“Our families are one of the most powerful testimonies we have for the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” The purpose of our families is to show the love of God in human relationships!
Sharing from his own life, and his more than thirty years of counseling first-generation Christian families in Latin America, Brother Mark Yoder shows us how the power of the resurrected Jesus brings Life in our homes.
What we want in our families more than anything else is the presence of God, and the blessing of the Holy Spirit. And to experience that, we need to crucify the flesh through the work of the Holy Spirit, so that we can truly love. The success of a man or a woman is measured by their relationships. And it’s never too late to turn from conflict and carnality to pursue God’s beautiful design for the family. Today is the day to choose Life!
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We heard a powerful message last night about “Spiritual Life. This morning we heard a wonderful message; we all worshipped together as we listened to the “Resurrection Life” – the life of the resurrected Jesus. And on our program, the title of what I’m supposed to be talking about is “Family Life.” I’m going to say it just a little differently: Life in the Family. When I say, “life in the family,” we’re talking about resurrected life – the power of the life of the resurrected Jesus. The power, the law of life in Christ Jesus in our families.
It’s a blessing to be here. This subject is a burden on my heart; it has been for years. At home in Costa Rica, most of our families in our church are all first-generation believers. My family is not, nor my co-pastor. Antonio Valverde married a Friesen. She was a second-generation, but the rest are all first-generation believers. Now we’re starting some new families of second-generation believers. But one thing that has been a concern to me is that we’re not doing that well in bringing the children into the church. That’s been a burden on our hearts (and I’m sure it is for Brother Dale, too) on the first-generation Christians. And so I have been seeking for answers and praying about this. How can we strengthen this in our people at home? So it’s a wonderful subject, an important subject.
To get started, let’s read Psalm 128. I’m just going to read it. This is a description in the Old Testament of a man that fears God. God’s plan for a man who fears God.
- Blessed is every one that feareth the LORD; that walketh in his ways.
- For thou shalt eat the labor of thine hands: happy shalt thou be, and it shall be well with thee.
- Thy wife shall be as a fruitful vine by the sides of thine house: thy children like olive plants round about thy table.
- Behold, that thus shall the man be blessed that feareth the LORD.
- The LORD shall bless thee out of Zion: and thou shalt see the good of Jerusalem all the days of thy life.
- Yea, thou shalt see thy children’s children, and peace upon Israel.
It’s got some Old Testament pictures here, but we can interpret that into the New Testament.
God’s will is that we as families have united, “functioning families.”
We hear a lot about “dysfunctional families.” Our families are one of the most powerful testimonies we have for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Families that function. We should not be ashamed of our families. God wants to use our families as a witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. That’s very powerful.
Now, I’d like to say this quickly, too. We’re all a family; the church is a family. And if we have single people here or widowers or widows, and if we have people who are not part of a family, WE are a family, and we are all together in this.
Life in our families. Spiritual life in our families. God is very interested in our families. And there’s someone else that’s very interested, and that’s Satan. Our enemy is attacking our families intently, with intention, intensely. He’s trying to destroy our families. And if we have the power of the resurrected Jesus in our families, we’re doing well; the enemy can’t even get in. Jesus is there! But if we give room to the enemy in our families, he will take advantage of that.
The heart issue of a family that we’re going to talk about, and the heart issue of a church family, is relationship; it’s love. You know that. You study your Bible. Where there’s love, all the requirements that God has for us are fulfilled. So the purpose is relationship, being able to relate. I like to say, (don’t do it now; you don’t need to do it now) but can you look at your wife, look her in the eyes and smile at her, and she’ll look at you and smile back? Or will she look down? The same thing is true for your children. Can you look at your children here in the church or outside, and you look at them and smile, and they look back at you and smile, open-faced? Or would they look down?
The purpose of the family is to show the love of God in human relationships.
The success of a man (or a woman) is his relationships. Not his money, not the car he drives, not the clothes he wears, not the show he makes in public, even in the church service. But it’s the ability to be able to have good relationships with other people. And that starts with our wives and our children.
The Song of Solomon (which I’ve had people ask me, “Why is that book in the Bible?”) – that’s a beautiful book in the Bible! It talks about love relationship in marriage, between a couple, where there’s a genuine love. You can look each other in the eye and smile. That’s the purpose. That’s what we’re seeking for. And if you have that kind of relationship with your children, you have something strong going for you.
But how do we reach this? How did Brother Ken say this morning? I can’t put it in words – he had an interesting way of saying it. Without the Spirit of God in our hearts, we cannot reach this. Without the Spirit of God in our hearts, you cannot have a good marriage, a good relationship with your children, and a good relationship in the church.
What is the problem when we don’t have good relationships?
Do you know what the biggest problem is that we have? It’s that we blame others. “My problem in my relationships is my brother. It’s him. It’s him.” “My problem in my marriage? It’s my wife!” “The problem is with the children.” (Chuckle. I just heard about this one recently again.) “It’s the children’s fault.”
But the problem in our relationships is our own carnality. The enemy of your home is the person you saw in the mirror this morning. We need to deal with that. Romans 8:8 talks about this. “They that are in the flesh cannot please God.” And in our marriages, if I’m “in the flesh,” I cannot have a good marriage. Why not? If I have not experienced the life of Jesus Christ and a genuine repentance, Mark always does the same thing: he defends himself; he’s proud; he reacts; he gets upset. When anyone steps in his way, he makes it unhandy for him. My wife is a beautiful lady. I love her. She’s the most wonderful lady in the world. (I should say that, shouldn’t I? You should say that about your wife.) But when she’s “in the flesh,” she can become hard to live with. And I’m still worse.
To have a good – where God is in our families, and the blessing – what you want in your family more than anything else is the presence of God, and the blessing of the Holy Spirit in your life. And for that, we need to deal with our flesh. We need to crucify – through the work of the Holy Spirit, crucify our flesh, to where we can love, to where we can have a relationship. And I would really like to encourage all of us today. Sometimes we have problems in our churches.
That’s a big problem with divorce and remarriage. How many times I’ve talked to people, and they say, “We just can’t make it. I mean, we just can’t live together. The only solution is to get out of it.” Why does Jesus not allow divorce? Because He does not accept that statement. If we all repent and have the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, we can change, and we can have good relationships.
The problem is, and the problem we have in our relationships is – (I don’t know, in a group this size, I’m sure it’s here.) Maybe the truth is, I’m having my struggles with relationships. But again, I would like to encourage us today, if you’re having struggles with your church; if you’re having struggles with your wife or your husband; if you’re having struggles with your father or your mother, just let the other person go, and you work on being able to love the person yourself. That needs the cross of Jesus Christ, and the power of the Resurrection. But it works. That’s what Jesus wants in our homes.
He wants families that stand out. Don’t be ashamed of your family.
I remember when I was young (I remember one time especially), we still lived in Virginia. I was less than 11 years old; I was pretty young. My parents had nine children at that time. I was about 10 years old, I think. I remember walking down the streets of Charlottesville, and I think we were getting our paperwork to go to Costa Rica – something like that. The whole family was in town, and Dad was up front, and there were these nine children, and Mom was in the back, keeping this little herd of chicks together, you know. And my brother Tim was my oldest brother. He said, “I’m ashamed of this – walking through town with this big family.” And Dad grinned and said, “I have struggles of not being proud.” (Chuckle from Mark and the audience.)
Don’t be ashamed of your families. They’re wonderful. And if you can have a family where the Spirit of God is working, it is evidence. We need that more than ever. Do you know, our world is going from bad to worse? Just in the last few years – I believe it was two years ago, that Costa Rica has allowed homosexual marriage. Our culture is going backwards, fast! What do we do about it? (Don’t waste time protesting and trying to change the government; you won’t accomplish it anyhow.)
We need families that show. That show!
I had the opportunity of inviting a young European into our family, into our home for a while. He stayed there for a few days. He was from Europe, and in Europe for years now, they have been so atheistic. And he said, “I have never believed in God. To believe in God is like believing in fairy tales.” That’s the way he was brought up. But when he saw our family, and he had been with other families, he said, “I see something. I see something.” He said, “Because my parents are always squabbling, always arguing. They never get along with each other. Your children sing as they work. Your daughters are washing dishes and singing! I see something.” He was there a few days, and we had so much fun. I enjoyed it so much, telling him stories about Jesus, and about God. When he left, I asked him, “What’s happening to your faith? What’s happening?” He said, “I think it’s coming. I think it’s coming.”
Our families are a powerful witness. Don’t waste time trying to change the government. Do you realize that during the time of the Roman empire, abortion was also allowed; it was practiced. Do you realize the homosexual was rampant, too? Some of the emperors were homosexuals. And why does the New Testament talk about it? It’s clear on homosexuality. It’s clear. It doesn’t even mention abortion. Around the year 100 A.D. they wrote what’s called, “The Teachings of the Apostles,” or the “Didache.” In that, it says, “We Christians should not murder,” and it mentions unborn babies. (That’s about the extent of it.) Let’s rest. It’s all clear. But the New Testament wastes no time trying to change the Roman empire – trying to get in there and protest and do marches and write letters to try to change the Roman empire. Don’t waste time doing that. What we can do, and what we should do, and our calling from God, is to keep our families intact. Mom and Dad love each other; the children love to be at home. There’s life in our homes and families. And the world says, “Wow! Wow!”
Satan knows that, and Satan is attacking our families. He’s been doing that for years, and he’s still attacking our families. I would like to encourage all of us to be very alert to the work of Satan. I’ve seen so often where fathers and mothers are worshiping God and praising God, and they’re neglecting their children, and the children are sitting back there maybe with a smart phone on the internet. And Mom and Dad don’t even think about it. And Satan is standing back grinning: “Just give me a little time. Just give me a little time. Mom and Dad – we’ll let them go on, but just let me keep working with the children.” Satan is trying to destroy our families. We need to be alert on that. I encourage you to pray about that.
Now, I’d like to talk a little bit about the relationships in the home.
What is the problem? When I married my wife, oh, it was so exciting! (Chuckle) Wow! But after some months and a few years, what happens? What happens that we lose that freedom to look each other in the face and smile? What happens? First of all, we’re human. We fail. We make mistakes. But one of our biggest problems – what one of my problems is – (I was 27 when I got married, and I’ll just make this confession here in public: I thought I was sort of mature. I thought probably by 27, I’m surely ready to get married.) What do you think? (Chuckle.) Do you know what marriage did? (My wife says the same thing.) Marriage revealed to me my tremendous selfishness yet. I learned a level of dying to self that I didn’t realize was even there.
But our problem is with our carnal nature. Fathers, please listen to me. I know why I’m saying this. Your carnal nature, your anger, your frustration – you hurt the people you love the most. You hurt them the most.
Just the other day I was talking to a young man. I’ve been witnessing to him for a while. He was sitting on my porch, and he said, “You know, I’m so glad I was able to get rid of smoking, and I was able to quit my habit of using the lottery. But I still have some things to work on.” And knowing him a little bit, I said, “You know one thing – we often hurt the people we love the most.” He said, “Yes, you’re right.” He started shedding tears. He’s bigger than I am, but he sat there and started shedding tears. And then he told me this story: he had bought two glasses. (I’m not sure, some kind of containers to drink out of.) He said, “I really thought they were nice, and I had one sitting beside me, and my little daughter (she’s about two years old) came running by and kicked it and broke it.” He said, “I’m ashamed, but I got so mad. I got up and I lashed her, and I scolded her. Later I felt so bad! That glass wasn’t worth much.” Then a little later, the girl (I’m not sure if she was washing it or what), broke the other one. I don’t think he was there to hear it. I think his wife told him. He said, “The little girl said, ‘Mommy, please don’t tell Daddy. Please don’t tell Daddy. I’m scared of Daddy. Please don’t tell Daddy.’” He told me with tears in his eyes, “Mark, I don’t want to have that kind of relationship with my daughter.”
I think probably every father sitting here tonight understands that. Our anger, our frustration, our carnal nature – we hurt the people we love the most. We hurt our wives with harsh words. Then is when distance starts. Wives can do the same thing. Mothers can do the same thing, of course. Mothers in their carnality can also hurt their children. I would like to encourage us to look at this seriously, because if you build a wall between you and your child, your child is not going to want to be where you are, and not going to follow the church you are in. We’ve all done that. My daughter Dorcas is here. I’m so glad. Dorcas knows that I have done things, that I have failed enough, that she could be bitter at me. But I praise the Lord, that she has forgiven me, and we love each other.
I fail. You fail. I’ve wished I could be a perfect father. All the power is there. The Holy Spirit and the power of the resurrection is there, but we still fail. I’ve decided, “Well, at least one thing I’m going to try to do is to show them what a struggling father — how he learns to make things right.” So in my family, it’s pretty common to ask each other for forgiveness, and make things right. “I’m sorry for getting upset.” I want them to see, if there’s nothing else they can learn from me, how to handle their carnal nature, and submit to the Spirit. I hope my children can see that Dad is growing in these areas. He’s getting better. But our need, our problem is, (and wives too), our problem is our carnal nature.
Our defensiveness. Do you men have the trouble I sometimes have? My wife wants to give me a word and say something that she thinks is not quite right, and inside me, I feel this thing, like my heart just went “Wo-ump.” It’s easy just to turn away and walk away from her. Is that the right spirit? (instead of opening my heart and listening.) So I would like to encourage us in this, and that we learn how to walk in the Spirit. To make the Spirit a reality in our lives, we need to repent. We need to accept our pride. We need to accept our frustrations.
I’d like to put this in, too: (I know, I have this struggle, too) to put on a show upfront in front of people. In front of people, I try to show you I’m a very spiritual man, that I worship the Lord, and I really – wow!) Do you know what? I’ve seen some men doing that, and I look back and (I do this sometimes) I look back at his wife, and she’s looking down at her shoes. Because, if you are a spiritual person, you are at home. Then when you’re in public, you don’t need to try to make an impression. Just be who you are. But if you’re a spiritual man at home, everyone will see it. You won’t need to make an impression in front of people. We need to start at home. I’d like to encourage us to start at home.
Ok, well, let’s start this course now tomorrow on Monday when you go home again. We’re going to start this course. I’m going to start taking care of some of these carnal areas that come up – husbands and wives both – these frustrations, these moments of anger, these moments of conflict. Why do we have conflicts in our marriage? Hey! It’s not your wife’s fault; it’s not the husband’s fault; it’s your fault, or partly your fault. Once you can forget the other person, and say, “I’m going to work at this. Lord, Lord, help me. I’m going to work at this.” Let my wife say the same thing again and again and again, till I learn to respond right. Till I can humble myself and not defend myself. Just be humble. Start working that way, and you will see your marriage will change fast. We need to all do that. Our children can see that in us.
The basic responsibility of a husband.
When we’re dating, we’re very good at trying to “win over” a woman’s heart. (I keep thinking of Spanish words. There’s a better word for that. Brother Dale, what is it?) Anyway, when we’re young and we’re dating, we’re very good at winning the woman’s heart. [Apparently, Dale supplied the word, “conquer.”] Conquer! Conquer the lady’s heart. Now isn’t that a challenge? Hey, that’s for married men! Then it’s not as easy quite when we’re married. Then we get sort of hardened. We sort of harden our hearts. And there’s sometimes a reason.
We should have a heart. (My daughter’s present. (Tears.) I’ve been working at that. You know what it’s like to get upset when you’re getting ready to go to church? (chuckle) Trying to get to church on time? The husband goes out and sits in the car. “Beep. Beep. Beep.” I know of one case where the wife ran out and said, “Hey, let me blow the horn. You go in and dress the children.” (chuckle) “Let me blow the horn.” (That was a good idea.)
It’s been a while back, and I haven’t struggled with that as much anymore, but there’s still this inner thing. I’ve been trying, and I say, “Lord, help me,” (and my wife is very possibly listening to this right now.) I don’t mind them knowing that I’m trying to learn the power of the resurrection of Jesus Christ in a moment of conflict, that I can humble myself, and listen, instead of hardening my heart. I’m sorry, but that happened sometimes, that I would like to just turn my back and walk off. I didn’t say a word, you know. I just –
But this type of thing, I would like to encourage us to make this an issue of each one of you yourself. Don’t worry, maybe the Lord’s going to allow your wife or your husband to keep on being a little ornery. If she does, or he does, the Lord can use that to develop you! You know, the power of the Holy Spirit is more than sufficient to always respond right and to respond in love, to respond humbly and kindly.
Now, the basic responsibility in the Bible (you’ve studied your Bibles. I don’t need to spend much time with this.) I’ve read lots of books on marriage, and I have a bunch of them. But basic issues in counseling marriages and helping marriages, and my own marriage, is what the Bible says: The husband should love his wife and cherish her and care for her. And the wife should submit and respect her husband. Those are the two basic issues. Most marriage problems are related to these two issues. It might come into finances and some other issues, but still, that’s the basic problem.
So we, as men, we need to learn to become like Jesus, to where we can listen to the heart. You can hear her heart. You know, our women are very emotional. You know that? (chuckle) They’ll cry easily, and they look at things from an emotional perspective, and sometimes we think it’s silly or whatever. But listen! Open your heart to your wife. Listen to her. Care for her. If she has fears, listen to that. (You heard me say that, Dorcas. (Tears.) Dorcas heard me say that.) Listen! When the wife has fears that I think are unreasonable, care for her. Really care for the person, instead of just sort of “Humph.”
To care and to nourish and to love your wife. And then – so that you can look in each other’s eyes like you did when you were dating. (chuckle) You probably still can, can’t you? Sure.
The wife’s responsibility is basically to respect and honor the husband.
To submit, to respect and honor him. And here again, one of the problems in this issue of respecting and honoring and loving is that we tend to focus on the other person’s problem. As long as I focus on my wife’s weaknesses – and she’s a wonderful woman, but she has them. As long as I’m focusing on those, and I think it’s her fault, we get nowhere! And as she’s focusing on mine, we get nowhere. But when I start seeing my own mistakes, and I’m going to work at my own heart and my own problem – So wives, you need to submit to your husband, even if you think sometimes he’s not worthy of submitting to.
If you can submit to him at all times, and love him and respect him and honor him, you have a power. I’ve heard my brother Phil say not long ago that women have a power that a lot of women don’t realize they have. And it’s not the power of complaining. It’s not the power of stomping their feet and raising their voice and defending their rights. It’s the power of submission, humbly honoring and respecting, and trusting the man to make the decisions. Wow! Then all of the sudden we [husbands] listen.
So I would encourage all of us to work at that. Each do our part in working at that. Each do our own responsibility. That can get so bad – that’s where divorce comes in – that the person says, “If I would only have another woman, it would be easier.” I really doubt that! I really doubt that! Listen! With the power of the resurrected Jesus, you should be able to live with whichever woman you have, and to love her and honor her IN SPITE of how she mistreats you. And the other is true, too. So what I’m trying to say is, we need to focus on our own, and not focus on the other.
We need to accept our weaknesses and our differences.
My wife (Dorcas, you’ll grin on this one) – my wife is a perfectionist. She’s detailed. I mean, when I leave home, I have everything in the suitcase I’ll need and more. She thinks of everything. When we go to church (some of you probably do this too) she goes around and makes sure the iron is disconnected, that the oven is off, and she makes sure – She has saved me so much money. I mean, she has been such a blessing with her carefulness. Do you know what she has told me? She says, “Honey, if you’d worry a little more, I wouldn’t have to worry as much.” (chuckle) Because I don’t. I’m careless. I mean, I’m looking out, and I’m ready to go, and I leave things behind me that are not the way they should be, you know. She is a tremendous blessing. But that can cause friction. When I’m in a hurry to go, “Hey, let’s go. It’s time to get to church.” And then she starts checking this and checking that, and doing this and doing that. I’m like, “Come on, Honey. Let’s go.” And she has a struggle, “If he would only be a little more careful. And if he would think about some of these things.”
But what I would like to encourage us today is just accept and appreciate our differences. My wife’s carefulness has been a tremendous blessing to me. (Dorcas knows) I need her! And I need Dorcas, too. She helps me, too. She’s keeping me in line now. (Chuckle.) No, she does it in the right way. Nothing wrong. But my family is concerned about me getting enough rest, with my just having Covid recently, so she’s supposed to watch me. If you see her pull at my elbow, it’s not that she’s bossing me; she’s simply saying, “Dad, you need to go rest.”)
We need to accept the differences between us. One of us is pretty much always more careless; the other is more detailed. One of them spends the money more; the other is more careful with the money. We’re all different. And I’m glad we are! Can you imagine if my wife would be like me? (I mean, maybe you can’t, but Dorcas could.) If my wife would be the same as me, wow! We’d have problems. But I have some strong points; she has some strong points, and together we can make a pretty good team. Look at it that way. Your wife’s differences or your husband’s differences – appreciate that.
I have a son who is like his mother. He’s so careful. He does things so right. One time we were unloading a load of cement blocks. And I just get in there, and I like to do it! So I was grabbing these blocks and just setting them down, and my son would get two of them at a time, and he’d set them down carefully; he’d get the next one and set it down carefully. Inside of me, I’m like, “Come on, Caleb. Let’s just do it.” But when our stack was about this high [shoulder height] his was standing really straight, really good. Mine was just about going over. So, appreciate our differences, you know? Instead of resenting some things that have been bothering us, appreciate it. My wife has been a tremendous blessing to me. I appreciate that so much.
Remember this – this thing of relationship with your husband or wife, is not only about you and your own feelings. It’s going to affect your children.
Really! I know. Dorcas can tell you. It’s not that hard for my wife and I to get chit-chit, chit-chit. Conflict-conflict, conflict-conflict. I’ve had my son tell me, “Dad, it’s about time you take Mommy for a hamburger. Take Mommy for a date.” (Tears.) Why did he say that? (On my dates, I do the cheap thing. I buy the cheapest hamburger I can find.) But anyway, why does he say that? He sees this conflict going on. I appreciate my son reminding me. I wish I would have been ahead of him. But he’s told me, “Dad, don’t you think it would be good to take Mom for a date? Go get a hamburger.” Because it affects the family, when there’s conflict, conflict, conflict.
When you’re in carnality, you can conflict about anything. A lady told me one time, “We separated over an egg and superglue.” (I have no idea what the argument was.) She said, “It was the dumbest thing you could imagine, but we got so mad, and we held onto this, and no one would give in, and we ended up one going one way and one going the other.” (At least for a few days. I’m not sure if it was permanent; I forget now.) But do you know what I mean? You can conflict about anything. What’s the problem? It’s my carnal nature. And like Brother Ken reminded us this morning, we need the power of the Resurrection to humble ourselves and ask for the Spirit of God to lead us. So I would encourage you with that.
Like Brother Dale said, if your family has been through a lot, and you feel like you’ve failed, you feel like “if only,” and you can never recuperate it, that’s not true. The first, the best thing you can do, is humble yourself, surrender yourself, and ask for the Spirit of the Holy God to come in you, to be a kind gentle loving husband or wife.
Some of us have had long years of habit of griping, griping, griping, complaining, complaining, complaining. But through the power of the resurrected Jesus, that can change. First of all, you need to accept your own problem. You have to repent and call out to God, and He can help you. And if you have a marriage – maybe your children are older and you’ve lost them, I have seen so many cases where a man has young children; he’s in the church, and he’s happy and he’s praising the Lord, and all at once when the child turns 12 or 13 or 14, he’s shocked, because all at once he realizes he has lost his child’s heart. And he tries so hard to recuperate it, and it can be, but the damage is often done.
There are so many families here with little children. I’ve been blessed to see all you little children and you young couples. I love children, and I like to see that. But I would really like to encourage you, and one of the main things for you fathers is that you be a Spirit-filled man, that the Spirit of the holy God is guiding you. You’re a humble man. You can listen to accusations. You can listen to problems without getting upset, without getting all worked up, and raising your voice and banging on the table. Ever try that? I hope you didn’t. But I know one man that got so upset. He wanted to impress his family, and he came around and started busting the siding on the wall. Do you think he gained anything by doing that? No. He lost it. But we can learn to be humble, be quiet, listen.
The Bible says in 1 Peter 3 that we men should use our heads. We should think with wisdom about our wives. When there’s a problem, stop and think before you talk. Pray and ask God to help you: “How do I as a spiritual father help in this situation?” And if you have blown your home, and things have not gone the way – maybe you came to Christ just recently, and your family has already been dysfunctional, the best thing you can do is you humble yourself. You have that broken heart that Brother Dale talked about yesterday, and you have the Spirit of God in your presence, and your children see – he’s a different man! And the wives, too.
Now, I’d like to talk a little bit about Parent / children relationship.
I would please like to encourage you. I see you young couples here with young children. Please – may I say that as an older man with white hair? (I still think I’m young, but when I look in the mirror, I have to accept that I’m getting a little older.) But please, please young couples. Young ones with all these LITTLE children, take time for your family! They’re the most important thing God has given you: your wife and (well, your own salvation) but those children! Please don’t neglect your children for work, for money. When you’re on your deathbed, you don’t care what happened to your money. What about your children?
I’m not going to ask (of course, not.) But if I would go around and ask a lot of these young people: “How many of you felt like your father neglected you because he was so busy making money?” If I’d ask them to raise their hands, do you think anyone would raise their hands? A lot of them would. Sometimes there’s a father in the home, but there’s not a father for the heart.
Be humble, take time, listen. They talk. Oh, they can talk, and they ask so many questions. Listen to those silly little questions. Talk with them. Do it now when they’re little, so you can keep on doing it when they’re 12, 13, 14. Listen to them. Take time.
Take time with your family and do activities together. Do you know what I told someone? I told two men just in the last few months. I said, “Please take time.” One of them looked at me a little funny, and I said, “That would help you develop some things in your life. Take time and play games with your children.” (I’ve been doing that a little more. I’ve been playing – what’s that one? There are some games that we’ve been having a lot of fun with. We’ve been even playing Chinese checkers with my children. At my age!)
There was one time that there was a home that was dysfunctional, and one of the oldest sons is now my co-minister. At that time, he was still in the world. His father was a member of the church, and the home had serious problems. Some of the children had not talked with each other for (I forget now if it was two or three or four years) while living in the same home. Some of them had not talked with their father for two or three years, and they lived in the same home. And since the father was a member of the church, I started working with him, and helping him. And we had a meeting where the father first asked forgiveness. You wouldn’t imagine the tears. There was one daughter that sat there and just bawled. She just sat there for about a half an hour and just cried and cried and cried.
But do you know what I told them to do later? I took them a memory game. You know those little games that children like to play? (If you want to have a good time with your grandchildren, play memory with your grandchildren. I enjoy that.) But I took this memory game. And they had an old house. This was some years ago. Antonio was still single; he was still in the world. They just had this old wooden table, and we set out the memory game on the table, and there stood Dad. There stood the children around the table. And oh, they were laughing and having fun as they were flipping these cards! And oh, they laughed! And one of the main things they laughed about was to see their father trying to remember which card. (You know the memory game, and how it works.) I just sat back and just smiled.
Take time. Play games with your children. Take time. One of the most important things you have to do is to win your children. Take time with your children. Show interest in their interests. And making money? Yeah, we need a certain amount of money to make a living, to cover the costs. But it’s much more important to win your children’s hearts than to provide all the clothes and all the things for them. Take time with your children.
And as a father, we need to disciple them. I like to use the word “disciple.” As a father, we are responsible to take the children and teach them: “This is what you do; this is what you don’t do.” I’ve been reading through Proverbs recently, and we see that a lot in Proverbs, the thing of “Listen to your fathers. Do this and don’t do this. Listen to your fathers.” A father should do that.
And love them. Your children need your approval. Fathers, do you realize that? They might be three years old; they might be five years old. Don’t wait till they’re 12 and try to do it, or 14 when they’re already rebelling against you. Your children need to have a smile of approval. (If you ever see me look across a crowd and wink, you’ll know that over there is either one of my daughters or someone there. I can look at her and wink. There’s connection here.) Take time for your children. Build that relationship. And because we are sometimes harsh (and mothers, too) because we’re so busy, making sure everything is just right, we lose the hearts. It’s not worth it. Your children need to have the approval from Dad. (And we’ll be talking – I’m supposed to do it in seven minutes tonight, how to love the fatherless and what the impact is. This is an introduction to that, by the way.) Children need, desperately need the approval of a father. And if you don’t have a father, we’ll talk about that tonight maybe briefly.
That is much more important than buying another car. Hey! Drive the old car another few years if you have to. Spend time. And if you’ve blown it, and your children are older, and your children don’t respect you anymore, try to plan something where you do something together. Go fishing with them. (Now I don’t believe in wasting time fishing – you know, just wasting all kinds of money and time on fishing, but I went fishing, and I should do it more.) But I’m fishing for my boys’ hearts. I’m fishing for my boys’ hearts. And if you have lost your thing, do something with your boys or with your girls that they enjoy. If you have a girl, do something together, and they feel the love of a father. Your children need that! Real love, real communication. Take time.
I need to wrap this up. Help children to learn relationships.
Some of us have a hard time getting along with our church. One of the best things you can do for your children is show them how to relate to difficult circumstances, and humble yourself and love. If you have someone that has a hard time, invite them over. I remember one time, it blessed me so much! There was a sister that I knew was having struggles with me. And probably she had reason. And I was going to be leaving somewhere, and she and her husband came over with a big pizza. She knew that I like pizza. And I knew what she was doing. (tears) She was trying to build bridges and build a relationship.
Take time to build relationships. Remember, the success you have in life is the relationships you have, not the money you have. It’s the relationships. Spend time and work with your children. Be they 3 years old, be they 15, 25, 26, 30 years old. Spend time to heal and restore.
Here’s another thing I’ll just say briefly. We need also to learn how to minister. (Lord, help us. And here, we need the Spirit of the living God.) In the world we live in today, some of our children are going to get into things they shouldn’t. Some of your children are going to get into pornography. And I’m all for doing all you can to avoid it. We have a pretty strict control on our telephones and our laptops. I appreciate so much “emypeople,” and let me see, what was the one? (I was talking with someone this afternoon.) “Compass.” I appreciate them so much. They’re providing for the conservative people a way to control that.
But in spite of that, you might have a child or have someone in your family that has a fall, a downfall, a serious problem, and then is when fathers start pulling their hair. “What do I do?” You need the Spirit of the living God. If your son comes to you and confesses it to you, that’s a wonderful thing, but that’s not enough. That’s a good start, but you need to take time and help him work through this problem. We need the Spirit of the living God to help us (mothers, too) to help our children even when they’ve messed up, and they’ve failed, and they feel like a failure. They feel like they’re no good. (tears.) Can you imagine the little baby you used to hold, the little 3-year-old you used to play with? And now he’s 15 or 16, and he has failed, and he feels like a dirty mess. What should Dad do? Scold him? Well, you can tell him that he should have been more careful, but there’s a time when they need the arms of Dad. (Maybe you don’t do it. We Latin Americans – we like to hug each other. We like to put our arms around each other.) But they need time. They need Dad to say, “Son, I care. Son, I love you. I want to help you” (or daughter).
I feel like I’ve just barely touched a few things. But the main thing we need in our families is the Spirit of the living God, and where the Spirit of God is, we have a humble broken heart that can communicate. You’ve had a son where you’ve had years of conflict, conflict, conflict. I’ve seen that: conflict, conflict, conflict, conflict. What can you do to change that? You can. The Spirt of the living God in a humble heart, a sensitive heart.
My oldest brother is not a believer. I heard my dad just six months ago, (and he has done it many many times, over and again). I was within hearing distance, and I heard him say, “Son, I’m sorry. Forgive me. Forgive me for the times I hurt you when you were young.” My brother is older than I am, and Dad is 91. He’s done that again and again. And of course, my brother says, “Dad, that’s all right!” But we need to do that sometimes. “Forgive me for my anger. Forgive me for my frustration.” And so many other things.
God bless you. What we need is the Spirit of the resurrected Jesus in our homes, in our hearts. God bless you.