Parenting (article by Sewell Hall)


Sewell Hall

In Goliath, David faced what seemed an indomitable foe. David’s goal was not so much to kill the giant as to protect the children and honor of God. He took five smooth stones from the brook to achieve his purpose. In the pervasive humanism of our society, parents face what appears to be an equally unconquerable giant who is determined to destroy their children. They have five stones with which to protect them.


“A child left to himself brings shame to his mother” (Proverbs 29:15). Consequently, Wisdom says, “Train up a child in the way he should go…” (Proverbs 22:6). This requires first determining “the way he should go,” then pointing the child in that direction. For Christians one direction supersedes all others: eternal life in heaven via Christlikeness on earth. Scores of agencies with different goals challenge us for control of our children. My father used to say, “I will not let the schools take my children away from me.”  Today there are many additional threats: TV, internet, video games, ipods, scouts, sports, neighbors, etc. These must be constantly monitored and controlled. Parents of good children are often told, “You are just lucky.” No, good children are not the product of luck, but of purpose—relentlessly, sacrificially and pro-actively pursued.


“Bring them up in the training…of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). Training a plant requires knowing where you want it to go and then patiently bending it, pruning it, and perhaps even tying it. Training an animal involves knowing what you want it to do, using force at first, then patiently guiding, correcting, and finally rewarding and punishing. In both instances, training means establishing authority and maintaining control. Training children begins with example and sometime physical force, then guidance, correction, and eventually reward and punishment when the child understands what is expected. Above all, it means establishing the parents’ authority and letting the child know who is in control. This must begin very early. Once willful rebellion is tolerated, a wrong direction is established and the necessary “bending, pruning, and tying” become all the more difficult. The mother of John and Charles Wesley described good discipline as “shaping the will without breaking the spirit.” This agrees with the Spirit’s counsel: “Do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up…”(Ephesians 6:4).


“Bring them up in the…admonition (instruction – NASB) of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). Unlike plants and animals children can be admonished and instructed. This, also, parents must do. The very intellect that enables children to be instructed also enables them to exercise their free will as they grow older. Parental control constantly diminishes, and unless God’s control is established, their lives will be out of control. God’s control is established by teaching them the scriptures. Long after Timothy was beyond the control of mother and grandmother, their faith dwelt in him (2 Timothy 1:5). How was this accomplished? Paul reminded Timothy, “From childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith that is in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:15). Faith in older children is the result of early instruction in righteousness. Parents should take advantage of the classes offered by the church, but this is not enough—they must teach their children personally. A mother once told me of overhearing her husband saying to their young infant in the crib, “Let me tell you about Jesus.” Not surprisingly, that young infant is now a godly young teenager.


Training and instruction must be administered with love—a love that “suffers long and is kind,” that “does not behave rudely,” and above all, “does not seek its own” (I Corinthians 13:4-5). Children will forgive many mistakes if they can always be sure of their parents’ love.“Love will cover a multitude of sins” (I Peter 4:8). Affection without firmness is disastrous, but equally disastrous is firmness without affection.


David did not attribute his defeat of Goliath to the stone, to his sling or to his skill. “The battle,” he said, “is the Lord’s” (I Samuel 17:47). So it is with the training of our children. God is concerned with the outcome and we are servants whom He has entrusted with our little ones. We must pray daily for the wisdom that He has promised to supply (James 1:5) and for His providence to overrule our inevitable mistakes. And when our children have become what we hoped for, we have no ground for boasting, only for the humble exclamation, “to God be the glory!”

David succeeded, using only one stone; parents will need all five.

New Episode Added Today To My Isaiah Insights Podcasts, Click Here

Heb. 11:1-5

“By Faith”

Hebrews 11:1-5

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation. By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.

By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks. By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was commended as having pleased God. – Heb. 11:1-5

Faith, as described in this passage, connects us to two valuable things: THINGS HOPED FOR and THINGS NOT SEEN. If you want good things you hope for in the future, of an eternal and spiritual nature – FAITH PROVIDES THAT ASSURNACE. If you want to know things you cannot see, of an eternal and spiritual nature – FAITH PROVIDES THAT ASSURANCE ALSO.

If I want to know what I cannot see, pertaining to my relationship with God. And, I want hope of eternal good – FAITH IS WHERE I GET THAT ASSURANCE. Faith assures of things we hope for and convinces us of things not seen.

This is how we form our convictions about God creating the world and making man in His own image. This is how Abel pleased God. This is how Enoch pleased God.

When we consider with a good and honest heart – all the evidence of God’s existence around us and we take His Word as truth – then act on His Word – that’s the activity of faith – that assures us of things we hope for and convinces us of things we cannot see.

If you want to please God and look forward to a good eternal outcome, it must be by faith. Faith comes by hearing the Word of God (Rom. 10:17).

Useful Facts About Your Bible

From the published book, TWELVE SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINES, this is quoted from the chapter on Bible Study by Rick Liggin. The book is available on Amazon. Click Here.

Get the big picture! Before we can analyze a specific passage in a given section of a Bible book or letter, we must first get some kind of grasp of the overall message. If we don’t understand the purpose of a book or letter, we will struggle to understand the specifics. This is a part of keeping things in context (something we are often guilty of violating). The best way to get the big picture (or overview) of a letter or book is to read it straight through several times. As you do so, here are some things in your Bible that you need to ignore as best you can:

  • Titles of the letters or books: the books of the Bible were not originally titled.
  • Chapter breaks: are not original and often are poorly located; but they affect reading.
  • Verses: also are not original; their only purpose is to help us locate parts of the text.
  • Paragraph markings: these are put in by publishers, based on their own judgment.
  • Subheadings: are also put in by publishers; they can be helpful, but also misleading.
  • Marginal references: again, included by publishers; sometimes, these are worthless.
  • Personal notes or markings: these affect our reading of and thinking about the text.

Isaiah Insights #2

Isaiah Insights #2, to be broadcasts Monday, Dec. 2

Warren E. Berkley –

Vain Worship, Isa. 1:12-18


In Isaiah chapter one, verses 12-16, God’s disappointment with His people in Judah and Jerusalem is spelled out in some detail, as it concerned their vain worship. While nurturing their crooked hearts and engaged in injustice and rebellion, yet – they continued to go through the motions of worship. Perhaps they were thinking their worship routine would in someway have a redemptive result, even though they continued in their sin?

God wouldn’t have it. He said, through the prophet, “bring no more vain offerings; incense is an abomination to me.” The prophet spoke for God, “Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hates; they have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them.” Even when they prayed (no repentance), God said, “I will hide my eyes from you, even thought you make many prayers, I will not listen.”

Worship acts or rituals, when not accompanied by a sincere heart devoted to God, serve no purpose in the sight of God. Such acts may appear to men to be pious and admirable. God isn’t fooled. And the notion that such acts have a redemptive purpose is just wrong.

Jesus spoke of worshipping the Father in spirit and in truth (Jno. 4:24). But we can make this point in a larger context. Any form of “obedience” to God or attempt to worship is vain, when not accompanied by genuine motive.

So, back to our text in Isaiah 1, the prophet told these people: “Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause. Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord; though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be white as snow,” (Isa. 1:16-18).

Isaiah Insights Podcasts #2

Thanksgiving Day Prayer

person picking food on tray
Photo by Craig Adderley on

Did I ever tell you about Brother Foster’s Thanksgiving prayer? Long ago, out in that West Cross Timbers country beyond Fort Worth, Brother Foster was famous for prayers that showed scope and style. I once heard him send up a thanksgiving prayer that was major league in all respects, and he did it standing in the kitchen door on Gramdma Hale’s farm.

This old fellow was not really a preacher. But in rural regions at the time I am talking about, purebred and registered preachers were scarce and people made do with the nearest they had to the real article.

Brother Foster taught Sunday School, and did funerals, and went around comforting the sick and sorrowful, and generally made a satisfactory substitute for a preacher. My father used to say you could put a black hat on Brother Foster and hand him a Bible and a collection plate and he could pass for a preacher.

His specialty was prayers on special occasions, like at Fourth of July Picnics, ice cream suppers, Christmas gatherings, and other holiday affairs. It must have been in ’31 or ’32 that Brother Foster came to Gramdma Hale’s farm for Thanksgiving dinner. All the women, especially, counted it a social victory to have Brother Foster for Thanksgiving. I don’t know how we got him, as he was spread pretty thin over that region.

The meal was the occasion for the prayer, so it was delivered as the blessing. Or, asking the blessing, as we said, or returning thanks.

When the formal invitation was issued – “Brother Foster, will you return thanks for us?” – that luminary backed away from the table and took up a position in the doorway that led into Grandma’s kitchen. Evidently he felt a need to be isolated from the general bunch.

He was a big, heavy-shouldered fellow with deep-set eyes and wavy white hair and a mighty voice. My father used to say that they ruined a first-rate preacher when they put Bro. Foster to following a mule across a cotton patch.

He waited for silence before he began. If silence took a full minute to arrive, still he waited. We were supposed to keep our heads bowed and our eyes closed but by that time I had perfected a system of looking around at things through eyes that seemed closed but really weren’t.

Bro. Foster stood with his legs slightly apart and his hands behind him and his chin elevated and his eyes closed. Just when you thought he would begin, a foot would scuff or a throat would clear and he would hold off a while longer. Even a calf, bawling for its mama out at the barn, would delay his beginning.

He started out quietly, and built volume as he went along. He began with the food and the blessed hands that prepared it. He called Grandma by name, and I learned later that this was a high blessing, to get your name sent up in a prayer by Brother Foster, and on Thanksgiving Day, at that.

From the women he went to the men who tilled the land and brought forth its fruits. He went on to thank the Lord for the beasts that pulled the plows, and those that sacrificed their lives to give us sustenance.

Then he took up the children, and asked the Lord to bless their little hearts and keep them safe.

He went into the field of medicine and thanked the Lord for protecting those of us who hadn’t caught terrible diseases or suffered crippling injuries. He got into agriculture and mentioned the good corn crop, and the cotton crop which was fair. Went then to meteorology and pointed out to God that the rains came a little too late in the season but were appreciated anyhow. He called the names of people who had died during the year, people we knew, and he gave thanks for their lives. He gave thanks for breezes that turned windmills, for pretty music, for the love of friends and kinfolks, for the very roof over our heads, for feather mattresses on cold winter nights.

This litany went on until the dressing was cold and I thought it was more a sermon than a prayer. Not until a good many years later did I understand why Bro. Foster’s long prayers were sought and appreciated:

Life in that country was hard, and those folks needed somebody to remind them that they had a lot to be thankful for.


{Houston Chronicle, Section A, Page #43,

Thursday, Nov. 24, 1988, A THANKSGIVING



3 Jno. 1-4

John’s Third Epistle

3 Jno. 1-4


That All May Go Well


The elder to the beloved Gaius, whom I love in truth.

Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul. For I rejoiced greatly when the brothers[a] came and testified to your truth, as indeed you are walking in the truth. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth. – 3 Jno. 1-4

John’s third letter contains the repeated themes and tone from the first two epistles. Concern for truth and expressions of affection for his brethren.

His love for the recipients is seen immediately in his desire that all may go well with them, especially their spiritual health.

John was always rejoicing when he heard of Christians who were not flirting with error or deceived by it, but instead – they were walking in the truth. He had no greater joy, than “to hear that” his brothers and sisters were “walking in the truth.”

How thankful we should be, that we can open the Bible and know the truth. Then we can let that truth from God work in our lives, “walking in the truth.”

Likewise, we should rejoice every time we hear of Christians walking in the truth.

Faith Not Feeling

Faith not Feeling


“Faith means trusting in God’s love and making ourselves available for its action despite what we may feel. Faith cannot be based on feelings. Nor should its criterion of authenticity be absence of struggle…By shifting the basis for confidence from human feelings and inner harmony to hard faith facts about God and behaviour, the author is boycotting a common religious trend, then and now, to make inner human experience the criteria of spirituality.”

William Loader (Johanine Epistles, pp 43-44)

Isaiah Insights #1

Isaiah Insights #1

Warren E. Berkley –

Rebellious Children, Isa. 1:2

God’s people in Judah and Jerusalem are “on trial.” God is the Judge as well as the offended party, with His servant Isaiah announcing the case against the people. This was during the reigns of kings Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, kings of Judah. The offended party is the Heavenly Father, disappointed in His children.

Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth; for the Lrod has spoken: “Children have I rearerd and brought up, but they have rebelled against me.”

The first step into this passage is emotional, especially for parents. And most especially for parents who have known this disappointment.

There is that natural affection of mothers and fathers for their children. This prompts desire, effort, work and hope. This is why parents become engaged with instruction, influence, wise discipline, warmth and all good provision for their children. Inside all this work there is hope, that the children will be responsive and sensible. That they will grow up to be mature and useful adults, that the hope of the parents might be realized and satisfying.

Yet, in spite of all effort and prayer otherwise, since children have free will, disappointment is a very real possibility. There is no heartache like it; no stress that compares, when parents realize their children have chosen a destructive path in life.

This resembles how God felt about His people in Judah and Jerusalem in the time of Isaiah and these kings.

Now, God was and is the perfect parent, the Father in heaven. He formed a nation from the offspring of His servant, Abraham. He brought them out of bondage. He gave them law and leaders and guidance and promises.

Their response? They rebelled against their Father. Isaiah’s duty was to convey to these wayward children, the deep disappointment of their Father.

Pause here for self-examination. Am I pleasing my Father? Is He disappointed in how I’ve turned out? The way out of rebellion is repentance.

Isaiah Insights Podcasts #1


Heb. 10:26-39

Fearful Expectation of Judgment

Hebrews 10:26-39

What happens if a Christian leaves Christ, never to return? Please listen:

26 For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. 28 Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. 29 How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” 31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

32 But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, 33 sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. 34 For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one. 35 Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. 36 For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. 37 For,

“Yet a little while,
    and the coming one will come and will not delay;
38 but my righteous one shall live by faith,
    and if he shrinks back,
my soul has no pleasure in him.”

39 But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.

This is not about Christians who struggle but grow; who make mistakes but repent and continue to learn and do better. This says, “…if we go on sinning deliberately.”

The prospects are not good at all, if we leave the only Savior; if we abandon the only sacrifice for sin. This is one of the most frightening passages in the New Testament. And it tells me – as I appreciate and adore God for His grace, I must not dismiss His wrath.

The call to action is verse 36 – “for you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised.”

(This is being posted on my 72nd birthday. One of the great blessings I’ve had in my life is the opportunity to share the meaning of God’s Word and urge people to do the will of God, as I accept the challenge myself. Thanks for reading this blog.)