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Building a Family Fortress:

5 Things Strong Families Have in Common

Josh. 24:15


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A strong family must be a fortress, and not just a façade. 


Here’s some things strong families have in common:


1.               Strong sense of Commitment


Seems obvious, right?  But over the last 2 decades, I’ve counseled w/ dozens of couples…pre-marital and marital counseling, and it’s proven to me that people today don’t understand commitment.  What a relaxed attitude people enter into the holiest of unions w/ in these days of the disposable marriage.  “If it works, fine, if it doesn’t, fine…but I’m sure it will…I mean, I love them!”  Well, love is blind, and marriage is an eye opener!


We take our vows so lightly.  Then problems come and we say, "I didn't sign up for this!"  Oh yes you did, you said "For better or for worse" and now it's worse, so you were specific about this point, that you will be committed!


Is it love that sustains our commitment or commitment that sustains our love?  It's the latter.  You don't fall out of love, you jump out!  And so I say, "Honey, if you ever leave me, I'm going with you!"


Commitment is “the assurance that this family will stay together, value each other, for a lifetime, no matter what.”  Whatever problems we face, we face them together.  Strong marriages take the following words, and carve them in granite:  "I’m committed to you, no matter what."  And they take the word “divorce” out of their vocabulary.


Parents, there’s 2 ways you can convey the sense of commitment to a child:  [only once we learn it!]

1.               By conveying to them that they are a blessing, not a burden.  This generation of children has been labeled, the unwanted generation.  TV today sends the message that children are an unwanted expense, an interference in careers, or an untimely accident. There are no mistakes, accidents, or surprises w/ God.  [The abortionist claims there’s a clear difference between an unborn child and one that’s been born…try explaining that to a child who is looking for relevance!]

Ill.—ever been the last one picked for a team on the playground? "Who has to take him?  I had him last time!" (you're standing there in right field thinking, I’m here because they’re stuck w/ me!)


Suicide note from teenage girl:  "Dear mom, I’m sorry I was ever born.  It seems to me that I’ve ruined your happiness.  I’ve chosen this way out so that you can be happy again."

(chances are, this girl was genuinely loved and wanted, but somehow they failed to communicate it to her!)


2.               By letting them know they are loved unconditionally.  We live in an achievement oriented society--where significance equals performance, and importance equals ability, and where self-worth equals achievement.  Sorry to say, that mindset has crept into many homes.

Parents, do your kids know that there’s nothing they can do to be more loved, because they’re already loved w/ a measureless love?/nothing they can do to be more accepted, because they’re already totally accepted?/nothing they can do to be more valued, because they’re already infinitely valued?

        Nothing will alienate a child more than making them work for something that should be given freely…love, acceptance, and self-worth. 

        If you raise a child on conditional love, to some degree, always feeling like they have to do something to make you proud of them, you will almost always wind up w/ 1 of 2 results when they’re grown:

1.               Workaholic who never feels adequate, but quite self-conscious.

2.               A quitter, who just gives up all-together.  “I can’t please dad/mom, so I’ve decided not to even try.”

“But, aren’t I supposed to motivate my child?”  Yes.

“Aren’t I supposed to encourage them on to excellence?”  Yes.

“Don’t I want them to reach their full potential?”  Yes.


The key is: What are you using to motivate them?

        Never motivate on the basis of love and acceptance/treatment…they must be given freely.

        Never motivate on how they compare to others… “Johnny can do it, why can’t you?…try harder!”


Motivate on the basis of what THEIR best is.

        Did you know you can be proud of your child, even if you’re displeased w/ them?  You can show them love and acceptance, even when you’re disgusted w/ their attitude…even if they embarrass you out in public!

        I’m convinced that some people who claim to be motivating their child for the child’s sake are actually doing it for their own sake… “So I’m not embarrassed, so I can be proud of you, so no one thinks less of you because they would then think less of me!”  Parents like that were no doubt raised that way themselves.  Hey, it’s time to break the cycle!


Ask yourself now:  Do my children know they are a blessing, not a burden?/Do they know they’re loved unconditionally, and there’s nothing they can do to make me love them more?


That’s commitment.  It’s the first thing strong families have in common.  Couples:  commitment to each other is just the same!...


2.     Communion


This is not a picture of family time!  [slide: around tv] This is a picture of “family time.”  [slide: around table]


In a survey, 1,500 children were asked, What makes families happy?

Over 90% gave the same answer.  It wasn’t a big house, new video games, or lots of money…it was “doing things together”.


Are we talking quality time or quantity time?  Both!

        One of the biggest false bills of goods we’re being sold these days is that it doesn’t matter how much time you spend, just make it quality time!  Yes, it does matter.  Time together is how you get to know each other, really know each other in a deep way, where you can eventually see right into their heart just by looking into their eyes, and where you can tell when they’re lying right away!


Is your child shy or confident?/leader or follower?/interests?/what do they want to be someday?/who is their best friend, and why are they their best friend?

        Some of you draw a blank at some of those questions, and the reason is how busy we are these days…we’re not spending enough time together.

Children spell love TIME / Men, you can say “I love you”, or you can demonstrate/prove your love by spending time w/ your wife and kids.


Couples, God makes 2 into 1, so we need to be 1 together much more than we currently are.  Marriage is like 2 horses pulling a wagon…they need to be together, stay together, and have 1 mind, going in the same direction in order to accomplish anything.


Time w/ family says to them, You are a priority, I love you!

There’s no substitute for time spent together.  You can’t neglect them for months, and then make up for it by taking them to Disneyworld, or buying them something they really want.  Take time to do the mundane together:

Shoot baskets/rake leaves/read a book/take them along on that errand to Wal-Mart!  (they’ll just slow me down)  Yes!  And that’s what we need, to slow down, and experience life together!

That’s communion.  (commitment)


3.               Communication

This applies to the marriage relationship as well as parent/child.

Ill.—kid comes home from college/dad says, how’s college? “Good”/how’s your grades? "Good"/friends? "Fine"/food? "OK"/dorm life?/"Good"

By the way, what are you majoring in?  [nodding confidently] “Communications”  And unfortunately, he learned his communication skills at home, where his mom asked his dad lots of questions like that, w/ the same kind of monotone, one-word replies. 


Strong families are held together by good communication.  Communication is discussing the burdens of your heart…opening the windows of your soul at times, sharing your feelings…and all with respect and love.


ill.--A lady who went to her pastor because she wanted a divorce from her husband.

He asked her, “do you have any grounds?”…yeah, 3 acres outside of town, you’ve been there!

“no, I mean, do you have a grudge?”…no, we have a carport!

“no, like, does your husband beat you up?”…no, I get up at 6, an hour before him!

“oh my, I’m saying, do you have a case?”…no, we’ve got a John Deere!

“ma’am, I’m trying to ask, are you and your husband having an troubles?”…oh yes, lots of troubles… “like what?”…He just can’t communicate!  Communication is a 2 way street…being a good listener is important as well!


7 “B’s” of good listening:


1.               Be observant.  You listen w/ your eyes as much as your ears…look at them, show you’re listening.

Albert Moravin of UCLA is a noted researcher in communication.  He said that only 7% of our true feelings are conveyed by the actual words we speak/38% by WAY we say those words/whopping 55% is conveyed thru body language…non-verbal communication:

Facial expression/eye contact/posture/tone of voice.


I’ve just given in and decided it’s impossible to listen to my wife if the tv is on…I’ve honestly tried to do both, and it can’t be done. Thank the Lord for DVR!  (left preaching and gone to meddlin’)…same w/ newspaper.

Be observant.


2.               Be available.  Communication is like fishing…it doesn’t do much good to go when it’s convenient, to catch fish, you have to go when they’re biting.

This is especially true w/ teens, I’m told…when teens really want to talk, which I’m told is quite rare, you’d better be available.  It might be at midnight when they get in from that youth activity, but you’d better do it then…they won’t resemble the same person in the morning!  It might be during your favorite TV program…better turn it off and listen.  Be available.


3.               Be considerate.  It’s amazing how considerate we are to others out in public, but how rude we can be to our own family members.  If we interrupted at work like we do at home, we’d be sent home permanently!/walk away from them while talking/ignore.   We can’t take each other for granted.

A husband was told by the marriage counselor to try and be nice to his wife. One day he comes home from work. He’s dressed up in a suit, he has cologne on, he has a bouquet of flowers and a box of candy in his hands. He’s trying to make a good impression. The wife says, "Oh, I can’t believe it! Little Johnny has been throwing up; the dishwasher just broke; your parents are coming to visit this weekend and now to top it all off, you come home drunk!"


4.               Be demonstrative.  We’re talking physical…hugs, kisses, pats, massages, etc.  Use them often.  Gary Smalley says women need non-sexual touch…little things like a massage, head rub, foot rub, or just a hug or a pat, not always just going straight to groping like a piece of meat.  He says women need 8 of these touches per day. (some of you guys will wake up tomorrow and go 12345678…)  It doesn’t work that way.

Ill.--A couple was having some trouble, so they did the right thing and went to a marriage counselor.  After a few visits, and a lot of questioning and listening, the counselor said that he had discovered the main problem. He stood up, went over to the woman, asked her to stand, and  gave her a hug.  He looked at the man and said, "This is what your wife needs, at least once a day!" The man frowned, thought for a moment, then said, "Ok, what time do you want me to bring her back tomorrow?"


5.               Be wise.  Let's remember some basic words of wisdom: 

·       Make sure you only marry a Christian.  If you marry a child of the devil you get Satan for a daddy in law! 

·       Let's practice Biblical headship in the home.  Anything without a head is dead, and anything w/ 2 heads is a monster!

·       No man has ever been shot while doing the dishes! 

·       Learn to attack the problem, not the person. 

·       Ladies:  nagging is not communicating!  (not one man said Amen, bunch of cowards!  Don’t leave me hangin’ here!) 

·       Bringing up past offenses is not wise!  (joke—guy says, every time my wife and I fight she gets historical.  “you mean hysterical?”  No, historical…she brings back everything I’ve ever done since we got married.)  What some people call burying the hatchet is just digging up more dirt!

·       And before I get into too much trouble…Men, sarcasm will get you nowhere! (and my wife says, Amen!)


6.               Be an example.  Parents, it’s a cold hard fact…I hope you’re not 90 before you realize that we don’t get what we want, we get what we ARE! 

Percentage of American teens who say they want to be like their parents: 39%. 

Children who see physical violence between their parents are six times more likely to abuse their own spouses after they marry. If those children were also hit by their parents as teenagers, they are 12 times more likely to abuse their spouses. 


7.               Be courageous.  The main reason we don’t communicate is fear…we’re simply afraid of what we might hear!  We're afraid of not getting our way.  We’re afraid to make ourselves vulnerable, so instead, we just blurt out how it’s gonna be, like it or lump it!


Marriage counselors say over half of all divorces are the result of poor communication, and that if they could have just learned to talk, they could have saved their marriage.


So, strong families have a strong sense of commitment.  They have communion…spending time together.  They have good communication, and express themselves well.


4.               Strong families have good Coping skills. 

The young husband felt he was henpecked and so he went to a psychiatrist about the problem. The doctor told him, "You don’t have to let your wife bully you! Go home and show her you’re the boss! The young man got home, slammed the door, shook his fist in his wife’s face, and growled,

"From now on, you’re taking orders from ME! When I get home from work, I want my supper ON the table.
I want my clothes laid out.
I will be going out with the boys.
You will be staying home.
And another thing. Do you know who’s going to tie my tie?
She replied, “Yeah, The undertaker!”

Plan your strategy: don’t rely on the advice of the world to bring peace into your home.


Those who develop good coping skills have the rare ability to solve problems together, and always see the big picture.  Don’t ever think that the families that break up had problems, and that the families who stay together don’t.  Divorces and dysfunctional families have very little to do with problems.  All families have problems.  Break-ups have to do with poor problem solving.

I bet there’s people here now who’ve been married 30 years or more, and they’ve had problems far worse than a lot of people who’ve divorced.  The difference is in coping skills…working thru the problems.

Every family has problems.  If divorces were caused by problems, we’d all be divorced.  Besides, love is grand, and divorce is 20 grand!

My family has problems, your family/Christian families/Adam and Eve had problems…

--Adam and kids walked by garden…kids say, what’s that, dad?  “That’s where your mother ate us out of house and home!" 


Not all families respond to problems in the same way.  The Chinese language does not have letters, it has symbols.  And the same symbol which means crisis can also mean opportunity, depending upon the context.  And, you know, one family can have a problem and see it as a crisis, and another family can have exactly the same problem, and see it as an opportunity.

Someone said, God’s best presents He gives to His children are wrapped in problems.  The bigger the problem, the bigger the present…if you’re willing to unwrap it!

How we respond to our problems will make or break us!  We’ve got to learn to attack our problems together, instead of attacking each other.

So, strong families have commitment, communion, communication, coping skills, and…


5.               Strong families have a strong sense of Consecration.  There’s no way to have a truly successful family w/out giving God first place.  And we have to convey it to our children.  Kids watch carefully what we’re like at church, and at home.

A study once disclosed that if both Mom and Dad attend church regularly, 72% of their children remain faithful. If only Dad, 55% remain faithful. If only Mom, 15%. If neither attended regularly, only 6% remain faithful. The statistics speak for themselves--the example of parents and adults is more important than all the efforts of the church and Sunday School.

And that’s just the outward spirituality.  If you want your success rate to explode, then make sure it’s the real thing when no one is looking.  Make sure your spouse sees the same person in the car when you leave church as you were minutes ago in the pew.  Character is what you do when no one is looking…but you cannot hide anything from your family…make sure your spouse/children see the real thing consistently, and not just a “put on” show for others.

Ill.—wife:  “I wish you cared as much for me as you do your dog…you talk sweet to him, pet him, and care for his needs.”

        In the same way, many of us want our friends, fellow church members, etc., to think of us in a certain way…but we need to realize our family knows who we are and if we’re just a phony.  It’s a fortress we want, not a façade!

        And our God deserves our consecration in private just as well as in public!

Ill.—my father in law prays some mighty prayers in public, but what means more to me is what Kimberly relates she could hear coming out of his prayer closet when she’d put her ear up close!


Let’s remember these 5 C’s that will help us build a family fortress that will stand up to the winds of this life:


Commitment, no matter what

Communion—time together

Communication—God makes 2 into 1 so let’s get on the same wavelength and really share

Coping—attack the problem, not the person

Consecration—be the genuine article!



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