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Dr. Paul J. Dean Christian Blog and Commentary

Paul Dean

Pastor, Counselor, Professor, Columnist and Radio Talk Show Host

We’re losing our children. Seventy-five to ninety percent of young people raised in Christian homes walk away from the Christian faith when they hit college. And, it’s not more programs or youth functions at church that will stop it. In fact, those things are part of the problem. According to the Scriptures, the solution lies with you. With respect to this issue, the missing dynamic in contemporary Christianity is parents discipling their own children. God commands Christian parents to train their children in the way they should go and such a dynamic involves more than taking them to church. It involves teaching them – every day. There is no more important thing you as a parent can do for your children than to teach them biblical truth. Why?

1. Because they won’t learn it on their own.

Apart from the new birth, no matter how good they look, your children don’t really love or desire God. And while some have been converted by simply picking up a Bible and reading it, God’s primary means of bringing people to Himself is through discipleship: people explaining the Scriptures. We’re commanded to make disciples (Matt. 28:18f). We’re also given examples like Philip inquiring of the Ethiopian eunuch, who was reading from Isaiah, as to whether he understood what he was reading (Acts 8:31f). The eunuch responded by asking how could anyone understand without someone explaining it. Your children will never learn the Scriptures unless you teach them.

2. Because their friends and teachers are leading them astray.

Paul warns us against being deceived and says that bad company corrupts good morals (1 Cor. 15:33). The Bible also says that foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child (Prov. 22:15). When a bunch of fools (children) get together, foolishness abounds. Most Christian parents have no idea what their children talk about with their friends or how much they’re influenced by them and the larger culture. I’ve driven buses for Christian and public school athletic teams. The conversations on those buses are no different and they certainly don’t glorify God. But more than that, every statement someone makes is rooted in a worldview. Seven hours a day for nine months of the year, your children are being taught that God does not exist. And it’s not just in science class. When the math, English, or history teacher presents the material apart from the reality of God or without looking at it through the lens of Scripture, your children are being taught that God is not real. They are also being trained to think in unbiblical terms. They see the world through a secular lens and not a biblical one. As such, your children are being led astray.   

3. Because their electronic devices are leading them astray.

From television shows, to music, to youtube videos, to facebook, and more, your children are being influenced away from Christ. Values and attitudes are shaped by entertainers, musicians, fashion models, advertisers, etc. If your child’s mind is being filled with nothing but the world’s message, he can’t help but think like the world. This is why the Scriptures tell us constantly that we must renew our minds (Rom. 12:1-2). Unless we fill our minds with truth, we will find it impossible to think in a way that glorifies God. Beyond that, salvation is not a matter of repeating some words in a prayer. It’s a matter of one’s mind and heart being changed by the grace and power of the Spirit. Ask yourself how much time your child spends in school, with friends, and with media of some kind vs. how much time she spends in the word. You might be shocked.

4. Because they are not learning truth at church.

You might be in a wonderful church with gifted teachers. But one hour or even two on a Sunday is not discipleship. It’s not nearly enough time to combat the ungodly influences on your children throughout the week. And the truth is that most children’s Sunday school lessons involve little more than moralizing. Most children in Sunday school, youth group, or children’s discipleship, are not being taught what God’s word actually says.

5. Because you don’t really know what they believe if you don’t talk to them.

You can assume your children are saved and even knowledgeable in the Scriptures. You can assume they think like you and have the same attitudes as you about everything. But unless you talk to them, probe their understanding and attitudes, explain the Word, and apply it to their hearts, you don’t know them. If you don’t spend time regularly talking with your children about what’s going on with them and applying the Scriptures to their lives in that regard, you will be very surprised one day when you find out they aren’t who you thought they were. If you care about your children, you’ll care about what they think.

6. Because you really hate your children if you don’t.

Hate is a strong word but the Bible says “He who spares his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him promptly” (Prov. 13:24). Biblical discipline is not only corrective but formative. Note that discipline and discipleship share the same root word. Discipleship is formative discipline and involves teaching the things of God while discipline is corrective discipleship and involves rebuke, correction, and instruction. Moreover, in biblical terms, love is action. To love your children is to teach them the Scriptures. If you don’t teach them, you’re not loving them.

7. Because God commands you to.

Paul tells us to bring our children up in the training and admonition of the Lord (Eph. 6:4). Again, we are to make disciples of our children. The way we do that is found in Deut. 6:6-9: “And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” If you’re not saturating your children with God’s word, you are not only being disobedient, but you’re failing your children.

8. Because Satan is real and is trying to destroy them.

“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Pet. 5:8). Peter gives us a critical command for our good. A lion roars when he’s ready to pounce on his prey. If we don’t think of our children as prey, then surely they will be devoured. Satan may get at them through sex, drugs, or violence. He may get at them through the influence of rebellious friends or activist teachers. He may get at them through the ideas that permeate our culture. Your only means of protection is Christ and His word.

9. Because they are sinful by nature and have no ability to overcome their own flesh.

The truth is that if you simply leave your children to themselves, they will always choose the wrong path. It may be that God in His grace and providence uses someone else to point them to Christ. But you have no guarantee of that, and in reality, it’s almost certain He won’t. If seventy-five to ninety percent of young people raised in Christian homes walk away from the faith when they hit college, what will make your child different? Those children are walking away because they’re not being taught biblical truth by their parents.

10. Because one day it will be too late.

No one knows who and when God might save. But in practical terms, there will come a day when your child has chosen his beliefs and path in life. For most young people it happens in college or shortly thereafter. If you let your child get to that stage without teaching her biblical truth, it will most certainly be too late.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. God has given us His word and told us what to do with it. And remember, faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God (Rom. 10:17).

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In the movie Unbreakable, Samuel L. Jackson plays Elijah Price, a comic book art gallery owner. In a scene that has relevance for our current cultural discussion, he is explaining to a customer the artistic merit of a valuable comic character sketch. The customer says he’ll buy it. Elijah is pleased and affirms the customer’s wise choice. But he stops cold when the customer says something startling.

Customer: My kid’s gonna go berserk.

Elijah: Once again, please?
Customer: My son Jeb, it's a gift for him.
Elijah: How old is "Jeb?"
Customer: He's four.
Elijah: No. No, no, no, no, NO. You need to go. Now.
Customer: W-What did I say?
Elijah: Do you see any Teletubbies here? Do you see a slender plastic tag clipped to my shirt with my name on it? Did you see a little Asian child with a blank expression sitting outside in a mechanical helicopter that shakes when you put quarters in it? No? Well, that's what you'd see at a toy store. And you must think you you're in a toy store, because you're here shopping for an infant named Jeb. Now, one of us has made a gross error, and wasted the other person's valuable time. This is an art gallery, my friend, and this is a piece of art.

Elijah refuses to sell the man his piece of art simply because the man doesn’t appreciate it like Elijah does; simply because he doesn’t want the man to give it to his four year old son. And you know what? If you watch the movie, you applaud him for it. How could this customer be so ignorant? So uneducated? So unappreciative?

Of course, Elijah is discriminating. He’s discriminating against the ignorant, the uneducated, those who don’t appreciate good art, and even children. Here’s the question though. Is it wrong for him to do so? Is it wrong to refuse to sell your art to someone who doesn’t appreciate it the way you do?

Few people prior to the discussion surrounding Indiana’s religious freedom act would have said it was wrong: a point the movie underscores. But, what if we did consider that or something similar morally wrong? I mean if Joe Jones who owns a diner refuses to serve lunch to a tatted up punk rocker just because he doesn’t like tatted up punk rockers, I’d say he’s morally wrong. The Bible says he’s morally wrong. But, and here’s the real issue, does he not have the right to do with his property what he wants? Sell it or not? Isn’t he just like Elijah Price? It’s his property, right?

People are saying he doesn’t have the right to do what he wants with his property. Well, if that’s true, then he has no real property rights and no real liberty. Those same people are saying he can’t refuse to serve the tatted up punk rocker because that would be discrimination.

But don’t miss this point; don’t miss the real world; discrimination occurs either way. If Joe refuses to serve the punk rocker, Joe is discriminating against him. But if the government forces Joe to serve the punk rocker, then the government is discriminating against Joe. Either way, someone is being discriminated against.

Big question: do you want the government discriminating against people? I hope not. We’ve been through that with Jim Crow laws. But think about this. When Joe refuses to sell to the punk rocker, he’s not violating any rights of the punk rocker. The punk rocker has no right to eat Joe’s food. He only has the right to make Joe an offer to purchase his food. But Joe has the right to reject the offer. And the punk rocker can go purchase food somewhere else. No harm, no foul. But if the government forces Joe to serve the punk rocker, then not only has the government discriminated against Joe but it has violated his right to do with his property what he wants. It has abused him and taken away his freedom.

Here’s what we need to understand. Every single person engages in some kind of discrimination every day. When you choose to eat at a restaurant, you are discriminating against all other restaurants. That’s not morally reprehensible but its discrimination nonetheless. When you sell your home to a guy with a cash offer of five-hundred dollars less than the guy who has to get loan approval, you’re discriminating against the guy who needs credit. You’re discriminating when you hire a girl with whiter teeth than the other girl who applied for the job. You’re discriminating when you hire the thin woman to pitch your product rather than the fat woman. How many not so thin and not so young guys are doing ads for Calvin Klein?

Let’s be clear. Biblical Christians hate immoral discrimination. Joe Jones should serve anyone who comes into his diner. That’s what Christ would want regardless of race, religion, sexual-orientation, or whatever. A Christian doesn’t refuse to serve someone just because he’s different or has a different value system. A Christian doesn’t refuse to serve someone just because he’s gay.

But there are other issues. What if someone came into Joe’s diner and insults the other customers? Shouldn’t Joe not only have the right to ask him to leave but wouldn’t he be biblically obligated to? Aren’t there any number of scenarios where we would say that Joe is morally obligated to ask someone to leave? What if a guy was brandishing a gun around scaring people? What if a couple started heavily making out?

And, biblically speaking, aren’t there times when Christians should refuse service? The Christian can’t in good conscience participate in celebrating the matrimony of same sex couples. It’s one thing to sell a homosexual a hamburger at lunch; it’s another thing to sell him a cake for his same sex wedding. Some Christians might do otherwise. That’s their choice. But isn’t that the point, that it’s their choice?

We’re talking about the right to choose. That’s freedom. That’s America. Or it’s supposed to be at least. When you favor the government taking away freedom, you favor tyranny. You favor something other than the principles upon which America was built. And, when you favor government taking away freedom, you don’t favor the Bible’s vision for a civil society. You don’t favor the golden rule: do unto others as you would have them do unto you. When you take away freedom, you put the majority in charge. You take away principle that protects all of us. When the majority and not principle is in charge, then the majority group could ban Bibles, gays, churches, alcohol, blacks, whites, sodas, French fries, sodium, guns, condoms, etc. This is the problem.

Larry Beane gets it right.

Should a lesbian photographer be compelled to accept a job taking pictures at a celebration of Fred Phelps at the Westboro Baptist Church? Or does this photographer have the right to either accept or decline this job based on her comfort level and freedom of choice?  Does she have a choice, or is she under compulsion to go and be uncomfortable, to do a job against her will?  Which option, choice or compulsion, would be considered “freedom” as opposed to “tyranny”?

How about:

a black photographer at a white supremacist ritual,

a Jewish photographer at a neo-nazi political rally,

a vegan at a slaughterhouse,

a Mennonite at a pornography convention,

a Muslim at a pig farm,

a Jehovah’s Witness at a flag-raising ceremony,

a Tibetan at a function honoring Chairman Mao?

Should a photographer who does not believe in the death penalty be compelled to photograph executions? Do any of these photographers reserve the right to say “No, thank you,” or must every photographer be compelled to do business with every other person on demand, regardless of religion, worldview, or comfort level? What if a photographer suffers from an irrational fear of left-handed people?  Could he only contract weddings for the right-handed?  What if a photographer is afraid of heights?  Could he refuse to shoot a wedding on the observation deck of the Empire State Building? What if an Atheist thinks religion is stupid, or even offensive, could he refuse to take pictures at a Christian ordination?  What if a photographer suffered the effects of promiscuous parents and a broken family, could he turn down a job at a swinger’s party? How about a person whose father was beaten to death in an incident of police brutality, can he refuse jobs involving the police?

Of course, this issue of freedom of association doesn’t only affect photographers. How about these:

May a Christian ob/gyn refuse to perform abortions?

May an all-women’s college refuse admission to men?

May a merchant refuse to sell alcohol or pornography or marijuana (in states in which it is legal) if he finds these legal substances to be morally troubling?

May a Muslim-owned convenience store sell eggs but not bacon?

Must a sporting goods store sell weapons and ammunition, even if the owner is a pacifist?

Must an animal rights activist who runs a pawn shop purchase a stuffed deer head for resale?

May a Lutheran pastor refuse to conduct a wedding for two Methodists, two Unitarians, or two men?

His point is well made. People are different. We have different religions, backgrounds, preferences, likes, dislikes, foibles, phobias, etc.

Hear him again:

Sad to say, both left and right have lost touch with what freedom is. The left talks the talk on tolerance, but is utterly illiberal when it comes to extending tolerance to those who disagree with them. The right talks the talk on freedom, but prefers to focus on religious freedom instead of seeing the bigger picture that freedom is freedom whether or not it has anything to do with religion. Both left and right are willing to throw liberty under the bus if the state has “a compelling interest” in taking away this or that freedom. And, of course, it is the state itself that decides whether the state has a “compelling interest” or not. How far we have fallen since 1776, when Jefferson opined about “inalienable rights” and the role of government being “to secure these rights.” . . . Even the word “compelling” suggests “compulsion” – which is the antithesis of liberty.  This kind of language is indicative of the controlling and tyrannical tendency of government by its very nature: a nature our forefathers sought to curtail through conscious limitation, institutional distrust, and eternal vigilance. Sad to say, the fact that we’re even having this discussion in the United States is indicative of our own failure to uphold the very principles of liberty and independence our ancestors attempted to secure for us, their posterity.

It’s freedom that we’re losing along with God-given rights. Precious few on all sides value these things anymore. So to the liberals I say, don’t fight for tolerance if you’re not willing to tolerate those who disagree with you. And to my fellow Christians I say, don’t fight for religious freedom if you’re not willing to fight for freedom in general. You’re both hypocrites if you don’t fight for freedom for all. And remember, Jesus had a lot to say about that.

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We’ve all heard the story of the young wife who cut off both ends of the ham before cooking it. When her husband asked her why – she didn’t know; that’s the way her mom always did it. Sensing she was missing some valuable information she went to her mom with the question. Answer: “I only had one pan and it was too small for the ham.” Well that leaves one a little hungry in more ways than one.

You have to know why you pray. Question: why do you pray for God to save people if God doesn’t overcome a person’s will and that person’s natural bent against Him? If you believe that people choose God, why do you pray? Or, how about this question: if God is sovereign and will unfailingly save His elect, why do you pray? If what will be will be, why pray? It seems we have two ends of a ham here.

Paul says something interesting to the Thessalonian believers; he knows they are God’s elect: that they’ve been chosen by God. He knows God chose them because he sees the evidence of God at work in their lives (1 Thess. 1:2-10). He says the reason they were saved is because the gospel they heard was accompanied by the Holy Spirit’s power. They did not believe the gospel on their own; they were enabled by the Holy Spirit and that’s why Paul thanked God for them. He didn’t thank them for coming to Christ or for being good Christians; again, he thanked God for changing them.

So the answer to our first question seems simple enough. We pray because God does overcome a person’s will and natural bent against God. We pray for God to change people’s hearts. Whether we fully embrace intellectually God’s sovereignty in salvation, we all embrace it practically when we pray. Those who argue God won’t violate a person’s will actually pray that He does just that (if they pray for God to save people). Let’s leave that end of the ham on.

So far so good; but what about the second question? If divine election is true and God will save His elect, why pray for their salvation? The answer here is simple enough as well. Paul knows God is sovereign in salvation and that is exactly why he prays. Belief in God’s sovereignty over all things is not fatalistic; the bible doesn’t teach us to have a que sera sera attitude toward life. Yes, God has a plan and it will come to pass. But, God accomplishes His plan through means like prayer and witness. The very reason Paul prays is God’s power and control over all things. Let’s leave that end of the ham on too then.

Now, why wouldn’t you pray for a lost friend or lost family member’s salvation? There are only three reasons why you wouldn’t. One, you don’t believe God can answer your prayer because He won’t change a person’s heart. Two, you misunderstand the doctrine of God’s sovereignty in salvation (predestination) and prayer is not part of the equation and makes no difference. Or three, you just don’t care. Now that one takes the ham – or the cake – or something like that.

So let me ask this question again: why do you pray for your lost friend or lost family member? Answer: because you know God is in control of his/her salvation and you want Him to bring it about. Now that’s something we can feast on.

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