One time I heard a story about one of these men during a communion meditation. An older gentleman was giving the talk, but he had been a college student at Broadway many years ago. He and a few of his friends were out past midnight one evening and in their discussions with a non-believer about God, the non-believer decided to get baptized. He said everyone was so excited! Immediately, they knew what to do. He said, “We knew our preacher would be in his study, so we went and got him. He baptized our friend in the wee hours of the morning!” The gentleman giving that communion talk was holding up this preacher as an example of someone who made tremendous sacrifices for God. “Even though it was past midnight we knew he would be in his study at the church building.”
As a footnote to that story, that wonderful, dedicated preacher had four children, and not one of them is a Christian today.
What happens when we let really good things take too much priority in our lives? When we do that we allow Satan to do something he’s always wanted to do. We allow Satan to destroy our families. In case you haven't noticed, he’s been doing a pretty good job of it lately. A December 2012 report proves my point. The report notes the following statistics: More than 40 percent of children are born out of wedlock. The divorce rate today is about twice that of 1960. More than 25 percent of all children live in single-parent homes, compared to only 9 percent in 1960. The number of unmarried couples has increased seventeen-fold in the last 50 years. The study concluded that we are "witnessing a striking exodus from marriage."
The distinguished historian Lawrence Stone noted…
"The scale of marital breakdown in the West since 1960 has no historical precedent. At no time in history, with the possibility of Imperial Rome, has the institution of marriage been more problematic than today."
Ok, let’s move even closer to home. We started with a video that showed how a marriage “might” be in trouble. Then, we moved to a bird’s eye view of marriages in America. What about here, what about the Glenwood family? Kim and I took a road trip recently, those are the times we usually are able to have long talks with each other. We were talking about our Stand@Home ministry. We were talking about marriages. Then, she said, “Do you realize that since we arrived at Glenwood 2 years ago, seven marriages at Glenwood have ended?” I confess: I did not realize that. What happens when statistics aren't just “statistics” anymore? What happens when our own marriages are in trouble?
I have spent a considerable amount of time in prayer recently for the marriages in this room. One reason is because I've seen how brokenness in a family can affect several generations. The profound impact divorce can have on children and the way those children often times have great difficulty learning to trust. Another reason I have prayed so fervently for the health of our marriages is because through our marriages the world sees the image of God. Did you know that? The Bible tells us that in the very beginning. Listen to these two passages in Genesis.
Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner.” So out of the ground the LORD God formed every animal of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all cattle, and to the birds of the air, and to every animal of the field; but for the man there was not found a helper as his partner. So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then he took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; this one shall be called Woman, for out of Man this one was taken.” Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh. Genesis 2:18-24 (NRSV)
A chapter earlier, these is another description of this relationship
Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.” So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. Genesis 1:26-27 (NRSV)
You often hear people say “we” were created in the image of God. That is true. Genesis 1 tells us that. But did you realize that the union of man and woman is also a reflection of God? When we become “one flesh,” we mirror the relationship of God; Father, Son, & Spirit. Different persons, but “one” God. God created marriages to reflect His image. So when the world sees a strong, vibrant, God-loving, God-honoring marriage they see a picture of God. I pray that our marriages will be strong for the sake of wives and husbands, for the sake of children, and for the sake of anyone who is desperately searching for a picture of God in this broken and fallen world.
I’m so tired of seeing Satan win in his battle against our families and I think it’s time for the church to move to the front lines in this war. That is why Glenwood’s Stand@Home ministry exists. We do not want to just say “Marriages are falling apart…work on your marriages! Children are leaving the faith…teach your kids!” We want to stand with you. We want to walk beside you as you work with all your might to help your family reflect the very image of God to this world. As part of our Stand@Home ministry, we will have periodic campaigns. They will focus on various aspects of our Family Life@Home, Marriage@Home, Eating Meals Together@Home, Praying Together@Home, and each campaign will begin with a sermon. Each campaign will challenge families to be more intentional about that one aspect of their family over the next 120 days. Studies show that if you do something for 120 days (4 months), you are likely to form habits for good or for bad. So, we will challenge families to be intentional for 120 days to eat together as a family @ home, to pray together as a family @ home, to have devotionals as a family @ home.
Notice the number of times I've used the phrase “@ home.” This is not a typical @ church program. You will not hear 4 months of sermons dedicated to family. The point of this ministry is to help you become more intentional @ home. The living room is the primary place for spiritual formation, not the worship center. For our initial campaign, we are obviously focusing on marriage. This is the most basic, the most fundamental relationship in the family. If your marriage is strong, raising kids is easier, your relationships with others are healthier, and you are stronger. But if your marriage is hemorrhaging, raising children is extremely difficult, your relationships with other people oftentimes suffer, and you are not as strong.
We want to help you build a stronger marriage. Over the next 120 days, we want you to commit to being more intentional in your marriage. We've developed some recipe cards to help. Husbands, I am talking to you. I challenge you to pick one up and take it home with you today. Use this as a conversation template for your next date night with your wife. Husbands and wives, we want you to commit to taking at least 2 date nights a month over the next 120 days. I know you have kid’s baseball. I know you have church. I know you are busy. But your marriage must be a priority in your life! Half way through our campaign, we will have a special event here at Glenwood. We will host The Art of Marriage event here on October 18-19. It will begin on Friday night and end on Saturday afternoon. A team is coming in from Dallas to facilitate this event for us. We want you to commit to be here. The cost is $40 per couple to pay for materials, but don't let that be an obstacle, come see me. You can sign up beginning today next to our Stand@Home Center. I know you are busy. Guys, I know it is hunting season. I know it is college football season. But what would it mean to your wives for you to say “Our relationship is more important to me than hunting or football!” Your marriage must be a priority in your life!
There will also be a special weekend retreat for married couples that will be held in Dallas next March. The retreat is called Weekend to Remember. Kim and I went this past year and it was wonderful! We’d love for you and your spouse to commit to that weekend and I’d like to offer you an incentive. As you take your date nights this fall, I’d like to ask you to share with us how God is working in your marriage. Put those thoughts on paper and put that recorded story in the box located at the Stand@Home Center. Give us your story and we’ll put your name in a hat. The winner will receive a free registration to Weekend to Remember next March. The cost is $300, and it pays for 2 nights in a nice hotel, and all registration materials.
Brothers and sisters, we want to help. We want you to make your marriage a priority and we want to make marriages a priority of this church. Over the next 4 months, you are going to hear me repeatedly come back to this theme. As the campaign develops, you will see new recipe cards for you to take. I’ll let you know anytime something new is there. In the meantime, pray. Pray for your own marriage. Pray for the marriages of this church family.