Some years ago Nancy and I wrote a letter to our adult children and their spouses, affirming and encouraging them to pass on their faith and values to their children. With this month’s focus on children, I am sharing a much-abridged version of that letter. I pray that it will be a blessing as we seek to nurture and retain our youth.
—Ted N. C. Wilson.
July 24, 2009
Dear Emilie, Elizabeth, and
Catherine (and, of course, Kameron, David, and Bob),
I began thinking about this message to you when I was reviewing the process of how society transfers to the next generation the beliefs, mission, and values of the previous generation. The dynamics for each generation may vary, but when it comes to biblical beliefs and values, the Holy Spirit makes sure that the truth is preserved. Truth remains the same, since God never changes. It’s an amazing and miraculous process.
These values and beliefs aren’t something we “push” on you. It’s our privilege, along with grandparents, uncles and aunts, pastors, teachers, mentors, friends, and others, to participate in this transfer of values. We don’t always do it correctly, but the Holy Spirit adjusts our imperfect process, and instructs on His own or through others as we entrust you into His care.
Here are some thoughts that will provide a foundation from which you may affirm your own convictions and beliefs to pass on to your children. It may sound a little “preachy” at times, but realize that it comes from the hearts of a mother and father.
We are so blessed to be Seventh-day Adventists. I don’t say that in a proud, self-centered way. I say it reverently and with grateful conviction. The Advent movement is not just another church; it is God’s remnant church—a group commissioned to tell the world about Christ and His soon coming, and point people to the true worship of God (Rev. 12:17; 14:6-12).
Enter into active service in this movement with heavenly passion and conviction. Stay completely connected with Christ through personal study of the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy, prayer and the witnessing that springs from your love for Jesus and what He has done and is doing for you. Trust Him completely. Consecrate yourself to Him at the beginning of each day. At night, commit yourself and your family into God’s hands. Pray together in the morning and evening. Prayer is absolutely vital.
Keep the Bible ever close. It’s God’s Word to you, and it will lead you to Christ and eternal life. Read it and believe it as it reads. There’s a growing tendency to interpret the Bible through the historical-critical method, which falsely claims that you have the ability and the resources to decide for yourself what is truth or not from Scripture. Maintain the Adventist stance of interpreting Scripture by the historical-biblical method, allowing the Bible to interpret itself. Don’t fall prey to the delusions of “higher criticism.” The result of this trend is seen in many subtle changes within our church affecting doctrine, theology, Sabbathkeeping, lifestyle, and standards.
The Spirit of Prophecy is God’s greatest gift to His last-day remnant church. It points to the Bible and to Christ. It doesn’t replace the Bible, but helps make biblical truth become even plainer, and was written by the same Inspiration from heaven. Protect it, treasure it, read it. It’s a most precious gift going far beyond simply devotional reading.
Keep the hope of the Second Coming burning in your heart. It’s the Advent hope; never let it grow dim! Look for it! Live for it! Tell others about it! Jesus will come literally, and it will be soon!
Fully respect the Ten Commandments. Let them be the foundation of your behavior and lifestyle. You cannot keep the commandments on your own, but through the power of the Holy Spirit working in your life you can. Jesus said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (John 14:15). They compose God’s manual for a happy life. Let God work through you to keep them.
Maintain good health practices. Few people fully understand how intimately mind and body are linked. Be sure to get good rest, eat right, maintain a vegetarian diet, get adequate exercise, avoid harmful substances, and take vacations. Vacations are important for health and family.
Maintain faithfulness in the practice of Christian stewardship. Consecrate your time, talents, lives, and financial resources to the Lord. Remember that the tithe is the Lord’s, not yours. Be generous in sharing your freewill offerings. Maintain a strong belief in all 28 Fundamental Beliefs of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Study them and make them your own. They are grounded in the Word of God.
Seventh-day Adventists have been given a mandate to share the three angels’ messages (Rev. 14), and this movement is destined to succeed in sharing those messages. Although the church will appear about to fall in the last days, it will not. It will be sustained by the Holy Spirit in such a way that truly observant and perceptive people will know that heaven is leading this movement.
The mission we have encompasses the local church and a worldwide approach. Always be in touch locally and think globally. Keep connected to your local church and participate in its activities and outreach.
Don’t get too complicated in your outlook on life. Don’t be simplistic, but love simplicity. The Bible will help you maintain your simple approach to life. Self-centered sophistication and self-importance will ruin your understanding of the real meaning of life. Many are educated, disciplined, and savvy, but we are to always be a simple people, God’s remnant people. Maintain a childlike faith and trust in God’s leading. Let mission spring from your passion for Christ and the Advent movement.
Values are derived from basic beliefs and faith, and come from an integration of all that you are. Here are some basic values to uphold:
Be a friend to the underdog. Help those in need and stand by the helpless, encouraging and supporting. Be ready to defend people who seem to have no defense. Don’t be condescending; treat people as equals. Believe in people. Don’t be a skeptic. Trust people and give them the benefit of the doubt until they prove otherwise.
Always treat people and situations fairly and with justice. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you. Many times you won’t be able to trust your feelings or inclinations; you must act out of principle, not intuition or feeling. Feelings are a natural part of life, but don’t be highly swayed by sentimentality or emotional influences that would push you beyond a principled response. Ask the Lord to help you be balanced in your approach. Analyze a situation from a rational point of view. Emotional empathy, tempered by Christlike principle, can provide you with a good approach in relating to others.
Always maintain the best possible relationships with your spouse, children, parents, and family. Tell them that you love and believe in them. Encourage them to do their best. Support your children in their dreams. Talk to your children. Be interested in their lives. Stay in contact with them, but don’t annoyingly intrude.
Be a worker and bequeath that value to your children. Pursuit of intellectual achievement is important, but make sure everyone knows how to dig a ditch and paint the house. A good work ethic—mental and physical—is important to practical living.
If it’s according to principle, do what is assigned to you and do it well. Follow through on projects; be known for being reliable. When things get hard, ask the Lord for help. When you’re overwhelmed, step back, take a few good breaths, and calm down. Reassess your situation and take a fresh look at how to accomplish your goal. When your life becomes too cluttered with a myriad of tasks and competing details, reprioritize and set attainable goals. Take a walk, pray, and clear your mind. Then make lists and prioritize. It’s fun to see the items disappear.
Don’t be intimidated by events, circumstances, or people. Believe you can accomplish your goals through God’s power, and trust in your God-given abilities. Certainly, when you are making a decision you should distrust your own human inclinations and trust God in a spiritual sense. But once you’ve laid your plans at His feet, and have received direction from Him, move ahead.
Try to clean up the messes around you—the physical messes and the social/mental/spiritual messes. Participate in the ministry of reconciliation. Keep your life as simple and as organized as possible. Avoid piling up too many things around you—physical piles and mental piles. Part of life’s activities is cleaning up the piles; but don’t let that absorb all your time.
Listen to people. They need to be listened to, and you can learn something. In general, talk less and listen more. People will appreciate it, and you’ll avoid some misunderstandings and blunders.
Be hospitable. Invite people home for meals. Let your home be your personal sanctuary, but open it to others when they need a comfortable place. Make your home cozy, a place where you, your children, and others want to be. It takes some effort, but it’s well worth it.
You are each so precious to us. By God’s grace, let’s all maintain our belief in Him, our commitment to His mission, our love of Christian values, and our appreciation for the heritage that we have from Him. Pass the precious beliefs, mission, values, and heritage on to your children. Soon we will see Christ return and live with Him and each other throughout eternity without ever having to say goodbye again.
We love you dearly!
Dad and Mom