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Seasons of Christian Parenting – Summer (6-12) 7/9/23

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Seasons of Christian Parenting – Summer (6-12) 7/9/23


John Cruice


July 9, 2023


Deuteronomy, Deuteronomy 6:4-7


It was a little over twelve years ago when my wife and I brought our daughter home from the hospital. I remember the terror and the excitement that we felt as we had just spent three days in the hospital learning how to swaddle her, feed her, put her to sleep. And all of a sudden, as we were leaving the hospital, the doors behind us were closing, and the nurses were staying inside the hospital and not coming with us. And this huge wave of inadequacy started washing over my wife, Tammi and me. And I remember thinking to myself, when I had to get a driver’s license, I had to read a book, I had to go out and take a test and prove that I could parallel park. But here we were leaving with a doll-sized human, and if the doctors knew how little Tammi and I knew about parenting, I’m pretty sure they would not allow us to go home with this child. But we finally got her buckled in, and we were on our way. And within the next few days and sleepless nights and all of that, we started to find a rhythm and realized we need to keep this child alive, even though it feels like we don’t know how to.

And in a very similar way, a little bit later on, that same feeling of inadequacy started to hit us where we realized we need to raise this little girl to love and follow God, and we don’t know how to do that. And in a similar way … fast forward. She’s now about to go into seventh grade, which has still not sunk in for me, and we have a ten-year old, eight, and a six-year-old. And that feeling of inadequacy never fully goes away.

But one verse that we clung to is the one that you’re looking at in front of you, Deuteronomy 6:4-7. And I want to, before we jump into that, share the main idea of this morning — God calls parents to intentional training. God calls parents to intentional training. And a special word to parents in that season and parents out of that season of life (and even if you’re not in the parenting season at all) a bunch of the concepts and principles that we’re going to be talking about this morning apply to anyone that’s wanting to make disciples of other people. So, some of it is definitely age specific to this Summer Season that we’re talking about, and a lot of it is applicable to anybody of any age who’s wanting to follow Jesus in a deeper way.

So, look at verse 4 with me.

“Hear, O, Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.”

The “hear” in this passage is used all throughout the Old Testament and doesn’t mean to merely listen in a passive way. It’s very active. It’s a call to action. It’s a call to pay close attention. It is a call to hear and to do, to listen but also obey. And I want to answer two questions this morning — what is that calling for us as parents? And then the second question is how do we carry that out? How do we actually do that calling?

To help us remember this, we’re going to look at three “I’s.” The first I is a call for intentional training is Immersive. It’s Immersive. Notice in verse 5 it says,

“You shall love the Lord your God with all of your heart and with all of your soul and with all of your might.”

And it doesn’t seem like the main point of this passage is to necessarily categorize all of the intricacies of human nature, like what’s the exact difference between soul and heart? But rather the main thrust seems to be to love God with our whole being. Jesus seems to confirm this in Matthew 22 when he quotes this verse [37]. He says,

“You shall love the Lord your God with all of your heart and with all of your soul and with all of your mind.”

And notice Jesus says, “Love God with all of your mind” instead of “might.” And I was wondering, was Jesus possibly mistaken, or did Jesus misquote Deuteronomy chapter 6? I don’t think so. I think he seems to be capturing the essence of the verse that this is a whole-being type of love and a whole-being type of devotion that we’re to be having for God. And he says that. Look down at verse 38.

“This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all of the Law and the Prophets [or the whole Old Testament].”

Everything else is an outworking of the love that you have for God, this whole-being type of love. So, that’s the first “I” is Immersive; it’s all of us.

The second “I” — this call for intentional training is Intimate. It’s Intimate. Look at verse 6.

“And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.”

Before we jump to training our children, or training anyone else for that matter, God wants us to start with our hearts. Just like in verse 5, the emphasis is first and foremost on you loving God with your heart. We can’t give to our children what we don’t have. We can’t give to anybody else what we don’t possess. So, this starts with us in God’s Word, listening to Him, listening to his voice. Allowing our time that we spend with God personally — abiding in who Jesus is — allowing that to overflow into our words, into our actions, allowing it to be a contagious thing that affects other people secondarily. So, the intentional training we’re called to give our children is Immersive. It’s Intimate, personal.

And the third “I” is it’s Instructive. It’s teaching. It says in verse 7,

“You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”

There’s this diligent teaching that’s coming from Mom and Dad, and we get a picture of where this is happening (this teaching), when this teaching is happening. And this is in vision going to/from, in the car, at the dinner table, while we’re cleaning, all throughout the day, in the beginning, the end of the day. It’s to be something that’s coming out of us. Twenty-four/seven this instruction is happening. And this type of diligent teaching isn’t only a formal teaching, but it incorporates a lifestyle similar to what Nathan mentioned a few weeks ago when it comes to evangelism. It isn’t just a formal teaching time. It’s also a lifestyle, showing our children and answering the questions throughout the day of who is God? What has he said? What does he expect of us? What’s his purpose in this world for us? And how should we think about this world and ourselves in relation to him?

This responsibility in this passage is primarily on Mom and Dad, on Father and Mother. This is so essential. What we’re doing right now — corporate worship, Sunday teaching — is essential. Kidstuff — essential. And Christian school is great, but God’s primary way of making disciples is you and I in the home. His primary design is for Mom and Dad to be the ones to show their children who he is. This is the first answer to the question of what is that calling? It’s to show our children who he is.

The second question we want to answer is how do we carry this out? In this Summer Season of parenting ages 6-12, intentional training will look unique, and it’s going to change from child to child, and we’re going to cover a bunch of things here. And I have to take a timeout real quick and say it is very, very common. I’ve failed in this so often. I have a game plan or new thing, and I go and do it with my children, and they’re not feeling it at all and they’re just like, “You’re done, Dad. I got to do stuff.” Or I’m so excited, and then by the time everyone’s gathered, and we’ve broken up fights and I’ve ruined my testimony, I realize the game plan that I had is a flop. So, I just want to encourage you, because I know I’m not the only one in that situation, to not give up, to just keep going and take the next steps. But I want to cover a few things that over the years have been really helpful to us and hopefully helps encourage and stirs us up to keep going and keep training.

Here is one of the first ones — very simply cracking open the Bible and reading it with our children. It’s not to be underestimated, quiet time with Mom and Dad, simply reading his Word and opening up to questions. I want to share with you my wife’s grandmom. Her name’s Phyllis Kelly. She passed away two years ago. They called her Nanny. And Nanny was one of nine children. She grew up in grade school in the early ’40s and mid ’40s, 1940s. And Nanny’s mom passed away when she was a little girl from tuberculosis. So, she never really got to know her mom; she had a stepmom. And she slid through Philadelphia Catholic school, passed from nun to nun, and she never really learned how to read. And so, she made it all the way to eighth grade without learning how to read. And at that time, in the late ’40s, early ’50s, they recommended to her, the nuns recommended to her that she just drop out of school at that point. She had enough school. And so, she went and worked a job as … She would draw maps because she was good with drawing. And so, this is what she did. She started working. She got married. She was a young mother with small children. And at the age of twenty-eight, somebody shared the gospel with her for the first time. And it made sense to her that when Jesus died for her, not just for people in general or just the church in general, but it clicked for her that Jesus died for her and wanted to have a relationship with her. So, this new relationship with Jesus created this insatiable desire for God’s Word. So, she started digging into God’s Word, and the amazing thing is she taught herself to read from reading God’s Word on her own as a young mother that’s twenty-eight years old. She was incredible.

And it was this relationship with Jesus that became the centerpiece of her life. Her joy in Jesus was so contagious. It was a little bit embarrassing. When we would go into a restaurant, she would start singing to the waitress or the waiter. But I don’t even know all the people that she’s led to the Lord. And she would round up kids in the neighborhood (with their parents’ permission) and take them to vacation Bible school. She was just that kind of person. She went on to teach Sunday school and vacation Bible school for over fifty years and has made a huge impact on a lot of people. And she would use object lessons, she would use songs, she would use old-school flannel graph, she would use everything possible to make the story of Jesus come alive for kids which impacted lots of kids at church and in the neighborhood. And most importantly, it completely transformed her family tree. She had five children, all on a completely different trajectory because of her love for Jesus and her love for God’s Word. And I’m a direct beneficiary of her faithfulness because I married one of her granddaughters, and she impacted our children as well. So, I bring that to you as an example and an encouragement that you don’t need a seminary degree in order to introduce Jesus to your kids.

Okay, we’re going to transition into looking at a bunch of different resources. So, fasten your seatbelts. This “7 Arrows” Bible study tool is one of my favorites. It’s very simple, and it’s very memorable, and it can apply to any passage of scripture that you come across. So, it’s geared, I would say, to older (probably 8 and older), but still very helpful. And this is one of those tools that can apply to any age. Adults, I use this personally, and lots of people use this. So, the “7 Arrows Bible Reading” can be very effective.

An app that I love when I come across a word that I want to dig into more (Jeff Wheelock told me about this a couple of years ago, and I’ve fallen in love with it) is the Blue Letter Bible app. And sometimes if I get asked a question about God’s Word and I have that deer-in-the-headlight look of “I don’t know what that is,” it’s great to have an app that you can dig into that word and study and drill down. Where was that word used? What is the origin of the word? And all of that. Blue Letter Bible app is fantastic.

And I just want to do a little encouragement. Try different things, find out what connects with the specific kids that are in front of you, and also don’t give up on trying different things. For instance, instead of just reading the story of Lazarus, maybe acting it out. And I brought an object lesson. Imagine if you’re a seven-year-old boy and your parents are reading the story of Lazarus and you hear Lazarus gets wrapped up in burial cloth and then Jesus calls him back to life. “Lazarus, rise forth!” But you get to wrap up your older sister in toilet paper from head to toe. What boy is not going to want to bury their sister? And then to watch your sister break that and get free when Lazarus’s name is called forth. Thinking of ways to make those stories come to life, drawing pictures, painting.

This next one is using things like the Action Bible. Instead of just reading the scripture, it’s getting illustrations that the emotions on the faces of those characters communicate more than just sometimes reading the black and white words. So, we we’ve really enjoyed The Action Bible. We’ve made videos, made plays based on the stories that we hear.

When it comes to learning gospel truths, the New City Catechism app is excellent. It was written by John Piper and Tim Keller and a bunch of others, but it’s organized really well, and they set a lot of the truths to music; so, it sticks in the brain much easier. And it’s great in the car. Some of the songs are on the cheesier side, but they stick in your brain really, really well.

Also, this devotional is called The Very Best, Hands-On, Kinda Dangerous Family Devotions. And they’re not kidding when they say some of them are kind of dangerous.

And also keep an eye out in the fall. There’re going to be more resources from church with the Parenting on Purpose, and also some of the Life Ed classes are going to be geared towards helping us be able to teach and equip our children more memorably. So, that’s all under the teaching umbrella.

And also, Peter mentioned this a couple of weeks ago. Bible memory is also huge in helping with our children’s minds, enriching their minds. So, at that age, their minds are like sponges. Make it fun. For instance, instead of just reciting scripture, do that, and a suggestion is recite the scripture as a football player. “For God so loved the world that he gave…” Do you get what I’m saying? Or do it again but do it this time as a ballerina. “For God so loved the world.” And before you know it, you’ve done it five or six times, but it’s flown by because you’re making it fun.

Also, Peter mentioned having some incentives, like M&Ms, that he did with his kids, and I would just add to that and say there’s other little toys to use, things like … Oh, this is like gold … using privileges. You get to stay up five minutes past bedtime or something like that. That could be huge. Or doing things like celebration dances as a way of commemorating doing a great job.

So, all of that, when we talk about making whole-being disciples, is engaging the children’s minds. And so, that’s the first part of making disciples.

The second part is focusing on their hearts. So, we have head and looking at their hearts. We intentionally train by equipping them to handle emotions. The first one was we intentionally train by enriching our children’s minds, and then we intentionally train by helping and equipping them to handle their emotions. And Jesus’s disciples did this. They asked for help when it came to prayer. In Luke 11, they said,

“Lord, teach us to pray.”

Praying together with your children has a way of communicating and showing your faith that intentional teaching sometimes doesn’t quite do. So, some ideas regarding equipping our children and their hearts to handle emotions is praying, expressing those things to the Lord. And Andy mentioned this last week, and I wanted to mention it again. Instead of just sitting and praying, doing things like prayer walks, going and like in Matthew 6:28, Jesus said,

“Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin.”

Instead of just praying that in your house, going outside looking at flowers. Another example of a prayer walk or making the passage come to life is Psalm 8:3-4.

“When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, or the son of man that you care for him?”

Going outside and actually looking at the stars as we pray that scripture, helps it come to life.

Another way is changing our posture of prayer. For instance, in 1 Timothy 2:8, it says,

“I desire that in every place men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling.”

So, seeing something in scripture and then doing it right there. Another example, Psalm 47:1,

“Clap your hands all peoples! Shout to God with loud songs of joy!”

Letting these passages come to life.

So, praying together. And here’s an app that we found that we love that is helping us with family prayer. It’s called Lectio for Families Devotional Prayer App. So, it’s about eight minutes, and it walks us through a quiet time, a passage, and then a prayer time. And it’s amazing. They put a time in there for sharing, and just the way they ask the questions, we loved it.

Another way, an idea for family prayer, is there’s an app called the Joshua Project app, and this is unreached people groups, and there’s a new people group that doesn’t have the gospel that you’re encouraged to pray for every day. So, you learn about this group, learn about what the need is, and then you pray for that. And it kind of helps us lift our eyes out of our daily routine and see what God is doing globally.

Another one along those same lines is called the Global Christian Relief app, and that’s praying for persecuted Christians around the world and actually shares stories. And I would just probably read those ahead of time. Sometimes they’re a little intense depending on your kids and the ages, but it’s a great app to help us be more aware of what God’s doing globally. So, those are some prayer app ideas.

Another very elementary type of idea is not just asking requests from our children but asking for them to pray for us. Prayer has a way of allowing us to express our hearts to God in a way that sometimes talking about is difficult. So, use prayer as a way of helping them and equipping them to handle emotions that are going on inside of them.

Sometimes it’s difficult to identify emotions; so, we’ve used these. It’s an emotion chart, where our kids can point to how they’re feeling and then they’re able to pray about that. And then for older kids and adults, there’s a whole slew of different emotion lists. And for those of us like me that aren’t naturally aware and able to communicate how we’re feeling, this is really helpful to pull back the curtain in our heart about what we’re sad or frustrated about, and then allow our children to see us talking and pouring out our hearts to God about that request.

So, another thing that Rima mentioned that I feel like is critical is asking for forgiveness from our children when we sin, when we wrong them. Having the humility to ask for forgiveness is probably one of the main ways that we can show the gospel to our children, that Mommy and Daddy need grace just like you need grace. In James 5:16 it says,

“Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another so that you may be healed.”

And a lot of times we want the healing without the confessing and praying with and for each other. And our children are included in that principle, in that promise of confessing our sins and praying for one another.

If you have any things that you love, any resources that you love, books or anything like that that’s working for you, I would love it if you would send it to me because we’re always looking for things and passing things on to people. So, if you have things that you love, please email me. Or if you want any more information about any of the apps or anything that we just talked about, please feel free to email me.

So, thinking about making whole-being type disciples, enriching our children’s minds, equipping their hearts to handle emotions, the last part here is we intentionally train by engaging them to serve, engaging their hands to serve other people. There’s something powerful not just about teaching and prayer, but then living that out and helping expose our children to all kinds of serving opportunities. So, here’s one opportunity here at the church, which is the Welcome Team. My brother Dan and his wife Lensi and their family, they serve on the Welcome Team and simply come a half an hour before church and greet people as they come in the door. So, they do that together as a family every other month.

Another great way that I’ve seen and been encouraged by is the Babetz family for years have been serving together in the nursery. So, they’ve just made a practice of this — that they serve in the nursery, and then in one of the other services they come and sit together in the service. It’s just a beautiful way to put into practice what they’re learning at home.

Some other ways are the Facilities Team does a weekly cleaning here at the church and also there’re various ways in which you can help people in need. And here’s one of them. There’s a homeless initiative from our church once a month where you prepare a meal and then go give it to the homeless, and the Mair family does this beautifully every single month. And they’re an encouragement to me and I know so many others that they make meals here in the kitchen. And then on Sunday, once a month, they go down and serve that to people in need downtown.

These are all different ideas and needs in our immediate church. There’s also a slew of community partners, like Miracle Hill, Elios (which is having an expansion right now so they’re going to need even more help), Piedmont Women’s Center, the Good News Club. These are all just community partners that could be great opportunities to serve together. If you want any information about any of those ideas, on the home page of the church’s website, there’s a Connect and Serve button right there. You can click on that, and all of these and more are listed.

As we’re thinking about our calling as parents and then actually how do we carry that out, a good frame of reference that’s just a discipleship frame of reference is Head, Heart, Hands. So, we’re enriching our children’s minds. We’re equipping them to handle their emotions and express those to God and to others. And then we’re engaging them to serve others.

I just want to encourage you that just like Peter has shared and Andy, parenting is not a formula. It’s not an if/then statement that if I train my child just right, then they’re absolutely going to follow God when they’re older. Ultimately, it’s God’s work in their hearts. It’s God that does the saving, and it’s God that does the sustaining of them. Our call as parents is to be faithful today.

Look at Mark 4. It says,

“The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how.”

Just like the kingdom of God is expanding through God’s energizing power, our children are saved and will grow through God’s energizing power ultimately. We’re called today to be faithful where we can.

This was pounded into our hearts, my wife’s and my heart, a few weeks ago when our son Ezra (he’s about to turn seven) and he said I have the okay to share this story with you. A few weeks ago, he had an especially rough day when it came to obedience and all of those things, fighting, and just has been through a rough patch of not really any regard for rules, not really any regard. It doesn’t seem to be sinking in for Ezra. And my wife was especially discouraged a few weeks ago, and on her own, quietly, before bed, she prayed to God that God would soften Ezra’s heart. And I didn’t know about it. Ezra didn’t know about it. We all went to bed. And then the next morning, early in the morning, I slid out and went to work. And Ezra has the custom right now of when I leave, he somehow knows, and he slides into my position in the bed. So, he did that this morning.

Tammi and Ezra woke up facing each other, and the first question out of Ezra’s mouth was, “Mom, what does it mean to have a soft heart?” And so, Tammi explained about faith. She explained what it means to have a soft heart. And then she said, “Ezra, why do you ask?” And he said, “I had a dream last night.” And Ezra has never had a dream like this, none of our family. He said, “I had a dream last night that I was with Jesus in a kitchen, and Jesus was a baker, and Jesus had a baker’s hat on. And Jesus reached into my chest, and he pulled out my heart. But my heart was a rock. It was a stone. And Jesus took the stone, and he threw it into a river or water. And then Jesus…” Ezra’s explaining this in detail. “He took a piece of dough, and he shaped it into a heart, a perfectly shaped heart. And then he took the dough heart, and he put it into the oven and let it bake, and it got bigger and soft. And then he took the heart, and he placed it into my chest. And then I had to make sure that it wasn’t going to fall out. So, I had to shake my chest to ensure that the heart wouldn’t fall out.” So thankfully, the heart didn’t fall out. And so, Tammi’s in tears. When she told me, I was in tears. And Ezra was like, “Oh, can I go play Legos now?” And it was a reminder to us that we are called to be faithful in the season of parenting where we are. And that goes for anyone who’s making disciples. You’re called to be faithful where you’re at now and truly resting and trusting God for his results that he will bring in his time.

Just like that inadequacy that Tammi and I felt when we took our daughter Riley home from the hospital, that feeling never goes away, and in many regards, it deepens during the different seasons of parenting. What we’ve been learning and what I would encourage you to do is don’t allow that deep feeling of inadequacy to send you into a paralyzed fear. Allow that inadequacy to make you run to the Father for his empowering Spirit.

God calls parents to intentional training, but the beautiful thing is he enables us to be able to do it. In 2 Peter 1:3, it says,

“His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness.”

Do I believe that he’s really given me everything that I need and not just some future version when I’m a better parent or when you’re a better parent? But do you believe that God’s empowering you and giving you everything you need today to do what he’s calling you to do today?

So, as we consider Deuteronomy 6:4, don’t let the “hear” become something we passively do. Don’t let the “hear” become something that goes in one ear and out the other. Allow it to be something that draws our attention and our intention and propels us to hang on every word that God has for us and to purpose in our hearts to do it. Even if it’s just one thing, one area that we want to tweak or we want to try, cling on to that one and follow through with that faithfully. Let us be faithful in our calling to trust God for the results and the hearts of the children that he’s entrusted with us. And the amazing thing is that it is going to have ripple effects for generations to come. Let’s pray.

Ezekiel 36:26 says,

“And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.”

And, Lord, we need your Spirit to help us in every facet of our lives. We need your energy to take the next breath, let alone to intentionally train our children to be disciples of Christ. So, as we sit and we consider this truth, stir our hearts up to think of how to disciple the heads, the hearts, and the hands of our children, to follow you with our whole being. Encourage and stir us up. I’m thinking of every aunt, every uncle, grandmom, grandpop, every teacher, every mentor, anyone who’s making disciples in this room, making disciples of the next generation, Lord.

And I also lift up any parents who, this might be stirring up feelings of perhaps regret or lamenting past decisions. Lord, help us to cling to the fact that you are the God who, like in the book of Joel, you’re the God who can restore the years that the locust has destroyed. You love making ugly things into beautiful things. You love taking our weaknesses and the things that we’re most embarrassed and ashamed about. You love taking those things and using them for your glory in ways that we never could imagine. So, even if we never get to see the fruit of the work that they we’re called to do, empower us to be faithful to our calling today. And thank you, Lord, for equipping us with all things that we need to carry that out. In Jesus’s name I pray. Amen.