Welcome to week three of “I Love Sundays!” If you’re joining us for the first time today, welcome! In this series, we are learning how to make Sunday the best day of our week. More importantly, we are learning to live more balanced lives by living at a better pace and rhythm.
We’ve learned that God has hardwired us for work, but He’s also hardwired us for rest and leisure, and we work best, our pace of life is best, our relationship with God is best, if we practice both work and rest in the right order and proportions. The book of Ecclesiastes says that “there is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.” So we’re learning that Sunday can be the best day of our week because God designed it as a Sabbath for us to rest, refuel, and refocus.
Last week, we looked at how good Sundays can make better Mondays, and we learned from the Old Testament prophet Isaiah that:
If you call the Sabbath a delight and the Lord’s holy day honorable, and if you honor it by not going your own way and not doing as you please or speaking idle words, then you will find your joy in the Lord, and I will cause you to ride in triumph on the heights of the land.
Isaiah wrote these words almost three thousand years ago. Yet God’s promise is still true today: if you will call the Sabbath a delight, you will find your joy in the Lord, and ride in triumph on the heights of the land.
So how do we call or make it a delight. Over the last two weeks, we’ve talked about some solid principles for how to love Sundays.
- Decided to let Sunday be the best day of your week.
- Invest something great into church.
- Honor God’s rhythm by celebrating the Sabbath.
- Prepare for Sunday as if it’s the highlight of your week.
These four verbs – decide, invest, honor, and prepare – describe life-altering actions.
Deciding determines your direction.
Investing determines your depth.
Honoring determines your height (Is about you or Him who created all of this).
Preparing determines your bandwidth (How much are you giving and getting out of church? The more you prepare, the more you get and can give).
Putting these principles into practice will not only alter the quality of your life, but the quality of your children’s lives as well.
Today, we are going to explore how a good Sunday can help improve your entire family.
One of the great challenges of our day is to raise great kids in a ninety-mile-an-hour culture. We move so fast, have so many opportunities and obligations, it’s hard to find time to be together as a family, much less enjoy your family. When we are together, we’re usually driving to a soccer practice or some type of performance. Often while we’re driving, every kid in the car has their earphones in and is listening to something other than the family’s conversation.
I want to help you with that today. So does the Lord.
Last week we focused on making Sunday the best day of the week; the highlight of our week. Today, I want to help you learn to use Sundays to build better families and to make it the highlight of everyone’s week.
Even if you live alone you’re going to find this message incredibly helpful as well.
Seven practices that will help everyone you love, whether you’re related to them or not.
Primarily, we’ll be focused on families, but every principle I give you can apply to helping nieces and nephews, grandsons and granddaughters, and every other member of the next generation you have influence on. Because let’s just be real, everyone here has influence on someone.
This one little verse we’re about to read contains one of the most important principles ever given in the history of parenting. Every parent wonders at some point, “why didn’t they come with an instruction manual, a guide?” Well, they did. We have one and here it is. The proverb was composed by Solomon, who God claimed to be the wisest man who ever lived. Listen to this:
Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.
“Start children off on the way they should go.” If you were to pull out a compass, then take me by the shoulders, point me due north, and say, “Start walking,” where am I more likely to end up: at the North Pole or the South Pole? It’s far more likely that I’ll end up at the North Pole, isn’t it?
In this verse, Solomon is saying that the first push is the most important push. We might not always end up precisely due north of wherever we started, but chances are pretty good we’ll end up mostly due north.
Years ago, Sir Isaac Newton identified what we call the First Law of Thermodynamics. He said, “An object in motion tends to remain in motion, with the same direction and speed.” It’s the same concept with our kids. “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.”
The direction you start your children determines the destination of where they are likely to arrive.
Today, I want to give you seven practices to being successful parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and influential people. This does not mean you control your kids. It doesn’t mean they are going to be what you want to be when they grow up. That’s not God’s purpose for you as a parent. Your job is to guide, love, protect, teach your children the direction they should go…to follow Jesus. Your job isn’t to finish your children’s lives for them. You just need to start them off right.
Number one is the most important of the seven practices.
1. Put God First
Jesus said that if you will seek God’s Kingdom first and His way of doing things, everything else will pretty much fall into place. In His famous Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said it this way:
Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
God wants to be first in your life for your sake, and for the sake of those who follow you. In other words, how you live could be the greatest influence on the direction and quality of your children’s lives.
Putting God first means making Him the top priority in your life…over EVERYTHING and EVERYONE! God wants to be first in your life, because whatever you put first in your life, will have the most influence on you. And He wants to be the one who influences you the most. So what does it mean to put God first?
Putting God first means spending time with Him, caring for what He cares about, using your money the way He would use it if it were His…cause it is. Putting God first means honoring Him on the Sabbath and honoring Him with your words, attitudes, and ethics at work. Putting God first means honoring Him with how you treat your body—what you eat and how you exercise.
I know, those are tall orders. And there is grace. You won’t be perfect. But if you are trying to honor God, your children will see that and imitate it. And when you fail, they’ll see that it’s okay for them to be imperfect too. And they will see that God’s grace picks you back up and will pick them back up and keep them going too.
God’s first commandment is:
“I am the Lord your God…you shall have no other gods before me.”
I know it sounds counterintuitive, but the best gift you can give your children and grandchildren and all of the children around you, isn’t to love them first – it’s to love God first. If your heart is full of the kind of love you can get only from God, then your heart will spill that kind of love onto your children. It is only by loving God first, that we then know how to love the people around us like we are supposed to. Your children are far more likely to follow the directions you set than the directions you give. Put God first, and your children will more than likely do the same.
You’ve heard the expression, “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree”? Your little apples are going to grow up to look a lot like you. And just like the expression, “Monkey see, monkey do,” your little monkeys are going to grow up to be a lot like you.
You know how on the airplane, when the flight attendant is giving the safety instructions, she says, “Should the oxygen mask appear above your head, put yours on before you try to help others with theirs”? What she’s really saying is, “You’ve got to make sure you’re breathing right before you have any hope of helping your children.”
So your first practice is to put God first. Once God is first, your second practice is to…
2. Let your kids see your relationship with God
When Moses was preparing to send the Israelites into the Promised Land, he wanted them to know how to pass on their faith to their offspring. So he decided to spell it out for them very carefully. He said….
These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. (Repeat them again and again to 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 (as reminders). Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.
This passage of Scripture became one of the most important in Israel’s history. It may be why there are still Israelites today. Back when Moses wrote this, there were Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, Jebusites, and Amalekites. Today, the only ones still around are the Israelites. How did the Israelite civilization survive when all the others died off? Simple. The Israelites talked about their faith with their children. Parents let their kids in on their relationship with God. Generation after generation passed on what was important. More than 3,500 years later, the Israelites are still talking about their faith with their children.
Let your children see your relationship with God. I remember when my oldest son, who is now 23, was in kindergarten and his teacher sent home a note for me. It turned out she was a Christian and was proud of Josh’s decision that day. See one of the children in the class was having a birthday and that child’s parent sent chocolate cupcakes for all the kids to enjoy. When the teacher came to Josh to give him one, he declined and said he can’t eat chocolate. She right away thought, “I know Josh doesn’t have allergies to any food” so she asked him why. He explained to her that he gave it up for Lent. Five years old. See, he saw me give it up.
One week, his Sunday school class had decorated cookies to give to someone they loved. So he decorated a chocolate chip cookie and gave it to me. I told him I couldn’t eat that, but that he could have it and yes, he was quite happy to eat it for me. But after a few minutes, he asked me why. I explained that I gave up eating chocolate to show God that I would give anything for Him because I love Him that much. Josh immediately said that he wanted to show God how much he loved Him too and gave up chocolate for the remainder of that season of Lent.
The teacher proceeded to tell me in her note that since she couldn’t talk about her faith in the public school and since Josh could, she asked him if he would bravely tell the rest of the class why he wasn’t eating chocolate…and he did!
I used to do my devotions in the morning earlier before Josh was out of bed. After a while, I learned to give him something to read and we both did devotions while we ate our breakfast.
Many times, my children and I take walks and just talk. If God is a large part of your life, you are bound to start talking about Him. One thing, I continue to do even though my oldest is 23, is to challenge your children to pray about the things on their minds or the decisions they are trying to make.
You can play called ‘High/Low.’ Everyone at the table takes a turn in describing their highest moment of the day and their lowest moment. Inevitably, someone’s high or low involves God. By talking about God, you can communicate your relationship with Him in a very natural way. Of course, there are other ways of accomplishing the same thing, but the point is to let your children see your relationship with God in a way that rubs off on them.
In our culture, one of our most sacredly guarded secrets is how much money we make and how we spend it. Yet Jesus said, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21). So if you are going to start your children out right, it will help them to see your heart and your budget. The third practice in raising healthy children is to show them how to allocate and spend money in a healthy way. The only real way to do that is to….
3. Let your kids see your spending
In Jesus’ second most famous sermon, His Sermon on the Plain, He said that when your children grow up, they will live a lot like they’ve seen you live.
Everyone who is fully trained will be like their teacher.
At about twenty or twenty-five years old, when your kids are fully trained, chances are they’re going to be a lot like you. So teach them your best skills, your best practices. Their best chance for learning how to give, save, spend, and invest is to see how you give, save, spend, and invest.
Jesus said, “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded.” Luke 12:48
Your children have been given much, so much will be required of them. One of the most important skills you can pass onto your kids is the wise handling of money.
And one of the most important pieces of wise money management is generosity. How much you give not only indicates the size of your heart, but it develops the size of your heart!
Malachi 3:10 says,
“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.”
This is so important to God that it’s the only time He gives a command with permission to test Him. God promises that when you faithfully bring the full tithe to your local church, He will throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough to store it.
Every time we turn on any screen, ads pop out shouting, “Buy me. Try me. Taste me. Wear me. Put me in your hair.” The pressure to spend is enormous! So every year or two, walk your kids through your budget, let them see how you figure out your priorities and what you spend your money on. Their best chance for learning how to give, save, spend, and invest is to see how you give, save, spend, and invest. And practice number four may be even more important.
4. Let your children tithe
The simplest form of a healthy budget that I know of is called “The 10-10-80 Plan.” Under the 10-10-80 Plan, you tithe your first 10%, save your second 10%, and live on the other 80%.
If you want to teach your children this plan, start them off with an allowance that divides easily by ten. If you give them a $1 dollar allowance, don’t give them a dollar bill—give them coins that include at least two dimes, so they can put the first dime in their “tithe envelope,” the second dime in their “save envelope,” and the rest of their allowance in their “spend envelope.”
If you give them a $5 allowance, give them four $1 bills, and change so they can put fifty cents into their tithe envelope and fifty cents into their save envelope. You get the idea.
Because of our wealth in this nation, generosity is one of the biggest challenges for our society. Studies show that the more money Americans earn, the smaller percentage we give. But the sooner you start giving, the easier it is to give. Children who learn to give before they spend rarely have trouble being generous later in life. Teach your children to tithe, and then make it easy for them to tithe by setting up a 10-10-80 Plan with them. Celebrate every time they bring their tithe to church, and help them figure out what they are saving their second 10% for.
Now if your children are older or are out of the house and you’re thinking you missed a great opportunity to teach this, it’s never too late. Start today. Tell them you just learned this and you are starting it too. Monkey see, monkey do, right?
Practice number five is….
A few years ago, Eric Swanson of Leadership Network published a study about children who grew up in church and wound up loving God when they were adults. The study found that these children experienced two things with their families. The first was, their family served God somewhere together in church. According to Swanson, children whose parents served at church and found ways for their children to serve with them were much more likely to grow up to love God than children who didn’t.
Fortunately, at our church, there are several ways adults and children can serve together.
Kids can serve with parents at our work days, helping at events like the Fall Harvest Party, when you’re at the store (take you kids with you) pick up laundry detergent for our New Hope guests or mac & cheese, raisins, goldfish crackers for the elementary students that receive the food through the Ruth’s Harvest program.
Today, the church is one of the few places where a child can truly contribute and feel valued. And the results are eternal, let alone serving together is great for building family relationships.
Now, we haven’t done something like this in this church for quite some time, but I would love to get to the point where we can and do. One great place family members can serve together is on a cross-cultural mission’s trip. This leads to our sixth practice.
The second item on Leadership Network’s study of what helped kids to grow up to love God was going on a mission’s trip.
An amazing thing happens to American kids on mission trips. They discover how great their lives are here at home! Most kids who spend time in Mexico or Haiti or other less-affluent countries come home and thank their parents for all that they have. While they’re on the trip, they realize they can make a difference in other people’s lives, which gives them a whole new perspective about making their own life count, no matter where God leads them in their adult career.
The final practice is to….
Parents, what do you do when your children don’t want to listen to you anymore?
Somewhere between ages eleven and fourteen, something happens to every child. They start to be cool, and have parents who aren’t. A gap starts to open in communication and influence. This is where the church can shine—because at this same time, kids begin to look up to older kids. Especially those in their late teens and twenties.
During the preteen and teen years, a young person needs a role model they can both look up to and relate to. Church becomes such an important part of a teenager’s character formation because it can supply you help by introducing your middle schoolers and high schoolers to young people who have great values. This is part of why I love Sundays…because I love what happens to kids in the critical stage where they need mentoring!
So look, in my humble opinion, Sunday should be the highlight of your week, and the highlight of the week for every member of your family. In your small group study guide this week, there are four suggestions on how that can happen for you. The first one is…
Block off the day to spend together. Start by anchoring your Sundays in church. Then continue spending quality time together by doing something together. Make it fun. Chose activities because you want to, not because you have to. And don’t plan every detail out. That just exhaust the parents. Choose spontaneous activities. Also take time to breathe together.
At the back of the study guide, there are perforated tear-out cards with fun ideas of ways for your family to spend time together. Put them in a jar, and have a family member draw one every week. Have kids add their own ideas.
Your small group study guide also includes a pull-out section in the back with a list of great questions you can ask over Sunday lunch or dinner. Questions like,
- What was most interesting about the sermon or Sunday School class lesson at church today?
- If you could pick your own name, what would it be?
- What is the nicest thing a friend has ever done for you?
- What is your earliest memory?
I hope you’ll try this later this afternoon or this evening because it can start some really good conversation. It could be a significant way to bond and build family relationships, as well as have some fun together.
3. Explore God.
Our God is the uncontainable, all-powerful Creator of the Universe. This is the God we want to connect our kids to. So look for ways to intersect with His handiwork outside the four walls of a classroom or even your living room. Take a hike together, take a magnifying glass into your own back yard, doing something in nature to experience this incredible place God has made for us. Then talk about how you see Him and how amazing He is.
4. Serve together.
There’s power in making ourselves available to God as a family. It can even be good for kids to see their parents outside their comfort zones, willing to rely on God and His strength. So take Leadership Network’s suggestion to find something to do around here regularly as a family. It would help our entire church family and really benefit your family for a long, long time. If you need ideas, see me.
It will review what we’ve covered today and give you even more thoughts on building your family. Let me read you this verse one more time:
Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.
One of the great things about God is that His mercies are new every morning—so it’s never too late to start. If your kids are still in the home, start something with them today. If your kids are grown, give them a call and tell them what you’ve learned.
I love Sundays because Sundays are so helpful for families!
Hal Seed, the author of the book “I Love Sundays” wrote in a blog, “My wife and I did a lot of things wrong in raising our kids, but fortunately, we did a few things right by accident. Because we were church planters, by the time our kids were four and five years old, they HAD to serve with us every Sunday. They helped with setup and teardown and a dozen other things. When they got older, they helped found our youth band and went on annual mission’s trips. One day I woke up and realized that both my kids loved God more than I do! Today they are both happily married, with great spouses and great children of their own. And by God’s grace, they consider their mother and me to be two of their best friends. I could have done a lot of things better, but if I had it to do over again, I’d sure include every commitment we made to the local church in our child-raising plans.”
Father, thank you for creating us for rhythm and rest. And thank you for creating children and entrusting them to us. Help those of us who have children in our homes to start them off on the way they should go. And if our children are grown and out of the house, open the door for us to share with them who you are. Help us to bravely influence all the children you entrust to us. And help all of us to make the Sabbath a delight. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.