Publication: Pastoral Letter, February 2011
Dear Friend in Christ:
It doesn’t make any sense to complain about the product and ignore the factory that produces it. It is like throwing time and money at symptoms and ignoring the disease. Our culture has a very serious and eventually fatal disease, and we are simply treating symptoms.
Many years ago I bought cars from a particular manufacturer. I was brand loyal. But then, those cars began to have problems that cost time and money. The dealer service department could not overcome the factory issues. Eventually, I quit buying those cars and found a company that built cars without maintenance issues. In time, the former company went bankrupt. Apparently, other buyers did what I did.
Will our society finally go bankrupt because we are failing to address the fundamental problem? When the automotive company finally succumbed to their systemic issues, the government gave it a bailout. Did the government deal with the automotive systemic problems? Time will tell, but I doubt it. The government also bailed out banks. Did they fix the underlying issues? I doubt it. The same people are in charge.
Since the days of the “Great Society” in the mid 1960s, the government has been bailing out families, spending untold billions in subsidies of all kinds. Have things gotten better? We all know that they have not; they have gotten worse. Our “central planners” seem to think that money can solve any problem, but it cannot. Until we address the factory, we will continue to go bankrupt treating symptoms.
Bailouts are an admission of failure. I say, “admission”, though our culture has not yet actually admitted that our real problem lies in the factory…the system itself.
Of course there is another bailout that has taken place for decades_education. We are spending untold billions on schools and a variety of programs that not only fail to work, but promote the problem. Isaiah 3:12 says, “Those who lead you cause you to err and destroy the way of your paths”.
Exactly who is leading us? That is a good and vital question. It certainly is not God nor His Word. Both have been marginalized to the obscure corners of our culture.
So what is the “factory” that is producing so much dysfunction and inefficiency? It is the family. A recent widely quoted survey indicated that about 40% of our nation believe that family is unimportant. That included many who feel that their own family was unimportant. That survey is but one indicator of the condition of family life. Divorce, crime, abortion, and poverty are other indicators.
Since a child’s first impression of life, relationships, character, and work come through family, ignoring the family as the primary cause is ignoring the factory. How long can we afford to continue this trend without chaos? Bigger and better churches, big and better schools, governments or banks cannot fix the factory; they have not – in spite of spending untold billions of dollars. We must get to the root of the problem, and soon.
It is not difficult to identify examples of people produced by dysfunctional families. Some of them actually rise above their upbringing and take responsibility for themselves. But others become a heavy social burden to society and to those who live responsibly. Until we address the factory – the family – we will have increasing taxation to try to bail out a broken system. (In this regard, I highly recommend Star Parker’s book, Uncle Sam’s Plantation. Star Parker lived the experience and by God’s grace rose above it.)
Like many men, I try to operate the product without studying the manual. Only when I experience problems do I return to the manual. It is time to get out the manual for life: the Bible! Running the world without that manual isn’t working. Running families, governments and schools without the Creator’s guidance has been a recipe for disaster. History gives many testimonies to what secularism does to human institutions.
David wrote, “Your word is a lamp unto my feet and a light to my path” (see Psalm 119:105). Jesus called the leaders of his day “blind guides” (see Matthew 23:16). When we ignore the Truth, we go blind and walk in darkness. So what does the “manual” say about family?
Many nominal Christians either ignore the Word of God or believe that somehow contemporary human “wisdom” supersedes it. They prefer more modern approaches to family or child raising, or they trust the “educators” to train their children. Meanwhile, they have no clue where their child’s mind really is. Worse still, they allow Hollywood to train their child, all the while professing “faith” in Jesus. Then they ask, “what happened?” They may blame the church, the school, or peers for the sad result. But there will be no fix until we accept the great responsibility that rests upon us to fix the “factory”.
Adam and Eve failed in their obedience, and murder came to their family. Noah was a good husband and father, and his sons helped build the ark that saved them from the flood. Abraham was chosen because he would train his children (see Genesis 18:19). Eli failed to train his sons and they lost their lives in battle. He died upon hearing the news.
David was a godly man, but his adultery brought violence to his family. Jeroboam was a rebel and his heirs brought Israel to ruin. Isaiah was a faithful prophet and his sons became signs to Judah and Israel. Malachi, author of the last book of the Old Covenant, rebuked Israel for “emotionalism” at the altar but being treacherous at home.
Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for their failure to care for their parents while acting religious (see Mark 7). And the apostle Paul clearly outlines the roles of husbands and wives in Ephesians 5. But, like Israel, we have forsaken the fountain of Truth in favor of cisterns that won’t hold water (see Jeremiah 2:13).
The Ten Commandments could be summed up in this way: love and honor God, love and honor parents, love and honor neighbors. God, family, and friends are the core of the law, the Bible, and social structure. When God is removed, the other two suffer.
The apostle Paul gives two basic instructions to husbands and wives: husband love your wife; wife respect your husband (see Ephesians 5). He gives a simple command to children: “obey your parents”. When husbands and wives practice Ephesians 5, it is easier (not easy) to get the children to obey. These are not complicated instructions; they are simple and direct. It is neglecting these issues that cause complications.
The age-old criticism of biblical people is that they are not “intelligent”. “Intelligent people think for themselves. Conservatives are not smart. Smart people are those who eat the forbidden fruit.” But that is a deadly way to find out right from wrong. Those who do not learn this from history are doomed to repeat it.
MINISTRY TO THE BROKEN
Some might imagine that my point condemns those who have failed. Not so. We have all failed to keep the law; only God’s grace can save us. The Lord Himself, in His great mercy, came to seek and save the lost. Isaiah 58 and many other passages remind us that the grace we have received is the same grace we must give. Ministry to the broken is a major measure of our true spirituality.
But are we truly compassionate if we fail to repair the system that produces such massive brokenness? If we treat the symptom only, is that true compassion? If we prescribe remedies that have never really worked, is that satisfactory? No. Divine love calls for real diagnosis and effective medicine. Medicines can bring temporary discomfort. Surgery can be painful and require extreme measures. Years ago, I was told by doctors that I needed heart surgery; I didn’t like the news, but it saved my life.
America’s parents and family members need “heart surgery”. And what might that look like?
- We need a proper diagnosis. We have ignored Biblical instructions for life and are spiritually sick_dying, in fact.
- We need “Doctors of Theology” who are not afraid to be honest with the patient.
- We need the Sword of the Spirit which cuts through “soulishness” to get into our innermost being.
- We need the removal of secular philosophies that have infected our families.
- We need the power of the Holy Spirit to cleanse and heal us and our families.
- We need a supportive community to facilitate our recovery and support the truth.
- And we need regular check-ups to hold us accountable to obey God.
Why not sit down with your family – turn off the TV and the phone and talk about these seven issues? Ask the Great Physician for a true diagnosis. We need more than kind “attendants” who only speak soft and encouraging words that fail to cure our real problem.
Beyond that, we need more than bailouts that further our demise. We need to be accountable to the Lord and His diagnosis. The longer we wait the sooner our demise.
Some think accountability is mean or uncaring. But do those who fail to warn us really love us? No, they love themselves and only use us for their own ends. They are “dogs that won’t bark” lest they awaken us (see Isaiah 56:10-11). True prophets tell the truth, even when it’s painful for us or them; they are not flatterers. We need real doctors and real prophets.
America is in trouble because families are in trouble. Politics, business, banks, and every other social institution suffers because we have neglected God’s Word regarding family. The economy is only the bottom line. Family is the top line. It’s not “the economy, stupid”; it’s the family. Remember who said, “it’s the economy stupid?” It was his family that was in trouble…and it is not the only one. When families get a lot better, so will everything else. When families seek God, things get a lot better. Let’s fix the factory.
When you pray for us at CSM, or give a special financial gift, or tell someone else about the resources that we offer, you are playing a significant role in bringing healing to families in this nation and beyond. Please continue to remember us this month in your prayers and in your budget. And mark your calendar for Gatlinburg 2011: “Bringing Biblical Worldview to World Mission”!Our special speakers include Dr. Norman Geisler, Ray Ciervo, and Brother Luke Yeghnazar. We’d love to see you there – more information is available at www.csmpublishing.org.
Scripture Reference: Isaiah, Psalms, Matthew, Genesis, Mark, Jeremiah, Ephesians