Warm greetings to you and your family as we celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ our Lord. Our Heavenly Father sent His Only Begotten Son to earth to live as a man and to die a cruel death so that we might be redeemed from the penalty of sin. His sacrifice was unprecedented, yet through it, He provided an avenue for all who believe in Him to be adopted into His family. It is called the Plan of Salvation.
I want to write to you today about the spiritual welfare of our children and grandchildren. That is the topic of my latest book, Your Legacy, The Greatest Gift, which I introduced to you several months ago. You’ve often heard me say that seeing our children come to faith in Christ is a parent’s highest priority. Can there be anything more important than knowing that these precious gifts from God will be in heaven with us for all eternity? Unless we are successful in imparting the good news of salvation to them, we will never see them again in the afterlife. That puts this assignment in its most graphic terms.
I have written dozens of books in the past 40 years, but Your Legacy is, I believe, the most significant. It provides the framework for all that has gone before. This work emphasizes the legacy (in contrast to a heritage) we as parents can pass on to our progeny. A legacy is something of value built INTO someone. It consists of character, integrity, honesty, love, tenderness, self worth, generosity, commitment, truth, compassion, and a reliable work ethic. Legacy is far more important than heritage, because it focuses not on what a person owns, but who he or she IS. That’s why the subtitle to my book refers to legacy as “The Greatest Gift.” By far, the most valuable contribution we can provide for our children is an unshakable relationship with Jesus Christ. Coming with it is a promise of eternal life.
Let’s consider the Scriptures that speak to the issue of the spiritual training of children. The first and most explicit instruction is addressed to parents and is found in the Book of Deuteronomy. It leaves no wiggle room. This passage is a transcript of the final speech given by Moses to the Children of Israel, after he had led them out of Egypt and through 40 years of wandering in the Wilderness. Only two of them, Caleb and Joshua, would live to enter the Promised Land. The rest would soon die because of their rebellion against Moses and Jehovah.
There were millions of Israelites by that time, and their descendants would soon cross the Jordan River and take possession of the Promised Land. Thus, what we read in the first few chapters of Deuteronomy are the final directions given to those who would fight for and inherit the land promised to Abraham’s descendants. It was an historic moment, and every word was given by inspiration to Moses.
It is significant that the first portion of that speech, quoted in verse 39, was addressed to parents about their children. Moses said, “[they] do not yet know good from bad.” That makes my case, doesn’t it? Then Moses spoke to the people. Here is his unmistakable message, which echoes down through the ages:
Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 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 6:4-9)
Notice that Moses wasn’t simply offering a “suggestion” to parents about the spiritual training of their children. He called that assignment a commandment, and there was urgency in his words. It is not enough to mutter, “Now I lay me down to sleep” with your exhausted child at the end of the day. Spiritual teachings are to be on our minds and in our conversations throughout every waking moment. We should look for opportunities to talk about Jesus and His tender mercies often. By the time your sons and daughters are grown, they should have no doubt about the fundamentals of the faith.
There is another rarely quoted Scripture that tells us how God feels about the family. It is written in Malachi 2:15, and states emphatically why the institution of marriage came into existence in the first place.
“Has not the Lord made [men and women] one? In flesh and spirit they are His. And why one? Because He was seeking godly offspring. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith with the wife of your youth.”
The institution of marriage was created not for our purposes, but for the Lord’s. And why? Because He wanted us to raise our children to be brought up to serve Him. How can we ignore this divine plan?
There are many other Scriptures that emphasize the same instruction. Perhaps the most important is from Psalm 78, which states precisely what God wants parents to do regarding the training of their children. These verses were intended not only for the Children of Israel, but for you and me. This is our assignment. Read this passage very carefully:
Oh, my people, hear my teaching; listen to the words of my mouth. I will open my mouth in parables, I will utter hidden things from old—what we have heard and known, what our Father has told us. We will not hide them from their children; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, His power and the wonders He has done. He decreed statutes for Jacob and established the law in Israel, which He commanded our forefathers to teach their children, so the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children. They would put their trust in God and not forget His deeds but would keep His commands. (Psalm 78:4-7)
Then we see reference to an extrapolation of the word “commandments” again. Other Scriptures that speak to the spiritual training of children are:
One generation will commend Your works to another; they will tell of Your mighty acts. (Psalm 145:4)
Come, my children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord. (Psalm 34:11)
The living, the living—they praise You, as I am doing today; fathers tell their children about Your faithfulness. (Isaiah 38:19)
Tell it to your children, and let your children tell it to their children, and their children to the
next generation. (Joel 1:3)
God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’ Say to the Israelites, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you’ This is My name forever, the name by which I am to be remembered from generation to generation.” (Exodus 3:14-15)
These Scriptures are “marching orders” for people of faith. Again, they are addressed specifically to parents, and all of us can understand them. No other commandment in the entire scope of Scripture speaks so emphatically to the responsibility of raising children. That assignment can be summarized by one verse written by the Apostle Paul in the Book of Ephesians. It says simply, “Bring [boys and girls] up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” (6:4)
We live in perilous times. The Bible teaches us that believers will see rampant evil and disregard or even disdain for God as the last days approach. In the past, others have also thought they were living in the last days. We do not know the day or the hour, but we are exhorted to be prepared and to boldly affirm the truth of Jesus Christ. In large part, that involves reaching out to share the gospel.
Perhaps you feel inadequate to give voice to your faith. In the book of Exodus, Moses also expressed his doubts that he could accomplish the tasks God asked him to do. He even volunteered his brother to do the job and said, “Here I am, send my brother, Aaron.” Yet, God used Moses to bring His people out of bondage in Egypt. Moses had a strong passion to obey the Lord and to take the Israelites to the Promised Land. He wanted them to “be there” as a nation and to enjoy God’s bounty. When Moses released his fears and lack of confidence in himself and trusted in God to help him, he proved to be a strong and capable leader.
In the same way, God will give you everything you need to proclaim Christ and Him crucified. Be the “Moses” for your family. Declare the goodness and grace of Jesus to your children, your other relatives, friends, co-workers and neighbors.
Finally, I have one more suggestion for my readers. To accompany the Legacy book in neighborhood discussion groups, Family Talk has been working for three years on an eight-part DVD series entitled, “Building a Family Legacy.” The series was video taped at three churches and feature me speaking to large groups of people. The first setting occurred at Dr. Jim Garlow’s Skyline Church in San Diego, California. The second occurred at Dr. John Hagee’s Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, Texas. And the third was recorded at Pastor Greg Laurie’s Harvest Fellowship Church in Riverside and Irvine, California.
Each of the DVDs is a high-interest presentation on these topics:
1. YOUR LEGACY
2. BRINGING UP BOYS
3. BRINGING UP GIRLS
4. THE STRONG-WILLED CHILD
5. DARE TO DISCIPLINE
6. LOVE FOR A LIFETIME
7. STRAIGHT TALK TO MEN
8. WANTING TO BELIEVE (By Ryan Dobson)
Several Family Talk constituents have contacted us to let us know that the study guides that come with the DVD series have been valuable in their family devotions or church small groups.
Here are comments made by the leaders of four discussion groups currently meeting to discuss “Building a Family Legacy”:
Letter 1: The eight of us gathered in our TV room, and we started with a bit of laughter in listening to Dr. Dobson’s opening remarks. Then the room grew quiet as we all became engaged.
Dr. Dobson’s family stories were very moving. I loved how they powerfully demonstrated the influence of the prayers of his great-grandfather and the role of the Holy Spirit as it shaped lives throughout his family’s generations. The closing story of his moments with basketball great, Pistol Pete Maravich, was such a miracle story. I appreciated him sharing how it stirred him to have the conversation later that day at home with his son, Ryan, telling him that above all else he accomplished in life, he wants to ensure that Ryan BE THERE in Heaven one day.
The DVD created very real and heartfelt dialogue among our group. Here we were – four successful businessmen and their wives in this room. The message caused us all to consider our own lives and the question of legacy for our families and the generations to follow.
I smiled as I was finishing up downstairs after our small group left. I could overhear my husband eagerly retelling these stories to our 16 year-old son and our 17 year-old daughter.
We are already looking forward to next Sunday to see the next DVD.
Well done, Dr. Dobson! Your sincerity and emotion are inspiring. L.R.
Letter 2: Our small group reconvened last evening for DVD #3: Bringing Up Girls.
My husband always previews it prior to our gathering on Sunday night, so we knew this would be an emotional one. One of the group's daughters has been struggling with an eating disorder and one of the other couple has five daughters including one with special needs and one who is close to an engagement.
As always, we love how Dr. Dobson starts things out with humor. The letters he read made us laugh and prepared our hearts for the heavier topics that we knew would follow.
We love how Dr. Dobson quickly transitions into the seriousness of the topic, and it feels like he uses every minute to drive home his message. It is so heartfelt and genuine. As soon as the DVD finished we segued into a few questions that got our group talking about their own experiences and sharing ideas of how they stay connected with their daughters. It was great discussion.
Later last night I received several texts of thanks and even apologies for staying on so long. People are grateful and eager for hearty, meaningful conversations!
Thank you! T.S.
Small group leader, M.L., emailed us:
Letter 3: Good morning,
Our small group met last evening for the second time.
We enjoyed the DVD, BRINGING UP BOYS. Between the 4 couples, we have 8 boys among us. The DVD was rich with information coupled with Dr. Dobson's wonderful storytelling.
It proved a great night with engaging conversation that followed. The women loved it, and the men each personally told my husband how grateful they were to be part of this group.
Be encouraged! Dr. Dobson's message is being heard and stirring hearts!
Thank you for your good work on behalf of the family.
And the fourth note we received reads:
If you would like to use the “Building a Family Legacy” DVD series in your small group or Sunday School class, we’ll send you a set with your donation of $50 to the work of Family Talk. You can also receive my Legacy book for a suggested gift of $20.
Letter 4: Dear Family Talk,
We started the series in our small group meeting last night, and there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. We played “Your Legacy,” and it was so wonderful to hear about legacy in Dr. Dobson’s life, seeing where the man I so respect came from. It’s an incredible story of truth in prayer and obedience to our Lord. We are looking forward to next Tuesday night when we watch the next one.
I was not able (because of time) to present Dr. Dobson’s series to our Elder Board last week. I have sent a text message to our Small Groups Pastor about the series, and I intend to speak with him soon.
I will also speak to our Senior Pastor too. I think it would be a great series to watch as a church during Family month in September. I’ll stay in touch and give you updates.
Thank you for the blessing of sending the series. S.R.
I really hope that you’ll consider how your life can matter to your own family’s generational legacy on earth and make sure you’ll be together forever in heaven with our Father, the Creator of the universe. If you put into effect any of the advice I've offered during nearly 40 years of family ministry, it should be this – “be there.”
Each year, the National Day of Prayer Task Force calls our country to humble itself and pray. I want to remind you to participate on May 7, the day that has been designated as America’s National Day of Prayer. Go online at nationaldayofprayer.org to find out what is happening in your area. Shirley, my wife and NDOP Chairman, and the dedicated team have the firm conviction that God hears our prayers. Won’t you join them in praising the Lord and interceding for our great nation?
In closing, I want you to know that the work of Family Talk is making a difference. We are grateful for a $200,000 matching donation opportunity that arrived this month.
Friends, this challenge is conditional upon your generous response. Family Talk will only secure the full match with an aggregate response of $200,000 in donation support.
As God provides, $400,000 allows us to connect with nearly 800,000 people online and via social media. We will provide the resources and support to families when they need it most.
If the Lord leads you to give, we would be most appreciative. Even more importantly, please pray for Family Talk and for our nation.
P.S. Please come see us in Colorado Springs. We’d love to meet you and show you around our ministry. In fact, it would be an honor for us to pray with you while you are here for a visit. God bless you and yours.
This letter may be reproduced without change and in its entirety for non-commercial and non-political purposes without prior permission from Family Talk. Copyright, 2015 Family Talk. All Rights Reserved. International Copyright Secured. Printed in the U.S.A.