Tag Archives: parenting

How to grow your love for God, part 5 (the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree)

19 Oct
Photo by Alexander Dummer on Unsplash

It is apple season, and my family actually has an apple tree in our yard.  The few apples that grew on the tree this year just fell down a few days ago.  They didn’t fall far from the tree.  Is that just an old adage?  What do apple trees matter to loving God? 

Yesterday, in my fourth post in this series, How to grow your love for God, I said that the primary principle Christians can learn from Deuteronomy 11 is that we grow our love for God by obeying his commands. The next principle is that of “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.”  OK, so Moses doesn’t say that exactly, but the principle he shares is very similar.  In verses 18-21, Moses asks the people to convey the terms and actions of the covenant to the next generation.  This is akin to Jesus’ idea of making disciples.  We Christians are called to convey the wonders of the God to the next generation, and to those who are not yet a part of God’s family.

Look at Moses’ description in these verses.  He uses figurative language.  “Fix these words in your hearts and minds, tie them onto your body.”  In other words, be a walking billboard.

Again, that is some figurative language through which God is teaching a deeper principle. What is the principle, and how do we apply it?  The principle is that we are to be passionate about raising up the next generation to love Jesus.  A majority of it needs to be done by parents in the home.  Teach the way of Jesus to your children, no matter if you are at home, driving on the road, or working in the yard. Teach your children to follow Jesus, to know that God is near, that he loves them, and that the best possible way to live is to follow his commands and ways.

One literalistic way to apply this is to actually post messages on the walls of you home.  My wife is so good at this.  She posts Bible verses and principles literally on the walls of our house.  Here are some examples.

I’m not saying you all need to do this.  Clearly God is not saying that he is requiring us to post his laws on the walls of our homes.  While it is totally fine to do that, what does he want? He wants our hearts to beat with love for him.

And that means more personal, relational interaction, conversation, and discussion between adults in the family and the younger people in the family.  Parents and Grandparents, be intentional about investing spiritually in the lives of your kids and grandkids.   One of the things my parents started doing when my older boys were in elementary school was they stopped giving my kids toys for birthdays and Christmas.  Instead they started giving them adventures.  They took them to Washington DC, or Niagara Falls.  It was a gift of their time.  So much of our spending on gifts and holidays and vacations is self-indulgent.  Parents and grandparents, how can you use gifts and vacations to focus on serving, or on spiritual growth rather than self-indulgence?

Evaluate how are you using time at home. I admit that I have not been consistent with this.  We’ll go through phases where we have regular devotions around the dinner table.  But I also know that we can have tons of time watching TV, playing games on devices, and little spiritual conversation.  It is much easier to talk about video games, sports, school, etc. Almost any conversation with kids is good, but we need to be proactive about communicating God’s ways to them. 

But maybe you’re like me, and you sometimes find spiritual conversation difficult.  It begs the question, am I so loving toward Jesus that I can’t help but talk about him?  I have to ask myself, how much does Jesus occupy my thoughts and my conversations?

This takes us back to the axiom of “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree”.  If I want my kids and grandkids to know God and follow his ways, than I should be a person who more and more loves Jesus.  The greatest thing you can do to invest in your kids’ spiritual growth is for you yourself to grow spiritually first.  The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.  If you love Jesus and follow him, then your kids and grandkids will be much more likely to as well.  But if your time with and love for Jesus is weak, it will be super rare for your kids to have a stronger relationship with Jesus than you do.

So invest time in your relationship with Jesus.  What I’m talking about is a vibrant relationship with Jesus, such that you and I are excited about talking about him with other people, especially our families.  That means cultivating a relationship with Jesus.  And cultivating a relationship with Jesus involves time, an investment of time.

Lately, if you were around me much, you would almost certainly know what I have been spending time doing.  Why? Because I talk about it and am excited about it.  That’s why I spend time doing it.  What have I been spending a lot of time on?  Running a marathon, starting doctoral courses, and other activities my family is involved in.  As a result, I talk about it all them time. It is all very important to me.

Our small group studied the book Freedom from the Tyranny of the Urgent this past year or so, and it does an excellent job helping you think through how you spend your time.  You might consider picking up a copy of that book, learning about how to use your time more wisely, and then making some changes to your schedule so you can have more time to grow your heart for the Lord. So let’s invest in our relationship with Christ, that we might grow our excitement about him and thus be better equipped and more likely to pass him on to the next generation.  That’s called discipleship.  It is when we ourselves grow in our knowledge of, trust in, and obedience to the way of Christ, and then help others do the same.

How to grow your love for God, part 1

15 Oct
Photo by Janos Patrik on Unsplash

Have you ever heard the phrase, “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree”?  What does it mean?

That children or young people tend to behave like their parents.  It happens all the time.  And it is not just that we look like our parents, or sound like them, but that we tend to have similar beliefs as our parents, and we have similar ways we act on those beliefs.  Of course, this is not always the case.  Most of us are at least somewhat different from our parents, and some of us are very different from our parents.

But how many of you adults have had that heart-shocking experience, after previously boldly proclaiming that you would never ever be like your parents, you then heard yourself say something that your parents said, or do something your parents did?  And it hits you like a thunderclap, “Oh my word…that’s what my mom would say!” Or “That’s what my dad would do.” It’s like this:

The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.  We become like our parents, and we can’t help it.  Why?  What is going on in this phenomenon?  It’s not complicated.  Kids spend a lot of time with their parents, and whether intentionally or unintentionally, the thoughts, actions, opinions, and behaviors of parents rub off on their kids.  Grandparents, aunts, uncles, and even friends, you too can have a great influence.

That is a reality check.  It means that we simply will influence the next generation.  How we spend our time among our young people matters.  They will become like us.  And that is what Moses turns to in Deuteronomy 11.

Deuteronomy Chapter 11 is a transitional chapter in this book.  It serves as a clear reminder to the people of Israel that they have a covenant treaty with their God, Yahweh.

There are seven sections in this chapter, and this week we briefly survey each one.  In each section Moses wants the people of Israel to do something, and he always gives them a rationale for why he wants them to do that thing.  In each section, let’s look at the action he wants them to do, and see if we can discover his rationale.

The first section is verses 1-7.

What is the thing he wants them to do?  He tells them in verse 1: Love God by keeping his…commands always.

What is his rationale for wanting them to love God by keeping his commands? We find that in verses 2-7.  He starts with the word, “Remember”.  “Remember God’s majesty,” Moses says, “God’s mighty hand, his outstretched arm.”

Then he repeats a phrase.  Do you see it?  In verses 3-6, he says this phrase in each verse: “what he did”.  He is talking about God, what God did.  Put that word “Remember” from verse 2 together with the phrase “what he did” repeated in verses 3-6, and you get a clear message from Moses to the people: “Remember…what he did!”

  • Verse 3 – What he did…in Egypt
  • Verse 4 – What he did…through the Red Sea
  • Verse 5 – What he did…in the desert
  • Verse 6 – What he did…to the disobedient

Remember what he did!  And what did God do?  Moses is saying, “He saved you, Israel!  Over and over, he saved you.”

Then in verse 7, Moses sums up this concept by saying, “with your own eyes you saw the great things the Lord has done.”  In this section, then, Moses is saying, when you look back over your life, and you remember God’s faithfulness and provision in your life, you’ll be motivated to show your love for him by keeping his commands.

How about you? What has God done for you?  Take some time today to review your life.  Remember what he did.  Make a list, even if it is a Top 5, and write it out, just like Moses did for Israel.  And spend some time thanking God for what he did.  Allow that Top 5 to inflame your heart with love for God.

What does this have to do with the phrase, “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree”?  Stay tuned!

Do you parents feel like going on strike?

14 Oct

Cat Barnard sits in her driveway in Florida near the tent where and she and her husband slept after both went on strike because their children won't cook or clean up.

Sometimes we parents feel like we need a break.  We can feel exhausted, frustrated, and like we want to go on strike.  In 2004, the parents in the picture above did just that.  You can read all about it here.  Parenting can be hard.  Do you feel like parenting can drive you crazy?  That while you love your kids, there are times you don’t like them?

Parent-Child relationships are a wild mixture of happy and sad, joyful and troubling, close and distant.  Over the last few years at Faith Church we have toned down how much we emphasis we put on Mother’s Day and Father’s Day because for so many in our family of Faith Church, those holidays are painful.

Even though we have toned down Mother’s and Father’s day, they are holidays with a good intention.  In the Ten Commandments we read God tell the nation of Israel that they are to  honor their mother and father.  So for God the parent-child relationship is a very important one.

God wants us to be good parents and grandparents.  And he wants us to be good sons and daughters to our parents.  That’s what we’re talking about at Faith Church this coming Sunday as we continue our series, Life in These United States.  Maybe this sermon can be some help for those of you who feel like you’re ready to go on strike from parenting.

We’re going to approach this sermon a bit differently.  Sermons are almost always monologues.  The long-standing homiletical tradition where one person delivers a speech to an audience is not necessarily a bad thing. But how often have you heard a sermon and wished you could discuss it further?  Or maybe you’ve had questions about it, but didn’t feel you had a forum to ask those questions?  How many of you have a culture in your church’s worship service where you can raise your hand, ask a question and your preacher will stop and discuss it with you?  I know some of you do have that, but most don’t.  At Faith Church we have a sermon discussion group after our worship service, and that time of open-ended discussion is fantastic.  I often find it to be better than the sermon!

So for this sermon I thought I would enlist some help.  I have been a parent for 19years, and Michelle and I have four kids.  But some of you have kids and grandkids, and even great-grandkids, and you have been parenting or grandparenting for longer than I have been alive.  I haven’t experienced grandparenting, and Michelle and I aren’t the perfect parents, so we have much to learn.  I thought, then, that I would get help from our Faith Church Leadership Team.  Here’s how it will work.

This Sunday is our once/month Coffee Break Sunday, which means after we praise God in song, we dismiss to our Fellowship Hall.  We normally have a time of continuing our praise of God through open mic sharing about how God has been at work in lives, but on Coffee Break Sundays, we do that around the tables in the Fellowship Hall.  Then after 15 minutes, we return to sanctuary to sing and listen to God’s Word.  But on this Sunday, we’re going to stay around the tables in the Fellowship Hall.

I’ll still have a few words to say, looking at some biblical passages with parenting principles, but I have asked Leadership Team members to help lead mini-discussions on parenting, based on the passages that we’ll read.  Each discussion will take place around your table.

So do you desire to be a good parent or grandparent?  Join us at Faith Church as we learn from God’s Word, and from those who have for many years wrestled with applying biblical principles of parenting in the real world of their families.