Help for Today — Hope for Tomorrow
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[Gary Petty] How can Christian families raise God-centered, biblically moral children in an increasingly secular society?
The issues facing Christian children in public schools are daunting. In the classroom, they may be taught that evolution is indisputable science and creationism, well—superstition. More and more they face transgender issues in the locker room, sex education classes that are blatantly anti-biblical and an educational system that is at times promotes multiculturalism while downplaying, or even oppressing, Christian values.
These issues are driving many Christian families to home-school or enroll their children in private schools. The long-term effects of this migration of Christians from the public school system is an ever-widening divide in society—one segment promoting the values of secular humanism and the other biblically-based values.
Now if you are concerned about your child’s or grandchild’s education, then today’s program is important for you. Join us on Beyond Today as we discuss “Help Your Children Keep the Faith.”
Has it ever been so difficult to help children navigate the educational years?
Studies show that anxiety among children is higher than previous generations and many parents are concerned about teenage suicide, sexual experimentation happening at an earlier age, bullying and drug and alcohol abuse among children.
And it’s not just what children may experience at school. At a very early age, children are exposed to a mind-blowing array of technology and media. Overexposure to video games can hinder a child’s ability to concentrate on tasks that aren’t as visually stimulating.
Pre-teens in some television sitcoms are shown as sexually precocious, smarter than parents and morally accepting all alternative lifestyles. Take time to watch the commercials during these programs. It is obvious that the fashion and cosmetic industries target young children to dress, wear make-up and act like older teens. It’s a lucrative business built on manipulating the values of children.
Children are being pushed into facing different stages of life that they are not physically, mentally, emotionally or spiritually equipped to handle.
How can Christian families deal with these issues in the lives of their children?
One vital key is education. It is important for your child to learn mathematics, history, biology, economics. But, the most important elements, the very foundation of your child’s education, is based on whether they learn to build their lives on secular humanism principles or biblical principles.
Now there is one indispensable element to helping your children develop biblically based, God-centered values. That element is you, the parent.
Many parents realize that they just can’t turn their children over to an educational system that increasingly opposes their biblical values, but they struggle with how to counteract what their children are learning outside the home.
Church attendance, Bible lessons designed for children, Christian summer camp, friends who are Christians are all important in your child’s development. But nothing is more important in their lives than your involvement in their biblical education.
If this is a concern that you have in your family, then you probably know of others who have the same concerns. So I encourage you to share this program—posted online at Beyond Today .tv—with other parents who are struggling with how to teach their children biblical values in a secular society.
So where do we start in discussing the role of parents in Christian education?
One of the primary biblical passages about children’s education is found in the instructions God gave to ancient Israel. In Deuteronomy 6 God said, “And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes” (Deuteronomy 6:6-8).
The spiritual education of children isn’t just a classroom exercise. It is experienced in daily living. Parents are to be involved in teaching their children about God while sitting in the house, walking and traveling, before they go to sleep and when they wake up.
If we think of education as only lecturing, then we’re missing the point of the biblical passage we just read.
Parenting is more than lecturing. The Deuteronomy 6 model of education is to immerse the child in a family culture where biblical principles are not just taught, but exhibited by the parents. Now what this means is that if we, as parents and grandparents, exhibit a half-hearted, biblically shallow, hypocritical Christianity then that’s exactly what we will be teaching our children.
Okay, let’s make one thing clear—no parent is perfect, so don’t put that weight on you. But, even that is part of the Christian message—forgiveness from God through Jesus Christ and spiritual change and growth can be taught through the example of the parents. You’re not the only influence in your child’s life, but never underestimate the bond of love that can form between a parent and a child and the impact your example has on them.
The Deuteronomy 6 method of education isn’t just the responsibility of the mother either. Dad is also to exhibit Christian behavior and be actively involved in teaching. The apostle Paul wrote this to the early church, “…fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).
Both parents must be involved in the religious teaching of children.
Now I realize that some of you are trying to raise children as a single parent. Being a single parent creates its own set of tough challenges. As a single parent, you can still properly guide and teach your children, but in some ways you carry a heavier load than a two parent family. So it’s important that you as a single parent find a support group to help you in teaching your children the biblical way.
Now at this point we need to discuss an important mistake many well-meaning Christians make in their family lives. The mistake is making their children the center of the family. They see the goal of parenting is to meet all of their child’s desires, protect her from disappointment and failure and to foster self-esteem. The problem is this is a sure-fire way to help your child become selfish.
Let’s illustrate this. If we were to draw a series of circles representing your family, who would you place in the center? Your child? Maybe you as parents? Some would say schooling and education.
In these models, how do your children learn about God? I mean let’s face it. If I am the center of my universe, then I will expect everything to revolve around me.
If God is the center of your family, then children will learn that God is to be the center of their lives. Your personal relationship with God, your faith, your obedience, your struggles with trying to live a life based in the Bible is the basis for teaching your children. Your child needs to see you study the Bible, pray, strive to live by the moral standards taught by Jesus Christ, seek God’s forgiveness and guidance and be involved in weekly church services.
If God is the center of your family what comes next?
The second priority in your family needs to be the relationship between Mom and Dad. An important contributor to healthy emotional child development is the security they feel because Mom and Dad are together. This means that one of the most important gifts that parents can give their child is a good marriage. Putting time and energy into creating a happy marriage will go a long way in producing a happy, emotionally healthy child.
Your child is this third circle, with God as the center and the relationship between Mom and Dad as the second circle. It is your relationship with God and the relationship between Mom and Dad that lays the foundation of child development in the home. Now once again I know, if you are a single parent, this doesn’t mean you can’t be effective in raising emotionally healthy and spiritually dedicated children. It does mean that you will face some very special challenges.
Think about this. It is not your job to be your child’s best friend by relating to them as if you were a child yourself. It is your job to love, take care of, and teach your child. Remember what the apostle Paul wrote to parents, that they were to “bring up” children…raising them into adulthood, “in the training and admonition” or “instruction” in the Lord (Ephesians 6:4). At times, children may resist being “brought up…in the Lord” because they are children. They are childish. There are going to be some conflicts in teaching children. When faced with those conflicts, just remember that the purpose of parenthood is to raise mature, responsible adults. And it’s not always an easy road.
Many years ago, I heard a person ask my Dad what was the secret to child rearing. His answer was, “You spend 20 years preparing them to leave you.” My Dad was a wise man.
We don’t want our children to stay children. As parents, our goal is to prepare them to walk their own walk with God, to teach them to become emotionally and mentally healthy adults, and yes, to guide them in their education and success in both their vocations and as contributing members of society.
Another mistake some parents make is waiting until a child “can make up his own mind” before teaching them religious values. The school system doesn’t play by those rules. Television and the internet don’t play by those rules.
Religious and spiritual training begins at the earliest stages. The apostle Paul wrote to a young minister named Timothy, “But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:14-15).
Timothy’s father was a pagan. So Timothy’s religious teaching came from his mother and grandmother. They taught him the Scriptures from an early age and that early training guided him as an adult.
My wife and I have reached the stage of life where our three children are grown. We now enjoy a deep friendship with them as adults. We also have the wonderful experience of supporting them as they navigate the joys and tribulations of parenthood. We have learned that we can’t live our children’s lives for them. Each one has to choose their own path. But, as parents, and now as grandparents, we recognize our God ordained responsibility to love them and teach them about God’s love and His plan for their lives.
Now this is the basis of biblical parenthood.
There have been numerous studies over the past decades on why many young people leave their churches in their late teens or early twenties. Some of the same reasons show up in all of the studies.
It is important for parents to understand these issues in order to properly prepare children as they face the difficulties of trying to live a Christian life in a secular society.
Well let’s summarize what we’ve talked about.
1. Nothing is more important in your children’s lives than your involvement in their biblical education.
2. You need to model your relationship with God as an example to your children.
3. Parental religious and spiritual training begins at the earliest ages.
We’re now joined by Gary Antion, a licensed marriage and family counselor with many decades of experience as a counselor and pastor. Gary, thanks for being here with us.
[Gary Antion] Well I’m happy to be here, Gary and to contribute to this very important topic.
[Gary] You know, a lot of people worry about their children leaving the faith. And it is amazing how many young people, in their teens or in their twenties, leave the faith. And there’s been a lot of research into that and Barna has done, of course, a lot of research. And I was looking at one of their latest reports. Here’s the number two reason why children leave the faith in their twenties and in their teens.
It’s because they find Christianity to be shallow. And here’s what some of the things they said: 31% said church is boring. Well that’s not a parental issue there. But one quarter of these young adults said faith is not relevant to their career or interests. Or that the Bible is not taught clearly enough—that was 23%. And a full 20% said, God seems missing from my experience of church, and I guess you could say probably a lot feel my experience at home. So what do parents do to deal with this?
[Gary Antion] Well first of all, children are a blessing from God. They are given to the family, to the parents, so that they can train those children and bring them up in the nurture of God as you said in the first segment. You brought out about how important it is for family to be together. For family to be relating to one another. And the modeling of parents, you cannot and in any way, quantify because they are such important issues. Parents need to know their Bibles. Parents need to study their Bibles. Parents need to be leading in the way and not be afraid or ashamed to talk about issues that come up and to be able to talk to their children openly about these issues. And certainly to not put them down for having questions, but to be willing to accept those questions and to admit when they themselves have had wrong perspectives.
[Gary] I think it’s so important too, this relevancy issue. That we be able to make them understand, help them understand that God is the center of their lives and is relevant to everything that they do, their fun, their seriousness, whatever in life—God is center to that.
[Gary Antion] Right. Because if parents are living the way they understand as godly, they’re modeling that for their children and it begins from youth. It’s very difficult to bend a teenager when you start out with a teenager, not impossible, but very difficult. But when you are able to work with them from the time they’re little, and they come to respect you and you come to respect them, and you treat them and take care of them, they come to look upon you in an honorable and respectful way. Therefore, it’s easy to train them and teach them to respect God in an honorable and respectable way.
[Gary] You talked about teenagers. Before the program, we were talking about how difficult it is sometimes for teenagers who have never been exposed to the Bible—now suddenly their families taking them there and how difficult that is, but you made a very good point. You said that they have to understand—parents have to understand where their children are.
[Gary Antion] They do. Understanding is one of the greatest gifts we can give to anybody and particularly our children. Understanding where they are and the various stages of life. Understanding a teenagers’ desire to try to spread his wings, to try to become his own person, to become an adult himself. And sometimes that brings in challenges to parents, and it’s a very difficult time. Parents need to quote “fight” unquote for their children because of all the pressures coming from peer pressure, coming from the teachings at school, coming from sciences and so-called, sometimes not true. But coming from various ones, at them, they need to have some help from the parents.
There are two sides to this story you know. You say about faith, it takes faith to believe in this, but it also takes faith to believe in some of the evolutionary thoughts.
[Gary] Because young people don’t want—okay they come with a question about evolution, they don’t want, “well let’s go to Genesis.” They want a discussion with science. And it’s interesting, I unjust read something the other day, it’s a myth that almost all scientists don’t believe in God. 52% of scientists say they believe in a god or a higher power. They know that there is some kind of order to this. That there is a creator to this. And there’s a lot of good scientific discussion out there showing creation instead of evolution. And I think, parents seem to education themselves on that.
[Gary Antion] Where do all these things come from? Where does harmony come from? Where does design come from? Who sustains this all the time? Why do we “drop” things? Why don’t we say we “up” things? Because of the law of gravity which we can’t see, but we see the effects of it. So how did that get there? So, parents need to study themselves, so they can have some answers.
[Gary] Would you say then that dealing with a teenager, before they can teach them about God, they have to have a relationship with the teenager? So, they have to do that first before they can bring their child to God.
[Gary Antion] Exactly. Parents who love their children, care for their children, spend time with their children, whether it’s in godly activities, whether it’s in church activities, whether it’s in various social events, or whether it’s just family time together, can take the defensiveness out of the situation, and everybody can sit and talk openly. Children appreciate it when parents spend time with them.
[Gary] Now a third reason that many young people say they leave the church is that what they see as an exclusive nature to Christianity. And here’s some of the responses they gave to Barna: 3 out of 10 Christians, 29%, said churches are glossing over real differences and afraid of other faiths. In other words, they only teach Christianity and they are against all other faiths.
Others said that the church was like a country club. Of course, they live in an environment where they are taught everyone is included, everything’s inclusive. So how do we deal with the fact that Christianity is exclusive? I mean, we say that Jesus is the only way to salvation, so how do we teach them to deal with that?
[Gary Antion] Well first of all, Christianity today is to be teaching people to be an example to others, how to model the way that God has called. The happiness and joy that others would see in a nation and a people who followed and lived the ways of God. The idea has never been to be exclusive. It’s to be starting out with God calling people, and then bringing everybody in. But not forcing them, because it always has to be an option.
[Gary] But that’s a fascinating concept. To get children, especially teenagers to understand that God is in their lives, God is working through them, not because they can be exclusive and push everybody else away, but it’s the opposite. They are to exhibit Jesus Christ to everyone else. They’re actually opening up to bring other people to God. So, it’s not exclusive, it is very inclusive but it’s based on truth.
[Gary Antion] The teaching of God are definitely inclusive. You think of the example of the parable of the Good Samaritan. Where the question was asked by the Pharisee, who is my neighbor? And who was his neighbor? Whoever was in need of help and whoever was closest by. It wasn’t a matter there of your same race, your name nationality. It was those who were close by. Loving your neighbor as yourself is certainly not about loving yourself only, that would be exclusive. Inclusive is loving your neighbor as yourself.
[Gary] And I think where a lot of people who have trouble too, is the idea of is sin. Well God doesn’t judge anything, but the truth is, God determines what works and what doesn’t work and He forbids us to do certain things because it produces something terrible in our lives. And they have a hard time with that.
[Gary Antion] God is a god of love. Everything God does, He does out of love for us. If you break something, it’s going to break you. If you fall, if you go against the law of gravity, what happens to you? Chances are you are going to skin your knee or at worst, break something. So why does that happen? Because laws have been broken and violated. It’s not that sin is something that cannot be gotten rid of. Sin can be repented of. God never said He made us perfect—or wants us to be perfect in character, He made us perfect physically, but not perfect in character. So character is something that has to be developed and something has to be developed with godliness.
[Gary] See what you just said is real important, this idea that God condemns sin, but He wants to forgive and change. God actually wants to bring people towards Him so that these behaviors that He says are destructive are removed. Look at the world we live in. It’s a mess. Children have to know, the reason this is a mess is because we have turned our back, humanity has turned its back on God.
[Gary Antion] When parents are teaching children, they’re teaching them in a way that’s relevant to what’s going on in the world. They are relating the teaching and the instruction and even their examples to what’s happening. And parents should not be afraid to talk about godliness. Should not be afraid to talk about to their children, pray for me when I am going on this business trip. They should not be afraid to do that. You’re including them. You are saying, hey let’s sit down. You’re making Bible study with them interesting and fun. You’re helping them to learn biblical principles that will last them a lifetime.
[Gary] I like the word fun. The Bible is supposed to be fun. There’ entertainment. There’s fun. There’s lessons. There’s seriousness. It’s all of life is in that Book.
[Gary Antion] It is.
Gary You know I appreciate you being here. We have to have you back here again soon.
[Gary Antion] Thank you.
[Gary] As I discussed here in today’s program, the importance of raising emotionally and mentally healthy children in a God-centered family can’t be overstated. And, the critical key to creating a personal, God-centered family is you—the parent. Nothing is more important in your children’s lives than your direct and devoted involvement in their moral and biblical education.
To help you to better become that kind of parent, we have prepared a valuable, free study aid titled: Marriage and Family: The Missing Dimension . This important publication will help you see the need to teach your children about God as you go about your daily activities.
To obtain your own, personal, free copy of Marriage and Family: The Missing Dimension call us toll free, 1-888-886-8632. That’s 1-888-886-8632. Or you can go online at BeyondToday.tv or write to us at the address shown on your screen [Beyond Today, PO Box 541027, Cincinnati, OH 45254].
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Now again, to order your free study aid Marriage and Family: The Missing Dimension and your free subscription to Beyond Today magazine call 1-888-886-8632. That’s 1-888-886-8632. Or go online to BeyondToday.tv to read or download them.
Also, to discover much more about the fascinating truths found in Holy Scripture, please join my fellow Beyond Today hosts and me for our live, online Bible studies at BeyondToday.tv . These online studies—usually conducted every other Wednesday night—examine a variety of absorbing biblical topics. However, if you can’t join us live, you can watch these edifying Bible studies at your convenience—they’re all archived on our website.
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Parents have a God ordained responsibility to teach their children. You can’t give that responsibility over to the school system, their peers, the overwhelming influences of media and technology, or even to your church youth program.
In Deuteronomy 6 God said, “And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes” (Deuteronomy 6:6-8).
This means that you as parents must have a personal relationship with God, give of your time and energy to your children, and you must have a thorough understanding of the Bible. A few unbiblical religious traditions, a few words about Jesus, and a lifestyle that compromises with secular society will influence your children to reject true Christianity as irrelevant and hypocritical.
Your children are a gift from God. Your responsibility as parents is ordained by God. It is never too late to prayerfully begin the Deuteronomy 6 model of immersing your child into a truly biblically based, God-centered home.
Join us next week on Beyond Today as we continue to discover the gospel of the Kingdom. We also invite you to join us in constantly praying, “Thy Kingdom come.” For Beyond Today I’m Gary Petty. Thanks for watching.
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