It is never too early to hand off the baton in the "perpetual relay of truth."
This phrase is the definition that Bible teacher Edith Schaeffer, wife of the late scholar Francis Schaeffer, offered to the question, "What is a family?" The role of a parent is to constantly hand off the baton of truth to his or her children. Believers understand that children are a gift from God, who has made parents the stewards of these most precious gifts. It goes to logic, then, that the earlier you begin and the more you practice handing off the baton, the more prepared and accomplished your child will be in the race of life.
Your child forms 85 percent of his personality traits within his first five years. Obviously, the easiest and most effective time to teach Christian truths and principles to your child is during this window. That does not mean it's the only time. It simply means that the early years generally are the most fertile in your child's heart and mind.
Next comes a question: How do we "lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith . . ." (Hebrews 12:1)?
The answer is that it's never too early to:
Share God's Word with your children.
Many parents who were exposed to children's Bible stories remember how captivating, inspiring, and influential they are to children of any age. Even infants can benefit from hearing God's Word read to them, because their little minds will begin absorbing truth as you continue to read to them while they grow. There are many wonderful tools, like Karyn Henley's The Beginner's Bible, that can assist parents.
Pray with your children.
This naturally accompanies sharing God's Word, and there is nothing you can do with your children that is more important than these pursuits.
When you teach your child to pray, you teach her to talk to God, to listen to Him, to share her heart with Him. Before she even can understand the salvation message, she can understand that it is possible to have a personal relationship with her Creator and the God of the universe.
Begin praying over your children as soon as they are born. Then pray with them as they grow from infancy and begin learning speech. One of the most rewarding moments for a believing parent is to hear a toddler answer a prayer for the first time with an unprompted "Amen." Then you slowly can teach your children to pray aloud as you tuck them in each night.
Bedtime isn't the only time for prayer, however. Let your children know you are a praying parent and that there is no issue too great or too infinitesimal to carry before God's throne. Taking every family issue to God is a sure way to teach the availability of God in a personal relationship. You should not only pray together as a family, but you also should pray individually with separate family members. Show your interest in your children's lives by asking them to talk about their day, and then pray with them about whatever concerns they may have. It is a tremendous affirmation to your children to hear you call out their name to the Lord.
Let your children see you reading Scripture.
It's easy to talk the talk, but let your children see you walk the walk. By studying God's Word and faithfully conducting a quiet time, you show your children how importantly you view your own relationship with God.
Having seen your faithfulness and discipline through the years, your children when they become teenagers will ascribe more weight to your encouragement, instruction, and discipline.
Let your children see you in your own private prayer time.
Eventually, they even may want to come in and get down beside you, and what a blessing that is! When children know that you as a parent so rely upon God that you commune with Him daily, their respect for you, and for their heavenly Father, inherently will grow.
Discuss answered prayer with your children.
Let them know when God has answered a prayer, particularly a persistent prayer. Review the circumstances when God answers one of your children's prayers. This reinforces the faithfulness and love of God and firms these realities in your children's developing minds.
Don't be timid to share how God answers a prayer in a way you did not expect. This builds confidence that God is wiser than man and that, whatever the temporal outcome, God always has your best in mind.
Share the importance of worship.
Children should understand that God isn't a personal "genie" to whom we make our daily requests and for whom we have little time otherwise.
Instead, teach them to worship, adore, and praise the majestic yet personal God who loves them and rules their lives. A new tool is a 14-song compact disc entitled Kids in Worship, produced by Frank and Betsy Hernandez.
"At a very young age, children from Christian homes are faithfully taught to pray and encouraged to memorize Bible verses. Unfortunately, their participation in worship is sometimes not emphasized until they are 'older,'" says Frank Hernandez. "However, having been a children's worship leader for almost 30 years, it has been my experience that children have a tremendous capacity for worship.
"Given opportunity and encouragement, they respond easily to the presence of God and declare their praise and thanks to Him with open and sincere hearts, not to mention loud enthusiasm. There is much we can learn from them."
Let your children see you active in church.
Give them more "rubber-meets-the-road" evidence of your faith. Let them see you serve others. Let them join in. Let them tag along on visitation trips. Teach them to tithe. All of these exercises build confidence and esteem, but best of all, they build faith and trust in Jesus Christ.
Remember, the earlier you start, the better. But don't despair if you're getting a late start.
God can work in any heart and transform any life, whatever the age. It's never too early to start passing the baton in the perpetual relay of truth. And the Lord assures us it's never too late.
Copyright © January IN TOUCH magazine
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