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How to Strengthen the 21st Century Home

by

Greg McPherson

Both Jesus and His foster father were carpenters (Mark 6:3; Matt. 13:55). Although we do not know in which area they worked within the trade, it is wonderful to think that together they may have built some of the beautiful houses around Galilee. But Jesus is not only "the carpenter's son" (Matt. 13:55). He is also "the Son of the living God" (Matt. 16:16), a spiritual Carpenter who built His church (Matt. 16: 18; Rom. 16:16). It is in this sense that we recognise the authority and power of His teaching. In the parable of the wise man, Jesus applies a sound building principle to teach us a valuable lesson:

Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock (Matt. 7:24, 25).

This principle for building strong houses also applies for building strong homes. A strong home will be one that hears and does the words of Christ. Whereas a house is a physical building, a home is a divine, spiritual building. It has been said "A house is the dwelling place of human bodies and is constructed with brick, wood and stone. A home is the dwelling place of human hearts and is constructed with love" (Tim Taylor "The Spirit of Christ in the Home No. 1" Christian Family Feb. 1980 p.9). With this context in mind, a stable house does not mean a stable home! In fact another has put it like this: "Some of the most beautiful homes are enclosed by shanties and shacks. Likewise, some of the most dilapidated, shaky, and dangerous homes are hidden inside of mountainous manors." (Neal Pollard "Four Walls of a Beautiful Home" Christian Bible Teacher, Jul. 1994 p. 246).

Too many homes are crumbling because they are building with earthly plans of the home and have neglected the divine design. This is despite the fact that God created the home and He knows what is best for it. The prophet Isaiah wrote "Woe unto him that striveth with his Maker!" (Isa. 45:9). Paul asked the rhetorical question: "Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?" (Rom. 9:20). It is tragic that there are many homes today striving with their Maker and questioning God's authority over them. More parents must come to realise that the home, like the church, is a divine institution and God has the right to legislate how it is to function. Only those who build according to God's divine plan can build strong, secure and lasting homes for the future.

Last year's lectureship exhorted us to rise up and build like the Jews did when rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem under Nehemiah's leadership. With courage we too can rise up and build strong homes. A number of years ago our late brother James Baird noted:

Do you know what is happening? Out of the mist of this kind of climate, we're going to see some of the finest, best Christian homes that have existed for centuries. For the simple reason that more Christian people are more concerned about their homes than they have been. They are working harder at building good homes. And so many good things are happening relative to their homes. It means fundamentally, that Christian people are saying, "Rather than letting the world determine my views of the home, I'm going to go back to my relationship with God and restudy what he has said about it" (James Baird "The Foundation of the Home" The Christian Family, Macquarie Church of Christ p. 5).

How then do we strengthen the 21st century home? By going back to grass roots, recognising God as the Architect for home building, obtaining a copy of His divine plan (II Tim. 3:16), and building or rebuilding our homes with God. For many, this will mean adapting to an entirely different concept of what they have experienced and have been taught regarding the roles of husband, wife and child and parent. For those who have learnt more about God's plan for the home, it will mean that they will want to continue to build their homes even stronger with God. Sadly there are many people living in a home that has been so badly damaged by sin [and sadly even through no fault of their own] that what these people need is the quiet strength to cope and try to rebuild their home as best they can. No family is exempt from problems. All families need help to grow stronger. And despite such a complexity of problems it is good to know that there is strength and encouragement for all: God and His Word. "My soul melteth for heaviness: strengthen thou me according to thy word" wrote the Psalmist (Psalm 119: 28). The home is strengthened in the same way.

In this lesson we want to notice three steps in building a strong home with God. A home can be seen as needing [1] a Foundation to build upon [2] a Builder to build it and [3] a Furnisher to make it beautiful and complete. Whereas all these things are physical and temporal in a house setting, they are divine and eternal in a home. Only building with God can we have a home that will stand strong as we venture into a new century and into eternity.

Strong Homes Are Founded On Jesus Christ (Matt. 7:24-27)

Homes built upon the unstable sand of humanism and feminism have created timid husbands, brazen wives and disrespectful children. Homes built upon Christ have created husbands of leadership, wives of submission and children of obedience. It is a vast difference isn't it? Notice how each of these qualities are grounded in Christ: a good husband is not a cruel and domineering tyrant but one who loves his wife "even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it" (Eph. 5:25; cf. Acts 20:28). Godly wives will gladly submit to their husband's leadership "as unto the Lord" and "as the church is subject unto Christ" (Eph. 5:24). Even the obedience of children to their parents must be fashioned "in the Lord" (Eph. 6:1). How much more stable and secure the home and society would be if husbands, wives and children were glorifying Christ in these divinely appointed functions!

The role of parenting will play a vital part in strengthening the home for years to come. Christ must be made the foundation for this role also. Fathers cannot just expect a stable future for their children unless their children are reared "in the nurture and admonition of the Lord" (Eph.6:4). This verse has specific reference to fathers (perhaps because he is responsible for the spiritual welfare of his family) but the mother has a great part in this process also. The Greek word for "nurture" [paideia] means "...tutorage, i.e. education or training; by implication disciplinary correction: chastening, chastisement, instruction, nurture". It is clear from Scripture that God does not authorise parents simply to leave their children's education and discipline in the hands of the school system, the government or even the church. It is the parents responsibility. This word for "nurture" is also used to describe how God the Father deals with His children:

The Hebrew author wrote "And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening [paideia] of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked by him" (Heb. 12:5). The chastening of the Lord, when exercised, will produce "the peaceable fruit of righteousness" in God's children despite the fact that "no chastening [paideia] for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous" (Heb. 12:11). Paideia is translated "instruction" (II Tim. 3:16) which is a characteristic of God's Word. The word for "admonition" [nouthesia] means "To put into the mind" and can mean "training by a word of encouragement when it proves sufficient, but also by a word of remonstrance, reproof, blame, as required" (The above definitions and biblical references taken from The Complete Word Study New Testament, Ed.. Spiros Zodhiates, Th.D. Word Bible Publishers, Inc, Iowa Falls, Iowa). Parents need to examine whether they are rearing their children in this way of the Lord. If they are, then it will help their children prosper and yield fruit for there future lives (Cf. Heb. 12:11; See also Prov. 19:18; 23:14) What is the answer to the problem of suicide, drugs and fornication that is so rampant among youth? While society is offering Band-Aid fixes in the fashion of abortion clinics, drug injection rooms and post counselling, it seems largely to be neglecting a source of the problem. If more efforts were undertaken to ensure that the home is being built upon a firm foundation, if more parents were rearing their children in the Lord's nurture and admonition, then much of these problems in the home and society would be avoided in the first place.

A foundation is needed primarily for spiritual stability to prepare a home for heaven. Although the winds, floods and rain can be applied to represent the various trials of life, Christ makes no direct application to such in the parable. His focus is on the need for a stable foundation and in the immediate context, it seems that this foundation is needed so that man can stand firm on the day of judgment. Prior to the parable Christ discusses the terrible judgment scene where He will say to many "Depart from me, ye that work iniquity" (Matt. 7: 21-23). Therefore, although Christ certainly helps the Christian through various storms of life, if overcoming earthly trials with Christ's help is all we can apply from this parable, then perhaps we need to broaden our application. Paul writes: "If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable" (I Cor. 15:19). Even those without Christ can overcome certain trials in life, but only Christ can provide the stability and strength needed in judgment. The words of the beautiful song "Be with me Lord" not only captures the need for Christ's help during the "storms of trial" and the "fires of pain" but also requests help after death: "And when shall come the hour of my departure‚ For worlds unknown, O Lord, be with me then" (T.O. Chisholm). Yes, both the home and individuals alike primarily prepares themselves for a home in Heaven. The principle as outlined in Matthew chapter 6 doubtless applies for families also. That is, if parents were to seek first the kingdom of heaven, then the physical necessities of life would be taken care of by God.

It is important to understand that an eternal foundation must the determining factor of a home's stability because in a purely earthly sense of the word, many homes may be deemed to be "strong" when in reality they are building upon a shaky foundation for eternity. The notorious Mafia is an extreme but classic example. These families, though they build very strong bonds, they do not build their aims and relationships upon Christ and are therefore weak and unstable. There are many homes today building upon this Mafia mentality. I'm not talking about the ones that literally kill people in the traditional Mafia style but I am talking about the father who abuses the football coach for sending his son off the field for swearing. This type of family may love one another dearly, provide loyalty and help in times of trouble, respect and comfort one another, but if their foundation is not that of Jesus Christ, then how is that laying up a good foundation for their heavenly home?

The apostle Paul gives us a building illustration whereby he places Christ at the foundation. He said "For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ" (I Cor. 3:11). This figurative building probably refers to the Temple of God (Vs. 17,17) but its principle applies to our discussion concerning the home also. Whether it be the church, individuals or the home, Jesus Christ must be the foundation on which to build.

A strong home is a home built upon the foundation of Christ!

Strong Homes are Built with God (Psalm 127:1)

A foundation without a building is a barren piece of concrete. Some people lay a foundation for their dream house but then perhaps they cannot afford to build upon it. And even when building commences, a wise builder will be careful how he builds. In the same context that mentions Christ as the foundation, Paul warns every man to "take heed how he buildeth thereupon" (I Cor. 3:10). He also wrote "we are labourers together with God". Again, these principles can apply to building a strong home also.

The psalmist wrote "Unless the Lord builds the house, they labour in vain who build it" (Psalm 127:1). This Psalm talks about the home. David Roper wrote:

Psalm 127 was "a song of ascent" used by Jewish pilgrims as they approached Jerusalem, and especially as the temple came into view. Used in that setting, the words "house" and "city" had special connotations: The "house" referred to the temple, and the "city" was Jerusalem. Jehovah - not the stone, the bricks, or the mortar - gave the temple significance and made Jerusalem strong. However, the word "house" had wider significance than that. No definite article ("the") appeared before "house" in the original text. Literally, the verse says, "Unless the Lord builds a house" - any house. Look again at the psalm. Obviously, its main thrust is the home: "Behold, children are a gift of the Lord; the fruit of the womb is a reward." Thus the family is included in the opening statement of the psalm... (D. Roper, "Building Strong, Happy Christian Families" The Christian Home edition in Truth For Today, A Printed Preacher School Ed. Eddie Cloer, Searcy, AR, p. 25).

Writing from the viewpoint of a life without God Solomon wrote "Vanity of vanities saith the preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity" (Eccles. 1:2). Solomon recognised that if man looks no further in life than that which is on earth then life is a waste of time. Paul makes a similar argument: "And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain" (I Cor. 15:14). Vanity can even rear its head under the deceptive banner of "religious" labour. What about the hard working young men of the Mormon faith who give up two years of their life to labour trying to convert us to their prophet Joseph Smith and their Mormon doctrine? We cannot question their sincerity nor their tireless labour. There is a lesson in that for Christians. But the fact that they are sincere and working tirelessly does not turn what they are doing into right. Their labour is tragically but certainly in vain.

So it is if we are building our homes without God. There are many parents labouring night and day to give their children an education, food, clothing and a so-called future in life. We cannot question their sincerity or their labour. The tragedy is that too often all of this labour is achieved without God. Too many parents think that they can build their own home their own way. Even Christian homes must be careful that God is not shut out of certain areas of our family life. Indeed, if the only type of pleasures that parents want from their children is to teach them their first steps, to ride their bike, and to open their first bank account, then this is vanity also. To labour for the family without God in the picture is vain because children are being deprived of Christian values, the blessings of the church, and more specifically, we are placing a stumbling block for their future hope of entering heaven.

An important area is the need to build strong family relationships with God. We have already seen the need for Christ as foundation for the family roles but what about the relationships. Family feuds it seems can be among the longest and most bitter disputes of all. Many will not speak or visit with a family member for years due to unresolved differences. Tragically, some will not get them resolved even in death. To harbour a grudge against a family member is sinful no matter how we have been treated. We must have the mind of Abraham when he said to Lot: "Let there be no strife, I pray thee, between me and thee, and between my herdmen and thy herdmen; for we be brethren" (Gen. 13:8).

Consider Esau and Jacob. Fortunately these twin brothers, after years of separation, finally reconciled. Their descendants, however, (the Israelites and the Edomites) continued to have violent history of war. For instance, when Israel wanted access through the land, who was it but the Edomites prohibiting them entrance? But despite this, God instructed Israel not to abhor an Edomite and He gave them this reason: "for he is thy brother" (Deut. 23:7). Plain and simple wasn't it? God told Edom that one reason they were going to be destroyed is because of the "violence against thy brother" Israel (Obad. 10). This is how important it is to God to foster good family relationships.

A strong home is a home that employs God as its Builder!

Strong Homes are Furnished by the Holy Spirit (Deut. 6:7-9)

After a foundation is laid and the home is built, it needs to be furnished. No house is complete without furnishings. Furnishings give a house personality, make it livable and reflect the character of people who are living in it. The Spirit's role has been one of a Furnisher, as it were. Job says "By His Spirit he hath garnished the heavens" (Job 26:13). If it were not for the Spirit neither would we see the Christ and His bride (the church) in all their beauty. Indeed the Spirit's role was to glorify Christ (John 16:14). He achieved this revealing Christ to us through inspired men, and is now found in the pages of God's Word.

The Holy Spirit plays an important part in the life of a family because He has revealed God's will so that the home can operate as God would have it. Are our homes a suitable dwelling place of the Holy Spirit? Is God's Word, the sword of the Spirit, seen in our family life or is it one of those dusty books up on the shelf that look nice but never get read? God has always wanted his Word known and remembered in the life of a family: Prior to entering the promised land of Canaan, where Israel would come under pressure to conform to pagan ways, the Israelites were given these words concerning God's Word:

And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates. (Deut. 6:7-9).

The righteousness of a nation is dependent upon how well its families can carry out and remember God's law. God did not want Israel to forget Him (Deut. 6:12) yet so often we see the Israelites doing just that. Judges had to be raised up by God to deliver them, Israel sought out a physical king, and eventually God's people would be carried away into exile. How different a picture it would have been if every Israelite family was striving earnestly to fulfil the exhortation from (Deut. 6:7-9). A sad verse of Scripture is recorded by the prophet Jeremiah: "My people have forgotten me days without number" (Jer. 2:32).

The way to keep God at the forefront of our lives within the home and therefore in our nation in general, is to practice what God instructed to his people Israel. So important was is to God that His words be active in the family life of his people, that they were instructed to place God's Word upon their bodies [figuratively speaking] so they could remember Him. These verses, however, have been misinterpreted.

Beginning about the second century BC, all male Jews were expected to wear at morning prayers, except on Sabbaths and festivals, two phylacteries, one on the forehead, called a frontlet, the other on the left arm. They consisted of small leather cases containing four passages of Scripture from the OT: Exodus 13:1-10, 11-16; Deuteronomy 6:4-9; 11:13-21. (The New International Dictionary of the Bible, Pictorial Edition, Special Edition for Living By the Book, Grand Rapids, MI, p. 286)

This physical and literal application of these verses are not warranted. All God wanted was to ensure that His Word remained alive and active within the life of the Jewish family. The question that can be asked is this: does He not require the same of Christian families today?

Christian families must never fall into the trap of segregating their time into religious and non religious events. Perhaps for some families, going off to church every Sunday has been enough to fulfil their religious obligation for the week and may act as if the rest of the time can be spent doing their own secular things. The truth is, that even our leisure time needs to be guided by principles and commands gleaned from the Word of God.

Edward White who was one of the three people killed in the Apollo 1 Cape Kennedy explosion (1967) noted:

When I was a boy, I don't suppose I had a more lively interest in faith than most youngsters. But I had parents who knew how to communicate their own beliefs in terms I could understand. My brother Jim and my sister Jean and I never doubted where our parents stood on the question of religion. The Bible in our home was not a book to sit on the shelf; it was out where it could be used. Church was not a seasonal affair; going to church on Sunday was as much a part of the rhythm of life as washing clothes on Monday. (Quoted in David Roper "Building Strong, Happy Christian Families" The Christian Home edition in Truth For Today, A Printed Preacher School Ed. Eddie Cloer, Searcy, AR, p. 49).

Does this type of family describe yours? As a parent do I communicate to my children an earnest desire to do God's will? Whatever we do as a family, it must be guided by the Word of God: in our speech, in our conduct, in our attitudes and in all that we do. God's Word must have an influence upon our decision making even in such things as determining where we will live, which school we will send our children to, and where will go and what we will do for holidays. Are we the type of family that thinks it is okay to take a spiritual holiday at the same time as a holiday from work? These are the sort of things that spiritual families will consider if they is furnishing their home with the Holy Spirit, if they are binding God's Word for signs on their hands and frontlets between their eyes (Deut. 6:8). A home furnished with the Holy Spirit is a beautiful home to live in and one that has character and beauty in the eyes of God.

A strong home is a home furnished by the Holy Spirit.

Conclusion

The home is a divine institution but sadly man has swayed from God's plan. In a day when so many homes are crumbling under the pressure of sin, it is vital that we go back to grass roots and start building our homes as God has directed. Notice how the entire Godhead has played an active role in the building process, having Christ as the foundation, God as the Builder and the Holy Spirit as the Furnisher. We have illustrated the need for a spiritual home: one that looks to the things spiritual and eternal as opposed to things physical and temporal. Only Christ can be that solid foundation for heaven. Only God can build a home with any real eternal purpose. Only the Holy Spirit, through the revelation of God's Word, can beautify our home in the eyes of its heavenly Maker.

Let Christ play an active part in our role of husband, wife, child and parent. Let God help us build and foster good family relationships and let our homes be a place where the Holy Spirit resides. May God help us to rise up with courage and build strong homes with God into the 21st century. Building a home with God will not only give it strength on earth but will be preparing it for a home in heaven.

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