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Giving the First Commandment to our Children

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Episode Synopsis

How can we teach our children about God’s exclusive—even “jealous”—love for them? Learn two ways to help your child resist his own god-substitutes and say yes to Him!

Audio Transcript

Jani: Hello everyone. Thanks for listening in today. We’re grateful to have you. We feel like you’re becoming friends because we get to hear from so many of you. Thank you for listening. Thank you for emailing us, sending in questions and comments and I don’t know about you, but sometimes I enter into a new thing like a podcast recording or my morning or an appointment in a mad dash hurrying here and there. Yesterday Heidi and I were together and she shared a philosophy she has about hurrying with me that really helped me today as I was madly dashing around my house getting ready for this podcast. Heidi, would you share with our listeners what you told me yesterday? It was so helpful.

Heidi: You’re so sweet, Jani. First, I will say that I only can share about this because I have struggled with it for so many years. Last year we were taking Hannah to school, we home school three days a week and she goes to a tutorial two days a week. And so we would be off to the tutorial and I’d have my, at the time, three year old and four year old and Hannah and I always found us rushing Jani. As we’re rushing and we’re trying to get shoes on, I almost every time would get short tempered with the kids and stern and mean and we’d pile up and we’d get into the school. Well one day, Hannah’s sweet kindergarten teacher, Jan Blacklock looked at me and she said, Heidi, do you know that there’s never any reason to hurry? She said in a very loving and kind way, “In our class, we call hurrying the “H word”” She went on to explain how they don’t even use the “H word” in class. So then I thought, you know what, if the Lord has called me to do something, he’s going to give me enough time to do it. I also felt really convicted and I thought I would rather be late to something than get stern and mean with my kids. And so that was my new philosophy. We moved all the clocks by 15 minutes. So I said, “Okay, we’re going to get to the occasion 15 minutes early, but then if we are running late one morning I pause and I catch my breath and I say, this is not worth getting short and snippy with the kids, Heidi. It’s not their fault. There’s never any reason to hurry. Don’t use the ‘H word.'” And it’s really made a difference in our mornings.

Jani: Well, it made a difference for me this morning, Heidi. Thank you for sharing that.

Heidi: Thank you for asking.

Jani: Now our listeners know one of the trillion reasons I love and respect you so much.

Heidi: Yes let’s not use the “H word” anymore. If the Lord has given us to do it in the day, then he’s going to give us enough time to accomplish it. And if we’re hurrying all throughout the day, then I wonder if we’re doing some things that he hasn’t called us to.

Jani: Yes, hurrying makes me anxious and sometimes tired and I look back and there’s not a lot of joy in what I did in a hurry. So thank you Heidi. Well, dear listener, as you know, we’ve been working on a series on the 10 Commandments, which again, let Heidi and me tell you that it’s going to take a long time. It’s a longer series. We are hoping that it will sink deeply into your hearts and that the Lord will use it to restore your souls in new and refreshing ways to his word and his ways. So today we want to talk about how to give the first commandment to your children and others in your life. We’ve talked about how to live it, but now we want to talk about how to give it. Remember that we’ve said that God’s law is loving. It’s a mirror to our souls. It’s a mirror into which we can look for moral reflection, but it’s also deeper because the law draws us to the one who can cleanse us. It draws us to the one who can wipe away what we see in that mirror of our hearts and in that cleansing, he wins our hearts so that we learn to love and obey his law. Heidi, would you read Psalm 119:32;35?

Heidi: “I will run in the way of your commandments when you enlarge my heart! Lead me in the path of your commandments, for I delight in it.”

Jani: God is the one who enlarges our hearts so we can absorb the commandment and see what he has for us as individuals in it, and then we get to run with delight.

Heidi: Yes how sweet to think of delighting in the law.

Jani: Yes. Sometimes we feel the 10 Commandments is such a heavy burden, but it’s his love letter to us. He says, “Let me tell you how life works best. Let me show you a pathway that will bring great blessing and joy and delight.” We’ve been talking about the first commandment from Exodus chapter 20:3 which says, “You shall have no other gods before me.” We made the point in our last podcast that God loves us with an exclusive love, a jealous love. That’s kind of a hard word to put on God, but he uses it himself. Heidi, what is Exodus 34:14 say?

Heidi: “…(for you shall worship no other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.”

Jani: One of the names God gives himself is Jealous, along with Love, Hope, and Strength. I mean of all the different names we could give to God, one of his names is Jealous.

Heidi: How sweet to think that he loves us with a jealous love. I think only of the feeling of jealousy. So it’s really sweet to dwell on the fact that God loves me with a jealous love. He’s jealous for me. I can’t even comprehend it.

Jani: I know, that’s such a good point, Heidi. It is a comfort and we feel it. It’s like protection. If he’s loving me, watching over me with a jealous love, he’s going to help keep me from other loves. He loves us with an exclusive love because intimacy thrives in that kind of relationship. It’s as if I think God is saying to us, “I’m giving myself to you in grace and I don’t want anything to come between us.” How do we act? I mean, I know I don’t always act like I believe this first commandment or that God loves me with the jealous love. I might not say this Heidi, because it would be embarrassing and show my true heart, but really where I live sometimes is like this, “God, I’m afraid you’re not really enough for this situation. You’re not really providing for me or, or you’re not really fulfilling me, so I have to go somewhere else to fill the gap that you God have left.” Oh, I’m so sorry.

Heidi: I feel the same way as you were talking now. I just thought, man, how many times am I looking for happiness and something else when my heart feels sad because I perceive that I’m not experiencing it from the Lord. I think we all struggle with that.

Jani: Yes. Well, how can we give this commandment, “You shall have no other gods before me” to our kids. How can we help them to embrace it, absorb it, believe it, stand on it and except it? I think there are two ways. First of all, by living this commandment out by being an example and then by giving it and by teaching it. So let’s talk about giving it to them as an example from our own life. What does that look like? What does it mean? Well, it means be a Christ first person in my time, in my money, in my emotions, in my moral standards, in my church involvement. Do my children, grandchildren, do the other children in my life, in my neighborhood, in my Sunday school class, do they look at me and say, Christ is first in her life. Let’s just talk about one way you can show this to your kids. What about in your schedule? I don’t often bring my four children into this podcast, but I am going to today. We have four kids, three boys and one girl. Our daughter Krista is number two and she and her husband live in Wheaton. They have three young children and and Ray and I were recently visiting with them. I’ve seen this through the last few visits there, but it really came home to me as I was preparing for this podcast today about the first commandment, how to give it to our children. When Krista gets up in the morning, she doesn’t get dressed first, she just gets in her bathrobe, comes down, makes a little coffee, gathers her Bible or her journal and goes to her chair and then the kids start coming down and rather than being loud and boisterous and “I want a drink, I want this…”, she has taught them to come to their book basket or book area, wherever the books are in the house and get a book and read quietly until mommy’s done reading because mommy needs time with the Lord. This did not happen quickly. I’ve seen it develop over the past several years, so don’t expect that if you teach your children this one morning that every morning for the rest of your life, they will do this. But she’s reinforced it in a godly way. So I was down having my quiet time and Krista came down and started hers and pretty soon Lizzy and Jack and Micah came down, said, good morning, got a book and read until we were done. And it was just beautiful. Those children are growing up with the picture of Krista, going to God first in the morning. Be a Christ first person. I don’t know what it would look like in your family. You do. God can show you. Ask him to show you how you can have no other gods before him as you live out your life. And then secondly, you need to teach this, you need to verbalize it. You need to camp on it with your children. Your kids need to see that salvation is not an idea. It’s not a method. It’s not a thing. It’s a person. It’s Jesus Christ! Aim always to help the children in your life approach God himself and begin to listen to God for himself or herself. Now this first commandment, as we’re teaching it to our kids, assumes that we will worship something. The human heart, I cannot remember who said this, but I read it somewhere. The human heart is a worship factory. It manufactures its own idols without any prompting and we worship whatever dazzles us. Children are dazzled by a lot of things…

Heidi: …toys and Legos. James lost a tooth the other day and he goes, “Mom, what can I spend my money from the tooth fairy on?” I thought, Oh, I don’t know how much the $3 is going to buy, but they are so easily dazzled, but so are we.

Jani: Yes. What are some things that dazzle you Heidi?

Heidi: Oh, jewelry and time alone or a favorite TV show or a good book, all good things, but if they dazzle me more than the Lord dazzles me, or if I don’t receive them as gifts from the Lord, then I’m starting to put them in the wrong place.

Jani: Beautiful. That’s right. We can look at little ones around us and see what dazzles them and then ask, “Well, what, what’s dazzling to me these days?” But don’t hinder your child in what dazzles them. It’s okay for them to feel that joy and excitement, but redirect even a deeper delight in God and the best way to do that is to feed them from him. Don’t feed their idols, feed them from God’s word. Teach them God’s ways and wisdom and rewards. The first commandment reveals this jealous love of God. It calls us to say yes to him and it exposes our god substitutes and we can use that language in teaching our kids. If your children are of the age five or six, they’ve probably heard of the word substitute. Maybe their Sunday school teacher had a substitute or if they go to school, their teacher had a substitute. You could teach them, “Oh, we’re going to substitute chocolate ice cream for our strawberry ice cream tonight” and show them how it can take the place. And then you can go from that to look for ways in your child’s life where he is substituting a thing for truth, where he is substituting something other than God.

Heidi: We were struggling with that with one of our kids the other day. The kids had been selling wheat grass and so they’ve been earning money for this as we work together as a family.

Jani: Wait, just stop there! I love this about Heidi. She’s really teaching her kids at a young age, she and Mike together, a powerful work ethic. Now it’s not just the wheat grass. They were wood over two days ago, two days in a row actually, for Ray’s new wood burning stove. And those children were carrying wood up the stairs and piling it in right off the truck into the woodpile.

Heidi: That’s Mike. Mike gets all the credit. He grew up on a farm and he learned that work ethic from his family and his work ethic is a lot better than mine. And so we wanted to get a farm one day to be able to teach that to our kids. But you’re so kind. So as they’ve been earning money, Jani, I saw one child in particular was really struggling with this. “I want to buy this, I want to buy this. When am I gonna have enough money?” And it was overtaking this child and I had to sit down and I said, “This is what I see happening. And mama struggles with that too. Sometimes I’m thinking about this one thing that I want and if I think I can get this one thing, it’ll make me happy. One thing that helps me is if I sit down and write down all the blessings that the Lord has given me and put my focus on God and the giver of good gifts instead of on this one thing that I think will satisfy me.”

Jani: That’s so good. Oh, Heidi, that’s perfect. You didn’t even know this. But this will lead us in to how to teach your child. Thank you for that. Listener, you may remember that in a previous podcast, Heidi and I encouraged you to get a big red piece of tag board, the big kind, and make it into a big red heart and to write God’s law at the very top of it and put a mirror in the very middle so your child can remember the law is like a mirror. Now today, as you’re teaching them the first commandment, and I want to again encourage you, don’t try to do all of this in one day. Spread it out. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to take a couple of weeks to think about this first commandment and to enter into your child’s life in short little ways throughout the week and teach them this commandment? But to teach your child this commandment, you will need your big red heart and markers. You’ll need little pieces of paper. I use index cards and tape. The first thing you would want to do is read Exodus 20:3 and memorize it so that could even take one night of your devotions. You could have fun writing it out, drawing different words, having different children say it, and then testing you and making sure you know it and then the next day, see if you still remember it, but read and memorize that first commandment and then you want to be able to have your child understand what “other gods” means in this commandment, “You shall have no other gods.” What are other gods? You’d want to talk about that. You would want to introduce the word jealous, maybe even write it out for the children who can read. Talk about what it means to be jealous. Share about a time in your own life, maybe for this family devotion together you could look at Exodus 34:14 and talk about the exclusive nature of our relationship to God. If you’re married, you can use marriage as an example, but help your child understand all that God has done for him. You can just trace back through your child’s life how he chose him before the world was even made and how he formed this child in his mother’s womb and how he wrote every day of his life in a book before one of them was ever even written out before they ever came to be and how he prepared good works for your child to do and how one day he’s going to come again and reign on earth and he wants your child to know him intimately. You could go on and on looking up scriptures. I mean, that could take a week of devotions. But when you talk about God’s jealous nature, don’t make it seem ugly. It’s beautiful! Remind your child of all the beauties of God and why he is worthy of our exclusive love because of his intimate relationship with us. Another thing you can do to help your child understand this first commandment, “You shall have no other gods before me”, is talk about god substitutes. Heidi, would you read Psalm 16:2?

Heidi: “I say to the Lord, ‘You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.'”

Jani: Can you say that? Do your children see that in your life? Can you say to your child, I have no good apart from God? He is my deepest good. He is what I camp on. He’s what I rest on. He’s who I run to. He’s a good God and I want him to be your God. You can share from your own heart how you struggle with God’s substitutes and discuss with your child how even children have god substitutes. If your child can think of one, have your child draw something that dazzles him, something that he’s tempted to worship in a sense, and you draw one of your own too, and then tape them next to the first commandment on your big red heart to remind you that you need God to help you obey this commandment. On another night, you could talk about King Solomon from 1 Kings chapter 11, those first 13 verses, and you can talk about how Solomon started well. God was his God. He had no other God besides God until later in his life he didn’t finish well. He drifted away. And you can talk about some of the gods substitutes that Solomon chose over the Lord himself. That would make a fascinating study one night and it would help your children to see that it’s not just mommy and daddy who have god substitutes. It’s not just kids, but it’s Kings, it’s rulers. You can also look for ways to show and tell your child the glories of God. How does God dazzle you? Why do you admire him? When you’re walking, driving, eating, playing, vacationing, working together, draw attention to the marvels of our great God. Spend time together thinking and praying over the wonders of God. You could read something like Psalm 16:11, “…at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Or Psalm 19:1, “The heavens declare the glory of God…” Heidi, you were speaking of this earlier, talking about this with your kids, but I would encourage you one night around the Bible, maybe around one of these Bible verses, Psalm 16:11. Write out all the ways that you see God in your creation, in your life, in your family. Heidi, will you read Psalm 145:3 for me please?

Heidi: “Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchable.”

Jani: Why not write that, Psalm 145:3, at the top of that piece of paper and throughout the week, this coming week that you’re working on giving your child this first commandment, take some time to list ways that God thrills you and your child. Maybe you’d want to illustrate it if your child is a preschooler. Together, write a prayer of praise to God. Oh, how wonderful that would be out of the first commandment.

Heidi: I liked what you said earlier too, Jani, about how we can ask the Lord to help us fulfill the first commandment. Sometimes I think if I’m trying to do it on my own, I get overwhelmed because it’s not possible. But when you said that, I really paused and said, “Yes Lord, I can’t do this on my own, but you can help me meditate on your greatness, rest in your greatness, serve you alone.” So I want to camp on that this week too. “God help me love you first.”

Jani: Yes, that’s good Heidi and that that brings us perfectly to the end of this podcast. I would just encourage you to pray over your child that God would fill him or her with such a radiance and power that his god substitutes get smaller, that God truly is seen as who he is, that God gives your child eyes to see an ears to hear, a heart of flesh, not of stone, to absorb all that God is and that he would set his hope on God and on nothing else.TPray that over your child. Let your child know that that’s the desire of your heart.

Thank You

Thank you for joining us today. This podcast is generously funded through Renewal Ministries. If you would like to discover more about Jani and Ray’s ministry or make a donation, visit their website at renewalministries.com. If you have a question for Jani or would like to learn more about this podcast, please visit our website at herestoresmysoul.org.

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He Restores My Soul with Jani Ortlund seeks to encourage women with God’s renewing power for their busy lives. Episodes include relevant biblical teaching, stimulating gospel conversations with other Christians, and “Ask Jani” sessions where we talk about what’s on our listeners’ hearts.

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