The Transgenerational Father

June 19, 2021

It is easy to recognize that a father influences his child. That’s one generation influencing the next, but a grandfather or great-grandfather also influences his grandchildren or great-grandchildren either directly or indirectly. The power of fatherhood is transgenerational.

A grandfather or great-grandfather may have an opportunity to directly influence his grandchild or great-grandchild, but regardless, he has had a powerful influence indirectly, because he has helped raise the grandchild’s father or mother or the great-grandchild’s grandfather or grandmother.

As a father’s influence becomes more indirect, it also becomes more widely felt. There is a reason we call genealogies a family tree. From two people come many branches — that is the widening of influence. Families grow by multiplication not simple addition.

The Bible recognizes this influence of one generation upon another.

He established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers to teach to their children, that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children, so that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments; and that they should not be like their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation, a generation whose heart was not steadfast, whose spirit was not faithful to God. (Psalm 78:5–8, ESV)

Psalm 78 recognizes the transgenerational power of fatherhood. This influence may be for better or worse. The psalm advocates the influence for the better, but it illustrates the influence for the worse.

Stu Weber in his book, Tender Warrior, quantifies a father’s spiritual influence.

When the father is an active believer, there is about a seventy-five percent likelihood that the children will also become active believers. But if only the mother is a believer, this likelihood is dramatically reduced to fifteen percent.*

What kind of influence do you want to have on the generations to come?

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. (Ephesians 6:4, ESV)
—Russ Holden

*Stu Weber, Tender Warrior, p. 143.

 


The Ultimate Screening Test

June 11, 2021

During my student days when I worked as a gas station attendant (and yes, we pumped people’s gas back then), I had to sign an agreement that I would be willing to take a lie detector test. The company wanted to protect itself from employee theft, and the lie detector was one way of screening employees when problems arose. When I applied to graduate school, I had to take a psychological profile test — it was one way the school had for screening applicants and alerting the school to potential problems. Currently, most employers will have new hires take a drug screening test.

These illustrations confirm that a variety of screening tests exist which provide all kinds of information about us, whether we want them to or not. But an ultimate screening test also exists. We frequently fail to think about it, and the result is that we live our lives carelessly. What is this ultimate screening test? God searches the hearts and minds of all of us.

We may make excuses to ourselves and to others that deep down we know are flimsy. Billy Sunday said, “An excuse is the skin of reason stuffed with a lie.” We need to remind ourselves that all excuses are known by God who searches minds and hearts. Listen to what the Bible says:

Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the LORD weighs the heart. (Proverbs 21:2, ESV)

I the LORD search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds. (Jeremiah 17:10, ESV)

And he said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God.” (Luke 16:15 ESV)

Will I feel guilty when I face such truths? Possibly, but God provides a way of handling guilt. He has paid the price for our sin. He invites us to repent and confess. If there is any place where we should be honest about ourselves it is in our prayers to God, because God knows the truth about us.

We may hide from others, but we can’t hide from God. Knowing that I am being tested helps me to avoid carelessness. Honesty with God is the best policy. God knows our hearts. May we live to pass the ultimate screening test.

— Russ Holden


Eyes on the Goal

June 4, 2021

Imagining heaven is not easy for us. I suspect trying to describe it to us is like
describing New York City to an aborigine. You might say a skyscraper is like a giant hut
one hundred huts high, but the reality of a skyscraper is still greater than the
description. Joseph Bayly captures some of this dilemma in his book, The Last Things
We Talk About. He shares a parable:

I cannot prove the existence of heaven.
I accept its reality by faith, on the authority of Jesus Christ: “In my Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.”

For that matter, if I were a twin in the womb, I doubt that I could prove the
existence of earth to my mate. He would probably object that the idea of an earth
beyond the womb was ridiculous, that the womb was the only earth we’d ever
know.

If I tried to explain that earthlings live in a greatly expanded environment and
breathe air, he would only be skeptical. After all, a fetus lives in water; who
could imagine its being able to live in a universe of air? To him such a transition
would seem impossible.

It would take birth to prove the earth’s existence to a fetus. A little pain, a dark
tunnel, a gasp of air–and then the world outside! Green grass, laps, lakes, the
ocean, horses (could a fetus imagine a horse?), rainbows, walking, running,
surfing, ice-skating. With enough room that you don’t have to shove, and a
universe beyond.

Despite our difficulties in imagining it, heaven is real. In some ways, more real than the world
in which we live because it will be eternal, while this world is temporary. Paul reminds
us of this: “We fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is
seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:18). Let us keep our
eyes on the goal.

–Russ Holden