September 14, 2008

Impress Your Kids!

Deuteronomy 6:4-9, Ephesians 6:4



          Today, I’m going to talk with you about impressing your kids.  Let me give you the big idea right up front: could I see the hands of all the Moms and Dads?  You are responsible for your children’s spiritual training and formation.  It’s your job.  And we are here to help you.  You all know the famous African proverb: It takes a whole village to raise a child.  We’re all here to help; but it is a parent’s responsibility to impress your kids with God’s word.  We’re going to talk about how to do that.

          Now if you’re not a mamma or a papa, I don’t want you to check out; I’ve got stuff in this talk for all of you.  Let me see the hands of Grandmas and Grandpas.  Brothers and sisters.  Aunties and uncles.  Christians who care about the next generation.  There’s stuff in this talk for all you too.


Offering and announcements:

          It takes a whole village to raise a child.  Moms and Dads partner with the extended family and the church, and the school.  Educators play a huge role in our children’s development, and schools are just firing up, so I want to take a moment and recognize all the educators that are here today.  All of you who work in education—teachers, administrators, aides—it could be public school, private school or home school—would you stand?  Let’s say thanks and let’s pray for them.

          Love and Respect.

The Truth Project—less than two weeks before this excellent training event for Life Group leaders.  Those who have watched the Truth Project with their groups rave about the content.  Info Center has information and registration forms.

Bogota Trip—members of the College Life mission team to Colombia would love to tell about their trip—Thursday, September 25, 7 PM in Multi-purpose Room.

Parent Info Meeting about iPulse (senior high sex series)—Tuesday, September 23, 7 PM in Multi-purpose Room.

Dedications: 9 December Rose Plefek. 11:15 Savannah Lee Holbert.            


Worship and communion:



          Impress your kids!  What do I mean by that?  When my kids were small, I used to impress them by some magic tricks I did.  (Clean my eyeball; magic fingers.)  Is that what I mean by impress your kids?  No.

          When my kids got older, I tried to impress them by being really cool.  One summer, I drove a van full of high school students to summer camp.  As we left the church, I said something totally cool, and one of the students said, “Don’t try to be cool, Pastor Joe; you’re 40.”  I was hurt—I was only 38.  I’m cool.  This week, I added text messaging to my cell phone plan.  I text.  Is that what I mean by impress your kids?  No.  Don’t try to impress your kids by out-cooling them—it never works. 

          What do I mean, “impress your kids”?  Here’s what the Bible says:

Deuteronomy 6:4-9 Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 5 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

Impress your kids.  Impress God’s word on your children.  The Hebrew word translated “impress” literally means “to sharpen”.  A student was sharpened by being taught.  So it came to mean to sharpen by teaching, to inculcate, to teach by repetition, to impress upon.  This is what I mean by impress your kids.  Impress them with God’s word.  Sharpen them spiritually by diligently teaching them God’s words.  Impress God’s word into them.

          Before you try to impress your kids, there are a couple other things you have to do. 


          First, love God with all you’ve got.  5

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.

Before you impress your kids, love God with all you’ve got.  If you want your kids to love God, you’ve got to love God—with all you’ve got.  I heard Howard Hendricks say once, “If you want them to bleed, you’ve got to hemorrhage!”  If you want your kids to love God, you’ve got to love God—with all you’ve got.  If you love God with less, if you love God with a half-hearted love, your kids may not love him at all.  Lukewarm faith isn’t very contagious.  It’s like a cold: no one wants to catch it!  Love God with a half-hearted love and your kids will probably take a pass.  On the other hand, loving God with all you’ve got is contagious. Love God with all you’ve got and your kids will probably love God too. 

          First, you have to love God with all you’ve got.


          Second, get God’s word inside you. 6

          “These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts.”  Get God’s word inside you; get it in your heart.  How do you get God’s word into your heart?  Start reading it every day.  Feed yourself!  We’ve got a Bible reading plan that’s in our journals (you can get these at the info center); it’s also on our website; and we just started passing them out quarterly as bookmarks—the next bookmark comes out next week.  Start reading the Bible with us each day and join the conversation.  Lots of us are reading, journaling and sharing what we learn with each other. 

ILL: For example, on Thursday we were reading in Lamentations and Revelation—I have to tell you, they are not my two favorite books in the Bible.  But God spoke to me through them. 

Revelation 15 describes the seven final plagues and it says “with them the wrath of God is finished.”  Lamentations 3:22-23 says “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” 

God’s wrath is finished—there is an end to it.  But His steadfast love never ends.  His mercies never end; they are new every morning.  It made me think of Psalm 30:5 “His anger is for a moment, but His favor is for a lifetime.” 

I know that I do and say things that must anger the Lord; I’m so glad His anger is only for a moment, and His mercies never end!

Then I realized that when I carry a grudge, when there’s no end to my anger, I’m not being like God.  The apostle Paul wrote in Ephesians, “Don’t let the sun go down on your anger.”  Short anger, long mercies.  That’s God’s way…and the way I need to be.

Get God’s words inside you.  Let them be on your heart.  You can start doing that by reading the Bible with us each day, reflecting on what you read and asking God for one thing, and writing it down: the Word for today. 

Feed yourself.  Before you can feed your children God’s word, you’ve got to feed yourself.

ILL: It’s like the pre-flight announcement on an airplane.  “In the event of an emergency, oxygen masks will drop out of the overhead compartment.  If you are traveling with a child, please put your own mask on first before assisting your child.” 

If you can’t breathe, you won’t be of much help to your child.  Same thing spiritually: please feed yourself before assisting your child.  If you don’t feed yourself on God’s word first, you won’t be able to feed your child. 

          So first we love God with all we’ve got.  If we don’t love God, we can’t inspire it in our kids.  Second, we must get God’s word inside us.  Get it in your heart before you try to impress it in theirs.


          Third, impress God’s word on your children.

Verse 7: Impress them on your children.  Diligently teach God’s word to your kids.  Impress them with God’s word.  When you impress someone, what do you leave behind?  An impression.

ILL: It was a hot, humid day in the middle of Kansas City. The bus driver’s eight-hour shift was almost over. Suddenly, a young woman, upset about something, let loose with a string of unrepeatable words. The bus driver, looking in his overhead mirror, could sense everyone around her was embarrassed by the string of profanity.

A few blocks later, the angry young woman was disembarking.   As she stepped down, the bus driver said, “Maam, you left something behind.”

She quickly turned and snapped, “What is it?”

The bus driver said, “A very bad impression.”

Parents: you will leave an impression on your kids.  More than anyone else!  The question is, what kind?  What values, what convictions, what beliefs will you impress upon your children?   God says that He wants us to impress His words upon them. 

          How do you do that?  He says three things here.


                   Talk about it during the day.

Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.

Talk about it…all through the day.  You talk about what is important to you.  So talk about it.  The spiritual education of children happens best not in a time of formal teaching each day, but when God and His word are a topic of conversation all through the day.  Look for teaching moments: opportunities all through the day when your kids are curious, or when situations arise that require moral instruction or Biblical values.  You can talk about it at home or along the road (in the car). 

ILL: One Saturday morning, when Andy was 11 and Jeff was 9, we were driving to the church for a men’s breakfast and we passed a church advertising a revival.  Andy asked me, “Dad, are they Catholics or Pedestrians?”  It was a teaching moment. 

You can talk about it in the car, or when you lie down or get up.  When our kids were little, we read the Bible every night at bedtime, or told Bible stories, and prayed. 

ILL: Laina and I were out of town and my mom came to stay with the kids.  She knew our routine, and night she did a little Bible study with the kids.  One night they were talking about faith.  Amy (8) volunteered, “Oh, I know all about faith.  Faith is believing.  If you believe really hard, if you really believe, you could even walk on water.”  And in a flash, Sally (8) added, “I think Grandpa could walk on water.”

Those of you who know Noel may agree with her.

          Here’s the big idea: if you want to impress God’s word on your kids, talk about it…when you get up and when you lie down, when you sit at home or walk along the way.  Talk about it all during the day.  Watch for those teachable moments, and build some routines into schedule.  Talk about it, and…


                   Wear it on your hands and head.

8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.

                   Write it on your house.

9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

Many Jews took these literally.  They wore a small leather box called a phylactery on their head or wrists; inside were Scriptures, including this one, Deuteronomy 6:4-9.  And they attach a small container called a mezuzah to their doorposts; inside it also contains Scriptures, including this one.  As they enter a house or a room, they reach out and touch the mezuzah as a reminder of God’s word. 

          The big idea in both of these is that we have visible reminders of God’s word.  Our red wrist bands that have Philippians 2:5-8 on them are like a phylactery.  It’s a symbol, a reminder of God’s word that we wear on our wrist.  You may not have a mezuzah on your doorpost, but you might have some Scripture on the wall, or some art work that reminds you of God’s word.  Of course, we have the advantage of having a Bible, something few families had then.  Look for creative ways to remind and reinforce what you teach your children.  The idea is that you create an environment that reminds your children of God’s word.

          Parents, first love God with all you’ve got; then get God’s word inside you; then impress it on your children.  Your children’s spiritual education and formation is your responsibility.  Impress your kids.

          That’s the Old Testament passage; here’s one from the New Testament. 


Ephesians 6:4 Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.

          For the sake of time, I’m going to point out only one thing here: who is responsible for the spiritual training of children?  Fathers. 

          Most scholars think that “fathers” includes both mom and dad; some translations render it “parents”.  It was a patriarchal society and it was common to address parental concerns to the father.  I think it was providential, because most dads need to be more involved in their kids’ spiritual training.  What is clear is that we Dads and Moms are responsible for our children’s spiritual training. 

          So who is primarily responsible for children’s spiritual training?  Moms and Dads.  So flip your outline over and let me leave you with some practical ideas.


1. Impress your kids by your example: be impressive!

          You all know that actions speak louder than words.  An African proverb says, “I cannot hear what you say for the thunder of what you are.”  Here are three important ways you train your children spiritually by example.


          A. Impress them with your love for God.

          Lukewarm faith is not contagious, but whole-hearted love for God is.  If you want your kids to love God deeply, you’ve got to set the example.  If you’ve got the fever, they’ll probably catch it!

ILL: It’s no accident that all six of Noel’s kids love and serve God.  Why?  Because Noel loves God with all he’s got. 

          Romans 12:11 says “keep your spiritual fervor”.  It’s my responsibility to keep my love for God hot.  I need to do whatever I have to do to love God with all I’ve got.  I need to stay contagious!

          Set the example: love God with all you’ve got.


          B. Impress them with your commitment to spiritual growth.  

          There are several spiritual disciplines or practices that help me grow spiritually and keep my love for God strong.  These are things we do to keep that fire stoked.  When you do these, your kids will probably catch them from you.

  • I’ve already mentioned devotions, your daily time with God to read the Bible, pray and journal.  PBJ time.  Laina and I have been doing this since long before we were married.  Our kids have grown up seeing us do it, hearing us talk about it.  So guess what they do?  They have had for many years their own devotions.  It’s fun to be able to ask, “What did you read today?  What did the Lord say to you?  Where are you growing spiritually?”
  • Coming to church each Sunday to worship and learn.  God set every 7th day aside as a holy day, a day of worship, the Lord’s Day.  When you make a commitment to be in community, in worship each Sunday, your kids will probably catch that.  When it becomes a matter of convenience—we go to church as long as there is nothing else to do, no other competing opportunities on the schedule—your kids will catch that value as well.  When you make it a matter of convenience, you clearly communicate that church and spiritual growth—and God—are not really that important.  You’ll make an impression—is it the one you want to make?  We made it clear with our kids when they were growing up that we go to church every Sunday.  It was no more optional than going to school or going to work.  It was part of our commitment to God and to our community of faith.  We impressed on our kids that this was important.
  • Same thing with a Life Group.  Same thing with summer camp when they were kids.  Same thing with tithing.  We did these things and we taught our kids to do them not as a matter of convenience, but conviction and commitment.   

Do you want your kids to grow spiritually?  Set the example in your commitment to spiritual growth.


          C. Impress them with your humility (not your perfection).

          Many parents are intimidated by this whole idea of being responsible for the spiritual formation of their children.  They feel under-qualified.  I don’t know enough.  I’m not spiritual enough.  It feels overwhelming.  My advice is let that feeling motivate you to start taking some of the steps I just gave you.  Start working on your own relationship with God and set the example.  And then, when you fail, when you blow it, admit it and ask for forgiveness.  That’s what I mean by impress them with your humility. 

Here’s some good news.  You don’t have to be perfect to raise kids who love God.  There are no perfect parents.  Here’s another news flash: your kids don’t expect you to be perfect (they’re smarter than that); but they sure like it when you’re honest and humble.

ILL: My son Andy works here at the church; he does an excellent job as our director of communications.  When Andy took the job, his one concern was blurring the line in our relationship; now I’m dad and boss; he’s son and employee.

          Several years ago, shortly after he was hired, I heard he did something that I didn’t want him to do either as his dad or his boss.  I lit into him—chewed him out pretty good.  I didn’t ask him any questions, didn’t give him any time to explain himself—just chewed him out.  And I was pretty stoked; it wasn’t pretty.  When I was done, he quietly said, “I didn’t do the thing you think I did because I knew you wouldn’t want me to.”

          I felt about this big!  Pretty stupid.  So now what?  I apologized profusely.  I apologized for jumping to conclusions, for not trusting him, for not asking first, for losing my temper, for chewing him out. 

I’m not perfect.  Neither are you.  When you’re wrong, admit it and ask forgiveness.  There’s an old bumper sticker that says, “Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven.”  It applies here. 

          Set the example in humility: admit your failures and ask forgiveness.

          Impress your kids by your example.


2. Impress your kids with God’s Word: talk about it.

          Many people wonder how to talk about God’s word; they feel under-qualified.  Here are three simple practical suggestions:


          A. Talk about what you learned in your devotions.

          Share with your kids the one thing that the Lord gave you in your devotions that day, just like I did with you earlier.  If they’re old enough to do devotions, ask them what their “one thing” is.  In two weeks, I’m going to talk more about this—it’s something I’d like to see all of us doing with each other.  Talk about what you learned in your devotions.


          B. Talk about what you learned at church.

          On your way home today, ask your kids what they learned in their Adventureland classes.  Talk about it together. 

          If your kids are older, ask them what they learned in church.  Talk about it. 

          And don’t forget to set the example by sharing what you learned.  I hope you come every week and ask God to speak to you.  When He does, pass it on.  Talk about you learned at church.


          C. Talk about life.

          Life is full of teaching moments, opportunities to apply God’s word to life situations. 

  • I hope you monitor what your children watch on TV and do on the computer.  But even good shows can have occasional objectionable material.  What do you do?  Don’t have a fit…just talk about it.  Talk about it in a way that impresses God’s truth on your children.
  • When your children get in a fight with each other or the neighbor kid, it’s a teaching moment.  Listen first, then talk about it in a way that impresses God’s word on your kids.
  • That first boyfriend or girlfriend is a huge teaching moment!

When your kids are disappointed, when they have questions, when they’re making decisions…really almost anytime can be a teaching moment.  Talk about life…do it from a Biblical perspective.


3. Impress your kids: you are their primary spiritual teachers.

          Has this come through loud and clear?  Good.

          Because we believe that you, moms and dads, are your children’s primary spiritual teachers, we are making a change in Adventureland.  We are asking every parent to be in their child’s class on a periodic basis—it might be once every 3 months or 4 months or 6 months—we’ll figure that out.  We want you to partner with you in your child’s spiritual formation.  We want you in the class for two reasons:

  1. We want to train and equip you to impress your kids.  We are going to try to develop resources and training that we can give you in the class room that will help you be a better parent and spiritual leader.  We want to help you train your kids spiritually.
  2. We want you to help us impress your kids.  We want to partner with you.  We want you to see what your kids are doing and learning and be a part of the conversation with them.

Soon, you will be contacted by someone in your child’s classroom asking you when you can be there.  They’ll help you find a time that works for you. 

          We are shifting the emphasis in our children’s ministry from us training your children one hour a week, to us helping you train them all week.  This is a big change, and it’s one that I think is long overdue.  Because it’s a big change, it will take us all awhile to get used to it, and to get good it at.  So please be patient with us; but let’s get started.