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Ten mistakes I’d warn my kids not to make

By David B. Crabtree

It seems that everything comes with a warning these days.

This from a Superman Halloween costume: “Warning: Use of this device does not enable wearer to fly.”

How about this from a blow-dryer: “Warning: Do not use while sleeping.”

Most of us are bright enough to know that spray starch should not be inhaled and drain cleaner makes a deadly mouthwash. But in case we missed that day in school, the powers that be have required warning labels on everything from food to footwear. They rightly argue, “Consumers must be protected.”

How about children? In many ways, our culture seems to have it backwards. There are more warnings required of companies making snack foods than of parents making babies.

Seeking a balanced slice of life experience, I asked 10 friends to join me at my table to answer the question, “What 10 mistakes would you warn your kid not to make?” My friends included those raised in church and those raised on the street. The youngest was in his 20s and the oldest was a grandfather of five. The most common mistakes among us were focused on integrity, fidelity and frugality. In hopes that we might keep someone from stepping in a bear trap, here is the list.

Don’t lie

When truth is put to death, a lie lives in its place. And lies are resilient. They lurk just below the surface of life, poised and ready to damage one’s integrity. Buried lies do not suffer decomposition. They stink like a corpse, but show incredible striking power upon resurrection.

Ben lied to the Internal Revenue Service. Three years later, that lie cost him the new car he treasured. Kelly lied to her husband. Five years later he found out and struggled to trust the woman he thought he knew. John lied about almost everything. Last week he was caught in a big lie and lost a good friend. He’s sliding into depression.

Truth isn’t always as flashy as the lie, but you can wear it forever and it never goes out of style. If you don’t like your life, lying won’t improve it. Only the truth can make you free (1 John 2:21).

Don’t touch a hot stove

Life is full of “hot stove” issues, dangers from which common sense should guard us. Drugs and alcohol carry such high risks and low returns that one might well ask those with burned fingers, “What did you expect?”

If a woman is married to another man, she is not available for romantic exploration. Touch that stove and something’s going to go up in smoke.

“Hot stove” mistakes are also known as “stupid” mistakes. Stupidity is often disguised as love, entitlement, escape or adventure. Don’t play games in a danger zone. Wanting to know what it feels like to milk a rattlesnake does not justify a trip to the snake pit. God gave you a brain; use it whenever you’re near a hot stove (1 Thessalonians 5:22).

Don’t spend more than you make

The desire to “have it now” is fueling a debtor’s society in which princely salaries are yielding a pauper’s retirement. Credit card companies are making lifelong customers (slaves) of young people straight out of high school. Wants and needs are easily confused in a culture that measures success by what you possess.

Take it from a guy who has a lot of stuff gathering dust in the garage — if you don’t really need it, don’t buy it. Save your money until you can afford those extras. Learning to be content opens the door to prosperity (Philippians 4:11).

Don’t waste a date

The history of dating is rooted in courtship — a preparatory step to building a lifelong relationship. But modern dating is often focused on having a good time — on being accepted, popular and desired. In many cases, dating has no connection at all to marriage preparation; it’s all about ego and insecurity.

Find your security in Christ and exercise restraint and respect in the quest for a spouse. Next to your relationship with Jesus, the lifelong relationship you will enjoy under the marriage covenant is your most important. Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, wrote an entire book of the Bible about it.

Don’t run your mouth

Janie is well past 30 yet she is haunted by the brutal legacy of her father. He never laid a hand on her. He beat her down with his words. One word has scarred her soul for life — “Dumb!” Janie is certainly not dumb, but her father’s words have outlived him.

Words are powerful. Choose them carefully. The words we speak can bring life, cast doubt, break trust, give hope, cut deep, cause harm, lift up, or put down. Find the measure of yourself in Christ and not in self-elevation at the expense of others.

Guard your tongue. Proverbs 18:21 says, “The tongue has the power of life and death” (NIV). I would have thought such power belonged to brain or brawn, but Solomon says it’s all about our words.

Stay in school

Be a lifelong learner. Don’t make the grave mistake of living within the confines of today’s vision. Formal education only gives you basic tools for life. It’s up to you to build that life. Don’t hesitate to add the tools you need to expand the scope of your influence.

The apostle Paul described his life as one of constant reaching and pressing on (Philippians 3:13,14). He refused to stay in the same place spiritually and emotionally. His quest was to know Christ in an ever-increasing manner. Paul was highly educated yet he never stopped growing.

Keep sex for marriage

Our sex-saturated culture would tell you that great sex is reserved for those who live wild and wanton lives. That married sex is dull and empty of passion. Yet studies consistently show that faithful married couples enjoy more sexual satisfaction than those who play musical beds.

Marriage is the complete giving of oneself to another. The Bible is clear that sexual union is much more than a physical act. It is a uniting of souls. If you ignore this and run from one lover to another, you will literally tear away pieces of yourself in each encounter.

Later in life you might marry and give your heart to your spouse. But unless God heals the damage you created, you’ll struggle with intimacy. You can’t be someone’s “only one” when you’ve already given yourself to a long list of lovers. Sex outside of marriage always leaves a scar on the soul.

Set your own sails

Peer pressure. If someone else steers your ship, you won’t like your final destination. You might not even make it to port. Caving in to peer pressure for the purpose of gaining popularity only works over the short term. Peer goals and values are constantly and rapidly shifting. Who can keep up?

President Herbert Hoover, a leader in times of turbulent change, gave a great warning against the power of the mob when he said, “Above all, beware of the crowd! The crowd only feels; it has no mind of its own which can plan. The crowd is credulous, it destroys, it consumes, it hates, and it dreams, but it never builds.”

God calls you to live a life that encourages, uplifts, invests, and impacts the culture with redemptive force. God prepared a wonderful path for you before you were even born (Psalm 139:15). Don’t yield the wheel and rudder of your life to anyone but Him.

Don’t marry a non-Christian

You may have heard of an unbelieving husband or wife won to the Lord by a believing marriage partner, and you may feel that justifies your relationship with an unsaved boyfriend or girlfriend. But such stories are examples of God’s goodness and mercy, and rarely include details of the heartache the married couple had to endure.

The Bible makes it clear that believers are not to marry unbelievers (2 Corinthians 6:14). We must never try to justify disobedience to God’s Word based on someone’s fortunate outcome.

A couple in my church met while trafficking in illegal drugs. They found Christ, one after the other, and built a strong marriage. But they won’t be recommending that their children seek a spouse in a crack house. For every good outcome by the redemptive grace of God, there are yet hundreds of tragedies.

Look both ways

Look to the left and to the right, even if you’re crossing a one-way street. Guard your heart against impulsive behavior. Whims are often followed by whams! God has gone to the trouble of setting pathways for your life. You must find those paths. You must live your life with purpose.

I witness daily the devastating effects of “accidental” living. Those who live “accidental” lives just go with the flow and let life happen. The “accidental” crowd relies heavily on what they feel. They rarely ask basic biblical questions before they act. They go for it — whatever it is.

Living an intentional life based upon biblical principles, consistent prayer, and godly counsel will keep you from the blindsiding attacks of the adversary. Stop, look, and listen at the crossroads of life. God will not be silent there.

David B. Crabtree is pastor of Calvary Church (Assemblies of God) in Greensboro, N.C.

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