Publication: One-to-One, Autumn 2014
On a Sunday night, more than one billion viewers worldwide huddled around their TV sets and computers to watch highly paid and meticulously pampered Hollywood stars throw their annual Oscar bash to congratulate one another and to preach political correctness to their fawning fans. Countless pundits, admirers, and analysts carefully scrutinized every dress, hair style, and syllable. Who’s hot? Who’s not?
In those moments, it would seem that the focus of the world was on that theater, on those luminaries.
On that very same night, two hundred parents and friends gathered at Oak Pointe Church near Detroit, MI, to celebrate the baptism of 24 of their children who had personally received Jesus as their forever Friend and Lord. The kids read their testimonies that they had personally written. Many specifically said they were getting baptized because they wanted the world to know that they belonged to Jesus, and they wanted everyone to know about Him.
A question could be asked: which event will have more eternal, cosmic significance?
One of my greatest joys in ministry has been being able to stand in a baptismal pool with parents and their child who is preparing to enter into baptism. One of my greatest burdens is to stand with parents in prayer for a wayward child, and agree
with them in faith for that child to be drawn into a living relationship with Jesus Christ.
For a parent who has received Jesus, there can be no greater or more powerful desire than to see their child in right relationship to the Lord. Even when our children become adults, we never stop praying for them and longing for them to be close to their Heavenly Father. When they stray, we grieve. When they return, we rejoice! Nobody can or will make you pray like your own children or grandchildren!
This desire that we have actually comes straight from the heart of Father God, and gives us some insight into how He must feel about us as His children. As a good Father, He has a loving and eternal perspective that will equip us for the wonderful life He prepared for us to live. He calls and inspires us as parents to place a high priority on preparing and leading our own children into a closer walk with Him.
One of the most precious and profound statements in all of the Bible is the instruction He gives to us as His people:
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. 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. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates” (Deuteronomy 6:4-9).
The picture we receive here is that our walk with God must be constant and consistent.
He says, “Teach diligently”, and explains this means every day, throughout the day, whatever we are doing or saying. Surely it means equipping them via church gatherings, but it’s clear that it also means in our homes, and all of our waking moments.
It may mean teaching by directly sitting down with them, reading the Bible to them, telling them stories, asking questions about what they have just heard, affirming God’s love and your love for them, and praying with them. Recently, I received a wonderful picture from my brother, Jonathan. He and his wife, Sarah, are teaching the Bible to their sweet daughter, Liza. They are using the very book that our Dad and Mom read with Jon, my sister, and me, Hurlbut’s Story of the Bible.
It can also mean taking your child with you to work at appropriate times, if that is encouraged in your place of employment. Let them observe you in your environment and take time to show them something about what you do and how you interact with your fellow employees. That way, when you ask them later to pray for you during the workday, they can understand better how to pray. Tell them how God meets with you in and through your work, and about the blessing of serving others and working with excellence “as unto the Lord”.
For some parents, homeschooling is an option for shaping a strong and balanced curriculum with a biblical worldview. For others, a Christian or private school is best for their children. And, there are circumstances when a public school offers the best option for families. In every case, parents must be exceptionally alert and pro-active regarding the material their children are being taught…as well as who is doing the teaching, and who is learning alongside of their children.
Of course, kids don’t simply learn at school. Who are their friends? What are they reading? Where do they surf the internet and what do they glimpse when they do? What music do they hear on their smartphones and apps? What do they absorb via TV or Netflix? You have the calling and authority as parents and grandparents to lovingly, but diligently understand what is influencing your children.
When you bring (as opposed to merely sending) your children to church, set the tone for them in thanksgiving, reverence, and joy. Let them hear your voice singing praise; let them hear authentic conviction in your prayers. If they see that you are more focused on the pastor’s mistakes, or the worship leader’s attire, or the wrong carpet color, then that’s what they will focus upon. According to Deuteronomy, the Lord should be both our first waking thought and our last waking thought, and we are to invite His presence to be with us throughout the day. Brother Lawrence taught “practicing the presence of God” in all that we do; to have awareness and gratitude for Him that causes all of our lives to be sanctified for Him, and not just for an hour a week in a pew.
Instilling these things in our children is not a formula, nor does it mean they will avoid struggles and doubts in their lives. Sometimes, they may even seem to step away from faith or reject what you have taught them. This is hard and heartbreaking when it happens.
But if it happens, don’t stop loving, don’t stop praying, and don’t stop watching and waiting for what God can do in their lives. Be prepared at any moment to run to greet them as they return. If we can agree with you in prayer here at CSM, please let me know, and we will.
I love films, music, and entertainment, and I am very happy when great art and great artists are encouraged and rewarded. But, every gold statuette ever presented could not match the worth and glory of one soul saved. Let’s continue to be diligent in teaching and praying for the sake of our children and the children in this generation.
Now, that’s something worth celebrating!
Scripture Reference: Deuteronomy 6:4-9
STEPHEN SIMPSON is the Editor of One-to-One Magazine and the Director of CSM Publishing. In addition to publishing ministry, Stephen has served in leadership for churches and ministries in Costa Rica, Florida, Mississippi, Texas, and Michigan, as well as being the Senior Pastor of Covenant Church of Mobile (2004-2013). He continues to travel in ministry across North America and in other nations.