VBS is coming and with it comes the mad dash of preparation by teachers, countless volunteers to have everything ready on time. Then comes four nights of organized mayhem as some 150 children come into the building.
They sing, they play, they learn, they eat, they do crafts, they fall in love with VBS. I've never met a child that didn't like VBS. They just love it, they love it. And the volunteers look on with weary smiles thinking, I'm dead tired, but seeing the happy children makes it all worthwhile.
There might be a moment when they say, why did I volunteer for this, what was I thinking? But when they see the happy smiles on those small children's faces, it makes it all worthwhile. I say this to kind of introduce what I want to talk about tonight.
There's a marvelous story in First Chronicles in the Old Testament, and if you've got your bibles, you can go there now. I'll be reading out of there in a moment. Marvelous story in First Chronicles, Chapter 22 that describes how David prepared his own son, Solomon, for his future service to the Lord in building the temple, a lot like we're preparing children for their future service.
So there's a parallel here, David preparing Solomon for his future service. Now we know, give you a little context here for the lesson, we know that God did not allow David himself to build the temple, although he wanted to.
But his violent life of war did not permit him, had blood on his hands, did not permit him to, God did not permit him to build the temple. So the task would fall to his son. But in the story we're going to read here, we learn a wonderful lesson on the kinds of attitudes that parents should have when preparing their own children for the future.
I mean, we're all concerned about our children and what they will do. David here shows that much of what children do later on depends on what we do with them now.
1Then David said, "This is the house of the Lord God, and this is the altar of burnt offering for Israel."
2So David gave orders to gather the foreigners who were in the land of Israel, and he set stonecutters to hew out stones to build the house of God. 3David prepared large quantities of iron to make the nails for the doors of the gates and for the clamps, and more bronze than could be weighed; 4and timbers of cedar logs beyond number, for the Sidonians and Tyrians brought large quantities of cedar timber to David. 5David said, "My son Solomon is young and inexperienced, and the house that is to be built for the Lord shall be exceedingly magnificent, famous and glorious throughout all lands. Therefore now I will make preparation for it." So David made ample preparations before his death.
6Then he called for his son Solomon, and charged him to build a house for the Lord God of Israel. 7David said to Solomon, "My son, I had intended to build a house to the name of the Lord my God. 8But the word of the Lord came to me, saying, 'You have shed much blood and have waged great wars; you shall not build a house to My name, because you have shed so much blood on the earth before Me. 9Behold, a son will be born to you, who shall be a man of rest; and I will give him rest from all his enemies on every side; for his name shall be Solomon, and I will give peace and quiet to Israel in his days. 10He shall build a house for My name, and he shall be My son and I will be his father; and I will establish the throne of his kingdom over Israel forever.' 11Now, my son, the Lord be with you that you may be successful, and build the house of the Lord your God just as He has spoken concerning you. 12Only the Lord give you discretion and understanding, and give you charge over Israel, so that you may keep the law of the Lord your God. 13Then you will prosper, if you are careful to observe the statutes and the ordinances which the Lord commanded Moses concerning Israel. Be strong and courageous, do not fear nor be dismayed. 14Now behold, with great pains I have prepared for the house of the Lord 100,000 talents of gold and 1,000,000 talents of silver, and bronze and iron beyond weight, for they are in great quantity; also timber and stone I have prepared, and you may add to them. 15Moreover, there are many workmen with you, stonecutters and masons of stone and carpenters, and all men who are skillful in every kind of work. 16Of the gold, the silver and the bronze and the iron there is no limit. Arise and work, and may the Lord be with you."
17David also commanded all the leaders of Israel to help his son Solomon, saying, 18"Is not the Lord your God with you? And has He not given you rest on every side? For He has given the inhabitants of the land into my hand, and the land is subdued before the Lord and before His people. 19Now set your heart and your soul to seek the Lord your God; arise, therefore, and build the sanctuary of the Lord God, so that you may bring the ark of the covenant of the Lord and the holy vessels of God into the house that is to be built for the name of the Lord."
- I Chronicles 22
Of course, if we were to continue reading, we would learn that Solomon built a temple that has never been equaled in wealth and beauty. But this particular chapter teaches us some of the things that we need to do, this is not about the temple, the physical temple.
It's about the things that we need to do to prepare our own children for their future. Things that we read about in this chapter that David did to prepare Solomon for his future, okay. So here are a couple of things if you kind of come back over the chapter that you can pull out as advice.
Things to do in preparing your children for future service. Number one, think long-term, think long-term. You see, with children it's easy to get discouraged thinking that they're always going to be small or always going to be teens or always going to be moving in or out But as many will tell you, eventually they are gone and they're on their own, that they're making their own way without you.
In normal circumstances, our children will outlive us. I think every single parent wants their children to outlive them. A terrible thing to lose a child. So, let's equip our children with the resources that will sustain them after we're gone. David provided Solomon with all the resources he would need to complete the job of building the temple. A job that would be completed many years after his death, David didn't live long enough to see the temple. Very few of us are rich enough to leave our children enough financial wealth to guarantee their lifestyle after we've departed this place. Some perhaps are wealthy enough but most of us we don't have money to set our children up for life, where they don't have to work or earn a living.
But all of us, however, can equip our children with valuable commodities that will preserve their lives after we leave. What type of commodities? Well things like faith in Jesus Christ, which will guarantee their salvation and a security against all of life's troubles.
Believe me, a bank account is not security for all of life's troubles. Because there are so many things that happen in life that can not be fixed with money. But faith in Jesus Christ is a security against every ill and every evil.
Also, equip them with a sense of purpose which will keep them motivated and guard them against depression and disillusionment. David gave Solomon a task that would keep him busy for a long time.
We need to give our children reasons to stay busy, to stay active, to stay serving for a long time after we're gone, and also equip them with a sensitive conscience which will help them avoid the many sinful traps that they will have to overcome.
Our daughters (Julia and Emilie) my wife Lise and I always trusted them, we had great confidence, well we had confidence in all of our kids, but our daughters especially had great, oh our sons, okay, and our daughters, we had great confidence in them.
It wasn't so much that they knew everything or they took karate lessons and they could beat somebody up you, not that kind of confidence. We were confident that they would make the right choices, presented with choices, put under certain kind of pressure, some situation that perhaps would make them compromise their values.
We were confident that they were strong enough to make the right choices under pressure. And they fulfilled that confidence that we had in them as young women, and now as young married women and mothers with children of their own we continue to see that wonderful confidence that they have in knowing what the right thing is to do, and encouraging their own children and their own husbands to do the right thing.
Nothing can replace that kind of skill. So all of these things can be and should be installed into our children as basic equipment so that they will have internal guidance once our hand of external guidance is gone when we're gone.
Another thing that we should equip them or another thing we ought to do is we ought to begin now, think long-term, equip them long-term, but start now. Think long-term into the future, but don't put off beginning these things into the future.
Start them now. There will be no help from us when we're gone only memories. We need to begin preparing our children for the future as soon as we can. We see in this story here that David began to amass the supplies, the gold, the contacts for workers while Solomon was still a little boy.
He knew that eventually the job would have to be done, that Solomon would eventually have to face the task, so he started to prepare right away. The idea is especially true in religious education. I've heard parents say and perhaps you have too in discussing their religious education of their children I've heard this sentence.
Well I'm going to just let my child decide about religion and about belief, when they grow up and then they can just make their own minds about it. I'm not going to force them to believe, leave them alone and then at some point when they grow up they can just decide what they want to believe or if they want to believe.
And I say to them, decide based on what criteria? What exactly are they going to use to make their decision with? If they don't know anything about their faith, how will they be able to judge what is true from what is not true? They will be victimized by the first idea that comes along that suits their mood at the time.
If they're not equipped, if they're not prepared. I have full confidence that if I begin early to teach my children the Bible, if I begin early to teach my children about the faith, if I begin early teaching my children about their responsibilities towards the church, about obedience to the Lord Jesus Christ, I think if I begin early with these things, they will be well equipped to choose for themselves later on.
It's not that they will be so brainwashed that they will not know any better when it comes to religion that's not the point. It's that they will recognize quite easily the value and the superiority of their Christian faith when and if they compare it to something else.
See my hope is that my children wouldn't want to change their faith. My hope has always been that my children recognize the value of their faith and they wouldn't trade it for anything, and they could even argue why they are who they are and what they believe.
They wouldn't be fooled. So my encouragement to you is, start now to teach and to train. They're never too young to prepare them for the time when we'll no longer be there to teach them. So think long-term, start now.
Thirdly, surround them with good people. David in the story, not only supplied timber and gold and silver and so on and so forth, he also surrounded his son with good people, people who could add to his wisdom and knowledge.
In verse 17 of this chapter, David commands the leaders to help his son complete the task before him. And so in this regard, bad company does corrupt good morals, but there is wisdom in a multitude of counselors, and what I'm saying to you as parents, don't be afraid to surround your children with a multitude of good counselors.
One of the jobs that parents have is to create a healthy environment for their children. This is not always easy, but very necessary in order to control the shaping of the mind and attitude. So, how do we control this environment, how do we create this environment? Well this surrounding, if you wish, can include the monitoring of television and today internet and social media, music and so on and so forth that is suitable.
I can remember when our children were growing up and beginning to explore music and videos and things like that, there were some things that were questionable, and we were not embarrassed to say, no that movie, we're not going to watch that, we don't think that this song is, and they would say why, because it's not suitable.
And they'd say, what do you mean not suitable? A million people are listening to this. It's number one on the chart. And the answer would be without breaking a smile, it's not suitable for a Christian young man or woman. It might be suitable for that guy over there who has absolutely no conviction about anything and who's just chomping on any junk on tv or the internet, just consuming whatever comes at him. Maybe that's okay for them, but here in this house you get to pick and choose what you put inside yourself, and that there, that's not going to go on the inside of you.
And then of course, getting to know your children's friends and encouraging the bad ones to improve their behavior. And the good ones to come around more often. The parents are the gatekeepers.
When somebody rang the doorbell, wanting to come in, a friend or so on and so forth, I was always curious who's that? Ah it's nothing Dad, one of my buddies. Which buddy is that? I wanted to see that guy or want to see that girl, I want to take a look at them.
That's okay, teenagers always find that so intrusive, "Mom you're embarrassing me", so what, so you're embarrassed. I want to know who you're hanging out with. Making sure that Christian influences are well represented in your children's life.
Yes, regular church attendance, even if sometimes it's augh man do we have to go Sunday night? Yes. And involvement in the youth group. I tell people all the time, you date the people you hang around with, and you marry the people you date.
So if 95% of your friends are not Christians, there's a 95% chance that you're going to date a non-Christian, and if you are dating 95% of the time young men or women who are not Christians, then there's a 95% chance that you're going to marry one of those non-Christians, that's just the way the world works.
Don't ever think just because you're a Christian that it is impossible for you to fall in love with somebody who is not a Christian. It happens all the time. And of course Christian education, you know what I'm talking about, how to mold that environment, watch what's being consumed, watch who the friends are, and if possible, if you can, provide a Christian education.
Now the most important environmental factor of course, is your own example for Christ. Remember your children do what you do, not what you say. They can easily tune out what you say, believe me. They can tune that out.
But they can't tune out what you do. David, in this chapter, did everything he could to surround his son with reminders of why he was here, where he was going, and how he was going to get there. Parents can not force their children to go where they should or do what they should.
But they can raise up their children in such a way that when they are grown, they know what they should do and they have the resources to do it if they choose to follow. It's not that if you give them a Christian upbringing, it's a guaranteed thing that they will follow it.
We know, we know that's not true. How many young people have come from marvelous Christian homes and have grown up and abandoned the faith, it happens. The point we're making is if you give them that Christian upbringing, and when they grow up able to make their own choice, and they choose, I want to follow Christ, they'll know how to do it.
Why? Because they've learned how from an early age, and that's our job, parents, that's our job. Maybe one other thing that we can draw from this chapter. So start early, excuse me, long-term, think long-term, start early, provide that environment, and then number four, give your children a high goal to shoot for.
Solomon was not only groomed to reign in his father's place, but he was also given the task of building a magnificent temple that his father could not build and would not later see. Children will live up to or down to our expectations of them.
So aim high if you want them to reach for high. If you keep telling your kid, you're just no good, I don't know what's wrong with you, you keep making mistakes, you keep putting them down, what do you think's going to happen? They're going to live down to your expectations.
I remember my mother, who is gone now many years, and she would say one thing that how mothers are able to say something that at the same time makes you crazy but inspires you at the same time? You want to go, Oh I don't want to hear that again but yeah it's true.
When I was disappointed or whatever, something was wrong, she would say to me, you're better than that. You're better than that, she would say to me. You're better than that boy who just used a bad word.
You're better that that boy who wanted to quit on a difficult homework assignment. You're better than that if I was ugly to one of my friends, I was an only child so there was no brothers or sisters, but if I had a friend, didn't treat them right, or if I was just feeling sorry for myself because somebody didn't include me in something, whatever I'd be moping around the house.
She would say, you're better than that, and at the same time it would drive me nuts when she would say that, but it would also inspire me because she believed I was better than that. She was saying to me, although she spoke in French, she was saying to me, You need to aim higher, you're not aiming high enough.
The reason that you feel the way you do, the reason you're moping around here, the reason that you're cross ways with your friend or whatever, is because you're aiming too low. You got to aim a little higher, you're better than that.
Part of the American dream is that each generation lives better than the previous generation. We want our children to have a better education, a better lifestyle, a better success than we've had. Again, I'm an example of that.
My grandfather came to Canada on a boat in 1903, and in those days even people going to Canada, immigrants going to Canada, they went through Ellis Island, they were processed at Ellis Island and then they'd go north to Canada, those who were who had family in Canada, that's how they did it in those days.
And I found the log where my grandfather signed his name in 1903 at Ellis Island, Luigi Mazzalongo. And then they had columns asking him about questions married, blah blah blah. And there was one column that said, what are you bringing with you? What money are you bringing? Remember now he's crossed the Atlantic Ocean from Italy and from the east side of Italy, he had to cross the entire country of Italy, and then take the boat and cross the ocean to come to the United States and then Canada, and they asked him how much money do you have in all total? Ten dollars.
Ten American dollars. Man I won't even go to Edmond without ten dollars, or Shawnee, maybe you need a little less money in Shawnee, I don't know, but. You understand what I'm saying? I know that ten dollars was more than ten dollars today but so what? Ten bucks to leave your homeland and go to another country where you don't know anyone, with ten bucks in your pocket? He, he never finished school, he never owned a car, he never owned a home.
His very best job, very best job, he died when he was in 80s, his very best job was working at the railroad, the railway, out in the railway yard. He wanted better for his sons, he had five sons. He wanted better for them and you know what? Those five sons, all passed away now, my father included in those five sons, none of them went to college.
None of them ever owned their own home. It took yet another generation, me, to go to college, to own a home. To marry and have children who will go hopefully to college. Every generation wants the next generation to do better, but I want something better than just the American dream for my children.
Sure, I want them to have an education and fulfilling work and home and family and all these things in greater abundance, and the Lord has, if my family, that has happened. I have a son who at 30 years old, he's got a family and a house and two cars. At 30 years old I was sleeping on my cousin's couch. Period, that's all I had, sleeping on her couch. I owned a guitar, two shirts and a pair of jeans at 30. So yeah, our children have done a whole lot better. But you know what? I want more than that. I'm like David. I want my children to build a temple after I'm gone. I want them to build a living temple that will be far greater than any dream possible here on Earth, and I am providing the resources for them to build a spiritual temple.
I've given them a foundation upon which to build and that foundation is faith in God and Jesus Christ and his word. And I'm supplying them with living stones as Peter calls the brethren in First Peter 2:5, Christian teachers and elders and friends and mates with which they can build, and I have taught them to secure their temple with the cornerstone that will guarantee that the structure will never fall, and that cornerstone is Jesus Christ, the stone that was rejected by the builders but which became the very cornerstone, Acts 4:11.
You see, like David, we as parents have to aim high for our children. We not only aim high in this world, I say we have to aim to the highest level and that is heaven itself. I aim for heaven for my children.
So we need to understand, if you've read about David and Solomon, despite his best efforts, David's success with his son Solomon was kind of a mixed bag. He built the temple, yes that was good.
He ruled over a rich and unified country, yes, he wrote inspired literature. We think that he wrote, we know that he wrote maybe 3,000 proverbs. But, Solomon ended up marrying foreign wives, and he fell into a dollar tree, and his son, Solomon's son, David's grandson, eventually divided the nation and it fell into civil war because of his rule.
And in the end, Solomon returned to God and acknowledged his need to obey and submit to God and the word. We have no guarantee with our children. Even if you do everything right, they still have to choose the way that they're going to go.
Let's face it, Adam, he had a perfect father, and he still messed up. That always brings some sort of mixed comfort to me somehow. We can not live our children's lives, but we can prepare them to live good lives.
By preparing them for the future now, while they're young, and by supplying them with the people and the experiences that will help them to get to heaven, not just to get ahead. In the end, if they follow the way that you have laid out, then give God the credit, and if they falter and fail, be steady in your prayer on their behalf, knowing that your prayers for them will remain before God long after you've left this Earth.
I have the great comfort of knowing that the prayer I made for my son 15 years ago is still before God, long after I've forgotten it, God has not forgotten, and long after I'm dead, all the prayers and supplications that I've made, for our sons and our daughters and our daughter-in-laws and our son-in-laws and our grandchildren, day by day Elise and I, offering prayer after prayer after prayer for all of these people, will remain before God long after Elize and I have left this earth.
And so tonight I invite you to come for prayer. If you're a son or you're a daughter who has strayed, perhaps need God's help to reach that high goal of Heaven. Let me just make a little parenthetical statement here about the invitation.
When someone comes forward, they're not promising to be perfect in the future. Someone comes forward on the invitation, they're not saying to the church, okay I'm never going to mess up again, I'm never going to sin again, that's not what they're saying.
When someone comes forward, it's an acknowledgement that we are imperfect, and at this particular moment in our lives, we need some extra help dealing with that imperfection. That's what the response is to the invitation.
So if you're feeling your imperfection just a little too much, and you need the ministry of prayer, the encouragement of the saints, then please come forth. And if you're a parent who needs God's strength to guide you in helping your children reach that high level, then we encourage you also to come forward.
If these are your needs or you wish to be baptized, or place membership with whatever need of ministry that you might have at this time, we encourage you to come forward now as Johnny leads us in a song of encouragement.