Street Epistemologists – On Guard 9
Our children and teenagers are in danger – spiritual and physical. As parents, grandparents and Christians involved in the lives of children and youth, we have a God-given responsibility to protect them. How do we do that and what tools does God give us for that work?
“Surely I have taught you statutes and judgments, just as the Lord my God commanded me, that you should act according to them in the land which you go to possess. Therefore be careful to observe them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes, and say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people … Only take heed to yourself, and diligently keep yourself, lest you forget the things your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. And teach them to your children and your grandchildren, especially concerning the day you stood before the Lord your God in Horeb, when the Lord said to me, ‘Gather the people to Me, and I will let them hear My words, that they may learn to fear Me all the days they live on the earth, and that they may teach their children.” Deuteronomy 4:5-6, 9-10
How often should we teach our children God’s Word? At least once a week during church, right? God says we should teach our children every day.
“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.” Deuteronomy 6:7
Where do we begin? What is the first lesson our children need to learn?
“Come, you children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord.” Psalm 34:10
The ‘fear’ of the Lord is the first lesson – “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” (Proverbs 1:7a) – and an important part of the last lesson – “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, For this is man’s all. For God will bring every work into judgment, Including every secret thing, Whether good or evil.” (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14)
From the beginning to the end, we need to be prepared.
Step 3 – Be Prepared
Once we understand the importance of Being Aware and Beware (Steps 1 & 2), we can move to the Third Step in Faith Defense – ‘Be Prepared.’ The meaning of being prepared is ‘to be ready beforehand for some purpose.’ So, let’s first look at the purpose for preparing our children in Faith Defense.
Ask yourself this question – “why do I want my child to believe in Jesus Christ?” Your answer reveals a great about your theology and methodology in ministering to children. We posed that question to some of our friends on Facebook and Google+:
“I have taught my children the truth about every other part of life; I want them to know the truth about Jesus Christ also.”
“In Jesus, there is hope. Without Him, there will be periods of hopelessness for my child. Since my goal is to raise up capable adults who will undoubtedly weather many of life’s storms, it is my duty to instill in them a firm belief in the Reason For Their Hope, to the extent that I am able. That, and I don’t want them to rot in Hell.”
“He is how we know God is real, keeps his promises over long periods of time, and died for us & rose to life again to show he loves us no matter what and wants us to live forever with him.”
“He is the only One who can give my child eternal life and a life on Earth with any purpose and true satisfaction. He alone can give my child a worldview that makes sense and makes life worth living.”
“Because Truth Matters…”
“There is no other way for them to be saved from their sin and have the hope of heaven. I want them to have their names written in the Book of Life, but I am not the one to pen them in. Only Jesus can do that.”
And of course there is the powerful purpose of bringing glory to God. Children and teens who become Christians have the great opportunity to glorify God through their love for and obedience to God.
The idea of ‘preparation’ is to get ready for an event or undertaking before it happens. We prepare for lots of things in life: school, work, a test, meeting a goal, the weekend, a trip, marriage, funeral, etc. Preparation is simply the act of preparing, being ready. Joshua told the army of Israel to ‘be ready’ to fight the people of Ai (Joshua 8:3-4). Jesus told His disciples that they needed to ‘be ready’ because He would return ‘at an hour you do not expect’ (Matthew 24:44).
People who know something will or may happen are not ‘ready’ just because they have that information. Being ‘ready’ means taking the steps necessary to ‘prepare’ for the event. If I know that I’m going to march in parade with a band in two weeks but don’t attend band practice and don’t work on the part I will play on my own time, I won’t be ‘ready’ to participate in the parade. What happens to students who don’t show up for class or employees who don’t show up for work? They don’t get to participate in class events and don’t get paid. Being ‘ready’ for an event means being involved in each step of the process of preparing for the event.
Christian parents may ‘want’ their children to believe in Jesus Christ and not deny His existence, but what are we doing on a regular basis to ‘prepare’ our children to believe in Jesus Christ and never deny His existence? What are we doing to make sure our children are ‘ready’ to face the attacks that will surely come from non-Christians?
Steps for Preparation
I may ‘want’ to be in Ireland right now, but if I ‘really’ want to be in Ireland I will have to take many ‘steps’ to get there. I will need a passport, airplane ticket, hotel reservations, time off from work, luggage, money, transportation to the airport, etc. ‘Wanting’ something and actually ‘having’ something are not the same thing. Getting where we want to be is a ‘process’ that includes ‘steps.’
‘Wanting’ something good for our children is a good first step. We ‘want’ our children to believe in Jesus Christ and continue to believe in Him for the rest of their lives. But what do our children ‘want?’ When children are young they usually ‘want’ what their parents want. If parents believe in Jesus, children will usually ‘believe’ in Jesus. However, when children are older they often ‘want’ what they want and that may not include believing in Jesus. Parents need to ‘prepare’ children during early childhood and through middle and older childhood and the teen years to ‘believe’ in Jesus Christ the rest of their lives. That’s not an easy task given the many deceptions of this world. No matter how closely we hold our children when they are young, there are many other people and life events that will impact their thinking and beliefs as they grow older. Plus, there is ‘the enemy’ of Faith – Satan.
Step One – Pray. Keep praying. I don’t know anything more powerful than praying for children. I will never forget my mother telling me that I would become a Christian one day and that she was praying for me. I was an atheist when she told me that and my response to her was, “Me? A Christian? Don’t count on it!” My mother did count on the power of prayer and I became a Christian within a year. Trust God with your children. Pray unceasingly for your children.
Step Two – Tell your children the truth. It’s important that parents and Christian leaders tell children the truth from early childhood. The ‘truth’ you tell your children should always be age appropriate, but be sure to stay ahead of what children are going to hear from friends, parents of friends, teachers, and other ‘influencers’ in your child’s life. That includes media they will see, hear and read. The more you are aware of ‘who’ and ‘what’ are influencing your child’s beliefs about life and reality, the better you will be able to guide them ‘into all truth.’
Step Three – Be open to your children’s questions. Be sure to develop an atmosphere in your home and church where children are comfortable asking questions, especially the tough questions about God, the Bible and faith in Christ.
Step Four – Keep watch over your children. The ‘enemy of the soul’ often attacks without warning and when our children are most vulnerable. Christian parents and church leaders must be vigilant to see the dangers when our children don’t and to both protect them and teach them how to protect themselves. One of the best lessons we can teach our children is how Satan deceives and the weapons he uses in his deception.
“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” 1 Peter 5:8
Step Five – Teach your children how to be wise in this world. Here is some of the best advice you can share with children. Notice the ‘action’ verbs that will help your children stay on the right path throughout their lives: ‘keep, put away, look, ponder, establish, do not turn, remove.’
“My son, give attention to my words; Incline your ear to my sayings. Do not let them depart from your eyes; Keep them in the midst of your heart; For they are life to those who find them, And health to all their flesh. Keep your heart with all diligence, For out of it spring the issues of life. Put away from you a deceitful mouth, And put perverse lips far from you. Let your eyes look straight ahead, And your eyelids look right before you. Ponder the path of your feet, And let all your ways be established. Do not turn to the right or the left; Remove your foot from evil.” Proverbs 4:20-27
Step Six – Help your children understand the power of relationships. Christian parents often underestimate the power of relationships in their children’s lives – until it’s too late. This includes other children along with adults. We have a saying in martial arts that ‘ you can be attacked anywhere, at anytime, by anyone.’ That is also true when it comes to spiritual attacks. Children need to learn how powerful relationships are and will continue to be during their lives. Every new relationship is an opportunity for good or evil, so the wise person will use ‘discretion’ to protect them from the wrong kinds of relationships that can lead them to dangerous places physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Oh, and one of the primary lessons our children will need to learn that being a Christian means living life ‘differently’ than non-Christians. It’s hard for children and teens to ‘stand out’ as different their friends, so it’s important that Christian parents and church leaders to help them deal with the differences.
“When wisdom enters your heart, And knowledge is pleasant to your soul, Discretion will preserve you; Understanding will keep you, To deliver you from the way of evil, From the man who speaks perverse things, From those who leave the paths of uprightness To walk in the ways of darkness; Who rejoice in doing evil, And delight in the perversity of the wicked; Whose ways are crooked, And who are devious in their paths; To deliver you from the immoral woman, From the seductress who flatters with her words, Who forsakes the companion of her youth, And forgets the covenant of her God. For her house leads down to death, And her paths to the dead; None who go to her return, Nor do they regain the paths of life—So you may walk in the way of goodness, And keep to the paths of righteousness.” Proverbs 2:10-20
Step Seven – Love your kids no matter what. Children will test their parents. You did it with your parents. I did with mine. If you aren’t there yet, believe me when I say that times of testing will come. They will come. Remember Step One – Pray and keep praying – and love your children with all the love God gives you for them. Love really is the ‘greatest.’
“Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails … And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, 13
There is a step that actually comes before Step One above and that’s parents and church leaders preparing themselves to tell the truth and answer the tough questions. Here are some great resources designed to help you prepare yourself and your children to Defend the Faith.
Truth Matters: Confident Faith in a Confusing World, Andreas J. Kostenberger, Darrell L. Block, Dr. Josh Chatraw … Truth Matters – Leader Kit
Keeping Your Kids on God’s Side: 40 Conversations to Help Them Build a Lasting Faith, Natasha Crain (Harvest House, February 2016)
Case for Christ for Kids, Lee Strobel
Case for a Creator for Kids, Lee Strobel
Case for Faith for Kids, Lee Strobel
The Awesome Book of Bible Answer for Kids, Josh McDowell & Kevin Johnson
The Fallacy Detective: Thirty-Eight Lessons on How to Recognize Bad Reasoning, Nathaniel Bluedorn, Hans Bluedorn, Rob Corley and Tim Hodge
What Is God Like? Series, William Lane Craig
The Young Defenders Series, Melissa Cain Travis
The One Year Josh McDowell’s Youth Devotions, Josh McDowell, Bob Hostetler
Apologetics Study Bible for Students, Sean McDowell, Holman Bible Staff
Older Teens and College Students
Developing a Biblical Worldview: Seeing Things God’s Way [Kindle Edition], C. Fred Smith
The Unshakeable Truth, Josh and Sean McDowell
The Truth Project, Focus On The Family
Does God Exist? Kit: Building the Scientific Case (TrueU), Del Tackett, Stephen Meyer, Focus on the Family
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.