Love The Lord Your God!
By Kim Butts
When Jesus was asked what commandment was most important, He replied, "The most important one…. is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these" (Mark 12:29-31).
The wisdom of God, as spoken through Christ, may be even more profoundly needed today than ever before in all of history. We are living in a perilous culture during a particularly ominous time. All around us, the Lord and His word are being systematically dishonored by the society in which we live. If God’s people do not rise up from a bed of sleepy complacency so that the Church can reflect the holiness of Christ Jesus, then our children are in graver danger than any of us can know.
"Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 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 upon 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 6:4-9). Do you and your children love the Lord as He has called us to? Do you intentionally teach the Lord’s commandments to your children and consistently demonstrate them by your example? Are your children continuously aware of Christ living in them from the moment they wake up until they go to sleep at night? Is your home an expression of your faith to your family, friends and neighbors?
Many Christian homes are succumbing to the seduction of our culture. If you ask children what is most important, you might be frightened at their responses. Parents, the Lord has charged us to train up our children…and though many of us are trying hard to follow the narrow road, Satan is continuously widening it into a superhighway of distractions and evil intent. More and more of us have become weary in well doing, and grow tired of fighting – even when the lives of our children are at stake. We hope that somehow, everything will come out right for them.
We are living in perilous times – are your children prepared to stand in the face of what may lie ahead? Do they love the Lord with all of their hearts, with all of their souls, with all of their minds and with all of their strength? Do your children speak and act in God-honoring ways? Are they respectful? Do they love others as they love themselves? Are acts of service, giving, and mercy part of their lives as the Holy Spirit manifests His fruit in and through them? Do they, or are they learning to draw apart with the Lord in prayer each day? Are they studying, memorizing and meditating upon His word? Do they have an intense desire to see this lost world reached for Christ?
Our lives as parents have become so complicated! It’s easy to let discipline slip when we are tired or when our days are filled with work and other activities. The years of our children’s lives slip by while we wish we had been more diligent about teaching them the commands of the Lord. Perhaps a fresh perspective on what is most important will help us to refocus!
The world we live in is darkening… and Satan is determined to finish off as many people as possible – especially children. With the busyness of our lives, it is almost more than we can do to take the time required to patiently and consistently teach the commands of God to our children. And when the troubles of this world tend to overwhelm us, it sometimes seems beyond our frail abilities to maintain a home that consistently honors Christ. However, the Lord we serve is living and He loves us beyond any evil the enemy has planned for us, or for our children. Because He is able when we are not, we must renew our resolve to go to our knees on our children’s behalf, and to strengthen our determination to raise up a godly generation. The Lord demands total devotion (heart, soul, mind and strength). Many of us have settled for far less! If godly families will nurture godly individuals who will then impact and lead godly churches, then the Church will shine into and love our godless culture, and ultimately reach this world with the Good News of Jesus Christ.
Here are some practical ways to keep a Christ-centered home in a Satan-centered world from the perspective of the two greatest commandments:
ONE: Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, soul, mind and strength
Use the first four commandments (from the Ten Commandments) to train your children to love God with all of their:
"My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart, for they will prolong your life many years and bring you prosperity. Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart" (Proverbs 3:1-3).
Activity: You will need some colorful construction paper, ten 3 x 5 cards for each person, scissors, yarn, markers and adhesive (tape or glue). A paper punch would also be helpful, but isn’t necessary. Using the construction paper, draw and cut out a large heart for each member of the family. On one side of the heart write: Love the Lord your God with all your heart. On the other side, make a pocket large enough to hold ten 3 x 5 cards. Make sure to glue or tape the pocket securely. Punch two holes in the top of the heart and attach yarn so that it can be hung around a neck. As your family learns about each of the Ten Commandments, write them one at a time on the cards. Put each card into the pocket of the heart. Choose a time each day when you sit down together for a meal. Have everyone wear his or her hearts. Say together, "I will love the Lord my God with all of my heart." Read one commandment each day until everyone has them memorized.
Commandment One: "You shall have no other gods before me" (Exodus 20:3).
Teach your children that there is ONLY ONE GOD! Help them to know that the only true way to God is through Jesus Christ. There are many gods worshiped in the world, but only God is the Truth. Take time to worship God as a family each day. Read the Psalms, sing together, and pray! He alone is worthy of our praise! This is how we love the Lord our God with all of our heart!
"Give ear and come to me; hear me, that your soul may live" (Isaiah 55:3).
"My soul finds rest in God alone…" (Psalm 62:1).
Activity: Read the two Scriptures above. Have a prayer time together asking God to come near to you and hear your prayers. Then take some individual time to listen to God’s voice – resting in God alone.
Commandment Two: "You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God…" (Exodus 20:4-5a). Talk about things that might be idols in your home – things that would take up or consume our time and thoughts: television, video games, computers, etc. Anything that becomes more important to us than God is an idol. If you have idols in your lives, decide what you should do. This is one way to love the Lord your God with all of your soul.
"However, as it is written: ‘No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him’" (1 Corinthians 2:9).
Activity: Have your family imagine what heaven is like. Using markers and paper, have each person in the family draw a picture of what they think heaven looks like, or write a paragraph to describe it – including sights, sounds, smells, etc. Share your pictures or descriptions. Then, tell your children that no matter how wonderful they imagine heaven will be, it will be much better than that.
Commandment Three: "You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name" (Exodus 20:7). Be diligent about the language your children use. Teach them to be careful to honor the Lord’s name in every circumstance. His name is holy. Say together: "Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness" (Psalm 29:2). This is one way to love the Lord your God with all of your mind.
"I love you, O Lord, my strength" (Psalm 18:1). "The Lord gives strength to his people…" (Psalm 29:11a). "…for the joy of the Lord is your strength" (Nehemiah 8:10c). "I can do everything through him who gives me strength" (Philippians 4:13). Teach your family that:
The Lord is the source of our strength.
· He gives His strength to us.
· The joy that comes from the Lord is our strength.
· We can do everything through him who gives us our strength.
Activity: Read Nehemiah 8:10: "…Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is sacred to our Lord. Do not grieve for the joy of the Lord is your strength." Plan a family feast associated with a special occasion such as a holiday or birthday. Make extra food or gather canned goods and share it with people who are less fortunate through a shelter or food bank.
Commandment Four: "Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy" (Exodus 20:8). Teach your children to take a day of rest that involves enjoying family and spending time in worship and prayer together. God will honor your efforts to rest as He has commanded. This is one way to love the Lord your God with all of your strength.
TWO: Love your neighbor as yourself.
Loving others is a natural reflection of our love for the Lord. This kind of love involves total devotion. "Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us" (1 John 4:11-12).
We demonstrate love for other people through following the next six commandments. Take time to teach the meaning of each commandment, and pray together for strength to follow each one diligently.
Commandment Five: "Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you" (Exodus 20:12). Parents – this is crucial! If your children do not honor and respect you, how can they possibly honor God…and other people? Remember that foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child (Proverbs 22:15). We must teach them to speak and act in respectful ways. Do not allow disrespect to grow in your home…because once it takes root – it will spread! Read through the book of Proverbs as a family, because there is great wisdom about children, fathers and mothers, as well as about all of the commandments.
Commandment Six: "You shall not murder" (Exodus 20:13).
Teach your children the importance of ALL life, from conception. Our culture seems bent on killing unborn children, counseling couples to abort babies that may not be absolutely perfect, and promoting the "mercy" killing of our elderly or infirm through such means as "assisted" suicide. How this must grieve the Lord! Teach your children to stand firmly on the side of life.
Commandment Seven: "You shall not commit adultery" (Exodus 20:14).
Teach your children the importance of loving and being faithful to one’s spouse and living lives of sexual purity before marriage. Our culture promotes promiscuity, homosexuality, and cohabitation before or without the benefit of marriage. The Internet and our cities are filled with pornography that completely dishonors God’s perfect plan for His people.
Commandment Eight: "You shall not steal" (Exodus 20:15).
Our society encourages the idea that anything is okay as long as you don’t get caught. Teach your children that it is never right to do the wrong thing. Taking what does not belong to them is clearly against God’s commandment.
Commandment Nine: "You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor" (Exodus 20:16).
Children must learn very early that truthfulness honors God. We must never say or do anything that is not absolutely true or honest. If we slip into what is false, we will not be trustworthy in the eyes of others. Teach your children that in order to truly love others as God commands, their speech and their actions must always be truthful.
Commandment Ten: "You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor" (Exodus 20:17).
The key to obeying this command is learning to be content with what we have rather than wanting what others have. Teach your children to be content (read Paul’s testimony in Philippians 4:11-13) in every circumstance, by being a good example of that in your home.
It is interesting to note that these six commandments are mentioned in the Bible seven or eight times each. Most of the references are made in the New Testament, referring to the original commands made in the Old Testament. There is no doubt that the Lord desires our obedience in these areas! Because of this, we must be diligent about impressing them on our children. We must talk about them when we sit at home and when we walk along the road, when we lie down and when we get up.
"Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well. This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith." (1 John 5:1-4).