Announcer: How important is family?
Boy: Very important.
Man: Can you tell me why?
Boy: If you didn’t have a family, you would die, ’cause you had … ’cause you need love to live.
End of Excerpt
John: Well, that’s an incredible insight from a little boy about the importance of family. And on today’s “Focus on the Family,” you’ll hear why family and honoring God within it is crucial to the health of a society. Your host is Focus president, Jim Daly and I’m John Fuller.
Jim: John, that’s one of my most favorite clips that we’ve ever captured here at Focus on the Family. It’s from The Family Project DVD series. And we’re gonna hear more about that at the end of today’s show. But as we look at the family today, we have a classic message from Dr. Michael Youssef, who wants you to know what God can do for your family today.
John: Well, here’s Dr. Youssef at Church of the Apostles in Atlanta, Georgia, addressing his congregation.
Michael: Now many times, of course, Christians are prone to taking a verse out of the Scripture and they take it out of context. And while it may be sounding great and you learn things from it, but you miss out on the great blessings in putting the text back in its context. And Psalm 127, verse 3 is really a good example of this, because before the Psalmist could ever say that the “children are the heritage of the Lord” and “heritage from the Lord,” he had to lay first the foundation for that statement. He could never have made that statement until he had said in verses 1 and 2, that “unless God builds the house (unless God builds the family), it is in vain the builders will work.” In other words, he’s saying, “Before you can say that the children are a heritage from the Lord, you must be able to say that unless the Lord builds the family, builds the house, the builders labor in vain.
Psalm 127 is one of very few Psalms that Solomon wrote—the son of King David. In fact, there are only two Psalms that are attributed to King Solomon—Psalm 127 and Psalm 72. This Psalm is one of them, one of two that only attributed to King Solomon.
But I want to tell you at the outset—listen carefully—this Psalm is an indictment and a rebuke to our segmented lifestyle. This Psalm is a condemnation for our divided allegiances and a lack of integration in our lives. What Solomon is saying in this Psalm is this: that if you leave God out of your life and out of your family’s life, it is useless that you would work hard in order to provide for your family. If you leave God out of your life and out of your family’s life, all the trinkets in the world will mean nothing. If you leave God out of your life and out of your family’s life, all the goodies that you are able to give them will mean nothing. If you leave God out of your family’s daily devotion and commitment, all the money in the world would only ruin them instead of helping them. If you leave God out of the center … being the center of your family, your family’s devotion and your family’s commitment, the inheritance that you leave them will turn out to be a curse and not a blessing. I remember when Royal Edward [sp?] often used to say that unless you leave your children spiritual assets, financial assets would ruin them. How true that is.
So, in the first stanza of Psalm 127, verses one and two, that’s the first stanza, Solomon is saying that we can live a frantic, self-absorbed, self-sufficient work ethic, but unless God is at the center of your family, your family will fall apart. A Western mind-set—listen carefully, please, because you’ve got to understand that particularly the Old Testament is not written for our Western mind-set, so for a Western mind-set, rightly you can ask the question and say, “Do you know, what does hard work have to do with my family, other than providing for them?” For most of us in the West, we have placed our families in a separate category from our work. In fact, we do that with all of our lives. We live a fragmented life. We separate the spiritual from the temporal. We separate God from our businesses. We separate work from family and we live that way in different compartments.
But in reality, anyone, the Bible said, who fears God, anyone who really loves God, anyone who really wants to honor God must live an integrated life–that’s [where] the word “integrity” comes from—is life that is so integrated. Here’s what I believe. Here’s how I live and the two must fit together so perfectly. What I believe impacts my business. What I believe impacts my family. What I believe impacts all of my life. That’s what the Psalmist is saying.
You see, in the Old Testament, a godly Jew—a godly Jewish man—does not understand this division. It … it’s alien to him. He doesn’t even comprehend it. He would say, look; why would you even build a house if it’s not for the family? Why would there be policemen and guards and watchmen in the city if they’re not guarding families?” The two are so integrated in their mind. That is why the Psalmist, Solomon, could write those words.
You see, the Bible is absolutely clear from beginning to end, that the family is the basic unit of society, that the family is the most important element in society, that the family is the backbone of society. Weaken the family and sooner or later, you’re gonna weaken society. Destroy the family and sooner or later, you’ll destroy society.
But the Psalmist is really saying more than this. Listen carefully. A lot of people are talking about families. Even there’s some prominent person [who] wrote a book, says “It takes a village.” (Laughter)
Listen to me. A godless village is gonna produce godless children. (Audience reaction) But only a godly village is gonna produce godly children. This might be popular. You see it on television. Children first and there’s so much focusing on the family, but the Psalmist is saying, “Not just focusing on the family, but it is where God fits in the family that really matters.” Unless God is at the center of the family, the family is adrift. He is saying that the basic family unit, unless God is at the very center of their lives, they are unsafe. They are unsecured.
What I want to do is look at this Psalm again under four headings. I just want to give you four points so that you remember about this Psalm–Psalm 127. And the points are these. When God is at the center of the family, God grows the family. Secondly, God blesses the family. Thirdly, God guides the family. Fourthly, God protects the family.
God grows the family. Look at verse one. Here’s what Solomon is saying, that when God builds the house, that means, when God is at the center of the home, when God is at the center of the family, the family lives in the house–the members of the household–will grow in maturity. When God’s wisdom that comes through the Word of God fills the house, maturity will be the insignia that is imprinted on the minds of all the members of the household of that family. When God’s presence fills the house, permeates the family, peace will fill the minds of the members of that family’s household. When God is sought in every decision that is made in the family, God’s grace is gonna grace the hearts and the minds and the spirit and the soul of the members of the household.
You see, the family is God’s idea, is God’s idea. Some of you who are singles preparing to get married, take notes. You’re gonna learn a few things today that will come in handy down the future. You see, God is the one who said to Adam and Eve, “Go and multiply and be fruitful and subdue the earth.”
You know, only my family would understand what I’m gonna tell you, but I’m gonna share it with you anyway. As a father who had made his fair share of mistakes, and I sure have, now I’m not just saying that to be humble or sound nice, but I’m telling you the truth. They know that. We talk about these things in my family. I can honestly tell you. I can honestly tell you that it would have been impossible without the power of God and the grace of God and the goodness of God at being on our knees every single day on behalf of our family. It would be impossible for us without complete reliance on the Lord to bring up our family in the fear and nurture of the Lord. When God is at the center, not only does He grow the family, but secondly, when God is at the center, He blesses the family.
In the United States of America families are disintegrating. Children are neglected. Many parents are raising up their children out of guilt, not love. They give them everything in the world except the most important thing of all–time.
A well-known Christian leader told me once, he said before he became a Christian, he felt that his children–his family–were nuisance[s], that they would just get in the way and he couldn’t wait to plan his business trips to get out of town. But listen to me. The sad thing is this. There are Christians who feel that way about their families. In fact, it was the Duke of Windsor who was once quoted to have said, “The thing that impressed me the most about America is the way parents obey their children.” (Laughter) They haven’t fared much better themselves, but that’s okay.
And yet, Solomon is saying to us today that children who are blessed, children who are the blessing from the Lord only–listen to that word—”only” when they are brought up to know the Lord, only when they are brought up to love the Lord, only when they are brought up to honor their father and their mother, only when they are brought up to respect their elders, only when they are brought up to know and obey the Word of God, God blesses such a family, because God grows the family and God blesses the family.
Thirdly, God guides the family. I don’t want to bore you with some of the most incredibly alarming statistics that I just read last week as I’m preparing for this message. I mean it’s mind boggling for me the statistics–the number of children who actually get their guidance from television than from their parents in this country. It can easily depress you.
John: You are listening to “Focus on the Family” and in a moment, you’ll hear God’s perspective on the danger that we see in the news every day. And by the way, you can get a CD of this program with extra content when you call 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY; 800-232-6459 or get the instant download at www.focusonthefamily.com/radio. Let’s go ahead now and return to Michael Youssef on “Focus on the Family.”
End of Program Note
Michael: The children who see their parents go to the Lord for guidance are growing up, going to the Lord for guidance. The children who observe their parents regularly and systematically studying the Word of God for directions in their lives, they’re gonna grow up studying the Word of God for directions in their lives.
Listen carefully, please. More than anything else, more than any other item, this one is caught and not taught. All the preaching in the world ain’t [sic] gonna to help them. They’re watching Mom and Dad. You know, there are some people in the church of Jesus Christ, unfortunately, who when they’re in trouble and they need a word from the Lord, they take their Bible, they close their eyes and they open it and they say, “Well, you know, whatever verse my eyes fall on, that’s the verse for the day.” Have you heard people doing that? Sort of like a luck or charm. But I tell you, I heard about a man who used to do this, but one day he was doing this. He closed his eyes, opened the Bible and the first thing his eyes fell upon were the words as follows from the Scripture. “Judas went out and hung himself.” (Laughter)
Well, you know, he realized this is not what he’s looking for and uh (Laughter) so, he closed the Bible again and he said, “Well, I’m gonna try something else.” So, he kind of closed his eyes and opened the Bible one more time. And there his eyes fell on the verse that says, “Go and do likewise.” (Laughter)
Well, he still wasn’t convinced. You know, obviously, he said, “That’s just not right.” He said, “I’ve got to try it again, so he closed the Bible, closed his eyes. Opened the Bible again and sure enough the words which said, “What you’re doing, do quickly.” (Laughter)
You know, one of the things the Lord teaches parents about His parenting us is the way when we have children. I’m telling you, there’s nothing like it. You begin to really appreciate the Lord. (Chuckling) You appreciate how patient He is. You appreciate how loving He is. You appreciate how forgiving He is. I mean, you’ve got to have a huge back yard in order to bury all of the faults of your children, you know and they bury yours, too.
But the way to model our Lord and the way He parents us, to me, is the most common sense, the simplest and the easiest way. You can read all of the books and all the principles and all the one-two-threes and the formulas. God bless you. Read them all, but I’m gonna tell you, just watch how the Lord parents you as a believer. You model Him with your children and it’s the simplest way I have discovered.
How does the Lord then parent us? Well, in Genesis 28:15, God said, “I am with you.” And I can spend a sermon on each one of those. In Isaiah 51:12, the Lord said, “I will be with you.” In Deuteronomy 20, verse 4, God said, “I will give you victory.” In Psalm 149, verse 4: God said, “I am pleased with you.” Lift them up, don’t tear them down. In 1 John 3:1, God said, “I love you.” In Jeremiah 31:34, God said, “I will forgive you.” And in Psalm 34, verse 15, God said, “I will listen to you.” How many of us listen to our children?
You take these. You understand the marvelous way in which God parents us. You model that to your children and I guarantee you, they will grow up to love the Lord. Oh, they might wander off. That’s not the issue, but they will grow up to love the Lord.
When you know God and His ways, then your children are going to grow up to know God and His ways, because they are modeling you, Mom. They are modeling you, Dad. They are modeling their parents.
God grows a family. God blesses the family. God guides the family. Finally, God protects the family. Probably … and I’m careful here, because I can’t defend this historically, but I’ll say, probably our children are as unsafe today as any time in modern history. We have guns and violence in the schools. We have drunk drivers on the roads. We have mind-altering drugs on the streets. We have unscrupulous predators on the Internet. We have immoral teachers in the classrooms. Everywhere you turn, it seems, there is danger and insecurity.
No wonder the Psalmist said, “Unless God … ” Look at His words, verse 2. “Unless God guards the city,” unless God is the protector of our families, unless God is the defender of our families, unless God is the shelter of our families, it is in vain for policemen to work. You know, my heart often goes out and literally, I weep when I see a policeman killed in the line of duty. I thank God for these brave men and women, but I want to tell you, we have a greater, greater, greater guard and His name is Jesus. And the Scripture said that He sends His angels to minister to those who fear Him.
The Psalmist said it’s in vain for the guards to guard the city unless God, Himself, guards it. Is the danger that our children [are] in brand new, it’s just for our generation? No, not at all. Danger was, is and always will be, always gonna be [sic] with us. Each generation faces a different form of danger. Each generation faces different degrees of intensity of danger, but danger will always be with us as long as we live in this world.
And that is why nearly 3,000 years ago, Solomon could say, “Unless God guards the families, watchmen guard in vain.” Whatever danger we may live in, whatever insecurity there may be, whatever threatens us, those who have placed God at the very center of their families will be guarded by the Lord. You have His word on it. Those who place God at the very center of their families will be sheltered by His shadow. Those who place God at the very center of their families, they will be covered under His wings. Those who place God at the very center of their families are engraved on the palms of His hands.
I read recently about those who spend their life studying chicken. There are people actually who do that. And I want to tell you, I gained an insight from the Scripture that I never understood for a long time. And those who study the way a mother hen, the way it looks after her chicks, have said something like this. They said that a hen, when she sees a hawk circling overhead, she instinctively gives a warning sound and immediately, the baby chicks come running to hide beneath her wings. They said that whenever there is a menacing storm clouds [sic] that [are] filling the sky with rolling thunders and jagged lightning, she quickly makes a noise–a certain noise–that beckons her brood to herself, where they find protection from the element[s].
And the nighttime, as nighttime approaches, as the shadow lengthens, she gives a quiet call that gathered her young to rest. I think I gained an insight from the time the Lord Jesus Christ got on that Mount of Olive[s] and looked down on Jerusalem–that city that was filled with rebellious population who have rejected Him and rejected His Lordship and rejected His authority and rejected His protection. And He cried when He said, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how I wanted to gather you as a hen gathers her chickens, but you would not. You would not.”
Beloved friends, I want to tell you, God wants … no, I think God longs to gather families under His wing and under His protection. I believe the Lord longs to see family altars all over the country, all over the city. He longs to put us under His wings and under His shadow, but the question is, “Do we, as parents, place Him at the center?” Because when God is at the center of the family, God grows the family, God blesses the family, God guides the family and God protects the family.
John: Wise words on today’s “Focus on the Family” from Dr. Michael Youssef, who is pastor of the Church of the Apostles in Atlanta, Georgia. And really until recently, it might have seemed difficult to put those words into action, to find constructive ways to put God at the center of your family. But we’re trying to change that, aren’t we, Jim?
Jim: John, we are, exploring God’s design for the family is the purpose of our DVD curriculum, The Family Project. And I think we’ve uh … hit the proverbial nail on the head, which we launched this in mid-May and we’re already hearing terrific reviews and that’s not for our own gratification, but we want to make sure that we put the best foot forward that we could possibly put forward for the defense of the family.
In fact, a pastor from Southern California called in to say, “The Family Project is the best resource I’ve ever seen. God’s hand is in it and our church is almost through the 12-week study and let me tell you, attendance is up 30 percent.”
John: Hm … wow.
Jim: [That] puts a smile on my face.
Jim: “And people are staying afterward to talk about the lessons and to share their own life situations. I’d use three words to describe The Family Project, he said, “honest, hopeful and healing. Thank you Focus on the Family.”
John: Oh, wow; that is a superb and wonderful way of putting it. It’s so nice to hear that people are staying afterward to talk about what they’re learning in The Family Project. What a great way to build friendships and community in the church.
Jim: Well, and what a great place to do it, you know, in the church to build up. So, pastors, boy if you have not heard about The Family Project, I hope you’ll call us. And for those that do small group[s], call us and get acquainted with it and hopefully, you can use it to build up the family in your congregation, in your small group, whatever it might be. And John, you’re gonna give details in just a minute.
John: Uh-hm, yeah. We’ve put together a kit that includes 12 small-group study sessions and uh … topics range from marriage to sexuality to family relationships and how your family can thrive and serve God every day.
Jim: John, it’s good stuff and what I liked about it, as I watched the curriculum, um … it’s the … the “why” we should concentrate on these things, not the “how to be” a better family.
Jim: We do that, I think, just about every day here at Focus and I hope that’s helpful to you. Uh … but this is why. Why do I need to be a good spouse? Why do I need to be a good dad or a good mom? I think it gives you the scriptural motivation to do the best you can do to model God in your marriage and in your parenting.
And what it gets down to is, how do we model God’s love to people who don’t know Him? People are gonna watch you and they’re going to ask questions uh … when you’re doin’ it well and that’s the core thing–drawing people to Christ through your life and what they see in your life. And I think that was the point Dr. Youssef was getting to there.
Let me again, add, I’d highly recommend you get a copy of The Family Project. Be a part of this movement here in North America and literally, around the world.
John: You don’t have to be a pastor or a church leader to help strengthen families in your neighborhood and it starts with a simple invite to some friends and neighbors, to come over and watch The Family Project DVD series with you.
So, you can find out more about The Family Project at www.focusonthefamily.com/radio or when you call 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY.
Our program was provided by Focus on the Family and on behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for listening. I’m John Fuller, hoping you have a great weekend and inviting you back on Monday. You’ll learn how to have a happy marriage in the empty nest years, as we share trusted advice and encouragement to help you and your family thrive.