I listen to 100’s of sermons a year either at church or on podcasts. While I hope not to forget what I learn, the reality is that if it isn’t written down, I rarely recall the details a day later. But this particular message was different. I still recall the truths of the scripture taught, the analogy used, and how I felt as God grabbed my heart.
Moses had just returned from meeting God on the mountaintop. He was given the responsibility of teaching the Israelites to observe the 10 Commandments so that the adults, their children, and their children’s children “may fear the Lord your God…and enjoy long life” (Deuteronomy 6:1-2). God wanted the commandments to be on their hearts so much that they impressed them on their children as they talked, walked, laid down, and got up (v7). God was saying, “No matter what you are doing, teach your children to love me and love others.”
I remember like it was yesterday. My pastor camped out on the word, “impress.” Webster’s Dictionary defines impress as “to leave an imprint or mark” and “to transfer, transmit.” Using the illustration of biting your hand just enough to leave teeth marks, the pastor explained that to impress is to leave a life-changing mark on our children’s lives. Parents are to transfer what it means to love God through obedience (John 14:15) and love others through the examples of what love is/isn’t and does/doesn’t do (I Corinthians 13:4-9) so well that we leave a life-altering impression on the child.
A decade later I am still thinking about that sermon. So much so, I renamed my blog and created a podcast called “Parenting to Impress.” The name isn’t meant to boast about my parenting skills! Parenting to Impress instead reminds me that any effort made to raise my children without God or a godly perspective will fall short.
Making a mark on something requires an authentic mold or stamp. If my goal is simply to make copies of myself, I can push, prod, and make it happen. But there’s a problem. First, the “me” mold is very flawed. A mini-me child is going to be selfish, demanding his own way, and lack kindness just like the fleshly desires in me. Second, making an impression requires the exact amount of pressure to get the mark to hold. If I attempt to make impressions without God, it’s going to be a stressful and imperfect process. Only God offers a peace-filled and perfect mold.
How do I biblically “impress” a God-given mold upon my children? God provides the answer in verse 6, “These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts.” Did you catch it? I can make a godly mark upon my children when I have allowed God to mark my heart.
Here are some ways that God is impressing His mold upon my heart:
• Through daily quiet times in the Word and prayer
• Consistently attending and participating in a Bible-believing and preaching church
• Filling my mind with truth (Philippians 4:8) through what I listen to (e.g. podcasts, radio, music) and what I watch (e.g. streaming, reels, movies)
• Godly friends who love me enough to speak truth and grace.
As God works on my heart, I can more impactfully impress upon my children’s lives. Here are some of the ways the Lord has graciously taught me to “Talk about loving God and others when” I;
- “…sit at home.” – Read the Bible with your children. With preschoolers, simply teach them the true stories of the Old and New Testaments. If you need guidance, I invite you to visit ABCJesusLovesMe where I provide a plethora of free ideas. As the children age, use the stories to teach examples of good and bad character or choices, as well as God-given truths.
- “…walk along the road.” – Turn off the phone, radio, and music to promote conversation with your children as you travel the roads. Point out God’s creation in nature by saying comments like, “God made that beautiful tree for us to enjoy.” Pray for healing and strength when you see an ambulance or fire truck.
- “…lie down.” – Whether they incorporate their best stall tactics or just process through their day with a magnitude of words, enjoy those few minutes before bed to talk about the highs and lows of the day. Guide the child to see God’s hands in the details of their lives. Be honest and share struggles you are having and what God is teaching you.
- “…get up.” – Start each day declaring it another opportunity to share the gospel with those around us. This helps children understand their purpose.
Parenting to Impress has one goal – that “you, your children and their children after them may fear the Lord your God as long as you live” (Deuteronomy 6:2). That is my prayer for all of us. I invite you to join me on this impressing journey.