Hello everyone. One of the most important keys to the success of any nation and society is the family unit, the extended family. Just study history with that point in mind and you will see that is definitely the case.
For instance, you can take the mighty Roman Empire. That was the superpower of its day—the Roman Empire. And it went for about 500 years. Our nation, the United States of America, is a relatively young nation compared to some of the empires in past history. The Roman Empire was one of the greatest and most powerful empires that ever came along. And then in 476 A.D. it fell. Before its fall, however, politically, economically and militarily, there was no country that could mount a real challenge to this powerful nation and this powerful empire that stretched throughout the known world in its day. In its heyday, it remained unchallenged and undefeated, until it began to decline.
You can read about the Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire and you will see that one of the reasons it collapsed was because of families that collapsed. It finally crumbled and fell and passed into oblivion. Why did it do that? Several reasons. But one of the biggest reasons is, the family unit in the empire began to crumble and unravel in that society.
Now, as you study a little bit about the Roman Empire, you can see a direct parallel taking place in our beloved United States of America today and in the western world as a whole. One of the areas you will see similarities is in the family unit. The extended family is passing from the landscape in our western world and in particular in the United States of America.
Family is the foundation of any great nation. I’m going to read extensively from a little book put out by the Royal Bank of Canada. It’s entitled The Family. And its contents are made up of letters put together from experts in the field of human behavior and family problems and family successes. Now, I don’t agree with every word in here, but there are some words of wisdom here that we should take note of.
So we are going to read extensively from this book regarding the family unit. On page 11, under the title “The Dynamic Family,” it says:
Today’s family has the greatest opportunity the family ever had to act significantly so as to assure the continuance of all that makes people human—the virtues of justice, freedom, love, prudence, and courage.
Where can we go to hear things like this today? Who’s teaching this? Who’s explaining this? Where can we go to find out this information that teaches and shows and demonstrates and proves how important the family unit is and what we can do to keep it together? On page 12 this little book says:
Parents are greatly concerned about preparation of their children for graduation into maturity. This is fit and proper, because it is in the family that a child develops his attitude toward life.
But you know, if the family is disintegrating, where does the child develop its attitude toward life? Well, he or she begins to form an attitude as a result of being around their peers. They pick up things at school. They pick up things in the community. They’re just left to themselves to kind of freelance. And first thing you know, attitudes begin to develop that are not all that healthy and will not lead to that much success in their lives, without a proper family in which they can draw information, direction, in which they can be taught what really works and what does not work.
So continuing reading now in this book on page 12:
This is fit and proper, because it is in the family that a child develops his attitude toward life, and it is the family that determines the way he measures up to challenges and the degree in which he lives successfully and happily.
Now over on page 13 we read:
Human beings, whether children or adults, need to “belong” in a close social relationship with others.
It is not enough to watch television together. To sit in a circle in the dark, eyes glued to the bright screen, is hardly the best arrangement for enjoying one another’s company or exchanging ideas. Far better is the family meal, an occasion to be together in comfort and relaxation.
How many families do you know of today that really sit down together and have a meal and then have really interesting, stimulating conversation and discussion? How many families do you know today that once they have finished with the meal and discussions around the table will go to the living room or on the front porch or back porch and continue enjoying one another’s company?
Many, many families today never eat together at all. Many families today have very little to do with one another in the same house. One will be off in one room on the computer. Another will be off in another room on the cell phone. Another will be off in another room watching television. Somebody will be laying back in the lazy boy sleeping. And what do they have to do with one another? Very, very little. That’s not the stuff of which great families are made.
Let’s continue reading on page 14 here:
It is through the exchange of ideas in such a family circle that excellence is born and bred. What goes on in that group determines whether those who sit there shall become first–class men and women, with active brains, disciplined imagination, sensitive feelings, and dynamic aims.
Much of today’s unrest may be traced to a lack of a sense of quality—ascetic quality, humane quality, and moral quality. The family provides a background that will enable young people to perceive qualities and discriminate so as to seek excellence.
—In other words, not to settle for mediocrity.
Where else is the child to learn virtue than in the family. “Virtue” is a word too seldom used. It can be applied to many thoughts and deeds that go to make up everyday life. Some virtues contributing to mastery of life and happiness in it are: justice, frugality, industry, sincerity, moderation, humility, discretion, courage, wisdom, fortitude, and honesty.
I might add ethics such as the work ethic, ethics such as respecting others. Continuing:
These are features that cannot be ignored by any creed or cult or movement without damage and their nurture is an undoubted duty of the family.
Let’s just read a little bit more from one other page, over here on page 65. We read under the heading, “What is a family?”:
The family is made up of a small number of persons closely and intimately bound together. If every family were suspended in a vacuum, family life would be much easier, but as it is every member is subjected to different influences outside the family circle, and the delicate mechanism of family harmony has to absorb many shocks.
For instance, let‘s read here on page 66:
Today, most families have no abiding attachment to the hearth and no permanent root anywhere.
There is no home in their life. There is no permanent attachment or nostalgia in their life regarding their upbringing—no feeling of I can hardly wait to get back home, I can hardly wait to renew memories of when I was growing up, I can hardly wait to open the picture album and look at those wonderful events that took place in our life. We are headed home so we can gather around the fireplace or gather on the back porch, or sit under the tree and have some iced tea and talk about past, present and future.
You’ll be surprised when you start looking at this. You will see that is disappearing from our country. There are still some people who do it, and good for them. But all too many are abandoning that kind of cohesion that used to be in families and that must be returned if we’re going to have a strong foundation for a continuing strong nation.
Continuing in this little book on page 66:
Today, most families have no abiding attachment to the hearth and no permanent root anywhere. A typical urban family rises and falls like this: marriage of the parents, increasing size of the family as children are born, decreasing size as children marry and leave home, and disappearance with the death of the parents. During this cycle the family may have lived in twenty or more houses, each of which was temporarily, not significantly, “home.”
That is a description of many, many hundreds and thousands, and even millions of people on this earth today regarding family life.
Now, one other half of a page here that I will read on page 67, about causes of disruption in families that break the cohesion that ought to be there and begin to contribute to the disintegration and unraveling of the extended family:
Under the disturbed conditions of these times it is no wonder that there should be stresses in families.
Immigration from abroad to this land, and migration from country to city, and from city to city, open a great gap between the old culture of parents and the new culture of children. Parental wisdom becomes obsolete in the eyes of young people. The intellectual capital built up through generations of close family life (called by some persons “folk knowledge”) fails to be transmitted [or passed on]. The younger generation is left without compass and maps, and sets out on the voyage through adult life on a basis of trial and error.
Now think about how well that describes family life today. Think about how many kids are just left to themselves to grow up without any guidance or direction, or without enough guidance or direction, or with the wrong guidance or direction. What chance do they have to achieve their full potential as they enter into adulthood? It’s a sad situation.
Continuing here to read:
Besides the added stresses within the family, there are pressures from outside to which we have not become acclimatized. Children are urged by stories, advertisements, television and radio, [and I might add computer] to do this or that beyond the financial or cultural reach of the family;
In other words, their thinking is not consistent, it’s not logical, it’s not mature, it’s not wise in all too many cases. Rather it’s —
loose thinking and fanciful appreciations of life by movies, comic strips —[entertainment, etc, etc].
We have to learn to think. Our children have to be taught how to think. They’ll think on their own, of course. They’ll have their own ideas, of course. And that’s good and that’s healthy. But they’re going to have to learn how to put it in perspective. They have to be given some pegs to hang their hats on. They have to know this will work, this will work, this will work; that will not work, that will not work, that will not work, and this is why. Then they work out their decisions, their choices, and channel and direct their thinking within those parameters. And that has to come from parents. That has to happen at home. That has got to be done by example, from the adults in the family.
It is the fashion today to laugh at Horatio Alger’s success boys and at Samuel Smiles’ Self–Help. But the plain fact is: those stories and essays had the saving grace that what the heroes won, they worked for;
It took effort. It took sweat. It took tenacity. It took stick–to–it–tiveness. They worked for it.
Today’s easy life is pictured as being reached by smartness or outwitting other people, or leaning on social security provided by parents or the government.
Well, there’s more that we will be reading from that book as time goes along.
A growing number of family units today are totally dysfunctional, just as this little book has brought out, and just as you will see when you look around. Families do not share life together. Each family member goes his own way like ships passing in the night. What can be done about this critical situation? Is it hopeless? If you look around and say, “Boy, that is a description of our family and it is just about beyond repair. All we can do now is just be frustrated and wait until it all plays itself out.”—there is so much more we can do than that.
With every family problem, there are solutions. And if not total solutions, there are improvements that can be made. We are going to go into that as we move along here.
What can be done? This is a critical situation. There are still some wonderful families around, of course. You probably know some. I do. And when you know those families, if you are around them, take a look and see if you can spot the clear reasons why they are wonderful. You will find that there are reasons why. Cause and effect comes into play. It does in every aspect of life. But I know of no aspect of life where cause and effect come into play more than in family life.
Parents must decide to be fully engaged with their children. This is a privilege to be a parent. It’s an honor to be a parent. You show me a wonderful parent or two wonderful parents who are successful, and I will show you someone who should be respected and honored. Because I do not know of anything that can be done in this world today and in our lives that is more important than being an outstanding parent.
In order to do that, we must be fully engaged in the family and with our children. We must set the right example, starting from birth of the children. That’s when it starts, setting the right example. We fail, we make mistakes, we stumble, but overall we are on a path of setting the right example of how to live life in a way that works, of how to live a life that shows respect to others and that shows respect to God, of how to live life so we can sort the right from the wrong. And our children pick up on that from us. We teach them that but we also show them that by example.
Parents must require the right attitude and action from their children. So many parents today are afraid to require anything of their children. They are afraid they&srquo;ll just leave or they’ll rebel or they will just create no end of problems if they start requiring things of them. Well, right from birth we should require of them right attitudes and right actions. And of course, as parents we must care for our children. And they need to know that. Love them deeply, encourage each one of them individually.
We must carry out our family responsibilities on a daily basis. It has to become a priority. So many parents do not make parenting a priority in their lives. Other things come in that take over and crowd out this tremendously rewarding and demanding and wonderful experience of being a parent. So it does not end up being a priority. It ends up being something we get to when we can. And it starts showing up in our family life. And it will show up in our children as they grow up and become adults. And that’s a sad thing. So we have to make it a priority in our life.
Now, in every dynamic family, you will see laws and principles in play. And those laws bring about rewards or they bring about penalties, depending on how we live in relationship to those laws. If we get in line with the laws and principles of family life, the blessings are tremendous. If we break those laws and principles of family life, the penalties are enormous.
Let’s move on now and go to another book that’s even more powerful, more accurate and should be more highly regarded than any other book in the world, and that's the Bible. Let’s look into the book where we find those laws, and read a few scriptures before we close.
Let’s turn to Ephesians 6:1. Now I realize that there are people who do not even believe God exists. Well, in these programs, we are going to go into that subject and we can prove that God does exist. Then they will say, “Well, I do not know if the Bible is inspired. It could just be a book of writings that men have put together.” Well, in these programs we are going go into that subject, too, and show you how you can prove that the Bible is God’s inspired Word. It is the truth. It is the final authority. It is the foundation of knowledge.
Let’s turn here to Ephesians 6:1. Get your Bible and read along. Check it out for yourself. It says here:
1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right.
Obey? That word is being lost in our society today. How often do you hear the word obey? It’s like it’s a bad word. It’s a four–letter word, when in fact it’s a wonderful word used in the right way, at the right time, with the right attitude. It can save the lives of your children.
Let me ask you something as you look at your family. Are your children obedient to you? If your children are playing and you say, “Would you come over and sit down now and just take a break and let’s be still for a little while.” Will they say, “Yes, sir” or Yes, ma’am” and do that? Or will it be a fight and you finally then just cave in and they don’t really do what you ask them to do? What is it like around your house when bedtime comes? Do you tell your beautiful little daughter, “Okay, come give me a hug and kiss good night, it’s time to go to bed.” Does she get up and say, “Well, I wish I could stay up a little while.” “No, it is time for you to go to bed.” “Okay.” Then she goes to bed? Or is it back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, back and forth until both of you get so exhausted, that’ s when both of you go to bed?
1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right.
Do we require that of our children, starting at birth?
2 Honor your father and mother; which is the first commandment with promise;
And that’s the fifth commandment, of course, of the ten. What happens when that takes place?
3 That it may be well with you, and that you may live long on the earth.
That’s the promise that comes with it. We want that to happen to our children. Well, if we require them and teach them how to honor their parents and their grandparents and respect adults, it is going to be well with them. “And that you may live long on the earth,” it says in verse 3. Notice what it says in verse 4:
4 And, you fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture––
4 ––and admonition of the Lord.
Yes, parenting does require time. It requires effort. It requires thought. And we can require things of our children. We can teach them obedience. We can even discipline our children. And we can teach them that they cannot have everything they want, and teach them how to get along with not getting everything they want and still be happy. Teach them how to play games and win and not get all arrogant about it, and lose and not get all depressed about it.
Parenting involves training them in all of those things. But it never involves putting them down. It never involves abusing them in any way. It never involves showing partiality. It never involves comparing them with other kids. It never involves provoking them. But rather it involves bringing them up in the training and admonition of the Lord. That is what it says here in Ephesians 6:4.
Let’s go over here now to Psalms 127 and read what David said. Now when we read this, is this something that’s just pie in the sky stuff? It’s just an ideal kind of fantasy? “Oh boy, if we could only have that. That would be fine. But there’ s no way anybody could have this.” No, we can have this in our family, what we are about to read here in Psalms 127:1–5. It says in Psalms 127:1:
1 Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it: except the Lord keep the city, the watchman wakes but in vain.
It’s talking about building a house, but it’s also talking about building a family. So somewhere in your family, you need to introduce God early on—the real God. He’s not some monster way off somewhere that’s unreal, that requires unreasonable things of anyone. He’s a loving, kind God who is full of compassion and mercy. But He also is powerful and He also shows that we are to follow what He says and we will be blessed. Because if we rebel against what He says, there’s going to be problems.
So we make sure that early on in our family, God is directly in the middle of our family. He’s at the center. Life rotates around what He says, what He wants, and what the Bible teaches. That’s the abundant life. It does not deny us anything that is good for us. It opens up all kinds of wonderful happiness and joy and fun times for us.
1 Except the Lord build the house––
2 It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows: for so he gives his beloved sleep.
Now, look at verse 3 and see how often you see people with this attitude in our society today. Psalms 127:3:
3 Lo, children are a heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward.
I know some parents who feel that way. They will say things like, “Why, some of the biggest blessings I have are my children. I love being with my children. Sometimes it gets tiring. Sometimes it gets irritating. But we work our way through that and enjoy our children immensely.”
I also know some parents who have the attitude, “I can hardly wait until they’re out of my hair. I can hardly wait until they’re grown and gone. We crave the empty nest when we are by ourselves again and we can do what we want to do. Our children crimp our lifestyle. They get in the way. I can only take them for so long and I have to get out of their sight.”
And don’t think the children don’ t pick up on that. They do. They know when their parents love them. They know when their parents want to be with them. They know when their parents cherish them. They also know when they don’t. I know. I have talked to children over many, many years, and they have opened up and told me that many, many times. I have also talked to children who will say, “My hero is my Dad. I love my Mom. I love my brothers and sisters. I will always be a part of my family. No matter where I go on the earth, I am going to stay in touch and I am going to spend some time with them. It may not be but once or twice a year at Thanksgiving or family reunions or whatever. But we are going to share life together and we are going to stay in touch.” Look at this again, verse 3:
3 Lo, children are a heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward.
4 As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth.
Look at this, verse 5:
5 Happy is the man that has his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate.
Once again, in forty–three years of being in the ministry and counseling families, all through those years, I have heard comments like this, “I can hardly take having one child, much less having any more children.” Well, it’s understandable when you see their one child. There has been no direction. There has been no training. There has been no parenting. But you take a little child that has had direction and training and parenting—what a pleasure they are. If others come along, you can have several children. I came from a family of nine. I’m the youngest of nine. We had a tremendous family life. My wife and I have six children, nine grandchildren. We love to be around one another. That’s not because we are anything special. It’s because God’s way works. And God’s way produces that kind of atmosphere in the family. Sure, there are problems. Sure, there is tension. Sure, these things that have to be worked out. But overall, there are absolute fulfillments of this verse, right here, in verse 5 of Psalms 127:5. It says:
5 Happy is the man that has his quiver full of them:
In a family that has cohesion, in a family that has parental engagement, in a family that is following the principles and the laws intended for the family institution, that verse comes alive. Let’s continue reading here in Psalms 128:1:
1 Blessed is every one that fears the Lord; that walks in his ways.
2 For you shall eat the labor of your hands: happy shall you be, and it shall be well with you.
Look at this now in verse 3.
3 Your wife shall be as a fruitful vine by the sides of your house:––
It doesn’t mean she is a clinging vine and she is just kind of mousy. Not at all. A better translation reads, “Your wife shall be a fruitful vine at the heart of your home.” She’s right in the middle of everything. She’s one of the most important members of the family. Anybody knows that who has a loving mother and a loving wife. She is to be honored and respected. Many times she is the one who holds things together.
3 Your wife shall be as a fruitful vine by the sides of your house: your children like olive plants round about your table.
Very respectful, very happy, very animated and alive. Intellectually curious. Involved in music and art and sports and friendships. Big on life. Yes, sir, that’s the way children can be when these principles, these values, these laws are followed—laid down by the Creator who, after all, created the institution of family in the first place.
4 Behold, that thus shall the man be blessed that fears the Lord.
5 The Lord shall bless you out of Zion: and you shall see the good of Jerusalem all the days of your life.
6 Yea, you shall see your children’s children, and peace upon Israel.
You know, when you read in the Bible about men and women who served God for many years and as their life begins winding down and the blessings that God poured out on them are listed, you know what you will find? You will find some of the biggest blessings that are listed, that were given to these people because they served God, is that they were able to see their children and their children’s children. They were able to see grandchildren and great grandchildren. That’s something we will talk about as time goes along as well.
We’re going to talk about the extended family. We’re going to talk about the tremendous impact grandparents can have on a family as well as parents. Yes, there’s a lot to go into in this subject. So we’re going to keep this series going. We’ll probably have one or two other programs on it. So you come back next time and we’ll pick up where we left off today. Just keep in mind that the dynamic successful family is this important. It’s the cradle of culture. It’s the strength of the nation and it’s the stronghold of civilization. It’s nothing short of that.
So now, until next time, this is Charles Bryce with the Enduring Church of God.