I received a letter by e-mail a few days ago. It was addressed only to me. It was unsigned. It was not from Fort Smith. I have deleted facts from the letter. I want to share it for two reasons. (1) I think it is very unlikely that anyone would identify the person or the family. (2) It makes a powerful, obvious point.
"Would you please pray for my Daddy? He left us just one week after our house burned down and after that my sister tried to kill herself. She says that she wants to go to heaven to be with God. Sometimes I do too but most of all I want my Daddy to come home so we can be a real family. Please pray for my Daddy. We used to go to church all the time. Then Daddy left us and I really don't feel like going back but my Mom says we have to because we have to keep God in our lives. I just want my Daddy back. It's not the same just seeing him part of the time. I want him here all the time. [We] really want our Daddy back."

It takes parents to rear a child. It has always taken parents to rear a child.

  1. Abraham sent his oldest and most trusted servant, back to Abraham's people to find a wife for his son, Isaac (Genesis 24).
    1. The servant returned to the land and the people that Abraham left years before.
      1. There with God's help he found Rebekah who agreed to return with him to marry Isaac.
      2. When she arrived with the servant, she immediately became Isaac's wife.
      3. For the first time recorded in the Bible it states this husband loved his wife: "and she became his wife; and he loved her; thus Isaac was comforted after his mother's death" (Genesis 24:67).
    2. As the years passed, something terrible happened.
      1. This marriage that began as a love relationship disintegrated into something ugly and wicked.
      2. When Isaac was 60, Isaac and Rebekah had twin sons, Esau and Jacob.
      3. Isaac was partial to Esau, and Rebekah was partial to Jacob.
        1. The two boys were total opposites, and they became men who were total opposites.
        2. Neither of them was a son to be proud of: Esau was shallow and irresponsible, and Jacob was a deceitful opportunist.
      4. In the late years, Isaac and Rebekah's marriage was a disaster and the family was horribly dysfunctional.
        1. Rebekah formed, directed, and executed a plot that deceived her blind husband and literally stole the position of head of the clan for Jacob.
        2. Esau was infuriated and vowed to kill Jacob as soon as his father died.
    3. What happened?
      1. How did a marriage that began as a love relationship disintegrate into these deplorable conditions?
      2. Between the marriage of love and the rivalry over the twins, we are told this incident.
      3. Isaac moved to Gerar (Genesis 26:7-11).
        1. Rebekah was beautiful, so the men of that area asked about her.
        2. Isaac feared that they would kill him in order to marry his wife.
        3. So, in fear for himself, Isaac told the men that Rebekah was his sister.
        4. Later the king saw Isaac behaving toward Rebekah in a manner that only a husband would act toward his wife, and the king was furious because Isaac had lied to his people.
      4. This is my speculation, but I cannot help but wonder.
        1. I wonder if the occasion that killed love in their relationship was the time when Isaac was more concerned about his life than his wife?
        2. I wonder if his willingness to put her at risk killed her love?
    4. Where did Isaac ever get the stupid idea to tell that lie?
      1. From his father, Abraham (Genesis 1210-20).
        1. His father told the same lie about his mother for the very same reason.
        2. But there was a difference: Abraham consulted with Sarah before he lied so Sarah was forewarned, and Sarah was his father's half-sister.
        3. It says nothing about Isaac consulting Rebekah, and Rebekah was not his sister.

  2. New parents, you have begun the most fascinating journey people can make on earth: because you are parents, in your child, a part of you will continue to live on earth after your death.
    1. It takes more than giving birth to a child to be healthy, responsible, godly parents. I say this to both husbands and wives.
      1. Don't neglect your marriage for your children.
      2. Don't neglect your children for your marriage.
      3. Don't neglect your children and your marriage for yourself.
      4. Don't neglect your God for your marriage, your children, and yourself.
    2. The greatest, most important challenge that you face as parents is the challenge to find the balance that allows you to be a Christian, a Christian spouse, and a Christian parent.
      1. You will not locate that balance one time one year and establish it forever.
      2. Finding that balance is a journey that will last the rest of your life.

  3. "Wow! Wait a second! We are going to need some help!"
    1. Those are true words: parents absolutely need help.
      1. I am not suggesting that parents be relieved of parental responsibilities.
      2. When we become parents, we must choose to be responsible, godly parents.
        1. When a child is born, birth and being were not the child's decision.
        2. The child exists through no act or decision of his or her own.
        3. Much of what happens the rest of the child's life is powerfully influenced by the father and mother.
    2. But everything that happens in a person's life is not determined by the father and mother.
      1. Mom and Dad must help the child develop into a young adult who is capable of making good choices and wise decisions.
      2. However, no matter how much preparation and love that person received from Mom and Dad, he or she still makes the choices and decisions.
        1. The choice of pleasure: will he or she choose delayed gratification or instant gratification?
          1. Pleasure foolishly says choose instant gratification; feel good right now.
          2. Wisdom says choose delayed gratification; right now feelings are deceitful.
          3. Each person chooses.
        2. The choice to be responsible: will he or she accept responsibility for his or her actions, or will he or she always blame someone else?
          1. Folly says, "It is never your fault!"
          2. Wisdom says, "Be accountable for your choices and acts."
          3. Each person chooses.
        3. The decisions of integrity: will he or she be selfish and deceitful, or will he or she understand that honesty and truth are the core of healthy existence?
          1. Folly says, "All that counts is you and today; nobody and nothing else matters!"
          2. Wisdom says, "Life finds its value and meaning in treating other people like you wish to be treated."
          3. Each person decides.

  4. In this evil, selfish world, it takes more than parents to rear children.
    1. They need the support that can exist only in a congregation that understands it is God's family. That congregation exists to:
      1. Build a nurturing environment that cares about people as it helps them discover how to live.
      2. Show compassion and mercy to those who want to recover and turn life around.
      3. Be a people who are open, honest, and genuine every day.
      4. Love as it seeks the best interest and the highest good of the person.
    2. In such a congregation there are certain things that must always be obvious:
      1. Joy in relationship with God and each other.
      2. People who are recovering, whose recovery creates even more joy.
      3. Caring concern for people who suffer the consequences of mistakes.
      4. Powerful friendships that bless you and stand by you and with you.
      5. People who take care of people physically and emotionally.
    3. Our children will grow up with more temptations and opportunities to rebel than you can count, and you are powerless to eliminate that reality.
      1. Pleasure calls to them every single day of their childhood and adult life.
      2. Irresponsibility guarantees them immediate access to pleasure.
      3. Integrity is ridiculed as stupidity.
      4. We cannot keep our children from being tempted, and we cannot make it impossible for our children to yield to temptation.
    4. But we can become the most powerful influence on earth--the family of God. We can be:
      1. As loving as Jesus.
      2. As merciful as Jesus.
      3. As compassionate as Jesus.
      4. As forgiving as Jesus.
      5. As caring as Jesus.
      6. As people-centered as Jesus.

There is no substitute on earth for healthy, responsible parents, and there never will be. There is no substitute on earth for the family of God, and there never will be.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 6 June 1999

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