Have you ever played the card game “Happy Families”? I think it was the first game I ever played with my grandparents. The game dates from about 1860 although I’m not that old. There are many varieties today. Even Barbie, the Incredibles and Wall-e apparently have a family. We all want to have a happy family don’t we? To be a happy family? To create a happy family for our children? And that is God’s will too. God wants us all to be in a happy family.
Over 4,000 years ago, through his prophet Moses, God gave his people Ten Commandments. They came with a promise. “You shall walk in all the way that the Lord your God has commanded you, that you may live, and that it may go well with you, and that you may live long in the land you shall possess.” (Deuteronomy 5:33)
The commandments were not given to stop us enjoying life – quite the reverse. They were given to protect and provide for a long and fulfilling life. They are literally the ‘makers instructions’. God wants us to be happy and fulfilled, safe and secure. But happy families don’t just happen do they? Whether or not we experienced a happy family when we were growing up, we can build one for our children and grandchildren. How? God has given us three simple steps.
“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 on 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 6:5-9)
Parents are to impress their children. How do we impress our children? By how much we earn? By how much allowance we give them? Where we live or take our holidays? No. By loving God with all our heart and with all our soul and with all our strength. “These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts.” Says God. This is how we ‘impress’ our children. This is how we make a lasting impression on them. By our love for God and our desire to please him. This is what we are to impress on our children. We can’t lead them where we have not gone ourselves. They won’t learn the value of God’s commands unless we model them. Faith is not so much taught as it is caught. Children learn from what we say but they learn a whole lot more, and a whole lot faster, from what we do.
Becoming a happy family is not rocket science. God gives parents here three simple instructions on how to impress their children. The Three ‘T’s of happy families.
Talk – “Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” (Deut. 6:7). Specifically, God tells us to talk about the commandments and what they mean from when we get up in the mornings to when we go to bed. But by application, reading the Bible together – and discussing what it means – and asking God to help us apply it – in the mornings and before bedtime – This is our first priority.
You may feel a failure but you can start again today. You may feel your life is too busy – then it is too busy. We take this seriously as a church and offer lots of resources to help you bring up your children in the Christian faith.
Tie – “Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.” (Deuteronomy 6:8). Some Jewish people take this literally and tie little boxes with these verses inside to their forehead and wrists. Some Christians wear a wrist band or a cross round their neck or in their lapel. I wear a ring with a cross on it. It reminds me to live for God and keep his commands where ever I go. Symbols help us remember we belong to the Lord. Do whatever it takes to tie yourself to the Lord – to love him with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength, all day, every day.
Tell – “Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.” (Deuteronomy 6:9). The Christian faith is a personal faith but it was never intended by God to be private. It should be obvious to friend & neighbour that you and your family belong to the Lord. This is how children grow up confident to share their faith – when they see their parents not ashamed to be known as Christians. In Palestine Christians often place a sign on their houses to tell everyone that theirs is a Christian home. Some people place a cross or a fish symbol on their car as a sign that they are Christians. What about you and your family?
Talk – Tie – Three ‘T’s to a happy family. This is how we build a happy family. This is how we maintain a happy family. Whether you are married or a lone parent. Whether you are single or widowed, married or divorced, with brothers and sisters or an only child, orphaned, with one, two or more parents, you are not alone. God has provided us with an extended family in the Church. That is what Christ Church aspires to be.
We become children of God when we trust in Jesus..”Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” (John 1:12). When we are born again, we are adopted into the family of Jesus. “Pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” (Matthew 12:49-50). That means every other Christian is like a brother or sister, like a mother or father, an aunt or uncle, or even a grandparent. We exist as a Church to be an extended family – to help parents bring up their children in the faith.
Our crèche, Sunday Clubs, Cherubs, Scallywags, youth groups, parenting course, marriage course – these are all designed to help you fulfill your primary role as parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles – but not replace you. We encourage you to come next Sunday and find out more about God’s wonderful plan for yourself and those you care for.