A new year. A new decade. A new century. Such times can strengthen one's hope. They can provide a reason for wiping the slate clean, starting anew, beginning again. They can create an incentive to change. Unfortunately, however, change is not easy. Chances are, if our homes were not strong in the 20th century, they will not be strong in the 21st.
It takes more than the ticking of the clock and the turning of a calendar page to enhance one's parenting skills. Moving into a new year, stepping into a new decade, entering a new century-these are not determinate factors in the destiny of the soul. It is not the age, the era, the year, the decade, or the century that determines eternal destiny. It's the manner in which one remains focused on God's Word. It's the degree to which one adheres to God's Law.
I believe that the 21st century will bring many problems into the world: problems that will touch the heart of every home. Psychological problems. Economic problems. Social problems. Spiritual problems. Problems that will affect the physical, mental, and spiritual destiny of our children. How will Christian families meet these problems? How will we face the endless challenge that lies ahead?
"Battered and Broken-Can the Family Survive?" This is the question asked in The Weekly Australian (November 1999). In the front-page article entitled Home & Society, the writer makes this observation: "Our image of the family in the late 20th century could be judged by what we see on television…We have seen the Brady Bunch, the Sullivans, the Waltons, and the Cosbys-a black version of the white, middle-class, mainstream, value-loaded couplings and offspring. And yet out there beyond television-land, families have become more and more diverse. There are more single parents, divorced couples, blended families, de facto families, and same-sex couples than ever before."
Then the writer asked, "Does this mean the family is collapsing and will cease to have relevance?" In answer to the question, a number of professionals are quoted; professionals who believe the abnormal relationships spoken of in the article (yea, throughout the entire publication!) are not only normal, but will ensure that the family lives on into the next millennium.
Indeed, the world is different now! The old traditional home is rapidly becoming an endangered species. God's plan for the family is being compromised. As the article pointed out, there are more divorced couples, more single parents, more unscriptural marriages, more blended families than ever in our history. De facto relationships are common, and same-sex partners are now recognised as fit parents. It is not my intent to address the sinful nature of such relationships, except to point out the devastating effect they have on the children. Many will grow up thinking their situation in life is normal, and will, in all probability, repeat the pattern in adulthood. As a result, their physical and spiritual destinies will be drastically affected.
Historian Ann Curthoys believes that, as we enter this 21st century, the adaptation and resilience that has characterised the family for the past 2000 years will continue. Does this mean that we're going to just keep on accepting until we become so resilient that acceptance will take priority over truth? If so, the home in this century is going to suffer the loss of many souls.
What does God expect of the 21st century family? For the Christian, let it be noted that even though we have just entered a new millennium, and are less than halfway through a new year in a new century, nothing has changed! God's law regarding the home is as binding today as ever. Furthermore, God will expect nothing less than strict adherence to that law. Woe unto those who think otherwise!
Brethren, I'm concerned! Concerned about the soul-destroying trends that are being accepted as normal. Concerned about our conscience-dulled attitude toward gay and de facto relationships. Concerned about the destiny of the children who will be innocently caught-up in this tangled web of life.
I'm also concerned about us within the church! Concerned about Christian parents who haven't taken their Bibles off the shelf and studied God's plan for the home. Christian parents who allow their children the freedom of choice between sport and worship. Christian parents who relinquish control of their children when they reach eighteen. Christian parents who live in child-ruled homes where discipline is taboo, and to "love" means to let the children have their own way whether it's best for them or not.
Sad to say, but there is a deterioration of the home within the church as well as within the world. It does not bring glory to God for families to disregard His law concerning the home. That's why it's important for us to talk about getting back to God's family plan. To marry a Christian and to bring up one's children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, is the greatest contribution a man can make in his lifetime.
God's law for the family has not changed. It's still the most reliable child-rearing guide a parent can follow. It's still the only safe source of soul-saving information we have. If parents are to influence the destiny of their children's souls, they must hold fast to God's infallible truths. They must speak of these truths as they talk with their children in the home, as they walk by the way, as they lie down, and as they rise up (Deut. 6:7). Oh, Church, can we not understand the far-reaching importance of this?
Know ye not that, with the privilege of having children, comes the God-given duty of saving their souls? Know ye not that a child's soul is merely on loan from God, and it's our responsibility to nurture it in such a way that He can reclaim it for His own someday? If, in this 21st century, we are to influence the eternal destiny of our children's souls, we must diligently instruct them in the ways of the Lord! Fortunately, as Brother Bert Thompson notes in an article on parenting, "God has given us tools equal to the task, and the instruction booklet we are to employ as we go about completing our assignment." Brother Thompson goes on to explain that the "tools" are things like love, wisdom, parental authority, and experience. And the "instruction book" is His Word, the Bible. To ignore these tools and this instruction book is to endanger the souls of our children.
Parents endanger the souls of their children when they fail to properly instruct and supervise. "As arrows in the hand of a mighty man; so are the children of the youth" (Psalm 127:44). Each step an archer takes is carefully calculated. When he sights the goal, draws the bowstring and lets go, he expects his arrow to reach its target. So it should be with parents. Each step we take should be with the intention of seeing the souls of our children reach their final target, heaven.
Sometimes we endanger the souls of our children because our priorities aren't right (Matthew 6:33). Or we might have an incorrect view of God's Word (Hosea 4:6). Or maybe we think that, because our children live under our roof they will just naturally absorb the knowledge they need, hence we fail to teach and train (Proverbs 22:6). Maybe we've relinquished our God-given responsibility to someone else: the preacher, Bible class teachers, grandparents, spouse. After all, we're busy seeing that our children have a proper education, clothing to wear, food to eat. Whatever the reason, it's not acceptable. Our primary task as a parent is to direct the destiny of our children's souls. If we fail in this mission, we not only fail our children; we also fail our God.
There are many things that parents must teach their children as they journey through life. Good manners. "Even a child is known by his doings" (Proverbs 20:11). Good language. We will be judged by the words we speak (Matthew 12:36,37). Purity. Christians must keep themselves unspotted from the world (James 1:27). Respect. Respect for parents; respect for others (Matthew 15:4; I Peter 2:17). Obedience. Children must learn to yield to parental authority (Ephesians 6:1). Holiness. We are to be holy as God is holy (I Peter 1:16). Values. Lasting treasure is laid up in heaven (Matthew 6:20). Spiritual courage. It takes strength and courage to keep the law of God (Joshua 1:7). These are but a few things that we are commissioned to teach our children. The list could go on and on. Parents, I challenge you to study God's Word to see what you must do, then rise up and do it. You'll be glad you did when you stand before God some day.
As parents, we must find a way to knit our family together in the bond of love, instilling within their hearts a sense of belonging. Cohesion. Unity. "All of them is they; and only we are us!" This is a way a family should feel. Sharing and caring; that's what "belonging" is all about. Families should work together and play together. And, they should eat together, too! Table-time is important in the life of a child. This is where he learns to communicate; where he learns to express his thoughts and listen to the thoughts of others. When communication lines are open, destiny-directing becomes a bit more simple.
Personally, I think family traditions strengthen the bond between family and God as well as between parent and child. We've created a lot of traditions in our family; traditions that are now being passed on to our children's children. It does my aging heart good to see our children doing some of the same things with their children that we did with them. Family night is one of those traditions. Praying together before leaving the house for worship is another one. Welcome home gifts and love notes are still making their way into the lives of our family. When we visit our children, they have gifts for us. When we leave, they hide love notes in our luggage. This is something we did for them when they were young. Now that we're old they are doing it for us. Isn't that wonderful! Most precious, however, is to see them keeping the spiritual traditions that we formed long ago. No doubt about it, traditions are destiny-making rituals!
Something else we should do in our destiny-shaping duty is to be supportive. No matter how large the family, each member deserves and should receive lots of individual attention and support. We should be a "cheering section when a victory is won; a place for beginning again when a cause is lost." The home should be a "shelter from the storm; a friendly port when the waves of life become too wild…A place of warmth when the world is cold; a place of safety when the world is hostile; a place of light when the world is dark." Families should share things like dreams and hopes, possessions and memories, smiles and tears. The old saying that children learn what they live is a truism that can't be denied. If we support our children while they are young, they will be supportive of others when they are older. If we teach them to love the Lord with all their heart and mind and soul, they will love Him throughout life. If we share service projects with them when they're young, they will put their faith into action when they grow up. If "God First" is our family rule when they are young, it will be their family rule later in life. By sharing spiritual convictions parents will pass their beliefs and ideals on to another generation.
To share spiritual convictions with our children is vital. It is said: "The family that prays together, stays together." I believe this is true. Praying together, singing together, reading from God's Word together, attending every worship service and activity of the church together strengthens the family bond, and draws our children closer to God. As the twig is bent, so grows the tree. Let us not forget this.
It might help in our "twig-bending" to practice these ABC's.
Always trust your children to God's care.
Bring them to every Bible class and worship service.
Challenge them to high goals in life.
Delight in their achievements.
Exalt the Lord in their presence at every opportunity.
Frown on evil.
Give them love.
Hear their problems.
Ignore not their childish fears.
Joyfully accept their apologies.
Keep their confidence.
Live a good example before them at all times.
Make them your best friends.
Never ignore their endless questions.
Open your home to their friends.
Pray for them by name.
Quicken your interest in their spirituality.
Remember their needs.
Show them the way to salvation.
Teach them to work.
Understand they are still young.
Verify your statements.
Wean them from bad company.
Xpect them to obey.
Yearn for God's best for them.
Zealously guide them in Biblical truths.
This list is not original to me. It's something that I clipped from a paper called Pulpit Helps back in 1984. I'm sharing it with you because it's not only applicable, it's biblical. It's a list of positive things that both parents and grandparents can do. In the doing, home-ties will be strengthened. When home-ties are strengthened, soul-saving will be made less difficult.
Brethren, it's time to turn this thing around. Parents must be concerned about the destiny of their children, concerned enough to take the necessary action to bring it about! If families are to find favour in God's sight, they must establish and maintain God-ruled homes!
In a God-ruled home: Marriage is the foundation. Love is the law. Purity is the health. Unity is the security. Children are the glory. Simplicity is the beauty. Hospitality is the blessing. Joy is the atmosphere. Sorrow is the sanctifier. Prayer is the power. Christ is the Saviour. Heaven is the hope.
Heaven is the hope! Happy is the family that instills the hope of heaven in the heart of each child. Happy is the family that works to build for itself something that's beautiful and lasting. Happy in the family that adheres to God's Word. "The home of such a family is like a nest of eagles, high among the rocks on the mountain side, where no evil can reach them" (Wood).
May the Lord bless you and the souls of your children as you rise up to meet
your God-given, destiny-directing mission in life. May there be (for your
family) a glad reunion in eternity someday!