Monday, December 30, 2013

Joe and Danielle's Growing Family

Lo, children are a heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is His reward.  Ps. 127:3

As many of you know, our daughter-in-law Danielle gave birth to another girl, Kendra Mally.  She must be either stubborn or shy, since she didn't show up when expected.  She was nine days overdue, which partially explains why she weighed in at 8 lbs, 14.5 oz.  Not a typical Johnson baby.  She is a very cute little girl with a nice head of hair. 

The arrival of Kendra marked the arrival of our sixth grandchild.  Each one is precious to us, and also precious to our Savior.  Formed by the hand of God, who put within her an eternal soul, so why wouldn't God care for His little helpless creation?  This innocent newborn has been blessed by God, who gave her to loving parents who will care for her physically, but more than that, she has been born to parents who will care for her spiritually.  I have seen them with their first-born, Nicole.  Although only 18 months old, the evidence of godly upbringing is evident in her life.  As a grandfather, I rejoice to see that, and to know that her little sister will have the same upbringing. 

In this post my charge to all my children and the rest of you who are reading this is that you will take to heart the words of Moses in Deut. 6:4-9.  First we are to love the LORD our God with all our ability, then we are to diligently teach God's Word to our children: when we sit in our houses, when we walk by the way, when we lie down, and when we rise up.  In other words, this is not something reserved for a couple hours on Sunday.  No, this is 24/7.  And in order to teach our children well, we should know what we are teaching.  God did not give us His Word to collect dust on the shelf.  I suggest that you dust it off, and read it, learn it, and diligently teach it to your little ones.  Their minds are sponges, soaking up what is before them.  It is up to you as parents to determine what their little minds will be filled with.

Actually, as we enter into 2014, we should make this a New Year's resolution.  I am not big on New Year's resolutions, but occasionally I will make one, and try to remember to keep it throughout the year, but often forgetting to do so.  But reading the Bible should be daily, and can soon become a habit.  And teaching your kids the Word of God should never be dull or a drudgery.  Make it enjoyable and geared for their age-level.  Although you may read a Bible story before their bedtime, this teaching can and should be done throughout the day, often in a casual format.  I think that God expects and wants that.  We should make talking about Him and the Bible a natural part of our lives and conversation.  And our lives ought to demonstrate the love we have for God.

My prayer for all young parents is that you will purpose to love God with all your ability and that you will train your children in His way.  If you do so, God promises that His Word will not return empty.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Toddler Time III

Although this is the third (4th if you include the Father's Day) post on raising kids, it may not be the last, but is the last of the series for this summer.  I trust that what has been mentioned so far is of value.  This post is on what has become a controversial subject - that of corporal discipline.  I use the word discipline instead of punishment for a specific purpose.  As we learned in the last post, discipline comes from Latin, meaning 'to learn.'  When spanking you child your purpose should have as its motivation to teach rather than to punish, although punishment is definitely part of it.  And I should know.  It has been many years since I was on the receiving end of the 'board of education,' but I can assure you that the pain that was inflicted was punishment!

First please never use types of punishment that God did not intend you to use.  There are some parents that feel they need to use extreme forms of punishment because their child is incorrigible.  This is usually the case of not starting to discipline early enough in life or of waiting until the child is really testing your patience.  In the next couple paragraphs, I will address both of these failures of proper discipline.

If you have waited until your child is three or four before exercising the paddle, you have waited far too long.  These first formative years are critical in setting boundaries.  The boundaries that you set should be reasonable - set with love and your little one's best interests in mind.  An example would be to expect your child to stop when you tell her to.  She may not see the danger of a moving car, and if she doesn't mind you, the result could be horrible.  To teach obedience to this rule is an act of love. 

Kids will push against the boundaries set for them, seeing how far they can stretch them.  It is your job, as the parent, to make sure the boundaries stay firm.  There are two aspects to obedience: instant and complete.  When you ask your little one to do something, you should not have to ask them three times.  You may give them the benefit of not having heard you the first time you requested.  But if they still ignore you after the second request - they are pushing against those boundaries - they may know they will eventually have to do as told, they are going to find out how many times they can ignore you!  So as a general rule, do not allow your kids to refuse to do as they are told after two requests from you.  Once they learn this, they will not be trying your patience as much.  Then you should expect complete obedience.  Young children should learn that the chores they are given should be done to the best of their abilities.  It will stand them in good stead when they get a job.

It is very important to talk to your child after administering discipline.  He may want to run to his room and shut himself away, but that is not best.  He should be told why he was spanked and asked if he was sorry.   After repenting, he should be loved and hugged.  Pray with him.  Notice that this doesn't include any shouting or anger on your part, although perhaps disappointment.  Please make sure you discipline before you lose your temper.  The discipline is so much more effective if you are calm.  Remember this should be a time of teaching. 

I don't remember when I stopped receiving spankings, but I was told by Dad years later that he didn't remember spanking me by the time I turned eight.  And as a parent I don't remember spanking my kids after that age - give or take a year.  The early years spent in consistent discipline produce good results.  If you wait, your child will likely become the incorrigible brat you will dread to discipline.  Just remember that God made a place on the body where the spanking is to be applied.  And aside from swatting a baby's hand when they attempt to touch things they shouldn't, you should never use any other parts of the body to inflict the punishment.  It is cruel to slap a child on the face.  It is evil to use other forms of 'discipline' on children, some that I would refer to as torture.  Too often the failure of parents to lovingly discipline their young children results in older brats.
May our Father, who disciplines us in love, give you the wisdom to deal well with those He has put in your care. 

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Toddler Time II

I would like to address the subject of discipline in this post.  Though we often think of discipline as punishment, we all understand that the word has other meanings.  Noah Webster in his 1828 Dictionary lists punishment third, and learning is the first meaning he gives to this word which comes from a Latin word translated 'to learn.'  Therefore we will try to hone in on the learning aspect of discipline. 
Children are sponges.  They soak up information.  As parents, it is our duty to make sure the information they take in is the right kind.  From a very early age they should hear the Bible read to them, they should hear accounts of God's working in the Old Testament and lessons from Jesus' life,  death, and resurrection in the New Testament.  They should be learning Christian songs, memorizing Bible verses, and in other ways they should be taught to be disciples of Jesus. 

Pre-school salvation experiences are often doubted later.  I have had my share of doubts when I would listen to others give an amazing account of their wicked lives powerfully transformed by the grace of God.  I never had an outwardly wicked life.  Then some would say, 'You should know when you were saved.'  Well, I don't know when I was saved.  I just know that I was saved when I was a little kid, possibly when I was five years old.  Three of our four children have pre-school salvation experiences.  Of those, they all have had doubts and have done like I did.  They asked Jesus to save them (again), because they weren't sure if they were saved.  I believe in most cases, these young professions of salvation are real for kids who have been raised in homes where the Bible is taught.  And for those of you who think I am full of hot air, consider John Wesley, England's greatest evangelist.  He came back from a failed missionary trip to Georgia, convinced he wasn't saved.  At an Aldersgate meeting his heart was 'strangely warmed' - his point of conversion.  Yet I read in his journal, later in life he really believed that as a child when he prayed at his godly mother's knee, was when he was truly saved. 
Now all of that is to emphasize the importance of your small children coming to you and telling you that they want to accept Jesus as their Savior.  At this point of their lives, I believe it is harmful to press them to be saved.  They have soft hearts, and pressure would easily force them to comply with something they may not even understand.  But with your faithful prayers for their salvation, coupled with the instruction of the Word of God, your precious kids will ask questions and seek a relationship with God.  Though they may be young, do not think they are not ready.  There was a time in some denominations when it was believed you couldn't be saved before you were 12 years old.  I trust no one reading this believes that.
For many years I have tried to avoid using the term 'Bible Story' when teaching primary age kids.  I always wanted my young charges to understand that the accounts I was relating to them were real, not fairy tales - though they may have included supernatural events.  At any rate, invest in some Bible 'story' books, read them faithfully to your children.  They make great bedtime memories, and let them ask questions, even if they are just trying to prolong things before lights out.  And above all, don't be doubting the accounts of the Bible yourself.  Yes, God created the world and all life on it in seven literal days; yes, there was a world-wide flood which destroyed all mankind except for eight people; yes, God parted the Red Sea and the Israelites crossed, after which the Egyptian army was drowned.  You see, if any of these miraculous events is too much for you to believe, your kids may wonder if the miracle that Jesus was really raised from the dead could have really happened.  It is either 100% true, or it's a lie.  It is the Word of God and can be trusted.  At young ages kids will readily believe it; you should too.

As they grow older and connect with the internet, your role as parent gets more difficult.  First and foremost, make sure you are not indulging in hidden sins on the internet (or anywhere else).  Continue to pray for them and try to monitor their computer activities as much as possible.  I was blessed with a wife that kept the communications open with our kids when they were teens.  After school they all talked about their day and what happened.  Don't be afraid to confront your kids if you suspect they are doing wrong.  Along with internet use, I believe it is important to limit the time spent playing computer games and make sure the games are not suggestive of sex or filled with violence.  Also monitor what they watch on TV.  Know what your teens are doing and keep the lines of communication open.  Don't let them shut you out of their lives.  And Moms and Dads, agree with each other. Don't let your kids 'divide and conquer.'

Raising kids is hard work, time-consuming work, and thankless work.  But remember that for the short time that you have them, they are lent to you by God, Who has commissioned you to raise them to walk in His way and for His glory.  Seek the face of God and ask Him for wisdom to see your dear children become disciples of Christ Jesus, their King.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Happy Father's Day


A careful man I ought to be,                                                                                                                                A little fellow follows me.                                                                                                                                      I do not dare to go astray,                                                                                                                                 For fear he'll go the selfsame way.

Not once can I escape his eyes;                                                                                                            Whate'er he sees me do he tries.                                                                                                                   Like me he says he's going to be                                                                                                                    That little chap who follows me.

I must remember as I go                                                                                                                          Through summer sun and winter snow,                                                                                                         I'm molding for years to be -                                                                                                                         That little chap who follows me.

I first posted this three years ago on Father's Day, 2010.  It bears repeating for what I want to say.  On Father's Day I naturally think of my father.  He was a good father and when I became a dad myself,  I tried in many ways to emulate him.  Although a strict disciplinarian, one whom I feared when I had done wrong, he rarely paddled in anger.  He may have been angry with what I or my brothers had done, but usually not with us.  I say usually, because there were those times when my dad lost his temper.  He was, after all, only human.  However he was one in whose footsteps I could follow.  Although I left home at the age of 17, his godly example is with me still. 
Several years ago I was with three Christian men and as we spoke, the discussion turned to fathers.  They spoke of their fathers as either abusive tyrants or men who were absent more often than not.  One turned to me and told me I was very blessed.  He was sure there were very few fathers who were like mine.  I'm not so confident he was right, at least I hope that is not the case. 

America needs fathers who will give attention to their God-given duty and privilege.  Although we may not feel we are capable of raising children for His Kingdom, God will give wisdom if we ask, and He has already given us a guidebook.  I urge each father to not only read through the Bible at least once every two years, but also to read through Proverbs once a month for at least a couple years.  There is a lot of sound wisdom for fathers and sons.  

Although husbands and fathers need to be the leaders in the home, what I want to emphasize in this post is the importance of being a good example.  And please don't give them the excuse, 'Do as I say and not as I do,' which is a serious copout and dereliction of duty.  Your sons and daughters will not listen nearly as well as they will watch and follow.  Make sure your language is free of offensive words and dirty jokes.  Don't gripe and complain about the workplace, the preacher, or your wife - especially your wife, your child's mother. Try to be cheerful and industrious in all you do.  Don't just send your family to church, make sure you are there as well.  And if you can, participate in children's church, Awana, or other children's programs.  Kathy and I ran the Primary church program at our church for seven long years when our kids were in that age group.  Then we involved ourselves in Awana for several more years.  It is one of the best ways to be involved in your kids' spiritual lives and is a good example for them.

There are other areas that could be addressed.  You will be able to figure them out.  I hope this doesn't sound preachy, because I don't want it to.  My heart's desire is that you as a Christian dad will raise up a generation that will be proud of you, follow in your footsteps and eventually follow you to the Celestial City and the presence of the Savior.  After all, when you are at the end of life, what can you take with you?  Some will say, 'He who ends up with the most toys wins.'  But they are wrong.  In the end we all die, and we take nothing of material value with us.  But if we leave without having done all we can to take our loved ones with us, surely we die miserable.

Fathers, go out in the strength of the Lord.  In Him you can be all that you ought to be. I pray God will give the leadership and wisdom you need to be the exemplary dads God wants you to be.



Saturday, June 1, 2013


With the onset of grandbabies in our lives, Kathy and I are back to changing more diapers and caring for little ones than we have been for the past couple decades.  Actually Kathy is doing much more in the diaper department than I, although I did change my first poopy diaper in 25 years about a month ago.

Since we have raised four kids and they all turned out reasonably well - each has professed faith in Christ, and demonstrated that by their walk of faith, they all attend a Bible-believing church, have married Christian spouses, and I could go on, but these are some examples of what I believe show that they may have been well-raised.  I say this to give myself some authority when speaking on how to raise children who are disciplined, respectful, and grounded in the Christian faith.  In this and some following posts I plan to explore  what it takes to raise good kids - and more importantly teach them to be disciples of Christ Jesus.  I trust these posts will not be considered just as lectures, but if any of you have questions about raising kids well, please comment and I will do my best to give godly advise.  The Word of God is our guide and must always be understood to be infallible.  Never accept the advice of your pediatrician, baby psychologist, or even me, if any of us contradicts the clear teaching of the Bible.
First and foremost you must pray for your children.  It is best to start before they are born.  We all want healthy kids.  Pray that God will save their souls.  It is even more important than their health.  Pray that you as parent may have wisdom to raise and nurture them well.  There are no set rules of parenting that will work for every child.  They are all different and we need God's help in knowing how to deal with the ones He places in our care.  Pray that God will give you the strength and fortitude to do what is right, to be patient, not to lose your temper, and to keep it up for all the years that you are responsible for your children.  Among other things to pray for, pray that you may always be a good example for your little ones - they will follow in your footsteps.

With the advent of children in the home, we all know that the dynamics of our marriage changes.  Where we were a couple, now the family has truly grown - and in many ways become more hectic.  The helpless little baby demands so much of our time, especially Mommy's time.  As they develop, and begin to realize that there are two of you, they bond toward their father as well.  Here, Dad, is where you come in.  Do you realize that your little one's conception of God is formed from his conception of you?  You have an awesome responsibility.  In homes where the mother stays home with her babies, the father's return from work is usually met with delight from his kids.  They can't wait until he is there.  This doesn't last many years, so make the most of it.  Try to be home every evening with your kids.  And spend time with them.  They desperately crave your attention.  The computer, TV, and other work should be put off.  Listen to them, play with them, teach them - it is time well spent.

I don't know if there is anything more important than the time we spend with our kids.  Because  the little ones can get on our nerves, we dads often find excuses to be gone.  We have to work late, go shopping, attend a meeting, or some other lame reason to shirk our responsibility.  Just remember, Dad, that God places the ultimate responsibility of the home on you, because He made you the leader of the home.  Your kids need you, they are desperate for your attention and approval, which leads me to another point.  Give affirmation to your kids.  Never belittle them.  There is nothing more damaging to their spirit than to know that their dad doesn't think well of them.  God does not do this to His special creation.  He proclaims the worth of a soul as more than the whole world.  And He proved that worth by providing salvation at the greatest cost possible.

It is a long hard road that you will be traveling on.  If done well, it will be self-sacrificing.  If done well, it will be worthwhile in the end.  My prayer for you, dear reader, is that you will purpose in your heart to raise your precious children for God's glory.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

The Miracle of Ethan

I love the spring of the year.  God's handiwork is so evident in the rebirth of lawns, gardens, and trees.  Although it is a relatively new hobby for me, I enjoy planting bushes and flowers.  I may water, weed, and put down fertilizer, but the spectacular bloom of springtime azaleas or the summer blossom of trumpet lilies can only be attributed to the handiwork of our Creator.  To whom else can we give credit for such intricate and perfect workmanship?

There is even greater creation that God takes a part in, and even more personally.  When conception takes place and new life begins in the womb of a mother, God comes down and breathes into that tiny life His very likeness.  The little life becomes a living soul that will live forever.  Nine months go by and then after a struggle (part of the curse), the little life comes into the world.
This happened this past Wednesday evening when our daughter, Michelle, gave birth to her first child, Ethan Joseph Steele.  He came complete with all the genes and chromosomes he inherited from his parents and looks just like his dad.  He has perfectly formed fingers, two eyes, two ears, a full head of hair, although still missing a set of teeth!

I believe God is personally interested in Ethan.  He chose Ethan's parents.  And God has given Aaron and Michelle a great responsibility - that of raising Ethan to live for God.  I have mentioned in a previous post that my responsibility as a grandparent is to pray for the little guy, give good counsel when asked, and do what I can to aid his parents in pointing him to the Savior.  But God holds parents accountable to do all they can to bring their children to the Lord. 
I don't mean to say that if a son or daughter strays away that it is always the parents' fault.  Part of having a soul or being a moral agent is the ability to choose between right and wrong, goodness and sin.  And just as Adam and Eve  chose to sin while in the Garden, every child that has ever lived (apart from Jesus) has chosen to disobey God.  Is that the fault of the mother or father?  Of course not!

But there are far too many young parents who have shirked their responsibility in this area.  I can't think anything more terrible than to see your children doomed to hell, all because as a parent there were more important things in your life than to spend your energy and time leading them to faith in Christ Jesus.  This is the most awesome and serious duty to which God calls parents. 

I have a lot more time to do things I enjoy than I had several years ago  when my children were young.  But I determined long ago that my enjoyment must be secondary to my children.  Kathy and I have always felt it was important to serve in our local church and for many years we taught primary church and worked in Awana.  We wanted be good role models for our kids to emulate.  We also spent time talking with them, often about the Bible or other spiritual matters.  And when it came to corporal punishment (yes, we spanked), we tried not to do it in anger (it makes my blood boil when I see mothers slap their child's face - never good!), but to explain what we and God expect of them.  We even home schooled for a couple years.  We were not perfect parents by any means, and I say this not to pat myself on the back.  But if it will encourage young parents to keep at it when your children are driving you crazy and it seems hopeless, I promise you, there is light at the end of the tunnel!
From personal experience and I know others will agree with me, the teen-age years can be the best years you will spend with your kids.  It's payoff for all the work and sacrifice of the previous 12-15 years of being in the trenches.

Deut. 6:4-9 are words we should take to heart:

'Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, The LORD is one!  And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.  And these words which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart;  and you shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.  And you shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead.  And you shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.'

My prayer for my children and for you my dear readers who may be in the child-bearing/child-rearing stage of life is that you take these words of God to heart.  God will reward you for your faithfulness to Him.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Remember God

This morning in church we sang that beloved hymn, 'Great Is Thy Faithfulness.' Tears came to my eyes and my hand was raised as we sang those familiar, but powerful lyrics.  The title comes directly from the book of Lamentations.  It was written by the weeping prophet, Jeremiah, and speaks of the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians.  Jeremiah is lamenting the starvation from the siege, the wanton looting and killing as the city fell, and anger of God against the people living in the city.  Jeremiah doesn't condemn God as to any injustice, but pleads for mercy and that God may remember His people.

If you read the book of Jeremiah, you will realize that he begged these same people for many years to turn back to God. Shortly before the enemy broke through the walls of Jerusalem,  King Zedekiah sought Jeremiah's counsel and despite the entreaties of the prophet, the king refused to turn to God, and soon after was rewarded by watching his sons butchered just before his eyes were blinded by the Babylonians. 

So where is God in all this?  And today, when we face our own very real 'fire-breathing dragons' what do we do?  We would do well to look to Jeremiah and take his advice.  When financial ruin stares us in the face, when emotionally we are drained because of the storms of life, when everything we have worked for all our lives seems to have gone up in smoke, when everyone and everything has turned against us, remember God.  Jeremiah 2:22-26:

Through the Lord's mercies we are not consumed, Because His compassions fail not.                                  
 They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness                                                     
 "The LORD is my portion," says my soul, "Therefore I hope in Him!"                          
The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, To the soul who seeks Him.                               
  It is good that one should hope and wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.

Remember the Lord's mercies never cease, even when the city is being ransacked by the enemy.  Remember His compassions are new every morning, even as the enemy is setting fire to Jerusalem.  Read Jeremiah 3:31-32 and understand that because of His lovingkindness (mercy), God will have compassion.  In verse 33 we find that God does not afflict willingly.

For the Lord will not cast off forever.                                                                                                   
Though He causes grief, yet He will show compassion
According to the multitude of His mercies.                                              
 For He does not afflict willingly.

The King is at work in our lives, making us fit for a holy Kingdom.  Although He may allow us to suffer, it is never so much that we cannot bear it.  And He is there.  Remember also that the sparrow does not fall without His knowledge. 

My beloved reader, if Jeremiah could break out in praise to the goodness of God in his darkest hour, we would do well to remember that our God infinitely loves us.  If He was willing to die for you and me, surely He will care for us through this life.  As we go through the valleys, let us trust and remember God.