Children Do Come with Manuals!

by Jefferson David Tant

Some months ago, my wife and I bought a new car. Well, it is about five years old, but it was new to us. Thankfully, it had an important document in the glove box — an Owner’s Manual. I don’t think I will ever learn about all the gadgets that the car has, but in following the manual we have learned how to drive the car and make use of all the important things that make the car useful. And the manual gives information concerning taking good care of the car so that it will have a long and useful life.

Don’t we all have items, gadgets, and machines that come with an Owner’s Manuel? Even our refrigerator has one. We want to know how to take good care of things that are important to us, from our refrigerators to our automobiles. That just makes good sense, doesn’t it?

But what is absolutely the most important “thing” that parents have? Well, it’s not a “thing,” but a precious child — God’s gift. And that child came with an owner’s manual. It’s called a Bible.

Now, all parents want their children to be successful. That’s why we send them to school, so they can get an education and make their way in the world. And good parents are diligent in tending to their children’s education. They see to it that their children get their homework done, limit their TV and computer times, etc., and prepare for their exams so they can graduate.

That is all well and good. But parents must also remember that there is an even final exam — the Day of Judgment. We are familiar with the words of Paul in II Corinthians 5:10-11: “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade men, but we are made manifest to God; and I hope that we are made manifest also in your consciences.

Allow me to apply one phrase to the point of this article: “Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we teach our children.

So, just what instructions does our “Owner’s Manual” give concerning raising our children? We get some good advice in Deuteronomy 6:4-9:

Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one! You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

With respect to the “doorposts,” the Jews give the name "Mezuzah" to certain pieces of parchment, which they fix on the doorposts of their houses, understanding this precept in a literal sense. A small metal holder containing a verse of Scripture is attached to the doorpost, and whenever a person leaves the house, one’s fingers pass over it as a reminder. They were even on the doorposts of the hotel rooms where my wife and I stayed when we were in Jerusalem.

Did the Hebrew children have to learn math and language, etc?” Obviously so. But there was something of greater importance, for while their learning in math was good for some years, their learning in spiritual matters was good for eternity.

That reminder might be good, but if “remind” is all it does, then it’s of no more use than the practice of many who have a Bible sitting on the shelf or on the coffee table in their homes. It’s not studied but serves as a reminder.

Now, some may say, “We take our children to church on Sunday and Wednesday, and they get to study the Bible in their classes.” Good! So how about sending them to school for half a day each week. That would be about the same number of hours spent at church services. I think you see the point.

Now, turning to the New Testament, we see some useful passages. “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). “Bring them up” is from the Greek “ektrepho,” to rear up to maturity, i.e. (genitive case) to cherish or train:--bring up, nourish.”

If your son wanted to be a scientist or your daughter wanted to be a doctor, could that goal be accomplished by studying two or three hours a week? You know the answer. Note that Paul’s admonition wasn’t to Bible class teachers or preachers. It was to fathers.

Ok, what about mothers? We remember Paul’s words to his son in the gospel, Timothy. “For I am mindful of the sincere faith within you, which first dwelt in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am sure that it is in you as well” (II Timothy 1:5). Timothy’s father was not a Christian, but his faith was so strong that it impressed the apostle Paul. Who had taught Timothy? Evidently his mother and grandmother.

When my wife and I had children at home, we would have daily Bible studies/ devotions around the breakfast table. We also invited neighborhood friends of our children, two of whom were baptized into Christ.

It is well known that in the United States, a large percentage of students who enter college believing in God lose their faith. Why? Consider the following quotes.

“We try to arrange things so that students who enter as bigoted, homophobic, religious fundamentalists will leave college with views more like our own…We are going to go right on trying to discredit you (fundamentalist parents) in the eyes of your children, trying to strip your fundamentalist religious community of dignity, trying to make your view seem silly rather than discussable. We are not so inclusivist as to tolerate intolerance such as yours” [Prof. Richard Rorty, in his essay “Universality and Truth”].

“Every child in America entering school at the age of five is insane because he comes to school with certain allegiances towards our founding fathers, towards his parents, toward a belief in a supernatural being… It is up to you teachers to make all of these sick children well by creating the International Children of the Future” (Chester M. Pierce, Harvard Professor addressing public school teachers" [Berit Kjos, Brave New Schools, p. 161].

So the question is, “How do we prepare our children for warfare and for heaven?” The apostle Paul gives some good advice about this.

Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints” (Ephesians 6:13-18).

Parents, are you carefully following the “Owner’s Manual” in the discipline and instruction of the Lord?”

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