Passing our faith on to the next generation

bibleThis past Sunday, Pastor Alan Ramsey, my pastor, made a comment that is most unfortunately true.  During his Sunday morning sermon, he said that we are seeing the results of a generation that was not brought up in church.  But what he said next has really had me thinking – at least they know about God, but they will be bringing up a generation of children that will not know who God is. Although I was not brought up in a Christian home, I did have family that we visited from time to time that were strong in their faith. One in particular, “Grandma Edith” had a lasting impact on my life.  Although I would not come to accept the Lord Jesus Christ as my personal Savior for about another decade, it was the consistent demonstration of her faith that made an impact on me.

Yesterday, while reading my personal devotional, I came across this passage: I will open my mouth in a parable: I will utter dark sayings of old: Which we have heard and known, and our fathers have told us. We will not hide them from their children, shewing to the generation to come the praises of the LORD, and his strength, and his wonderful works that he hath done. For he established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers, that they should make them known to their children: That the generation to come might know them, even the children which should be born; who should arise and declare them to their children: That they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments:  And might not be as their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation; a generation that set not their heart aright, and whose spirit was not stedfast with God (Psalms 78:2-8).

This is  not the first place where parents, particularly fathers, are commanded to teach the younger generations the things of God.  Nine times in scripture God instructs parents to teach their children about the things of God.  The first occurrence is recorded in Leviticus: And that ye may teach the children of Israel all the statutes which the LORD hath spoken unto them by the hand of Moses (Leviticus 10:11). God even promised his children through the writings of David, If thy children will keep my covenant and my testimony that I shall teach them, their children shall also sit upon thy throne for evermore (Psalms 132:12). Sometime between the exodus from Egypt and the death of David, the children were not taught about the miracles of God, about His commandments, or His love for them.  They were not taught about God’s deliverance from Pharaoh, the parting of the Red Sea, or manna provided from Heaven to feed their hunger.  I once heard someone say that if they had been around in those days, they would have made sure that their children and their grandchildren would always remember the mighty works of God.

I have never physically seen the Lord part a sea or river, nor have I seen manna on the ground each morning.  I was not there to see Jesus raise the dead, heal the sick, or teach in the Temple.  Through faith and the reading of His word, we know those stories and we proclaim them to be true, but with our children we read them as if they were stories written by Dr. Seuss. We trivialize the miracles that God has done in the past by making the characters seem more cartoonish and less human and then wonder why children dismiss the reality of the Lord’s grace and love the way they dismiss the worlds and characters created by Walt Disney.  Within the lives of the Christian, there are regular demonstrations of God’s love and grace that we can share with our children and others yet we choose to remain silent.  We choose to keep them to ourselves and not teach the younger generation of what we have seen the Lord do. I have often wondered why Christians do not want to share the things that God has done for them. Instead of hiding them, what if we began to keep a notebook to record those things we witness the hand of the Lord in as a memorial to be shared with the next generation?

I know that in my own life there are many things that the Lord has done that are not only worthy to be shared with others, especially my children.  They need to hear of the difference that the Lord made in my life and how he took my sins, my guilt, and shame and bore it on the cross so that He could fellowship with me. They need to hear of the difference he has made in the life of their grandfather, my dad, who is not the same man as he was thirty years ago.  They need to hear that in times of financial difficulty how He alone provided me food when there was no earthly explanation for what was happening.  They need to hear how He was able to heal my body from injuries that doctors told me would prevent me from ever walking again back in 1989.  I have seen God reach into the lives of the broken-hearted and downtrodden and lift them in love, forgive them, and heal their hearts and minds. God who delivered the children of Israel from the bonds of Egypt is the same God who delivers people from the bondage of sin today. I have seen friends delivered from the power of cigarettes, alcohol, and drugs and placed on a straight path.  In reality, many of you who are reading this can probably list as many things as I can where God’s hand can be seen directly intervening in our lives and the lives of those around us.

Since Sunday, I have added something new to my daily prayers; I’ve begun to ask the Lord to encourage and help me to teach my child still living at home about the goodness of His love and grace and to help me take advantage of every opportunity to share the same things with my children who are already outside the home.  As a parent, I do not want them to have the spiritual struggles that I have had.  I desire for them to have a closer walk with God earlier in their lives and to be able to see greater blessings from the Lord than I have.  I want to be able to rejoice in that day when we are all around God’s throne.  And most of all, I desire that their children and the children of that generation, should the lord tarry, to also know the love and grace of God.