Three Major Flaws of a Christian Home
About the Guest
Could a Christian home be an obstacle to a true faith in Christ? Perhaps, says Family Matters founder, Tim Kimmel, to Dennis Rainey on today's broadcast. Join us today and find out what three flaws often hinder a child from knowing the Lord personally.
Could a Christian home be an obstacle to a true faith in Christ?
Three Major Flaws of a Christian Home
Tim: What if your teenager is really becoming friends with some people that you feel are fairly undesirable? Now, you can muscle them out of that situation, you can just kind of stand on their air hose, and we have the ability to do that, we're the parents.
But what if you actually let them walk through that situation? Wise parents walk with their kids through their struggles.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, April 6th. Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. Can high-control parenting actually incite rebellion in the heart of a child? Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us. So – do you think we'll get a lot of e-mail from …
Dennis: I do. I think we have a lot of rebellious listeners.
Bob: Could be – why Christian listeners rebel. You should write a book.
Dennis: No, I wouldn't write it. I'd have Tim Kimmel write it.
Bob: Tim Kimmel could write it. Why do Christian listeners rebel, Tim?
Tim: I don't know, they listen to you guys too much.
Dennis: No, no, no, no, Tim.
Tim: They're overdosing on Dennis and Bob.
Dennis: No, Tim, you hold the record for generating the most negative e-mails of Christian listeners rebelling.
Tim: I've got a Kleenex here so I can dab my eyes.
Bob: You feel really sorry.
Tim: I'm overwhelmed with emotion here.
Bob: Now we need why do guests on Christian radio shows rebel? That's what we need.
Tim: Yeah, I'm not trying to pick a fight with anybody. I just realize that so much of the way we're doing what we're doing in our Christian life is blowing up in our face, and it's hurting a lot of kids, and it doesn't need to be. Parents want a better way to do this.
Bob: Well, and you address that in your book, "Grace-Based Parenting," which a number of parents have read and found very helpful; others have found challenging, but it's good to provoke some conversation, some dialog, right?
Tim: Yes, and people jump to conclusions what we mean by grace, and then when they read the book they realize, "Oh, he's not talking about just throwing our kids to the wolves and letting them do whatever they want." If grace is anything, it's a higher holiness not a lower one.
Dennis: Right, and I have a tough question for you, Tim.
Dennis: You're a graduate of Bryan College.
Dennis: Now, isn't that a Christian school?
Dennis: You then went to Dallas Theological Seminary.
Tim: Very good.
Dennis: Okay. Have you ever rebelled?
Tim: Well, actually, I did. I think I – in fact, it was when I was at Bryan is where I really started questioning a lot of things, and I dropped to my lowest point in my life spiritually in the middle of that Christian school.
And it was because God was becoming a cliché to me, because everything was being done for me. All the thinking …
Dennis: … chapel …
Tim: Chapel …
Dennis: Christian classes.
Tim: They would start off with devotions.
Dennis: Christian girls.
Tim: Absolutely, and [inaudible]. It was amazing.
Bob: You had grown up in a Christian home.
Tim: I had.
Bob: You'd been in church all your life.
Tim: I had.
Bob: Did you go to Christian schools when you were growing up?
Tim: No, I went to public school, but I did go to Bryan College, and so that was my first exposure to a Christian environment.
Dennis: So how long did your rebellion last?
Tim: Probably about a year and a half, and then I just had some really wonderful people that came through the system there at Bryan that really opened my eyes to why this was happening.
Because, you see, actually, that is not uncommon. When you put a person in an environment that does their thinking for them, it can actually turn their faith into a cliché. That's one of the things I talk about in this book.
In other words, we can actual create an environment where Jesus is just part of the backdrop. In fact, this reminds me, I talk about three fatal flaws of kids being brought up in Christian homes, and you would think, "There's fatal flaws?" Well, actually, there are.
The first one I see is they don't think that God is as real as He is. A lot of kids brought up from day one in a Christian environment don't think that God is as real as He is. He's like wallpaper in the backdrop of their life.
Now, they've done studies, and let's say, Dennis, you had wallpaper in your bathroom when you were a little boy growing up, and we had somebody go and photograph that and send it to us, and we handed you a piece of paper and crayons and said, "Draw it." They found that the average person cannot draw that wallpaper. Even though you saw it every day of your life, sometimes a couple of times a day.
Let me give you the second reason. They don't think that sin is as bad as it is. See, a lot of kids brought up in Christian homes, "Well, we're trying to create an environment where we keep sin out of the house and keep our kids from sinning. And I think that's a good idea. But no, going in, because they have a propensity toward sin, that if we just think that by creating a sterile environment, that that has supplanted that need in them, we are very naïve, because many times it makes sin alluring to them, and they want to maybe investigate it a little bit more.
Dennis: Okay, so how do we treat sin in our families then?
Tim: One thing is a savvy parent is not surprised when their kids sin. Do you know why kids do stupid things? Because they're foolish. They were born that way. They do stupid things. And we should, rather than being reactive that our kids actually sinned or were rebellious or whatever, we've just go to know that that's part of it.
Like that savvy father in Luke 15 that had a son that was, you know, bent on rebelling.
Dennis: I think another thing a parent needs to do is not just talk about what sin is and its impact in lives but also I think parents need to model what they do with their own sin.
Tim: Exactly. See, if I am a person that's living vulnerable with Christ, I'm not surprised that my kids sin because I know that I sin; that I struggle as a human being.
Dennis: What's the third flaw?
Tim: Okay, kids brought up in Christian homes not only don't think that sin is as bad as it is, don't think that God is as real as He is, but the third problem is they don't think, they just don't think, because one of the built-in problems of Christian homes is we have a bad habit of doing our kids' spiritual thinking for them. We give them all the answers to the test without them having to struggle with it.
And so what is original to us, especially if we became Christians, let's say, in our 20s or 30s, this is a real passionate relationship with us as parents. For the kids, it's just backdrop, it's just stuff that has been given to them as king of a rote memory thing, and it's not original. And that's why we have to allow our kids to struggle spiritually in our homes.
Dennis: Give us an illustration of what that might look like in a family. I mean, you're talking about not just imparting truth to them and teaching right from wrong, but you're talking about letting them absorb it?
Tim: Okay, yeah. What if your teenager is really becoming friends with some people that you feel are fairly undesirable? They've got some value systems that are very contradictory to your home. Now, you can muscle them out of that situation, you can just kind of stand on their air hose, and we have the ability to do that, we're the parents, and we have all the money. So we have ways of manipulating these things.
But what if you actually let them walk through that situation a little bit, praying like mad, while their faith is on fire, and faith is put on the test. And will they get hurt? Yeah, some of them would. Some of them make some bad choices, some of them get their hearts broken, some of them get stabbed in the back. Have you ever had any of those things happen to you? Get stabbed in the back or betrayed by a friend? I have.
This is where I learned what my faith was all about. This is where I learned what Jesus was all about. And so wise parents walk with their kids through their struggles rather than just denying. And I don't want to be a namedropper, but God said this is the way to do it.
Luke 15 – you know, you have the story of the prodigal son, and that father knew he could not stop his kid from rebelling. This kid was bent on rebelling. And so rather than just try and lock him down, you know, in his room, which he could have done, he was a pretty wealthy father, he says, "No, he's going to have to figure this out."
Now, I always keep in mind when Jesus told that story, who was He referring to? He was referring to God the Father, right? Now, here is a great thing we need to understand about when our kids rebel. We should not beat ourselves up when our kids rebel.
Dennis: That's easy to say.
Tim: It's real easy to say.
Dennis: But anybody who has had a child who has rebelled knows.
Tim: You just want to beat yourself up.
Dennis: Yeah, you want to question …
Tim: You think, "What did I do wrong?" You know, if I could go back and play it over again, here is where I made my mistake. Here is what I get out of this story. First of all, God is saying, "Why are you beating yourself up? I'm not beating myself up, and I'm the subject of that story."
In fact, think of it this way, God is saying, "Why are you surprised that your kids are rebelling? I'm God, and my kids rebel. I'm the God of the Universe, and I can't stop my kids from rebelling. So why are you surprised that you can't?
Now, we could go back and say, "Oh, could he stop them?" Yeah, He could. I mean, as the sovereign God, He could make us just a bunch of automatons, but He doesn't, because He's working with us in His grace and His love and His mercy. And so walking them through their rebellion is better than just trying to resist it all the way.
Dennis: I think one of the most difficult things for a parent, at least in the story of the father of the prodigal son is thinking about your son wallowing with hogs and eating pig slop.
Tim: Well, how about this? Wallowing with prostitutes.
Dennis: Thinking about the germs, thinking about the potential for disease, and when we see our children flirt with sin, that becomes very difficult for us, as parents, to back off and allow God to be God in our children's lives.
Now, what we're talking about here, and this is very important, it's not said in the passage in Luke 15 what the age of the prodigal son was, but I would bet the young man was just that – a young man. He was not 12 or 13. I don't think the father would have let the prodigal son go down and hang out in a physically dangerous situation at that point.
Tim: No, no, you wouldn't and nor are we suggesting that. But we are saying that there are 12-year-olds that act out some behavior that shows they are questioning our faith and our value system. We can react to that, or we can respond.
Bob: You know, as you bring this up, as we talk about your example of your kids heading off with some other young people who you think maybe aren't desirable, I think of two illustrations. One is a young girl whose name may be familiar to some of our listeners – Cassie Bernall.
Cassie was a student at Columbine High School.
Tim: I certainly remember her.
Bob: She was the student who, on the day her classmates came in and had their guns pulled and shot her, she was the one who said, "Yes, I believe in God," and was killed.
Several months before that, Cassie was headed in the wrong direction. She was hanging around with the wrong kids, and her parents came in and started monitoring very closely who she was hanging out with and found notes in her drawer, and they said, "No, you're not going to hang out with those kids," and they stepped on her air hose. She was 15 years old at the time. That may be an appropriate response for a 15-year-old.
Tim: Well, absolutely, and I've done that with my own kids.
Bob: Now, let me give you a second illustration. I'll never forget talking to R.C. Sproul, Jr. He was engaged at one point to a woman who was not a believer, and his parents prayed like crazy that he would not walk off and make a tragic choice that would go directly against what the Scriptures teach.
And when we talked to him – you remember, we talked to both R.C. Junior and to his dad, and we said, "What did you say?" And R.C. Senior said "I didn't say much, because I knew that if I said too much …
Tim: It would just [inaudible].
Bob: I could press him right in that direction. So I said, "Son, just remember who you are," and R.C. Junior said, "It's probably a good thing my dad didn't say much more than that because I was stubborn and probably would have done it just to prove my independence.
So I think the point that you're making here, parents have to be wise and shrewd about where our kids are in their development, how active do we become, how involved do we get, how many rules do we clamp down on them? When they're younger, maybe we have to do more of that, but when they're older, we could actually do more harm than good by trying to set up some hard boundaries.
Tim: You know what I was thinking about when you talking in there, Bob, is the one thing we need to throw into this mix that a lot of people probably aren't going to want to hear, and that is how do you know when it's time to step in, stand on their air hose, or to back off?
Is it spelled out in the Bible? Is there some way that we can know on this case we do this, and this case we don't? And here is what I say – the more you walk closely to the Lord Jesus Christ, and you are living a life of faith, the Word of God is a real part of your life, and you're living by faith, God will tell you. You will know, and I’m not talking about you'll hear an audible voice, I'm not talking about that. And this gets very dicey with some people, because they're thinking, "Wow, you're getting a little emotional with me here." But I believe it's where this whole thing is won.
Dennis: Tim, I couldn't agree with you more. It's not that you're getting emotional, you're getting intensely spiritual, and when you get spiritual, and you're talking about God invading a person's life, you're becoming mystical, and, again, I don't want to create some kind of ambiguity here, but when Jesus Christ was getting ready to leave the disciples, what did He promise them – the Holy Spirit. Why did He promise them the Holy Spirit – to guide them, to direct them, to teach them, to comfort them.
Each one of those functions of the person of the Holy Spirit is a function that parents desperately need. We need guidance, direction, comfort, we need Him to lead us into truth around the Scripture and just affirm what you're talking about here.
More than one time, Barbara and I have prayed, we have asked God for wisdom, and you know what? God has enabled us to catch our kids, He's led us through times when we didn't know what was going on, and our hands had to be pulled back. We had to let our kids go as they moved toward adulthood.
But in each of those situations, it was the Holy Spirit who gave us the power to get our fingers out of our children's lives, not be high control, not create this environment of legalism but to help them realize they've got to make the right choice, and we're going to let them make those choices as they move closer and closer to adulthood.
Tim: James, chapter 1, verse 5 says, "If any of you lacks wisdom, he should get a checklist from a Christian book." He just says, simply, "Ask." He should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But he says when he asks, "he must believe and not doubt because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind."
We have got to understand that the Holy Spirit is not some abstract concept. He really wants to move in our life.
Dennis: And you know what? As believers, we need to experience the filling of the Holy Spirit over and over and over again, and we experience Him as we walk by faith and are obedient to Him and yield to Him to say, "Lord God, would you fill me with your Spirit? Give me wisdom, give me power, help me respond in a right way, help me with the right words with my teenager so I don't incite them to anger, I don't encourage them to rebel but instead let them know that they are profoundly loved, and that we are here to guide them all the way to adulthood and to ultimately become God's woman or God's man."
Tim: You know, in that story, the prodigal son, we always talk about that kid that ran off, but remember there were two prodigal sons there, there were two rebellious kids. There's another type of rebellious kid, and that's that indifferent kid, that kid that's been brought up in a spiritual greenhouse but doesn't seem to care. That is an equally rebellious kid and, frankly, I think the kid that runs off to Torino and wastes his life is actually an easier one to deal with, because it's so obvious where he's coming from, and when he hits bottom, it's pretty obvious, too.
But that kid that stayed home that was upset that his brother was welcomed back, that's another type of rebellion. We talk about that in this book, because, you know, in our Christian lives, it's easy to raise kids where their faith is compulsory, where their faith is more like their hobby or a family tradition.
Once again, parents can have a very passionate relationship with Christ, and their kids have it more like a hobby. And I do have to mention this, since we're on the subject – there is another thing that we do unwittingly that actually, I think, sets our kids up to rebel, and that's when we make our Christianity too comfortable. Where, you know, we become a Christian and the next thing you know we have all new friends, and we learn our way around the Bible, and we learn some theology, and so we don't hang out with that old crowd anymore, we just want to be in our nice little spiritual country club with our Christian friends.
And then we tend to pray in such a way that we can maintain this kind of comfortable surrounding. Sometimes I've caught myself praying, Dennis and Bob, and I thought, "This isn't praying. This is whining. I want things nice and comfortable." Where did we get that it was supposed to be that way?
Bob: I read an article a number of years ago about plants in a hot house. You know, plants were meant to be nurtured in a hothouse so that eventually they could be moved out …
Tim: They could thrive out in the elements.
Bob: Out in the elements. You leave a plant in a hothouse too long, you'll kill the plant. And as I look at your book, "Why Christian Kids Rebel," it may be that some of us are leaving our kids in the hothouse too long, and we're not letting them face the wind and the elements and letting that temper their faith so it can stand strong.
Let me encourage our listeners to get a copy of your book, "Why Christian Kids Rebel," along with the book you wrote earlier called "Grace-Based Parenting." These two books are going to provide parents with some challenging new thinking on how we can guide our children biblically in a way that will enable them to thrive.
We've got both books in our FamilyLife Resource Center. You can go to our website, FamilyLife.com, for more information. At the bottom of the screen you click on the button that says "Go" with "Today's Resources" around it. It will take you right to a page where you'll find more information about both of Tim's books, and if you order them together this week, we'll send you at no additional cost either the cassette or the CD of our conversation with Tim Kimmel.
Again, more information is on our website at FamilyLife.com, or if you'd like to order by phone, call 1-800-FLTODAY, and just tell whoever answers that you're interest in Tim Kimmel's books, or if you have any questions someone on our team can help answer those for you. Again, the toll-free number, 1-800-FLTODAY or go online at FamilyLife.com.
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Dennis: Well, it's been a treat to have an old friend on FamilyLife Today. I have to ask you one last question, though. Many parents think, you know, today is just too evil. It's just too tough to raise kids, and they're being tempted to pull them out and pull them away. You really believe we've got to develop conviction in our children.
Tim: Absolutely. You know, this reminds me of the old white glove in the mud illustration. I've heard this – it's actually been thrown at me several times to counter this thinking of raising your kids where they have to trust in God. They'll say, "Tim, you put a white glove in your hand, and you stick it in the mud, what happens?" "Well, you get mud on the glove." "See? There you are. That's why you can't raise kids near the world."
And here is what I think every time I hear that illustration. They give all the power to the mud. They give no power to the blood. What does it mean, "Greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world?" What does it mean, "Resist the devil, and he will flee from you?"
My wife and I have not been so concerned about how much of the world gets on our kids, it's how much of it gets in them, and we believe that there is a way to raise them so the Holy Spirit offsets those things, but it might be a family that's a lot more savvy than the cocooned, comfortable, clichéd, cloistered families that we think we need to make.
Bob: FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas, a ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ.
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