This has been an amazing week in the life of our church. I have had numerous reports of collisions with our culture this week. We have been making a mark on people’s lives. We have been running into people on purpose with purpose. Our eyes have been open to some needs around us that maybe a week ago we would have overlooked or passed by.
We were able to pay an electric bill for a community family this week to keep their heat and lights on. God used several of you to provide a twin bed, mattress and bedding for a single dad. One of our members donated a dryer to a family in need. On Monday one of our members ran into a homeless person who asked where the nearest soup kitchen was. Our member took the man to lunch and spent an hour talking with him. One of our church families felt led to buy a new furnace for their neighbors. Another member met a homeless family at Wal-mart and put them up in a motel for a night. One of our moms told me how she plans to make an intentional impact on her children. Store credit one of our members couldn’t use was given to the person in line behind them. Some of you provided items for a family who home burned down. Someone told me this week what a great impact it made on their children that people from this church provided scholarships for their kids to attend church camp last summer. One of our members led the way for funeral expenses to be paid for to assist a family who didn’t have the resources. And that isn’t all of the stories I could share. If you involved in one of the stories I shared please fill out an impact card in the west lobby and hang it on the cross there. We want to keep track of the ways God will use us to change people’s circumstances and re-shape the culture.
One young lady, Kenzie Franson, was used of God to make an impact and I have invited her to tell you about what she did. Come on up, Kenzie. (Interview) How cool to see our children leading us!
This morning I want to look with you at ways we can make an intentional impact on the next generation.
Deuteronomy 6:1-121 These are the commands, decrees and laws the LORD your God directed me to teach you to observe in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess, 2 so that you, your children and their children after them may fear the LORD your God as long as you live by keeping all his decrees and commands that I give you, and so that you may enjoy long life. 3 Hear, O Israel, and be careful to obey so that it may go well with you and that you may increase greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, just as the LORD, the God of your fathers, promised you. 4 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. 10 When the LORD your God brings you into the land he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to give you–a land with large, flourishing cities you did not build, 11 houses filled with all kinds of good things you did not provide, wells you did not dig, and vineyards and olive groves you did not plant–then when you eat and are satisfied, 12 be careful that you do not forget the LORD, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.
- Our Personal Walk with Christ Makes an Impact
Verses 1 and 2 speak about commands of God that the Israelites are to follow , so that (vs 2) their children and grandchildren will also be inclined to make the same choices.
Perhaps an old Steve Green song says it best:
We’re pilgrims on the journey
Of the narrow road
And those who’ve gone before us line the way
Cheering on the faithful, encouraging the weary
Their lives a stirring testament to God’s sustaining grace
Surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses
Let us run the race not only for the prize
But as those who’ve gone before us
Let us leave to those behind us
The heritage of faithfulness passed on through godly lives
Oh may all who come behind us find us faithful
May the fire of our devotion light their way
May the footprints that we leave
Lead them to believe
And the lives we live inspire them to obey
Oh may all who come behind us find us faithful
After all our hopes and dreams have come and gone
And our children sift through all we’ve left behind
May the clues that they discover and the memories they uncover
Become the light that leads them to the road we each must find
Oh may all who come behind us find us faithful
Obviously children grow up and make their own choices. Your obedience to Christ is no guarantee your children and grandchild will make the same choice, but it has the power to pull them in that direction. Disobedience to Christ, conversely has the power to push them away. What we model matters.
Verse 2 speaks about enjoying long life. It is in the context not of the exact number of years, but God was talking about being able to be established in the Promised Land. He had given them new land, a place to work and a place to enjoy. If they were going to occupy that place and enjoy that place and experience blessing for a long time in that place, they needed to obey Him. Verse 3 talks about increasing and things going well in their lives as a result of their obedience to God.
Parents and Grandparents, don’t we want that for our kids? Don’t we want to see our kids established in life? Don’t we want them to enjoy it? Don’t we want them to see blessing and increase? How we choose to live in relationship with God models what that looks like.
I’m not suggesting that obedience to God means Christians live wealthy and trouble free lives, but there is a sense of wellness, energy, vitality, strength, peace, joy, and contentment, and there is God-given favor that rests on an obedient Christian that people who are disconnected from God’s work in their lives do not experience. I see it a lot with people who are up and down in their Christian walk. They will have six months of peace and calm and joy and then quit coming to church for four months. Their lives will spin out of control, their relationships will be full of drama, and they will sink into a depressed and withdrawn state. Once they have had enough of that, they reconnect with the presence of God and things slowly start to turn around until the time they disconnect again and wonder why things are so up and down for them.
Obedience isn’t something that is on again/off again. It is consistent. It is a faithful pursuit. I didn’t say it is a perfect pursuit, but our kids and the generation watching us need to see a committed, steady pursuit of the things of God. This generation is more skeptical than any previous generation. They don’t just take our word for it because we are adults. They want to see it walked out in our lives. I read this week that only 39% of teens report that they want to be like their parents. (Charis Conn, Ed., What Counts: The Complete Harper’s Index) Why is that? Are we giving them a reason to want to walk in our footsteps?
Verse 5 is really the pinnacle of all of the commands of Scripture. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. Does that characterize your walk with Christ? Are you making every effort to press into your relationship with God with all of your being? Does your passion for Christ make the kids or children you have a relationship with want to be a better Christian?
If attending church isn’t a priority for us, why would we think it should be someday for our children? If reading the Bible and relying on it for life’s answers isn’t modeled in front of our children, why would we expect them to turn to the Word of God when they are in crises? If tithing and giving offerings and being generous with people in need isn’t a priority in our lives, what do our children learn about being good friends and neighbors to others? If we aren’t engaged in the worship of God, what does our lack of participation say to younger ones who are watching? Do our kids know how to pray because we have taught them how to call on God? Do they witness us going to the Lord in prayer to pray for others or to seek guidance for our own lives and families?
Dads and Moms, Grandparents, Aunts and Uncles, those who work with children, what you model matters. Your commitment to the Lord can inspire the next generation to follow.
- Our Personal Time Makes an Impact. Listen again to verses 6 and 7: “These
commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. 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.”
It’s time for some old fashioned conversations. Not a quick text. Not a convenient press of a “like” button on FB. Not a hurried, “How was your day?” and “Do you have any homework?” It’s time for some focused, intentional conversations. It’s time for spiritual conversations where we impress some things on our children.
Do our kids know the Ten Commandments and the meaning behind them? Are we teaching our kids to value all people and to value life? Are we impressing on our children the meaning of our words and actions? Do we talk about what it means to be a Christian family or to serve the Lord or to be people of impact? Do our children know the key themes in Scripture? Are we teaching them to make good decisions based on the principles in God’s Word?
When we read verses 6 and 7 we see there was a focus on constant conversation. It was an ongoing dialogue with parents and their children. Spiritual matters were part of the fabric of the family’s dynamic. Whether they were coming or going, whether it was in the morning or the evening, the family was dialoguing about the commands of Scripture and the relationship God wanted to have with His people.
The reason I didn’t label point number two as “Our Words Make an Impact” is because real conversation takes time. It has to happen on purpose. Who are you taking time to talk with about things that really matter? Even if you don’t have children living at home, you can purpose to take time for a young person in this generation. There is an opportunity this week in our bulletin for people to take one hour a week and read to children at the library. How could that one hour turn into a relationship with great impact? What conversations could flow from that kind of intentional investment in the life of a young person?
Are we paying attention to the clock with the raising up of this next generation? Perhaps a secular song from the 1970’s says it best. Do you remember the words to “The Cats and the Cradle?”
My child arrived just the other day
He came to the world in the usual way
But there were planes to catch and bills to pay
He learned to walk while I was away
And he was talkin’ ‘fore I knew it, and as he grew
He’d say “I’m gonna be like you, Dad
You know I’m gonna be like you”
My son turned ten just the other day
He said, “Thanks for the ball, Dad, come on let’s play
can you teach me to throw”, I said “Not today
I got a lot to do”, he said, “That’s ok
And he walked away but his smile never dimmed
And said, “I’m gonna be like him, yeah
You know I’m gonna be like him”
Well, he came from college just the other day
So much like a man I just had to say
“Son, I’m proud of you, can you sit for a while”
He shook his head and said with a smile
“What I’d really like, Dad, is to borrow the car keys
See you later, can I have them please”
I’ve long since retired, my son’s moved away
I called him up just the other day
I said, “I’d like to see you if you don’t mind”
He said, “I’d love to, Dad, if I can find the time
You see my new job’s a hassle and kids have the flu
But it’s sure nice talking to you, Dad
It’s been sure nice talking to you”
And as I hung up the phone it occurred to me he’d grown up just like me
My boy was just like me
Yes, what we model matters. The way we spend our time matters. Are we taking the time to actually impact the younger generation or are they growing up without role models and without necessary, life preparing conversations? Are our kids falling into temptation and getting into trouble because we haven’t prepared them to face life’s challenges?
Time is something we can’t save. We either invest it or we lose it. It is the greatest resource we have. Young people need mentors. They need someone who will invest time in them. I challenge all of us to look for ways, whether we have children living at home or not, to spend time with the children of this generation. You can volunteer at the elementary schools. You can coach a sports team. You can be a camp counselor. You can tutor someone. You can be an after school caregiver in your home for a child until their parents get home. You can pick a child up and bring them to church. Even car conversations can be impactful! You could take a child in need shopping and just spoil them for a few hours. You could volunteer in our after school program here at church! You could work in our children and youth ministries.
In order for kids to hear and receive our words they must receive our time.How many hours this past week did you spend in conversation with someone younger than you in an effort to influence them in a positive way? What if during this “Year of Impact” TVCOG could make the claim that every member of our church was engaged in some way in either our children’s or youth ministries? How transforming would that be? Even if you couldn’t be hands on, if you couldn’t talk to one of our students online, if you couldn’t be engaged in helping teach a class or be a counselor on a trip, could you give some time to pray for our young people? Could you give time to prepare a special treat for kids in our After School program? Whether here or church or in your neighborhood or family, each one of us needs to make a personal commitment to spend time influencing the next generation.
- Finally, I see in this passage that Our Personal Testimony Makes an Impact.
Perhaps one characteristic of the Christian life that is often overlooked is the discipline of thanksgiving and how that can point people to God as our Source. Revisit verses 10-12: 10 When the LORD your God brings you into the land he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to give you–a land with large, flourishing cities you did not build, 11 houses filled with all kinds of good things you did not provide, wells you did not dig, and vineyards and olive groves you did not plant–then when you eat and are satisfied, 12 be careful that you do not forget the LORD, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.
God was reminding them that He took them out of a bad place and put them in a place filled with opportunity and blessing. Making sure your children know that “Every good and perfect gift they possess” comes from God above is a way to impact them. Helping them realize if they are able to develop a skill it is because God has helped them. If they are able to be gainfully employed it is because God has opened the door. Pointing them to the realization that the things they acquire and achieve are because God has made it possible. Developing the attitude and understanding that God owns it all, and He is the One who gives to us in order that we can be a blessing and receive a blessing is important in helping this next generation live well. Each one of us in this room has more than we ever deserved, and remembering the Lord and His provision go a long way to helping us keep the right priorities in life.
I am not sure what grade my kids would give me as a mom. I would have to give myself an A+ in “taxi driver”. I think I do that one pretty well. One other area that I think I may score high in is this idea of acknowledging God. Whether it is a more expensive Christmas gift that we were able to get for them, a special trip we have been able to take or even a fancy meal out, I have often reminded them that what they are experiencing is the blessing of God. What could inspire young people more to follow God than to know He is the One who has the ability to bless their life? You see, when you forget to acknowledge God, you cut off your Source.
In addition to being thankful and constantly acknowledging God, telling the stories of how God has delivered us, met us, supplied for us, and seen us through is so crucial. The kids in our lives need to hear our God-stories. If you are in Christ, do your kids know how and when you were saved? Have you told them of the times He has answered prayer? Have you shared with them how your life was before you met Christ so that they can see the true impact Christ has made; how He has changed you?
Your personal walk, your personal time, and your personal testimony have power. God wants you to use it to collide with the culture and impact this generation who is gaining identity, values, and spiritual insight from your life and mine.