We pass on to our kids the things we’re passionate about. It’s no accident or surprise that kids really love a lot of thing their parents love. You ask a hunter why he loves hunting and he’ll probably say, “It just runs in our family. My dad took me hunting, my granddad took him hunting, and I take my boy hunting. We’re just a hunting family.”
Why do you like Classic Rock? Why do you listen to Led Zeppelin and the Eagles and Van Halen? “My dad loved Classic Rock. That’s all we listened to growing up. He took me to my first Aerosmith concert when I was thirteen. We sang Tom Petty songs in the car all the time. It just runs in our family.”
Carrie-Anne and I are very passionate about Texas. We love Texas, we love being Texans. We want to talk to like Texans and think like Texans and act like Texans and eat like Texans. And our kids are the exact same way. Why? Because we took them to the Alamo and bought them all Davy Crockett coonskin caps when they were little. We took their pictures in huge fields of Bluebonnets every spring. We celebrate Texas Independence Day in our house every year. Carrie-Anne taught the girls how to make guacamole and how to make chili — no beans! And we only put mustard on our hamburgers — not ketchup; and never mayonnaise! When Valerie and Carley cross the Texas state line going to or coming from college, they call us and sing the Texas state song over the phone. Why? Because we did that together on all our vacations and road trips. It runs in the family.
Being Texas Rangers fans runs in our family. My dad took me to Rangers games at the old Arlington Stadium and Carrie-Anne’s parents took her. And we got our kids to the Ballpark as fast as we could. Sure, early on, they only went so they could get pink cotton candy and a Lemon Chill. But we kept going. Dozens and dozens and dozens of hot, sweaty, miserable, summer nights. But today our girls know who Nolan Ryan is and they know Johnny Oates and Rusty Greer and Adrian Beltre and they know Kenny Rogers’ perfect game and they know Nellie Cruz misplayed that ball in right field. Our kids are Rangers fans. Why? You can ask them. It runs in the family.
We pass on our passions. We transmit our treasures.
We all have dreams for our kids. We have goals we want them to achieve. We buy the school supplies at Office Max because we know our boy is going to be a rocket scientist. We buy the special ruler so he can be a rocket scientist. Of course, he uses the ruler to fling spitwads across the room when the teacher’s not looking. We try so hard with our kids. We want so much for them.
But when it comes to our faith and Christianity and our single-minded devotion to the Lord, some of us back off with our kids. We don’t want to push it. You want them to chart their own course and make their own decisions. You want them to have their own faith. You don’t want to force anything on them.
Well, let me tell you something: You’re the only one who doesn’t want to push something on your kids!
Everybody’s teaching your kids and they all have an agenda. The entertainment they consume, the iPhones they use, the designers of the games they play, the textbooks they read, the advertisements they see, the sports they play, and the cultural air they breathe — everybody’s pushing their agenda and their worldview onto your children and grandchildren. You’re the only one who’s not.
What you want — and it takes effort and hard work and commitment — is somebody to ask your kids, “Are you a Christian?” And they answer, “Yeah, of course. It runs in my family.”
“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.
“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.
“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.