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How to Build a Strong Family

From the series How to Build a Strong Family

Join Chip as he rolls out the blueprint for how to build a strong family - not a perfect family, but a strong, loving, healthy family. Statistics clearly show people WANT a strong family, we NEED a strong family. And Chip encourages us that it’s possible BUILD one, by following the blueprint laid out in God’s Word. If you’re looking for some practical “how-to’s,” don’t miss this message.

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Message Transcript

I did not grow up in a strong family. I grew up in alcoholic family. And so I thought the only way to really make a good family is to marry someone who came from an alcoholic family so that we would have lots of dysfunction to get started. I'm teasing. I didn't grow up as a follower of Christ. I never opened the Bible until I was eighteen. I honestly thought most Christians were crazy, and then I met somebody, didn't talk about it but lived it out, and their love for one another convinced me that I should explore the New Testament.

A little bit later, Jesus became the Lord of my life and I very imperfectly followed Him. And I wanted a family and I met Theresa. I learned early on that Theresa had been married before, before she was a Christian. Her husband found out he could make more money selling drugs and he departed with another woman to another state. She found herself with two little babies, no husband, no income, and in the midst of that her boss led her to the Lord. I share that because I met her about two and a half years later, we had an interesting courtship, to say the least, and we got married, and the first three weeks was great.

We didn't have a clue. We had no premarital counseling. All I knew is she loved God, I loved God, we wanted to have a great family, I loved these two little boys, God gave me the chance to adopt them later, but we didn't know what we were doing. We're going to talk about God's prescription for a strong family.

Now, we've got thirty-eight years under our belt now. We've had major marriage issues during that time. We've had major children issues during that time. And I share that because, one, God needs to get the credit. But we have all kinds of different families, all kinds of different people. He wants to give you hope. He's going to give you a very clear prescription. When a doctor gives you a prescription, if you don't follow it, you don't see the healing and the restoration. And so we're going to look at God's prescription.

I learned three things in my study. If you please open your notes, I want to highlight two or three things that every time I get to talk about family I think of the miracle that He’s done in my life. I've got four grown kids now and they have married ones that love the Lord, they're raising their kids, and the trajectory of their family is so different.

But Theresa and I got to be people that broke the chain of alcoholism and broke the chain of dysfunction. And it was hard, and it was intentional, but it's great. And God wants that for all of us. And so what I learned is that everyone wants a family. Everyone wants a great family.

All of us long for a family where you're accepted, you're loved, you can mess up, you get forgiven, you're connected, there's fun, there's joy, you're appreciated, there's unity, there are people that hold you up when you mess up, and when you're sick...We all long for that.

We don't just long for it, but second, we need it. The family is a God-given institution. Families nurture and protect children. The world is really changing, but the institution committed, designed by God for kids is the family. Families shape the mental, emotional, moral and sexual identity of kids. Everyone in this room we're a product of our family of origin - what happened or didn't happen. Whether we had a mom or a dad or one or none, what they thought, what they believed, how they talked to one another, what they said to us, we're all a product of that. And for those of us that are parents, we're shaping our kids.

Families are the training ground for values and virtues.

And finally, dysfunctional families correlate with low education, poverty, drug use, alcoholism, violence, and imprisonment. And if you want to put a little asterisk somewhere on your notes, write The role of the father. It's amazing.

I did a master's thesis on the impact of fathers and families because I was adopting these two kids, and I knew I didn't have a clue. And if you've ever been in graduate school, thesis and all those papers are a pain, so I thought I'd better write it on something that I really need. And the secular research says that fathers are the primary shaper of the moral development of children. Fathers are the primary shape of the sexual identity of little boys and little girls. And mothers and fathers equally shape the self-identity in terms of self-image. Seventy to eighty percent of all the urban children in America grow up without a father. Many of them don't even know who he is. Thirty to forty percent of all American children as they're growing up will not have a father in the family.

The clearest correlation between poverty, violence, imprisonment, domestic violence on women, is either an absent or a passive father in the home. And there is one group on the face of the earth that is commanded to love each other and to love our enemies and to model a family ideal that's real that can bring life and healing and restoration. And you may not like it, but you're the answer and I'm the answer.

And so when we talk about strong families, this just isn't "Are you going to be happy and fulfilled, and are you going to find the right mate, and are your kids going to turn out right or is this second marriage going to work?" I want all of that, but it's bigger than that. This is the future. And as the family continues to disintegrate, the only people that can bring about change is us.

Now, here's the good news. There was a study done by a pair of doctors - husband and wife doctors - and they spent twenty-five years and they studied fourteen thousand strong families. And they found that these strong families had six common characteristics. And as you look at this list - I'll highlight it - these characteristics are available for all of us

Strong families are characterized by these six things:

(1) A commitment to the family. There's a dedication to the welfare and the happiness with a high degree of commitment to every person in the family.

(2) The expression of appreciation to each other. They give positive messages to one another, they build each other up psychologically, they express sincere compliments and express positive messages of affirmation early and often.

(3) They have positive communication skills. They spend - are you ready for this? Large amount of time talking with each other, they are good listeners, they have conflict and they do fight, but they don't attack each other and have learned alternativees to resolve it.

(4) They spend a lot of time together - quality time in generous quantities - and they structure their lifestyle so the family spends significant time with one another.

(5) They have a high degree of spiritual well being. There's a sense that this family wants to follow God, and it gives meaning and purpose and priority to their lives.

And (6) they have a special ability to cope in stress and crisis. They balance difficult times with the positive things that can come out of it. They support one another, and when a family member is going through it, people lay aside their agendas and get around that family member and help them get through it. Those six things can be a part of a single, a blended, a mom and dad, a first marriage, people that have been married ten years, thirty years or two months.

Here's my question. Would you like to have a family that those six characteristics are, “Yeah, that's ours.”

God has a prescription. Open your notes and we're going to go to the passage that clearly describes the what of a family that has those characteristics as the outcomes. And what we have is Deuteronomy, chapter 6 where Moses is speaking and teaching to this next generation.

“This is the command - in fact, the word is singular. Namely, the statutes, the judgments, the precepts, that the LORD your God has given me, Moses, to teach you - why? So that you might follow or obey Him in the land which you're crossing over to the Jordan to possess - well, why? So that your son and your grandson may fear and worship the LORD your God with awe-filled reverence and profound respect, to keep and actively do His statutes and commandments which I am commanding you all the days of your life - why? So that your days might be prolonged. Therefore, listen, O Israel, and be careful to do them - well why? So that it may go well with you, that you may increase and multiply in numbers of the LORD, the God of your fathers, has promised you in the land flowing with milk and honey.”

What is the command? Hear, O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is one, the only God. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, your mind, your soul, and your strength - your entire being. These words, this truth, this scripture that I'm commanding you today shall be written on your heart - and mine. You shall teach them diligently to your children, impressing God's precepts on their minds and penetrating their hearts with His truths, and you shall speak of them when you sit up in your house and when you walk on the road or when you lie down or when you get up. And you shall bind them as a sign on your hand or forearm and they shall be used as bands and frontals on your forehead. And write them on the doorpost of your house and on your gates.

And so he's saying, look, here's how you build a great family for the future. It's called the Shema. And the first truth is there is one God and He created all that there is and He wants to be deeply intimately related to you and your kids and your grandkids and their kids.

Second, it is a command - what? To do something different. You, parents, love the LORD your God – how? Totality. Your heart, your mind, your soul, your strength – and then what do you do? Then I want you to teach them formally to your children. And then not just at a meeting or an event, but when you get up in the morning, and when you're just walking around, and before you go to bed.

You are educating your children every moment of every day around this new focal point of God, and your love for Him and love relationship. And then He gives some very specific ways of how to put that into your lifestyle so your children actually watch, and they begin to catch your faith and they do what you do and they pass it on and families change.

Now, when you do life God's way and follow the prescription, it's like planting a seed and then it grows, and then it begins to bear fruit and then honestly good things happen. Good things happen in relationships and He begins to bless. And what can happen is you begin to experience blessing and the actual blessings from God replace your loyalty to God.

First three verses, prosperity. Blessing is God's desire, obedience is a requirement. Verses 4-9, this is what it looks like. One God truth, love Him with all your heart, take the Word in personally, teach your kids formally, talk about it informally. And then there are some real specific ways that you need to align your life so every aspect of your life revolves around your love relationship with Him. And when you do it this way He's going to bless you. And so when He blesses you, be careful that you don't get caught up with the gifts instead of the giver.

In evangelical Christianity in the last forty years, what we learned is our kids are not catching our faith and there's a reason. I have a very good friend, he was given a grant, he did all this extensive research and he found out that your kids and the regular evangelical kids from churches that believe in the Bible, sixty-six to seventy percent of them leave the faith for three reasons:

(1) They don't see it radically lived out and incarnated in their own homes. Jesus is a slice.

(2) They don't own their faith personally. In other words, they don't get into the Bible for themselves. It's like:  Hey, I'll take them to Sunday school, I might put them in a Christian school, let's drop them off. “Church, you educate our kids.” But there's not something happening in the homes by nine or ten where they're reading the scripture for themselves. There's not time around a coffee table or at dinner when "what did you learn?” “What are you reading." The Word of God wasn't central in their homes. And

(3) The kids didn't serve. They become narcissistic consumers.

Well, I don't like the group, it doesn't meet at the right time, and they're not doing this and I might want to going to this other group and I don't want to come to the main service because my friends are over here. And so they come to a little group for a time and then when they leave, their little group is gone. And they don't have convictions and they never felt a part of something bigger. And here's the key. When they serve and whether it's short term or whether it's other kids, when they serve in those growing up years and the grace of God fills them and God uses them to bring life and change - guess what? Something happens.

And so this passage is teaching we have to love God, where our kids catch it. They need to catch you on your knees praying in the morning. They need to hear you talking about, money is really tight, but we're going to give the first portion of everything to God. They need to hear you with a discussion and a decision about something at work and it's an integrity issue and "Well, what does the Bible say? What are we going to do? How are we going to honor God?"  They need to hear you think about what school they should go to and why and what does the Scripture say. You see, when you love God that way, they catch it.

Second thing it says is that, when you love God like that, you have to fuel your relationship. This Word, these commands, they need to be on your mind and your heart. Personally I just started with the New Testament. And I said, "God, I know I'm not going to understand everything but I'm going to obey what I do understand."

And my wife and I for the last thirty-eight years, the first thing we do, she does and I do, is we get up and I spend time with God and she spends time with God, and sometime during that day, we talk about what's going on. But my mind got changed about I need the power and the direction. And each one of us do. If that doesn't happen, then I'm just trying to be a little bit better moral person and I believe this set of truths but it's not the center. Do you see the difference?

Teach your children diligently. This means there's a systematic way in your home for those of you that are parents that you're teaching your kids. The Sunday school class, God bless them, their Christian school, God bless them, a little club they're in, God bless them. But especially... you know who's the moral responsibility? Unless you're a single mom. The moral responsibility for the spiritual education of your kids is you, dad. And if you're like me it’s like, "Ah, ah."

Can I just tell you something? This is a little secret. Do you know why I do these notes and do you know I put the questions on the back? Because what I realized is I didn't know how to lead my family, and now, just with the questions, what I knew was at least two or three times around the supper table we're going to talk about a shared experience. And I do this just to help you do what I figured most of you probably don't know how to do any better than I did. But it's that kind of intentionality, and it's formal and it's regular.

The next what is to “speak." Speak - what? When you get up, when you walk by the way. In other words, you're informally looking for teaching moments. Some of you, you have a family night and we’re going to have a family night, and we’re going to make popcorn, and everything's going great in and then you say, "Oh, let's watch some movie. Someone told us it's a good movie." And you're watching the movie and people start taking off their clothes and you push the pause button.

And you know what you don't do? “Oh, that's terrible.” What you do is "Okay, wait a minute kids. Let's talk about this. This is called second rate sex and it's called adultery. God designed sex and it's beautiful and this is why. And let me explain a little bit about this. We're going to fast forward the part where all the clothes come off and...”But it's a teachable moment. You talk informally.

So he says you put it “on your hands." It's a metaphor for when you go to work, when you do the dishes, when you change the baby, when you write a new software program, when you coach the team, the Word of God is on your hands. It's a picture of this is what you do everywhere in covenant relationship as a follower of Yahweh.  Every decision and every thought is governed by the truth of God's Word.

And you put it on your doorpost so that when you walk out and your kids walk out, we're covenant children, we're going to enter into a corrupt, dark world and we're going to bring light and love and care for people. And then when we come back, it's on our gates and we remember "This is what God has done in our life." This passage is a radical prescription by God so that you can have deep families with, great communication, that's loving, forgiving, good heart with one another, knowing how and when to forgive. Pouring out into the life and relationships of your family.

The why is really pretty simple. So your sons, your legacy, your grandchildren will follow the Lord, so it will go well with you, so you belong in the land, so it’ll be a land filled with milk and honey.

I want you to have the deepest, greatest, family, and future. I made you. I love you. I died for you. I want the best. And you live in a corrupt world and culture that is just trying to seduce your heart away and it will require a real man and a real woman to say, "He's not a slice of my life. My heart is connected. I'm a living sacrifice and His Word is my priority and I'm going to teach and speak and imperfectly live this out."

And the promise and what He does is He blesses and blesses and blesses. But He blesses and blesses as we're on a journey.