Section One: Laying the Foundation
The author, Charles R. Swindoll, starts out this chapter telling about a man named Elias Keach. He is known as “the man who was converted under his own preaching.” You can read more about him here.
Mr. Swindoll writes,
“If there’s one word that should describe the Christian family, it would have to be authenticity. In an era when genuinely godly families make the endangered species list, we can’t afford not to be genuine.”
Oh, so true. It is so sad to see kids turned away from God because of Christian parent’s lack of authenticity. I’ve seen it more times than I care to count. Mr. Swindoll challenges us to ask our family questions and listen to what they have to say. This could be painful, but so is losing a child because of lack of authenticity. Questions like: If all you knew about God came by watching me, how would you describe Him? Base the answers on How I relate to Him and How I solve problems and handle stress. And How would you describe my relationship with the Lord?
Mr. Swindoll talks about how the Isrealites faced similar challenges as today’s Christian family – “Penetrating a pagan culture.” Moses called all the people together and reiterated the essentials of authentic faith. The first word in Deuteronomy 6:4 is Shema which is a command of “Hear!” “Listen!” The Jews would recite the Shema first thing every morning and last thing every night.
Hear, O Isreal! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. (Deuteronomy 6:4-6)
Mr. Swindoll writes,
“This kind of all-encompassing love for God is authentic. You can’t fake this love because the real thing oozes into every port of one’s life. Parents who model this love will forever impact their children for the better.”
Ah yes, how true, how true. People know that you can’t fool too many dogs, nor too many kids. They seem to be able to sniff out a fake if they are around you long enough. Authenticity is important to everyone. Think about this: If you are driving down the road and you see a teenage driver going 20 miles over the speed limit, it would upset you. You would probably be worried about his safety. If you seen an adult going 20 miles over the speed limit, you would probably either not think too much about it, or think they are foolish. As long as they weren’t interferring with your driving, you might not care that much. But what if you were driving along, and seen a police officer driving 20 miles over the speed limit, for no reason? You would probably loose a little respect for that police officer. It might even make you angry. What if each of these people ran a stop sign? What if that police officer pulled you over and gave you a ticket? I’m sure that would really make you mad.
If we as parents are not authentic, then we are that police officer to our children. We can make them loose respect and become angry because we are asking them to do things that we are not willing to do ourselves. We are writing tickets for things that we do. They can accept that there is uniqueness to being an adult, such as bed times, privileges, etc. But they can spot a fake a mile away.
Mr. Swindoll points out that in those verses the Hebrew word translated as talk did not mean to preach or lecture.
“Instead, the word used simply means “talking.” No formal lecture. No catechism. No rigid routine or Sunday school structure. And not just on Sunday or at bedtime. He simply means talking – talking that takes place naturally during all times of the day, every day. Above all else, the home should be a place where God can be comfortably discussed in any conversation, at any time.”
Mr. Swindoll points out the commands that the Lord gave the Israelite families on the brink of change:
“Watch out! Remember! Obey! Teach! “Do this so you and your children will thrive,” God says.”
He also points out four essential elements of authentic dependence on God that are found in Deuteronomy 6:
- A love for God that permeates the parents.
- A conscious, consistent transfer of God’s truth to the young.
- A tender, humble heart of gratitude for God’s provisions.
- Frequent, stated reminders of God’s faithfulness and grace.
We should be striving to have these as unconscious characteristics of our families. The only real way I can see for that to happen is through God. As Mr. Swindoll puts it,
“What god ordains, He sustains.”
I think the hardest of those four for me is the tender, humble heart of gratitude for God’s provisions. It’s not that I can not have a humble heart of gratitude, it’s that I tend to take them for granted. Actually, I don’t give them much thought at all. This is something I need to do on a conscious level before it can become something that I do unconsciously.