Gary Inrig wrote a wonderful book entitled Hearts of Iron, Feet of Clay (Moody Press, 1979) which was a detailed study of the book of Judges. One of the issues he quickly raised in the book was what he called "The Second Generation Syndrome." In that early chapter of his book he discussed the difficulty of passing on our vision and convictions to our children and grandchildren. It is a daunting and challenging task for any parent, and it is rare for the faith of parents to be handed down to succeeding generations.

The book of Judges in chapter 2 graphically describes this challenge: "The people worshipped the Lord throughout Joshua’s lifetime and during the lifetimes of the elders who outlived Joshua. They had seen all the Lord’s great works He had done for Israel.... After them another generation rose up who did not know the Lord or the works He had done for Israel. The Israelites did what was evil in the Lord’s sight. They worshipped the Baals and abandoned the Lord, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of Egypt."

Inrig writes, "The second generation has a natural tendency to accept the status quo and to lose the vision of the first generation. Too often the second-generation experience is a second-hand experience. Church history is filled with examples of it, and sadly, so are many churches. The parent’s fervor for the Lord Jesus Christ becomes the children’s formalism and the grandchildren’s apathy."

What caused the children and grandchildren to lose the vision of the parents? Inrig continues: "They knew about His deeds. But they did not know Him or acknowledge Him. They had lost touch with God. Here we come to the heart of the second-generation syndrome. It is a lukewarmness, a complacency, an apathy about amazing biblical truths that we have heard from our childhood, or from our teachers."

This underscores to us the great difficulty in seeing succeeding generations follow in the spiritual footsteps of their first-generation Christian parents. To see godly children of godly parents is something that happens frequently, but to see generation after generation follow in that heritage of faith is difficult to discover.

I am a man most blessed of God as I look toward my approaching retirement on Feb. 1, 2006. My strong godly heritage goes back at least to my grandparents. My grandfather was a Baptist preacher for 54 years. He and my grandmother were married for more than 50 years. My father was a Baptist preacher for 36 years until his death at the age of 52. He and my mother were married 33 years. My parents had three sons. All three of us became Baptist preachers. Our marriages have been centered in the Lord and our children all have followed in the pattern of faith first revealed in my grandparents.

My oldest son, Randy, is a committed layman and often preaches in the pulpit of his church when his pastor is absent. My youngest son, Bailey, is a Sunday School teacher and faithful member of his church. Both are ordained deacons. My daughter, Terri, married a minister and they have served in local churches for the last 20-plus years.

Carol Ann and I have six grandchildren. All of them have a personal relationship with Jesus and they love the Lord. Our 22-year-old grandson, Kyle, and our 16-year-old grandson, Wes, have both surrendered to the Gospel ministry. What an incredible blessing it is to have experienced five successive generations walking in the grace and presence of our Lord Jesus Christ!

How did it happen? What has been the secret? I can only venture some observations about our family.

• The Bible was honored and revered in each generation as being the completely reliable and inerrant Word of God.