An Heritage of the Lord

Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord

Our children are the focus of our love and joy in this life. Becoming a parent changes our priorities and interests as our children's well-being and development becomes a passion. We instruct, we struggle and we worry as we seek to raise them to healthy and honorable adulthood. But more than a blessing to us, our children are an heritage of the Lord (Psalm 127:3).The family is God's gift to mankind. He established that a man should leave his mother and father and cleave unto his wife, and they should be one flesh. They were to be fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth and their seed was to be God's heritage, brought up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4), from which would be derived a people for His name. Thus our role as believing parents takes on greater responsibility. Indeed, what greater joy is there in this life than a child's decision to be baptized and serve the Lord, or what greater heartbreak than a child who rejects or leaves the Truth?

Raising Our Children, "an heritage of the Lord," is the topic of this Special Issue. Our intent is to address those dangers facing our children and families that threaten belief and draw us away from the love of God. During our lifetimes we have seen the community of believers diminishing, members leaving the ecclesia for the world reflecting the sad development of a Laodicean luke-warmness within members and ecclesias. We live and work in a secular and sinful environment that erodes faith and we must be proactive in recognizing and countering these harmful influences. Our children, in their inexperience and innocence, face many dangers today, making common the parental admonition to "be careful" when they leave our sight or the home. We worry about the daily risks of injury, sickness and disease and we protect and warn them to beware of danger. But there are many subtle and spiritually dangerous influences in everyday life that should raise similar concern. These practices, attitudes and influences are in our neighborhoods, in sports, in the schools, in entertainment and in our communities. They are appealing and commonly held by our children's acquaintances. It is our responsibility to educate and prepare our children to protect them against the world's influence, for they will receive Godly instruction only in the home and the ecclesia. Parents have the responsibility to train up a child in the way he should go, and that training must be in example as well as in word. Children are trusting and eager to learn; open receptacles waiting to be filled. If parents do not fill them with the necessary understanding and instruction forming their character and identity; their friends, schools and society will!

Dangers outside the home: We live in a wilderness of sin where children particularly are at risk of abuse and neglect. Due to "busy" or inattentive parents, many children end up raising themselves, tutored by other children and television. They are at the mercy of the unscrupulous and they grow up in a culture of sex, drugs, alcohol and violence. Much of this is attributable to the breakdown of the family. Married couple families have slipped into the minority of American households, and last year it was reported that 37% of U.S. births were out-of-wedlock. Beyond the growing distain for "religious" based moral values, the message of sexual abstinence is mocked as impractical and unrealistic by a culture that actively promotes abortion, birth control, casual sex and homosexuality while ignoring the consequences of these practices. Sexual images are prominent throughout society in advertising, entertainment and media. Pornography has grown increasingly common due to its unregulated prominence on the world-wide-web, and children today are exposed through their computers. These sinful practices are today promoted and defended, and we must not assume that our children will not be influenced! Carnal enticements appeal to the natural man in all of us, requiring an enlightened determination and spiritual maturity to overcome them. Without the moral compass of the Word of God, children have little hope of overcoming these harmful influences.

Multiculturalism, ecumenicalism and humanism drive the beliefs and values of society, and "old fashion" absolutes have been replaced with relativism. Schools and institutions play a contributing role in supporting these values while discouraging and labeling "Christian" values as judgmental and harmful to society. Though many have resorted to home schooling, which has documented superior results, we see increasing government regulation to discourage home schooling and integrate all children into the public schools of humanism.

There are dangers in our homes that we must be aware of; dangers brought into our homes without adequate attention and safeguards to eliminate or minimize their capacity to do harm. Some are material things such as TV's and computers, which consume an inordinate amount of time and attention that would be better spent on the Word of Life. The philosophy and values of the world are conveyed through these various forms of media, and researchers tell us that Americans spend more time each day occupied by our TV's, computers and other media than we do sleeping. Though it is not uncommon for children to have TV's and computers in their rooms today, we must remember that children are naturally curious and rebellious and require supervision.

We are blessed to live in a time and place that has easy access to comforts and abundance, and perhaps we have all, at one time or another, contrasted the materialism of today's generations with that of previous generations. We live in a wealthy country in which many children have and expect their heart's desire in designer labels, electronic toys, trendy cell phones and expensive cars. Recent studies find college students more narcissistic and self-centered than previous generations, as well as more obsessed with becoming rich. In this materialistic atmosphere, parents seem to have an allergic reaction to their children being unhappy, spending by some accounts much more on children today than only one generation earlier.

There is danger in the influence of the world creeping into our homes and ecclesias. Some believe the current generation of believer's children is not as well informed about scripture as earlier generations. Competing for their attention and their hearts within their homes are TV's, computers, DVD's, home movies and video games. These alternative sources of stimulation have relegated reading into a third rate activity for many children. Is the trend of the religious world in declining church attendance, daily readings and lack of Bible study reflected in believer households as competing activities, work and social commitments leave less than adequate time for the Truth?

What shall we do? We love our children and would not intentionally do anything to harm or turn them from God, but do we do enough to instill the love of God in their lives? As we age we may reflect back on our efforts to influence our children's current attitude in regard to the Truth, but such reflections come after the fact. Now is the time for deliberate action and it must begin with parents, the family and the ecclesia. Though the determination expressed by some to "do anything for their children" may be viewed as noble, that determination must be tempered by a responsibility to and love for our Heavenly Father. One of the reasons given by psychologists to explain the widespread acceptance of homosexuality today is the reaction of parents to learning their child or a family member is gay. They indicate that most parents in such a situation found it difficult to "regard them as a sinner, because parents want their children to be happy." Sometimes love (and particularly "tough love") hurts, but the example of fidelity to God may help turn wayward children back some day, while abandoning the commandments threatens both the child and parent for eternity. The Truth is a great divider of persons, and our Lord warned us that the Truth would set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother (Matthew 10:34-36). The "gospel of peace" which our Lord taught will not find fulfillment until that glorious age when there will be universal "peace on earth."

Our children are receptive and trusting,
and that trust goes first to the parents. Children look to their parents for instruction and example. It is our actions, more so than our words, that teaches the importance and impact of faith in our lives. If we don't take our children to gatherings and Bible Schools, if other activities take priority over the ecclesia and ecclesial functions, if we don't "speak (the scripture) often one to another" (Malachi 3:16), can we expect our children to do differently? Israel was instructed to train up a child in the way he should go (Proverbs 22:6) and to teach diligently (Deuteronomy 6:6-7) His commandments. We have examples of the results of childhood teaching in Samuel - who let none of God's words fall to the ground, and Timothy - who from a child knew the Holy Scriptures. We must likewise instruct our children, not just to teach them the Bible, but to establish the spirit word into their lives, to endear them to that which is able to make them wise unto salvation.

We pray the treatment of this subject will be helpful and beneficial to our parents, families and ecclesias. Our children are indeed precious, and the dangers and trials that threaten them are deadly serious.

The Advocate Publishing Committee