Sermon delivered February 28, 1998

by Pastor Kent Crutcher

McDonald Road Seventh-day Adventist Church

McDonald, Tennessee

Quotations from the Bible are from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.

The Holy Sofa

One day a small boy was walking with his father. When they passed an unusual looking truck, he said, "What's that, Daddy?"

"I don't know," his father said.

Then they came to a large, old-fashioned warehouse. "What's in there, Daddy?" the little boy asked.

"I don't know," his father replied.

Then they saw a man using a pneumatic drill breaking up the pavement. "What's that man doing, Daddy?" the boy asked.

"I don't know," was again the father's answer.

After they had walked on a short way in silence, the little boy turned to his father and said, "Daddy, do you mind my asking you so many questions?" "Of course not," replied the father. "How else are you going to learn anything?"

How are our children going to learn anything, especially about our faith? Our God? Our salvation?

As Moses neared the close of his life, he longed to transfer to those who followed him the legacy of faith and trust in God which had become his. Inspired by God, the aging leader sought, like the runners of the Olympiad, to "pass the torch" to a new generation in the messages set down in the book of Deuteronomy.

Did you ever watch the Torch Relay before an Olympic game. Technically, the Torch Relay does not represent the passing of a torch, but celebrates the passing of the flame from one torch to the next. The Olympic flame symbolizes the light of spirit, knowledge and life. By passing the flame from one person to another in stages, the Torch Relay expresses the handing down of this symbolic fire from generation to generation.

How do we pass on the sacred flame with which God has entrusted us from generation to generation? What Moses faced is similar to what parents face as they ponder this need. Dr. John Youngberg states, "Great ideas don't live on just because they are true. They live on only when they are enshrined in the hearts of the young. Our most treasured religious ideals are always only one generation from extinction!" So Moses wrote the book of Deuteronomy, the most comprehensive statement on religious education to be found in the Scriptures. This is Moses' inspired last attempt to pass on the Holy Flame to the next generation. Within this book we can find council from God that will help us today as we think about fostering faith in our families.

Turn to Deuteronomy chapter 6. (It is found in the Old Testament after the book of Numbers and before the book of Joshua.

Deut. 6:1-5 "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, 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. Hear, O 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 fathers, promised you.

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord thy God with all your heart and with all your souls and with all your strength."

Verses 4-9 has come to be known in the Jewish faith as the Shema, from the Hebrew word for "hear" in verse 4. The Shema is their basic and essential creed of Judaism and is used to open every Jewish service. It's opening line is the first Scripture that every Jewish child commits to memory. "The Lord our God is one." Amidst religions with many gods, this verse declares our God to be ONE. It also declares that our commitment to God must be single-minded. It s as if Moses were saying, "Put your priorities in order. One thing is primary your total love relationship with God. Everything else is secondary."

Jesus also said, "Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all the rest will be added unto you." - Matthew 6:33. Elsewhere He underscored the instruction of Deut 6:5, proclaiming it the first and great commandment, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment" - Matthew 22:37,38.

So, according to Deuteronomy 6:4,5, our first step in our quest to pass on the holy flame is to Worship God Supremely.

Let's look a verse 6. "These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts."

God desires each one to experience His love in a personal way and to take the word of God into his heart. Heart means thought, emotions, the very center of ones being as far as the Hebrew scriptures were concerned. Though the religion of Jehovah affects the behavior and outer actions of a person, it is concerned first of all with the condition of the heart, the inner spirit of the believer.

The highest level of motivation in life, in relationships and service occurs when God's Word has been accepted, appreciated and taken within the heart. The heart is preeminent in the words of both Moses and Jesus. External actions, such as talking, teaching and other behaviors, are not substitutes for the inner experience. Love of God's precepts in the heart is necessary before they can be effectively taught to others.

Seventy-eight-year-old Aleida Huissen of Rotterdam in the Netherlands had been smoking for fifty years. For most of that time she had been trying unsuccessfully to give up the habit. Then something happened and she succeeded. The secret? She met seventy-nine-year-old Leo Jansen. The two fell in love and Leo proposed marriage. "I'll want you around for a long time," he said. "You must quit smoking before it kills you." Aleida said, "Will power never was enough to get me off the habit. Love made me do it."

So, after we Worship God Supremely, we need to Receive God's Word Inwardly.

Look at verse 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."

God's covenant with His people is intended to be a perpetual one. It was not intended for one generation only. Understanding of God's covenant with His people does not automatically transfer from one generation to the next. The individuals within each succeeding generation must be taught the meaning of the covenant and invited to enter that covenant relationship with God personally.

Ellen White, in The Ministry of Healing, p.349 states: "The restoration and uplifting of humanity begins in the home. The work of parents underlies every other. Society is composed of families, and is what the heads of families make it."

Deuteronomy also attaches importance to teaching within the family in a number of it's verses. The home is to be the center for conserving and propagating truth. Moses understood that the greatness of the nation depended upon the teaching of God's Word in the home.

Well, how do you do that? Verse seven has the answer. "Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up." Instruction from the parents is to be a continual way of life with spontaneous instruction mingled with more regular times for teaching. Sitting, walking lying down and getting up describe the typical habits of daily life. Religious instruction can and should happen as a habit of our daily life!

Religious instruction should be spontaneous. As you go about the business of the day, try to think of a lesson that can be taught about that activity and share it with your family. Pretend that you have been asked to tell the children's story this coming Sabbath in church and you must draw a lesson from what you are doing. It comes easier with practice.

Religious instruction should also have regular times during the day. This is where I have the hardest time. My days are anything but regular! Maybe you can identify with that. But it is so important to have regular time with the family to worship God.

Some of my fondest childhood memories are of me sitting on my Daddy's lap in the brown rocking chair in my bedroom just before bedtime. I don't know how many times I listened to Uncle Arthur's Bed-time Stories read through. Or Swift Arrow, or The Secret of the Cave, or The Last Escape, or Clever Queen, or The Bible Story. Notice, I remember these books. It didn't go in one ear and out the other. It was never boring! Yes, I learned the importance of family worship. But still have a hard time finding the time.

Persistence is the answer. Do your best and don't give up! If something comes up and I miss that special time, I'm learning not to throw in the towel but to start again the next day and the next and the next. Don't let it be like the resolution you made at New Years, the first time you failed to keep it you ditched it. Keep trying to find that special time with the Family. The rewards are eternal.

I know that getting small children to participate in the way you wish can be a challenge. My 20 month old daughter would not sit still long enough for a three sentence prayer. The toys she thought about held much greater attention than kneeling by the sofa. She would struggle, fuss and fume to have her way until we were about to give up! But one evening, just a few weeks ago, it happened! She joined us on her knees, with her head bowed, her eyes closed, her hands folded. Susan and I looked at each other in amazement, wishing we had our camera handy. The next night she did the same thing. I hope it is not irreverent but I took her picture while I was praying. Persistence has it's rewards. Now, when I say "It's time for the story," she makes a dead run for the sofa, snatching up her lesson quarterly off the shelf as she passes and waits impatiently for the rest of the family to arrive at the special place. Wouldn't it be great if our sofas were not the place to be mesmerized by what Hollywood has to offer. Wouldn't it be great if our kids saw this as a place of excitement because of a loving family worshipping a loving God! What ever place you decide to experience worship as a family becomes a holy place because God is there.

As the children get older, our worship style will need to change. Worship should not become boring. It should always be fresh and interesting for every member of the family. A challenge? Yes! But I have the feeling that God will bless every effort if we have already followed the steps mentioned on passing the holy flame: Worship God Supremely, Receive God's Word Inwardly, and This third step: Teach God's Word Diligently. Manna IDEAS

Let's look at verse 8 and 9: "Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the door-frames of your houses and on your gates."

Instruction was to be made real and practical in work, study, recreation, in family living and all aspects of life.

These verses eventually lost their meaning when the rabbis interpreted it literally, actually fixing small bits of written material from the books of Moses on their arms and foreheads and on the door-frames of their houses.

The counsel, however, is in figurative language. The truths of God's Word are to govern our actions, symbolized by the hands, and our thinking, symbolized by the forehead. Placing the Word of God on the door-frames of our homes indicates that God's truth is to be our identifying mark, just as blood on the door-frame of Israelite homes in Egypt provided an identifying mark so that the family within would be saved.

On Foxly Lane, near Newbold College, the homes, like many throughout England, are designated by names rather than street numbers. Pastor and Mrs. Ernest Marter, a retired SDA couple, built a home on this street. To this residence they gave the name Gratitude and placed an attractive sign engraved with this name at their curbside. This name proclaims to all who pass or who enter in the gratitude that the Marter family feels toward Jesus. What do people remember when they enter your home? Let's look now down at verse 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 that the Lord promised on oath to your forefathers,"

The word of God is aware that individuals who are in need and in want require little incentive to turn to God and serve Him. What is needed are individuals who in the midst of abundance and plenty will continue to be faithful to Him, who will not be distracted by the gods of the popular culture.

Children pick up the values that are lived constantly before them. Inconsistency creates confusion and doubt. A faithful Christian life as a parent does not mean a flawless life. Show me the perfect parent and I'll show you someone who has no children. God does not require us to be perfect parents, but in our brokenness and imperfection to direct our children to the perfect Savior we have found and to guide their feet along the path to find Him for themselves.

So our last step is Live God's Word Faithfully.

Our great purpose is to prepare the way for our children to make a covenant with their God as we have made a covenant with ourselves. We cannot coerce, we cannot force, but we can lovingly and patiently instruct them. We can live faithfully before them and we can invite them as did Moses who said, " Choose life, that both you and your children may live." -Deut 30:19. In order to pass on the Holy Flame, let's follow the steps of Deuteronomy 6: Worship God Supremely, Receive God's Word Inwardly, Teach God's Word Diligently, and Live God's Word Faithfully So that we can say like Joshua: "As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord." The prize is worth far more than a gold medal. It will be a golden crown cast at the feet of Jesus throughout eternity! (Quotes from Karen and Ron Flowers and Monte Sahlin and Ellen G. White and John Maxwell)

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