Deuteronomy 6:1-25 (Part 3 of 6)

Love the Lord Your God

One of my memories from my younger childhood days, when I was in elementary school, was our family dinners. Feet under the table for dinner was a requirement. We ate what mama fixed for dinner or we went hungry. Her kitchen was not that of a short order cook as I have seen in some families where mom fixes three or four different meals just to avoid arguments about what is for dinner. At my mom and dad’s house, you ate what was set on the table or you, as I said, would go hungry. One of my Markisms, as my daughters call them, is that “discipline starts at the dinner table.” Eating what mom puts on the table teaches discipline – there are things in life that you cannot get out of, there are things that you have to accept and quit whining, and that we have to do what we are told. Valuable life lessons begin at the dinner table. These are things that I learned early on living in my mom and dad’s house.

 

Also, part of those dinners from the time that my brother and I could read was those little Upper Room devotional books that the Methodist Church puts out monthly (or quarterly I think it is now). I was a small magazine-like booklet that you subscribed to that had daily devotionals in it for a whole month. Now that I realize it, the booklets were almost like my daily blogs. There would be an illustrative story, a passage of Scripture that tied the illustration to a biblical principle, and then was a conclusion that gave some type of life lesson based on the illustration and the Scripture passage chosen. That would then be followed by one or two questions that made you think about how to apply the principle to your life. As a family, during dinner, we would read and discuss the Upper Room devotional for the day. Although we were little kids, my dad was always able to make the lesson make sense to us. He would make us take turns reading parts of the devotional. So, the whole thing served two purposes. One was to teach us about the Bible and how to apply it to our lives and the other was a way to emphasize that reading was important.

 

It is funny how memories like that one stay with you. Sitting around the dinner table as a family and reading and then discussing a daily devotional. It was a family discipline, a tradition, a daily thing, there for a while. I can still see the kitchen in the parsonage in Hartsville, SC (where we lived from the time I was 8-10 years old) and classic late 60’s kitchen table with four chairs and the four of us sitting there. Eating dinner and reading the devotional for the day. My dad making the conversion from the 1960s crew cut to the 1970s longer hair. My mom making the conversion from the 1960s longer hair to the 1970s pixie cuts. Family conversations. The tradition continued when we moved next to Elgin, SC (where I was ages 10-12) but died while we were there. Something happened. Life I guess. My dad was in seminary when we were in Elgin. My mom worked in downtown Columbia, about 30 minutes away when traffic was good. We were involved in more and more things at school and at church. The daily devotionals were a casualty.

 

Maybe it was busy-ness. Maybe, my dad between school and church failed to make time to be a preacher to his own kids. Who knows. All I remember after that time was that our home life became very secular. Surprising huh? In a preacher’s house. Maybe, he felt that he had laid the groundwork for us at our younger ages and that it was up to us. Maybe, he wanted to just chill when he got home as each of his appointments after Elgin were to progressively bigger churches. However, biblical discussions were limited to our exposure to his sermons on Sunday and just being around the church life itself. No longer was the dinner table the place we encountered the Bible everyday. I wish that I could say that I encountered the Bible on my own after dad set the groundwork when we were in the single digit ages, but I was too interested in being accepted by the in-crowd that I was in a deeper understanding of the Bible. Looking back on it, I am sure that my dad was trying the best that he could and that he wanted us to be as normal as possible and not turn us in to judgey Bible thumpers as kids can be sometimes be when we think we know it all. He probably too did not want to force the cross on us and wanted us to find our where there on our own. However, I think he went overboard in that direction. Maybe, he just got lazy with his family from a spiritual standpoint. I can drive myself silly thinking about the reasons that we stopped studying the Bible at home, the parsonage. However, the conclusion I had to come to was that my dad, ultimately, is not responsible for my salvation. I am. Sure, he could have done a better job of making the Bible a daily part of our lives, particularly in those critical teenage years that came. Sure, he could have done more than just preach to us on Sunday. Ultimately, though, I am responsible, but the soil could have been fertilized better.

 

As an adult and as a father, one of the greatest disappointments that I have in myself is the fact that I did not make the Bible a part of the daily lives of my children (and my stepchildren in my second marriage). I did not accept Christ as my Savior until I was 39 years old and toward the tail end of my second marriage. So, at age 39, my kids were 16 and 11 respectively. I missed the window of their early childhood to set the pattern of biblical understanding at an early age. If I have any regrets, it would be that I did not accept Christ at an earlier age so that I could have been a better influence on my children. My kids did not grow up in a home where the Bible was a central focus. Sure, my kids were exposed to church before and after the divorce. My first wife was the organist at her little family church. That’s where my kids went to church from birth til their mom quit going to church. That little church was my life too until the divorce. Even after that, in my second marriage, even before I got saved, we went to church periodically and at times regularly. But that was it. The Bible was not part of daily life for my kids (or my stepkids). During those formative years, even getting to church on Sundays was a titanic struggle of getting kids ready. They didn’t want to go. Church was the only exposure to the Bible and because they did not see it applied in our daily lives, church was just social and spiritual. Man, when I sit back and look at the opportunity that I missed in those impressionable years of my kids (before behaviors get set in stone), I get emotional about how I missed it. A time never to be had again.

 

That’s the thing that I thought of this morning when reading through Deuteronomy 6:1-25 another time. This morning, I think of how I did a disservice to the eternal future of my children by not accepting Christ as my Savior until I was 39 years old. I think about the missed opportunity in their formative years to make God’s Word a part of their daily lives. The reasons that comes to mind is that today, God led me to focus on vv.7-9 in the passage:

 

6 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, 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 ancestors, promised you.

 

4 Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.[a] 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 on 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.

 

13 Fear the Lord your God, serve him only and take your oaths in his name. 14 Do not follow other gods, the gods of the peoples around you; 15 for the Lord your God, who is among you, is a jealous God and his anger will burn against you, and he will destroy you from the face of the land. 16 Do not put the Lord your God to the test as you did at Massah. 17 Be sure to keep the commands of the Lord your God and the stipulations and decrees he has given you. 18 Do what is right and good in the Lord’s sight, so that it may go well with you and you may go in and take over the good land the Lord promised on oath to your ancestors, 19 thrusting out all your enemies before you, as the Lord said.

 

20 In the future, when your son asks you, “What is the meaning of the stipulations, decrees and laws the Lord our God has commanded you?” 21 tell him: “We were slaves of Pharaoh in Egypt, but the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand. 22 Before our eyes the Lord sent signs and wonders—great and terrible—on Egypt and Pharaoh and his whole household. 23 But he brought us out from there to bring us in and give us the land he promised on oath to our ancestors. 24 The Lord commanded us to obey all these decrees and to fear the Lord our God, so that we might always prosper and be kept alive, as is the case today. 25 And if we are careful to obey all this law before the Lord our God, as he has commanded us, that will be our righteousness.”

 

These verses that I have been led to concentrate on this morning provide the central theme of Deuteronomy. It sets a pattern of how we should relate to God’s Word to our daily lives. We are to love God (as we discussed yesterday) but we are also to think on His Word constantly, teach His Word to our children, and live each day by the guidelines that He sets for in His Word. Here, God emphasizes the importance of parents teaching their children the Bible. The church and Sunday school cannot be used to escape our responsibility in this area. The Bible provides so many opportunities for object lessons and practical teaching that it would be a shame to study it only while we instructed to do so during our once weekly church services. Eternal truths of God can be taught more readily and practically when we make God’s Word a central part of our homes.

 

That is the prayer that I have now. I pray that my children, regardless of what they think of me, are exposed to God’s Word through my daily blogs. I pray that they see me live in pursuit of a godly life. I pray that they see how I love my  God with all my heart, soul, and strength and with my mind. I pray that they are seeing me making God practical to daily living.

 

My prayer for my granddaughter is that my oldest daughter will read the Bible to her young baby daughter starting now. My prayer is that my son-in-law will make the dinner table a place where the Bible is read through daily devotionals of some sort. My prayer is that my granddaughter will know Jesus Christ as her Savior at an early age and that she will apply the Bible to every situation that she encounters. I pray that it does not take her until she is 39 years old to come to the cross. I pray that she will not have to suffer and endure the heartache of a life without Christ and without the Bible as a central focus in her life.

 

That’s my prayer.

 

Amen and Amen.

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