What Is the Kingdom of God?

What Is the Kingdom of God?


Some think it is a feeling in your heart. Others assume it is the Church. Some confuse it with the Millennium. Just what is God’s Kingdom?
From the September 2010 Trumpet Print Edition

In Mark 1:1, we read of the “beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ.” Gospel means good news. What was the gospel—or good news—Jesus preached? Verse 14 gives the answer: “Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God.”

Christ’s gospel is the Kingdom of God. Why is it important for us to understand the Kingdom of God? Because, Christ said, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel” (verse 15). In order to be saved, we must believe the gospel! To believe, we must know what it is. What is the Kingdom of God?

Daniel Knew

The book of Daniel was recorded at the time of the Chaldean Empire, between 605 and 562 b.c. The nation of Israel had already been taken out of its land and into Assyrian captivity in 721-718 b.c. Judah was still in the area that is called Israel today. But the people of Judah were taken captive by King Nebuchadnezzar and the Chaldean Empire. Nebuchadnezzar became the first world-ruling leader.

During the second year of his reign, he had a troubling dream. It troubled him so much that he demanded the magicians and sorcerers of the kingdom to come before him to interpret its meaning. None of them could.

Daniel, a Jewish teenager, was called before the king. God had given Daniel great wisdom and a special talent for understanding “all visions and dreams” (Daniel 1:17).

The dream Nebuchadnezzar had is recorded in Daniel 2. It was of a great image. The image’s head was made of fine gold; its breast and arms were made of silver; its belly and thighs were made of brass; its legs were iron, and its feet were part iron and part clay (verses 31-33). In the dream, the king saw a stone smite the image at its feet, causing it to fall down and to shatter (verses 34-35).

Not taking any credit for the interpretation himself, Daniel quickly directed Nebuchadnezzar to the real Source behind the true meaning: “there is a God in heaven that revealeth secrets, and maketh known to the king Nebuchadnezzar what shall be in the latter days” (verse 28). Notice! Not only was it God who revealed it, but the meaning was for the latter days—the time we live in now!

The great image represented four world-ruling kingdoms. The head of gold represented the existing Chaldean Empire (verses 37-38). It was to be followed by “another kingdom inferior to thee, and another third kingdom of brass, which shall bear rule over all the earth” (verse 39). These were to be world-ruling kingdoms, with leaders, or kings, ruling over people right here on Earth. In history, the Chaldean Empire was succeeded by the Persian Empire, which was followed by an even more powerful Greco-Macedonian Empire.

The fourth kingdom, represented by the two legs of iron, would be the greatest worldly kingdom of all: the Roman Empire (verse 40). It began around 30 b.c. and extended through a.d. 476, when it was crushed. But since that time, there have been six resurrections of the Holy Roman Empire, with the seventh and final resurrection now forming in Europe. Many other prophecies pinpoint the specifics concerning the seven resurrections. History has confirmed what God prophesied.

But what is important with regard to the question of the gospel is that all of these kingdoms were world-ruling kingdoms with governments presiding over subjects, or people.

Now notice verse 44: “And in the days of these kings [referring to the final resurrection of the Holy Roman Empire to be comprised of 10 nations or kings] shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever.” Finally, after 6,000 years of a world that has escalated in violence and misery, God will set up His Kingdom, crowning Jesus Christ as King of that Kingdom (Luke 1:31-33). In the dream, God’s Kingdom is represented by the stone that struck the image in its feet.

The kingdoms discussed in Daniel 2:37-40 all ruled over people here on Earth. And so will God’s Kingdom! Yes, the Kingdom of God will be a literal government, just as the Roman Empire ruled over people. That Kingdom will be set up when Jesus Christ returns at the sound of the last trump (Revelation 11:15).

The fact that Christ has not yet returned to Earth to set up that Kingdom should clarify exactly what the Kingdom of God is not. It is not in your heart. And it is not the Church. God’s Kingdom is going to “break in pieces”—literally smash—the kingdoms of this world. Plainly, that has not happened yet.

But there is more. God’s Kingdom will be a world-ruling government. Who will be in that Kingdom? And why? Again, just what is the Kingdom of God?

Have You Seen the Kingdom?

In John 3, Jesus answered some critical questions about who would actually be in the Kingdom of God and how they would get there. Nicodemus, a Pharisee who knew Jesus was a teacher from God, questioned Christ. Notice verse 5: “Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” We clearly see that the Kingdom of God is something one can enter into. How? By being born of water and of the Spirit.

Again, Jesus answered in verse 3, “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” The Kingdom of God is also something one might see.

It is the Kingdom of God. God is that Kingdom! Yet God is spirit (John 4:24). In order to see it, we must be born again, which means it must be a spiritual birth, so that we might see God. John 3:6 verifies this: “That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.

Consider this point: If the Kingdom of God—His world-ruling government—has not yet been set up on Earth, and in order to see it, you must be born again, then what does that tell you concerning the popular belief among traditional Christianity concerning born again? There are many sincere people who think they are now born again—and are not. One cannot see the Kingdom of God until a spiritual birth has occurred.

Paul wrote, “Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God …” (1 Corinthians 15:50). If you are flesh and blood, then you haven’t seen the Kingdom of God yet. It’s impossible! We won’t see it until our spiritual birth occurs. And that happens when we are resurrected to spirit. “In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed [to spirit]” (verse 52).

Jesus Was Born Again

Few people realize it, but Jesus Christ was born again! But it wasn’t the kind of birth traditional Christians believe they have experienced.

Before the universe was created, there were two Beings—God and the Word (John 1:1). In John 1:14, we see that the Word was “made flesh.” At that time, He became the “only begotten [Son] of the Father.” He came in the flesh to overcome and conquer Satan, thereby qualifying to replace him on the throne of this Earth. Jesus qualified to be King of God’s Kingdom. While in the flesh, Jesus also taught and trained disciples in preparation for the beginning of the Church of God. Then Christ was apprehended and eventually crucified so that He might die for us—because all have sinned (Romans 3:23). His life was worth more than all who have ever lived, because God created the universe through Him (Ephesians 3:9).

That is where most people stop—with Christ’s death. But remember: God is a Kingdom. That Kingdom didn’t end with the death of Christ. It was about to begin! “And he [Christ] is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstbornfrom the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence” (Colossians 1:18). In order to see God’s Kingdom, one must be born again. Christ had already been born once of the virgin Mary. But He died. He was in the grave three days and three nights (Matthew 12:40). Christ gave up His immortality for you and me.

But God raised Him from the dead (Acts 13:30). And what did Christ become when God raised Him up? Romans 1:3 says that “Jesus Christ our Lord … was made of the seed of David according to the flesh.” There is that first birth. He was made flesh, born of a human mother, Mary, of the seed, or lineage, of David. But notice verse 4: “And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.” After being born once and then dying, Jesus became the Son of God when He was resurrected to immortal spirit life—when He was born again!

It is true that even while in the flesh, God referred to Christ as His beloved Son (Matthew 3:17; Mark 1:11). But at that point, Christ was only God’s begotten Son (John 1:14). He was actually made a Son (Hebrews 7:3), or became the Son, when He was born again by a resurrection from the dead.

Firstborn of Many Brethren

Yet Christ was only the firstborn. He went through the first spiritual birth ever—before Abraham, David, or any of the saints in the Bible. He was the first. But He won’t be the last. Romans 8:29 says that Christ will be “the firstborn among manybrethren.” These brethren, as Paul points out in verses 12-14, are those Spirit-begotten individuals within the true Church of God. Remember, Christ trained disciples so they might eventually teach the Church. Why? To prepare the brethren for their second birth.

Who are the members of God’s Church? “And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:29). If you are Christ’s, an heir according to the promise, then you are a member. Romans 8:9 explains further: “But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.” We will be Christ’s if we have the Spirit of God.

Paul goes on to say what the Spirit actually makes us: “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God” (verse 14). And again in verse 16, we are referred to as “children of God” if we have the Spirit.

Like Christ, we, even though flesh and blood, are considered children of God if the Spirit of God is dwelling in us. But we haven’t yet been born. “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what weshall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2). We will be like the glorified Christ because we will have experienced the same born again process He did.

It’s the same process! Notice Romans 8:11: “But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.”

So the Kingdom of God is to be a world-ruling government. Now we are beginning to see who will fill the different offices within that government. God is calling a few out of this world (John 6:44) to teach and train for positions in that government so they might actually rule with Christ in the World Tomorrow (Revelation 2:26-27; 3:21).

The Church Is to Marry Christ

By one Spirit, the Spirit of God, those who have been called out of this world are baptized into one Body (1 Corinthians 12:13). The Body is one, yet made up of many members (verse 12). That one Body is the Church—composed of those who have been begotten as children of God. The Church, as Paul clearly points out in Ephesians 5, is preparing now to marry Jesus Christ at His return. “Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready” (Revelation 19:7).

But let’s understand what this all has to do with God’s Kingdom. As we have seen, that Kingdom will be a world-ruling government. In that government, God reigns supreme over all. Christ confirmed that when He said, “I can of mine own self do nothing …” (John 5:30). Christ came to do the will of His Father. By so doing, He qualified to replace Satan on the throne of this Earth.

God has given “all power” to Christ, His firstborn Son, to rule and administer the government of God on Earth—in God’s Kingdom. But Christ is just the firstborn. Many others have been called and, with Christ, are begotten sons and heirs according to the promise. God is their Father. Soon, those saints will marry their Husband, Jesus Christ. It will all occur when they are born again as spirit beings. And it is at that time, as we have already proven, that they will in fact see the Kingdom of God.

Father, Son, Husband, Bride, marriage, birth, children; these terms all denote family. And that has everything to do with the Kingdom of God. What is the Kingdom of God? It is the world-ruling government of God. But who will be administering that government? God’s Family!

In short, the Kingdom of God is the Family of God.

That may come as a shocking revelation to some of our readers. But it is true, and provable, nonetheless. When we write about the soon-coming Kingdom of God, we are actually speaking of the Family of God.

“For this cause [because of Paul’s trials and tribulations] I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Of whom the wholefamilyin heaven and earth is named” (Ephesians 3:14-15). There is a Family, or Kingdom, in heaven. Right now, Christ is the only one who has seen the Kingdom, because He alone has been born again by a resurrection. He has seen God and therefore seen the Kingdom. That Kingdom is God. God is a Family. The Kingdom of God is the Family of God administering the government of God. When that Kingdom is set up, everyone on Earth will know it!

What Does It Mean for You?

Now it becomes clear how this affects each of us individually.

“The very foundation of any stable civilization,” Mr. Armstrong wrote in the August 1985 Good News, “is a solid family structure.” As you look at the deteriorating family values in the once-mighty Western nations, it becomes clear why our nations are falling. The family is divided. Nations are divided politically, socially and racially; politicians, celebrities, activists and a host of others blame certain individuals, races or political parties. Few, however, seem serious about the real cause of the shocking downfall: family breakdown.

A happy family based on solid values, with the father as the head and provider for the family and a submissive wife teaching obedient children, is a thing of the past—the whole idea is ridiculed in this “modern” society.

“Nothing in this material world,” Mr. Armstrong wrote, “is as important as a happy homelife with father, mother and well-taught happy children—a close-knit family” (ibid.). Living the right way produces happiness—not seeking after those things that seem pleasurable.

A house divided against itself cannot stand (Matthew 12:25). That is the case for any physical family, but it also applies nationally. The end-time nations of Israel are deeply divided and cannot stand much longer. That fact alone proves we are fast approaching the end of this age, when Christ will return to restore right and proper family values.

For those who have been called out of this deteriorating society into the Church of God, or the Family of God in embryo, the task is clear. Preparing for the Kingdom of God begins in the home. When God’s ministers talk about qualifying to be in the Kingdom of God, it doesn’t mean just trying to get there—like trying to get to heaven as so many falsely believe. It’s about preparing and qualifying for the Family of God.

Mr. Armstrong warned Church members of this fact in no uncertain terms: “The Kingdom is the divine Family of God. If we cannot live as a family should live, according to God’sspiritual law, now, while in God’s Church, we simply won’t make it into God’s Kingdom (which is His divine Family!)” (ibid., January 1981). For families that have suffered because of neglect of the proper roles, now is the time to get it straight with God. For those who have made mistakes in family life, now is the time to turn to God in repentance. Judgment is now upon the house of God (1 Peter 4:17-18). Why? Because the house of God, His Church, will eventually become the Kingdom of God—the actual, Spirit-born Family of God!

Is the European Dream Dead?

A biblical prophecy gives clarity and hope to the tumult unfolding on the Continent.
From the August 2010 Trumpet Print Edition

Europe’s grand postwar experiment with unification is dead.

At least that’s what a slew of analysts surveying Europe during its ongoing financial crisis believe. “Whatever happens in the short run,” noted Stratfor ceo George Friedman, “it is difficult to envision any further integration of European institutions. And it is very easy to see how the European Union will devolve from its ambitious vision into an alliance of convenience …” (May 25, emphasis mine throughout). Even many inside the ailing combine confess the EU is on the brink. In May, German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned that if the euro fails, “then not only the currency fails … Europe will fail, and with it the idea of European unity.”

In many ways, this “moment of truth” was inevitable. The Continent, as anyone who has traveled it or read European history knows, is a patchwork of diverse and oftentimes conflicting races and religions, languages and cultures. For nearly six decades, Europhiles defied this reality and systematically—and to a certain extent successfully, at least politically, financially and institutionally—forged integration. But when the financial crisis erupted, reality hit and the dream of a stable, united Pax Europa died.

In spite of this entirely rational conclusion, the Trumpet teaches with unswerving persistence that a globally dominant German-led European superstate is right now being born. To some it sounds irrational and unfounded, but we firmly believe European unification is imminent!

Who is right—the host of seasoned analysts, or the Trumpet? By forecasting the imminent integration of Europe, is the Trumpet ignoring reality? As radical as these differing forecasts appear to be, can they possibly be reconciled?

A Perfect Analogy

The answers to these questions are revealed in one of the many specific biblical prophecies about end-time events in Europe. We find this nugget of understanding in Daniel 2, which is the central prophecy to understanding world history.

In this chapter, the young Jewish Prophet Daniel recounts a dream that the Chaldean King Nebuchadnezzar had in the late sixth century b.c. In his dream, King Nebuchadnezzar saw a magnificent statue comprised of four distinct parts: its head of gold, its breast and arms of silver, its belly of brass, and its legs of iron (image, page 25).

In verses 31-35, God reveals to the king, through Daniel, that these successive materials represent four successive world-ruling empires. The head of gold represented the Babylonian/Chaldean Empire, which dominated in the sixth-seventh centuries b.c. The chest of silver represented the Medo-Persian Empire, which replaced the Babylonians as the dominant power in the fifth century. The belly of bronze represented Alexander the Great’s Greek Empire of the fourth century.

The legs of iron picture the Roman Empire that began in 31 b.c., and which, as history books attest, had capitals in both Rome and Constantinople. Prophecies in Daniel 7 and Revelation 13 and 17 complement this prophecy in Daniel 2, and plainly reveal that this fourth empire, the Roman Empire, would exist and dominate the world in successive stages, or resurrections. (For more information on this image, request our free booklet Daniel Unlocks Revelation.)

It is the last resurrection of the Roman Empire—or the “Holy” Roman Empire, as it is described in Revelation 17—that the Trumpet forecasts is emerging in Europe. The Daniel 2 image reveals the chronological succession of world powers, beginning with Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylonian Empire, pictured by the head of gold, and concluding with the last resurrection of the Roman Empire, represented by the feet of the image.

So how, exactly, are the feet of the image described?

Read it in verses 41-43: “And whereas thou sawest the feet and toes, part of potters’ clay, and part of iron, the kingdom shall be divided; but there shall be in it of the strength of the iron …. And as the toes of the feet were part of iron, and part of clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong, and partly broken. And whereas thou sawest iron mixed with miry clay … they shall not cleave one to another, even as iron is not mixed with clay.”

Mull that over for a moment: Isthere a more apt description of Europe today?

Politically and economically, and even culturally, Europe is a continent of iron and clay. Some nations, like Germany, are strong and robust. Others are weak and fragile. The European Union is a mixture of both iron and clay—making it “partly strong” and “partly broken.”

But remember, the feet and toes of iron and clay are integrated—but only for a brief moment.

Based on this prophecy, the Trumpet forecasts the emergence of this short-lived and crumbly—yet overwhelmingly powerful, possessing the “strength of iron”—European superstate!

He Was Right!

Notice what the late Herbert W. Armstrong wrote in 1956 about this final resurrection of the Roman Empire: “It will possess greater military might by far than the Rome of old, but it will also inherit fatal weaknesses. Prophecy symbolizes this admixture of never-equaled military might and unprecedented weakness with the apt phrase, ‘iron mixed with miry clay.’ The European nations will unite militarily—but they are suspicious and envious of each other—they hate one another.”

You see, Mr. Armstrong (and the Trumpet today) was not ignorant of the rudimentary differences between many of Europe’s countries, cultures and peoples. He understood and consistently took into account geopolitics and international relations, which is partly why he concluded that the European states that comprised the last resurrection of the Roman Empire would be “suspicious and envious of each other.” In this sense, Mr. Armstrong, decades ago, anticipated and warned of the current tumult besieging Europe.

Neither Mr. Armstrong nor Gerald Flurry and the Trumpet have ever taught that Europe would coalesce into a long-term and stable power. Rather, we have prophesied consistently that while Europe will unite, its bonds will be weak and short-lived, like the bond between clay and iron.

“[T]he last, final, brief resurrection of the ‘Holy Roman Empire’ by 10 European groups or nations” is forming, Mr. Armstrong wrote. “[A]nd they shall last but a very short space, possibly no more than two to three and a half years” (Plain Truth, May 1979).

If you think on it a while, this truly is mind-staggering. This prophecy was written more than 2,500 years ago, yet it describes present-day Europe perfectly. Moreover, it reconciles the seemingly contradictory viewpoints about Europe espoused today by the Trumpet and other analysts.

Yet this prophecy has value far beyond merely being informative.

The Most Inspiring Detail

Verses 34-35 show that King Nebuchadnezzar in his dream saw a giant stone fall from heaven and smash the image’s feet of iron and clay. The image then toppled, with each part—the gold, silver, bronze, iron and clay—being pulverized into dust-size pieces, after which the entire structure was blown away by the wind like “chaff.” The entire image vanished. It was like it had never existed.

Of all the magnificent details in this vivid prophecy, the stone that strikes the feet of the image is by far the most significant and most inspiring detail of all. This stone is the focal point of this entire prophecy!

Daniel explains the stone in verse 44:And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever.”

This hurtling stone, which is the fifth and final kingdom, is actually the Kingdom of God!

Notice too, unlike all the deeply flawed, humanly devised and operated empires before it, God’s empire is not left to human beings to govern. This final empire is divinely governed, which means that in every way its quality—its leadership, its laws and culture, and the conduct of its citizens—is far superior to every human kingdom that came before it. (You can learn more about this kingdom by requesting a free copy of The Wonderful World Tomorrow—What It Will Be Like.)

Finally, notice when this heavenly kingdom will be established on Earth. Daniel says that in “the days of these kings”—or at the time of the feet of iron and miry clay—God will establish this fifth and final world-ruling empire!

Talk about an inspiring message of clarity and hope! Keep watching Europe, and as you do, always remember: The more Europe takes on the features of clay and iron, the closer we are to the establishment of God’s Kingdom on Earth.

How to Raise a Man

Bible-based wisdom on bringing up boys
From the September 2010 Trumpet Print Edition

I thought I had learned a thing or two about child rearing after bringing up two daughters for several years. Then my wife and I had a son.

Noah is a unique creature. His sisters were fairly quiet and conservative in their play. He is a wrecking ball with lungs.

His sisters like to dress things, decorate things, set things up, stack things on top of other things. He sees a stack of things as an invitation for demolition. He likes to kick and punch. He enjoys collisions.

Somehow even his dinner plate looks to him like an artillery range. “Ah-h-h-h —boosh!” he says while dropping his carrot into his potato.

We didn’t teach him these things. We are trying to teach him civilized table manners, and respect for other people’s things and for the structural vulnerability of the walls in our home. But the urge to dominate, to subdue, to conquer, he’s got in spades.

This is fascinating to me for a couple of reasons. One is that some delusional academics seem to think there are no inborn psychological differences between boys and girls—only what society teaches them. Absolute poppycock. Without prodding or guidance, from very early on my daughters would pick up a doll and begin cradling it and cooing to it. My son pulls the head off to see what’s inside.

More importantly, I’m fascinated because what I’m seeing with my own eyes backs up a truth revealed in the Bible—a truth with staggering implications as to the responsibility it places on me.

General society’s complete ignorance of this truth is creating a mess of problems with the way we rear our boys. Perhaps in their early years they yearn to do battle in the arena; they are keen to exercise their strength—and often in undisciplined and damaging ways. But society fears this. We are deeply ambivalent about masculine energy. Our female-dominated early education seeks to squash it. We embrace the convenience of indulging our sons’ natural enthrallment with inert entertainment; after all, if the boy is absorbed in a video game, he’s not whacking his little brother with a bat. Without considering the consequences, we reward passivity; it is less alarming than ferocity.

Then we watch—as if helpless—while our sons grow self-indulgent, lazy, soft. Bit by bit, the stuff that made them different from their sisters becomes muted, stifled. Or it gets swallowed whole.

That we do this is perfectly understandable. But it’s a tragic mistake.

The fact is, there is something valuable in our sons’ assertive boyishness. It needs to be shaped and guided; it needs to be refined and balanced. But woe be to us—and to them—if it gets crushed.

Why? Because they are destined to be leaders.

Where Did That Boyishness Come From?

Genesis 1:26-27 say that God created human beings male and female. God is the source of everything that makes men men and women women. He designed differences in physique, in emotions, in intellectual and psychological composition. He is the author of masculinity and femininity.

But why? Piece together all of the observable and scriptural evidence, and you can see unmistakably that God created these differences—physical, mental, emotional—to establish order and structure, especially within the family. “But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God” (1 Corinthians 11:3). Those who don’t believe the Bible scoff at that scripture. “Christians” who don’t like it find ways to make it mean something else. But godly men and women see simple logic and beauty in it.

For the sake of order and organization, God created men to fulfill one role within the family and within society, and created women to fill a different and beautifully complementary role.

Before we can prepare our sons to fulfill the role for which God created them, we need a clear concept of just what that role is. We need a vision of what godly masculinity is so we can measure our sons’ behavior against that—to know what needs to change and what needs to stay, what needs to be shaped and developed. Raising a man requires knowing what the boy is to become.

That is not to say we should force our sons to grow up too soon. The men of tomorrow should begin their lives as happy, carefree boys; let them play and laugh and think as children. Similarly, we don’t want to do anything to create any sense of a battle between boys and girls, pitting one against the other—or acting like there’s some mystery about the opposite sex they’ll never understand. They should play happily together with other boys and girls in active sports and games. When society artificially foists on them false concepts about the opposite sex, they can feel overwhelmed, uncomfortable and self-conscious; those relationships can seem complicated. Protect their simplicity and innocence: Let children be children!

However, as they grow, our sons must gain a sense of their uniqueness—not in a way that makes them awkward around girls and women, but that gradually teaches them their God-given responsibilities toward them. While the basic principles of child rearing are the same for boys and girls, each must be taught the different jobs they will fulfill in a future family. Boys require a different mindset, a different set of skills.

We parents must equip our sons to resist feminization and to grow to become successful men. We must take special effort to bring our boys up to be strong, effective, successful, ambitious leaders.

Teach Him to Work

Boys have a natural tendency to want to conquer—to storm the backyard and erect a barricade. We want to encourage that, not squelch it. We want our boys to be adventurous, courageous, visionary. After all, they were created to exercise dominion over the Earth and to subdue it (Genesis 1:28). Thus, we need to show them how to exert their strength in a godly, constructive way.

Teach the boy to do things. Don’t let him stand awkwardly by as his friends dive into childhood experiences like swimming in the pool or riding horses. Don’t let him lose valuable experience sitting on the sidelines while his friends or the family engages in an activity. Get him a dog and show him how to train it. Teach him to use things, to make things, to plant things, to manipulate his environment productively.

God began the creation of human beings with the man, and immediately gave him work to do (Genesis 2:7, 15). God gave man physical things to teach him good stewardship—taking care of the blessings we receive. Further, after Adam sinned, God actually made his workload harder (Genesis 3:17-19), knowing that physical labor is crucial to building character. God knows that when everything is handed to us, we just don’t do well; He wants man to earn his bread through the sweat of his brow. And the Bible is clear in its command to men that they work to provide for their families (e.g. 1 Timothy 5:8).

Parents: Teach your boy how to work. The lessons Adam learned by having to “dress” and “keep” the Garden are lessons all boys need: to appreciate the value in hard work—to be patient and wait for fruits to show—to have realistic expectations of success—to enjoy labor. A boy needs to experience getting worn out, and having to push himself when he feels like quitting.

Give him chores. Boys tend to be lazy; it’s a parental duty to help them overcome that. Eventually, your son will need to get and hold a job outside the home. He needs a steady progression of responsibilities and opportunities that teach how to work, how to be responsible, how to be self-motivated.

Proverbs 21:5-6 show that laziness leads to lying. This is something we especially want to guard our boys from. A young man who begins to lie and deceive rather than earning his pay through honest hard work might enjoy some perks at first, but they will always end up hurting him. “Bread of deceit is sweet to a man; but afterwards his mouth shall be filled with gravel” (Proverbs 20:17). As Douglas Wilson wrote in Future Men, we want them to taste that gravel right away—by disciplining dishonesty.

When your son understands the value of hard work, he will know the value of an honest day’s pay. That provides another invaluable opportunity: teaching him how to save, how to pay his own way, how to spend wisely, how to be generous to others, how to give back to God. These are crucial skills for a man. Teach them when he is a boy.

A Leader of Women and Children

The Genesis account reveals another valuable truth: From the beginning, God did not intend for Adam to be alone. He needed a companion, a helper. He was incomplete without Eve, and she was incomplete without him (Genesis 2:18-24), and God placed the man in a leadership role within that marriage.

Our sons were created to become leaders of women and children. We must keep this end goal in mind as we work with them.

Teaching that role begins with the relationship between Dad and Mom. Our sons need a strong example of a godly marriage. They need to see proper masculine leadership in action—a man who leads his family in love. A boy is going to be drawn to emulate his father’s strong, manly example.

Fathers: Be the man you want your son to become. He is watching you. Your life is his most powerful model of masculinity.

A father must ensure his son treats his mother with respect. God commands a son to honor and obey his mother (Exodus 20:12; Ephesians 6:1). This becomes increasingly crucial as he gets bigger. If at any time she does not have his respect and obedience, she should get the father involved immediately, and he should put a stop to it. (He should also make sure that his wife is never fighting her son, getting angry, ugly and shrill with him; this too is unhealthy.) A son who despises his mother is a fool (Proverbs 15:20). If he develops a confrontational relationship with her, he is going to be more competitive and combative around women.

On the other hand, a boy who honors his mom will grow up to honor his wife (1 Peter 3:7). When a boy learns this early, he begins to appreciate that men must always have a sense of responsibility and duty toward women. This makes it more natural to later step into the responsibility of leading, protecting and providing for a family of his own.

Teach your son gentlemanly habits that reinforce his duties toward females in general: opening doors for women, standing when a woman enters the room, being attentive to a drink or jacket or something else she might need, walking on the sidewalk between a woman and traffic, not treating her roughly or joking at her expense the way he might with another boy.

In preparing your son to fulfill his incredible role, pay close attention to how you discipline him. Do not browbeat him or put him down. Don’t instill cowering submission in him. Teach him to have godly confidence—and godly humility. How? With lots of encouragement. Encourage his strengths. Praise his successes. Show joy in his accomplishments.

Without sacrificing her authority, a mother should also lovingly support her son. She should have sensitivity to his God-given role. As he grows, she should show him respect, without demeaning him and emasculating him—or pampering him.

One of the Best Things You Can Do

Another area to give special consideration to is media. Technology is a strong drug. It grabs young minds and dominates them. Boys in particular tend to love the stuff—especially video games.

The Kaiser Family Foundation says children ages 8 to 18 spend an average of 6 hours a day with media: television, radio, computers (not including schoolwork), music players and so on. That’s over 45 hours a week. Longer than the average workweek.

That’s also more time than they spend with their parents (less than 16 hours), in physical activity (10 hours), or doing homework (just over 5 hours). Looking at those numbers alone, it’s not difficult to see a correlation between increased media use and family breakdown, childhood obesity, and declining academic performance.

Beyond the mere time issue, though, is the content of that media. Studies prove it’s hurting our boys. It is our duty as parents to intervene. Vigilance here can help prevent a multitude of problems from taking root in our sons’ lives.

“As a pediatrician I can tell you that disconnecting, or strictly limiting and strictly supervising your son’s access to electronic media is one of the best things you can do for his emotional, mental and physical health,” writes Meg Meeker in Boys Should Be Boys.

Boys tend to be drawn to media violence far more than girls, and there is plenty out there to inflame that appetite. But it is a trap. The American Academy of Pediatrics has repeatedly warned that television violence hurts our children. It has found that boys who watch violent tv turn more aggressive—even with brief exposure, but much more with larger doses. Playing violent video games correlates to even worse anti-social aggression; Meeker cites studies showing that they “increase aggressive thoughts, can increase feelings of anger or hostility, and can raise a boy’s blood pressure and heart rate.”

Video games are increasingly graphic and realistic, and in many of them the object is to kill people. Prof. David Grossman, a 24-year Air Force veteran who testified before a senatorial committee on youth violence, says the parallels are strong with the techniques used by the military to prepare men for violent combat. Violent video games desensitize our boys to human suffering and actually condition them to kill.

Most media violence is not only glamorous, it is morally ambiguous or downright immoral. “When the images are bombarded on an 8-year-old brain, a boy can easily shift from believing that a man is supposed to be trustworthy and self-controlled (as you, his father, might have taught him) to believing that real men are cruel and aggressive,” Meeker says.

If the media’s depictions of masculinity are brutal and destructive on the one hand, they are childish and stupid on the other. The almost universally portrayed stereotype is one of a strong, competent female having to deal with a goofy, idiotic male. The roles between the sexes as God intended are flipped upside-down and twisted in knots—then steeped in vulgar, adolescent humor that mostly appeals to childish males.

The greater our sons’ exposure to that nonsense, the more ingrained in their thinking it will become.

Ensuring that our sons’ model of responsible masculine behavior remains balanced and realistic requires that we strive to limit those false images, and provide a good example and solid instruction in what is true and right.

Safeguard His Purity

One particularly lethal stealth missile in the media aimed at our boys is sex. We must be defenders of our sons’ purity in a world where sexual impurity is everywhere.

Today, the average age of a boy’s first exposure to pornography is 11. And what is available on the Internet is far worse than at any time in the past—and far easier to access. Almost half of boys between grades 3 and 8 have visited “adult” websites.

“Porn and smut pose an awesome threat to your boys,” writes James Dobson in Bringing Up Boys. “A single exposure to it by some 13-to-15-year-olds is all that is required to create an addiction that will hold them in bondage for a lifetime. It is more addictive than cocaine or heroin. That was one of the conclusions drawn during the Attorney General’s Commission on Pornography, on which I served. It is known by those of us in the field of child development that the focal point of sexual interest is not very well established among young adolescents. It can be redirected by an early sexual experience (wanted or unwanted) or by exposure to pornography.” In other words, that early exposure can distort the normal channels of stimulation by the opposite sex—which of themselves are designed by God and wholesome when used properly—into all manner of perversion. “Many men who have succumbed to these perverse sexual appetites have traced them to the dawn of their adolescence,” Dobson explained.

Pornography is horribly degrading, especially to women. Again, God intends your son to grow up to be a protector of and provider for women. If he becomes ensnared by lust, it takes his mind 180 degrees opposite his being able to successfully fulfill that calling.

Talk to your son. “[F]athers must assume that a difficult sexual struggle is occurring in their sons’ lives,” writes Douglas Wilson. “[A] father must talk to his son and teach him. The teaching must consist of more than, ‘Yeah, I had this problem when I was your age, too.’ The teaching must be grounded in the Word of God—what does the Bible teach about masturbation, lust, fantasy and so forth?

“A father should check with his son and not wait for his son to ask. Further, he should check periodically and regularly. Every son needs guidance and accountability from his father in this area” (op. cit.).

If we do our part, we can go a long way to giving our sons one of the most priceless gifts he can possess: a clean conscience.

The world is filled with dangers—and a great number of them come via the media. Our sons need a strong moral compass in order to navigate this crucial aspect of their lives and to make it to manhood as unscathed as possible. We want to facilitate any use of technology and media that is genuinely good for our boys—that builds right knowledge, cognitive development and character—while drawing firm lines on what will hurt them. Knowing where to draw the lines—both in quantity of use and in content—requires educating ourselves and asking God for wisdom and discernment.

Teach him right from wrong. Show him that a real man, like King David, says, “I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes” (Psalm 101:3). Provide an excellent example, and supplement that with plenty of instruction.

Embrace His Destiny

As your son grows, teach him to accept responsibility for himself. Teach him to own up to his actions and not make excuses. Don’t let him protect his selfish masculine pride. Don’t let him shift responsibility or blame and flee the burdens of leadership.

Being a leader requires making difficult, unpopular decisions. We all tend to be people-pleasers. Your son needs people skills—but also the courage to stand alone. Teach him to obey God’s definition of right and wrong, and to stand against the crowd when he has to. This requires courage, and you must teach it to him.

Teach him to overcome self-centeredness. Encourage him to seize opportunities to do things that benefit others at the cost of benefiting himself. Teach him the intelligence, the sensitivity and the magnanimity to identify the needs of others. Teach him to see the big picture. Teach him to see things from God’s perspective.

Build his physical and mental strength. If you can, show him how to change a tire, how to fix the car, how to do home repairs; help him learn to thrive outdoors, camping, hunting, fishing.

Most importantly, spend time with him. The father who teaches his son how to change the oil teaches a skill—but the more valuable thing is that he is with the boy.

“An unsupervised kid can get into more mischief in a single day than his parents can straighten out in a year,” writes Dr. Dobson. “Considering how the world has changed, it is doubly important to build relationships with boys from their earliest childhood. You can no longer rely on rules to get them past the predators in the wider world. It still makes sense to prohibit harmful or immoral behavior, but those prohibitions must be supplemented by an emotional closeness that makes children want to do what is right. They must know that you love them unconditionally and that everything you require of them is for their own good. … With all the temptations buzzing around our kids, simply saying no a thousand times creates a spirit of defiance. We have to build bridges to them from the ground up” (op. cit.).

This world needs strong, masculine boys who will become strong, masculine men. The main way we as parents can fulfill that need is by training our sons to embrace their destiny as leaders. That means giving them a good example, instruction, discipline, increasing levels of responsibility—and plenty of encouragement.

Your boy needs you. Raise him to be a man.

Tell Your Children the Truth

Tell Your Children the Truth


When grading their performance, give them the gift of perspective.
From the September 2010 Trumpet Print Edition

“Why don’t you believe in me?” my 8-year-old son asked me and my wife recently. He had just finished performing in the North American Irish Dancing Championships in Orlando, Florida, and wanted to know why we didn’t think he would claim one of the top three positions in the competition.

“We do believe in you,” my wife said. “And we’re proud of you. But there were at least three or four other boys in the competition who simply danced better than you.”

As my son left for the awards ceremony later that night, my wife whispered, “I hope he gets fifth, but I could also see him missing the top five and landing in sixth place.” There were 11 contestants in his group and both of us felt that, at his current skill level, he was somewhere in the middle of the pack.

He ended up placing sixth, which is what he deserved—and needed, if he intends to get better. On the way home, we praised him for making it to nationals and for placing sixth in such a difficult competition. We then told him that if he wanted to place higher, he simply had to practice more—and better.

One thing I like about the Irish dance association is that dancers are promoted only when they perform well. That’s such an important concept to remember when working with children—particularly in this self-esteem age, where everyone is a champion and no one fails.

Consider the dreadful state of modern education. According to several reports cited in the Boston Globe July 4, the number of hours college students spend studying has been in sharp decline over the past half century. One survey found that nearly two thirds of incoming freshmen admitted to studying less than six hours per week during their senior year of high school. Another study asked college students to identify the biggest obstacles to their academic success. Topping the list, ahead of family difficulties and stressful lives, was this shocker: They simply don’t know how to study.

But why learn how to study when you can be an “A student” for merely warming a seat? In 2004, as Jean Twenge points out in Generation Me, almost half of college freshmen said they maintained an A average in high school. Compare that to 1968, when only 18 percent of college freshmen graduated from high school as straight A students.

These studies reveal the embarrassing outcome of self-esteem education. The halls of America’s high schools are now crammed with “A students” who’ve never really learned how to study. We’re living in a world where everyone is a championship dancer—and no one has to practice.

In 2007, the results of an international test found that American students ranked 21st out of 30 industrialized nations in mathematics—25th in science. Yet, when asked to rate their own performance in the fields of science and mathematics, Americans penciled themselves in at the top of the list, ahead of their international competitors.

We may be getting dumber, but when it comes to self-esteem, no one outperforms America!

“By their estimation, today’s young people have been praised so much that some flail at their first taste of criticism or failure,” John Keilman writes for the Chicago Tribune. “Others develop a keen sense of privilege, believing they’ll coast into a golden future regardless of their actual talents, accomplishments or willingness to work” (July 4).

The fruits of self-esteem education have been disastrous in every respect.

In the Bible, God plainly reveals that the most important, and long-forgotten, principles of education are discipline and self-control—not self-esteem. Every man who strives to master a skill, the Apostle Paul wrote, exercises self-control in all things. “Do you not know that in a race all the runners compete, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it” (1 Corinthians 9:24-25, Revised Standard Version).

In a world where every runner is guaranteed a first-place trophy, there is little incentive to encourage athletes to work harder to improve their performance.

“Leave no child behind?” Rafe Esquith asks in Lighting Their Fires. “That’s ridiculous. Some children should be left behind until they’re truly ready to move on to the next level.”

If you want your children to move on to the next level, don’t lie to them about their performance. Believe in them—encourage them—and love them enough to tell them the truth. Offer constructive criticism. Teach them to be disciplined. Show them how they can get better. Motivate them to work harder.

This is the way God works with His children. “For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works” (Matthew 16:27).

The ill effects of defense cuts

Max Boot from the Washington Post warned about the dangers of cuts to the U.S. defense budget on Friday, citing historical examples.

Although the past decade or so has seen increases in military spending, the Pentagon is being pressured to cut spending from both political and economic fronts. In addition to the burdensome deficit, analysts think support for Pentagon spending will diminish as Barack Obama withdraws more and more troops from Iraq and Afghanistan.

The New York Times quoted Erskine B. Bowles, a former chief of staff to President Bill Clinton and a co-chairman of the deficit commission, saying, “We’re going to have to take a hard look at defense if we are going to be serious about deficit reduction.” Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee Daniel Inouye said, “I’m pretty certain cuts are coming—in defense and the whole budget.” Last week, the Senate Appropriations Committee voted to cut $8 billion from the Pentagon’s request for an $18 billion budget increase.

Boot noted that America has historically diminished its military might after each major conflagration—and it has always been to ill effect. He wrote, “If there were ever evidence that it’s impossible to learn from history—or at least that it’s difficult for politicians to do so—this is it.”

The American Revolution saw a troop reduction from 35,000 to just 10,000, which weakened the nation in the wake of the Whiskey Rebellion, the quasi-war with France, the Barbary wars and the war of 1812. There was also a troop reduction after World War i, which increased vulnerabilities in the lead-up to World War ii. Boot referred to the period after the Vietnam War as the era of the “hollow army,” which was “notorious for its inadequate equipment, discipline, training and morale”—a period which further emboldened America’s enemies.

“It might still make sense to cut the defense budget—if it were bankrupting us and undermining our economic well-being. But that’s not the case,” Boot wrote. “Defense spending is less than 4 percent of gross domestic product and less than 20 percent of the federal budget. That means our armed forces are much less costly in relative terms than they were throughout much of the 20th century. Even at roughly $549 billion, our core defense budget is eminently affordable. It is, in fact, a bargain considering the historic consequences of letting our guard down.”

As other countries rise to the top in the world both economically and militarily (notably China), America and Britain demonstrate both a lack of funds and a lack of military might (as we wrote, Britain doesn’t even have enough money to protect itself against potential threats now). This leaves the Anglo-Saxon nations more vulnerable to enemies and potential threats than ever before.

Oldest script found in Jerusalem

An ancient clay fragment dating back to the 14th century bce was recently discovered by a Hebrew University excavation led by Dr. Eilat Mazar. The find contains Akkadian cuneiform script, making it the oldest text ever found in Jerusalem. It appears to have once been part of a tablet.

Archeologists deciphered the words “you,” “you were,” “them,” “to do,” and “later” from the fragment.

According to Hebrew University Prof. Wayne Horowtiz, the high quality of the writing “indicates that the person responsible for creating the tablet was a first-class scribe.” Dr. Mazar believes the fragment likely came from a royal court.

Horowitz said, “In those days, you would expect to find a first-class scribe only in a large, important place.” Horowitz also explained the fragment was made from Jerusalem clay, further attesting to Jerusalem being a central city of the area at that time.

The 14th century bce predates the ancient Israelites’ entrance to the Promised Land, but Bible history reveals Jerusalem was an important city prior to King David’s rule. It was the location where Abraham paid tithes to King Melchizedek (Genesis 14:17-20), and it later became a Jebusite stronghold (1 Chronicles 11:4).

The tiny fragment is 2 cm (0.8 inch) long and 1 cm (0.4 inch) thick and was found during wet sifting two months ago. It was pulled out of fill from an area of ancient Jerusalem know as the Ophel—the area between the Old City’s southern wall and the City of David.

Dr. Mazar released the find to the press only after the piece was carefully analyzed. She called the discovery “one of the most important finds we’ve ever had.”