Raising Up Families of Faith
The first calling that God gives to all parents is to raise up their children to know and love God. As a pastor and father of six, I know this reality and also understand the difficulty. Some may think it would be easy as a pastor to raise up children of faith, but the difficulties are no different for me than for anyone else. Growing up, I was not raised with regular patterns of family devotions and the like. It is a change for most people today. The majority of people that we encounter inside and outside of the church more than likely have had little if any faith formation in the home. Personally, for those had this upbringing a part of my spirit feels jealous wishing I had had the same patterns engrained in me. This passes quickly as I realize that God has been with me throughout and, though I have to work at these patterns, the most important part of it all is where my heart lies. As the Church, we are called to raise up families of faith by imparting the faith to parents and helping them to teach the kids. Early on Moses was given instructions by God to pass on to parents in Deuteronomy 4 and the readings for this past Sunday highlight the need for that instruction (1-2, 6-9). This was at a time when all a parent had to do to teach their children of God was call them out and point to the Tabernacle where they could visibly see the presence of God. God was not going to lead that way forever and, in reality, that was not the way that God desires for us to know that He is there. God wants us to trust in Him even when we don't clearly see Him. Mother Teresa, in the book, Come Be My Light, revealed that except for a brief five-week period in 1959 she had not felt the closeness of Christ in her for the last sixty-six years of her life. In spite of this, she never lost hope or faith trusting that Christ was near her. The faith that we are called to teach and to carry on is not a faith in which we are expected to carry on just because God does all that we ask of Him or because we feel a good feeling from Him. As we are called to teach our children the faith we can find that our own faith is strengthened. As we teach our children the faith, we are also preparing them for the difficulties that they will face and the struggles that will come upon us because of the spiritual warfare that is confronting us that Paul speaks of in Ephesians 6:10-20. Our teaching of the faith is central in equipping our children and for all believers to be equipped to withstand the constant attack that we find within our lives within this fallen world. The difficulty of these attacks as they don't always come from without, but also from within. As Christians, we sometimes are led not by the Holy Spirit, but the spirit of our age and our world to deny aspects of the faith and/or to attack those that hold to the historic faith as being outmoded and are antiquated. The glorious thing about our Christian faith is that the biblical principles of the faith are timeless and unchanging though our world is everchanging. As people, we are not so different than the people that we read about in Scripture and the issues that we face are not that different even though we are confronted with the new media and the ability to quickly interact with different peoples. The reality of the fallenness of creation does not seem to be lessened the more we know of what is happening in the world but is much more prevalent as we see the evil that people do against one another. It is in this light that we teach of the faith and the importance of our witness. We, as Christians, are not called to be judges that bring only judgment, but we are called to be more like lighthouses that lead those caught up in dangerous waters to safe harbors. That is the calling that we all have in our faith as we teach our children, but also as we reach out to those that do not know Christ. As Jesus' words remind us in Mark 7:14-23, we are not to be limited by man-made traditions to define how we view and live out the faith, but centrally we are called to stand firm on the principles defined for us as we find revealed to us within Scripture, particularly the words of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. We are not to look down on others and deem them unworthy of our care but are to see them in the eyes our Lord sees them. Reaching out to those and eating with those that are different from us is something that we are called to do and our views or the views of a church body should not limit us or prevent us from entering into the company of those that do not believe as we do. As we raise up our children in the faith and grow in our faith we are called to be prepared with the full covering provided within Scripture that we do not fall to the temptations or barbs that we could face and if it cost us our lives we do not flee from the truth of the faith that we hold but hold fast to what we know to be true even if it cost us our life. That is our calling as Christians and the promise of new life that we all receive in Christ and in Him alone. The importance of carrying on the faith is truly a life or death issue, not only in this world, but more importantly in the new life promised to us eternally with our Lord. May your life be centered in Christ and may He carry you through all trials and turbulation.