Category: Deuteronomy (page 1 of 4)

Appropriate Authority

(This is part four of last Sunday’s sermon at Central, “Parenting: So, You’ve Ruined Your Kids…” I started posting these in order on Monday and I’ll finish it up in this space tomorrow. This is one sermon out of our current six-weeks “Family Matters” series.)

I’ve heard some parenting experts say if your child is throwing a tantrum, don’t punish her. Don’t discipline him. The child is misbehaving because he doesn’t feel heard or understood. If the child knows she’s heard and understood, she’ll stop screaming and throwing things. So if your child is pitching a fit in the grocery store because you won’t buy him a cupcake, you’re supposed to get down on his level, look him in the eye, hold his hand, and repeat over and over to him, “You want a cupcake. You want a cupcake. You want a cupcake.”

Now, I’m not a parenting expert. But it seems to me the kind of behavior you tolerate when they’re young continues to grow, maybe into something enormous, so twelve years later you’re holding your child’s hand, looking him in the eyes, and gently repeating, “You just robbed  a liquor store. You just robbed a liquor store. You just robbed a liquor store.”

As the parents, you have God-given authority over your children. God is very clear in the parenting passage in Deuteronomy 6: “These commands I give you? Yeah, impress them on your children. Train up your child in the way he should go.”

“Bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” ~Ephesians 6:4

Appropriate authority is understanding that the child’s moral and spiritual formation is the parents’ responsibility. It’s on you. But authority is not power. Don’t confuse the two. Ephesians 6:4 also says, “Fathers, do not exasperate your children.” Authority is not power.

Let’s say there’s a guy where you work in a different department from you and at a lower rank than you, but he barges into your office and says you must begin work on a certain project. You might say to him, “You don’t have the authority to tell me what to do.” You don’t mean that words cannot come out of his mouth, that he’s incapable of talking to you and speaking instructions. You mean he doesn’t have the right or the responsibility to direct you. Now, if he points a loaded gun in your face and says, “Do this project or I’ll shoot you,” you will do what he says, but that doesn’t mean he has the authority. He just has the raw power to force your compliance. That’s not what authority is. Authority in the Bible is not about power, it’s about responsibility and right.

Jesus says his authority is proven by the fact that he lays down his life for us. Your authority as a parent is not in that you’re bigger than your child, or older, or stronger, or in your title of Mom or Dad. It’s in your sacrificial love for your children. It’s in your heart for them and your deep desire to see them grow up to bring glory to God.

You have that authority and it should be used appropriately.



Confident Trust

(This is part three of last Sunday’s sermon at Central: “Parenting: So, You’ve Ruined Your Kids…” I posted part one Monday. Part five will be Friday. You get it.)

Confident Trust – We try too hard to protect and even over-protect our children. We try to shelter them. We can’t see their futures, we don’t know what kind of world or school or marriage or health they’re going to have. And we don’t want them to suffer. That’s — I really want to be diplomatic here; I want to be gentle — that’s horse pucky! It’s nonsense!

We are the people of the cross! Jesus promises us we are going to face suffering and trials of every kind. This world is not Disneyland, it’s a boot camp. It’s tough. Our Lord says, “In this world you will have trouble; but take heart, take courage, be of good cheer, I have overcome the world!” (John 16:33)

We are not doing our kids any favors by staying in constant contact with them by texting and calling and messaging with them all day from morning til night. We’re not helping them by setting up shields and safety nets around them so they never experience pain or failure or loss. Sometimes they need to figure out on their own how to get out of a jam. How to solve a problem. Sometimes they need to suffer the consequences of their poor choices. How else will they learn? How else will they grow?

We used to tell our girls we weren’t afraid of them ever being kidnapped because whoever took them would bring them right back. Like in less than an hour. That’s a joke. I’m not talking about throwing our children to the wolves. But this continuous hovering and protecting and sheltering and the 24/7 connection with the phones is doing more harm than good. Our kids aren’t growing up. Talk to any college professor. Talk to an HR guy who interviews job applicants.

We need to display a confident trust that our God is taking care of our kids and we shouldn’t be afraid. We need to instill that confident trust in our kids. God gives us his Spirit. God gives us his promises. The parenting text in Deuteronomy 6 begins with, “You are crossing the Jordan into the new land just as the Lord, the God of your fathers, promised you.” Verse ten says, “When the Lord your God brings you into the land he promised…”

No fear. No worry. No anxiety. Confident trust.



Obey the Lord in Front of Your Community

“Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.” ~Deuteronomy 6:8-9

Your commitment to God is a public matter. After all, what does it mean to write, “The Lord is our God, the Lord alone” on your front door? It’s a constant reminder that your first allegiance is to God. Every time you leave your house and every time you come home, it’s a reminder that your loyalty to the Lord controls all your activities both inside and outside your house. It declares to all your friends who visit you and to all strangers who drive by that the Lord is not just the unseen guest in your house, he is the supreme ruler.

And on the gates. The gates were the community gathering place, where things were bought and sold, where justice was administered, and where reputations were made. Dependence on the Lord was to be declared and practiced in the middle of all that, too.

Love the Lord with your whole person and obey the Lord with your whole life.

I think, as Christians, we are subject to a couple of temptations. We are tempted to treat our relationship with God as primarily a private interior thing or only as an exercise in external performance. It can’t be just one of those things. It must be both. Our love for the Lord and our devotion to him alone is certainly rooted in the heart. But it’s demonstrated in the wholeness of our lives, in a passion to speak about our faith with our families, and to publicly declare our allegiance to the Lord in front of the world. This passage says the very decorations in our homes and the things we wear on our arms and around our necks should testify to our loyalties to God.



Obey the Lord with Your Family

“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 6:7

Your devotion to the Lord is a family matter. Declaring that the Lord is our only God means you talk about him with your family, intentionally and spontaneously. The Lord’s love and grace for us and his mighty acts on our behalf and his plans for us as his people — those are the topics of conversation around the dinner table, on road trips, and when it’s time for bed.

A people who belong to God are required to indoctrinate their kids. I don’t care how that sounds; that’s the right word. We’re commanded to pass it on to our children and we accomplish that by impressing these words on them. This word “impress” means to repeat over and over, to teach by repetition, constantly repeating.

So, talking about the Lord doesn’t just happen at church on Sunday. This is about Monday in the house and Tuesday on the way to school and Wednesday when you wake up and Thursday at the store and Friday while you’re eating a club sandwich and Saturday while you’re in the middle of laundry. Talking to your children about the Lord is not for the high priest or the children’s minister or the new youth minister. This is mom and dad and uncle and aunt and grandma and big sister. This is what you do as a family that’s faithful to God. You establish the priority with your children and your grandchildren. You let them know what the first things are — the important things — by repeating the words over and over, by making talking about the Lord a regular part of your routine.




Obey the Lord as an Individual

“These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts.” ~Deuteronomy 6:6

The Shema in Deuteronomy 6:4-9, this foundational passage that demands we put first things first, details a love for the Lord and an obedience to God that extends to every part of one’s life. Verse five tells us to love the Lord with every bit of who we are. Verse six commands us to obey the Lord first as an individual.

We live in an age where all of us are trained from the cradle to choose for ourselves what’s best for us. By the time we can hold a spoon we’re choosing from 87 different kinds of breakfast cereal. We decide what clothes we’re going to wear and what color our hair is going to be. I decide what college I’m going to attend, what kind of car I’m going to drive, who I’m going to marry, and what church we’re going to join. It’s affirmed to us over and over in our society: I have the decisive say in the formation of my life.

What I need and want and feel is what controls and shapes my life.

My needs are non-negotiable. My needs are essential to my identity. My need for fulfillment, for expression, for respect, for my rights, my need to get my own way — those can become my center and my reason for being.

My wants are compelling. The goods and services I demand, more things to possess, more situations to control, more stuff and more power — that can become my motivation and my goals.

My feelings are paramount. Our culture tells me more and more that what I feel is actually who I am. Any thing or person who can give me joy or excitement or happiness validates me as a human being. So I require more vacations, more technology gadgets, more hobbies, and more entertainment so I never get bored or upset or discontent. If I’m not careful, my feelings can become the truth of who I am.

Obedience to God has to be at the core center of my life. The Lord and his Word, his commands, his ways — have to be the authoritative center of your life or things won’t go well. We’ll sink into a swamp of well-meaning men and women who are stuck in our needs and wants and feelings.

We obey the Lord’s commandments first because they reside deep in our hearts. His commands are at the core of who we are and what we do. When we put first things first, all that other stuff takes care of itself.



First Things First

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 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. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.” ~Deuteronomy 6:4-9

This passage is called the Shema. That’s the Hebrew word for “hear,” the first word in these famous ancient words. For more than four-thousand years the Israelites and Jews have recited these words out loud at least twice a day. Orthodox Jews today recite this passage out loud during their morning and evening prayers. These words are vitally important in both Jewish and Christian history, they’re so foundational for our faith.

Who is the God of Israel? Who is our God? Who are we loyal to? How many gods are we going to have?

“The Lord is our God, the Lord alone.”

This is truly first things first. Before we cross the Jordan River, before we settle in the new land, before we become lights to these people and God’s image-bearers in the world, before we do anything… are we going to be devoted to the Lord? Will we be faithful to the Lord exclusively, or are we going to be seduced by the pagan gods of this new country?

By reciting this statement day after day, year after year, century after century, God’s people declare their complete and unqualified devotion to the Lord. This is not just a monotheistic confession. It’s not “This God is one God.” It’s “This God is our one and only God! We will not serve any other God!” This is a foundational pledge of allegiance. This is an affirmation of a dead-serious commitment. This statement is all about who we are and to whom we belong. First things first.

In order to consider the depth of what’s being confessed, I want to break this passage down into four parts this week.  First, today, you love the Lord with your whole person.

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

That’s interesting, isn’t it? Can you command somebody to love? Isn’t love a mysterious feeling that just appears and sometimes disappears? Isn’t love just an emotion and it’s either here or it’s not? No, not according to Scripture. The Bible teaches that love is an act of the will. Love is more about intentional action than accidental feelings. Each one of us decides whether to love or not. In the ancient Hebrew language, the word for “heart” here actually means your heart and your mind; this is your entire inner being. This is where you feel and think. It’s both.

The literal word for “soul” here is “throat” or “gullet.” It means your appetites, your desires, who you are as a person who does things and interacts with the world and other people.

And then “strength.” This Hebrew word is translated in the Greek Old Testament as “dynamis.” That means “power.” Dynamite, right? Hebrew scholars say this is about any power you have to accomplish something — maybe “resources” would be a better word. Physical strength, yes; but also economic or social strength, maybe even the things you own like tools or livestock or your house.

The point is: you love the Lord your God with your whole person, without reservation. No loopholes. A covenant commitment to the Lord that’s rooted in your heart, but extends to every level of your being. Jesus quotes this verse and says this is the most important thing. This is primary, the first thing! Love the Lord with your whole person.



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