Sunday's Parenting Message:
Remember the Mission Impossible movies and old TV shows? The world would be threatened by a major crisis, an IMF team would be assembled, and our hero would receive his mission briefing through some technological marvel, like talking sunglasses. Of course, it was always important to get rid of that technical marvel before it self-destructed.
Today’s passage was part of Israel’s mission briefing. Moses was preparing them to attack and occupy Canaan, building God’s kingdom in the Holy Land. Successful, long term occupation required training their children well, on of the focuses of this passage.
Read Deuteronomy 6:1-9
There are few guarantees in our parenting. However – in this age with so much conflicting Christian and non-Christian parenting information & advice available – perhaps we need to hear this mission briefing again. Perhaps we need to hear and heed its simplicity. Perhaps we need to know that parenting is “Mission Possible”.
You are the bus driver. At the first stop four people are picked up, one with a Twins hat. At the second stop 15 people are picked up, three are wearing Vikings hats, and 12 are dropped off as it starts to rain. At the third stop two people are picked up, one wearing a Green Bay Packers hat – he gets booed – just as the snow starts. At the fourth stop the Packers fan is kicked off into a snowbank. At the final stop everyone else is let off to watch the game. Key question: how old is the bus driver?
Hearing, listening is like that. We do not retain everything we hear. We probably shouldn’t, our brains would fill up very quickly. We need to sort through information, only retaining what is important. Problem is, our listening filter has been impacted by sin, selfishness, and boredom, and we miss what we need to hear.
God’s word requires acute, intense listening. James 1:22-25 (on screen) is very poignant here. We must look intently into the mirror of His words, learn about ourselves, then act upon it to truly retain it. If you walked into your bathroom this morning, noted carefully that your hair, teeth and beard needed to be taken care of, then walked away and drove to church – you’d be embarrassed. Action is required.
If we expect our children to hear us, we must hear our Parent, our Father. Moses called his people to hear this entire presentation, but his first priority was for them to hear about God. He was their God, He’d entered into covenant relationship with them. He was one – which doesn’t hit us initially as significant – but was very significant to a fledgling, God-following culture that was surrounded, no buried in multiple gods and idolatrous cultures. Each country, in some cases each city they would travel to had a different god or whole pantheon of gods. Some of them were very appealing, such as gods who blessed crops or fertility. Frankly, our culture today is filled with a variety of idols, some “gods” and some not, and we need to hear, remember and swear allegiance to the one true God.
Then, as followers of the one God, as parents, we are to love Him.
At one level this passage is very disturbing. We are commanded to love God; and not just superficially, but with our whole beings. We could easily become offended here. How can God command us to love Him? Where is the free will, the choice in that? Isn’t love an act of the will?
But let’s think a little deeper here. God commands us to love our spouses, and that seems reasonable. God commands us to love our children, and that seems reasonable. We command our children to love each other, and that’s reasonable. Historically, many cultures had parents pick out spouses for their children, then command them to love each other, and it often worked.
Commands do not limit choices, they clarify them. We either obey and love God, or we don’t. And He holds up the difficult standard of “complete self” love so that we realize that lukewarm, occasional love is really not love at all.
There was an interesting parenting study done. It revealed that most young adults who follow Jesus either come from non-Christian homes where they were converted to Christ in their teenage years, or they come from homes where mom and dad’s love for Jesus permeated their lives. Very few young adult believers came from homes where there was an indifferent, apathetic commitment to Christ. As Jesus said in Revelation, He wants us either hot or cold. He can work with either. He doesn’t work with lukewarm.
Want your children to follow God? Listen to Him intently, and love Him wholly. They’ll catch on.
Parents often complain that they don’t know enough about God and His commands to teach their children well. Occasionally this may be true. You might not yet be a Christian – or you might be a new Christian – or perhaps you have a learning disability. To you I would say, start with what you hear here on Sundays. That’s all Moses was asking the Jews to do in Deuteronomy 6.
However - if you’ve been a Christian for a while and still don’t feel you know enough – I would ask you to check your heart. Are you listening intently? Are you lukewarm, apathetic, not really interested in God and His word (be honest)? Have you fallen into religious habits that hamper your relationship with God? If so, today would be a good day to repent, to confess your heart attitudes to the Lord, seek His forgiveness, and allow Him to start you fresh, give you a “do over”. It’s what He’s good at.
Do note that these commands are to be heart knowledge, not just head knowledge. God’s word takes time to filter from head down to the heart, taking thought, emotion, wrestling, and application.
We’re near the end of the message and haven’t talked about parenting methods. This was very intentional. It reflects the passage. Parenting is less about methods and more about parents’ hearts. If our hearts hear, love and know God, then methods will follow.
The two methods discussed here are repeat, and illustrate.
Repeat – use every natural, relational opportunity that comes along. When you stop together, talk about God and His word. When you walk together, do the same. Hearts are often open at the beginning and end of the day. Use those opportunities.
Note that these opportunities are intentional, but not overly structured. If God and His word are on your heart, you will want to share during appropriate opportunities. Do so, intentionally. This doesn’t preclude devotional times – they can work as well – but if you’re struggling with establishing family devotions, start with what’s commanded – then see if more is required.
That’s the audio, there’s also the visual. In the Jewish culture phylacteries and mezuzahs worked well – tying them on the hands and putting them on the gates – in our culture there are multiple opportunities to illustrate God and His word through sight. Pictures, scripture verses, computer graphics, videos, figures, etc. – the opportunities are endless. In our home the visual that most grabs my attention is a stylized cup and dish that signifies the Lord’s Supper – which reminds me of His death for us – hardly ever fails to stir me.
Parenting. Mission Impossible, or Mission Possible? While remembering that there are few guarantees, and that our children will sometimes exercise their wills in the wrong direction, we can become better parents by following this simple approach. Hear God’s word deeply. Love Him wholly. Know Him and His word at the heart level. Then share – utilize the natural, relational, frequent opportunities that come along – both serendipitously and intentionally. Let’s pray.