“God convicted me that I have been more dedicated to the Redskins than to my family,” said a broken man as he stood before his church. The previous night he gathered his wife, teenagers, and smaller children together for a family “pow-wow.” There he confessed his failure in spiritual leadership in his home. This opened the door for others to become honest about their concerns and failures. The result was forgiveness, love, unity, and resolve to live God’s way. Revival had come to their home!
Fifty years ago it would have been impossible to conceive of the devastation to family life that is now common in America. One article stated, “We are fast becoming a homeless race. We are born in hospitals, raised in daycares, married in churches, vacation in resorts, entertain our friends in restaurants, die in hospital, and buried from funeral parlors. To thousands of families home is a small apartment members resort to for the minimum of sleep or to wait for the return of the family car.”
Time magazine did a special edition on the family. The article, “Beyond the Year 2000: What to Expect in the New Millennium” gave a sobering forecast concerning the family: 1) The family as we have known it will soon die. 2) The traditional family will be replaced by “serial monogamy” or multiple marriages. Some marriage contracts will have “sunset clauses” to automatically terminate at a given age. 3) The taboo against incest will weaken. 4) The trend toward childlessness will accelerate. 5) Children will be victimized. Many will have no one to care for them. They will roam the streets like they do in Brazil today. 6) Pediatricians will teach children how to use contraceptives when they are vaccinated. 7) School children of tomorrow will have no knowledge of spiritual matters. 8) Mandatory abortion will be imposed in nations with exploding populations. According to Time there is a bleak future for the family.
Who are your children’s heroes? What kind of posters are hanging on their bedroom walls? Whose music do they listen to on their radios and cassettes? Delinquency is skyrocketing. Forty percent of all crime is committed by teenagers. Four million parents were beaten by their own children last year. The Beavis and Butthead addicts are shooting, molesting, and stealing without a twinge of conscience. What happened to the family?
We have heard much talk about dysfunctional families. Buzz words like co-dependency, strong-willed, obsessive-compulsive, and sibling rivalry are used to explain the turmoil in the home. Boil it all down and you’re left with what the Bible calls SIN! By rejecting God’s design for life in general and specifically God’s blueprint for the home, our society is reaping awful consequences. Rather than catalog the mess called family life in America, let’s examine the pathway that leads to strong families.
We must have a revival of spiritual leadership in the home. At church our kids hear about the way they should live. But at home they see our behavior. Children observe their parents all day long, seven days a week, fifty-two weeks a year. This is why true spiritual leadership must begin at home. The little booklet, Spiritual Leadership Begins At Home, by Tom Allen, lists four pillars on which strong families can be built—Radical Dedication; Respectability in Daily Life; Relevant Discipleship; and Regular Devotions.
“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all they heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength” (Mark 12:30). This is a call for parents to make a radical commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ. Those who live with us know us best. It might be tempting to secure your fellow church member’s opinions about our spiritual fervor. But how would your sons and daughters answer this question: “ What is the most important thing in your parent’s lives?” What would your kids say? Perhaps they would point to your job. Maybe they would single out “sports” or some hobby that receives so much attention.
Is your life characterized by a reckless abandon to the will of God? Are your children aware of your desire to be all-out for Jesus? Children raised by parents who are radical in their dedication to Christ will say without hesitation, “The most important thing to my Dad and Mom is Jesus Christ.” It’s impossible to hide the things we treasure in life. Jesus said, “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matthew 6:21).
Revival came to the home mentioned in the opening paragraph when a father smashed his “sports” idol and put first things first. As it should be, Dad led the way back to the Cross! He was the first to humble himself and seek reconciliation. It was into the home where sin first came and it is in the home where restitution is most difficult to make. Nothing affects the atmosphere of a home more than a parent taking the low road and admiting, “I was wrong” and saying”I am sorry.”
Our children were small and we had had a rough day. Tempers flared, voices were raised, things were said that should have been said in a different manner. That night for devotions we confessed our sins. I was first to acknowledge my wrongs. Then each family member prayed. It was amazing! After I opened up and got to the fountain filled with blood, there was a great freedom for even the smallest child to get honest. Restoration, unity, love, and genuine enthusiasm came back to our family. My oldest son commented, “This is the best devotions we’ve had! Can we do this again?”
Children will not do what we say; they will do what we do! “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6).
The home is God’s training center. Parenting is not just raising children; it is really preparing adults. Children are children only for a few years. Individuals who live a normal life span spend the majority of their lives as adults, not children. The home,then, is a preparation center where children are to be nurtured in the fear and admonition of the Lord.
In the book of Deuteronomy God instructed parents to impress His commandments on their offspring. They were to talk about them when sitting at home, while walking along the road, when lying down and when getting up. Moses encouraged parents to use every opportunity to influence their children toward godliness. Spiritual lessons can be learned in the ordinary experiences of daily life. All of life is the classroom in which we are to teach our children. Parents must be relevant in their discipleship.
Through example, as well as precept, kids need to see Christ in the lives of Mom and Dad. The most important thing a father can do for his kids is to love his God and love his wife like Christ loved the church. When husbands and wives are not on speaking terms with each other, they are not on praying ground with God. Contention in the home grieves the Holy Spirit and creates a contentious atmosphere. “I love you” spoken verbally and demonstrated practically should be the trademark of our homes. The greatest contribution a mother can make to her children is to reverence her husband. I once asked a godly pastor’s wife the secret of raising four kids who loved and walked with God. She said she never downtalked or talked back to her husband in front of her children. Her children picked up her submissive attitude and actions toward their father. They,in turn, adopted the same submissive attitude toward the ultimate authority—God.
Openness is a willingness to know the truth about myself and a willingness to let others know me as I really am. When sin entered the original family the first effect was Adam and Eve attempting to hide from God among the trees of the garden. Prior to the Fall they had been so transparent with God and each other. If they hid from God, you can be sure it wasn’t long before they started hiding from each other! This elusive tendency has been passed on to the lot of us. The masks of pretense is one of the major hindrances to revival. Judgment-day honesty before God and those who know us best is the path to revival in the home. Those longing for unity in the home and church will find unity is really a by-product of “walking in the light.” Openness (honesty) leads to brokenness. Brokenness leads to oneness. And oneness toward God and oneness before God is what it means to be a disciple. “They shall know you are my disciples when you love one another.”
Respectability In Daily Life
The written word is to be internalized by parents so that their very lifestyles will call for the respect and admiration of their children. The honor of our children should not simply be expected, it must be earned. The children of the virtuous woman (Proverbs 31:10-31) “arise and call her blessed” because she earned their respect.
Andrew Murray was to preach in a South African church. A holy hush fell on the service as he mounted the steps toward the pulpit. A little child nudged his mother and whispered, “Mommy, is that the Lord Jesus Christ?” The living Word needs to have such a hold on us that our kids can say, “My Mom and Dad are like Jesus.” Roy Hession says revival, “simply means a new life in hearts where the spiritual life has ebbed, but not a new life of self-effort or self-initiated activity. It is not man’s life, but God’s life, the life of Jesus filling us and flowing through us.”
Christian homes have to contend with the same culprit as unsaved families, namely the FLESH! Irritations, frayed tempers, selfishness, resentment, impatience, temptations, and the pressures of life must be responded to in the Spirit, not reacted to in the flesh. Let’s face it, we live in an imperfect world full of imperfect people who do imperfect things.
True spiritual leaders in the home walk what they talk. When they fail to do so they humbly acknowledge that fact before God and the family. In this a parent earns respect from his spouse and other family members. “Nothing between us and God, nothing between us and others”—the home is the first place this should be experienced. When was the last time you uttered those three important words, “I was wrong”? They are every bit as important as those other three words, “I love you.” Since we are not always Mr. and Mrs. Right, we cannot secure respect by pretending we are always right. God promises to exalt us if we humble ourselves (James 4:10). The way up is down. The ground is level down at the foot of the Cross.
Don’t trust someone else to teach your child about character, decency, honor, and industry. Dad, it’s our place to take the leadership in the spiritual training of our children. We are responsible under God to maintain a consistent time for teaching biblical principles that will help our children in their daily walks with God. One man said, “I’m the boss in my home, but I’m not the leader.” He knew how to be in charge, but he did not know how to give spiritual direction. Sunday school teachers, pastors, and Christian schools can never replace what our kids learn at home, nor can the church resurrect what the home puts to death.
Whenever the “family altar” is mentioned weird images pop up in the minds of many. They see dad with an overhead projector pointing to an image on the kitchen wall. He is just finishing up an hour-long lecture to his 3 year old son on the personality of the anti-Christ!
Family devotions should be something to look forward to, not something to dread. First, to be effective and successful, devotions do not have to be long. Second, they should normally be geared to the level of the youngest member. You don’t need a Ph.D. to sing a song, share a verse, and pray. Third, spice it up with variety. Use various tools and means to learn God’s Word. Family devotions can be a truly exciting time for learning if parents are diligent and innovative in their preparation.
Every revival is a Bible revival. In Nehemiah when the neglected law was rediscovered it produced a renewed interest in the Word of the Lord. They read it for hours! Continual revival is maintained by continual obedience to God’s revealed will. A revived home consists of individuals who consistently walk in the light where the blood of Jesus cleanses from all sin. Daily cleansing, daily emptying, daily filling, daily renewal, and redirection through the Word is the only way to abide in the True Vine.
Revival begins at home, and revival can begin in your home NOW. Perhaps it would be a good idea to call the family together for a “get honest” session. Confess failures, share concerns, and get the air cleared. Go on record that by God’s grace you will live a life characterized by radical dedication, relevant discipleship, respectable daily living, and regular devotions.