Swept down the beach
When I was a child, there were 6 kids in our family. We would go to the beach on vacation and we would spend hours playing as a family. Jumping waves, building sandcastles, swimming and collecting seashells. And mom would have lunch for us in the ice chest. Sandwiches or what she would call “cold cuts”. After we ate, we had to wait for an hour before we swam again. My mom’s reasoning was that we could get cramps if we went into the water too quickly after eating. I hated having to lay there waiting for that hour to be over. By the way, I was an adult before I ever realized that “hour waiting thing” was not for my safety, but for my parents to get an hour nap. My parents confessed to their fib many years later. I think mom was pretty smart.
I had to lie down between my parents and we would wait. I would ask my mom and dad, “can I get into the water now”? My mom would say, “No, not yet.'' And my parents would be half asleep until I asked again a few minutes later. My older siblings, they didn’t have to wait, but since I was the baby of the family, I had to lay there for what seemed like centuries to my young mind. Finally, my mom would say, “OK, you can go get in the water”.
But then she added this stern warning, “Paul, stay where I can see you. Don’t go out more than waist deep.” And then she added one more thing that made me a little scared, “watch the undertow, don’t let it drag you out to sea or down the beach”. I was like, “what’s an undertow?” And she carefully explained to me, “after each wave crashes on the beach, the water goes back out to the ocean and although it’s usually not too strong, sometimes the water running back into the ocean from the beach, pulls swimmers down the beach and even, sometimes, out to sea”. Then she sat up, got a book out to read and watched me play in the shallow surf and swim.
Even though I was a pretty good swimmer, I remember distinctly, being very careful as I went into the water. I didn’t want to be carried away by the undercurrent. But as I played in the waves. Something happened. As time passed, I didn’t keep my eyes on my parents. And when I finally came up out of the water to rest. My parents were not there. I remember that feeling of panic. “My parents lost me.” They were nowhere to be found.
Children can lose their place on the "beach of life".
Get that picture in your head? Because, something I have seen over my many years of ministry. Kids that grow up in the church, can lose their spiritual bearings. Kids go into life experiences with a kind of innocence. I’m not saying kids don’t have any kind of sin. No, what I’m saying is that young people don’t realize what sin will do, where it will take them, or how evil the world really is. I’ve seen it over and over, how a young person is subtly pulled under by the promises of the world. They get tricked into thinking that sin isn't really sinning and if it is, the world tells them, “sin isn't really that bad and besides, what could go wrong with just a little fun. Plus all your friends are doing it”.
Children can lose their place on the “beach of life”. They lose their spiritual bearings. After just a few years, some look at the world around them and they don’t know what to make of it. It’s like everything changed overnight. Adolescence, busyness, school, sports, work, friendships, a boyfriend or girlfriend, any of that or all of that. They just lose track of where they were and when they come up out of the water they are lost.
For parents, it can seem to happen so fast. Seems like your kid was doing just fine, but something is different all of the sudden. Maybe you were distracted for just a season of life. Maybe you didn’t even know you were distracted. You see the same child, but something has pulled them away from you. You panic. A cold chill. Time slipped away. What has pulled my child away?
As we see so many teenagers and young adults, pull away from practicing their faith, this little beach analogy is all too real, isn’t it? From my vantage point as a pastor, I have seen children that have become adults, that have been swept away into life, far from God. Years of pain and turmoil. Wasted years. Parents watched helplessly as their kids were carried away by a spiritual undertow. They blame themselves.
Let me share with you scripture from God’s word (the Bible) that will encourage us as parents. Psalm 78:5-7 says, He (God) established a testimony in Jacob and set up a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers to teach to their children so that a future generation— children yet to be born—might know. They were to rise and tell their children so that they might put their confidence in God and not forget God’s works but keep his commands. (CSB)
So do we teach our children to, keep all of the laws of the Old Testament? Is that the answer? Well, look what Jesus said when he was asked, “which command in the law is the greatest?” Matthew 22:39-40. He said to him, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important command. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.”(CSB)
Do you understand what Jesus is saying? Think of it like this. All the first 5 books of the Bible we call “the books of the law” or what the Jews call the “Torah”. And you can add the rest of the 39 books from the Old Testament. Jesus sums all that up, all 613 very specific laws, in only these two commands. How is that possible? Well if you make the decision to keep the first one command, to love the Lord your God. You will keep all the laws about not sinning against God! And if you keep the second command about loving your neighbor as yourself, you will keep all the laws against not sinning against your neighbor! All the law and the prophets depend on these two commands. They are at the heart of the Christian faith of following Jesus.
So how does that translate in to not losing our children to the spiritual undertow of the world? Well, watch how Jesus ties the law into following him every day? Jesus is reasserting, that if you follow me. You will make a decision with your mind that will go through your soul and be brought forth into action, in reality, to LOVE GOD AND LOVE PEOPLE.
The order is critical. You can’t truly love people unless you love God first. Then you can truly love people. And the reverse is also true. You can’t say that you truly love God and hate people. It simply won’t work that way. Jesus told us, his followers in, John 14:15 “If you love me, you will keep my commands.” (CSB)
Now, I want you to understand. Jesus is NOT saying, “if you want to be saved then keep my commands.” That’s not what he’s saying at all. Jesus is saying, “If you are one of my people, if you are saved by my blood, my grace, then you will keep my commands.” He is telling us, that “if you are one of my people now, you have been grafted into my family, you are my mine and if you love me, then you will make the decision to obey me.”
Parenting is not easy and in fact, It can be very difficult! You want to give your children the best possible start in their life. Parents, If you wonder if you are equipping your children well, here’s what you need to know. You transmit what you treasure. And if you don’t know what you treasure, it’s fairly easy to find out by doing these three simple things. First, look at your calendar. You spend time on what you value. And it’s the same with your checkbook. That’s the second way. Look where you spend your money. Then the last way you can find what you value is to simply ask your family. And give the ability to be honest with you, without you getting angry at their response. What you find you treasure, is what you are transmitting to your children.
The formation of a Christian Home is the Fruit of the Christian heart.
The formation of a Christian Home is the Fruit of the Christian heart. Your kids are not going to be great at following Christ if you're not great at it. If you treat church attendance and engagement like a nice thing to do, but not a critical thing to do. If you treat your walk with Christ as an afterthought, I promise you that your kids will be damaged goods. They will be swept down the spiritual beach or out to sea by the undertow of this world. If your children never see you study your bible, never pray or only make a show of your Christian faith. They will turn away from following Christ. They won’t treasure their relationship with Jesus because you don’t.
Let’s be honest, there is not a lot of time. Any good Christian parent will tell you once their kids are older, as they look back over the years, “how time flew by”. I think many would also say, “When your children are young, the days are long but the years are short.” While the kids are young, sleepless nights, runny noses, changing diapers, toys scattered all over the house and laundry that’s never done. It’s hard, especially when they are little, but I promise you, it goes by so very fast.
The truth of the matter is that, as a parent, you will make mistakes. And that’s OK. No parent does it perfectly, and even parents that do it well will have children that make horrible decisions and be pulled out to see by the spiritual undertow, some to never return. But if you give your children a solid foundation of them knowing that you love Jesus, they will continue to follow Jesus when they are an adult. If you make Jesus the center of your world, you give your children the tools they need to follow Jesus when they face the storms of life and are making those critical decisions about what to do and where to go.
What if your children have gone off the rails? What if your children are adults and don’t love and serve Jesus as their Lord and Savior? Maybe your kids are grown and you wish you had done this when they were younger. Maybe you have major regret. But God says in, Joel 2:25, I will repay you for the years that the swarming locust ate, … (CSB) In other words, God can redeem what has been lost. For the many times that I have sat with parents, that in tears, talked of wasted years of their children’s lives. They ask me, “Pastor, what can I do now?” And I say, “start following Jesus with your whole heart. Do it now. Your kids might see it and come home. And God can redeem the wasted years”. Meaning, God can restore what the enemy took from you and from your children.
When I came up on the beach as a little kid and my parents were nowhere to be found, I kind of panicked. I scanned all the adults laying on the beach. And as I looked down the beach, my mom had gotten up and come looking for me. She saw that I was scared. She said, “you took your eyes off of me, didn’t you? You didn’t notice that you were being pulled down the beach did you?” And I said, “No, I didn’t realize I was being pulled away from you.” But then my mom looked at me lovingly and said, “I never took my eyes off of you.” And then she took a towel she was holding and wrapped it around me tight and hugged me and said, “I’ve got you, don’t worry and next time, don’t take your eyes off of me. Stay close to me.”
I had great parents. Not that they did everything right. But they loved Jesus and served him. And they loved the people around them well. If you didn’t have that kind of parents, I’m sorry for you. But know that you have a heavenly Father and the truth is HE LOVES YOU. God doesn’t wait for us to come to find him. He never takes his eyes off of us. He goes after us. God sent his son Jesus to find us and to bring us home. To bring us back to him. Jesus says, “I love you now keep your eyes on me this time.” If you are far from Jesus, turn to him now, he is ready to take you into his arms and offer you grace.