Friday, June 8, 2012

Guard Your Children’s Hearts (Part 1)

Guard Your Children’s Hearts (Part 1)
Some of what you will read here will seem familiar from a previous post because I believe it heavily influences who we are as parents.  I write this primarily to professing Christians who are potentially not glorifying God in what they watch or listen to nor by protecting their children from these things.  I write this out of an honest loving concern for you and your children.  I would like to start by making this statement, “If we believe that we can allow whatever we want into our spirits through movies, music, books, etc. and that it will not contaminate our children, we are fooling, no, lying to ourselves.  The filth of this world pollutes our hearts and minds and will affect and influence the hearts and minds of our children through us.  Even if we never let one foul piece of media near them”.
       In this day and age when everything in our culture is telling us as adults that sexual immorality is ok, that homosexual relationships are not only the acceptable norm, but are natural.   Everything on television is designed to support immorality and feminism, and to tear down the role of the father as the leader of the household.  The devil is using mainstream media, secular movies, music, books, even video games, to not only keep the lost deceived, but he is numbing the spiritual minds and hearts of the church.
         Luke 11:34 states that“ Your eye is the lamp of your body.  When you eye is healthy, you whole body is full of light, but when it is bad, your body is full of darkness.  Mark 7:20-23 states that, “What comes out of a man is what makes him unclean. From within, out of the heart of a person is what defiles them”.  Jesus goes on to list most of the sins of the flesh (evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness) stating that if these things are coming out of a person’s heart, it defiles them.  If all of these sins defile a person and are qualities of people that will not inherit the kingdom of God (Galatians 5:19-21), why would we want to take in anything that glorifies these things or makes them seem commonplace and acceptable.  God hates these things enough to not allow their practitioners to go to heaven.  And yet we call it legalistic when we are challenged about watching it or listening to it.  It stands to reason that if bad things are going in to your heart through your "lamp", thus causing your body to be full of darkness, then these dark, unclean things are going to come back out at some point, thus defiling you and making you unclean.
     Watching television has become such a way of life, such a staple of most American households, that we are not even aware of the fact that what we are watching on television/movies and what we listen to in secular music, even reading in secular books or playing on video games, is killing our relationship with Jesus.
     Worse yet, it is tearing down our children’s opportunities to develop an intimate relationship with the one, true, living God.  In Ephesians 6:12, it states that “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms”.  Satan is using our apathy toward our relationship with God to steal our children’s hearts.  He comes like a lion, seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8).  He comes to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10)He wants our children.  If he can steal that childlike faith.  If he can get them when their brains are like sponges and they are able to absorb the most.  If he can keep their minds and hearts from the things of God.  Keep them from knowing Jesus and the fullness of his love.  Keep them instead focused on the things of this world.  Focused on lustful, imperfect, human love (i.e.  going together, dating, physical infatuation, romance) rather than on the perfect love of Jesus.  That 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 love that is patient, kind, does not envy, does not boast, is not proud, is not rude, is not self-seeking, is not easily angered, keeps no records of wrongs, does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth, always protects, trusts, hopes, and perseveres.   Satan introduces violence, lust, vulgarity, at an early age through video games, movies, television shows, books that are read and music that is listened to.  In doing this he plants the seed before the child is mature enough to have a clue what is happening.  That is why WE MUST protect them.
          If he can distract from God’s purpose for their lives, no matter the means, which requires us to take up our cross daily and follow him.  Requires that we keep the two greatest commandments which are to  love the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love our neighbors as ourselves.  Requires us to practice the only acceptable religion which is to take care of widows and orphans (James 1:27) and also to take care of the needy (Matthew 25:31-46).  Instead, he wants to refocus their minds and hearts on the American dream which is, obtaining wealth, a successful career, romance, love, etc.  Then he can steal their potential.   Let’s not forget the potential for our own disobedience in not properly training up our children in the way they should go.  Scripture says that if we do this they will not depart from it (Proverbs 22:6).
         But what does this mean?  To train them in the way they should go.  Does it mean take them to church?  Does it mean, make them learn John 3:16 and maybe go to VBS during their summer breaks?  Maybe it means you tell them the story of Jesus, perhaps even tell them about David and Goliath, Daniel and the lion’s den, you know, all of the popular, well know stories in the bible.  And based on all these wonderful stories and maybe a slight mention of Hell, enough to scare them, they decide they’ll accept Jesus as their Savior (with no solid understanding of the cost of Lordship).  In a grand, emotional moment with the suggestion of a preacher or evangelist or youth leader, they will be led in a prayer and believe they are saved. They get baptized and you put a cross necklace around their neck, maybe give them a bible with their name stamped in gold on the cover.  Now they are effectively set up to walk out a successful, religious life…at least for a little while. 
           Slowly over time, you begin to convince yourself you have taught them well enough.  I mean, you’ve touched on all the major commandments as least once.   They have prayed the prayer.  It’s in God’s hands now.  You figure that what they take away from Sunday school and youth group will help them continue to grow.  But you want to be careful now.  They’re  a tween or a full  blown teen by now.  You don’t want to push them away, turn them off, or cause them to close off by pushing faith on them now.  They are becoming young adults.  They need their independence and privacy.  They’ve got so many social and academic stresses in their life, they don’t need me harassing them about their spiritual life, you tell yourself.  Besides, I’m sure they are not committing any major transgressions, and nobody’s perfect.
          Meanwhile, all this time of spiritual child rearing has been plagued by a massive imbalance of mainstream, secular, media and cultural, exposure and influence.  These children, who are not yet mature enough in themselves or in the Lord to fully understand how to look out for themselves, have been bombarded at school and by their friends with what is culturally acceptable.  To say nothing of the media influences of today’s culture that we have allowed into the home unchecked.
           The full onslaught of evil influence begins as soon as a child is old enough to watch TV and mimmick what is on it.  Disney is not your child’s friend by the time your children start watching shows based on real life, not imagination.  Shows using real people and imitating real life scenarios found in school and hang out spots for young people. Shows that glorify adolescent versions of disobedience to God’s word.  There are even Disney shows using tame versions of witchcraft or vampires as there themes.  Books, like Diary of a wimpy kid, which have very little redeeming quality but reinforce the obnoxious, often vulgar, and almost always ungodly behavior that so many kids see and experience in school.  But, we figure, they are going to see it in school and other real life situations.  What’s the harm in them reading about it or watching it on TV.  REALLY!  This is our faulty reasoning, rather than thinking and applying the idea, that it is bad enough my children are going to have to experience the evil of this world at such a young age in real life situations.  I’m not going to perpetuate the process by allowing more of it into their hearts and minds by allowing fictional stories to reinforce these ideas.  If faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God (Romans 10:17) then what is to make us think that continually being exposed to worldly things isn't going to saturate us and our children with ungodly non-faith building ideas?
         All of this cultural exposure is in stark contrast to the influence that Godly things have been allowed to have on this child.  The child’s spiritual rearing has been plagued by a lack of a consistent influence on the part of the parents living out the fact that Jesus is NUMBER ONE in the order of life’s priorities.  The child is potentially watching their parents walk in blatant disobedience to what they, the children, have been taught by the parents or in Sunday School or youth group.  These children are observing their parents treating each other poorly, using profanity, or perhaps being unloving towards others.   In this time when children have to watch Christian parents get divorced, and then date and maybe remarry.  Maybe it’s their own parents or those parents of friends. Either way it is not what the bible teaches. Even many professing Christian parents, who may serve in a church, and may even do a lot right, by biblical standards are providing a terrible example when it comes to the previously mentioned forms of media. Then children are also having to watch their parents prioritize everything above God.  Their time, their money, their careers.  They learn from their parents that pursuit of material things and the American Dream are typically at a higher priority than the the desires and things of God.
         There are so many stumbling blocks that parents are unwittingly placing in the way of their children’s spiritual growth.
As the child grows into adolescence and is given more and more independence, their growth has been hindered by the fact that so many parents have been deceived into thinking that the church is somehow more responsible and plays a larger role in their children’s spiritual growth than they do.  I see it all the time.  Children dropped off, as the church is used as a daycare, while the parents take care of other matters.  The parents have no idea what their children are being taught.  Many parents are not even teaching the bible at home.  They are not living out their relationship with Jesus in front of their children.  Studying the bible.  Teaching the bible to their kids. Walking out biblical principals in their lives.  Could it be because they have a form of godliness but very little, if any relationship(2 Timothy 3:5).
      Statistics based on studies by several different groups in recent years suggest a staggering rise in young adults who are leaving home and not maintaining their faith or “religious affiliation” as it were.  Some blame the church or the youth ministry.  I believe that Jesus would point much responsibility back at the parents.  Young adults entering the world, leaving the fold, will have a very difficult time when faced with life’s storms if they do not have a solid foundation.  It is up to us as parents to provide that foundation. Granted, at some point, the responsibility lies primarily with the individual to maintain that foundation.  However, they will have a difficult time maintaining what they do not have or repairing that which they never learned to build.
      I have written at length, and with very little interest in being bashful about the severity of this topic and our role as parents in it.  The bible takes it very seriously and we need to as well.  In regards to the observation that we abandon our responsibility of teaching our children the Word and leave it to the church, I would like to apologize for the church.  Organized church shares some of the blame for this by creating children's ministries and youth/student ministries and then not reminding parents that these ministries play a supporting role, NOT the primary role in teaching our children about Jesus. Parents, make no mistake, you are the primary vessel by which God wants your children to be trained up.  If I have made you mad or offended you, I am ok with that.  Many pastors and believers are of the opinion that if someone is offended by a statement, there is likely truth in it.  If you are not mad, but in agreement and inspired then I am thrilled by that, because that is my greatest goal.  My prayer is that you will pray about it, seek God, and adjust as needed in order to become more obedient in this.  That is the direction I have been and am taking as these convictions have come to me in my own life as a parent.  It is uncomfortable because it requires change and growth, and growing pains often hurt. Read 2 Timothy 3:1-7.  Ask yourself is that the kind of a person you want to raise.  If not, let's pursue together the means by which to set our children up for success.
         This is a 2-part post. I will be completing the second part this week. If you feel so convicted or led to check out the 2nd part, I will be delving into the more positive side of correcting the many problems observed in this post.  This is a difficult and frankly an unpopular topic and thus loaded with unpleasant observations.  However if you are hungry to grow in your relationship with God and to do right by your children then keep reading as  I strive to present a picture of potentially successful Christian Child rearing.  I am by no means an expert, however the bible gives some solid direction to work with in regards to child rearing and example setting from a spiritual perspective.  My goal is to draw attention to this direction.
        As always, my heart's desire is to present my posts in love, even if it’s tough love.  God loved us enough to send His son Jesus to die for us.  Jesus loved us enough to speak the truth and then die for us.  We owe him everything.  I pray you will continue with me in this journey of growth and maturity in obedience to our Savior and King.

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