FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Teaching Children to Think Biblically

with Karl Graustein | August 21, 2008
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Do your children know what a real Christian is? On today's broadcast, Dennis Rainey talks with Karl Graustein, author of the book Growing Up Christian, about teaching children to live in the world with a biblical mindset.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • Do your children know what a real Christian is? On today's broadcast, Dennis Rainey talks with Karl Graustein, author of the book Growing Up Christian, about teaching children to live in the world with a biblical mindset.

  • Dave and Ann Wilson

    Dave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend—the Wilsons are the creative force behind DVD teaching series Rock Your Marriage and The Survival Guide To Parenting, as well as authors of the recently released book Vertical Marriage (Zondervan, 2019). Dave is a graduate of the International School of Theology, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. A Ball State University Hall of Fame quarterback, Dave served the Detroit Lions as chaplain for 33 years. Ann attended the University of Kentucky. She has been active alongside Dave in ministry as a speaker, writer, small-group leader, and mentor to countless wives of professional athletes. The Wilsons live in the Detroit area. They have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody, three daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

Do your children know what a real Christian is?

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Teaching Children to Think Biblically

With Karl Graustein
August 21, 2008
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Bob: Which is stronger in a teenager's life?  Their love for Christ or their desire to be accepted by their peer group?  Karl Graustein says peer pressure is strong.

Karl: It's very real.  It may peak in about 9th grade – the fear of what other people are thinking of them.  Every one of us wants to be liked; every one of us wants to be appreciated.

But who is the number-one person that we want to think favorably of us?  It needs to be the Lord, and that needs to be the driving force of a Christian and, yes, that's very hard for a teen, very hard.

[musical transition] 

Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, August 21st.  Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine.  What can you do, as a parent, to help your child withstand peer pressure and not be influenced by a fear of man?  We'll talk about it today, stay tuned.

And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us.  Can I let our listeners in on the – it's not really a wager – well, it is a wager.  I've made a bet with you about when you became a Christian, right?

Dennis: But, Bob, betting – I don't think you can bring that up as an illustration, Bob.

Bob: The reason that I bring it up is because what we've wagered is a steak dinner in heaven, and so if betting is not …

Dennis: Did I do that?

Bob: Yes, yes, you agreed to this – steak dinner in heaven – because you came forward at your church when you were seven years old, right?

Dennis: I did, I did.

Bob: But things really got on track for you spiritually between your sophomore and junior year in college, right?

Dennis: More on track.

Bob: Yeah, and you would say you were a Christian back when you were seven, right?

Dennis: You know, I really …

Bob: He's craw fishing on the bet!

Dennis: No, if we've got a game of – what's it called – Heaven Hold 'em? 

Bob: That's right, Texas Hold 'em.  Yeah, Heaven Hold 'em.

Dennis: We will find out.

Bob: Okay, I guess we will.

Dennis: I'll see you on the other side, and we'll determine that, but it is interesting to have grown up as a Christian in a Christian home, and made a profession of faith as a seven-year-old lad, I had an intense fear of judgment and of hell, and that was a part of how the Gospel was preached as a young lad growing up, and I walked the aisle as a seven-year-old because you know what?  I didn't want to end up in that place, and some people are going, "Boy, that's not a good motivation."  I'm going to tell you, that's a great motivation.  It really is a great motivation to go to heaven.  I don't think I really understood a lot about walking with God until a little bit later, and I don't know how much of that, Bob, was me and how much was the church that I attended in terms of equipping me and modeling that for me, and so …

Bob: And I'll go on record here as saying I could be dead wrong, because it's entirely possible that …

Dennis: It is likely, that's right.

Bob: … at age seven you made a genuine profession, and then there was just a slow growth season for a number of years before things got on track for you.  I'll acknowledge that that's a possibility.

Dennis: There was a time in there, though, let's be honest about that, where there was no growth.

Bob: Yes.

Dennis: And if you'd have come looking for fruit …

Bob: Things were a little bare in that season, mm-hm.

Dennis: There wasn't any fruit in my life.  I was at church, and I was going there, but it is an interesting premise that you raise here, because there are a lot of people who grow up in Christian families and, in fact, it can be a detriment to knowing when you became a Christian, and we have a guest with us on FamilyLife Today, Karl Graustein.  Karl, welcome back to FamilyLife Today.

Karl: Thank you for having me on again.

Dennis: You work with high schoolers, junior highers, you're the head of a Christian school in Gaithersburg, Maryland.  You're not a parent of teenagers yet.  You have three children, but they are all under the age of six, but you have more than 15 years' experience working with youth.  This issue that Bob and I are talking about is a real issue, isn't it?

Karl: Absolutely, and we can spend a lot of time thinking about, "Well, is that person a Christian?"  or "When did I become a Christian?  Was it when I was seven, was it when I was 25?"  The reality is that we don't need to put our confidence in a childhood profession of faith.  We need to be looking at evidence right now.

If you grew up in a Christian home or you didn't, the reality is right now how would you gauge where your heart is at?  Do you have a genuine love for the Lord, genuine faith with genuine fruit now?  And it's easy for a parent to put confidence in, "But my child did have this profession when they were five or six."  But if you look at the evidence now, there is little to none, and yet there is confidence in that profession.  We need to be careful not to do that.

As well, we don't need to spend every day of our life always saying, "Oh, I wonder if I'm a Christian, I wonder if I'm a Christian?"  It's possible to have genuine assurance of salvation.  That's what the Apostle John wrote in the first Book of John to inspire the reader to have assurance of salvation.  That is something that every genuine Christian should have.

Dennis: And, Karl, I just want to reinforce something you said we kind of scooted by real quickly – as parents, we don't want to give our children, as they are growing up, false assurance they they are Christians because they walked the aisle when they were seven or eight, or they prayed the prayer with Mommy or Daddy after we read …

Bob: Jonah and the whale.

Dennis: Exactly, you know, when they asked Jesus to come into their hearts.  But I like the way you said it, because the real issue is not what occurred in previous years.  The issue is today.  Who is your Lord, Master, and Savior?  And if you're not walking the talk, it's like a businessman I had lunch with the other day.  He came in, he goes, "You know, I'm really tired of referring to people as Christians who don't act like them."  He said, "I'd like to know who is a real Christian?  What are they?  What are they supposed to do?"

And, you know, he was aggravated because he had been burned a number of times by people who had introduced themselves as Christian businessman or a Christian businesswoman, or "I'm a Christian father," and they displayed no fruit.  There was no sign in their lives that God had any part, and they were submitting to Him and being obedient to what the Bible had to say.

Bob: Well, one of the things a Christian is supposed to do and be and – or not do is we're not supposed to love the world or the things of the world, and you say in your book that this is one of the challenges teens are facing today and maybe one of the diagnostic tests that parents and teenagers themselves can use to say, "Am I really a Christian," by asking the question, "Do I love the world more than I love God?"

Karl: Absolutely.  Scripture makes it clear you cannot love the world and love God.  They are in opposite directions, and Christianity is about who is the Lord of your life, who do you worship, who do you love?  And it is a very good measure to have a young person look at their affections – what is it that they love to spend time doing?  Is it online Facebook and the social networks that provides, and is the iPod and the downloading of the latest music and having 500 different song files on their iPod?

The lure of the world is right there.  It may be one of the biggest differences for a person today compared to their adult parents.  What a different world our kids are growing up in today.

Dennis: I'm telling you, and I'm reflecting back on raising our children, and our daughters, for instance, around their dress.  Now, you're raising daughters who have made professions of faith in Christ, following Christ, and yet you're getting ready to go to church, and as I did on more than one occasion, had to ask a daughter to go upstairs and put on different clothing.  Or before school – you're not going to wear that to school.

Now, help parents understand here what is a love for the world and just a temptation to be like the world?

Karl: Good question.  When you are asking this question, you are getting to fundamental level of the affections and the desires and maybe you could even use a word like an "idol" that a young person might have.  What is it that they love to do?  What is it that preoccupies their thinking?  And a love for the world, as I see in my students, would be a love for the same goals that the world has, whether it would be popularity – what is popular in the world's eye is very different than what's popular in the Lord's eye.

Dennis: Exactly, Karl, and that would be how I'd challenge you on how you answer this question, because teenagers are preoccupied with peer pressure.

Karl: Absolutely.

Dennis: And pleasing their friends.  I mean, it's just a part of the DNA of being a teen, even those who are attempting to follow Christ.

Karl: Absolutely, and Scripture talks about the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and what you described is a fear of man.  But it's very real.  They may peak in about 9th grade, though, the fear of man just driving you, but you will see adults that are very much affected by the fear of what other people are thinking of them.  Every one of us wants to be liked, every one of us wants to be appreciated, but who is our number-one person that we want to say, "Well done," and think favorably of us.  It needs to be the Lord, and that needs to be the driving force of a Christian's decision and, yes, that's very hard for a teen, very hard for a teen.

Bob: Some people will hear the Scriptures say, "Don't love the world or the things of the world," and their response to that is, "We must then isolate, we must try and shield ourselves from any worldly influence, lest we be tempted."  You can't live like that, can you?

Karl: It's impossible.  There are two extreme reactions.  One would be to flee completely, and the other would be, "Well, you can't, so let's stop fighting."  And those are two extremes that I don't think the Lord calls us to.  We need to be wise because there are certain things that we can flee from, and we should flee from, but there are also moments where we just – we can't.  I don't know, it might be in the workplace.  There may be certain conversation.  God may call a young person to stop working at the ice cream shop, but it also may be the time where God would call that person to walk through standing up for their faith, and there's a valuable lesson there.

You have to buy some clothes.  It's a challenge – you could buy it on the Internet, you could go to the mall, you've got a lot of different options, but in every one of those you're going to be faced with the situation of what is appropriate clothing, what's not?

Music – what a wonderful gift music is for us as Christians, as humans who are designed by our Creator to love and value and respond well to music.  But there's a lot of different music out there, and we have to show discernment, and it's perfectly appropriate for a young person to download a great Christian song and be inspired by that.  But you go to iTunes, and you're going to have choices you're going to have to make.

Dennis: Man, tons of them.

Karl:  Just on that website alone.

Bob: And some of those choices are going to gray.

Karl: Absolutely.

Bob: And we've just got to acknowledge that some kids are going to download a song and go, "That's okay, that doesn't impede my walk with Christ."  Other kids – it's a cause for stumbling, and that's what Romans 14 was given to us for so that we don't fall into the trap of saying, "Well, because it's wrong for me, therefore it's wrong for you," and, at the same time, we don't fall into the trap of thinking, "Well, I can handle this without recognizing that there is potential spiritual danger in some of those choices."

Karl: Yeah, and let me make a comment to any teenagers who might be listening.  One temptation that you're going to face will be to say or evaluate music by the question, "Is this bad, is this inappropriate?"  And, okay, it's not bad, therefore, it's okay.  I want to challenge you to be thinking, "Does this glorify the Lord?  Is this pleasing the Lord?  Is this good?"  It's a subtle shift of words but a huge change.

The other thing for parents – I just want to encourage that this – time and time again I am interacting with teens and parents, and they are walking through the challenge of talking about music and what's appropriate and what's not.  This is a challenge, I know, and potentially a temptation towards anger but also the benefit here is that you are having a chance to walk your child through something that may help them form a biblical conviction.  Not just in music but know how to form a biblical conviction that will then translate to movies; that would then translate to television; that would then translate to friendships, so the conversation with your child may be about music, but it is a stepping stone to helping them develop biblical convictions that are their own that will help them for life.

Bob: You wrote a chapter in the book that you and Barbara wrote, "Parenting Today's Adolescent," on the trap of media, movies, music, this whole issue, and there is going to come a day when your kids are going to decide what movies they're going to watch and what music they're going to listen to, and some of those choices may not be the choices you want to make.  Some parents think, "I just need to control that until they're 25," and that doesn't work, does it?

Dennis: It isn't going to work, it isn't going to work, and, oh, I had a number of thoughts, Karl, because we raised six through adolescence.  We're done now, Bob's not.  He's still in the thick of it a bit, but I was reflecting back on the number of times we'd have a discussion about a movie we wanted to go see until we began to find out what its content was, and when you saw it in black and white where all the words that were in the movie had been displayed on the screen, you'd go, "Whoa, that's not good, just not good."

And then they leave the home, and so you begin to see, "Okay, now we're going to see what your choices are.  Did anything we say stick?"  And it would be interesting to look back on all of our kids.  I don't want to generalize and say all of them did this, because I can't prove it, but I think almost all of our kids widened the path of the type of movies they watched, okay, and I don't think they got off into hard-core stuff, but I do think they started watching some R-rated movies.  And yet today, as adults, they are all following Christ.

Bob: They're starting to narrow their path a little bit again?

Dennis: Well, I think as their children get older, I think what you're going to see is the same thing that happened with us, Bob.  It was my children that helped me determine, now, wait a second, what do I believe about this?  And it's like a very wise man said to me one time, "All of life is about determining your convictions."  You're going through, you're working through the Bible, you're coming to fresh issues that demand an application of the Scriptures to real-life situations, and you're doing your best to determine what you believe.

Bob: And let's be clear about the goal here, too.  The goal is not ultimately to just correct the behavior.  The goal is to get to their heart and say what's in your heart that's causing that?  I mean, we come back to the whole issue of kids growing up in Christian homes and are these kids really Christians and how do you know if they're really Christians?  Well, that takes a heart diagnostic.

Karl: Absolutely.

Bob: And so this can be one of those opportunities to pull back and say, "Well, let's just talk about that and about the heart from which that proceeds.  Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks, and what I hear coming out of your mouth is different than what you say is in your heart.  Let's talk about that."

Karl: And even one more goal beyond that is you're trying to prepare your young person for life on their own, and so we can get frustrated when a teenager asks the teacher, "But why are we doing this?" or a teenage child asks the parent, "Why, but why?"  Well, that question should lead to dialog.  If the young person is patient and willing to listen, willing to do the heart work, hopefully, they develop this conviction that will prepare them for life.  So when they're 25, they're 35, they are not responding to Mom or Dad in the way they speak.  They are not even thinking about Mom and Dad.  They, hopefully, are thinking about the Lord and doing what's right in that moment, even if the peer pressure is in the opposite direction or even if they're just talking with one person.

Dennis: This is one of the places of life that wore Barbara and me out.  I mean, this was tough stuff, because it's over and over and over again, and sometimes it's the attempt to dialog with a brick, with a child whose attitude and whose heart is stone cold.  And, let's face it, from time to time the peers get the upper hand, the world gets the upper hand, they forget whose they are.

Bob: Their flesh gets the upper hand.

Dennis: I'm telling you, and you know what?  I remember.  I remember my 'tude, and so it's kind of like, I feel like my mom is in heaven right now smiling, "Oh, my prayers have been answered.  Lord God, send him one like himself so that You might teach him some of the pain he caused me."

Karl: I see this, as well, with teachers with students on a different relationship, obviously.  That's why a parent or a teacher needs to always be aware – what is the health of my relationship with this young person, because the closer and stronger the general relationship the more honest and the more clear or blunt you could be.  And, at the same time, though, one of my close friends, he talks about his teenagers seem to open up around 11:00 at night, and he's well past his bedtime, and the conversation is there but, you know, God has opened the conversation right then, and he pauses, and he has it.  And he may be tired the next day, but he is grateful to God for the conversation.

And you seize those that you are given by God, and you are wise to know when you're not supposed to push as much.  This is where, I'm sure, in your experience, you had to go before the Lord and say, "Lord, what is wise in this moment?  What is right, what is wise, what is winsome?"  And I see this time and time again with teachers – we have to be winsome in our faith, in our values, and win a young person over but, hopefully, we have the most important thing right; that is, their hearts have been transformed already, and then we can build on that.

Dennis: I think everything we're talking about here has to take place with a relationship in place with your child, and it's like building a bridge.  I don't know if you've ever been to San Francisco in Oakland, but there is a bridge that – I don't know the name of the bridge – Bob, you may – but there's a bridge that goes from Oakland to San Francisco …

Bob: Oh, that long, six, seven-mile long bridge?

Dennis: Oh, it's huge, and it's magnificent, but it looks like it's a one-way bridge.  But what's disguised is there is another lane of traffic underneath that top bridge that is carrying just as much traffic from San Francisco back to Oakland.  And I think that's a picture of what a relationship looks like with a teenager.  A parent has to realize, yes, you need to build the bridge of the relationship to your child, but, yes, you need to allow that traffic and that relationship to come back to you.  And that's how you can pass on truth, pass on empathy for the challenges they are facing, you can answer their spiritual questions but, I'm going to tell you, if there has been an earthquake that has been caused by sin in the child's life or in your life, and that bridge goes down, if you don't have the relationship, there is no ability to drive the truth of Scripture across to the child.

Bob: Well, and we've got to keep in mind what the goal is, and the goal is for that child to get the spiritual handoff, and that's where that bridge has got to be in place, but then to ultimately embrace their faith as their own.  And I think the counsel that you give to parents in the book, "Parenting Today's Adolescent," along with what you've addressed, Karl, in your book, "Growing Up Christian," helps parents be focused on the right objective and then know how to live that out in some very specific challenges that you're going to face during the adolescent years as your kids get pulled in different directions. 

I know my son read the book, "Growing Up Christian," with a small group, and it was great for us to be able to dialog about some of these issues and to ask the question, "Have these been challenges for you?  How are you doing in these areas?"  Again, we've got both books in our FamilyLife Resource Center.  You can go to our website,  On the home page, on the right side, you'll see a box that says "Today's Broadcast," and if you click where it says, "Learn More," that will take you to the area of the site where there is more information about the resources that are available from us here at FamilyLife Today, how you can get these two books sent to you.

Again, the website is  You can also call 1-800-FLTODAY, 1-800-358-6329, and someone on our team can make arrangements to have one or both of these books sent out to you.

You know, it's always an encouragement to us when we hear from listeners, whether it's with a question or with a comment, when we get suggestions, even those of you who chide us from time to time because there is something you hear that you disagree with, we appreciate the feedback and the opportunity to dialog.

And recently we've had listeners who have been calling in to help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today and have also been issuing challenges to some of their fellow listeners.  We heard from a couple recently who had attended one of our Weekend to Remember Marriage Conferences, and they had found it helpful.  It had been, in fact, a turning point for them in their marriage relationship, and they called to make a donation, and they said, "We want to challenge everyone who has benefited from the ministry of FamilyLife through the Weekend to Remember conference to consider making a donation here at the end of August as a part of the Family First Challenge Campaign.

So we are passing that challenge on to you.  If you've been to a Weekend to Remember, and you found it helpful, maybe God did something special during that weekend in your marriage, would you consider joining the Family First Challenge Campaign and making a donation this week or next week for the ministry of FamilyLife Today.

And if you are a regular FamilyLife Today listener, and you'd like to issue a challenge of your own, call 1-800-FLTODAY and make a donation and throw it down, all right?  1-800-FLTODAY, or go online and make a donation at  Again, we appreciate your support.  We hope you'll respond to one of these challenges or issue a challenge of your own, and we look forward to hearing from you.

Now, tomorrow we want to talk about technology and the challenges facing parents as they try to raise their children in a Christian environment when technology, again, is pressing in, pointing kids in different directions.  We'll talk about that tomorrow.  I hope you can be 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'll see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas – help for today; hope for tomorrow. 


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