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Raising Good Kids in Today’s World

Raising Good Kids in Today’s World

Learn three ways to face parenting problems from the Bible story of Lot, found in Genesis 19. Rod McNair examines Lot’s parenting struggles—similar to common parent issues today—and how to identify what needs to change.

[The text below represents an edited transcript of this Tomorrow’s World program.]

A Sad Lot in Life

About 4,000 years ago, there lived a man in the land of Canaan, in what today is the general area of the nation of Israel. His name was Lot, and he was the nephew of Abraham. He had a wife and a family, a place of prominence in society, and had grown quite wealthy. You might say he was successful. But then, something went terribly wrong.

Lot lived in the ancient city of Sodom. Sodom and its sister city Gomorrah were judged and destroyed by God for their decadence and corruption. But this story is not just of the downfall of a sinful city, but the tragic collapse of a family as well. Lot escaped with his life, but his family paid a dear price. What can we learn from the story of Lot? How can this apply to us, in a world of increasing evil? How can we expect to guide our family, our children, in our society today?

So, how can we raise good kids today? I’ll be right back with the answer.

Sin Is Attractive Now but Destructive Later

Welcome to Tomorrow’s World, where we help you make sense of your world through the pages of the Bible. About 4,000 years ago there lived a man named Lot. He was the nephew of Abraham, the ancestor of the children of Israel. Before Lot moved to Sodom, he lived near his uncle Abraham. But as their flocks and herds grew, the land wasn’t large enough for both of them, so they had to separate. So, Abraham told Lot to choose which direction he would go, and Abraham would go the opposite. Notice how the story unfolds in Genesis 13:10:

And Lot lifted his eyes and saw all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered everywhere... like the garden of the LORD (Genesis 13:10).

When Lot saw the land surrounding Sodom, he was impressed. It looked good. It was fertile and lush, a perfect place to raise his flocks and herds. But there was something wrong with this area as well. What was it? Let’s read in Genesis 13:11–13:

Then Lot chose for himself all the plain of Jordan, and Lot journeyed east… and Lot dwelt in the cities of the plain and pitched his tent even as far as Sodom. But the men of Sodom were exceedingly wicked and sinful against the LORD (Genesis 13:11–13).

You see what was happening. Lot was drawn to Sodom, because it looked good—a place to grow wealth, to raise his flocks, to raise his family—a rich and fertile land. But the inhabitants had a way of life totally contrary to what he had learned from his uncle Abraham. Sodom already had a bad reputation.

The point is, Lot chose to move toward Sodom, not away from it. And he made that choice, even though there were warning signs that this was not a good idea. It eventually brought disastrous results on his family and on his own life, as we’ll see later in this program.

But what does that have to do with us now, living in the end-times? Let’s discuss our first key to raising kids in our world today:

1. Resist the pulls of the world.

The Bible tells us that as Christians, we must resist the temptations of this world, and be different. This is even more important as we find ourselves at the end of the age. We’ve got to discern the direction the world is going, and choose instead to embrace God’s way. Jesus inspired the Apostle John to write these words in Revelation 18:4:

And I heard another voice from heaven saying, “Come out of her, my people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues. For her sins have reached to heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities” (Revelation 18:4–5).

Sodom was judged and destroyed for promoting a lifestyle in direct violation of God’s ways. The Book of Revelation shows that the society of the last days will be promoting the same anti-God ways. That end-time society will be judged and punished, just like Sodom. And God says to Christians, don’t get caught up in that world. Be different, come out of it, and you can be spared.

So, why should this concern parents? Well, our children soak up the environment they grow in. The choices we make—whether we are coming out of the world, or being drawn into it—directly affect the viewpoints and attitudes our children will adopt. Many well-meaning, loving parents are unwittingly allowing the world to have too much influence on their children. The corrosive nature of the world erodes the values the parents hold dear. And one day, too many parents are shocked to discover their children don’t hold their values at all.

Maybe part of the solution is understanding what it means to come out of the world. Are we to run away and isolate ourselves from society? That’s not what Christ meant when He said this in John 17:15:

I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one (John 17:15).

We must function in this society. We have to work and make a living to provide for our families. But we also must protect our children from the corrosive nature of this world. And that means evaluating our decisions. Do our choices reinforce our efforts to train our children God’s ways? Or do they unknowingly tear down the character we’re trying to help them build?

Today, through technology, the world comes to us. Through our televisions, our computers, and our phones, we can literally feed on the world’s anti-God values if we’re not careful. Think about the themes that come flooding into our lives through entertainment and media. Our homes should be havens of peace that promote Christian values of love, self-control, and faith. But too often, we allow the world to inundate us with violence and selfishness, immorality and rebellion. If these corrosive themes fill our homes, why would we be surprised if they fill the minds of our children?

As parents, we need to be the primary influence in our children’s lives. No, we can’t shelter them from the world forever. But we CAN protect them and nurture them so that as they approach adulthood, they are ready and prepared to resist the pulls of the world.

The World Rubs Off On You… Quietly

As we mentioned before, Sodom WAS beautiful. It was green, lush, and prosperous. But it was wicked and rebellious as well. God sent two angels—who appeared as two ordinary men—to warn Lot and his family that the city would be destroyed. We read in Genesis 19:1 that Lot met these men at the gate of the city, and invited them into his home. He knew it would be dangerous for them to stay out in the open square all night.

But things did not go well that evening. The men of the city surrounded Lot’s house, demanding that he bring out these men, that they might abuse them. They even violently threatened Lot, almost breaking down his door. You can read the story for yourself in Genesis 19.

But notice Lot’s response to them. We read it in Genesis 19:7:

[Lot] said, “Please, my brethren, do not do wickedly! See now, I have two daughters who have not known a man; please, let me bring them out to you, and you may do to them as you wish; only do nothing to these men, since this is the reason they have come under the shadow of my roof” (Genesis 19:7–8).

As a father of daughters of my own, I can’t even begin to comprehend why Lot would say such a thing. On the one hand, he was risking his life to protect these men under his care. On the other hand, he was brazenly willing to put his daughters in unspeakable humiliation and danger themselves, in the place of these men.

How could Lot possibly think this way? Well, let’s think this through. We know Sodom was well-known for its extremely lax morals. Maybe Lot’s actions were an illustration of how tainted his own thinking had become by being immersed in that world. He was a righteous man—2 Peter 2:7 says that—but perhaps he had absorbed more of Sodom than he thought.

What about today? Is there a lesson for parents today, seeking to navigate the dangers of our anti-God world? There is. And that brings us to our second key to bringing up children in today’s world:

2. Don’t underestimate how the world is affecting you.

Like it or not, we are living in this world. And the world affects us more than we may realize. It’s good to ask ourselves, how is the world impacting me? Do my spouse and I find ourselves getting impatient and critical with each other, when we don’t intend to? Maybe we’re allowing the spirit of selfishness that pervades out world to rub off on us. Do we watch tv shows or movies filled with casual sex and immoral behavior? If we do, that’s going to affect how we think, ourselves. Do we find ourselves getting anxious or negative, for no good reason? There is a spirit world out there that is actively broadcasting a message of anger, animosity, and fear. Are we absorbing it? Then we shouldn’t be surprised when our thoughts, our words, and our actions reflect the world more than they reflect our professed Christian beliefs.

The Apostle James gives helpful advice on learning how to discern what is coming from the world, and what is coming from God and His word. He writes this in James 3:14:

… If you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy.

In order to know how to guide our children, we need to first look at the fruit of our lives. Is there love, joy, peace, faithfulness, and self-control? These are just a few of the fruits of God’s Spirit, as outlined in Galatians 5. Or, is there selfishness, disrespect, outbursts of wrath, and impure thoughts and actions? It’s critical we examine our own selves first, to know how to help our children.

James said we must not “lie against the truth.” There is objective truth, and the Bible defines what it is. And yet, overwhelmingly, our society does not recognize universal truths, especially when it comes to morality. The Barna Research Group reported on this in a 2018 study:

We live in an increasingly ‘post-truth’ political climate…. Over time, consensus on key moral principles has waned, and the younger generations are now inheriting this new moral landscape (“Gen Z and Morality: What Teens Believe (So Far),” Barna.com, October 9, 2018).

The report goes on to explain how each generation, in general, approaches sex before marriage:

21% of Gen Z strongly believes sex before marriage is wrong—though they are mostly on par with other generations.

Think about that statement. The beliefs of Generation Z—that is, those born from 1996 to 2015—are roughly the same as other ages, when it comes to their views on sex before marriage. In fact, only 22% of both “Elders” and “Boomers” believed sex before marriage is wrong. That’s only 1 percentage point difference than Generation Zs. Do we see any correlation between what the younger generation thinks with what they’ve been taught by the examples of the older generation?

We might blame the youngest generations for the moral slide. But who taught them? Who showed them the way? Who gave them excuses to adopt a relativistic worldview? If we are parents, we have to look at our own examples. And we must not underestimate the corrosive effects of society on US, which in turn affects our children.

The Purpose for Children—And the Importance of Protecting Them

Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed. But Lot’s wife, tragically, turned to view the destruction of those sinful cities, and died.

Lot escaped with his two daughters, and the story ends with another sad event in the lives of Lot and his family. Let’s read that in Genesis 19:30:

Then Lot went up… and dwelt in the mountains, and his two daughters were with him… Now the firstborn said to the younger, “Our father is old, and there is no man on the earth to come in to us as is the custom of all the earth. Come, let us make our father drink wine, and we will lie with him, that we may preserve the lineage of our father” (Genesis 19:30–32).

And that’s exactly what they did. The eldest daughter the first night, and the other daughter the next night. And so, Lot had children by his two daughters, and those children grew to become the Ammonites and the Moabites. Now, it’s a little hard to fathom the thinking of these young girls. What a shame, they were so confused in their value system, that they thought it would be a good idea to commit fornication, and even incest with their father. You must wonder, where was the spiritual training? Did Lot really teach his children about God, His Laws and His way of life? Was God real to them? Or, were they sort of left to just learn from their peers?

Lot was a conflicted individual. On the one hand, he is described as a righteous man in 2 Peter 2:7. But on the other hand, we see a man whose example didn’t always measure up to his beliefs. And I think we can assume, despite being a good man overall, Lot did not fully discern his God-given duty to teach his children.

It wasn’t that he wasn’t capable. If you review the beginning of the story, you’ll find Lot was a prominent citizen in Sodom. We read that in Genesis 19:1, he “sat in the gate of the city.” That meant he may have even been a high official in Sodom. And yet, even though a prominent and relatively successful citizen, Lot appears to have not made it [a] priority to teach his children spiritual values.

That brings us to our third key to raising good kids in today’s world,

3. Make teaching your children spiritual values a high priority.

When we think of our own lives, maybe we can relate to Lot. As parents, we sometimes struggle with our own burdens and stresses. We may feel overwhelmed from time to time. We strive to live as best we can, but we know our example isn’t perfect. And we sometimes feel inadequate guiding and teaching our children. Yet, as Christians, we must make the spiritual training of our children a high priority. And God will help us if we ask Him to.

In the book of Deuteronomy, God taught Moses the principles of living a godly life, so he could teach the parents, and they were then to teach their own children. Notice how He describes that Deuteronomy 6:5–7:

You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up (Deuteronomy 6:5–7).

God wants us as parents to make it a habit to talk with our children—to use normal, everyday situations to teach the principles of godly living. And we do it in ways children can understand. We teach them godly values, such as: Don’t hit your sister. Take turns on the playground. Share your toys. Pray to God. Show respect to your elders. Don’t throw your peas on the floor. You get the idea.

Notice Malachi 2:15,

But did He not make them one, having a remnant of the Spirit? And why one? He seeks godly offspring. Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously with the wife of his youth (Malachi 2:15).

Marriage as an institution was created by God. And why? Because God loves children and wants to bring “many sons to glory,” as it says in Hebrews 2:10. But He doesn’t just want lots of children running around who are rebellious, confused, miserable, and disrespectful to authority. He wants godly children. He wants sons and daughters who have learned to exercise self-control and self-restraint. He wants to see our children have learned to care for and love other human beings. Notice what [the Apostle] Paul says:

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother,” which is the first commandment with a promise: “that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth. And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:1–4).

The Ten Commandments include one just for families: Honor your father and your mother. It’s our job to help our children understand what that means. And sometimes we must gently but firmly correct them for behavior that doesn’t measure up. Not because we hate them, but because we love them. They may not like it at that moment, but that’s ok. They’ll be ok. None of us likes correction when we get it. But if we teach and even correct them in love, in a spirit of teaching them a better way, over time they’ll understand. And they’ll grow more secure, knowing there are clear boundaries of right and wrong.

Seek God’s Protection and Follow His Laws

A few years ago, doctors Gordon Neufeld and Gabor Mate collaborated on a book entitled Hold Onto Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers. On page seven of the book, they make a powerful statement of the challenge facing parents today:

For the first time in history young people are turning for instruction, modeling, and guidance not to mothers, fathers, teachers and other responsible adults but to people whom nature never intended to place in a parenting role—their own peers. They are not manageable, teachable, or maturing because they no longer take their cues from adults. Instead, children are being brought up by immature persons who cannot possibly guide them to maturity. They are being brought up by each other (Hold On to Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers, 2014, p. 7).

What a summation of the experience of too many children growing up today. That’s the world we live in. But as we’ve reviewed the story of Lot today, we can see these challenges are not really new. Other generations have faced the difficulty of raising children in corrupt societies. What we need to do is learn from their experiences. Our story and our family’s story does not have to end up like Lot’s. Consider what God said regarding Lot’s uncle, Abraham. He was living in the same time, but took a very different path than Lot. Notice what God said about Abraham in Genesis 18:19:

For I have known him, in order that he may command his children and his household after him, that they keep the way of the Lord, to do righteousness and justice, that the LORD may bring to Abraham what He has spoken to him (Genesis 18:19).

God takes special note of parents who are striving to live godly lives and pass on His truth to the next generation. And God will help them, if they sincerely ask Him for help. God cares about you and your children.

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See you next time.

Three keys To Raising Kids In Our World Today

  1. Resist the pulls of the world.
  2. Don’t underestimate how the world is affecting you.
  3. Make teaching your children spiritual values a high priority.