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An Awesome Privilege

Mike eased the car to a stop, jumped out, and hurriedly hugged his two children as they struggled to shoulder their backpacks. Then they were off, running up the ramp on the way to their classrooms. They would be just in time, but he would be late for work.

As he merged back onto the expressway, he took a deep breath and tried to relax. “I guess this is just the way it is going to be,” he sighed to no one but himself. The ever-increasing traffic was making the drive to the Lutheran elementary school more challenging. For the third time in two weeks, an accident had brought traffic to a near standstill. What was normally a 35­minute drive had become 55 minutes. He knew he would get some cross­eyed glances from his coworkers as he walked in late again.

But when Mike and Shelly had made the decision to send their children to the Lutheran elementary school on the other side of the city, they knew there would be challenges. They readily, and even gladly, accepted those challenges. They knew they were the challenges Christian parents face. They wanted their children to receive an education that was focused on God’s Word.

They recognized that their children were growing up in a world in which Satan’s voice is loud and clear. The chil­dren heard his voice on the television. They heard his voice in the music streaming through their earbuds. They heard the echo of his voice in the thoughts of their own hearts. Mike and Shelly had wanted their children to receive an education that would help them recognize the voice of Satan. They wanted them to attend a school that would be allowed to use the law and gospel when disciplining their children, instead of mere behavior modification techniques. They wanted their children to be able to hear that they were forgiven because of Jesus. They wanted their children to receive an education in a place where the atmosphere was permeated with the love of God. So they gladly accepted

the challenges that went with it—the cost of tuition, the time spent on the road, the wear and tear on the car (even the frustrated glances from coworkers when Mike came in late).

But Mike knew that was the easy part of being a Christian parent—just one small slice of the responsibility he shouldered as a key spiritual trainer in the family.

He played his major role in the home. It was there that he faced more and even greater challenges. And it was there that the most important part of the children’s Christian education would take place.

Shortly after Shelly had given birth to Micah, their first child, Mike’s father had handed him a card on which he had written the following words: “These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates” (Deuteronomy 6:6­9).

“Mike,” his father had said as he handed him the card. “God has just given Shelly and you an awesome gift. And you will soon see that your life will never be the same,” he added with a knowing wink and a smile. “He has also entrusted you with an awesome privilege. You are the one who gets to be God’s spokesman for Micah. You are the one who gets to show him the powerful God who loves us and protects us. You are the one who gets to tell him about Jesus. Mike, I hope you will read these words

often and think about them. There is nothing in these words that gives the impression that your role as the spiritual trainer is a part­time job. It isn’t a matter only of taking Micah to be baptized and then to church every Sunday. Don’t get me wrong. Those are huge. But you also need to be with him, to teach him to recog­nize the hand of God in the blessings he will enjoy, to teach him to pray, and to teach him that there is a pow­erful and loving God to whom he can pray. You need to teach him what the commandments mean in his life and that his sins are sins against the only true God, the God who is holy. And you have to teach him about forgive­ness in Jesus. All throughout the days God gives you together, you will have many opportunities to teach. Mike, that is the assignment God gave you when he blessed you with a child.”

His father’s words returned to him often as he watched Micah grow, and later again when Emily was born.

With each passing year, the assign­ment seemed to grow tougher. They were so busy. There were so many activities. Often they didn’t even eat meals together. If it wasn’t for the time spent in the car on the way to school, some days there barely would be time to talk. And the sinful nature seemed to have no end of creative excuses for bypassing the spiritual discussions. But Mike looked for opportunities to teach, even if it was just in response to an offhand comment about a friend’s father being sick, an argument that one of the children had with a class­mate, or something the teacher did that didn’t seem fair to the thinking of a fifth­grade student. Mike looked for opportunities to talk about sin and forgiveness and trust and respect, and more. Though Shelly and Mike had given up on having family devotions seven days a week, they had not given up on having formal family devotions. For a while they tried Saturday devo­tions, just before their special breakfast brunch. And Wednesday evenings usually were free. From season to season, as the activities changed, they had to be willing to adapt. But one hard­and­fast rule in their house was that every night as they tucked the kids in bed, they would talk about the Bible lesson the children were studying in school that week. They would think of one application of the lesson in their own lives. Then they would include a thought about that in the regular bedtime prayer. Those impromptu devotions often generated a lot of discussion. But perhaps most important, it demonstrated to the chil­dren that God’s Word was important to their parents.

Mike and Shelly thanked God for the in­depth Bible study that nurtured their children in their school. But they also knew that if they didn’t take the lead in their home, if spiritual discus­sions were all but absent, the children might assume that what they learned in school had no real meaningful con­nection to life. So Mike and Shelly talked about their love and respect for God. They taught their children how to pray. They admitted their own sins. They rejoiced in God’s forgiveness. They did this as often as they could, ever mindful of God’s Word through Moses, “Talk about [the commandments] when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up” (Deuteronomy 6:7).


 

By Raymond Schumacher, from Parents Crosslink © 2014 Northwestern Publishing House. All rights reserved.

Image credit: Shutterstock

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