Do your kids see in you a passion for pleasing the Lord? Do they sense that God is the most precious Person in your life? Do they know that you would never consciously displease Him? Watching how you live out your love for the Lord is how they will learn to love the Lord wholeheartedly.

All Your Soul

Closely related to loving God with our whole heart is loving God with our entire soul. (These four phrases, by the way, are not separate boxes on a table, distinct from one another. They are all intertwined in ways none of us fully comprehend.)

"Soul" is an interesting and somewhat perplexing word. We know it refers in some way to our eternal being, the part of us that lives forever—the part of us that survives the death of the body. The bumper sticker that reads, "He who dies with the most toys wins" is blatantly false. There's a better one out now that says, "He who dies with the most toys still dies!" Our society has always struggled to get the right perspective on material prosperity. We live in the most affluent economy in the history of the world, yet here in the United States depression is rampant, suicide is common and the misuse of prescription drugs is skyrocketing—in other words, our souls are sick. People arrive at the twilight of their years and realize too late that they spent their entire lives chasing a phantom. Jesus said, "What good will it be for you to gain the whole world, yet forfeit your soul? Or what can you give in exchange for your soul?" (Matt. 16:26, TNIV).

The eternal destiny of every parent and every child is too important to assume that God will welcome us all into His heaven one way or another. Don't consign this crucial matter to the church, the youth pastor, the parachurch ministry to students (like Young Life, with whom we happen to work), or some evangelist on television. Make sure a salvation decision is made by every person under your roof, because it is truly a matter of life or death.

All Your Mind

One of the most important armaments you must give your children as you send them out the door to the public school is a relationship with God that fills all their minds. If the foundation of their faith rests on the good feelings they have while standing next to you in church, they are in trouble. If they don't know in their mind why they love God, if they are not "prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks [them] to give the reason for the hope that [they] have," and to "do this with gentleness and respect" (1 Pet. 3:15-16), they will be sitting ducks for any antagonistic teacher. When teachers and classmates ridicule anyone who has the audacity to believe in a sovereign, loving God, your kids won't know what to do or say.

What chance does a kid have against an "expert" unless that kid knows in his mind what he believes and why he believes it? It is not enough to counter with "My mom and dad said so."

The older your child gets in the public-school system, the more important this becomes. Certainly by middle school, the challenges to your child's faith will begin to come fast and furious, and will only intensify in high school. Then some evening you'll be sitting at the kitchen table with your son or daughter, looking over the slate of possible courses at university the next year—courses with titles like "The Problem of God" or "Perspectives on Science, Faith and Reality." You will sense by the way the course descriptions are written that some of these professors are just licking their chops in anticipation of exploding the "foolish myths" the next class of naïve freshmen will bring along from home.

Only the son or daughter whose mind has been stocked with what God thinks—and who has come to love those reliable, unshakable truths—will be prepared "so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand . . . with the belt of truth buckled around your waist" (Eph. 6:13-14). The love of God will be not only emotional and relational but also logical and intellectual.