The Greatest Challenge for Christian Parents Raising Children

OK, these aren’t my ideas. I’m not that sharp. But my wife sent me a link to a blog post that is brilliant. The whole interview is a little long for our sound bite culture but you can read it HERE.

This is the excerpt I’d like to highlight from a question by Sheb Varghese from his Faith Colloquium blog.

Here’s the question addressed to Holly Hamilton-Bleakley: What do you think are some of the greatest challenges/obstacles for parents raising children today, particularly for parents coming from faith traditions? How might we overcome these challenges?

Here is her answer:

First, I think as a society we are developing a rather distorted view of freedom, which is impacting parents significantly, most especially parents from faith traditions. This is a radical concept of freedom where the most important value seems to be ‘choice’, and it is choice itself that makes an action right. The problem is that this radical concept of choice does not sit well with other philosophies which do not exalt choice as the highest value. Take abortion as an example. The pro-abortion argument is a pro-choice argument – a woman should have the right to choose what to do with her body. But for someone who is pro-life, the question of when it is morally right to take a human life is a more important consideration than the concept of ‘choice’. Euthanasia is another example – should someone be able to ‘choose’ when they die, or is it morally wrong to take one’s life? The proponents of choice say that one should be able to do with one’s body as one sees fit; but there are others that think the sanctity of life is more important than individual choice. Transgender issues are another example – should you be able to choose whether you are a man or a woman?

In all these cases, when choice is the highest value, it becomes the cuckoo in the nest that drives out all other values, all other considerations. And often, the person who suggests that there are other values besides choice is seen as a hateful, backward person who wants to implement some kind of tyranny. Thus, you declare a ‘war on women’ if you are pro-life; you are heartless and cruel if you do not think people should be able to choose when to end their own lives, or choose their own gender.

The problem is that there are other values in that nest with the cuckoo of choice – indeed, those values are what should inform choice. As the British philosopher Roger Scruton puts it: ‘Freedom is of no use to a being who lacks the concepts with which to value things, who lives in a solipsistic vacuum, idly willing now this and now that, but with no conception of an objective order that would be affected by his choice. We cannot derive the ends of conduct from the idea of choice alone.

Because politically we want to protect choice, we often do not speak publicly of good choices and bad choices. But as parents, we are the ones who teach our children what kinds of reasons and values need to guide their choices. We are the ones who teach the difference between a good choice and a bad choice.

This is our right, and our duty, as parents, but there are times when I feel this right is slipping away. Just recently there was a story in the news about a teenage boy who wanted to become a transgendered girl, but his parents were Christians and tried to dissuade him. He committed suicide, which caused an outcry in the transgender community against his parents’ efforts to help him accept himself as a boy. Yet, the parents had a right to teach him Christian values, which assert the sanctity of the body, and the importance of the body for one’s identity.

Coming from a faith tradition myself, I am particularly concerned with the increasing hostility toward religion in western society. This hostility seems to be linked to the idea that religions do indeed have a concept of the human good which therefore constrains individual choice. Sadly, it is this hostility which is leading to an increasing suspicion of parents who want to raise their children in a religious way.

Another challenge, of course, is social media. Social media can be wonderful and indeed it has revolutionized the way we do things. I do think it presents a challenge, however, in that our children can spend much, much more time with their peers ‘virtually’ than we ever did in the flesh. It is true that you become like the people you spend time with, so the problem with social media is that if your child is on it all the time – and I do mean all the time – then you really have no idea who they are socializing with, what they are saying, or what is being said to them.

It comes down to a question of influence, I think. As parents we have less of an opportunity to influence our children if we let our families get sucked into the never-ending world of social media. Thankfully I think it is a challenge that can be successfully met if you set limits on when and where your child can have access to the internet, etc., but prepare yourself for an on-going battle, particularly through the teenage years.

Another challenge I must mention is the rise of pornography. I see this as another area in which parents are not only losing influence, but also are being shouted down by those who see no problem with pornography. Ten years ago we were all up in arms about how to protect our kids from internet porn; now, we have government ministers suggesting that kids can turn to porn to learn about sex.

I’ve written about porn in the past; my wholehearted disapproval of it is no secret. I think it gives all the wrong messages and teaches all the wrong lessons about sexual behavior. It trains our passions to desire a certain kind of sexual experience which is selfish, violent, and ultimately lonely; it teaches us to treat the ‘other’ as an object, not a person. It is incredibly addictive and trains us to need new images in order to get aroused, thus making it much harder to sustain fidelity in a committed relationship like marriage. It completely desecrates the sacred union between a man and a woman, and is thus of special concern to parents from faith traditions. Exposure to porn at a young age literally hijacks a child’s sexuality and passions. Yet, the ‘freedom culture’ tells parents they are controlling and backward if they try to protect their children from encountering these monstrous images.

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Guest Post (Reagan Lynn): #ShoutYourBirth

I wake up every morning grateful for the life I have. I am especially grateful to have been born into such a time when I, as a woman, have the ability to do anything a man can do. But on that note, I find it despicable that the feminist movement has become what it is. I have never felt inferior to men in my life. I was raised with a strong mind and have never felt threatened. I go home and am treated equally to my brothers. I go to school and am treated equally to my male peers. Never once have I considered that perhaps I’m not treated equally until…

…”modern feminism” was introduced to me. Reading into feminism, I began to feel that I wasn’t treated right. “We are not paid the same!” “Men are more respected!” Yada yada. Looking back I realize that I only felt weaker when I was told I was weaker. I felt inferior only when I was told I was inferior.That’s the result of the modern feminist movement’s victimization mentality. I felt this way until I saw Carly Fiorina articulate that women are the majority, that we are important, that we aren’t victims; which is what the liberal feminist movement led me to believe.

I am grateful to have the parents I have. Parents who valued my life, despite whether or not the timing was right, or whether or not they could afford to have me. I am speaking up because #shoutyourabortion doesn’t tell the whole story. Those telling their stories have a voice, they have a life. And while they can speak for themselves, the fetus or unborn baby cannot. They can’t celebrate their birth, while others celebrate their death. As a woman I understand why people are pro-choice, but to me, the “my body” argument does not justify killing a life. Why is it that society shutters when we hear of a puppy being killed, yet do not respond to the genocide occurring in our own country, our own states, our own cities. I will not stand by while “welcomed births” are celebrated and “unplanned births” are not. I will #shoutmybirth because #shoutyourabortion is only one side of the equation, the side that silenced the other. Please, shout with me for the sake of the unborn. Join me in thanking our parents for valuing us.

Parenting 101

We cannot control our children perfectly anymore than we can control our own circumstances perfectly.  Which is to say, not much at all.  But we can have a huge influence in the lives of our children.  We should look at parenting as have three “dials” like on a radio.  We have the “peer dial,” the “parent dial,” and the “God dial.”  And we need to constantly check how we are “dialed” into those areas of our children’s lives.  Depending on their ages and responsibility we can decide how much influence to exert into our children’s relationship with peers, ourselves, and God.

Parents must take the lead in introducing God into the lives of their children.  Church should be an expectation.  PERIOD!  I don’t know why parents let children of any age before 18 sleep in and miss church.  We don’t let them do that for school.  But we make sports a higher priority than church too.  But not for school.  We teach our kids values by how we prioritize our time and in particular, how we prioritize church compared to other good activities.  Church just becomes another good place, but not the body of Christ to which they need to be connected regularly.

Parents must exert reasonable levels of influence on their children as they relate to their peers.  If you know your child has a friend that is a corrupting influence, why let them continue that?  However, if your child is strong in their identity and chooses to relate to “problem children” and can influence them, then more power to them.  But every child is different.  The question we have to ask is whether each of our children is more like a thermometer or thermostat.  A thermometer changes to its surroundings.  A thermostat changes its environment.

Parents must be involved in their children’s lives if they want to have any credibility in influencing their relationships to peers and God.  We cannot be absent and then expect to be listened to.

What things have you learned about parenting?  Would you agree with what I’ve stated?

4 Important Components to Sharing Your Faith

#1 Be prayerful. Please don’t miss out on the fact that this is the power. This is where lives are changed and where hearts that are hardened are softened. Dieter Zander says, “We ought to talk to God about people before we talk to people about God.”

#2 Be tactful. Don’t be abrasive. Don’t turn people off. Somebody said, “Tact is the ability to make someone feel at home when you wish that they were.” In today’s culture door-to-door evangelism doesn’t work anymore because the most precious commodity someone has is not money, it’s their time. If I showed up in your neighborhood going door to door with my Bible in hand, your neighbors wouldn’t open the door for me. In fact, you might not open the door for me. Because you can’t reach an ipod culture with an 8 track methodology.

#3 Be creative. Jesus was so creative in the way he reached out. He transformed a mountainside into a Bible conference; a fishing boat into an evangelistic platform; a well into a counseling room; the shadows of the evening into an opportunity to lead Nicodemus into the experience of new birth. He preached the word continuously everywhere he went. And Jesus likened believers to salt. It’s a very interesting comparison that he makes in Matthew 5:13. “You are the salt of the earth but if the salt losses its saltiness how can it be made salty again. It’s no longer good for anything except to be thrown out to be trampled by men.” Salt adds life. It adds zest to it. And that’s what we should do.

#4 Be yourself. You can’t be something you’re not. So leverage who God make you to be to tell others about who God is in your life.

In Mark 1 there’s an interesting story about a leper. This leper comes to Jesus and do you know what Jesus does? He radically transforms his life. He heals him. A guy with leprosy, destined to a lifetime of loneliness. Jesus completely heals him but then this is what Jesus tells him in Mark 1, “Don’t tell anyone.” Because Jesus knew that if word got out he would not be able to travel around because the crowds would be too great. He says to the leper, “Don’t tell a soul.” But do you know what the leper does? He goes out and tells everybody he sees about Jesus Christ and the transformation that he had undergone. Now I’m not condoning his disobedience. But my point is that he was told to shut his mouth. We’ve been told to open ours. So let’s do it.

4 Motivations for Sharing Your Faith

#1 A desire to reach a disoriented culture.

We live in a spiritually confused society. John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the father except through me.” Christianity is not one of many religions. It stands alone in contrast to all the others.

You might be saying, “Well, what’s this have to do with evangelism?” The answer is everything. For if we don’t believe that people who reject that Jesus Christ is the Son of God will spend eternity experiencing a separation from God than why do we need to bother to tell them about Jesus Christ?

#2 A desire to love the lost.

The Apostle Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:14-15, “For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.”   Christ’s love compels us to have a love for the lost.

The highest motivation we have for sharing our faith is love. Saved people aren’t any better than lost people. Christ is the One that makes the difference. A love that communicates that you mean so much to me that I can’t fathom you being separated from God for eternity that’s the love that we’re striving for.

Some might say, “Ah come on! Hell is a concept conjured up by preachers to guilt trip people into good behavior and attending church.” But if the Bible only spoke of hell even one time we would have to believe it. But the Bible doesn’t speak of hell one time, it’s talked about 54 times. And do you know who spoke of it more than any other? Our loving gentle Shepherd Jesus Christ. In fact, He went to incredible lengths so that those who placed their trust in him will never have to go to such a place. Our motivation in sharing our faith is that we have a concern for those who do not yet know Christ and if you believe that people are really lost and they are apart from the Lord then it is the height of selfishness to fail to point them in the direction of Jesus.

#3 A desire to imitate Christ.

Christ sets the example for us. Luke 19:10, “For the Son of Man came to seek and save what was lost.” That’s why he came.

#4 A desire to obey Christ.

It’s more than just following his example, it’s also striving to be obedient of what he asks of us. Matthew 28:18-20, the Great Commission, Jesus’ last words to us before he ascended to heaven, “Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” Obediently He asks us to tell others. Because what it does is it proves to others that Christ truly is on the throne of our lives.

The 3 Illusions of Money

Which of the following statements creates more anxiety?

  1. There is no God.
  2. There is no money in the bank.

The idolatry of money is not only the love of money, but excessive anxiety over it. And let’s face it, we’re all susceptible to feeling anxious about our finances.

Money is always trying to manipulate itself into becoming something more than it is. It often lures me into falling for three illusions.

Illusion #1: More money will give me more SECURITY.

1 Timothy 6:17, “Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.”

Have you ever had a conversation with yourself that went like this? “If I could make $55,000/year instead of $45,000, we would be set. We would finally be secure and not have to fight or worry about money.” Of course, all the people who make $55,000 are saying, “If I could just make $65,000….”

How much money do you think you need to be totally financially secure? The answer is the same for everyone. Everyone thinks it’s MORE THAN YOU CURRENTLY HAVE.

Proverbs 18:11, “The wealth of the rich is their fortified city; they IMAGINE it a wall too high to scale.” It’s not real.

Illusion #2: More money will give me more peace and happiness.

Ecclesiastes 5:10, “Whoever loves money never has enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with the income.”

It’s true, isn’t it? There are few things that we worry about the way we worry about money. We worry about how to make more, how to make it go further, how to invest it, how to save it, how to spend it, and how to protect it. And we easily buy into the illusion that what we need to keep us from worrying about money is more money!

Enough will never be enough.

Illusion #3: More money will make me more generous.

A number of recent surveys have indicated that lower-income people actually give a higher percentage of their income away than wealthy people do. The more you get, the harder it is for you to be generous. So if you can’t be generous when you make 21,000, you will likely not be generous when you make 41,000. If you’re not generous with 41,000, you likely won’t be generous with 140,000. If you can’t be generous with what you have now, you will probably never be generous with more.

What Do Peacemakers Do?

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” Matthew 5:9

Blessed are the peaceMAKERS, not the peacekeepers. There’s a big difference. Peace keepers AVOID conflict to keep the peace. They’ll work around the issues, not through the issues.

Peacemakers EMBRACE conflict to keep or make the peace. They work THROUGH the issues, not avoid them.

How do we do this? What do peacemakers do?

1. They tell the truth in LOVE. Ephesians 4:15, “We will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ.” Notice it doesn’t say, “Yell the truth in love.”

How do we tell the truth in love? First, it’s important to do this during NON-CONFLICT times. That’s when we work on important issues. If someone is throwing a shoe at you, that is not the time to bring up a new issue.

Second, we attack the ISSUE, not the PERSON. We confront issues, not people. Here are some examples of what you might say. “When you don’t listen to me, I don’t feel like you value me.” That’s a statement. “When you lie to me about something really insignificant, I find it difficult to trust you.” or  “When you continue to check your phone at the dinner table, the rest of us feel devalued.” So what we do is we confront the issue, not the person. And we do it at non-conflict times. And we tell the truth in love.

Third, never call the other person a NAME or use PROFANITY. I’m amazed how many couples I talked to that never use this rule for conflict. Calling names or using profanity just heightens the conflict and causes regret and reconciliation almost becomes impossible.

2. Peacemakers apologize when they’re WRONG. James 5:16, “Therefore, confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you might be healed.” Can you imagine how incredibly different our relationships would be if we owned our own sins, confessed them, and then prayed together?

How do we apologize

First, we admit to specific actions without EXCUSES. We don’t say things like, “I’m sorry you got your feelings hurt, but you are oversensitive.” That’s not an apology. That’s an excuse. We apologize for specifics. “I am so sorry I belittled you in front of your friends. I have no excuse for that; that was wrong.”

There’s a difference between remorse and repentance. So often people stop with remorse. “I’m sorry I got caught.” That’s remorse. Repentance is “I was wrong. I sinned. I’m sorry. Will you forgive me?”

Second, don’t stop with “I’m sorry,” but ask, “Will you forgive me?” “I’m sorry” is for mistakes. “Will you forgive me” is for sins.

3. Peacemakers FORGIVE and let go. I’m not saying this is easy. If you’ve been betrayed this might be the hardest part of all. Colossians 3:13, “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone.”

How is this possible? We forgive as Christ forgives you.

That is not to say that you need to keep receiving poor treatment. Forgiveness does not mean you put up with being abused. Forgiveness does not mean you just let your partner cheat on you without a relational division. What it means is that you’ve given up your right to get back at them, that you leave it to God to deal with them and their sin. And when you do you’ll find that you are freer. Because refusing to forgive someone just chains us up to that sin. They may not even care less about you now. But holding on to their sin keeps rehearsing that sin done to you. You don’t want that. You can’t be blessed when you’re re-living the same pain done to you over and over again.