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Foundations for a Strong Family - Part 1
June 16, 2011 - Dennis Gingerich
"As the family goes, so goes the nation" a recent political slogan proclaimed. The truth is, no political candidate or party invented family values, but they always play tug of war with them when it comes to election time. And of course, when we start talking about who’s values are right and whose values are wrong, that isn’t politically correct. As we all know, there are a lot of different kinds of families. On television, are you going to follow the values of the American Dad, Two and a Half Men, the Family Guy, the Simpson’s, the Cosby’s or the Walton’s? In 2011, what do we mean when we say traditional family values? Traditional means many different things to many different people. Let me suggest that we have to go back a whole lot further than Ozzie and Harriet to get to traditional family values.
Thousands of years ago, God gave ten values for family living—God’s big ten. They are more commonly called the Ten Commandments. These are not fads that are going to last only as long as a political campaign or until the TV ratings drop. These are values that last for a long time. In fact, they are the bedrock of western civilization. They are the foundation on which our entire judicial and law system has been built. And the interesting thing is, the Ten Commandments are one of the few things that Jews, Muslims and Christians agree on. All three religious traditions accept the Ten Commandments as the commandments from God. I believe these ten core values are still able to make a huge difference in your family today so this is part one of a ten part series for the summer!
Why did God give the Ten Commandments? He gave them not to hurt us, but to help us. Not to hamper us, but to release us. Not to punish us, but to protect us. When I tell a child, "Don't touch the hot stove,” Am I doing that for their good or for my good? The answer is obvious. Every time God says, "Don't" in the Bible, it's always for a positive purpose. The negatives that God gives are always for our benefit. If we ignore them, we get hurt. God has designed the universe to be governed by certain physical laws -- like the law of gravity. If you jump out of a ten story window and ignore the law of gravity, you don't break God's laws, they break you. Likewise there are spiritual laws. God says these are tracks by which to run on. They are not the ten suggestions. God promises if we do these things, our lives will go relatively well. If we don’t do them, we will really mess up things.
Some psychiatrists are now saying that those who grew up in the 60s when there were few boundaries and there was an “anything goes” mentality, struggle more with insecurity. The truth is, we need boundaries for emotional and mental health. We need parameters. We need to know what's right and what's wrong. Adults and children who grow up with no boundaries always have to battle insecurity. Therefore, I don’t mind being politically incorrect by saying we need to look to the Bible, specifically the Ten Commandments, as our foundation for strong families. So, let’s focus our attention toward the first of the top ten – “You shall have no other gods before Me” (Exodus 20:2). Here’s the key point to remember from this first commandment and it is the foundation on which strong families are based. PUT GOD FIRST. In my life and in my family, God demands to be the priority. He will not play second fiddle to anything. He deserves to be number one in your life because He made you. If He hadn't made you, you wouldn't even be around. Everything you have in life is from God because He's given it to you. He's allowed you to have it. What does it mean to "have no other gods before Me"? Notice the word “gods” is written with a small “g.” A god is anything that dominates your life or controls your life—a career, another person, a sport, a hobby can become a god. Yes, even good things that God has created for us to enjoy become gods when you give them first place in your life. God says, "I deserve first place in your life." Putting God first is the foundation for a strong family. Those in construction know how important a foundation is to a building. It doesn’t look like much to only have a foundation built, but it is vital to the success of the structure being built. If your foundation is wrong, it doesn't matter how pretty the structure is, it's going to fall over. Many American families are crumbling because they are built on the wrong foundation.
Here’s something to learn about God. Every time God gives a principle, He gives a promise. Here’s the promise. “In everything you do, put God first and He will direct you and crown your efforts with success." (Proverbs 3:6). Do you want to be successful? Put God first. Whatever you want God to bless in your life, put Him first in that area. The divorce rate in America is now one out of every three marriages. But Harvard University did a study that shows when marriages begin in a church or religious ceremony, the divorce rate drops to one out of fifty marriages. In marriages where they're married in a Christian ceremony, and they go to church every week, and read the Bible and pray together, the divorce rate is one out of 1,105 marriages. Would you say that's a little different than one out of three? Putting God first really does make a difference in your marriage and in your family. You'll see tremendous benefits. You may ask how do I practically put God first in my life? What does it mean to put God first in my life? Let me suggest five specific areas where putting God first will help to make positive changes. You will see the first letter of each key word actually spells F-I-R-S-T.
F – FINANCES. The Bible teaches that money is the number one test of our priorities. We spend most of our life trying to earn more of it but God says that our checkbook reveals what’s really important to you. A police detective going through a deceased person’s checkbook could figure out the priorities of a person’s life. The way you spend your money says what's first in your life. For example, I learned many years ago that giving God at least the first 10% of my money demonstrates He's first in my life. God says, "If you put Me first, I'll direct you and crown your efforts with success." That principle is true in financial and other matters of life.
I – INTERESTS. If God's really going to be number one, I put Him first in my interests. That means in my fun times, my play times, my amusements, recreation, hobbies, pastimes and in my work. The Bible reminds us, "Whatever you do, do it all for God's glory." Does that include going on vacation, eating, playing golf, going sailing or collecting stamps? Yes to all of those. In everything we do, we are to put God first. How do you do that? Do it with an attitude of gratitude. If you're out playing tennis, say "Lord, thank you that You gave me arms to play tennis with and thank You that you gave me hand/eye coordination that I wouldn't have had if it weren't for You." We should be grateful for every gift and ability God has given us. We are to enjoy all that God has blessed us with. You can tell what a person's priorities are by seeing what they get excited about. What gets you excited? That's what's important to you. What do you talk about the most? That may very well be what is first place in your life.
R – RELATIONSHIPS. If you want God first in your life, you're going to have to choose your friends carefully. The Bible tells us, “What a man is really like is shown by the kind of friends he chooses." (See Proverbs. 27:19). Why is that? What do my friends have to do with God being first in my life? Because you become like the people you spend the most time with. If you spend time with people who take God lightly, you will tend to become a casual believer. But if you spend time with people who are committed and take God seriously, you will become a stronger God-follower. Whoever you spend time with, that is what you're going to be like. Choose your friends carefully. It is always easier to pull somebody down than it is to pull somebody up. Put God first in your relationships.
S – SCHEDULE. Put God first in your schedule if you want a strong foundation for your family. "Make the most of your time, grasp firmly what you know to be the will of God,” the Bible says in Ephesians 5:16-17. How do I put God first in my schedule? I ask Him to help me use my time wisely. I don’t have time to do everything. Selection is the name of the game. There are many good things you could be doing but God doesn’t ask you to do more than you have time to do. When you start feeling frustrated, hassled and frazzled it's because you're trying to do more than God wants you to do. A part of the time process of deciding what is most important is to spend some time daily talking with and listening to God. If God is going to be first in your family and in your life, you need a daily appointment with God. Maybe you need to get up fifteen minutes early and spend time listening to God and talking with God about all the things you've got to do and ask, "What do You want me to do? Schedule a daily appointment with God and see what that does to making God first in your life.
T – TROUBLES. When you face unexpected problems and pressures or when you have a crisis, who do you turn to? God says,"Turn to Me first when you've got a problem." Many people get into trouble and prayer is the last resort not the first option. They do everything they can in their own strength to try to correct the problem and then they say, "I guess now all we can do is pray." Like it must really be hopeless! How about making God your first thought when you are in a crisis. Did you know God is waiting to hear from you? God says, “Call upon me in your day of trouble and I will deliver you and you will honor me" (Read Psalm 50:15 in the Bible).
How do you know when God is first in your life? You stop worrying. Worry is the warning light that God is not first in my life at this particular moment. When I start worrying, it says, I'm playing God, I'm assuming responsibility He didn't intend for me to have. When God is not first in any of these five areas, we start to worry about them. When God’s not first in my finances, I worry about them. When God is not first in my relationships, I worry about them. When God isn't first place in my schedule, I worry about my schedule. But when I stop and do a priority check: "God, You be number one in this area, You handle it, You're in charge." I take a deep breath and relax. I encourage you to take the agenda of your life and hold it up to the light and ask, “What does God say about this?’ Also look at your checkbook and your schedule. They are visible proof of what is most important in your life. The late Paul Harvey said, "Why is it that people have to be flat on their back before they learn to look up?" Don’t wait for a crisis in your health or your marriage or your family to reevaluate your priorities and what is first in your life. Now is the time to build your life on the right foundation and to make the changes that are needed to withstand the pressures of life. If you want to build a successful life and a strong family, you've got to have the right foundation. You've got to put God first.
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