ONE OF the most important God-given responsibilities we parents have is our children. Their safety and future depend on how we fulfill our responsibilities. Part of the great commission given to us in this end time is the task of turning the hearts of the fathers to the children and the hearts of the children to the fathers (Mal. 4:6). We should be the ones setting the example of proper parent-child relationships. How are we doing? What do our children really think about "our" religion? What effect has the truth of God had on them? Do we just assume they are agreeing with us? One of the greatest mistakes we parents can make when we come to the knowledge of God's truth is to neglect, ignore, or otherwise disregard our children. If we, as God's people, neglect our children, tragedy will result. I want to share with you some personal experiences. Perhaps you can learn from the mistakes I have made. Maybe you can avoid the same mistakes and spare yourself a mountain of disappointment, grief and heartache. There was a time when I was miserable. Nothing was right in my life. Looking around, I found the same miserable condition everywhere. My neighbors on the left were terribly unhappy. Those on the right were even worse off. The people across the street were in the same miserable state. I began to ask: "Why? Why so much suffering in this life?" I had always been taught about God. I was told God was kind, loving, perfect. I was told He cared for us. But now it seemed to me He didn't care. I viewed all humanity and saw nothing but unhappiness and suffering. I thought if God existed He must be a monster. I wondered why He would allow war, sickness, depravity. If He existed, I thought, He must surely enjoy seeing people suffer, because the world was filled with misery, heartache and sorrow. I wanted answers. Surely there must be someone somewhere who could tell me what was happening. I turned to religion first. Being reared as a Catholic, I went to the priest. I asked the most basic questions about life: "Who are we? Why are we? Where are we going? What is life all about?" It was a shocking experience. He didn't really know! I was told to "have faith, but don't ask such questions." He said: "Trust God and the church — only believe. God will work it out." But I continued to be plagued by my thoughts. I thought surely God wouldn't leave humanity helplessly lost in this vortex of suffering, anguish and despair. Having been taught the Bible was God's Word, I began to study it for some answers. As I continued to search the Bible, I found that God said He would build His Church. He said the gates of hell would never prevail against it. Somewhere, I said to myself, that Church exists. This was the beginning of a two-year search for God's true Church. I began going to one church, then another — searching, seeking, questioning. I listened to radio preachers, evangelists and ministers of all types. I attended evangelistic campaigns and studied the Bible diligently. Soon I began to understand God's Word. I could see how the basic teachings of "Christianity" were contrary to the Bible. I began to talk it up among my friends and relatives, thinking someone would come up with the answers. Finally, I heard the voice of Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong come thundering over the car radio one night. He was completely captivating. I could hardly believe my ears! Everything he said rang true. It was totally compatible with the Bible. He dared to "tell it like it is." He even dared to cover Bible prophecy, and he didn't apologize. This was the end of my search! It was so thrilling to learn the truth of God that I devoured every magazine, every booklet, the Ambassador College Correspondence Course — everything! My whole life began to change. I wanted everyone to have what God was giving me. I immediately jumped on the proverbial soapbox and began to "preach" to others. It began with my wife, who said she could see no difference in this religion from any other. She had been through the mill with me for over two years, and by this time she had had as much as she felt she could take. But I was persistent. I insisted this was different. I quit all other activities with other churches and concentrated on the truth of God. Soon the rest of the family began to feel the impact of my "ministry." I was "shouting from the housetop." The shouting began to alienate my mother, brother, five sisters and the rest of the family. Little did I realize what a giant mistake I was making. The scars of such mistakes remain to this day. I had more zeal than wisdom. I was a gung-ho, let-'em-have-it, no-holds-barred enthusiast. I just knew the whole world would want to know of these precious truths God was revealing to use through The WORLD TOMORROW broadcast and The PLAIN TRUTH magazine. And of course, I took it for granted my wife and son would automatically go along with it. My son, Tom, was five years old at the time. I reasoned that he was much too young to understand or be affected in any way. I was going to wait until he grew up a bit more, and then I would begin to explain all about the way of life we were now beginning. I was certain he would understand and accept it all when he was old enough. I zealously began to "preach" against Easter, Christmas, and all the other pagan holidays. I "preached" about the evils of pork, shrimp, rabbit and all unclean foods. Soon we began to keep the Festivals of God. It was thrilling. Our lives were being turned right side up. Cod was providing the answers to the most important questions in life. Everything was beginning to fit into place. It was fantastic! Little did I realize the profound effect this dramatic and drastic change in our lives would have on our five-year-old. I didn't even consider Tom's feelings. I didn't look at it from his point of view. Whether a child is five, ten, or two — he is profoundly affected by his parents. Tom was no exception. He began to be ashamed. He began to apologize to his friends. He was confused, bewildered, dumbfounded. Where could he turn? What could he do? His whole world was suddenly changed, and he didn't know why. Arid no one explained, least of all his dad. I didn't think he could understand, nor did I think it mattered. My attitude continued through the most important, formative years of Tom's life. It had a deep and lasting effect on him. I have sat with my head in my hands and shed many tears of sorrow over the many mistakes I have made as a parent. I've said: "If I had it to do over, it would be very different." I seemingly did everything wrong. Let me tell you about some of the most serious mistakes I've made. Perhaps some of you are making the same mistakes right now. But you can change before it is too late. I suppose the first mistake I made was taking Tom for granted. I considered him as chattel. He would automatically go along with everything I did, I reasoned. Surely, I thought, he wouldn't dare think for himself. Of course he would understand dad was concerned for his welfare. He didn't have to be told everything dad was doing would be for his good. Undoubtedly he would understand and appreciate it — so I thought. Even at five years of age, Tom had ideas of his own. He didn't really like sitting in Sabbath services for two hours or so. He rather enjoyed his Saturday afternoons in the park or over at Grandma's. He resented the sudden change in his life, even at age five. But I didn't consider his feelings. I just TOOK HIM FOR GRANTED! Don't you make the same mistakes with your son or daughter. It could be tragic! One of the greatest mistakes I made with my son was to simply neglect him. I got so involved in my own personal Bible study, prayer and overcoming, there was no time left for the family. I vividly remember coming home from work and heading directly for the back room where I would study the Ambassador College Correspondence Course until my wife would call me to dinner. She would usually have to call several times before I would drag myself away. Once at the table, I gobbled my food down without a word. As soon as I had finished, I headed for the back room again. About eight-thirty, my wife would bring Tom in to say "Good night" before she put him to bed. I would take a minute or so to say "Good night," and that would be the last time we would see each other until dinner the next night, when we would go through the same routine again. Night after night, we would go through the same ritual. Never did I consider that Tom was hungering for my attention. I neglected him at the time he needed me most — the time when his whole little world was being turned upside-down! It was a drastic mistake'! You may be making the same mistake now. Stop, before it is too late! I suppose I could write a book about the many mistakes I have made with my Tom — mistakes that caused him to resent me and "my religion." Parents, LISTEN! Your children may resent the fact that they are your children. They may wish their parents hadn't been called at this time. They may wish they weren't "second-generation Christians." They may wish God would leave them alone. But He won't! Your children are special. They are special because they are your children. God has special concern for each of them. He doesn't take them for granted. God isn't going to neglect to do His part. How about you? Don't you make the same mistakes so many have made before you. As I look back over those early years of my Christian life, I can plainly see the mistakes I made. If I could relive those years, it would be very different. I would make a lot of changes. First of all, I would PRAY for guidance. I would beseech God to show me how to always make the right decisions regarding my son. I would pray every morning for the wisdom to know what was best for him each day. I would break my prayers up fine. I would go into detail. I would ask for specific answers in each situation. I would never lean on my own understanding, but I would always rely on God to show me, teach me, guide me. How often do you seek God's help with your children? He is waiting eagerly to show you the way. All you need do is ask. Parents, a large portion of your daily prayers should be about your children. Our children need love and affection. Given another opportunity I would be sure to show Tom proper LOVE AND AFFECTION. I would be very considerate of his feelings. I would be understanding. I would show sincere interest and concern. I would hug and kiss him. I would break down any mental barriers there might be between us. He would know I really cared. He would be able to see that the truth of God made me a better father. I would TAKE TIME with him! Every child needs to feel secure. When his whole life is changed and the whole world seemingly comes crashing down on him, he needs to know someone cares. If his parents don't have love and concern — and show it — it could be tragic. As I reflect back over the early years, I can clearly see that Tom was starving for that love and affection. He needed to be assured someone cared. Your children at this very moment may be in that same condition. You may be so involved with your personal "Christian growth" that you don't have time to provide the attention your children so desperately need. You may find you and your children drifting apart when you really should be drawing much closer together. It has happened before, and it probably will happen again. But it need NOT happen to you — if you can learn from the mistakes of others. In those early years particularly, Tom and I should have spent a lot more time together. But I neglected him. If I had it to do over it would be different. We would do things together. We would wrestle around in the yard together. I would be sure to set aside a Sunday regularly to spend with Tom. We would go places alone, as a family or with his friends. We would hunt and fish. We would play tennis or pool. We would swim together, go to the beach together, go boating together. We would plan special trips, events, outings, far in advance. We would talk about them and look forward to them. I would be sure always to communicate with Tom, if I could do it over. I don't mean just "talk" to him — I mean communicate with him. It would be a two-way street. I remember how he would go to others with his problems rather than his own father. I remember how uneasy he was when we would talk, because we didn't communicate. It was not a two-way conversation — he just listened, I talked. It would be different if I could do it over. I would LISTEN to his problems. I would show a genuine interest in all his activities. I would ask each day: "How did it go today?" and be really interested in his answer. I would ask about school. We would talk about his problems. I would be sympathetic and listen intently when he would tell me about his frustrations with other children. I would take time to explain how he should handle each situation that might come up, whether with the school "bully," or the kids that might tease him about the Feast of Tabernacles. Whenever he had a problem, I would always be there to listen. I would gain his confidence, and he would always come to me when he needed help. It would be very different — if I could do it over. How are you doing with your children right now? DO YOU COMMUNICATE? Failing to communicate with their children is one of the biggest mistakes parents in God's Church make today. Your children need to understand. They need to know why your religion is different from every other religion. I remember the first time Tom and I had a good heart-to-heart talk. I was astounded to learn what he was thinking. I can see vividly the expression on his face when I began to tell him why I believed God's truth. I could see the relief he experienced when he learned how deeply I believed in the God of the Bible. He had not understood it was my very life. He thought I was just trying to be different, and he wished he could just be like everyone else. When he began to understand why, it made a great deal of difference. We began to communicate, and it made all the difference in the world — but it came too late to save years of anxiety and moments of agony. You have the opportunity now to communicate before it is too late. You have the opportunity to listen. Don't let that opportunity slip by! One other thing I would be sure to do is set a proper example. I would show, by example, by the way I lived, that God's way of life is the best. Tom would be able to see how obedience to God is the only way to true happiness, peace of mind and abundant living. He would be able to see the evils of Easter and Christmas. He would rejoice in the Feast of Tabernacles and the Passover. There would be no doubt which is the best way. Everything I did or said would be an example of what he should do and say. He would be able to say with conviction: "Dad knows best." My example would be before him wherever he would go, and he would remember it always. Another thing we would do is have regular daily Bible study together. I would teach Tom God's truth in a positive way. I would show how time is opening up to all God's people — not closing in. I would show the fantastic future for each of us personally in the wonderful World Tomorrow. He would begin to see the evils in today's world. He would see that man's way really does lead to death. He would begin to realize at an early age that the only hope for humanity i s the divine intervention of the great God whom we serve. He would begin to look forward to the Kingdom of God. He would begin to work and qualify for a position in that Kingdom. I would gain his complete confidence in such a way that he would believe me when I talked about God and His way. I would never disappoint him. I would work with all my might to do my part in rearing him in the way that he should go — God's way. These are some of the things I would do if I had an opportunity to do it all over — And I do! I have an opportunity very few people on earth will ever have. My wife shares that Opportunity. Three years ago our first daughter, Paula Jean, was born. I realized we would have an opportunity to do it over! We had the knowledge, experience and background. And then ten months ago, our second daughter, Christina Ann, was born. Now we have two young daughters! What a fantastic blessing! We have experienced the wrong way. With God's help, we will do it right this time. We will try to avoid all the mistakes we made before. Our hope is that you can also learn from our experiences. And please read Tom's letter, even if it is for young people. I'm sure you'll get his message.