What does it take to raise a child with the faith of a Daniel or Esther? David Jeremiah talks about raising children who courageously live their faith.
What does it take to raise a child with the faith of a Daniel or Esther? David Jeremiah talks about raising children who courageously live their faith.
Bob: Like most men, Dr. David Jeremiah has had to figure out how to balance his professional life and his home life.
David: I had a work ethic that was unbelievable. I went and talked to people and tried to win them to the Lord and get them to the church, and it was all very noble. We had two little children then: we had Janice and then, 13 months later, David came along. And so Donna had two little children. One day she called me into the kitchen and she said, “We need to talk.” She said, “You know, I’ve just been talking to the Lord about this conflict we’re having over the children and your time.”
She said, “I want to tell you something. I’m not ever going to ask you about that again.” She said, “The Lord is reminding me that you’re the priest in this family and someday you’re going to give an account to Him for how you deal with us and what priority you put on us.” And it just broke my heart. And I remember getting on my knees and saying, “God, there can’t be any conflict in your call of me as a pastor and your call of me as a father and a husband.”
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, July 3rd. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. We’re joined today by Dr. David Jeremiah, who talks about children being a gift from God.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Wednesday edition. We have joining us today one of the better-known preachers in America. I think this is interesting. If you were to go to his church and ask them: “What are the best-selling CDs at his church?” It turns out that the top-selling CDs are not his preaching, but they’re something else.
Introduce our guest and then ask him about what’s the hot selling CD at his church?
Dennis: He’s looking at you like he may not know the answer here, too.
Dr. David Jeremiah joins us on the broadcast. David, welcome to FamilyLife Today.
David: Thank you for having me.
Dennis: David Jeremiah is the Senior Pastor of Shadow Mountain Community Church in San Diego, California. That’s tough duty out there, David.
Dennis: Somebody’s got to live there. He is the daily host of a radio program heard by many of our listeners…
Dennis: …called “Turning Point.” He’s the author of numerous books, including Gold Medallion winners and best sellers. He, along with his wife Donna, has four children. Well, I’m curious about the best-selling tapes. What’s he talking about?
David: Well, what he’s talking about, Dennis, is…
Dennis: Did he give a message at your church some day?
David: No, no.
But maybe it’s in the same genre here. I’ll tell you, we had an engineer some years ago who went through everything I did and pulled out all of my jokes and put them on one tape. He said, “People are bound to like your jokes who don’t like your preaching, so now they don’t have to make a choice.” And we just started a tradition and every year we produce a humor tape.
He’s absolutely right. Those are the best-selling tapes we have in the whole ministry and it tells you that people are excited about laughing when they have a chance.
Dennis: Well, you’ve written a book called Gifts from God. And I’ve got to tell you, David. I’m pounding…
Bob: Oh, here we go. The soapbox is coming on.
Dennis: I’m pounding on the table because I agree with this book. You have written a book that catches the essence, I believe, of God’s heart: children are a gift from God. We’ve lost that today, haven’t we?
David: Well, we really have and that’s really one of the reasons why I wanted to communicate that. As a pastor it’s overwhelming to me how--and you wouldn’t think people would do this to their pastor, but they’ll come and they’ll talk about the burden of their children, the challenge. And, of course, we all have challenges with our children.
But I’m looking back over my shoulder now at this parenting thing and I’m telling you we’ve just spent the best years of our lives and the most exciting years of our lives and our kids have taught us far more than we’ve taught them.
Dennis: Oh, yeah.
David: We’ve been blessed so much by them and I pretty much still talk to my children every day and keep up with what’s going on in their lives, because our children have been a great gift to us.
Dennis: What would you say was the most important lesson the children--your children--taught you as a parent?
David: For one thing, you’ve got to know they keep you humble. They really do. They keep you humble. And I think my children have taught me that I don’t have to be perfect; that I can make mistakes and recover from them and ask for their forgiveness and I don’t lose face in front of them.
They’ve taught me most of all – and this is to me the core lesson and this is perhaps special to me as a pastor–that it’s important that I be who I am at home just as I am in the pulpit.
David: If my children say, “My dad is real,” even with this many imperfections, then I feel like I’ve accomplished something. And that’s been a goal.
Dennis: You mentioned in your book that early on in your marriage you received a “whack between the eyes” by your wife…
Dennis: …about your responsibility to be the minister of your family.
David: Well, this happened when I was starting a church in Fort Wayne, Indiana-- the Black Hawk Baptist Church-- which started back in 1969. Donna and I went there with seven families to start this church and I was committed to making it succeed. I’m not even sure my motivation was spiritual, Dennis. I think I just didn’t want to fail in front of all my peers.
So I had a work ethic that was unbelievable. I called on homes every night. I called on Saturdays. After prayer meeting on Wednesday night I had an appointment. I’d go and talk to people and try to win them to the Lord and get them to the church. It was all very noble. We had two little children then. We had Janice and then 13 months later David came along. We adopted Janice, and then David came along.
And so Donna had two little children and she was managing these children while I was out doing the Lord’s work, you know. I started to come home after work, Dennis, and she would say to me, “Are you going to be gone again tonight?” And I could just feel the pain in her voice. And I’d get angry and I’d say, “Well, you know what? I’m the gross national product down at that church.”
David: “You know -- if I don’t do it, it’s not going to get done.” And one day she called me into the kitchen and she said, “We need to talk.” And she said, “You know, I’ve just been talking to the Lord about this conflict we’re having over the children and your time.” And she said, “I want to tell you something. I’m not ever going to ask you about that again.”
She said, “The Lord is reminding me that you’re the priest in this family and someday you’re going to give an account to Him for how you deal with us and what priority you put on us. So from now on it’s just between you and Him. Whatever you think God wants you to do, I’m going to cooperate with it. But I just want you to know this is your job.”
And it just broke my heart. I remember getting on my knees and saying, “God, there can’t be any conflict in your call of me as a pastor and your call of me as a father and a husband. And somehow I’ve got to sort that out.” Out of that whack on the side of the head came a system of priorities that I began to follow, and I have very seldom violated them.
Dennis: That’s a great point because I think a lot of times ministers can confuse the call of God with the church and subordinate their need to lead and love their wives and to take care of their families to that call.
Bob: Yes, but even a guy who is not in the ministry can still be seduced by the work ethic that you described. How does a man dial back his priorities? How does he get from that GNP status that you were in, back to the place he needs to be with his wife and his kids?
David: Well, I sat down in my office the next week and I began to sort this out. I came up with this little kind of paradigm that I’ve shared a lot. Number one, I’m a person and I have a relationship with God. I can’t violate that for anything. Number two, I’m a partner and I have a relationship with my wife. And number three, I’m a parent and I have a relationship with my children. And number four, I’m a pastor and I have a relationship with my church.
David: So I got up a couple of Sundays later and I told my church, “Y’all are number four and I want you to know why you’re number four.” I’ve since discovered that if that’s not true - if one, two and three aren’t right - four doesn’t work very well.
Dennis: You don’t have a lot to say to the church…
David: No, that’s right.
Dennis: …if the first three aren’t in order.
David: And what happens is that’s where a lot of us, if we’re not careful, can wash out because we might be, you know, saying the right things, doing good exegesis, making good impressions. But if those other three things are out of order, the foundation and the soul and the very intensity of what we do is lost.
Dennis: One of the things that you write about in your book, Gifts from God, that I really resonate with is you kind of boil down the essence of what you want to pass along to your sons: courage.
Dennis: And that’s something I feel strongly about as well. Why did you pick courage?
David: Well, one of the reasons I think I came up with that; one of the reasons that was impressed on my heart was I’ve always been around athletics a lot. I was an athlete in college and in high school, and both of my sons have been athletes. I’ve seen the pressure that’s on them as they compete and, of course, as they move out of the Christian school circles and into the secular realm.
I think for young men to grow up in our culture today and be straight and strong for God, you’re going to have to have some fiber in your soul. And that’s why I went back to the book of Daniel and brought that whole story up to speed with our culture today, because Daniel was a man like that from his youth.
Dennis: You actually lifted several characteristics from the life of Daniel. In one passage you quote – it’s a great passage – Daniel 10:12 and 19 where it reads, “Do not be afraid, Daniel. Peace, be strong now. Be strong.” That’s a great admonition…
Dennis: …to a young man today, isn’t it?
David: You have to be strong. There’s no middle ground, Dennis.
Dennis: No, there isn’t.
Dennis: What are some of those characteristics you found in your study of the life of Daniel? There are some great ones that you outline in the book.
David: Well, he was an uncompromising person. One of the things about Daniel that intrigued me when I studied the book was that he served under four or five different administrations and every time, no matter who was in charge, Daniel, because of his consistency and his uncompromising courage, always rose to the top.
They looked for things in his life that they could indict him on and they ultimately came to the conclusion that the only thing they could indict him on was his faith in God. He didn’t make a big deal out of it. You know, sometimes I hear people talk about how he went in and he opened the window and he prayed, you know; but it says there that’s the way he always prayed.
When he found out it was against the law to pray, he didn’t change anything. He just did what he’d always done because he was a man of consistent and uncompromising courage. That’s the thing you want to instill in your kids, that, again, goes back to what we were talking about before, Dennis, for pastors or leaders: be who you are, wherever you are.
David: One of the things about Daniel that’s so interesting, he was very courteous. He wasn’t in your face with his religion. It says in the book of Daniel that he requested that he might not eat of the King’s meat, you know? He was a very polite, courteous person, but he was strong where it counted.
David: And that’s what I want for my sons.
Dennis: If dads will just encourage their sons…
Dennis: For that matter, their daughters, too. But encourage their sons at the beginning of junior high, at the beginning of high school, at the beginning of college, at the beginning of adulthood; it sets a lot of other issues straight. Now that declaration will be tested.
Dennis: And that’s why he’s got to have an uncompromising spirit.
David: Yes, but there’s something that happens when you go on record and then you know that you’ve gone on record and everybody else knows that you’ve gone on record. You become accountable to your own statement and it builds strength as you move along in your journey, especially in a secular environment.
Dennis: Do you remember a time in your children’s lives when maybe one of them – well, they were tested and they had to declare where they stood and it made all the difference in the world?
David: My youngest son, Daniel, who played in Louisiana for a couple of years. And when he was there, we went to Hawaii because they played the University of Hawaii in the Hula Bowl over there and Daniel was the quarterback. After the game was over, they took the whole team to a luau and they had an open bar. He was about the only one who wasn’t drinking. He was drinking a Coke. You know, there was some ridicule over that, you know, but he stood his ground.
I told him, I said, “Daniel, the guys who criticize you--when they have a real problem in their life you’ll be the guy they look up.” So it opens up this whole dialogue on the really important issues. They don’t go to their drinking buddies for help when they have problems. They go to somebody who they can look up to who has demonstrated that they live in a little different way. And that’s, I think, a pretty normal pattern in life.
Dennis: One of the things that you hit head-on with your sons was peer pressure. You believed that a healthy approach to peer pressure set them on the right course, as well.
David: Right; that’s true. Well, you know, we make a lot out of peer pressure and it is the most devastating force in the lives of young people. I cited in the book some of the experiments that have been done where they’ve taken kids into the room and, you know, they’ve told them that they’re supposed to raise their hand when they show them the longest line.
And they get everybody to agree that the second longest line is really the longest line and put all this pressure on the one guy who wasn’t in on the deal, you know. I mean, it’s like 80% of the time the young man who is on the outside, who hasn’t been clued in that they’re going to play, he will give in to the pressure.
And they’ve done this over and over again in all kinds of different settings just to demonstrate that when you think you’re the only one or when people make you believe you’re the only one, you will end up caving in to the pressure.
Dennis: Young people today, I think, are moving off into junior high and into high school, college and adulthood -- they can’t begin to appreciate the compelling force of peer pressure. Daniel was able to withstand it because his character was solid and he knew how to make right choices. You talked about that in your book as well, about how to make right choices and the importance they are in withstanding peer pressure.
David: Well, the whole issue of choice is you just have to decide before you go into the situation what your commitment is. I tell young people when I get a chance to talk to them: the back seat of a steamy automobile is no place to make up your mind about purity. You better have that already decided before you get in that situation. You better have determined what you believe about integrity and purity before you’re tested.
And the choice is made before the crisis comes or often you will make the wrong choice; but then you validate the choice in the midst of the crisis. One of the things about peer pressure, Dennis, that’s really interesting--hey proved that if you get one other person in on the game so that it’s two against ten, that the statistics of compliance to the pressure go way down, almost in half, which tells you again that, when it comes to peer pressure, having one other person who is really committed to Christ like you are, that you can buddy up with will really give you strength as you move into that situation.
Bob: Yes, standing alone is one thing. Standing with another person against the tide-- the Bible says that two are better than one. Right?
David: That’s true.
Bob: Two can put 10,000 to flight. There is something that gives you courage just to see another man standing and say, “I’ll stand with you.”
Dennis: Right. In fact, courage begets courage…
David: It does.
Dennis: In fact, courage begets courage, speaking of Daniel. You also. . . I’ve heard you mention that you encouraged your sons to know how to pick a friend. That can make all the difference in the world of having what Bob is talking about here, a courageous friend to stand with you.
David: Yes. And we were, especially in the beginning days when they started into school, we were pretty particular about their friends. And when they were going to go to somebody else’s house, we wanted to know who those people were. We would often call them and talk with them and we were--I mean, our kids sometimes would just die with the embarrassment of it--but you know what? If they get off in the right direction with good friends, it can often carry them all the way through the school situation, especially in high school.
And I need to say, our kids went to Christian schools, but I hope nobody is so naïve as to believe that the peer pressure in Christian schools is not just as difficult as it is in the secular schools in a more subtle way.
David: I told our kids, “If you really want to live for God and really be out-and-out for God, you are going to be among the minority in the Christian school.” And that’s true. A lot of kids are in Christian schools for various and sundry reasons. I believe in Christian schools with all my heart; I’ve given much of my life to it, but it is not utopia and it’s not the place where you can just say, “Okay. They’re in school here. I can just not worry about them anymore.”
The same influences that can find their way into your children’s lives in the public sector can find their way into their lives in the Christian schools, as well.
Bob: Boy, that’s right.
Dennis: It is.
Bob: You know, Dennis, all of the strategic things that David and his wife have done in raising their boys really began with the philosophy that we talked about at the beginning of the broadcast. You can’t have the strategy right until you first have the philosophy right, and that is you have to see your kids as a gift from God. It’s on that foundation that these kinds of strategic ideas can be built.
Dennis: Yes, in fact, there may be two groups of people we’re talking to right now. We may be talking to some mothers. . .
Dennis: . . . who are observing their husbands doing the very thing that David said he was doing early in his marriage and family and in his ministry. He was sold out to the ministry and his marriage and family were number three and four.
Dennis: I assume God was still number one in that situation.
Dennis: And there may be some mothers, at this point, who need to pray a similar prayer that David Jeremiah’s wife did when she said, “Lord, I will relent and stop nagging my husband to be the family minister, the family shepherd, the family manager. And I’m going to let you take care of him.” But then they may need to go to their husbands and make that declaration graciously and with respect, as David’s wife did and as David writes about in his book.
The other group of people that may be listening are a group of men who simply say, “You know what? I need some help here.” You know, one of the things that I think gives a lot of men courage who are listening right now (and moms, too) is that as you’ve described what you’re going through, you’ve not had this real clear-cut plan of imparting great truths; great, profound spiritual principles to your children. What you basically just told us is that you’re living it out; you’re walking the walk; and your kids are watching you.
Dennis: What you’ve modeled for us is you’ve let the man be the message. You know, Bob, that’s worth a ton! I mean, in an age that is. . . I read a piece in the newspaper the other day about how teenagers today are desperate--they are desperate--for models.
Dennis: For heroes. Well, you know what? You don’t have to be perfect to be a hero. You don’t have to be perfect to be a model. You can weep. You can be weak. You can get discouraged. You can have fear. You know, I think there’s a reason why the New Testament is filled with stories about guys who didn’t do it right. It’s to give us hope to say, “We don’t have to either.”
Dennis: We can be real. We can be authentic. It’s just that we need to be there at the finish line; walking with faith and being obedient to Jesus Christ. David is doing that in his family. I think a lot of men, Bob, are going to have a lot greater courage to be Daniels in their families and to stand strong as a result of what he shared on the broadcast.
Bob: Yes. I think a lot of moms and dads, frankly, just need a reminder; some encouragement; just somebody cheering them on to say, “You can do this! Stay engaged. Stay involved in your children’s lives. Don’t let the culture talk you out of being a mom or being a dad. Don’t let your kids talk you out of being a mom or being a dad.”
We’ve got a number of resources here at FamilyLife Today. Tracey Eyster, who heads up the MomLifeToday™ blog has written a book called Be The Mom. It’s a great source of encouragement for moms just to stay the course and stay active and stay involved.
A few weeks ago we had folks on talking about dads dating their daughters and we had suggestions on daddy-daughter dates.
You can go to FamilyLifeToday.com and we’ve listed there some of the resources that can help strengthen and equip you as a mom; as a dad; as parents to be active and engaged and involved in shepherding your children as you raise them to be healthy, well-adjusted young men and women who have a passion to serve Christ.
Go to FamilyLifeToday.com for more information about the resources that we have available. Again, the website is FamilyLifeToday.com or call toll-free at 1-800-FLTODAY; 1-800-358-6329. That’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word “TODAY.”
Now, with our focus this week on freedom and liberty and our celebration of the birthday of America, we have been making available a CD of one of the most listened-to programs on FamilyLife Today in all of last year. We had the opportunity to sit down and speak with Kelley Brown, whose husband Adam served as a Navy SEAL and paid the ultimate sacrifice. He gave his life in defending our country. She shared their story with us and talked about Adam’s heroic, courageous service.
We’d like to make available this week a CD of that interview with Kelley Brown as our way of saying thank you to any of you who can help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today with a donation. This may be a CD you want to pass along to someone you know who is in the armed forces.
You can go to FamilyLifeToday.com and click the button that says “I CARE” to make a donation and request the CD, or call 1-800-FLTODAY to make your donation over the phone. Request the CD of the interview with Kelley Brown; we’re happy to send it out to you. We hope that you’ll find it encouraging and we know that you’ll find it very moving as you listen to her share about her husband Adam and his service on our behalf.
And we hope you can join us back again tomorrow on Independence Day here in the United States as we continue our conversation with Dr. David Jeremiah. We’re going to talk tomorrow about setting boundaries and why that’s so important in the lives of children. Hope you can be back with us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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