Counselee: “My parents are such idiots!”
Friend: “When you’re talking with atheists, it doesn’t do any good to quote the Bible to them.”
Of course, you realize that few conversations actually work this quickly. Wisdom dictates that it take a bit longer to get from the first observation to the last.
Still, over the past ten years of family counseling I can’t remember a single situation where a counselee was perfectly innocent within a conflict. There wasn’t a single man who hadn’t provoked his children to wrath or not lived with his wife according to knowledge. I never counseled a wife who’d submitted to her husband and loved her children consistently. And -– believe it or not –- I never met a child who honored and obeyed his parents without fault.
They all had grievances, they all had mental fingers to point, they all had emotional subpoenas to deliver, they all had judgment to bear down . . . but they all had responsibility too. Each train-wrecked relationship was partially their doing. Each argument was of their own making.
The same goes for me.
And the same goes for you.
When there’s a Conflict, we’re ALL to Blame.
James 4:1-2 tells us that conflict arises because we want something and don’t get it.
“What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel.”
If I’m angry, annoyed, or aggravated, I’m to blame.
Luke 12:13-21 gives us a glimpse into the way Jesus handled a situation just like this:
“Someone in the crowd said to Him, ‘Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.’But He said to him, ‘Man, who appointed Me a judge or arbitrator over you?’ Then He said to them, ‘Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions.’ And He told them a parable . . . .“
This guy comes to Christ hoping that Jesus will tell off his loser brother. Clearly the brother was being unloving and selfish, but instead of acknowledging the brother’s sinful choices, Jesus told a parable demonstrating that the guy in the crowd had a problem with greed.
Jesus even did this when the person before him wasn’t complaining about someone else. When two of his disciples sent their mother to tell Jesus “Command that in Your kingdom these two sons of mine may sit one on Your right and one on Your left,” Jesus pointed out that their lusts caused them to miss the very important fact that while they were worried about their will, Christ was focused on supremacy of His Father.
The woman at the well tried to distract Jesus with racial and religious arguments, but He reminded her that she needed true religion.
Peter, trying to speak for God, rebuked Jesus for suggesting that He would be crucified. Jesus showed Peter that it was he who was in error.
A man just wanted to bury his father before following Christ, but Jesus showed him that his heart was in the wrong place.
The pharisees . . . well, every time Jesus interacted with them He had to show them that their motivation was only evil continually.
And the list goes on. Time and again people went to Jesus, and he showed them that their biggest problems were not their situations and surroundings, but their own self-serving hearts.
Our biggest issue, however, is not realizing that we are as much a part of the problem as everyone else it, but . . .
When there’s a Conflict, I’m the First one about whom I should be Concerned.“Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” Matthew 7:3-5
How many times have we flown at someone, teeth-barred only to find out our content, method, or motivation were all wrong? Unbiblical arguments, unloving behavior, and selfish priorities all betray that we’re the ones with the problem. We’d better look to the log swinging out of our head before we chastise another for his splinter.
In Matthew 5:23-24 Jesus informs us that worship must take a back seat to reconciliation.
“Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.”
While in the process of worship, if I remember that a brother has been offended by something I’ve done, I need to make it right before God will be pleased by my worship.
How much worship this past Sunday was distasteful to God because the worshippers hadn’t acknowledged they had fault?
Ladies and gentlemen, it’s always about me. And it’s always about you.
In every conflict, we must look first to our own sin before trying to “fix” everyone else. Then we can be husbands that’re easy to respect, children who’re a joy to parent, and friends who rely on God’s Truth to turn the heart of men to their Creator
The question of this article rests with our need to be attentive to and help our children learn to choose wisely as they are being bombarded by a plethora of temptations and influences.
Deuteronomy 6 shows that biblical parents are to be attentive to the influences that impact their children. I would assume that all good parents are concerned, if not worried, about the influences that are incessantly crowding in on their children. In today’s culture (as it always has been) it is a justified concern, if not worry. Influences and temptations have been a problem since the Garden of Eden. Certainly, we can start our own list as we look at the degradation of American culture. Whether it is people, ideas, media, or Google searches, influences bombard our souls.
Take a thorough look at what influences are weighing heavily on your child’s thinking. As you work through that study, look carefully at what is revealed about his values and the motivations of his heart. You want to know the “why’s” as they reveal the real him, who he really is. I John 2:16 says that the temptations of our world are at least threefold: things that appeal to our flesh (feel good), things that appeal to our sight (look good-could be inner satisfaction), and things that appeal to our arrogance. Each of those arenas of temptation appeals to our inner-man, our heart. In this passage, the Apostle John frames the concept as our “love.” It is at the Heart level, where “loves,” motivations, and values are formulated, that you want to engage and influence them with God and His Truth.
How do we become an “influence manager” in the lives of our kids? A business manager is tasked with identifying problems and solution processes, as well as organizing and utilizing all resources to produce a stated goal or outcome for the owner. As an Influence Manager, we are working for God in the life of His child. That fact should bring us to a greater level of focus and commitment to the task of parenting. God tasks us to bring Truth to bear on our child’s thinking so the influences that they face are seen clearly for what they are. So, we want to “manage” the influences by making sure our kids have their eyes wide open to the dangers and blessings in the many “voices” that are impacting their thinking. Our goal is our children’s spiritual and physical success, which will be a result of their thinking. Lessons about influences are clearly laid out in the commands and detail of Deuteronomy 6-11.
In Deuteronomy 6 and following, we see the commands to:
Set Your Stage--
The “stage” of your own personal pursuit of Loving God with all of your heart is where your influence plays out. While it would be great to just demand that they not listen to certain influencers, that would only work in a perfect police state…so, the key is to have the opportunity (the stage) to help your son or daughter learn which influencers to listen to and ones from which to guard their hearts (see Proverbs 4:23).
Foundationally, as biblical parents, we first have to be concerned with loving (think worshipping) and obeying God ourselves. We have to make that personal choice to love God with all that we are and then live that love out in obedience to His word (commands) (v5). God’s command to love Him is the prerequisite to teaching and training your children in the same spiritual issues of obedience and worship. Honoring God is the only way you can be the influence that God has called you to be (v6-7). Otherwise, your influence is part of what is drawing them away from God. When we don’t love (worship) God and pursue obedience to Him, it is like we are smoking our own brand of flesh and then trying to tell our kids to quit smoking the brand they like…They probably won’t buy the drama…
Engage the Heart--
There is no better way to get a full, robust picture of your kids’ hearts than to spend copious amounts of time with them. A lack of time engaging our kids’ hearts often results on us forming assumption-based conclusions and corrections. Some parents worry about what their children are doing on Friday night. I have to ask why those parents aren’t doing something with their children on Friday night? You must take time to be around to see the influences. Those will be influences that you physically see and those that you see the results of in your kids’ thinking and actions.
One of the biggest struggles I hear about is that a son or daughter won’t let the parent influence him at heart level. They won’t listen to them or maybe even flat out tell them to get out of their life and leave them alone. Though I plan to give an entire article to this in the near future, the short answer is that the parent of the struggling kid often must start small with kind, loving words, then work his way up to dates and creating special events and opportunities to spend time together. It may be that you are at a place where there aren’t a lot of opportunities to say positive, heart level words. Pray for and look for opportunities to get in those positive comments and kind actions. They know they are hard to live with and you have the opportunity to show the supernatural fruit of God’s Spirit at work in you (producing patience, kindness, gentleness, etc). Proverbs 20:5 highlights the truth that we have to become wise, carefully, discerningly working to prove that we are trustworthy enough for our children to open their hearts to us. It will take time to really study your child as well as deep thinking on your part. It will take a serious investment of “you” to prove your unconditional love. It is that level of love that compels us to love and honor God and it is that same level of love that provokes a humble and loving response from our children. Understand that it may have been a long time, if you have ever seen that response from your child, but the same is true of God’s relationship with us…yet Christ was and is faithful to pursue us.
Train with the Word--
The Deuteronomy passage is crystal clear that the Words (commands) of God are to be a central part of our lives.
Challenge their Worship—We need to look for opportunities to challenge our children in positive ways regarding the temptations (by influencers) they face to worship something other than God. When we position ourselves between our kids and their influences we parent by authority (and we can find that there are influencers that we miss or can’t quite block our kids from). We can also look like we are facing off against them and the influencers become a way to get away from us. When we position ourselves beside our kids, pointing them toward God we are in a better position to influence. God lays out some of the key areas that we need to train/challenge our children to make good decisions about things that affect their worship of God. Here are three that are predominate ones in Deuteronomy (for an old-school pastoral play on words I titled them "Whine, Women, and Worldliness").
Though you may have come to this article looking for a way to control the influences that your kids face, I hope you have been drawn to a greater challenge, one that also rests at the core of our children’s (and our) greatest need; to learn to “love the Lord your God with all of your heart, all your soul, and all your mind” (Mathew 22:37). Becoming an Influence Manager is about coming alongside and helping our children learn to love and worship God amidst the temptations and influences of our world.
Sinful sexuality has likely existed since shortly after the Fall of Man, and though nearly every ancient culture has embraced sexual debauchery on a national scale, America is relatively new to the practice.
The Sexual Revolution that started in the 1920’s primarily affected the lower class and fringe citizens. Promoted by those fighting for their right to get drunk, this dingy, back-room thinking was still considered base and dirty by the average American. Young people were easily sheltered from its effects.
However, the Sexual Liberation of the 1960’s had a different impact. Even though they focused on more extreme forms of sexuality, they managed to force their beliefs into a much wider slice of mainstream thinking. There wasn’t a class or demographic that wasn’t affected by the shifting tide of sexual thought. This made it far more accessible and culturally acceptable — especially to young people.
But the Sexual Explosion of the 2000’s hasn’t merely pile-driven its way into the majority of American homes . . . it’s highjacked our families. Today, sinful sexuality is not only considered acceptable by the majority of teens and young adults, but it’s the practical life-blood of our culture. In fact, to reject the Sexual Explosion’s teachings is to be considered abnormal, intolerant, and worthless.
At every turn our children are being led to believe that lifestyles that were once viewed as perverted and/or sinful for thousands of years are now the generally accepted norm. And it only took less than 50 years to do it.
What’s the danger our children are facing, and what can we parents do about it?
A number of years ago I predicted on Facebook that if homosexuals won the legal right to “marry,” people with all sorts of aberrant sexual fantasies would come begging for their piece of the pie. I proposed that gay “marriage” would be remembered by history as little more than the gateway drug for a dynamic sexual explosion in America. And though I had gay-rights advocates booing my prophecy, it took less than a year for my prediction to come true. But now, given the massive push in transgenderism, I believe we need to broaden our predictions and consider the implication all of this will have on our families. I believe that — barring an act of God — your children will see the following forms of sexuality legalized (or at least generally accepted) in their lifetime.
So, what does this mean for our families?
Lord willing, these predictions will be wrong. We’ll see. But I don’t think so.
Consider Romans 1:24-32, “God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. 25 For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. 26 For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, 27 and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error. 28 And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, 29 being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; 32 and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.”
At the same time, we need to hold on to sanctified optimism. God can do anything and everything He sees fit. We’ve seen great spiritual awakening and revival many times in this nation. Perhaps the Lord will see fit to use His people to affect such a change before we die. That would be amazing, and I’d be happy to be proven wrong. Remember, this prediction can only come true “barring an act of God.” May we all be used as that act of God. Of course, today the real concern is not what the world is going to do, but what we need to do to prepare our children for the attack. Even if the predictions above don’t come true in our children’s lifetime, there are more than enough sexual attacks barraging them. How do we prepare our three year old, our thirteen year old, and yes, even our twenty-three year old?
Here are the two most powerful suggestions I can give you.
1. Talk about Biblical Sexuality Early and Often.
For decades, the “birds and bees” was an awkward discussion had in an awkward way at an awkward time because no one wanted to deal with it — and they didn’t really know how. May I say, that was an atrocity. In fact, I’m going out on a limb to say that parents not talking about sexuality from a biblical perspective early and often helped to lay the groundwork for the Sexual Revolution. Christian parents weren’t telling theirs kids about sex, so the world did it for them. This — in turn — led to the Sexual Explosion of the new millennium. However, I do understand our hesitancy. The idea of introducing a potentially destructive thing like sexuality into the pure mind of an otherwise innocent child is petrifying.
But it’s also a lie. None of the things I wrote above are actually true. The first and worst claim I made was that sexuality is an impure, destructive entity. Sexuality is just like everything else in this world — it was created to be a perfect and beautiful part of the human experience, but sin has corrupted it. Yes, it can be used to destroy, but when we scare kids into thinking that sex is wicked, we’re lying to them about how God created them and the plan He has in store for them.
Another major lie of which we try to convince ourselves is that our children’s minds are “pure.” Our children’s minds aren’t pure. They’re full of selfish lusts. And if we define “pure” as free of sexual thoughts, we will be surprised that they’re not pure in that context either. God created us to be sexual beings within the right relational context, and we’re not 100% certain when those drives and desires kick in. For some children, they start thinking sexual thoughts around puberty, but for others it can happen as early as kindergarten or sooner. I’m not even referring to the sexual thoughts that have been imposed from the outside. I’m just discussing the natural desires and thoughts that organically arise in a child’s mind because they’re human. I know that’s daunting to consider, but we mustn’t fool ourselves into thinking they are “innocent” just because they’re young. I think most of us just need to pause and try to remember our first sensual thoughts.
The third lie I spoke was the idea that I’ll be the first one to introduce sexuality to my children. That’s impossible. It doesn’t matter if you homestead in Montana, there will always be husbands and wives who kiss, babies being born, barn dances, and countless other looks, posturing, films, songs, and books that hint at, flirt with, and subconsciously point to the sexual reality in all human beings. Please, do not avoid the topic of sexuality with your kids because you don’t want to be the first to sully their pristine minds with wicked thoughts of sex. None of that is true. I’ve been introducing sexuality to my children since they were old enough to understand language. The key isn’t whether to deal with it, the key is how. And as long as you deal with it biblically, there’s plenty of material in the Bible itself, and plenty more material that was founded on it. As an example, you can’t get through the first few chapters of Genesis before you encounter men, women, nakedness, marriage, sex, sin, shame, and child-bearing. Allow the Scriptures to be your starting point as you train your children in God’s Word.
But there are also great resources that provide a script.
2. We need to encourage others to talk about it early and often.
Not only has Christian culture convinced us that we shouldn’t talk about sexuality with our kids, many people have totally outlawed anyone talking to our kids about sexuality. I’ve preached in Christian schools where sexuality was completely off the table for anyone — including the teachers and pastors in the school. I’ve met parents who refuse to send their children to purity conferences like the ones that evangelist Ben Schettler organizes. This is a travesty! We need trustworthy men and women speaking Truth into our children’s lives. Why would we forbid them from addressing this topic? Because we’re afraid. But God has not given us a spirit of fear. He’s provided us a spirit of love and a sound, mature mind. Yes, we need to be wise, but why do we shy away from this topic? The world is pushing it down their throats!
I live in the Northwoods of Wisconsin, fifteen minutes past nowhere. I need to drive 45 minutes into another state to get to the closest Walmart. And yet, my family has seen all of the following while at Walmart: teens making out, homosexual couples, a man dressed as a woman, magazines featuring pictures and words all about sex, music that discusses sex, posters, movies, books, calendars, games, and makeup advertisements using sex to sell. And we were only there for 45 minutes! If you take your child to Barnes and Noble, swing through the children’s section, and head straight to the cash registers, your kids will see a number of things, not the least of which is a Playboy magazine sitting right at their eye level when the reach the check-out.
We must not fail our children in providing them a substantial, foundational, unmovable, and unashamedly biblical groundwork for sexuality. We need to speak that truth into their lives, and we need to enlist other God-fearing men and women to do the same.
This is why, every year, we take the students at Victory Academy on a week long snowshoe retreat. During that retreat we discuss God’s plan for satisfaction, and we relate it to everything from food to money to sexuality. We’re doing everything we can to help parents in the daunting task of training their children to understand God’s plan for sexuality. We’re also creating a sexual addictions curriculum to help everyone break the chains of sin in their lives.
If we’re not careful, Christians will lose this battle. But we’ll only lose it because we’re ill-equipped and afraid. The world system has all of its bullet-points orchestrated perfectly with its entertainment system to keep their philosophy of sex ever before your children . . . regardless of the age. Homosexuality, transgenderism, pornography, polygamy, incest, pedophilia, and bestiality are just some of the issues your children are and will be faced with in every imaginable venue. But the Bible offers everything we and our children need for life and godliness. It exposes us to genuine, all-consuming satisfaction the world cannot counterfeit. Hope lies in God’s Truth.
Train up your children in God’s Word to prepare them to successfully meet the temptations of the world.
For specific help for the sexual temptation attacking your home, here are some resources:
Victory Academy for Boys is a boarding school that specializes in ministering to boys who are engaged in sexual sin.
Victory Academy for Boys produces the Victory Digest, which is a compilation of articles and links to various parenting materials that help parents think and parent from a biblical worldview.
Victory Academy for Boys produces Parent.Point, which is our monthly blog of helpful articles written by our staff.
WildHeart Adventure Camp is a Christian adventure camp devoted to teach young men how to have a passion for God and adventure. We take three weeks to train our campers in three core areas: spirit, skills, and service.
I host a podcast called Truth.Love.Parent. We discuss everything you can imagine when it comes to God and family. Many of our episodes deal with sexuality. You can click here to subscribe to TLP on iTunes, or you can click on the individual episodes below to listen to them in iTunes.
Of course we do not claim to speak for God. However, by application, we can weave the truths of Scripture into what a letter from God might look like if written to the parent of a teen son who is struggling in his relationship with God.
We encourage you to read this and then study for yourself the scriptures mentioned and let God speak to and encourage your heart.
Dear Mom or Dad,
Don’t be afraid, I am with your son. I know when he sits down and when he gets up, when he goes out and when he comes in. I formed him and made him. I understand him even though you may not. (Psalms 139) In my time and in my ways, I will strengthen him. I will help him. I will uphold him with my righteous right hand. (Isa 41:10 and Isaiah 55:8-9) I am working every detail of his life out for his good and for my glory (Romans 8:28 and Ephesians 1:11) because I loved him before you did.
I love him with an everlasting love. While he was yet in sin, I sent my son, Jesus, to die for him. (Jerimiah 31:3 and Romans 5:8) I have laid a burden on your heart to suffer for him, pray for him, and love him. That burden you feel, it is from me. It is my Spirit leading you to love and care for his soul. I have begun a good work in him, I have lead you to love, care and pray for him and therefore it is right for you to expect that I will finish the work I started in him. (Philippians 1)
When my Spirit is leading you in prayer, he prays in deep ways that even you can’t understand, but touch the depths of my heart for your son. You may not know how to pray for your son according to my will, but he does. (Romans 8:26-27) Remember that my Spirit is at work in him even though you may not always see evidence of it. He is working to convince him of his sin, of my righteousness and that judgement is real. At the same time my Spirit is working to remind him of the free gift of salvation and a changed life through my son. (John 16:8)
I am the good Shepherd. I will look after him. When he goes astray, I will pursue him and bring him back. (Psalms 23 and John 10) You and I are coworkers together in this process. (1 Corinthians 3:9) but I am the source of his spiritual life, so let me do my work. Stay sensitive to my leading. Don’t get ahead of me, don’t lose your cool, be patient, firm, loving and continue to point him toward the truth in the Bible. Don’t get weary in the work. Your effort is not in vain. I am using you in his life even if you can’t see it right now. (Galatians 6:9 and 1 Corinthians 15:58)
Thank you for loving your son. I love him too even more than you do. Trust me even if it gets worse before it gets better. Once things got bad with my son, Jesus. He didn’t do anything wrong of course, but things did get worse before they got better. They did get better though and now everyone knows the plan was perfect. It will be perfect in your situation too. My way is always perfect. It is always good and it is always loving. (Psalms 18:30)
Looking for options to help your teen this summer?
Victory Family Ministries
We're a group of folks who love helping teens and families. We also love learning and sharing what God has taught us in our over 50 cumulative years of working with families and teens.