February 23

Deuteronomy 4-6, Psalm 54

If we were honest and asked ourselves the relevant question: "In raising our children what is the most important thing we seek in them and want to impart to them? what would our answer be? When they are young is it education and athletics? As they get older is it relationships and college? At the next stage is it a vocation and personal independence? Though these are good and important areas in the life of a growing child they are much less important than instilling in them a love and desire for a personal relationship with God. Like many parents, when I reflect back there are things that I would do again and there are things that I would probably have done differently. Not being part of a consistent church family for many years was something I would definitely have wanted to do over. But one thing that I did try to instill was a love for God and His Word. At each level of maturity, I had to attempt to reach them differently. When they were very little, they would all sit every night on the same bed with me as I would read them from a children's Bible and explain it to them. As they got older, when they were driven to a sporting, dance or acting event, I would shut off the radio and for half an hour would discuss with them something of interest from what I was reading that day in the Bible (Scripture and application). When I noticed they were no longer listening I moved onto Bible cards. I would write on an index card a couple of verses with application and place it on their pillows before they went to sleep, not knowing whether they would take the time to read them or toss them. Now that they are adults between 27-32 years old, nothing has changed, they will hear and talk Bible with me whenever we are on the phone or in person.

In Deuteronomy 6:6-7, we read, "And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up." His command is very straightforward. As good as church programs led by good pastors are, they do do not remove the primary responsibility of imparting the love of God and His Word from us. As parents, we can not relinquish this responsibility to another person or institution. We read in 4:9, "Only take heed to yourself, and diligently keep yourself, lest you forget the things your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. And teach them to your children and your grandchildren." Growing up in primarily a Roman Catholic neighborhood, so many of my friends were forced to go to religious instruction by parents who never went to church or cared about God. Those kids saw the hypocrisy in this and resented having to go. They were eventually confirmed which was the graduation of these classes. Most of them, as a result of this, had no heart for God and ceased going to church right after. The same held true for me as I was required to go to Sunday School in the Episcopal church until I was confirmed. I can probably count on one hand the number of times I went to church or thought about God after that, before entering a personal relationship with Him many years later, at the age of 27.

When we fly, we all see the presentation of what to do in the case of an emergency and oxygen is required. When the bags drop, we are to put our own mask on first, then place the mask on the face of the small child we are traveling with. The same holds true in our walk in faith. We need to come into a real, personal relationship with Christ first. Once this is done, we are to diligently and consistently impart the truths in God's Word to the next generation. We must all realize this is a long and difficult journey, but it is really the reason that God gave us His children. Though we like to claim ownership of our children, they are never really ours but His. Are we faithfully taking seriously the gift He has bestowed upon us? There are times our children may become prodigals and will reject God's Word. This is their free will, and just like the Father in the story of the Prodigal Son allowed His son to go, we can not force our or His will on them (Luke 15:11-32). But very often the fault lies in our apathy or lack of interest to discuss the things of God consistently. May we all take this command seriously, whether we have toddlers or adults as children. They are never too young or old to be instructed, and it is never too late to start today.

Messages from Pastor Lloyd Pulley:

Marj Lancaster