THE FUTURE OF THE FAMILY SERIES
STRENGTHENING FOUNDATIONS FOR FRAGILE TIMES
APRIL 7, 1996
You know Easter weekend is a time when most of us go to church with our families. We try to sit together as a family. If we are creative, we wear coordinating outfits as a family. We go out to lunch as a family. We take photographs as a family. Easter is definitely a family celebration. So I though it would be appropriate to begin a series of messages on the most important weekend of the year about the most important unit in all the world, the family. Over the next few weeks we are going to be talking about the future of the family. During our seven services we have people in different stages of family life. Some are thinking about having children. Others have two children, three, or if you are like me, four children. Count them. Others here are empty nesters. Still others are single parents. And a large block are not married yet, single adults. I have some great news for you. Research says that most of you in the near future are going to get married and have children. Hold your applause, please. This series is for all of us, the future of the family.
As you think about the family, a lot of the research and statistical data looks pretty grim. It looks bad on most fronts. For example, since 1960 the divorce rate in our country has doubled. Single parent households have tripled. Couples living out of wedlock have quadrupled. Domestic violence has quadrupled. Our teenage pregnancy rate is the highest of any developed nation and the sexual abuse statistics are outdated the moment the ink dries. But, if we are ingenious enough to preserve the humpback whale, bald eagles and snail darters, I think we are ingenious enough to preserve the future of the family. Don’t you? The want to is there for a lot of us. That is why we are here on this Easter weekend in church. Over the next few moments I want to give you the cliff notes of this series. I will attempt to preview, not preempt where we are going over the next month as we talk about how to establish a positive future for our families. I want to give you six principles that you can apply right now. I am going to build this message around the word FUTURE. Each letter represents a principle. This word will be an acrostic.
F stands for faith. The first way to establish a positive future for your family is to pass on the baton of faith. We cannot pass anything to our children, parents, that we do not possess, that we do not grasp. And the Bible says in Ephesians 1:19-20 that the same power that brought Jesus back from the grave 2,000 years ago is available to us. A lot of families here are dead. They need the resurrection power operative in this context. We can tap into it if we get serious about a personal relationship with the Lord and passing on the baton of faith.
I love what Deuteronomy 6:6-7 says. “And you must think constantly about these commandments I am giving you today. You must teach them to your children…” Now let me stop right here. You must teach them to your children. Circle the word teach or highlight it. The Hebrews had two definitions for the word teach. The first definition denotes a formal lecture. It is saying, “I am going to lecture you on parenting. I am going to lecture you on child rearing. I am going to lecture you on the family unit.” A formal, organized type presentation. This is not the meaning of the word teach as used here. The other meaning is just casual, everyday, average conversation, stuff that just flows out. Example, you talk about the Rangers. You talk about the fact that the unibomber has been identified. Just average, everyday, normal conversation. God says that this is how we should pass on the baton of faith. “…You must teach them to your children and talk about them when you are at home or out for a walk; at bedtime and the first thing in the morning.” See how casual that it? You see, Christianity is not just a weekend thing. It is a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday thing. And these teachable moments with our children just happen. While they are playing Nintendo, while they are at the soccer field, at the ballet recital or chilling out at Chili’s. They happen. And when the children give you the windows, take them, parents, and teach them words of faith.
My wife and I have a four year old son named EJ. His diet consists primarily of cheese crackers and frosted flakes. That is about it. Some evenings while we are at the dinner table, we decide that he must try something else. We may tell him that tonight he is going to eat grilled chicken. We place four little bites of chicken on his Spiderman plate. He begins to cry that he doesn’t want chicken, doesn’t want it. Some of the parents here are laughing. Those of you who aren’t laughing, just wait. “EJ, we are going to sit here until you eat the chicken.” Finally, he stabs a piece of chicken and slowly lifts the fork to his mouth. Right when it touches his tongue, he gags dramatically. What are we doing? We are force feeding our son. That is what we are doing. Many sincere parents, Christian parents, read this verse and they think that they need to force feed faith down my kids throats. So we take a hose, open up their mouth and force, force, force. This is not what teach means in this context. It happens as we live our lives. I thank my parents for many things, but the major issue I thank them for is the issue of passing the baton of faith. They didn’t force it. They didn’t say, “Take it, Ed.” They lived it out. Authentic Christianity.
Here are some quick suggestions, parents, on how to pass the baton of faith to your loved ones and your little ones. Number one. Adopt the teachable moment methodology. When those moments come up, give them words of faith at the age appropriate level. Number two. No force feeding. Number three. Take advantage of the church to assist you in this process. We have an incredible ministry to young people here at the Fellowship of Las Colinas. We put large numbers of people and large amounts of money into this area because it is our future. Our preschool, Peaceful Kingdom, Children’s Church and the Edge Youth programs and ministries are vital. The number one complaint of the workers who staff our youth areas is that inconsistent attendance makes teaching them a hit and miss deal. They are here just every other week or once a month. It is vital, parents, that we utilize the church to help build faith.
U stands for understanding. We have to develop a proper understanding of our family of origin and how it effects our present day situation with our family unit. Proverbs 24:3 says, “Home are built on the foundation of wisdom and understanding.” On the dashboards of certain cars and trucks are volt meters, oil pressure gauges, and temperature gauges. To the average layman like me they don’t mean a thing. For example, is 180 degrees good or bad in your car? Is 40 pounds of oil pressure good or bad in your car? A couple of years ago some creative car manufactures decided to put a green background behind the gauges to show brainless people like me that everything is normal if the needle remains in the green. Everything is functioning. Everything is balanced in the car. So when I am driving and I see that everything is in the green, I know that everything is cool.
Question. Are you doing the family thing in the green range? Are you normal? Are you balanced? Many parents question if they are being too tough or too lenient. They wonder how to handle their toddler or their teenager. In the next couple of weeks I am going to talk about ten ways to know from the Bible if you are operating in a balanced context regarding being a mother, a father or a child. We will talk about these issues.
You know what is scary? When we are living our lives and growing and we say something and then immediately say, “That sounded exactly like my mother. I can’t believe I said that.” I had this happen to me this past week. Two weeks ago I went into a clothing store and I bought a suit, the suit I have on. I tried it on. The tailor, calling me Mr. Young, promised to have the suit ready a few days before Easter. I said, “Great.” I was excited about the suit. So I go back to pick the suit up and asked if I might try it on. I go to the dressing room and put it on. He told me to stand in front of the full length mirror. “Oh, no, oh, no. I’m turning into my father. My hair is getting gray and my Dad has two suits exactly like this. What am I doing?” So this will be the last time you ever see me in this suit because I’ll give it away after this weekend. Just kidding. We tend to parent like we were parented. We tend to resolve conflict like we saw conflict resolved. We tend to have an honesty quotient like our parent’s honesty quotient. You see how important it is, parents, to model authenticity and integrity to your children and to understand this aspect of life? Develop a proper understanding.
T stands for transitions. Prepare for family transitions. The family is in a constant state of change. Here is what Ecclesiastes 3:11 says. “Everything is appropriate in its own time. But…many cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.” I want to hit very briefly two areas of transition. The first is the child in transition. Children are born, Dr. Henry Cloud says, in a one down relationship with their parents. Then as parents give them more and more decision-making rope, they move from a one down relationship to an eye to eye relationship. Then, ultimately, they leave home. Five times the Bible says, “for this cause a man shall leave his father and mother and shall cleave to his wife and the two shall become one flesh.” Now if the Bible says it once, we better listen to it, but five times! The Bible talks about this transitional period when a child grows up and leaves home. Parents, when our children are young, we direct them. When they get older, we coach them. When they become adults, we consult them when they ask for advice. The child in transition.
Mary and Joseph, the parents of Jesus, were going home one day and suddenly they realize that Jesus wasn’t there with them. They kind of did the Home Alone thing. “Where is He. Where is Jesus?” And they went back to the Temple and there was Jesus, twelve years of age, debating the religious leaders on issues of faith. They said, “Jesus, where have you been?” I am paraphrasing now, but He said, “Don’t you know, Mom and Dad, I have to be about My Father’s business? I have got to carve My own course. I have got to forge My own future. I have got to determine My own destiny.” He recognized and so did Mary and Joseph the transitional stage of child rearing.
The second transitional stage will really, really hit us where we live. It is the transition of the aging parent or parents. The fastest growing age group in our country today is the sixty-five and older crowd. Half of the sixty-five and older crowd will need a nursing home facility to care for them. Ninety percent of these individuals, buckle your seat belt, will not be able to pay the tab for their own care after twenty-four months. Whoa! What an issue. And we say to ourselves, “My house is not big enough to take care of my parents. I don’t have enough money. I don’t have enough time.” This transitional period, ladies and gentlemen, is as old as the Fifth Commandment in the Bible. “Honor your father and your mother.” We are to take care of our parents. They cared for us when we were children. As the cycle continues, we, in turn, take care of them. Jesus recognized this. When He was hanging there naked on the cross, paying the price for your sins and mine, right before He bled to death, He looked down and saw His mother. He said, “John, take care of My mother.” He realized this major transition and He wanted to make sure His Mom was properly attended to. Plan for the future. Prepare for those transitions.
U stands for uniqueness. Recognize your family’s uniqueness. We are all different, aren’t we? We are utterly unique. My wife and I have twins. They are girls, twenty months old. Oftentimes Laurie will walk up to the television set and turn it on and off, on and off, on and off. I will say, “Laurie, no.” And Laurie is sensitive and when she hears me say no, she will back up and won’t do it again. Conversely, Landra will walk up to the television set and turn it on and off, on and off, on and off. “Landra, honey, no.” On and off, on and off, on and off. “Landra, no.” On and off, on and off, on and off. When I take a step toward her, she will back up but when I turn around again, on and off, on and off, on and off. How can this be? Twins, brought into the world by the same people, living in the same home, in the same culture, the same environment, the same context. They are different. For years, child development experts said, the clump of clay theory is it. Children are all alike and parents form them the way they want to. Now they are saying, we messed up. Sorry. Time out. Each child is different. They are unique. The Bible says this in Proverbs 22:6, “train a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not turn from it.” Now parents have read this verse throughout the years and have misinterpreted it. Parents have bombarded their children with faith, believing that when they get older and after they have messed around and sown their wild oats, they will come back to the Lord. That is not what it means. It says, train. In order to train your child, you have got to know your child and the way he should go. This word way means the bend of the bow. During the Biblical times they used bows and arrows. They would see a limb in the woods that had a natural bend like a bow, take the limb down and work with the natural bend, the grain of the wood. We have different bents in our lives. We have different grains in our lives. Wise parents recognize this and we parent around it and we train them up after their abilities and talents, around this context. Where the difficult part comes in is when you have a type A personality father, a hard driver, goal oriented but his son is into the arts. How do you affirm the uniqueness of your son when you are wired totally different than he? I think that is why God gives us children many times who are totally different than their parents. It has to do with His sense of humor and it is intended to stretch us and teach us how to recognize their uniqueness. Parents, put this one on your frontal lobes. Psalm 139:14. “I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” We have to think about that when we wake up and when we go to bed. I am fearfully and wonderfully made. I am different. I am unique. Applaud your child’s uniqueness. Pat them on the back because of it and train them around it.
R stands for respect. We are also to model respect. The Bible says in Ephesians 6:1-4, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord…” This word obey means that we are to have an attitude of cooperation, children. And I am talking specifically to children who are living under the authority of their parents at home. Then it says, “…for this is right. Honor your father and mother.” We are to show respect and also, here is where it gets tough now, children, we are to show them appreciation. Children, you want to put some major wind into your parent’s sails? Show them appreciation. I read a couple of weeks ago, it costs the average family a quarter of a million dollars to develop a child from birth until eighteen years of age. Two hundred and fifty thousand dollars. Forget the monetary issue for a second, children, think about the mental anguish you cause your parents. Always thinking about self-esteem issues, always thinking about passing the baton of faith, always thinking about exposing you to different issues and opportunities. It is tough.
You want to change the family dynamic. Say, “Mom, Dad, thanks for taking me out to McDonald’s tonight. Mom, thank you for carrying me around in your womb for nine months. Dad, thank you for working to provide enough money to have a house and clothes.” You will see everything change when you do that. Model respect. Then it says, “….Fathers, do not exasperate your children…” The word exasperate means don’t put all this legalistic stuff on them, all these unrealistic and unreasonable rules. It says, “…bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” The word training here means loving discipline. We are to parent like our perfect heavenly parent. If we are inside the family of God, if we know Christ personally, we can be assured that we will never, ever be punished. God will never punish His children. Because Jesus Christ took the punishment on the cross for our sins 2,000 years ago. However, God does discipline His children. He disciplines you, He disciplines me to improve us and He does it always out of love. Parents, discipline your children out of love. They are watching you.
Recently I was in Tom Thumb buying some diapers. It was about 9:30 pm. I was in the express line, meant for fifteen items or less. The lady in front of me had about thirty-seven items. So I am waiting, a little impatient. I noticed all the tabloids. I am not a big tabloid reader but one headline on a certain tabloid, the Globe, caught my eye. Have you ever read the Globe before? Don’t raise your hand. It said VACATION WITH FRANK AND KATHY LEE GIFFORD. So I thought that might be pretty cool. I could see where they vacation. People love to know what others do. I opened the paper and looked at the pictures. That poor family, they can’t go anywhere without the paparazzi following them. It shows Frank with his hair all over his face after a big wave got him unexpectedly. Kathy Lee is shown taking sand and grit from her children’s ears. I though, how sad. Then I quickly thought about being a parent. Because, parents, we have a paparazzi following us wherever we go. Little ears. Little eyes. Taking photographs, filling them. Everything we do, everything we don’t do, everything we say, everything we don’t say, every core value that we give to them, they are taking it all in. Model respect.
E stands for environment. We need to know the influence of the environment. If you hang around this church very much you know that I love to fish. I talk about it all the time and I try to go fishing regularly. My favorite fish to catch in the world is the silver king, known as the tarpon. The tarpon is a salt water fish and, check with my wife, I read about the tarpon about five nights a week. Specifically, I read about his environment. We don’t live near salt water, but I know about the tarpon’s environment. I know what tides he likes. I personally tie the kind of flies that he eats. I am a tarpon man. You know that I am into the tarpon and especially into his environment. You can’t catch them, if you do not know their environment.
I have to be brutally honest and ask myself, “Ed, do you really know the environment and the influence that your family is under right now? Do you know what is out there? Are you being shrewd, are you being smart? Here is what Jesus said in Matthew 10:16. Parents, children “…be as shred as snakes and as innocent as doves.” In John 17:15 He said, “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.” They live in the world but they are not of the world. Next week, parents, I challenge you to be here. I beg you to be here. I have been doing research for the message over the last two months. I am going to do a message that I believe will be a life-changing message for every family here. Do not miss it. But let me warn you. I am going to talk about some graphic stuff next week, so make sure your children up to the fifth grade are in our children’s church area. But do not miss next week. We are talking about under the influence. I believe that this day and time is the most difficult and most challenging time to do the family thing. But, the great news is, if we apply these six principles, we have a positive future. The same resurrection power that brought Jesus back from the dead is available for your family and mine. A simple question is, what are we going to do with the power? Join me as a fellow struggler as we see what God says about the future of the family.