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A. Understanding God's Design for the Family

1) Gods design is the best!

The inventor best understands the intricacies of his product. Sure he might explain the
functions to others, but in the end only the designer really understands how the individual
parts fit into the whole purpose. In order for us to understand the family, we need to go
back to the Creator of the family. God formed and fashioned both man and woman and
then ordered them into married units.

God's blessing upon each of these couples would be

shown when they would bear forth a new person
that united resemblances of both the father and
mother. God encouraged this process by commanding the couples to be fruitful and

And God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and
female He created them. And God blessed them; and God said to them, "Be fruitful and
multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the
birds of the sky, and over every living thing that moves on the earth. (Genesis 1:27,28)

When something goes wrong with my printer, I don't turn to my radio owners manual for
help. I look for the printer manual. The same is true with the family. If we have questions
on how to guide the family, whether it be the individual parts or the whole purpose, we
turn to God's Word, the Bible, where our Creator Designer has clearly spoken everything
we need to know about the family (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

This doesn't necessarily mean we always listen to God's Word. Sometimes we hear so
much about caring for the physical needs of a child that we forget the importance of his
or her inner needs. What are a child's inner needs?

God told us in the verses above that man was made distinct from the other animals; the
male and female human beings were made in God's image. Man was designed to
communicate with God a spirit. Man is more than his body; he has an invisible part
which is partly comprised of a heart (seat of affection), a will, and a conscience. Man, for
example, is set apart from the animals by his self-awareness. God also has a design for
the family itself.

2) God's Design for the Family

God has not only formed male and female individuals, but He also has designed to use
marriage and the family to accomplish His overall purposes.
a) God's Plan for the Family

The family serves a crucial part in God's kingdom plans on earth. The family is the means
by which God communicates, preserves and further expands His holy influence. The
home is the place in which His truths are lived out and taught. By visiting a Christian
family, one should be able to gain a good glimpse of God's goodness, love, order,
communion, provision and law.

Pause for Reflection: Name three things a person would understand about God and His
ways by staying with your family for a week?

b) A Brief History of the Family

God created the first family with Adam as its head and Eve as his helpmate. These
became the first family and the origin of all the other families on earth. Adam, the male,
was responsible for the decisions made in the family. When he made wise decisions, his
family prospered. When he chose to disobey God's rules, his family and all the families
originating from him were seriously impacted.

"Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and
so death spread to all men, because all sinned--" Romans 5:12

Adam's children, then, not only inherited a physical and invisible likeness to their
parents, but also a sin nature (tendency to go against God's way). It would seem that God
could no longer accomplish His purposes through man, but God didn't give up on the

We begin to see God's intention when in Genesis 12 God started a new family. From the
then existing chaotic and rebellious society, God chose a man and his descendants
through which His holy purpose would be preserved and multiplied. God chose Abraham
to leave the world and go where He appointed him.

Abraham wasn't perfect, and yet God was able and willing to use him to bring great
blessings to the world through his family. Even today God uses the family as a
platform to expand His holy and good purposes.

It was through one of these good families that God brought Jesus Christ, His only
begotten Son, into the world. This righteous couple lived and taught God's Word to Jesus.
Later Jesus would mightily use what He had learned early on as a child. God made a new
family called the church. God the Father sacrificed His own Son so that others like us
could be adopted into God's family as God's children.

"But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God,
even to those who believe in His name," John 1:12
God has clearly instructed both the church and the family how to succeed in life. Without
strong families, the church and society will be weak. When the families are strong, then
Christ can develop His wonderful plan for the church. God has given us His Holy Spirit
and Word by which we can have godly families and churches. With God's Word in our
hands, we can no longer say that God did not tell us how to produce godly families.

Pause for Reflection: What is needed to make a strong family? What are one or two
things your own family needs to strengthen so that God can better use your family for His

B. Learning God's Way of Rescuing the Family

1) God Can Help Any Family!

God astonishes us by the way He chooses to help our broken families. He combines His
wisdom, power and grace to lift up a family and cause His good purpose to be
accomplished through it. We hardly know all of God's plans, but we appreciate how He
helps us as we determine to work along with Him.

Many families do not have ideal starting situations, but when a parent determines to carry
out God's purpose, we see God's Word has a wonderful effect on the family to change for
the better. Timothy, for example, did not have a believing father. His mother was a Jew
while his father was evidently an unbelieving Greek. God's grace, however, still brightly
shone through the influence of his mother and grandmother. What is it in the following
passage that Paul expected Timothy to possess because it was in his mother and

"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." (2 Timothy 1:5)

This 'faith' was more than words. It was a living faith. When God's Word is lived out,
then God's Word has great effectiveness. The same is true with any of our families.
Parents have a great impact on their children and when they turn to the Living God, God
begins to help their whole family.

My wife and I are humbled by our mistakes. We see the emotional scars on the lives of
our children. We teach this course so that you do not need to waste twenty years making
mistakes on your children! We have had to repent, restudy God's Word and more
consistently conform our lifestyle to that of the Lord. 1 This is of course a process. We are
still going through it. However, humble hearts seeking help from the Lord can speed it

2) Problems Creating a Godly Family

Some Christian parents might be thinking that they have been trying so hard and not
finding much help. We hope through these sessions to share some important biblical
principles that will help in those situations. There are many difficult situations out

One person recently asked me a question about personal evangelism, "Do you say to
the non-Christian who said that Christianity was "his parents' thing and not his?"
The question points us to a major problem with Christian families. Many Christian
parents think they are doing a good job of parenting when they verbally instruct their
children to what they should and should not do. The problem is that truth is not primarily
passed on through spoken instruction but on how their parents live out their lives.

Many young people with Christian parents are not following the Lord because they find
nothing attractive in their parents' lives. This is the root of today's secularism in parts of
the world where only one or two generations ago many of the people confessed Christ.

This means that Christ in His glorious fullness was missing from the home. Wherever we
find Jesus in the New Testament, the people flocked to Him so that they could know Him
and listen to His teaching. We want to make the home a place our children love to be: a
place where God's love, care and forgiveness is ever so evident, a place they love to be.

Pause for Reflection: Does your child like to be home with you? Do they tend to bring
their friends home to share that love they find at home with others?

3) 'Caught and Taught' : The Problem and the Solution

We need to broaden our minds to understand how basic truths and values are passed on to
our children. Some say truths are 'caught not taught.'2 The parents' lifestyle makes an
incredible impact on their children. We will expand on this below. When a parent like
Timothy's mother sincerly follows the Lord's Word, the child is wonderfully shaped (see
2 Timothy 3:15).

If what a child hears does not match up with what he sees, then he will go by what they
see. The child will dismiss and even despise what is taught.

If the father obeys God, then everyone will know how important God is to his daily life.
If he, however, looks very spiritual on Sunday but lives in contradiction to what God says
through the week, his family will conclude that God is a religious God - for church only.
They will think that God doesn't have much to do with their daily life.

Let's describe why those things that a child sees becomes so important. Many of these
thoughts will be developed in following lessons. These three points describe how children
unconsciously learn from their parents, that is, how they adopt the values of their parents
or 'catch' the truth.3
(1) Positional Learning (Responding to authority)

The parents largely shape a child's understanding of God by the way they live out their
God-given roles of parenthood. This can largely be traced back to the fact that the parents
are the child's only authority for the first years of his or her life. They learn how to
respond to authorities from the way their parents respond to God.

* The father is the authority in the home. The child's first impression of authority
including God Himself comes from how his or her father expresses his authority and
responds to the authorities in his life.

* The mother models the gentle and caring attitudes of God. The child learns how one in
control can be both strong and forthright as well as tactful, kind and a lover of

* The husband shows the way someone in authority also loves by the way he loves his

* The wife demonstrates how to get along with authority. She faithfully supports her
husband even if she disagrees with him.4 She models how to respect authority.

Pause for Reflection: Many children think of God as distant and uncaring. Could this be
because their father has never opened up and shared his life with his children? Does God
really like to talk to His children? (See Genesis 3:8)

(2) Relational Learning (Relating to others)

The child also learns how to react to life's circumstances by watching the way his parents
respond to the outside world. It matters little what the parents say. The child knows what
the parent believes by what his father and mother do. If the life model contradicts the
words, the children will ignore the words. Let's look at several of the many scenes that
shape the lives and attitudes of our children.

* How does Daddy respond when someone treats him badly? Does he forgive or try to
take revenge?
* How does Mommy react to situations that she doesn't like and can't control? Does she
trust God or worry and complain?

* Is Daddy content with what he has? Does he have to buy lots of things to be happy?

* Does Mom change what she might do or say because of what people might say or
think? Does she fear the Lord?

When a child sees God's Word lived out, he or she gains that same faith or understanding
about how life should be lived out. This does not make them a Christian, and yet it
prepares them with a love for the truth. They see the sweetness of the Christian's trust in
God and desire that peace and way of life more than what the world offers.

(3) Responsive Learning (Cultivating morals)

Thirdly, the child learns by the way his parents deal with him. We think mostly of a
mother's care for a child in the early days of the child's life, but it must not exclude the
father's care for the child. These issues greatly shape the way the child perceives what is
important in life, what is right or wrong.

* What does Mommy do when the baby cries? Does she always pamper the baby or
sometimes allow the baby to cry when only seeking attention?

* What does Daddy do when the baby interrupts Daddy and Mommy time with cute
antics? Does Daddy forget about Mommy and play with the child or prioritize his
relationship with his wife and play with the child later?

* What does Mommy do when the baby exasperates her? Does she shun the baby or still
patiently deal with him?

* What does Daddy do when his son is in a stubborn fit? Does he give in and bribe the
child to quietness or calmly sit out the 'storm'?

The child is unconsciously learning many things even from the time he or she is an
infant. Successful parenting comes about when we combine right living with right
instruction. We are cultivating more than the mind; we are shaping the soul or heart of the

Pause for Reflection: List one positive and one negative example that you as parents set
for your children.

4) The Pattern of Good Parenting

Children of course do not consciously ask the above questions. They unconsciously
observe and imitate their parents. This is why the most basic training takes place before
the children are able to read or write. Good parenting involves three basic steps.
(1) Understanding the truths of God. (Knowing)

(2) Applying them to our lives as parents. (Modeling)

(3) Instructing our children in God's Word.5 (Instruction)

Our children will imitate our own lives for good or bad! If we as parents do not set
a good example of resolving personal relationships, then our child will not know how to
resolve personal conflicts. We simply have not given them the tools, confidence (trust)
and knowledge to solve these problems. We as parents have not given them the faith that
it can or should be done. God's way of rescuing the family worked in Timothy's life and
can in ours too!

Pause for Reflection: Think about how you solve conflicts with your spouse and others.
How well will your child be able to solve similar personal conflicts?

C. God's Goal for the Family

1) God's Goals are my goals!

Far too often we fail in accomplishing any real long lasting good because we are
problem-oriented rather than God-oriented. Of course, we admire ourselves for trying
to solve problems raising our children, but these attempts fall far short of what God has

The problems that we try to solve focus on our point of frustration. We need
to turn our minds and hearts all the way around until we see what God wants.
We need to look at His standards and the goals He has for our children. It
helps if we ask, "kind of young man or woman does God want of my child?"

It is interesting to see how the apostle Paul called Timothy. We see that Paul
often calls Timothy his son (1 Timothy 1:2). Perhaps, Timothy's own father
had died at an early age. Whatever the case, Paul acted as a spiritual father to
Timothy. Underline the three things Paul tells Timothy are the goal of his

"But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good
conscience and a sincere faith." 1 Timothy 1:5

In the section below we will focus on these aspects of what Paul thinks is
important to input into the believers' hearts. We will discover that they serve nicely for
what parents should want for their children.

2) The Goal of Parenting

We can train all sorts of skills into our children, but none of
these skills compare to the good, obedient, loving,
submissive, respectful, self-controlled, gentle, astute and wise characteristics that God
wants to put into them. We must not desire the ability for them to make a lot of money
but how to rightly use the resources God sees fit to give to them.

God wants to bless our children so that they will courageously, lovingly and faithfully
serve God and others in the world. God uses our families to expand His kingdom of love.

In order to help us along in thinking what kind of children God wants us to raise, let's
look at a few key passages and thoughts from His Word. After all, our goal for our
children must come from God's goal for our children. We do not know how He will
specifically use each child, but we want them to lay the foundation so that whatever area
God leads them in, they will succeed and pass on His blessings to others. These three
goals come from 1 Timothy 1:5.

(1) Cultivating love from a pure heart (Mark 12:29-31)

(2) Developing a good conscience (Proverbs 1:7-8)
(3) Forming a sincere faith (Galatians 5:22-23)

(1) Cultivating love from a pure heart (Mark 12:29-31)

We have no greater purpose than to have our children be like Jesus. Jesus summarized
His own heart when He summarized all the commandments in a few lines.

"Jesus answered, "The foremost is, 'HEAR, O ISRAEL! THE LORD OUR GOD IS
AS YOURSELF.' There is no other commandment greater than these."

What word is repeated twice to guide us in our response to God and man in the above
verses? That is right; it is love. We are to love God and to love man. Jesus calls them one
commandment because they cannot be separated. Secular man insists on saying one can
love man without God. Jesus says one only can love man if one loves God.

For our love to be acceptable, it must come from a pure heart. Because God is one, then
our devotion cannot be divided. All of our lives need to be spent on doing what pleases
the Lord. All our heart, all our soul, all our mind and all our strength is needed to rightly
love God and man. The pattern is obvious. A true love is an undivided one requiring all of
our affection and purpose.

God made everything around us to be enjoyed and and for us to be well provided for. God
only wants us to be thankful and content with what He gives us. He wants us to use what
we have to care for others. The Lord is after our love. If we love Him, then we will obey
Him. We need to point our children to the goal of loving God and man like Jesus did.
(2) Developing a good conscience (Proverbs 1:7-8)

Certain attitudes and perspectives about God are foundational to real learning. The
attitude (heart) is the frame where the pieces of truth are placed. This is like the
indentations in a Chinese Checker board so that the marbles can be have order. If there is
no order, there are no rules and no game. Proverbs 1:7-8 give us a clear picture of how a
good conscience is developed.

"The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; Fools despise wisdom and
instruction. Hear, my son, your father's instruction, And do not forsake your mother's
teaching;" (Proverb s 1:7-8)

The foundation of a good conscience is the fear of God. It is knowledge but more than
knowledge. It is the way we perceive God. Without this spiritual knowledge, our children
will not be able to gain the wisdom and instruction necessary for godly living.

The child will have a good conscience when he fears God because of two reasons:

1) God's standards are inscribed on his conscience. He fears God rather than man. God is
everywhere so no matter what he does or where he is, he does what is right.

2) A person who fears God listens to his conscience. By this we mean that when he does
wrong, he rights it. He first of all is uncomfortable with guilt but also he is concerned
with the consequences that God will bring. So those who fear God are wise because they
avoid guilt by obedience.

The fear of the Lord is an attentive obedience to the LORD. A person who fears the Lord
is aware of the importance of His commands and desires and so conforms his life to
them. A person who fears the Lord allows God's thoughts and purpose to influence what
he thinks, does and says. The absence of the fear of the Lord means he does not let those
things shape his life. He fears no consequence for disobeying God.

The parents cultivate this fear of the Lord. We see this in the way the very next verse
(Proverbs 1:8) tells us how the fear of the Lord is cultivated in our children's lives. God
has made the parent the means by which the child gains his or her perception of God and
the world. Even Moses, God's great prophet, was nursed by his God-fearing mother
during his early years.6

The way a parent responds to the Lord will greatly influence the child. If the parent fears
the Lord, then the child will imitate them in this matter. If not, then the child will not
care. The child will esteem his or her own ideas as most important. Instilling the fear of
God into our children is the greatest protection our children will have in this devilish
secular world where our children will be taught that their own desires and ambitions are
held to be most important.
Pause for Reflection: The question rightly deserves asking, "What are we passing on to
our children?" How can we pass this fear of God on to them? Have we as parents really
learned to live in fear of God yet? List one situation where your child has observed you
fearing the Lord.

(3) Forming a sincere faith (Galatians 5:22-23)

Parents also want to cultivate a sincere faith. A sincere faith in God produces what Paul
calls the fruit of the Spirit. These things reflect the simple but genuine faith one has in
God. Without faith, none of the fruit would be possible. They depend on our trust in God.

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law." (Galatians 5:22,23).

Those who are brought up in God's ways are confident, because they understand how
they should rightly relate to God, others and the creation around them. What would it be
like if you could say these statements about your children without any hesitancy?

 Loving Our children believe others are important and made in God's image.

 Joyful Our children know God their Father wonderfully watches over them.

 Peaceful Our children are confident of God's presence in all sorts of difficult circumstances.

 Patient Our children trust that God will, in His time, care for all their needs.

 Kind Our children pass on God's grace and mercy as shown to them in Christ.

 Good Our children reflect God's goodness in the nice way they treat others.

 Faithful Our children honor God by imitating God's faithfulness in their consistency.

 Gentle Our children tenderly meet the needs of others by rejecting acts of manipulation .

Our children have learned by faith to live by God's wishes and rule over their
 Self-control

The more we learn God's ways, the more desirable they are. There are many things that
need to be learned about raising our children, but we cannot, dare not, forget God's
purposes in what He can do through parents who are keen on raising children His way.

Biblical parenting is simply taking the very best things and passing them on to our
precious children. Our goals are high but obtainable. Where they cannot obtain these high
principles, we kindly show them their need for Christ. There they find God's love and the
power of the Spirit.
3) Focusing in on the Heart

We will notice that God is not merely concerned with modifying the outward behavior of
a child. He is concerned with those things that shape who the child is and why the child
does things. God expects parents to properly cultivate the love, conscience and faith of
their children. We must reject focusing on the development of certain skills or providing
physical need only. They are important but fall short of God's goals for our children.
Surely this common approach is the world's approach which results in sad stories.

If God gave you a way to rightly train the heart of the child, would you not take that
opportunity?! Through our sessions we can show you how, but we encourage you to
make a commitment to do your very best to raise your children with a heart for God.
Below is an important assignment that will be refined as you understand more and more,
but your commitment should be unwaveringly the same.

An Illustration

The other day I looked out our front window onto a busy city street lined with houses.
Across the street I noticed something moving quickly behind the parked cars and large
tree. Someone came out from in front of a car directly across our house. I noticed it was
Benjamin, our eight year old. He had a good-sized white bag filled so much that it looked
like a big ball. He dashed across the street with the 'ball' in hand and much like a great
basketball player came up our steps, dunked the bag in our barrel, and sat on our front

Curious, I went out and sat down next to him. I asked him what he was doing. He said he
was picking up litter from the street. (It doesn't help that a candy store opened across
from us where there are many children.) He actually went up and down the street picking
up other people's litter.

I put my arm around him and said some very encouraging words to him something like,
"I am proud of you Benjamin. You went out of your way, all on your own. You did a good
deed by picking up their mess and made it nice for everyone!" He of course brimmed
with delight inside. He understood what I meant by a good deed. We have discussed
Matthew 5:16 and encouraged everyone to do good works and shine their light in our
neighborhood. At devotions I at times ask, "Who did a good work today?"

To be honest, Benjamin had been naughty at times that week. He was confronted on those
things, of course. But here, we could focus on our goals for our family, formed by the

From reflecting on the teaching above, write down the spiritual goals you want to have
for your children. Make sure you discuss them with your spouse. Remember to pray
about why you want these goals.


Sign your name below if you are willing, by His grace and power, to train your children
to be like Jesus.

Father: ____________________________

Mother: ____________________________


All training , for good or bad, takes place at home whether we realize it or not. Parental
training is instilling values, attitudes, responses and a general outlook on life in the lives
of our children. Home is the training ground for life.

The things that we put into our children are what we will get. We must constantly ask,
"What are we putting into our children? Do we like what we are getting?" Many of us
have not done too well. In fact, we might be tempted to give up because it seems too late.
It is not.

Fortunately by God's amazing grace, He can change us and therefore change our children.
We will need to speed ahead by improving our knowledge of His Word, more completely
obeying Him and carefully instructing our children. Many have rescued their families out
of the world. After all, our children are looking to see if our beliefs make a good
difference. If we model it for them, they find it hard to resist. God's love is always
glorious and desirable. We only need to kindly explain the change in our own lives and be


Parenting Principles

* God has a plan on how parents are to raise their children.

* God largely uses parents to train children for His purposes.

* God directs parents in the training of their children by His Word and the Holy Spirit.
* Young children learn more through what a parent does than what he says.

* God wants to train the child’s heart through positive instructions in the Bible.

* The ultimate goal for each of our children is that they be like Jesus Christ.


1) What place does the family have in growing God's kingdom today? Why?

2) Why don't many children want to be home anymore?

3) What does the phrase 'caught not taught' have to do with parenting?

4) Where and how do children gain their understanding of God?

5) What are the three steps to good parenting?

6) What then is God's goal for our children? Why?