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Hope for the Family

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As we think about the family, let me share with you the results of two important sociological studies. The first was conducted by British anthropologist John D. Unwin. Unwin did an in-depth study of eighty major world civilizations that rose and fell over a period of 4,000 years. He discovered that a common thread ran through all of them. In each instance, the early history of each civilization show a society that was politically, economically, and religiously conservative; there were strong moral values and a heavy emphasis on family. Each of these civilizations reached a pinnacle of power based on these conventional values. But then something happened. As each society became increasingly liberal in its politics, economy, and religious life, moral values declined. As moral values declined, family life began to disintegrate. As family life disintegrated, society fell into anarchy. The nation became internally weak and in most cases was conquered by another nation. In all eighty cases, Unwin attributed the fall of each of civilization to the disintegration of the family. When did Unwin release his study? In 1934 in a book entitled Sex and Culture.

The second study was done by sociologist and historian Carle Zimmerman. In his book Family and Civilization he compared the breakdown of various cultures with the parallel decline of family life in those cultures. He found eight specific patterns of domestic behavior that characterized the downward spiral of each culture he studied. Those characteristics included:

1. Marriage loses its sacredness; is frequently broken by infidelity and divorce.

2. Traditional meaning of the marriage ceremony is lost.

3. Feminist movements abound.

4. Increased public disrespect for parents and authority in general.

5. Acceleration of juvenile delinquency, promiscuity, and rebellion.

6. Refusal of people with traditional marriages to accept family responsibilities.

7. Growing acceptance of adultery.

8. Increasing interest in and spread of sexual perversions and sex-related crimes.

Zimmerman’s book was written in 1947!

It makes you wonder what these two researchers would write about Western Culture today if they were still alive.

In a secular, post-Christian society, we have to ask the question, Is there hope for the family? That is the penetrating question of this morning’s message. America is changing. ILLUS. I grew up in what I call a ‘Leave It to Beaver’ home. My dad worked. My mom was a stay-at-home wife and mother. My brother and I went to school. In 1955 when I was born, that scenario accounted for 63% of American homes. Today, that figure is 7%. America is changing. Values and attitudes about family are changing. Each day bring an incremental shift in some fundamental aspect of life like ripples in a pond. They may seem small and insignificant, but they spread to eventually affect the entire pond.

Many new, and sometimes frightening challenges confront the today’s families. If Christian families do not meet these challenges in the power of the Lord, with a strong faith, and with a firm grasp of the Scriptures we face the very real possibility of being overwhelmed by the secularization of an un-godly society.

Let me share with you two basic points this morning. The first consists of three words that describe the modern family. The second point outlines the measures families can take which may help create a climate of hope which will help your family to triumph over the challenges and pressures which come your way.

I. PROBLEMS FACING THE FAMILY

            1. each family here this morning has its own unique set of circumstances and problems
            2. there are a few problems, however, which I believe are common to all families in our society to some degree or another
            3. there are three words which describe what many families are experiencing
                1. those three words are . . .
                    1. Besieged
                    2. Decentralized
                    3. Fractured

A. TODAY’S FAMILIES ARE BESIEGED

            1. 1st, today’s families are besieged economically
                1. the American Dream of a large home in the suburbs, two cars in the garage, college tuition for the kids and nest-egg put away for retirement is now a pipe dream for many in our society
                    1. unemployment remains high, lay offs and loss of industry jobs continue to throw people out of work
                    2. for the first time in years, real earnings (when adjusted for inflation) were up last year, but are still down 7% from a decade ago
                2. the two-income family is a reality, no matter how long or loudly the church may decry working mothers
                    1. many families find both mom and dad working two jobs just to keep their family afloat economically
                3. the financial burden for many families here this morning is staggering
                    1. the average new home costs $246,800
                    2. the average new car cost $29,602
                    3. the average new kid costs $222,360 (born in 1990 and raised to age 8—excluding college tuition)
            2. 2nd, today’s families are besieged by anti-family and anti-Christian morals and values
                1. just watch a few hours of prime-time TV—every year the morals-envelope is pushed just a little bit further
                2. pornography has become a scourge upon our culture—it is destroying lives, and destroying homes
                3. a radical Gay agenda continues its assault upon the culture
                    1. every year thousands of homosexuals parade in New York City in order to call attention to their political agenda and flaunt their immorality as an alternative lifestyle
                    2. homosexual marriage is becoming increasingly accepted in our culture and the current administration announced just a month ago that it would no longer enforce the Defense Of Marriage Act
                4. in our schools, anything that is deemed even remotely Christian is forbidden
                  • ILLUS. For close to 70 years the seniors at Neptune High School in New Jersey have received their diplomas in the historic “Great Auditorium.” But this year the ACLU is telling the administration that it has to find a different place to have their High School graduation because the building is Christian-owned and has a cross on the outside of the building. This, according to the ACLU, violates the separation of Church and State.
                    1. other examples abound
            3. 3rd, today’s families are besieged by materialistic, self-serving attitudes
                1. frugality has been replaced by easy credit and spend-thrift, pay-for-it-tomorrow mentality
                2. self-control has been replaced by a if-it-feels-good-do-it kind of attitude
                3. honor has been replaced by a do-what-you-can-get-away-with mentality
                4. fidelity is scoffed at as archaic and against basic human nature
            4. American families are besieged

B. TODAY’S FAMILIES ARE DECENTRALIZED

            1. there was a time in the history of our nation when the family was the center of all activity . . .
                1. educational
                2. spiritual
                3. economic
                4. recreational
            2. the family has moved away from being the primary influence group in a person’s life and is increasingly becoming a secondary influence in meeting the individual’s needs
                1. if the family unit is not the central institution of a society, the society is doomed to fall
                2. I believe that there is a growing over-dependance by today’s families upon other institutions of our society to provide or accomplish what has historically been the providence of the home
            3. too many families has abdicated the total education of their children to preschools and public schools
                1. while I am a supporter of the public school system (in spite of problems associated with it) parents must be involved in the education of their children
                    1. that means reading to them
                    2. that means helping them with their homework
                    3. that means going to parent/teacher meetings
                    4. that means enhancing the education of your child by taking them to cultural and educational events and museums
                2. parents must be the ones who instill values, morals and ethics into their children
            4. too many families have surrendered the spiritual nurturing of their children to the church
                1. instead of parents reading the bible to their children . . .
                2. instead of parents praying with their children . . .
                3. instead of parents taking their children to church . . .
                4. they have turned the spiritual upbringing of the child to the church volunteer and the professional clergy
            5. too many families are looking to government for the economic support that should come through hard work and saving
                1. some families in America are into their third generation of being welfare recipients
                2. many have lost or forgotten the work ethic practiced by earlier generations that saw a reliance upon self and family

C. TODAY’S FAMILIES ARE FRACTURED

            1. fractured is a word that mean to break or to cleave or crack to smash or to shatter
            2. many families have lost all sense of togetherness
                1. divorce has fractured many of our families
                  • ILLUS. Just this last week we saw some good news concerning divorce in America: It’s down. However four our of ten marriages still end in divorce. While we still label marriage in Qmerica as monogamy many Americans have had two or three monogamous relationships.
                2. mobility has fractured many families
                  • ILLUS. It is not unusual for parents to have grown children living several different states thousands of miles away. Once teenagers get their drivers licence, watch out!
                3. jobs have fractured many families.
                  • ILLUS. We have couples here in Linn, where one spouse works in St. Louis and the husband works in Jefferson City or Rolla, or Columbia. That’s tough on families.
                4. abuse, neglect, violence and addictions have fractured many families
            3. even in healthy and whole families, the family is going in as many different directions as there are family members
              • ILLUS. There are mothers here this morning who probably cannot remember when the entire family all sat down at the same time to dinner. Many mothers here probably feel more like taxi cab drivers than mothers.
            4. well, what do we do about these challenges facing the family?

II. PRUDENT ACTIONS WHICH PRODUCE HOPE

            1. look again at our text for the morning
              • Prov. 11:29 “He who brings trouble on his family will inherit only the wind . . .”
                1. the author is reminding his readers of the importance of family
                2. if the author is Solomon (and it most likely is) then he knew first hand what happens when the family is neglected
                3. King David was a wonderful king, a brave warrior, and a good administrator ... but he was, shall we say, paternally challenged
            2. because David neglected family, his family never ceased to be without troubles
            3. what’s the answer

A. FIRST, BE COMMITTED TO THE CONCEPT OF FAMILY

            1. family must have priority
                1. this must be a non-negotiable
            2. this sounds simple and seems obvious
                1. obviously it is not so simple or we would not see the American family in the situation it is in
            3. your family must become the most important institution in your life
              • ILLUS. Martin Luther, one of the leaders of the Protestant Reformation wrote: “I believe that God has given me house, home, wife and children.”
                1. parents, being committed to family may mean working less hours and doing without a few things in order to spend more time with your children
                2. it may mean limiting the number of school or extra-curricular activities your children are involved in so that they spend more time at home
            4. be committed to the concept of family

B. SECOND, BE COMMITTED TO THE BIBLE

            1. the bible is our source of values and morality
                1. they are not taught in the schools or in the public forum
                2. they must be taught in the home and in the church
                  • ILLUS. Fathers and mothers have the greatest opportunity as teachers of anyone in the world. It’s in the home that children have the chance to see if Father and Mother really believe and practice what they teach. A father who says he believes in Sunday school, and then does not go himself, is teaching by his actions that he really does not feel it very important. A mother who teaches love and tolerance to her children, and yet maintains a critical attitude toward a sister in the church is doing wrong by her children, and can probably never be undone. It is pure poison to the mind of the child, and will most certainly be a stumbling block in the way of the child becoming a Christian. Parents who say they believe the Bible to be the greatest Book, to be God's Word to us, but leave it on the shelf to gather dust while they spend hours with the newspaper, magazines, radio and television or their hobbies are in reality saying, "Children, the Bible is not too important. You should read it if you have any extra time."
            2. Christians know that most of the problems we label as social or economic are really moral problems that erupted when we began to eradicate God from the public arena
            3. be committed to the Bible
                1. it is the best marriage manual in the world
                2. it is the best child-rearing guide in the world

C. LASTLY, BE COMMITTED TO THE BODY OF CHRIST ie. THE CHURCH

    • ILLUS. The National Review has published a book entitled The Loss of Virtue. It is a collection of essays by British scholars who looked at what happens to society when it disregards virtue. One of those essays is a fascinating survey of crime and disorder in Great Britain. The first half of the 19th century in England was a violent time. There were extraordinarily high levels of public drunkenness, theft, murder, rape, prostitution and illegitimacy. By the last half of the 19th century and the early part of the 20th century crime and violence had dropped to remarkably low rates. What changed an entire country’s national character? The Sunday School movement. Churches sought to teach the uneducated masses of street urchins how to read and write by using the Bible. As a result the children learned how to read and write, but they also learned about Jesus. Attendance in Sunday School rose steadily in England throughout the latter half of the 19th century. In 1888, 75% of all the children in England and Wales attended Sunday Schools. As a result crime plummeted. When Sunday School attendance began to fall off in the mid-20th century, crime, dishonesty, illegitimacy and disorder once again began to increase. The point? You cannot expect to have a virtuous nation if you don’t have virtuous citizens. Church is the very best place to learn about Christian virtues.
            1. be committed to church

There is no quick fix for many of the problems our families that are facing. It takes time to break a family. It sometimes takes time to fix a family. But if the principles that I’ve laid out are regularly applied, there is hope for the family.

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