Patrick attended a Promise Keepers conference in Colorado Springs, Colo., and heard me challenge the men to renew the wedding vows they had made before God. At the same time, Patrick's wife, Beth, was watching my message at home on television. A few days later, while planning a weekend retreat for nine couples, Patrick thought of my message.
He was just printing a copy of FamilyLife's "Marriage Covenant" from our website when Beth walked in and asked, "What would you think about asking our group to all renew their wedding vows, like Dennis Rainey talked about at the PK conference?" Patrick replied, "I think the Lord is at work here, because I was just downloading it to ask you the same question." They ended up organizing a special ceremony in which each couple renewed their vows and signed each other's Oneness Covenant as witnesses. "It was a beautiful expression of our love for one another and for our fellow couples," Patrick wrote us.
Patrick and Beth decided to renew their wedding vows as an expression of faith in God and His Word. Stories like this show that, if you want to leave a godly legacy in your home, you must start with a foundation of God's Word.
The Old Testament reveals three simple, yet seminal themes relating to the family and God's Word. First, God gave us His Word to help us survive in a hostile world. As Psalm 119:105 says, "Your Word is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path." His Word is truth. If we are to experience change in our families, we must admit we are lost and need to find our way to the truth of God's Word.
I often hear Christians complain that the Bible can't be read in public schools. But do we faithfully read it in our own homes? The Bible cannot light a dark pathway if it's lying, covered with dust, on an end table in the family room.
Second, God blesses those who honor and obey His Word. When a man and woman are married in a holy, lifelong commitment to God, and when they raise a family according to God's principles, they receive His blessing. As Psalm 119:2 says, "How blessed are those who observe His testimonies, who seek Him with all their heart."
Does this mean they never have problems? Of course not. We are all soldiers fighting battles in enemy territory against a fierce opponent. Your family and mine will take hits. But our setbacks are temporary when we do things God's way.
Third, the Old Testament shows how God established the family as His primary way for passing on the truth of His Word from one generation to the next. Psalm 78:5-8 declares:
For He established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel which He commanded our fathers, that they should teach them to their children, that the generation to come might know, even the children yet to be born, that they may arise and tell them to their children, that they should put their confidence in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep His commandments, and not be like their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation, a generation that did not prepare its heart and whose spirit was not faithful to God.
The implication is clear. When parents don't pass a godly legacy to their children, the entire nation suffers.
Societies are destroyed one family at a time; they are rebuilt the same way.
Leaving a godly legacy means choosing to begin a Family Reformation in your home. Simply stated, a Family Reformation involves knowing, applying, experiencing, embracing, and proclaiming God's truth about marriage and family. It's a lifelong process of forming our lives, marriage, and family according to the Scripture. Each component of this definition possesses special significance:
Knowing God's truth means learning the biblical blueprints for marriage and family. The problem is that too many Christians do not know the Bible. As a result, many marriage and family problems in the Christian community can be traced to this biblical illiteracy.
Applying God's truth requires following God's blueprints for our lives and family relationships. This means measuring our attitudes and actions against the yardstick of God's Word.
Experiencing God's truth occurs as we apply His Word repeatedly in our family. Here at FamilyLife, we have arranged our messages around four foundational concepts-the Four Pillars of a Family Reformation: 1) personal repentance and purity; 2) the sacred covenant of marriage; 3) the sanctity of God-ordained roles; and 4) a legacy of spiritual vitality for the next generation. We've found that when couples truly experience the biblical truths in these four areas, dramatic changes will occur in their families.
In the final two stages-embracing and proclaiming God's truth-we see a person's convictions take root and emerge. When someone proclaims publicly that which he embraces privately, he takes a huge step toward maturity and godliness. No longer is he satisfied with just seeing God work in his life and family; now he becomes a soldier for truth, a conduit of love, grace, and life change in others.
Now, let's take my formula for Family Reformation and make it even more practical. Here are two action points you can begin today in your home:
First, regularly read the Bible as a family and discuss how to apply its teachings to life. Something as simple as reading from the Psalms, Proverbs, or the Gospels at the dinner table will provide nourishment and spiritual direction for a family. One way to do this is to establish a consistent family night. Every family, regardless of the age of the children, needs some time each week to be together-to learn from the Bible, to have some fun, and to catch up on relationships. This is a time to slow down and to enjoy God and each other.
Second, begin to pray together daily as a couple. I believe if every Christian couple would pray together regularly, our nation would experience a spiritual renewal of historic proportions. Domestic disputes would drop dramatically, leading to a fall in the divorce rate. The impact upon the nation would be incredible.
The enemy of our souls, Satan, knows how effective prayer is. He'll do anything to prevent it in a marriage. And our flesh gets in the way, too, because prayer demands humility before God. It's hard to be in the midst of some selfish behavior and then pray with your mate-I know, because I've tried and failed!
Yes, prayer is one of the most difficult of all spiritual disciplines. But that's one of the reasons God gave you His Holy Spirit-to give you the power to obey Him even when it seems difficult.
God wants to work through you so that you can courageously live a life based on the standard of God's Word. Such a life will spark a Family Reformation that will continue for generations to come.
What kind of legacy will you leave to the next generation?
Adapted from One Home at a Time. Copyright © 1999
by Dennis Rainey, Focus on the Family Publishing. Used with permission. All rights reserved.
FamilyLife is a donor-supported ministry offering practical and biblical resources and events to help you build a godly marriage and family.