One generation can make a profound difference in the overall lifestyle of a nation. I think of my own generation, the baby boomers, and the legacy of selfishness and departure from biblical values we are leaving. Those who celebrate the 1960s as a wonderful, liberating time for America are looking back at this decade through rose-colored granny glasses.
We need to honestly assess this period of American history and see it for what it was: a spiritually destructive time in our nation. As one of the rebellious teenagers who came from that era, I think it was one of the worst times this country has ever faced. And we are passing this legacy on to our kids, because we have failed to give them the right values.
It seems that everywhere you look, families are falling apart. Yet there is so little out there to strengthen the family today. We could safely say that Hollywood is no friend of the family. In many sitcoms today, the father is often portrayed as a buffoon. Granted, there are times when we deserve this, but it is amazing to me how often this model is presented to us. Then there is the pervasive immorality on our television and movie screens. Why so much of this? Why so many programs that seem to attack the family and present other, perverse versions as viable alternatives?
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Consider a study that found the largest networks broadcast more than 65,000 sexual references during the prime afternoon and evening hours each year. It also found that an average television viewer sees 14,000 sexual references over the course of a year. We live in a culture today that is preoccupied with sex – before marriage and outside of marriage, as well as perverse forms of it. And it just seems to get worse all the time. If historians were to look back at our time, they would have to conclude that this was a sex-obsessed culture.
What is the problem here? Is Hollywood creating it? Or is Hollywood merely reflecting a problem that already exists? I think it is probably both. Hollywood adds to the problem, but I believe it reflects a very real problem in our culture and society. Clearly we are living in wicked times, and technology beams it into our homes in real time. And sadly, the television set is at the heart of so many of our homes. Parents let their children watch it unattended. It is often going all day and all night in the background. Families that once sat together at the table and talked over dinner, now allow the television to blare away during the meal. As one person put it, the new American heart, the center for activities, conversation and companionship, is the television.
I believe these are the perilous days the Bible warns of, the times of wickedness in the last days when Satan has clearly set his sights against the church, against the family and against Christians. This should not surprise us, because Jesus said the last days would be like the days of Noah and the days of Lot, both times in human history that were uniquely characterized by sexual perversion. And all of these things undermine the family.
If ever there was a time for providing children with a godly upbringing, the time is now. Proverbs 22:6 tells us to "train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it" (NKJV). In Hebrew, the words "train up" speak of the actions of a midwife, who would dip her finger in crushed dates and put it in the mouth of a newborn to stimulate thirst. So, drawing from this Hebrew concept, what the Bible means by training up a child is to create a spiritual thirst. But this is not only limited to internal motivation. It is also a phrase that speaks of breaking a wild horse. So God has called parents not only to establish external boundaries for their children's protection, but also to seek to develop within them an internal motivation to know and love him.
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The best thing we can do to create a hunger and thirst in others for God is to live it ourselves – to be what God has called us to be. If we are being the salt of the earth, then we will create in others a thirst for spiritual things. And they will see something in us they admire. So in leading and training our children, the most important thing is to live it first. It is essential for parents to be good examples. And when we are not always the best example, I think we should admit that to our kids. Instead of undermining your authority, admitting your lapses will actually strengthen it, because your child will see that you are not perfect, but you are trying.
I have been hypocritical in my home. But there is a difference between having a lapse and living a lifestyle of hypocrisy. Certainly, parents send mixed messages to their kids when they do things like rant and rave behind the wheel, only to miraculously change their countenance as soon as they step out of the car and see someone they know. The kids will be thinking, OK, I get what they are trying to teach me. Life is sort of like acting. We live in a charade. One way or the other, parents are teaching their children. They are being an example, whether good or bad. They may never verbalize they are teaching, but the kids are watching what they do.
That is why parents need to remember their children actually are not theirs – they are God's. They are a gift from him, the Bible says. So dedicate them back to God and then point them toward him. That should be the goal of parents, from their children's infancy to adulthood.
May God help us to take up the God-given mantle of spiritual leadership and influence in the lives of our children and be the fathers and mothers that we are meant to be. May God help us to leave a legacy that honors him.