One of the most sobering moments in history came when the Israelites were about to enter the Promised Land. God had given them the law at Mount Sinai nearly 40 years earlier, and, because of their lack of faith, they had wandered the wilderness ever since. Now it was time for the next generation to enter the land.
So Moses led the people to reaffirm God’s law. Throughout the book of Deuteronomy, they were reminded of the commandments that were to set them apart as God’s people. And then in Deuteronomy 28-30, God spoke through Moses to make the stakes very, very clear. Obedience brings God’s favor and blessing in the land of promise; disobedience doesn’t. In fact, disobedience would lead to dire consequences.
In this pivotal moment, Moses summed up the situation:
This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him (Deuteronomy 30:19-20).
The picture is really clear. He says, “You’re at a fork in the road. You have to choose one direction or the other. It’s not an option to just stay where you are. You’ve wandered in the wilderness for all of these years; you’re about to enter into the Promised Land. But how will you do it? Will you do it on your own strength? Will you fail to take a risk like the previous generation did? I’m setting before you a fork in the road, and these two roads lead to two very different destinations. One leads to life; one leads to death. One leads to blessing; one leads to suffering. And you have to make the choice.”
Choices are part of God’s plan. God parents us as children all through Scripture by giving us the freedom to make decisions. When you open your Bible and start at the beginning, you don’t have to read very far to see this. Adam and Eve were placed in the Garden of Eden. Were they robots? Were they controlled? No, God gave them free will. He did it willingly, knowing that it set Him up for all sorts of potential pain. He knew this perfect world He created could be devastated by the results of sin. But He realized love isn’t love at all if there’s no choice involved in it. So He took the risk of building choices right into the very fabric of creation.
The free will to choose between “life and death, blessings and curses” shaped the course of Israel’s history throughout the Old Testament and into the New. And the New Testament gives us the same dynamic: You can do what God says, or you can ignore what God says. One way leads to fellowship with Him and eternal life, the other doesn’t.
In the story of the Prodigal Son, the good father allowed his son to make a choice. It was a bad choice, and I’m sure it grieved the father. But this model parent couldn’t make the decision for his son, even though the decision would hurt. That’s not how love works, and that’s not how children grow to maturity.
In our parenting, we have to allow our children to make choices, just as God allows us to make choices—even bad ones. We need to place age-appropriate boundaries around those choices—you don’t allow a five-year-old to squander his inheritance, for example—but the decision-making processes of a child have to be developed in real decision-making situations. That’s part of their training.
When children learn how to make wise choices under your supervision, they will be much more likely to make wise choices when they are out on their own. The decision-making skills they get from you will eventually translate into their relationship with God. And when they come to a fork in the road, they will be well-equipped to choose obedience and fully experience the promises God has put before them.
by Phil Tuttle
Raise Up A Child
No matter how good you are with children, we could all use some biblical instruction and solid skills when it comes to raising and guiding them. And although skills are good, it helps to have some encouragement, with a huge dose of patience, and a big helping of a sense of humor! You’ll find all of that with Raise Up a Child!
Andy Stanley, Pastor of North Point Ministries in Atlanta, GA.,–
“Phil Tuttle has tackled one of life’s most difficult topics: parenting. In Raise Up a Child, through humor and solid principles, Phil teaches us how to develop our heavenly Father’s perspective on raising godly children. Get this curriculum (or invite an instructor to teach it live). Learn it, live it, and give your children and grandchildren a gift that will last for generations.”
This series isn’t just for parents! Teachers, grandparents, caregivers, small group leaders, camp leaders and more will benefit significantly from this study!
Raise Up a Child conveys practical parenting wisdom through four easy-to-remember “compass points” uniquely taught from Luke 15’s Prodigal Son story. These principles offer much needed help and hope. With this resource, children will likely grow up to be more mature, responsible, loving, and secure.