipotent, omnipresent, holy, righteous, and loving. God created the universe from nothing and He rules over His creation sovereignly including both human and angelic beings.We also hold that man is a physical and spiritual being who is created in God's image. But because of his sin or transgression, man has lost his fellowship with God. The extent of sin is so great that its effects continue to this very day in the form of cruelty, suffering, and death.By God's grace, Jesus Christ - Who is fully God and fully man - was sent to save us from our bondage to sin. We believe that Christ was born of a virgin, died for our sins, physically rose from the dead, and will one day return to judge the world and deliver His people. Faith in Christ is the only means by which mankind can escape eternal damnation and judgment.Finally, we recognize the church as God's ordained institution headed by Christ. The church is composed of all believers, and is organized for worship, for fellowship, for the administration of the sacraments, for spiritual growth and support, and for evangelizing the world.”

That’s it. How does a Christian live? Believe the things you just read, read your Bible and pray, fellowship in a local church that believes these basic things, and share your faith in Christ with others by living a decent life and being ready to share your faith in Christ verbally when God opens the door.

There are a whole slew of other minor doctrines that Christians get hung up on: hair length, clothing style, whether or not to consume alcohol, dancing, how Jesus will return, male vs. female clergy, how to be baptized, when to be baptized, etc. I used to get upset about these things myself, but not anymore. Once I came to the realization that most if not all of these secondary issues were open to interpretation and that even if I was wrong on one or all of these secondary issues, I still would not lose my salvation, I decided to live this way: if I have the choice between two ways to view a certain secondary doctrine and both choices are considered to be “within the pale of orthodoxy”, I will choose the one that makes my life easier. Since both cannot be proved to be better than the other, why not pick the one that is easier to follow? It makes sense to me. Life is hard enough without worrying about whether my hair is too long or not. I am going to list off various things that I have dealt with or things I have read about that other Christians have dealt with and give you my take on it. Hopefully, this will bless your life as a follower of Christ. I have to think this would be the way Jesus would want it when I read of His dealings with the Pharisees.

Abortion: it’s wrong. Don’t kid yourself. A human life is a human life. John the Baptist lept for joy in his mother’s womb. Only a human with a soul can experience joy. Case closed. Don’t get an abortion. If you have, pray for forgiveness and Jesus will give you new life. Crisis pregnancy is a good ministry to consult whether you have had an abortion or are thinking about it.

Alcohol: Good arguments on all sides. All would agree getting rip roaring drunk is a sin. I am like Jesus, Luther and Calvin in that I like a glass of wine (or even a beer) now and then. The best book on this subject is “God Gave Wine” by Kenneth Gentry.

Baptism. I think adult believers baptism by immersion makes the most sense, but you can disagree. The main thing to know is that baptism is required (Jesus said to do it), but it is not required for salvation. Kind of like my wedding ring doesn’t make me married, but I wear it to show my allegiance to my wife. If you believe in Jesus and don’t want to be baptized then you should doubt whether you are really saved. A real Christian would want to be baptized ASAP.

Bible translations: Stick with whatever one works for you. The best book on this topic is “The King James Controversy” by James White

Birth control: John McArthur has written the best piece I have ever read on this subject. Good Christians disagree on this, but all agree ending a life is wrong (abortion). I don’t have a problem with birth control and since there are good arguments on both sides, I have chosen to pick the one that makes my life easier and consequently I have 3 kids and not 10.

Church government/clergy: you can make a good argument for any type: congregational, Presbyterian, Episcopal, whatever. Some also argue women may function as pastors and elders. I don’t agree with that view as it does not seem to jive with Scripture, BUT many good Christians do believe it is ok for a woman to be a pastor and it is not an issue that affects salvation.

Creation vs. evolution: I see compelling arguments on both sides, but the creationist argument seems far more compelling. The first 11 chapters of the Bible (and therefore the rest of the Bible) don’t work if evolution is true so I choose creationism. I think the science behind the evidence for creationism is far better as well. Read anything by Ken Hamm.

Denominations: as long as yours jives with the “essentials” listed above, go to whatever church you like. I would not jump from church to church just because you disagree with some non essential doctrine, unless you really feel convicted. I love my church, but I don’t always agree with everything. However, the main things are there and I am able to serve the Lord and raise my kids there (plus the people are great) and that is good enough for me. If your church goes ultra liberal and abandons the essentials, it’s time to leave.

Divorce/remarriage: Again, best thing I ever read on this subject was by John McArthur. Don’t get divorced. God hates it, but if you do realize it is not the unforgiveable sin. Some believe you can get remarried, others believe you can’t, still others believe it depends on the circumstances. I like John McArthur’s view. Order it or do a Google search and find it on the Internet for free.

The end of the world: You have to believe Jesus is coming back because He said He would and He has not done it yet. Outside of that believe what you want. Just don’t try to predict when and realize it could happen any minute so live a holy and decent life. I personally like the Left Behind series myself, but there are other views as well such as amillenialism which are totally valid.

Free will vs. predestination: You got me. I don’t believe you can lose your salvation, that just doesn’t seem to make sense to me. The best book I have read on this is “Chosen, but Free” by Norman Geisler. You can believe what you want, but I think the truth is in the middle and no easier to understand than the Trinity (that means you cant understand it, it’s a God thing so don’t worry about it).

Hair, clothes, etc. Some take what Paul wrote about hair and clothing and run with it. I believe the standards remain: a man should look like a man and a woman should look like a woman, but those standards change from culture to culture, from age to age. A whore wore a veil in the Old Testament, but a holy woman wore a veil in the New Testament. In America, style does not define sexual identity as much as it used to so long hair, short hair, green hair, whatever. Just be a manly if you are a man and feminine if you are a female. If you disagree then disagree. It seems like a stupid thing to debate. Just remember most of the great Christian leaders of the past had long hair or even wore powdered wigs!

Home schooling: I have home-schooled and I have put my kids in public school. I went to a private school. I learned the “F” word at Bible camp. The bottom line is that whatever you do, your kids will be exposed sooner or later so you need to be engaged in their lives and live by example.

Homosexuality: it’s wrong. The Bible is clear. It can be forgiven like any other sin. Homosexuals are just like any other group of unsaved people and need you to be a good example for them to look to. Most of the homosexuals I have known have been very needy due to some sort of disruption in their childhood (divorce, molestation, etc) and having a positive Christian role model in their lives will often be the best way to lead them to the Lord.

The Lord’s Day: I think it is everyday. Some think it is Saturday or Sunday. Choose what works for you. I only have a problem with those who would say you are doomed if you don’t go on a certain day like Saturday. Nonsense. The main thing is that you should fellowship with other believers and take part in the Lord’s Supper often.

Music, dancing: Use your best judgement. I like some secular music. Most of it is garbage. If you can find secular music that is not vulgar, that’s great. Otherwise, there is a ton of great Christian music out there. If you don’t like dancing, then don’t do it. As for me, I am like King David in that I need love, liberty and disco (Newsboys).

Movies, television: same thing as music. I don’t like most of it. Some like Harry Potter, I don’t, you can make up your own mind. I prefer movies like Star Wars or Lord of the Rings which show a real good, a real evil and a real choice. My favorite movie right now is “Luther”.

Race: Read "One Blood" by Ken Hamm. And please don't be a racist and call yourself a Christian.

Self defense: Some believe in it, some don’t. I do. Jesus passed out swords in Luke and never condemned the military profession. If you want to get beat up while your wife is raped, go for it, but I bet she won’t be happy with you. As for me and my house, don’t come in uninvited.

Spiritual gifts: Speak in tongues, speak in English, don’t speak at all. This one is totally up to you. If someone tells you that you have to speak in tongues to prove you are saved or that speaking in tongues is of the Devil, ignore that person.

Tattoos and piercings: see the section on hair. My only advice is to think about it if you plan on making a decent living. I won’t judge you, but your boss might.

Tithing: Some believe it is mandatory, others believe it is whatever God puts on your heart. It’s your call. I think Christians should tithe, but if you need to buy food for the kids or you are behind on your bills, please don’t send your money to Oral Roberts. Use your head.

God’s will: God’s will is for you to live the Golden Rule and to tell others about Jesus. Just live and God will direct your path. The best book I ever read was…drum roll please …”Found: God’s Will” by John McArthur. As long as you are living a godly life, do whatever you want to do and you will be in God’s will. Don’t think so hard about it. He is in control!

I am sure I have left some topics out and please contact me if you have others that might be helpful. To sum it up, if you have the basics down, don’t sweat the rest. Life is too short and it won’t make a difference anyway. If you have accepted Christ as your Lord and Savior, that is all that matters. Only He can save you and how you view all of these other doctrines really doesn’t matter from an eternal perspective. Enjoy life knowing that you will go to Heaven when you die and nothing can take that away from you. God bless.

Your brother in Christ,

Matthew D. Johnson

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