Monday, June 24, 2013

When Your Child Has Questions About God (Part 2)

When Your Child Has Questions About God,
Avoid the "Deer in the Headlights" Look

A Christian husband once told me he and his wife adopted this motto for their home: "We may lose at everything else, but we will win with our children." In the area of grooming the minds of their kids, sadly, some evangelical parents have already lost the battle. My prayer (and my purpose in writing these articles) is that in this age of unrelenting darkness, every member of every family will "go the distance" for Christ.

In the previous post of this two-part series, I listed three starting points regarding taking charge of your children's spiritual formation. Let's continue with several more:

4. Don't procrastinate, because time won't wait for you.
Don't approach life like the person who once said, "One good thing about procrastination is that you always have something planned for tomorrow!" The teen years go flying by, as I'm sure all parents of adolescents know. It's urgent that you do as much as you can to help your teen learn and live apologetics. Guide them not just toward beliefs, but also toward knowing why they believe those things.

5. A biblically literate family doesn't happen by accident.
Growing up in the South, I was fortunate enough to often hear adults repeating bits of wisdom that had been passed down through the generations. One of my favorite that I'd hear the old-timers use was, "Chase two rabbits and they'll both escape." In other words, be focused. Go after one thing a time.

It's no different in setting up spiritual disciplines in your household. Here are some tips to help you follow through with this:

  • Set a daily time to pray with your teens—and stick to it.
  • Plan and begin your family's own "Bible literacy program." Christian bookstores have plenty of "Read-the-Bible-in-a-Year" choices. You'll be amazed at how quickly daily Bible reading can become a natural part of your day. There is great benefit in reading the Bible through in its entirety.
  • Read the Gospel of John through in one month (with only 21 chapters, this can be done in only minutes per day).
  • Read through the Bible's book of wisdom (Proverbs, only 31 chapters) in one month.
  • Talk with your teens about their spiritual life. Let them know that they can talk with you about anything. What are their areas of doubt or struggle? What issues in the Bible do they have a hard time grasping? The important thing is to keep a steady dialogue going.
  • Together, practice sharing your salvation testimony. Talk about your life before your met Christ, how you met Christ, and how He's changed your life. Establish the importance of sharing your faith with others by doing exactly that in your own life. Let your teen know that your family is not ashamed of the gospel (Rom. 1:16).
  • Work on Scripture memory together. Heed the Bible's call to "hide God's Word in your heart" (Ps. 119:11). Learning one verse per month is a realistic goal. Practice reciting memory verses and quizzing each other.
  • Exercise discernment in both the content and quantity of media that you allow into your home. Make entertainment choices that are appropriate for a Christian family. Set boundaries, and stick to them. Help your teen understand why it's important for Christians to guard their hearts (see Prov. 4:23, Ps. 101:2-3).
  • Encourage your teen to read good books on the Bible and about apologetics. Build a resource library for your family, making sure that your teen is informed on the key apologetics topics (such as the ones addressed in this book).

6. Set your priorities.
If you're serious about building your family on biblical truths, you can't just treat it as just another phase you're in. Teaching your teens more about their faith must be a top priority, or else it becomes yet another thing to let slide. Many Christian parents are paying the price for not teaching their teens truth. Take time with your teens on a regular basis to teach, explain, impart and mold. Consider these years as an investment that will count for eternity.

7. Become convicted.
No, I'm not wanting you to go to jail. I want you to become passionate— to be single-minded as you head toward the goal of seeing your kids firmly rooted in their faith. Families who enjoy spiritual stability are founded on convictions. Convictions include principles, truths, beliefs, parameters and boundaries that are known, understood and accepted by everyone in the family. The convictions of a family are bigger than feelings, are unshaken by circumstances and should be informed by the parent's knowledge of God's Word.

Remember that personal Christian growth and the effective teaching of our teens has little to do with feelings. To lead your family in God's ways, you must be committed to God's Word. Building a Christian family (with God's help, of course), is also an act of the will. Determine right now that above all else, your family will be grounded in God's Word.

For the sake of future Christian generations, make Jesus the Lord of your life. Make Him the leader of your home. View your family interactions as an offering of worship to the Lord, and live out your relationships with your teens as authentically, genuinely and consistently as you can.

I honestly believe that Jesus does not expect great, one-time heroics from us. The Lord blesses (and works through) basic day-to-day fidelity, faithfulness and simple obedience.

Monday, June 17, 2013

When Your Child Has Questions About God (Part 1)

When Your Child Has Questions About God,
Avoid the "Deer in the Headlights" Look

“Dear Alex, my son has recently come to us with many questions about the Bible, questions prompted by things he’s either heard from peers at school, or read about from sites on the internet. My husband and I are not theologians! We’re average Christians who love the Lord, but don’t necessarily feel equipped to explain the Trinity or who made God. What to say... and how to say it... Please help!”

So began an email that I recently received from a parent who sincerely wants to lead out in shaping their child’s spiritual direction. Don’t worry; this not as difficult as it sounds. In fact, you may be further along than you think. I always encourage parents to think about not only content, but integration. As a Christian, there is not only the message of the Gospel but also the calling to incorporate Biblical truth into our lives daily. When our child comes to us with questions about God, morality, or spiritual issues, a “deer in the headlights” expression may convey the idea that we adults do take our Christianity very seriously. Wherever you are in your journey toward taking charge of your teen’s theological destiny, keep in mind some of the following points:

1. Recognize that the responsibility for spiritual leadership rests on YOU.
In the Bible it’s a given that parents will teach God’s truth to their children. From the moment our children come into our lives, God’s assignment to us is to nurture and grow them to the best of our ability. That entails being yielded to Him (Josh. 24:15) as we teach them about biblical truth (Deut. 6:7). Our views about life are to be centered on God (Gen. 18:19) as we instill the understanding that biblical knowledge will keep our children from sin (Ps. 119:9-11), and that yielding to us, their parents, is part of God’s life structure (Prov. 1:7-9; 4:1-27; 13:1).

2. Establish the truth that your body—and brain—belongs to God.
Remember, our children—no matter how old—pick up what is modeled before them. If you’ve always treated God as a compartment of life, guess what your kids are going to do? It’s essential that you teach and exemplify a fundamental truth: We are stewards of our bodies and minds. Since Jesus purchased our souls and salvation, we (thankfully) belong to Him (1 Cor. 6:20). That means it does matter what we put in our heads, what we listen to and what we watch with our eyes. God’s ownership extends to every area of our life. Teach your teens how they can yield their intellects to God (see Matt. 22:37; 2 Cor. 10:4-5; Eph. 4:17-24; 2 Tim. 3:14-17).

3. Ask Him for help.
Maybe you haven’t always modeled consistent Christian behavior for your family. In setting goals for family spiritual growth, you may wonder if your teens will take you seriously. These apprehensions are understandable.

The Bible promises much to believers in such situations. Need wisdom? God says He will give it abundantly (James 1:5). Need a specific answer for a specific prayer? God says to ask (James 4:2). God further promises to provide for every real need that we have (Phil. 4:19). And never forget that as you ask God for guidance through this journey, trust in His promise that He will complete His plans not just for you, but for your entire family (Phil. 1:6).

The renowned Christian leader Charles Spurgeon said, “Oh fathers and mothers, the ruin of your children, or their salvation, will, under God, very much depend on you.” Teaching your children more about their faith must be a top priority, or else it becomes yet another thing to let slide. Many Christian parents are paying the price for not teaching their kids truth. It’s time to allow biblical truths and apologetics change decades-old trends. Take time with your children on a regular basis to teach, explain, impart and mold. Consider these years as an investment that will count for eternity.

Monday, June 10, 2013

The Presence (and Importance of) Worldview

As parents it's vital that we take charge of our children's spiritual development. Because our sons and daughters spend so much time exposed to media and information that may undermine the Christian values taught at home, Christian parents must proactively (and prayerfully) invest in their children's spiritual, moral, and yes— theological development. Regarding what is taught in classrooms, Martin Luther (1483-1546) famously said: "I am much afraid that schools will prove to be the great gates of hell unless they diligently labor in explaining the Holy Scripture, engraving them in the hearts of youth. I advise no one to place his child where the Scriptures do not reign paramount."

About schooling— I'm not asking you to show up and sit next to your teen during Biology class. What's important is that you're aware of what's being taught—and by whom. Whether good or bad, a teacher's influence in the life of the student is deep and long-lasting. Many educators provide positive influence in the lives of students. However, parents must make sure that the values taught in the home are not eroded by what's taught in the classroom. Remember that teachers are usually seen as "experts" by students in whatever field is being taught, which gives them a tremendous amount of potential to shape a worldview. They also have the advantage of frequent personal interaction, spending hours each day with your teen.

Education extends beyond the mere communication of facts and data. The worldview held by a teacher influences all that goes on in the classroom and impacts students at a number of levels. Simply put, worldview is the way you look at reality. Author James Sire calls it "a set of assumptions (which may be true, partially true or entirely false) which you hold (consciously or subconsciously, consistently or inconsistently) about the basic makeup of the world."2 Whether we realize it or not, we all think and live within the scope of a worldview.

The foundation and bedrock of the Christian's worldview are God and His revealed truth: God exists and may be known; He is the Creator and owner of all things, and we are accountable to Him; Man is made in the image of God, and human life is therefore sacred. These are but a few of the tenets comprising a believer's worldview—values that you as a Christian parent most likely have tried to impart to your children.

Fear Not!

Just because your teen goes to a public school doesn't mean he's bound to be a brainwashed atheist. Public education doesn't necessarily conflict with a Christian education. I know many born-again women and men who are teaching and working in America's public school systems, and who are valiantly representing their Christian faith as they do so. But it has been well documented that from kindergarten through grade school— all the way to the universities and post-graduate programs— our publicly-funded schools have for decades been turning against God, morality, and even against democratic America.

It's important that we realize our own responsibility as parents in instilling a biblical perspective on everything our kids encounter at school. No issue is too small to hash out over dinner. No conflict is too menial that your adolescent can't call you during the middle of the day for an answer, or just to vent. Educational pedagogy (the basic way that you approach learning) for many of the great leaders of our history had been Proverbs 1:7: We must help our children see life through a Biblical lens.

Like your child's general education, instilling a solid Christian worldview isn't just about memorizing data. Discernment is a key trait that must be built. That begins with you modeling biblical discernment and truth. You can't expect your son or daughter to know right from wrong if you're not exemplifying it at home!

The key for Christian parents is to be proactive rather than reactive. Don't wait until your oldest daughter comes home from college and announces that she's now an atheist. The time to incorporate consistent biblical discipleship (which should include worldview and apologetics content) into your family life is now—today! And don't forget an added bonus: As you prepare to help your kids "drill down deeply" into their faith, you'll be strengthening your own understanding of God's truth as well.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Apologetics: The "Next Big Thing"

Apologetics: The "Next Big Thing" in Christianity Has Been Around 2,000 Years

Arriving at a church for a recent speaking engagement, my walk from the parking lot to the building was intercepted by a member who seemed a little agitated. The man had seen my picture on a flyer and the bio advertising that I was a "Christian apologist." Seeing the guest speaker getting out of a car, the man approached me and firmly said, "Young man, no one should apologize for being a Christian!"

Thus began a discussion similar to hundreds of others I've had over the years. Well-meaning brothers and sisters in Christ regularly take me to task over the implications of the word "apologetics." The term "apologetics" is new to many in the church. But the discipline of apologetics has been around a while—since the very beginning of the church!

"Apologetics" means "a defense," and this word occurs several times in the Bible. When we do apologetics, we are defending what we believe by showing that the content of the Gospel is "backed up" by both evidence and sound reasoning.

In short, apologetics is the practice of showing reasons for what you believe. Apologetics deals with "what we believe, and why." Most Christians who have ever witnessed to unbelievers have probably heard various objections to the Gospel message. Some people may have heard that the Bible contains errors. Others wonder how God (if He exists), could allow evil and tragedies to happen. But whether a listener has a legitimate question about God, or is avoiding the Gospel via a thinly-veiled excuse—a basic knowledge of apologetics is vitally important for Christians. We especially should equip our kids to give an answer, and to support their faith convincingly.

I Peter 3:15 encourages believers to, "…be ready always to give an answer to any one who asks you about the hope you have." In short, we are told to "back up" why we have faith. The word translated "answer" and "reason," is an ancient legal term, meaning "a defense." The same word is found in Philippians 1:7 and 1:17, where Paul said that he was prepared to defend the Gospel. The principle is echoed in Jude 3, as believers are encouraged to "earnestly contend" (or "stand up for") the faith.

Categories of Christian Apologetics include: (1) Textual apologetics – defending the trustworthiness of the Bible, and then sharing what it says; (2) Evidence-based apologetics – Presenting the many evidences in defense of the Christian faith (such as facts from history or science; and (3) Philosophical apologetics – exposing the flawed reasoning behind many of the popular arguments against Christianity. Respected Christian thinkers throughout history have recognized that every possible argument against Christianity is based on faulty logic and incorrect conclusions.

More related books and excellent apologetics resources are available today than ever before. Scholars such as Josh McDowell, Lee Strobel, Ravi Zacharias others have produced a wealth of content that God is using to equip the saved, persuade the lost, and impact the world! I also humbly draw your attention to dozen books God has allowed me to write (just search for my name at any bookstore or online).

We find ourselves in an era of outright attacks against the faith, and Christian families must be prepared to respond. Hence the need for apologetics! When someone we know is ready to trust Christ and appears to have no objections standing in the way, then there may be no need to talk about questions and peripheral issues. But for an increasingly skeptical culture such as ours, Christians must rise to the challenge of the most well-known apologetics verse (I Peter 3:15), and "always be ready."