My savings grew last year, but dropping pennies in the piggy was not my most important deposit. My bigger investment was little deposits I made in the lives of our children and grandchildren.
Sometime last year I was reading Psalm 78, Asaph's nod to the past and hope for the future. The psalmist, intent on passing on the faith, writes:
5 He established a testimony in Jacob
and appointed a law in Israel,
which he commanded our fathers
to teach to their children,
6 that the next generation might know them,
the children yet unborn,
and arise and tell them to their children,
7 so that they should set their hope in God
and not forget the works of God,
but keep his commandments;
8 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.
Reading this, I inwardly groaned: "Lord, our tribe is increasing! How can I possibly make a difference in six kids, their spouses, and nineteen grands, especially as they are spread out over four cities in three states?" But as soon as the prayer left my lips, I had an idea.
I'm taking that flicker of cranial light as a Holy Spirit nudge.
I thought, "What if I printed some note cards and then sent a short word to a different family member each day?" That could work! Keep it brief. Send them regularly. Make little deposits. Let God compound the interest.
I printed the cards with these words from Psalm 78 at the top: "Set your hope in God."
Tonight I am thinking back on that decision as I read Marvin Olasky's book, The American Leadership Tradition: Moral Vision From Washington To Clinton. Olasky highlights eleven Presidents and two prominent citizens. His work is interesting and instructive.
What is capturing my attention tonight is the deposits made in the lives of Presidents Andrew Jackson, Grover Cleveland, and Theodore Roosevelt.
Andrew Jackson was a tough cuss. You don't get the nickname "Old Hickory" by being soft and cuddly. Still, his words speak for themselves:
Jon Meacham, one of Jackson's biographers, paints a picture of a man who "grew more religious as the years passed." It was a religion that apparently grew into a true relationship with God. Near the end of his days we find Jackson, "leaning on a cane, in the [neighborhood] church, declaring his faith."
Grover Cleveland, our twenty-second President, was the son of a pastor. Perhaps that explains why he studied and memorized the entire Westminster Shorter Catechism. Even as president he could recite it beginning to end.
Cleveland's past is far from perfect. In the cantankerous 1884 presidential race, he admitted paying child support as a consequence of an 1874 paternity case. Later, he married and had five children. He was "an honest and hard-working president . . . best known for strengthening the executive branch of the federal government." Olasky notes, there was substance to Cleveland. He "believed in a Lord who proclaimed objective truth and challenged men to their duty."
Theodore Roosevelt, the leader of the Rough Riders, was tough on himself, lovingly tough on his children, and very tough as a politician. The son of a Dutch Reformed Calvinist, Roosevelt grew up learning the Bible. As a politician, "he brought to bear the Bible on all kinds of issues that had previously been seen as readily compromisable." His critics said, "Mr. Roosevelt keeps a pulpit concealed on his person."
Interesting! Each of these leaders at our nation's highest level led from some point of faith. What influenced them?
- Andrew Jackson said, "I was brought up a rigid Presbyterian, to which I have always adhered."
- Grover Cleveland "credited the 'precious precepts and examples of my early days,' for 'every faculty of usefulness I possess, and every just apprehension of the duties and obligations of life.'"
- Theodore Roosevelt had the closest of relationships with his father who, despite his hectic schedule, led young Roosevelt to memorize psalms and hymns and spent an hour every Sunday evening discussing the sermon they heard that morning.
My point? In each instance someone made little deposits on a regular basis. They added up. God used those efforts to mark them and they their world.
Paul used the word, "entrust" to describe the discipling work Timothy was to do. It means, "make a deposit." Making godly deposits is the same theme that runs from Moses to Joshua (Deuteronomy 6), Solomon to his son (Proverbs), and Asaph to his generation about the next (Psalm 78).
My note cards may be your prayers, your family devotions, your regular trips to gather with God's people on Sunday, or any of a number of ways we make deposits in the lives of the next generation.
You may be influencing an Andrew Jackson -- or maybe not. The more important point is that you and I are encouraging the next generation to . . .
What deposit are you going to make?
- Old Hickory . . . from Gail Collins, "Trump Channels Old Hickory," New York Times, March 16, 2017. www.nytimes.com. Accessed February 18, 2018.
- "The Bible is true . . ." from Marvin Olasky, The American Leadership Tradition: Moral Vision From Washington To Clinton. New York: The Free Press. 1999. Page 64.
- "A man who grew more religious . . ." from Jon Meacham, American Lion: Andrew Jackson In The White House. New York: Random House. 2008. Page 341.
- "Leaning on a cane . . ." from American Lion, page 342.
- Grover Cleveland, son of a pastor . . . from Olasky, The American Leadership Tradition, page 141.
- He was "an honest and hard-working president" from "Grover Cleveland" in www.history.com. Accessed February 18, 2018.
- He "believed in a Lord who proclaimed objective truth . . ." from The American Leadership Tradition, page 150.
- "As a politician, "he brought to bear the Bible . . ." from The American Leadership Tradition, page 170.
- "I was brought up a rigid Presbyterian . . ." from The American Leadership Tradition, page 46.
- Grover Cleveland "credited the 'precious precepts . . . Ibid, 151.
- Theodore Roosevelt had the closest of relationships . . . Ibid, 168