Thursday, June 29, 2006

Gifts or Idols? Part VII

Question #7 from the post that started this series asks, "Could the answers to these questions also have anything to do with the huge number of young adults raised in Evangelical Christian homes walking away from their faith?"

Really, this is the bottom line of all our efforts at parenting, isn't it? If our children are successful at everything the world offers them, yet walk away from the faith because they don't know Christ Jesus...then we have failed. Exactly what good is it for them to gain the whole world, and yet lose their souls? (Yes, I am fully aware of the implications of Reformed Theology and that God must be the One Who changes their heart. But our part in the equation is to acquaint them with Jesus, both through word and through action. We are to disciple them!)

If you took the time to listen to the sermon by Voddie Baucham as linked in my earlier post you will hear him delineate the problem just within the 16-million-member Southern Baptist Convention. And if it's a problem can guarantee it's a bigger problem almost everywhere else. Pastor Baucham points out statistical surveys have shown that between 75% and 88% of SBC young people (depending on the particular survey) walk away from their faith by the end of their first year in college. THAT ought to frighten every true Christian parent down to the depth of their souls. The implications of that are that at least three out of every four of our sons and daughters are destined for an eternity of horror in hell unless God intervenes later in their lives...something that other surveys show isn't all that likely. (Of course, I am not about to constrain God's actions by surveys...but currently there are very, very few adults who turn their lives over to Christ, which indicates that here in America, God doesn't often move in the hearts of adults as compared to the hearts of young people.)

True Christian parents understand the depths and horrors of hell, and to contemplate even for a minute that their children might be destined for an eternity in hell should shock them out of their societal mindset and cause them to give considerable thought to what part they should be playing in giving their children every possible opportunity to embrace Christ in all His glory. are responsible for this discipleship and you cannot hand it off to anyone else, including youth groups and Christian schools (although certainly your wife, your helpmeet, can stand in your stead when you aren't available...but overall, it's still your responsibility). Ephesians 6:4 says, "Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord." Psalm 78:1-8 says, "Give ear, O my people, to my teaching; incline your ears to the words of my mouth! 2 I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings from of old, 3 things that we have heard and known, that our fathers have told us. 4 We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might, and the wonders that he has done. 5 He established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers to teach to their children, 6 that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children, 7 so that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments; 8 and that they should not be like their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation, a generation whose heart was not steadfast, whose spirit was not faithful to God."

Over and over again we see the example of generations of Israelites falling away from God in spite of the previous generation being close to God. What is the lesson? The older generation didn't pass down the faith, they didn't tell of God's wondrous deeds. Psalm 78 tells us twice that the fathers are supposed to do this, and it also illustrates why: " that they should set their hope in God...."

If there is to be any hope for our children, we as parents...and especially dads...must disciple our children. We must consider why we do the things we do when we are raising them. We must not just go along with raising them according to the culture of the day...even according to the Evangelical culture (with a 75% failure rate...why in the world should we even consider doing what they do?????).

Please...parents...please turn your eyes to eternity and consider your children. Please look critically at what our culture is saying about how to raise our children and what it means to "be successful." Please have the strength to rise up and "buck" the culture...for the sake of your children and their eternal souls. Please don't define success in worldly terms; define it in "Christ-like" terms. Again...what does it prosper a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose his soul?

Or more to the point here, what does it prosper a parent to raise a child who is successful in the world, and yet lose his soul for eternity?

Gifts or Idols? Part VI

Ahh...finally back to the "Gifts or Idols" questions!

Question number six from my earlier post asked, "Could the answers to these questions have something to do with why today's teens and young adults are so self-centered?"

I think that by simply reading the previous answers I have posted, the answer to this question is pretty clear: Yes!

What are the most common answers to the previous questions? I'll review and summarize them here.

1) Our focus as parents is typically on the children as the primary emphasis of the home.
2) We are raising our children "to be successful" instead of "to be like Christ."
3) Our parenting methodology is to focus our entire lives on our children, giving them every opportunity possible, all the while subordinating any other family responsibilities to these opportunities.
4) Because of the previous three answers, our children learn that the world revolves around them and they come to believe that is right and proper.
5) And of course, we want to ensure that we have built good self-esteem in the children and that they feel good about themselves. In other words, they are again told they are the most important thing in the world.

And then we wonder why teens and young adults are so focused on self, why they are unable/unwilling to give the time of day to people outside of their little peer group. After all, it's all about them...that's what they've been taught through the actions of their parents and society all through their lives. Far be it for the typical teen (especially the "cool" ones) to give the time of day to a child or to an adult. Far be it for them to give of themselves to serve another. After all, it's all about them, and serving isn't fun!

And then they are asked to grow up and take responsibility...and that doesn't sit so well either. As Dr. Albert Mohler (link on the left) states so often, we have a crisis of extended adolescence, of young men well into their 20s who should be doing adult things and contributing to society instead still living with their parents and avoiding all the responsibilities of adult life. That certainly isn't the type of man any sane parent wants for a son-in-law!

So, as parents, if we want to see our teens/young adults modeling Christ-like behavior rather than the typical self-centered hubris we see in most, we need to do something different. We need to be discipling our children such that they learn their true position in this world: that of a sinner, yet created by God, loved enough to have God's Son die for their sin, and now expected to put full faith and trust in Jesus and to grow in likeness to Him...and that likeness is anything but what is seen in today's young society.

But even scarier than the character defects and societal implications of Question #6 is the answer to Question #7....

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Desiring God National Conference

Funny how I just heard of Voddie Baucham from a different source...and here I find him as one of the featured speakers at the Desiring God 2006 National Conference.

If you haven't marked your calendar for this conference, do so now! You won't be sorry. September 29 - October 1, 2006 in Minneapolis, MN.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Closing the Generational Gap

According to statistics from the Southern Baptist Convention, over 75% of our children are turning their backs on their faith by the end of their first year in college. Statistically, Americans (and that includes evangelical Christians) are having fewer children than are required for replacing the population...only 1.9. That means that it will take two evangelical families to produce a single Christian in the next generation. And of course, that doesn't even consider that three souls from Christian families are destined for an eternity in Hell....

Concerned? Then I plead with you to take the time to listen to this wonderful sermon posted online. Unfortunately, you can't download it...only listen online. You will be challenged and convicted about our children's eternal future and what we should be doing about it.

I have to give credit for finding this sermon link posted at Scott Brown's blog (see link on left). I had never heard of Voddie Baucham, but he is an elder at Grace Family Baptist Church (Southern Baptist Convention) in Houston, Texas and delivered this wonderful address at a Texas Baptist Evangelism Conference.

It's available to hear (but not download) at:

Closing the Generational Gap

Scroll through the sermons listed until you find Pastor Baucham's.

You can purchase Pastor Baucham's sermons at:

Enjoy...and be convicted!!! And then do something about that conviction!

Friday, June 16, 2006

Gifts or Idols? Part V

Question #5 from my earlier post asks, "How important is your child's self-esteem?"

It seems that is all we hear about lately: self-esteem, as if it were the nexus of what it means to be emotionally healthy. Everything we read tells us to build up little Johnny's and little Jenny's self-esteem. So we put them in sports. When they play in a sport such as soccer, there really will be no losers because everybody gets a trophy. Our kids end up with rooms full of trophies that don't mean anything because they didn't come from succeeding, but only from participating! Is that really building up their self-esteem? Does self-esteem even really matter?

In some respects, I would say the answer is, "yes, it matters." But the trick is how that self-esteem is built. If it is built by the awarding of "fake" trophies, by giving praise that isn't warranted, or by false "success," then it is not even worth considering because the person has to know deep in his heart that there are no grounds for the accolades. (And then he gets the normal evolutionary clap-trap in his group school about how he was just a cosmic accident, a descendant of apes. So he knows he has no grounds for his accolades and he believes he is a cosmic accident...and yes he is supposed to feel good about himself. Hmmmm.....)

Instead, it should be built by a right relationship with the child's Creator. By right relationship, I mean an understanding that his worth comes not from kicking a ball into a net or scoring against an opponent. It comes not even from such worthy things as good academics or great talent at music. It comes from understanding that his Creator knew him before the foundation of time; that He knew him in his mother's womb where He personally knit him together. It comes from knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt that he is made in the image of the one and only living God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob!

And it comes from a right relationship with that one and only having repented of his sin and turned in hope to that one and only God's Son, Jesus Christ. The understanding of the love that Christ showed on the cross and that God showed by sending His Son to that cross brings self-worth and self-esteem into proper focus...a focus not on self, but on the One who created you and who died that you may live. The focus is outward, not inward. "I am not worthy, yet God did this wonderful thing anyway, that I might be reconciled to Him. Praise His Name!!!"

That is self-esteem, and that will help your child grow in maturity and proper outlook on life. And it will put the accolades from all other successes in proper perspective: activities, abilities, and awards don't define your child; God defines your child through His Son.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Gifts or Idols? Part IV

Question #4 from my earlier post asked, "By our parenting methodology, where do our children learn to focus?"

This one hits hard at a cherished American cultural child-raising tradition. This particular tradition, though, is only a generation or so old. What might that child-raising tradition be? It is the idolatry of children.

Oh, but wait! I don't make idols out of my children! I am just giving them every opportunity so they will be well-rounded and find themselves.

We couch this idolatry in the language of "opportunity" and creating "successful" children. The painful reality, though is that it makes the children become idols. We as parents (and yes, I'm guilty here, too) load up our schedules to the bursting point with activities for the kids. Soccer, music lessons, baseball, band, dance, karate, church, youth group, and on and on and on and on. We want to make sure little junior isn't left behind. After all, if he might want to play ball at the varsity level in high school, he has to start in PeeWee before kindergarten! Otherwise he won't be good enough!

We sacrifice family unity and family time at the altar of activity. It takes very little time for the children to realize that the world as they know it revolves around them and their schedule. Mom and Dad jump at every notice of a game or practice. Mom and Dad sacrifice their schedules for those of the kids. What is the unspoken message that gets communicated here?

I dare say it is that the kids are the most important thing in the household. All eyes are upon them. Everything that happens in the household depends upon them.

And to answer question #4...where do they learn to focus? Why on themselves and their own personal happiness, of course!

And then we wonder why they are so self-centered as teens, why they don't look outside themselves and their peer group. Could it be that all those years of focusing of them has taught them well, taught them to focus on themselves? (OK...leaped a little here into Question #6.)

I know this sounds harsh. Shouldn't a parent focus on his child? Absolutely. The question though becomes one of methodology.

If you focus on the child the way we tend to do in today's society, then the result discussed above will be the most common result. On the other hand, if the focus is on discipling the child in the ways of God and learning well the Second Greatest Commandment, to love our neighbors as ourselves, then the child learns that he is there to serve others in the name of Christ. He learns the joy of service, of putting others before himself. He learns that his Creator is pleased when he looks outside himself in the power of the Holy Spirit.

So rather than giving our children as many "experiences" as possible, let's disciple them instead. So they don't make the high school varsity baseball team. Does it really matter? Does it really matter if instead, they are fine, mature, godly young men and women who are impacting their own teen culture with their witness of service? Which is God more concerned about? How many teams they were on and how well they played...or what their character has become and how well they are imitating His Son?

I think the answer is obvious. The hard part is bucking the culture in order to accomplish it....

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

More on "Successful" Children

I was perusing one of the blogs I frequent when I came upon this post...and it happened to coincide so well with the answer to question #3 that I thought I'd include it here.

"Doggy Obedience School for Children" (the link is no longer active, but I'm leaving the post because the point is still good) is a compelling and sad commentary on using "education" as an excuse for sending our children out of the house to the "experts" at a younger and younger age. Of course, we are doing this so they will be "successful" and "educated."

That may assuage our consciences, but it doesn't make it true or right....

Monday, June 05, 2006

Side Note

Just a quick side note. As I was reading back through some of my posts, I realized that I write as I did when I was originally taught when it comes to the use of pronouns. I don't confuse a sentence by using he/she or him/her, but rather write as was once common, using "he" or "him" in a manner that the context makes it clear the statement applies to both genders.

I know that rubs some people the wrong way in this day and age...but call me old-fashioned!

Gifts or Idols? Part III

Question number 3 from my earlier post asked, "That purpose (as in the purpose determined in Question #2) will be borne out in how we go about raising our children. What, exactly, is our parenting methodology?"

So much of the answer to this question depends on your answer to question number 2. In fact, the answer to this question will often reveal the true answer to question number 2, in spite of the answer one may officially give.

A parent who looks at the goal of raising children "to be successful" will typically view his children as little empty vessels in which to pour information in hopes that it will stick. He wants to expose his children to as much of this world as possible so they can "experience" it so as to help them determine where they want to go in life. He wants his children to experience and have fun all the way through get as much done as possible...before becoming tied down with a family. In short, he is focusing on his children's happiness and in a round-about way, his own reputation as a parent. He views "education" as an end in and of itself because it supposedly makes his child "successful." There really isn't a definition of what "successful" is, but the more "education" his child can get certainly contributes to that "success."

On the other hand, a parent who sees his child as a gift on loan from God, a child who was placed on this earth with a specific purpose, will approach parenting in a wholly different manner. He will search out the Scripture for wisdom. He will train up his child in the way he should go (Proverbs 22:6) by teaching him the things of God and training him to be a sage. Wisdom at a young age is quite uncommon in our world, but it isn't impossible with proper training and discipleship. I once read in an article by Chris and Ellyn Davis of "The Elijah Company", that the Hebrew word translated "...the way he should go..." is only used a couple of times in the entire Old Testament, the other being in describing the purpose of the Temple. It has connotations of being created for a specific purpose. "The way he should go" is not to be determined by the parents' dreams and desires placed upon the child. Instead we as parents must study and interact with our child, determine his "bent," and then continue to build him in that direction. Since we understand that God will not act contrary to His Word, we should ensure that the Scriptures are consulted for boundaries and directions. For instance, a young boy should not be channeled toward a career that would keep him from being able to disciple his family one day. From God's view, the development of future generations is far more important than any career one could have.

Scripture doesn't encourage us to educate or raise our children according to the scope and sequence of the world. It does set priorities for us by showing us clearly what God values. I enumerated on several of these in a previous post, but here I would like to focus on wisdom. God values wisdom. It is clear in the Proverbs that wisdom is a thing to be prayed for, to be sought after, to be prized. The word "knowledge" in the Proverbs is usually just a synonym for "wisdom." The world has more than enough "smart" people, but very, very few who are actually wise in the ways of God. A generation of Christian children raised in godly wisdom could easily send a massive shockwave through the kingdom of this world!

So before one even considers the particular giftings God has for a child, a parent can rest assured that if he trains him in the ways of Scripture, teaching him doctrine, while helping him learn to wisely apply Scripture to his daily walk...that parent will be right in the center of God's will for his child.

Back to the question: what parenting methodology should one use? I think the answer is obvious. Parents should first and foremost strive for holiness in their children, for children who love the Lord with all their hearts, minds, souls, and strength. That absolutely must be primary. Fathers should be taking the lead in this discipling, with the mothers helping out and standing in his stead when he cannot be there. Once this discipling in the ways of the Lord is firmly established, a discerning judgment should be made as to each child's particular temperament, strengths, gifts, etc. Then mold that child accordingly, helping to guide him into adulthood in all wisdom and grace.

So which of these options happens in your home? The answer to that question gives light to the real answer to question number 2 in your home, for to raise our children in the general way described at first is to raise them as self-absorbed humanists. To raise them as described in the latter portion of this post is to raise them as wise Christians who will glorify God with their lives.

Which will it be?

Gifts or Idols? Part II

Question number 2 from my earlier post asked, "For what purpose are we raising our children?"

Often the pagan answer is "To be successful." Occasionally the more astute Christian will say, "To become godly adults." or "To glorify God." The problem is what that actually means in practice...but that's question #3....

Being a Christian, I want to focus on the Christian answers. I'm afraid they fall short. Sure, being godly adults and glorifying God are fine goals, but they are too broad. For those of us who embrace the sovereignty of God in all things, we understand that each child was planned before the foundation of time to be placed in our specific family and that each child also has a very specific role already laid out for him by God. God knows the plans He has for each child (and us, too, for that matter!).

So we can come back to our question and look at it a little differently. What is the purpose for which we are raising our children? That purpose has been predestined before the foundation of the earth. Our children have each been given specific gifts, talents, and strengths with which they will accomplish the good works God has planned for them. Our job as parents is to carefully study our children, to ascertain those gifts, talents, and strengths. Then we are to reference Scripture for direction (for example, for the roles given to the genders), and then capitalize upon those giftings within the confines and guidelines of the Scripture. In other words, we need to look carefully in order to try to isolate the specific purpose God already has for our children.

It is imperative that we do not just follow the ways of the world by letting others have their way with our children for countless hours each week. How could we possibly know our children well enough to make these types of determinations unless we spend the time with them? But I stray into Question #3 again....

So the bottom line is that the purpose in raising our children is very specific, and thus different for each child. Our task is to determine that purpose based on knowing our child, and knowing what Scripture has to say as well.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Gifts or Idols? Part I

I asked in a previous post a series of questions. I am going to attempt to answer them to the best of my abilities and understanding, possibly just one or two per post.

Question #1 asked "Where is our focus when raising children?"

This is tough because it requires discernment. Of course, our focus is on the child. But as we focus on our children, we need to ask if we can properly focus on God. Focus implies prioritizing. Do we unconsciously make our children our first priority, our spouse our second priority, and God our third priority? I think an honest introspection in a quiet moment will reveal that this is often the case. It may not be the case 100% of the time, but I'm willing to state that there are at least times in life where it does happen.

Let us not forget that God will not take second place in our lives. He rightly and justly demands first place, no matter what we may think of the needs of our children. When we place the children first, we are saying we know better than God...and that is pride speaking. So as we rise up each day, is it given over to the Lord? Do we trust Him with its activities and outcome? This isn't just a time of quiet worship in the is a moment-by-moment decision. For example... You didn't get all the items the experts from the curriculum development company said you should do today because your child needed some extra attention in another area or because there was a ministry opportunity for your family. Do you get overwhelmed and frustrated...burned out? Do you trust God with the outcome? Or do you fear the experts' dreaded scope and sequence more? Where is your focus?

OK... so I'll focus on God first. I'll trust Him with every moment of my day. Then I'll focus on my child. Uh...not so fast. There is another priority: your spouse.

We all have heard the admonition that the best gift we can give our children is to love their other parent. We all nod our heads in agreement...and then go on to put that love for the other parent in a position far below its proper priority. Where in the priority order would God have you put your spouse/marriage? I believe He would have it in second place...right behind Himself. He created the institution of marriage to reflect the relationship between Jesus and His Church. As such, He highly values marriage...over and above the raising of children. In Genesis, marriage came before children!

But it's funny how putting God first, putting your spouse and marriage second naturally results in a good and proper environment for the raising of children! In fact, when you prioritize this way, little Johnny and little Jenny discover their proper place in the family...they aren't in charge and the world doesn't revolve around them!

So, where's your focus in raising your child? Let's all get on our knees, repent as needed, and then put our focus on our Father in heaven, followed by our spouse and our marriage...and then watch our children blossom in the fertile garden of the home that is then created.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Children: Gifts on Loan from God...or Idols?

Over on my Get Serious blog (link on the left), I was commenting on what a typical evangelical Christian tends to look like...generalized, of course. In the process I mentioned that we often make idols out of our children. I suppose this is the blog on which that topic ought to be fleshed out further...and I'll have to do it at another time (getting late and have to earn a living in the morning).

But some questions to ponder (Each is linked to its particular answer):