The Saddest Verse in the Bible

Do you have something you grew up doing as a child that you still do today?  What are the odds that one of your hobbies is the result of a parent or grandparent passing it down to you?  Maybe you grew up in a family that hunted.  Are you looking forward to the day you take your kid(s) on their first hunt?  Maybe it’s fishing or baking, or music, or reading, or woodworking or sports.  Chances are there is something you love, something you value, that you can’t wait to pass down to your kids.

In Deuteronomy 6 Moses addresses the nation of Israel.  And he said (my paraphrase): “Hey Church!  Listen up, this is huge.  Our God is one; he is the all-powerful creator of everything.  He’s the God who freed us from slavery.  Love him, worship him, and serve him with every fiber of your being.  Take these words to heart…pass them down to your kid(s).  Talk about it around the breakfast table, when you’re working in the fields, when you’re walking around, and when it’s time to lay them down to sleep at night.  These words need to permeate every aspect of your lives and homes.”

After this impressive charge to the nation, a few short years later we read the saddest verse in the bible.  “And there arose another generation after them who did not know the Lord or the work that he had done for Israel.” Judges 2.10b

God had freed them from slavery.  He provided for them in the desert.  Moses has died.  Joshua becomes the leader.  Joshua dies.  And in the opening chapters of the book of Judges they’ve already forgotten what God has done for them.  They did not know him.  They did not remember what he had done.  How do you forget about the parting of the Red Sea?  Or the scene as they looked up the mountain when Moses received the 10 Commandments?  How do you forget that feeling of deliverance as their toes hit the fertile soil of the Promised Land?

Maybe they got busy.

Or bored.

Either way they forgot their responsibility as a parent to disciple their kid(s).  And then the saddest verse in the bible was written.

May I offer two thoughts about discipling kids?

1.  You can’t lead someone somewhere you’ve never been

My kids are almost 5 and almost 2.  I am learning a valuable lesson: they see and hear and repeat EVERYTHING.  One day we were driving in the north Dallas area on a highway in a construction zone in traffic which is a recipe for disaster.  Add to it that my son was in the car with us.  My wife was driving when a semi-truck exited the construction zone without regard for the traffic and merged into our lane.  The truck almost hit us and forced us into the adjacent lane.  We narrowly missed hitting another car.  In a moment when depravity came screaming from deep within I proceeded to inform the truck driver that he was number one, if you know what I mean.  My son saw that and asked, “Daddy, why you pointing at dat truck?”  And every time…every time…for the next 3 months that we passed a semi-truck he exclaimed, “Look Daddy! A truck!  Let’s point!”  Parenting fail.

On the flip side, in remarkable age appropriate clarity, my son can also tell you what the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus is about.  In fact, it’s one of his favorite stories in his Jesus Storybook Bible. Likewise, my almost 2 year old daughter repeats the motions and a word from a song they sing at church, “Pat the Bible.”  Each night I sing “Jesus Loves Me” to her as I lay her down for bed.  As she hears the words she will clap her hands in a patting motion and say joyfully, “Bible, bible.”

They pick up on much more than we realize.

Which is why if I want to disciple my kids, I need to have a flourishing relationship with Jesus.

I need to study my bible, pray, listen to God, serve, tithe, worship.

2. You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink

My favorite football team is the 3 time National Champions Florida State Seminoles.  My wife’s favorite football team is the Texas Longhorns.  Almost since birth I have indoctrinated my son with all things Florida State, including the war chant and tomahawk chop.  But then the day came when I asked my son to do the tomahawk chop.  Instead he threw up his hand in the Longhorn symbol and shouted “Hook ‘em!”  My heart died a little that day.  You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.

In some ways I think the same is true for our kids and their spiritual formation.  I can create the perfect environments for the Holy Spirit to work in the hearts and lives of my kids, and they may not respond.  I can take my kids to a church driven by the gospel and that doesn’t babysit them.  We can do advent calendars until we are blue in the face.  We can listen to radio stations that are “Safe for the whole family.”  We can do all these things and much more in the name of Jesus, but until Jesus calls them to himself it is ineffective in saving them.   Sure, they’re all good things.  It even lays a foundation that “as for me and my house we will serve the Lord.”  But it does not make them Christ Followers.

I can’t make my children love God, but I can show them a God who loves them.  And that’s my job.  Reintroducing my kids each morning to a God who loves them, who has a perfect plan for their lives, and who wants a personal relationship with them.  Some days I get a gold star, some days I fail miserably.

It all boils down to this: we pass down what we value most.

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