"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" (Deuteronomy 6:6- 7).
Rolling down a window and placing orders for six value-pack meals with crinkle fries and Dr. Peppers hardly seems a fulfillment of the Old Testament instruction to talk about the things of God with our children. Yet, it can be. Every day, parents are faced with opportunities to teach Biblical truths.
Impress them on your children, God says. Surely this means to engrave His words deeply in their hearts, to etch them in their very souls. So start early, and don't stop. In 2 Timothy 3:15, Paul reminds Timothy that he has known the Scriptures from infancy. Let a children's Bible be your first gift to your baby. Read aloud the timeless stories, even before he or she understands the meaning. Include "Jesus Loves Me" in your repertoire of lullabies.
As your child grows, consider incorporating basic memory verses into your family nights. Each summer, our family has what we call "Super Summer Family Memory Nights." We assign memory verses, which are rewarded with small prizes. The verses build on each other, and by summer's end, everyone knows nine new Scripture verses!
Teaching God's words and precepts can be as simple as leaving your child an encouraging Scripture on the bathroom mirror with dry-erase marker, or as tender as placing a verse that addresses his or her specific needs on a pillow.
Begin each morning with a statement of praise: "Look at the beautiful day God made." From the time my four girls were infants, I carried them downstairs in the morning so they could "help" me open the blinds. Waiting for a glimpse of the outdoors, I would say, "What kind of day did God make for mommy's girls?" The answer was always either, "A sunny play day" or, "A cozy cloudy day." They learned that both days had their own kind of fun, and that both were gifts from the Father.
Adopt this habit from Psalm 5:3: "In the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation." I put my hand on each child and pray aloud for him or her as we make the rounds from school to school. I especially ask God to give them the wisdom to discern His way from the world's way.
God at the center
At the heart of Deuteronomy 6 is placing God at the center of your home. Include Him in your daily errands, and invite Him to each family gathering. Voice aloud your thanks for a good parking place in the rain, strong legs to walk on, or the way He provided for a need.
Time spent riding in a car can afford great opportunities to talk about the things of God. Point out the beauty of creation as you drive: the frosty blankets of grass, the first tulips pushing up through the mud, the autumn foliage bursting with color.
When you pass an ethnic restaurant, pray aloud for missionaries and the unsaved in that culture. When you hear a police, fire or ambulance siren, pray for the workers and those involved in the accident or crime. When you pass a school, pray for the teachers who teach there and the children who attend. And when hurrying through the drive-through, be sure to bless those kids meal sacks, too.
Model godly behavior
Model godly behavior for your child at his or her sports events. Encourage your child to play as though playing for God, and to pray for coaches and teammates. Ultimately the goal is for your child to see God in action in every facet of life — and to live for Him.
Use meal times to encourage spiritual discussions. Choose a child-friendly devotional for dinner devotions a few times per week. As your children grow, you might read aloud a chapter of Psalms or Proverbs that correspond with that date. The range of emotions in the Psalms reminds us that God is open to hearing about and working in everything we might feel. The time-tested wisdom of Proverbs is always relevant to our daily lives.
Bedtime is a great time for hearing your child's heart and their questions and ideas about God. Listen well. Pray with them. As you tuck them in and turn out the light, remind them of the certainty of God's presence, even when you are not with them.
Everybody loves a hero, don't they? Heroes are sure-footed in scary, slippery territory. They rescue the downtrodden and stand strong for principles they believe in. And Bible heroes are some of the best! Daniel, Abraham, Moses, Samuel, David, Elijah. But great heroes aren't born, they're made.
As much as we'd like for our children to "do as we say and not as we do," it just doesn't work that way. We agree that strong spiritual training and going to church are good things to do. But we're tired, stressed out, worn down, and wrung through. So we sleep in or catch up on work. We make excuses for not getting together to fellowship with God's people, the Church.
And yes, our kids notice. A critical piece of the Deuteronomy 6 puzzle involves modeling the behaviors we want our children to imitate. They need to see us in God's Word, in His house and about His business.
Many of our favorite Bible heroes had mothers and fathers who apparently followed the principles from Deuteronomy 6:
- Samuel's precious mother begged God for a child, crying out in her distress until the temple priest thought she was drunk! When God honored her prayer, she dedicated her son to the Lord's service.
- In the midst of a conquering enemy's decree to kill all Jewish baby boys, Moses' mother, Jochabed, coated a tiny basket with pitch and set her son afloat in the Nile River. God rewarded her by letting an Egyptian princess pay her for nursing her own son! Later, of course, Moses led God's people out of bondage.
- Mary and Joseph took 12-year-old Jesus to Jerusalem for the Passover, and even though Jesus ended up being the one teaching in the synagogue, this honoring of God's ordained feasts was clearly habitual for their family.
So do not skip out on spiritual discipline in your own family. Set your alarm on Sunday morning. Select some upbeat Christian music to prepare your hearts for worship. Don't just attend church; get involved. Choose appropriate ways that you can serve. Throughout the week, let your children see you with your Bible.
Help others as a family. Adopt a senior citizen at a local nursing home. Visit them once a month to play board games, talk to them about their childhood or bring them their favorite cookies. Choose an elderly couple's home in your neighborhood and ask if you can help with yard work or run errands for them. Adopt a soldier or political leader to pray for. Host visiting missionaries in your home.
Pray for your children's specific current needs and for their futures: that they will accept Christ as their Savior; that God will present them with a mate who has a godly legacy — one who is, as I tell my girls, "crazy about them and crazy about Jesus."
Guide them in praying for others and for themselves. Pray that God would present them with a need that they can help with, that He would make clear how their gifts and abilities could best serve Him.
Training a child in God's way is no small task. It is an awesome, humbling responsibility. But God promises that His Word does not return to us void. It won't to our children either. So take advantage of the opportunities everyday to impress God's truth on some very teachable hearts — yours included.