Early in our marriage, Sarah and I built our own home. In fact, the man I was working for at the time, together, we built a number of homes that year. One of Sarah’s favorite parts of that experience was smelling the new construction. She would often accompany me to the job sites that I was unable to make it to during the day, we would go at night to check on the work and she loved walking through the home or building, seeing the progress, smelling the fresh cut 2x6’s.
The next year as we began our ministry here at Memphis and God gave us our first child, Olivia, it didn’t take long to see why God chose Jesus earthly father to be a carpenter. One of the very real challenges when it comes to pouring into this generation, your kids, my kids, the families that God is bringing to our church to partner with, is the reality that this responsibility requires daily, sometimes moment by moment oversight and hands on work. Just as a house must be built on a firm foundation, each supporting timber in place, electrical wiring, plumbing all solidly connected before it is covered up with the finish of drywall, paint and crown molding; there are key elements to our children’s development that must be in place for them to not only be complete, but flourish.
In Deuteronomy Chapter 6, a man by the name of Moses who has given his life to leading God’s people home to the relationship God desired to have with them, sets the people down and he not only recounts their journey and all that God has done to get them to where they are, but he specifically lays out the key elements of the relationship God desires to have with His children.
Here he identifies 5 areas we need to target in developing the young lives that God has entrusted to us as a church and as parents.
Beginning in Deuteronomy Chapter 6, verse 1: “These are the commands, decrees and laws the Lord your God directed me to teach you to observe in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess, (drink deep) so that you, your children and their children after them may fear the Lord your God and so that you may enjoy long life.” Verse 4: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.
There is a God and it isn’t me. There is the me that others want me to be, there is the me I want to be, and there is the me God created me to be. The first two place us in the driver’s seat. The last places God in the lead and this is where Moses Begins. He reminds us that “There is only one God, the God who created you and me, he is Our God, he is the One.” And these commands that he has given you, these commands to worship Him alone, to value life, these commands to honor our parents, to abstain from sexual immorality. These commands aren’t to limit us, but to protect us and place us in a position of realizing, experiencing, the fullness of God’s hand, his blessing in our life.”
Jesus himself confirmed these words during his ministry when asked “what is the greatest commandment, what’s the first thing we are to live by?” And he said: “It’s already been written – Love God!”
And so here is the first thing we teach our children about God and that is to Pursue God Passionately.
God wants to be the first and foremost focus of our lives. Before our Family, before our job, before our hobbies and interests, he alone wants our worship. God wants us to have a passion for Him because he is passionate about us.
Sarah reminds me almost weekly that my daughters have me “wrapped” she calls it. She can tell by the way I talk with them, the tone I use, the words I choose, the sacrifices I make for them. I love to look at every feature of their face. I don’t want to go anywhere without them…. Just mention their name and my heart skips a beat. Truth is, I never understood the depth of the Love God has for me until I had my girls. They have captured me. And my girls know this.
But how did this happen? Was it automatic? I can tell you it began the day I knew they existed in Sarah’s womb, but from there it was a choice. I had to choose – do I give them my heart…. Do I give them my attention? Do I surrender what is important to me so that their most basic needs of nurture and love can be met Do I think about them when I make financial or time commitments – you bet I do. Do I teach them what matters most?
At the very foundation of pursing God passionately is to understand who God is and grant Him his rightful place in our lives. We are to Fear the Lord.
How many of you were taught by your parents to “Fear The Lord”? Now, we often want to avoid this teaching with our children because we ourselves have been exposed to unhealthy fear. Remember the unruly 3 year old in church who as being disruptive. The mom threated the child with fear “If you don’t be quiet I’m going to take you outside and give you something to fuss about.” He continued to be disruptive so she jerked him up out of his seat, packed him over her shoulder and as she carried him out the little boy cried out “Pray for me preacher, pray for me.” But the fear of The Lord we are to teach our children of is so that they may enjoy a long and blessed life, as Moses reminds us in verse 3. Here is a good definition for us to consider: “To fear The Lord is to be aware of His awesome authority over us, and the real-life consequences of following or not following His commands.” King Solomon explained that “through the fear of the Lord man keeps away from evil.” (Proverbs 16:6)(NIV) Fearing the Lord keeps our desires and life in check.
The fear of the Lord is a blessing and a protection to us.
And then Moses reminds us of the third thing we need to teach this generation in verse 7: Live with Honor.
Honor is a word that has not only left our daily vocabulary but has left our lifestyle.. People no
longer honor the values on which our country was founded. People no longer remove their hat, stand for the playing of the national anthem, and they are doing it on the backs of people who have made the ultimate sacrifice. To live with honor is the opposite of what we see in the world around us. We show respect. We keep our word. We place others interests and well-being above our own. We give up our seat to an older person. We avoid shortcuts that damage our integrity, we focus on our responsibilities with disciplined intention. No matter how other people around us are behaving we maintain our stance of honor.
Living with Honor Begins at Home. Verse 7: “Impress them (these commands) on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road (when you are working), when you lie down and when you get up (every aspect of your life). Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.”
Men you and I have to know that the most significant thing we can do in our obedience to God, is to live honorably ourselves. Nothing changes a home quicker, nothing will have a bigger influence on the world around us more, than a man who lives with Honor in the life of his family, beginning with his wife and children. Our world has become so dishonorable because of the dishonor we have demonstrated in our homes and we now have generations of kids living out the sins of their fathers.
Moses says here – begin by talking about God’s truth every chance you get. Pour truth into children. Children are sponges. My Emma especially. Even when she isn’t listening, she hears everything and repeats it at the most inappropriate moment. This means that I need to be very intentional about what I pour into her. That means when your teenage daughter believes that her value comes from her boyfriend, you sit down and talk about how God is the one who gives us real value. When we come home from work excited about the promotion or challenged about a layoff, diagnosed with a terminal disease, we grab our family and we pray together giving praise to God for the blessing or asking his provision through the opportunity to grow. We talk about and acknowledge God’s presence in our life and family all day every day.
Then Moses takes it another step and says Wear the truth, wear the law as symbols on your hands and foreheads, write them on the door frames of your houses. And these people took it literally and began wearing little boxes that had passages of scripture written inside of them. They nailed little scrolls of paper with scripture on them to their door frames. It’s like you and I do today – we wear cross necklaces, rubber bracelets with some truth or scripture on it, some tattoo scripture or symbols on our bodies to remind us….
But Moses’ intent was so much deeper. He is saying – do whatever it takes to live your lives in such a way that you etch the truth of who God is and the way he wants us to live life on your family by the way you live it, speak it and breath it every day. Live with Honor in your home, your work, the outer most areas of influence (your gates).
To live with Honor means we acknowledge that we reap what we sow and we Take responsibility not just for the good decisions, but the poor decisions. Own the consequences. Explain that irresponsibility never comes with a price, no matter how old they get. Blaming others isn’t an option. Our society doesn’t need any more children who are good at skirting the system and getting away with as much as they can. We are to raise children who know that if they make the mess, they clean it up. If they borrow it, they give it back in good condition. If they break it, they pay for it. If they make a promise they keep it.
Vs 18 “Do what is right and good in the Lord’s sight, so that it may go well with you….”
As a child, then a teenager, even today as a 47 year old man – I have always set out to honor my earthly father. To honor what he has given me, to honor what he has taught me, I never wanted to disappoint him by walking outside of the boundaries he has set for me. I feared bringing dishonor to Him – not because of the punishment, but because he loved me so. Honor is what I could give him in return. This is the honor I am developing in my daughters. This is the Honor that today I desire to bring to my heavenly father. This is the honor that make children a blessing to others wherever they are. Who are strong leaders of families, businesses, churches and government. Who love God, fear Him, walk in honor and learn to let their light shine before men that they may see their good words and praise their Father in heaven.
In verse 10, Moses says: “When the Lord your God brings you into the land he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to give you – a land with large flourishing cities you did not build, houses filled with all kinds of good things you did not provide, wells you did not dig, and vineyards and olive groves you did not plant – then when you eat and are satisfied, be careful you do not forget the Lord, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.”
Moses is saying: Teach your children to Live a Thankful Life. Teach them to live a responsible life that acknowledges the one who set them free, the one who showed them the way to live, the one to whom they owe their life Vs 20 Moses says: In the future, when your kids, when others ask you, “Why fear God, why is honor so important, why take responsibility so seriously, why not just live it up today? You can tell them “I once was lost, now I’m found…” You can tell them I was once a slave to a life that wasn’t honorable, I was once a slave to sin, a past, maybe even a past handed down to you by your father, but God has done some amazing things, look at all that he has done through the most difficult seasons of life and look at how his hand was at work bringing the very best. Yes, he has commanded us to live a certain way, yes I Fear the Lord, but look at the reason – so that we might always prosper and be kept alive, just as we are today.
You see for the Israelites – keeping the commands was their righteousness, it was their personal relationship. But for you and I today, we obey his commands out of love and thankfulness for God. The bible tells us that Jesus Christ is our Righteousness, he is the one who brings us into relationship with God – a gift that is free, something we can’t earn. But it is a gift we can respond to and our response is that of surrender, obedience, thankfulness and love for God….
Every morning on the way to school and every evening as we lay down for bed, we pray with our girls. Every time our Youth Life Group leaders or Clubhouse leaders are with our children, the Adults lead in a time of prayer to God. Every prayer begins with the acknowledgement of who God is and our thankful heart towards Him. At our home we thank Him multiple times throughout the day for another day, for our rest, for our work, our family, our friends, the room over our head, the food we eat, the teachers we have, our church family. We thank Him for the disappointments of the day that cause us to rely on Him. We thank Him for his presence and His love. And you know what, our daughters, now that they are often the ones who lead us in prayer, they do the same thing.
As I penned these final words I first wrote: “Laying a firm foundation in the lives of this present generation, the children that God has given us, isn’t easy..” because that’s what we’ve heard from others, for some it is what we’ve been taught in settings like this one. But I want to suggest to you that it is a whole lot easier than living in dysfunction, sin and the constant turmoil that it brings. You see, living the way God intended for us to live, in complete communion with him, bring us abundant blessing in our relationship with others, in our daily provision and in our eternal destiny. It will change the generations that follow.
But this requires that we address this question – Have I acknowledge God, not just as my savior, but as the King, the Lord of my life?
Colossians 2:6 says “So then, Just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught and overflowing with thankfulness.” (Colossians 2:6)(MSG)