Passing the faith along
Psalm 105: All because he remembered his Covenant.
Psalm 105 is one of those “remembering great things” psalms. The events retold in the song happened hundreds of years in the past. I can imagine the boys in the congregation grinning to one another during the verse about frogs in the bedroom of the king and flies filling the air. That kind of imagery gets a boy’s attention! Something else is happening as that psalm is sung. Even as the boys think about flies and gnats and frogs they learn the story of God’s faithfulness, how he kept his promise and delivered his people from Egyptian slavery. Thus that old story becomes their story. Someday, they’ll be the grow ups leading the worship and it will be their boys getting a kick out of the “frog story.” Thus another generation takes ownership of the story of God. We have the same opportunity. Our children need to know of the faithfulness of God. Stories that seem like the same old stuff to us are brand new to these little ones. We owe it to them to tell it to them with the same conviction and wonder and celebration that it was told to us. As we do that we connect them to the God who keeps his promises no matter what.
Take Away: Tell your children the story of God – tell it to them with conviction, wonder, and celebration – make it their story.
Telling it like it was
Psalm 78: He…commanded our parents to teach it to their children.
Asaph’s longest psalm tells the story of Israel’s failure and God’s faithfulness. In the opening part of the psalm he states that its purpose is to tell their story so that the next generation will learn to trust God. Honestly, from Israel’s point of view this isn’t a very flattering story. Each verse of the song describes a failure of Israel and how God responds with compassion to rescue them from some mess they’ve gotten themselves into. I don’t know about you, but when I’m telling the “next generation” about God I usually skip the “I failed” part and jump straight to the “God helped” part. Maybe that’s a mistake. It might be that I’m unintentionally saving face instead of teaching others to trust God more. Of course, there are things in all our pasts that must be told carefully and at the right time, but there’s likely a time for the telling. If I’m not careful I give the impression that I wised up and decided to give my heart to the Lord. In doing that, I make God into a concerned bystander in my story, wringing his hands, hoping I’ll turn it all around and then pleased that I’ve done so. It really isn’t that way. It’s God who graciously reaches down into the mess I’ve made, bringing redemption. Yes, I have to cooperate with him, but he’s the one who ought to get all the credit. I need to be sure that “my story” is truly “God’s story.” A part of that is my, at the appropriate time and place, honestly admitting my failure. That gives God the glory and also gives hope to that one in the “next generation” who already has some spiritual failures of his or her own.
Take Away: It’s God who graciously reaches down into the mess I’ve made, bringing redemption.
Better for our kids than Disneyland
Psalm 48: Then you can tell the next generation.
This Psalm is one in praise of the City of God, Jerusalem. This, I’m told, is a place where worship abounds, and with good reason. Within its walls is the place of worship, the dwelling place of God on earth. This city is protected by the Lord even when powerful enemies come to destroy it. Every time the song writer looks at Jerusalem, Zion, he’s overwhelmed with the goodness of God. Then he suggests a specific course of action. He says people ought to carefully measure the city and count its towers. He wants them to make careful record of everything about this City of God. Why? So they can recount it all to their children. In other words, it isn’t enough for them to simply rejoice in the here and now in all God has done for them; they’re to record it all and then tell their children and grandchildren about it. We Christians have our own stories of God’s grace in our lives and churches, our families and our nation. It’s good for us to rejoice when God delivers us from some near disaster. However, we need to be more on purpose in passing our stories along. Surely with all the technology available I can make a video or record a mp3 in which I tell the whole story, detail by detail. Of course, beyond that, we need to have such conversations with our kids. For instance maybe on vacation we can make a stop at the church where we attended as children and, there, in the sanctuary, tell our kids about what happened and why. It may not be the same as Disneyland, and it doesn’t have to replace such a destination, but it just might have a greater impact on our kids than we realize.
Take Away: Tell your story to your kids, and tell it often.
The Boy King
2 Chronicles 23: They were to be God’s special people.
Anyone who thinks these “king books” of the Old Testament are dull needs to turn on their imagination and read some of these passages anew. A wicked woman rules Judah and for six years she terrorizes those who seek to serve God. Right under her nose at the Temple a baby boy, the rightful heir to the throne, is being raised in secret. When the boy turns seven the supporters of righteousness decide that they have to act before Queen Athaliah finds out about the child and takes his life. A plot that involves mostly priests and Levites is put into place. There are secret meetings and an ancient cache of weapons dating back to Joash’s great ancestor, David, is prepared for battle. In hopes of attracting as little attention as possible the work schedules at the Temple are manipulated. Armed men secure the Temple grounds and guards escort the boy to the entrance of the Temple where he’s crowned King of Judah. The people cheer their release from oppression. Queen Athaliah hears the commotion and rushes to the Temple shouting “Treason!” Before long she’s dead and the Boy King sits on the throne of Judah. The old priest Jehoiada guides the lad and his subjects in their steps back to God. Worship activities are restored at the Temple and revival sweeps the land. Now, I know that Joash’s story doesn’t end well, but it certainly has an exciting beginning. Our kids know about David and Goliath, maybe we need to tell them about how a seven-year-old boy became the King of Judah.
Take Away: The Lord delights in using unlikely people to do great things.
2 Chronicles 20: Everyone in Judah was there – little children, wives, sons – all present and attentive to God.
It’s not as though Judah is a world superpower or anything like that. It’s a small nation surrounded by other small nations that are situated between some very big players on the world scene. When Jehoshaphat receives word that some of the neighboring countries have united to attack Judah he knows he’s in big trouble. We’re told, “Shaken, Jehoshaphat prayed.” Not only does the king pray but he calls his nation to prayer and fasting. They cry out to God to literally save their lives, reminding the Lord that they’re descendants of Abraham. It’s a desperate crowd that gathers in Jerusalem to cry out to God. And everyone’s there. It’s not just the soldiers or the leaders or even the heads of households. Everyone comes: men, women, and children. I can just imagine the children looking on wide-eyed as their parents and all the other adults cry out to God for his intervention. I know that the purpose of this story isn’t for me to think about children and prayer meetings and such, but the topic does come to mind. In most churches today we tend to divide families. Children go to some program organized just for them and teens are placed under the ministry of some capable youth leader. The adults, then, have “their” Bible study or prayer meeting. Generally speaking, I’m all for it. After all, I don’t want to see the kids just marking time while the parents talk about things that are meaningless to the boys and girls. Still, there’s something powerful in children seeing their parents pray heartfelt prayers or watching their parents be involved in a passionate discussion about the things of God. They might not understand all that’s going on but they understand that these spiritual things matter to the grownups. I’m not suggesting that we do away with Children’s Church or the Youth program of the church but I do think that we ought not to be in too big a hurry to dismiss them from all adult oriented activities of the church.
Take Away: If children never see their parents pray intercessory prayers and worship from the depths of their hearts how will they ever learn to do such things?
Generation to generation
Judges 2: Eventually that entire generation died…another generation grew up that didn’t know anything of God….
This is a pitiful situation. How foolish! Here are parents who ate manna, had ever-wear shoes, crossed through the Jordan on dry ground, saw the walls of Jericho fall, and won an amazing dominance in Canaan. Somehow, those same parents failed to instill the knowledge of God in their children. What’s wrong with these people? Years earlier Moses warned them that it would be easy to enjoy their success and forget God. Now, a generation has passed and the nightmare scenario he described has come true. Apparently, it’s easier to fail to pass faith from one generation to the next than we might think. My experience with God might be vivid to me but can mean almost nothing to my children. I must assume nothing and take nothing for granted. If those I love are to know God I must be resolutely intentional in instilling that knowledge in their lives. God help us to reach our children.
Take Away: How can I best pass my faith on to those who are dearest to me?
Inherited blessings and personal decisions
Deuteronomy 5: God didn’t just make this covenant with our parents; he made it also with us, with all of us who are alive right now.
Some things are generational. That is, they’re passed along from parents to their children. Some of the promises of God are like that. Such promises are made to a people, a nation. Because of that it could be said that the children inherit the promise from their parents. Some generational issues are not exactly the property of the children in the way those big promises are, but because of human nature, they almost seem to be. Parents have an influence on their children. If that influence is godly the result is very likely a positive one. On the other hand, if that influence is negative, it’s very possible that things will begin to unravel more and more with each passing generation. However, it doesn’t need to be that way. The reason is that God remains active from one age to the next. Moses tells his listeners that the relationship God had with their parents, a relationship that was broken by their disobedience, is now offered to them. They won’t say, “We’re God’s people because our parents were God’s people.” Instead, they’ll be his people because God has called them and they’ve responded to that invitation. It’s a wonderful thing when parents pass their faith along to their children. It is even better when the children actively respond making that relationship to God their very own.
Take Away: A person who had godly parents is blessed, indeed. Still, that person has the responsibility of claiming that blessing – that relationship- as their very own.
Live long and prosper
Deuteronomy 4: Obediently live by his rules and commands which I’m giving you today so that you’ll live well and your children after you.
So how does it work? Is it that God has given me these rules and regulations and will pay me back with blessings if I keep them? I don’t think so. God doesn’t lay down arbitrary rules just for the purpose of keeping me in line and he doesn’t treat me like a little child who’s rewarded with a stick of candy if I’m good. His purposes for me are filled with grace and mercy. If God says, “Don’t” I can be sure that it’s for my benefit and not his. My Creator, who knows me better than I know myself says, “When I created you I hardwired some very specific things about you. If you want your life to function at its best, here’s how you’re to live.” Following these guidelines doesn’t mean life will be trouble free (after all, there’s that ugly business of the fall in the opening pages of my Bible) but it does mean that I’ll live the best, most satisfying and fulfilled life possible. Not only that, but by living according to God’s plan, I’ll be teaching my children the best way to live. The result will be that my kids will be more likely to adopt my approach to living in a relationship with God and their lives will also be better lived.
Take Away: When I live God’s way, not only is my life better, but I also influence my children to live for God, resulting in their lives also being better.
God, enjoying life with me
Ecclesiastes 9: God takes pleasure in your pleasure!
I know that a common view of God is that he’s against our enjoying life and that his favorite word is “no!” That is very mistaken. It’s true that God has a lot of “no’s” for us. Then again, a loving father has a lot of “no’s” for his children too. When his toddler picks something up off the floor and is about to put it in his mouth his mom and dad say, in chorus: “No!” Their desire is not to ruin his life, but to protect him from something that might be downright hazardous to his health. Even so, the Lord has some prohibitions for us and every one of them is for our benefit. The other side of the coin is wonderfully positive. When I enjoy some new discovery, or take pleasure in one of God’s many gifts to me; when I laugh out loud as one of my precious grandchildren comes up with a terrific one liner — at that moment God laughs with me. The writer of Ecclesiastes struggles with the meaning of life and is trying to understand just what it is that will bring real satisfaction. However, he has this one just right: “God takes pleasure in your pleasure!”
Take Away: All the joys of life come from our Heavenly Father who takes pleasure in our pleasure.
My children’s inheritance
Proverbs 20: God-loyal people, living honest lives, make it much easier for their children.
Parents have responsibilities far beyond providing food and shelter for their children. We’re to teach them how to live. In fact, we do teach them whether we want to or not. “Do as I say, not as I do” was dumb the first time it was said and it remains dumb. Kids watch their parents and the values of the parents become theirs. As the years pass grown children are surprised that they not only look more and more like their parents, but they act like them too. This learned behavior can be absolutely destructive as a person finds himself or herself treating their children in some unacceptable way that they, when they were children, promised themselves they would never do. However, there’s a positive side to this. In fact, that’s what God intended when he created us as he did. If I’m faithful to the Lord and honest in my relationships my kids are likely to adopt the same life-style. Their lives will be better lives because of that. The greatest thing I can pass on to my children is not an excellent stock portfolio; it is a rich value system.
Take Away: Ask the Lord to help you be the kind of parent who passes a solid value system on to your children.