James Merritt - Family Feud
One thing that all parents learn, I learned it is a truth that a man named Lionel Kaufman gave a long time ago. Here's what he said. Children are a great comfort in your old age and they help you reach it faster too. I'm telling you, I know that is true. In fact, I was reading the other day about this website, it's amazing what you find on the web on the web. And there's this website. This is true. It's called CrazyThingParentsText.com That's an actual website. And so it's a list of private text messages between parents and their kids. Well there was one exchange in particular between a father and a son, when I read it, I said, you know what? That says it all, that really kind of describes what's going on in a lot of homes.
So this was the text exchange between a dad and his son. This is real. The son said, what time are you picking me up? The dad said, who is this? The son texted, it's me, your son. The dad texted, how did you get this number? The son texted. I programmed your phone, remember? The dad texts how do I delete people? Now, let me be very empathetic. And let me be very sympathetic with you. I want to tell you I was a parent and I'm still a parent, but no longer do I have kids at home. And I can tell you by far and away, the most difficult job I've ever had in my life is being a parent. In fact, in a lot of ways, I feel like a failure as a dad. I'm just going to be transparent. I've said this to many, many people. If I could do my life all over again, I had a do over, and you said, okay, James, you, you can do one thing all over again. Easy.
I wish I could be a dad all over again. I wish I could take my three wonderful sons that I love with of all of my heart back to this size. And I wish I could do my daddy days all over again. I've got three wonderful sons that I'm so proud of and I love all of them with everything I have, but I will tell you that the men they have become is due a lot more to their mother than it is to me. But I've learned under the best of circumstances, parenting is not easy.
There's a man named Dave Meurer, and he writes a regular column for New Man magazine. And he was talking about parenting. And he said this. He said, child development professionals, categorize kids into two main groups. One naturally compliant, intrinsically kind, inherit-ably logical, and number two, your children, okay? Maybe you can relate to that. But then he goes on to say this. All parents hope to get their children into category. Number one, but they end up with the children in category number two. Well you've probably saying, man, you are playing my guitar. You are singing my song. It is so frustrating. I feel like such a failure. Well, let me encourage you. Listen to me. Don't give up. Hang in the battle. The stakes are too high. The goal is too, is too wonderful. And I believe you've been given a God given unique opportunity right now to have more of a lasting influence on your children than you will ever have, perhaps again, in your entire life.
President Franklin Roosevelt says something, one of the best things I've ever read about, about being a parent. Here's what he said. He said, we may not be able to prepare the future for our children. Boy is that ever true. But we can at least prepare our children for the future. We cannot, we may not be able to prepare the future for our children, but we can prepare our children for the future. That's what you've got to do. And in an a passage of scripture that we're going to study today, we're going to look at some of the greatest parenting advice you will find anywhere, anytime, any place in any book. In fact, I don't think there's any better parenting advice you will ever read than this. It's found in a book called Deuteronomy. It's the fifth book in the Bible,. Deuteronomy chapter six.
Now, while you're finding that, let me just tell you what's going on. The nation of Israel is one of, is at one of the most important points of their history. They've been wandering in the wilderness for 40 years. Moses is their leader. He's preparing them to go over to the promised land and establish, establish a brand new nation. And he wants them, this is his legacy, this is the last mountain he wants to climb. He wants them to build a nation, one nation that is indivisible, under God with liberty and justice for all. And then he makes an incredible statement. He says, the only way that will happen is if you parents parent your children, the way they ought to be parented. He said, that's your only shot. He said, that is your only hope. He predicted that the nation would rise and fall on parents and how they raised their kids. And he does us a big favor. He gives us three roles that we ought to play as parents to maximize the opportunity for our children to grow up and to become the husbands and the wives and the moms and the dads that they ought to be.
And I want to share those with you today. Parents, when you've got the chance, and you've got it now, three things. Number one. We are to be a model for our children. We are to be a model for our children. Now from the beginning, it's obvious, Moses is talking directly to moms and dads. Remember, he's getting them ready to cross over. He's not going with them. He's giving them final instructions. And he talks directly to moms and dads. Here's what he says. These are the commands, decrees and laws the Lord, your God directed me to teach you to observe. Keep that in mind. To observe in the land that you're crossing the Jordan to possess so that you, your children and their children after them may fear the Lord, your God, as long as they live by keeping all his decrees and commands that I give you, and so that you may enjoy long life.
Now, here's what Moses said. A nation will never rise above its homes. Homes will never rise above the parents because in the home, everything rises and falls on the parents. And what's incredible is he doesn't start out by saying, this is what I want you to teach your children. He doesn't say that. He says, this is what I want you to model for your children. And he tells the parents, I want you to take all the lessons that God has taught you. And I want you to do them before your children, before you teach them. I want you to model them for your children before you instruct them. You know, one thing I learned about parenting is this. Character is not so much taught to your children as it is caught by your children.
And oh, by the way mom and dad, you don't have a choice. You are the number one role model for your children and the way that you live in front of your child, I promise you, will speak so loudly that many times your children will never hear anything else that you say. And let me tell you this. If you take the attitude to your child, now don't do as I do, do as I say do, you just blew it. You just set yourself up for failure, because let me tell you something. Particularly when they're young, they're not going to do what you say to do as much as they're going to do what you do. And one of the best ways you can teach your children to obey you is to show your children how you obey the Lord. I mean, think about that term model.
I want you to take it literally. You know what a model does, right? A model walks down a runway and they're modeling clothes usually, or something like that. And they're walking down the runway. What are they doing? They're showing people. They're not telling people. They're showing people, this is how you can look in this. This is how this can fit on you. This is how you can make, you can make other people, watch you and notice you. Well, I want you to think of your home right now as a runway. Your kids are the audience. You are the model. Your life is what they are looking at. And don't fool yourselves. Your kids are always looking at the way you act. They're always listening to the way you talk. You are a role model and here's the good news. You will never have a better time to model before your children. How to handle adversity, how to go through tough times, how to praise God, thank God, love God, trust God, stay faithful to God, when all of life is falling apart.
Yeah, I know these times are tough. The toughest times maybe we've ever been through in our lifetime. But listen to me, this is a God-given opportunity. This is a God-given moment. Mom and dad, this is your time to shine. This is your time to show your kids hey, even when the days are darkest and the days are longest and the days are toughest, this is how godly people act. And there's no substitute for a parent who shows their children by the way that they live, by the words that they use, by the attitudes they display, you know what, we really do trust the God we say we trust in. We really do believe this book that the pastor preaches from every weekend that we read every day, we really do put our faith in this God. And by the way, just a reminder. Let me tell you how big a deal it is that you do this. You're not just being a model for your children. You're being a model for your grandchildren.
You say well I don't have any yet. Yes, you will. And that's why Moses said do this so that your children and their children after them may fear the Lord as long as you live. I've said this to you many times, I'm going to say it again and I'm learning it right now. You wanna know what kind of a parent you are. Don't look at your kids. Look at your grandkids. Be a model for your children. And let me tell you, listen to me. You can't lead where you've never been. You can't give what you've never had. You can't preach with power what you don't practice with integrity. So number one, what's your number one role right now? Be a model for your children. Pretend that your children are deaf. They don't hear anything you say. All they do is watch the way you act. Be a model for your children. Then he says something else. He says we're to be a mirror for our children. Not just a model. We are to be a mirror for our children.
Now, Moses does something kind of interesting. Right in the middle of talking to parents, it's almost like he just interrupts himself for this important announcement. And all of a sudden, he says this. Hear, O Israel. Now he's talking to everybody. Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your strength. Now, why did he say that? He's just been talking to moms and dads, and what he's saying is, look, you need every day to reflect on the outside the God that lives on the inside of you, the God that you say that you know and you love, that's on the inside of you. When your kids look at you and they see this mirror, they ought to see a reflection of the God that you say you believe in. And you see, we ought to begin to teach them the right things right off the bat about the right God.
So the first thing you ought to teach your kids when they're young, there is a God. That's why we say the blessing. That's why we teach you Bible verses. That's why we read God's word. That's why we go to church. There is a God and there's only one, God. He is the true God. And so Moses said, first of all, teach your kids about the reality of God. Hear O Israel, the Lord, our God, the Lord is one. But you're just getting started, because the most important thing you're going to teach your kids about God is not the reality of God, but how to have a relationship with God. And so Moses goes on to say, we're gonna mirror for them, a love for God. We're to let them know from the time they are young, the supreme love of your life is not to be your mom. Not to be your dad, not to be your siblings, not even to be yourself. The supreme love of your life is to be for God. He is to be the first love of your life. And then Moses says we're to mirror for our children what a love for God looks like.
So you're, by the way, remember this before you are mom and dad, you were husband and wife. So let me just give you a thought. Your promise to each other mirrors, is to be a mirror that reflects God's faithfulness to you. Your love for each other is to be a mirror that reflects God's love for you. Your forgiveness of each other is to be a mirror of God's forgiveness of you. Now I'm going to make a statement. This is, this is kind of my key statement. If I, if I could sum up every, my whole sermon in one sentence, now don't leave when I say this, but if I could summarize my sermon in one sentence, this would be it, and this is going to shake some of you to your roots, and it should. God does not want us to be good parents. God wants us to be godly parents. And there is a difference. God doesn't want us to be good parents. God wants us to be godly parents.
And let me tell you why there's a difference and why it's so important. Do you remember when you were inoculated for certain diseases? You know, this'll tell you my age, but I can remember in the first grade they came out for, with a vaccine for polio, never will forget it. And I remember the first grade we all lined up for our polio shot. Still remember it like it was yesterday. Now what I did not realize was what they were doing was they were giving me just a very small dose of polio. Why were they doing that? Because that helped my body to build up an immune system to the real thing so that the disease would never really affect me.
Now I want you to hear me clearly. I see so many parents. They give their children a small dose of Christianity, just enough to make them immune to the real thing. So what do they do? Well, they go through the religious motions. They go to church maybe occasionally, or if not regularly, they check off the religious box. But here's the truth of the matter: their children don't see in their mom and dad on on a daily basis, a passionate, burning, blazing, hot love for Jesus, that loves Jesus with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength. What they see is a love that burns just a little bit on Sunday morning, but then it seems like the fire goes out till the next, till the next Sunday.
I want you to notice the word that's repeated in that verse. That's the word all. Love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, all your strength. Mom and dad, there is nothing more dangerous for you to pass down to your children than a half-hearted, lukewarm, Sunday only love for God. You're to mirror for your children a love for God that is passionate. I, listen, I failed a lot as a dad and my sons know that, my sons will be more than happy to tell you all the ways I failed as a dad. And I've confessed about every way I know, but I will tell you this. And I can say this with a clear conscience. My kids, my boys will tell you this. They did not fail to see in their dad, a passionate love for God. Because if they didn't, what they were looking at was a cracked mirror.
So I'm just saying to you, mom and dads, you've got a chance to be a mirror for your children. I love the story of, there was a children's Bible teacher and he was talking to a group of kids about one time. And he said, hey, can anybody tell me why you love God? He just assumed they loved God. He said, any of you tell me why you love God. And so all these kids gave, you know, a variety of answers and a variety of reasons. But he said the one he liked the best was this one kid. He was sitting on the end of the row. And when he got to him, he said, Mr. Smith, I'll be honest with you. I don't know why I love God. I guess it just runs in my family. You know what? That's what I want. I want the love of God to run in my family. I want the love of God to run in my children. I want the love of God to run in their children. I want the love of God to run in their children. I want the love of God to run all through my family.
And I am telling you. Parents, more than a fine education, a new car, a trust fund, the best clothes or the finest house. You will never give your kids anything greater in your life than a passionate, blazing, burning love for God, with all their heart, all their soul and all their might. That only comes if you are a mirror to your children. It only comes when your children look and they say, you know, mom, you're not perfect. Dad, you're certainly not perfect. But I know one thing. You love God. You love God more than you love me. You love God more than you love her. You love God more than you love him. You love God more than anybody. And so do I.
So number one, mom and dad, you got a great chance. Be a model for your children. Walk the walk, don't just talk the talk. Be a model for your children. Number two, be a mirror to your children. When your people, when your children look at you, let them see in that mirror a love for Jesus. And then here's the last thing. We are to be a mentor to our children. Now we're going to get into the real heart and meat of what you need to be doing. See, Moses gives parents an assignment. He lets them know, hey, listen, your home is not just a home, it's not just a house. Your home is a school. And by the way, your kids never graduate from this school until they leave home for the final time. And this is what Moses said. He said, these commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts, but you don't leave it in your heart. You get it from your heart to their heart.
So he says, 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. Now this may shock you. It may discombobulate some of you. It may make a lot of you kind of nervous. But the major responsibility for educating your kids is not with the school system. It's not with the colleges. It's not with the universities. It's not with the high schools. It's not with the middle schools. It's not with elementary schools. It's not with any school system. The primary responsibility for educating your children is in the home. It lies with you. God intended from the very beginning for a home to be the university of life. And he intended for you to be the professors.
So home is the child's first classroom. And the home is where the most important lessons of life are always learned. This is where children learn right from wrong. This is where children learn actions have consequences. This is where children learn personal responsibility. This is where children learn to be kind, to be courteous, to submit to authority, to be obedient, to practice selflessness, to love God and to love others. And we're to be teaching them God's commandments. God's laws and God's principles for life.
Now I know some of you saying right now, hey, can I ask a question? So I'm going to be a mentor to my children, but what am I supposed to teach my kids? I mean, where do I start? Let me give you a very practical suggestion. When Moses was talking about the commands and the decrees, that, and God's principles and God's laws, when he began to talk about these things, what was he referring to? Well, if you go back to chapter five, the chapter just before this, guess what you read. You read the 10 commandments. That's the commandments that Moses was talking about. So let me just give you a little project, mom and dad. Why don't you take this opportunity while you're home a lot, and why don't you teach your children to memorize the 10 commandments?
Now I know where some of you are saying, you're saying, man, I haven't even memorized the ten commandments. All right, then I'm giving you an assignment. Why don't you memorize the 10 commandments and have your kids memorize the 10 commandments with you? Because one of the greatest ways you will ever mentor your children is scripture memorization. I'm doing that with my grandkids right now. Every time my grandkids come over, I'll pop it, like yesterday, my little four year old grandson was over at my house. Connor. Connor walked into the house, I looked at him. I said, Connor, be quick Connor. First John 4:8. He said, God is love. Do that with your kids. Be teaching them. And the best way to do it, start with the 10 commandments. I read the other day about a father, he was having daily devotion, he had three little kids, very, very small. He was trying to teach them to 10 commandments, to memorize the 10 commandments. And he said, okay, kids, I'm going to give you a pop quiz. He said, now look, honor your father and your mother. That's the way God wants you to treat mommy and daddy, is that right? And they all nodded their head. He said, okay.
Now, is there a commandment that teaches you how to treat your brothers and your sisters? And his youngest little six year old boy said, yes, sir. You shell not kill. Now, you need to be teaching your kids, the commandments. So I want you to take this opportunity right now because you never, you may never get this shot again. Don't waste this crisis. Don't waste your time at home. Begin today to say, you know what? I'm going to be a model for my children. I'm going to be a mirror for my children. I'm going to be a mentor to my children. And by the way, let me just say this. If you're a mom or a dad right now, and you don't know Jesus Christ as your Lord and savior, you not only don't know the 10 commandments, that's not really, even on your radar screen.
I want to say something to you. And I want to say this in love. You don't have to know Jesus to be a good parent. You, you really don't. You don't have to be a Christian. I know people out there who don't go to church, they don't know the Lord. They don't read their Bible. But you look at them and, and, and by and large, they are good parents. So you can be a good parent without being a follower of Jesus. But you cannot be the godly parent. You cannot be the great parent. You cannot be the parent that you could have been, and that your kids really need you to be because you will never take your kids as far as they could have gone. They will never fly as high as they could have soared if you don't instill in them the most important thing you can ever give them.
And that is a love for the God that created them. The God that made them, the God that has a plan for them and the God that wants to save them. If you really want to invest your life into eternity, I've said this many times, I believe if Jesus were physically on this earth, he'd work in the kid's ministry. And if you would be willing just to pray about being a part of it, or at least investigating what you can do. If you'll just go to CPKidz.org, right now, you can do it, even just to interrupt what we're doing, but at least after the message, go to CPKidz.org and just check us out. I hope you'll maybe at least think about serving with our kids ministry.
Now, I want to leave you with two things. Robert Dabney was a professor at Princeton University, and many years ago, he made one of the greatest statements I've ever read about any topic. Here's what he said. The education of children for God is the most important business done on earth. It is the one business for which the earth exists. To it, all politics, all war, all literature, all money making ought to be subordinated. Every parent, especially ought to feel, every hour of every day that next to making his own calling and election sure, this is the end for which he is kept alive by God. This is his task on earth. Mom and dad, I say amen and amen that you will never have a greater work. You'll never have a greater task. You'll never have a greater job. You will never have a greater assignment than this one assignment.
So I want to leave you with something I came across. It's called a parent's prayer. Now I already know many of you will say, can I get a copy of that? We're going to make it available to you, but as we put it up on the screen, mom and dad, would you just kind of not just read this, but would you pray this in your heart? Listen to this prayer. Oh, heavenly Father, make me a better parent. Teach me to understand my children, to listen patiently to what they have to say, and to answer all their questions kindly. Keep me from interrupting them or criticizing them. Make me as courteous to them as I would have them be to me. Forbid that I should ever laugh at their mistakes or resort to shame or ridicule when they displease me. May I never punish them for my own selfish satisfaction or to show my power.
Let me not tempt my child to lie or steal, but guide me hour by hour, that I might demonstrate in everything that I say or do that honesty produces happiness. May I ever be mindful that my children are children and that I should not expect of them the judgment of adults. Let me not rob them of the opportunity to wait on themselves and to make decisions. Bless me with the bigness to grant them their reasonable request and the courage to deny them the privileges I know would do them harm. Make me fair, just, and kind, and fit me o Lord, to be loved, respected, and imitated by my children, and help me always remember that better parents raise better children. And all of God's moms and all of God's dad said, amen. Would you pray with me right now?