Dr. Tony Evans shares insights from his experience as a parent to explain how moms and dads can instill Christian character in their kids and raise them to impact their own families and communities for Jesus Christ. (Part 2 of 2)
Tony Evans: The greatest way to greatness is through servanthood, and the essence of servanthood is humbling yourself for the well-being of somebody else, even if it means that there has to be something at your own expense to do it. And what we’re having is parents not paying the price for their own inconvenience, in order to raise the generation that is coming in the way that the Creator intended. Far too many parents are more interested in their kids making the team than making the kingdom.
John Fuller: Well that is a powerful insight from Dr. Tony Evans, and he’s back with us again today, on Focus on the Family, to talk about the need for us to have hope and to raise kids who understand hope in God. I’m John Fuller and your host is Focus president and author, Jim Daly.
Jim Daly: Oh, you know, last time it flew by so fast, John. I mean, as a dad, I’m sure you’re sitting here, too.
John: I was listening attentively.
Jim: Tony really delivers the wood and uh - as a father, I was learning so much last time. If you missed that, get the download. If you’ve got a Smartphone, an iPhone, download the app and listen to it. This is great content and uh - particularly for moms and dads who are worried about whether or not they’re on the right track with their kids and they’re doin’ the right stuff.
I think last time, too, what Tony said to me, which was so impactful as a dad is you know what? It’s dad’s major role to be raisin’ those kids. Mom is the helpmate in that regard, and I think I’m convicted of that
Uh, Tony, let me welcome you back to Focus on the Family. Thanks for kickin’ my backside.
, exciting about all you’re doing for the family.
Jim: Tony, I’m serious about that. I - you know, I played sports and I had a great football coach, Paul Moro, who really did a lot to put me on the right trajectory. Thankfully, he was a - is a Christian man and that made the biggest difference, just to see it modeled.
And uh, you‘re kinda like that in a pastoral role, aren’t you? You - you grab the - the dads by the face mask and say, “Come on; run those wind sprints.” And...
Jim: ...translate it into how we should do that.
Tony: We - we try. Yeah, I mean, I think that’s one of the jobs of a pastor, is - and that is, to - to lovingly hold the congregation responsible to their kingdom responsibilities.
Jim: Are we too soft within our relationships within the Christian community? Are we just too soft with each other?
Tony: Oh, I - I love that word you just used. We are definitely too soft. You know, uh, in fact, that’s why so many men are not even involved in church, ‘cause it’s like going to a - a female event. It’s - it’s a - you know, there’s - there’s no challenge. There’s no - there’s no territory to capture. There’s no victory to be won. It’s just feeling good about the songs we’re singing and the Word we’re hearing. No, no, no.
The kingdom of God, the Bible says, must be taken by force. So, you gotta man up to do this thing and to do it right.
Jim: That just sounds - yeah, it sounds like a different thing. It doesn’t sound like what we’re concentrating on. Men need a challenge, don’t they?
Tony: Uh, yes.
Jim: It sounds counterintuitive though. Let me tell you, when somebody grabs your face mask and says, “You’re not doin’ the job,” it gets your attention. It makes you want to do better. How do we apply that in our spiritual walk? Uh, what you’re sayin’ is, bein’ soft isn’t gonna get a guy motivated. Being in his face probably does a better job of getting’ him on the right track.
Tony: Which means that he’s gotta be held accountable with somebody who has the responsibility and legitimate authority to get in his face if he needs “face getting into.”
Jim: Well, let me...
Tony: Well, this may not be a nice statement, but we’re living in the day of the feminized male.
Tony: We’re living in the day of men who’ve been so watered down by the biblical definition of manhood, in light of what the culture is doing, that we have reneged and relinquished some of our responsibility. That’s why you got so many men walkin’ away from homes and walkin’ away from girls they get pregnant that they’re not married to and walkin’ away from their responsibilities, even if they’re still there. Because they have been feminized.
So, we need to get back to the biblical male. In Isaiah, chapter 3, it says that whole culture was turned upside down. It says your women rule. Your children are in rebellion, ‘cause your men are failing. And when God came lookin’ for Adam, He didn’t say, “Adam and Eve, where are y’all?” He said, “Adam, where are you?” You’re responsible, even if you’re not to blame. You’re responsible. So, what men need to hear, God is holding you responsible for the atmosphere in your home.
Tony: Well, you know, Daniel, chapter 1, Daniel and his - his friends, his three Hebrew friends uh, were - were taken out of their godly environment. They were taken out of Israel and brought to Babylon. So, now they have to learn to live in a secular society. We are in a secular society that no longer values our Christian values as a society.
Jim: That’s so important. Everybody hear that? That is so true and we’ve gotta get ahold of that in this country.
Tony: We are at a post-Christian era, like it or not. We’ve contributed to it just like Israel contributed to their failure. But we have to deal with this reality.
There are a couple of things in that first chapter of Daniel that are critical for us as parents today. Number one, they tried to "re-culturalize" Daniel and his friends. They gave ‘em - they gave ‘em Babylonian names. They sent them to Babylonian schools. They told ‘em to read Babylonian books. They even gave ‘em Babylonian jobs, because they wanted to “de-Israelize” them and "pro-Babylonize" them. So, that’s exactly what’s happening today.
Remove the Christian value system; put in the secular system. But it says, “Daniel made up in his mind,” meaning Daniel’s parents - the end of Daniel’s name is El. El is God. So when they named him, they gave him a God name. So, that tells us that Daniel’s parents and - and that’s true of the other three Hebrew boys, too, they have a God name at the end of their name, they were raised in a world that emphasized God. So, that when they were in a secular culture, while they maximized their potential there, they made a decision that there’s only so far I go. I’m not gonna eat the king’s meat.
Then it says, “Now God.” But God only intervened on their behalf after they made the decision that had been influenced by the home they were raised in, even though they were in a secular society.
Jim: So, once they showed themselves faithful to God, then God responded.
Tony: Then God. So, you want your kids to have God’s name stamped on them even in the public school that may be secular, a job that may be secular, in an environment that may be secular, so that they have boundaries they will not go, so that when they make that decision, they’ll see the supernatural into the natural and shift things around just as Daniel did.
Tony: Well, what we’ve got to - first of all, on an information level, we’ve got to review what they’re being taught and give a God response to it, so that they know what the other side is, what God’s side is, against what they’re hearing in the culture, that’s one.
Then they’ve got to see us model that before them in the decisions we make. And as we make key decisions that they should or need to know about, give them the spiritual impetus for why we made that decision. So now they’re seeing us operate that way, not hearing us just tell them to operate that way.
The third thing we’ve gotta do is surround them with others. Daniel had Meshach, Shadrach and Abednego. And he had three friends around him who shared his value system. So, you have to give your kids an environment where that can be - those principles, those values can be reinforced
Jim: And because of their familiarity, their comfortableness with each other, and...
Tony: You develop a gang, a positive gang.
Jim: A positive gang is what it is.
Tony: That - that...
Jim: And they can hold each other accountable and keep each other uh, you know, to account on what they’re doing, what they’re saying and uh, not bullying and not doing things that a lot of the others might be doing. So, that’s just one example of how to be proactive.
Tony: Sure, I mean, much of what our children choose to do is tied to peer pressure. So, you’ve gotta create a different kind of peer group to give them a different kind of pressure.
Jim: And uh, how as a Christian parent, do you teach them to discern what to do and what not to do with today’s technology?
, because this social media has changed how we can be - billions of people can talk to each other in a nanosecond uh, simply by using this medium.
So, you establish the boundaries. You say, “If you operate within this boundary, you can use your technology, uh, that we have approved for the age that you are. If you choose not to operate within the boundaries, you will lose the privilege that you just gained.”
Jim: And then stick with it.
Tony: So, yes. So they need to see the blessing and the curse. The Bible calls it blessings and curses. He says, “You choose this way, you’re gonna be blessed; you choose this way, you’re gonna be cursed.” You get to choose the act. We get to choose the consequences.
Jim: There you go.
Tony: That’s right.
John: And it won’t kill her to have a day or two without a phone, but I really want to help her with those boundaries. It’s hard, because she communicates in a way that I don’t with a phone.
Tony: Sure, sure.
John: And I think we’ve gotta recognize our kids are gonna be doing this stuff differently than we might.
Tony: Yeah, and we - and we cannot skip the change that’s taken place in - in our world. Notice, Daniel did not drop out of the king’s school. He did not refuse to read the king’s book. He did not turn down the king’s job and he even accepted the king’s clothes. So, it’s not that he was in this isolated Christian world.
Tony: Sure. Sure.
Jim: How - how do you do a good job? Is it a straight line or is it kind of a, you know, a bit wobbly? What’s the difference between a principle and style within our expression of our faith?
Tony: Well, when it - anything that the Bible does not condemn, is allowable. See, we have to understand that principle. Once you start putting new things in there, you’re adding to the Word. And what a lot of parents do is they take style, give it a principle-sounding statement, operate on that, thus producing legalism, resulting in rebellion.
Whatever is not condemned is allowed. And that’s why there are so many statements in the Bible about freedom. It says uh, in Romans, chapter 14, that uh, a person is able to choose based on their conscience. It tells a widow, marry whomever you will, only in the Lord. The boundary’s in the Lord, but you get to choose. There are a whole lot of freedoms that - our kids should be known more for the freedom we grant them than the restrictions we impose on them.
John: That’s challenging.
Jim: ...we’re not even close to that.
Tony: But those restrictions need to be so strong, that when they step on that - on that boundary line, that whistle will blow.
Jim: Yeah and the penalty flag comes down.
Tony: That’s right; that’s right.
Jim: So, I wanna make sure they know that we’re acknowledging that. We’re talking about a single parent, most often it’s mom.
Tony: Most often.
Jim: And uh, in that context, uh, talk about the job that they’ve got, because they don’t have the help of the other spouse to be there, to give a perspective. And so often, as two people joining to become one flesh, you’re complementary nature comes into that. And I’m talking about your - your personality and your intellect. So, Jean sees things differently from how I see them. But talking together, we are stronger in our parenting because of the strengths we each bring to it. I just - my heart breaks for the single parent that doesn’t have that asset, that other person to say, “What do you think?” Speak to that person.
Tony: Well, first of all, God has not forgotten the single parent. Um, Hagar was a single parent in an unfortunate situation with Abraham and Sarah. And yet, God met her and said, “I got you.
So, God has a lot of illustrations of successful single parents and there are lot of successful single parents who are hearing us today. But here’s what you can do. Get your child and children involved in a solid church that offers them quality ministry of the Word, relevant to where they are based on their age.
Then seek through that church, if possible, a - a responsible mentoring relationship where there’s a man who works with a group of boys or girl - lady who works with a group of girls, that can then reinforce that missing parent side of things. Or perhaps you have a Christian relative who you trust, who can become that father if you’re a single mother and have that influence and you become part of their extended family, because there’s already a connection there, because there are some missing links. That’s what we’re tryin’ to do in the public schools through our National Church Adopt a School Initiative.
Jim: Talk about that. What is that?
Tony: Well, what we’ve done is we have nationally throughout America got 190,000 public schools. There are 400,000 churches. If we can link one solid church to every public school that provides mentoring, tutoring and family support services to the at-risk students in that school, you can reach every community in America without creating anything new, because you’re just having church, school and family with a dating service connecting them.
We provide the training, so that any church can do that. And - and a white church can join with a black or Hispanic church, so you can have racial reconciliation through service, not through seminars. And you can adopt that needy school and you can - we can’t even keep up with the schools that are calling us, asking us, “Can you get us a church?” B
Jim: Let’s uh, you know, I love that idea. Let’s do what we can to help accelerate that. Perhaps we can join together and mention that...
Tony: We’d love to do that...
Jim: ...on the website.
Tony: ...because we have all the materials. We have all the - all the training. We can provide that nationwide now and we’d look forward to doing so, working with Focus there.
Jim: It’d be good to do.
Tony: Tenacity and resiliency come in the face of something that is opposing you. So, when your child runs into a challenge, a difficulty, something that is too weighty for them to handle and they are prone to quit or you’re concerned that they may give up, it could be a - another student in school. It could be a teacher. It could be a course that - that’s just struggle. Then you come alongside of them and you do what we used to do uh, when - when I was liftin’ weights and the weights got like too heavy
Tony: You’re just helping them to bear the burden.
Jim: Well, and that’s the key. You can’t bear that burden. The kid is gonna learn tenacity by bearing the weight.
Tony: That’s absolutely...
Jim: And you just need...
Tony: And then you help ‘em do it.
Jim: ...to be the assist.
Tony: But that also means knowing your kid. Whe
Jim: I agree and it takes time to study them. You gotta be observant.
Tony: That’s right.
Tony: Well, the simplest principle is, whatever you do, God is doing with you. Is having as much fun as you are?
Tony: And so, we want to protect that celebration. And you make a big deal of that celebration. And you know, what I did was I handed my boys a uh, a bracelet around their neck, a key; it was a gold key. And I said, “I’m giving you this, one, for you to maintain your sexual purity, but two, for you to give it to your bride on your wedding night, that she alone has the key to your heart.”
, the book you wrote previously to . Where did you get this? What was your mom and dad like?
Tony: Well, I had the privilege of being raised by - we wouldn’t have called it then, it - it back then, but by a “Kingdom dad,” because he took Joshua 24:15, “As for me and my house, we’re gonna serve the Lord.” It doesn’t matter what your - what the neighbors think, what the friends think. This is how we - and sometimes we didn’t like it. Sometimes we hated it, but we always respected it. And so I grew up respecting my father, even in a - a poor economic situation. He took his stand and he stood there, and the whole community knew it. And so, it - we became I mean, I’d go out on a Friday night and when I was 17-years-old and he says, “Now, when you go out, remember your last name is Evans and remember to whom you belong,” referring to the Lord.
Tony: Every time we went out, see, he ruined a many a Friday nights for me man, I’m tellin’ ya.
Jim: Well, why - why would a mom or dad want to keep them on the hook? What’s really goin’ on behind the hook?
Tony: Well, behind the hook are a number of things. First of all, a fear. A fear that if I let them loose, I could lose them. And unfortunately, that fear is being driven by the lack of the relationship in the marriage. And so, the child is that attachment that keeps the family real for them, because the relationship isn’t doing it.
Jim: Well, and...
Tony: That’s why...
Jim: ...gives them purpose.
Tony: ...that’s right. That’s why so many couples get divorced after kids go off to college, because that attachment is no longer there and there was nothing there in the marriage to keep the couple together.
Jim: I mean, you’re - you’re hittin’ a lot of people between the eyes.
Tony: But - but...
Jim: Bring hope.
Tony: that’s - all - all of this can - yeah, all of this can be reversed by coming under the rule of the King. Make your happiness secondary, not primary. Make - make His rule in your home and in your marriage and through your children the driving force and He’ll - He’ll give you plenty to be happy about, but then you’ll have something to look forward to as you launch these kids.
We have a generation of kids who are operating with no accountability and it’s spreading to the other children. It’s like if you have a 10-year-old and a 15-year old, and the 15-year-old says, “Can I go to the movies?” You say, “Yeah, be home at 11.” They come home at 4 in the morning, you’re ticked off, you say, “Don’t come here this late again,” they keep doing it. You’ve created a bunch of problems if you don’t address it. One, their rebellion will then lead to them doing more rebellion. And if the 10-year-old finds out that the 15-year-old could do it and get away with it, you’ve just inherited two problems. So you’ve got to have responsibility, discipline, all in an environment of love if you’re going to have the kind of stability that you’re looking for in the family.
Tony: Well, thank you.
Jim: I could sit here all day with you, but...
Tony: Well, I appreciate it.
Tony: I am.
Jim: We are as well, as kind of a co-publisher with Tyndale in this. Thanks for bein’ here at Focus and thanks for the many, many years of partnership.
Tony: Thank you very much. We look forward to even more.
John: And with that, we're going to wrap up our two-day series with Dr. Tony Evans on Focus on the Family. And there’s such great material in his book. I'm so glad we could discuss at least part of it, Jim.
Jim: Yeah, that's true, John. And this is critical for the spiritual future of our children. This is the next generation we're talking about. Tony’s book is packed with practical and biblical wisdom that you've heard in our discussion the last couple of days, so I hope you’ll get this book from us to help you. It is a wonderful resource, and share it with friends. Let them know too or get a copy for them as well.
I hope you’ll remember that Focus on the Family is a listener-supported ministry, and there’s a lot that goes into these resources and radio programs and air-time and counseling, just to name a few. Please consider giving a gift to Focus today. The summer months can be really lean for ministries like ours and it's true. We would be grateful to hear from you and to receive your support for the work that's being done.
When you donate today, with a gift of any amount, we’ll send a copy of Tony’s book as our way of saying thank you.
John: Donate and get a copy of when you call 800-A-FAMILY; 800-232-6459, or stop by focusonthefamily.com/radio.
Well I hope you have a great weekend and that you can join us again on Monday. We'll be hearing from Dr. Larry Crabb sharing about God’s comfort and peace in times of deep suffering.
Closing Voice Track:
Larry Crabb: God is not the author of making life terrible, but I would suggest this: that when terrible things do happen, there's nothing that's going to happen that God cannot use for His purposes.
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Tony EvansView Bio
Dr. Tony Evans is founder and senior pastor of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas, founder and president of The Urban Alternative, former chaplain of the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys, and present chaplain of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks. His radio broadcast, The Alternative with Dr. Tony Evans, can be heard on nearly 1,000 US radio outlets daily and in more than 130 countries. For more information, visit TonyEvans.org.