It is apple season, and my family actually has an apple tree in our yard. The few apples that grew on the tree this year just fell down a few days ago. They didn’t fall far from the tree. Is that just an old adage? What do apple trees matter to loving God?
Yesterday, in my fourth post in this series, How to grow your love for God, I said that the primary principle Christians can learn from Deuteronomy 11 is that we grow our love for God by obeying his commands. The next principle is that of “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.” OK, so Moses doesn’t say that exactly, but the principle he shares is very similar. In verses 18-21, Moses asks the people to convey the terms and actions of the covenant to the next generation. This is akin to Jesus’ idea of making disciples. We Christians are called to convey the wonders of the God to the next generation, and to those who are not yet a part of God’s family.
Look at Moses’ description in these verses. He uses figurative language. “Fix these words in your hearts and minds, tie them onto your body.” In other words, be a walking billboard.
Again, that is some figurative language through which God is teaching a deeper principle. What is the principle, and how do we apply it? The principle is that we are to be passionate about raising up the next generation to love Jesus. A majority of it needs to be done by parents in the home. Teach the way of Jesus to your children, no matter if you are at home, driving on the road, or working in the yard. Teach your children to follow Jesus, to know that God is near, that he loves them, and that the best possible way to live is to follow his commands and ways.
One literalistic way to apply this is to actually post messages on the walls of you home. My wife is so good at this. She posts Bible verses and principles literally on the walls of our house. Here are some examples.
I’m not saying you all need to do this. Clearly God is not saying that he is requiring us to post his laws on the walls of our homes. While it is totally fine to do that, what does he want? He wants our hearts to beat with love for him.
And that means more personal, relational interaction, conversation, and discussion between adults in the family and the younger people in the family. Parents and Grandparents, be intentional about investing spiritually in the lives of your kids and grandkids. One of the things my parents started doing when my older boys were in elementary school was they stopped giving my kids toys for birthdays and Christmas. Instead they started giving them adventures. They took them to Washington DC, or Niagara Falls. It was a gift of their time. So much of our spending on gifts and holidays and vacations is self-indulgent. Parents and grandparents, how can you use gifts and vacations to focus on serving, or on spiritual growth rather than self-indulgence?
Evaluate how are you using time at home. I admit that I have not been consistent with this. We’ll go through phases where we have regular devotions around the dinner table. But I also know that we can have tons of time watching TV, playing games on devices, and little spiritual conversation. It is much easier to talk about video games, sports, school, etc. Almost any conversation with kids is good, but we need to be proactive about communicating God’s ways to them.
But maybe you’re like me, and you sometimes find spiritual conversation difficult. It begs the question, am I so loving toward Jesus that I can’t help but talk about him? I have to ask myself, how much does Jesus occupy my thoughts and my conversations?
This takes us back to the axiom of “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree”. If I want my kids and grandkids to know God and follow his ways, than I should be a person who more and more loves Jesus. The greatest thing you can do to invest in your kids’ spiritual growth is for you yourself to grow spiritually first. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. If you love Jesus and follow him, then your kids and grandkids will be much more likely to as well. But if your time with and love for Jesus is weak, it will be super rare for your kids to have a stronger relationship with Jesus than you do.
So invest time in your relationship with Jesus. What I’m talking about is a vibrant relationship with Jesus, such that you and I are excited about talking about him with other people, especially our families. That means cultivating a relationship with Jesus. And cultivating a relationship with Jesus involves time, an investment of time.
Lately, if you were around me much, you would almost certainly know what I have been spending time doing. Why? Because I talk about it and am excited about it. That’s why I spend time doing it. What have I been spending a lot of time on? Running a marathon, starting doctoral courses, and other activities my family is involved in. As a result, I talk about it all them time. It is all very important to me.
Our small group studied the book Freedom from the Tyranny of the Urgent this past year or so, and it does an excellent job helping you think through how you spend your time. You might consider picking up a copy of that book, learning about how to use your time more wisely, and then making some changes to your schedule so you can have more time to grow your heart for the Lord. So let’s invest in our relationship with Christ, that we might grow our excitement about him and thus be better equipped and more likely to pass him on to the next generation. That’s called discipleship. It is when we ourselves grow in our knowledge of, trust in, and obedience to the way of Christ, and then help others do the same.