Pastor 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)
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Dr. 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.
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John: 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: Oh, you know, last time it flew by so fast, John. I mean, 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 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, because so often I lean to Jean to be that person in the home that's setting the standard and the environment and certainly she could do that. But I've gotta be more mindful about owning the spiritual development of my boys. And you know, I think I'd give myself a pretty good grade, but there's a lot of places I could do better. Tony, let me welcome you back to "Focus on the Family." Thanks for kickin' my backside. (Laughter)
Tony: Well, thank you. We're excited about our relationship; excited about the book, Raising Kingdom Kids, excited about all you are 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 is a Christian man and that made the biggest difference, just to see it modeled.
And you're kinda like that in a pastoral role, aren't you? You grab the dads by the face mask and say, "Come on; run those wind sprints."
Tony: Well …
Jim: And translate it into how we should do that.
Tony: We try. Yeah, I mean, I think that's one of the jobs of a pastor is 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 love that word you just used. We are definitely too soft. You know, in fact, that's why so many men are not even involved in church, 'cause it's like going to a female event. You know, there's no challenge. 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 like a different thing. It doesn't sound like what we're concentrating on. Men need a challenge, don't they?
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? 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--
Tony: So …
Jim: --me ask you this, because you know, with wives, my wife is wonderful about maintaining center focus. I mean, in the home, she's great at that. But women just almost innately know to do that. Why in the gender roles (Chuckling), are we more easily persuaded to watch the news than get off our backsides and read Scripture with our kids?
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 the 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.
Jim: Okay, now a lot of guys are goin', "Uh-oh, I better switch the station, you know."
John: Yeah, this is guilty …
Jim: 'Cause this is gettin' all "hit the guy" thing. But you're bringin' the truth.
Tony: Well, here's why you shouldn't turn the station. (Laughing) You shouldn't turn the station, because in a football game, the goal is to win. So, you're gonna get bumps and bruises along the way goin' down the field, but the issue is, are you gonna whine, 'cause you got tackled? Or are you gonna get up and call a new play, 'cause there's a goal line you're tryin' to cross?
Tony: We are living in a culture today that is destroying our children. If you want to build the skyscraper downtown, you can always know how high they plan they plan to go up by how low they drill down. The higher the plan to go up, the lower they're gonna drill down, 'cause you cannot build the skyscraper on the foundation of a chicken coop. You gotta have a foundation worthy of what you're tryin' to build. Every parent wants their children to have skyscraper lives. Well, then you better dig deep foundations--
Tony: --so that, that will not crumble when the culture comes after them.
Jim: Wow, I mean, that is it. And you've written this book, Raising Kingdom Kids. That's it. I mean, you're bringin' it. You make a parallel there in your book about Babylon and the modern culture. I mean, people are already thinkin' of that now that I've said it. But what did you discern about Babylon and where we're at today?
Tony: Well, you know, Daniel, chapter 1, Daniel and his friends, his three Hebrew friends, 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. No. 1, they tried to "reculturalize" Daniel and his friends. 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." His 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 that's true of the other 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: 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.
Jim: Tony, this is really good. This is good stuff and I'm intrigued by it. How are we teaching our children or how should we be teaching our children to engage a post-Christian culture? Because again, in the church itself, we've got some competing views here, that we do it by force, by ballot, by just sheer control and power. Or more like what Jesus was discussing in the New Testament, which is, you're gonna show them the kingdom and it's gonna draw people to Me.
Tony: Well, 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 those principles, those values can be reinforced--
Tony: --so they don't feel like they're the Lone Ranger. A solid church will help do that, being in fellowship with solid families whose parents are raising their kids like you're tryin' to raise yours--
Tony: --will help do that, as well.
Jim: Let me ask you this. I appreciate that. There's so much beyond just relationship in this culture today that we didn't deal with. I mean, I'm talking about technology.
Jim: You're connected to millions of people if you've got a SmartPhone. And lot of kids, 14-, 15-year-old kids have that.
Jim: And how as a Christian parent, do you teach them to discern what to do and what not to do with today's technology?
Tony: Yeah, well, you know and we talk about that in the chapter on communications in Raising Kingdom Kids, because this social media has changed how billions of people can talk to each other in a nanosecond simply by using this medium.
So, you establish the boundaries. You say, "If you operate within this boundary, you can use your technology 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: (Laughing) There you go.
John: You know, I just wrote this down. This is so funny that you're mentioning that, because I have a teenage daughter and she's supposed to put the phone in the kitchen every night. And this morning I realized it's not down here. And I just need to help her understand if it's not down here, to quote you, "She loses it."
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 cannot skip the change that's taken place 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.
But he had a standard that he was not willing to negotiate on. So, when kids understand, it's not all, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no! There are a lot of yes's here and I can even get an expanded boundary by obedience--
Tony: --then there's a reward motivation. And there's a lot of reward motivation in Scripture.
Jim: You know, Tony, you're touchin' somethin' that is so important. It's the difference between principle and style, if I could put it that way. And I think again, we as Type A Christian parents and I put myself in that category, because I want it done well--
Jim: --we can often misinterpret style and principle. That's really what you're talkin' about--
Jim: --isn't it?
Jim: How do you do a good job? Is it a straight line or is it kind of a bit wobbly? What's the difference between a principle and style within our expression of our faith?
Tony: Well, 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.
Tony: Whatever is not condemned is allowed. And that's why there are so many statements in the Bible about freedom. It says in Romans, chapter 14, that 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. The kids, our children should be known more for the freedom we grant them than the restrictions we impose on them.
Jim: Boy, that is … wow! That seems like--
John: That's challenging.
Jim: --we're not even close to that.
Jim: But those restrictions need to be so strong, that when they step on that boundary line, that whistle will blow.
Jim: (Chuckling) Yeah and the penalty flag comes down.
Tony: That's right; that's right.
Jim: Hey, let's talk a moment about the single parent. It can be either a mom or a dad. Oftentimes when we talk in the context of single mom, we get mail and e-mails from dads saying, "Hey, we're out here, too."
Jim And so, I want to 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 in that context, 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 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. 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. Hagar was a single parent in an unfortunate situation with Abraham and Sarah. And yet, God met her and said, "I got you."
Tony: I know you're out here by yourself, but I got you. The mother of Jesus started out as a single parent. She got pregnant and she wasn't married. Even though it was the perfect Son of God, she started out as a single parent. Timothy might as well not had a father, because his father was not in the picture and he was raised and influenced spiritually by his mother and grandmother and yet, he turned out to be a great pastor.
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 responsible mentoring relationship where there's a man who works with a group of boys or 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, 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 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 we can't even keep up with the schools that are calling us, asking us, "Can you get us a church?"--
Jim and John: Hm.
Tony: --because they're so desperate, 'cause now teachers have to be academicians and social workers.
Jim: 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 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.
John: I would agree, Jim. We can do that and www.focusonthefamily.com/radio is where we'll have that information for you.
Jim: Hey, Tony, there was another aspect in your book, Raising Kingdom Kids that really got my attention, because I feel like it touches home for me. And that was where you talked about important virtues that parents need to teach their children. And the one that you talked about that got me was "tenacity," because it helps in the face of difficulty. I feel like that was something the Lord gave me as a kid. I was a tenacious little curmudgeon. (Laughter) I mean, if somebody told me you can't do it, I said, "Okay, I'm gonna show 'em I can."
Jim: I just had it. I always felt like that was maybe God-given, but you're talkin' about teaching your kids tenacity. How do you teach a child tenacity?
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 another student in school. It could be a teacher. It could be a course that's a struggle.
Then you come alongside of them and you do what we used to do when I was liftin' weights and the weights got like too heavy--
Tony: --and I wanted to quit, because it was too weighty, the trainer would come and he'd just put two fingers up under the weight and he'd be talkin' in my ear. He'd be sayin', "Come on; come on; come on. You can do it. You can do it. You can do it." But he wasn't just tellin' me I could do it, he put these two fingers up to just give me a little bit of edge, so that I could feel the assistance, while I still bore the weight.
Tony: So, you as a parent, must come and talk to him or her in their ear and say, "You can do it, and guess what? I'm gonna be standing right beside you. And whatever lift I can bring to this, so that we can get this weighty situation up off of you, I'm gonna provide." Just knowing there's somebody there, who's encouraging you, but also helping you, teaches them tenacity, 'cause you're not taking the weight.
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.
Tony: When the Bible says, "Train up a child in the way he should go," the way, the Hebrew word there means "according to his bent." You've gotta know the unique capacities of your different children, 'cause every child can't lift the same amount of weight. And so, you need to know those differences.
Jim: I agree and it takes time to study them. You gotta be observant.
Tony: That's right.
Jim: And you gotta watch them. Let's apply that to sexual purity, because the culture is ripping at our children when it comes to this issue. I mean, you can't watch anything on television without them seeing something that is in conflict with sexual purity. And for that reason, how do we help in that environment, to help our kids?
Tony: Well, the simplest principle is, whatever you do, God is doing with you. Is He having as much fun as you are?
Tony: If there is the consciousness, because my body is the temple of God, the temple of the church, when you understand that you're in the sanctuary when you're being sexual, do you know that God is now being asked to be a full participant right now? So, are you happy with Him with what you are doing? When there's that heavy God consciousness, you move a little slower--
Tony: --because now it's not just me and I'm not just by myself. So, creating that God consciousness is critical to this, but also giving them boundaries that are allowable, 'cause you could say no, no, no to that all day as we should, but giving them a boundary. What we want to do is, we want to be able to hand you off to your mate, pure as gold.
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 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."
Jim: Wow. Wow, that's good. I really think that's great. Let me ask you, you are a man's man. I so appreciate what you've done with Kingdom Man, the book you wrote previously to Kingdom Kids. 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 this 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 the neighbors think, what the friends think. 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 poor economic situation. He took his stand and he stood there. And the whole community knew it. And so, 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.
Jim: Every time you went out.
Tony: Every time we went out, see, he ruined a many a Friday nights (Laughter) for me man, I'm tellin' ya.
Jim: Yeah, no, but I mean, that's good. It's the right way to go and then your kids, of course, have got to learn that discernment. Let me ask you about that, when it comes to the helicopter parenting that we're doing. I've got so many friends that are in the business community. Odd things are happening where 30-year-olds are being fired because they're not doin' the job and their mom and dad's calling the employer saying, "How could you fire my son?" Or my daughter. That's odd. It's like they haven't launched and they're still engaged in their adult child's life to the point where you can see why the kids aren't succeeding, because mom and dad just, you know, kept enabling them to not grow up.
Tony: Well, absolutely. You have to increase responsibility and accountability as they grow up. And as long as you keep taking them off the hook, then they will assume either intentionally or unintentionally, that they can get off the hook.
Jim: Well, 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 hittin' a lot of people between the eyes.
Jim: Bring hope.
Tony: --all of this can be reversed. It's reversed by coming under the rule of the King. Make your happiness secondary, not primary. Make His rule in your home and in your marriage and through your children the driving force and He'll give you plenty to be happy about, but then you'll have something to look forward to as you launch these kids.
Jim: Tony, you have really continued over the last couple of days to teach us so much about what it means to raise kingdom kids. And let me just say thank you. Thank you for the creativity, for the application, for the reminder of those great truths that are right there in Scripture and how to apply 'em, whether it's Babylon and our current culture or what moms and dads need to do, including single parents when it comes to biblical examples of how to succeed in raising your children, even if you don't have a helper. And I want to say thank you. I love it.
Tony: Well, thank you.
Jim: I could sit here all day with you.
Tony: (Laughing) Well, I--
Tony: --appreciate it.
Jim: --it's just great. And you're excited about this book, Raising Kingdom Kids.
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: Some great practical material in the book and it's so crucial, the spiritual future of the next generation and we really believe you should have a copy of this. In fact, for a donation of any amount, we'll send that to you as our thank-you gift for supporting this ministry.
Jim: John, we are seeing some amazing things happen with moms and dads who are catching that vision for their children to grow spiritually. Our kids are the hope of tomorrow. And even though there are many things that maybe bring us down in terms of that hope for tomorrow, our kids have to be equipped and ready to face what the world is gonna bring their way. And they desperately need Jesus.
When you support Focus on the Family ,that's what we're doin' together, so join us today if you can to make an eternal difference in the lives of families, literally around the world. Just in the past year we helped 150,000 families work through a crisis involving their children. You helped us do that. That's why we're here, so send a gift today to help families. And as we close the year out, let me say thank you.
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This program was provided by Focus on the Family and on behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for listening in. I'm John Fuller, hoping that you have a safe and joyous New Year celebration and inviting you back tomorrow, as we once again, bring trusted advice to help you and your family thrive in Christ.
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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.