I have an old, tattered Bible in my keepsake chest. It is truly a treasure to me, even though it was not an expensive, beautiful edition to begin with. In fact, it was a plain black hardback with nondescript letters about two inches tall that spelled out: The Holy Bible.
When I was a third grader at Houlka Elementary School, I received that Bible as a prize from the Houlka Presbyterian Church Lady’s Society for my memorization efforts. But here’s the best part of this story, the part modern kids cannot comprehend, I earned this Bible at school.
The Presbyterian ladies would come to our public school one day each week, and the elementary kids who wanted to participate would go to a designated classroom and recite the assigned items aloud to one of the ladies.
There was an entire list of things we had to memorize, like the Ten Commandments, the Beatitudes, the books of the Bible, the names of the 12 disciples and the 12 tribes of Israel, and lots of specific Scriptures.
Each week we would recite, and the ladies would check off what we got correct or encourage us to try again next week. It was a no-nonsense endeavor; you did it or you did not. It was all up to the individual child.
And strangely enough, many of us wanted to do it. We worked hard to memorize those verses and lists, and then we marched into that room on our own to prove what we had learned.
I do not ever remember my parents having to coax me or remind me to study those items. I simply knew that if I wanted the prize, I had to do the work to earn it. It never crossed my mind that what I was doing was probably too hard for an eight-year-old kid. My cousins had all accomplished it, so had the older neighbor kids; therefore, I figured I could do it too. So, I did.
When I finally memorized every item on the list, one of the ladies presented me with my Bible. No big fanfare. Just a hug and a smile as she sent me back to class.
Yet, even now, I can still recall the ink-pen inscription inside my new Bible. But it was not the prospect of a new Bible that thrilled me, because I had my own beautiful, white leather-bound copy at home with my name embossed in gold letters on the lower right corner.
So, this new Bible itself was not my motivation or my reward. Instead, as I walked down the dark, polished hallway and headed back to my classroom, I simply felt like I had accomplished something profound. And I had.
But little did I know that those small-town Presbyterian women had accomplished something even more profound. They managed to equip an entire generation of kids from Houlka, Mississippi, with the most powerful tool ever given to mankind - the Word of God.
And here is the clincher- those memorized Scriptures and Bible lists never left me. They were truly alive and sharper than any sword on earth. And they have reproduced God’s life in me, over and over and over again. I still carry each of those verses in me, almost 50 years later.
And almost 50 years later, that experience and those precious women of God still mean so much to me. As insignificant as those little ladies might have felt in the scheme of things, they played such an important role in my life as a Christian.
I shudder to think about how different my life might have been if they had not provided that memorization opportunity to me. Even the absence of one piece of the information they encouraged me to memorize could have impacted me negatively.
Take the Ten Commandments as one example. What if I had never been taught those important rules of living? And what if those ladies, my Sunday school teachers, and my parents had not instilled the truths of those commandments into my daily life?
Thankfully, I will never know the answers to those questions, for the adults in my childhood realized I needed the truths in those commandments as much (or more) than I needed to learn about other important, historic American documents.
After all, America was founded on the bedrock of those ten laws. And keep in mind, they were not intended to be merely guidelines or suggestions; God gave them to Moses as commands for His people. So now, when we decide as a people that God’s commands are irrelevant to our lives, we, in essence, say nothing is absolute, not God, His Word, His truth, or His established boundaries.
All of this brings me to one conclusive thought: As parents, and especially as Christian parents, if we fail to teach our children the Ten Commandments and other truths as they are presented in the Bible, then we do our children, ourselves, our nation, and the world a disservice.
And the moment when we as a nation completely quit teaching those commandments and truths to our children in our schools, our churches, and our homes, we have doomed ourselves to fall and to fail as a nation.
So…what’s the verdict? Is America doomed? Has our time come and gone as a godly nation?
No, not if we are all as willing and determined as those little Presbyterian ladies from my childhood, willing and determined to invest in our kids through the Bible, the Words of Life.
But let this be our wakeup call. If we have not been teaching these biblical truths to our kids and grandkids, we must do so now. Of course, I agree that taking our kids to church and living a Christ-centered life in front of them is critical, but our kids will not hide God’s word in their hearts without some effort—on their part and our own.