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Scripture of the Month-Ephesians 1:17 17  I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.
Silent Prayer
Winning families are:  Relationally Invested, Emotionally Involved and Spiritually Intentional.

  1. Relationally Invested-Engage in activities that build friendship, love, trust and respect.

Developing healthy family relationships isn’t something that will happen by accident.  Relationships grow and blossom with the investment of time.  We have to not only live together, but we also need to find ways to be together, to do life together and to share experiences together that will strengthen our families. 
I know all the parenting advice that would say you need to be your child’s parent and not their friend, but I don’t believe in a healthy home the two are mutually exclusive.  You are parenting not just for 18 years, but you are parenting for a lifetime.  You are building a relationship, a friendship, that you want to stand the test of time as well as the transitions of time.  The relationship you seek to build with your children now will impact the kind of relationship you have with them down the road.  If you want them to come to you later in their 20’s, 30’s, 40’s and beyond, you need to create the environment now where it is safe and positive for them to come to you.
Kids need to know that what is important to them is also important to their parents.  There are moments when we need to enter the world of our children and show an interest in what is going on in their lives, in their friend group, in the development of their sport or other activity.  We need to keep track of their successes and make sure to celebrate everything positive.  We need to know about their likes and tastes and hopes and dreams.
Spouses need to be engaged the same way with each other.  We never outgrow the need for friendship, for someone to be interested in us and what is going on in our individual lives.  Take time one-on-one for your kids.  Take time as spouses to get away, and spend the time getting to know what each other is thinking, feeling, hoping for, and dreaming about. 
We can learn a lot from each other as we spend time in recreation and as we spend time serving together.  Whether you like to camp, hike, boat, play indoor games, have a bonfire, shop, go out to eat, attend concerts, or whatever, it is amazing the things we can continue to learn about our family members as we spend time having fun together.
So much laughter can take place in those fun, down-time moments, and so much teaching can be snuck in at the same time.  When you spend time together doing fun activities, taking trips, or participating in hobbies together you strengthen the bond of friendship with each other.
I love these two pictures that were taken at the Smiling Rock Painting Party a few weeks ago.  The first is Deidre Dillon and her daughter, Dana.  The second is Neil Richardson, and his granddaughter, Lillie.

I love this “mother-daughter” moment and this “grandpa-granddaughter moment.”   The smiles on these kids’ faces said more than, “I had fun.”  They said, “I am special.” Why?  Because a family member took an afternoon to spend time doing something fun with them.

We want our kids to respect us, but respect is earned.  It is never automatic, not even for parents.  It is earned as kids know we love them and value our relationship with them.  When kids know you value time with them, they will grow in respect for you.

Not sure how any of this advice I’m sharing is biblical?  Here are a few verses to consider:  Ecclesiastes 9:9 Enjoy life with your wife, whom you love . . .”  Husbands and wives, enjoy spending time together!  If you are always going on separate vacations, and spending your weekends and down time apart, and you are leading separate lives, you aren’t following Scriptural principles for your relationship, and you are missing out on some of the best parts of life.

Psalm 127:3Sons are a heritage from the LORD, children a reward from him.”  Children are a blessing.  Not everyone who has desired to have children has been able to have children.  If you have children, you have received a blessing that is to be cherished.  Children are not a burden.  They are a blessing.  Enjoy time with them when and while you can.

Ecclesiastes 8:15 “So I commend the enjoyment of life…”  Enjoying life means enjoying the people God has placed in your life!

Not only will you create strong family bonds by enjoying life together, but you will also develop love and mutual respect by serving together as a family unit.  One of our jobs as parents is to teach kids that they aren’t the center of the universe.  Neither are we.  Nor is it just about our own family.  Just as God has a mission for His church to accomplish, I believe He also has a mission for your family to accomplish.  We are to teach our kids not only to know the Lord and love the Lord and worship the Lord, but we are to teach them to serve the Lord as well. 
One essential way to express that we know the Lord, love the Lord and worship the Lord is to serve In His name.  Our country will not make it if God’s people don’t rise up and make a moral and generous contribution in every community in which they live.  We have been saved to serve, and we must teach this to our children.  “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms” (1 Peter 4:10 NIV).  
I Chronicles chapters 23-27 probably aren’t the most riveting passages of Scripture because they are filled with lots of numbers, names, lists, and a significant amount of repetition.  If you are like me, when you get to passages like that, you become a scanner instead of a reader.  What I want to share with you is that those chapters highlight family service.  They talk about families serving the Lord together.  In 23:28 they performed ceremonies together.  In 23:29 they made food together.  In 25:1 they worshipped through music together.  In 26:1-19 they were sort of the facility managers.  Families worked together to take care of the treasury of the temple in 26:22. It was family groups who were assigned duties, not individuals. 
Some of the fondest memories I think our kids have and will have when they leave our home are the times we have served the Lord together.  We have many stories to tell and lots to talk about from our shared ministry together.

  1. Emotionally Involved-Empathize to seek to understand each other better.

You cannot be emotionally disengaged at home and create a winning environment.  Without proper emotional involvement, you won’t have understanding and without understanding you won’t have healthy communication and without healthy communication the wheels will fall off of your family life.  In order for us to improve our emotional connectivity and emotional health as a family we need to listen well, support well, and build each other up. 
Listen Well
Families are teams.  Teams have to communicate if there is going to be an end zone victory.  Not everyone can talk at once.  Not just one person can dominate the conversation.  Those who are struggling need to be heard.  Those who are confused need to talk things through.  Those who need to be validated need someone to listen to them.  We need to ask questions of one another that will give the person who is answering an opportunity to unpack their emotional selves once in a while.  “How was your day?” is a good opening statement, but if we never get past that kind of discussion, all we hear is a recount of a day’s agenda.  We don’t need more reporting.  We need more relationship-building in our families.  We need to engage beyond our daily schedules and need to get to an emotional depth with one another in our families.

As parents, we want our kids to listen to us and be guided by what we say, but are we also taking time to listen to them?  James 1:19 tells us to be quick to listen . . . And we don’t always have to listen in order to respond or to offer advice.  Sometimes we just need to listen and allow our family members to express their feelings as they state their frustrations and struggles. 

When we ask questions that probe the surface and then take time to listen to each other, that translates into love.  If you want to build love and respect into your family relationships, listen to each other.  As you listen, you will communicate you care and you will make it safe for people to share.  If someone thinks they will be dismissed or diminished as they share their feelings about something, they won’t ever open up.  Give each other permission to be vulnerable by taking the time to listen.  It will really bond you and reveal to you more about each other so that you have insight and know how best to communicate with each other on a day-to-day basis.

And just as you need to accept the challenge to listen well, you also need to accept the challenge to share well.  Risk opening up when one of your family members asks you a probing question.

Supporting Well
Show up for each other’s special activities and celebrations.  Find ways to celebrate each other’s accomplishments.  Pray for one another and pray together.  Send that positive text letting your children know or your spouse know or your parents know that you are rooting for them, thinking of them and are in their corner.  Slip a note into the lunch box on the day of a big test and tell your student you believe in them and are praying they do well. 
We have a family group text that we utilize daily, not only to communicate, but also to encourage and inspire each other.  When one of us is trying to lose weight (as in my handsome husband, how about his 25lb weight loss!) or when we know someone is trying to improve their abs (how about my awesome son whose abs we cannot reveal during church services, but trust me, they are there) or when we know someone is getting ready to take the ACT or some college-level test even while she is still in high school (how about my incredible daughter who continues to excel in all things academic)—when we are aware of those goals our family members are setting, we try to provide positive feedback, accountability and pump them up. 
When you know a family-member is overloaded due to extra work or an unusually busy schedule, if you can do something to help take something off of their plate, go ahead and just do it.  Mow the lawn, empty the dishwasher, take out the trash, fold the laundry, sweep the floor, dust the family room, clean out the refrigerator, wash the car, water the dying mum in the yard (just creating a hypothetical list of possible opportunities here).  I don’t think we have done it consciously, but often in our family when we ask each other for a favor or help, we will start out by saying, “Will you bless me?”  That phrase might be followed up by, “and get me something to drink” or “and do a load of laundry” or “and pack my lunch,” but we phrase it so that the family member knows it would help or support or bless us if they could do what we are asking.  That is why we exist…to be a blessing to each other.
One reason God created marriage was because it wasn’t good for Adam to do life on his own.  He needed a companion.  He needed someone to help him not only in work, but to help him live well, to support him, to build him up, to bless him when life would become difficult.  God has placed us in families not only so we can have a sense of identity and belonging, but so that we can support and bless one another through life’s journey.  If you are married you don’t have the right to just go to work and check out at home.  You have made the decision to join your life with someone else, and if you have children you have created lives for which you are responsible to train, shape, and support.  It is a whole lot easier to become one flesh physically than it is to live one shared life emotionally and spiritually, but God has called us to the latter.  A godly and spiritual union goes way beyond a physical act.   
1 Thessalonians 5:11 11  Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.
Hebrews 10:24 24  And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.
Supporting each other well includes showing appreciation for who they are and all they do and letting them know what they mean to you.  The three most important words that should be spoken in our homes are “I love you.”  Hearing that often increases our emotional wellness and sense of security and self. 
As most of you know, our son Josh, is dealing with a blood disorder and being there for him is important right now.  Gluten-free is a new two-word phrase in our vocabulary.  We are learning, why?  Because we need to support Josh as we try some different methods to increase his platelet production.  Sometimes you will have a family member that needs extra support for a season.  Do whatever it takes to make sure they know you are there for them.  Ask your spouse, ask your kids, ask your parents, “How can I best support you?”  Call a family meeting and brainstorm ways you can each support one another!

  1. Spiritually Intentional-Exhibit Christ as your family’s priority.

Dad and Mom, I know there are no guarantees that what you teach and model will be embraced 100% down the road by your kids, but I do know if you don’t model a relationship with Christ as your priority and as a priority for your family, your children will be less likely to choose that for themselves.  Your first and foremost responsibility is to “train your children up in the way they should go” spiritually (Proverbs 22:6).  All of our kids spend a lot of hours at the gym, on the track, on the court, in the studio, at the music lesson, and on the field.  They spend a lot of time in school and doing homework.  We permit friend time and other social opportunities.  How are we making spiritual training an intentional part of our family life?
Church Attendance
In a study just two years ago, it was discovered that while 73% of Americans identify themselves as Christians, only one in three of those persons actually attends church.  Another current study says most people consider themselves regular church members if they attend every four to six weeks.  How can we transmit our faith and teach our children to value the ministry and mission of the church if we aren’t here on a regular basis? 
Unless you are reading the Word of God in your home with your kids on a regular basis or at least a few times each week, how will they know what the Bible teaches?  Knowledge builds upon knowledge.  When you just hear a random message here or there, it is easy to miss how it all fits together.  Hearing the Word of God taught regularly and systematically will help you develop a spiritual track to run on.  It won’t make sense if your exposure is hit or miss.
Besides that, what happens here is meant to strengthen your family and enable you to succeed at home.  God has given us this wonderful place and this wonderful spiritual family to help us win at home!  Isn’t that awesome!? What happens here is meant to reinforce the lessons you are trying to teach your kids at home.  We cannot have too many positive spiritual and moral influences in our kids’ lives.  We live in a dark and messed up world.  They are getting the world’s message every day.  We need to be combatting that and counteracting that and canceling that with the message of the Word of God.
I know Sunday is often the only day people have to sleep in.  I get it, but I can’t think that at the end of our lives we will look back and say to ourselves, “I wish I would have slept more.”  Perhaps we will.  I don’t know, but it doesn’t seem reasonable to me.  I also hear people say, “I can’t get my kids to come to church.”  I know no one wants to fight with anyone about coming to church.  That seems like it would be a big hurdle to overcome and would wear on a person.  But parents, God has given you authority over your children.  You need to exercise it.  I know young people aren’t thrilled and excited when that alarm goes off during the week and they have to go to school, but you get them there somehow.  It is important, right?  School is important.  Not getting them there will have consequences.  Dad and Mom, you cannot leave spiritual decisions up to your kids.  You need to guide those decisions and reinforce those choices that lead to life and godliness.  You need to set the standard that church is a regular part of your family life and your kids need to be here with you as often as possible. 
Worship at Home

In addition to what takes place here at church, there needs to be some moments of worship, some prayer time, some Bible verse discussion, some Christ-centered conversations happening in your home.  Look at what Paul said to Timothy about Timothy’s own spiritual upbringing:  2 Timothy 3:14-15 14  But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, 15  and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.

Where did Timothy learn the Scriptures from his infancy?  He learned them at home from his mother and grandmother (II Timothy 1:5). 

Do you remember our scripture of the month from January?  Deuteronomy 6:4-9: 4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5 Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

Winning at home won’t happen by osmosis or as a result of a good intention.  It can happen as we are relationally invested, emotionally involved and spiritually intentional.  Church, let’s do everything in our power and authority to win at home.

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