PARENTING LIKE A BOSS
The Sistine Chapel is located in Vatican City, Italy. More precisely, it is in the Apostolic palace, the official residence of the pope. In 1508, Pope Julius 2 commissioned Michelangelo to paint the entire ceiling of this most honored place. The result is one of the greatest demonstrations of Renaissance art. In the center of the chapel, he painted nine scenes from the book of Genesis depicting various aspects of creation, the fall, and the flood. The centerpiece, is that iconic image of God, surrounded by angels, reaching out an extended hand, touching the hand of the first man, Adam. The picture depicts the image of God being passed into the heart of man.
For his work, Michelangelo was paid the equivalent of $600,000–and due to the prominence of the work, he became the most well-known and celebrated painter of his day. If you are an art buff, you might also know that Michelangelo famously carved the sculpture of David, and the Pieta, and in his later years became a teenage mutant ninja turtle.
If you were to travel to Rome and look very carefully at the ceiling some 40 feet above your head, and you were to look at all 343 figures above, you might notice the carefully hidden, covered up remnants of where they attached the scaffolds to paint. These holes were filled with some form of plaster and then painted over, but they are still visible. It is a reminder that Michelangelo and his crew spent five years on hanging scaffolds, working above their heads on what would be his masterpiece.
As the story goes, three of the painters who were part of his crew were asked to describe their role in this project. The first answered, “I am here to make a living one day at a time.” The second replied, “I am here to provide for my family.” The third answered, “I am helping Michelangelo paint the Sistine Chapel”–same work, different perspective.
Let me compare this to how we view parenting. Some, like the first man, see parenting as nothing more than a job–”I am just getting by one day at a time.” You look forward to the day when they will be out of the house. Some, like the second man, see the high value in the family–circle the wagons, create a loving and caring environment which, if not careful, can become an end in itself. Others recognize what parenting truly is—”I am helping God paint a masterpiece. One stroke at a time, one day at a time–I am working alongside God Himself to instruct, train and prepare this child for life in the world.”
We want the very best for our kids, so we put them in sports, hoping they will be the next Kobe or Patrick Mahomes. We push them academically so they will get into a good college. We run them around town to music lessons, theater performances, Boy Scouts, and a host of other extracurriculars to make them more well-rounded. We manage and guard their friendships, their devices, and 1,000 other aspects of their lives. But in the end, our primary goal as parents is to see those little hearts love Jesus Christ. To see them choose to follow God on their own and live independently as sons and daughters of the King.
Parents, you have been commissioned by God to steward those souls allotted to your care into a loving relationship with Him. This is an honorable endeavor, yet it is weighty and difficult. Parenting takes no prisoners and parenting humbles everybody. Even still, we don’t like when people correct our parenting. We don’t really want people looking under the hood into our families.
Is that true of you? Do you respond defensively when someone asks about your parenting? Why is that? Because every parent is doing their best already. You shield them from sugar, you fill them with hormone-free, organic goodness. You hover over their sleepovers, their friend groups, their devices. You would lay down your life, give your last drop of blood for your kids.
And so, we find it difficult to be told we aren’t doing enough or we aren’t doing it well enough. We wall off, thinking we got this covered. But no parent is perfect. No method is perfect. No one has a corner on parenting. We need the Word of God to inform our parenting. We need to be open to hearing from God Himself on the priorities of parenting, and we need to be humble enough to listen with open hearts, and willing to change as we better understand God’s plan for our families.
This morning, we begin a two-week series titled, Building Strong Families. This morning, we will be in Deuteronomy 6, and next week, Robert Dodson, will conclude our series in Ephesians 6. I want to challenge your parenting today–to get into your kitchen and turn the heat up just a little bit. Fair warning. It is my prayer as we evaluate our parenting, that God would reveal areas of weakness and sin, and that He would do His work on our hearts.
If you would, please, open your Bible to Deuteronomy 6. These familiar verses are directed not only to parents, but to any person who disciples, leads, or seeks to influence the next generation–could be a niece or nephew, a sibling, a friend, a youth ministry staff person or a children’s worker, could be someone you babysit. The instruction is simple and basic and hits at the very heart of our faith.
Let me read these familiar verses, starting in verse 4. “’Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! 5You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. 7You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. 8You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. 9You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates’” (Deuteronomy 6:4-9).
I would like to draw four keys to parenting from these verses.
1. Listen carefully
2. View God rightly
3. Love God entirely
4. Train them deliberately
These four keys are the first step to parenting like a boss.
1. Listen CAREFULLY
The people of Israel have wandered in the wilderness for 40 years and are now standing on the edge of the Promised Land. God has instructed Moses to give the Law once again to His people. That is what Deuteronomy is–deutero means second and nomos means law, deutero nomos or the second law. And in chapter 5, we see a recounting of the Ten Commandments, the ten words, the same commands given on Sinai–inscribed in stone so that they cannot be changed or forgotten.
And now in chapter 6, the entire nation has gathered–and Moses comes in verse 4 saying, “Hear, O Israel!” From the youngest to the oldest, from the highest to the lowest–husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, all have gathered together to hear a word from God, and Moses steps forward to give them this singular charge. It is a declaration, an all-inclusive call to every man and woman that calls themself a child of God. It is as if he is saying, “I have but one thing to tell you. One great truth that you need to know. One singular reality by which you must live.” It is his effort to gain their attention, to get them focused in.
At 8:10 am on Saturday, January 13, 2018, every resident on the island of Oahu received the following text message. “Ballistic missile threat. Inbound to Hawaii. Seek immediate shelter, this is not a drill.” Tensions were high between the Trump White house and North Korea and calculations had shown that a nuclear warhead could cross the Pacific in about 30 minutes. Hawaii is no stranger to surprise attacks, aka Pearl Harbor, and so the people of Hawaii righty responded with terror. They panicked. They called loved ones to say goodbye. They cried and they waited.
A friend of mine who lives in Hawaii told me it was pandemonium. People emptied out of stores and hotels, ran into the streets, and even drove to the certain highways where there were tunnels cut through the mountains, seeking some protection from the fallout. My friend was out running errands, too far from home to get there in time–he called his wife, instructing her to take the kids and get into the bathtub, and he told her goodbye.
Thirty-eight minutes later, it was announced that the text was an error. One thing is certain–in that moment, the people of Oahu were focused on one thing. Their eyes were fixed on their current reality. So it is with this text–God has something to say. He wants your full attention, your undivided focus. This topic is that important–it is that central that he calls for all to listen. Do I have your attention? Are you focused in? Good.
2. VIEW God rightly
Look again at verse 4, Moses adds, “The Lord is our God, the Lord is one!” In Hebrew, this is called the Shema. It means to listen or to hear–and this is the most important ritual prayer in the life of the Jews, being repeated three times every day. Why is it so important? Because in one brief sentence, in an economy of words, there is a declaration of the nature and character of God.
His name is YHWH. He is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob–the covenant keeping God of the nation of Israel. He is not wood or stone as the manmade idols of the other nations. He is the sovereign Commander of the armies of Heaven, who sits on the Great White Throne and all of creation obeys His command. He is the exalted King who reigns over the realm of men. He is the absolute and infinite One, who alone is to be worshipped. This is the declaration made by every Jew–YHWH is the One true God.
Notice the word “our”. I love that word. “The Lord is our God.” Have you heard better news than this? Can you think of anything better than to know that this God is our God? The eternal, all-powerful, omniscient, sovereign, Creator of all things–He is our God. He is a personal God who has condescended to us, revealed Himself, and granted us relationship with Him. And He is not far off. He is not disinterested. He is our God.
Fast forward a few generations to 1 Samuel 5, the ark of the covenant was taken by the Philistines and put into the temple of Dagon, the fish god. The next morning, Dagon had fallen on his face before the ark of the Lord. They propped him up and put him back in his place. The next morning, he was on the ground again. This time his head and his hands were cut off. He does not share His glory with another. “For all the gods of the peoples are idols, but the Lord made the heavens. 6Splendor and majesty are before Him, strength and beauty are in His sanctuary” (Psalm 96:5). This is our God.
The psalmist looks up from his plight in Psalm 121–he looks to the mountains around him and says, “Where shall my help come from? 2My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth” (Psalm 121:1,2). This is our God.
The apostle Paul echoes this in Romans 8 saying, “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? 32He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:31,32). This is our God.
And this is where parenting starts–a high view of God, a right view of God, a recognition that we are under His mighty hand, that His ways are right, that His instructions and commands are to be followed. In Deuteronomy 5 and 6, God is described as powerful and glorious. He is the promise keeping God who is rich in lovingkindness. He is the Deliverer, Rescuer, and Savior of His people. He is worthy of worship and sits over all as the righteous Judge.
Moses is standing before the people, and setting the priority and direction of their lives, their families and their nation as they move into the Promised Land, and he begins by establishing a high view of God. Listen parents, you will never be able to train them to be like God, to submit to God’s rule, and to follow God’s ways unless you know who God is. And that leads us to . . .
3. Love God ENTIRELY
And now we are into the heart of the matter. Verse 5, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” This is the great and foremost command of the Law, the center of all religion, and is repeated in all three synoptic gospels by Jesus Himself. And in the fourth gospel, Jesus pushes Peter at the end of John 21, asking him three times, “Do you love Me?”
This is the question–because you can show up to church every Sunday, you can go to CGs, you can even volunteer to serve, you can have all the routine down. You can tell your kids they need to love God and obey Him–but all this is secondary to you and to your heart. To the men in this room–do you love Jesus most? More than your wife, more than your job, more than your hobby? Do you love Him more than the hidden lust and secret desires of your heart?
To the women in the room, do you love Jesus most? More than your husband, more than your children, more than your picture of a perfect life? Is He your all, your sufficiency, do you find your contentment and identity in Christ over and above your identity as a mom? And now we get to the root issue. You can’t parent your children or lead that small group or disciple that young person if Christ is not all to you–because all you are teaching is hypocrisy.
Jesus said in Matthew 15:8 to 9, “ ‘This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far away from Me. 9But in vain do they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.’ ” You can hide who you really are from your boss, you can hide it from the other moms, you can even hide it from your small group leader at church–but you cannot hide it from God. He knows your heart. And stay with me–you cannot hide if from your children, because they know the real you.
There is much conversation about why so many abandon the Church at age 18, leaving the things of God behind and deconstructing their faith–so much about what is wrong in our churches and what do we need to do to fix that problem. Let me help you here. There is no greater reason that teenagers leave the Church and abandon their faith than the hypocrisy in their own home. You can tell them to follow God’s ways. You can preach obedience until you are blue in the face, but they are watching you–they know the real you.
They are sitting in the backseat listening as you fight. They can hear you yelling at each other in the next room. They know what you watch on TV. They know if your Bible sits on the shelf, only coming out for its weekly trip to church. There is nothing that confuses a child more than the hypocrisy of their own parents. Parents say much more to their kids by their lives than by their words.–Kristen Welch
Oh friend, we must take steps today–for the sake of our children, for the sake of our own souls. This is front and center. This is the crux of it all. Verse 5, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” It flows from the heart and encapsulates the whole being. It holds nothing back. It gives all to Him. Notice the word “all” repeated three times, as if to emphasize, to prioritize. Love is raised to the third power, showing its supremacy, its completeness. There are no competitors, no rivals, no seconds-it is total. It is complete.
There are no rogue desires. No secret sins. No other loves–all are rooted out and thoroughly abandoned. There is only God–He alone is worthy. He demands our complete attention and total worship. This is the testimony that all must have. It is the command that all must follow. And if you want to know why, refer back to point 2. It is because of who He is–the God of Israel who by His own power and because of His lovingkindness rescued His people from slavery in Egypt. He released them from bondage, drew near to them and gave them life.
So it is with us–He has saved us by His own power and because of His lovingkindness. He has rescued us from the slavery of sin and its eternally destructive power, and has drawn near to us, paying the penalty of our sin and making us alive together with Christ, so that we could be Him both now and forever. Hear, O Christian of Faith Bible Church, and listen to the declaration–this is the one true God, and He is to be loved and worshipped and obeyed.
Is there a question in your family about what you love most? If I asked your spouse, what would they say? If I asked your kids, what would they say? The home is the true indicator of where your love truly lies. There are three simple tests to determine where our affections are–your calendar, your bank account, and your mouth. If Christ is first, then he will be on our lips. If Christ is first, it will be reflected in how we spend our time. If Christ is first, it will be reflected in how we spend our money.
Love for Christ cannot be manufactured. It cannot be contrived–for either you love Christ and your family is oriented around Him or it is not. This is the crux of this message and this is the key to parenting. It is not about self-help–ten steps to being a better parent. It is not about the five parenting books you have on your shelf. It is about this one thing, this singular priority. The direction that your family moves in will be dictated by those things that you love and those things that are precious to you.
I went to UCLA for my undergraduate degree and amazingly my girls are now UCLA fans (Haley and I are going to see UCLA basketball this Thursday against Arizona State, who beat the University of Arizona last night with a half court buzzer beater). Certainly, it could be because UCLA has a robust athletics program and has more national championships than its rival. Or maybe because of the quality of academics, a 4.18 GPA to get into UCLA vs. a 3.7 to get into SC. UCLA has produced 25 Nobel prizes vs. the paltry 10 from USC. It could be the campus location–beautiful Westwood vs. dangerous south-central LA. Or the annual cost—$35,000 vs. $85,000. So many things we could look at. We don’t need to mention the NCAA sanctions against USC, stripping them of a national championship for football because they’re a bunch of cheaters.
All those things aside, why do my girls like UCLA? Because I do–because I talk about it and have a very fond affection for it. So is the case with our families. What we love most is evident and will be seen in our homes. If we love entertainment, the TV is on constantly. If we love sports, then Sundays are optional during travel ball. If we overvalue family, then church plays second fiddle. If we parent out of fear, then we never let them out of our sight.
In Revelation 2, Jesus calls it our first love. Have you lost your first love and drifted from nearness to Christ? This is a question for very person in the room. Jesus calls you back this morning. Even in this moment, right now, confess your sin and give your heart back to Him–and He is faithful and righteous to forgive and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. So we have seen–Listen carefully. View God rightly. Love God entirely. And finally . . .
4. Train them DELIBERATELY
Look back at verse 6, “These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart.” Forever and always, the commands of God are to be placed close to the heart–ever to be memorized, meditated on, and lived out, and it is here that we see the command to bring this to the next generation. Look at the first phrase in verse 7, “You shall teach them diligently to your sons.” Here the instruction is given to mom and dad. Here the order of operations is laid out. The burden of responsibility falls to the parents.
Notice, he does not direct this command to the government, or the educational system, or the culture. It is not given to teachers, or coaches, or even youth leaders. The duty and responsibility rests on the shoulders of the parents. This is a weighty task–a lifelong assignment given to every parent, ready or not. But if you look through the Old Testament and the New Testament, you don’t find a whole lot on parenting. The Bible is strangely quiet.
There are some proverbs that give truisms on parenting. There are Ephesians 6 and Colossians 3. There are a smattering of other passages like this one. The instructions are limited. It is like getting a piece of furniture from IKEA and discovering that the manual was not included. There are 172 parts and figuring out what goes where and how it all fits together is left to you.
Parenting is similar–we are not given step-by-step instructions. Instead, we are given principles to employ in the training of our children. And three such principles are found in these verses. Your training should be intentional, natural, and continual. Look back again at the command in verse 7, “You shall teach them diligently to your sons.”
The first thing we see in our training of children is that it is intentional. This word for diligent teaching in the Hebrew was used for sharpening a blade. It is to take a stone and rub it on a dull blade, applying the right amount of pressure, at the perfect angle, moving at the desired speed, one stroke at a time, and all to prepare that blade for its actual task.
This machete was left for me by the lady who sold us our house–kind of scary, as she was in her late 60’s. But then again, she did live by herself. Anyway, it is sharp. No doubt a whetstone or other tool was used with regularity. It has a clean edge on it–no dirt, no rust, it was carefully kept. And now I use it to cut down palm branches in my yard–with one swing and little effort, it slices through the palm frond like a knife through butter.
As a parent, God has called you to be the tool that put you into the life of that child, consistently working to prepare them for their future. Applying the right amount of pressure, at the perfect angle, moving at the desired speed, one stroke at a time, we prepare our children for their actual task. But we often confuse which of these we are.
We are prone to think of ourselves as the blade, cutting a path for our kids–hacking into dangers and keeping them safe. We are out in front leading the way. We don’t let others babysit our kids, we don’t let others influence them, we guard them and hold them oh so tight. The phrases helicopter, snowplow, bubble wrap parenting, etc. But friend, you are not the blade, you are the stone. You are tasked by God to sharpen them, preparing them to cut through the jungle on their own, to discern God’s will in each and every area of their life. To understand and to fight temptation and to live independently for Christ in a lost world.
Your children have been given to you as a stewardship. They are not yours forever. They are not your identify–you are simply a tool in the Master’s hand. This process is intentional. It requires forethought. The diligent teaching of your sons and daughters requires a plan. “Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6).
Do you have healthcare? Are you saving for a house? Do you have a retirement strategy? Have you gone on a family vacation? Each of these requires forethought. You have to have a plan–an intentional plan. And so it is with training our kids. And the mantle of responsibility falls squarely on the fathers. It is to the men that God has placed the mantle of leadership for the home. It is your task, dad. It is your duty. And if your house is out of order, if the finances are messed up, if the kids are rebellious, or there is spiritual apathy in your family–then do not look to another, because you are the root cause. You are the high-watermark. As you go, so goes your family.
And yet, we often don’t know what to do or how to get started. Can I give you a couple of suggestions, if you are looking for a place to start? Spend time, as many nights a week as you can, in family worship. The days to do this are fleeting, as many of you know–in the high school years it is tough to find nights at home together. Don’t overthink it–just set the priority to get a book to go through, based on the age of your kids, and show them that this is a priority.
Spend time praying. Make it a priority to get to church for both services, to get them to Wednesday nights, to be about the local church. These are good ways to intentionally teach them. Deuteronomy 6 tells us to teach our children–not only intentionally, but also . . .
Verse 7, “You…shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.” It is not just in the formal context of church or when you sit down for family worship, as if Heaven opens and the light from above shines down. Rather, it is in the blank spaces. It is in all of life–when you sit and when you walk and when you lie down and when you rise up. Since you love God with all your heart, and these words are bound to your heart–this will naturally come out of you in everyday life.
When Zoe was just two years old, and she sat next to me in her car seat, because my truck didn’t have a backseat, I would ask questions as we drove along—“Zoe, who made that cloud? Zoe, who made the hills?” “God did.” She got the answers pretty quick. And you know what? Saying that would draw my heart to worship the Creator.
And as they get older, you are looking for conversations about friendships, about the opposite sex, about their desires, and all that is going on in their lives–sports, schooling, sex, and every facet of life. It is not just intentional, it is natural. Wherever you are, whatever you are doing–look for opportunities. And let them come out naturally.
Verse 8, “You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. 9You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” The Jews took this literally–they would write the Shema, place it into a small wooden box, and tie that box to their left wrist or to their forehead. They took it literally–it is a very wooden interpretation.
We may think that is silly, but many of us have taken verse 9 literally–how many have a framed verse in the entryway of their home? Joshua 24:15, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” We have a stanza from an old poem written by a missionary named CT Studd in our living room. “Only one life twill soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last.” Why do we do this? It is a statement–to our own hearts, to our children, to everyone who enters, that this home is about the things of God. And the process is intentional. It is natural, and it is continual. In all of life, we are keenly aware and focused on the training of our children.
Recently, there was a knock at our door right at dinner time, and a young lady came to our house seeking counsel. My daughters, who are 16 and 18, were in the kitchen prepping dinner. She sat down in our kitchen and broke down, sobbing uncontrollably about the decisions she had made that contributed to a series of very unfortunate events in her life. My wife and I are very careful with what we allow our girls to hear, as we are regularly counseling young people.
Almost always, we are behind a closed door for privacy and confidentiality–but not that night. We left them in the room and they heard every word. After this young lady left, we sat down as a family and talked about it. What led her to this point–not guarding her heart, listening to her desires, a disregard for counsel. And then we opened our Bible to 1 Corinthians 10:11 and read about the disobedience of Israel in the Old Testament. “Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction.”
Oh see this as an example and learn from it. Be careful what you do, who you give your heart to, and how you live. And just because they are church kids who have a proclivity toward self-righteousness, I read the next verse. “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall.” We reminded them that we are all sinners, that we are in the struggle with sin and we all need the grace of God.
This is intentional training, in the natural flow of life, given in a continual way. This is our job as parents. and it is not always so pronounced as it was that night, but it is always there. The opportunities are always before us. More often than not, we feel inadequate. We are insecure with our Bible knowledge and our abilities. We don’t know what to say or how to say it. That’s perfectly fine.
I will say this publicly right now. I am an elder. I am the college pastor. And friends, my wife and I have never parented teenagers before. We don’t know what we are doing in parenting. It is one big experiment. But you know what? We love Jesus, we want to honor Him with our lives, and so we are living and praying and hoping that God will use our meager efforts to help sharpen our kids. We are clinging to His promises and trying our best to take advantage of every resource available.
Can I encourage you to take some steps today? Sit down with your spouse and develop a plan. Your kids will not be here forever. The foundation of their life is being poured right now. Don’t miss what one author calls the Age of Opportunity. They need you now more than ever to be a guiding force in their lives, to correct them in their errors, and to point them in the right direction. Let me wrap up.
1. Listen carefully
2. View God rightly
3. Love God entirely
4. Train them deliberately
You are a partner with God Himself as He paints a masterpiece. See your role, embrace your role, and go after it. Can I just encourage you–you are not alone in this. The church is here to help. There are so many amazing moms and dads that can give wisdom. We have an amazing young families’ ministry called Rooted. We have Moms by Grace. We have all sorts of resources devoted to helping you as you parent your children. Let’s pray.