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By Rev Charles Seet

Preached at Life BPC 10.30am service, 2000-11-12

Text: 1 Timothy 5:8; Deuteronomy 11:16-19

This past week the news was filled with the aftermath of the SIA disaster in Taiwan. Those who died were flown home to their grieving families for funeral arrangements. Those who were hospitalized were transferred to Singapore and to their families, all waiting to render them the care and comfort they need. Sometimes it is only when things like these happen that we realise how much our loved ones mean to us. And when a loved one suddenly passes away, we feel a great sense of regret that we had not spent enough time with them. How we wish we could just turn back the clock and have the opportunity to do things differently - to spend time building a meaningful bond with them.

I. The Present Breakdown in Family Life

A. The Popular Trend

It is fast becoming a trend for families today for both parents to become too busy with the pursuit of their respective careers. The care of the children is delegated to the day care center, or to the maid. Those of school-going age are taken care of in before and after school care centers. Whatever little time of interaction spent with the children, is used mostly for supervising their homework or preparing them for exams. And as long as they can obtain good results for every exam, parents consider themselves to have successfully fulfilled their role as parents.

But when the turbulent years of adolesence arrive, they find themselves terribly estranged from their children. Instead of looking to their parents, the children look to their friends, their peers or to the internet to find the guidance, help and answers they need. And so the failure to build a strong family bond now begins to takes its toll. The children go on their own way, paying no attention to their bewildered parents, and leaving them wondering what has happened. How the parents then wish that they could turn back the clock and have the opportunity to bring up their children differently.

There is a real need to address this trend of breakdown in family life. Because of the various influences from the world that urge individual achievement and success, the average family spends less time together now than before.

B. TheTerrible Result

Family life in Singapore is changing, because of the stresses of our hectic pace of life, and the demands of the new global knowledge-based economy. One journalist recently described the typical Singapore family life as being complex and messy. It is getting common now for families to become fragmented and dysfunctional either because of overseas study, overseas work assignments, housing constraints, and failure in marriage. Concern has been raised over increasing incidences of family violence and child abuse, and of teens getting involved in premarital relationships and in even in violent crimes.

Dearly beloved, we cannot ignore what is happening today - the family unit is degenerating! Let us be careful not to take our families for granted. The Lord wants us to value our relationships with those who are close to us, and particularly with those within our own family. What then in the remedy for this degeneration of family life that is affecting us today?

II. The Prominence of Family Life in the Scriptures

The remedy is to return to the instruction manual provided by the Maker who designed and created the family unit. The Bible gives us all the basic principles we need from God, about how families should function, and the role of each component of the family. God originally ordained the family to be the basic unit of society. We can find this emphasized in the Word of God in at least two ways. Firstly, in the

A. Commandments and Instructions about Family Life: Many of the commandments given in the scriptures are related to promoting harmony and godliness in family life. Husbands are commanded to love their wives, and the wives are commanded to submit to their husbands (Ephesians 5:22,25). Parents are commanded to love, instruct, and discipline their children, while children are commanded to honour and obey their parents (Ephesians 6:1-4).

But what we want to observe for now, is the abundance of commandments and specific instructions given in the Bible about family life, and ask the question, "Why is there such a wealth of instructions about family life?" Doesn't this indicate how much God is interested in families?

And if the Lord gives so much attention and effort to regulating family life, should we not then do the same? And this is not the only way that the Bible upholds family life. Let us go on to look at another way that the Bible emphasizes family life, that is, in the:

B. Promises of the Bible concerning Families: It is a fact that many of the promises given in the Scriptures deal not just with individuals, but also with families. For instance, when the apostle Peter delivered his first gospel sermon at Pentecost, he proclaimed: "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call." (Acts 2:38,39)

When Paul and Silas brought the Gospel message to their Philippian jailer, they said to him, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house." Earlier on in the same chapter (vv.14,15) another family was saved - that of Lydia, a seller of a purple dye from Thyatira. The Lord opened her heart when the Apostle Paul preached the gospel, and she and her household (family) were baptized. Her house thus became the meeting place of the first church at Philippi.

By the way, it is because of the fact that the promise of God is extended to families and, that household baptisms are recorded in the NT, that we practise infant baptism in our church. We believe that baptism is a sign of the covenant that God has made with His people, a covenant to bless not just individuals alone, but their families as well. And our part in this covenant is to build up our families in godliness, to cultivate Christian homes.

III. The Principles for Christian Family Life

Having seen how prominent the family is in the Bible in the commands and promises related to the family, we now go on to learn the principles that must serve as the foundation or basis of the Christian family. Now these principles need to be practised and applied, and if you are really interested in knowing more about their practical application let me recommend this book for you to read: Formula for Family Unity - A practical guide of Christian Families by Walter and Trudy Fremont.

It deals with key family and marriage problems - How to love, communicate, submission, leadership, parental responsibilities, discipline of children, manage family finances. These authors conduct weekend family seminars in churches throughout the year.

Right now we are going to look at the two important principles that form the basis for building a godly Christian home: The first is that

A. Family Members Must be Committed One to Another

This principle is given in 1 Timothy 5:8 - "But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel." Although this command is found in the context of providing for one's aged parents or grandparents, we want to understand the general principle it teaches - the sense of obligation or better still, the commitment that should bind family members together.

In the Christian family, we must be firmly committed to one another, regardless of how we may feel about one another. Feelings change all the time. A wife may sometimes feel irritated by her husband's untidy habits. A mother may sometimes feel upset with a child who is disobedient. Siblings sometimes quarrel with each other over toys and personal belongings, or exhibit 'sibling rivalry'. If the quality of family life depended upon feelings, it would very soon end up in terrible jeopardy! But if there is commitment between members of the family to one another, then family life would still remain strong and stedfast, despite any change of feelings.

This applies first of all to the marriage relationship. This is the relationship that undergirds the whole family. Father and mother's undying commitment to one another are the pillars upon which the whole family rests. If that commitment were to be compromised, the very foundations of family life would be shaken. Let me therefore say this to all who are parents here: If you want to build a strong Christian family, then build up a firm commitment to your spouse, and let nothing ever compromise that commitment.

Commitment also applies to the parent-child relationship. Such commitment keeps a father from disowning or child or giving up on him, even when the child becomes rebellious and disobedient. We think of the many times that Israel rebelled against God, and roused His displeasure and wrath against them. And yet as their heavenly Father, God always remained steadfastly committed to the covenant He made with them!

It is also commitment that enables a Christian to persevere in taking care of an aged bedridden parent to the best of his ability. The tie that binds family members together is commitment. But there is a more important commitment than this. For even if all members in a family are deeply committed to one another, it would not be a Christian family without commitment to Christ. This brings us to the second principle that forms the basis of the Christian family.

B. Family Members Must Be Committed to the Lord

A Christian family can be described as a family that has at least 3 characteristics: It is firstly a home where the father, mother, sons and daughters are all growing in their love and commitment to Christ. Secondly it is a home where all family members look to God for help whenever they have to deal with any problem or difficult situation in life. And thirdly it is a home where family members praise and thank God for His daily blessings.

But how can such a home be realized? It cannot come about without effort. Effort must be made to cultivate sincere love and commitment to God in every member of the home. In the passage of scripture that we read a while ago from Deuteronomy 11:16-19, we see some steps that Israel was commanded to take in order to maintain their commitment to God.

The first step is mentioned in v.16 - "Take heed to yourselves, that your heart be not deceived, and ye turn aside, and serve other gods, and worship them;" The Israelites were to be careful not to be deceived into idol worship, because the environment that they were going to have shortly, was an idolatrous one. The Canaanites worships many different gods and Israel was told to be careful to destroy all of them - every shrine, altar and idols had to be eradicated from their living environment.

The second step is mentioned in vv. 18,19 - "Therefore shall ye lay up these My words in your heart and in your soul, and bind them for a sign upon your hand, that they may be as frontlets between your eyes. And ye shall teach them your children, speaking of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, when thou liest down, and when thou risest up."

Here the Israelites were told to keep the Word of God well and impart it to their children. They were told to take the initiative to communicate the Word of God in their homes, whether it was at times when they were sitting down to eat with their family, or walking, lying down to rest or rising.

From these verses, we can derive two basic steps: The first step is to Provide a home environment that is conducive for cultivating commitment. Although there may be no idols or altars to other gods in our homes, we are going to see that there are many things in the home environment that can gravely affect our commitment to God. The second step is to Prepare to Lead in Family Devotions. We need to lay up God's Word in our hearts and teach them to our children regularly and consistently. Let us begin with the first step:

1. Provide a Home Environment that Is Conducive for Cultivating commitment to the Lord

The home environment very often turns out to be the most important influence in a person's life. But unfortunately today, we are witnessing the invasion of the home environment by the world. The Christian home today faces powerful influences from the world. And we cannot close our eyes and pretend that these strong influences are not there.

Now, you may ask, 'How do these influences get into our homes?' Through the various media that are found in every household: The television, the radio, the internet, CD or cassette player, books, magazines, journals, newspapers, pictures and posters on the walls and even calendars. Now all of these can be very useful to us, and keep us informed about what is going on around us. We cannot afford to live in the world today without being informed through the various channels of media available to us. But if we are not careful about regulating what we allow these media to bring into our homes, then our home environment could very well influence our children to think, feel, speak and act the way the world does, instead of the way they should.

All our efforts at having cultivating godliness in our home would then be a waste of time and effort, because the world which comes right into our homes through all these media speaks to them with a louder voice. Christian homes must be guarded from becoming such an environment - so filled with the world that God is crowded out of them.

Dearly beloved, what kind of music pervades your homes from the radios, tapes and CDs players that you have? What kind of decorations and pin ups do you have on the walls of your home? What kind of books and magazines do you fill your bookshelves and magazine racks with? And what kind of television programmes get air time in your home environment? Remember that all of these will make a deeper impression on your children and even on yourself, than you think. As adult believers we should be able to discern between what is good and what is bad, but we need to understand that the mind of a child is like a sponge: it will soak in most of what it hears, sees and reads.

What then can we do about this? I would like to suggest three things we can do, in order to provide a home environment that is conducive for Family devotions: Firstly, carefully regulate what the media brings into your homes. Assess the songs that are played and the programs on TV; assess the reading material that are lying around the house: are they going to have a destructive influence? Choose only those songs and programs that will not teach the wrong kind of principles and values to your children. Be selective when you buy books, comics, magazines and even games for your children. Quickly review each one of them. Monitor the websites that get accessed on your home computer. Remove whatever pictures or reading material that communicate undesirable values and attitudes from your home. If you are not sure how to decide, just think: If Christ were to come into my home, what material would I want to remove?

Secondly, be ready to give your child the right perspective they should have on the world's standards and values. Inevitably, you cannot stop all of the world's influence from coming in some way or other. But you can teach your child to love what is good and to reject what is bad. How do you do this? You can do this by expressing your own comments and remarks on what they see, hear and read in the media. Indicate your approval or disapproval appropriately, but always immediately if you want to have the best impact.

Thirdly, fill your home with material that is educational and edifying, and that communicate the right attitudes and values. You can drown out the world's influence in your home simply by increasing the output from good and enriching media. And if you want to do even better than that, then get Christian books, tapes, magazines, games, posters, and calendars for your home. Invite Christians to your home as guests. This will teach your children to prefer the company of believers. In all these things, your objective is to create a home environment that is conducive for cultivating real commitment to the Lord.

Having seen the first step we can now proceed to the second step which is to:

2. Prepare to Lead in Family Devotions

Some may say, "We don't have time for family devotions, and anyway our children can learn God's Word when they go to Sunday School." Well it is true that God's Word is powerful and effective when taught by any person. But a tremendous difference can be made in a child's life by whom the child learns the Scripture from. A child is more likely to remember and regard principles and values when they are taught to him by his parents than when they are taught to him by his Sunday School teacher. To hear the same truths from the lips of one's parents adds assurance, confidence and familiarity to the child in what he learns.

If you are a parent or plan to be parent, please remember this. You have an important duty to your children: The duty of inculcating moral and spiritual values in them, as well as healthy spiritual habits: Your children must learn from you how to love God and His Word, how to do basic things like giving thanks at mealtimes and at bedtime, and also how to do their quiet time. Remember that you are your child's spiritial leader or mentor, seeking to bring them to faith in Jesus Christ. And one of your duties as a Christian parent is to have regular family devotions.

Now, those who have not had family devotions before, like newly wed couples or new parents many may not know exactly how to have a family devotion, I have provided some guidelines. There are books you can read, like one that is available in our bookroom called "Every Home a Godly Home". This book also provides resources for Family devotions like hymns and choruses, and memory verses. If you want a book that provides readings that are suitable for use in family worship, I recommend that you get the book called "Building Firm Foundations" This has 90 readings and is also available at our Bookroom.

Dearly beloved, we have seen today that God expects us to regard the family with the same high regard that He has for it. And because of this, we must strengthen our commitment to the rest of the family, and most of all to strengthen our commitment to the Lord. To do this we ought to provide a home environment that is conducive to building that commitment, and prepare to lead in family devotions.

And finally, when we have done all that we possibly can, we still need to commit our family to the Lord's hands, and pray that He will guide all our family members in the right direction. Let us be faithful to do our part then, while we trust in the Lord to do His part.

Family Devotions

Some Practical Considerations: (from Dr. SH Tow)

Find a Place: Your sitting lounge or some convenient place. 

Find a time: "No Time" is no good excuse! (e.g. before dinner or just before chilctren's bed-time.) 

Find a Leader: Father, mother, or some mature leader. 

Find a Song: Be a singing Christian, not a sinning Christian! 

Read a Bible Passage: Read together a portion of God's Word. Use RPG or some daily Guide. Apply the portion of God's Word to some situation in life. 

Pray together: God hears and answers prayer. "Men ought always to pray and not to faint" (Luke 18:1). Seek God's blessings for the family, for the church, for friends and loved ones. 

Enjoy fellowship. As believers, we have fellowship one with another, and with God the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ (1 John 1:3). What a blessed fellowship! 

Some Advice:

Do not be too ambitious. This is not a formal full-scale worship service. 10 minutes is quite good. Remember that we want to train our children to love worshipping God, not to dread it. Don't make elaborate plans. 

Don't hurry. Everyone is bound to be busy and wanting to hurry off for something: to do housework, homework, to get really for a meeting or appointment. It is more important to have Quality time than just to get over with the family worship time. 

Remove all distractions so that there will be full attention: Turn off the TV or sound system. Put away toys. Leave phone off the hook. No one should leave unless there is a good reason. No one should be talking or whispering to one another. 

Variety is important. On some days spend more time on Bible reading than on other things. On other days spend more time singing, or praying. Do whatever your children will be interested in doing. Sing songs that are familiar to your children - e.g. short choruses. 

Get everyone to participate. Eg. Prayer time - assign items to each member of the family. Encourage children to ask questions and to tell how they feel about God, about church and Sunday School. If someone in the family can play the piano or guitar, encourage him to provide some music for singing. 

Use the Question and Answer Method to Teach. E.g. using the booklet "Questions and Answers on Eternal life" printed by our church. Do one question a day. Read through the answer the first time round and explain the meaning. The next time, just ask the question and get the child to answer. Give each child a turn to answer the question. 

For older children you can do the Shorter Catechism. Some memorization projects: Books of OT, Books of NT, 10 commandments, Lord's Prayer. verses: John 3:16, John 14:6, Psalm 23.

Recommended For Reading:

1. Walter and Trudy Fremont, Formula for Family Unity - A Practical Guide for Christian Families, BJU press, 1980

2. S.H. Tow, Every Home a Godly Home, Tabernacle Books, Singapore.

3. S.H. Tow, Building Firm Foundations, Banner Publication, Singapore.

Vision & Mission

 

To build a united church family that is committed to making disciples through Salvation, Sanctification and Service, to the glory of God.

Verse for the Week

December 3 & 10 - Holy Living

Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, 2 Peter 3:11