God’s Plan For The Family

How can we build better families? How can we strengthen the foundation of a society?

As politicians campaign for office, it seems as if every one of them is trying to help the American family. Some want to give tax breaks. Others believe the offer financial help is the best way to attract votes. Still others look to instill better values. The one common thread that connects all these efforts is; the family needs help. Whether the politician is Democrat or Republican, the one thing they will agree on is the need to bolster the American family. Politicians may not agree as to exactly where the family is hurting or how to do this, but they do agree that families are hurting. They know that many families are disintegrating. They know that our society (or any society) is only as strong as its families.

Yet, very few turn to the real source of family values. To rebuild or strengthen the family, it is absolutely necessary that people turn to the One who created the family in the first place. It was God who brought Adam and Eve together (Gen. 2:22-25) making them “one flesh”. It was God who commanded them to “Be fruitful, multiply, and fill the earth” (Gen. 1:28). God established the family. God ordained that families would be the backbone of any and all societies. So, what is God’s plan for your family and mine?

Values Are Learned At Home

We hear a great deal today about the need for values. Many turn to schools or government institutions to try to teach children and adults about right and wrong. But these values are taught best and most powerfully in the home. “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. HONOR YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER (which is the first commandment with a promise), SO THAT IT MAY BE WELL WITH YOU, AND THAT YOU MAY LIVE LONG ON THE EARTH. Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” (Eph. 6:1-4). Paul tells us that values are learned at home.

Parents are to admonish and nurture their children. They are to instill a sense of honor and respect for parents. Children are to be obedient to parents and are to learn to respect them. These are the very values that seem to be missing in society: honor, respect, obedience, nurturing. If families respond to God’s plan by living this way, our society would undergo a profound change from selfish violence, to selfless respect for others.

Old Testament Suggestions

These values are passed to children in subtle ways. “Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one! You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.” (Deut. 6:4-7). As Moses restated the law, he explained the process that instills values. It begins with the realization that God is, that He is our God and that He commands our lives. These facts should not be wrapped up in sermons, but in a lifestyle that speaks of God, thinks about God, and talks about God.

Moses even gives ideas about how to do this. He suggests talking about God in informal settings such as walking, eating, getting out of bed or going to bed. Those parents who include God at meals by praying are accomplishing much in the way of instilling values. Those parents who pray with their children before bedtime are setting the example children need in order to learn good values.

Actions Outweigh Words

Finally, realize that these values are more modeled than taught. Children learn much more by example than by lectures or sermons. Taking your children to church is important. But if the home life is a poor example of faith, then all the lessons in the world, taught by all the best teachers, will fall on deaf ears. What takes place in your home will set in concrete the values your children adopt.

Throughout Paul’s discussion of marriage and child-rearing (Eph. 5:21-6:4), he constantly refers to an atmosphere in which family members and protected. So a husband will not be threatened by a wife who submits (Eph. 5:22). So a wife will not be afraid of a husband who dies to self for his wife (Eph. 5:25) or who treats his wife as his own body (Eph. 5:28-29). So parents will not be pressured by kids who honor them (Eph 6:1) and children will not be angered by parents who nurture (Eph. 6:4). A family is to be a group of people who make it safe to live, to work, to worship, to succeed and to fail, without threat or intimidation or fear.

Homes Should Be Physically Safe

A home should be a place where everyone is safe from abuse. Our society takes spanking and too often turns it into pain, fear or worse. Society deals with that by making laws and taking steps to protect children. What child should need protection from a parent? Every child should feel safe to come home, even when that child is in trouble and deserves punishment. I never enjoyed facing my folks when I was in trouble. But I was never physically afraid of either of them. They would discipline, they love and they would forgive.

A wife should have that same sense of safety. When Adam met his bride they “were both naked and were not ashamed” (Gen. 2:25). This first couple had no barriers between them. No matter how pretty or ugly she was, no matter how thin or obese, no matter how tall or short, she was accepted and loved by Adam. Eve returned this love to Adam, so that both could be completely transparent, physically and emotionally, and not be at risk. In too many homes today, spouses are afraid to be honest with each other. They are afraid of criticism, or of an explosion that would be even more pain than holding in the truth. Every marriage is to be built on a foundation of transparency in which both partners can be honest even when wrong, and not be afraid harmed emotionally or physically.

Homes Should Be Emotionally Safe

But homes also need to be a safe place to risk. Paul tells husbands that Jesus died for the church, “that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless (Eph. 5:27). Jesus died to encourage the church to become all that God wanted us to be, pure and holy. In the same way, husbands should die to self that their wives can shine in all their glory and become all God wants them to be. Wives should do the same for husbands. Parents must do this for their kids.

A family should be a safe place to risk being more, knowing more, trying more, learning more. Some families are so critical, so harsh, so discouraging that no one ever succeeds. A family built on God’s plan encourages its members to grow physically, emotionally, intellectually and spiritually. I want my wife to be happy, to be satisfied and to accomplish all she can in life for herself, for us and for God. My children should have the opportunity to go farther, to do more, to know more, to love more than I have. I want my children to know God better and to serve Him better than I have. To do this they must risk new things, take chances that might not work just right. But a family is to be a place in which that sort of risk can be taken.

God’s Plan For The Family

Repeatedly in Ephesians 5:21-6:4 Paul gives the key to having a family based on God’s plan. “Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord” (5:22). “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her” (5:25). “Children, obey your parents in the Lord” (Eph. 6:1). “Fathers…bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4). The key to all family functioning is having God and Jesus at the center.

So wives submit, not because their particular prince charming deserves it, but because that is what Jesus wants. Husbands die to self, not because their particular bride is wonderful and perfect, but because Jesus wants it. And children obey parents, not because parents are always right or smarter, but because, in the Lord, that is what we are asked to do. Finally, parents are gentle and disciplining, not because their kids are perfect and deserve good parents, but because that is the will of God.

Christians are formed in the family

This means that the family is the ground for being Christians. Thus, it is at home that we learn about mercy, about grace, about righteousness, about faithfulness. Also, it is at home that we learn about turning the other cheek, going the second mile and giving up our rights. And we do all this because it is God’s will, not because the people in our homes deserve it. Too many families are built on the idea of “you go first.” In God’s plan it is always the believer who “goes first” by dying to self and submitting to the others.

In answer to the questions at the beginning of part one, we can change homes by being aggressive in ministering to families as they learn the skills of modeling, transparency, and denial. Churches and believers can teach and practice these skills so that the world comes to us, not because we have good ideas, but because God’s plan, put in action in our lives actually works!

Marriage Vows or What God Joined Together

or What God Joined Together

Marriage and the marriage vows are something that should never be taken lightly. What happens when two people come together under the idea of marriage? They stand before a man to recite wedding vows to each other. But, what does this mean? Consider if you will, the words both the male and female make: “Will you take this woman/man to be your lawfully wedded wife/husband, to live together in holy matrimony? Will you love her/him, comfort her/him, honor her/him, and keep her/him in sickness and in health…, forsaking all others for as long as you both shall live? Will you take to yourself to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, and to love and cherish each other till death do you part?”

Your Marriage Vows are before God, do you mean it?

When two people repeat their wedding vows, those involved in that marriage make this promise to each other and to God. They promise they will be together forever. However, far too many times, this is far from the truth. Separations occur and eventually divorce comes (annulments included).  But what is divorce? Obtaining a divorce is a legal (by man’s standards) dissolution of a marriage. It is a ceasing, a breaking of promises, to let go, or to release from bonds that terminates a marriage. But what is ceasing? However, what are things that break in divorce? Could we say that we are breaking two hearts in a marriage or breaking a family into jagged pieces? But what are we letting go? Could it be the bond that was first made on the wedding day between each other and between God? But, why the release?

Did not Jesus say to the Pharisees who came tempting Him with questions on divorce that, “…a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh” (Matt. 19:5)? Two lives join into one. Therefore, the bond of husband and wife is stronger than that between children and parents. And, to be as one means that they are to be the only ones together. Yet, if this is true, then what comes in between them? It should be said that when something comes in between the one flesh, it must be a painful experience seeing as how pain always comes when something is inserted between flesh. With a marriage, this insertion is planned and cannot happen by accident and once it is between flesh, it separates it and divorce is seen shortly down the road.

Marriage Vows Combine Two as One

Jesus said, “So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate” (Matt. 19:6). Now, what could be so forceful that it could separate flesh? Perhaps a friend? Maybe they just drive each other crazy. Perhaps they are just not compatible. Jesus again speaking said to the Pharisees, “whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality (fornication), and marries another woman commits adultery” (Matt. 19:9).

What is fornication? It is illicit sexual intercourse. It is sexual intercourse whether it is with a man, woman, homosexual, lesbian, animal, etc. Jesus said that for this reason only can one divorce. Why? It is because sexual intercourse breaks the one flesh into two. Also, because there is a foreign flesh attempting to rip part of the flesh from the rest. It is because it breaks the covenant relationship between man and woman. In addition, it breaks the covenant relationship with God because once you are in a marriage, you are commanded by God to keep it (Rom. 7:2).

Men can attempt to justify this by saying that the laws of the land permit other actions. Well, so did the laws of the land in Jesus’ day (Matt. 19:1-9). But just because it is a law of the land, does not give us a right to violate God’s law. The apostles, which were led directly by the Holy Spirit said, “. . . We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). Therefore, if God defines what a marriage is and what it is not and defines the reason to end a marriage, we must obey God rather than man for only God can dissolve a marriage.

Divorce Means Ignoring Your Promise to God

Divorce that comes outside of fornication, happens when men forget God (Rom. 1:18-32), when they forget His word (Psa. 119:11), and when they want to do what is right in their own eyes (Judges 17:6). May we each do the will of the Father (Matt. 7:21-23).

Brotherly Kindness and its Importance

Brotherly Kindness

Brotherly kindness is a topic that must never become stale or outdated. The bonds of kindness that exist between Christian brothers and sisters is one of the clearest testimonies that we are in fellowship with God. “The one who loves his brother abides in the Light and there is no cause for stumbling in him” (1 John 2:10). “This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:5-7). One of the best Biblical texts dealing with the importance of brotherly kindness is 1 John 4:7-21. In this article we’ll examine some of what this text teaches us regarding brotherly kindness.

Brotherly Kindness Shows That We Are God’s Children

First, brotherly kindness shows us that we are true children of God (1 John 4:7-8). God is the definition of love. He is the source of love. From God we learn that love is not mere sentiment but involves an act of the will. Love is a verb. God not only told us of His love, but He showed it in His divine act of love (cf. vv. 9-11). “We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (1 John 3:16, cf. John 3:16 & Rom. 5:6-8). For Christians, brotherly kindness should certainly be spoken, but what is most important is that this kindness is shown in deeds. Can we say that we are God’s children? We can if we have brotherly kindness one for another and if it is shown in our deeds.

Fellowship With God

Secondly, brotherly kindness brings us into fellowship with God (vv. 12-16). Of course, we cannot fellowship God as we do each other for God is not visible to us (v. 12, cf. John 1:18). However, when brotherly kindness abides within our hearts, then God abides in us through His Holy Spirit. It is impossible for one to say he has fellowship with God when he does not have kindness in his heart for his brothers and sisters in Christ. It is just as likely for an unloving person to be a child of God as it is for a fig tree to bear olives (cf. James 3:9-12). Just as Jesus said that the world would know that we are His disciples by the love we have for one another (John 13:34-35), so the world will know that we are not only disciples but also God’s children through our brotherly kindness.

Boldness and Confidence Before God

Finally, brotherly kindness gives us confidence in our standing before God. Many are unsure of their standing with God and face the idea of judgment with trembling uncertainty. Such need not be the case. Why? The answer is simply this. In brotherly kindness, we are as He is and as such, we are confident of our sonship. “Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world” (1 John 4:17). This knowledge that we are as He is comes from the love that we have for one another in our hearts. Those who still live in fear of judgment show that God’s love is not fully developed in their hearts (v. 18).

Brotherly Kindness Is NOT Optional

Brotherly kindness is NOT optional. Some live with self-deception. John gives a stern warning. “If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also” (1 John 4:20-21). Hate is a strong word. What is hate? It is no more, nor any less than the absence of love. For the true Christian, brotherly kindness is not optional. It is not something about which he can have a “take it or leave it” attitude.

Let us show brotherly kindness to one another! Love is of God. He is the source, definition and supreme example such. With brotherly kindness I leave “church going” behind and live as a true and authentic Christian and have bold confidence in my standing before God. Without this kindness, my “church going” and sacramental observances are nothing more than a hypocritical sham.

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What The World Needs Now Is Love

Love conquers all

The year was 1965. Many today are too young to remember, but it was a time upheaval in the country. The Vietnam war was raging, but very unpopular. Other forces were at work also to create a climate of unrest and even distrust. It would seem, what the world needed was love.

Hal David, in considering many of these, wrote a song entitled “What the World Needs Now Is Love.” The world is and was in need of love. And the apostle Paul give us a very good description much going on, even today, it seems those words ring just as true. While many would have us believe love is not necessary but there is not a person who does not need love and who does not need to love others.

Thoughts on Love

The story is told about a little old man who sold small boxes made of cement which, according to his claim, contained something that could mend all family hurts and broken hearts. Some laughed claiming he a shyster; however, those who purchased one of his small cement boxes for a small price found a small piece of paper inside. On the paper was written the word: LOVE. Indeed, love is the cure for family hurts and broken hearts.

Jesus wrote: “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). Peter wrote, “love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8). These passages tell us, we must have and we must show our love.

Henry Van Dyke wrote: “Love is not getting but giving; not a wild dream of pleasure and a madness of pleasure and a madness of desire—oh, no—love is not that! It is goodness and honor, and peace and pure living–yes, love is that and is the best thing in the world, and the thing that lives the longest.”

The apostle Paul stated this about love: “But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13); i.e. there is nothing greater in the world than love! So, let us consider HOW Paul describes love in this chapter.

Characteristics of Love

Love is patient. Love is patient because love has a long-fuse and has the ability of self-restraint (Gal 5:23).

Love is kind. Our attitudes and actions will show kindness to others (Matt 7:12; Eph 4:32).

Love envies no one. However,love delights in the others welfare and happiness (Phil 2:4).

Love is never boastful. Real love does not contain one’s boasting of self; i.e. about one’s greatness, because love respects and regards others with high esteem (Phil 2:3).

Love is not conceited. It is love that keeps the individual from being stuck on his own importance. Why? Because love sees others as important too. When self-centered we can never please God (1 Cor 8:1-2).

Love is not rude. Rather love is gentle which is the opposite of rudeness. Love is swift to hear, slow to speak, and treats others as God commands (Jas 1:19).

Love is not selfish. Agape love is not interested in what one can get but giving what is best for others. Another way to look at this point is, one who loves does not promote his own interest (1 Cor 10:24).

More Characteristics of Love

Love is not quick to take offense. No “chips on one’s shoulder.” Not quickly angered and moved to wrath, but calmness.

Love thinks no evil. One does not keep a score of another’s wrongs nor imputes the motives of another. Love is not an arbitrary love (cf. Matt. 7:1).

Love does not gloat over the misfortunes of others. True love never gloats when hearing a wrong in another’s life; i.e. it finds no Pleasure in gossip (cf. Romans 1:32). Love does not do this.

Love delights in the truth. Love “buys the truth and sells it not” (Proverbs 23:23), because of its value of giving freedom (John 8:32).

Love believes all things. Therefore, love accepts all of God’s truths and believes the best about others.

Love hopes all things. Love hopes all that things will go well for others, because love cares.

Love endures all things. Love can enable one to bear up under, sustains, and does not murmur. Regardless how others treat us, we will not stop loving them. In other words, love is steadfast. In New Testament times, the word “endure” described a soldier holding or keeping his ground in the worst of battle.

Conclusion

Love never fails. Consider in your personal life the number of things, which no longer remain with you because they are temporary. But Love lasts forever.

Love is the greatest. We say this about love because that is what God says, “The greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:1 3). Consider loves influence for good and happiness; yet having the power to benefit self, others, and to overcome evil. However, we are commanded, “follow after love” (1 Corinthians 14:1).

Celsus, who was an early critic of Christianity, said: “These Christians love each other even before they are acquainted.” This gives meaning to: “By this shall all men know you are My disciples, if you have love one to another” (John 13:35). What the world needs now is love.