For families in the second and third generations of the Millennium, the ability to apply more of what God is now giving will become much the norm; however, it is often for many who have been called into God’s Church, that a parent cannot get that early and most formative process started at the beginning. This will also be true for parents called into the Church at the beginning of the Millennium. Instead, a child (or children) will be at various ages when a parent is called.
It is expedient for every parent to begin as quickly as they can to help their children to experience and learn to live by godly qualities and characteristics in their life. In this manner, they can potentially have these qualities developed within them as they learn of the value and benefit of it in life. This takes great discipline on the part of a parent, who in turn, will need to actively administer love, instruction, and discipline with their children throughout this process. The older a child, the more difficult the task may be, as their minds have already been largely established in specific patterns of thinking, attitude, reasoning, and living; yet it is a parent’s responsibility to strive to do so. However, even in all this, it needs to be understood that each child still has “choice” in such matters as to whether or not they will accept such qualities and characteristics as part of their way of life.
In some areas of this process of a parent working to help mold such attributes into their child’s thinking, a parent will find it valuable to also incorporate a system of reward verses punishment (discipline). Far too often, I’ve witnessed an unbalanced attitude expressed by some who consider rewarding a child as being a form of bribery, and therefore have judged it as being wrong, especially when it comes to using some monetary means as a part of a reward system. This is not true.
I’ll never forget the incredible impact an elementary teacher had on our son when she was looking for a means to motivate him in a particular subject. After certain achievements, she gave him baseball cards, which she had learned were important to him at that stage in his life. Different systems of reward and discipline often change with age. At one stage, we also used a system of monetary reward when it came to his grades in school. If grades were at certain acceptable levels, he would receive a monetary reward according to a specific level of accomplishment, but if the grade level were below an acceptable level, he would have to pay us. For him at that specific stage of his life, this worked quite well, and he grew in qualities that helped to develop better levels of drive, work ethic, value, planning, and creativity.
Parents need to focus on what kind of things or activities will help motivate a child in a right direction until a good quality can potentially be developed in them. In this manner, a child then becomes better equipped to then choose to live by such a quality. It is in this manner that such can become a factor of their “own thinking.”
When working with systems of reward verses punishment (discipline), a parent must seek God’s help to be “balanced” in this, just as any adult must seek to be balanced in many areas of their own life. Balance determined from one’s self, from one’s own thinking and with normal human nature, is rarely true balance. Learning true balance and soundness of thinking (decision making) is something an individual must grow in spiritually throughout their life.
In working with young children, it involves working with raw human nature. The work involved is striving to establish right characteristics that are in harmony with the mind of God. Often times, the use of giving a reward after specific accomplishments can go a long way to help begin establishing right patterns of thinking. It is after they have “experienced” the benefit for a time, and then through that process have begun “proving” the practice of such quality a parent is striving to teach, that a child is then more easily able to make the choice for themselves to live by such quality and characteristics in the future. God works with adults, especially in the beginning, in much the same manner in leading them to “prove” His ways with the prospect of reward, fulfillment, and the receiving of other profitable benefits from living His ways. This is not bribery.
Children Focused on God
From the beginning, mankind has failed to grasp God’s command to “dress and keep” what He gave to them. The greatest and most miraculous experience that mankind can witness in all of God’s creation is that of the birth of a child. For a parent, that God-given area of personal responsibility is far greater than they can comprehend simply through their own ability. Only within the Church are many now beginning to grasp this in a far deeper way, but there is much more to be built upon in all this. Now is the time to strive to incorporate and improve upon the exercise of personal responsibility toward one’s own children, especially in this year of a heightened dedication to God.
Once a child leaves the womb, breathes air, and has life, that is the moment a potential future member of the God Family is born. Aside from themselves, there is no greater responsibility in life given to a parent to “dress and keep” than to raise a child in the ways of God.
By now, everyone should recognize that there is much more about personal responsibility that is to be exercised in our lives. The building blocks are there that can be used and applied to every area of life that falls within our personal control. This includes areas of our home (residence), belongings, finances, use of credit, transportation, work place, job/employment/occupation, and more. We are to consider and seek to correct how we address matters of “dressing and keeping” those things around us that involve qualities and characteristics reflected in creation that actually reveal God’s thinking and His “spirit.” Most of this involves how we think toward much of this physical world around us that falls within our personal control or presence, which itself is also a matter of responsibility for the “example” we set toward those around us. It is another matter altogether, of incredibly great importance, that we begin to grasp the kind of responsibility God has placed on parents and their responsibility to “dress and keep” their children in God’s ways.
Once called, it is indeed a parent’s responsibility to actively work to mold their child (or children) in God’s ways and for teaching them that God and His ways are to be first in their thinking. It has already been pointed out how to begin this process of working with a child at a very young age to help develop right godly qualities in their thinking. However, when it comes to teaching them the importance of putting God first in their life, a parent needs to recognize that the most powerful means they have to do so is within the environment of God’s Church. Even if a parent were able to masterfully teach a child personal responsibility in “dressing and keeping” their environment, and they were able to have instilled in them such right patterns and qualities of thinking, that would all be for naught if a child is not taught and disciplined in keeping God first, especially within the environs of God’s Church. Indeed, the church environment is one of the most important areas where a child can be worked with to begin thinking in a manner that places God first.
This too begins in the smallest of ways. A child can be disciplined at a very young age to be quiet, still (calm), respectful of others around them, to speak to others (address/acknowledge others), to participate to whatever level they can for their age within a church environment. This includes teaching a child to learn familiarity with their Bible and looking up scriptures, as well as taking notes to help reinforce what is being said. This obviously includes teaching a child from a very young age to be listening to sermons and receiving whatever they can from what is being stated, even in the simplest of matters that they may be capable of gleaning. Such things as this do not just happen, and it does not come easy, but instead it requires a parent to exercise strong focus, attention, hard work, time, interactive conversation, explanation (teaching), discipline, love, etcetera.
As a Church pastor over a few decades now, and dealing with hundreds upon hundreds of people, I have seen the full gamut of parents working with children from active involvement to that of virtually no involvement at all. This is from a personal witness of seeing literally nothing being done to that of truly good examples of those parents who have been actively engaged in teaching their children many of these qualities, behavior, and values in life, where the Church is viewed as their family, and of them learning personal responsibility within that family.
In examples of those parents who have not engaged their own child or children well, or not at all, in rearing them to see the Church as their family, I have witnessed that which is even more negligent and defiling. In times past, there have been many parents who actually went in just the opposite direction. They not only did not engage in “dressing and keeping” their children in God’s ways, but they actually turned them away from God and His Church.
Sometimes a child will turn away on their own regardless of how good a job a parent does, but for those parents who are primarily responsible for turning their child away, that is incredible shame, hideous neglect, and sin. Because of a parent’s idle or negative involvement in nurturing their child as they should, that child can often begin to find attending Sabbath services as being a burden, unfulfilling, and an unwanted place to be, whereas many children look forward to coming together with others on the Sabbath.
In beginning to develop positive characteristics or traits in a child’s thinking, including the Sabbath and church attendance being a delight and something to look forward to each week, a parent needs to seek God’s help to know how to motivate their child toward such a direction.
The most powerful means available for a parent to influence a child in their thinking toward Church services, members, and the ministry, is that of the personal example of a parent themself. Too often I have witnessed how parents have spoken negatively about sermons, ministers, and others in such a manner that their children learn the opposite of what they should. Instead of the mind being molded as it should, it becomes negatively judgmental, more self-righteous, superior to others, critical, unloving, uninvolved, and uncaring. The wrong kind of mind is formed and fashioned in them, so it should be no wonder when they became adults that they then turn away from God’s Church. Much is often learned simply from a parent’s own example and attitude toward such things as the Sabbath, the ministry, and the Church.
So indeed, a child is to be taught to put God first, especially in an environment where this can be more readily taught and then for themselves to more easily learn. They are to be reared to respect God and to show respect to His Church and His government. This does not just somehow happen in life. A parent who fails to teach respect to be given to God are themselves failing to show respect and proper worship to God.
Several months ago, God and Christ drew my attention to the need to get rid of electronic devices from the environment of Sabbath services (before, during, and after those services). The exception to this is that children who are not yet in school can use such devices, and since school-age varies in areas, it has been decided that children from age six and up are not to use these devices. This was beginning to become a Church-wide problem as a result of the negative influence of society in the misuse of modern technology. Slowly, a negative and unbalanced use of such things began to creep into the environment of Sabbath services. This obviously does not include those devices being used for note-taking or bible programs that can be used during services. It does include electronic games being played by children and too often used as a kind of babysitting service for older children, where a child has no direction of focus for the real purpose of being in such an environment that is commanded by God. The wrong use of electronic devices also includes such things as texting and use of cell phones in areas of fellowship before, during, and after services.
It is at times like this, and in an environment when an administrative decision concerning change is made, that a parent has an excellent opportunity to teach qualities of value, respect, balance, unity, order, and so much more to their child. If not careful, a parent can also teach just the opposite.
There is a story I would like to tell you that helps to drive home the importance of some of what is being covered here. After this past Sabbath was over, my wife told me how she had made it a point before services began to visit with one of the children who is of elementary school-age. She mentioned to this child how she would like to see him begin taking some notes about what he was hearing in the sermon. Just as other children who had previously been playing with video games in the Sabbath service environment, this boy had been doing the same. As this change concerning the use of electronic devices was beginning to be addressed in the Church, it presented an opportunity to positively influence him to become motivated with a better focus toward Sabbath services.
My wife mentioned to this young boy that if he would start to take notes on the sermon, and after services bring those notes to her, and that if they reflected that he was listening and growing in that skill, then she would give him a certain monetary reward. After services he brought her the notes and was excited to show her what he had done. She asked him if she could keep the notes to show them to me. He stated yes, but he was eager to first show them to his father before giving them to her. After reading the notes myself, it was clear that he could be worked with in this new endeavor and that he was receptive to positive change. It was also evident that he was indeed able to grasp some of what he heard in the sermon.
Yes, even at a very young age, children can be taught and reared in a manner that helps them to be molded in ways in which their acceptance of personal responsibility becomes “normal.” During those years of helping to mold and fashion their minds in a positive manner, they will also be able to begin developing qualities and characteristics that are more in harmony with God’s very thinking and spirit. Certainly, it is clear that they will be filled with carnal human nature, as all people are until human life is complete, yet when they are young they can be fashioned and more prepared for the potential impregnation of God’s holy spirit that can be received later in life when they are called. They can be better prepared to come into unity with God and to more successfully engage in battle against their own selfish human nature.
Predetermined Personal Responsibility
In my beginning years in the Church, I had the opportunity to go to one of the three campuses of Ambassador College (a college of the Worldwide Church of God), which was located in the area of St. Albans, England (just north of London). That was in 1972, at the same time that Herbert W. Armstrong was being given knowledge and truth that there was a “spirit in man” (not of God’s holy spirit) that made mankind different from the animal kingdom. That “spirit in man” made the mind of mankind unique, as it gave a living being the ability to have the capacity to learn and a have memory, along with individual thought, reasoning, independent choice, creativity, etcetera. This was also the same time that Mr. Armstrong had a book published that explained this newfound knowledge more thoroughly. It was entitled, The Incredible Human Potential.
In one of the bible classes at Ambassador, I remember a class discussion at the time regarding Adam and Eve and the manner of their creation. We were also learning of this “spirit in man.” The present truth and focus at that time on that subject was that they were created neutral, which is true in part. It was understood that they had been created with free choice as free moral agents to determine their own choices for how they would live life. They were placed in as perfect of an environment as could be given to two physical human beings, yet they did not choose God and His way of life.
In that class, the instructor left us with the idea that since they had not chosen God, that it was as if God then slapped Himself on the forehead and asked, “What shall I do with mankind now, since they have not chosen me?” It was as if God then needed to come up with a plan whereby mankind could then be saved from sin.
Yet it was predetermined (preplanned) before mankind was ever created that they would need a Passover – that a Son of God would be born among mankind to be both their Passover and Messiah (Christ).
On one occasion, Paul was teaching the Corinthian Church about God’s purpose for the creation of mankind and His plan, which included giving His holy spirit to those in His Church so that they could “see” the things of the wisdom (mind, thinking, truth) that are of God, which others in the world who did not have His spirit could not see. It is good to see the whole context of what Paul was teaching. There are two verses that reveal much about what he was saying:
“But we [the ministry, the teachers sent from God] speak wisdom [that comes from God] among those who are being perfected [those called by God and begotten into His spiritual family], yet not the wisdom of this world, nor [nor from any wisdom] of the princes [leaders] of this world who come to nothing. But we speak the wisdom of God ordained before the world unto our glory [to the glory of those in the Church], which none of the princes of this world knew, for if they had known they would not have impaled on a stake [wooden pole] the Lord of glory” (1 Cor. 2:7-8).
The Greek word translated as “ordained” in this verse literally means “to limit in advance, to predetermine” and is most often translated into English as “before ordained, determined before, or predestinated.” In this verse, the word “before” that follows this word “ordained” literally means “in front of and/or prior to.”
Paul is clearly stating that at a time that was “before” (in front of, prior to) the age of mankind God had already “ordained” (predetermined, predestinated) that mankind would need to receive His holy spirit into their life in order to “see” what was spiritual, and that those who did not receive of His spirit would not have the ability to “see” on a spiritual plane. Paul said that the ability for someone to see these mysteries (this wisdom, mind, thinking, and truth from God) was reserved for those who would be given of God’s holy spirit as a glory in their lives. Further, Jesus Christ is being described as the Lord of glory, as the one through whom this glory (this revealing power) of the holy spirit would come.
Paul clearly magnified this same thing by what he told the Ephesians:
“According as He [God the Father] has chosen us [those in the Church] in him [Jesus Christ] before the foundation of the world, that we should be [become] holy and without blame before Him in love. Having predestinated [Gk. – predetermined, before ordained] us [those in the Church, those among mankind who are called by God to become part of His family] unto the adoption of children through Jesus Christ unto Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will” (Eph. 1:4-5).
It was always God’s purpose and plan to create mankind of physical matter in a physical environment, and that by doing so, mankind would turn inward and be inherently selfish and sinful by nature. God knew mankind, by nature, would not choose Him and His ways. This is true from the very beginning with Adam and Eve who were not able to remain neutral for very long. As mankind was created in such a manner, they would be given a Passover through whom they could then repent of sin once they were called (Gk. – invited) by God to be begotten spiritually into His Family. At such a time, one could then objectively begin to choose God and His ways if they willed to do so.
Only when someone is called (invited) by God to enter into His “God Family” (Elohim) can one begin to focus upon and develop a spiritual mind with God’s holy spirit. This is the process of the transformation of the mind itself that is spoken of by Paul in Romans 12.
All of what has been covered in this series to this point now brings us full circle to the most important thing God instructed Adam and Eve. God told them to “dress and keep” all that He had place in His garden – their environment – that was within their control. Of everything that was placed within the garden, God’s primary focus and purpose was upon the creation of mankind, as they were being created to have the potential to become Elohim.
So indeed, the most important thing they were to do was to “dress and keep” themselves – mankind – the very focus and purpose of all God’s creation. The need to accept such personal responsibility in “dressing and keeping” one’s self was predetermined before creation itself. We have already covered such responsibility concerning this instruction in regards to God’s truths, ways, and laws, as well as those things within our control that are in our personal environment. How each person addresses the personal responsibility to “dress and keep” themselves will be the focus of “Part 5.”